DrumBeat: December 25, 2008

Economic bright spot: energy prices

New York - The best economic news that consumers receive next year could be the price they pay for energy.

Although it's almost 2009, prices at the pump – close to $1.65 a gallon – are below what Americans paid in 2004. That year, the top three bestselling vehicles were pickup trucks, and gasoline prices averaged $1.85 a gallon for regular.

Also this winter, residents of the Northeast are expected to see their heating costs shrink by almost 25 percent when compared with last winter.

"It's a bit of a gift, like a giant tax cut," says Sarah Emerson, managing director of Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Mass. "This is one of the best things to happen to the economy over the next six months."

Oil decline erodes airline fuel hedge value

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Major U.S. airlines are cheering the jaw-dropping decline in fuel prices, but at the same time are wincing that some of the insurance they bought to hedge against fuel spikes seems to have been a waste of money.

To some degree, top carriers all are struggling to blunt the impact of potential fuel price rallies without losing money on hedges if fuel falls more than expected.

Worthless fuel hedges led to huge accounting losses for major airlines in the third quarter. It is likely to happen again in the fourth quarter and could repeat in 2009 because airlines buy their hedges months in advance.

Oil looks cheap, but investors are wary

LONDON (Reuters) - A flight into cash during the credit crisis has helped drive oil and other commodity prices down so steeply that they are a potential "buy" for pension funds with a longer view.

But timing is everything.

"People are sitting on cash -- big lumps of it," said Mark Mathias, chief executive of commodity fund manager Quantum Asset Management. "Everyone is worried about when to go back in. Long-term, oil is cheap, but who knows where it goes in the short term."

Russia replaces oil, gas reserves in 2008

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has fully replaced its oil and gas production this year with new reserves, Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev said on Thursday.

Trutnev said Russia, the world's largest gas producer and the world's second largest oil exporter, had discovered 500 million tonnes of new oil reserves this year and 650 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas.

Roads took toll on driving habits

Changing lanes: Gas prices, lack of gas and construction clogs sent many to car pools or MARTA. Will the switch last? Nobody can tell.

Coal hard truths

Mattie Reitman went to the coal fields of West Virginia two years ago to listen to the experiences and concerns of residents living in the heart of coal country. There, in Appalachia, with the help of an approach called “deep listening,” Reitman dug into the issue of coal mining and mountaintop removal, and what he found was a source of human exploitation and ecological devastation.

“Coal comes from injustice,” he explained. “It’s stripped from indigenous lands and burned there and then shipped away.”

Why a Depression Will Be Good for America

Who welcomes our Recession changing to become a full blown Depression? There are some: those capitalists who always make fortunes off of human suffering. But what about the rest of us ordinary folks? Failing to go thru another Great Depression could actually be worse than avoiding it. Here's why.

The Peak Oil Crisis: Confusion In the Markets

If you don't understand what is going on with the price of gasoline and demand for the world's oil supply, then join the club.

Analysts, pundits, government officials, oil ministers, oil executives, and oil traders are all over the board in trying to explain what is happening and more importantly what is going to happen. Some are saying that $30 oil will be with us until the economy recovers while others are talking of a spike to $200 in 2009.

Russian Stocks Fall After Oil Plunges; Lukoil, Surgut Decline

(Bloomberg) -- Russia’s 30-stock Micex Index fell as the country’s Urals blend of crude oil fell to a four-year low, hurting the outlook for energy producers and the economy.

OAO Lukoil, Russia’s second-biggest oil producer, and OAO Surgutneftegaz, the fourth biggest, led the retreat with declines of more than 2.5 percent.

UAE first to follow OPEC deal with Jan oil cuts

TOKYO/DUBAI (Reuters) - The UAE joined Saudi Arabia in deepening oil supply curbs on Thursday to comply with producer group OPEC's biggest ever output cut last week, telling refiners it would tighten shipping limits on exports of its main grades.

China Development Bank Quadruples Loan to Oil-Rich Kazakhstan

(Bloomberg) -- China Development Bank quadrupled a credit line to its counterpart in energy-rich Kazakhstan after oil prices plunged.

China Development Bank agreed to increase a $100 million line of credit for infrastructure, energy and metals projects to $400 million, the Astana-based National Wellbeing Fund said in a statement today.

Nippon Oil Likely to Keep Output Cuts in January Through March

(Bloomberg) -- Nippon Oil Corp., Japan’s largest refiner, will likely continue cutting production in the first three months of the year as the recession reduces demand for diesel oil used at factories and other fuels.

The refiner reiterated a plan to process 25 percent less crude oil next month, and it is “highly possible we will make similar cuts” in February and March, Director Masahito Nakamura told reporters today in Tokyo.

China's crude oil imports expected to be sharply down

TOKYO (KUNA) -- China's crude oil imports are expected to register a year-on-year growth of 1.2 percent in 2008, down sharply from 14.7 percent in 2007 and 14.5 percent in 2006, the state-run China Daily reported Thursday.

According to the newspaper, China National Petroleum Corporation, China's largest oil company, has published the estimate, saying the world's second-biggest oil consumer will import 189 million tons of crude oil in 2008, up 1.2 percent from 2007.

The growth rate surprised some market observers who thought the government would take advantage of low world oil prices to increase reserves, the daily said.

China Turns to ‘Buyers’ Market’ for Fuel in 2009

(Bloomberg) -- China will become a “buyers’ market” for refined oil products next year as a global economic slowdown erodes demand in the world’s second-largest energy consumer.

China May Issue Fewer Corn Export Licenses in 2009

(Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s largest grain grower, may issue fewer 2009 corn export licenses than expected and won’t provide trade incentives as it seeks to control prices and ensure domestic supply, said two traders familiar with the situation.

