DrumBeat: January 2, 2009

Oregon looks at taxing mileage instead of gasoline

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon is among a growing number of states exploring ways to tax drivers based on the number of miles they drive instead of how much gas they use, even going so far as to install GPS monitoring devices in 300 vehicles. The idea first emerged nearly 10 years ago as Oregon lawmakers worried that fuel-efficient cars such as gas-electric hybrids could pose a threat to road upkeep, which is paid for largely with gasoline taxes.

"I'm glad we're taking a look at it before the potholes get so big that we can't even get out of them," said Leroy Younglove, a Portland driver who participated in a recent pilot program.

The proposal is not without critics, including drivers who are concerned about privacy and others who fear the tax could eliminate the financial incentive for buying efficient vehicles.

But Oregon is ahead of the nation in exploring the concept, even though it will probably be years before any mileage tax is adopted.

Russia looks to re-route EU gas

Russian gas giant Gazprom says it can no longer depend on Ukraine as a transit route to the EU and is looking to develop alternatives.

In a BBC interview, the deputy chairman of Gazprom, Alexander Medvedev, said he hoped EU countries would back the move.

Russian gas exports to Romania fall by 30-40 pct

BUCHAEST (Reuters) - Russian natural gas supplies to Romania suddenly fell by 30-40 percent on Friday as a result of the Russia-Ukraine gas row, the head of Romania's state-controlled pipeline operator Transgaz said.

U.S. to Add 12 Million Barrels to Strategic Petroleum Reserve

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Energy Department plans to add 12 million barrels of oil to the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the first increase since before prices surged to a record in July.

New national security strategy highlights Arctic

A new Russian national security strategy will be adopted in February, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolay Patrushev confirms. The new strategy, which will cover the period until 2020, includes a high level of focus on the energy potentials of the Arctic.

Speaking in a recent meeting with the Russian Academy of Sciences Presidium, Mr. Patrushev said that the new strategy is planned adopted in February this year, Interfax reports.

According to newspaper Kommersant, which has obtained a copy of the document, the new strategy presents the USA as Russia’s continued main competitor in global affairs. It also concludes that Russia has overcome the political, social and economic crisis of the 1990s and that it thus has “restored the possibility to protect its national interests” and that is now “a key player in a world of multi-polar international relations”.

Number of active oil rigs drops by 98

HOUSTON — The number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the United States dropped by 98 this week to 1,623.

China starts Iraq's first foreign oil work in decades

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC) started work on a $3 billion oil project in Iraq on Friday, the first foreign firm to begin such work since dictator Saddam Hussein nationalised the industry decades ago.

A CNPC delegation formally opened the al-Ahdab oi field project in Iraq's eastern province of Wasit, officials there said.

ExxonMobil wrestles over Point Thomson

ExxonMobil wants to start drilling wells in Alaska's North Slope, but the oil giant said the state is denying a drilling permit for the 106,201-acre field known as Point Thomson and is therefore taking its case to Alaska's Superior Court.

Poland sees gas deliveries from Ukraine drop

WARSAW (Reuters) - Deliveries of natural gas to Poland from Russia via Ukraine fell 6 percent on Friday afternoon, gas operator Gaz System and gas monopoly PGNiG said in a statement.

Ukraine's Naftogaz denies theft of European gas

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's state-run gas company, Naftogaz on Friday denied a claim by Russia's Gazprom that it had been stealing gas destined for Europe.

"Naftogaz considers that any statement from official representatives of Gazprom about the unsanctioned siphoning off by Ukraine of Russian gas destined for Europe is untrue," Naftogaz said in a statement.

OPEC to Cut Crude Shipments by 1%, Oil Movements Says

(Bloomberg) -- OPEC will cut daily shipments of crude oil by 1 percent in the four weeks to Jan. 17 as the group enacts supply reductions announced in the past four months, according to industry consultant Oil Movements.

...“OPEC are baring their fangs but the market is still skeptical,” Oil Movements founder Roy Mason said in a telephone interview from Halifax, England. “They’re still well short of the targets announced earlier this year, and nowhere near the ones announced in December.”

Shipments from the Middle East will decline 1.2 percent to 16.96 million barrels a day in the period to Jan. 17, Oil Movements said.

ANALYSIS - Economic crises sharpen Russia-Ukraine gas row

KIEV/MOSCOW (Reuters) - The deepening economic crises that have gripped both Russia and Ukraine may make it harder to find a resolution to the row over cut-off gas supplies, analysts said on Friday.

Russian state-controlled gas behemoth, Gazprom, halted supplies to Ukraine on New Year's Day at 0700 GMT, provoking memories of a similar cut-off three years ago that briefly reduced gas supplies to some European Union customers.

There is little room for manoeuvre.

"The very severe financial stringency for both sides, but especially for Ukraine, will make this negotiation even more protracted than in previous gas crises," said Christopher Granville, managing director of Trusted Sources, an emerging markets research company in London.

Fog closes Houston Ship Channel, stalls 20 vessels

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Fog has closed the Houston Ship Channel, including Galveston and Texas City, to oceangoing vessel traffic, the U.S. Coast Guard said Friday.

Fog closes Lake Charles, La., ship channel - pilots

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Fog has closed the ship channel to the refining and petrochemical center at Lake Charles, Louisiana, the local pilots organization said.

Russia says Europe gas flows on Jan. 3 in doubt

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ukraine has not given agreement to ship the full volume of gas to Europe on Saturday that Russia has requested, Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom said on Friday.

"The Ukrainian side for the next 24 hours has not agreed to the needed transit volume," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said at a Moscow news conference.

Hungary says gas pressure from Ukraine drops

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Pressure on Hungary's natural gas pipeline that ships Russian gas via Ukraine is dropping, oil and gas firm MOL said on Friday.

Russia accuses Ukraine of stealing gas

Russia accused Ukraine of stealing gas destined for the rest of Europe today, a day after cutting supplies to its neighbour in a contract dispute.

The volumes Russian export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) said Ukraine was siphoning off were small, but the accusation suggested Moscow was in no mood for compromise in a re-run of a 2006 argument that led to supply shortages across the EU.

Gazprom said it was responding to Ukraine's actions by increasing exports via alternative routes, including Belarus. Energy companies in Europe said they had not felt any disruptions to their supplies since the cut-off.

"The Ukrainian side openly admits it is stealing gas and is not ashamed of this," Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said.

Countries in tug-of-war over Arctic resources

(CNN) -- One of the planet's most fragile and pristine ecosystems sits atop a bounty of untapped fossil fuels.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 90 billion barrels of oil, 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are recoverable in the frozen region north of the Arctic Circle.

And the fight over who owns those resources may turn out to be the most important territorial dispute of this century. Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland all have a stake in the Arctic's icy real estate.

A Surge in Bicyclists Appears to Be Waiting

After a summer of their dreams, bicycle store owners are facing a grim reality this winter.

Big increases in business this year led some shop owners to think that they were largely insulated from a slowing economy. But the economy has continued to spiral downward, taking bicycle sales and much else with it.

The question now is whether all the bicyclists who appeared last summer will be back next summer.

“This is not like the rest of the recessions we’ve been through,” said Jay Graves, who owns six Bike Gallery stores in Portland, Ore., the first of which his father started in 1974.

Energy in the real world

Solar and Wind are not renewable. The energy from solar and from wind is available but not renewable. An oak tree is renewable. A horse is renewable. They reproduce themselves.

But, and a very important but, the human made equipment used to capture solar energy or wind energy is not renewable. In fact, there is considerable fossil fuel energy embedded in this equipment. The glazing on a solar collector of any kind – solar thermal water, solar thermal air, and solar electric – requires energy to manufacture. Aluminum comes from bauxite. It takes considerable energy to refine the bauxite. When I was fourteen, I worked loading trucks in an aluminum extrusion plant. The ingots of aluminum would be heated, pushed through a die to shape, then cut and put on carts. We would take these carts and move them into a small room heated to around 400 degrees F where they were baked. Because this was Florida, we would be fairly dripping with sweat when we would go into the room to remove the cart. By the end of the day, our shirts were caked with our own salt.

Worldwide oil and natural gas reserves increase in 2009

The higher crude oil and natural gas prices of the first half of 2008 brought about record drilling activity which brought about an increase in crude oil and natural gas reserves worldwide.

As the industry responded to record-high prices, production increased worldwide by 1.1 percent.

New estimates of world’s oil reserves total 1.34 trillion barrels, up 10.5 billion barrels from a year ago, according to the December 22 edition of the Oil & Gas Journal. The latest estimates of gas reserves total 6.254 quadrillion cubic feet, up 68.67 trillion cubic feet from 2007.

Steel Industry, in Slump, Looks to U.S. Stimulus

The industry itself is turning to government for orders that, until the September collapse, had come from manufacturers and builders. Its executives are waiting anxiously for details of President-elect Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, and adding their voices to pleas for a huge public investment program — up to $1 trillion over two years — intended to lift demand for steel to build highways, bridges, electric power grids, schools, hospitals, water treatment plants and rapid transit.

“What we are asking,” said Daniel R. DiMicco, chairman and chief executive of the Nucor Corporation, a giant steel maker, “is that our government deal with the worst economic slowdown in our lifetime through a recovery program that has in every provision a ‘buy America’ clause.”

Nepal to import power from India in face of 'energy emergency'

Kathmandu (PTI) Nepal plans to import power from India from tomorrow to overcome its severe energy crisis as it faces 16 hours daily blackout soon, an official said today.

Power crisis continues across the country, triggers violent protests

KARACHI: The ongoing power crisis has intensified across the country as two hours of load shedding is being observed after every hour. The Pakistan Electric Supply Corporation, despite its tall claims, have miserably failed to maintain the power supply. Meanwhile, country is generating near about 7500 MW of electricity against the overall demand of 11500 MW. In order to fill this gap, 15 hours of power cuts are being observed in urban areas while 20-hour long electricity load shedding is being reported in the rural areas.

As Recession Deepens, So Does Milk Surplus

As American dairy farmers increased their shipments of powdered milk, cheese and other dairy ingredients to foreign markets, their incomes rose. And the demand surge helped drive up the price of milk for American families. The national average for whole milk peaked at $3.89 a gallon in July, up from an average of $3.20 a gallon in 2006.

But now, demand for dairy products is stalling amid a global economic slowdown and credit crisis, even as supplies have increased. The result is a glut of milk — and its assorted byproducts, like milk powder, butter and whey proteins — that has led to a precipitous drop in prices.

Biophysical Economics: In the future, economists will return to earth

The proposals for bailouts, regulations and government spending sprees all share one tragic flaw: they assume no physical or biological limits to human growth. Most economists cling to an 18th century mechanical universe that conjured an "invisible hand" of God, that would allegedly convert private greed into public utopia.

Indeed, a few got rich, but the meek inherit an earth featuring child slavery, sweatshops, a billion starving people, toxic garbage heaps, dead rivers, exhausted aquifers, disappearing forests, depleted energy stores, lopped-off mountain tops, acid seas, melting glaciers and an atmosphere heating up like a flambé.

Oil falls to below $42 a barrel

LONDON – Oil prices fell below $42 a barrel Friday after Russia and Ukraine said a dispute over natural gas payments wouldn't affect shipments to Western Europe.

Light, sweet crude for February delivery fell $2.85 to $41.75 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by noon in Europe. Trading was closed Thursday for New Year's Day.

Guinea’s Military Government Cuts the Price of Gasoline by 13%

(Bloomberg) -- The military government of Guinea, which seized power on Dec. 23, has cut the price of gasoline by 13 percent after crude oil prices declined.

Oil May Rise as OPEC Members Curb Output, Survey Says

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil may rise as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries makes record production cuts to counter the deepest economic slump since World War II.

Seven of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News, or 50 percent, said futures will gain through Jan. 9. Five respondents, or 36 percent, forecast oil will fall and two said there will be little change in prices. Last week, 46 percent of analysts said prices would drop.

Russian continues to withhold gas to Ukraine

MOSCOW (AP) -- Ukraine sought support Friday in European capitals a day after Russia cut off gas supplies and hardened its stance on prices.

But the two countries pledged they would keep gas flowing to the rest of Europe, and as of late Friday afternoon there were no reports of interruptions in shipments beyond Ukraine.

Russia-Ukraine gas row highlights EU's dependency

LONDON (Reuters) - Russia's decision to cut off gas supplies again to Ukraine underlines the urgent need for Europe to reduce its dependency on Russian supply, because the annual row over payments seems unlikely to end soon.

Angola Takes Helm as OPEC Enacts Record Output Cut

(Bloomberg) -- Angola, OPEC’s newest member, took over the group’s presidency yesterday as producers implement a record output cut to reverse last year’s slump in prices.

The rotating leadership of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries passed to Angola from Algeria as the 12- member group starts a 9 percent reduction in its total production target agreed in December after prices crashed $100 in five months.

After worst year ever, commodities may lag recovery

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Commodities, until six months ago the darling of investors and an out-performing asset class, sealed their worst year on record with accelerating losses in the fourth quarter of the year, data showed on Thursday.

Industrial metals, crude oil and even grains took it on the chin as the world fell into recession and investors sold anything liquid or risky to cover deepening losses elsewhere or sock away cash for a brighter day, wiping out six years of nearly unbroken gains in the space of months.

Executive of the Year 2009 - T. Boone Pickens

Despite strong head winds, T. Boone Pickens tirelessly pushes plan to reduce America’s foreign oil dependence.

UK: More uncertainty lies ahead for public services

If there is one thing certain about the nature of the century that lies ahead, it's uncertainty. From climate change to water, energy and food supplies, Earth's life-support systems are creaking under the strain of humanity. For those who run public services, the prospect of a series of overlapping emergencies, each involving the raw materials of survival and each affecting unprecedentedly large numbers of people, is a formidable new challenge.

That may sound unduly apocalyptic – but then apocalypse is in the air, the subject of an increasing number of books, articles and official reports. The New Scientist earlier this year carried a discussion on the "end of civilisation". The American academic Jared Diamond's Collapse was one of a spate of recent books examining how societies break down. Gaia scientist James Lovelock has gone further, suggesting that humans could be reduced to a "rump" of half a billion "survivors" (the world's population is currently 6.8bn) with large areas of the planet becoming uninhabitable as climate change bites.

Opportunities abound in 2009

Our green challenges did not disappear when the stock markets collapsed. Climate change remains a real threat, even if gasoline prices are about half of their peak this summer. Peak oil production is also here, which is another good reason to conserve that resource in the long run.

It's unfortunate that carbon taxes cause such angst in this country. Fuel taxes are much higher in Europe, which is part of the reason European cars are more fuel-efficient.

Tenn. residents fear impact of sludgy ash spill

The piles of ugly, gray mess created a huge mudslide-like effect that destroyed three houses, displaced a dozen families and damaged at least 42 properties. The sludge spread across 300 acres and into the Emory River. It created an alien-looking landscape that resembles no recent natural disaster.

"We don't know what the long-term environmental effects of something this size are," Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen said Wednesday after viewing the damage. "We can speculate all we want or like, but to my knowledge, there's not been one this large in the past in this country."

It's that uncertainty — fear of the unknown — that's generating so much concern here. "This could be something that shows up in five or 10 years," says Raymond, 58. "It's not what's happening to people right now, it's what could happen to our children and grandchildren years down the road."

Utilities Offer ‘Green’ Nuclear Plans to Customers

Thinking about making over your home or business so that it runs greener? What about going nuclear?

That seems to be what at least two utilities are hoping customers will opt for as concerns grow about the damage created by planet-warming emissions from highly polluting sources like coal and from other fossil sources like gas.

Energy fears fuel sales of firewood

Americans are stoking their fires, shifting to wood-generated heat to save money. "People are going back to the older days of living," says Mel Barley of Fired Up Firewood in Lubbock and Amarillo, Texas. Sales of pinon, mesquite and oak firewood in October were double the same month a year ago, owner Randy Hair says.

"They're trying to ... save all the money they can," Barley says. "The more they save on fuel, the more money they have to buy other things."

Chickens given roosts in urban backyards

California Web developer and business consultant Rob Ludlow gets laughs when he tells people his pets make him breakfast.

It's no joke. Ludlow, his wife, Emily, and their two daughters have five egg-laying hens living in the backyard of their Bay Area home in Pleasant Hill, Calif. "Can your dog or cat claim the same?" Ludlow asks.

He is among the growing number of city dwellers across the country choosing chickens as pets — raising them for eggs that proponents say taste fresher, for pest control, for fertilizer and, as the economy continues to struggle, for a cost-saving source of protein.

Enthusiasts have been pecking away at multiple local laws this year and have persuaded officials in cities such as Fort Collins, Colo., Bloomington, Ind., and Brainerd, Minn., to change the rules.

Hong Kong air pollution worst since records began: official data

HONG KONG (AFP) – Air pollution across large swathes of Hong Kong last year reached its highest level since records began, despite government efforts to improve the environment, official figures showed Friday.

