DrumBeat: December 27, 2008

Oil giants are itching to invade Iraq

For Iraq the timing couldn’t be better. As reserves dry up around the world and national governments tighten their grip on what is left, the industry is more desperate than ever to get its hands on the Iraqi honey-pot. The plummeting oil price, from a high of $147 a barrel this summer to a new low of $36 last week, has focused their minds.

Along with Saudi Arabia, Iraq is one of the cheapest countries to extract oil from, costing as little as $4-$5 per barrel thanks to the easy geology and high flow rates.

That is a long way from more exotic endeavours such as Canada’s tar sands, where extraction can cost $50 a barrel or more. Labour is also cheap. Addax, which has made $248m so far this year, pays $15 a day to the manual labourers who work at Taq Taq.

Thousands demand separate region for Iraq’s Basra

BASRA, Iraq - Thousands of protesters in Iraq’s southern oil city of Basra demanded their own federal region on Saturday, akin to minority Kurds’ peaceful, prosperous enclave in the country’s north.

Some three thousand people took to the streets in mainly Shia Basra, demanding a referendum on whether the city and surrounding province might become a semi-autonomous state.

“Yes, yes for the Basra region,” demonstrators shouted.

Ecuador to Shut Agip’s Local Oil Production to Meet OPEC Quota

(Bloomberg) -- Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has ordered Italian oil company Agip to suspend production in Ecuador as the country moves to meet the output reduction agreed to by Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

In his regular Saturday radio and television broadcast, Correa also today said that Ecuador is losing money on its contract with the Italian company, a unit of Eni SpA.

“That way it will be easy to eliminate more than 20,000 barrels, of the 40,000 we have to reduce,” Correa said, adding that other foreign companies he didn’t name will also have to cut production.

Russia inflation to reach 15%

MOSCOW - INFLATION in Russia could climb as high as 15 per cent in 2009 depending on oil price levels, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told Vesti-24 television on Saturday.

'This year (2008), inflation could reach between 13.5 and 13.8 per cent,' Mr Kudrin said. 'With (annual) growth of 2.4 per cent and a price of 50 dollars per barrel, inflation will reach 11 per cent in 2009.

'(But) if the price per barrel is lower, at 30 rather than 50 dollars, inflation will be higher and could reach 15 per cent,' he added.

Nigeria's oil woes draw world attention

LAGOS (Xinhua) -- Nigeria's Niger Delta region, generating huge oil wealth, which is in contrast to the impoverished life of local people, has drawn worldwide attention in 2008 with rampant sabotage on oil facilities and kidnapping.

Lisa Margonelli: A Green Stimulus for the People

But so far Obama has stuck to the well-worn path of top-down subsidies for wind and solar energy, infrastructure investment and a modest revival of a home weatherization program for the poor. The problem with this plan is that it turns energy consumers as well as power producers into supplicants. Energy-industry subsidies are notoriously poor public investments--yielding few jobs or jobs of short duration because the government money can make the industry too dependent to be sustainable. Subsidies for specific technologies often benefit the well heeled--as with California's Million Solar Roofs initiative. Green is a luxury, out of reach for many Americans struggling with rising energy bills. Energy consumers get the message that they're victims of high prices rather than actors who could play a powerful role in moderating energy demand.

But with a bolder plan to make working families the agents of change, Obama can take a historic opportunity to remodel the way we generate, transmit and use energy, stimulating the economy in the short term and building a broad green constituency of workers and industry in the long term.

Fuel Efficiency is Easy--Just Don't Let Detroit Tell You How to Do It

For much of the 1970’s I was engaged with the U.S. auto industry, countering their endless claims that they could not meet federal vehicle emissions standards. I went to work for Mayor John Lindsay in 1969 as an engineer in the then Department of Air Resources. My job was to figure out what New York City might do to tackle auto pollution. We secured a million dollar grant from the EPA and set about establishing a new agency to design a comprehensive plan and build an emissions test facility. Old timers told me this project would take five years to get underway. I did it in nine months. I built a new building housing an advanced test facility, outfitted it, hired and trained personnel and got underway. The objective was to learn about auto pollution by doing testing cars and trucks. The first thing we did is to install catalytic converters on a dozen city cars including Mayor Lindsay’s limousine. We installed catalysts on sanitation trucks. We tested various alternative engines and emissions controls. The point here is that we got our hands dirty. We got to know what auto makers knew. And, we did it five years before auto makers were forced to do it.

Sinopec Group's 08 Equity Oil Output to Rise by 31%

State-owned Sinopec Group sees its overseas equity oil production growing 31 percent in 2008, a company executive was quoted as saying, in a report published on Friday, which was in line with earlier company targets.

Sinopec said earlier this year it aimed to raise its overseas equity oil, output entitled mostly under product sharing contracts (PSC), to 9 million tonnes this year, from 6.87 million tonnes in 2007.

Australia: The hard times aren't over yet: Fuel, rent, power bills up next year

CONSUMERS are looking at paying more for fuel, rent and electricity by the middle of next year.

It is a warning to households, buoyed by the Federal Government's one-off bonus payments and cheering at petrol prices that fell below 90 cents in some areas before Christmas, that good times are not certain to continue.

Venezuela Prepares Measures to Cope With Oil Price, Chavez Says

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela, the biggest oil exporter in the western hemisphere, will deal with falling oil income without cutting social spending, President Hugo Chavez said.

“We guarantee the social investment and current spending,” Chavez said in a phone call to state television late yesterday. “We’re preparing a series of measures and initiatives to keep the crisis from whipping us.”

Myanmar Gas to Be Exported to China

Natural gas produced from the Shwe Field off Myanmar's Rakhine coast will be exported to China's southwestern region under a new export gas sales and purchase agreement signed between companies from China, Myanmar and South Korea.

Nigeria: Price Soars, As Fuel Scarcity Hits Borno, Yobe Capitals

FUEL scarcity has hit Maiduguri and Damaturu, the capitals of Borno and Yobe states, with a four-litre can of petrol selling at N700, as against N400 before the Christmas.

Black marketers are cashing in on the scarcity to make brisk business, even as a few petrol stations were found selling the product.

The Guardian investigation reveals that the situation is already causing untold hardships on many motorists. Most of the filling stations belonging to major and independent marketers were empty yesterday, as they no fuel to sell.

Indonesia: Fuel prices could be cut again, says govt

The government may further cut the prices of Premium gasoline and diesel on Jan. 15, hinting it may even, partly or entirely, float the prices of the two subsidized fuels to keep in line with global crude prices.

Somali pirates threaten fuel supply to Tanzania

The increased hijack of cargo ships by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean is threatening fuel supply to Tanzania.

Oil marketers have said unless the piracy is stopped on the Gulf of Aden, Tanzania was likely to experience critical fuel shortages in the near future.

Zimbabwe's children 'wasting away' - aid group

"We have already been forced to reduce the rations of emergency food we are delivering because there isn't enough to go around," the report said. "If, as we fear, the food aid pipeline into Zimbabwe begins to fail in the new year the millions of people who rely on emergency food aid will suffer."

Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic and humanitarian crisis since its independence from Great Britain 28 years ago. There is an acute shortage of all essentials such as cash, fuel, medical drugs, electricity and food.

Ready for oil

Workers walk through an underground oil bunker yesterday in Yeosu, South Jeolla. Korea National Oil Corp. announced it has completed the world’s largest oil bunker, which can hold 49.7 million barrels of oil.

Fate of South Korean automaker uncertain

Seoul, South Korea — The fate of South Korea-based automaker SsangYong Motor looks uncertain with the refusal of the Seoul government and its Chinese parent firm to inject bailout cash in the company. Unionized workers in the troubled automaker resist restructuring and other sweeping changes.

South Korea's state-run Korea Development Bank, the main creditor of SsangYong Motor, said on Friday that it would not extend fresh loans to the troubled automaker unless its Chinese parent company provided rescue funding first.

Cheap seats, danger meet on illegal Manila trolleys

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The illegal trolley ride along Manila's railway is dangerous. But it has an irresistible draw amid hard times: It's cheap and doesn't use oil.

For years, dozens of desperate men in Manila's working-class district of Pandacan have used a two-mile stretch of state-owned rail that cuts through the congested community to ply their dangerous trade.

When no chugging trains are in sight, they sneak their eight-seat trolleys — small, metal-wheeled carts with benches fashioned from scrap wood — on the railway to ferry students, office workers and even policemen on short trips within Pandacan.

The power comes from brute strength.

"I use my feet, my gasoline is my sweat," said Ryan Dejucodes, 28.

How to prevent the lights from going out across U.S.

The lights might go out in Virginia in two years. As media reports have noted, blackouts are likely in the commonwealth by 2011 because demand for electricity is outstripping supply and the state needs access to new sources of power.

Sadly, Virginia's predicament can be seen around the country. The United States faces an energy crisis: More power generation and more transmission lines are needed, and all this must be created quickly while also meeting climate change goals.

Over the past few months, officials from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association have met with representatives from the 900 cooperative electric utilities that supply power to 40 million people in 47 states. A common theme has emerged: Our political leaders must develop a national energy policy that funds development of new technologies to keep electricity affordable while meeting climate change goals. Otherwise, a growing number of Americans won't be able to pay for power, and many will be at risk of rolling blackouts and brownouts.

Making Bulgaria look good

James Howard Kunstler, oft derided as seeking to return America to a pre-industrial state, actually wants to return the country to the glory years of the industrial era, when the major components of our industrial infrastructure were in place and flourishing while Progressive Era reforms were making cities more habitable and humane.

This allowed us to build great cities while ameliorating problems that had overwhelmed earlier cities, such as hypercrowded tenements, which were relieved greatly by the streetcar suburbs, which allowed people of modest means to escape. The cities "sprawled" a bit, but on the whole remained quite dense and compact because they didn't have to devote 50 percent of their surface area to the care, feeding, and storage of automobiles.

Tough road ahead for new president

Others have certainly encountered moments of intense angst — George W. Bush after 9-11 and John Kennedy after the Cuban Missile Crisis come to mind. But Mr. Obama faces the Long Emergency (with apologies to acerbic social commentator James Howard Kunstler who wrote a book by that name). He walks onto the world stage at a time of unprecedented turmoil in international economies and financial markets.

How long will this emergency last? How long before we get back to “normal?”

Bob Moriarty, 321 Gold: Chaos on the Horizon? Invest in Real Assets

We are to the point where we are about 14 feet from going over the edge of Niagara Falls. We haven't gone over the edge yet; we haven't gone to a total collapse. We don't have riots in the streets; we don't have a revolution. That's coming; that's about two to three months off.

You're on your own

Thomas Homer-Dixon, a teacher and author whose research has focused on how societies adapt to complex social change, said the bleak truth is no one really knows what is going on.

"The experts with real insight and integrity will simply admit they don't know what's happening at this point," he said. "Whether we're talking about the global economy or climate or any one of the other challenges we're facing right now -- any kind of prediction is pointless.

"What's been damaged here is confidence in a really profound way. Every time these experts shift, or jettison some policy that they announced as the sure-fire fix, it gets worse."

2008 Trades Gone Bad #5: The peak oil trade

This oil trade takes the cake.

At the zenith of the speculative bubble in the oil patch -- when crude hit $147 per barrel in July -- you had everyone from T. Boone Pickens to Prince Alaweed touting $200-per-barrel oil by the end of the year.

Crude is now trading around $40 -- down $107 per barrel in less than six months. Unbelievable!

The hybrid wars heat up: Honda's new hybrid throws down the gauntlet to Toyota

PHOENIX — Oil prices are going up. As I sit here writing about Honda's new hybrid, the 2010 Insight, on the desk next to me is the front page of The New York Times declaring that major oil and gas projects now being delayed are setting the stage for "another surge in oil prices once the global economy recovers."

So a spike in the price of oil is really just a matter of time. For Honda right now, the price of oil is not so much an issue of time, but of timing.

No Furnaces but Heat Aplenty in ‘Passive Houses’

DARMSTADT, Germany — From the outside, there is nothing unusual about the stylish new gray and orange row houses in the Kranichstein District, with wreaths on the doors and Christmas lights twinkling through a freezing drizzle. But these houses are part of a revolution in building design: There are no drafts, no cold tile floors, no snuggling under blankets until the furnace kicks in. There is, in fact, no furnace.

Schools to invest in alternative energy, give students edge

St. Clair County RESA Career Technical Center students will be calculating actual energy outputs from school-owned windmills, solar panels and a hydroelectric plant.

In Warren Consolidated Schools, students will find lessons from a district-owned wind power station integrated into their classes.

Both programs are the result of a trend by a growing number of schools to meld alternative energy into their lesson plans.

The Gas Tax

President-elect Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress seem to have a clear vision of the auto industry they think the country needs. It must be financially self-sufficient. It also must be capable of producing highly fuel-efficient, next-generation vehicles that can help the nation cope with climate change and finite supplies of oil.

Yet for all the conditions attached to it, the multibillion-dollar aid package for Detroit’s carmakers approved by the White House (with Mr. Obama’s support) fails to address one crucial question: Who will buy all the fuel-efficient cars that Detroit carmakers are supposed to make?

The danger is that too few will, especially if gasoline prices remain low. Therefore, it might be time for the president-elect and Congress to think seriously about imposing a gas tax or similar levy to keep gas prices up after the economy recovers from recession.

