DrumBeat: December 14, 2008

Global oil supply will peak in 2020, says energy agency

Global oil production will peak much earlier than expected amid a collapse in petroleum investment due to the credit crunch, one of the world's foremost experts has revealed.

Fatih Birol, chief economist to the International Energy Agency, told the Guardian that conventional crude output could plateau in 2020, a development that was "not good news" for a world still heavily dependent on petroleum.

The prediction came as oil companies from Saudi Arabia to Canada cut their capital expenditure on new projects in response to a fall in oil prices, moves that will further reduce supply in future.

Birol's comments will give more ammunition to those who warn that the British government is dangerously complacent in not trying to wean the country off oil as quickly as possible. Some observers believe that, because the global economy is underpinned by oil, the peaking of supply will cause severe economic, social and political disruption unless prepared for over many years.

OPEC Is in a Desperate Race Against Falling Oil Prices

ORAN, Algeria -- The world's big crude-oil exporters are caught in a downward race against falling demand as they scramble to keep prices from slipping still lower in the face of a weakening world economy.

Oil at $40 will impact Saudi economy

Saudi Arabia could suffer from an economic downturn and a massive fiscal deficit after years of strong performance in case oil prices dip to as low as $40 a barrel, according to a top Saudi bank.

At current prices, the Kingdom will still record a budget surplus and its economy will grow in 2008 but the performance of both sectors will be far below that in 2007, the Saudi American Bank (Samba) said.

What could aggravate the situation in the next two years if oil prices remain at around $40 is that the Kingdom's crude output will be lower and private investment could be stifled by dollar funding constraints.

Seeds of hope: Freezing vaults guard Earth's flora

ARDINGLY, England – The underground bunker can block nuclear fallout, withstand a direct hit by a jetliner, and is cooled to a deathly chill.

The ultramodern facility in the tranquil English countryside looks like a perfect lab for a James Bond villain, but it doesn't hide anything sinister. The only thing kept here are seeds, lots of them — more than a billion, in fact.

Scientists say this is the world's most diverse seed bank, but its keepers worry that the global financial crisis could cut its government and corporate funding and cause the seed gathering to wither at the end of next year, well short of its goal.

Algeria says oil output cut 70,000 bpd since Nov 1

KRECHBA, Algeria (Reuters) - Algeria has cut 70,000 barrels per day (bpd) of its crude oil output since Nov. 1, in line with OPEC agreements aimed at propping up sagging oil prices, a senior energy official said on Sunday.

China likely to miss energy saving goal for 2008: report

BEIJING (AFP) – China is likely to miss an energy saving target that it has set itself for this year, state media reported Saturday, citing the nation's top economic planning agency.

In the first nine months of the year, the nation cut average energy consumption by 3.46 percent, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing the National Development and Reform Commission.

This makes it unlikely that China will meet its full-year target of a four-percent reduction.

Apeakalypse Now

In March when I returned from Thailand, the situation with the subprime mortgages unnerved me. I had heard too many stories from Thai farmers about the impact of personal debt on their lives. How they had to dig themselves out and rebuild a new life while still paying back thousands to the old one at the rate of five dollars a week. This during a currency devaluation that halved the value of everyone's bank account and an economic slow down that halted construction jobs mid-project. Stop down was more like it.

Workers went home to their family farms. What they did next made me realize that these farmers were rich, much richer than I felt living here in the US. They had land, enough rice stored to feed everyone for some time and skills to rebuild along with a renewed sense of self-reliance. They were also committed to being sustainable in a way that actually seemed possible. The lessons of the boom and bust had taught them to rethink their wants and their dreams of wealth while their immediate needs were taken care of.

The culture shock I felt upon my return was so severe I was in a stupor for a month not knowing how to direct my life. I did not feel safe sitting in a house with a mortgage. I did not feel safe in America itself. I saw a nation of people carrying massive amounts of credit card debt and few practical skills. They had less of a safety net than a Thai farmer.

Uh-oh: Gas prices on the rise

After eighty-six consecutive daily declines, the average price of gas nationwide has now increased for the past two days. Have gas prices bottomed?

Western economies are flailing on an oil-price rollercoaster

Predicting the path of the oil price is a dangerous business. But the answer to this most slippery of conundrums is of crucial importance to the future of the Western world.

Jordan lowers fuel prices for eighth time since August

Jordan's government has lowered fuel prices, the eighth time in a row since August, as oil prices continue a decline trend on international markets, local daily The Jordan Times reported Sunday.

Algeria plans up to 200,000 bpd of oil projects

KRECHBA, Algeria (Reuters) - Algeria has approved or plans to approve projects expected to bring on up to 110,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil output and 100,000 bpd of oil equivalents by 2012 or 2013, a Sonatrach official said on Sunday.

Total Refineries Resume Operation After Strike, Spokesman Says

(Bloomberg) -- Total SA refineries in France are functioning normally after a two-day strike disrupted operations at Europe’s third-biggest oil company.

Official History Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders

BAGHDAD — An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.

The Novel That Predicted Portland

SOMETIMES a book, or an idea, can be obscure and widely influential at the same time. That’s the case with “Ecotopia,” a 1970s cult novel, originally self-published by its author, Ernest Callenbach, that has seeped into the American groundwater without becoming well known.

The novel, now being rediscovered, speaks to our ecological present: in the flush of a financial crisis, the Pacific Northwest secedes from the United States, and its citizens establish a sustainable economy, a cross between Scandinavian socialism and Northern California back-to-the-landism, with the custom — years before the environmental writer Michael Pollan began his campaign — to eat local.

Peak oil warfare: community security strategy

When talking of security, we must first understand that security does not necessarily equate to military solutions. Community (or National) security includes many different aspects, the most significant of which are economics, diplomacy, information, and military power. I am reminded of the story of the blind men trying to describe an elephant: The first blind man feels the trunk and declares it a snake, the second feels the leg and declares it a tree, and the third feels the tail and declares it a rope. For our purposes, the story would go something like this: The first blind man, an economist, senses a nation’s poverty and declares it a financial problem. The blind statesman senses a dispassionate world and calls the problem a failure of international diplomacy. The blind scholar senses a nation’s misleading or absent exchange of knowledge and decries a problem of education and communication. The blind soldier senses the anarchy of militias and demands soldiers stamp out the problem of lawlessness. All are right about the example troubled nation’s security, yet all are wrong if they don’t understand the whole elephant: stability.

Jamaica to establish solar factory

ENERGY Minister Clive Mullings has said that Jamaica is shortly to benefit from 13 major energy-saving projects, including a solar factory, for which the paperwork is now being finalised.

His revelation comes at a time when Jamaica is consuming an estimated 27 million barrels of oil annually. In 2005 alone, the island had to shell out US$1 billion for its energy bill.

Up on the Roof, New Jobs in Solar Power

Even in the recession, the solar industry is growing, and many jobs are available.

UK: Maitland Mackie powers ahead with windfarm project

When it came to inspiration for his idea to set up a wind-farm company that could plough billions into the rural economy, Maitland Mackie didn’t have to look far.

On a hill on the Rothienorman estate that hosts the dairy where his famous ice cream is made, three wind turbines hum gently in the Aberdeenshire breeze. The towering machines — Vesta V52s dubbed Margaret, Matilda and Mirabel — power the dairy and produce so much energy that Mackie’s has a positive carbon footprint.

Wind plants outpace coal

The environmental communications company Resource Media announced last week that more coal plants in the U.S. have been canceled this year than completed, and more wind-energy capacity came online than coal power.

The Energy Debates: Ethanol

Ethanol is typically made from corn, sugar cane and other crops. However, scientists are working on generating the fuel by converting hundreds of millions of tons of cellulose in prairie grass and leftovers from harvests and lumber yards that would otherwise go to waste. Six biorefineries originally scheduled for completion by 2011 sought to create such "cellulosic ethanol" to help the United States produce more than 130 million gallons of the fuel per year at roughly $1.20 a gallon. However, just one of these is currently under construction.

Global grain rush under way as rich nations snap up farmland overseas

(Chicago Tribune) MOSCOW -- Wearing flowing red robes and pitching his own trademark desert tent, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi paid a visit to Ukraine last month in search of a remarkable deal to help feed his oil-rich but soil-poor people.

Under a proposed agreement with Kiev, Libya would lease 247,000 acres of Ukraine's rich black land to grow wheat. The harvest would then be shipped back to Libya, giving the desert nation a more secure supply of food in the face of predictions about higher food prices and potential shortages in decades to come. Ukraine, in turn, would get access to Libyan oil fields, helping free it from dependence on Russia for its energy needs.

OPEC set to slash oil output

OPEC, the cartel pumping 40 per cent of world oil, is this week set to announce plans to slash output in the hope of lifting crude prices weighed down by a recession-fuelled slide in energy demand.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries on Wednesday convenes in the Mediterranean port city of Oran, Algeria, where it is widely expected to announce plans to cut its oil output quota for a third time since September.

'Real price' for crude above $100 says Iran

TEHRAN: Iran's oil minister said he considered the "real price" for a barrel of crude should be more than $100.

Another senior Iranian official said Opec needed to cut oversupply from the market, reports said yesterday.

OPEC's Khelil, a pragmatic leader in testing times

LONDON (Reuters) - OPEC President Chakib Khelil is a skilled communicator and oil industry professional who will oversee efforts to bolster sagging prices and to restore the group's clout at a critical meeting on Wednesday in Algeria.

During his year as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries public face, Khelil has sought to steer the group's 12 members as they tried to slow a record rally and then struggled to brake a record price crash.

India's oil impact 'to match China'

India has the potential to become "the next China", with the subcontinent likely to have a much larger impact on driving oil demand and prices over the medium to long term, PFC Energy said on Sunday.

The energy consultancy said in a report once the world emerges from the global recession India was likely to push forward with its plans for large-scale infrastructure projects, which have been delayed due to the current economic downturn.

The growth generated by these massive projects - which include transportation, power, manufacturing, housing and rural development - will lead to a huge surge in energy consumption, PFC said.

Oil firms face tough disclosure rules: Congress wants to know how much companies pay foreign governments

Confronting an increasingly competitive environment around the globe, the major oil companies now face legislation that aims to use them to help keep corrupt regimes abroad from stealing their own people's oil wealth.

The incoming Congress is likely to consider a measure that would force oil producers, mining companies and other "extractive" industries that file annual reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to reveal how much they pay to foreign governments.

Indonesia Cuts Subsidized Gasoline, Diesel Prices Effective Monday

JAKARTA -(Dow Jones)- The Indonesian government Sunday decided to cut the prices of subsidized retail gasoline and transportation diesel starting Monday following the recent fall in oil prices globally.

Chavez, Castro Sign Agreements to Boost Cuban Refining Capacity

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban President Raul Castro signed agreements today to expand Cuba's oil-refining capacity.

The agreements during a meeting at the presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, include the expansion of the refining capacity at the Hermanos Diaz refinery in Cuba to 50,000 barrels a day from the current 22,000 barrels.