Hong Kong suffers high air pollution, caused partly by huge numbers of factories over the border in southern China, and there have been fears the problem could compromise its position as an international finance centre.

Nasa climate expert makes personal appeal to Obama

One of the world's top climate scientists has written a personal new year appeal to Barack and Michelle Obama, warning of the "profound disconnect" between public policy on climate change and the magnitude of the problem.

With less than three weeks to go until Obama's inauguration, Professor James Hansen, who heads Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, asked the recently appointed White House science adviser Professor John Holdren to pass the missive directly to the president-elect.

Coral growth in decline at Great Barrier Reef

"The data suggest that such a severe and sudden decline in calcification is unprecedented in at least the past 400 years," the researchers stated in the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

A reef expert not involved in the study described it as "very important." In a commentary posted on newsvine.com for msnbc.com, John Bruno added that "the findings are frankly pretty scary."

Climate scientists: it's time for 'Plan B'

The plan would involve highly controversial proposals to lower global temperatures artificially through daringly ambitious schemes that either reduce sunlight levels by man-made means or take CO2 out of the air. This "geoengineering" approach – including schemes such as fertilising the oceans with iron to stimulate algal blooms – would have been dismissed as a distraction a few years ago but is now being seen by the majority of scientists we surveyed as a viable emergency backup plan that could save the planet from the worst effects of climate change, at least until deep cuts are made in CO2 emissions.

Canada's forests, once huge help on greenhouse gases, now contribute to climate change

VANCOUVER — As relentlessly bad as the news about global warming seems to be, with ice at the poles melting faster than scientists had predicted and world temperatures rising higher than expected, there was at least a reservoir of hope stored here in Canada's vast forests.

The country's 1.2 million square miles of trees have been dubbed the "lungs of the planet" by ecologists because they account for more than 7 percent of Earth's total forest lands. They could always be depended upon to suck in vast quantities of carbon dioxide, naturally cleansing the world of much of the harmful heat-trapping gas.

But not anymore.

In an alarming yet little-noticed series of recent studies, scientists have concluded that Canada's precious forests, stressed from damage caused by global warming, insect infestations and persistent fires, have crossed an ominous line and are now pumping out more climate-changing carbon dioxide than they are sequestering.

The proposals for bailouts, regulations and government spending sprees all share one tragic flaw: they assume no physical or biological limits to human growth.

That's a bit of an overstatement... they share the assumption that such a limit has not been reached. It isn't a "flaw" (let alone a "tragic" one) unless/until they turn out to be wrong.

It is worth noting that the opposite has been true many many times over hundreds of years (that people assume such limits have been reached) and has always been wrong. "Bad times" are not necessarily "end of times". There's no question that some day they will be, but that doesn't mean it's today.


c&P the above to see the latest nirvana proposal from our gubmint.

(Proposed new gasoline tax)

And the result of a poll.


When have governments ever been guilty of over-pessimistic assumptions with regards to resources?

None of the bailouts take into account energy limits anytime in the payback period, which is obviously going to be 50 years or more, which covers all but the most radical oil depletion estimates. Any new long-term US debt today has to be presumed by both lenders and borrowers to default at some unspecified future date, IMHO, or a miraculous new energy source will appear that is higher quality and with fewer downsides than oil.

When have governments ever been guilty of over-pessimistic assumptions with regards to resources?

That wasn't what I said, but the late 70s to early 80s comes to mind.

I see little value in waiting until the last bird has fallen from the sky, the last fish has been harvested and the last river polluted/overused into oblivion. Why must the assumption of a limitless resource base be maintained until we actually run out?

And further - why is it okay to assume that if the limit will not be reached until 20 - 50 - 100 years have passed it is fine to squander what we have now?

I don't usually wait until we have no food in the house to go shopping and I don't wait until the car has run out of gas before filling up (when we drove) On the other side of the coin I didn't wait until there was no more gas to stop driving and I didn't wait until the lights went out before I started to power down. I think the same analogy of preparedness should be applied to resource usage and to our usage of biological systems.

Just because we haven't hit the gross limits NOW doesn't mean the systems are not under stress and doesn't mean that we should embrace BAU

Just my opinion


Bravo!! We act as if there are no limits even if the more rational amongst us know that there are limits.

It's the same old despirate rational only with a different ribbon;

"I have not died yet, therefore I probably never will"

What do you mean that wasn't what you said? Who were the "people" to which you referred in the final line if the antecedent be not, or include not, the gov't activities from the previous line?

Previous quote:

The proposals for bailouts, regulations and government spending sprees all share one tragic flaw....

You said:

... they share the assumption that such a limit has not been reached.

It is worth noting that the opposite has been true many many times over hundreds of years (that people assume such limits have been reached) and has always been wrong.

Not that the nuances of interpretation much matter.

The belief structure of the late 70's and early 80's was in perhaps correct, in that higher efficiency use, domestic control, and domestic sourcing of energy was paramount, and subsequent beliefs that cheap imported oil and products funded by international debt could somehow be sustainable were erroneous. Being 20 years too early in calling the peak might have been considerably better than now being a few years too late.

I would assert this: the US would be in a much more tenable and stable position now if trade imbalances and energy imbalances had never been allowed to balloon. Continuing down the path of the late 70's would have led to a better long-term future, while the path taken instead led to a hollowly prosperous boom period. Rarely does a man or a nation much suffer from living too fiscally conservatively.

What do you mean that wasn't what you said? Who were the "people" to which you referred in the final line if the antecedent be not, or include not, the gov't activities from the previous line?

Never heard of Malthus? How about "The Population Bomb"? They are hardly the only examples.

The belief structure of the late 70's and early 80's was in perhaps correct... Being 20 years too early in calling the peak might have been considerably better than now being a few years too late.

That's certainly true... but we only know that they were at least 20-30 years too early. As I said... the eroneous assumption that has been made over and over throughout history is that today is that day.

Rarely does a man or a nation much suffer from living too fiscally conservatively.

I'd say that's a truism.

but we only know that they were at least 20-30 years too early.

Which parts? From one perspective, they were already too late. The momentum in the system (population growth etc.) might have already been extremely difficult if not impossible to change. Technically, yes, we might have been able to slow down population growth had we started in 1970. But in reality people are very protective of their "right" to have to children and they get quite testy even in casual conversation about it.

It would have taken a global police state to change the population trajectory, most likely.

Another way of looking at this is that if we hadn't started steering the ship a different direction by 1950 (or earlier) and teaching the whole world why resource consumption would eventually be a problem, it was too late. It's even worse because the reality is that people were talking about this back then but nobody believed them.

This view of the limits to growth awareness of the seventies (it didn't really survive past the recession of 81-82) is the one proffered by capital worshiping denialists ever since.

It is, however, a fundamental (and in many cases intentional) misreading of the argument. If you go back to the actual work being done you will see that, by and large, few people were arguing that the limits of growth had been reached in the seventies. Rather, most were arguing that those limits would be reached somewhere around the beginning of the new millennium.

There were, of course, those who exagerated or missed the mark. Ehrlich's 1968 book "The Population Bomb" is certainly the most maligned because of some of his more incendiary and exaggerated claims. But most ignore his more thoughtful 1975 book "The End of Affluence" which was more in line with others writing at the time.

But the lead was definitely the Club of Rome. And since the original "Limits to Growth" has been revised and updated recently, it's easy enough to get a copy. What you'll find if you look at this work is that we are pretty much where the baseline model projected we would be at.

I think that the earliest that Hubbert predicted--based on preliminary data--that the world would peak was in the Nineties. In 1956, he said that the world peak would probably be within 50 years at the outside, i.e., by 2006.

We have seen, relative to 2005, almost certainly three years of lower net oil exports, basically flat crude oil production, and a slight increase in total liquids (which Simmons attributes to the dying gasps of several large gas cap oil fields).

And we do see a strong correlation between annual oil prices and declining net oil exports from the top five net oil exporters:

(inspired by similar graphs on TOD)

It remains to be seen if the average annual price in 2009 will be below the average 2008 price of about $100, but our middle case is that by the end of 2009 the top five will already have shipped about one-fourth of their post-2005 cumulative net oil exports. I estimate that the top five are now shipping one percent of their post-2008 cumulative net oil exports about every 50 days.

This view of the limits to growth awareness of the seventies (it didn't really survive past the recession of 81-82) is the one proffered by capital worshiping denialists ever since.

Only because it's the most recent case. It's alos hardly the only such case. I cited Malthus above... surely you know that he lived two centuries ago?

This provides another answer to the question of "why not plan as if it's happening even if it isn't". The potato famine in ireland resulted in mass starvation because British policies were informed by Malthus' work... and they assumed that many had to die off because Ireland was overpopulated.

If you go back to the actual work being done you will see that, by and large, few people were arguing that the limits of growth had been reached in the seventies.

That's simply untrue. We had a president telling us that we would use up all proven reserves of oil in the next ten years.

But most ignore his more thoughtful 1975 book "The End of Affluence" which was more in line with others writing at the time.

That's a self-defeating argument. If that's more "in line", then you've just demonstrated that plenty of people were arguing that limits to growth had been reached. He predicted in that work that life expectancy in the US would fall to the low 40s by 1980 and that the population of the US would fall to 23 million by the turn of the century.

I think it's time for an appeal to authority:

Science is like a blabbermouth who ruins a movie by telling you how it ends. There are some things we don't want to know. Important things.
-- Ned Flanders

"I think it's time for an appeal to authority:"

Which you recognize is a falacy, right?


Acting on the bona fide assumption that you are not trolling, I suggest you familiarise yourself with the content of the following Malthus site:


In particular William Catton's essay, reproduced therein.

I've read it... and it dramatically misstates the case to try and defend Malthus.

How on earth can you call the lower-than-expected population growth "Malthusian checks" When Malthus' primary "check" was insufficient food supply and calories per capita has grown?

The title alone ("Worse than Foreseen by Malthus" makes the piece, frankly, laughable.

And this is why I don't hold up much hope for turning the ship around in time. It's always easier to sow doubt and question than to see the endgame. For instance, we knew more than enough of climate change fifteen years ago to know we had to do something, and yet people such as yourself kept the conversation going longer than it needed to.

The funny thing is that you may actually think that you're helping.

uprated. (though I can't..;-)

Table II.

The last minutes in the bottle.
11:54 a.m. 1/64 full (1.5%) 63/64 empty
11:55 a.m. 1/32 full (3%) 31/32 empty
11:56 a.m. 1/16 full (6%) 15/16 empty
11:57 a.m. 1/8  full (12%) 7/8   empty
11:58 a.m. 1/4  full (25%) 3/4   empty
11:59 a.m. 1/2  full (50%) 1/2   empty
12:00 noon full (100%) 0% empty

Source Dr Albert Bartlett

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Pete Seeger

I also recognize that Ned Flanders is a fictional character on "The Simpsons". :)

You can make up whatever you want to help yourself believe.

Have you actually read Malthus? If you had you would know that he was making an argument not based on time, but on the limitations of agriculture. Did agricultural land expand? Yes, and he discussed that. Did yields rise? Yes, and he discussed that. The one place that Malthus came up short was in his imagination of scale. He wasn't capable of envisioning either agriculture or population on the scale that has been accomplished. It doesn't change the logic of the underlying argument.

The significant improvement over Malthus made by the Club of Rome and other writers of the time, was that they did indeed start to include expansion of production and reserves into the model. Ah, but if you'd actually read them, you'd know this.

That's simply untrue. We had a president telling us that we would use up all proven reserves of oil in the next ten years.

And you're going to provide the reference, right? I think you'll find that difficult.

As for Ehrlich, I was not defending him, just pointing out that he "modified" his views given the other work going on. But I believe the figures you are sighting come from TPB, not TEoA. But it has been more than 30 years since I read it. (On a side note, Ehrlich's exagerations in TPB led Harry Harrison to pen an imaginative "science fiction" novel called "Make Room, Make Room." That novel would later be turned into the classic sci-fi movie "Soylent Green" staring Charlton Heston. So, no matter what else we might say of Ehrlich, he was, at least, a contributor to one of the more amusing films of the seventies.)

Shaman, Paleocon,

Positive_Phototaxis is either uninformed or trolling. Best ignored until he does his homework.

Why do you say uninformed OR trolling? He does seem capable of chewing gum and making loud noises at the same time. Or at least he did the last time I stopped to read one of his silly postings.

You can make up whatever you want to help yourself believe.

Which is exactly where the perpetual "end-of-the-world-was-last-week" crowd comes from.
Don't get me wrong... the "boy who cried wolf" will eventually be right... but that doesn't mean that he hasn't been lying to us for centuries.

Have you actually read Malthus? If you had you would know that he was making an argument not based on time, but on the limitations of agriculture.

I have... and there isn't any way to spin him as having been essentially right. His fundamental theory was that population increases at a geometric rate while food production increases only in a linear fashion. That has simply been wrong. He was clear that we would see an ongoing decrease in the amount of food per person worldwide... in reality it has grown fairly consistently since then.
It's also wrong to pretend that he really didn't have any particular time in mind.

And you're going to provide the reference, right? I think you'll find that difficult.

Not in the least bit difficult.
"...we could use up all the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade."
"Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the 1980s the world will be demanding more oil that it can produce."
Jimmy Carter 4/18/1977

As for Ehrlich, I was not defending him, just pointing out that he "modified" his views given the other work going on

Yes... just as every other neo-malthusian has "modified" his predictions if he lived long enough to see himself proven wrong.

So, no matter what else we might say of Ehrlich, he was, at least, a contributor to one of the more amusing films of the seventies


Well, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt, but now understand that you are not really interested in dialog or even in the ideas.

1) You're gloss on Malthus comes from the Cliff's Notes version and suggests your claim to have actually read Malthus is an exageration.

2) You can't truly believe the Carter quote you cite is equivalent to the attribution you suggested previously, suggesting that you, again, just made it up.

3) so long.

3) so long.

Demonstrating exactly which of us is not interested in dialog.

You can't truly believe the Carter quote you cite is equivalent to the attribution you suggested previously, suggesting that you, again, just made it up

Can't even be bothered to google it? Wow (see comment above).

You can't read that speech and think that (apart from wanting to increase coal production) Carter was saying anything that wouldn't fit right in here on TOD. He's even got the same schtick about "finding a new Saudi Arabia every three years" etc.

You would only have to change the dates (and again coal) to pretend that Simmons had written it.

You're gloss on Malthus comes from the Cliff's Notes version

I never know who I'm talking to. You have yet to give me something beyond that... nor is claiming that it is the "cliff's notes version" the same thing as a response (Ad Hominem still being a falacy unless I missed something).

It was a summary... but it was an accurate summary.

From the 60's to the 80's the world started treating oil like a precious resource, not like something that flowed like water out of the tap. We can thank the oil crisis, oil spills, and Nixon and Carter for instilling this fear in us.
Why do you not understand something this simple and obvious, mr. positive-phototaxis ?

Sorry... I do understand and I agree 100%.

Oh... dang... you made me post again. :)

I don't have much of a response to this other than I take this stuff very seriously.

"Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the 1980s the world will be demanding more oil that it can produce."
Jimmy Carter 4/18/1977

Let's look at world oil production for the period


Year mb/d
1976 57.34
1977 59.71
1978 60.16
1979 62.67
1980 59.56
1981 56.05
1982 53.45
1983 53.26

Carter may have been factoring in expected OPEC "above ground factors" together with the US decline rate. There is no doubt that the world was demanding more oil than it physically produced in the "early in the 1980s".

Had it not been for the very rapid North Sea ramp-up it would have been a lot worse. The UK added 2 mb/d between 1976 and 1983 while Persian Gulf production fell from 21.73 to 11.08 between Carter's speech and 1983.

Let's look at world oil production for the period

Yes? And now let's look at the amount produced today. It's quite possible that we have reached all that the world can produce per day, but it's a sure thing that it was far higher than those figures.

There is no doubt that the world was demanding more oil than it physically produced in the "early in the 1980s".

And there is equally no doubt that it wasn't demanding more than it could produce. Supply and demand will always roughly match, but only one side is rowing the boat.

The UK added 2 mb/d between 1976 and 1983 while Persian Gulf production fell from 21.73 to 11.08 between Carter's speech and 1983.

But there's no way to spin the Gulf production decline as the limits of their capacity.

OPEC production did not again exceed 20 mb/d until 2004. Had OPEC attempted to continually ramp-up and pump in excess of 20mb/d during the almost quarter century when it scaled back and had world consumption increased effectively unchecked, as it had been doing previously, then I suggest Peak Oil would not be just in the rear view mirror (as is quite likely now) but we'd almost need binoculars to spot it.

So.... the peak is at least 20 million bpd higher than at the time because OPEC didn't pump an extra 10 million bpd during the interim?

It's certainly possible that we're at peak... and that lower OPEC production during the 80s and 90s backed that up a couple years... but anyone who can subtract 63 from 83 (and compare that to the difference in Gulf production) can tell that Carter was simply wrong.

