DrumBeat: December 24, 2008

'Green' jobs compete for stimulus aid

In one of the first internal struggles of the incoming Obama administration, environmentalists and smart-growth advocates are trying to shift the priorities of the economic stimulus plan that will be introduced in Congress next month away from allocating tens of billions of dollars to highways, bridges and other traditional infrastructure spending to more projects that create "green-collar" jobs.

The debate has centered on two competing principles in the evolving plan: the desire to spend money on what President-elect Barack Obama calls "shovel-ready projects," such as highway and bridge construction, vs. spending on more environmentally conscious projects, such as grids for wind and solar power.

Lawmakers opposed to the emerging-technology projects accuse their colleagues of using the financial crisis to push through pricey policy proposals that they say would do little to boost the economy in the immediate future.

Oil prices near $35 on more dour economic news

HOUSTON – Crude prices tumbled Wednesday following a raft of economic news that painted an ugly picture of the nation's economy, suggesting demand for energy will continue to erode.

Light, sweet crude for February delivery fell $3.63 to settle at $35.35 in a shortened day of trading. Prices fell as low as $35.13 just before the market closed for the holiday.

Investors expecting more evidence of slowing U.S. energy demand got a bit of a surprise as the Energy Department reported crude inventories dropped last week.

But Americans continue to cut back on driving amid the worst recession in a generation, leading to growing stockpiles of gasoline and eroding demand for motor fuel.

Gasoline futures plummeted below 80 cents a gallon.

Gazprom eyes Iran's oil, gas fields

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) - Gazprom is interested in developing Iran's oil and gas deposits, the Russian energy giant said on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller had a meeting with Iran's Petroleum Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari, to discuss in particular cooperation between Gazprom and Iranian oil and gas companies.

"Prospecting, development and operation of Iranian oil and gas deposits was cited among the main lines of cooperation. The parties reiterated their interest in strengthening mutually beneficial long-term partnerships in the energy sphere," the Russian company said in a statement.

Medvedev Threatens Sanctions If Ukraine Fails to Pay Gas Debt

(Bloomberg) -- Ukraine will face sanctions from Russia if it fails to pay off its $2 billion natural gas supply debt, President Dmitry Medvedev said.

“They have to pay to the last ruble if they don’t want their economy to eventually face sanctions and demands from the Russian Federation,” Medvedev said today in an interview with state- controlled television channels. “We do not have it as a goal to cut off” supplies, he said, adding that Russia will use the “whole range” of possibilities to retaliate.

Russia devalues again as economic concerns mount

MOSCOW - Russia staged the seventh mini rouble devaluation of the month on Wednesday, as the price of oil plunged to four-year lows, heralding woes for the resource-focused economy and increased social pressure.

A sure-fire appreciation bet at the start of this year, the rouble has fallen victim to the collapse in the price of oil and other Russian exports, the global and domestic economic slowdown and the broad-based capital flight from emerging markets.

World's biggest refinery poised to start in India

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Reliance Industries is set to double its capacity by starting up its new 580,000 barrels per day plant (bpd) this weekend, creating the world's biggest refinery just as global oil demand collapses.

The $6 billion project will make the oil complex in Jamnagar in Gujarat the world's single biggest supplier of fuels to the global market, pumping out 1.24 million bpd of ultra-clean fuels to Europe, Africa and the United States.

News Analysis: Will GECF become an emerging gas OPEC?

MOSCOW (Xinhua) -- With its charter adopted and headquarters located during Tuesday's high-level meeting in Moscow, the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) is apparently evolving towards a formal organization that Russian leadership has proposed but some others worried.

Tenn. Ash Pond Flood Sparks Toxic Scare

(AP) The Tennessee Valley Authority is working to contain the release of potentially toxic pollutants from the coal-fired Kingston power plant after a breach in an earthen dike released 2.6 million cubic yards of ash from a holding pond.

"I would say we are trying to contain first and recover second," TVA President and Chief Executive Tom Kilgore said Tuesday.

Save energy, save the economy: The country may spend $30 billion on conservation in the coming year, but will that put people back to work?

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It looks like America may be getting a whole lot more energy efficient as part of any new stimulus plan.

But how exactly will that happen? While new light bulbs, insulation and air conditioners may play well with homeowners, will they actually put enough people to work to jumpstart the economy?

The energy-saving plan is expected as part of a stimulus package from lawmakers set for early January that could top $800 billion and include everything from tax breaks to road repairs.

Conservation is thought to be the first big energy component of President-elect Barack Obama's long-term energy plan, for a couple of reasons.

America's stop-and-go energy plan

"In the past, when the prices of oil and gas have dropped, it has caused us to lose our focus. I don't think that'll happen this time," said Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Perhaps nothing illustrates the change in attitude better than a recent survey of 52 oil and gas executives.

Only about a dozen executives expected oil and gas to be America's cheapest energy source in 25 years, and three-quarters considered it a good idea for the U.S. to phase out fossil fuels for transportation.

Kurt Cobb: Energy and money

Is energy merely another commodity among many in the modern industrial economy? Or is it the very basis of our financial and material life?

Shia Islam and oil geopolitics

This has huge implications for access to reliable oil supplies at “favored” prices. It may even be that eventually those states without good relations with OPEC (a largely Islamic nations’ cartel), will not readily find reliable supplies of oil at any price, as OPEC uses oil as a devastating economic weapon, at least until their own supplies are critically low in another couple of decades. And as non-OPEC nations have rapidly falling oil supplies to export, OPEC is heading to be the world’s primary supplier – that is of much more than half the worlds dwindling oil in the imminent few years ahead. It could also be anticipated that OPEC will enjoy great civilizational power to wield its oil weapon for its own political agenda.

Aviation fuels and peak oil (thesis)

The industry has put up ambitious goals to increase fuel efficiency of the aviation fleet through better engines, better flying routes and better aerodynamics, but still the demand for aviation fuel would grow. Traffic is predicted to grow by 5 per cent per year to 2026, fuel demand by about 3 per cent per year. At the same time aviation fuel production is predicted to decrease by several per cent a year after the crude oil production peak is reached. This scenario envisages a substantial lack of jet fuel by the year 2026. The aviation industry will have a hard time replacing this with fuel from other sources even if air traffic remains at today's level.

Want green jobs? Watch California.

Stinson Beach, Calif. - The last time the federal government tried to play a large role in stimulating the development of renewable-energy projects, it failed miserably. Instead, states such as California were the ones that ended up jump-starting today's wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass industries. As President-elect Barack Obama and Congress craft a federal stimulus program package designed to add 2.5 million jobs, many of them green, across the country, they should remember some important lessons from the past.

Federal investments in wind power after the energy crisis of 1973 failed to produce a single commercial wind turbine. It took the political leadership of people such as California Gov. Jerry Brown to put in place state incentives to grow the wind industry from the ground up, instead of from the top down.

Kunstler: Legitimacy Dwindles

When legitimacy erodes, anything goes. Nothing is respected including rules and personalities. The center doesn't hold and the new vacuum there is a tumultuous place. The same crisis of authority and legitimacy is spreading from nation to nation now. Soon, China will contend with a discontented army of the unemployed. Greece has been in an uproar for two weeks. Belgium's government just collapsed. Trade barriers are going up. Exports are falling away. The world's energy markets are not immune to these disorders. I would expect problems with the currently seamless supply lines that bring America two-thirds of the oil we use. Even a mild disruption of oil supplies could attach an anvil to the ankle of an economy already falling off a cliff.

Australia Braces for Tropical Cyclone Billy

Residents onshore Western Australia aren't the only ones bracing for a Christmas-time impact from Tropical Cyclone Billy. Petroleum companies are making arrangements to ensure safety offshore at oil and gas fields in the path of the storm.

'Active' Atlantic Hurricane Season on Tap for 2009

The Atlantic hurricane season will be unusually active in 2009 amid warm ocean temperatures and wind conditions that are conducive to storm development, private forecaster WSI Corp. predicted Tuesday.

WSI, based in Andover, Mass., is forecasting 13 named storms, seven hurricanes and three hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in 2009, surpassing the 1950-2008 average of 9.8 named storms, six hurricanes and 2.5 intense hurricanes.

What does it mean when oil is being quiet?

...No one is talking about oil now. Its drastic decline of over 70 per cent since its record HI in mid-July has left the market speechless. But is this steep fall in prices that surprising? Not really. History has proven to be the most accurate fortune teller. The energy crisis in the early '70s and '80s is a clear indication of where oil is heading now, and investors should start taking positions cautiously.

Toronto gas stations left on empty

The snow was not the only thing to blame for unpleasant driving conditions last night.

About 30 gas stations throughout the city ran out of fuel at one point or another yesterday, after Friday's snowstorm, combined with a mechanical failure at the gas distribution depot near Keele St. and Finch Ave. W., snarled delivery efforts throughout much of the city.

NRZ cancels commuter trains

THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is struggling to get adequate fuel supplies to run its fleet and has as a result cancelled commuter trains, the parastatal’s general manager, Retired Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai announced yesterday.