Russia urges for oil aid to DPRK

MOSCOW (Xinhua) -- Russia on Saturday rejected a United States proposal to suspend shipment of fuel aid to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) amid stalled denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

"The statement by the U.S. State Department made following the six-party talks in Beijing surprised us," RIA Novosti news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin as saying, referring to Washington's announcement to put off fuel shipments to the DPRK until Pyongyang accepts the verification protocol of its nuclear facilities.

'I was down in Nigeria . . . Lot of guns . . . lot of guns to the head'

Mark Tolley is describing flying in to visit an oil field in Pakistan's Indus River flood plain. “We would arrive at Sukkur airport and would walk outside, and there are these two twin-carb four-wheel drives with mounted machine guns in the back, like you see in Iraq.

“You'd get halfway, and the driver would say: ‘Too much shellfire today.' Back to the hotel, to drink warm beer all day, and try again next day. ‘How are things?' ‘Rocket attack'.”

Which war was this? “It wasn't. This was just business as normal.”

Oil-rich Angola launches direct flight to China

LUANDA (AFP) - Angola has launched a flight linking it to China, which has sent thousands of citizens to work on the reconstruction of the continent's fastest growing economy following its 27-year civil war.

Chesapeake Energy CEO reassures investors that company can ride out recession

The top executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation's largest natural gas producer, on Monday blamed the stunning collapse of the company's stock price on "false rumors" that the company could end up in bankruptcy.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. Chief Executive and co-founder Aubrey McClendon told analysts on a conference call that the Oklahoma City-based company is well positioned to ride out the recession and tumbling natural gas prices. He said the company's shares are worth several times what they are currently trading for.

Books for savvy investors

Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy by Matthew R. Simmons. Are we running out of oil or aren't we? Matthew Simmons is one of the world's most-respected energy analysts. His detailed research indicates that the jumbo oilfields that we are so dependent on are in decline and their production is not being replaced.

Police: High gas prices drove up arson cases in 2008

Vehicle arsons in Bensalem are up nearly 500 percent from 2007 to 2008, from seven to 41, Sponheimer and township Fire Marshal Jay Scanlon said. About 75 percent to 80 percent of the burned vehicles are torched pickup trucks, minivans or SUVs, Sponheimer added. Sponheimer said he thought the drop in gas prices in the past few months would have made a difference, but they are still getting about one new arson case each week.

The gas guzzlers have lost their value, the officials said, because people just don't have the money to fill them up.

Tasco plans massive White Mountain wind farm

ROCK SPRINGS -- When there's a full moon, Chris Plant, an instructor at Western Wyoming Community College, often takes his students up on White Mountain to see the view from the top of the local landmark, Pilot Butte.

Now he's worried a massive wind farm proposal for White Mountain could ruin that experience.

"I'm all for wind energy, but there are places on White Mountain open to hunting and recreation ... and others like Pilot Butte, which to me is sacred," Plant said about the possible location of 200 or more turbines on the mountain as part of a proposed wind energy farm.

Natural gas tanks under consideration at Totten

A city plan to install compressed natural gas tanks at Fort Totten Park has nearby residents fuming.

“It’s not safe and it’s a potential target for terrorists,” said Warren Schreiber, who has support from two local groups he heads: the Bay Terrace Alliance and the Bay Terrace Co-op Section 1.

Schreiber represents 200 units in his co-op and more than 4,000 families in 19 co-ops and condominiums as alliance president. “We support the tram, but are vehemently opposed to the placement of compressed natural gas on the grounds of Fort Totten Park,” he said.

Gov. Paterson Signs Bag Recycling Bill

ALBANY (AP) ― Starting next month, many New York retailers will be required to recycle plastic shopping bags under a bill Gov. David Paterson signed into law on Saturday.

Near-Paralysis at UN Climate Talks Ends With Vow for New Treaty

(Bloomberg) -- One hundred eighty-nine countries agreed to start formal negotiations for a new treaty to fight global warming, following a two-week debate that exposed the gap they must close between rich and poor nations.

The U.S., Canada and Japan rebuffed demands by developing countries for pledges to cut greenhouse-gas emissions at the United Nations-led climate talks in Poznan, Poland. Requests by China and South Africa for more industrialized nations to share clean-energy technologies got no support at the talks.

Australia: Fund to ease carbon cost

SMALL businesses and community organisations will have access to a $1.4 billion fund to help them cut their energy use and avoid the brunt of price increases to be caused by Australia's emissions trading scheme.

The Climate Change Action Fund, available for five years, will be among the details of the emissions trading scheme to be launched in Canberra today.

In retrospect, I never expected things to unfold like they have.

For the last couple of years I have been focused on peak oil/energy as the problem, but the reality was, that there were a multitude of problems, and peak oil was the precipitating event that collapsed a multitude of illusions. I think we may have been able to handle one or two problems, but not this many.

When oil prices surged these last couple of years, the tide went out, and it turned out that everyone was swimming naked. Sure, now that it has happened, it is so obvious, but not prior to these events. It just never occurred to me that everything would meld into such destructive disharmony.

Yes, I knew that national and personal debt has been unsustainable for decades, that bankers were crooks, that the stock market was a bubble, that farming practices were not sustainable, that energy policy was not sustainable, that climate chance was a problem, that politicians were corrupt and that nations would resort to “beggar thy neighbor” in a panic. However, what I never even considered, was that these separate circumstances would join together in a choir of such destruction.



I did pretty much expect this. I'm the kind of person who sees the forest, not the trees, and the interconnectedness of it all was the big problem, from my POV.

I do think the system has proven more resilient than many expected. Helicopter Ben may be making things worse in the long run, but in the short run, he's keeping all the balls in the air.

Last year at this time, some were predicting massive economic collapse after the holidays. Massive bank failures, store shelves empty, the end of Wall St. as we know it, etc. Though we've teetered near the brink a couple of times over the past year, Bernanke and company have managed to keep things going.

Bernanke and company have managed to keep things going.

It's all about how you define "things", in my opinion. People and cultures have a huge ability to adapt to new situations, then their short-term memory lapses allow them to believe that the new is pretty much the way everything always was.

If this weren't so, we wouldn't, as a species, have colonized every ecological niche on the planet over the last 100,000 years. People are much better at explaining the present than they are at predicting the future. That's one of the reasons that TOD, lovable and fascinating as it is, will always be ahead of the curve, and therefore, on the fringe.

And of course, advancing wild-ass guesses on this site has no real consequence. It is at best, greatly educational, and at worst, vastly entertaining, but in Ben Bernanke's world WAG's have real consequences. I believe he is leading us to a new reality (basically, concentration of wealth in fewer hands, and diminished expectations for most of us). And in due time, the likelihood is that everyone will come to accept the new reality as the enduring "normal" state of affairs.

It also depends on how one defines "collapse" too! I don't believe anyone was forecasting a total collapse, down to zero, for the world's economy, "just" a collapse that could be comparatble to the Great Depression, which in itself is quite bad enough, even if by some miraculous stroke of luck it doesn't turn out to be that bad.

Bernanke and the rest of them are doing an incredibly bad job. They are sacrificing the entire economy to save the financial institutions. They are trying to reflate a massive debt bubble that should never have been allowed to inflate in the first place. There "solutions" are actually making things worse and compounding the problems we face.

Hi Leanan, as Heading Out talks about, prediction sucks. However, even tho we had a nice go round with Ilargi yesterday, over at TAE they have looked at the choking of world trade and are thinking look for impact on availability towards the end of January 2009. I personally think January is going to be a blood bath for mid range retailers no matter what happens with the auto sector. How all this plays out, who knows, but I don't think it will be good. Here in Canada the delusion is beginning to slip and it seems the BTB spin doctors are preparing us for the real news. The TV interviews with the "person on the street" and the polls indicate a willingness to support any sort of government that will promise BAU. Perhaps this is how Germany felt in 1932. We will have government by decree for a few weeks here. Not that the parliamentry opposition is particularily effective, but it is an open time to pander to the unrealistic expectations of the population instead of trying to lead us to a better long term outcome. I think, to use your metaphore, they will keep the balls in the air a bit longer but leading to an even worse outcome of a government bankrupt in both ideas and money.

I've never made any definite predictions, but what I see does not look good. The by now familiar Baltic Dry shipping index is close to the freezing point (hey, ever been to the Baltic?), which simply mean the amount of goods and raw materials shipped is sinking fast. I hear stories in France of unavailable goods in stores, that sort of thing.

Perhaps most importantly, I think we'll start to see what a credit crunch really is. There are very few companies and stores in our economies that can continue operating without access to (letters) of credit, and for whom Christmas this year is a sort of last desperate gamble. I've written about that before, and then today The Observer runs the article below. It just simply doesn't look good. I saw some words here about the resilience of 'the system', but I think that's a bit of an illusion, and I see little proof of it.

The global economy has lost tens of trillions of dollars so far (another $5 trillion in pension funds alone in 2008, see TAE), and there's much more to come. And that yet-to-come part will be much harder, because all reserves are now gone. The point where the balloon has been blown up so far that it's stretched to the limit is drawing near, is all I can conclude.

British retailers fear collapse of lines of supply

Supermarkets draw up emergency plans to keep shelves full

Fears that scores of supermarket suppliers will go bust next year have led the country's major chains to draw up emergency plans to replace them, The Observer can reveal.

Separately, on the high street, bailiffs are getting ready for their busiest Christmas ever, with a slew of retailers expected to go into administration.

When I started planning to build my lifeboat back in 2003, I had already come to the conclusion that the crises in finance, energy and climate would eventually show up in food availability or lack of. It therefore became the keystone of my planning with all else built around it. In fact it was rather easy, as I discovered, because historically its been the keystone of human existence and therefore it comes naturally to us once we see the necessity (once the scales fall from our eyes).

Eventually, I imagine that the multitude of crises we face will be looked upon through the lens of food production. Rather than as distinct and separate crises requiring separate responses.

Interesting to see Libya buying up land rights in the Ukraine in the article "Global grain rush under way as rich nations snap up farmland overseas". One of the things I anticipated was the removal of food produce from the global market place, meaning money alone would not be enough to secure access to the vital production. Although I assumed this would come about due to protective hoarding, political affiliations (power blocks) and neo-colonisation. In actuality, it seems to be happening in a much more subtle and complex fashion.

Glad you brought up the Baltic Dry Index. Yesterday's comments included link's to Financial Sense and M. Simmons. Where Matt and Jim give the impression that there is no glut of empty ships, that every tanker is full. So what is it, Lots of full ships, or low Baltic dry, I mishear, or something in between-that the index doesn't include oil tankers?

The Baltic Dry Index measures the prices for ships that carry dry goods so it has nothing to do with oil tankers. I believe the major item carried by "dry" ships is iron ore, steel and grains. The iron ore and steel markets have been hit hard by the economic crisis.

Worldwide oil demand is down 2-4% so tankers are being paid less but there are not an implosion in prices like there is for the dry ships.