Carter spoke of "Proven Reserves" as of 1978. Quite clearly he expected more proven reserves to be discovered. I will give you that he may have slightly over-egged the pudding but he did want to force a dramatic retreat from imported oil and erring on the side of caution at the time would have been a far better path forward then that that in fact taken.

In Carter's defence, had world oil consumption continued to double approximately every 12 years as it had been doing in the 60' and 70s leading up to Carter's speech (and which presumably he was basing his projections on) then total consumption by 1990 would have been about 120 mb/d - or more likely we'd have been post-peak by then.

If you're going to criticise Carter please place yourself mentally in 1978.

If you're going to criticise Carter please place yourself mentally in 1978.

Ick. :)

Carter spoke of "Proven Reserves" as of 1978. Quite clearly he expected more proven reserves to be discovered.

Certainly... but he also clearly meant that the most the world could produce (what we here call the "peak") was just a couple years away. He clearly thought that this was just crude (planning a switch to more coal) and just as clearly had less visibility of global warming then of peak oil...

I happen to have a great deal of respect for Jimmy Carter... please don't take it otherwise... but I've just as clearly demonstrated that pretty influencial people believed that the peak was then iminent.

I happen to have a great deal of respect for Jimmy Carter... please don't take it otherwise... but I've just as clearly demonstrated that pretty influencial people believed that the peak was then iminent.

Or Carter had access to oil industry projections of future added capacity that said a supply crunch was imminent (within 5 years). Note that's not the same as saying that a peak was imminent - just that the world couldn't physically keep the rate of new production increases above the rate of historical demand increase. And these same projections said that if the world could somehow keep up with the rate of supply increase in the future then the Peak would have still been uncomfortably close if not quite imminent. I think OPEC worked this out about the same time and they didn't allow themselves to be pumped post-peak before everyone else. A lesson unfortunately not picked up on by the UK and others...

"Note that's not the same as saying that a peak was imminent"

That's why I gave both quotes. Taken together that is pretty much what they mean... certainly if you take the totality of the speech.

It's a pretty straightforward peak oil treatise. We use too much... there's only so much of it... We're not finding it as fast as we're using it... we would need to find a new Saudi Arabia every couple years and that's not going to happen... We'll have used up everything we've found so far in x years and reach the point where world production can't match current demand in y years.

think OPEC worked this out about the same time and they didn't allow themselves to be pumped post-peak before everyone else. A lesson unfortunately not picked up on by the UK and others...

Possibly true... but it raises an interesting question that nobody has been able to answer to my satisfaction. What possible benefit do the Saudis have in denying that they're past peak and that the world peak is any second now? If the world is post-peak AND comes to accept that, the oil that they have left would be worth many times what they sell it for. I get their behavior in the context of the errors they made in the 70s and 80s.... but it doesn't fit a post-peak world.

Heck... why lie and say that you can add 2 million bpd in the short term? Even if it were true, why not lie the other way and say "we don't have much left". Why have a cartel that artificially constrains supply when the natural decline will handle that quite nicely?

The Saudis lie because they fear a serious effort at alternatives, including conservation. They lie because it gives them power, or the illusion of power for a bit longer.

Amazing the importance you place on Carter being right or wrong about a date. Carter´s pronouncements are the butterfly effect in action. The number of conservation steps and efficiencies put into place starting in the 70's were unprecendented. Do you want to blame Carter for 'wrongly' presenting a BAU extrapolation. Jaybus, psitive-phototaxis, you would probably blame a hypothetical passenger pigeon resurgence on a 'misguided' forward-thinking president who was warning extinction by 1900.
Do you really not understand the implications of leadership?

pretty influencial people believed that the peak was then iminent.

I'm not sure what an 'iminent' is or an 'influencial' is - but as you like playing 'rule lawyer' and word games about meaning - I'm happy to ask what you are trying to say.

Oh and in the 1970's the US of A had peaked.

Carter was right in concept, wrong in time. That you are trying to argue that he was just wrong is both asinine and childish.

Please, just shut your gob on this point. Dishonesty SUCKS.

We are at peak. Deal with it.

Had people listened to Carter, we'd be in MUCH better shape today (But you claim he was WRONG. Yeah, sure, he was wrong like it's wrong to say I know with absolute certainty the sun will shine tomorrow.)


It is time, ladies and gents, due to the lateness of the hour (figurative sense), to tell people spewing nonsense to just shut the hell up. There is too much at stake.

Cheers (and Jeers)

YES! Why does this shmo post here? Other than stroking himself as to how clever he thinks he is with his neo-skepticism (if I hear one more Taleb interview I‘ll punch my radio), what does he think he is accomplishing other than being an obnoxious troll? We’ve been through this already with people like Hrothgar.

I would suggest putting this guy in the penalty box for the sin of
'overposting due to ego'

And if he had posted a bio backing up his enormous intellect or posted an email addy where one could politely tell him offline to STFU.
But he has none and sadly many on TOD do not have either.

So its IMO ok to sometimes question their creds.

Airdale-I am what my bio says I am,or once was and I did not of course add my younger lifestlyes or say more than I am a farmer right now but retired mostly but post on them for I am not too interested in graphs,large detailed discourses,etc....I am basically
interesting in one thing....Survival, period.

I don't care about fiat money nor the situation in East Ethiopia. I care about what is happening that directly affects the lives in this nation...and well some of our staunch allies of course. But like for the dustup in Gaza and Israel? Unless someone looses a nuke? Not my bidness. Of interest but beyond my ken to do aught about it or spend a lot of time investigating it and speaking on it.N,P,and K are of supreme importance yet gets little press here except for Totoneila.

PS. Someone using valuable bandwidth just to natter on and on is really pushing it.Even Htothgar knew when to shut up , well sometimes he did. This guy never gives it a break.

I cited Malthus above...

In fact you did not cite Malthus. You only mentioned his name as if providing proof of your assertion. I'm curious, have you ever read Malthus, or Ehrlich? Or are you merely repeating neo-classical economics talking points?

Even if these authors, or others who wrote about limits, may have erred in certain predictions, in fact their models - what they projected as process and consequences - have borne out fairly well.

One simple piece of evidence that we have actually exceeded the natural limits of human population/consumption is the alarming decrease in bio-diversity over the last one hundred years, a decrease that has been accelerating of late. Though the details as to why this is occurring, such as habitat destruction, may be complex, in the limit it is human presence and by-products that are at fault. Biomass remains essentially stable over the millennia. Species change, but the proportion of biomass given to any species should look relatively stable from century to century. Mankind now represents a significant fraction of the total biomass, having appropriated the resources that other species needed to thrive. Some may argue that that is mankind's right and destiny! But I wonder how humans will feel about a world devoid of bio-diversity?

Of course, if you are ideologically driven you will no doubt believe you can have your cake and eat it too. So you may end up being completely surprised when the crash occurs. "No one (I pay attention to) could have predicted this..." will flow from the mouths of ideologues.

Question Everything


George, nicely put.

But I think there's no point in wasting intellectual energy with a discussant who is simply uninformed or trying to take the Mickey out of you. Time to give P_P the silent treatment until he reforms.

Couldn't agree more. Especially given his/her response (below).

Oh please. I made four statements.

1) I replied to the claim that I hadn't cited Malthus by pointing out that "cite" fits just fine. This is "uninformed"?

2) I replied to a question re: whether I had read Erlich and Malthus by repeating what had already been said. This is a problem? We had to read them in college.

3) I replied to a ridiculously false claim that mankind made up a significant fraction of the total global biomass as politely as such a ridiculous claim could be answered.

4) This is the only one I could see someone objecting to. I suppose I could simply have pointed out that "you can't prove something right by imagining a future time when it will be proven right"... or "better check a mirror because you're wearing the same prom dress"... but this seemed simpler. :)

Where is Leanan when we need her?

PP is monopolizing the Drumbeat while repeating the same arguments over and over.

He's not going to do it again.


I agree with your thanks, toilforoil. Leannan does a great job in controlling this blog, but there are times when I wish she would execute the trolls more quickly.

I have no idea how many hours per day would be needed to read all of the OilDrum and Drumbeat articles and messages, but I certainly cannot keep up, even though I live on an invalid's benefit and have no full-time occupation.

I have seen nothing from Putative-Prophylaxis that has added anything of merit to the discussions on this site, but his/hers/its contributions have wasted a vast amount of responsive bandwidth.

Long live the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

On the other hand, he is not rude or aggressive, unlike a bunch of other posters in the thread. He is also making his arguments in a very reasonable way. I take it the rude posters will not get reprimanded?
I tend to believe we are falling off a cliff myself, by the way, but I just hate groupthink.

Interesting thing about aggression: it can be overt, or not.

Personally, I find a painted over sneer far more offensive than a direct statement of one's opinion. But, then, I've never quite fit in, either.

Why is it people are more comfortable with a polite lie than a rogue-ish truth? (I'm not saying PP is lying, but I also don't think his posting is as innocent as he would have you believe. There's some poking-with-a-stick in it, if you ask me.)


This is a message board. There are no "painted over sneers", just text. If the aggression is not overt, it is irrelevant. If a person's posting is "innocent", what ever that means, is irrelevant. (And he is not "having me believe" anything, thank you very much.)

There are two important board policy issues here, IMO:
1 Do we allow conflicting opinions posted here?

2 Do we allow rudeness and personal attacks posted here?

It's easy to see that the answer to the second question is yes, we do. The answer to the first question is not so clear.

I'd say you have it exactly backwards. Rudeness is allowed up to a point, personal attacks - not so much. But the answer to your first question is crystal clear - of course conflicting opinions are allowed here. That's what goes on here day in and day out.

The point isn't that P_P disagrees with anyone.

The point is that P_P is flooding the board with aggressive (yes) argument on almost every point, and doesn't seem to know how to ease up. It really does approach the troll zone.

There are indeed "painted over sneers" that come up on message boards, and because you say otherwise is irrelevant. It really doesn't take much experience to figure it out. P_P has become obnoxious, that's all. It's not about "free speech" (this is not the public square, in any case), or conflicting views. It's about abusing the system and just being obnoxious.

In any case, it's not about what "we" allow, it's about what Leanan thinks is civilized, and I completely trust her judgement. She's very patient, actually, IMO.

Lugal it is a message board,well really it is a very smooth well run forum.

And Peer Pressure does count for something.

If I overstep I shouldn't mind being called to task for it,somewhat politely at first and not taking the hint and bit more forcefully.


This is a message board. There are no "painted over sneers", just text. If the aggression is not overt, it is irrelevant. If a person's posting is "innocent", what ever that means, is irrelevant. (And he is not "having me believe" anything, thank you very much.)

It's illuminating, and amazing, that you claim (by implication) to not understand the very nature of communication. Just text? What a bizarre claim! The further implication that PP doesn't post with the subtext of his own perspective ("innocent") is equally bizarre. The final piece, are you deliberately misconstruing my use of "would have you believe" as actually meaning you, specifically?

We have a trifecta, ladies and gents.

Have we a sock?

Cheers (and can we please stop discussing the posters and get back to the topics at hand?)

HB makes a good point.

but didn't ask why?

The reason is that others REPLY to his posts. He puts out statements to get responses. He has a ego to feed. IMO of course , as always.


In fact you did not cite Malthus.

You might try looking up the definition then. :)

I'm curious, have you ever read Malthus, or Ehrlich?

Both... as I've already said.

Mankind now represents a significant fraction of the total biomass

Patently false. It's certainly larger than at any time in history... but what do you consider a "significant fraction"? Some small bit of 1%?

No one (I pay attention to) could have predicted this..." will flow from the mouths of ideologues.

Seems I've heard that somewhere before. Oh right... it was here after oil prices collapsed.

1) This entire debate is why we are in deeper trouble than most suspect. There is a positive feedback mechanism (in a very negative way) on social discourse as our habituated routines get disrupted. Greshams law will apply equally well to people as it does to money - the bad will drive out the good. We will waste enormous time and resources trying to be 'inclusive'. The simple, but politically incorrect fact, is that some peoples opinions matter more than others. That is how academia started. It's going to be even more difficult now because academia assumes it has all the answers, and it doesn't because it has become too splintered - the human mind can't be expert on all things at once. The generalists will understand a bigger piece of the puzzle, but the experts, in each individual field, will be much more likely to be 'heard'. Leanan can play benevolent dictator in Drumbeat but we are unlikely to find such a person on a national/global level that wouldn't be shot within a week.

2)perhaps we need to institute a per-diem comment limit per poster, lest Greshams Law bite our butts before the new administration is even in their seats.


With respect, I disagree (though perhaps that isn't a surprise).

Do you seek merely an echo chamber? Do you fear that your concerns can't stant the weight of even moderate dispute?

I'm not vulgar... or disrespectful. I simply disagree. I aim at humor and pehaps occasionally miss, but I respect your right to disagree and to an opinion. What would it say about TOD if it didn't respect the same in others?

The real reason "why we are in deeper trouble than most suspect" is that you get offended when someone (truthfully) points out "the wolf hasn't come the last 20 times you shouted". That doesn't mean that peak oil hasn't arrived and it would be folly to pretend that it meant that it never will arrive... but it does mean that you have to accept that the position is "this time it's different" and not your interlocutor's.

It is a simple reality that "he who laughs last", but we should not ignore the fact that it gets harder and harder to warn people of a cooming danger when they've done most of the laughing to date.

a) if the 'real reason' we are in deep trouble is because some people get offended when someone points out that the wolf hasn't come the last 20 times it was shouted, then we are really not in trouble at all.

b)do you not realize your comments, irrespective of whether they are brilliant or sophomoric, account for 20% of this forums total (as far as I've read)? And I take no offense to anything you wrote because I automatically skipped over it-internal pattern recognition/optimal internet foraging theory - I just noticed your name so many times I thought I'd comment

c)By invoking Greshams law I didn't mean literally that the bad would drive out the good, but that decisions would then be more likely to be made that would cease the forum altogether, hurting everyone...

a) if the 'real reason' we are in deep trouble is because some people get offended when someone points out that the wolf hasn't come the last 20 times it was shouted, then we are really not in trouble at all.

Sure we are. If there's a real problem and people won't listen to the truth because it sounds just like centuries of just as fervent "truths" that never came true... we need to find a way to get past that.

More importantly, for those who actually care about the future for most people (as opposed to just planning to be one of the 5% that survive the next decade or two), the ability to persuade those who disagree with you is critical (yeah... that's the ticket... I provide a necessary service). Accept or reject whether I am open to correction (I can hardly prove it online), but be certain that "you're an f'in id1ot. The peak is past get over it" really doesn't help your cause.

b)do you not realize your comments, irrespective of whether they are brilliant or sophomoric, account for 20% of this forums total?

On the days I have free time to post? I wouldn't doubt it. Since I joined this summer? No.

c)By invoking Greshams law I didn't mean literally that the bad would drive out the good, but that decisions would then be more likely tobbe made that would cease the forum altogether, hurting everyone...

I certainly don't intend that. Just because I enjoy the debate doesn't mean that I don't think it's a debate that needs to be held. I happen to think that the peak (of global energy production under current technology) is 15-20+ years or so away, but I also think it's coming and that it will take that long to prepare for it. That position "sells" better when there's a fringe claiming the end of the world is at hand.

Regardless... I don't see how even 20% of posts respectfully disagreeing hurts the credibility of the board. Anything but in fact.

IMO, 20% of posts coming from one person is too much. No matter what they're saying.

Very well... it's your thread (though it's more like 14%) :-).

I'll do my best restrain myself.

Leanan - Unlike Hothgar who tried toward the end and Oil CEO when he was sober, PP is a jerk who should be banned right now. This has gone on too long.


Please provide one quote where he has been a jerk. I have seen a dozen jerks in the thread, he is not one of them.

You ban someone because you don't agree with them and can't make them come over to your point of view and you can kiss this website goodbye. This is not a mutual appreciation society - we need debate and lively debate at that.
Otherwise it's just another fringe lunatic asylum. If I refer people from industry here for information and they see this then ( and articles on frickin aliens ) peak oil et al stays where it is now - in the same pot as 911 and Moon Landings.

I was a mod in another board for several years and I am far less sanguine than either of you about this issue. I would have tossed PP some time ago based upon his initial posting series. Why?

1. An apparent inability to be precise and provide documentation:
Verboseness does not add to the value of an idea. In fact, it detracts from it. It also makes it difficult for members with dialup to load pages.

One of the central tenants of TOD, I believe, is documentation for claims and, often, conjectures. Without this, other posters waste their time trying to refute something that should not have to be refuted and it takes up even more bandwidth.

I would further add that many of us have technical backgrounds where the norm is documentation first, followed by discussion.

2. Regurgitation of the same thing over and over in a different guise using multiple posts: This, could be considered part of #1.

3. It establishes a precedent that this "style" of posting is OK: Consider for a moment the nightmare if every poster took over the DB in a similar fashion. To me, it is like a child who badgers his/her parents when they say no. TOD posters typically behave as adults. PP does not behave like an adult. I used "jerk" because I'm one of old farts here and it was less obnoxious than other words I could have chosen..but it was an ad hom none-the-less.