The move is meant to save fuel while also boosting coaches for the inter-city trains during the festive season.

Kenya: PS blames fuel shortage on massive panic buying

The fuel shortage is as a result of panic from motorists ahead of the festive season, Energy PS Patrick Nyoike has claimed.

Nyoike said yesterday the shortage was caused by motorists and transporters buying the commodity in bulk for fear it will run out during Christmas.

"There is panic among motorists and transporters, ahead of the festive season," Mr Nyoike told journalists.

First Floating LNG Plant Wins Approval, Awaits Final Investment Decision

FLEX LNG and Mitsubishi Corp. have since June 2008 worked closely to develop the Progress LNG project together with Peak Petroleum Industries LTD of Nigeria and have during the month of November received approval from the Nigerian Department of Petroleum Resources for a floating LNG plant.

Fuel price cuts, economy crimp Honda

LOS ANGELES -- Not long ago, John Hawkins sold every Fit small car he could get his hands on. Now he doesn't want them.

"We are turning down everything" Honda wants to ship, says Hawkins, president of Great Metro Autogroup in suburban Los Angeles, which includes one Honda dealership.

Grant: Project 540 - Low-cost Low-emission Biochar Kiln for small farms

The project is to run for 8 months, and will produce Public Domain / Creative Commons working designs, and support material, including a low cost biochar kiln wiki in 2009. Contemporaneously it will construct, and extensively test and refine at least one full-size ~1m^3 prototype best-practice kiln, including monitoring and control systems. The constraints will be construction at the village-tech level of skills, in light steel, firebrick and concrete.

Science Adviser’s Unsustainable Bet (and Mine)

My post on John P. Holdren’s appointment as presidential science advisor prompted complaints that I was making too much of Dr. Holdren’s loss of a bet to the economist Julian Simon about the price of some metals. But that bet wasn’t just about metals. It was about a fundamental view of how adaptable and innovative humans are, and whether a rich modern society is “sustainable.” Dr. Holdren and his collaborator, Paul Ehrlich, were the pessimists.

...In 2005, I found a more adventurous prophet willing to bet on resource scarcity. Matthew Simmons, an expert on the oil industry and the author of “Twilight in the Desert,” bet $5,000 against me and Rita Simon, Julian’s widow, that the average price of oil, in 2005 dollars, would exceed $200 per barrel in 2010. (Here’s my column on the bet; here’s the Wikipedia entry on it; here’s an analysis of where we stood earlier this year by Stuart Staniford in the Oil Drum.)

Oil Falls Below $37 on Forecasts U.S. Supply Rose a Third Week

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil fell below $37 a barrel in New York before a report forecast to show that U.S. inventories rose for a third week as demand ebbs.

Russia expects first deficit in a decade

Russia will run a budget deficit in 2009 for the first time in a decade as low oil prices take their toll on government revenue, a Kremlin official said Wednesday, the state RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

Arkady Dvorkovich, the president's economic adviser, said the size of the deficit was not yet clear but it would be covered by the reserve fund - money put away for a rainy day when oil prices were soaring.

Russia, China warn of dire economic straits in 2009

In Moscow, a top Kremlin economic aide said there would be a budget deficit in 2009 for the first time for a decade as Russia -- the world's second-biggest producer of crude oil after Saudi Arabia -- reels from the global crisis.

"The deficit is caused by the fall in oil prices, above all," Arkady Dvorkovich was quoted as saying in reference to the plunge in prices from record highs of above 147 dollars per barrel in July to under 40 dollars now.

With oil prices heading towards the year end at their lowest level for four years, the price of Brent North Sea crude for February sank to 38.63 dollars per barrel on London's InterContinental Exchange (ICE) amid weakening demand.

Commenting on the worsening situation, Deputy Interior Minister Mikhail Sukhodolsky, warned that unpaid wages, the threat of layoffs and unpopular government anti-crisis measures "may aggravate the protest mood."

Kiev: gas transit to EU not to be interrupted whatever the relations with Gazprom will be

Ukraine has given guarantees to the European Commission leadership that no matter how its relations develop with Russia’s gas giant Gazprom next year, this will not affect the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine, an official representative of the European Commission told Tass on Wednesday.

Volatile energy prices strain ties in Northeast

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A growing number of the heating oil customers who signed fixed-price contracts as costs spiked over the summer are now attempting to back out of those deals as the price of oil collapses.

Some of the customers who have read through the fine print are finding buyout clauses that can cost hundreds of dollars, but that provide a relatively cheap escape from contracts signed at the peak of an energy crisis.

Heating oil dealers, many of them mom-and-pop operations, never imagined the price of oil could drop so steeply and stand to lose a lot of money — perhaps even entire businesses.

As a result, relationships between dealers and customers has grown strained across the Northeast, where nearly two out of five households heat with oil. There are even newspaper advertisements from competitors encouraging consumers to buy out their contracts in exchange for new, less expensive offers.

Oil Services in the Trash Bin?

Life and its perverse twists, you just never know what you will run into, and perhaps nowhere is that more accurate than in the markets. Take the thriving sector for Oil Services, which over the last few days has checked in at the bottom of the Investors Business Daily Group rankings. That’s right, scanning the bottom few entries on the table from IBD, we see “Oil & Gas Machinery Equipment” at #195, “Oil and Gas Drilling” at #193, and “Oil & Gas Exploration” at #190. Now, keep in mind there are only 197 groups in the table! Thus, at #195, #193, and #190, the energy “finding” business would appear to be rock bottom. Of course, this implies that we have enough energy to meet future needs as a global economy, when nothing in fact could be further from the truth.

Oil-rich Amara left high and dry

With its vast oil resources, Maysan should be one of the richest provinces in Iraq. But it is actually one of the poorest, as the profits simply aren't filtering down to the people.

Russia watchdog sets fines on Rosneft, LUKOIL

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's anti-monopoly service fined the country's top oil companies Rosneft and LUKOIL a total of more than $100 million for fixing prices of refined products, the watchdog said on Wednesday.

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) said last month Rosneft and LUKOIL had used their dominant market positions to set and maintain high prices for jet fuel, gasoil and gasoline.

Oman says Gulf rulers to discuss oil’s fall: paper

MUSCAT- Gulf Arab leaders will discuss the collapse in oil prices and their affect on the region’s economies at their annual summit next week, Oman’s foreign affairs minister said in remarks published on Wednesday.

“Since the declining oil prices are a concern for the GCC economies, it will be very much on the agenda for discussion,” Youssef bin Alawi bin Abdullah was quoted as telling the Arabic language daily Oman.

Toyota's global sales mark worst drop in 8 years

TOKYO (AP) — In more bad news for Japan's auto industry, Toyota said Wednesday its global vehicle sales plunged 21.8% in November, the biggest drop in eight years.

Rival Nissan said its worldwide sales sank 19.8% and global production nose-dived a record 33.7% on depressed sales in the United States.

The dismal data comes two days after Toyota, Japan's biggest automaker, predicted that this fiscal year it would report its first operating loss in 70 years.

Blackouts could hit Britain by 2015, says National Grid chief

Steve Holliday, the company's chief executive, said that Britain faces a severe shortage in power generation due to crumbling coal and nuclear plants being taken out of service.

He said that unless the Government intervenes to ensure £100 billion investment in new stations, there will not be enough generation to meet demand by 2015, meaning power outages would result.

Russian firms to help build up Nicaragua's electricity sector

MEXICO (RIA Novosti) - Russian companies will assist Nicaragua in building hydroelectric and geothermal plants in the Central American country, the president of the Nicaraguan Electricity Company (ENEL) has said.

Ernesto Tiffer said on Tuesday that at least two power generating plants, with capacities of 150 MW and 100 MW, were under consideration for the volcanically active part of the country.

Japan's Kyushu Electric seeks new nuclear unit

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese utility Kyushu Electric Power Co (9508.T) said on Wednesday it wants to build a third nuclear unit at one of its two plants to cope with a projected rise in power demand, and is preparing to ask local governments for permission.

Japan to bring back solar power subsidy for homes

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan plans to bring back subsidies for solar panel equipment from January, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Wednesday, as the world's fifth-biggest emitter struggles to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

METI said the government would offer 9 billion yen ($99.6 million) in the first quarter of 2009 and possibly more in the fiscal year starting next April to foster use of solar panel equipment in homes.

Climate change opens northeast route to foreign ships - Ivanov

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) - Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Wednesday that he is concerned that global warming is opening up the Northern Sea Route for the uncontrolled movement of foreign ships.

Why We're Already Beginning To Solve Global Warming

The world just got a wonderful winter solistice present: the Energy Information Agency (EIA), the official U.S. government scorekeeper on where our energy sector is headed, has dramatically lowered its "business as usual" projections for how much CO2 the US will emit in 2030. As the Sierra Club has been saying for some time, America is already beginning to move to a lower carbon future.

Sea change: rising sea levels in Bangladesh

It’s worth thinking about just why the delaying tactics of some countries at the UN climate change conference in early December is so damaging. Their inability to move discussions on is going to cost lives - it’s as simple as that.

