DrumBeat: December 26, 2008

Burning Coal at Home Is Making a Comeback

SUGARLOAF, Pa. — Kyle Buck heaved open the door of a makeshift bin abutting his suburban ranch house. Staring at a two-ton pile of coal that was delivered by truck a few weeks ago, Mr. Buck worried aloud that it would not be enough to last the winter.

“I think I’m going through it faster than I thought I would,” he said.

Aptly, perhaps, for an era of hard times, coal is making a comeback as a home heating fuel.

Problematic in some ways and difficult to handle, coal is nonetheless a cheap, plentiful, mined-in-America source of heat. And with the cost of heating oil and natural gas increasingly prone to spikes, some homeowners in the Northeast, pockets of the Midwest and even Alaska are deciding coal is worth the trouble.

Crude Oil Rises More Than 6 Percent as U.A.E. Reduces Output

Volume in electronic trading on the exchange was 73,221 contracts, as of 3:07 p.m. in New York. Volume totaled 165,884 contracts on Dec. 24, down 66 percent from the average over the past 3 months. No day so far this year has had volume of less than 100,000 contracts.

...A decline in crude oil to $25 “is in the cards,” Gulf Oil LP Chief Executive Officer Joe Petrowski said today in a CNBC interview. Gulf, a Newton, Massachusetts-based wholesaler, distributes motor fuel to 1,800 branded filling stations in the Northeast. “The downside is well in gear,” he said.

Pakistan cancels military leave

Pakistan has cancelled leave for members of its military due to fears of a confrontation with India following last month's Mumbai attacks.

The decision on Friday came after Pakistan's armed forces were placed on high alert.

...Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, arrived in New Delhi on Friday for talks with Pranab Mukherjee, his Indian counterpart.

New Delhi said Mukherjee impressed on Saud the need for Riyadh to use its influence on Islamabad to ensure that those behind the Mumbai attacks were brought to justice.

Saudi Arabia has immense leverage with the Pakistani establishment because of the amount of funding it sends, including subsidised amounts of oil.

Kuwait's crude oil exports to China up 11.5%

(KUNA) -- Kuwait's crude oil exports to China rose 11.5 percent in November from a year earlier to 387,470 tons, equivalent to around 95,000 barrels per day (bpd), the latest government data showed.

Kuwait provided 2.6 percent of China's total crude oil imports, according to the figures released from the Chinese General Administration of Customs. For the first 11 months of 2008, it exported 5.23 million tons, or 114,000 bpd, up 43.9 percent from the same period last year.

Forest Service revising rules for pipeline

PORTLAND -- The U.S. Forest Service plans to alter its environmental standards to allow a proposed $800 million natural gas pipeline to run through 47 miles of Mount Hood National Forest.

The proposed Palomar pipeline would require opening a path measuring 120 feet wide. The path would stretch through forest areas that have been protected from clearcutting and other disturbances under the department's management plans.

More solar panels stolen

Forty solar panels were stolen from the City of Napa’s water treatment plant at Lake Hennessey, the Napa County Sheriff’s Department reported Dec. 19.

A city representative estimated the loss at $30,000.

Napa County Sheriff’s Capt. John Robertson said the theft occurred between 10:30 p.m. Dec. 18 and 4:30 a.m. Dec. 19. The thieves cut the locks off the fence to gain access to the property on the 900 block of Sage Canyon Road, he said. A staffer discovered the theft.

“We have no suspects,” Robertson said. “Nobody was seen or heard on the property.”

Schools increase nuclear-education offerings

Universities and colleges are developing or restarting nuclear-education programs, often working with energy companies to replenish the industry's aging work force in anticipation of new plants going online to meet increasing electricity demand.

Ethanol Questions Fuel a Pushback Over Regulation Changes

The question of whether cars can safely run on higher blends is a murky one. At the moment, federal law allows gasoline used in regular cars to contain no more than 10 percent ethanol. The ethanol industry says the proportion could go higher—to 15 percent or even 20 percent—without significantly affecting how cars drive or hold up or how their emissions control systems perform. Some industry representatives are asking the Environmental Protection Agency, which has final say in these matters, to quickly approve 12 or 13 percent blends.

But there also is a pushback from several quarters, as reflected in last week's meeting with OMB.

Gazprom Says Ukraine Talks ‘Unconstructive,’ Gas May Be Cut Off

Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom, Russia’s gas-export monopoly, said Ukraine is “extremely unconstructive” in talks over a debt dispute that may lead to the second cutoff of fuel shipments in three years.

“In such a situation there will be no legal grounds” to deliver gas to Ukraine as of Jan. 1, Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller said in a letter to European partners, a copy of which was e-mailed to reporters today.

Number of active oil rigs drops by 43

HOUSTON — The number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the United States dropped by 43 this week to 1,721.

Biomass plant comes online for Arizona Public Service, Salt River Project

A joint project for a wood-fired biomass power plant went operational Tuesday, becoming the largest renewable energy plant working in Arizona.

The 24-megawatt Snowflake White Mountain Biomass Power Plant will supply power to Arizona Public Service Co. and Salt River Project.

Coal Ash Spill Is Much Larger Than Initially Estimated

A coal ash spill that blanketed residential neighborhoods and contaminated nearby rivers in Roane County, Tenn., earlier this week is more than three times larger than initially estimated, the Tennessee Valley Authority said on Thursday.

Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal, contains toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead and selenium that can cause cancer and neurological problems.

Authority officials initially said that about 1.7 million cubic yards of wet coal ash had spilled when the earthen retaining wall of an ash pond breached, but on Thursday they released the results of an aerial survey that showed the actual amount was 5.4 million cubic yards, or enough to flood more than 3,000 acres one foot deep. The amount now said to have been spilled is larger than the amount the Authority initially said was in the pond, 2.6 million cubic yards.

Nigeria soldiers kill 3 in attack on oil facility

LAGOS (Reuters) - Three gunmen in Nigeria died and at least four were injured in a gunfight with soldiers guarding an oil flow station in the restive Niger Delta, a military spokesman said on Friday.

Montana refineries operating after fires

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Montana refineries owned by ConocoPhillips and Cenex were operating Friday morning after fires on Thursday, according to the companies.

A fire broke out Thursday afternoon in a unit "that aids in the production of gasoline" at Conoco's 58,000 barrel per day (bpd) Billings, Montana, refinery, said Conoco spokesman Bill Tanner.

'The nurses' birthed a better place at Stinking Creek

Looking back, Kemner and Gall say it was birth control, as much as anything, that changed the fate of Stinking Creek.

The daughters of women who had 14 or 15 children in the 1950s and 1960s grew up and had three or four. Their daughters and granddaughters now have one or two, or none.

"I saw how my momma lived, and I weren't gonna live like my momma," says Suzi Carnes Brown, who was born with Kemner's help. Her mother had nine children. She had four. Her daughter has one.

..."I'd talk to them when their husbands weren't around," says Kemner. "Men didn't like it at all. Back then, a man's worth was the size of his family."

Shrinking family size meant more money for food, clothing and housing because there were fewer to feed, clothe and house.

..."What's being done in Appalachia is the classic strategy for the developing world," says Greg Bischak, senior economist at the Appalachian Regional Commission. Birth control, education, health care and infrastructure work together to ease poverty, he says.

"It works here, too."

John Michael Greer: History's arrow

One of the things that has interested me most about the reactions to the ideas about the shape of the future I’ve presented here on The Archdruid Report is the extent to which so many of them presuppose one particular way of thinking about history. Like the character in one of Moliére’s plays who was astonished to find that he had been speaking prose all his life, a great many people these days have embraced a distinctive philosophy of history, but seem never quite to have noticed that fact.

Energy crisis too often left to the next generation

Chances are, when you unplug whatever holiday lights you have, you won't be thinking about whether there will be enough electricity to use them again next year - or by the time the kids grow up.

But there are people doing just that, for next year and the next century, and we should all be counting them among our holiday blessings.

Costa Rica: Recope Hoarding Fuel And Cash To Face Crisis

The Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo (Recope) is hoarding fuel and money to face an economic crisis in 2009, going into the new year with 3.2 million barrels of fuel, equivalent to the average consumption for two months.

Canada: Fuel cheap, but storms hit supply at stations

Scores of motorists hoping to fill-up on low gas prices Christmas Day came up dry as numerous gas stations across the GTA ran out of fuel, the lingering result of a series of snowstorms that walloped the city earlier this week.

Farmers, state pin hopes on ag secretary

As Iowa governor, Vilsack promoted biotechnology and fostered an agricultural economy that grows food and energy.

"Tom understands that the solution to our energy crisis will be found not in oil fields abroad but in our farm fields here at home," Obama said. "That is the kind of leader I want in my Cabinet."

China starts filling tanks at largest oil reserve: report

BEIJING (AFP) — China has started filling tanks at its largest oil reserve, taking advantage of tumbling world crude prices, state media reported Thursday.

The facility's 10 tanks, which have a total capacity of 6.3 million barrels, are operated by China National Petroleum Corp., the nation's top oil producer, and are located in the northwest Xinjiang region, the Xinhua news agency said.

This is just the first phase of the reserve, which will eventually have an overall capacity of more than 50 million barrels of crude, mainly produced in Xinjiang or imported from neighbouring Kazakhstan, it said.

Gas prices fall to 4-1/2 year low

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Christmas travelers haven't paid this little for gasoline in nearly five years.

Gas prices declined for the sixth straight day on Thursday, falling below the $1.65 per gallon, according to a national survey of credit card swipes at gasoline stations.

Slow Start To OPEC Cuts

The UAE details its agreed curb to production, but the cartel's other members have yet to comply.

Oil Gains 4% as U.A.E. Reduces Output to Comply With OPEC Cut

Bloomberg) -- Crude oil gained more than 4 percent in New York after the U.A.E. said it would cut output to comply with OPEC’s supply curbs and as traders bought contracts on concern this month’s 33 percent decline was excessive.

“The United Arab Emirates’ cut is the reason we’re strong this morning,” Rob Laughlin, senior broker at MF Global Ltd., said by telephone from London today. “Also the market was a little bit oversold at the close on Wednesday.”

Rouble devalued again

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's central bank allowed the eighth mini rouble devaluation of the month on Friday, a day after the price for the country's main export commodity, oil, neared $30 per barrel, the lowest level since 2004.