Retail gasoline prices drift to 58-month low

Retail gasoline prices tumbled Friday to the lowest level in nearly five years. And while crude futures rose, analysts believed it was a temporary pause in an extended, downward arc as the recession spreads.

"We're paying about a billion dollars per day less than we were in July" for gasoline, said Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service. "We could probably bail out some banks and maybe even some of the auto companies with the savings."

Saudi must urge Russia to join Opec: Experts

Saudi Arabia will have to take the lead in ensuring that Russia becomes a member of Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), analysts and recent reports from think tanks in the sector suggest.

Russia has not only stubbornly set aside a possibility of joining the Opec, but it has also not announced an anticipated cut in its production to bolster the 2.2m (4.2m if cuts since September 2008 are considered) barrels a day Opec cut that takes effect from the first week of January 2009.

Iraq Basra oil exports plunge 68pc

Iraq's oil exports from its southern Basra terminal fell by 67.5 per cent to 552,000 barrels per day (bpd) on Saturday, from 1.7 million bpd on Friday, said a shipper.

Chances of gas cut '50-50', Russia warns Ukraine

MOSCOW (AFP) – There is a "50-50" chance that Russia will cut off gas supplies to Ukraine on January 1 over Kiev's failure to pay its debts, Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Saturday.

Gazprom says Ukraine has non-cash options to pay gas debt

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Crisis-stricken Ukraine may count its $2 billion debt for Russian gas deliveries against future fees for Russian gas transit to European customers, a Gazprom spokesman said on Saturday.

...Kupriyanov said another option for Ukraine to pay its debt would be to hand back gas it had stockpiled in underground gas storages to help it live through the winter in the event Gazprom turns off the gas taps.

Release the Stranglehold on Domestic Oil

Pelosi's plan landed in the headlines just as the oracles of "Peak Oil" were again predicting the demise of petroleum. World production capacity appears stuck at 85 million barrels per day against growing demand in China and India. Until very recently Americans had been paying a heavy price to import 70 percent of our current oil consumption, while Democrats continued to chant: "We can't drill our way out of the problem."

YET GEOLOGISTS report that huge quantities of hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) still lie buried at various locations around the globe. A recently released international study estimates more than 90 billion barrels of recoverable oil remain in the Arctic alone.

China to offer incentives to scrap old cars: state media

China plans to offer incentives for car owners to scrap their old models in favour of new ones, in a bid to lift the auto industry as it enters a period of crisis, state media said Saturday.

The measure is part of a new package being prepared in Beijing aimed at avoiding a US-style collapse of the local auto sector, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Detroit, We Have a Problem

WHEN Toyota, the auto industry’s financial Godzilla, forecasts its first operating loss in 70 years, you know times are tough. When senators suggest that General Motors (of “What’s good for the country...” fame) should be left to collapse, you know the ground has shifted.

The road to perdition

This combination of boldness in catering for cars and shyness with public transport, walking and cycling could propel Melbourne down the list of the world's most liveable cities and cancel out its multiple advantages. It will also add to the burdens of poor health, especially through low levels of physical activity, obesity and early onset diabetes. The time is right to make sure that Melbourne's budgets and policy priorities contain a clear map of how the city can celebrate the virtues of walking, cycling and public transport, reduce car trips and reward its residents with cleaner air, less noise, lower greenhouse gas emissions, fewer deaths and injuries and a calmer, more child-friendly and more economically successful city.

The electric car that can break the speed limit signals a new road order

Forget milk float. Forget golf buggy. The tarnished image of the electric car is about to be smartened up. The first proper-performance, four-seater electric car from a major manufacturer is about to be launched on the UK market.

The i-MiEV – pronounced eye-meev – from Mitsubishi, is a saloon car which will carry four adults and reach a top speed of 87mph. It will be available in the UK, initially for leasing, from the middle of 2009 and can travel up to 100 miles without charging.

Nicaragua Plans to Reduce Dependence on Oil-based Energy to 3 Percent

Few decades ago the share of renewable energy in Nicaragua’s power generation was 70 percent but with growing ties with Venezuela and availability of cheap oil that number declined and now the country gets just 34 percent of its energy from renewable sources. But with the rising oil prices and increasing blackouts the government now seems to be falling back on the locally available and reliable renewable energy sources.

It was a gas - and that was the trouble

It seemed as if the prophecies of Thomas Malthus, the doomsayer of overpopulation, were coming true. A century ago, the world faced a crisis just as severe as the energy/ global warming conundrum that confronts us today: Pundits predicted millions of people would starve as farmers' yields dropped because of a shortage of natural fertilizers, such as manure, guano and Chilean nitrates.

The news set off the equivalent of a nuclear arms race -- the search for a chemical process that could extract nitrogen from the air and transform it into fertilizer. Essentially, atmospheric nitrogen had to be persuaded to combine with hydrogen gas to form ammonia.

Groups spend millions in 'clean coal' ad war

Interest groups spending tens of millions of television ad dollars in a fight over carbon emissions and the existence of "clean coal."

Coal industry magnates, who would lose big if new pollution standards are signed into law, spent between $35 million and $45 million on advertising this year - most of it on television ads aired during the 2008 campaigns - pitching "clean coal" as a new environmentally friendly fuel.

No Quick Or Easy Technological Fix For Climate Change, Researchers Say

ScienceDaily — Global warming, some have argued, can be reversed with a large-scale "geoengineering" fix, such as having a giant blimp spray liquefied sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere or building tens of millions of chemical filter systems in the atmosphere to filter out carbon dioxide.

But Richard Turco, a professor in the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and a member and founding director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment, sees no evidence that such technological alterations of the climate system would be as quick or easy as their proponents claim and says many of them wouldn't work at all.

'Japanese Inuit' warns of climate change danger

As the fields of ice surrounding his home rapidly become thinner, Ikuo Oshima knows firsthand that the effects of global warming are not a problem of the distant future, but a present danger.

It was the vast fields of the Arctic ice where Oshima, 61, managed to feed and raise five children, hunting walruses and seals and riding his dogsled. And that self-sustainable life has allowed him to become a member of the Inuit indigenous community in Siorapaluk, Greenland, the northernmost inhabited settlement on the planet.

Climate change refugees seek a new international deal

Millions of people are predicted to become climate refugees as global warming increases. A new international pact will be needed to protect their rights to live.

Exxon may emerge as leader in CO2 capture

While Exxon Mobil Corp. has been among the most vocal skeptics of man-made causes of climate change, the company has spent the last two decades forging an expertise in one of the key technologies to combat the problem: capturing and storing carbon-dioxide emissions.

Re: The Gas Tax

So, the economic geniuses at the NYT think that it's time to raise the gas tax? I guess they haven't been reading TOD lately. They don't mention Peak Oil, which will present a fundamentally different situation to the markets. Hopefully, the recession will end soon (well, that's what TPTB want us to believe). As oil production peaks out and this fact hits the economic scene, there's no way that the price of oil will remain near today's low prices. Adding a tax on top of another surge in oil prices would kill the recovery, perhaps before it begins. Adding a tariff to imported oil instead of a gas tax would likely spark a trade war, as such an approach would violate international trade laws. Why use a tax at all, when limiting imports thru a quota on petroleum imports would accomplish the same result? Or, better yet, why not just directly limit the amount of petroleum each individual could use thru a rationing system? With rationing, the economic disruption would be limited and inflation would be minimized.

E. Swanson

All good points Black-Dog. The problem is the perceived sense of control that the those in politics think they have. And many, not all of them, will do anything and tell anyone who will listen exactly what they want to hear as long as it provides what appears to be a "free" lunch. We have a great number of challenges coming down the pike at a rapid clip and very difficult decisions will have to be made that will hopefully benefit the good of many not just a few. I hope and pray that those who make the hard decisions will have what it takes to stay in the kitchen as things really begin to warm in the near future. John

There is always an excuse found not to raise gas taxes. Either a tax will prevent recovery or a tax will kill the recovery. Take your choice. Given the dramatic and largely unexpected plunge in oil and gas prices, and the appparent stabilization in demand, I would expect that oil and gas prices will turn around within the next 6 months. But I and I think most people simply don't really know when this is going to happen. A gas tax doesn't have to kill the recovery if it is used to put money in the hands of those who would fuel the recovery. In any event, any recovery, if it is even possible, will not be consumer driven but government driven.

The fact is that, as the NYT notes, it is not possible to get people to buy the small and efficient cars that the big 3 is being encouraged to produce with low gas prices. Light truck sales are already increasing as a percentage of car sales. If prices stay low, this will increase. For 95% of the people, the only thing that matters is current prices, the future be damned. We have seen this movie before in the 70s and it resulted in the great surge of trucks and SUVs during the 80s. We repeat this movie at our own peril.

I don't know if the NYT people are economic geniuses but they are right in this instance.

And, as I've said many times before, a dollar raised by a gas tax, does not equate to a dollar removed from the economy. Somewhere in the economy someone is using less gas because of the marginally increased cost. The market clearing price of oil is also marginally lower, because of the reduced demand. Oil exporting nations essentially subsidize the gas tax, via a lower price of oil. And the dollar, has not been destroyed, the government can recycle it in a number of ways. Either directly to the people, or via investment in public goods. The government has to fund its spending one way or another (unless it simply prints money, in which case inflation taxes everyone), so whining about any particular tax isn't called for. The real issues, are how much, and what sort of government services do we need. And what is the best way to raise the revenue to pay for them.

I'm not trying to come up with an excuse to stop an increase the gas tax. I think that you are correct that the present price for gasoline is too low. As I have stated previously, I think that the gas tax should have been increased gradually, starting after the first round of OPEC action in 1973. As a national policy, we could have added at least $2 per gallon to the pump price by now. But, our political/business class did not do this and wasted a great opportunity to modify everyone's perceptions and purchase decisions for more than 35 years. Simply put, the U.S. consumer should now be paying prices near those seen in Europe or Japan, IMHO.

But, that did not happen and now (if the Peak Oil Prophets are right), it's too late to increase the gas tax quickly enough to really make a difference. That's because, as the market showed us last summer, a small short fall in supply will likely result in a big boost in oil prices. If that spike was actually the result of peak production, the future can only give more of the same as the inexorable clash between increasing population and demand per capita meets declining supply. This is NOT a repeat of the world oil situation seen in the 1980's, when the Saudi's possessed extra production capacity and were able to flood the world market in 1986 and drive the price down to $10 per barrel.

Remember that our politicians are trying desperately to stimulate economic activity and a sudden $2/gallon boost in the gas tax would produce just the opposite. And, every few years down the road, the tax would need to be boosted again and again, as the global shortfall increased and inflation diluted the impacts of previous taxes. As the taxes are increased, I would expect that there would be many attempts to bypass the Tax Man, just as were seen in regards to liquor taxes during Prohibition. We have drug laws which act as 0% import quotas which has resulted in a thriving black market for drugs, so strict import quotas would be problematic as well.

I think we are faced with a dire situation, no matter what happens with the financial crisis. A system of rationing with tradeable allocations would hit the heart of the problem, which is individual consumption, and stimulate individual action to reduce oil demand, while minimizing further disruptive effects to the rest of the financial system. I think that a major requirement should be that unused allocations would revert to the "energy bank" after a short period, with payment at current market values being credited to the holder of those allocations. This would reward frugal consumers and minimize hoarding of allocations or physical product.

Fixing the energy problem is a bit like building a boat while living on another boat floating alongside. The old boat is rotting and there are holes in the bottom, so we need to finish building the new boat before the old one sinks. I fear that we may not get-er-done in time...

E. Swanson

Change ... no change.

Change 'we' can believe in? ... No change we can believe in? ... Change we cannot believe ... ? It gets complicated.

To go from point A to point B both points have to be first defined. Do the government want to cut demand as low as possible? Is that the 'Point B'? Or, does the government want to 'stimulate' something or other. The points are incompatible. Taxation is deflationary and high enough taxes would reduce economic activity to zero. Welcome to the Soviet Union.

What is missing @ the NY Times and the government is DC is a 'grand strategy'. Economics is an art; creating an economic policy is similar to Titian painting a picture. A Titian is required and then he has to decide what subject to paint, then decide how to paint that picture - to get from A to B. That 'How' is missing, along with the Titian and the subject. Wow! We've got a lot of problems ...

Okay, I'll pretend I'm Titian; the goal is to reduce demand and subject demand to government control, for an entire set of reasons I won't go into here. I know that raising taxes will have a strong effect on consumption and 'kill the recovery', but any recovery in consumption would be short lived under any circumstances and a waste- based consumer economy is not desireable, anyway. Using this calculus as a short- term strategy, I would raise taxes on gasoline until the cries of pain from the 'pundit nation' were deafening, then I would know that I had raised them about half- way to what they should be. Euro or Turkish retail levels would be good. Twice that would be better.

I would then inform the public that the alternative to high prices (not using the tax word) would be to ban driving altogether except for delivery, police and emergency vehicles. The important part of any strategy is to present clearly the fact that the alternative to any policy can and likely will be much worse. Without any interference at all, the market forces will prevent deliveries of fuel; in many areas there will be an effective ban on all driving, including deliveries, police and emergency vehicles. All the above need fuel.