Arctic Peoples Claim Their Right to Cold Temperatures

QUEBEC CITY (Tierramérica) - "Terrifying" is the word that best describes the situation of a hunter who is lost on shifting ice, or of the homeowner whose house splits in two when its foundation sinks, says Canadian indigenous leader Mary Simon when asked about the effects of global warming on the Inuit people.

Climate change is rapidly changing the ecology of the Arctic and creating a crisis for the 160,000 indigenous people in the region, collectively known as Inuit, who are thinly spread along the edges of the Arctic Ocean in Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and the U.S. state of Alaska.

Reindeer Could Remain on the Run

Caribou, aka reindeer in North America, could soon become endangered by threats such as oil exploration and climate change, according to a new book.

Ancient water source vital for Australia

SYDNEY (Reuters) – An ancient underground water basin the size of Libya holds the key to Australia avoiding a water crisis as climate change bites the drought-hit nation.

Australia's Great Artesian Basin is one of the largest artesian groundwater basins in the world, covering 1.7 million sq kms (656,370 sq miles) and lying beneath one-fifth of Australia.

...Since it was first tapped in 1878, an estimated 87 million megaliters has been extracted and up to 90 percent of it wasted.

As a result of falling water pressure, more than 1,000 natural springs have been lost and one-third of the original artesian bores have ceased flowing.

Some economic news...

Japan Should Scrap U.S. Debt; Dollar May Plummet, Mikuni Says

(Bloomberg) -- Japan should write-off its holdings of Treasuries because the U.S. government will struggle to finance increasing debt levels needed to dig the economy out of recession, said Akio Mikuni, president of credit ratings agency Mikuni & Co.

Recession means hunger at holidays for many

Food assistance groups said many families who show up at their doors were recently making it on their own. But two years of rising food and energy costs ate into what little safety net those families had. Now, as jobs losses rise, many who were making ends meet can no longer do so.

"People have just been stretched to the breaking point. They have to turn to someone for help," said Karen Siebert, spokeswoman for Harvesters Community Food Network in Kansas City, which provides food for 420 food pantries in a 13-county area and has seen demand jumped 50 percent this year.

Consumers fall deeper into debt: Equifax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumers are falling deeper into debt, an official at one of the largest U.S. credit bureaus told Reuters on Tuesday, as the U.S. recession deepens and job losses mount.

Leanan - why post such negative and disheartening news such as these stories. Didn't you read the John Tierney piece you posted (currently up top)? Everythings going to be alright. Resources are limitless. And humans are so smart that we can solve any problem.

"Prices do sometimes shoot up for natural resources, but people react by finding new sources and substitutes, and prices come back down." --Tierney

The Invisible Hand saveth them who truly believith in it.
Oh you of little faith ...

Thank God we found a substitute for oil this year just in time. I wonder if this theory also works for money as many people this Christmas will have to find a substitute for that.

Maybe everything is not lightness.
But, on the other hand, in the brief window that oil prices were high (2004-2008), every major auto manufacturer designed and began initial production on much higher mpg models, including the GM Volt, a true PHEV (40 miles on charge). The Ford Fusion recently obtained 53 mpg in a test by a fair LA Times auto critic.
The increase in alternative fuel research and development was dramatic as well, if less promising. Palm oil is competitive at $50 a barrel, and new hybrids bring much higher yields.
Oil was cheap for decades, then became expensive for three or four years. Now, it is cheap again, and may go down to $10. Yet, in that small window of less than four years, many large adaptations were forthcoming. World fossil oil demand had all but flatlined even before the recession.
Hard to imagine oil prices will revive for several years. Hard to imagine demand will revive for five to 10 years. This global recession looks bad.
Japan's oil demand, for example, is falling to levels not seen since the 1960s, due to conservation efforts and the recession. That's four decades of flat to down crude oil demand, but economic growth.
There is a likely scenario ahead, no great but not doom: Due to global recession and conservation, world fossil oil demand does not recover for 10 years or so. But, by then, Europe and Japan are deep into hybrids and PHEVs, and maybe even the USA. Maybe even China (where PHEVs are almost coming off production lines already).
Demand for fossil oil never recovers. 2007-2008 was the era of Peak Demand. We make progress in the business of improving the life of man, step by step, as we have done for centuries.
The price mechanism will play a large part in making this scenario a reality.

Japan's oil demand, for example, is falling to levels not seen since the 1960s, due to conservation efforts and the recession. That's four decades of flat to down crude oil demand, but economic growth.

Want to know how Japan flattened out their oil demand growth but kept up economic growth?


Here's the oil demand

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But now let's look at gas and coal.

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Just from reading off the graphs and a quick estimation (someone can grab the raw data and apply conversion factors if they fancy) it looks to me as if Japan would today be importing somewhere in the ballpark of 3.5 million barrels per day more oil than at present if it hadn't substituted it with coal and natural gas. You may need to rethink some of your ideas.

Thanks Undertow, this one is a keeper. Growth in GDP, or industry in general requires growth in the energy supply. As the oil supply declines then the use of coal and natural gas must increase, just to stay static. But in a debt based society, a static economy is impossible. If there is no growth then the economy must decline.

Since we have reached peak oil, in my opinion anyway, then to avoid a never ending depression coal and natural gas use must increase quite dramatically. That is not likely to happen. Natural gas will likely peak about ten years after oil.

Coal has a different problem. As it has been pointed out, several times on TOD, the supply of coal is not really what it is cracked up to be. Also it is quite spotty. That is the supply is limited to a very few countries. I expect "Net Coal Exports" to shrink even faster than net oil exports. After the shock of peak oil sinks in to the average citizen, they will demand that their precious reserves of coal be kept for themselves.

Thats partial substitution at work. I wish someone with a better grasp of economic would take a stab at the implications of partial substitution. My own result is that it will lead to energy prices in general reaching equality with a fixed discount for energy quality.

Effectively no energy source provides any advantage over the other once the quality discount is in. The only differentiating factor is the quality which is basically the use for the energy. This includes renewable sources in this model they would be expanded to maintain the total energy levels not because they provided any inherent advantage from a energy/cost stand point. Basically they don't don't cause expansion but slow the decline in overall energy levels. This has nothing to do with how "good" renewable energy sources are just that a economic model of partial substitution ends with energy itself becoming a more unified concept i.e you start paying for joules/btu's.

I'd love to see your japan graphs with prices per btu over layed on top. You should see that partial substitution was unable to prevent energy costs from converging.

This of course brings up the current unprecedented flattening of the price differential between oil and NG worldwide and in North America esp. If this differential remains closed and the price of oil increases we are effectively entering and unknown era of converged energy costs.

In my opinion the biggest thing thats happening right now is that the advantages of partial substitution have come to and end. The economic impact of this is hard to gauge but from what I can tell its the biggest untold story in the history of modern energy.

From a EROEI perspective what this means is that using energy from coal or NG to extract oil or vice versa offers little intrinsic advantage financially. Its not clear to me yet what the full implications are of the tango between EROEI and partial substitution but the result regardless is not good and its not a small factor. Declining overall i.e total energy place a role also.

Merry Christmas and enjoy each and every holiday we have from here on out. It may be the last one you enjoy in reasonable comfort.

Thats a doomer variant of good cheer :)

Congratulations on your excellent charts. But doesn't this underline a point? That people and businesses adapt? That it is possible to progress, while using less oil? I didn't say they used less of other energy sources.
Moreover, Japan achieved these reductions in oil demand while oil was cheap.
Since Japan taxes gasoline, I assume oil demand will continue to fall in Japan, with the introduction of much higher mpg cars, such as hybrids and PHEVs.
The point stands: Several nations, largely in Europe, are obtaining higher GDPs per capita while reducing oil consumption. If France adopts PHEVs in the future, and gets more than 80 percent of its power from nukes (as it already does, and it is building yet two more huge nuke plants), does not that mark a successful adaptation to scarce oil?
I confess to not knowing the full range of outlooks for coal and natural gas, although there seems to be plenty of it, judging from prices. China just discovered yet another huge seam of it, and is building CTL plants as we speak.
Maybe fuel-switching can't last. Maybe we run out of fossil everything (though probably not nuke, solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels or gains through efficiencies). Seems like we still have a lot of options on the table.
Enough option to drive oil down to $10 in 2009? I think so. Down to $33 a barrel today, for the best grades. In the $20s for heavy stuff.
That's cheap!

Here is Japan's total energy consumption, through 2005 (EIA). From 1983 to 2005, it grew at +2.2%/year.

And that was the era of cheap energy (which is upon us again, by the way). And repeat, I said nations can prosper while using less oil, not energy. However, California has shown it can increase GDP per person while cutting energy use per unit of output.
Or, are you suggesting that all forms of energy, including fossil (coal, oil, gas, GTL, CTL, shale, tar, heavy Venezuelan guck) solar, wind, geothermal, nuke, mini-nuke, and biofuels become more scarce in decades ahead?
Seems unlikely.

"However, California has shown it can increase GDP per person while cutting energy use per unit of output."

link please?