The collapse of oil and other commodities prices coupled with the global economic slowdown and a capital flight from emerging markets turned the rouble in a sure-fire depreciation bet from the previous appreciation bet in less than six months.

Russia to Delay Electricity Price Increase Next Year

(Bloomberg) -- Russia plans to delay raising household electricity prices until at least the second quarter as the state seeks to mitigate the effect of increases amid the global financial turmoil.

The Real Rationale Behind Current Supply and Demand for Oil and Other Commodities

The market irrationality has reached a new record. Spot price for crude oil free falls to $31.41 a barrel (WTI Cushing Spot) two days after OPEC cut production by 2.2MB per day and made clear that they wanted to see $75 oil and will continue to cut if necessary. As OPEC vowed to keep cutting until they see $75 oil, oil should go up, but it actually went down. What gives?

In search for an answer, people blame it on "the oil demand has collapsed". Global oil demand did NOT suddenly collapse in the two days after the OPEC announcement. Look in a mirror for the answer. Yes that says you! Every one bet on raising oil after OPEC cut. The market ALWAYS fools most of the people most of the time, logical or not. Fundamentals work in long terms, not in short term moves. If you bet on short term moves, try to bet against most people, instead of betting on fundamentals.

Chinese mainland's CNOOC signs oil agreements with Taiwan's CPC Corp.

BEIJING (Xinhua) -- China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), mainland's largest offshore explorer, signed four cooperation agreements with Taiwan's CPC Corp Friday.

...The agreements included a letter of intent for closer cooperation, a revised contract on joint exploration in the Tainan Basin of the Taiwan Strait and the Chaozhou Shantou Basin off mainland's Guangdong coast, joint study on the Wuqiuyu Basin off mainland Fujian coast, and transfer of a 30 percent stake of CNOOC's onshore Block 9 in Kenya to CPC.

China starts running 3rd largest hydropower station

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Friday began fully operating the first phase of Longtan, its third largest hydropower station, Xinhua reported, a development would consolidate its effort to ship energy from landlocked west China to energy-hungry coastal regions.

Construction of the first phase, consisting of 7 generators with 700 megawatts of generating capacity each, started in 2001 and first generator was put into use in 2007.

Indonesia says Chevron may invest $3 billion there

Chevron Corp.’s Indonesian unit, which accounts for about 42 percent of the nation’s oil output this year, may invest $3 billion to boost production from a Sumatran field, a government official said.

The company will use a new drilling technique to increase its extraction rate to tap 800 million barrels of oil that is currently inaccessible, Eddy Purwanto, deputy of operations at Indonesian oil and gas regulator BPMigas, said in Jakarta today.

The Correlation Between Crude Oil and the U.S. Dollar

The picture above shows a one year chart for United States Oil fund (USO), PowerShares Bullish US dollar index (UUP) and SPDR Trust (SPY). You can see there is an inverse correlation between the value of the US dollar and crude oil prices. The slide from record crude prices of $140 triggered the US dollar rebound. In the past few days, the Euro and other currencies are regaining ground against the US dollar, but crude oil is still heading down.

Oil-Rich Norway Braces For A Slowdown

In an effort to avoid a prolonged recession, the center-left government of Norway has announced that it will dip into its oil fund to allow for an expansionary budget for 2009.

The country has enjoyed a long period of economic growth and benefited from the recent oil spike. But with the risk looming in an election year of a downturn and increasing unemployment, it has decided to be less restrictive in its use of oil revenues.

Power jobs face big shift

Charlotte’s burgeoning power industry, drawn here by Duke Energy Corp.’s big expansion plans, is seeing a sudden shift in fortunes.

With the global recession curbing demand for electricity, the timeline for new power plant development is slowing — at best. Duke has already announced several changes in its portfolio of projects, including a slowdown in planning for an S.C. nuclear plant and delays for other facilities.

And it is far from alone.

Report: Alberta Mines Imperil Birds

CHICAGO -- About half of America's migratory birds fly from destinations as far-flung as Chile to nest in Canada's boreal forest. In Alberta, that forest lies above tar sands that contain oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia's.

The excavation of the tar sands -- projected to pump $2.4 trillion into Canada's economy between 2010 and 2030 -- could reduce the region's migratory-bird population by almost half, according to a peer-reviewed study released Dec. 2 by U.S. and Canadian environmental groups.

Nicaragua turns to wind power, builds 19 windmills

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Energy-starved Nicaragua is turning to wind as it tries to reduce its dependence on oil-based power.

In January, the country will begin operating 19 windmills that have the potential to generate 40 megawatts of energy.

Himalayan villagers on global warming frontline

Temperatures in the Himalayas are rising by around 0.06 degrees Celsius (0.108 Fahrenheit) annually, according to a long-term study by the Nepalese department of hydrology.

The rate is far above the global average given last year by the UN's senior scientists, who said surface temperatures have risen by a total of 0.74 degrees C over the past 100 years.

"I don't really understand why the glacier has gone so far back, but I am told it's due to global warming," said Lama, whose weather-beaten face makes him look older than his 57 years.

A little trail of breadcrumbs lead me here: (Note: Archive.org does not work well under load - best to DL or visit when the ugly Americans are asleep)


A gardening method where the soil is rich, you water often, and you use $50+ glass 'bells' over the plants. (Old clear plastic soda bottles will also work.) If any readers have insight into the electrical needs/molding methods for the bells - post away.

Sounds like a good area for recycling. Old clear wine bottles, glass milk bottles, etc. I believe you can remove the bottoms fairly easily (though I've never done it) with thermal shock -- wrap a red-hot iron band around where you want it to break, let it heat for a few seconds, then dunk it in ice water.

Put the cork in or screw the top on, and you have a mini-greenhouse. Or if it isn't too terribly cold out, you can leave the top off for air circulation.

We did this 30 years ago with old, clear gallon wine jugs. On way is to soak a string in diesel or similar fuel, wrap it around the place where you want the crack to be, light it and then plunge it into cold water.

A better way is to buy a jug glass cutter. We had one but I don't know if they make them anymore.

This past year I made some out of old gallon plastic milk/water jugs for some melons. They worked just as well and are easier to make.


Edit to add - the only problem with the plastic ones was that they had to be pegged down or they blow away. Glass ones stayed in place.

I had not thought of the 1 gallon wine jug as a production model. Thank you.

An old paperback I had about survival mentioned the oil and string method. It also mentioned using electricity and a wire as a method also.

The plastic covers - I usually bury the edges - stick in ground with some mud.


I wonder if in the future, vasectomy will take over from tattoos and piercings as the body modification of choice for young men. Perhaps snip-shops will appear in malls next to the ink and ring places years from now.

500,000 vasectomies every year in the USA, mostly older, wiser men. What do they know that the younger generation doesn't?

One of the things they know is that they've already had kids. According to medline the average vasectomy patient already has two children.


That would be my dad. He believes in zero population, so after two kids, he got snipped.

Zero population?? Are you sure? :)

Zero growth? What's a derivative here or there between friends?

I don't see the point of Americans being so virtuous about reproduction while the Government is admitting millions of immigrants a year. Time for some joined up thinking from the establishment.

Zero population is supposed to be world-wide, not just in the US.

My father is an agronomist who specializes in international agriculture. He's concerned about feeding people, no matter where they live.

I feel no need or obligation to limit my reproduction as long as I can support my family, while Washington admits millions of immigrants, and in the third world people breed like rabbits as the kids they have starve to death.

Fertility limitation must always remain a personal choice. Forced "population control" necessarily creates a controller group and a controlled group -- and you are back to slavery or animal husbandry.

Interesting that in Wyoming people "reproduce", while in other parts of the world they "breed."

Part of the problem with this debate is the assumptions we bring to the table, and the language we use.

Fertility limitation must always remain a personal choice. Forced "population control" necessarily creates a controller group and a controlled group -- and you are back to slavery or animal husbandry.

Totally agree. In fact I would broaden it: we should be free to blast music, build bombs in our basements, raise cobras in our backyards, dump mercury in the ground water, or even kill someone that pisses us off. Total freedom -- for me, not you.

Or should we reach some agreements so that we can peacably co-exist?


Almost everyone at this site recognizes that we are running up against planetary limits. The world population cannot double again without disaster overtaking us on an upprecedented scale. Population control needs to be done as humanely as possible, as flexibly as possible -- but it must be tackled. Most primitive societies in the past that approached the edge always employed some method of population control. We are approaching the edge and we will have to also.

You can't have personal choice for reproduction along with a welfare state -- it's an unscalable solution, even if you ignore unfettered population growth. Which makes more sense -- childless "rich" people taxed heavily while poor people have lots of kids with public support for education, sustenance, and healthcare, or rich people paying a cash "societal impact" fee to have another child while poor people are forcibly sterilized? Taken to extremes neither slant seems tenable, but something has to give.

In a rich society you can afford all sorts of civil niceties. The current notion of "no fault" reproduction isn't one that will persist. Will girls keep having sex with zero-worth guys who will disappear, knowing they'll have to feed the baby or watch it starve? Will local fathers' bring back shotgun weddings versus supporting another generation of grandkids? Will people just start marrying younger once again? Will birth control be practiced reliably and abortions be publicly funded? Will abortions be forced if somebody won't agree to support the child? Will people abstain from sex and go childless? I don't know, but I'm sure before too long the social supports will fracture and fail, and then something will give. We can change things on purpose or refuse to address them and live with the consequences. Change will come, regardless. And it will suck to be poor.

I think it's far more likely that the government will pay people to have children. Governments always seen falling population as a problem, since their ponzi schemes require a constantly expanding base of taxpayers, laborers, soldiers, etc.

We already pay people to have children through tax credits. Other countries such as France provide direct subsidies. Further, those who have no children are charged the same health insurance rates, in many cases, as those who have ten children. I am tired of being ripped off so that other people can be encouraged to have lots of children.

I would say at least in the USA it would be wise to get rid of tax breaks and social benefits after the 1st child, and require birth control of those on welfare. Having said that I cant imagine the government (whom people rightfully distrust) would be able to mandate how many children a family may have. The united states could also stop all immigration, I cant imagine taking a government that asked me to have less children while allowing unfettered immigration would be taken very seriously.