Refinery may face closure

The Big West refinery on Rosedale Highway could be forced to shut down unless its owner can persuade members of the local oil industry that they will continue to be paid for new deliveries despite the company’s reorganization bankruptcy filing Monday.

The Moment of Darkness

...Many feel defeated. They had warned of peak oil, climate change and economic collapse for decades – now, some say, it’s started. It’s too late.

I want to spare my daughter this. I want to instill, to whatever extent a father can, the high and driving Spirit, the sanguine craving to restore. Of course it is too late to change everything, and always has been. Everything is too big. But each of us can do something where we are, and there are millions of us.

The Hidden Holocaust: Our Civilizational Crisis - Part 4: The Crisis of Perception

We’ve already seen the extent to which our dependence on hydrocarbon energies, and our continuing neglect of viable renewable forms of energy and associated technologies, is self-defeating. Both global warming and peak oil are tied indelibly to our energy dependence. With all the data showing that both of these crises are set to spiral out of control within the next few decades, it’s clear that we need to go cold turkey on our oil addiction. The question, of course, is how do we do it? What are the alternative energy sources, and are they viable? And how would a post-carbon society look and function, politically and economically?

The Hum of Green Cleaning

In the effort to green our lives, there must be some limits: vacuuming, for instance. Isn’t the chore odious enough without worrying if it is contributing to global warming?

Apparently not, at least according to AB Electrolux, which last month began marketing the AirMax Öko, a green vacuum, in Europe.

Disasters warning for Asia-Pacific

AUSTRALIA'S neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region face an era of "mega-disasters" affecting hundreds of thousands of people as urbanisation, climate change and food shortages amplify the impact of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and cyclones in coming years, scientific research has shown.

Fix For Global Warming? Scientists Propose Covering Deserts With Reflective Sheeting

A radical plan to curb global warming and so reverse the climate change caused by our rampant burning of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution would involve covering parts of the world's deserts with reflective sheeting, according to researchers writing in the International Journal of Global Environmental Issues.

Top 10 Places Already Affected by Climate Change

Cities deep underwater, frozen continents, the collapse of global agriculture: so far, much of the discussion about climate change has focused on these distant, catastrophic effects of a superheated world. What's less talked about is how global warming is making itself felt already. Even the modest temperature rise we've already experienced has set in motion fundamental shifts—and the further warming we can expect in the next few decades has the potential to set off dramatic changes.

Merry Christmas!

"I'm trying to reduce my carbon hoofprint."

Nice electric Rudolph !

Merry Christmas to all.
Best wishes and a prayer in gratitude to Leanan and the rest of the TOD staffers for keeping me updated on Millennium Issue No 1. Now fold your hands:

Our Juggernaut - Who art on TheOilDrum,
- Leanan be Thy Name.
Thy Drumbeats come ,
Reality checks shall be done,
- right here on TOD, as it's also done over at ASPO's site.
Give us this day Our latest fossil depletion rates,
- but hey, strictly followed by alternatives for the same.
And forgive us our restless ranting and trolling,
- as we forgive those who restlessly rant and troll against us.
Please lead us not into Cournocopism
but deliver us from CERA.


+1 ... no, wait, +10!

Season's greetings all!

"China's crude oil imports expected to be sharply down"

not really. growth will be sharply down.

Apparently, nobody in the media knows the difference between a first and second derivative.

The media doesn't understand derivatives of any sort, first, second, or financial.

I'm not so sure. They use the following technique very effectively. If for example country A has a much larger military budget than country B, but they want to demonize country B, they then shift to first derivatives -- i.e. country B's budget is growing faster, and don't mention absolute quantities at all. In general, there's often a very skilful choice of y, y' or y'', according to the bias of the source.

The only thing I haven't seen yet is recourse to y'''. :)

Another very common trick in print or video is charts with a judicious use of baseline tweaking, or selecting log or linear for scaling, for the desired effect of course.

Ohhhhhhhh, I dunno...
Remember what y''' is called? Seems to be no shortage of jerks out there in the Talking Head Class.


You haven't seen y'''? It in mechanics is called "jerk" which seems to sum up TPTB.

Merry Christmas TOD people,

here's what I found under my mental tree this AM:


my HOPE for US is to have some similarly de/constructive outrage appear here ...... and that the human energy released can get busy and bring us an electric train for under next year's tree.


"..and we're going to expropriate that and turn it into a hospital - I don't know - a school, a university."

In the current situation reactionary solutions by populist leaders are just as devastating regardless which colored hat they wear. As much as one is drawn to Hugo Chavez's charm, revolutionary speeches and anti-bush-stance, the guy is just a naive populist leader, mad with his own position.

If you doubt this, watch this: PBS Frontline The Hugo Chavez Show. Ones you see that documentary, you cannot really claim that he hasn't gone mad.

But the real question is, is there any hope for us from our 'leadership' whether it be populated by peak oil people or Hubbert himself, if the situation has gotten so bad already, that in order to keep peace and order, one has to peddle cheap populist solutions to the masses?

In Chavez country one could potentially play the poor-working-class-against-the-rich angle to the benefit of sustainable policies, such as banning shopping malls or electrifying the railway network. But in the US the majority population belong to the middle class who have no romantic notions of socialism. All they want is their fair share of the American Dream - which is impossible to dress up into a sustainable program: reduction of energy and material use, consumption etc.

In fact in the coming years, with ever deepening crisis upon crisis we are going to see more of these childish gestures, more quick fixes, more helicopters... The worse it gets the shorter is the thinking behind what we do.

Thanks for the link, and I'll definitely watch some of it. But based on what I know already, Chavez has some things to his credit: he has very effectively promoted Latin unity against domination by the gorilla to the north, he has improved health and education for the poor in Venezuela, and he has won several elections legitimately (according to several different monitoring bodies) -- unlike some here. His idea of giving discount oil to poor people here in the US was a master stroke. Does he sometimes huff and puff, and then back down? Yep. And some other stupid stuff. And there are plenty of other problems.