For the last two decades a lot of Americans have confused debt with wealth. Take out the easy credit and the great speculative bubble ever known to modern capitalism - housing, and we are poorer IMHO. Debt is a disease that afflicts many in this country.

I recently suggest to a friend that there is a possibility that California will go BK in 2009. California is infested with clowns living on borrow money. The music just stopped, and the piper wants to be paid bytch!!!


link please?

I don't know why people online think others are their research assistants.

From Berkeley,

According to the California Dept of Finance [excel file], in 1990 California's GSP was $788 billion with a population of some 30 million, and is now some $1,543 million, with a population of some 36 million.

Now I have done the research for you, you can do your own sums to figure out if the electricity per capita or per dollar of GDP has gone up or down.

If you have a claim to make, you must provide evidence. It is fair and proper in any public discourse particularly in the sciences. Here I'm asking just for a link, in particular GDP on GSP.

My opinion/view is still the same. If you take out the creative financing that has occurred in the past decade, California is actually poorer today then they were in the 90s. With massive accumulation of debt at all levels (personal to state budget), high rate of unemployment and state budget in shamble, California fictitious economic growth story for the past decade is being seen for what it is.

A few days ago Calculatedrisk.blogspot.com presented a stat of Mortgage Equity Withdraw and/or HELOC contribution to the overall economy. Their thesis is simple: take away these financial debt instruments and we never really gotten out of the 2001 recession.


The folks at Shadow Government Stats also think we've never really gotten out of the recession. (Scroll down for GDP.)

I would have posted the graph, but can only hot link, which Leanan doesn't like.


to the poster formerly known as BenjaminCole,
You may be correct, but I don't believe you are. Natural wealth per capita in the form of energy has peaked - in terms of NET energy it has most definitely peaked. We will undoubtedly use less oil because it is less affordable - there is less 'energy subsidy' circulating throughout the system and this means attempts at growth have to be borrowed from elsewhere. Oil supply will eventually (and soon, but not in 2009) go down faster than oil demand. All the other inputs are secondary. Energy gain makes (made) the world go round.

We will undoubtedly use less oil because production will decline and there won't be any other choice.

What do you mean, negative? Japan's going to save us! Woo-hoo! I'm going out to buy a flatscreen TV right now.

Pick one up for me, too, while you're out - it will help the economy.

Forget the TV. I'm going to have a tea ceremony with - and by - myself.

Aren't most LCD's made in Korea?
Sony has to source them from LG or Samsung.

Denninger http://market-ticker.denninger.net/had an interesting post a day or so ago titled We are all Madoff.

Not quite so rantish as usual, and really made a point IMO and also addressed Mr. Mikuni's views just below that post.

In spite of this, or maybe because of it, I say Merry Christmas to all.


Notice that Mr. Tierney (See: Science Adviser’s Unsustainable Bet) did not talk about production/export numbers?

A simple explanation for oil prices

. . . despite the fact that relative to 2005, we are going to almost certainly see three years of lower net oil exports, flat crude oil production and a slight increase in total liquids production, the conventional wisdom is that the increase in annual US oil prices from $57 in 2005 to about $100 in 2008 was due to “speculation,” while the recent sharp decline in monthly and daily oil prices was due to Peak Oilers being wrong about a near term peak in world oil production.

I think 1996 was the final production peak for Indonesia. Here are the net export numbers per day, by year for Indonesia, along with remaining post-1996 cumulative net export capacity (EIA)

1996: 780,000 bpd & 100%
1997: 665,000 & 78%
1998: 710,000 & 56%
1999: 605,000 & 37%
2000: 493,000 & 21%
2001: 356,000 & 10%
2002: 214,000 & 3%
2003: 102,000 & 0%

Note the illusion of the 1998 increase in net exports (happy days are here again!). The reality was that their remaining cumulative net export capacity fell from 78% to 56% in one year (22 percentage points, one fifth of their remaining net export capacity in only one year)--when their net export rate went up year over year.

This is obviously analogous to the possible slight increase in net exports from the top five net exporters in 2008, to a level well below their 2005 rate (happy days are here again!).

Well, see!! Obviously, exports went down because importing countries found substitutes. The U.S.A. has found a substitute for oil; it's called a depression.

Note that at the end of 1998, Indonesia's annual net export rate was only down by 9% from 1996, but they had exported 44% of their post-2004 cumulative net exports.

We are seeing similar (estimated) numbers for Mexico. Their 2006 production was down by 16% from 2004, but I estimate that they had already exported, by the end of 2006, close to half of their post-2004 cumulative net exports

And I have no doubt you could do this with any number of post peak countries, including the U.S.

Notice that Mr. Tierney (See: Science Adviser’s Unsustainable Bet) did not talk about production/export numbers?

And this is because for Mr. Tierney and all those who believe in "the free market" price is the determiner of reality, not supply or demand. Ever notice that the economists classic supply and demand chart shows both as a range? And it is only price that is solved for?

If I start from the belief in Santa Claus, I do not try to explain gravity, I explain why reindeer aren't limited by it.

Based on Deffeyes' estimate, since 2005 we have burned through about 8% of remaining conventional crude oil reserves.

My guesstimate is that since 2005 we have burned through about 20% of remaining conventional cumulative net oil exports.

Oil is a commodity, and commodity prices are always volatile. It is quite possible to be absolutely right about the long term trend for a commodity and still lose your shirt in the short term. . . Fortunately Mr. Simmons was wise enough to only make a token bet.

Right, the jolly old guy dressed in red will be coming in on his flying sleigh later today, here to bail us out from his limitless resource bag.

Didn't you hear? Santa himself is looking to Congress to bail his operations out. (Seems that transition to high tech toys is causing problems with the elves). You can find the hearings on you tube. I'd include a link, but I'm at work and you tube is blocked.

Hope his flux capacitor doesn't run out of juice before he finishes his rounds. John

There's going to come a day, not too far in the future, when we'll all be hoping and praying that Santa leaves us a big lump of coal in our stockings because that's the only way we'll get cheap fossil fuels.


On a more serious note. Mikuni's publicly floating his concerns about the U.S. governments ability to find buyers for debt is truly sobering. It makes Don's prediction of a Fed financed debt all the more likely. I guess the equation is simple, just how much in trasuries can you float if the return is 0 or even negative? Even the most frightened of investors will eventually start looking for someplace else to park their money (like in the mattress).

Yes. Obviously, if Japan ever takes the ludicrous step he advises (forgiving all the debt) the USA won't be borrowing money externally in the near to medium future. Which means USA consumers won't be buying Japanese products-he hasn't thought this one out at all. A logical choice to weaken the Yen would be an absolutely massive Japanese income tax cut.

While I am not an expert in Japanese culture, my general impression is that it is pretty rare for one to come right out and say directly what one thinks. Thus, I am inclined to interpret this message more like this:

"We know that the US economy is going down the tubes and that the US dollar and US treasury securities will soon be worthless. Most countries in your situation would simply default, and then creditors like we Japanese would then have to write off our holdings of US currency and treasuries. We understand, however, that those in high places in the US must save face, and thus cannot formally default. We understand, and thus will simply proceed with our write offs AS IF you had already formally defaulted."

Of course, this means that the US can expect to fare just about as well as any other defaulting country going forward.

I'm more inclined to think that Japan is actually speaking obliquely to China. The forgiveness of debt policy wouldn't work without China's complicity, which is unlikely to be forthcoming. I think this may have been an opening gambit to enter public discussion about the prospect of default and its potential impact on major US debt holding nations.

Just my theory, though.


"We know that the US economy is going down the tubes and that the US dollar and US treasury securities will soon be worthless. Most countries in your situation would simply default, and then creditors like we Japanese would then have to write off our holdings of US currency and treasuries.

Exactly. How anyone could have been advising others to pile into treasuries and cash is beyond me. U.S. debt levels are phenomenally huge. It is not hard to see that it will never be paid back. Most American politicians probably don't realize this. But I can't say the same for their Japanese and Chinese counterparts.

At some point, a creditor nation is going to say 'no more'. It's inevitable.

Being debt free is grossly over rated. That the Japanese who have a larger multiple of GDP in debt would force the issue seems rather odd to me. They had best look in the mirror if they want to criticize government debt.

If Treasuries become worthless that would mean that the dollar dropped also IMO. In such a situation, U.S. exports theoretically would expand dramatically and imports would fall since a worthless dollar can't buy very much. The combination of the two theoretically would restore the value of the dollar.

Those who dis the dollar are blowing smoke. What currency is a better store of value? The Euro which has no country backing it at all? Hardly. The Yen? Japan has been in near perpetual recession going on over 20 years. It produces none of its own oil. And now one of its main customers is in a severe recession. And the rest of the world's currencies lack liquidity for the sums that are used in trade.

In a fiat money system with fractional banking we know that if there is no debt there is no money. That is why Paulson and Bernanke are in a panic to reliquify the credit markets. That is why the unheard of sum of $700 billion was conjured up almost overnight and dropped from a helicopter.