Come to think of it, oil is indeed a wet good, not a dry one! :)

What about coal, though? Is coal technically considered a "dry good"? (It is, after all, dry!)

I am wondering if the letter of credit problem is as much of an issue with the oil tankers as it is with the dry bulk shippers? My impression is that a lot of the tanker fleet is owned by the IOCs, is it not?

Right now there is a very high demand for tankers for storage.

According to Simmons, that's the rumour. The actual fact (according to his discussions with the tanker industry he says) is that four tankers have been booked as future storage but are not being used for that purpose yet.

Only the pirates are currently storing oil in VCCs according to Simmons.

ilargi: We had some discussion here a couple of days ago - some observations that retailers didn't seem to be discounting all THAT extremely, in light of the economic situation. There are bargains, to be sure, but not the fire sale liquidation that you might expect. This led me to speculate that maybe the retailers are assuming that they are not going to be able to restock their shelves after the holidays, because: a) suppliers factories are closed down; or b) goods cannot be shipped overseas due to a lack of letters of credit; or c) retailers can't get financing to carry new inventory; or d) all of the above. In other words, they are assuming that what they have on the shelves now is pretty much all they are going to have for some time to come. Thus, if they are to have any hope of outlasting their competitors, of being the "last store standing", then their only prayer of a chance is to NOT liquidate their merchandise at a loss, but rather to mark down just enough to continue bringing the customers in, and hope to keep enough merchandise on the shelves so that a trickle of customers will keep coming in to buy after Christmas - with store hours and staffing cut to the absolute bone, of course. What do you think?

If the available credit is as bad as I think it is, and I see no reason to assume otherwise, January will be both dark and bleak. And cold too. If you have a store that has lost 30-40-50% of sales from last year, which bank will give you a loan to buy your January inventory? This is the overall pattern. People will spend for X-Mas,and that's a maybe, but it is down sharply. Who'll buy anything in 2009? Yeah, food, and rent and heating, things you need. But anything more than that? As job losses hit a million a month? I see everyone who still has dough waiting it out. Of course there'll be incredible deals as well, stores trying to stay alive by selling at any price, but that's a death warrant. Their best customers will be the ones who think they still have solid credit, and the ones who never noticed anything changed.

Ha..the retailers then.The retail trade.

No bargains did I see last Friday..Wondered just why.

Then I surmised that they might have had a headsup that products on their shelves might very soon be in very very short supply.

So if they can hang on for awhile then they can run those prices up very high. Perhaps like gas is likely to do on the other side of what is now happening.

Why sell cheap, as they watch the others being liquidated around them?
Why not keep most of what you have since the crowds won't be buying much anyway? Save it for when TSHTF and at least survive a bit longer.

I think some in retail are reading the tea leaves and finally getting a clue.


Given the lack of transparency in the banking/financial/investment system and the lack of transparency with respect to what Paulson has actually done so far and the still possible bankruptcy of the U.S. auto industry, the future still seems rather murky to me and could go either way. Just looking at the stock market, the S&P is bouncing around below 900 and has stayed above the bottom long enough that we don't seemed poised for things to get dramatically worse anytime soon. But these are all short term appearances. Things could still get dramatically worse or a little bit better over time.

The core of our economic system is still perched on a pretty shaky foundation and I still do not see how we will successfully compete in the global market place until things get much worse for the average worker, the people that actually produce goods and services other than financial instruments. The house of cards which is finance is also crumbling and much of this wealth will migrate elsewhere.

In the short run, the person falling from the 100 story building is fine. It is just that last little bit that really hurts. As you say, we really don't know what the effects of this will be in the long run. Keeping balls in the air in the short run does not seem all that comforting in this neck of the woods.

Paulson is making sure there are a lot of little people under the banks to cushion their fall.
They tell us the government is funneling Americas money to the international investment banks to help Americans out.
We are screwed any time the government tells us it is too complicated for us to understand and we just need to trust them.

Talked to a neighbor this morning while shoveling snow. She works at HP. She personally knows several people around her who have been axed. She feels like it probably won't happen to her but she was visably concerned and said they are planning on not exchanging gifts this year, just a big family dinner with lots of wine.

People are worried about their jobs and are not consuming.

Which is hurting the economy causing more layoffs which worries more people who in turn stop consuming which hurts the economy... well you get the idea.

So the only problem is that people worry too much.

"Don't worry go shopping now"

I think we at TOD should have more of a discussion about:

1. "The Economy" --what does this anthropomorphized term mean? What makes Mr. or Miss Economy feel healthy and robust as opposed to "feeling" sickly and are these "feelings" related to reality?

2. Well-being (also known as "wealth") --what gives us a sense of well being?

3. The future ways in which people will trade ("fairly") with each other and thus create a new "economy" and hopefully a new sense of well being rather than despair.

I 2nd that emotion

4. Not quite so macro: a consensus definition of Fast Crash and Slow Crash. My Fast Crash is Leanan's Slow Crash, for example. Greer, I don't know.

FWIW...Greer points out that it took over 400 years for the Roman Empire to collapse. His timeline for the peak oil collapse seems to be in the neighborhood of 200 years...but with periods of fast change ("stair steps down") interspersed with periods of relative stability.

Greer irritates me to no end. I know part of the reason is that he is pretty dismissive of the fast crash crowd. I don't know what the other 90% of it is... I used to like that style of prose. I guess it's mostly because his assumptions are backed only by his opinion, but he's quite arrogant about it all.

The Roman fall(I've used it in my own argumentation) is only very roughly analogous. Yes, it had problems flowing out of complexity (empire, distance, an upper class to support, etc.). Yes, it had problems with resources (silver from Spain, depleted fields for food, a large army to feed and pay for.) But, the truth is, there were no natural limits breached. There were still huge amounts of resources available, so it was a system breakdown, really.

And what of speed? Of everything? How long did it take a shortage of any kind to propagate through the empire vs how long it takes now? And, how many people could make do with doing for themselves then vs. now? How much cushion did that provide?

This beast is different. It's truly global, it's about resources running out, it's about the entire underlying socio-politico-economic structure coming apart, it's about an interconnectedness that propagates very quickly...

I've not gone 100% in any direction yet, and even to the extent that I lean strongly one way, even within that direction there are soooo many variables... but think a period longer than a few decades for very significant decline is a fantasy less some amazingly fast developments in renewables, world cooperation, relocalization, etc.


The Roman Empire is a bad analogy. Regarding empires, their rise and fall have being accelerating through the Centuries or so I read somewhere. Each successive empire's time in the sun has been shorter than its predecessor's.

Regarding empires, their rise and fall have being accelerating through the Centuries or so I read somewhere.

That doesn't seem to be the case, at least based on the list of empires at Wikipedia:

  • Akkadian (~2200BC-2100BC)
  • Assyrian (2000BC-612BC)
  • New Kingdom Egypt (~1400BC-1100BC)
  • Achaemenid (550BC-330BC)
  • Roman Republic/Empire (~500BC-476AD)
  • Roman/Byzantine Empire (~500BC-1453AD)
  • Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD)
  • Song Dynasty (960AD-1279AD)
  • Holy Roman Empire (962AD-1806AD)
  • Mongol Empire (1206AD-1294AD)
  • Russian Empire (1721AD-1917AD)
  • British Empire (~1650AD-1950AD)

There seems to be a mix of different empire durations all throughout history, with the first empire lasting only ~100 years, and most of the early empires lasting less time than the British Empire.

It's worth noting that the breakup of an empire need no longer be chaotic and bloody - the British Empire didn't collapse so much as transition into mutually-beneficial democracies, most of which continued to thrive quite well.

Of course you left out the American Empire.

Interesting link. Thanks.

The Roman Empire was not founded on our current ideology of free trade globalized capitalism. I agree with those who argue that Rome is not a valid analogy.

The evidence is all around us that the system has already collapsed. General Motors AND the banks are nonfunctional and on last-gasp life support operated by a nonfunctional Federal government. (When was the last time that a single man, Hank Paulson of Treasury, was given Caesar like powers over 700 Billion (with a B) dollars?) To argue that this is BAU is to be in total denial.

What I'm asking is, what's next? What "new" economy will replace the near dead current "economy"?

Rome may be a better analogy than you think. The (western) Roman Empire didn't collapse. It was abandoned when Constantine moved the capital to Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire flourished for another thousand years, after which it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, which I think got into a little scrape just last century.

Point of story: Things collapse when they are no longer profitable. Then they reorganize into something else. Well, what’s left of them. Oh, but historians like to put dates on things. I wonder what future historians will cite as the date of the fall of the United States Empire?


It's still one of the theories i have in mind that come January 20th they are just going to step back and smile, letting the balls fall where they may. for example someone posted something in yessterday's drumbeat that bush might on his way out dissolve the fdic system*.

*imho the fdic system wouldn't work anyway, it's like backing the ponzi scheme with another one. Sure fine it works when one bank fails occasionally, or a few banks every quarter. but like the bank loan system it's self, the system can tolerate the occasional loan failure because the non-failed loans pay for the losses as well as the fact that the bank gets all the property involved with the loan. this is not the case when a whole bunch fail at the same time or close enough together. Still with security theater it's the impression of safety that matters and if that is removed panic ensues.

I do think the system has proven more resilient than many expected.

You write that leanan, after what, several months? All of these discussions about type of collapse, catabolic, fast, slow - seems to me even if it takes several decades that's fast. I'd quibble over the word resilient; it seems to me the degree of interconnection is even more than I thought. Remember those Microsoft commercials of a few years back - "1 degree of separation"? I turned to my friends and said, those are companies that are all about to get rolled up and Wal-Marted. I called that zero degrees of separation and unstable.

Simmons and Hirsh yesterday talking about 9% decline rates halving production (and not including ELM) in 8 years, that struck me as way too fast for my tastes. I'm a libra and steady steady but that sent me to bed with an upset stomach.

9% Decline rate plus ELM - shall we revisit what real doomer porn looks like? We're not even going to be able to afford ammunition.

cfm in Gray, ME, suffering an attitude problem

You write that leanan, after what, several months? All of these discussions about type of collapse, catabolic, fast, slow - seems to me even if it takes several decades that's fast.

You might, but for most peak oilers, I'd say fast means in a few weeks or months. Fast means no food on the shelves in January.

Decades is not really fast as humans judge things. Decades means we might not be alive to see it, so hey, not our problem.

I'm a libra and steady steady but that sent me to bed with an upset stomach.

Heh. I'm a leo, with libra moon and rising sign - who is 55 and is starting a new career in a WEEK.

I'm in attitude oscillation - max positive, roll off, then into max negative !!

I'm a libra. The only sign that is not organic. Not represented by a living creature or some body part.

I prefer to weigh all things. I believe in planting by the signs though.


Hi Robert,

Congratulations on landing your new job and best wishes for every success as you begin your new career.

Your post reminds me of John Kenneth Galbraith's famous quip, "the function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable."


Major Opps there - don't have the job YET - LOOKING in my new career.