But one of the other things I like about him is that he admits screwing up sometimes.

One of the things that gives me hope is the emergence of several populist gov'ts in LA, warts and all. At least they are trying to do something for the people. And their efforts are not at all appreciated by the TPTB here. Just on that fundamental level I support them. I can't see why anyone that doesn't identify with TPTB here wouldn't have some sympathy for them.

Well said.

I too had sympathy and good things to say of people like Chavez (and of Castro). People who dared to 'oppose to the TPTB'. Very admirable indeed.

But he also runs a political machine, effective at silencing dissent among his own ranks, at oppression - and if needed, murder. The aim of his policies and projects is to maintain his power, at any cost.

What is this cognitive dissonance which allows murderers to gain appreciation in our eyes - because they are 'less-murderers' than the politically correct foes of our time?

"This guy must be a great hero cause he challenges the 'Bullies of the North'. He gives to the poor."

Yet we know that he is just another dictator, and his handouts are a power available to any dictator - they tell nothing of his character or intentions.

In this age of evils we need heros - and this guy is obviously a hero.

We must rationalize this by comparative thinking - he is for health, education, latin unity, whatever. "So he did some 'stupid stuff' - and everyone has 'problems', so what, give him some slack.."

Now we can ignore his blatant use of populism, his madness, because we have labeled them as 'stupid stuff' and 'problems'. Because his apparent 'goodness' undoes any criticism and doubt. And you must not criticize or doubt heros. They are untouchable.

"Chavez has some things to his credit" - perhaps his credit account is indeed positive - the debt of lives lost, blood and tears paid off in full by his charitable acts?

I too would support his policies on a 'fundamental level' - if it wasn't for the blatant and now all too apparent formula which is now being revealed in his speeches, and acts. He is full of himself, beyond criticism, madness has taken over him.

Many people still 'believe' in him, some just uninformed for now, and some, the True Believers, will never be swayed otherwise. Because he ones wore 'patch of honor' of opposing the TPTB.

- Ransu 2008



Unfortunately, critical thinking is in short supply. Paradigms and ideologies prevail. "An enemy of my enemy is my friend" is a short term approach.

Let us remember that the US supported and funded Usama Bin Laden, Reza Palavi (Shah of Iran) and a host of others.

Just because Chavez sh**s on Bush does not make him a saint, as some have suggested. He is, first and foremost, a politician and therefore highly suspect. An enemy of my enemy is NOT necessarily my friend. Political expediency be damned!!

All too often, if someone opposes TPTB, that is just a mechanism to become TPTWB, The Powers That Will Be.

Just because a person is rude (i.e. undiplomatic) does mean that they are telling the truth anymore than someone that is polite is lying.

IMHO they are all whores, but I would love to be proven wrong.

The problem here is in the details. Your criticisms are vague and personal -- his accomplishments are specific. I have no problem with specific criticisms of Chavez.

But once those specific criticisms are made one also has to total the whole thing up. Would Venezuela or LA be better off if he were overthrown? TPTB in the US would like to do just that -- they will support anyone wanting to do that, give them money. And will Venezuela then be better off with the replacement? I don't think so. It has never worked out that way. This applies to Castro and all the other LA populists. Each of them has faults. But taken as a whole, would LA be better off if they weren't there? It would be better, easier for the US elite if they weren't. Would it be better for LA and those countries if they weren't? Or would it only be better for the elite here?

That's the whole problem. The struggle there is not taking place in a vacuum where the outcome is of no concern to anyone but the peoples concerned. It is of immense concern to a power that has recently lost a huge amount of influence and power in LA.

This or that LA leader may make mistakes that leads to their crumbling and a set back to their liberation movement. It won't make me happy and I don't wish for it. Because we desperately need the spirit here that they have shown there or our gooses are cooked.

I would be more impressed were you to recite the crimes committed against those countries by an outside power before you cite the real and alleged mistakes or even crimes committed by their leaders.

It does, I'm afraid, come down to: which side are you on, boys? Unfortunately, there is no third side, not for us here anyway.

What current leaders DO impress you favorably? I see none that I prefer to the leaders that are emerging in LA. But, to tell the truth, I suspect that some of the Islamic leaders are not quite the devils they're made out to be either and are much superior to the Islamic devils "we" have embraced. But that's another subject altogether -- or is it?


'Vague' and 'personal' - labels - insinuating that the facts are untrue. A very persuasive form of denial. As I said, watch that documentary and then come here to tell me that.

As for his accomplishments, as I have pointed out, they do not justify anything. However many virtues you pile upon him, he is still a dictator and a murderer.

I am not here to impress you (I get called a lefty much more than you, and don't particularly like the label of its association). But I do have a problem with keeping accountancy of blood, of comparing evil with evil, of rationalizing oppression, suffering and death.

Would Iran be worse off with Shah still in power? Perhaps. And Iraq with Saddam? Many justified and still do the brutalities of Mugabe's regime because he challenged the colonial powers and white land owners. Freedom for Africa! Very politically correct at the time. Great cognitive dissonance for todays lefties. I am not the sycophant of Iran's current regime because the previous one propped up by the US was 'worse' - or celebrate Bush for removing Saddam, with only a few 'minor problems' left behind to deal with.

The basis of hero myths is duality. The contrast of opposites. In order to paint 'TPTB' as black as possible, one has to whitewash clean the 'other side'. There is no third side, we are told. "You are either with us or against us".

Sorry I don't play that way. A plague on both your houses!