4. There is precedent to ban posters who detract from the forum. Hothgar was one and Oil CEO was another. IIRC there was also someone else. I think most people are reasonable vis-a-vis banning someone. I know we never took it lightly on the forum where I was a mod. But, sometimes you have to do it. But, it was never because we disagreed with someone's position on an issue.

In closing, this is my opinion since I'm not part of the TOD leadership. I don't care what position people take on issues. I just want them to be concise and present their position - with documentation.


Sorry but your wrong.

The website lived beyond Dmatthews who was way out beyond Pluto.

It outlived Htothgar. It will outlive PP.

It won't hurt in the least to take some action in that direction when needed.

Airdale-I could be wrong and I have been wrong before in the past ...but well.....

Ditto to Todd's comment about banning. Or maybe a trial ban for some days,weeks?


I happen to think that the peak (of global energy production under current technology) is 15-20+ years or so away, but I also think it's coming and that it will take that long to prepare for it.

Could you be basing that on the recent IEA report suggesting a Peak in oil production around 2020? If so, if you believed the real report (before they were warned "not to shout fire in a crowded theatre") said Peak Oil is now and that's what Dr. Fatih Birol is briefing privately - would you think any different. Certainly that's the claim Matt Simmons makes.

Ok, this will be my third post today saying essentially the same thing, but I feel like saying it directly to you: I think you're anything but a troll and that posts like yours are necessary for the health of the board. I also think that when a single person is arguing one side of the debate, and all the rest is arguing the other, and quite a few of the other are beeing needlessly rude, it's hard to expect the single poster not to post a lot.

Ok, I'm done. I think you're right about this site becoming an echo chamber.

Ok, I'm done. I think you're right about this site becoming an echo chamber.

No, I think it's a lot more like the AGW deniers. There comes a point where it is absurd to claim the elephant isn't there.

Perhaps people get tired of pointing out the elephant.


Lugal (or is it P_P?),

This site is not and has never been an echo chamber. So lay off with the foolish strawman nonsense.

I have been here since just about the beginning of the site, and there has always been lively discussion and disagreement about many issues. Sometimes quite lively indeed, I can assure you. But nobody gets banned unless they really really push it. Bans have been very, very rare, and I can't think of more than 2.

If P_P wants to participate, and disagree with anyone, that's just fine. We all disagree, every day. If you can't see that, you haven't been here very long.

But to just flood the forum with unsubstantiated, almost knee-jerk, contrarianism is boring and obnoxious. Just the sheer volume of his posts is obnoxious, and whining about "one person" standing up against "all the rest" is just that - whining. And to make a noble martyr out of that is absurd. Most of what you have to do around here to be a member in good standing is to just be civil! Yes, backing up your argument with references is good and all, but be civil. If someone insists on being a jerk, they need to rethink their strategy.

That's all. No echo chamber. No group think (you've got to be kidding me!). No censorship. Just some common sense.

Whatever you say guys (sgage and the rest of you). Let's just say I frequent some other forums with drastically different board policies that I think are far more civil and fair, and leave it at that. Back to lurking. So long.

Positive-phototaxis thinks that this is some type of 'echo chamber' we have working here.
Well I welcome p-p to take part in any of the intense mathematical modeling posts and threads that we routinely run here on TOD.
My fear is that he won't participate, because he can only work within the realm of empty rhetoric.

Again I welcome the challenge of a savvy critic or devil's advocateas the bad never drives out the good in a detailed technical discussion. The weak usually just wither away.

The real reason "why we are in deeper trouble than most suspect" is that you get offended when someone (truthfully) points out "the wolf hasn't come the last 20 times you shouted".

The wolf shows up on a regular schedule, you just have to watch for him:

- World War One

- The Great Depression (which was a world- wide phenomenon)

- World War Two; people just couldn't see this one coming even though Adolf Hitler wrote a book telling all and sundry exactly what he was going to do and to whom!

- The wolf that didn't arrive but almost did: World War Three (Cuban Missile Crisis)

- (World War Four would be fought with rocks; Albert Einstein)

What all these wolves share is they have a basis in applied physical sciences and technology. Three of the four wolves were in the form of open war but the economic collapse was the exception that makes the rule; it is difficult to predict the form of the wolf in advance. It would be surprising if the worldwide application of physical sciences in economic/industrial contexts did not spawn wolves, keep in mind that technology gives people the tools to perceive the dangers that are inherent with that technology. Why ignore what the perception tools tell us?

It's possible the current economic decline is a direct outgrowth of resource impairment, even if it is not there are no great distances between resources and any other part of our economy. If resource impairment is being amplified through the credit mechanism, the wolf is here and eating children!

Nobody wants to sound like Irving Fisher:

He famously predicted, a few days before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, "Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." Irving Fisher stated on October 21st that the market was "only shaking out of the lunatic fringe" and went on to explain why he felt the prices still had not caught up with their real value and should go much higher. On Wednesday, October 23rd, he announced in a banker’s meeting “security values in most instances were not inflated.” For months after the Crash, he continued to assure investors that a recovery was just around the corner.


There is a lot more background material, but a little imagination is all that is necessary to find this material for yourself ...

The potato famine in ireland resulted in mass starvation because British policies were informed by Malthus' work... and they assumed that many had to die off because Ireland was overpopulated.

P.P. The potato famine in Ireland may have been exacerbated by political and economic underpinnings but make no mistake about it: The potato famine was due to overpopulation and mono-cropping followed by a predictable sweepstakes event.

The proximate cause of famine was a potato disease commonly known as late blight.

Although blight ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s, the impact and human cost in Ireland – where a third of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food – was exacerbated by a host of political, social and economic factors which remain the subject of historical debate.

The political and economic policies that led up to the Irish Famine took centuries. When the blight wiped out the staple of the poor Catholics of Ireland:

...a calamitous period of starvation, disease and mass emigration between 1845 and 1852 during which the population of Ireland was reduced by 20 to 25 percent.

If you're looking to disprove Malthus or Club of Rome predictions The Irish Potato Famine is not going to support your case.


'Tragic and Disastrous' are surely the right words to use for a population and a business paradigm that has come to the brink of fishing the oceans dry.

The scales we are affecting ecosystems has nothing in common with previous Cries of "Wolf" .. maybe from a clear view up in the Heavens, it could be seen that we're not going to deaden the planet with this looting and sooting.. but from what scientists are calling out from numerous disciplines, it is certainly time to connect the dots of ecosystem with economy and make very careful decisions about how to keep the balances from tipping us over.

It's very possible that the theater is on fire.. but there is a very loud movie playing. What do you recommend?

Great post.

Big theater fire yesterday -- so many of the glitterati, and they seemed to think it was part of the show!

Us chickens can't trust the rich and powerful to save us, I think, when they can't save themselves.

Truly, no one is harmed by living frugally, as someone posted above.

This computer simulation of the tragic Station Club fire in Rhode Island suggests that if you weren't able to reach an exit within the first 60-seconds, your chances of survival were extremely low.

See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6rP2m28itU


Crowded places can be dangerous - fatally dangerous.

I usually feel very uncomfortable and tense whenever I am in a very crowded place. Some "experts" might say I'm suffering from "agoraphobia". I'd say that is just my gut talking to me. I think I'd be better off listening to my gut than to the "experts".


And not just crowded places. If time permits (and if so interested), take a read through the Fire Marshal's report on the MGM Grand Hotel fire in Las Vegas.

See: http://fire.co.clark.nv.us/(S(abfk0w45d0vj1x55jp2sno55))/Files/pdfs/MGM_FIRE.pdf

For anyone not familiar with this particular tragedy, this NBC News report provides some background:


Update: This NPR series at http://www.knpr.org/lvirmgm.cfm offers some first-hand accounts of the events of the day.


Well it seems that our Well-fed Iconoclast (PP) today has offered his proposal, in that we should be telling the audience that there might be a fire here in 15-20 years.

Reminds me of the IEA's recent position, until they shortened the projection to 10-11 years.

In either case, I still don't see that his 'Don't worry, be Reasonable' attitude, while yes, more 'Sellable', will have any effect towards getting people to administer the 20 years or so of preparation that we hear is needed for both energy and climate/ecosystem transitions..

Who else wants to help think of ways to interrupt the screening to create a decent bucket-brigade and get the kids towards the exits?

Malcolm - 'Ooh, ahh', that's how it starts, but later there's the running and screaming.
Jurassic Park II - The Lost World

The issue of human growth begs the question, what are physical and biological limits? The number of species going extinct has radically increased and will continue to increase as long as the human species keeps crowding out the non human species. In this sense, we reached the biological limits a long time go. If the notion of other species is considered largely irrelevant, then it is balls to the wall.

My land contains a lot of trees, a little forest as it were. It is not reached its limits if by that one means I could cut down a bunch of trees for firewood. But from my perspective, it has already reached it biological limits with respect to the biological impacts of cutting down most or all the remaining trees. I would rather err on the side of conservation and cut just enough trees to maintain a healthy forest through selective and judicious thinning.

Yes, it may be that we can continue to grow what we define as material wealth for some more years, but do we really want to considering that impact on the environmental health of the planet. Have we run up against absolute limits? Maybe not. But I don't think we want to grow up to that point, anyway, considering its impacts.

In any case, to be sure, much of this debate depends on judgments of value.

The reality, unfortunately, is that we will grow until we simply cannot grow anymore because we do not care about the biological health of the planet. The poor man living next to the rain forest will continue to destroy it regardless of the local or planetary impacts.

Earth has been called the living planet and for good reason: Life (contrary to Biblical conjecture) has been a zesty affair here for over 3.5 billion years. On Earth we actually know less about life here than we do about mapping the cosmos. We have identified approximately 1.4 million species of plants, animals, germs and fungi (and carefully studied less than 10% of that number). However, it is estimated (E.O. Wilson) that there are between 30 million and 50 million species on the planet.

During life's tenure on the earth there have been five previous mass extinctions. The last one, called the Cretaceous, happened approx. 65 million years ago. It wiped out the dinosaurs plus untold millions of other species. Cause: Massive meteor strikes in the Mediterranean and Gulf of Mexico causing volcanism and climate change. The biosphere was so clouded with debris and sulfur that the rays of the sun hardly reached the earth. Most of the planet froze into a ball of ice: Species extinct: 76% gone in a period of about 10,000 years. In geologic terms: the blink of an eye.

Biologists have already named the next mass extinction: The Late Quaternary. When is that going to happen? How about right now.

Estimates are that we have already lost between 22% and 44% of plant and animal species in the last 100 years. Of the remaining species more than 50% are threatened. Currently we are losing 1% of extant spp annually. At the current rate, we are on track to pass the 50% mark by 2050. Man has been able to undo 3.5 billion years of evolution in a mere hundred years.

What people are discovering is that ecological limits also place limits on the prospects of civilization. Forget about the whales and polar bears. Start worrying about the health of bacteria, fungi, insects, worms and phytoplankton. These fundamental life systems do most of the heavy lifting, cleaning the air and the water for free.


"Massive meteor strikes in the Mediterranean and Gulf of Mexico causing volcanism and climate change."

that's a new one. i get the volcanism part, but you ever here of the deccan shield volcano ?

it seems this meteor strike kills dinosaur theory has "evolved" into the meteor's causing volcanos which killed the dinosaurs. yes, meteor strikes may have "contributed".

and incidentally, the yellowstone cauldera is the eastern locus of another shield volcano which earlier in its career was passed over by the colombia river basin and idaho craters of the moon. scary stuff. the usgs seems to be saying dont worry, be happy. personally, i have prepared an evacuation kit.

This is not exactly inflationary:

Life after a six-figure salary

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Happy New Year and welcome to your new job. One that pays 30%, 50%, 70% less than your old one.

That's right: With more than three job seekers for every opening, more workers are having to take significant pay cuts to find employment.

Though this is likely to be a growth market:

Secondhand stores shine in weak retail market

As thrifty customers turn to secondhand goods, resale stores are profiting from the recession.

California governor offers new budget fix plan

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday proposed closing a $42 billion budget gap by shortening the school year, borrowing nearly $5 billion, raising the sales tax and tapping the state lottery.

California will probably get a bailout once Obama takes over, but still...shortening the school year? Looks like education isn't the sacred cow it used to be.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Happy New Year and welcome to your new job. One that pays 30%, 50%, 70% less than your old one.

That's right: With more than three job seekers for every opening, more workers are having to take significant pay cuts to find employment.

This is not a problem, if and when the prices are allowed to go down (deflation, like now).
Like the housing prices, or the car prices, or the oil prices, and so on.
But we can count on the government to work hard to prevent the lowering of the prices (to sustain the "economy"), so the people will remain without a job (when wage are keep artificially high) or will be without the means to buy what they need (when prices are keep artificially high.)

Workers have been losing ground with respect to income vs prices since 1970.
Median salaries have only increased about half of what prices have increased.
Basically it takes two salaries to live at the same standard as one in 1970.
More workers have had an effect of lowering the value of a worker.
Without special skills, education, and experience, workers today make less than they did in 1970 on an inflation adjusted basis.

Example - I made $5 per hour in 1980 as a starting worker. That would be equal to about $13 an hour in today's dollars. Starting workers today are still only getting about $6.50 per hour.

Car prices have gone from $3000 to $30000 a 10 fold increase.
House prices have gone from $20000 to $200000 a 10 fold increase.

We cannot keep this up. Prices must come down or incomes must go up.
Looking at today's greedy corporations, incomes only really go up for CEOs and Executives.
The rest of us get zapped with higher insurance, disability, and other costs that used to be paid for by the company. So in effect if we got a "3% raise" it was a net gain of zero.
This year we got no raise at all, so that is a net loss of income in real terms.
Over the last 3 years, my net worth has fallen from $200K to about $50K due to falling values of assets, and increases in costs. The future prospects of a "retirement" are farther out now.

IS THIS disconnect (incomes vs prices) due to the United States reaching peak oil in 1970?
There seems to be a link....Without cheap local energy, costs of living go up, but if incomes do not go up as much, then there is a loss of wealth.

More workers have had an effect of lowering the value of a worker.

I think you're hit upon the key there. Rather than lower wages causing more people to work, it's quite possibly the other way around.

I don't, however, think there's any way out of that.

Car prices have gone from $3000 to $30000 a 10 fold increase.
House prices have gone from $20000 to $200000 a 10 fold increase.

Not since 1980. And your starting salary then can't be compared to below-minimum-wage today... nor is minimum wage an accurate measure of median income levels.

Your auto example is also a bit off. The average price of an american car (inflation adjusted) is up closer to 15-20% since 1970, and it's hard to argue that the price difference isn't warranted by changes in quality and features. (Imports have seen a much larger price change)

Closest I could find... sorry that it's only through 2001.

Those increases are since 1970, and with more sales taxes, higher insurance, property tax increases, car tags, maintenance costs, and cost of fuel going up. The overall cost of ownership is much greater today than it was in 1970. My Dad bought a top of the line brand new station wagon with all the options for $8K including taxes in 1973. Try the same thing today and see what you get......Quality has not made up that difference and neither has fuel efficiency.
In other words, the price of car ownership has increased at a higher rate than overall average inflation. And, So has a house. Not even going to get into medical and health related costs!!!!!

Those increases are since 1970, and with more sales taxes, higher insurance, property tax increases, car tags, maintenance costs, and cost of fuel going up. The overall cost of ownership is much greater today than it was in 1970.

Certainly "greater"... but "much greater"?

Remember that there are factors operating in the opposite direction as well. Imagine a brand new "average" 1970 automobile sitting right next to an "average" 2009 model.

Ignore the collecible/emotional aspect of a "new" 40-year-old car and it's clear that you're getting lots more for that moderate extra expense.

Far better mileage, far more reliable, far quiter, much longer warranties, less required maintenance (though I too miss being able to do everything myself)... and that's all before you get to standard AC/climate control, CD/stereo, cruise control, power everything, air bags, stability assist, anti-lock brakes, etc etc etc.

IOW, in almost every way apart from "style", the base vehicle is far superior to that average car from 1970. Take that in to account (as CPI does) and prices have possibly fallen.

My Dad bought a top of the line brand new station wagon with all the options for $8K including taxes in 1973.

That's almost $40k in today's dollars. Yes... I imagine I can get a far superior vehicle for that amount today. It might not have to 350-400 horsepower V8, but today's top-of-the-line minivans are better in almost every way.

The main point is that my Dad could afford to buy an $8K car in 1973 on a meager salary, and now I am not able to afford a $40K car on my good salary due to all the other costs of owning a vehicle today. His insurance was $100/year, gas was 25 cents/gallon, and tag was $100. You know what it costs now for a $40K car? Have you had a trip to the dealer for maintenance on a car lately?
100s of dollars to start.
My point is the cost of ownership in total. The car costs 5 times as much now, but my salary is only 3 times what my Dads was in 1973.