One thing is sure about this crisis; the markets are wicked. Whatever course of market events can cause the greatest damage to the greatest number, that course of events is most likely. The current drop in fuel prices is part of that course. An economic analogy would be the current round of deflation, leading market participants to sell assets for cash, hoping to use the cash to buy cheap assets later. Our wicked market will accelerate deflation; the flight to cash will also accelerate so that investors have few assets but a lot of cash ... then the liquidity trap will break and hyperinflation will eradicate all cash value.

You can call this 'The Grand Strategy of Circumstance'. This is what we are subject to, now.

Inflation (Along with the three I's, interest, income tax, insurance) over the last 30 years has destroyed the middle class driving them down the economic ladder.

The current deflationary environment is hurting everyone driving even more of them down the economic ladder.

The eventuality of inflation, possible hyperinflation will wipe the vast majority off the economic ladder entirely. Death and destruction all over.

All of which can be traced back to the establishment of the money cartel (fed) and the income tax law.

Oh what a stupid, stupid system we have agreed to be organized under.

But then again I might win the lottery so……. Never mind.

There is every reason in the world to tax gas and hydrocarbons -- BUT -- then the money needs to be plowed right back into public transit and other ways of reducing energy consumption and giving people alternatives for getting to work.

For that matter, income taxes and estate taxes should be raised steeply on the high end at the same time eliminating them for the bottom third (or even half). There's no reason to destroy the currency. There is no legitimacy to the super high incomes -- and in at least some cases much worse than no legitimacy (as we see).

Money should be plowed directly in building a safety net for everyone in the meantime, but also retrenching: re-building small towns to be dense, walkable, connected to diversified agriculture, etc. Suburbs need to contract, densify, etc. The military adventures and ensuing waste should end.

The banks should be nationalized. Funding should be done on the basis of the retrenchment plan, looking at where we are going.

War gear up spending pulled us out of the Depression. Spending on restructuring toward sustainability and survival for everyone could end this one. BUT, it's not compatible with profits for TPTB. For that reason and that reason alone, it will not happen.

But people should be clear that suffering and starvation are not written in the cards -- they should be clear as to why some of the cards cannot be played. All of the moves so far, and most of those proposed are such as to bail out one or another of the big players, or at least not cause them any damage. The result is that the tent will come down on all of us eventually.

change ? i would be happy with a change from looting the treasury to not looting the treasury.

i would be happy with a change from looting the treasury to not looting the treasury.

Ha, ha, ha, ha ...

"What is missing @ the NY Times and the government is DC is a 'grand strategy'."

Steve from Virginia states.

IMO the government had best prepare a grand strategy to deal with the crisis of total breakdown of the Merkun way of life.

Maybe do something instead of thinking about declaring Martial Law.

I was going to post this but noticed that all I can do is either Save or Preview...what has happened to my id? Or is this some new feechur of the change over on Drupal?


Ahhh it seems that a SAVE results in or is a replacement for POST.

Did I miss an announcement somewhere on this?

It has been a tad confusing and so several posts I have attempted I instead directed to the circular file!!!

Maybe my karma is telling me to quit posting and instead devote more time to preparations. Or wood splitting. Or corn shelling. Or sharpening my axes and my two man saws.

Better yet find that forge I have been looking for of late.


Good article on Iceland in Today's WSJ, presumably behind a paywall.

Iceland's Fall: The Isle That Rattled the World
Iceland is an extreme casualty of an era in which it was easy to borrow money. The tiny isle became so leveraged that its collapse has rattled the world.

This past fall, every bank that matters in this tiny nation -- that is, all three of them -- failed. Iceland's currency, the krona, became worthless beyond its shores. The country's financial system stopped working. . . .After years of growth, Iceland's GDP is forecast to shrink by 8% next year. Inflation, at 18% and expected to rise, is gutting the value of regular Icelanders' assets and crimping their once-flush household budgets.

A "funny" graph of the Icelandic stock market index:


Life is strangely normal at the moment in Iceland but the future is uncertain of course. Christmas shopping was only down by 15-20% since last year which was a record year. I´m glad we are so few here on this island with such a massive natural resources(Energy and fish.

I´m glad we are so few here on this island with such a massive natural resources(Energy and fish.)

You don't happen to be the Iceland prez? :-)
(since this is exactly he was quoted as saying some weeks ago.)

Best wishes to you up there in the north! I hope Iceland will make it.

"You don't happen to be the Iceland prez?"

Sadly no (the pay is very good). :)

If I were the prez or rich I would buy a farm with my own private geothermal water hole. I would use it to heat the house and produce my own fruits and vegetable in my greenhouse.

Best regards,

A helicopter, a yacht, and a $324 million dollar loan to buy 8 acres in Hollywood for condo construction ... the damage done by unthrifty living. Iceland has fish and energy. They might have to barter fish for fuel, grain, telecom equip., autos, computers, shingles, anything else they need.

I´m glad we are so few here on this island with such a massive natural resources (Energy and fish).

Unfortunately, Iceland and the world can't count on abundant fisheries anymore:

Iceland cod biomass (Hreidar Thor Valtysson, University of Akureyri)

North Atlantic biomass trends (Daniel Pauly, Fisheries Centre, UBC, Vancouver, Canada). Biomass is shown in blue, fishing mortality in red.

"Unfortunately, Iceland and the world can't count on abundant fisheries anymore:"

That is true. I was talking more about abundant fish resources for such a small nation with 300.000 habitants (unless we wipe out the cod stock). We are actually seeing some recovery to the cod stock in Iceland this year. Sadly I have no link to the information. It was in the news on the Icelandic radio a few days ago.

I would also like to mention that for the first time, Iceland is producing wheat in some quantity due to the warmer climate. It´s only in the south of the island such a thing is possible. That is very good for us but of course if the Gulf Stream stops due to to climate changes we are in big trouble. We benefit greatly and the weather is surprisingly mild in this land in the north.

Best regards,

Growing wheat, very cool! Who knows, global warming may increase Iceland's arable land significantly.

I seriously doubt any of the land under the ice can be used for agriculture for a long long time...

There's some recent research showing that as soon as the ice retreats, the bacteria get to work: When glaciers disappear, the bugs move in.

Arable land might happen sooner than expected.

This is the Icelandic stock market index graph that you linked to:

This is one way the graph of peak stock market might look. A year from now, at the end of 2009, I wonder how many other countries will have similar stock market graphs.

Very interesting article. Remember when Iceland was lauded for its supposedly best in the world standard of living? Like almost everything else these days, it was a big ponzi scheme.

The "timeline" of the collapse was fascinating reading. The problem wasn't lack of money, exactly. It was lack of foreign currency, like euros. They had plenty of kronur, but nobody wanted them.

Thing is, the Ponzi schemes are no longer between various humans and their peers, they are between different generations of humans and the natural environment - Gaia - as a whole. Our boomer standard of living is not a Ponzi scheme between boomers, but a multi-generational scheme that involves all the fresh water in Canada, the polar melt and the CO2/acidity of the oceans. Homer-Dixon, in one of the top links, saying there is no way to figure out what to do.

cfm, lost in Gray, ME

Perhaps another way of saying "there is no way to figure out what to do" is that there is no solution except to do nothing.

Overshoot is overshoot. Running around in a circle accomplishes nothing except a way to pass the time while everything unwinds to a sustainable point.

By all means, try to mitigate one's personal situation, but anything beyond that is peeing in the ocean and expecting the tide to come in.

That said, I still wish it weren't so.

Reading the headline Drumbeat article from today (NERC says we need new energy infrastructure, that accounts for CO2 emissions, and also needs to generate more power or there will be blackouts) and yesterday (residential users are returning to using coal), one wonders if we could have a situation where industrial power cannot use coal but residential users can? At some point, using wood and coal to heat homes would have far more deleterious impacts than just the CO2 (pollution, inversion, habitat loss, etc). In China, it is already illegal for individuals to cut down trees and in many cities one has to wear a mask when one goes outside due to air quality).

For those who haven't seen it, here was an analysis posted on TOD on the energy limitations of Using Forests for Home Heating.

The point of my comment is a question: will there be double standards on which fuels can be used by utilities and individual consumers? Will there be some states that allow individuals coal and wood burning and others that don't or will there be national policies? (I can't imagine people not being able to burn wood - what about all the new external boilers that have recently been installed). Methinks this is all going to be a mess...

I could see that. You see that in other elements of environmental law. For example, recreational fishermen don't face the same restrictions as commercial fishermen. Individuals can hunt and eat deer, but restaurants can only serve farmed venison.

Agree that it could be a mess. Diamond argues that once a society reaches a certain size, strong central control is required to avoid collapse. Some problems cannot be solved on the grassroots level, and this is one of them.

Some scientists argue that it was subsistence farming that caused the Dust Bowl. Not farming, subsistence farming. Large farms, even back then, would have had some environment controls in place. But small family farms didn't do that. They couldn't afford it. It wasn't economical in the short term.

I thought the cause of the dust bowl was cropping on soil not suited for it. I was always puzzled how in American films and TV in the war between farmers and cattlemen the farmers were the hero's and the cattlemen villains. In the west the soil and climate were much more suitable for grazing cattle than growing crops. Hence the dust bowl.

It was my understanding that it was wholesale plowing and planting in the relatively dry area of the Oklahoma / Texas panhandle. Today we are pumping the Ogallala aquifer to irrigate the panhandle. It is also my understanding that the aquifer is being pumped at an unsustainable rate.

I don't know but individual coal burning is just insane. Bring out the gas masks. In densely populated areas, especially those with inversions, wood is not much better. Bring on the passiv haus.

On the Passiv Haus theme, I just finished a census of insulation levels in an older Minneapolis suberb constructed between 1900-1940. Most of these homes have had 80 years of increasing energy prices (and a few nasty price shocks) to motivate an increase in insulation levels. (Minneapolis is a northern non-ocean buffered city with very cold winter weather. If insulation was going to get installed, it would get installed here).

What I found was that attic insulation is present in most homes but at less than half the thickness of current code (and some houses still don't have attic insulation). Wall insulation is present in roughly half the homes. And most of the homes still have the original single pane windows.

I would love to have the city convert to high insulation levels. My fear is that the future will resemble the past and people will not upgrade (mostly because of the cost) and thus we will have a return to coal burning.

Hi Jon,

I've come to the conclusion that most folks view energy as just one more consumable, in effect, no different than toothpaste or Pop Tarts, and if there's any concern about cost, it's likely tied to their belief that prices are being manipulated/artificially inflated by some malevolent third party, be it industry executives, market speculators or foreign countries. I've stopped looking for rational thought and reasoned action because, quite frankly, it doesn't exist.


Hi Paul,
I am glad you commented. Are you seeing similar things in older buildings? I was not suprised that few improvments had been made, but I was hoping for better results.

We attached an attitude survey with the census and it was very interesting. Most of the population cares about energy efficiency and makes small changes but they don't seem to make the big changes. A small group has made large improvements. Most people feel windows would be the best investment, often while they have substandard insulation or a low efficiency furnace.

Do you have any ideas on how to motivate people into making changes? Or what might have been the factor that caused people to take action?

Yes we have a similar situation in Canada. We rented two houses in Kingston, one built in the 1940s, the other 1910s? - no or very little attic insulation until I added it. One had single pane windows. Neither had wall insulation. Brrrrrr. We moved west and bought a 1954 house in Regina. Single paned windows that I have been saving to replace. 4inch stud walls with rotted insulation in the gaps making it impossible to blow more in, adding exterior insulation will have to wait until we know if I can get a permanent job here. Insulation in the attic that was carelessly blown in, plugging the soffit vents, that's going to be a real pig of a job to fix this year. No-one ever appears to have done caulking. Sarconal alert: Canada's motto is to waste energy, don't worry we'll just ethnically cleanse more natives who are unfortunate enough to have tar sands or oil or gas under their homelands, or let our american friends kill off a million or so arabs so we can take their oil. Rant off, but really it's disgusting. Cheap energy to waste in heating substandard houses is a Euro-Canadian birthrate. People don't ask where energy comes from, they just are entitled to use it. Greenland gets by with half our per-capita energy consumption. Sigh. We do our bit, but saving money and doing the work takes time, and I'm a junior researcher without much time. I'll feel better when we get the windows replaced and a few more things done like installing a woodstove as backup heat, expanding the veggie garden, planting an apple tree, etc.

Canada's motto is to waste energy, don't worry we'll just ethnically cleanse more natives who are unfortunate enough to have tar sands or oil or gas under their homelands, or let our american friends kill off a million or so arabs so we can take their oil.

And in the case of Hydro Quebec's huge hydro-electric installations, flood half the province and permanently destroy the land underneath. On September 30, 1984, over 10,000 caribou drowned on the Caniapiscau River as their traditional migration paths were submerged under water -- not like any of us care, right?


Hi Jon,

I'm afraid I don't have much knowledge/insight in this area, but Chapter 3 of Natural Resources Canada's Energy Efficiency Trends in Canada, 1990 to 2004 offers a high-level overview (see: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/Publications/statistics/trends06/pdf/trends06.pdf) and their State of Energy Efficiency in Canada, Report 2006 provides some additional background (see: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/Publications/statistics/see06/pdf/see06.pdf).

For a more in-depth analysis of residential energy use, see NRC's 2003 Survey of Household Energy Use (http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/Publications/statistics/sheu-summary/pdf/sheu-sum...) and if you want to drill down even further, their Comprehensive Energy Use Database will take you where you want to go (see: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/corporate/statistics/neud/dpa/data_e/databases.cf...)