With my inner mental preparation looking is part and parcel of the finding :)

I do think the system has proven more resilient than many expected. Helicopter Ben may be making things worse in the long run, but in the short run, he's keeping all the balls in the air.

Resilient isn't the word I'd use, as it implies detecting and responding sensibly to "damage", maybe even optimally given the damage. I'd say the system is a lot less "coherent" than people thought, which means that situations (damage) that probably ought to lead to other parts of the system detecting damage/problems and "doing the sensible thing" and folding haven't resulted in that, with them instead continuing on as if everything's ok. (An example is Woolworths in the UK: arguably it ought to have resolved things 6-12 months ago, either doing something radically different in an attempt to find a way to be profitable or folding. Instead they've carried on almost the same business model that was proving to be unprofitable.) Rather than the balls in the air metaphor I'd say the world finance people seem to be doing ok-ish at persuading all the poker players around the table that despite the fact they've seen 4 aces, 4 kings and 4 queens go onto the discard pile, each player still has a chance of extending their cards into a royal flush and thus should keep betting. (Yeah, I know you don't actually have discard piles in poker. But you get the idea.)

Resilient isn't the word I'd use, as it implies detecting and responding sensibly to "damage", maybe even optimally given the damage.

I don't think so. I think of it as more organic and reactive than that. The future is inherently unpredictable, after all.

Take Iceland as an example. Their financial system collapsed, the government nationalized the banks. People panicked and bought out the grocery stores at first.

But it hasn't been catastrophic. The government has prioritized food and fuel imports over everything else, and that has keep things running. It's not over by a long shot, but it doesn't look like they're heading for a fast crash.

Iceland is an interesting example. They've arranged IMF and other foreign loans. Will conditions move into a way they can repay these loans on schedule? If conditions don't, was taking the loans anyway and dealing with the fallout of non-repayment later the best thing to do, or should they have defaulted on lots of commitments now? I don't know.

The point I was making was I'm not convinced the system is "resilient in a good sense" so much as "incoherent and hence difficult to disrupt short-term". I agree with you that it's not-a-fast-crash, just disagree about why it's not fast (at least in some parts of the system).

I never said I thought it was resilient in a good sense.

And your point is????

Iceland only has 304,000 people...Gee Wiz Batman, Milwaukee has 597,000.

Is that really hard to do for 304,000???

What do think will really happen when 300 million empty out the stores?

Power Down..

With so many trends already close to tipping points, they are pushing each other over like dominoes.

I'm a firm believer that Tipping Points are only discernible in retrospect.

That said, I do think that a bankruptcy filing by GM would be a Tipping Point.

I'm a firm believer that Tipping Points are only discernible in retrospect.

Not so, or there would never be any correct prognostications, of which, actually, there are many.

If anyone is interested, china just announced they would pursue the “beggar thy neighbor”, strategy.


"China will increase its money supply by 17 percent next year"

Should get interesting.

via tickerforum:

BitterOldCoot and I are likely about the same age.

Yet I am not bitter. I am truly angry though.

I try to find some peace in my latter years. Too far gone to be bitter.
Here on the farm I find that peace and I will work as I must to survive and I can.

Its only from a perspective that was created by living thru those many years and living the dreams that one can look now and find little peace in our current culture and society.

So its going badly. It couldn't have lasted but IMO I still think that somewhere along about the latter 70's and surely the 80s some vast change came over the upcoming generations. Something mammoth.

I suddenly didn't recognize my own people in this nation. They were like podpeople,suddenly dropped from hovering spaceships.

They did not favor or seek what my generation sought. The oldsters of my past had died out but we didn't throw them in ugly nasty nursing home to dribble and zombie out with sedatives. We listened to them and mostly respected them.

Now more than one generation of culture and knowledge has fled. Its like they disbursed dumb pills at our shools. Surely they taught my children things that I found unworthy and ignorant. Like how to not know how to do arithmetic in their heads. Lots more in that they untaught them what I tried to teach them. Truth. Honor. Morality.

They ended up pissing all that away. I still don't recognize my own children and their values.

So I live alone here on the farm. See them ocassionally. Wish them well and watch as they spiral the drain. My daughter so far in hock with student loans as to never ever repay even a small portion.

To them debt is something to always have and use. No need to be debt free they feel.

So now comes real TRUTH. The kind they can't handle. They tell me to shut up about it. They don't like the truth.

Airdale-do I know the truth? No. I just play the hand I was dealt and watch the faces of the others around the poker table. I usually win at poker or used to. I never play it anymore. Live has become the gamble. The big casino. .........so I play my cards as I see fit,always have and always will and let the devil take the shame.

Airdale your children might show up at the farm to live without having left a forwarding address. Do you let them in? Do they love and respect you? Have they suffered enough to be open to embracing your values? These are all questions I am struggling with about my own family. There is the reverse to consider, that we must go and try to move in with one of them, reversing all the questions. Will we either one need to happen? I am not sure but think we need to be prepared. The real questions are not going to be how we make cheese, bread and grow barley but will be concerning the issues you raise and lots more. Ultimately how can we learn to survive in a viable unit long enough to need to know those technical things. All the best.

I am interested in how your daughter came to be so far in student loan debt. Who advises students to borrow money, who encourages it and who ignores it? Also, rhetorically, what happens when a student is "locked in" to one rate as the "prime rate" is dropping to zero?

Who advises students to borrow money, who encourages it and who ignores it?

The colleges encourage it. There's a belief, when you're in college, that any borrowing to fund your education is a "good investment." Kinda like grownups believe about buying houses. The grownups believe the house will appreciate in value. The kids believe once they're out of college, they'll have plenty of money to repay the loan.

Also, rhetorically, what happens when a student is "locked in" to one rate as the "prime rate" is dropping to zero?

You're basically screwed. This happened to college kids in the '80s, who borrowed when the prime rate was 20%, then saw credit card interest rates drop below their "bargain" student loan rates when it came time to pay them off.

I suppose you could refinance...if you could find someone who's willing to lend to you. Sallie Mae will probably have some programs.

As a college profesor, I find myself in an increasingly difficult position in this regard. Let's just say that the kind of advice that I am strongly inclined to give my students regarding their future would not be regarded by my college as something beneficial to its future.

Which is more likely to help you in five years time? The college or someone you told your truth to? My guess is if your college isn't equipping your students for some sort of collapse, then it may not be around in any form to hold good on your current loyalty. A couple of your students might be grateful for a heads-up now.

What I am talking about is in the neighborhood of 100k.

Gutwrenching.Yet they never asked me. I just co-signed the various autoloans , which they promptly defaulted on mostly. I learned to not do that anymore. I paid when they left apartments owning the last months rent. I did more and more and finally QUIT doing that.

So yes..the colleges are complicit yet I blamed the culture that stole my children from me. That taught them to lie was fine. That porn was ok.
That reneging on promises are to be expected. That screwing over everyone was the way of the system. The counselors told them that and plenty more. The system took over on them. Let the system sort it out.

Airdale-no longer my problemo...

PS. BTW Alcohol is beneficial for older, white , males. Medical research sez so. I believe them. I believe in doctoring oneself. Moderation? Ok. I do that.(somewhat)

Thanks for the comments Airdale. Best of luck to you and your kin. I find it amazing that there was no co-signer when I took out a school loan, just two "contacts", my brother and a now deceased aunt. Banks are loaning huge sums of money to young people that have no assurance of employment let alone a regular paycheck or job. Many of these young people have very little experience with money or loans or credit or work. They ask these young people, "how much you want?"

airdale, boy do I chuckle when I read your posts here. I'm very close to the same place you are. Done the cancer thing to, it does change you. It does kind of change your perspective. I'm ongoing, glad you are clear.

About kids, I had 2 boys first, I ended up a single parent. Met a nice young lady in the same position with 2 girls. We joined forces, a brady bunch if you will, the only thing I ever told them when they went out in the world was "don't get caught". that comes from living thru the 60's. They all had chores, pigs and chickens and garden. 1 out of 4 is a problem, I guess that works out well, have a grandchild she isn't even sure who the father is. And so it goes. We all lived in a tiny house for many years, personal spaces were violated, etc.. somebody stole the batteries out of the oldest girls vibrator. Chuckle. Odd things like this, accepting them, makes us a real family.

Each and everyone of them are doing well now, they remember their time here as a blessing. Oldest son and I shared a beer at Thanksgiving and talked about the fact he just missed the layoffs. Smart and bright he is, full scholarship to Colby. I never paid a penny. Colby wanted him.

Each one of them knows and has checked, if it gets bad can they come back here. Obviously the answer is yes, both boys are really good shots. They grew up with a hand pump, wood heat and an outhouse. actually set them up with some kewl stories for the girls. Younger sons young lady is a natural with a cross bow, she has won the shoot out every thanksgiving for the last 3 years. Working with my compound bow to beat her.

What I've built is for my kids. All of them are in big cities now, having fun, but they are smart enough to know this is their fall back position. They trust me to do that.

Remember I am a rock, I am an island?

Keep posting airdale, you make me smile, and in these times I can use that.

BTW got power back here yesterday around 3:00

Don in Maine

That taught them to lie was fine. That porn was ok.

You lost me on the porn thing, Gramps. And I'm 50.

He didn't loose you when he talked about shooting city slickers and how he was smart because he knows how to forage, or attacked actual data that contridicted his position as 'just googling'?

"In retrospect, I never expected things to unfold like they have."

that is a great line. Good first line for a novel

maybe I'll put it on my gravestone

As a few here have been saying all along - the interconnectedness of our system is sorely under appreciated. Plus, running everything as "efficiently" as possible leaves little room for redundancy. When one thing collapses, everything else down the chain is forced to take the slack. The sticky plaster approach is bound to fail.

Although no-one can be sure of the exact circumstances and sequence of the unwind in advance, there have been a number of people warning about the systemic failure of our complex societal organisation for some time now... time to rethink how our system works and rebuild from the ground up.

People keep saying we should build redundancy in to things. I "agree" in the sense that I also "agree" I and everyone else should get 8 hours sleep every night, eat a carefully balanced diet, leave in plenty of time to complete my journey, etc. The point is: how many people who agree to those ideals actually do more than one or two of those things consistently in their personal lives? I know I don't. Have human beings ever consciously built redundancy into what they do? (I'm always a bit suspicious when people say "X years ago we built stuff to last": did we really or was it someting that material vs labour costs, etc, just made building simple, bulky things the easiest thing to do?)

My big point is: maybe the best practical idea is not to come up with plans for how things out to be made redundant but figure out what the best ways to actively repair edge-of-capacity systems is?

I work on the trains. The railways were organized with a lot of redundancy. 20 years ago, up to a third of the drivers were paid full wages to sit around waiting for a hole to fill. Since then, the 'plantons' (the people waiting for something to turn up) have been greatly reduced.
The consequences are dire. Today, a train got stuck about 800 yards from the station. 20 years ago, It would have taken 15 minutes to get a driver, and have him pull the train into the station with a spare locomotive.
Today, both plantons were busy, the next one who could do the job was 30 miles away and didn't start work till 2 hours later. And the locomotive was on the wrong side of the station. The people on that train waited for 3 and a half hours, 800 yards out from the station. And as the train got stuck in the middle of the shuntings, 2/3ds of the station was unusable.