But there is no arguing with a True Believer. Just like Chomsky, perhaps the most prolific critic of the U.S., gets rap from Burma- and Israel-activists for even hinting of the suffering by Timor or of Palestinians, the Chavez myth is fast becoming yet another one of these dogmas.

On a more practical and 'specific' note, we most definitely do not need the "spirit they have shown there". The 'spirit' they have there is well a oiled party machine, resistant to criticism, insight and change, and always ready to deny and ignore anything bad their great leader has done, ready to silence any dissent among their own ranks, even with violence. What is then left of the spirit is a reactionary, short sighted, naive, childish grab for a feel good nice 'solutions', mandated by the great leader, and put into practice at any cost.

You can liberate us from the TPTB all you want, but I won't be liberated of my right to think. Thank you very much..

Thanks for the Great Theory Lesson.

Just one or 2 more Qs.: When is a Documentary a Propaganda Piece.

Was Riefenstahl's 36 Olympics "Documentary" Fact? Probably. Was it's perception dependent on the viewer's predispositions and prejudices? Seems as though.

If I see the world as a place to make MY Investments, I'll not be primarily concerned for the needs of the "Masses";I'll probably be annoyed by any "purveyors" of "cheap populist solutions" for their problems.

But you do seem to accept they have problems.

I Accept that many of their problems have been caused in part by the longstanding colonialist attitudes of Patria Mia, USA.

Rainsu gets it right when he says "But in the US the majority population belong to the middle class who have no romantic notions of socialism. All they want is their fair share of the American Dream. "

And Kunstler gets it right when he points out that said Am. Dream is basically perpetual BAU and Something for Nothing. Motor on.

Happy Black Friday. Maybe some great BUYS in the mall near you.

Here's Hope for Electric Trains.


America! Yes, the answer to everything. With searing logic he undoes everything one has learnt and thought. All problems everywhere caused by America (its like the UFO's really, they are responsibly for world government and technology after all...)

Ironically in that documentary (which I may presume you still haven't watched) Chavez himself uses the very same level of higher reason to scorch and condemn his own supporters:

" ...this guy is criticizing the great anti-TPTB leader of Venezuela. He must be an American collaborator, a spy, with evil Investments and skulduggery in mind. In fact he must be in Business with the dark lord himself: Beelzebub (or was it Bush)"

.. and any Evidence to the contrary must be works of Propanganda - by Riefenstahl of all people? herself (raised from the dead) - or perhaps even beyond her abilities - since who could have altered all those reels, hundreds of hours of Alo Presidente on YouTube for all to see (all altered obviously to make the great leader SEEM like an out of control ego maniac).

It is I, the Criticiser of Great Heros, who is holding back the Electric Trains. How I gloat over the masses, who without their own concent are forced to shop the malls of BAU.

Yes, the picture is complete. Thou art a True Believer. Blessed may you venture into the magic pixieland.


<clap> <clap> <clap> <clap> <clap> <clap> <clap> <clap> <clap> <clap> <clap> <clap> <clap>

"...one has to peddle cheap populist solutions to the masses? "

i am puzzled by your statement. has any politician since the advent of tv gotten elected otherwise ?

Confusion in the oil markets:

Big question: with $30-40/barrel oil around, how long can suppliers with production cost higher than this continue to produce? Can part of the expensive oil supply system collapse like banks, airlines and car manufacturers?

Not a nice topic to discuss at X'mas.

Big question: with $30-40/barrel oil around, how long can suppliers with production cost higher than this continue to produce? Can part of the expensive oil supply system collapse like banks, airlines and car manufacturers?

Not a nice topic to discuss at X'mas.

Fortunately TOD is place were important topics are discussed regardless of their niceness.

We could try listing the obviously unsustainable hyped projects by simply looking back at the cornucopian adverts here on TOD for the past couple of years. This would include deep-deep-sea fields as well as most oil shale ventures.

In fact can we make a list of those megaprojects as a function of oil price (60-50-40-30 dollar lines) that will likely fold or get delayed for several years if the price stays at that level for the duration of the recession (at least the coming 1,5-2 years)...

Then there is all the OTHER conventional everyday oil production which will do badly as well:

below 30 USD a barrel oil:
- no exploration
- no development of new fields
- no maintenance of existing equipment
- no investment into new rigs and equipment
- no investment into new technologies

combined with financial crisis:
- no financing for any of the above

Any more?

I need some X'mas chocolates... (TOD X'mas angst up => price of coco at record levels)

A person might also ask whether a country which supplies oil can collapse (financially or as the result of internal uprising). There are a lot of oil exporters under stress (Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran) with the lower price of oil.


I am with you! As difficult as oil production loss will be, my greatest concern is a huge loss of stability in places you mentioned, and others like Indonesia, Pakistan, etc.

Many countries maintain a modicum of stability through a relatively high standard of living. We tend to ignore each others differences when we are warm and have enough to eat. As resources dwindle, so does tolerance.

Further, there are those that will do anything they can to exploit or exacerbate the instability. An increase in dissatisfaction is a prime breeding ground for extremists of every colour and creed and for recruiting the vulnerable.

As you can tell, I'm not feeling too Christmasy this year but thanks for your excellent articles, and of course for Leanan's daily gleanings.

I have learned so much. As to whether I'm glad I now know what I know is very much a double edged sword.

The price OPEC needs to defend in order to assure macroeconomic stability for its member countries continues to steadily increase

Since 2000, the threshold price has increased for every OPEC member, with the exception of Qatar, whose gas sales helped provide an alternative source of funds to finance imports. Venezuela and Nigeria top the charts, requiring $94/barrel and $68/barrel, respectively, in 2008. These increases reflect higher inflation, erosion of the US dollar, greater domestic consumption and, most directly, increased government spending.