For me, in Italy, is the same.
And, for what I read about the US you are doing the same mistakes (in a different form) that we did a few decades ago. Bailout of Big Industry, politicians corruptions, raising taxes and so on.

The FED, being the Central Bank of the world, is inflating the money to keep the economic growth artificially high. So they are taking the value out of the money the people receive and giving it back to big (failed) bankers, industrials, politics and crooks.

Without the Fed. inflating like mad (5% yearly for 20 years is 278% in the price index but not equally distributed) the money would not be so cheap. 5% every year is like 17 days of work to add every year to do the same. This is not notable with economic expansion fueled by technology. You lose 5% and gain 10% from technology. But the 10% don't happen any and all years. So, in the long run, common people lose more than they are able to gain.

Prices must come down or incomes must go up.

I'm not sure this is true. There is another option -- lower standard of living for all. I think prices and income will both go down, and even if inflation kicks in prices will rise faster than income. I strongly suspect a 'cheaper' life is in store for the majority.

The potential for technology and behavior enhancements to help does exist, though. Greater efficiency in overall energy usage, including transportation modes, housing, business, and industry, plus priority-shifting within the economy overall could actually raise long-term living standards to some degree, depending on your perspective.

For example, having your carless wife feeding the kids home-grown veggies and locally-sourced meet and cheese at home could be viewed as an "improvement" versus hauling them through the McD's drive-through in her Lexus after picking them up at the sitter after work.

For example, having your carless wife feeding the kids home-grown veggies and locally-sourced meet and cheese at home could be viewed as an "improvement" versus hauling them through the McD's drive-through in her Lexus after picking them up at the sitter after work.

While your example is tinged with vestiges of a gender bias that will be inappropriate to our new way of living, I applaud your examination of the valuations placed on different aspects of life.

The Lexus driver lives in a world that values material consumption, conspicuous displays of wealth, and ownership. In the history of human beings on the planet, these values are relatively new, being confined to the last few thousand years and only spreading to a majority of the population in the last century.

But it's important to note that it's not just some sort of relativist choice between different sets of values. Those "Lexus Values" come with a price... to the planet, to our health, to our spirit. In the process of elevating those materialist goals to the pinnacle of our culture, we have lost parts of who we are. And, I would argue, the better parts that make our lives worth living.

While your example is tinged with vestiges of a gender bias that will be inappropriate to our new way of living ...

Shaman, I think you are confusing 'gender bias' with the immutable reality of the sexual division of labour.

In fact, the 'new way of living' will probably be more traditionalist than many would like, with women returning to the kitchen and men returning to the fields. I fear the day of the metrosexuals is numbered.

It's not as universal as you think.

In ancient Hawaii, men were responsible for all aspects of food preparation. Hunting, fishing, farming, cooking, everything. Women were not allowed to do any of it.

This horrified the missionaries, who thought the women were lazy, sitting around all day not doing anything.

Me, I suspect it was that way to keep women from eating too much food. Hawaii, like many cultures under Malthusian pressure, had strict rules limiting who could eat what and when. Many of the best foods were forbidden for women. If they gathered and cooked it, though, it would be awfully hard to keep them from eating it.

C.O. I think it is you who has confused culturally assigned gender roles with "immutable reality."

As for returning to more "traditionalist" roles, you may be right. But what tradition would that be? In more cultures and over more time, women have been the primary agricultural laborers. In more cultures and over more time, food preparation was a group / village effort and not a chore assigned within individual families.

As for metrosexuals, I suppose you need a "metro" to have them, but don't assume that means that gender roles are so black and white in "traditional" societies. Indeed, you might want to read Clifford Geertz on "Common Sense."
I recommend the entire essay, but if you want to skip to the part I'm referring to, scroll down to the bottom of page 80 where the discussion of "intersexuality" begins. Turns out, it's us americans that have the problem accepting that non-duality of sexual reality.


Gender roles are not black and white but they are certainly to a large extent biologically determined (Darwin 101), i.e. there is an immutable core common to all societies known to wo/man. You are right about tradition, point taken -- only traditionalists believe that all traditions are traditionally alike. Thanks too for the Clifford Geertz link -- pencilled in.

Recommended reading from my perspective:

Kingsley Browne, Divided Labours: An Evolutionary View of Women at Work


See also Steven Goldberg's 'The Inevitability of Patriarchy':



I have a very dim view of socio-biological theories of behavior. I worked with Glenn Schubert for several years, both as his TA and with him on my terminal degree committee (a situation I had to change given our differences). The longer I worked with him the more I came to believe that what he and others were proffering was a fairly useless combination of "common sense" and nonsense. It was hard for me to work through this as he was, without doubt, the quickest mind I've ever met. But quick doesn't necessarily mean convincing.

The thing I think that gets forgotten is that Darwin provided a powerful explanatory framework to examine biological change over time. Later theorists would use it to examine social change and even behavioral change. The jump to using the one set of biological explanations as a foundation for a set of behavioral changes is just assumed, never made an explicit locus of inquiry. This leads to the sometimes silly pronouncements like (one of my favorites) men are prone to having multiple partners as it increases their liklihood of passing on genes to the next generation whereas women stick with one partner as it increases their odds of assuring pregnancy and thus passing on their genes. On it's surface it looks eminently reasonable an explanation. But don't look to close or you'll note some problems - like this view presumes that women have fewer partners, something that is not born out by surveys of sexual behavior, especially when removing the blinders of religion. I could go on, but this is already to long.

Point is - while I've heard frequent reference to Goldberg, I've never read him. And given the known limitations of his ethnographic samples, I don't think I will. I don't know anything about Browne's book, but given its pedigree, I think I can tell where it's going.

For contrary culture based views you might want to try;
Gerda Lerner's "The Creation of Patriarchy" - http://www.amazon.com/Creation-Patriarchy-Women-History/dp/0195051858
Riane Eisler's "The Chalice and the Blade" - http://www.amazon.com/Chalice-Blade-Our-History-Future/dp/0062502891

The move is similar - biases toward patriarchal structures and the belief of their inevitability are based in an historical perspective that considers only the civilizational period.

My own personal take is here (apologies, rather long):

Some of how much women return to the informal economy and food preparation will simply depend on how many children they have - the biological realities of pregnancy and nursing in a lower-energy world are likely to mean that women are tied for some time to the domestic sphere. But in a one-child family, that's not very long. Spaced out, extended breastfeeding for two or three, though...

Initially, my guess is that family roles will get dumped upside down by unemployment - whoever manages to keep their job, keeps their job, because it is so badly needed. So many men will probably become primary nurturers, simply because they are no longer employed. Where there is a choice, my suspicion is that women will be pushed back towards the informal economy and domestic labor - but not always. In fact, IMHO, raising teh status of that labor for both men and women is likely to be essential for men and women - probably more essential for men, who tend to suffer more from stress and depression when their provider role is taken away. Helping them find a new definition as "provider" of food directly - by gardening, cooking, etc... is likely to be important to avoiding a large scale suicide rate.

In a society that took a semi-rational approach to avoiding both unrest and higher birth rates, we'd see subsidized education made widely available, to keep both men and women in school (comparatively when held up against civil unrest or rising population rates) into their 20s - which would make a big difference in the ability of women to leave the workforce and come back over their lifetimes.


During the Great Depression, it was often women who kept their jobs. Because their wages were so much lower than men's. Businesses were as strapped as everyone else, and wanted the cheapest labor they could get. Which was women.

If unrest is a worry, I'm not sure school is the answer. It's students who are usually the source of unrest. Basically, people who are in between childhood and full responsibilities of adulthood are the most likely to cause trouble.

Yes, an early, sudden, and complete transition to adulthood may result in higher birth rates, all other things being equal. But that is not likely to be seen as a problem by the government. Developed nations tend to see lack of population growth as a problem, far more than overpopulation. They want to keep the ponzi scheme going, and that means ever more taxpayers, more laborers, more soldiers. What's the solution to social security insolvency? More young workers!

damn woman ! that will be real damn(two damns in a row) hard for the mucho machos of the red necked nation. it just dont seem feasible for a red blooded member of the impire of debt, gotta protect our right to drink beer on sunday's watching nascar while devising a new use for particle board.

There is another option -- lower standard of living for all.

Paleocon, you know better. :-) That should read "lower standard of living for most".

It's possible there would be a lower standard for all, but much more likely that the standard of living for those not at the very top will suffer, while those at the very top will maintain or even increase their standard of living (because the measurements will be skewed up so it doesn't look like so many are falling).

cfm, downwardly mobile in Gray, ME

The main problem is the cost of politics and taxes.
The regulations from the '70, in the US, are triplicated.
The taxes are lower, but the Fed keep inflating more than other countries (like the EU). This cut the wages of all and the value of all people continuously. Year after year without the people being able to noticing it.
But the main problem of inflation is that some people lose with it and some people gain by it. The people that gain are the people receiving the new money that are able to use it before the prices rise. Then the Fed. need to lower the credit (to limit inflations) this cause a bust and investments go liquidated. So this cause a continuous destruction of wealth (by malinvestment) and a continuous shift of wealth from losers to winners (usually because they have good friends where political decisions are taken).

I think you are correct to connect this to the U.S. reaching peak oil in the seventies. But I don't think it's the complete picture. The seventies also saw the creation of the Trilateral Commission and marked the beginning of the intentional globalization of the American style of capitalism.

The rapid movement of industrial production to lower labor cost locales was not just a matter of pitting "foreign" workers against American labor. It was, but more importantly, it was part of the expansion of the economic system controlled out of New York and Washington. The elite was expanded to include London (already a part member), other European capitals and financial centers, Tokyo and Osaka. (More would be added later as the expansion continued. What this did was essentially enlarge the American dominated economic system that would become our current global system.

Part and parcel with the expansion of the elite came the expansion of the working (read servant) populous. So, while it is true that the average American wage fell, the average wage elsewhere (especially Europe and Japan) was rising - essentially evening out the size and prosperity of the working class across a much greater geographic area.

At least, that's the way it appears to me.

Long ago I worried about the intentional shift from being a manufacturing economy to a service economy. You can't have a service economy without servants, and therein lies the inherent deception -- we can't all be rich servants. We could all be highly-productive manufacturers/farmers/craftsmen creating asharing a wealth of goods and mostly doing our own chores, but we're not.

The bigger issue, though, was the view that the rest of the world could be relegated to servant roles as well. Through the dubious mechanism of international debt, the balance of trade is more like a tribute train rather than a cooperative arrangement. The domestics servants bought the wealth fallacy because the foreign servants allowed us all to feel rich. The coming debt collapse is just a peasant uprising capitalist-style.

Until then, though, bow down, fetch dinner, and give me stuff!

You can't have a service economy without servants, and therein lies the inherent deception -- we can't all be rich servants.

Exactly. The only way it works is if the pyramid keeps growing. Those on the bottom (or their kids) will eventually get a chance to rise to the top (or at least the middle). The flip side of this is the belief that anyone who hasn't risen through the pyramid is lazy, stupid, or otherwise unworthy.

Even many peak oilers don't seem to get this. They think they'll be writing papers on green energy or some such thing, while somebody else grows their food and does all the dirty work it takes to support them.

. . . while somebody else grows their food and does all the dirty work it takes to support them.

I've seen this repeatedly with several upper income couples who are aware that we live in a finite world (one of them head of a local Sierra Club)--regarding their own kids. They seem to think that there will be white collar "policy making" positions available for their own little darlings.

A couple of years ago, I suggested to a high school graduate, daughter of one set of said parents, that she major in agriculture. She looked at me like I had grown two heads. I think that she is headed for law school.

These last few post caused a MAJOR connecting of the DOTS - for me.

I get people asking me about the best occupations and I tell them that anything that needs hands and talent will be valued.

Mechanic, machinist, welder, stone mason, carpenter. I am a carpenter, my brother is a plumber. Farmer is a good occupation, so is doctor and veterinarian. Musicians will always be able to eat. I don't know about artists since most of them suck.

If I had gone to college I probably would have become a lawyer, there will always be courts and laws and lawyers since the alternative is duels.

A young lady visiting my marina told me she had to finish her masters degree before her loan ran out. I asked if her major was business. She sneered and said no. " I'm an environmental science major."

I'm not entirely clear what sort of job an "environmental science" degree will get her.

Any help?

The people I know with this degree work directly for industry or government, or indirectly for same within engineering consultancies, mostly in the preparation of environmental impact studies for large building projects including transportation corridors, usually greenfield. One is working on brownfield restoration.

Lots and lots of work.

Environmental Scientists from US BLS

Environmental scientists conduct research to identify, abate, and eliminate hazards that affect people, wildlife, and their environments. These workers analyze measurements or observations of air, food, water, and soil to determine the way to clean and preserve the environment. Understanding the issues involved in protecting the environment—degradation, conservation, recycling, and replenishment—is central to the work of environmental scientists. They often use this understanding to design and monitor waste disposal sites, preserve water supplies, and reclaim contaminated land and water to comply with Federal environmental regulations. They also write risk assessments, describing the likely affect of construction and other environmental changes; write technical proposals; and give presentations to managers and regulators.

Employment of environmental scientists is expected to increase by 25 percent between 2006 and 2016, much faster than the average for all occupations.

I'm not entirely clear what sort of job an "environmental science" degree will get her.

A job in a law firm doing environmental law. Putting values on the salmon, the run of the river and the biosphere and then showing that the human benefits of trashing it will exceed the immediate human costs. Nature will never get paid.

But she will call in the loans.

cfm in Gray, ME

Interestingly, the rest of the world seems to like playing the pyramid game, too. They're finally beginning to say "we don't think you Americans should occupy all the top rows", but they all seem to agree we need a bigger pyramid.

I got to Peak Oil by studying growth and I got to my study of growth by wondering about why is it that Tom Friedman and Hillary Clinton are considered "liberals". I was stuck in thinking that "liberal" meant tolerant. Well, it does, but that tolerance is purchased by more stuff. Absent more stuff, we revert to a catfight - as the Monbiot quote rotating top right suggests. More stuff, utilitarianism, liberal and neo-liberal economics, even deference and passivity (consumer vs citizen) - all of those seem ultimately derivative from the Enlightenment values we so celebrate - particularly the cult of the individual and Private Property. Corporations are the great engines of liberalism. Ooops! Heilbronner argues this string better than I just did.

If we really are hitting the wall, then the whole underpinnings of liberalism and many of the Enlightenment values on which we've built civilization for the last two centuries fail. If there can be no more "rising tide to lift all boats", and if you've been making the moral case for growth on that - to bring up everyone's standard of living - then what? You're stuck when the water runs out; liberalism cannot handle that. The social values of liberalism - tolerance and diversity - dry up when the economic plenty dries up.

Keeping the current liberal paradigm going requires more growth. Because of the stranglehold corporate "capitalism" has on our culture, society and political systems, we will dedicate every last resource to the corpos - to those engines of liberalism - our big stone heads. The longer we keep it going, the worse we make it. Everyone wants a bigger pyramid scheme. We need a bigger pyramid or we crash.

It's critical to know if we really are hitting resource limits. Diminishing marginal returns, even diminishing absolute returns, suggest it. Cheap energy plays a special role, allowing us to exploit very low grades of resources because energy is cheap. But when energy is no longer cheap and easily available, those low grade resources will no longer be only hard to use, many will become entirely inaccessible. It will be like throwing a switch - mines and wells will shut down. Fishing boats will tie up for good. The end of an economic overshoot isn't going to be a decline, but a precipitous fall off.

And with it, liberal values and social, cultural and governmental systems based on them.

It won't matter how many dollars there are if there are not real resources. Dollars don't really make up for poor grade resources unless they can marshall some other cheap resource to lever out the desired low grade resource (eg cheap energy). That's the law of receeding horizons.

All those hockey stick graphs in The New Scientist lately. If we're fighting over water, then yes, we are clearly at limits.

cfm, limited in Gray, ME

To me, current economic Liberalism means trying to narrow the gap in the allocation of resources.

I would agree with you that "Liberalism" becomes much more difficult to practice when hitting resource limits, but I think it also becomes more important.

When there are lots of extra resources around, it doesn't hurt me as much if a bunch of CEO's live in 15,000 square foot houses, and have 200ft yachts. If resources become very limited, however, some cannot have that much without depriving others of a reasonable amount. As the pie gets smaller, it becomes more important not to let people have too big a slice.