There should not be any tax breaks or other subsidies for children, period. If there are going to be any tax breaks, they should be paid to those who choose to have no children. We need a cap and trade program for children. They are just as much of a threat to the planet as other fossil fuel using activities.

There should not be any tax breaks or other subsidies for children, period.

The classic line, "it takes a village to raise a child", comes to mind. If you ask me, I'd suggest there should be all sorts of support for children and mothers. HOWEVER, they have to be designed in such a way as to reduce the birthrate and the population count. Impoverishing children and their care-takers takes us all down the rat hole.

cfm in Gray, ME

Excellent points davebygolly. I recommend Obama appoint you to the new position of 'population czar' and be given full authority to implement the new 'one child per family' policy in the US. I'm sure you will receive the full cooperation of the masses once you explain the gravity of the situation :)

For 4,500 million years nature has sucessfully controlled the numbers of all the species so that no particular one dominates all the others - IMO it is very unlikely that now is any different since collectively humans clearly are not smarter than yeast ... the final bubble to burst is human population!

There are many things that can be done short of forced population control. We could start by recognizing at an official level that we have a problem and that we are going to eliminate things like tax credits for children. While perhaps people should be free to breed, perhaps the rest of us should be free not subsidize the choice of those who want to breed.

Having said that, if the alternative is overshoot and mass dieoff of millions, maybe billions of human beings and other species, a little short term control might be worth it. Freedom has a cost and, in my opinion, some costs are too high. But again, we haven't even tried to reduce population by means that are not coercive.

Actually, we have tried population control by means that coercive. It is called education for women, reasonable access to food and basic resources, basic medical care including birth control, and political power for women, and every where we've tried it, it works like magic. You get TFR levels lower than China's doing that - and it is cheaper than coercive programs.

But, of course, it is simpler to call for things that make the next generation of women poorer, including tax cuts (for the record, I'm in favor of eliminating the child tax credit - but only with social programs in place to ensure that we don't undermine our basic goals - that is, every strategy that impoverishes kids now means that they are likely to have more kids, not fewer in the future. Because poor kids get crappy educations and crappy health care.

As for immigration - worldwide, TFR has fallen dramatically - from 5 to 2.7, and is continuing to fall. But that fall will be arrested unless the rich nations pony up money to address the food crisis - one of the consequences of chronic malnutrition in children is lowered IQ - and that means more babies later on. We're all going through a massive contraction of resources, but unless the rich world is willing to contract a little extra and work on the basic question of equity, the population question is essentially hopeless. But it is much easier to turn to coercive methods - those don't cost us anything.


The key will be if a stabilized population or an appropriately reduced population occurs before overshoot and mass dieoff. Yes, what you say is all true but will the actual overall reduction in world population occur in time. Not sure the measures you talk about will occur fast enough to have a sufficient effect. And what do we do with the rich but backward countries like Saudi Arabia? Bomb them?

Yes, I agree with the social program aspect. Start with universal health care at least for children. And a program that provides sufficient food. But I am still against any tax credits for having children.

Oh, yeh. And what about the Mormons? Aren't they generally pretty well educated and pretty well off. It's that religion thing that still causes a lot of problems despite all the other issues.

Don't get me wrong. I love children. Just not too many.

The key will be if a stabilized population or an appropriately reduced population occurs before overshoot and mass dieoff.

I'm afraid that ship has already sailed... overshoot (check your mirrors), dieoff (straight ahead).

While overbreeders still fill me with disgust, I'm gradually coming around to acceptance that it is too late to matter. Go ahead, breed like salmon. Maybe one infant in 10,000 will survive to adulthood.

What worries me is that the factors that are currently reducing world fertility rates are likely to unwind in the future. The world is going to get a lot poorer. Does anyone seriously expect improvement in health care, infrastructure, and education for women in such a future? I expect the opposite. We are going to lose ground - heading back to a world where children are your social security.

Urbanization is the other big factor in falling family sizes. Ten kids are useful labor on the farm, but a burden in a small city apartment. If we go back to subsistence farming, like many peak oilers hope/expect, family sizes will once again increase.

I agree with you, Leanan, but I don't think it is inevitable (and certainly not in every place) that we have to allow "getting poorer" to mean pushing up fertility. IMHO, we have the resources remaining to make it an absolute priority to keep the conditions that reduce fertility in place. The total energy and economic costs for female educations and birth control, as well as even basic health care (doesn't have to be the high cost model we have now - you can get similar lifespans with 1/10th the energy and cost) are very small.

Do I think this will happen? Probably in some places, but not world wide. But there is no question that the choice was available to us, and the reality of violent population decline will be a reality of people who have chosen, on some level, to allow hideous suffering rather than reallocate resources wisely. Of course, the same could be said of peak oil and climate change in general. But I do think that moving it from the table of inevitable to "choice" matters here - when we talk about it in the passive voice we erase moral responsibility.


If you interweave moral responsibility and personal choice, then each of us has to take some fractional responsibility for the starving children in Africa as well as the urban poor. It's easier to not, and hope they quietly starve out of sight.

It's because we have Stone Age brains. We've reached the point where what we do has influence on the other side of the world, but our morality is still Stone-Aged, and it's hard-coded in our brains. There's been some fascinating research about this.

Whose Life Would You Save?

Dinner with a philosopher is never just dinner, even when it’s at an obscure Indian restaurant on a quiet side street in Princeton with a 30-year-old postdoctoral researcher. Joshua Greene is a man who spends his days thinking about right and wrong and how we separate the two. He has a particular fondness for moral paradoxes, which he collects the way some people collect snow globes.

“Let’s say you’re walking by a pond and there’s a drowning baby, ” Greene says, over chicken tikka masala. “If you said, ‘I’ve just paid $200 for these shoes and the water would ruin them, so I won’t save the baby,’ you’d be an awful, horrible person. But there are millions of children around the world in the same situation, where just a little money for medicine or food could save their lives. And yet we don’t consider ourselves monsters for having this dinner rather than giving the money to Oxfam. Why is that?”

I've always said that I think we have the resources to "fix" peak oil...but we won't do it. That's the problem.

Climate change...I'm not sure we could fix that. I think we may be too far along to fix that one. Sure, we could move people away from the coasts, etc., but that wouldn't fix the problem of a food system tweaked to grow crops in climates that no longer exist.

I've always said that I think we have the resources to "fix" peak oil

If the 'leadership class' will be put off their feedbag, the fix for peak oil won't happen.

Ten kids are useful labor on the farm, but a burden in a small city apartment. If we go back to subsistence farming, like many peak oilers hope/expect, family sizes will once again increase.

Conversion of photons to electrical power to useful work is cheaper than photons to plants to food to humans to useful work. Adding the 'intelligence' to that machine work is the rub.

A shortage of humans to take care of old humans at end of life is (partially) why Japan has spent so much on their robots. Cheap, durable robotic farm labor will beat out breeding. Not to mention how you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they have seen gay olde Paris?

Fertility limitation must always remain a personal choice. Forced "population control" necessarily creates a controller group and a controlled group -- and you are back to slavery or animal husbandry.

I don't remember the quote exactly because I am high in the Rockies right now and away from all my files in Pensacola. But it goes something like this:

In a finite world, personal freedom must always be secondary to survival.

Garrett Hardin

I should have said, "in a democracy, fertility limitation must always remain a personal choice."

Garrett Hardin's solution was not democracy, but some version of a command economy. That doesn't make him wrong -- democracy may be fundamentally flawed.

The United States is not a democracy, but the political spinners want us to believe we are. So they will have to come up with clever ways to coerce population control, and make it seem like it is our own choice. I have no doubt that is possible.

I feel no need or obligation to limit my reproduction...

That statement is fascinating! I assume you are aware that the resources necessary for one American is 25 acres of productive agricultural land while the worldwide average is just above 5 acres. That is five times above the world average. If you take the current U.S. population of 305,491,777 multiplied by five totals: 1,527,458,885.

That makes the U.S.the most populous nation on earth. Last month in New Scientist they made a comprehensive list of the 20 most effective things you can do to reduce your impact on the earth or to be "greener" and number one was "Don't reproduce".

If you still need additional persuasion might I respectfully suggest you read Garrett Hardin's influential article Tragedy of the Commons"


After that if you remain unconvinced then I would have to say that you leave a lot of us wondering whether the least fit to reproduce will over time become the new paradigm.



Looks like the run up to 20 is a for profit exercise. Making money at what you're good at - making kids.

No hope for them...as it seems it's all done in the name of "God".


Joe, what I stated, to clarify is that I feel no obligation to control my reproduction as long as the government continues to alow massive immigration. As far as Americans using more farmland, well we have more farmland per capita to use.

In the end it won't matter if you, your fellow Americans, or immigrants choose to multiply, as certainly somebody will, and before long they'll come knocking on the door for food and shelter.

An earlier post mentioned the unpleasant eventuality of a political class who determines who lives and who starves -- this almost has to happen given any sort of managed procreation. If we fence the borders and educate the masses and re-slant social structures, we might avoid it internally, but we will then just be helping to pick who dies in Africa or Asia.

For the egalitarian thinkers who struggle with the notion of life as a privilege of power, perhaps the best you can hope for is an epidemic die-off. This is becoming increasingly likely due to the apparently simplicity of basic genetic engineering. Now you, too, can do it at home for fun and profit. Why worry about passing along your personal DNA, when you can create a novel life-form instead?

  • http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iRSS0kTpewoh8MnLmbxkQs...
  • Surely it's only a matter of time before a sociopathic genius gives his favorite Horseman a leg-up?

    Surely it's only a matter of time before a sociopathic genius gives his favorite Horseman a leg-up?

    Nothing stopping the casual sociopath from raising bacteria in an environment with a low background level of antibiotics to bio-select for resistance.

    The sociopath would need to find pathogenic bacteria first, and would also need a supply of whatever the current generation of antibiotics are. Presuming this sociopath has the skills not to kill himself before his experiments are successful, he has merely duplicated the effects of excessive antibiotics use in agriculture and hospitals. This arms race has been in progress for a while.

    Nothing stopping the casual sociopath from raising bacteria in an environment with a low background level of antibiotics to bio-select for resistance.