Debt is money and debt is a hedge against inflation. The important thing about debt is that one must be careful not to take on more payments than one can handle. And one should keep a large supply of cash available, even if it is borrowed, to make payments if things go wrong. In the government's case this is not a problem since its computers can create money at the speed of light.

Those who want to live debt free are condemning themselves to a lower standard of living since there is no means to finance projects, private or public, which will overtime pay for themselves and the cost of the debt. I have seen many take pride in collecting rent receipts for example and being debt free. But those who took on debt to buy a house end up better off in the long run even if they have to tough it out during periods of declining house prices.

You know things are bad when even the casinos can't make money...

November casino revenue down 7.6%

Biloxi — Revenue was down for the third straight month at Coast casinos, yet the numbers were better than in many areas of the country.

So much for gambling being recession-proof.

Americans keep tighter grip on cash

More signs of economic trouble: Personal spending drops for 5th straight month. Personal income sinks. Orders for big-ticket items also fall.

Hmmm. I wonder how these people feel about Japan bailing us out?

Report: More elderly Japanese turn to petty crime

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Beset by economic worries and loneliness, elderly Japanese are turning to petty crime in increasing numbers, the nation's Justice Ministry reports.

... SPUJ recently allowed CNN to follow its security team at one Tokyo grocery store. In just moments, they nabbed a 69-year-old woman, allegedly trying to steal food worth about $10.

One hour later, officers stopped a second suspect, an 80-year-old man. He had enough money to pay for all of his groceries, but security officers said he tried to leave the store without paying for medicine for an upset stomach.

"I'm so sorry," he told officers. "I live alone. My wife is in the hospital."

But lo, it's a Festivus miracle! CSS's son can have Mother's Cookies again:

Shuttered bakery reopens, rehires workers

ASHLAND, Ohio (CNN) -- An Ohio bakery shut down in October is bustling again, with 60 eager employees who had expected a Christmas on the unemployment rolls.

Some 300 workers lost their jobs when the Archway cookie factory in Ashland, Ohio, was suddenly closed by the private equity firm that owned it. The workers also were left without benefits like health insurance.

Thanks for the info Leanan! We still have about 10 bags of Mother's cookies, but I think I want to patronize this Lance company. Guess I'll be donating cookies...

"When it promised to reopen the bakery, Lance gave all 300 former Archway workers a $1,500 prepaid debit card."

Can't wait to tell my son!

Regarding the Tierney article, he is right as far as the article goes. The events of the last year should be evidence to anyone that price should not be used as a measure of long term scarcity. Simmons focused nearly exclusively on supply in his bet, ignoring the hedge fund bubble in financial assets of which oil was a part. He is going to lose that bet, and credibility, by 2010. But his greater point, that we desperately need to rethink how we use energy, and that global depletion is going to accelerate post peak, are spot on. Regarding prices, availablity of resources etc in the Simon/Holdren/Ehrlich sense, everything is going to look copasetic until it's not. We will keep borrowing from other areas to alleviate short term pressures until everything is connected.

Also, from the Tierney article:

After Dr. Simon collected his winnings in 1990, he offered to make another bet not just on natural resources but also on any measure of human welfare, like life expectancy or food per capita. Once again, Dr. Simon predicted that humans would adapt to new problems (like global warming) and end up better off in the future — by any measure at any future date that Dr. Holdren or Dr. Ehrlich cared to name.

Well as evidenced by the preponderance of obesity in america, the high rate of mental illness, the soaring rates of rape and violence the past two years, and the ubiquity of addiction, I would say that we are collectively not adapting well to 'cheaper' resources. Analysis on the human 'sink' side - what we DO with all this energy and stuff - needs to be addressed with every bit as much urgency as the supply/source side.

An equally important question is the demographics of people that can 'afford' the cheap resources. It is possible that resource prices remain the same, but the median income shifts so far downward that low price is no longer (not that it ever really was) a proxy for 'beneficial'. I suspect you are going to see the inter and intra-country GINI coefficients soar in coming years. How high they can go up and have social democracies still function is an open question.

should be evidence to anyone that price should not be used as a measure

Evidence is in the eye of the beholder.

Those who believe in the wisdom of the markets see things differently than those who believe in the inevitability of Hubbert.

I've written here since 2005 (probably hundreds of times) that the achilles heel of future energy supply was the volatility in oil and gas prices due to fiat currency dwarfing the natural capital proxies - thus hamstringing policy makers with continued 'perceived' cycles of glut/shortage, (I say perceived because all the while the decline rates increase and the boom/bust cycles get shorter - one fact we know is we've used almost 100 billion barrels of what our remaining oil was since 2005).

High prices is how most people connect peaking oil to the economy - I've always viewed PO as less energy surplus, meaning the end of debt based growth. You can see it unfolding - the market does not give the correct signals - in addition more and more resources will be spent on maintaining status quo and very few towards creating/investing in something new.

(*StepBack - you must be in a hurry today - I half expected you to have a small image of an 'eye' in the right half of your comment...;-)

The flying spaghetti eye sees all, knows all, as is "evident" from the photographic evidence provided here. :-)

Simmons focused nearly exclusively on supply in his bet, ignoring the hedge fund bubble in financial assets of which oil was a part. He is going to lose that bet, and credibility, by 2010.

If Simmons loses that bet it's only because the bet is denominated in money - in effect layering the whole financial crust over the natural resources pie. Very few of us then had more than an inkling of the connections [and that is still true]. Ehrlich lost for the same reason - the standards of measurement. That doesn't change Ehrlich's argument, but it doesn't seem like the bet was about resources declining - only the price.

The place where the interpretation goes off the track is the conclusion - from money and prices - that resources are more or less inexhaustible. It's the same error in standards of measurement. And that is my guess why the two could not agree on a subsequent bet: they couldn't figure out the standards for "price of air" and "price of ice caps", "price of caribou genomes" etc.... [just my guess].

cfm, on the losing side of that bet in Gray, ME

Yes, this kind of mirrors my thinking as well. Once it becomes commonly accepted that some resource is becoming scarce, the markets will be manipulated which will wildly amplify the changes. I have commented in the past that there was just too much money floating around out there that was chasing after returns, and speculation of various kinds was becoming quite popular. As far as I was concerned, the world would be better off if these people were betting on the ponies instead, but that's another matter.

But the one thing we have seen in the past few months is the dramatic contraction of available funds as everyone on Wall St seems to be doing duck-and-cover. One could argue that money is literally disappearing right before our eyes (in some ways it was never real to begin with), and by the time this all unwinds, it isn't clear the degree to which it will be possible in the future for speculators to manipulate markets. If there were no such thing as peak oil, eventually the Wall St types would regain their footing, and once again be able to manipulate markets.

money is literally disappearing right before our eyes

Money has always been ... in a sense, a promise.

For a little child, "money" means going to the toy/candy store and getting all the toys and candy you ever dreamed of. Christmas is, of course, a one day per year fulfillment of the toys and candy dream.

For adults, the promise of "money" is perhaps a little grander: Going to the car dealership and getting the biggest, most powerful transportation robot you ever dreamed off --with all the bells and whistles; Going to the real estate dealer and getting the biggest, most glamorous castle you ever dreamed off --with all the bells and whistles; Going to the health and happiness dealership and getting a promise of everlasting health and happiness; etc., etc.

What a let down when "the promise" isn't kept.

"Here is a sampling of companies talking about their oil production next year.
Moving to upstream production, we expect production for this year to end up near the high end of our guidance of 400,000 to 420,000 barrels a day which is a great outcome in the $100 plus per barrel world that we enjoyed. For 2009, we expect volumes to be down 9% to 10%. This lower guidance is due to lower natural declines and shutdowns in our international and offshore business.

Husky Energy
2008 production 356,000 barrels/day 2009 guidance 310,000-346,000/day

As a result of our reduced spending, we anticipate our production volumes will average approximately 91,000 BOE/day in 2009, a decline of approximately 5% over forecast 2008 average volumes. We expect to exit 2009 at approximately 88,000 BOE/day.

Production guidance is about flat but that was due to acquisition of increased interest in oil sands project.

76,000-78,000 boe/day versus 81,000 in 2008"


I Have noticed that the MSM is doing a very good job at keeping the public from understanding the size of bailouts, Fed buying of garbage and Obama's pork plans. The USA only takes in approx 1.3 trillion dollars annually in individual income tax revenue. You could literally suspend income tax in the USA until the crisis passes and the bill is about 1.3 trillion annually. Bernanke and Paulson combined have already run up an 8.5 trillion dollar tab (6.53 years of total individual income tax). If an announcement went out tomorrow that USA federal individual income taxes were suspended until prosperity returns the increase in consumer confidence would be incredible, which is why IMHO TPTB have no real desire to right the sinking ship (all their efforts are on lifeboats).

So what your saying is the U.S. gov't is bankrupt? Perhaps someone should tell them.

I Have noticed that the MSM is doing a very good job at keeping the public from understanding the size of bailouts

For once the MSM is closer to the truth. Even a stopped clock... We don't know how to cost the bailouts, because on paper at least the government is supposed to get the money back, usually with interest. A lot of people want to cost bailouts at 100% of funds loaned, but this is highly unrealistic. Many historical bailout plans have made a profit, though I admit this crisis looks uniquely nasty. And we have other credit catagories soon to blow up (commercial realestate, credit cards, car loans).