My point is this: Yes we can make robust systems with built in redundancy, and we have made such systems run quite smoothly.
However, there is a very strong trend towards maximum efficiency, 'optimizing' the system, and growing worker productivity. Reducing cost is the rationale.
This makes the system fragile: small hitches reverberate and become catastrophic.
A robust system is an expensive system: lots of 'surplus' resources, waiting to fill in the inevitable gaps.
I estimate that systems become resilient at about 25% redundancy, but a really robust system requires 66% redundancy: every part of the system can be replaced twice, if need be.
Redundancy is bad for the bottom line though: If you have one mailman sitting for every three on the street, waiting to replace the one who sprains his ankle or gets bitten by a dog, as long as no ankles are bitten or dogs sprained, that one mailman is a big expense to have on your balance sheet.

A history of inflation in the UK, from 1750 to present


What's interesting to note is the graph on page 3, figure 2. Gotta love monetary inflation ;-)

Regional banks in Georgia, Texas fail

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- State regulators closed local banks in Georgia and Texas Friday, bringing the total number of failed banks this year to 25.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said that the sole branch of Sanderson, Texas-based Sanderson State Bank will reopen Monday as a branch of The Pecos County State Bank.

Anyone else seen the Keanu Reeves movie, The Day the Earth Stood still?

Bunch of Aliens come to earth, to save the planet's species from humans. They warn humans that they are on the precipice of collapse and that we can not change our ways of destroying earth so they gather samples of species all over the planet, send em to space and plan to destroy earth.

In the movie we see fuel shortages, food riots, panic and chaos.

Will reality follow fiction? hmmm...

From the new James Bond film 'Quantum of Solace'

M: The worlds running out of oil James, the Russian's won't play ball and the Americans and Chinese are dividing up whats left.(from memory)

figured it would be like that. the original from what i told was a warning against intra species violence aka the cold war between russia and the usa. Other then that the movie is being near universally paned by critics and normal movie goer's. if the movie is trying to send a message, no one wants to hear it. Not surprising considering this is a country that thinks astro-theological mythology about the ball of nuclear fusion in the sky is truth and that truth tells them to 'be fruitful and multiply' or in some circles it will give them a brand new earth once we finish trashing this one and/or be star trek like teleported into the sky at the end of this one.

The original was on TV the other night. It was made in my bith year (1951) and is the first sci-fi that I can recall. Probably saw it when I was 6 or 7.

Quite entertaining to see hwo much things have changed - and are the same - after 57-58 years.

Do plan to see the new one though - maybe at an IMAX theater.

Klaatu barada nikto

The original was on TV the other night

Watched it with my teenaged son's. The most interesting observation they made was a complaint that it was black and white. Somehow I watched the whole thing, and just naturally adjusted to the lack of color w/o even noticing it didn't have any. I guess certain brain skills my generation had, like automatically filling in color mentally to black and white images are no longer developed. I also had to explain that they didn't have lasers back then. I did find it interesting that the most trustworthy world saving human was a woman. This was what, fifteen years before the modern womens movement formed!

It is one of the few movies, I actually want to see. Of course I have become so disillusioned with the foolishness and stupidity of our naked ape species, I will be rooting for the aliens! It could be dissapointing. I remember growing up watching mightymouse, and always hoping the villian would finally kill off that self-righteous twerp. They never made that episode!

The original [The Day The Earth Stood Still] was on TV the other night. ... Quite entertaining to see hwo much things have changed - and are the same - after 57-58 years.

For example, films rarely show medical doctors smoking cigarettes while discussing a patient's prognosis anymore. :-)

I can't wait to see how the public reacts to Cormac McCarthy's The Road. The film's release is being held off, waiting for something, what?
Some nice still shots at the link below, but the trailer has not even been leaked yet.

Considering the subject, i would not be surprised if it gets a nc-17 rating which is a death knell for any film.

The film's release is being held off, waiting for something, what?

Maybe they needed more time to chase Oscar.

I guess Imitation is flattery, but here's the original, if you want a glimpse of the real McCoy.
Blessed are the Screenwriters..


(thoughtful and
These other planets -- do they have
peace and security?

We had our atomic wars -- thousands
of years ago.
(he smiles wryly)
After that we fought with bows and
arrows. Then, slowly, we learned
that fighting is no solution -- that
aggression leads to chaos.

(with deep conviction)
We scientists understand this. Even
we primitive scientists.
What exactly is the nature of your
mission, Mr. Klaatu?

I watched this film once, lying on the Grass in Bryant Park, in Manhattan with a few thousand New Yorkers, several years ago, and when Klaatu turned the world's lights out there was a shot looking down on 1950's Midtown. Right where we were. It was pretty awesome to have a 50 year old, black and white, out-of-body experience, and live to tell the tale!

I will probably manage to skip the remake, unless I hear it's excellent.

Another great line from the 'b-plot' of the story, Helen's boyfriend, Tom. (B-plot is where, I'm told a screenwriter gets to reinforce the central theme of the Story.)

(she is sensible and
objective, but not
I think I'm very lucky. You don't
always get a chance to recognize a
mistake before you make it.

I'll pass on the remake, excessive visual effects, over amplified explosions and increased pace serve to detract from the underlying $10 climate change message. Similar to the new eco tv game "go for the green" we glanced at last night, where many in the audience applauded when told the USA would win the Carbon footprint per capita Olympics in competition over China in Russia. Host Tom Green had to repeat the statement and remind the audience that winning this type of competition is not good...

In an effort to eliminate the largest chunk of my remaining fuel oil demand, I've added a second ductless heat pump to my basement level. As mentioned in yesterday's Drumbeat, I opted for a Sanyo inverter model and I have to say this is a really impressive unit. First of all, it's incredibly quiet, both inside and out. Secondly, this thing cranks out a tremendous amount of heat -- the current outside temperature is -3C and the air coming out of the vent is reading +42.8C. I have it plugged into a Kill-a-Watt meter, so I'll be closely monitoring its energy performance over the coming weeks but, thus far, my only real regret is that I didn't install it sooner.

You can view a picture of the outdoor compressor at: http://www.datafilehost.com/download-d770b0a1.html

A picture of the indoor air handler can be found at: http://www.datafilehost.com/download-6e8eedde.html


So Paul, what exactly is the inverter on the Sanyo inverter model and what does it do? I only know inverters for AC/DC conversion.

Hi Bryant,

I may cause the electrical engineers amongst us to woof their cookies, but as I understand it, an inverter system converts AC to DC, then converts it back to "simulated" AC which is supplied to the compressor at various voltages and frequencies. This, in turn, permits the compressor to be operated at a wide range of speeds, in contrast to a conventional system whereby the compressor is simply cycled on or off as required.

The key advantages of inverter systems are: 1) increased energy efficiency (typically 30% or more), 2) quieter operation, 3) faster response to changes in temperature settings, 4) the ability to more accurately maintain a set temperature by increasing or decreasing the amount of heat/coolth in direct proportion to demand, 4) the ability to operate at more extreme temperatures (e.g., down to -20C/-25C versus -10C), and 5) "soft start" operation, thereby eliminating any in rush in current (plays nicely with everything else tied to your main panel).

If you're going to purchase a ductless heat pump, I highly recommend that it be an inverter model.


I may cause the electrical engineers amongst us to woof their cookies, but as I understand it, an inverter system converts AC to DC, then converts it back to "simulated" AC

More than close enough for TOD. I think the inverter part only applies to the DC to AC part. AC to DC can be done with pretty primative technology, a diode (which only lets current flow one way), charging a capacitor.

BTW, I love your posts. It seems to me one of the best ideas for stimulating the North American economy, and helping with our coming energy/climate woes would be to seed a startup outfit doing your ine of work in every medium sized city. Any thoughts on how this could be accomplished?

Hi EoS,

You have a strong stomach... thanks!

I've had the good fortunate to hook-up with two partners who are among the best in their field and to work with Nova Scotia Power and Conserve Nova Scotia to help promote energy efficient lighting is a dream come true. I'm extremely proud of my work because what I do is of tangible benefit to our clients, programme sponsors and all ratepayers alike. It also has a positive impact on our environment and helps lessen our province's dependence upon imported coal and oil. This is not like selling caskets whereby you feel as if you're profiting from someone else's misfortune (...I'm so sorry for your tragic loss Mrs. Moore ... oh, and if you would like that in this stunning burled walnut finish, that's a $750.00 upgrade...)

As to how we may foster additional efforts along these lines, I'm hoping economic self-interest will take us where we need to go and, failing that, legislative measures are another option. More broadly speaking, we should never underestimate the contribution each of us can make, if we make the commitment.


Modern electric locomotives do something similar.

They take single phase AC, convert to DC and then convert that to 3 phase AC, Quite a change from locos of 25 years ago.

Best Hopes for Energy Efficiency,


Inverters are used for variable speed (VS) control of AC motors. They do convert AC, 60HZ North America or 50HZ rest of world to DC and then back to AC at the desired frequency. Control over the frequency allows the motor speed to be controlled.

This technology has revolutionized manufacturing in the last 20 years, leading to big energy savings. Fans and pumps can be run at the needed speed rather than throttling with dampers or valves, eliminating the friction losses of these devices. VS also gives very precise control of flows or machine speeds.

I did an economic analysis of replacing control valves with variable speed pumps back in the early 90's and have been a proponent ever since.

Your postings on heat pumps keep intriguing me. I always thought that one needed ground source to be effective, esp on this 3 degree F day here. You say otherwise.

Other than the Sanyo, could you give recommendations for others, and can it be completed do it yourself for one with basic electrical wiring ability? If not, what do think the installed costs for turnkey operation are?

I also wonder about if it's too expensive/unreliable for low temp air source, if milder air source heat pumps are not misspent money when one is only interested in heating, not cooling. I need to make some changes, and there are just to many variables. Old house, propane and elec at present, using more elec, but also rural and at the end of the power line-last to get back online after frequent outages. I think alot about an outdoor wood boiler, but they are pricey, and need electric also, so still with backup generator. Thanks for your links, pics, they help a bunch.

Hi Doug,

Others may disagree, but my sense is that unless you live in an especially cold climate or have unusually high space heating/cooling requirements, a high efficiency air source heat pump will be a more economical option due to its lower initial cost. They're also relatively simple to install, service and repair. I happen to like ductless units because they can be easily retrofitted into homes that have hot water baseboard, electric or in-floor radiant heating system and you have the option to spot heat and cool if you so desire. If I were building a new home, I would likely go with a concealed duct version, so to eliminate any visual intrusion into the living space (see: http://www.sanyohvac.com/productList.php?cat1=1&cat2=8).