    You mean our industrial food system and disease care system?

    As far as Americans using more farmland, well we have more farmland per capita to use.

    That's rich. You're asserting that America has five times as much farmland as other nations so that is a valid justification for profligacy?

    Gollum, do you have any current figures about arable land in the U.S. versus other countries? I would wager you don't.

    The "Tragedy of the Commons" is based on a false premis, under the concept of Private Property there should be no "Commons". The "Tragedy" has been the use of this Doctorin to establish all kinds of controls, Bureaucracies, property restrictions, with their associated corruption.

    If a privately owned SUV that you might drive produces exhaust, is the air around the SUV not a commons?

    If our rating system was working I'd give you a thumbs up. ;)
    Anyone know when the rating system is getting fixed?

    I hear that theory from time to time. Usually people who advocate it draw the line between public and private all the same, just in different places (public army good, public healthcare bad, for instance). Then they try to defend why where they draw the line is the only "right and true" place to draw the line and they get quite agitated about it.

    However, we have never spoken so perhaps it's unfair to ascribe my past experience to you.

    Great! I want to own the air. I'm going to charge people if they want to breathe.

    For those who would like to read more about Garrett Hardin, author of The Tragedy of the Commons, see:
    At this site one can also find a picture of Garrett with Walter Youngquist and Buz Ivanhoe. The Garrett Hardin papers are in the Special Collections of the UCSB library.

    Oh, I see. "As long as I can support my family", meaning you intend to support them, all their offspring, and the total environmental impact of this? Forever? Narrow-gauge thinking. And quit denigrating rabbits.

    In supporting our family and those to come, we kill others, including those non human species that get crowded out of habitat used to support us. None of us support squat without extracting from mother earth, which we arrogantly think we own. We think we are the end and all be all and that is why we are heading for mass dieoff.

    There is no argument that having a vasectomy is a positive step but it is women who control reproduction in the long run. What is the biotic potential of one woman?

    The key to population reduction in less developed nations (as well as more developed nations)is education and a higher standard of living for...women.



    I don't have tv reception, so I missed this one, but I thought it made for a remarkable commentary on our society.

    "Critics have heaped a super-size helping of scorn on the ads, suggesting it smacks of "corporate colonialism," "cultural bullying" and the worst kind of Ugly Americanism.

    The ads use the familiar blind taste test formula, but with a twist:

    "What happens if you take remote Chang Mai villagers who've never seen a burger, who don't even have a word for burger, and ask them to compare Whopper versus Big Mac in the world's purest taste test?" the voice-over solemnly intones. "The Whopper Virgins will decide."

    The Chang Mai villagers are Hmong people from northern Thailand. Inuit villagers from Greenland and peasants from the Transylvania region of Romania also have been recruited to sample the burgers."

    It reminds me of the old Onion joke - Beef Council of Burundi begs, "Please send beef."


    And then there's this, an echo of the Depression:


    "The soup kitchen at Bethel AME Church served on Tuesday portions of turkey, rice and pie to more than 300 homeless and working poor from Millville and beyond.

    New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles Kuperus was on hand to hand out food, along with more than a dozen volunteers who regularly put in 12 or more hours per week at the kitchen.

    "Here in New Jersey, we have the best farmers and great agriculture, but people are going hungry," said Kuperus, from under a hairnet, and wearing an apron. "This is part of being a public servant; we have the means to set up and help out these services."



    Here's one I liked this morning..


    PORTLAND, Maine -- Community suppers were held across Maine on Christmas to provide the less fortunate with a warm meal and some holiday cheer.

    The Wayside Soup Kitchen in Portland served traditional fare such as roast beef and mashed potatoes.

    Many of the volunteers who helped run the event were members of Portland's Jewish and Muslim communities. They said they were motivated by the desire to give their Christian friends a break for the holidays.

    'Christmas Time will always be, just so long as WE have WE' Dr. Suess

    Hi Bob,

    And a little further north of you....


    TATAMAGOUCHE — Happy chaos is how volunteer Karen Shepard described the busy, noisy goings-on at Tatamagouche Creamery Square, where hundreds of people sat down to a community Christmas dinner for the fifth year in a row.

    Ms. Shepard predicted that before the day was out, nearly 400 people would be served in the building that usually houses the Tatamagouche Farmers’ Market. Participants would also play board and card games and enjoy live entertainment.

    Rita MacKinnon, a Tatamagouche senior attending the dinner for the first time, thought it was wonderful, especially since a volunteer picked her up and would take her home.

    Another 150 meals were delivered to homes and workplaces to brighten the day of employees working on the holiday.

    Unfortunately, we also have this story:


    Some ailing puppies were shivering in the cold at the Metro SPCA on Christmas Day after spending about 30 hours without heat at the Dartmouth animal shelter.



    Roasting the turkey was probably a challenge for thousands of Nova Scotians pummelled by power outages on Christmas Day.

    "This morning there were 15,000 customers without power," Nova Scotia Power spokeswoman Glennie Langille said.

    We had lost our power three times over the past week, but it returned Christmas Eve.


    Sharon! Get Back to Work!

    More signs of Bye, Bye Retirement Plans

    Starbucks may not match 401K contributions

    A lot of companies are doing that. Caterpillar announced it was suspending their company match a few days ago.

    What's interesting is that Caterpillar is cutting salaries rather than laying people off. Apparently that's something of a trend.

    I've always thought that the math is pretty clear. Would you rather take a 10% to 20% pay cut, or take a 10% to 20% chance of being laid off in a recession/depression?

    That was my reasoning back in the Eighties, when (anticipating layoffs) I "demanded" a 50% pay cut, in exchange for an equity interest in deals. As I expected, there were layoffs. Fortunately, I had moved myself from highest paid employee to the lowest paid employee.

    Most of my ELP advice was based on how we survived the Eighties. Currently, I am just glad that I am the same office I had at $10 oil. One of my Oil Patch friends is not so fortunate. He is moving into new deluxe office space in January. He signed the lease when oil was still well over $100 and put over $100,000 into renovating the office space.

    Caterpillar is cutting pay as much as 50%.

    From the ELP Plan (April, 2007):

    ELP: Economize

    For some time, I have suggested a thought experiment. Assume that your income dropped by 50%. How would you change your lifestyle?

    Many employees of Circuit City don’t have to imagine such a scenario. Many higher paid employees at Circuit City have been fired and then been told that they are welcome to apply for their old jobs, subject to about a 50% pay cut.

    In my opinion, the unfortunate new reality is that we are going to see a growing labor surplus--against the backdrop of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices. By reducing your expenses now, while you can do it voluntarily, you will at least be better prepared for whatever the future may bring.

    Personally If it is a choice of layoffs or cuts I would want a cut or perhaps 32 hour week, even if it's not my job in jeopardy. I would be willing to go to a 4 day week or 9 day pay period in order to save a coworkers job.

    The interesting question for me is when salaries drop off enough that it doesn't actually make sense for people to keep their jobs. Now obviously, in some cases, it will always be better to have some income. But, for example, during the summer, we flirted with the reality that many people found that the cost of communting with high gas priced pushed them towards not making enough money to live.

    And for example, for many second incomes in families, the line is already pretty fine - the cost of childcare, commuting and wardrobe often eat up a large portion of the income value. When health insurance or other benefits are provided, this may be somewhat balanced, but there's no question we'll see the end of health benefits pretty soon in many, maybe most places if this continues. Also, remember in an abundant labor market, your boss can ask you to do pretty much anything - so that pay cut may also come with longer hours and three other people's work. For older workers, and those with health problems (and with now controlled health problems likely to become more acute due to stress and also due to lack of regular medical care), do you keep working, even if it seems likely to kill you? For parents, do you leave your young children unsupervised and vulnerable to harm, and risk losing custody of them, or do you work to feed them?

    A lot of us are going to have to ask whether a 50% pay cut really does make it worth working - if, for example, safety nets still exist, or if you can make more money in the informal economy - whether criminal (drugs, prostitution), grey/black market, or domestic/subsistence labor.

    Some people will work no matter what the price, particularly as the safety nets get overhwelmed, or shut down. But the complexities that have often worked to make the poor seem lazy and unwilling to work (ie, the fact that they sometimes actually lose money doing so) are likely to discover that the situation isn't as black and white as "do we take a pay cut or lose our jobs" - in many cases, a deep enough pay cut is likely to cost people the job anyway.



    I think for at least some a cut in hours might be a lot more palatable than a straight cut in pay. Your point is valid though and well taken.

    It seems as though WestTexas made a bargain with his employer -- "I'll take a pay cut if you will..." and it was apparently satisfactory to both parties. It also might be reasonable to expect that in "the 80's" WT was 20 years younger, and perhaps less encumbered and more nimble? I know I was!

    Now we face a situation where it there is no bargaining position. You will take a 50% pay cut or lose your job, because there will be someone out there who will do it for 50% less. And of course, as all these incomes go down, the effective money in circulation goes down. People eat oatmeal for breakfast because it's cheaper, and what happens to Post Cereals? We may be healthier, but an industry goes down.

    I don't think anyone should be too smug about their apparent success in surviving the economic collapse. There will be difficult choices and unpleasant situations for almost all of us. And if there is any "solution" it will be to try to work together, (like Wyoming said) and not cut individual deals. I suppose that sounds vaguely communistic -- but even our hard right "individualist" government is making social deals, supposedly on behalf of all of us!

    . . . and not cut individual deals.

    Actually, I was married, with a young daughter.

    In any case, one of the biggest problems is the level of denial, which does present an opportunity for "bargaining" when most employees assumes that the downturn is temporary. It seems to me that if the credit implosion doesn't hit your family hard, the rebound in oil prices will, as the decline in net oil exports outpaces the decline in demand.

    Of course, the best time to implement my ELP advice was when I started offering it--back in 2006.

    No personal criticism intended. And I actually started your ELP advice in about 1975 -- with more or less satisfactory results.

    And I agree-- denial, which is ordinarily a perfectly good defense mechanism becomes mal-adaptive in a crisis.

    as the decline in net oil exports outpaces the decline in demand.

    Interesting, I hadn't thought of it that way. Any OPEC cuts (to the extent that they are successful in enforcing lower quotas) will come directly out of net exports, wouldn't they? Hmmm... I suppose it wouldn't take much more cutting to see a double-digit decline in net exports.