There have always been movements and thinkers far to the left of 'liberalism', people who sought fairer distribution of power and wealth through other means than the 'invisible hand' of a 'free' economy.
One can find traces of this in the Mohendjo Daro - Harappa civilization (I think it's 5000BC or so), more recent examples are the Graccchi brothers in the roman republic and the anabaptists in the 14th century; egalitarianism raises its head in movements like the diggers, the shakers , the quakers and other religious radicals. Exported to the americas an the carribean, they probably give rise to the incredibly egalitarian pirates' contract, which even contained primitive health insurance. Portions of the loot were set aside for injuries, proportional to the injury. The captain got 2 parts of the loot at most, everyone got one part, injuries were counted before dividing the parts.
Then, there was the American revolution, and frankly, if it had all been about bourgeois kids dressed as indians throwing tea in the bay, it would never have happened. The writing of the constitution and its amendments was a fight between several factions, landowners being one of them, other factions, some religious, were far to the left, at least on some topics.
The french revolution was fought by the populace, lost by the aristocracy and won by the bourgeoisie - the jacobins were the radicals to be subdued. Subsequent episodes (1830, 1848, 1871) resulted in the firm takeover of the state by the bourgeoisie, not without showing an increasing surge towards egalitarian principles from the lower classes, especially during the events of april and may 1871 in Paris.
In the mean time, Proudhon, Marx, Bakunin and others were inventing and describing anarchism and socialism.
The fact that Napoleon Bonaparte enjoyed much emulation by subsequent leaders - in short, a combination of 'populism' with great personal charisma and power; the dictator, being chosen by plebiscite, impersonates democracy - does not diminish the continued fight for leveling the ground, as can be seen in may '68, the Seattle and other globalization events and now the riots in Greece.
In America, 'liberal' might be a convenient short-cut to politics for a kind-hearted, tolerant kind of person. But if you really wanted to paint humanity with two colors, masters and servants, owners and owned, liberals are colored master and owner.
To return to your discussion of values. I suspect we will see in the short term a major upsurge of egalitarian ideas and movements. If such should be the case, violent repression may be expected. It will be interesting to see how the different factions congeal along ideological lines. I think 'liberals' will continue to exists; humans have an urge to be 'nice', even in the upper classes, but it is quite possible they will be greatly diminished, at least in status, in the coming turmoil.
I will not predict the outcome. Numbers have to be weighed with status (as in: the ability to call in protection), historically the upper classes lost to the lower, but the lowest didn't win. Then again, historic revolutions all happened when growth was still feasible. As growth stops, scarcity will grow. That might put some weight into the balance, possibly tipping humanity towards egalitarianism.

"Even many peak oilers don't seem to get this. They think they'll be writing papers on green energy or some such thing, while somebody else grows their food and does all the dirty work it takes to support them."

Double plus up rated.

I would add that many here and elsewhere believe that their wealth, to what ever degree they have it, will insulate them from this reality.

Therefore a huge % of the population are totally focused on putting in great amounts of effort and energy in acquiring and protecting their wealth instead of spending their effort and wealth acquiring and protecting their energy, renewable that is.

Wealth and maybe more specifically money, will be the death of us. Just some sooner than others.

On the other hand, there is a larger percentage of the population who is busy trying to consume their way to affluence. This of course is impossible, but the housing bubble was the clearest example of this: the illusion of wealth acquired through consumption. (A house is actually consumption, since it produces nothing and depreciates with time.) The people who have accrued wealth (as represented by dollars) still hold a comparative advantage over the other, larger population in the current environment. Of the peak aware people, most see more clearer what real wealth is, which gives them a better chance of retaining what they have or acquiring more even as the vise gets tighter.

Structures can lose value over time, but residential land tends to grow in value, particularly if favorably located in an urban area with growing total income and/or population.

Structures only lose value if they aren't maintained.

If you're looking at nothing else other than the accounting, "Creative Destruction" occurs when it becomes cheaper to build something new over the spot occupied by something old (when amortized, its essentially worthless,) plus its paying for its maintenance.

It becomes attractive to do so when the potential revenues from a new building rise faster than the potential revenues fall from the existing building.

A well maintained structure stays well maintained and therefore on the positive side of the equation for as long as the maintenance costs can be paid.

That last sentence implies that the economy is doing well enough to pay the costs...

Land values are almost totally dependent on politics, specifically zoning, and zoning is driven by government tax policies.
In the old days, old and young were cared for by counties, so counties arrranged zoning to attract younger people into the counties to pay taxes. Now old people are paid for by the federal government, and young people are paid for by the county government, so counties attempt to discourage young people by screwing with the zoning rules. Change the tax distribution and property values based on zoning will crash.

Not so. The best explanation of land value is $/acre = f (aggregate supply, aggregate demand, locational advantage). Land in central Nebraska: cheap/acre. Land in Manhattan: expensive/acre. No amount of zoning will change that.

Zoning, viewed from a developer's perspective, is thought to be "flexible" and (too) often changes reflecting landowner desire, particularly at the urban fringe (hence sprawl).

Not so. The best explanation of land value is $/acre = f (aggregate supply, aggregate demand, locational advantage). Land in central Nebraska: cheap/acre. Land in Manhattan: expensive/acre. No amount of zoning will change that.

Zoning, viewed from a developer's perspective, is thought to be "flexible" and (too) often changes reflecting landowner desire, particularly at the urban fringe (hence sprawl).

That is not true everywhere. Here in the East bay part of California, we have very pricy McMansions, surrounded by grazing land, which because high value uses are zoned out, is very cheap per acre. This is a case, where zoning has created a shortage, and the prices that go along with it (for residential), and effectively the opposite for grazing land.

"Structures only lose value if they aren't maintained"

Clearly not following the housing or CRE markets...

"Creative Destruction" occurs when it becomes cheaper to build something new over the spot occupied by something old (when amortized, its essentially worthless,)

HUH !!

I am surrounded by well built houses a century and a half old that are another couple of centuries (at least) from being "essentially worthless".

They can be neglected for 40 to 50 years, (until the roofs leak) and still be renovated back to prime condition at less cost than building new. And be a better built, more solid home as well.

Your "logic" explains the McMansions with a design life till major repairs of 20 years.

Best Hopes for Quality Construction,


Structures hardly ever increase in price! A property may go up in real terms, but that is because there is value in being in a particular locality, not because one is inhabiting a house. The house provides shelter ( a valuable service), but it must be maintained (and will be consumed piecemeal in any case w.r.t. the appliances, windows, roofs, doors, flooring, etc.) BTW, maintenance is certainly consumption of a sort.

Leanan's got it. The single thing that I write about that is most controversial is this - that most people are going to be poor, and have to live like poor people. Even people who get it often don't get the reality of what that means.


Class is touchier than sex.

The beauty of it is, if you live like you are poor before you are poor, you won't be poor. The people I know who have been the richest the longest, did it by living like poor(er) people.

It really comes down to cash flow. Some things are easier to cut back on than others. Debt service is one of the harder ones, and it is the one that most people are way overloaded with. The easy ones that people cut back on are dining out and cable TV.

We got our mortgage paid off last summer, so now I am trying to figure out what the next move should be. In some ways this isn't our ideal house - I would prefer to have a place with a yard where I could have a garden and some fruit trees, a place with no HOA, a place near the MUP so I can ride my bicycle to get around, and a place that has good southern exposure so I could put up solar if I wanted to.

But we aren't in a huge hurry to go anywhere. One other cash flow issue I have is that I have some stuff in storage from before I was married, and I would like to be able to give that up and not pay that monthly fee. My project for the spring is to find stuff in there to pitch or sell.

Good analysis, but forget about driving real incomes up, it isn't going to happen.

What really needs to happen in the US is that we need to have a focused national effort on lowering the cost of living for the common man and woman. Lots of things could be done:

HOUSING: A change in zoning laws and building codes needs to be mandated so that large single family homes (AKA "McMansions") can be remodeled into multiple family units, accessory apartments can be built in attics, basements, garages, and back yards, and more infill development is allowed. We need to allow roming houses and even dormitories to spring up around major employers. If we don't want shanty towns to start appearing around every major city, then we have to come up with some way for workers who can no longer afford spacious suburban homes to at least have some sort of affordable minimal shelter close to their workplaces. We also need a massive national program to insulate and weatherstrip housing - a good job for a new Civilian Conservation Corps.

TRANSPORT: We need more urban mass transit, and streets that are more friendly for bicyclists and motor scooters. We need to remove bureaucratic barriers against people setting up pedicab, jitney, taxi, or shuttle services. We need to begin to seriously transition to a society where it is no longer presumed that an automobile is a necessity that everyone must have to get around.

HEALTH CARE: The present US "system" is unsustainable and unaffordable; something drastic needs to be done. Scrap employer-provided health insurance and convert the employer benefit into a voucher. Ditto with the Medicare Part A benefit. Government vouchers can be provided to cover those who cannot afford coverage on their own. Have a "default" health insurer in each state that will accept everyone regardless of pre-existing condition at a standard rate. The standard benefit package will essentially match Medicare A, B & D, but much less generous and with much tigher cost controls (e.g., meds must be generic only to be covered). Make Medigap-style E, F, G, etc. supplements available to everyone for a standard price. Set up a government sponsored stop-loss reinsurance scheme to cover insurers whole wrt to adverse selection, etc. We may need to essentially evolve to a two tier system, where poor people get free or cheap basic care at government-run public health clinics, and the well-to-do can buy better quality care and get better service from private health providers.

FOOD: We need to seriously ramp up community gardens and make it possible for those who don't have land to grow some of their own food. Zoning laws need to be changed so that chickens, dairy goats, rabbits, and bees are allowed in all residential areas.

I would add to your excellent list "COMMUNICATION:" as this can reduce the need for transportation and provide for new forms of employment.

Yes, there is work that needs to be done wrt "communications".

Look at what one must spend for telephone, DSL line, cable or sat TV, or cell phone. The corporations are focused on making these as expensive as possible rather than as cheap as possible, so more and more people are getting priced out. Cable is one of the first things to go as people look for things to cut, which is a good indicator that cable is overpriced for the value being delivered. People are increasingly ditching their land line for cell phone only, suggesting that land line service is also overpriced relative to the value being delivered. Why is there such a huge differential between the cheapest pre-paid cell phone plans and the cheapest multi-year commitment plan? I see lots of disconnect out there between what people want and are willing to pay for and what the corporations insist on offering.

I just ditched my landline for an Ooma. Admittedly, it's pricey (about $200), but you never pay another cent for phone service. There is the possibility that Ooma could go out of business. But switching my DSL to dry loop (no landline) means my monthly bill went from $67 to $25. Ooma just needs to stay in business for a few more months, and I'll be ahead of the game.

During the Great Northeatern Blackout the only thing working here were landlines.

Ditto for my lifeboat where I lose power frequently.

People complain a lot about the increasing cost of cable, but ultimately it is the channel providers that are responsible for most of the increase. Initially when a new channel is launched, they offer it to the cable companies for next to nothing. But if the thing starts to develop a following, they start to jack up the rates.

Recently there was a squabble between Time-Warner and Viacom about exactly this issue, but they reached a deal yesterday:


The channels that are the most expensive are ESPN et. al. Some cable companies have tried to make these channels premium channels, but ESPN fights this - they want to be in everyone's home. Back when I was single, this used to really be a bone of contention - I would *never* watch sports on TV, and I estimated that I was paying about 7$/month for junk that I didn't even watch.

The Christian right has been pushing for a la carte programming. So customers could pick and choose exactly what channels they get instead of these huge bundles that oftentimes contain garbage, and they are pushing for it so that they don't have to pay for stuff they find offensive. But it would benefit everyone I think as we could all turn off stuff that we never watch.

I think a la carte programming will be more and more of an issue. Originally, it was rightwingers not wanting to pay for smut and leftwingers not wanting to pay for Fox News. But I think it's going to be a financial thing, more and more.

Sports is the most expensive thing on the menu. Only 1/5 of viewers ever watch ESPN, but everyone pays for it. If sports fans had to pay their own way, it would be a real hit to their pocketbooks. Heck, I'm not sure I would pay five times as much for ESPN, even though I'm a sports fan. There are alternatives now. You can buy subscriptions that let you watch the games live, over the net. You can watch pirated live streams from China and other countries.

"Expanded basic" cable is over $61 a month now. The only reason I keep it is for news and sports. I don't watch the vast majority of the channels I get. It's pretty irritating to have to pay for them.

How about doing away with three strikes and you're out and letting go marijuana offenders, for example.

Shortening the school year is a good idea.
Year by year, the school year became longer and longer.
Year by year, the number of topics in the curricula increase.
Year by year, the pupil become dumber and dumber and know less than before.

Schooling is become a electoral tank of votes for the politicians.
SO cutting the school year length is not a bad thing. Maybe the children will be able to do thing with their hands and learn something useful.

"Maybe the children will be able to do thing(s) with their hands and learn something useful."

I agree with this 100%. Too many young people today are going to universities to learn how to become lawyers, hotel managers, financial wizards (eventually crooks?), accountants, and other non productive occupations.
We should be directing more high school graduates to trade schools and if they choose college, to engineering.
I am a mechanical engineer but also a certified welder and have some training as an electrician. The economy's future employment will require educated people that know math/science and can write a short essay, but also know how to use their hands.

The thing is, though, most students in other countries that are competitive with the US (i.e., OECD countries) attend more days each year, they put their nose to the grindstone while in class (i.e., they cut out the crap and focus on what is important), they have their feet to the fire in the form of a terminal comprehensive standard exam, and they end after 12-13 years having actually learned more than most US BA degree recipients. If we actually educated US students as we should in K-12, we wouldn't have so many needing to go on to college.

A century ago, a lot of US 8th grade students finished their education having learned more than a lot of US college graduates.

We need to do better - a LOT better.


The book to read is Charles Murray's 'Real Education':


Extract from one of the reviews on Amazon.Com:

Charles Murray has written a brilliant analysis of the shortcomings of current American education, both K-12 and postsecondary. First among the problems he singles out is the pervasiveness of a mind-set he calls "educational romanticism." Educational romanticism takes as realism the Lake Wobegon fantasy, the notion that all children are above average. Consequently, its advocates tell the young, in smarmy Edgar Guest fashion, that there is nothing beyond their ability if only they try hard enough. Murray subtly points out the unintentional cruelty in this practice of encouraging overparted children to repeatedly set themselves up for failure. As an antidote, he suggests we accept the existential truth that schoolchildren are not equal in talents and abilities, that some are more gifted than others in the most important areas for academic futures, language skills and math ability....

With regards to California schools, I disagree with your conclusion. The facts are that over the last five years:

Sales are down - Fewer students
Quality is down - Lower graduation rates
Expenses are up - 40% since 2003

I believe the sacred cow needs to attend business school, or at a minimum take a class on how to balance a checkbook.

Another peeve of mine, I walked my daughter passed the school everyday. For the last two weeks while the school was closed, I could hear the heaters blowing away from too many rooms to count. Its just more of the whining "I'm not accountable" teachers who can't even maintain simple discipline like turning the heater off.

My daughter goes to the "worse" school in the district. We were even upset and tried to fight it. It was an easy fight as the principal and her teacher were out front every day to greet the students. Then we complained about things they needed that were missing. They fixed those issues. Turns out, the only reason why it was the "worse" school was because of the side of town it was on and that it was the oldest. Surprisingly, the principal doesn't give a damn about perception and is doing miracles with what she has, which I may add, is her job. I can assure all of you that a new 50 million dollar building would not make that school even slightly better.

The people I work with went to school in grass huts and are some of the best engineers in the world. So please, spare me the mantra that money/days in class/class size are the keys to a good education. Those are just union commercials on TV selling higher union dues and more administrator and have nothing to do with teaching our kids.

That said, if any of you have kids and still feel the need to be a victim, enjoy 2009. You're going to have a ton of material to complain about.

Agreed, the quality of a school is more dependent upon having quality teachers who really care and know how to educate. That being said, the quality of each individual student's education is more dependent upon their environment at home. If they have parents who value education and make sure they learn just as much outside of the classroom as they do inside of it, they will be much better off.

Also, does anybody else find it absurd that a mortgage lender was making $110,000 per year to begin with? As an engineer who makes half that, I think it's ridiculous how all of these paper pushers out there have been making that kind of money.

Yes, the importance of facilities is vastly over-rated in the US. Once basic sanitation and life safety issues are met, simple facilities will do just fine. And yes, you are right, it is the quality of the people that matters most. Respect and appreciation cost nothing but will go a long way toward assuring that the best teachers are attracted and retained.

However, I do insist that time on task does matter. We have too little of it, and it is showing.

I concede your last point. What the heck, the heaters are already on, might as well be in class.

US school children are already spending too little time in the classroom compared with their overseas competitors. IMHO, this has a lot to do with the dismal underperformance of US students on international rankings. Now we're going to cut back even more.

I remember when all the industrial jobs were being shut down and sent overseas that there was a lot of talk about the US transitioning into a "knowledge economy". Right. The disconnect between what that implies and requires and what the US education system is actually producing is vast beyond description.

The US is increasingly governed by a 3rd world government, it provides 3rd-world level educational and other services, our infrastructure is deteriorating to 3rd world levels, and our economy is starting to look more like that of a 3rd world country. Want to know what our future will be? Look no further!

US school children are already spending too little time in the classroom compared with their overseas competitors. IMHO, this has a lot to do with the dismal underperformance of US students on international rankings.

Have you lived abroad? Perhaps you should attempt to be more specific. Also, I'd like to know what you value about education: what skills are you so enamored of that Americans don't have?

These are serious questions, though admittedly tending toward the rhetorical side.