FWIW, my general impression is that most homeowners looking to reduce their energy costs think primarily in terms of fuel substitution rather than energy efficiency so, for example, if these individuals currently heat with oil or electricity, they would be more inclined to install a wood or pellet stove than to spend an equal amount of money on insulation and air sealing, even though the latter would likely provide a greater return on their investment and superior overall comfort.



In Nebraska the public utilities have taken various approaches to what can be called public education.

One such example is Norris Public Power with their Energy Library. Here's
an example of their approach:

In order of cost-effectiveness for an existing home, it generally pays to insulate first your attic or roof, second your foundation or floor, third your windows, and last, your walls.

I don't know what kind of response they have had from their customer base.

BTW I emailed you today, hope you'll catch it.


Hi Jon,

I'm very interested in the results of your survey and will contact you via email separately about it.

Regarding how to influence homeowners to improve residential insulation, the most effective approach to changing environmental behaviors of all sorts (from things like energy and water conservation actions to reductions in littering) is community-based social marketing (CBSM). One of the best known researchers and consultants in this field is Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr, of McKenzie-Mohr Associates. He gives terrific workshops if you can find one nearby, and also has a host of online resources. I attended one two years ago and it completely changed how I view this kind of work (and it's what I do for a living, as well as something I devote much of my civic life towards).

On a more personal note, I own a 1890s era frame home in the intermountain west, still with seriously inadequate attic insulation and (at the time of purchase) no wall insulation. After several years, progress is still painfully slow, as do-it-yourselfer old house projects tend to be - especially for those of us with dual-income full-time jobs. Motivations: comfort, energy efficiency, reduction in bills, walking the talk, and more. But the barriers are numerous - time, mostly, and all the secondary projects tied to the first ones (rewire the attic while we are at it? Blow in insulation if we are going to replace the skip-sheathed roof soon anyway and it will mess up the new insulation? Where do we put all the stuff now in the attic if we have no garage? Just for starters). We know, we care deeply - and we aren't there yet. And this is at the core of CBSM - really understanding people's barriers, and also the benefits of changing behaviors.

In a nutshell, according to Dr. McKenzie-Mohr, in looking to change any environmental behavior, we tend to jump to conclusions about people's motivations and barriers, and then design programs based on these assumptions rather than on actual data. This is ineffectual at best, and often profoundly time-consuming, costly, and frustrating.

The primary assumption we make tends to be that people lack information, and so most agencies and non-profits tend to rely on information-intensive education campaigns to affect behavior change. Think brochures, mailers, ad campaigns, inserts in utility bills . . .

Unfortunately, studies show that these rarely work. Information tends to be only one of many barriers, and in fact it is often not a dominant one. As one quick example, here in my community, air quality is a serious problem, and there are numerous groups working on solving it. And yet at just about every meeting or community forum on the topic, I'll be one of the few who has come by foot, transit, or bike. All of my fellow good community activists know quite well that mobile sources (i.e. vehicles) are a primary source of the problem, but they have numerous reasons why they still drove to the meeting. But then, the presentations will begin, and someone will show a slide of the hazy valley air, and say something like "if people only knew, they would change . . . ".

The other predominant assumption is the power of "economic self-interest." Programming based on this assumed barrier alone also tends to be of limited effectiveness. [Note that I am summarizing Dr. McKenzie-Mohr's work and mean to take no credit whatsover here].

From his online guide at www.cbsm.com/Chapters/introduction.lasso :

"* In 1978, an act passed by the United States Congress brought into being the Residential Conservation Service (RCS). The RCS mandated that major gas and electric utilities in the United States provide homeowners with on-site assessments in order to enhance energy efficiency. In addition, homeowners had access to interest-free or low-cost loans and a listing of local contractors and suppliers. In total, 5.6% of eligible households requested that an RCS assessor evaluate their home.(11) Of those who had their home evaluated, 50% took steps to enhance the energy efficiency of their dwelling, compared with 30% for non-participants (the non-participants were households who were on the waiting list to have their homes assessed). What types of actions were taken? In general, the actions were inexpensive and did not involve a contractor. Frequent energy efficiency actions included caulking, weather-stripping, installing clock thermostats, turning down the hot water heater, and installing a hot water heater blanket. These actions reduced energy use per household between 2% and 3%. Given that millions of dollars were spent on the RCS, and that it is possible to reduce residential energy use by more than 50%, an initiative that produces annual savings of 2-3% can only be seen as a failure.

Why did such a comprehensive program fail? In large part the RCS failed because it did not pay adequate attention to the human side of promoting more sustainable energy use."

So is there no hope? Actually, by using a specifically targeted set of of proven techniques, such as social norming and commitments, programs can help people change behaviors - often without even needing to understand why they are doing so (for example, one need not agree that there is anthropogenic climate change in order to change out all one's light-bulbs). The key is to evaluate and understand the barriers, design a program, pilot it first, see how it works, and expand it if it is effective.

One other interesting observation is that as people begin to engage in entry-level environmental behaviors (recycling, for example), their self-perception starts to change and they may see themselves as increasingly "green," which in turn can motivate more change.

Dr. McKenzie-Mohr also emphasizes the value of good policy, not just programs. Policy, in effect, can change the playing field. Often, though, voluntary programs must take hold before the mass of people in a democratic society are willing to be governed by new rules.

Dr. McKenzie-Mohr's website is www.cbsm.com - you'll need to set up a free registration, but then there are lots of case studies and a terrific discussion forum to which you should pose your question. Inevitably, someone somewhere is working on the same problem and can give some good advice.

It's a process, not an endpoint, and to do CBSM well, it takes time and some rigor. For starters, read the online guide at the website, and consider tracking down a copy of the book, Fostering Sustainable Behavior. Good luck!

Hey paul, yup I agree, although I do think there are pockets of reasoned action, You, yourself are one.
Thinking Todd, and Airdale, Sharon, Jason, Gail. I bet you get my drift.

Woke up today to no power once again, Central Maine power did not even bother to come up with a cause. We had a bit of freezing rain, no wind, temps rising. since the ice storm we have probably been off for around 50 hours. We bounce on and then we bounce off, the system has been patched so often, I think the patches are failing. We've had so many wind storms this year you'd think the trees would have given up what was ready to go, serious trimming going on with no human help. Telephone guys are rolling out, with generators to charge those external slicks, they have been on battery backup so long the charge is failing. Going digital is not all that much a blessing, copper fed 48v from the central office worked better.

The real story today, is much like Todds, telephone guy, ours are Gary, Frank and Hal BTW, better if you don't get Hal. Around 9:00 this morning there was a knock on the door, neighbors from about a mile up the street. We've met but superfically, listened to me talk, at a town meeting about preparedness. I do that endlessly, I am such a bore.

Their son is just about to do surgery down in Boston today, not sure why, not my business, their phones were down as well as power. They wondered if it was possible that I could give their cell phone a charge. So we had coffee, muffins and blueberry jam, while their phone charged.

Made their calls, and then we made sure they had a full charge before they left. Power came back in the afternoon so they were all set. I got a call this evening from them, with thanks, and the thought that they might like to have me set up a system like I have running here for them.

Sounds great right? Well, this worked out, but I am very familiar with the infrastructure here. There is a single cell tower these folks can hit from here. I used the same tower for my wireless internet business. It's fed by a generator that runs on propane, once or twice a year we do a helo drop of propane cylinders. What happens if we can't and that tower goes down when the power goes out?
Charging your cell doesn't do much good.

I suspect people all over are doing little drills, and then for there it only gets worse. I saw some awareness from them today.

Don in Maine

What we have here Don is a Rural Electrification Coop. They are worthless bureaucrats and the workers are essentially lazy asses , even if one is my cousin(but adopted)...and he is the worst of the lot. The manager is a sorry excuse and a waste of human flesh.

They are supposedly run by a board made up of citizens but its loaded with cronies instead who are just yesmen.

So what? Well right now I can drive by power lines that still have trees laying on them. Months after Ike and they are still not repaired. Power is ok unless the wind blows, or the ice comes, or the workers just prefer the overtime and larger pay in lieu of fixing stuff on regular time.

Just like the stupid road department. You only see the snow plows AFTER the roads have melted off. They drive around the county , four to a pickup driving at 5 mph...slacking off. Its a cherry job.You get a good pension, good medical and don't have to work too much.And you get the same hours about as schoolteachers.

This system needs some governance but alas our governor is never going to do anything. Sometimes the citizens have to go out with chainsaws to clear the roads.About one mile from here there is a bridge collapsed on a state highway,,though only two lane yet it has been passable but still down for about 6 years!!!!!They just use the money for salaries I think.

Airdale-when IT comes,,all this will seem like a dream for we are dead men walking and talking..so when the last electron spirals down the system linkages we start to die,massively and 'we' may not be coming back...because we have 'maxxed' out everything possible

Hi Don,

I was in a particularly doomish frame of mind yesterday, but you're right, there are signs of positive change which is why I enjoy reading your contributions to this forum and others like yourself -- I only wish it were a bit more mainstream. As true of our good friends in Maine, we've had to endure a series of extended power cuts over the past week, and from local media coverage you can sense there's a good deal of frustration and anger -- it's too early to tell whether this will translate into something more tangible going forward, but one can only hope.

One bright spot... the other day, I posted a link to a news report about a local SPCA shelter that had been without power for over thirty hours (see: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/1097775.html); well, I'm pleased to report power has been fully restored and that they should be in a better position to deal with future outages (see: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Metro/1097822.html).

You raise a sobering point about our telephone, cellular and internet service. When Hurricane Juan hit Halifax, folks who obtain phone service from the local cable company were shocked to discover their phones soon went dead with the loss of power. The cable company was scurrying around the city chaining portable generators to telephone poles in an effort to keep the neighbourhood nodes up and running (and those generators, in turn, topped up with fuel). With limited supplies of gasoline and diesel on hand and many roads impassable due to fallen trees and wires, it underscored the fragile nature of our communication networks.


Most of these old houses have either a 4 inch thick stud wall or masonry construction. In either case it is impossible to insulate these houses to super-insulation standards without adding the insulation to the outside or inside of the exterior walls. On the average house this cost about $50,000 (install 2x8 stud wall and fill with 7 inches of R7 per inch spray foam, apply plywood/OSB and new siding).
The real problem is many of these houses are owned by retired people and if they take that 50K and insulate their house they are spending the capital that has been generating the income to pay for the fuel (which they can not now afford). After the insulation is in place they save the cost of heating, BUT then the local government comes in and says" Well, you have made an 'improvement' to your house so your taxes are going way way up". And of course the retired folks have already spent the capital that they need to generate the income to pay the NEW taxes, so they wind up losing their (now super-insulated) homes in tax forfeiture (sp).
If the new incoming federal administration would pass a law exempting all the costs related to insulating (or super-insulating) a home from property tax increases there might be a lot more people doing the insulation upgrades.
My 2 cents worth.

In New mexico we would spray foam exterior (3 to 4") then spray colored stucco. Difference was dramatic.

Very fast.

It's been 10 years or so but the cost was under $10,000 then.

Super-efficiency may indeed not be possible in retro-fitting older housing stock, but bringing it up to, or close to, code isn't nearly so costly - especially in the case of attic spaces. Sealing air leaks is always a good, and cheap, first place to start, for example.

Regarding the apparent lack of action on the part of residents to improve insulation levels, I'd just like to recommend caution at jumping to a whole set of assumptions about homeowner or resident demographics, resources, and motivations. Jon (Friese) started off this thread with a data-driven observation: he has conducted an important census, and accompanying survey, which provides a good case for action in a very specific direction: improving residential insulation.

Without accompanying census data or other information, I don't think its valid to assume that most residents of these neighborhoods are retirees, and therefore also assume a whole set of barriers that they find in addressing the underlying problem. A more in-depth survey or set of focus groups would give a much better picture, and then allow interested groups to target the real, versus perceived, problems and barriers.

In the US, the current generation of baby-boom and "greatest generation" retirees likely have the highest overall (mean) household wealth experienced in this century, despite the stunning market collapse this fall. In the case of myself and most of my college-educated friends in our mid-30s and 40s, our parents are actually far better off than we are, and could certainly afford to better insulate their homes - but instead they tend to take vacations or remodel various visible parts of their homes (despite my fairly constant nagging about climate change and peak everything!). I'm actually always rather amused by the term "people on fixed incomes" (usually used in the context of fighting off impact fees such as increasing gas taxes or utility rates). My husband and I both work full-time in the public sector in fulfilling but mediocre-paying jobs . . . with no ability to earn overtime or bonuses. Most Americans are in the same boat - if that's not "fixed income" I don't know what is. Retirees like my father at least have free time to get a part-time job to supplement other income!

In fact, in our city in the intermountain western US, similar post-WWII era housing stock is occupied by a patchwork of young families and older residents, as affordability and accessibility to the city core seem to be strong attributes.

That said, there are millions of lower-income people who need and deserve help to improve home energy efficiency; in most cases, though, upfront cost is only one of several barriers that must be systematically overcome to see much progress in this arena. Assistance and incentives are in fact often available, though on a city-by-city and state-by-state crazy-quilt basis. For example, in our city, there are utility rebates, low-income resident low-or zero interest loan assistance, weatherization programs, historic home improvement tax credits, and more. Unfortunately, they are rarely effectively coordinated and systematically applied, from what I can tell.