    At least three top 10 net oil exporters--Norway, Mexico and Venezuela-- are in long term or terminal decline, probably joined by Russia and Saudi Arabia. Saudi net exports, which are up year over year in 2008, will probably be down by at least 700,00 bpd versus their 2005 rate.

    But the big economy killer is post-2005 cumulative worldwide net oil exports. My guesstimate is that we have already burned through about one-fifth of post-2005 cumulative conventional net oil exports. The projected post-2005 top five net export curve approximates a triangle, with the middle case showing zero in 2031, with 2005 net exports of about 8.8 Gb, so the estimated remaining cumulative post-2005 net exports (middle case) are 1/2 X 8.8 Gb/year X 26 years = 115 Gb. The top five have exported about 25 Gb from 2006 to 2008, inclusive, which is roughly one-fifth of estimated post-2005 net exports from the top five.


    In any case, I expect that a combination of involuntary + voluntary net export reductions will soon outpace the decline in demand.

    Of course, "The Waltons" solution comes to mind--several generations living together under one roof. The modern day analogue might be a house, with a garden or small farm, close to mass transit lines.

    I know of at least 2 situations in our town of 600, one is a couple in their thirties who moved in with her parents and help run the family business.

    Caterpillar is smart along with all the rest of the companies that are doing a round of pay cuts. They will do as many as they can and when people finally don't support them then they will start cutting people. No one will ever see a pay raise.

    A few rounds of pay cuts.
    A few rounds of cutting people
    A few rounds of pay cuts with the remaining people happy to have a job.

    I think you will see this cycles a lot.

    Next most families are going to effectively move back to 1-1.5 wage earners instead of the two that are common now as repeated layoffs result in many people not working a full year on average.

    Housing prices are going to approach Detroit levels nationwide in a few years.

    This is actually a good thing for the US housing prices are still insane and most of the losses can be absorbed by devaluing housing for several years. This means foreclosures for homes with loans and simple capitol losses for people that have equity. The good thing is that these equity gains where in a lot of sense locked up wealth and not contributing to the money supply. Foreclosure debt will be monetized by the Government.

    As I said its not a bad thing it buys us several years maybe even 4-5 years where most of the losses are concentrated in housing and people outside of writing off housing debt or seeing equity disappear are able to continue their daily existence. As this will also force rents to fall and people will seek cheaper living i.e single people will rent rooms instead of 1 bedroom apts married couples will rent 1 bdrm apts if they have young children and many will stay with their parents. Everyone will be able to significantly reduce the amount they spend on housing thus allowing them to continue to buy food and other necessities.

    The movement to denser living conditions will ensure that the current housing stock is far more then we need for at least the next 4-5 years. Even with this a small amount of new homes will be built but land prices should begin to fall eventually bringing new homes in line with existing housing prices.

    The other area that will get of course hammered is new cars and of course recreational vehicles of all sorts.

    Lets assume that housing would bottom when houses start reaching 2X the median income of a individual i.e assume a single wage earner. Lets further assume this falls to about 30k.
    This implies a sort of bottom forming for homes at about 60k given that the current median home prices is still close to 200k which is a home loan of about

    For a 60k loan with zero down the payment is $360 a month.
    FOr a 200k loan with zero down the payment is $1200 a month.

    The difference is 840 a month. Thus more than makes up for a major drop in wages across the nation. You can see that by allowing housing prices to simply decline we can handle huge drops in earnings without a big impact on lifestyle outside of simply not buying single family homes and new cars. Remove these two or drop the prices and the income needed to live is a fraction of most peoples current earnings.

    The same analysis works for commercial real estate as its devalued rents fall lowering the cost of business. Regardless of how energy prices move they will take a larger and larger precentage of the total amount spent. But even if we are right and prices go back to rising to high levels they can readily be absorbed for quite some time via devaluation of housing and dramatically slowing the purchase of cars/trucks.

    Only when this devaluation finally reaches the point of diminishing returns do you finally start seeing the US hit the wall as living costs can no longer be offset by lowering the amount paid for housing.

    I think we have a long way to go and it could easily be 4-5 years at least before we finally hit the wall. It could take as long as ten. Thats not to say that the economic conditions wont be pretty bad by about 2010-2012. I think we will obviously in the above cycle at that point but it can play out for several years after that before its no longer acting as a sort of safety net and people finally start having problems simply buying food and energy.


    I've been a residential, single family landlord for about 30 years. These properties have been owned outright.

    Quite clearly, costs depend upon whether there is inflation or deflation. You see deflation. But, deflation will not decrease overhead costs such as taxes and wear and tear.

    In my case, I would shut our current rental down rather than renting it for close to overhead costs. Why? Tenants are often PITA's. It is not worth it to me - at this point - to put up with it. Further, it costs real money to clean up, et.al, after a tenant moves out. And, given various laws, a tenant can hang in there for extended periods while you lose money trying to get them out.

    If things get really bad, as we both expect (and I have to mention I'm very sorry for crapping on you many months go for "not getting it"), I'll look for serious doomers who can pay the overhead but are willing to be serfs in order to survive what is coming.

    And, FWIW, the rental is on 17 acres with beautiful mountain, valley and distant ocean views.


    One of the TOD staffers believes that anyone with farming knowledge will become a serf. For the government. He doesn't want to know anything about farming, in order to avoid that fate.

    Err, we already ARE serfs to the government. Once one includes all the taxes - your tax rate is close to 50%. The US of A got started over a 'high' 10% (or so) tax.

    If your skill set is creating text that is contrary to the goverment message and things are bad enough to make farmer serfs - it strikes me that the alternative is a bullet between the eyes. The bullet WOULD let you avoid the serf fate eh?

    Err, we already ARE serfs to the government.

    I don't think that's quite accurate. Or if we are serfs, it's because we choose to be. You can still leave, if you want. You can change jobs, or not work, if you're willing to live with a reduced income.

    If your skill set is creating text that is contrary to the goverment message and things are bad enough to make farmer serfs - it strikes me that the alternative is a bullet between the eyes.

    I think he's well aware of that, and that's why he has not posted his comments publicly. He believes that we are very far from "peak social control."

    Salary cuts are an inevitable part of a Depression, and probably not just 10-20%. As I've posted before in Ohio, in 1929, the average salary of fully employed workers was $1499 by 1933 it was $960. So when we observe that 75% of people kept their jobs during the Depression, we also have to note that they lost about half their income as well.


    This is why I think we're facing deflation rather than inflation, and probably for a lot longer than many expect. If wages don't rise, prices won't rise. And I don't see wages rising much any time soon.

    Leanan, I work in Belgium in the IT sector... And at the national level, next January all IT employees will receive an increase of 4.5 % of their salary.
    Not really the right moment I think although I am sure that our politicians wanted to help their population when they took that decision.

    What I am tempted to do is signal my boss in January, when we have our individual evaluations and discussion about eventual wage increases, that I don't want this increase. No idea how it will turn out...probably noone ever asked that since the company exists! Job security before anything else. Still no problem here...but I don't know what 2009 and 2010 will bring. I still need 4 more years with a job to get rid of my 2 mortgages (I rent one of my two flat...so one of the mortgage in "neutralised"). And 3 years to get rid of the life insurance advance that I asked to buy air-air heat pumps.

    And to copy Jeffrey, even 50 % off would still be far better than losing my job. But here, I don't see a need to ask that until 2010 (but why not leave open the possibility of course). Of course, I could be wrong...

    Depends a lot on what the government decides to do with monetary policy, my bet is short to medium term deflation, then long term inflation as the government runs out of ammo and turns on he printing press. Of course dollar devaluation will put the ELM on some very big steroids. To the best of my knowledge no bankrupt government in history has been able to resist the temptation to print.

    This is why I think we're facing deflation rather than inflation, and probably for a lot longer than many expect.

    I'm firmly in the deflation camp.

    But even if we have deflation, the dollar can be destroyed and treasuries can become worthless. I've noticed that certain commentators were downright obsessed with spreading the deflationary message - obsessed to the point that they ignored the fact that other nations can and will rid themselves of their USD denominated reserves. It's only a matter of time.

    The sad part is that these people convinced others that short-term treasuries were safe and that for the foreseeable future, Cash will be King. I've never understood this. It's not hard to see that US debt will never be paid back. And no country wants to be left holding a bag of worthless paper. Just because a currency has historically been associated with stability and safety, doesn't mean that the association must continue into the 'foreseeable future'. That's just an absurd assertion.

    In light of recent developments, the day of reckoning may not be that far away.

    I'm firmly in the deflation camp.

    But even if we have deflation, ... obsessed to the point that they ignored the fact that other nations can and will rid themselves of their USD denominated reserves.

    So 'we' as the globe will see deflation, but all the dollars rushing into US of A will see prices rise for tangible goods (that can be shipped out)?

    The cliché wrt world hunger is "it's not an issue of scarcity, but one of DISTRIBUTION" or "It's not scarcity of food, but a scarcity of DEMOCRACY"

    These are both euphemisms for money. No money, No food.

    Yet a relatively small group of men conjure up money out of thin air at their whim. So these men have the power of life and death. WoW! must be heady stuff.

    ...in 1929, the average salary of fully employed workers was $1499 by 1933 it was $960.

    Remember that this was a deflationary period. During the same 1929 to 1933 interval, the consumer price index fell by 25% (Historical Statistics of the US). The numbers you cite are a 35% decrease in nominal terms, but only about a 10% decrease in real purchasing power (about 2.4% per year).

    When I was a young engineer in the late 1970s and early 1980s, 12-15% annual salary increases for high-skill employees were common. But CPI inflation was running 10-12% during that period, so the real gain was closer to 2-3% per year. Lower-skill workers at the company who only got 5-6% raises were losing purchasing power at 5% or more per year -- much faster than the purchasing power losses for employed workers during the Depression.

    "Tom understands that the solution to our energy crisis will be found not in oil fields abroad but in our farm fields here at home," Obama said. "That is the kind of leader I want in my Cabinet."

    Unless he is talking about wind mills (which I doubt), we are in deep doo doo.


    I am a doomer and I have yet to see anything to change my mind.