Do I know what a rhetorical question is?

The issue as I see it isn't the time spent, but the quality and manner of instruction. Specific gripe: My kids are encouraged to use calculators on rote problems. If intuitive comprehension through rote repetition were the goal, calculators should be banned. If basic understanding were the goal, then fewer, harder problems should be assigned. The goal must therefore be to get quick at using a calculator. What value is that? Instead my kids complain that word problems are "too hard", since they only know how to solve equations with a calculator rather than using equations to solve a problem, which of course the calculator cannot (yet) do.

Want me to be more specific? OK, this is old data, but things don't change all that much from decade to decade:

Japan 243
West Germany 266-240
South Korea 220
Israel 216
Luxembourg 216
Soviet Union 211
Netherlands 200
Scotland 200
Thailand 200
Hong Kong 195
England/Wales 192
Hungary 192
Switzerland 191
Finland 190
New Zealand 190
Nigeria 190
British Columbia 185
France 185
Ontario 185
Ireland 184
New Brunswick 182
Quebec 180
Spain 180
Sweden 180
French Belgium 175
Flemish Belgium 160

Source: "The Case for More School Days" - The Atlantic 90:11

You need to dig deeper into those numbers. Many of the top performers may have more days per year... but fewer years overall.

The problem simply isn't the number of days in school... it's what we do with them.

True, simply adding more time with no plan to use the extra time constructively is a waste. However, I'm pretty sure that most of those countries that devote more time each year do manage to put that time to productive use.

The question could also be asked: What are US students doing with all that extra time OUT of school that is so productive?

This is an argument I get into all the time with people who are sports fanatics. They ohh and ahh about some fancy new football stadium that the alumni raised all kinds of money to build. But if the school wants a new library? Crickets.

This isn't to say that I am opposed to all forms of athletics, but it tends to be the high dollar ones that seem like a huge mis-allocation of resources.

Yeah. My sister went to Texas A&M, and she likes to tell the story about how they tried to hire some Nobel-prize winning physicist from an Ivy League college. The alumni were outraged at the salary they offered. It was as much as they were paying their football coach!

Do we know if football is a net money maker or loser for these schools?

It costs a lot of money, but brings in a lot too.

That's hard to measure. The easy to measure answer is that it brings in less money in ticket sales than it costs, but the payoff may be delayed donations by alumni after they die. Do ex football team and cheerleaders and spectators leave more money to the school than ex science geeks?

That must have been before the days of expensive football coaches, too!

Presumably, multinational counts of days of instruction will be refined, in time, to provide more detail. In the meantime, an observer might note several things about the list presented above. Highly ranked are Japan, West Germany, South Korea, and Israel, four nations noted for their discipline and drive.

This is why people who are not, and have never been, teachers need to listen more and speak less. Above you have listed a counting of days. Let me tell you about those vaunted Korean days, eh? Since I have lived them as a teacher, I hope my words will carry some weight with you. If not, I pity you, for you choose not to learn.

Koreans go to school 220 days. They score well in math and science. In standardized, useless, tests. Are you aware that two to three weeks of those days are wasted in February? They finish the meaningful year in December then come back in February for.... numbers. To fill up the days.

Are you aware there are these HUGE sports days each semester? Know what they do? Spend a huge amount of time in the week before practicing doing the events. That's right. They don't train, they just practice doing the events. So they look good. And even more time is spent choreographing the presentations for the proud parents.

Are you aware that even in elementary school everyone teaches the same things to the students the same way because they are teaching to the quarterly and yearly tests that determine these kids' futures? Like "No Child Left Behind?" They seem to have copied the Korean model. Utter bullocks.

Know what Korean kids can't do? Answer the simple question, "Why?" About anything. This is not hyperbole.

Do you know the typical Korean has never written a research paper by the time they leave high school? That they haven't even learned to write standard essays and do not know the format? Can't even do an outline? That they have never really been asked a question by a teacher? That their "English" speeches are jumbles of words they memorize and cannot speak with you about? And almost always are written by tutors and/or parents. A co-worker once called it barking words.

Have you ANY idea of the things you consider common knowledge that the typical Korean has never even spent any time thinking about?

What you get from Koreans is rote information, learned by rote. There is no discussion or dialogue in class. There is no independent study. There are no significant projects.

To the extent that people have natural abilities and intelligence(s), you will, of course, find Koreans who are very bright, quite intelligent and can do very creative thinking. But this is not the norm.

But here's the good part: Want to know why Koreans do well on math and science, but are, despite being the world's 9th to 11th economy and being among the best at science TESTS, among the worst on the TOEIC and TOEFL tests? (Oh, are you aware they score something like 116th in the world on those tests despite spending more per capita BY FAR on English study, as well as studying it from elementary school on?)

Because they have no childhood. They don't just go to school (and waste a hell of a lot of time there), but they go to "cram schools" from pre-school on. After school they go to 2 to 5 hours of cram schools on myriad subjects.... for their entire childhoods. High school? Wake at 6. Study. Go to school. Go to cram schools. Return to the HS for study hall from 7 to 10. Go to more cram schools or study at home. Go to bed at 1 or so. Get up at 6. Extracurricular activities? Sports? Nope. Except at yet another cram school.

All rote, all the time. There is a reason Koreans score well in sciences: it's a large amount of ROTE INFORMATION.

So, don't tell me what is or isn't wrong, because you have not the slightest clue.

What is wrong with American schools is what's wrong with America, NOT the other way round. All you genius non-teachers out there need to step back and listen to the people who are actually doing the job. It's not just pissing and moaning, it's reality. You send us kids who are not ready to learn, who are not held to high expectations at home, who are not taught a work ethic, who are not taught respect for their teachers, who are not held accountable, etc., and who are not funded properly... yet expect perfection.

Damned fools, the lot of ya.

If you wonder what's with your kids, you need look no further than the mirror and the person jabbering about every fault they can find except the one in front of their face. When you blame the teachers instead of yourselves you are modeling to your children how to lay the blame anywhere but at their own feet. ANY child with caring and supportive parents and the native ability to learn, WILL. Period. If your child isn't, you have but yourselves to blame.

I DARE you to walk into your child's classroom and observe for a week. Write up a critique. See if you can actually find significant fault with what is taught for a week. I guarantee you you will not, in almost every case, have any major complaints to lodge.

It's actually bizarre. There is so much criticism of the culture at large, yet you people think that doesn't filter into the schools?


Enough. Stop talking about that which you know not until you have educated yourselves. And don't read anymore damned news articles or papers. GO BACK TO SCHOOL.



So the Koreans do a better job of educating 99% of the students and the US does a better job of educating the 1% of the students like me? Well, no, because I educated myself. Teachers had very little to do with it. Mostly they had the sense to let me sit in the back of the class and read what I wanted.
And the other 99% of the students? The ones who have parents that want them to learn enough to get a job? They don't count?

You need to read what I wrote again. You didn't understand it. Koreans do a better job of educating none of the students. Ask yourself: why does Korea copy and improve rather than create from the get-go?

As for educating yourself, the wisest teachers don't teach as much as get out of the way.

And the other 99% of the students? The ones who have parents that want them to learn enough to get a job? They don't count?

Again, you did not understand what I wrote.


ccpo, I understand you,
and I agree with you, in spades. It's too easy to come off as racist when I'm sure it's the school system culture, not the culture as a whole that's responsible for the dismal level of intellectual curiosity among Korean students.

I've worked with Chinese tech folks, who are remarkably creative, if only in finding new ways to escape work; I've had the displeasure of working with Japanese engineers, who are bright and polite but as stubborn and arrogant a bunch as any I've ever experienced; But nothing compares with the vacuous thickness of the Korean engineers - BSME and BSEE - who appear for all the world to be truly incapable of conceptual thinking. No means and no methods for figuring things out, no initiative, and no trace of an intuitive grasp of their subject. This opinion is not stealth racism - My Korean-American colleagues by and large display none of these negative traits, and have been a pleasure to work with.

So after my job was offshored to Korea, the corporate masters ran into a few unforeseen "issues," like an inability to manufacture product. Pardon my shadenfreude, but it amounted to some cushy consulting contracts for me, lasting a couple years. Then I got bored with leaning on my shovel, and gave up working for other people. And he lived happily ever after - so far.

Your experience is the norm. There are some very powerful cultural influences in all of it, but no, it's not a racist screed. My best friends in the world are Korean, as is my wife. But the education system is based entirely in Confucian belief systems.

While most know Confucious as a great philosopher, he included in his writings a very rigid social structure that included defining the nature of the various relationships. Over time this structure ossified and was changed via cultural changes, and, mostly, the abuse of it by those with power/authority. The result is Korean culture.

I suspect most Americans take for granted that we actually learn how to think and reason. It's not completely inborn. Teachers in the US ask students questions. They have them do projects, small and large, on their own. You can't get through 12 years without experiencing this. More importantly, this also happens at home.

But not in Korea. In both cases, everything is top down. "Think for yourself!" is not something you might hear a parent or teacher say to a kid. Let me give you a simple example. For conversation practice of common phrases that are also well-contextualized, I often ask students where they are going for this or that weekend/holiday/vacation. The answers range from I don't know (though they know they are going somewhere) to something like a different province (state). Sometimes a specific location.

"Oh! Why are you going there?"
"I don't know."
"Ah. When are you leaving?"
"I don't know."
"How are you going there?"
"I don't know."

I finally had to ask, and it turns out it's none of the kids' beeswax. Such simple, everyday things are not discussed. It's not in their job description.

Top down.

It's changing, but you still hear of kids getting broken bones in school. From teachers. And believe me when I tell you it's not for independent thought.

And for those of you who don't believe what I write, google "fan death" for an entertaining example.

Caveat: I am as critical of US culture, just for different reasons. Let's put it this way: My view can be encapsulated in the very large generalization: Americans can think, but are uneducated (and stupid.) Koreans are highly educated, but can't think (almost child-like).

I said it before: they do well with science because there is a great deal of memorization. They do poorly with language, which is abstract and communicative, expressive.

The take away here? Your problems are the culture and communities far more than the teachers.


Fan death, via Wiki:

The Korea Consumer Protection Board (KCPB), a South Korean government-funded public agency, issued a consumer safety alert in 2006 warning that "asphyxiation from electric fans and air conditioners" was among South Korea's five most common seasonal summer accidents or injuries, according to data they collected.

Sounds like religious practice, in that one shows respect for tradition through willfully ignoring objective data and common sense. Truly, it takes mental discipline to successfully shut out so much of our ordinary reality!

Confucianism is also behind the doctrine of torturing confessions from prisoners, IIRC.

Confucianism is also behind the doctrine of torturing confessions from prisoners, IIRC.

Now I get it.

cfm swimming in Sarcanol, Gray, ME

Having worked with and gone to school with engineers of many nationalities, I don't know if simple stereotypes ever universally hold, but there absolutely are cultural differences. Indian engineers have their own unique foibles as well. I have learned to leverage the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses of most, but it certainly takes work, and many simple "an engineer is an engineer is an engineer" business decisions to outsource work have been pure folly.

Well, no, because I educated myself.

Lets see if the posts slamming autodidactics now show up.

I seriously doubt we'll see posts slamming autodidacts. I have a strong suspicion that the AQ is pretty high around here.

Autodidactically yours,


i had to look up that word. does that count?

You're in! How do you think autodidacts get to be autodidacts... we look things up!!!! ;-)


I don't know what you guys are talking about. I never taught myself that word!

I was proud enough to eventually parse the meaning of autodidactic. But, no I think you'll get more sympathetic people than detractors.

Chuckle, I was a really sick kid, missed quite a few years of school, I think the first year I made it all the way through was the fifth grade. Not really ever socialized properly, rest of my family had to deal with the expenses and the amount of attention that I got that they didn't. I did learn to read early, my parents didn't have much and my hospital bills didn't help but they had been suckered by the encyclopedia salesman. So I must have read each volume 5 or six times, the bible more times than I could count. Then I got a library card. Talk about heaven. The basket on my bike kept getting bigger and bigger, then more on the rear. 6 mile ride one way to the library so they let me take all I wanted. Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Clarke.

Served me very well,indeed, need to build a house, a great government manual on wood frame house construction, a classic really, need a chimney, there you go. Plumbing, electrical, all there. So much on gardening and putting food by it's almost an overload. Rodale book clubs did help.

Into geezer hood now, and libraries are not quite the same, as an aside I actually married a librarian. Imagine that. The net is like Valhalla. I have to have my filters up to clear the chaff but the shear volume and access is amazing.

I went to college in 68, calc was no problem, advanced french was very kewl, got A's, had an asshole for english 101, thrilled in the power he had to flunk us and ship us to guess where when your deferment was gone. He didn't like the way I wrote,so there my deferment went. Quite a few years later I went to trade school, electronics when they still taught vacum tubes. Only one in my class to pop the 1st class broadcast exam first time. it's now a general license and the test is so much easier because fewer and fewer people could pass it.

I've always felt, I just need some time to come up to speed but I pretty much can learn anything I set my mind to. Lots of positive feedback for that, the book on chimneys, and the chimney I built that's been sucking smoke for the last 25 years. The house I live in. I don't need to be glib with the language because I can actually do things.

Cheers for autodidactics.

Don in Maine


You just flipped on a light.

I suspect that there are many autodidacts here.

If people are formally taught, but not taught critical thinking (likely), then they can only work within the limits of what they have been taught and are likely bound by conventional wisdom.

For example, if I went to Detroit in the '70s to study automotive engineering I would "know" that a car has the engine in the front, drive wheels in the back, a V8 engine and a 3 speed automatic transmission.

Autodidacts always have their teacher on hand, for when new situations arise whereas most people have all their information (lessons) presorted, probably wrong, but presorted.

PO, AGW et al, are fringe subjects and the situation is moving so fast that a particular mindset is necessary to accept a new idea and sort the wheat from the chaff. The members of this forum had to get here on their own.

Cheers indeed!


Autodidacticism in isolation is usually a mistake - there are some people who can pull off a reading education without external critique and support, but they are in an extreme minority.

Autodidacticism in an educational community is great - and educational community can be taken quite widely. For example, before I presumed to write anything about peak oil and climate change, I hung around forums like this one, and Running on Empty and various environmental groups with a high standard of discourse. I offered comments and made arguments, and received critiques, while also reading other people's arguments. I spent several years getting a damned fine autodidactic education - one that I couldn't have matched at any university, simply because there is no university with the same collective knowledge as TOD or other similar groups.

Both good formal education (and there's plenty of bad formal education out there) and good autodidactic education require that you have a place to test your assumptions, have them critiqued and argue them out, point by point. IMHO, real autodidacticism isn't really very different than a good college education.

Sharon Astyk BS (y'all can decide what that stands for) Oil Drum University ;-).

good autodidactic education require that you have a place to test your assumptions, have them critiqued


I agree that some sort of mentor is extremely important, particularly in the realm of thought, writing etc., but much of this can be done by reading critiques themselves and deciding who is right.

I was coming more from the point of the physical sciences where the critiques we more obvious and fairly dramatic, like things coming apart or chemical reactions going awry. (An electrolytic capacitor inappropriately wired can be very dramatic and the lesson tends to stick.)

My biggest concern about formal education is one of it's strengths. It is a box where everything that is put into it is carefully examined first but similarly precludes anything that was not already in the box.

Isolated learning has produced some amazing things because no one told them it couldn't be done. It can also make for some outrageous crack-pots.

Bob PhD (Post hole Digger)

"For example, if I went to Detroit in the '70s to study automotive engineering I would "know" that a car has the engine in the front, drive wheels in the back..."

I used to think that engine placement in autos was a carryover from the horsedrawn buckboard, don't recall seeing many examples of horses attached to the back of same!
However, front engine, rear drive autos made lots of sense for the '70's, and
rear drive in general offers better traction under acceleration.


I think you missed my point. There are trade-offs in any design.

My point was that formal education, while structured may be self limiting and often tell the student what can't be done as much as what can.

IBM very nearly went bankrupt, because they believed that if they weren't doing it, it wasn't of significance. I see close parallels with Detroit.

Thanks for the clarification.
My point was that inspite of formal education or maybe because of it, commonly held perceptions often have little grounding in reality.

I am not suggesting that the US educational system become just like the Korean one, or any other for that matter.

I am suggesting that time on task is something that is relevant and important. The fact that so many other countries - not just one or two - devote more time per year to education should give us reason to revisit the amount of time that we schedule.

Adding days to the school year will not by itself result in a magic transformation and elimination of all our problems. As you indicated, there are other, deeper imbedded problems that matter as well. However, the question still needs to be considered: what are we accomplishing by giving our kids that extra time off that students in other countries don't get? Is this time that is being put to good use, or is it just being squandered in front of the TV?

I am suggesting that time on task is something that is relevant and important.

And you think a test-based system and as many as 35 kids in a class is efficient time on task? Something wrong with your kids learning skills via hobbies, projects at home, etc? Far better use of their time.

If your kids are home and in front of the TV, whose fault is it?