In terms of recommended brands, you really can't go wrong with a Fujitsu, Friedrich, Sanyo or Mitsubishi; there may be others, but these are the ones that come to mind. With respect to installation, these products should be installed by licensed professionals, if for no other reason than to ensure full warranty coverage -- in any event, this is not something I would tackle on my own. I also think it makes sense to buy the best system that you can comfortably afford; the good news is that these inverter systems are not that much more expensive than a standard model and they offer far superior performance/value.

I mention this from time to time, but it bears repeating -- it's not critical that a ductless heat pump satisfy 100 per cent of your space heating requirements -- you want it to supply the optimal amount of heat so that your needs are met at the lowest possible cost. I use mine to displace as much of my oil heat as possible, but I accept there may be times when I'll need to fire-up my boiler to lend a hand.


Like others here, I also once thought that a "ground source heat pump" (sometimes mis-characterize as 'geothermal') was the best way to go, due to the larger heat capacity of water and the higher ground temp's found in New England climates. I was wrong. Split-head ductless systems like Mitsubishi's are extremely efficient and appropriate for New England winters. Of course they can do air conditioning in the summer too.

My company's hybrid solar thermal collectors (SunDrum Solar) were installed along with PV on a "Zero Energy" house in Townsend, MA this summer and it looks like the building will achieve its zero-net-energy goal - a family is now living in it and happy with its comfort and performance. The strategy for reducing energy consumption drastically was to concentrate extra effort, materials and $ on a very tight, super-insulated building envelope and then recoup that expense (which wasn't large) on the very modest heating system. You can heat the whole house on a worst-case winter day with two hair dryers and a light bulb (3080 watts). The Mitsubishi heat pump system supplies that heat.

You can read about it in the onlive version of Solar Today magazine, at http://www.solartoday-digital.org/solartoday/20081112/ starting on Page 26. The builder is in competition for a $25,000 first prize in a competition for the best energy-efficient home. Keep in mind these are real homes with real people living in them, not a computer-generated idealistic abstraction. And they're very affordable.

- Dick Lawrence

That's a really cool house, Dick, and congratulations to you and your firm on this project.

Through various efficiency measures and lifestyle practices, we reduced our home's energy requirements by almost 90 per cent. In the year prior to my purchase, the previous owners used 5,700 litres of fuel oil and some 14,000 kWh of electricity -- last year, we consumed 702 litres and 10,500 kWh and we're far from finished.


Hi Dick Lawrence,

I met a Dick Lawrence at the ASES meeting in Sparks, Nevada in 2002; are you he?

Too much of a sales pitch, Dick. Just how many Americans now and in the next 5 to 10 years do you think will be able to afford to build $192k home from scratch? More so, what's the energy cost of all the materials, including transport?

This is a nice solution for people with money and in a world not concerned wtih sustainability, but not for a sustainability-focused world.

I was very excited about Earthships and Enertia homes till I figured out they're both just eco-washed BAU because they are not solutions available to all levels of society. Earthships could be if you DIY and simplify some of the systems away from off-the-shlf systems.

Strawbale and cob are more in line with sustainable living, e.g.


Well built houses can last centuries (i.e. few houses are well built today).

Given that new homes are being built today, it is much more sustainable to devote those resources to an extremely energy efficient well built home than another McMansion.

I am generally an advocate of devoting much of our limited resources to long lived energy efficient infrastructure. We do have SOME resources now, and in the future. Using them for Passiv Hauses is not far from the "highest and best" use of those resources IMHO.

Best Hopes for Energy Efficiency,


Gee, I wonder how long you could run the house on the two hair dryers alone, before it approached the cost of the heat pump ;-)

Seriously, my friend in Stow spent something around $30K for his heat pump with a ground loop (a pit, not drilled) and maintains a very comfortable interior for about 10K KWH/year, about $1200 at local rates, but that doesn't include amortization of the initial cost. Paul has mentioned these air source heat pumps before. Are your Mitsubishi units were ASHPs with variable frequency drives like the one Paul described? How much did they cost?

Paul, about how much did your new Sanyo system cost?


Hi Chris,

I paid $1,350.00 for this Sanyo, another $220.00 for misc. materials and $500.00 for installation (that included a $100.00 "tip" as a way of saying thank you for a job well done), so my total, out-of-pocket cost was $2,070.00 CDN (< US$1,700.00).

With a HSPF rating of 9.3 (Zone 4), 10,000 kWh/yr of space heating demand, say, translates to 3,663 kWh of actual electrical demand (COP = 2.73) and at $0.1067/kWh, my annual operating cost would be $390.84 CDN (US$320.00). If that 10,000 kWh heating load were to be met by my oil-fired boiler (82% AFUE), I would expect to pay approximately $1,100.00 CDN (US$900.00), so my theoretical savings are in the range of $700.00/year (US$580.00), giving us a three-year payback, assuming the current spread between oil and electricity remains roughly the same (my last fill-up was October 24th and, at that time, I paid $0.969/litre).


Hi Paul

Wondering if you are still monitoring this thread. I didn't get back till now, but have a question-you mention above install, repair, maintain are simple, then say should get pro installed. So is it do it yourself or not, or you just covering warranty aspects here. I note you had pro install, and relatively good price, but one always wonders if our local guys can get near it for that. How many hrs for competent personnel if they've never done it before?

Did your prices include an exchanger? Working with a wood boiler, the exchanger is recommended to install in ducts from propane furnace. I think I like keeping the systems separate-advantages or disadvantages you see?

Also, is there any gain from locating the condenser on the south side of a house, as opposed to north or a shady east? Actually we have very few days in winter with solar gain-alot of fog/clouds from November on. I doubt solar pv will ever pencil here, most elec is hydro, but that's only good for when the transmission line is up, and who knows how long our rates will stay low.

I think most are learning that peak oil is peak energy, and welcome, the show has begun.

Hi Doug,

Sorry, that does sound contradictory, but what I meant is simple/straightforward in comparison to ground source heat pumps which require extensive trenching or drilling and the installation of a full duct system if one doesn't already exist (I have a hot water heating system, so a ductless heat pump is a must). Tom was able to complete the work in about four hours and this was a more complicated job than most because my indoor air handler is positioned on an inside wall and located some distance from the outdoor compressor. In addition, the house sits on a poured concrete sill, so we had to run the lines up through the basement floor, inside a kitchen cupboard, then outside through the frame wall; otherwise, we would have required the services of a core driller which is something we both wanted to avoid.

You could likely do 90 per cent of the work on your own, but purging the lines is the critical step and, for that, you require the proper equipment. If you're curious, you can view the installation manual at: http://www.sanyohvac.com/assets/documents/installation/Install_KHS_09-12...


I read/skimmed thru the manual, saw the no no's for installation in the sun or near direct heat sources, but still wonder, is the unit more efficient if installed on a warmer south side than north if you are only concerned with heating, not ever using the cooling.

This house is 80 yrs plus, on a basement of concrete and rock over a foot thick. Reading the stuff, I'd think a multi (2) exchanger might be best. We close off the upstairs in winter-really a finished attic-but don't see the option for mounting 2 high on the walls. Once again, is this recommendation of mounting exchangers high on the walls for a/c consideration?

Hi Doug,

My suspicion is that any difference in performance based on a southern versus northern exposure would be negligible at best - all else being equal, it's more important that the outdoor unit be sheltered from strong winds so that heat isn't unnecessarily lost from the coils as they undergo defrosting. In terms of the placement of the indoor air handler, I'm guessing it's normally mounted high on the wall to ensure good circulation/adequate throw (more of a concern with respect to a/c than heating), to minimize any interference with furniture placement and to prevent personal injury/damage to the unit in the event of a collision between man and machine.

A multi-zone system with two or more air handlers may be appropriate for larger homes or homes that are divided into several smaller rooms, thereby restricting good air movement. However, they tend to be somewhat pricey and you need to run multiple sets of refrigeration lines either inside or along the outside of your home, so the installation can be a bit more complicated or other aesthetic issues come into play. Personally, I would stick with the one head - one compressor approach because it eliminates the risk of a single failure point taking down your entire system and because it allows you to "test the waters" without investing a huge amount of capital.


Thanks Paul,
The numbers keep getting better. Our electric rate is a bit higher than yours, but it's still a pretty good deal relative to oil, and a handy payback relative to electric resistance heating, what we currently have excluding our woodstove.

If you're saying you can have 10,000 kWh worth of heating for 3700 kWh worth of electricity, direct savings of about 6300 kWh/year @ $.12/kWh(I'm assuming a year here) comes to $700 so the system breaks even in 3 years.

That's phenomenal compared to the GSHP case, and worth considering now. I don't have any ductwork at all and it is much more costly to install some.

Many thanks!

(ps) Dick - kudos on your installation. Our home isn't nearly as efficient as what you built up in Townsend. Are you working with Carter Scott?

Hi Chris,

That's correct and it's why I'm such a strong believer in these systems. There are no doubt applications where a GSHP may be a better fit but, nine times out of ten, I'm convinced a good air source unit will provide better overall value. If you have a reasonably energy-efficient home, the difference in operating costs is likely to be rather small, and if you have a less efficient home with correspondingly higher heat demand, the additional expense of a GSHP might be better spent on insulation and air sealing; generally speaking, you'll achieve a higher return on your investment and enjoy a greater degree of comfort.


I tend to agree with the linked piece up top (Apeakalypse Now) as I too feel that Americans are not better prepared than people in Thailand to navigate energy descent and entropy. One reason: guns. I am personally freaked out by the uptick in handgun sales (+50% post-election). These guns will be our undoing.


The USA has nearly one gun per resident. Thailand is not on the list. Philippinos, by comparison, have about 1/20th the US figure. I have a nagging feeling that all these guns will prove problematic when TSHTF here in the GOUSA. Our Civil War killed about as many Americans as WWII, WWI, Korea, and Vietnam combined. We are capable of some hideous acts, and guns make it easier for those acts to be permanent and played out over longer distances.

I was talking with a friend about the future, he was arguing in favor of gun ownership and training in order to defend oneself against the hordes. I tried to explain my view, that if it comes to that- me against the hordes mediated by bullets- then at that moment I've lost already and the world won't be one worth living in.

Totally agree, guns in the hands of angry, scared and confused people will ultimately lead to serious problems.

the cause of the outrage of his comment about desprite people clinging to guns and religion, was not that it wasn't true, any look at history proves the contrary. it was because it was politically incorrect to state it. The united states will not be a pretty place once the panic starts.

It's seriously problematic. But so is what is in the trunk of the typical US police cruiser - way more than any Army personnel carry. We're going to end up with people shooting people and lots of the police running a protection racket for the bosses. What would Gandhi do? Cry? March over a cliff?

cfm in Gray, ME

Did for England.


How about guns in the hands of calm, confident, and purposeful people, like me?