A graph is here:

From PFC Energy

"...with $30-40/barrel oil around, how long can suppliers with production cost higher than this continue to produce? "

probably not very long. the big question is what percentage of production is in that range ?

demand(at price), another big unknown. inventories, natural decline, project delays, quotas and compliance, a few more.

Many thanks to Leanan for all your tireless work, throughout the year.

We have come to depend on you to find an amazing list of relevant articles!

yes, yes, yes! thanks leanan! merry xmas.

Started reading TOD about a year ago.
It's been a wild ride!
Thanks to all who help make this happen.

PS. My first indoor batch of cold veggies is strongly sprouting. Several varieties of lettuce, radish, and carrots. They join a couple of thin looking tomato sprouts. Not quite Christmas green - maybe I'll grow mistletoe next year. Is mistletoe good eating?

"Is mistletoe good eating?"

No but I think you can smoke it.

Merry Christmas Everyone, and a special Merry Christmas and thanks to Leanan.

BTW, all kidding aside, I believe mistletoe is highly [edit: potentially somewhat] toxic.

[Edit: I became curious, and googled 'mistletoe toxicity'. Evidently, it contains some funky compounds that are potential liver toxins, and not good for pets at all. But mistletoe is actually used as an herbal remedy for a whole host of things, often taken as mistletoe tea.]

As pretty regular lurker on TOD I wanted to add my thanks to both Leanan & all the regular contributors to this site.

here,here.excellent job from all,merry christmas and a happy new year to all r.m

Re: Fix For Global Warming? Scientists Propose Covering Deserts With Reflective Sheeting

Wow, are these guys really scientists (no, they are engineers)? The big problems aren't the minor local temperature changes, they are the result of changes in wind patterns and water vapor added to the atmosphere. Besides, we are changing the albedo of vast areas usually covered with snow and ice, areas which are likely to be much larger than the desert areas mentioned. Deserts already have rather high albedos, compared with land covered by green plants, so increases in desert areas would result in an increase in local albedo. Furthermore, deserts have high emissivities in the infrared, which these reflective sheets might not. Cooling the deserts might also reduce the evaporation from the land under the sheets, which would promote plant growth, plants which would eventually grow large enough to puncture the sheets, unless there was continual effort to remove them.

The other big problem is that the reflective sheets would likely be made of plastic and would have a lifetime in the sun of about 20 to 30 years. If the sheets are not kept clean and replaced when they are torn apart by the occasional winds (which would likely increase), then the global warming would come back with a vengeance.

Other than that, many thanks, Leanan.
Have a Happy Next Year!!

E. Swanson

Not to mention the thousands of species of life they will be making extinct in the process. deserts are not wastelands, despite what the media says.

Other then that it is very human to try to save the planet from environmental destruction caused by us with even MORE environmental destruction. I propose that anyone who puts this idea up be given one gallon of water and three rations of food then dumped into the middle of said desert with a gps locater to be picked up dead or alive in a week.

BlackDog, TrueKaiser:

I agree, this mentality is what got us in this fix in the first place.

The label Global Warming fails to highlight that we are experiencing significant pattern changes that are far more dramatic than an overall temperature rise. Oh, if it were just that simple!

By removing heat input from one concentrated area, the resulting pattern change would be what??? We don't even have a solid model of our existing system so messing with it sounds like a sure-fire way to test the law of unintended consequences.

And don't even get me started with the argument, "Well, we have to do something!!!".

Rather than compensate for bad behaviour, we need to stop the behaviour in the first place.

I HATE, the attitude. 'we have to do something'. There are times when our interference can only do bad things and we should let nature repair it's self. This imho is one of those times.

One restatement of Murphy's Law goes as follows:
"Left to themselves, things go from bad to worse. Human intervention accelerates the rate."

I see you have not studied biology. nature if left to it's self will heal it's self of what ever damage we do. our species being part of it though is not garented.

Not to mention all the resources that would be required to manufacture, distribute, install and maintain such a system. Resources are scarce and would probably be better utilized to get wind and solar energy accessible to people.


Re: Fix For Global Warming? Scientists Propose Covering Deserts With Reflective Sheeting

I think we are being a bit too negative here. Obviously using reflective sheeting over large areas of land is not a very good solution. I wrote the journal, suggesting cheaper and less environmentally disruptive "painting" of human produced surfaces (buildings, and pavement) be tried first. Also in areas subject to high AC demand, and/or having problems with the urban heat-island effect, such interventions might be cost justified on local economic benefits (decreased energy consumption for cooling) alone. Increasing the surface albedo, via deliberate policy should be able to reduce the global average temperature for a given atmospheric inventory on greenhouse gases. It should in no way be construed as a replacement for emmissions reductions. But, it should be considered along with such reductions, as a means of reducing the impacts (and scale of) human induced climate change.

Other geo-engineering schemes that might have limited applicability include, increased CO2 absorption via enhanced silicate weathering (say using the weathering of rock with old mines to absorb CO2), and bio char, and perhaps carbon capture and storage of biomass fueled power. None of these geoengineering solutions are likely to solve climate change by themseleves, but in conjunction with emmissions reductions they could contribute to a reduction in the scale of negative effects.


Just to be clear, I'm not advocating a "do nothing" policy. My point is more about going off half-cocked, either with the best of intentions, or more likely with self-serving agenda. As you point out, the desert project is not a very good solution and shows signs of not being thought through. I think we will see many more of these schemes, which will detract from true mitigation and likely cause harm. I can see acres of metalized mylar being shredded and carried off into the oceans, for example. I can also see some significant wind pattern changes at the boundaries of reflective areas.

As much as I would like to see technology save the day, my math tells me that we will simply have to stop a lot of what we are doing, whether we like it or not. It is simply a consequence of exponential growth in a finite system. The finite system always wins.