Regarding the tax issue, in my experience its rarely invisible things like insulation that seem to affect home values; in our county, individual properties are rarely specifically re-assessed to that level of specificity. Its the overall inflation of neighboring similar properties that has the largest affect. Now that the housing bubble has burst, this may not be a problem for the near future.

I don't know but individual coal burning is just insane. Bring out the gas masks. In densely populated areas, especially those with inversions, wood is not much better. Bring on the passiv haus.

A hundred some years ago, when nearly everyone used wood/coal for heating and cooking, American cities had very unhealthy air. And that was at a much lower population than today. Throw in the fact, that the better grades of coal are mostly gone, and things will be worse still. I remember growing up listening to horrendous news of killer London fogs killing thousands.

Hi EoS,

You can learn more about London's killer fogs at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=873954

For background on the Donora, PA deaths of 1948, see: http://www.jhu.edu/jhumag/0603web/smoke.html



Thanks for the John Hopkins link. Quite succinct !

Hi Robert,

More coverage can be found at: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08295/921526-55.stm, as well as the video link at: http://www.post-gazette.com/multimedia/?videoid=101066


Thanks Paul,

I think there's a lot of truth to what one fella said on camera - he said when he was young it didn't seem like a big deal. In retrospect it was a big deal.

Near the southern Ural Mountains, in the Russian province of
Chelyabinsk, there is a Soviet nuclear facility called the Mayak
Chemical Combine. From 1948 until 1990 when the last of five
reactors was shut down, the Combine contaminated the region to such
an extent that it is now known as the most polluted area on Earth.

One of the striking statistics in this region was "the only cause of death is cancer".

Looking at the stunning size of the coal-ash spill in Kentucky last week and the limp federal response I don't have any idea what will finally motivate people to change the way we live and use energy.

People I know are stocking up on beer and food for football tomorrow. Perhaps if they told people that there would be sweeping power shutdowns during the last games of the regular season that would get them up in arms.


Trust me on this, they'd just go to Home Depot and buy a generator to keep the TV and Fridge working. Most like they would pass out from all this unplanned exercise before the game started.

That, or they would drive the Suburban to a bar in the next utility grid and watch the game there.

This is the "centralized vs. distributed" question. Distributed energy production is probably less efficient, more polluting, but more resilient. It touches on the re-localization debates, as well.

Will the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many? Or vice versa?

Two Star Trek pics in one week, Nate? You are officially a nerd. Looking - listening? - forward to your chat with J Bradford.

Note that the new headline piece is by Lisa Margonelli, and covers the need for insulation and localized power: "A Green Stimulus for the People."

For a green stimulus plan to achieve its goals, Obama needs to popularize environmentalism and empower Americans to control their energy use. Instead of a million solar roofs and hundreds of thousands of pricey Priuses, we need 30 million well-insulated ceilings and 15 million Chevy Cobalts (or similar cars that get thirty mpg or more) for the majority of American households that make less than $60,000 a year. A populist energy-efficiency stimulus plan will create jobs as it reduces energy use and costs, eliminates emissions and puts families in charge of their energy consumption. The stimulus package also needs to address the inadequacies and inequities of our system of generating, transmitting and consuming electricity so that the greatest burden does not fall disproportionately on working families. An ambitious overhaul of America's power grid would have short-term stimulus benefits while kicking off a long period of technological and commercial innovation.

I'm about finished reading her book "Oil on the Brain," which is a nifty read, albeit I'm finding the first half, a rather whimsical journey through the US oil patch (gasoline station to jobber to refinery to drilling rig to SPR) doesn't match tonewise to the second half, which travels through the world of low income producing nations in all their grimness (Venezuela to Chad to Iran to China). Perhaps that was intentional.

Jim... Don't grieve. The needs of the money outweigh the needs of the fans.

Double + good. I wanted to rate that up. But, hey, I'm glad the ratings are gone..

The point of my comment is a question: will there be double standards on which fuels can be used by utilities and individual consumers?

If there is, what will be the status of Solar thermal/Solar PV as both stop re-radiation of the heat to space via reflection.

I have wondered that myself. I have seen proposals for massive solar farms in the Sahara.

As I understand it, it is the higher energy photons (towards blue, violet and UV) that is converted to electrons. Consumption of electricity ultimately results in heat (infrared). Entropy at work.

This raises 2 questions:

- Will industrial scale solar farms raise or lower the albedo of the desert? I'm guessing lower.
- This energy, which would have remained localized would be transmitted to northern climes, essentially a heat shift.

Conjecture is of little use. Does anyone know of any studies in this area?

Relative to the energy movement represented by weather patterns, it may be a drop in the bucket, but a net increase is still a net increase.

I'm old enough to remember when throwing your slop/sewage/bilge water into the water was no big deal. The oceans can handle it. They are so enormous, right?

When you consider the amt of surface area on Earth, I doubt that Solar would make a notable change.. just the same, as with devising carbon offsets, we could be changing the reflectance of our roads, rooftops and parkinglots towards a higher output..

it's also a reasonable argument for more rooftop solar, which in so many cases takes a black roof and shades it under a collector, letting that surface area work towards at least two purposes.

Our energy consumption is only around one part in ten thousandth of the solar energy input. By comparison, the heating effect from the extra CO2 we've released is roughly a percent of the solar input, and it is a gift that will keep on giving for thousands of years. If solar collectors were ten percent efficient (most will be higher)and put over snow white ground, then we would be adding at most .1% -or about a tenth of what we get from accumulated CO2. Of course we could require solar installations, to be albedo neutral or negative. As paint is many times cheaper than PV panels, or heliostats (for solar thermal), that "tax" wouldn't have more than a minor impact on the economics of solar.

True, the solar/energy ratio you mention is about right if one only considers energy as is commonly understood (i.e. oil, gas, coal, electricity) but our solar energy consumption ,in todo is much, much higher.

You make a good point about paint being able to offset any additional absorption, but I think your take on efficiency as a measure of albedo is flawed.

If a PV panel is 10% efficient, it means that 1/10 of the solar energy hitting it will be converted to electricity. That does not imply that the remaining energy is reflected back to space. The real question is how much energy does the panel absorb, whether it converts it or not.

As most panels are very dark, I suspect that the absorption is much higher.

As you said, paint could easily balance this out, but I find it very worrying that AGW has become very apparent with at little as a 1% increase in insolation.

With this seemingly small increase, we are seeing larger changes much faster than even the most pessimistic have predicted, so it is unclear to me what effect all these so-called mitigating efforts may have. I feel confident that it's not zero.

I'm not pushing the panic button here but I am a steadfast believer in the law of unintended consequences. As we have screwed ourselves so many times in the past, we stumble on without fully understanding the consequences.

PV and passive solar aside, what does terrify me is large scale plans such as atmospheric seeding that are not reversible. We just don't seem to learn.

If a PV panel is 10% efficient, it means that 1/10 of the solar energy hitting it will be converted to electricity. That does not imply that the remaining energy is reflected back to space.

My (unwritten) assumption was that the other 90% was heat. That gives a maximum factor of ten (for heat versus power generated), hence one part in ten thousand becomes one part in a thousand. Of course most ground absorbs at least half of the incident solar energy anyway, so one would only need to paint a roughly equivalent area to that covered by your panels.

All of the geoengineering schemes utilize effects with finite lifetimes, i.e. the effect would wear off long before the CO2 driver has gone away. Such schemes would have to be continually applied. If found to have serious negative consequences, they could be discontinued, and after a few years we would be back to unmitigated effects of GHG. Indeed, that is one of the valid criticisms, that if the geoengineering effort were stopped for whatever reason, in short order the climate warming would return. In a worst case, where geo-engineering was used as an excuse to continue BAU, then the world becomes dependent upon having to continue the geo-engineering effort for a very long time. That point does need to be continually stressed, such schemes are not a substitute for emmissions controls, only a method to reduce the damage caused by the fcat that such controls were instituted too late.

If found to have serious negative consequences, they could be discontinued, and after a few years we would be back to unmitigated effects of GHG.

I think we're pretty much on the same page except that the above would be a best case scenario, if all the effects of the geoengineering were known.

I would be wary of making such an assumption, which I guess was my original point about any massive efforts. After all, it was failing to understand CO2 emissions that got us here in the first place, and I doubt we are that much smarter now.

Do you remember that old kid's song "I know an old lady that swallowed a fly"?


After all, it was failing to understand CO2 emissions that got us here in the first place,

I've understood (and I think leading climatologists did as well), the dangers of CO2 for nearly forty years. The problem with global warming has never been a lack of scientific understanding, but a lack of being able to convince the naysayers, that we must do something. Of course the science, has indeed advanced tremendously, but the basic mechanism by which CO2 warms the climate has been understood for a very long time.

Granted, although I could argue that this knowledge was still gained after the fact. :-)

That said, perhaps I could have phrased it better. We, as a whole have regularly failed to understand the consequences of our actions. DDT comes to mind. Even now, we fail to grasp the complexity or our various systems.

It's a double edged sword. Getting the word out takes too long and then we act spontaneously with perhaps inappropriate and dangerous responses, not taking the time to think it through, due to the urgency of the situation. That was the intended basis of my first post.

The point is probably moot, as I think we are so far into overshoot on so many levels that it doesn't matter.

It appears that you are more optimistic than I.

At some point, using wood and coal to heat homes would have far more deleterious impacts than just the CO2...

The home I grew up in was heated by a coal space heater in the living room and there was a coal-fired water heater in the kitchen. Every day my father would shake the ashes into a tray at the bottom and carry them outside. Then he would bring in a "scuttle" of coal from the coal shed and pour it in the top.

The guys who delivered the coal sacks to the house were literally covered in coal dust (hands, face, clothes, probably lungs) and perhaps 50% of the garbage that we put out for collection in winter was ashes. Adding to the fun were live cinders flying out during refueling (when there was a strong draft from the chimney) and setting fire to something in the living room. And of course the "chimney sweeps" who were straight out of a Charles Dickens novel.

Construction was done using steam-rollers and steam-shovels. Their operators would arrive two hours before work started to get the boilers fired up. At the end of the day, they would vent the steam and dump the burning coal from the firebox onto the ground. I remember at least one good grass fire that got started this way.

There were steam trains (we lived close to a major switching yard) that were sending smoke and ash into the air 24/7. Drying clothes outside was never easy - if the wind blew in the wrong direction, you would have to clean the ash out of them once they were dry.

Cooking was done using "city gas" generated by passing steam over hot coal to create a mixture of carbon-monoxide and hydrogen - very toxic and it wasn't all that great for cooking.

By the late 1950's, natural gas was available and we installed a NG space heater, water heater, and kitchen stove. Construction equipment and railways went 100% to diesel. Life became easier, cleaner and safer.

There were very good reasons why people switched from coal to something else, and I can remember many of them.

I'm old enough to just remember my grandparents heating with coal. Their boiler had a screw-type device that would automatically move the coal from a hopper to the boiler. Every so often you would hear this crunching sound in the basement as it kicked in. Everything was steam-radiators in those days - I don't remember being in a house heated by forced air heat until at least the mid-late 1950s.

Nate, interesting doc!

By the way, Pellet fuels are the most efficient, clean way for using forest energy in space heating. In Europe there are today more than 50 manufacturers of pellet fueled boiler furnaces for residential heating. What I am talking about are fully automated and integrated systems where the bulk fuel is “pumped” into your home storage device by air. The systems are featuring automated feeding and ash extraction. They are available with thermo solar collectors (CPC vacuum tubes i.e.) and will provide your domestic hot water as well. As the solar option has proven ROI in cloudy Germany, this chart says more than 1000 words:


Pellet fuels allow controlled combustion over a range of 60% to 70% with very low emission. Pellet fuels can be made of numerous agricultural byproducts as well. Problems with these lower grade fuels are clinker formation and higher ash content and are easy to master.

I have been working since 4 years now on the design of the ECOTHERM® product line
(http://www.firepellets.com/) but got powered down by the present credit crunch and the lack of investors able to think a little further than their crumbling DJIA.

Best hopes for manufacturing in the USA! – Indeed, it creates Jobs. Oh, what was that again???


I missed the announcement that the rating system would be trashed. I must admit that I got used to it and it provided some psychic relief being able to add both positive points and negative points to the board. I am a little bit embarrassed to say this, but bring it back. Was there a poll? I missed it.

It's just down temporarily. SuperG did a major update Christmas Eve/Christmas Day, and he's still ironing out the bugs. (If you find any, post them here.)

It took me a couple tries to learn that "Save" is the new "Post" ..

Thanks for the hard work, you guys, as always!

My wife is being 'patient' with me, but she does understand that there is something in all this Oil Drum stuff that is important to me.


Leanan I appreciate the work you do on this site. I imagine at times it must be a heavy load to bear. So let me start by saying Thanks!.

Re: the rating system. It's been such a long time looking at this site with the rating system that I almost forgot what it was like without it. The one thing I'm discovering over the last couple of days is I'm reading a lot of posts that I might have passed over and that's a shame.

Considering that there are a lot of diverse points of view on this site, I have to ask:

Are there times when you might decide not to post a comment because you're apprehensive that it might be unpopular or skip reading a post because it's been down rated or even worse unrated?