About 25 or 26 years ago I sent a letter to the editors of JAMA when they started their anti-gun bias. I commented on four different countries,in two of which guns were illegal, and two with high crime rate with guns, two with low crime rates with guns. My examples were Japan, where they have a low gun crime rate and guns are illegal; Switzerland where they have a low gun crime rate, and guns are legal, and in fact, all males of service age are required to have an assault rifle at home as they are in the military reserve; Ireland which at the time had a high gun crime rate with kneecappings and guns were illegal; and the United States, which had a high gun crime rate and guns were legal. My argument was, and remains, that guns are a tool, and what causes crime is the motivation of the population. In the not too distant past, Rwanda nearly set a record for genocide, not using firearms, but machetes. If for some reason you think your safety will be improved by outlawing firearms, I think you are gravely mistaken if you still live among wolves.

The argument is rarely about outlawing all firearms. It's usually a matter of responsible regulation and licensing, and taking over-powered Assault Equipment out of the market.

America will have Violence issues even if we're down to sticks and stones.. but that doesn't oblige us to turn a blind eye to the ridiculous over availability of handguns and all manner of battle gear.

It will probably make as much sense in the long run to work on the Cultural Paranoia and Puritanical Rage every bit as much as the Hardware availability, though.

I used to agree with your sentiments, jo, but my government going rogue and stripping away rights changed my mind. In times of peace and sane government, strong laws strictly enforced are better than taking away our ability to defend ourselves from dangers from within.

Crime: use a gun, go to jail. For a long, long time, not just five years. And no more comfy jails, either. Work camps, but not gulags. There's a decent example in Arizon, though not ideal.

Fine line, but better than a defenseless populace.


Technically you can own a gun in Japan. Just good luck getting the permit.



Did you, or anyone else notice the link embedded in this piece?


This may be old hat to this site but I have never seen it before. IMO, it does an excellent job of explaining the arcane financial system and then tying it into what we talk about most here. It also highlights Gail's posts about debt and growth in a way I found very enlightening.

Real clarity about when push come to shove, (or maybe more like hitting a brick wall).

Well worth the 3 hours or so (in easily digestible chunks).

We have some very bumpy rides ahead.


Chris Martenson's presentations are well-known and much-discussed here. Search on Martenson.

Oops! :-{ Thanks Leanan.

NO idea how I missed it, information overload I guess.

I am personally freaked out by the uptick in handgun sales (+50% post-election).

Most of those people rushing out to buy guns after the election already owned guns, often several. Why freak out, its not like them owning 6 guns instead of 4 will push things past some tipping point.

I was talking with a friend about the future, he was arguing in favor of gun ownership and training in order to defend oneself against the hordes. I tried to explain my view, that if it comes to that- me against the hordes mediated by bullets- then at that moment I've lost already and the world won't be one worth living in.

I think if it were an issue of "if I get a gun then everyone else gets a gun" I would agree with you. Unfortunately, "everyone" is already armed, so getting a firearm and training merely puts you at parity. My suspicion is that firearms will either be irrelevant because they are unneeded, or irrelevant because they are insufficient.

OTOH, we don't get fire insurance because we believe our houses will burn, but because in the unlikely event that they do, the loss would be overwhelming.

Could someone explain to me - Leanan, maybe? - why we haven't got The Automatic Earth on the 'blogroll'? As far as I remember they started off with Stoneleigh's TOD Canada round-up, & I'm one of the many TODers who read TAE every day. It's obvious that they needed to move out of TOD to start their own website, but I would have thought that they should get top billing on our financial blogs link.

Of the money we have seen thrown around thus far let me ask you this, that 168 billion that our country borrowed to give away to us in the form of an "economic stimulus package" ...did it do a darn thing to create jobs or stimulate our economy. NO, nothing. And we borrowed the money from China. This past year the high cost of gas nearly destroyed our economy and society. More people lost jobs and homes as a direct result of that than any other factor in our history. Fannie and Freddie continue to get all the blame. Of all the homes I have seen lost in my area SW FL and believe me I have seen many, none were due to an adjustable mortgage. They were due to lack of work. Families went broke at the pump alone. Then added to that most saw record rate hikes at their utility companies. The high cost of fuel resulted in higher production and shipping costs that were passed on to the consumer, in most cases higher prices for smaller packaging. Consumers tightened their belts, cut back, went out to eat less or stopped totally. Drove around on tires that needed replacing longer, some even quit buying medicines they really need. Unfortunately cutting back and spending less results in even more layoffs. A real economical catch-22. And, as we are doing the happy dance around the lower prices at the pumps OPEC is planning to cut production to raise prices. They are even getting Russia in on the cutbacks. Oil is finite. We have used up the easy to get to reserves already. It will run out one day. We have so much available to us. Solar and Wind are free sources of energy. Of course to get the harnessing process set up is somewhat costly it is still free energy. It would cost the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon to charge and drive an electric car. The electricity to charge the car could be generated by solar or wind at least in part and in most cases totally. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and suv’s instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. What a powerful resources we have neglected. Jeff Wilson has a profound new book out called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now. www.themanhattanprojectof2009.com Powerful, powerful book! Also, if you think electric cars are way out there in some futuristic lala land please check out the web site for a company Better Place. http://www.betterplace.com/ they are setting up infrastructures in San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland as well as the state of Hawaii to accommodate electric car use. I think we need to rethink all these bailouts and stimulus packages. We need to use some of these billions to bail America out of it's dependence on foreign oil. Create clean cheap energy, create millions of badly needed new green collar jobs and get out from under the grip foreign oil has on us. What a win -win situation that would be for America at large!

Matt Simmons Dr. Robert Hirsh on current state of PO. I am surprised this isn't a separate topic. I felt this should be reposted as the link was not available yesterday. http://www.financialsense.com/Experts/roundtable/2008/1213.html

What do you mean the link wasn't available yesterday? Lots of people listened to it yesterday morning, including me. There's a lot of discussion in yesterday's DrumBeat. Was the site down later in the day or something?

I tried to find it using the link provided all last night. I only found it today using the same link. Sorry if this is redundant. I still think this is a topic that deserves it own dicussion page.

Quoted in yesterday's drumbeat

"Basically the game is over.... Based on the most optimistic assumptions they can make (using their access to the best raw data in the world - 798 fields) current crude oil production of 73 million barrels a day will be down to 25 million barrels a day by 2030"

And that's absolutely the best possible case. The IEA's worst case is 9 million barrels per day by 2030 according to Simmons (although he thinks even that could be optimistic)

First time I heard that I was wondering what he was smoking.

Listening more carefully it turns out that it was the IEA's predicted 2030 crude oil production from currently producing fields.

Listening more carefully it turns out that it was the IEA's predicted 2030 crude oil production from currently producing fields.

To clarify what I think Simmons was saying, I believe that was the 9 million barrels per day figure. 25 million is assuming we find and develop new fields and do everything else possible to suck oil out of existing fields.

I'm guessing that's assuming a discovery of one new Saudi Arabia in there - 4 new Saudis are required just to stay level and it's assumed we find at least 4 and best case 6 over the next decade or so in the official published version. Simmons claims the IEA knows that's absolute nonsense and is internally projecting a best case of perhaps one new Saudi found (my interpretation) in order to be at 25 MBPD by 2030.

At least that's what I think he is saying. Simmons also claims the IEA really expects production to be down to 60 million barrels per day in just five years time.

These figures make ace's projections look optimistic - thus the very serious trouble comments and the off the record IEA briefings.

Would be nice to get clarification from Simmons on this though. Perhaps Dr. Fatih Birol could be invited to do a "guest post" as well...

Headline in Asahi Shinbun two days ago: "Toyota to Show a Loss This Quarter" (I think they mean the quarter ending in December). Toyota is following the Big 3 down the path that leads to the corporate graveyard. It is just going to take a tiny bit longer.

With the car companies out of business, a car-less future is pretty much what is the cards for everyone I guess. But I like the term "car-free" so much better!

However, everyone here is just continuing BAU, the news shows exclaiming over the cheap gas, the roads crowded as they were three years ago. Noone seems to talk about the system becoming dysfunctional, the shops closing. Actually people here are talking about a recovery occuring in a year or two. Factories are expanding to prepare for the bright future!

I can't understand it and I've lived here (Japan) for 14 years. I really thought that when things would become bleak, people would start to prepare for a future that looks more like the distant past. However, such is not the case! Everyone is totally focused on which cell phone to buy. Worrying would seem downright uncool. Denial? One last gasp of merriment? I'm not sure what to call it.

I'm hoping they come through it alright. Toyota is by far our biggest customer, and Japan is one of the handfull of countries I admire. Here in the far-far East Bay (SF area) the expectation is similar, even though it would be correct to describe where I'm living as ground-zero of the mortgage crisis. With lots of upperclass McMansions that went on the market just as the housing bubble peaked. The real problem isn't that banks were forced to lend to minorities and the poor regardless of their credit, it is with the upscale $100+K per year families who bought too much house/boat/SUV. And a huge amount of brand new retail spce is just opening up. I hear that commercial realestate loans for things like shopping malls will be the next dominoe to fall. I don't think we will to wait long for that to happen.

In our neck of the woods, Tesla motors (electric sports car), plan to begin construction on an assembly plant for their cheaper $45K all electric car may have to be postponed. It seems the loan money is part of the $25B green car program that may be raided for the big three bailout.

At least Japan, has put a lot of effort into being energy efficient. And AFAIK they don't have the deep politica/social/religious divisions that we have in the USA. How those fault lines behave when subjected to great economic distress is what keeps me up at night.

Gas prices stop falling - have we hit the bottom ~$1.65 and is it sideways and up from here? Gonna be interesting to see how OPEC's decision plays out this week...

Dennis www.setenergy.org

Hello TODers,

Tensions simmer above oil deposits in Nigeria.

..Farmers in Erema, a municipality about 30 miles outside Port Harcourt, the country’s southeastern oil capital, maintain that oil seepage has so contaminated the soil that within the last 15 years, the popular red cocoa yam has become extinct.

Earthworms, a natural fertilizer for the soil, also seem to have disappeared in some places, local environmentalists say. And gone are a host of medicinal weeds, natural herbs and spices. Once-common aquatic life has been wiped out, some claim, by dynamiting designed to clear swampland for exploration.

“This land is an ecological disaster,” said Che Ibegwura, a paralegal assistant for the Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. “The rural communities have started to deforest swamps searching for [arable] land. Each time we appeal to the authorities, it falls on deaf ears.”

Plight of women called most dire

Community leaders say that women, who typically cultivate the farms in rural Nigerian society, have been hardest hit by the devastation of arable land.
“It’s almost impossible to survive now,” said Priscila Mgbonu, 26, a mother of two children, ages 6 and 3.

..The bad air causes skin sores and respiratory ailments, residents say. New galvanized rooftops are caked with rust within two years, thanks to acid rain. And miles of brown, rusting oil pipes that dot the landscape often leak or burst, sending streams of sticky black liquid into the fields...
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Seasons Greetings,
Did anyone happen to see Face the Nation this morning? Sens Levin, Sherrod and Coker were interviewed about the Auto "Bailout". I happened to notice that behind Sherrod there was a gold fringed US flag displayed behind where he was sitting. I hope everyone is aware how important the US flag is to our Republic. We have a pledge of allegiance to it, a National anthem memorialising it etc,etc. So I wondered, why was there a gold fringe around it? I found my answer here:


I am afraid this explains most of what has transpired in this Nation for at least the post 911 period.
We are under Martial law people. Even if it is Martial Law Lite.
Good Luck to all patriots.