While a lot of hare brained geoengineering schemes to counter warming are mooted nobody suggest schemes to counter the increasing acidity. Surely finding a way to put large amounts of something alkaline in the oceans would be simpler than the anti warming schemes.

Surely finding a way to put large amounts of something alkaline in the oceans would be simpler than the anti warming schemes.

One of the CO2 absorption schemes I have seen touted (it was about a year ago, I don't have a link), puported to work by doing precisely this. It was of a similar nature to the increased weathering schemes. Increasing the alkalinity of seawater does increase its ability to absorb CO2, so mitigating the acidity effect, does also mitigate airborn CO2. I was too inexpert to evaluate whether the proposal was feasible. I'm sure some stuff is funded/thrown out by the denialist industry, and some of this stuff comes from well meaning sources.

The big question is, where are you going to obtain the millions of tons of alkali? If you make it by roasting limestone or gypsum, you are making an equal amount of acid at the same time.

One suggestion I've seen is to extract the alkali from plagioclase minerals, a natural source of alkali as they weather and erode (the 'acid' components of these minerals are alumina and silica) ... but then you're talking about investing more energy than we have into extracting the alkali from the minerals, or waiting millions of years for the weathering process.

Another simple one: no-till farming. Tilling produces carbon release. Talk about an easy change.. Also, rice varieties that aren't grown in patties. Lots of Asians would object based on taste preferences, but it would reduce carbon emissions significantly. That one is not such a simple shift, but is certainly doable.


It's an easy change if you're using effective modern pesticides and you take a bit of care in choosing a crop rotation. If you're doing 'organic farming' or have some other kind of religious objection to effective farming practices the problem of weeds is difficult if not an insurmountable obstacle for no-till agriculture short of sending out a squad of sub minimum-wage illegal immigrants to pull weeds by hand.


People opposed to natural farming (a misnomer if ever there was one) are getting to be the new denialists: Ignore the evidence, believe what you want/have been told.

Hint: not everyone thinks "weeds" are weeds. Etc.


Deserts of the American Southwest have enough rain that they are covered with water drainage channels (called rivers in that part of the country). It would be a major engineering task to stretch plastic over the rough terrain. The plastic would have to be rather heavy guage. When rain did fall, it would weight the plastic down. And many other problems which will be discovered only by actually trying to execute on this harebrained scheme. There are places where large rocks are moved about on dry lake beds, and no one knows for sure how they are moved. It is not a benign environment. I doubt that the Sahara is any better or any better understood.

I believe they are called washes.

Or sometimes a 'draw' or an 'arroyo' ... depending on where you're from of course. Bad places to pitch a tent.

Wheat stockpiles might grow as the demand for meat decreases:


Wheat was being used as a feed grain after corn prices spiked on speculation growing ethanol use would create shortages.

An ethanol industry association official predicted corn ethanol production might grow in 2009 in spite of the expected closing of more ethanol plants:


Interestingly, I just did my own "grain" inventory yesterday: 125# bread flour, 250# wheat berries and 100# all-purpose flour. Guess I've got enough. I should thrown in about 50# of oatmeal since I make whole wheat/oatmeal bread.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. I really appreciate all the efforts by Leanan and everyone else including the great posters.

This is the first time in 48 years we haven't had a tree; we've had snow for the last two weeks and there wasn't a time when the trees weren't loaded with snow, in fact we've been snowed in off and on. Normally cut a 10-12' one.


Here's another angle.

Merry Christmas!


From the Peak Oil Crisis link up top:

If you don't understand what is going on with the price of gasoline and demand for the world's oil supply, then join the club.

I must admit that I was just as shocked as the next guy when the price of oil plunged. However in hind sight it is quite obvious what happened and is not at all difficult to understand.

Oil production stopped growing and prices skyrocketed. These two factors combined threw us into a deep recession. This caused oil demand to plummet. And of course when demand drops but production does not, then the price must drop.

Now OPEC is making deep cuts in production and non-OPEC has slipped off its five year plateau and has gone into decline. This will eventually cause the price to rise again. However this will only exacerbate the depressed economy. Also oil production is not likely to rise much even if OPEC decides to open the taps. The decline in non-OPEC production is likely to offset most of the increase in OPEC production.

But not to worry, the recession is not here to stay. It will soon become a depression.

Oil production stopped growing and prices skyrocketed. These two factors combined threw us into a deep recession.

I think you are making an inference too many. The (very obvious) immediate cause of the current recession is the financial implosion. A collapse from the unsustainable financial practices was inevitable without oil (or other resource) constraints. Of course, even without the financial shenanigans we would be hitting difficulties due to running into Malthusian supply limitations. But arguing that the collapse was mainly or solely due to peak oil issues only detracts from your credibility, and of the credibility of resource limitations to growth in general.

The (very obvious) immediate cause of the current recession is the financial implosion.

Ahhh but you are looking at the result of the stoppage of growth, not the cause. Before you can claim that the financial system's collapse caused the recession, you must explain what caused the financial system to collapse.

In a debt based system the economy must grow! When high oil prices and no growth in the oil supply stopped growth, there was no profit to pay interest on all that debt. Therefore the financial system collapsed.

The cause of the collapse of the financial system can clearly be laid at the feet of peak oil and extremely high oil prices. Don't confuse the result with the cause.

The cause of the collapse of the financial system can clearly be laid at the feet of peak oil and extremely high oil prices. Don't confuse the result with the cause.