I'm sure I would be downrated for saying this but so far I like it without the ratings.


That was the effect i warned against..

That was the effect i warned against..

It can be insideous. I had long been against them, as they carry the risk of influenceing posters towards whatever it is that gets good scores. Kindof a backhanded way to enforce groupthink. Tried to ignore them... Then one day a got an unusually positive response to a posting, and was taken in by the ego-stroking...

So I was slightly miffed to see them go away. But, I think we are better off without them. They are indeed a temptation towards groupthink.

I strongly disagree with your comment "I think we are better off without them". I have a great deal of difficulty finding time to read even just the "Drumbeat" part of this site. I do not have time to respond positively or negatively to the lead articles, let alone to those comments that affect me.

Also, many comments have already been answered in a way with which I can relate. I feel that I can do more for the site by voting to endorse or negate existing comments, rather than adding another repetitive screed to the existing narrative.

Troll stomping is an excellent reason for a rating system. We do not need a whole series of replies to an obvious idiot: a -30 rating is adequate. Also a single "super-positive" acknowledgement of Leanann's efforts with a +50 rating is better that a whole screed of "thank you" posts.

I do feel that it would be better to have a system that showed positive and negative votes. I find that at times I get to a comment that has (say) a -1 vote which I feel is not justified. I vote +1 to negate this assessment and then find it is rated +5, which is equally unjustified.

I don't know if it is possible for SuperG to set this up with Drupal, but I would support such a move.

I am glad to see the return of the new/total comments for each item on the main page. For those of us on slow dial-up it is great to see whether or not it is worth re-accessing older pages.


I agree with Merv, but for different reasons.

I (for now) have the luxury of reading most posts. If I see a post with a high positive, I examine why it got such a rating and may respond.

Likewise, if a post is highly negative, I then read the post to find a flaw (logic or cultural). If it is blatantly cornucopian, I can give the post a virtual kick in the shins or I can post a counter argument. OTOH, if it is well reasoned but contrary to the general doomer mindset here (myself included) I can respond to learn more, or perhaps teach a little.

The key is not "We are all going to die" or "Everything is fine" but why that position is taken.

High or low posts do not incite groupthink with me, they make me more curious and therefore more independent.


Merv...if the rating system was still in effect I think I would give you a minus one on your post.

There has always be a means to oust trolls and nefarious creatures.
Ratings tend to diminish the voices of those who have info but are afraid to share it for the real 'trolls' are those who use ratings as a weapon.

Also there was a grease monkey script that allowed one to not even see the listed persons posts. Much better then for faster reading of the site.

I agree that slow dialup can make it more painful.


This is so "classic" human behavior. The ratings were a test, we were all told to disregard them. Something the management was playing with. Yet, because they existed you took them to actually mean something and went so far as to modify your behavior according to them. So, so easy to differ your own critical thinking to something as small as a "test" rating system.

Affirms just what I think of mankind, serious chuckle out of that post.

Don in Maine

For those interested in a readable economic viewpoint without the usual raving.
Jesse's Café Américain

He includes a piece today by James K Galbraith and oldie but goody from 2006 titled 'The Preditor State'

"Predator State" is one of the better evaluations I have ever seen of the bush/cheney disaster.That there will be no justice means the end of America as I knew it."all equal under the law" is a lie to keep the peasants in check.And it will...for awhile.At some point,the passivity will end,the guns will come out,and things will get "interesting".[probably when people get hungry.]That it all was the responsibility of the current administration is well known now.Which is good.I hope the new administration realizes that they had better not leave the criminals who caused this mess free to enjoy the chaos they caused,les they be tarred with the same brush.The ones I have seen picked for posts so far have not given me any hope of this however.

At this point,hope is all someone has.

"Predator State" is one of the better evaluations I have ever seen of the bush/cheney disaster.That there will be no justice means the end of America as I knew it."all equal under the law"

Because of the administrations strong connection to the culture war, there is huge reluctance for any real retribution. The fear is that seeking justice might turn the culture war hot. There is still a seriously large chunk of the population for which culture warring is a strong motivation, and any escalation could lead to some nasty times. So the guilty get off scott free.

So much for peace on earth. Maybe next year...

At least 155 killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza

Israeli aircraft launched air attacks across Gaza today, killing at least 155 people, including the Hamas police chief and other officials, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources. Palestinian medical sources said 250 people were wounded. The strikes followed several days of rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel.

Russia 'extremely concerned' over India-Pakistan tensions

MOSCOW (AFP) — Russia on Saturday said it was "extremely concerned" about the build-up of troops on the India-Pakistan border, warning that tensions between the two nuclear foes had reached a dangerous level.

"Russia is extremely concerned by the news that on both sides of the border there is a build-up of troops and military equipment," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The tension in this region has reached a dangerous level. There are worrying reports that New Delhi and Islamabad are not ruling out the use of force against each other," it added.

if the economic crisis is as extreme as we've been told, remember henry paulson's initial request for 700 billion was essential an extortion note "hand over the money or else", then war, the true demand destruction, will be the solution.

Sigh.... I'm heading to NE India (Gujarat) for a long planned trip in just a week.

Just a few of the most recent comments from the Jerusalem Post. Note: Most comments are from the USA (or claim to be)

266. It's the Second Psalm all over again
"Why are the nations in an uproar? And why do the peoples mutter in vain? The kings of the earth stand up, The rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and His anointed: 'Let us break their bands asunder, Let us cast away their cords from us.' From on high, the Lord laughs, He holds them in derision, Then He vexes them with His sore displeasure. 'Truly it is I who have established My kingdom Upon Zion, My holy mountain."
Norman B. - USA (12/28/2008 01:58)

265. This is not going to turn out well for Israel
This is going to look like Israel exterminating Arabs to much of the world and could very possibly ignite the last war that Israel will ever lose. When the government in Egypt falls, Muslim fighters will stream across the Gaza border with modern weapons and the people of Israel will find out that a few rockets was not such a bad thing after all. This is going to rapidly get to the point the where US/Israel can't control it and may force the "moderate" Arab nations to go to war with Israel. The Israeli right got its war, but they are probably not going to like the result.
Spyguy - USA (12/28/2008 01:56)

260. not enough by far
Israel should let the leashes go and allow their service men and women to clear their backyards of terrorists. We should have done the same in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the official US policy hasn't the balls. The Israeli armed forces are outstanding, let them run. ps, how about knocking Iran back a century or two once you get warmed up?
Blomquist - USA (12/28/2008 01:40)

259. Sarkozy can kiss my German-American ***
Is Sarkozy forgetting all of those cars set on fire in his own country by Islamic extremists? This isn't about killing people because they're Muslim (get it through your head), it's about getting rid of TERRORISTS! Everyone wants to use religion as their back-up. It's the Islamic extremists that are making this a religious war. I say, wipe 'em out!
Dennis - USA (12/28/2008 01:39)

257. Surprise, surprise - No msg from the beach boy- B Hussain Obama
If push come to shove he will stand by his Muslim brothers. Thanks to the Jewish community that voted for him.
Obama fan - Usa (12/28/2008 01:35)

256. Israel should sue and drag the UN, EU to the international court of justice for encouraging Hamas a terrorist institution to fire rocket on Israeli ci
The EU,UN are complicit in an act of war crime committed against the citzens of a free democratic nation Israel.The UN, EU sat and watched endless daily rockets barrage lauched by Hamas a terrorist outfit into civilian population to maim and murder indiscriminatley.They remained silent when those rockets were being fired into Israel.Now Israel is defending herself,her citizens from being murdered by terrorists and EU, UN are calling for immediate ceasefire.UN,EU are the perpetrators of the rocketsThey instigated the rockets fire and now it is pay back time, it is crying for immediate ceasefire
Son of Star - UK (12/28/2008 01:26)

245. The Valley of Jehoshaphat/Judgement
and Hashem will gather the nations to the valley of Jehoshaphat for Judgement, Israel is the L-rd's threshing tool that will sift the nations, though Israel be tried by Hashem He will not make a full end of her but the nations will be destroyed.......prophecy is history fore told. G-d bless Jacob!
chris - United Kingdom (12/28/2008 01:09)

Whatever happened to "give peace a chance"?

It had its chance. Apparently it wasn't up to snuff. The great contraction is beginning. It will be interesting but not enjoyable to watch, methinks.

"And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make."

Pity we didn't listen earlier.

You do realize that the majority of those posts on news sites are not done by readers but paid propagandists by the isriali government as part of their cyberwar/propaganda efforts. they did the same whent they attacked lebonon.

I wonder how it is that you know this to be true?

You do realize that your comment can be construed as in the same vein?
Discounting of the article that is by likely heresy.

And I see no way to prove or disprove yet we are all completely aware that most news we now get is rather obviously controlled. Either by the media or by its cohorts or those whose job it is to do such.

So why is Israel news any different? You read it and draw your own conclusions. Yet smart money says..don't believe all you read.

I have just circled the debate myself.

Airdale-Right wing,left wing.....my wing.All that really counts is one's own experiences anyway...IMO of course

"Whatever happened to "give peace a chance"?"

What happened is the government beat them up for daring to protest.For being different I suppose.

When the flower children disappeared then our last hope for sanity went with it and we ushered in the Age of Yuppieism. Long live material gains. Long live Starbucks. Long live highly flavored coffee beverages made by zombie people who need a real job.

Airdale-that said..I tend to agree with fighting fire with fire..if the Arabs were peaceful perhaps this wouldn't give cause.But the goal of Islam is to cover the world,with force if need be.Read the Quran then.
Read Maccabees for when the Jews were slaughtered as they gathererd peacefully in the desert and would have disappeared off the earth if not for Judas and his sons.But in the Age of Aquarius we didn't need to resort to violence to quell what was basically a peaceful movement.

retail sales are down 4 - 8 % by recent reports. and if prices are down an average of 25%, the demand on energy for the manufacture and transportation of cheap made in asia junk should be up about 23 - 28 %, by my calculation.

A Country Tale...

Those of us who live in the boondocks often mention that it is a different reality. Yesterday pointed up one difference.

We have never had good phone service. The "main office" equipment is from the 1960's and lines run through the woods and up and down hills. Most phones went out a week ago, except ours for some reason. One leg got repaired but three of our neighbor's phones were still out because the repairmen couldn't check out the line because of the snow. In fact, we've been snowed in off and on for the last two weeks. We move one of our cars off the mountain to the county road which gets plowed now and then. We get in and out via my 4x4 truck with chains.

Yesterday I was taking some recycling down to the car and, lo and behold, there was Tom, one of the two linemen. Now, first of all, how many city people know the names of repair crews that service them. Anyway, he was talking to my wife on his cell phone to tell her he was going to work on the other lines.

He and I chatted when he hung up and he said the problem was about 1,700 feet up the line and he was going to walk it. I said he'd never make it in the snow and that the distance was about at a junction box on the line by my house. I said let me drive you up. So, here's another difference; how often have you hauled your utility crews around in your vehicle.

He found the initial problem at our tenant's house on the way up; some of the wires were fried. We had had a power surge a week that blew out our surge protectors and fried the printed circuit board in our dishwasher and part of our phone line too. What apparently happened is that the juice somehow jumped to the phone line and caused problems all along the way.

He was on the pole for about an hour. When he came down and said he just had to just switch some wires on a junction box by the county road, we asked if he wanted to stay for lunch. He said he didn't have time but thanks anyway.

So, our neighbor's phones are back, we're getting rain and the snow is sort of melting so I can get to town in the car. Our city neighbor's (who are also close friends) are coming up for a few days and, maybe, just maybe, they'll be able to drive up in their car (with chains) and I won't have to haul them back and forth with their stuff. Life is good!

Finally, we have the "secret" number of the "main office" answering machine and the work cell numbers of both repair guys - one of whom we've known for 30+ years. You just don't find this sort of personal contact in suburban areas. And, BTW, we have much the same relationship with the electric crew guys.


You are in the greater metropolitan area of the twin cities of Laytonville/Piercy?


How's it going? I'll bet you're glad there wasn't a concert up here this weekend. Anyway, I'm in "northern" Laytonville :-)


My wife and I are considering a move back to Mendo (we are living in Mill Valley now).
We lived in Pt Arena for a while, and really miss the country. With the community awareness that is starting to come together in Willits, etc, the move is starting to look more and more like a done deal.
I'm going steelhead fishing up on the South Fork of the Eel in the next couple of weeks (fly fishing for winter run steelhead is one of the great existential exercises) so I will wave as I pass through.

"Hawaii's Oahu island regains power after blackout"

Crews gradually restored electrical service across parts of Oahu on Saturday after a power failure blacked out the island's population....

Residents were urged to stay home after the lights went out during a thunderstorm Friday evening and to conserve water.


It's only news when the Prez' press entourage gets caught up in the mess, but one 'lil thunderstorm can apparently deny a whole community their drinking water.

Perhaps it was a planned dry run?

The Big O is being "tested!"

Rail Takes Back Seat as States Target Obama Stimulus for Roads

By Heidi Przybyla

Dec. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Missouri’s plan to spend $750 million in federal money on highways and nothing on mass transit in St. Louis doesn’t square with President-elect Barack Obama’s vision for a revolutionary re-engineering of the nation’s infrastructure.