The US Govt. pays interest on all the money that the Federal Reserve creates. The Federal reserve is GUARANTEED to cover it's expenses PLUS make a 6% return to it's shareholders. Anything left over after that is supposed to be returned to the US Treasury. According to Ellen Brown in her book, Web of Debt, currently over 90% of the income taxes that the Govt. collects is used to service the interest alone, payable to the Federal Reserve. You'll never see income taxes suspended because that dries up the Fed's income stream. Let's make no mistake in realizing just who's got the control/power here. It's not the Gov't. It's the Federal Reserve. Prior to the financial crisis, M3 was in the ballpark of $9+trillion. Now the Federal Reserve has effectively doubled the money supply with this additional $8.5T. If 90% of the previous income tax revenue went to servicing interest alone, and we've just doubled the principle, where do you suppose the Gov't is going to be getting the additional revenue to service the additional debt? We are insolvent. We've been insolvent for quite some time, now we're just seeing how insolvent we can get before the bottom falls out.

It's also interesting that the Federal Reserve was publishing what M3 was on a continual and updated basis. They stopped reporting M3 this year purportedly because it wasn't really a meaningful piece of data. What BS. It's time for the institution of the Federal Reserve to die along with the fractional reserve lending system and debt based money creation.


If 90% of the previous income tax revenue went to servicing interest alone, and we've just doubled the principle, where do you suppose the Gov't is going to be getting the additional revenue to service the additional debt?

Me me me !


Now where is my pony ?

OMG! Ponies!

OMG! Ponies!

I don't want your ponies, leaving their doings on my carpet!

Buying Now, Unable to Pay Later

The United States GDP is 13 trillion dollars. The national debt may be close to 10 trillion dollars with the bailout bill.

"Tax receipts for fiscal year 2007 were $2.4 trillion. ... $1.1 trillion - Individual income tax; $869.6 billion - Social Security and other payroll taxes..." (Wikipedia). There were also 370 billion in Corporate taxes and more than 150 billion in other Federal taxes and receipts.

A large portion of the debt was borrowed from the Social Security fund and not financed through publically issued T-bills. Debt held by the public was about 6.3 trillion. There is a major problem as people who paid in to the Social Security fund and created surpluses for many years are nearing retirement age and the Social Security fund may be near a deficit inflection. Medicare was expected to be in a deficit by the end of 2008.

Warning of Social Security & Medicare Crisis

The government needed to reduce Medicare services in order to remain solvent.

Many debtors face prospects of bankruptcy, divorce, poverty, and dispair.

Alt-A Mortgage Implosion

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending December 19, 2008

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.5 million barrels per day during the week ending December 19, down 41 thousand barrels per day from the previous week's average. Refineries operated at 84.7 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production dropped last week, averaging about 9.1 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production decreased last week, averaging 4.4 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 9.1 million barrels per day last week, down 555 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged about 9.6 million barrels per day, 325 thousand barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged about 1.3 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 240 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) decreased 3.1 million barrels from the previous week. At 318.2 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are in the upper half of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 3.3 million barrels last week, and are in the lower half of the average range. Both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components inventories increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories increased by 1.8 million barrels, and are in the middle of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories decreased last week by 0.6 million barrels and are in the lower half of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories decreased by 1.6 million barrels last week and are in the upper half of average range for this time of year.

And here's what they were expecting:

A 10:35 a.m. ET Department of Energy report is expected to show that crude oil stockpiles rose by 1.5 million barrels last week, according to analysts surveyed by information firm Platts. Oil investors also forecast a 900,000-barrel increase in gasoline supplies and a 1.4 million barrel increase in supplies of distillates, which are used to make diesel fuel and home heating oil.

This weeks crude import data was very interesting and the big question is "is this an outlier or the new reality?"

Crude imports have been averaging 10.1 million b/d. The equilibrium point is approx. 9.6 mb/d. US production is approx. 5.0 mb/d and products supplied to refineries has averaged 14.6 mb/d since October. So equilibrium is 14.6 minus 5.0 or 9.6.

Crude imports averaged 10.1 mb/d in July and August (pre-hurricane) and the same 10.1 from the start of October through December 5th. OPEC are supposed to have cut production by 1.5 mb/d in December, approx 5% of their production, the US imports 10.1 mb/d so we should see a cut in imports of .5 mb/d to around 9.6 mb/d. This would put the US market close to equilibrium. The latest 2 million b/d cut should lead to a drop in US inventories.

Last weeks imports dropped to 9.7 mb/d and this week imports are down to 9.1 mb/d. If OPEC have truly cut production then imports should settle in between 9.0 and 9.5 mb/d and oil inventories should start to drop and presumably prices will increase. So watch the import number for the next few weeks and we will see if OPEC are true to their word.

Here is this weeks Nat Gas report - a withdrawal of 147 bcf vs expectations of:
Bloomberg: Withdrawals of 138 to 142 Bcf for the week, or 19.7 to 20.3 Bcf/d.

EIA Historical:

2007: Withdrawals of 165 Bcf for the week, or 23.6 Bcf/d.

5 yr. avg.: Withdrawals of 132 Bcf for the week, or 18.9 Bcf/d.

Oil ended day down 9.8% to $35.30 while nat gas rocketed (relatively) up 4.5% to $5.97

Merry Christmas to the UK from Iran.

Iran's Ahmadinejad to make UK Christmas broadcast

LONDON (AP) — Britain's Channel 4 says Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will deliver the TV channel's annual Christmas broadcast.

A spokeswoman for Channel 4 said on Wednesday that Ahmadinejad's recorded message will be shown on Christmas Day.

...In his message, Ahmadinejad says that if Jesus was alive in modern society he would likely fight to reform the world's economic and political systems.

God Wants Me to Be Rich

Who will save us? Who will lift us up from crushing credit-card debt and resetting mortgage payments and impending foreclosure, from increasing gas prices and decreasing health-insurance coverage? We are a nation stumbling through our worst financial crisis in a generation and our worst housing market in a lifetime. And so we come, seeking gentle salvation, inspiring prayers, steadying words, soothing notions, and calming thoughts that will allow us to become, in Joel Osteen’s words, “victors, not victims.”

I am not into religion, but if I was, this guy's church is the one I would join. He has the right idea-if you are going to follow a supernatural being, you sure as hell better design one that is in YOUR corner, not one that is fighting you every step of the way. I think this confidence building aspect of some churches is what Bill Maher misses in his criticisms of religion.

I hope you’re being sarcastic. The only one Osteen will make rich is himself. As far as confidence, if it is based on nothing more than platitudes and false beliefs it is worse than worthless, it is false hope.

Uh, I think the people in question would not admit to having designed their God; God is this way or he/she/it isn't. Anyway, we already have our God and it is the God of materialism and greed. May be that we have had a bit too much of a good thing because this is not working lately.

Is God Oil in modern society?

We shall be delivered from credit card debt because all our credit cards will be cancelled. We shall be delivered from increasing gas prices because of decreased demand due to a major depression. Those on the buying end don't see this as a bad housing crisis but as a good thing. Nice to have a religious rationale for what is just abject greed.

Anyway, preaching a kind of salvation and happiness through riches is just not borne out by people's perceived level of happiness over the last 50 years. Maybe this recession/depression will bring our incomes more inline with our happiness index.

Not to mention that little tiff between Jesus and the money changers. We need that kind of dude to straighten our the financial corporations.

Interesting piece on crude pricing from RIGZONE: NYMEX Oil Benchmark Again in Question

During the surge to $147 per barrel earlier this year, OPEC repeatedly criticised the NYMEX reference price for overstating the real degree of tightness in the physical market and causing prices to overshoot on the upside.

While rallying NYMEX prices seemed to point to an acute physical shortage and need for more oil, Saudi Arabia could not find buyers for the 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) of extra oil promised to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon or the 300,000 bpd promised to U.S. President George Bush in June.

Bizarrely, rather than acknowledge there was something wrong with the reference price, some market participants suggested Saudi Arabia should increase the already large discounts for its physical crude to achieve sales in a market that clearly did not need the oil, and was not paying enough contango to make storing it economic (contango is where the futures price is above the spot market).

The NYMEX WTI price may have achieved unprecedented media fame as a result of the "super-spike", but a futures price to which producers and consumers were paying ever larger discounts for actual barrels was clearly not a good indication of where the market as a whole was trading.

the market has substantially misjudged the real price where supply meets demand since about 08-06. either too low or too high or too low again. and that is, imo, why we have seen these wild price fluctuations. i'm guessing price has overshot on the downside again.

its like a lot of drivers i see speeding away from a stop light only to hit the brakes at the next one, as if in some kind of rat race to a stop.

its like a lot of drivers i see speeding away from a stop light only to hit the brakes at the next one, as if in some kind of rat race to a stop.

It seems the driver is now skidding toward the intersection...

And another one bites the dust.