Ahhhh...so all those little Crossed Flag lapel pins TPTB wear so visibily are really icons so the military knows who to not fire on.

Sorta like the Copperheads which used a cutout indian head penny for their lapels. One of my ancestors was their leader so I understand this.

I wondered about those funky little doodads they were all wearing.

Maybe mine will be a shell casing made into jewerlry?

Or a rattlesnake charm bracelet. "Don't step on me."

Patriots are going to be scarce methinks.What is a patriot then when TSHTF? A civilain soldier? A mad doomer? A crazy survivalist?

Really I don't care. I just sorta detest seeing those lapel pins.


One of my ancestors was their leader so I understand this.

Was the designer of the McClellan saddle your ancestor? He wrote a great book on siege warfare during the Crimean War.

I used to work for a state government, and we ordered all of our office stuff from central stores. In the catalog were flags, and you had your choice of ordering them with or without the yellow fringe. I recall absolutely nothing being said about the yellow fringe signifying admiralty law or martial law or anything of the sort. In other words, some offices would order the yellow fringe variety because they liked the looks better. That was all.

Hello TODers,

Bush dodges hurled shoes:


Yes! He dodged a size 10. And to think The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are now closed for the holiday season, this would have been good for a few laughs!

It's incredible that Bush was elected twice.


Only if you count the time he was elected by the Supreme Court. :-P

Had to check the NY tabloid web sites this morning, to see what they did with the shoe incident. They did not disappoint. The Post headline: Lame DUCK! (It also described Bush as the sole survivor of the attack.) The Daily News headline: Shoe-icide Attack!

I'm going to miss those tabloid headlines if the print media is really dying.

And here's the Sun, which is very good at headlines, if not anything else:

"Duck! It's George double-shoe Bush"

A wave of bankruptcies hits the U.S. ethanol industry:


Perhaps Congress did not calculate all the costs of ethanol distilling.

Why Middle East nations are hunting for land

If you have no land to grow food, help others to do that and make a fast buck too. That is the policy of Middle East counties now. Lack of land to grow food has been a problem dogging the Middle East nations and this has forced several of these nations to hunt for agriculture land in Pakistan and Sudan.

One factor which goes in favour of these Middle East nations is that they are producers of fertilizers, which is needed for growing food. And, demand for food is soaring like anything in the world. With population growing and more mouths to feed and no growth in agriculture land, the world is struggling to produce more food.

For that, growers need good fertilizers. So, if these nations hunt for land in poor nations, they have other designs to make maximum use of their plus points too. While buying land in poor nations they will also sell fertilizers to these nations so that they can grow better food.

According to an HSBC study, many Middle East countries, short of food and water, are large-scale exporters of fertilizers. Companies in these regions find themselves in a sweet spot. Those with access to gas — an essential input for nitrogen-based fertilizers — are likely to do particularly well because they have negotiated long-term and generous supply contracts...
It seems these countries are moving to build their versions of 'Federal Reserve Banks of I-NPK' to take long-term advantage of the 20:1 Agro-ERoEI. Meanwhile, the US is becoming ever more I-NPK import reliant and doing very little to postPeak move to full-on O-NPK recycling.

Further evidence?

Global Profitability of fertilizer companies in MENA grew by 149%

..Fertilizer production in the MENA region will likely show a year-on-year increase of more than 10% in 2008, with further growth constrained only by plants’ inability to churn out vaster amounts of urea, ammonia, melamine, and Sulphuric acid, all key components of chemical fertilizers. The industry is therefore poised for a massive expansion drive, with planned investments of more than US$20bn to build bigger plants to churn out 60mn tons of fertilizer by 2010 and close to 70mn tons by 2012.

Likes of Maaden Phosphate Company of Saudi Arabia, a state-owned mining firm, aims to supply 20% to the global fertilizer market when its Ras Al-Zour complex opens. The US$5.5bn integrated plant said it will become the world’s largest producer of Di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilizer when its complex is completed, taking up to a fifth of the global market. The new output will affect the Kingdoms regional competitors, notably Jordan, which produced 600,000 tons of DAP in 2006, Morocco, which produced 1mn tons, and Tunisia which produced 1.1mn tons. Morocco’s state-owned Office Cherifien des Phosphates will remain the world’s largest exporter of phosphate products overall, including the production of phosphoric acid and another fertilizer, mono-ammonium phosphate.

Summing it up we remain optimistic on the outlook of the MENA fertilizer sector on the back of sound fundamentals and better cost control measures. The region posted capacity utilization rate of over 100% in 2007, which was mainly due to a huge increase in demand of fertilizers in South & East Asia. Focus on innovative farming techniques and the drive to increase agricultural yields would continue to bode well for the fertilizer sector in MENA.
Compare their 149% profitability growth rate to the profitability of AIG, Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros, Fannie & Freddie, Big3 Autos, etc.

I hope that Obama realizes that our national security is rooted on food & water security. WT's ELM may grow worse much faster than anticipated if increasing amounts of FFs are not exported, but internally converted to support their I-NPK supply chain, then carefully directed to farmland under MENA control with all food exports shipped right back home. Time will tell..

Hello TODers,

Morocco Mining Report Q4 2008

The Kingdom of Morocco, with coasts on the Atlantic as well as the Mediterranean, is home to over 90 mining companies producing 20 different mineral products.

The economically vital mining sector is dominated by phosphates, which account for 92% of mineral production. Other metals and minerals – including lead, zinc, copper, iron, fluorine, silver, manganese, cobalt, antimony and salt – are also beginning to grow in significance.

Silver is produced in substantial amounts and is primarily sourced from the Imiter mine located in the Oriental Anti Atlas. Morocco also hosts cobalt at the Bou Azzer deposit, which is the world’s only primary cobalt deposit...
As posted before: I think most people are postPeak unaware how geo-strategic Morocco is in terms of resources and sealane control location. Recall my earlier posting series on the Barbary Pirates. Here is another link:

The Thomas Jefferson Papers
America and the Barbary Pirates: An International Battle Against an Unconventional Foe
I think the US sales of advanced F-16s & KSA's $500 million gift to Morocco tend to show that some people are aware of Morocco as we go postPeak.

Treasury Benefits From ‘Massive Paranoia’ as Bailout Cost Falls

While the total amount of U.S. government debt outstanding rose to $10.7 trillion in November from $9.15 trillion a year earlier, the amount of interest paid in the last two months fell by $10 billion, according to the Treasury Department.

Instead of shunning the U.S., where losses on subprime mortgages in 2007 triggered a global seizure in credit markets that led to the downfall of securities firms Bear Stearns Cos. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., investors can’t get enough Treasuries. Even as estimates of Obama’s stimulus package and the budget deficit rise to a record $1 trillion, demand continues to increase as investors flee risky assets around the world and put their cash into U.S. bonds paying, in some cases, nothing in yield just to ensure the return of their principal.

“You still have a massive paranoia in the marketplace and you’ve got that safety-at-any-cost mentality,” said Jay Mueller, who manages about $3 billion of bonds at Wells Fargo Capital Management in Milwaukee. “People are not buying Treasury bills because they think the yields are attractive. They are buying them because they are afraid to put money anywhere else.”

Hello TODers,

If we are now going postPeak, is this forecast unbelievably too optimistic?

From the UN FAO [PDF Warning]:

Forecasting Long-term Global Fertilizer Demand [Fertilizer Requirements for 2015 and 2030]


Long term fertilizer requirement forecasts are key to the success of long term plans for global food security and the profitability of the fertilizer industry. The study forecasts fertilizer demand in relation to soil nutrient status in nine regions.

Asia is expected to account for about 40% of the global forecast of 187.7 million Mt in 2015 and 223.1 million Mt in 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa, where soil nutrient depletion is prevalent, will remain the region with the lowest consumption, about 1.1% of global consumption.

Soil nutrient drawdown in regions with inadequate fertilizer use indicates soil nutrient depletion which will in the long run exacerbate food shortages and undermine biofuels production plans.
I was hoping they would include a postPeak I/O-NPK fertilizer scenario of what will happen going forward, but alas. I guess we have to mentally extrapolate for ourselves how little I-NPK will actually be available when we reach approx. 50 mmbpd C+C in 2015, 25 mmbpd C+C in 2030?

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

Hello TODers,

Montreal CFA Society Presentation Dec 10, 2008

PotashCorp's Executive Vice President & CFO Wayne Brownlee provides an overview of the state of the industry, an update of PotashCorp's activities and current market conditions from Montreal, QC.

[24-page PDF warning], but chockful of graphics:


I still hope they will someday issue a postPeak forecast. Here is the latest USGS sulfur report:

During the month, production of recovered elemental sulfur was 600,000 metric tons (t), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Mostly as a result of refinery outages owing to hurricane activity in September, production was 19% lower than that of August 2008 and 12% lower than that of September 2007. Shipments were 582,000 t, 20% lower than those of August 2008, also a result of the storm...

..Global and domestic sulfur prices have begun to decline. The average unit value of imported sulfur was $325 per ton in September 2008. This was 15% lower than that of August 2008, but still 17 times what it was in September 2007.


Overall, U.S. industry has become among the most productive in the world--output has doubled over the past 25 years, and productivity has grown at a rate twice that of the rest of the economy. Far from dead, our manufacturing sector is the world's largest, with 5% of the world's population producing five times their share in industrial goods.

This was before the current financial crisis but shows that America is still a manufacturing giant.

Yep, but peak was this year IMO. It's much worse than that article suggests. There's lots of good articles on TOD, just search the archives for the World Energy Outlook 2008.

Have a listen to the interview on financial sense with Dr Hirsch and Matt Simmons, the link is in the comments section somewhere.

Hello Cyberkarmic,

Welcome to TOD! It may be worse than your Monbiot article, please study the recent IEA 2008 analyses done here on TOD--many keyposts by the TopTODers, with numerous comments by informed others.


Exactly is what true? Probably the most important aspect of the article IMO is the statement that the IEA had previously made assumptions about the world’s fields but has now made a detailed study. WRONG! If you dig through their methodology you will find that they did do a detailed projection based upon current reserves of 800 of the largest fields. But did they calculate those reserve numbers themselves? NO. They were given reserve numbers by the producing companies and ASSUMED they were correct. Can you imagine what they'll say in a number of years when it's proven those numbers were inflated? Maybe the same answer they just gave for their previous procedure: "we said we made an assumption…not our fault if you assumed we were correct". Essentially they've done nothing to confirm or deny the reserve numbers put out by the producers.

Hello TODers,

U.S. Drilling Activity Off Sharply

Corn Futures Spark Riots as Speculators Take Trading to Limit