Utah would pour 87 percent of the funds it may receive in a new economic stimulus bill into new road capacity. Arizona would spend $869 million of its $1.2 billion wish list on highways.

"The world I see -- you're stalking elk through the damp canyon forests
around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You wear leather clothes that
will last you the rest of your life. You climb the wrist-thick vines
that wrap the Sears Tower. You see tiny figures pounding corn and
laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of the ruins of a
- Tyler Durden, Fight Club

I've come to the conclusion that these people are incapable of thinking any other way.

You want change? Then start by changing out the people in charge. And that doesn't mean just bringing back the same old retreads you always get with a change in governing party.

So how does one do that?Change.

Well I suggest really punishing those who abuse their offices. Instead they get tiny little slaps on the wrist.

Then they go right back to the same thing.

Professional politicians are killing us.

CEOs and the board member suckups are killing us.
Big business is killing us.
Sport figures who make a killing in salaries are killing us.
News people who manage what we get for news are killing us.

We are dying and we can't seem to give a shit.

A voice crying in the wilderness gets no traction around this country.

Airdale-the yuppies demanded it be this way by their very nature..."I want it NOW! I want the McMansion and the big pay and I don't care what it takes to get it.I will kiss any ass and suck up to anyone. I want it ALL now."

Re: Green Stimulus for the People

I'd swear she's been reading my blog! ;) Unfortunately, she thinks cars are the future. Tsk-tsk... Does nobody think globally? What profiteth it a person to gain electricity and lose their planet?

I did like her quote on prices: $3k to refit homes. That leaves the $2k you can build a windmill AND solar set up for intact, making $5k per family, as I estimated. Of course, the choices need to be flexible to the situation. Some may do better with wood stoves, heat pumps, etc.

But the car infatuation has to go. (It kills me to say that. Some of my fondest memories from HS were of driving through the night with my best friend, angst-ridden and mad at the world. Or just bummed at not having dates instead. :)

Jobs? Sure. It occurred to me that the re-localization movement and/or the transition towns movement might be the perfect vehicle for managing such a build-out. All the funds could stay pretty much in the local economy as long as the systems were DIY, and with a $5k limit, they would pretty much have to unless communities went with pooling resources for community/regional power sources. Still, regional spending, regional job creation. Real DIY's could perhaps pocket the difference.



States consider selling off roads, parks
By MARTIGA LOHN, Associated Press Writer
Saturday, December 27, 2008
(12-27) 09:37 PST ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) --

Minnesota is deep in the hole financially, but the state still owns a premier golf resort, a sprawling amateur sports complex, a big airport, a major zoo and land holdings the size of the Central American country of Belize.

Valuables like these are in for a closer look as 44 states cope with deficits.

Like families pawning the silver to get through a tight spot, states such as Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Illinois are thinking of selling or leasing toll roads, parks, lotteries and other assets to raise desperately needed cash.

The ownership society is alive.

The construction of hydroelectric power dams may be increased in the United States:


Hydroelectric power may be the cheapest form of electricity as its operating costs were near zero with a higher return on investment than solar PV panels. Large power dams built during the Great Depression are yet lighting up communities across the country.

More & more hospital are in financial trouble:


Most endangered are rural hospitals and urban ones in areas with excess hospital beds and a lot of poor, uninsured patients.

No doubt any hospital where patients can't pay has "excess beds". It's pretty clear, too, that no one in rural areas or urban areas needs a hospital.

Another thing we don't need is Tom Daschle and another commission to study health care. We have HR676, right? What's the best way to help every person, every town, every state, every Main Street business, even the big autos? Take the money away from Paulson and his cronies and put it into single payer health care. And not the super individualized crap, but a public health care model. Just watch, we'll get some crappy bail-out-the-health-insurance-industry plan. Because the real "patient" is the lobbyists and insurance industry, not flesh and blood persons. Can Santa take Obama back for repairs?

Besides, the hospitals and disease care industry isn't in trouble yet. Wait till we get another few million laid off, some large percentage of businesses closed, and then the munis and states start going down.

Pass the stone heads, please.

cfm in Gray, ME

Pass the stone heads, please.

Oh, and would you please go and cut some more trees? We need rollers, these are the biggest stone heads yet!

Yes the stone heads are the railways and other infrastructure many consider we must do.
We have a thread on efficiencies of railways and a Drumbeat immediately after describing how we are deep into population overshoot. Does anybody see a conflict?

Engineer Poet will tell you how much energy we have have to exploit and the figures to back up his opinion.
He and many others obviously don't believe population is a problem, (just read the efficiencies post) they want to build the infrastructure so we can keep the ball rolling because "we have to do something".

What the stone heads will achieve is a very, very important point. When the cornucopians explain that, you will begin to dig into their expectations, beliefs and psyche. I think what we will find that like religion, all they operate on is belief, faith and magical thinking.............. nothing really concrete, excuse the pun.

To use a golf analogy, the human race has driven the ball into the trees. We can attempt a miracle shot or take our medicine. I guess I'm conservative because I'd take the medicine and chip out sideways, maybe hope for par or bogie. Too many bad possibilities if the miracle shot doesn't come off.

Engineer Poet will tell you how much energy we have have to exploit and the figures to back up his opinion.

Don't forget to mention how there is so much energy in charcoal + zinc to make batteries and ignores the fertility return to the soil.

Till he starts posting on terra perta that is.

To use a golf analogy, the human race has driven the ball into the trees. We can attempt a miracle shot or take our medicine. I guess I'm conservative because I'd take the medicine and chip out sideways, maybe hope for par or bogie. Too many bad possibilities if the miracle shot doesn't come off.

Or, we can hope to be allowed the mother of all mulligans!

What the stone heads will achieve is a very, very important point. When the cornucopians explain that, you will begin to dig into their expectations, beliefs and psyche.

And they will tell you the heads are neither big enough nor stony enough.

how we are deep into population overshoot.

I'm thinking a bit differently, that we are into "resource overshoot" and have been for some time. I get to do a TV show on it New Year's Eve, Out in Left Field (OILF). Go figure. Happy New Year.

I DO want to thank all the contributors here at TOD for the way we've helped each other parse this out. I'm starting to put together a picture of what might be done. 98% of the population will look at me like I've got three eyes; that's OK - I feel right at home in the bleeding edge. It was a post at Global Guerrillas about enabling "new entrepreneurs" that finally glued it together.

cfm, stoned in Gray, ME

Oh, and would you please go and cut some more trees? We need rollers, these are the biggest stone heads yet!

Would you mind terribly if I grabbed one of those trunks for a canoe?

Very shortly the Nursing Homes will start to fail.

How can they not with investments dying? With people having no assets? Medicare being not sufficient to sustain the costs?

It will happen very soon. I have been surveying them for some time since my mother is going senile and I realize that what she and her dead husband has saved all their life will not last very long once the Nursing Home gets their hands on the assets.


I'm looking for information on the costs associated with utility scale wind turbines so I can "help" my son with a school project. "Help" because the assignment is beyond what a 10yr old can do on his own, thus it's effectively been assigned to me (which of course I didn't really need).

Anyway, if someone has some decent links to things like the costs of hardware, installation, and ongoing maintenance - probably for medium sized facilities - I would greatly appreciate it!

Since Nike & Tiger Woods haven't yet offered to make me his postPeak chief financial advisor:

Alan Blondin on golf: Some strand courses may close amid financial crisis

From 2005 to 2007, more than 20 golf courses on the Grand Strand closed with plans for redevelopment.

Now that a declining economy and housing market have quashed that trend, more courses may be closing in the next few years for more distressing reasons...

..The overall number of rounds played on the Strand has been declining for several years, according to numbers compiled by Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday. And with people losing their jobs, financial investments and houses across the country, it can be assumed there will be fewer golfers making trips, and even fewer willing to pay high greens fees...
Of course Google has more webnews on other golf course closings.

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

Bob, I have read a lot of your stuff about fertilzers. My own research suggests that Potash may be the limiting factor whereas the shear abundance of Nitrogen and Potassium makes it highly unlikley there would be a shortage. Care to comment?

Hello Fireangel,

Thxs for responding. You may be right--it is hard to forecast far ahead because you never know what black swan may pop up in the interim. A giant earthquake in Saskatchewan could be quite damaging to the thousands of miles of underground tunnels and the surface infrastructure.

Most potash mines are up to 3300ft below ground--takes quite a bit of energy to haul up to the surface, and these mines are far inland in Canada, Russia, and Belarus. The big phosphate mines are conveniently close to the ocean in Florida and Morocco [and on the surface too], but it takes a lot of energy and sulfur to beneficiate this ore to the finished state. Most readings that I have come across posit that phosphorus [P] will be the more limiting Element because we can get potash or potassium [K] from burning trees again if we get that desperate.

Thanks for the reply.
I would like to discuss more with yuou but first I need to go through all your posts and make sure I am not asking you stuff you have already posted.
BTW,I did hug my Fertilizer shares today.

So tar sands need $50 oil to be viable and oil is at $36. So are we looking at 1 million barrels per day of Canada's production going off line? In spite of the slew of articles about cheap oil the current price is a transient downward spike that is completely decoupled from the actual oil consumption change. If the natural annual decline in oil production from fields is 4 million barrels per day and the low price shuts down unconventional oil production then there is going to be a supply problem in 2009.

Yup, 2010 at the latest, depending on the economy.

Well, maybe not. Remember the high oil prices from about Jan 08 until Sept 08, when a lot of hedging was taking place? I read yesterday that Southwest Airlines was hedged out into 2010, and it may have been beyond that, and they bought those contracts from somebody. A few years ago, when I was smarter than this year, I sold enough contracts to cover my costs, leaving the rest of my production "naked". I wouldn't be surprised if the tar sand operators were smart enough to do so this time. If they did hedge, and sold enough contracts to cover their costs, they might be operating for a few years out. All of those operators are big, and I am sure that some of them are smart, and those operators won't shut down until they either see that they will not be profitable again, or do not have any hedges to bail then out.

I would not say the same for the Venezuelan tar sands operator, which I think is now just one Senor Presidente Chavez, and his helpers, so we will probably see that shut down soon.

I was basing my rather glib reply on overall decline of conventional fields, particularly after the 2008 IEA report release.

The decline of the more recent fields like Cantarell (~2.5%/mo.) is alarming, so avoiding supply problems will be all about staying under the depletion curve. Despite a crashing economy, the demand destruction is nowhere as drastic as the $147 to $37 price decline would suggest, so any economic recovery would bump its head on the depletion curve, resulting in more volatility.

Obviously, above ground factors play into it and for that reason, OPEC controlling dissent in the ranks and maintaining cutbacks would be a bigger factor than Alberta cutting back IMO. (in the global sense). Their recent 2.25 mbpd cutback eclipses total Oil Sands production, which if I remember right is roughly 1.8 mbpd.

As hedging contracts expire, only the most easily recoverable oil will be produced. Depending on the length of the recession, more and more of the "low hanging fruit" will be gone so when recovery occurs, only the less viable, and more expensive oil will be available to meet demand. Delay/cancellation of E & D projects will make matters worse.

To put it another way; below ground factors create permanent supply destruction, above ground factors (political and economic) create temporary supply destructions, some with significant lead times.

This may be overly simplistic, but it appears that no one seems to know, so I guess I'll take some cold comfort in that.

You appear to be much more knowledgeable in this area, particularly wrt commodities trading. I tend to spend more time looking at below ground factors.

If I'm wrong headed, please set me straight. I'm here to learn.

To put it another way; below ground factors create permanent supply destruction, above ground factors (political and economic) create temporary supply destructions, some with significant lead times.

I think this is largely the case, and a very nice way to put it. I suspect that some above ground factors can strand marginal below-ground supply as well. Consider the case of a functioning well that doesn't produce enough to justify redrilling should it be destroyed, but for which it makes economic sense to keep pumping. Then if some above ground factor either actively destroys -or passively allows the infrastructure to corrode, that well is lost.


This is a key point, and has already been demonstrated in the GOM. Some perfectly viable reserves have been abandoned after the hurricanes of '08 because the supporting infrastructure was lost, turning recoverable reserves into statistics.

I fear that this will happen more frequently in the future, as things get more fractious but I'm not sure if they come under the heading of "The law of diminishing returns" or "The law of receding horizons", not that it matters....

Either way URRs (Ultimate Recoverable Reserves) will be less than forecast IMO, even if the forecasts are geologically conservative.

(Imagine two dogs expending 100 cal. each, fighting over a 50 cal. table scrap. Whoever gets it still loses)


I am a small producer, saddled with many of the same problems which the big producers have to deal with. I just don't have any partners, and do as I want in the field. I used to be a CPA, sold my practice in 1985, and had to deal with a lot of the financial stuff before that. I do look to the production problems, and am very aware of the Cantarell (and other field and regional) vulnerabilities. I have learned a lot here at TOD, some of which I am not sure is correct in the real world with all of the constraints we will face, and have prepared, as best as any of us can, for bad times ahead. Even if I have done everything right and could thrive in an oil (and gas) constrained society, I view it like driving on ice. Even if you are in perfect control, other people are not, so you are at risk anyway. I probably comment here more than I should, but still do not comment very often.