I think you will have a hard time selling that thesis to the economists (admittedly a thickheaded bunch). And, if you can't succeed at that task, your case will be marginalized. Personally I think that Malthusian issues (of which peak oil is simply the most highly visable), probably were partly responsible for the dissapointing growth of the past couple of decades. I have no doubt that this "growth deficit", provided at least some of the pressure for the financial smoke and mirrors, which were in effect designed to make things look better than otherwise. But, such financial pressures, and human greed and frailties would still manifest themselves even if we lived on a truly cornucopian planet. I think if you try to argue for PO as the major cause of the present difficulties, rather than as only one of multiple pressures to engage in the financial shenanigans, you will find it difficult to be taken seriously by the "policy class". I do hope you desire to have some influence upon their thinking, for their understanding of the planet's resource limits, and the needed policy modifications such limits imply, leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Peak Oil - The Credit Crunch Predicted In 2005

Excerpt from interview with Colin Campbell

"....but apparently the banks lent more than they have on deposit, and at first sight you say that can't be possible, but it turned out that it was. And it was because banks had confidence that the resulting expansion of all of this investment and debt and loans and everything was sufficient collateral for today's debt. So expansion tomorrow covered the debt of today. But, unseen by anybody, or unrecognised, was that this expansion was not just money, it was the good old cheap energy to make the wheels turn and do everything.

So we now face the situation, I think quite soon, when, and this is happening, when the bankers begin to wake up and say, well, this expansion isn't going to go on anymore without the cheap energy to make it happen. That means that the massive amount of debt throughout the world is losing its collateral. It's getting a thin, thin cover.

So I think the crisis that might emerge, and the physical decline of oil is only 2-3% a year, this is not a catastrophy, it is quite a gentle thing. But the perception that arises on passing peak, this long decline , this could come instantaneously to the bankers and they suddenly wake up and say "my God, we got bad debt on our hands"

Furthermore, you look at every single company quoted on the stockmarket, the accounts of all of these companies have a tacit business as usual assumption about continuing cheap, easy oil such as they have known in their business. So once you realize that cheap, abundant, easy oil isn't there, that tells you really that virtually every company quoted on the stockmarket is now overvalued. There has to be some radical re-adjustment. And capital really has to be reduced in some way to match the declining energy supply on which it eventually depends.

So this is the kind of crisis that's staring us in the face. And serious as it is, it's extraordinarily difficult for anyone to do much about it because you can't change the banking structure of the world over night. What can they do? And I am talking to these bankers I find they don't really care too much. There are bundles and bundles of money flowing everyday and their main concern is to be competitive with each other. They don't want to be out of line with each other. And it doesn't matter to them if the whole thing goes down so long as they're in the crowd.

I think the bankers are aware of this now. They don't know exactly how to react, but their main interest is not to being isolated from the crowd, so to speak. So we face this monumental kind of weakness of our entire banking and financial sector. And really there isn't much easy solution to it."

See also ASPO Newsletter #53 May 2005

It goes back much farther than 2005 to the explicit goal for fannie and freddie to have half of their portfolio in "affordable housing" and "low to moderate income families".

At least as far back as 1999, editorials in the Wall Street Journal claimed that if this was attempted, the banking system could collapse within ten years.

I certainly attempt to have an influence on their thinking...I haven't been very successful, though.

And as Colin Campbell points out, there is entirely the possibility of the whole thing grinding to a halt, not the stair step down that Greer and others think is likely.

It seems to me the biggest problem was/is the congress that mandated the laws of the sub-prime mortgages, lack of oversight by the SEC, permitting bank leverages to get out of hand, etc. etc. ... Hello Barney “Everyone needs to own a house and we will make it simple for anyone to own a house regardless of if they can pay for it.” I might add “So they will vote for us and they did.” GMAFB

Another contributor is in the mirror for many with easy debt ... I used to get four or five invitations for credit cards ... "You are approved to borrow $5 or $10K without a credit check."

Granted, the high price of fuels added pressure on the housing market. Once a few didn't make the payments, the price of housing went down and now people who put even 20% or more down owe more than the house is worth so many are walking. Just pay the extra fifty dollars a month for FED mortgage insurance and we won't hold you to the contract.

IMHO the causes are much greater than just the price of oil and it has been coming on for many many years.

Ilargi for one agrees with you, that energy prices did not cause the financial crisis. Debt did - we all know that. But a question we might ask is, "Why did the meltdown happen now?" The Big Casino had been turning a handsome profit, and then everybody punted at once. Think maybe that the $147 oil was the last straw?

One thing about this economic implosion: it seems to have been a far more effective response to PO price spikes than invading Iraq (or Iran). Price pressure is off us now - it's landed squarely on Russia and Venezuela and Iran. Just a happy coincidence, I'm sure.

Why now?  Didn't you just answer your own question?  The system was built on rapidly-expanding credit in lieu of real productivity, so when an essential input could not be produced faster the price shot through the roof and sucked up all the credit, bringing down everything that depended on credit... which was darn near everything.  The input happened to be oil, but it didn't have to be.


If your house is riddled with termites, does it matter whether it falls down from wind, snow load or earth tremors?

A curiosity, not a fundamental.

This is why expansions have to be based on inputs which are far from their limits (else diminishing returns kills them) or on inputs which have substitutes.

The world has an estimated 72 TW (2120 quads/year) of wind power potential; the USA has perhaps 1.2 TW on land and another 900 GW on the continental shelves, which is ~4.5 times domestic consumption.  Solar potential is much greater.  An economy which relies for raw materials on the air (carbon, nitrogen) or the sea (magnesium, phosphorus) cannot run out of material resources.  We're nowhere near that, though.

The Big Casino had been turning a handsome profit, and then everybody punted at once. Think maybe that the $147 oil was the last straw?

I tend to date the financial collapse start to earlier than sept 08 (when Lehman failed), there were serious probles last spring, centered on the Bear Sterns implosion, full scale meltdown was barely avoided at that time, and very serious cracks were already apprent in August of 07. I.E. these earlier foreshocks predate the most damaging part of the oil price shock.