Zavvi goes into administration

Zavvi, the troubled music retailer, has followed Whittard of Chelsea and The Officers Club into administration as supply problems in the wake of the collapse of Woolworths and dire trading conditions took their toll.

Simon Douglas and Steve Peckham, the group’s founders, said: “We have done all that is possible to keep the business trading, but the problems encountered with [Woolworths’ subsidiary] EUK and particularly its recent failure, has been too much for the business to cope with.”

...Zavvi was formed from a management buy-out of the Virgin Megastore division of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group in September 2007. It trades from 125 stores across the UK and Ireland. Zavvi Ireland, which operates 11 of these shops, has not gone into administration.

Virgin had stepped in to help Zavvi with cash and management expertise because, under the terms of the buy-out deal, it agreed to guarantee millions of pounds of Zavvi’s payments to Woolworths for stock.

Of course Virgin can probably now buy the business they recently sold back for pennies if Branson wishes.

Change we can believe in!

Rail Takes Back Seat as States Target Obama Stimulus for Roads

I am not a doomer because our problems are insoluble. I'm a doomer because we will do our best to avoid solutions, until it is too late.

"I am not a doomer because our problems are insoluble. I'm a doomer because we will do our best to avoid solutions, until it is too late."

Sir Winston Churchill said it this way; quote: "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've exhausted all other options."

He also said: "We are stripped bare by the curse of plenty."

Or, quote: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." - To so few?? Ben and Hank ;-)


I am not a doomer because our problems are insoluble. I'm a doomer because we will do our best to avoid solutions, until it is too late.

Not me! I am a doomer because our problems are absolutely insoluble. We are deep into overshoot. Water tables are dropping because so much is being pumped for irrigation. Rivers are drying up for the same reason. Rain forest are disappearing. Topsoil is blowing away or being washed away. People in South Korea must wear dust masks most of the year because the dust from China is choking. Species are going extinct at an alarming rate.

The earth simply cannot support its current population for much longer even if we do find a solution for our energy problem. The problem is overpopulation. And our population is still growing at about 1.1 percent per year or over 70 million people per year.

The principles of Malthus will soon kick in, they simply must. But that is the doomer cure, not the cornucopian solution.

Lots of energy is a curse in some ways. A small number of people can destroy a priceless rainforest or drive fish species to extinction (perhaps by "harvesting" that useless seaweed). However at a theoretical level one must accept that, potentially if we had a nice very large source of energy then we could build cities and farms underground with artificial sunlight and have the surface of the Earth as a large National Park. Can't bring back the megafauna though: still the greatest man-made ecological catastrophe. No I don't think a nice new energy source would lead to long term happiness, but I'd rather the problems were experienced a generation or so from now rather than by my very cute grandchildren. So come on Santa, bring us a breakthrough in fusion energy.

I lean towards Darwinian, although homosapiens may be right. Unfortunately, it nets out at the same thing.

I don't have the depth of background that many do here, but I have done the math and I just don't see a way out. I'm not sure that even 20 years ago there was a way out.

Can someone please tell me I'm wrong? That's all I want for Christmas, I still have my front teeth.

That's something I wrestle with as well. Did the human race (or the anglo part of it) commit suicide when we chose the Thatcher/Reagan route 28 long, dark years ago? Or was it already too late with we failed to stabilize our population in 1900? Or was it already too late when Watt got that steam engine working?

Who the heck am I to say? Some argue the problem started ~20K years ago when we stopped hunting/gathering. I think it is the genetic paradigm that got us where we are, it just is what we are.

I think we all need to consider the concept of zero growth, just as soon as I get mine.

In the top links, the article by Jim Kunstler, about "legitimacy" addresses this exactly. Vail and Robb have written often about how governments collapse when they fail to meet the needs of the population. I don't think all the Marines in the military can stop that. At best they can loot and plunder what they want. We're going to see "economic stimulus" money sucked up by the political classes at the state and local levels - hey, it already is so I'm not predicting something different. Only that it will all go down the drain to perpetuate the status quo.

Cobb's article in top links discusses money as a claim on resources and energy. If we're right, those of us who suggest that money is a claim on resources - and those resources are no longer there [no matter the outcome of the bets] - then the state is merely complicit in the game of musical chairs, shovelling the last resources to the piranha class. Nothing left to go around and the average Joe and Jane see the last goodies handed over to the fatcatters. That might "work" for a bit, but it won't stick.

Governments can't meet the needs. The "liberal" agenda no longer functions. Everything on which our society and culture is based no longer helps, but only makes matters worse as the PTBs/piranhas/entitleds try to hang on. Can't hang on.

cfm, hanging on in Gray, ME

The rationale is that we must spend tons of money now so that we can instantly pump up the economy and get it going again. And then after we have pumped up the economy with a bunch of roads that will just exacerbate our energy problems we will be even more dependent upon foreing countries for our needs. All this will help begin the cycle all over again. In the mean time, as Kunstler says, we will be left with a rail system that can't compete with those found in third world countries. In the article, Caterpillar says we must build roads to compete with China. Now that's a laffer. All we will do is use those roads to move more Chinese goods around and use those ports to facilitate the import of Chinese goods.

This country has become second rate at best and is heading towards third rate is something is not done soon to help us prepare for the future. Start by putting all those unemployed financial types to digging some ditches and building some rail roads with their bear hands.

I say we should take an approach that sacrifices some short term recovery for a long term economy that is much more sustainable. Education will have to part of that package. Our brightest (hard to believe, brightest) have chosen financial careers as opposed to science and engineering for the obvious reasons, mainly having to do with money.

Mortgage applications highest since mid-2003
Wednesday December 24, 10:55 am ET
Mortgage applications surge to 5-year high as borrowers rush to refinance at lower rates

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mortgage applications spiked last week to their highest level in more than five years, as borrowers took advantage of rates that fell to near-record lows after the government pledged to funnel money into the mortgage market.

And you thought they could not reinflate?

CNBC also had a good article on Home Inventory's starting plunge and what it means:


That was inventory of new homes only, and the author did not specify if it was because buying has picked up or building has dropped off. As for existing home inventory, the author basically says it is NOT dropping, but he assumes it will, because it always does -- in other words, BAU.

the author did not specify if it was because buying has picked up or building has dropped off.

But he clearly did:

The math on why this is happening is simple: the construction of new homes has fallen below that of household formation.

The banking industry will have a very bad year in 2009- So bad they will be thinking 2008 was a GOOD year!

Retailers are failing. Commercial real estate (CRE) will follow. Mega malls and strip malls (Retail CRE) will cause a new mortgage crisis for the banking industry already struggling with capitalizing their balance sheets.

Also in trouble will be hotel CRE, light industrial/warehouse CRE, office CRE and then finally multi-family housing CRE. Medical CRE should be the most resistant to failure. (But with the MASSIVE new unemployment we will get in January, look for medical insurers to have problems. There are already layoffs in that sector.)

Banks will be reluctant to extend loans to commercial real estate while having to deal with housing forecloses and business loans gone bad. Empty malls, industrial properties and hotels will be defaulting foreclosed on- the balance sheet just gets uglier and uglier.

We live in interesting times. I am pondering how local governments will deal with the sharply rising demands on their resources while simultaneously losing their tax base while capital is scarce. Municipal bonds may not be so secure!

The Feds can't bail them all out, can they?

They can and they will. They authorized 200 billion TALF for hedge funds. So you can judge from that as to how restrictive they are.

I'm getting a clearer sense of what it's like to live in a country with a third-world power system.... as I type this on backup power.



Well, it's all about perspective, isn't it?

Super insulation.

Downsize your Human footprint as much as possible.

Primary Power should be the Backup continously. Solar-Wind/Light a Candle.

What bad weather?

Merry Christmas.

Power Down.

FYI, aluminum is the fuel, not the waste product of the Shuttle solids. Alumina (Al2O3) is the solid in the exhaust stream.
Sometimes Wiki is NOT your friend.


Power Down, Mr.NASA.


At last report, there are approximately 40,000 customers without power due to damage caused by freezing rain. I feel sorry for the folks who are still without service since the last major storm blew through this province; with this fresh batch of outages, I fear their restoration will be delayed even further.

A Happy Christmas to all! Our friends and neighbours are all coming over for chilli and hot apple cider.


Ice storms - the wrong kinda powerdown.
Here on the West side of Portland the snow has finally turned to rain below a thousand feet, which has most folks breathing sighs of relief. But if it gets too warm too quick, we'll have a whole new disaster on our hands.
What drives me nuts is that my new generator and fuel tank are all installed, but not plumbed in. The utilities here are all buried, but I wish I'd finished the job before this Winter storm set in. Another lesson learned: We pass this way but once - no do-overs.

I hear ya; freezing rain is no one's friend. Apparently, our problems are due to, in part, salt deposits on line insulators.

Source: http://www.nspower.ca/about_nspi/in_the_news/2008/12242008pm.shtml and http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5jtridjeW6Xg...


Here's fingers and toes crossed for you to get back power, soon.

BTW, that's a nifty site, with Google Maps integrated.

Got any Home Energy Raters in your neck of the woods ?