    I think Obama is a really smart man, certainly a ton smarter than what we have had for the last eight years. So I am in a bit of a kerfuffle about his stance on ethanol unless this is just blatant pork barrel, a legacy of his tenure of another corn state, Illinois. With business as usual, there really is no "solution" to our energy crisis, if by crisis one means that we continue our current life style and energy waste. Not that I am wild about a recession, but it is the only thing so far that has put much of a dent in our energy use. Anyway, Vilsack is probably the worst and most disappointing appointment that Obama has made. I'd give him a D or maybe even an F for this one.

    Putting the ethanol issue aside, we need a new agriculture for a new time, a Department of Food, not agriculture as Pollan suggests. Based on previous comments, I thought Obama got it that our energy intensive, corn based big business agriculture has to change. It would appear that this was just talk.

    Well, he is a brilliant politician, after all, so, really, what did we expect?

    Bernie madoff is a really smart man also.

    Obama likely thinks (or hopes?) that cellulosic is closer than it is.

    My guess is that he'll roll out a strategy that continues the current ethanol based system while "research continues on new ways to create fuel from plants." In other words, he'll put his bet on technology advancing.

    Unless he is talking about wind mills (which I doubt), we are in deep doo doo.

    Doo-doo it is. But I don't think his new energy secretary Chu will buy into that position. We gotta keep hitting change.org, with ethanol is not the answer stuff though.

    not in oil fields abroad but in our farm fields here

    I suspect that is actually a correct - though partial - understanding of the context. Farms are really nothing but biological solar collectors. So if one is going to get to a sustainable energy system, it has to be on "farms". The hydrological cycle - that would be a "farm" too. And there are "windfarms"; they are called that for a reason. Farming is the harvesting of solar energy in a generic sense.

    The partial understanding, however, turns Obama's statement into a sick joke. He's not saying "LESS", let alone "MUCH LESS" [Those four letter words add up.] He's not saying "food first". He's not talking about scale or distribution. And he keeps putting the foxes in charge of the chicken coops. I'm not hearing some of the necessary words and his actions speak for themselves.

    cfm in Gray, ME

    Greer's Gedanken experiment...

    The average species, paleontologists tell us, lasts around ten million years. Imagine that by some means – a visit from a time machine, say, that leaves you holding a history of humanity written by an intelligent species descended from chipmunks – you find out that this is how long we have. We won’t achieve godhood, or reach the stars, or destroy the planet, or enter Utopia; instead, the nine million years we’ve got left will be like recorded history so far. Civilizations will rise and fall; our species will create great art and literature, interpret the universe in various ways, explore many modes of living on the Earth; finally, millions of years from now, it will slowly lose the struggle for survival, dwindle to small populations in isolated areas, and go extinct.

    If that turns out to be humanity’s future, would you be satisfied with it? Or would you feel that some goal has been missed, some destiny betrayed? If the latter, what makes you think that?

    How do normal people answer this question? Personally, I would be thrilled to find out we have another nine million years. It would never even occur to me that we have any kind of a goal or destiny.

    Do you think that there are "normal" people on TOD to answer your query?

    Average is of course meaningless is a specific context. I'd be "happy" to know that we have another 1,000 years of "civilization" at all. But as I wax nostalgic as the New Year approaches, I long for days of youthful exuberance where the "goal" in my view involved starships and planetary exploration, other-world terraforming, and culture, learning, and behavior far removed from the human animal norms.

    I don't see how humanity can survive until "survival of the fittest" on the individual level can be meaningfully integrated with "survival of civilization". We have to resolve the tragedy of the commons on global scales while somehow preserving individual contributions and identity in order to persist.

    Do you think that there are "normal" people on TOD to answer your query?

    Yes, I do. We have all kinds here, believe it or not.

    Greer phrases it as if it's so obvious, but to me, the answer is not obvious at all. I'm wondering if he's out of touch, or I am. Or maybe we both are...

    I think Greer nailed it, as he seems to do uncannily often.

    Most humans, to the extent they think about it at all, assume we're the crown of creation; even those who don't think they're religious. This rather implies a direction and teleological explanation for what most people misperceive evolution to be.

    I can't speak for "normal" people... they worry me... but I'd be neither elated nor depressed at another 9 million years. In the scenario he paints, the salient thing about that situation would be that we didn't destroy the world, and I'd try to learn more about how the sentient chipmunks are doing in the future. The fate of humans is the least interesting thing about that hypothetical situation.

    And say, for such a self-aware intellect, what's the deal with Greer and ritual magic? I have a couple of his books on order from the library. Does hocus-pocus come with the job title? I don't mean this in a negative way, I may well be some kinda druid and not realize it, though I've had it up to my eyebrows with human magical thinking. I just reckon others on here have already checked it out.


    Most humans, to the extent they think about it at all, assume we're the crown of creation; even those who don't think they're religious. This rather implies a direction and teleological explanation for what most people misperceive evolution to be.

    Yeah, I get that. But if you're at the crown of creation, why expect more?

    As for the druidic stuff...I think Greer believes that humans need religion, and that it can be a useful method of social control in the face of scarce resources. (As it was in the past. Note how most of the major religions have some kind of food restrictions, especially of meat - or did, before our current age of plenty.) Rather than trying to banish religion, which would be futile, he is trying to create one he thinks could do our species and our planet good.

    Reading this site, it sure is easy to understand why the bible contains the book of Revelations, Apocalypse and Armageddon, etc. - many of the posters on this site are probably reincarnated from those types of people who lived many thousands of years ago and are still amongst us, and always will be. Plato was one of the first to observe that the world will never be the same because the younger generation is going to hell. With all of the electronic storage now available, this current wisdom will undoubtably be available for the mirth and entertainment of people who are living 1,000 years from now - unlike the great library in ancient Alexandria, it will not be lost to the ravages of fire.

    It will be lost to the ravages of bitrot. People 1,000 years from now will not have anything to insert that DVD or SD card into, since it will be obsolete. I have some software on hollerith cards -- care to read it?

    Another possibility; if you've seen Kevin Costner's movie, "Water World", is that there won't be any dry land to operate our computers on, or under Mad Max scenario, no electricity to run the computers. Bit rot will probably set in well before these other information destroying events take place.

    I like Greer's exercises in species humility. This notion that evolution is linear and always leads to better/smarter/faster is a popular one which needs frequent correction.

    The average species is a patch of slime on a rock around the low tide line.

    Seventy five percent of existing phyla are obscure marine worms.

    [edit] Animal phyla, that is. There are now several other kingdoms (when I was young, it was just animal/vegetable/mineral -- now they have fungi and protists and archaeans and I think some others)

    Because you brought it up:


    Thanks for that link. Interesting project.

    If the average species lasts approx 10 million years - and assuming we are average - then I think we have less than 9 million left. If Lucy(australopithecus) was our ancestor and she lived appx 3.2 million years ago, is she considered human enough that as a species we have already accounted for that much of our 10 million? Hmmm.....


    ... average species ...

    On the other hand, some species are just flashes-in-the-pan. There's no particular reason to believe that we have another thousand years.

    I would guess I am somewhat normal but then again maybe not. Older than most here, but I'll give that question a shot.

    We have all seen the graph of the period 0 to 4000AD where there is a blip at 2000AD +- 100years. It's the third graph on this site.


    That's it kid...sorry bout that.

    OTOH there was plenty of good times in what we would consider bad times. Kids chasing a chicken or a duck is really lots of fun (I found it so in the '30s) .. but especially if you have never flown a jet fighter or a one holer Pitts.

    While the average species may last 10 million years, over 90% of all species ever to have existed have become extinct. Every species that exists today does so because its ancestors did not die out completely. And at one point, "recorded history thus far" contained only the history of single-celled life.

    Instead of asking if we are happy with the 9 million years we have left, why don't we figure out what it takes to evolve to be among the remaining 10%?

    Because that's not the point. He's not arguing that we really do have 9 million years left. He's arguing that people get bent out of shape at the idea that we have 9 million years left, and they'll be spent just like the previous million.

    Leanan, if you are saying that you believe we (humans) do not have any kind of goal or destiny, I would strongly agree - like the '91 TV series "A Glorious Accident", I believe human sentience is just a random accident of evolution - it's a pretty good trick, and some of the results are remarkable (man on the moon, the music of Mozart, etc.) - but there is no purpose or goal or destiny. Like one of the other posters, when I was younger I dreamed/hoped for a sci-fi future of man reaching for the stars (or at least the solar system), this seems less and less likely as the days go by sadly. A purpose would be nice I think, something greater than plasma TV's and bigger poorly-built McMansions - but the reality is that a scramble just to keep all these teeming billions alive will become the only goal, with anything and everything in the natural world sacrificed to that (unworthy) goal.

    I am dubious of another nine million years - if we can't sort out the next 100 or so I would say our chances are very slim to survive very long at all. Too bad, lots of wasted potential - not that the universe will care one bit when we are gone.

    Civilizations will rise and fall; our species will create great art and literature, interpret the universe in various ways, explore many modes of living on the Earth; finally, millions of years from now, it will slowly lose the struggle for survival, dwindle to small populations in isolated areas, and go extinct.

    I believe that there is a fatal disconnect with regard to extinction rates. In the history of the earth 95% of all species have gone extinct. If you take the history of life on earth (3.5 billion years) that works out to an extinction rate of 1 species lost per decade.

    During mass extinction events (5 previous) that rate was increased 1,000 fold. The last mass extinction, the Cretaceous Extinction, 76% of species were lost in a period that lasted 10's of thousands of years. We are currently well into the Late Quaternary Extinction which is sizing up to be the most complete and rapid extinction in Earth history. According to E.O. Wilson, the eminent biologist, we are losing between 1 and 3 species per hour. That is 200,000 times normal extinction rates and 30,000 times previous mass extinctions.

    As human populations and consumption rates swell so do wild-type populations disappear at exponential rates. consider the following: At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution the total weight of humans and their cattle was less than 1% of the total weight of vertabrae speicies on the planet earth. Currently that number is greater than 98%.

    "Finally and most dramatically, the Late Quaternary Extinction, during which millions of living species of living things perished within just a century.was the quickest of all mass extinctions. This event occurred (according to the local time system) in the span 1914-2024 A.D. The main cause was once again habitat loss, and the agent of that loss was the killer-primate Homo Sapiens, who went extinct as a result. Sapiens unaccountably violated the first rule of a successful parasite: moderation. Sapiens were suicidally rapacious.