It seems to me the biggest problem was/is the congress that mandated the laws of the sub-prime mortgages, lack of oversight by the SEC, permitting bank leverages to get out of hand, etc. etc. ... Hello Barney “Everyone needs to own a house and we will make it simple for anyone to own a house regardless of if they can pay for it.” I might add “So they will vote for us and they did.” GMAFB

This stuff is being seriously overplayed by the right wingers. Sure CRA, and fellow traveler stuff like Barney Frank were a part of the erosion in lending standards. But, by far the biggest tranch of toxic loans were not forced upon the banks by the feds, but actively pushed by the banks, as they tried to maximize fees from originating loans. Only a few percent of toxic loans can be blamed upon liberal policies of loan accesability for minorities and the poor. Most of the rest was actively marketted (mostly by armies of telemarketers who always called during dinnertime) upon anyone who could sign their name to a loan. Only government regulation and enforcement could have stopped this race to the bottom (of loan standards), but no-one (with any power to prevent) seemed to care.

L.eeeee'.n.aa.n, L.eeeee'.n.aa.n, WILL ROCK YOU...

Simply saying "thank you,' is oh!...so inadequate...yuu the shihz, yuu the shihz, yuu the shihz :)

Aloha Leanan, Meli Kalikimaka and Mahalo for all you do. I know your heart is still here. Your deeds are the perfect example of the spirit of Aloha. Best to all the rest of the TOD bunch as well. it is looking like 2009 will be at least as interesting as 2008 was.

Let's not get carried away, shall we? ... but yeah, Merry Christmas Leanan!

Yes indeed many thanks to Leanan and all the contributors at TOD, its been a fascinating year! We do live in interesting times................

Yeah, what andyh said :) Incidentally, I notice the Karma voting thing is gone.

Super G is still ironing out some bugs from the upgrade.

Ah. Thanks again for everything, to you and Super G, too.

Omitting the voting thing is a feature, not a bug.

Except for 99 up-arrows for Leanan the rest of the TOD crew for their tireless efforts throughout the year.

I keep coming back to the idea of bailing out the financial sector to the tune of a trillion dollars and how that might be spent to improve our country. Some even say $8 trillion so X 8 the list below.

Thinking of wind energy the idea that we need 300,000 to produce electricity. If wind mills cost $3 million each we could have built all of them and had over 100 billion to left over to connect them up.

There are about 125 million seperate houses in the US and $8000 will put up a significant PV system on each of them.

Track costs about a million per mile and we could duplicate our entire train track system and have a lot left over for rolling stock and electrification.


Every time I think about it, I get more fed up with TPTB.


What you say is so true, and it has proven to me that the American people have lost the capacity for anger. If people thought for even a few minutes about what we are being robbed out of they should be in a rage, but the older among us are past the age of rage and the younger seem to have little idea what is happening.

This is the period of the greatest looting of a population in world history. It is sickening to watch politicians rage against national health care because we "can't afford it" and to hear the detractors of alternative energy rage against solar and wind because "we can't afford it". It is a disgrace, and we as a nation should hang our heads in shame, the "leaders" and "financiers" for what they are doing to our once proud nation and the rest of us for allowing it to happen.


RC, who says I'm beyond rage, my wife wouldn't, she has to listen to me rant about it. I just have to stop and pee more often. I'm picturing naps on the protest line. Chuckle.

Thanks for being here TOD and Happy Holidays to all. May you all be doing as well as you are now, next holiday season.

Don in Maine

I am as fed up as you and I often like the idea of "torches and pitchforks", (if they hadn't been outsourced to China) :-)

BUT, more and more I believe that most of the failings are due to basic human traits, i.e. denial, short term gratification, and a significant lack of knowledge or understanding. IOW, ignorance in the true sense, not rudeness.

Yes, there are mendacious and malicious elements at play, but the mantra of "The American Dream" is so entrenched that good and well meaning people are conducting BAU simply because they don't know of, or can not conceive of any alternative. This belief extends well beyond the borders of the US. Hollywood and Madison Avenue may be the progenitors, but we are all culpable.

I have been beating the drum, pardon the pun, for only a year or two. Many people politely avoid me, but since the economic meltdown, my message is more accepted, even though most of those eagerly listening consider the problem temporary. It's a gradual process.

Dimitry Orlov http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/ "From Prognosticator to Witness" may be bowing out (I doubt it) but discussions and dissemination of verifiable information are still critical, perhaps even more so, so I would suggest we should spend more time off the forum and talk with unlike minded people. Long live TOD!

As to whether the message arrives in time is doubtful.

A bus is falling off a cliff; Passengers: "Driver!!! We are falling off a cliff. Do something!!!". Would you get on a bus if you knew the driver was drunk? Would you just put buds in your ear and relax if the driver started drinking?

Herein lies the flaw in a democracy and every other political structure except an informed, wise and benevolent dictatorship. Election terms avoid sustained bad management, but they also eliminate politically unpleasant long term planning, regardless of the foresight that TPTB may have. Democracy, if it was ever was viable has lost the concept of personal responsibility, i.e. the electorate.

As we sew, so shall we reap. Local appears to be where it's at.

I'm no Nostradamus but I strongly feel that 2009 will be much more "interesting" than 2008 and 2010 will tell the tale of peak oil.

It being gift-giving and pardoning season and all that, how about listing TAE in the blogroll.

Much Cheer,


Soylent Green is Biofuel! (-or- "Waste Not, Want Not")


Surgeon uses human fat to run his cars

Health department raids liposuction clinic as doctor leaves for South America

Alan Bittner, who founded a high-profile clinic on Rodeo Drive, the Bond Street of Los Angeles, claims to be able to power both his Ford Explorer and his girlfriend's Lincoln Navigator on biofuel converted from excess flesh from human tums, bums and thighs.