Had a 1 hour meeting with the local public electricity utility Energy Star Representative this morning. The short version is a 5 day course for certification is most likely required to get job placement. I'm looking extensively for any opportunity to get employment with the certification to soon follow, like I did with my CompTIA A+ certification.

Good Luck with the power !!

Hi Robert,

We just came back up -- my sincere thanks to you and all your ten digits!

I'm really pleased to hear of the meeting with your local utility; this sounds like a great opportunity for you to apply your newly acquired skills. There's an acute shortage of energy auditors in this province -- anyone applying for a home energy audit through Conserve Nova Scotia's EnerGuide for Houses programme (http://www.conservens.ca/) is probably looking at a three to four month wait. Your timing couldn't be better. Please keep us up-to-date on your progress; I'm hoping my fingers and toes can return the favour!

BTW, completely OT, but I was thinking of how my parents would have celebrated Christmas during the war years and how they coped with the shortages of even the most basic staples. When you think of the serious hardships they had to endure, losing power for a few hours is pretty damn trivial. For a bit of a chuckle (or a subtle insight if you prefer), through the magic of youtube, you can step back to the Britain of 1941:



The latest from Dmitry Orlov:

From Prognosticator to Witness

I haven't been posting of late, mostly because I feel that my job is more or less done.

I called it as I saw it, and, unfortunately, I seem to have called it correctly.

The US is collapsing before our eyes. Stage 1 collapse is very advanced now; stages 2 and 3 are picking up momentum.


Link to Orlov's "The Five Stages of Collapse"


Anyone who hasn't read his book is a damn fool. I haven't looked at his site for a while and, for me, I think he is right...this is probably all he has to say.

For the reality of what might come, people can check out http://ferfal.blogspot.com (from memory) as to how Argentina is going down the tubes. And, in a worst case, http://www.survivalblog.com from Jim Rawles and, if you aren't hardcore yet, read his book _Patriots Surviving The Coming Collapse_.

Ron brings up the problem of over population up thread and notes there is no solution. I wish people could come to grips with this. BAU is dead meat. Ultimately, trams, permaculture and all the rest won't save people. Yes, they may buy time and, in fact, that's been my plan all along - you don't want to go out in the first wave.


On that somewhat unhappy note, Merry Christmas to all - the weather has been so bad in the Coast Range Mountains of northern California for quite a while that this is the first time in 48 years that we don't have a tree...and I have thousands of Doug Firs that I need to clear anyway.

Taking Care of the base:

Bush pardons mortgage fraudster who escaped restitution
John Byrne
Published: Tuesday December 23, 2008

Victims 'thank' Bush for 'worst Christmas present' ever

Father gave $28,500 to RNC this year

President George W. Bush has characterized the recent US housing crisis as a product of greed and Wall Street excess.

But that doesn't seem to have been Bush's opinion when he pardoned Isaac Toussie, 30, of Brooklyn, the son of a New York real estate developer, who defrauded the Housing and Urban Development Department government for millions of dollars and pled guilty to inflating the incomes of at least 100 families to make them eligible for federal loans in the lead-up to the worst housing crisis the United States has ever had.

The view from Iceland:

Sitting in an old fisherman’s cafe by the port, Orn Svavarsson shakes with rage. He sold his health food business three years ago when he was 54 and, like many of his countrymen, put the money into the stock market. It has been wiped out.

“The Icelandic people are too lazy,” he says. “Why don’t we go to the airport and block it until we get answers?

“For the first time in my life I have sympathy with the Bolsheviks; with the French revolutionaries who put up the guillotine.”

(Go thru Google News to get past the paywall.)

His sentiment echoes the quote posted by Denninger yesterday:

WARNING TO BANKING EXECUTIVES: If you do not return the bonuses, stock options and country club memberships bought with taxpayer bailout money, YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS will be made public in a manner designed to "incite" a reaction by the public. (Special emphasis on the word "incite!)

You have until Friday, December 26, 2008 to return the money. There will be no negotiating, no obeying of court orders of protection, no way to prevent being dealt with harshly.

I don't care about your employment contracts, I don't care about your civil rights and I sure as **** don't care about the law or the courts.

You guys have ****ed this country for the last time. It's time for you to be paid back and I intend to see that you receive your payback.


Nasty business, this. It's a steep and slippery slope from "liberty, equality, fraternity" to a Reign of Terror.

Just to make make it absolutely clear these are not Denninger's words (he does not agree with them)
but come from Hal Turner at http://www.halturnershow.blogspot.com/ and even there they carry the following disclaimer on a later followup.



Harold "Hal" Turner is an American white nationalist and white supremacist from North Bergen, New Jersey. He ran his program, The Hal Turner Show, as a webcast from his home once a week, and depended on donations by his listeners. He quit the show in July 2008. In August his website also closed down, though he retains a blog.

Thanks for reiterating the disclaimer. Not that I agree with his sentiment, but I certainly feel the current pulling us toward the precipice. Turner is unique only in that he's brazen enough to scream out loud what so many are muttering under their collective breath, especially after the way the bailout has been handled.

Hal Tuner is a bitter, confused, hate-filled, ignorant, wack-job.

That's being charitable.

Major hit for Seattle.

JPMorgan Chase is notifying landlords it will pull out of all the downtown Seattle office space rented by Washington Mutual by the end of March. The New York bank is laying off 80 percent of WaMu's Seattle work force and consolidating the 800 remaining office workers into the WaMu Center headquarters building it owns downtown. ... WaMu leased about 700,000 square feet in Seattle, according to brokers and building owners.

Super G is going to do a major site upgrade tonight, starting at 9pm ET. The site will be down 2-5 hours. (If all goes well.) Hopefully, youse guys have better things to do on Christmas Eve than hang out here. ;-)

You would think so! Except my partner is off with her family to Hawaii (of all places) for Christmas. It was her turn - I'm here taking care of the livestock and the woodstove. So I guess I'll plan on having supper at 9:00. Maybe I'll play my guitar. Or read a book - I think I remember how, and I have an awful lot of 'em around here... :-)

Hi Leanan
Just a thought for you editors, and maybe this has been suggested before. We have the option to view stories with out comments, is it possible to get a view comments option? Thanks and sorry if this is a dead horse

I got a nasty cold. Everyone is shunning me for good reason.
I feel like I'm being kick off a blog LOL.


Some lighter side viewing to kill time while the sites down.

A must see for any and all.

Carl Sagan - Cosmos


Happy kwanzaa

Hopefully, youse guys have better things to do on Christmas Eve than hang out here. ;-)

Christmas Eve? I'll be celebrating Hogswatch. Got my pork pies and brandy out for the Hogfather.

Here in Reno this Christmas Eve, not much going on but I wouldn't even think of going to the mall(s).

I want to expecially thank Leanan for all the work to keep us informed on so many topics.

Merry Christmas to some
Happy Hannaka to some
Good Luck for our atheists

If I forgot anyone, best to you and yours.

Are many Hindu(s) called Hindii? Anyway best to all the interesting views here.

I am well into a new (for me) doomer porn book ... "The Last Hours or Ancient Sunlight". Last revised about 2003 but I wish there were a 2008-9 revision to further explain our trip back to the Olduval George and an all-up world population of 250 million.

Nate and I both recommended "The Last Hours." I referred to the book in my ELP Plan article:

Author Thom Hartmann, in his book, “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight,” described a high tech company that he consulted for that went through several rounds of start up financing, and then collapsed, without ever delivering a real product. At the peak of their activity, that had several employees and lavish office space--until they ran out of capital. His point was that this company was analogous to a large portion of the US economy, which has the appearance of considerable activity and uses vast amounts of energy, but how much of this economic activity delivers essential goods and services?

For those of us who still have parents and grandparents who were alive in the Thirties, and who were old enough to remember it, this might be a good time to sit around the fireplace and ask them to describe how they got by.

And as I mentioned before, it might be a good time for talking about contingency plans for consolidating in one house, as in "The Waltons."

Hello TODers,

As you chew your traditional holiday ham, you might consider the potential impact of this news from the UN FAO website if this goes viral:

First detection of Ebola-Reston virus in pigs 23-12-2008
FAO/OIE/WHO offer assistance to the Philippines
Happy Holidays to all, and may your bacon be well-done!

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

Jeanie: Wow, I can't believe we ate the entire turkey...

Camie: Yeah, but it was so good... burp...

Jeanie: You think they'll notice?...

Camie: Doubt it...

Happy Christmas Everyone !


When I was about twelve years old we had a Weimaraner mix named Bobby who ate a whole Christmas ham that was sitting on the counter while we were out visiting relatives. That dog paid for it, and so did we, from the bad gas and indigestion it had for the next day.

Sorry, not much time due to the holiday, but for your consideration:

World agriculture: towards 2015/2030-Summary report
I haven't read this yet, but the executive summary doesn't mention any scenario that includes declining FFs and its possible ramifications upon global NPK & agriculture [but is does include possible climate change effects--go figure].

Merry Christmas, Toto. And thanks for all the work you do to make TOD an interesting visit.