    Any notion that civilizations will persist in these limited environments is hellish and delusional. More people, dogs, cats and cockroaches. I can hardly wait!


    Okay. I'll take the bait. I admit a pang of sadness at the thought that we're limited to 9 million more years.

    And why is this? Let's be brutally honest here. One some level, I seek immortality. Not personal immortality - I'm not that vain. But continuity of family, tribe, community, species - sure.

    It would seem that the yearning for continuity and permanence is a nearly-universal human trait. Signs are everywhere, ranging from the personal scale (say, a wish for healthy offspring) to the macro scale (think: pyramids). Properly channeled, I think that this wish for continuity is one of the strongest motivators for people to strive for sustainability in their own lives.

    I expect to get lambasted by the doomer set for admitting a thirst for immortality. But first: consider the motivations for your doomerism. Why bother to get upset about impending disaster? Surely the answer includes some sadness for the expected passing of what you know, of "you and yours".

    I once led a discussion after a film and the subject went towards this. A guy in the audience said, why worry, what's the point, so what, we go extinct, why are we so special, and eventually the Earth will recover.

    I basically said what you just did. As much as my frontal lobe could "go with him" and as an evolutionary biologist I could see his point, there's also the will to live imperative inside me. I can't help but care and that's probably one of the reasons I am here--I am descended from others who cared and strove to survive during tough times.

    Where is humanity headed in the future?

    We will colonize the galaxy and we will turn some of it into Human living areas. For every person living on the earth today, there will be a billion billion people living in the future.

    Read a book 'The Millennial Project; Colonizing the galaxy in eight easy steps.' The book explains it's subtitle. It makes mistakes and does things harder along the way than they have to be, but the general idea is that humans can do it.

    But also, its not the number of people on the earth that hurts the biosystems, but how badly those people abuse it. a billion people who are reckless can do more damage than 50 billion who are careful.

    How much would it cost to solve the AGW problem? (or the Accumulating Global Warming caused by Human Machine and Land use problem) ( We just have to change the machines humans use and how we use the land so we should call the problem that) solving AGW would cost between 0.6 to 2.0 percent of GNP. That can be solved once people realize it and the need. solving AGW also solves peak oil.

    Human beings future will be wonderful. (Not for everybody as now) We will colonize the galaxy over the next few millions of years.

    May the force be with you...Nano-nano!


    This is the most pollyannish happy-talk I've seen here in quite a while, and that's saying something.

    What is the name of your cult?

    ... and then; after colonizing this galaxy (Milky Way), we will of course use our warp drive space vehicles to expand into other galaxies, to fill this entire Universe, and then of course move on to other multiverses, Resistance is futile. Nothing can stop us now. Oops what's this laws of physics thing? Obviously a mere trifle. Them that does the hard hard technology stuff will take care of such trifling matters. Ours is only to dream the grand dreams and to make it so with the appropriate words.

    Seriously...Has this site been inhabited by trolls?

    solving AGW would cost between 0.6 to 2.0 percent of GNP. That can be solved once people realize it and the need.

    Would you care to provide any supporting documentation to back up this claim?

    solving AGW also solves peak oil

    Peak oil is not a problem to be solved. Instead it's an inevitable and observable phenomenon. You can cut our energy use to zero and that doesn't nullify peak oil.

    Human beings future will be wonderful. (Not for everybody as now) We will colonize the galaxy over the next few millions of years.

    I think we'd have a statistically better chance of success if we put all our hopes into developing time machines that we can fit oil tankers through. Then we could just keep harvesting oil from the past and ship it back to the future. I'm sure we could do that if we just put our heads together and all cooperated in a cohesive manner.


    I think we'd have a statistically better chance of success if we put all our hopes into developing time machines that we can fit oil tankers through. Then we could just keep harvesting oil from the past and ship it back to the future.

    Except that someone would end up harvesting oil from just far enough in the future to get by, with the thought "so what if my great-grandchildren have no oil. I want to use it NOW"


    This subthread reminds me of an issue in bioethics I have been pondering recently. It's OT, having nothing much to do with energy or oil, but it does touch on sustainability and our future.

    What if there was a simple-ish stem cell treatment that would grant you personal immortality? If they could take a blood sample, or a bit of subcutaneous fat, or at worst a bone marrow sample, sort through it for stem cells, extend the telomeres, re-imprint them as whatever brand of stem cells you need, and treat each and every symptom of age? No more gray hair, no more high blood pressure, no dementia, no arthritis. What if they could keep your biological age < 50 indefinitely? < 40? < 30? A little plastic surgery here and there to remove wrinkles (with the SC treatment you'd recover nicely).

    Would you tell everyone you know? Should it be public knowledge? What if you start seeing public figures, mover-shakers, who are known to be 85 or 90, looking and acting 50?

    Would you want that? What would you do differently? What effect would it have on society and civilization? We probably can't be so generous to all 6.5 billion of ourselves, so who gets the therapy and who doesn't?

    (and try to discuss it without getting too conspiracy-theory oriented :)

    Here's a list of such concerns from a proponent of the idea:


    It would be quite a long shot to actually develop, longer than fusion power, if either are even possible.

    I don't believe it is actually as long a shot as fusion power. However it does have one thing in common with fusion power: there is a lot of snake oil peddled in its name. I'm not saying this applies to the Methuselah Foundation, they are apparently going about the task of compiling useful information, and not making silly claims.

    These people have been pondering the longevity issue as well:

    I just wondered what TODers think about it. ...

    I didn't see this one from the NYTimes in the headers, but it seems important.

    Solar Meets Polar as Winter Curbs Clean Energy

    Old Man Winter, it turns out, is no friend of renewable energy.
    This time of year, wind turbine blades ice up, biodiesel congeals in tanks and solar panels produce less power because there is not as much sun. And perhaps most irritating to the people who own them, the panels become covered with snow, rendering them useless even in bright winter sunshine.


    OK, that's it then. We might as well just keep burning coal and deal with whatever climate change comes our way as the non-renewables diminish and deplete. There's no point in even trying for sustainability.

    (not that we aren't going to do that anyway)

    My modest PV panels have been covered with snow more often than not in recent weeks. But they're only there for backup power. If the grid power were to cut out (as happened to many in the Northern US in recent weeks) I can put up the ladder and wipe the snow off. The low sun angle will make less electrical energy than in the summer, but the freezer does not need much power this time of year in the unheated room it is in.

    Another great advertisement for 'clean coal':


    Somehow I don't see a wind farm or roof-top PV puking out environmental disasters like this, or the Exxon Valdez. Don't worry, Uncle Sam will get that cleaned up someday or never. Oh wait, the 'free market' will take care of it!

    I wonder how much wind and solar energy and residential geothermal heat pumps could have been deployed since 1991 with just 25% of the Defense spending since then:


    The same folks who preach to the sheeple about 'Energy Independence' by advocating for drilling in ANWR and so forth are the ones who have squandered untold amounts of oil, money, goodwill, and human life in our imperial over-reach to secure 'our' ME oil.

    We shall see what, if anything, changes.

    Change You Can Believe In?

    Big money and big headaches for Obama inauguration planners

    Still, with less than a month to go, organizers have told some supporters that they might not get all the goodies they had expected in exchange for big-bucks donations. And they've scrambled to think up new ways to deal with the insatiable appetite of wealthy supporters not just to attend but to buy themselves VIP status.

    Where are the four letter words when you need them....


    Bah, humbug. Think of all the carbon to be emitted by this extravaganza. I think change we can believe in would be to cancel the festivities of the inauguration and just have a small ceremony in the White House to beamed to people all over the world. After inaug, I'd like to see O in his coveralls installing some PV panels of the White House roof.

    But people must have their bread and circuses. Not me.

    Denninger is starting to sound like something you might find on Alternet...

    The entirety of our media has become focused on exactly one thing - stoking that "need for more", with Americans being literally told they're poor, destitute, and deserving of that handbag from Gucci and the brand new Lexus you must have in your driveway.

    It's all a scam.

    I don't know about you, but I'm pretty much at saturation when it comes to "things". I have a house, a grill, a fridge, car, dishwasher, laundry equipment and as many computers and TVs as I can reasonably use.

    What's left? Nothing, really.

    I saw a bumper sticker today that I really liked:

    "The best things in life aren't things"

    "The ecological budget, on which all life and, consequently, the human economy depends, is already in dramatic deficit. Why is this budget ultimately more important than the fiscal budget? Sept. 23, 2008, was Earth Overshoot Day. The period after Sept. 23 represents the time the human population causes an ecological deficit, using up the Earth faster than it can regenerate."

    "Don't fix the economy - change it"


    I'm surprised "Overshoot Day" was so recent. I would have thought it would have happened much further in the past.


    I'm sure it can be changed a lot by tweaking the assumptions. Those who assume that the sustainable human population is 2 billion (or even less) should mark "overshoot day" in the early spring.

    I'm finally reading Catton these days. Very clear and very depressing.

    I'm surprised "Overshoot Day" was so recent. I would have thought it would have happened much further in the past.

    It did, quite a ways back when the earth's pop was a billion give or take a few. They're probably referring to some calculation of the point each year in which we've ostensibly used up the entire year's worth of carrying capacity, having reset our odometers for the new year... neat trick, that. But if so, I'd think it would be hard to make a reasonable case for it being much past Valentine's day.

    I suppose it helps to actaully READ the article that was referring to "Over-shoot Day." LOL! My Bad ;)

    Now I understand the symbolic link with over-shoot day versus the year of consumptive behavior. It is a neat gimmick. I agree with you that it's falling way too late in the year.


    I don't think the date is late. This summer weren't there discussions here about overshoot that mentioned we are using the equivalent of 1.5 Earths? If so, Sept. is right. June/July, for example, would equal 2 Earths.


    Hi, Jeff.

    Fixing and changing are different words for the same model. Both take an existing system and modify it. Fixing is a form of change that includes the idea that there is something wrong (a problem) with the existing system that must be altered but the existing system is basically sound.