Also, in my experience, which is all onshore, I have seen many instances where URR's were under actual by a factor of .5, both on fields and on particular wells. The URR's are generally estimated based on particular sales prices, with particular costs associated with them. Given that the trend in prices has been upward, for virtually all of my life in the field, this has resulted in URR's greater than estimated. If the reported economics projected for the various new fields are based on traditional Petroleum Engineering methods, I would think that we will see the same result. All of that goo is too valuable of a resource to be left in place permanently, at least given the scenario I envision - Capex cut way back until prices come back, which results in an overshoot in prices and and economic crash, then rinse and repeat. In the world economy, not free market but influenced by the free market, chaos will reign, and BAU is a misnomer. There is no usual.

I view it like driving on ice. Even if you are in perfect control, other people are not, so you are at risk anyway.

I like the analogy and I agree.

Thanks for that insight. Much like the quirks in each reservoir, I think the URRs will be highly variable, not for geological reasons but for political or perhaps even credit and technology reasons. Horizontal drilling crews don't like being shot at or kidnapped. I am assuming you are in a politically stable country like Canada so your production may likely exceed estimates.

Other countries, like Nigeria may never reach their potential, as things get friskier. Like you aptly said, there is no usual, and I wonder if we have left it behind for good already.

Here is a list of company specific announcements in Canada

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian Natural resources
11% INCREASE in production. Their guidance was one of the earliest among the oil companies when oil at Based on their EBITDA to debt targets and current oil pricing it will be difficult to get budget the CAPEX required. But clearly the best of the bunch. One important point is that while they expect an increase in oil production they are comfortable to let their natural gas production decline by 12% (based on 2009 guidance). Clearly they are not as stupid as Chesapeake Energy in drilling in a low price environment and sowing seeds of their own demise.Which also means that that 11% will not happen in the current price environment.

Flat. Again guidance was given at much higher prices so may come down. Also a company smart enough to hedge 70% of 2009 production at much higher prices so their cash flow will be much better than any other company on a relative basis.

Canadian oil sands trust.
Flat. Again much higher price assumption. WTI Price currently just above break even costs.

In pretty bad shape.Deferring or delaying projects for expansion or upgrades left right and center. Best case flat production.


Interesting! Thanks for posting this.

U welcome.
I found this too extremely interesting. By my knowledge no oil compnay has acknowledged peak oil this well. This is in Pengrowth Energy's presentation slide 9

World was nearing Peak Oil at 87 MMBbl per day and this
has not been changed by recent events
• Peak could be accentuated due to lack of development
and insufficient supply growth
• Rest-of-World production will decline more rapidly in
lower price scenario meaning that eventual peak will have
a larger OPEC component
• Continuing climate change could put pressure on
increased fossil fuel use, despite lower price
• After an interim period of “lower” prices, shorter than
previous cycle, demand will increase, creating supply


Interesting. The actual costs must be much lower than $50 per barrel. But all the talk about 5 million barrels per day out of the tar sands is not going to pan out.

Recession 'a test of character'

In next week's New Year message, the (UK) prime minister is expected to urge the public to "display the same spirit" as their predecessors did in World War II.

He will also describe US president-elect Barack Obama as a "catalyst" for tackling global issues.

..."The threat that will come of doing too little is greater than the threat of attempting too much."

...Mr Brown will say: "I believe we can do it - and because we can, we must.

"The stakes are too great with our planet in peril for us to do anything less.

"I look forward to working with President-elect Obama in creating a transatlantic, and then a global coalition for change."

I realize the purpose of TOD is not to answer questions like this but it's more or less on-topic so I thought I would toss it out there and see if anyone knows the answer. This is one of those "What was the name of that movie?" questions.

I saw the movie I am trying to recall in the late 70s or early 80s. It took place in an oil-scarce future with a protagonist running from the bad guys most of the time. No, it's not Mad Max. It starred a David Hasselhoff-looking guy who drove around in a red Ferrari-type car. He had a little hand pump with a long hose that he would drop into the storage tanks of old, long abandoned gas stations to extract the little bit of fuel remaining at the bottom. (Apparently nobody else had thought to do that before.)

I don't remember any other details but I think it was probably made in the late 70s, big surprise there. I saw it sometime after my family got cable and it could very well have been a made for TV movie (maybe even made by HBO).

What was it called? Anyone?

What? Charlton Heston (Omega Man) drove a red Ferrari while running from the zombies?

Hello TODers,

Continuing with my speculative I-NPK postPeak analysis of this UN FAO weblink [PDF Warning]:

Forecasting Long-term Global Fertilizer Demand 2015,2030
In prior postings in this series: I posited against the FAO's rosy projection: "global forecast of 187.7 million Mt in 2015 and 223.1 million Mt in 2030." [page vi]. It is estimated for 2007 that we used 169.4 Mt [source IFA], so to easily increase I-NPK by 18.3 Mt in seven years to 2015 seems highly doubtful if we are being hit by the combo of the credit crunch and postPeak FFs.

Recall from TopTODer SCT's recent keypost & comments that I also speculated that it was extremely unlikely that the US domestic N-production would double in the next six years to meet the FAO demand projection,too. We will have to check again in 2015 to see who was correct, but I would suspect that the US will be even more import reliant than we are now for Nitrogen [N].

But I do agree with the FAO on this quote from page vi: "Soil nutrient drawdown in regions with inadequate fertilizer use indicates soil nutrient depletion which will in the long run exacerbate food shortages and undermine biofuels production plans."

Also from page 1: "In 1997, Vlek et al. estimated annual global plant nutrients removal to be 230 million Mt while global fertilizer consumption was only 130 million Mt, thus resulting in negative nutrient balance. This imbalance varies in different parts of the world due to different fertilizer use and cropping practices."

So it appears to the FAO that we will be continuing to globally deplete our arable topsoil for the next couple of decades to come instead of practicing massive mitigation through full-on O-NPK recycling--another worrisome trend, IMO.

From page 1: "The high food and energy prices have increased the economic penalty for over or under estimating soil nutrients requirements. (Fixen 2008)." IMO, tragic understatement with nearly one billion already at food insecurity levels [source FAO].

From page4: "Most fertilizer response functions from field experiments show either constant or diminishing returns to inputs. That means in most cases increasing production requires more than a proportional increase in fertilizer."

This makes sense if one considers ongoing topsoil depletion and how how microbial biodiversity is impacted from lack of O-NPK additions. It takes more and more I-NPK for rapid crop uptake to yield a consequential harvest closer to the 'idealized' nutrient-balanced, PH-balanced, Liebscher's Optimum.

From page 7: "Because nitrogen does not carryover from season to season in many climates, the nitrogen fertilizer-output elasticity requires a somewhat different interpretation. All of the elasticities are less than one, except in North America. This suggests that in North America increasing output by 1% requires more than a 1% increase in nitrogen use, while in the rest of the world other sources of nitrogen supply an important part of the nutrient. Although nutrient use efficiency has increased in U.S., drawdown of organic matter by removing or burning crop residues and failing to apply manure may be part of the picture where the elasticity is less than one."

Again, this has important implications that need to be considered by Obama's science, energy, and agricultural advisors. It also directly adds to the urgency that SCT's ammonia infrastructure will move forward to increase our postPeak national food security, especially if we are tardy in ramping full-on O-NPK recycling.

From page 9: "Bearing in mind that the FAO crop output projections will not eradicate global hunger, but aim to minimize it, regions with fertilizer nutrient drawdown may need more fertilizer to achieve social and economic goals. In many ways SSA is the worst case scenario, the projected N and K use may need to increase by 85% to restore soil fertility and produce the projected food needs. This confirms IFDC (1992) study that found that doubling West Africa fertilizer application rates will not be enough to offset nutrient deficits."

Remember, Leanan and I have both posted weblinks talking about how previous monetary pledges to alleviate malnutrition are falling far short of their goals. In short, rich countries are too busy trying to shore up their own economies vs helping countries in distress such as Zimbabwe, Haiti, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Darfur, etc.

From the study's conclusion:
Nutrient drawdown and build up elasticities derived from the estimated coefficients showed P and K drawdown in most regions. This is an indication that forecast fertilizer requirement does not keep pace with crop output increases..

..The apparent draw down of soil nutrients in most of the world poses an opportunity and a challenge for fertilizer businesses. Is this in part an educational issue? Do growers understand that by drawing down soil stocks of P, K and organic matter they are undermining the long term productivity of their soils?

Or is this an economic/environmental issue? A concerted effort of food and fertilizer policy reform, farmer education and technology development would be needed to reverse the widespread soil nutrient depletion estimated...
When energy was cheap and population was much less, we did not solve world hunger and Liebig Minimums. IF we are now going postPeak and net FF-energy is diminishing while, at the same time, net embedded energy in I-NPK is increasing: what are the propects of the FAO forecast being attained in 2015 & 2030? Will the mothers cry as their babies die?

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

Thought of you when I saw an ABC (Australian) Landline episode on compost with O-NPK today.

Thxs for the informative weblink.

Bob, you paint a grim picture. Unfortunately, the real picture is much grimmer.

I-NPK is a soil destroyer, so whereas we can produce good yields presently by its use, the end result will be zero yields. As with everything else we seem to be doing, the miracles achieved are merely conjuring tricks, pulling yield from the future to make today's yield look amazing. Then there is the massive loss of nutrient value in the foods produced using I-NPK causing a plague of illness within its consuming population (creating exploding healthcare costs).

Within 50 years the lost of soil fertility, erosion, acidification, climate change and land loss will cause food production to plummet, leaving an already malnourished humanity to face famine on a global scale. And that will happen even if the World can produce as much I-NPK as it wants and has enough oil & gas to meet all its needs. Which of course will not be the case.

Just as your body temperature doesn't have to drop to zero for you to die, nor does food production need to drop to zero before the population begins to die. Every year from here on in will reduce humanity's ability to survive and having enough I-NPK will not alter the outcome.

NPK as a soil destroyer is either bullshit or it depends on the soil. NPK has been used for more then 50 years in Sweden on most fields and manny soils and it is perfectly possible to change over to fully organic farming.

Magnus, your confusing the nomenclature by just using NPK in your posting. Please specify in future posts: I-NPK = Industrial-NPK such as liquid ammonia, DAP, MOP, TSP, etc. O-NPK = Organic-NPK such as manures, food & yard residues, compost, guanos, etc.

Since the Elements N,P,K, are generally found in both [I]ndustrial and [O]rganic ferts: use my combo acronym I/O-NPK when you are writing about ferts overall [can be shortened to just NPK if it is clear to the reader that you are I/O inclusive]. Thxs for responding.

Yep, as I have stated many times before: we need full-on O-NPK recycling if we hope to achieve some measure of Optimal Overshoot Decline. Since job specialization depends upon a food surplus: Moving 60-75% of the US labor force into permaculture and SpiderWebRiding may be our best mitigative chance.

Bob-- I too follow your comments on fertilizer. In grad school, for Soil Science, I remember being very frustrated that my soil fertility class started and ended with Liebig. There was zero talk/learning of O-NPK. I wrote a scathing course evaluation and the instructor did broaden his teaching of soil fertility. Seems we need to focus on closing the nutrient loop and including some legumes to get N back. I worked with sewage sludge for some years- thinking of the nutrient recycling aspects. Our major metro area incinerates sewage sludge-- I'm not certain the fate of the ash, but guess it is landfilled. Goodbye O-NPK.

I'll search some ofyour past posts to see what solutions you put forward- apart from mining minerals.

Hello ViewFromHere,

Your search will show that we vastly agree on ramping full-on O-NPK recycling as I-NPK heads towards Unobtainium. I have many postings on closing the nutrient loop--the Circle of Life. Kudos for giving your teacher a hard time for not including O-NPK topics. :)

Regarding fertilizer and more specifically Nh3...

the recent key post about the Dakotas and propane is alarming.

If the folks up there fold with the wheat crop then we are really in trouble because down here in the 'margin producers' region we don't really get very high yields of wheat. In fact for most its just a break-even proposition. I am talking in the neighborhood of 30 bu/ac..maybe a tad more or less.

And so farmers will not plant it if input costs are going to put them over the line at harvest time. Really we don't produce any crop in profusion except maybe tobacco and rednecks. Yet it lends itself to real sustainable farming that is for just the owner and enough left to trade or barter...like a load of corn for staples,,etc.

So if they can't raise wheat due to certain factors in the Dakotas then what will they raise? If nothing then how can they continue to live there?

If they are all dependent on propane and that skyrockets? Then how bleak can their future be?

I think there are very many scenarios that are all tied to food and the production of food that can and will play out very seriously in the very near future.

This is what oil drives. The production of fertilizers.

Bob Shaw is trumpeting the upcoming disasters that are in the midstages right now as we type and communicate. They are more likely entering the end stages.

It looks bad. And we are talking food. Not fast automobiles. Not McMansions.Not lattes. Empty store shelves it what we are talking or prices so high we can't afford them anyway.

Airdale-fertilizer is where its all going to be played out, I'm thinking

Hello Airdale,

As usual, I welcome your 'on-the-soil' expansion of my feeble postings. Eventually, the Murkan masses will come to realize that we are evolved to sit in the dark, but we can't do starvation.

"Addax, which has made $248m so far this year, pays $15 a day to the manual labourers who work at Taq Taq."

Does that seem obscene to anyone else? An oil company making hundreds of millions, paying their laborers 15 bucks a day! Why can't company's simply pay a reasonable wage? Well, we sure don't have to wonder how unions get started.