    I think the concept you are looking for is transformation, which means to create something new from a blank slate. Some theorists also call it revolution when used in the political context. You'll also come across reinvention, paradigm shift, etc.

    When Obama supporters were asking for change, they literally were asking for the existing system to stay basically the same but "make it work better."

    Unfortunately, with the hole we've dug ourselves, I believe it's transformation of our systems that is required.

    Andre - Agreed, and in fact at this point I don't even mind loosing the baby with the bath water.

    OK everybody say;

    AAAAWwwwwwwwwwah! (don't worry it wasn't a cute baby)

    Disclaimer: No REAL babies were harmed in this exercise.

    Chinese Savings Helped Inflate American Bubble

    WASHINGTON — In March 2005, a low-key Princeton economist who had become a Federal Reserve governor coined a novel theory to explain the growing tendency of Americans to borrow from foreigners, particularly the Chinese, to finance their heavy spending.

    The problem, he said, was not that Americans spend too much, but that foreigners save too much. The Chinese have piled up so much excess savings that they lend money to the United States at low rates, underwriting American consumption.

    I'd forgotten that was Bernanke.

    RE the ethanol industry article above...

    It never ceases to amaze me how TPTB can still obfuscate the blatent shortcomings of the ERoEI of ethanol and instead focus on wether our fleet can "handle" a stronger blend of the poison. It seems like myopia is a prevalent symptom or our capitalist society.


    Re: Obfuscate the blatant shortcomings of the ERoEI of ethanol:

    The numbers for the EROEI for ethanol are false because the logic is false.

    Energy is an abstract concept like grain or metal. It would be absurd to say that corn is superior to soybeans because the Grain Return on Grain Invested is higher than for soybeans. Or that iron is superior to gold because the Metal Return on Metal Invested for Iron is greater than for gold. Yet Energy which exists in equally varied forms can supposedly by evaluated by EROEI. It is silly nonsense.

    TPTB in this case are correct. It is the obtuse thinkers at TOD who are wrong. Things that are different can not be compared, subtracted, added, multiplied or divided. That is what EROEI does.

    EROEI has become a cult concept on TOD. It is taken on faith that it is correct and comes from the energy god somewhere.

    It is nothing more than a clever concoction of petroleum funded "research" to discourage competition in the liquid fuel market.

    The clever thing about it is that in the case of oil where like and like are compared the concept is valid. But when different things are compared as in ethanol output and petroleum input, the concept is false.

    This combination of an abstract undefined measure and different inputs and outputs is too much for the average TOD reader to handle. I must admit it took me several months to figure out exactly what was wrong with EROEI.

    The key concept is that Energy only exists in specific forms. Just like grain or metal. Grain does not exist except in specific forms of grain. It is imposible to buy or sell grain. Only forms of grain. The same thing is true for metal. Metal only exists in specific forms. The abstract concept of metal does not exist in the sense that it can be measured, bought or sold. It is merely a name for a collection of specific forms of metal. Energy is the same type of abstract concept. To suppose that is can be measured, bought and sold outside of its specific forms is a delusion of the first order.

    And to suppose it can be used to critique a specific form of energy based on a comparison with another form of energy is crazy.

    The main thing that told me that it is false is that I can not verify the oft quoted numbers for corn on my farm. And local ethanol plants have a problem when the cost of corn rises, but I haven't heard of any shutting down because of the high cost of fossil fuel inputs. It can therefor be deduced that corn is the main form of energy used in ethanol production.

    And since I can not verify that the energy inputs for corn are anywhere near those often cited, the whole EROEI for ethanol became suspect in my mind. I am now convinced that EROEI is a fraud that Bernie Madoff would appreciate.

    From your comment, I assume that you have never put in the time to study thermodynamics. Do you know what a BTU is? That the respective sources of energy have different characteristics does not change the BTU content of the source. A BTU produced from burning coal can do the same thing in a steam engine as a BTU produced by burning ethanol or burning wheat or corn. Admittedly the different energy sources are given different dollar values in the market system, so using prices does not give a clear picture of the overall process, but, in many situations, the different sources can power the same process.

    Burning natural gas to make ethanol for use to heat a structure is likely to be a large mistake, as it would likely prove cheaper to burn the natural gas directly. Would you heat your home with ethanol or oil at today's prices, assuming you don't get the ethanol subsidy? Would you use ethanol instead of natural gas to provide the heat for distillation in order to produce the ethanol? If not, please tell us why not...

    E. Swanson


    The main thing that told me that it is false is that I can not verify the oft quoted numbers for corn on my farm. And local ethanol plants have a problem when the cost of corn rises, but I haven't heard of any shutting down because of the high cost of fossil fuel inputs. It can therefor be deduced that corn is the main form of energy used in ethanol production.

    Now that's a pretty telling statement. It shows where your true motivations come from for authoring such post. It's hard to convince anyone of facts when their livlihood necessarily demands that they don't understand it.

    And since I can not verify that the energy inputs for corn are anywhere near those often cited, the whole EROEI for ethanol became suspect in my mind. I am now convinced that EROEI is a fraud that Bernie Madoff would appreciate.

    I'll give you an easy way to verify it... Try to run your whole ethanol operation, from cultivation through harvest through ethanol coversion through distribution to the final consumer and only use the ethanol that YOU produce as the sole energy source. Let's see just how long you stay afloat.

    In regards to your allegations that ERoEI is a fraud... ERoEI is based on the laws of thermodynamics. Kinda hard to generate a fraudlent con-game when you won't even know that you need one.

    The whole thought process of you entire post makes me wonder if you're living in the same world as the rest of us. I'm not sure what your definition of "logic" is, but it's clear it's not the same one I'm using.

    I wish you the best in your ethanol endeavors, but most of us at TOD can see how your story is going to end. For your sake and the sake of your family, I hope that you see it too, before it causes you hardship.


    I'll let the others keep trying to explain to you why we can and in fact do exchange different forms of energy every day.

    In the meantime, I'm always surprised when people come up with illogical statements like "different things can't be compared."

    Of course they can. The concept of comparison wouldn't exist if the properties of different entities weren't different. The word "different" wouldn't exist, either, and the whole technology of language wouldn't work because comparison allows us to distinguish concepts.

    Based on the rest of your post, I think your problem with understanding EROEI might just start right at the very bottom...

    Nothing worse than a devalued dong.

    Vietnam devalues dong
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ e074a1...0077b07658.html

    from cr

    I keep getting messages in my spam bucket offering to increase the value of my dong.

    Corrected link:


    Perhaps you should forward the good news to our Vietnamese friends!

    Two tons is a pretty tiny pile of coal except for anything bigger than a medium sized stove.....

    And such used to be an option in towns. That is why asbestos siding is popular in old coal burning places - protection against your neighbors hot ash.

    The old coal furnaces were huge affairs capabale if incinerating a body. They were 5 to 6 feet tall, 4 ft in diameter and often rested on a dirt cellar floor. I don't know what the typical delivery was via coal chute, but I'd guess 5 tons or more. Coal cellars were roms at least 8x10 feet.

    Hello TODers,

    Most regular readers of my postings are familiar with my advocacy for creating strategic, 'real-asset', national security supply-chain infrastructure and methods such as my posting series on 'Federal Reserves Banks of I-NPK'. I now wonder if the Kremlin is reading my postings:

    Kremlin May Create Fertilizer Champion
    Government reportedly planning a three-way merger of Uralkali, Apatit and Silvinit.

    ..Uralkali, potash-maker Silvinit, and phosphate producer Apatit were named by press agency Interfax as potential fodder for a new government-owned holding company. Citing industry and government sources, the report claimed that the Kremlin was considering buying controlling stakes in Uralkali, Silvinit and Apatit in order to merge them and run them as one...

    I would expect such a NPK-holding company to be much more powerful postPeak than your typical Wall Street fiat-currency holding company. If you were a typical Russian: would you rather put your trust in the ability to grow food? Or is it better to trust the value of the Russian rouble as it continues to devalue at a shocking pace?

    Will Americans see a similar I-NPK nationalization and an additional shift to full-on O-NPK recycling as we become increasingly reliant upon I-NPK imports from Canada, Russia, Morocco, Trinidad, and the MidEast?

    Are our tax dollars better spent on bailing out General Motor's finance arms, GMAC & Di-Tech, by turning it into a bank holding company? Or would we be better off buying all the shares of POT, MOS, Agrium, etc, that we could possibly afford to therefore have a guaranteed postPeak flowrate of I/O-NPK? Or instead: will China & KSA buy up these shares ahead of the American taxpayer to assert massive agricultural control over us?

    Can we buy some majority position in Morocco's OCP for continued phosphate flow, or will we be militarily forced to invade when the UN FAO phosphate deficit projection for North America becomes true?

    As you hug your bag of NPK today: Please consider what can happen if Russia simultaneously moves to restrict both FF & I-NPK exports.

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

    there is no limit to human greed and folly(tm).
    the man enslaved to wealth can never be honest.
    if my boss forces me to take a 50% cut in wages,
    will i be able to petition the town hall for a 50%
    reduction of my property tax?
    stick a fork in uhmerika's buttock. turn it over. we is done.
    in the future even trolls will suffer and die.

    It's good to see the rising interest in home heating with inexpensive coal. Increasing use of fossil fuels will raise the level of atmospheric CO2, which enhances crop yields supporting biofuels and food production world-wide. Academic research and operational commercial green house producers have found that doubling CO2 levels increases yields by 33 percent. Optimal plant growth is attained at CO2 levels of 1000 PPM, nearly four times world-wide atmospheric CO2 levels present 150 years ago. Rising levels of CO2, together with moderate sun-driven warming since that time, have dramatically improved crop and forest production. It's a win-win situation, seldom discussed in the media these days.

    Lying is bad. Don't lie.

    E.g., when you claim raised CO2 increases yields but fail to mention that higher temps reduce the ability of plants to use said CO2 (or something like that) and that said temps also dry out the soil, etc., well, you're lying.

    So far the literature (posted on TOD some months ago) suggests after an initial increase in yields, the negatives associated with higher temps override gains from CO2.

    Best hopes for more truthful people and less BS and propaganda.



    You mean the 1 degree F warming over the last century which has been driven by the most active solar display of the last 1000 years? That's mild warming at best. Tell the whole story.