Hint: Not the school's.


you have described my korean boss to a tee ! she once said to me after her child was off sick for a single day from school "he's like me - he can't wait to get back to work"
i hold people like this in the highest contempt as they contaminate the workplace for everyone else and promote stress and presenteeism over productivity and balance.

Damn fine rant, Seoul Man!

Painted hard with a broad brush, but sometimes you just have to let the colors fly!

My folks are both teachers, Music and Theater. (Tho' Dad also dabbled in Math, History, German, ESL.. probably a few more)

It's funny that the thing I have been the most worried about in sending our girl to 1st grade next year is the institutional conformity.. rote memorization, obedience as a higher calling, spending a great percentage of her childhood days sitting at desks, being talked at. The school we're likely to be at is a far cry from what you've had around you.. there's no doubt. But the deeper cultural development that you rightly pin on the US in general is still also pervasive (as you say) in these classrooms.. old prohibitions about emotional expression and intelligence, Feudal Archetypes of Angels and Demons, Nobles and Savages.. we just call them 'Bad Guys' now.

It's not the teachers I worry about, as much as the body of assumptions that they are operating within.. Leslie and I are each that kind of person who wants to do it all the hardest way possible.. so putting her into an environment mired in America's early-onset addictions to Sexual Obsession and Violent Rage, sarcasm and withering impatience.. (taught by TV, not Teachers) These are pretty crippling weights to be hung on their ankles as we tell them it's time to transcend..

Too tired to write.. but thanks for the perspective. The avoidance of creative thinking sounds like a terrible prison to me.


....I remember when all the industrial jobs were being shut down and sent overseas that there was a lot of talk about the US transitioning into a "knowledge economy".

How does the "knowledge economy" cloth, feed, house, transport, and care for people? This premise of the US shifting to an economy where no one had to produce anything tangible was a BIG LIE! The promoters of this hoped that the US could just "piggyback" off the cheap production of all the third world countries, meaning let them do the dirty work of extracting materials, forming these materials into a product, package and ship the product all over the world. Then the US would just get to mark-up the price for financing and coordinating these activities.

Well, it did not work. The rest of the world does not need the US as a supervisor and cheering squad, as they can perform production quite well without us. Although they have lost some exports to the US, many Asian countries have economies that can sustain themselves, though at a lower level than before the US meltdown.

China will now use nearly $200 billion of its $1.5 trillion of US currency reserves to build out its rail and transit systems in order to move to a system of manufacturing that uses much less oil per GDP than the US. In the US we continue to build more energy intensive highways, airports/air traffic control, while spending more on military than all of Europe and Asia combined. I see the US economy as the train heading downhill toward a bridge washed out by the flood of debt, but now we find out the train has no brakes and it is going too fast to jump off.

The promoters of this hoped that the US could just "piggyback" off the cheap production of all the third world countries, meaning let them do the dirty work of extracting materials, forming these materials into a product, package and ship the product all over the world. Then the US would just get to mark-up the price for financing and coordinating these activities.

Well, it did not work.

Actually, this is precisely what was done. And it did work quite well from the perspective of those who plotted out that course. Now there may be some argument, given the current recession, about future directions, but if you buy into that way of thinking, we will soon return to the continued growth and globalization.

It seems to me that your concern about China barely hides an all too frequent (and often unrecognized) xenophobia in those who profess to want to "rescue" the American working class. If you were paying half as much attention to the content of Chinese economic growth as you were to the alarmist headlines, you would learn that it is corporations based in the United States and Japan (and to a lesser extent the EU) that are driving that growth.

"It seems to me that your concern about China barely hides an all too frequent (and often unrecognized) xenophobia in those who profess to want to "rescue" the American working class"

I said nothing of the sort. You missed my point about where US businesses and governments are spending their money - on a system of highway and air transportation that is very energy intensive. If the US economy recovers somewhat in a couple years, oil demand will likewise increase thus causing rapid oil price rise. This will lead to another severe downturn in the US economy.

About "rescueing" the American Working Class: This country doesn't have much left of a true working class that actually produces or makes anything. We need to start producing things here in the US that have real value to Americans and those in other countries.

Since you seem to know about Chinese economic growth, please explain the fact the US economic industrial activity is down about 15% (minimum) based on freight traffic ( see www.trafficworld.com ) compared to the Chinese predicting declines of maybe 2 or 3%. US and Japan are keeping China going while both of former are in severe recession? Not according to the facts that I read in Business Week, Forbes, thestreet.com, Bloomberg.com, metalprices.com and many others publications.

I said nothing of the sort.

Are you sure of that? Perhaps you should consider that others may interpret you differently? Perhaps you should consider that those interpretations may demonstrate more about your thoughts than your supposed intention?

You missed my point about...

Did I really? Or did I read it differently than you "intended"? What I saw was an attempt to compare two countries where the implication was that the "other" was getting what "we" should have.

We need to start producing things here in the US that have real value to Americans and those in other countries.

I couldn't agree more with the sentiment. But what has "real value"? And is it really important to divide up the world into "Americans" and "other countries?

As for your Chinese concerns; first it probably is worth noting that simply listing a bunch of magazines/web sites that you consider "authoritative" doesn't mean anything.

With regard to the comparison of reduced industrial output it is unclear what your point is. And to clarify, I did not say that the US and Japan were "keeping China going." I said it was corporations in those countries that were driving their growth. This is the fundamental error most armchair economists make when they look at China - they do the us/them thing based on nationalism.

With respect to the impact of the recession on China, perhaps you should go look at those authorities of yours again and read about the layoffs in China. But that said, the US and Japan combined account for approximately 1/3 of the world economy (add in the EU and it's over 50%) - do you really want to tell me that dog can't shake the tail that is the Chinese economy? Recession or not?

How does the "knowledge economy" cloth, feed, house, transport, and care for people? This premise of the US shifting to an economy where no one had to produce anything tangible was a BIG LIE!

It was based upon the national myth American Exceptionalism the belief that we are much much better than the rest of the world. If this were actually true, and the rest of the world was actually dumber -or less willing to do mental work, it would have worked just fine. But of course the reality is otherwise, we weren't chosen by god as a special breed to populate a city of a hill. But it will be a long and difficult process trying to accept that fact.

A popular Wall Street publication, The Corporate Examiner, is planning a special edition this year on "the end of faith-based economics," with an article by Hall and his colleagues. In October, Hall convened the first International Conference on Biophysical Economics in Syracuse, New York, and will publish a book this year. "Since economics is about the production and transfer of physical things or services that require energy," says Hall, "it is a biophysical science, not a social science."

This is the most stupid things I have read this year.
Someone that believe that economics is simply about production and transfer of physical goods and services don't know what he is writing (non a problem for a journalists).
The job of economy is to link want to offer. It is mainly a distribution/elaboration of information, not of energy. And the distribution/elaboration is done using the price systems. That work very well until the government start to interfere with it (fiat money, fractional reserve banking, taxes, etc.).
Energy is only a commodity, like water, corn or gold that is exchanged for something other.

And economics is an illusion. To the economic world, the environment is an externality, not to be counted in computing value. In reality, economic transactions are internal to the environment within which they occur. If the economic transactions destroy the environment within which we all live, there will no longer be any economics.

The Earth may be thought of as a space ship, with life support functions provided by the totality of all the ecosystems that have evolved over billions of years. We are part of those living systems, whether we realize it or not. In a space ship, anyone that starts to punch holes in the shell of the ship would immediately be restrained or even killed. Same goes for messing with all the wiring and plumbing needed to keep the space livable. Our insults to the Earth must be stopped before the damage is terminal. Better get used to it.

Economics treats energy as a commodity, especially when it is in the form of fossil fuels. But, energy is the fundamental commodity, in a sense, as energy is necessary to keep all the rest of the economic system functioning. Fossil fuels are very much like capital or a bank account. When they are gone, all those economic activities which use them will go away as well since the bank account will be empty...

E. Swanson

The basic economic question: "Our resources are scarce, so how do we best choose to use them?"

It is a perfectly valid question, and obviously rooted in the real biological/physical world.

The problem with economics is that it has suffered from a too-limited understanding as to what constitutes our "resources". When one thinks about optimizing only a subset of one's total available resources, it should be no surprise that the outcome ends up actually being sub-optimal. That, in a nutshell, is where Economics has led us astray.

I think economics theory is focused upon maximizing production of new capital, when the same equations could be better solved for minimizing waste or maximizing efficiency. I submit that in essence it's not that econ is optimizing a subset of resources, but that the math presumes a superset of non-existent resources.

But econ is a tool at best, a slave to the purpose for which it is bent. Human value systems are an input to the machine, not an output or an answer. There are many layers to the problem, but what lies at the root is deeply human.

As it is said so often here... "Energy is the capacity to do work." Less energy; less work.

You are correct in your description of economics: it is a description of the dynamics of information flow in the social system. And the biophysical economics folks are still working out their vocabulary, and are fighting the established paradigm, so they sometimes overstate their case a bit...

Conventional economic theories have been tremendously successful at describing our modern world and allowing us to manage our resources more or less effectively. But they rely on the assumption of 'effectively infinite' sources (for energy and raw materials), and sinks (for waste) in the world. 'Effectively infinite' means that the amount of energy, water, arable land, and minerals available to be produced is much, much larger (orders of magnitude greater) than the scale of our demand, so that the economic model can treat resources (esp energy) as pure commodities - we can never actually run out of them, and can always substitute other materials with equivalent or superior quality if any one resource becomes scarce. Similarly, it assumes that the amount of land, water, and atmosphere available to absorb our waste products is far greater than the magnitude of our waste streams, such that the waste streams will never degrade our productive capacity in any way.

Biophysical economics, and the 'Limits to Growth' school of thought, argue that our current scale of civilization is large enough that these assumptions are becoming progressively less valid. We are (or will be) increasingly encountering scarce resources with no valid substitutes, and/or the poisoning of our environment by our wastes (e.g. Global Warming), because we have reached hard limits in the resources available on the earth. They are arguing that we need to refine our economic theory to consider at least some resources and waste sinks as a closed, finite system. This is such a radical shift that no-one is quite sure what such a system would look like (well, I guess Kunstler is pretty sure he knows, but his theoretical framework is a little thin...;-)

In fact, this shouldn't be terribly controversial, except for the crucial question of when we will hit those limits for specific resources, and what we should do about it (if anything). Conventional economics doesn't deny that they assume that all sources of inputs to and sinks for outputs for the economy are effectively infinite (and perfectly substitutable). The more proficient biophysical economists don't disagree with the validity of these assumptions for most of history.

I am very sympathetic to the biophysical economics school. Unfortunately, it is still a fringe discipline, which means that the theoretical frameworks are extremely immature. The quality of writing and thinking is also very uneven, which means it will be years, if not decades, before it is incorporated into mainstream thinking.


Then there's this:
Small quakes shake Yellowstone

HELENA, Mont., Dec. 30 (UPI) -- An "energetic earthquake swarm" of minor temblors shook Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho for several days, officials said.

The park, which lies over a huge volcanic caldera, experienced around 40 quakes, the Helena, Mont., Independent Record reported. The largest measured 3.8 on the Richter scale -- a quake strong enough to be felt by people in the area but one that rarely causes damage.

The caldera is sometimes referred to as the Yellowstone 'super volcano.'

Clusters of temblors are common in the area, but they also raise anxieties about an eruption of the super volcano. The caldera measures 34 miles by 45 miles.

[edit]... never mind, I see y'all discussed it yesterday while I was away from the console ...

Yes, and there were another 15 on January 1.

Hello DIYer,

Recall my earlier postings on potential Antarctic vulcanism, massive WAIS calderas, and the potential ramifications, then see my O-NPK posting downthread. The profit kings would happily re-equilibrate the entire ecosystem, even more than we are already, if it allows them to live in continued short-term luxury.

Blasting away until a WAIS caldera erupts could be the very last geo-engineered financial profit bubble. As mentioned so many times before: we will do Anything for the Elements NPK and the food it can generate; the 'Circle of Life' as we circle the drain...

It made Time magazine...

A Spurt of Quake Activity Raises Fears in Yellowstone

We who live along Montana's Yellowstone River are downstream from a simmering volcanic caldera, a geologic hot spot that has become especially active recently. Indeed, Yellowstone National Park contains the floor of a gigantic volcanic cauldron, one that rises and sinks with the forces that lie beneath — hence the picturesque geysers and steam holes. But a wave of recent earthquake activity is raising fears that have their origins 642,000 years ago — when a Yellowstone "supervolcano" exploded so violently that it created the caldera itself. Such an explosion — 1,000 times more powerful than the explosion of Mount St. Helens in 1980 — today would not only cover most of the United States with ash but throw so much dust into the atmosphere that the world's climate could change.

Could the current activity be the warning signs of another such apocalypse? Or just a large, but not world-ending earthquake, like the 7.5 on the Richter scale temblor that happened on a summer night in 1959, causing a mountain to slide down into a campground, killing 28 people and damming the Madison river?

And there's a new burst of activity just in the last hour or so. A 3.5 at 18:32 GMT/UTC

Volcanoes and tectonics are areas I've always been fascinated in, so I have fair general knowledge. As the article points out, there are pretty characteristic things they'd be looking for. If they're on Green, there's little for you to worry about.

Not that anyone's ever had the chance to actually study a caldera actually blowing its top...



Interestingly there have now been three 3+ quakes in the last 2 hours and 5 in the last 24 hours. Probably nothing to worry about though. Fingers crossed :)

Quakes, of course, are precursors to eruptions, but not usually in isolation. They'd expect deformations, emissions, etc., I'd think.

That crystalline mass down there will move about. When it does, the material above has no choice but to move with it. Likely all it is.

However, on the off chance the unexpected happens, I'll be glad to not be in the US.

Selfish, I know...


where do you find such information?? (link/site, etc.?) thanks.


updates within 5 minutes of a quake. The USGS "real-time" is also at
but that's often delayed compared to the utah site.

There's also the raw seismogram displays at http://www.seis.utah.edu/helicorder/ if you like staring at squiggly lines :)

That Utah seismic site you list first is excellent - although probably not healthy for me to look at too often as this multi-day swarm of quakes IS quite unusual (30 above 2.5 in this swarm as compared to 120 total above 2.5 for the 1980's - although I suppose the 80's could have been an unusually quiet era? I hope)

Possible that even a volcanic event there wouldn't be the whole supervolcano - and since if the supervolcano went it would be a civilization-ending event (at least) - not something to lose sleep over since nothing can be done...

That BBC docu-drama about Supervolcanos that chose Yellowstone as the site is pretty well done and rather horrific in a real doomer-porn way (and viewable in total on youtube)

I plan on continuing to watch what happens - and if I lived very close would think about a long vacation to the south...

Garrison Keillor recommends France.

Garrison's folksy mid-westernism doesn't really appeal much to this Southern Californian (although my mother's family is a bunch of Norwegians from his neck of the woods) - and I think anywhere as far north as Paris would be a poor choice if this thing goes - but then, if it goes the whole game is up anyway - in which case he's right, why not drink the last Louis Roederer at the Georges V and wait for the crop failures to begin?

I wonder how Costa Rica would do after a supervolcano gave us another ice age?

I'm just amused at how much the "Yellowstone Supervolcano" has become embedded in popular culture. This rightwing site suggests "the big one" could be the Biblical end of the world.

I wonder how Costa Rica would do after a supervolcano gave us another ice age?

I really doubt a supervolcano would generate an ice age. A transient cold spike, but unless the climate was near to tipping into an ice age to begin with, it would recover. And volcanoes release CO2 as well. Extended periods of high volcanic activity lead to greenhouse episodes, not ice ages. So the recovery would almost certainly be to a warmer level than pre-eruption. Of course, without extensive pre-eruption storage of food, things would get nasty for a few years...

FYI, the Mammoth Lakes region - among the best skiing in California - is also such a caldera.


Long Valley Caldera blew 700K years ago. Ash went half way across Kansas.


and Mammoth Mtn is a resurgent dome for LV Caldera - and has had similar quake clusters to what we are seeing in Yellowstone - without blowing up - so hopefully it's just some restless movement in the magma chamber 2 clicks down and not the biblical end times the christianists are hoping for

as for an ice-age, it may not (although it looks like Lake Toba may have started one - but it IS a lot bigger than Yellowstone caldera) - 3 or 4 years of world-wide crop failures wouldn't doom the entire human race, but it sure would cut down a large portion of it...

An interesting article about how the market for hybrids is tanking:

Americans’ appetite for hybrid cars is evaporating as tumbling fuel prices and tighter household budgets trump environmental concerns.


I guess it's not surprising that people would choose short term savings (a cheaper conventional car vs. a more expensive hybrid) over potential long term savings (lower fuel consumption over the life of the car) when money is tight. They may feel they can't afford to spend now in order to save later.

That doesn't explain the corresponding boom in SUV and truck sales.

Low gas prices and stupidity would explain both.

I could see some reason for the trucks: people thinking that they might need to take on some sort of work on the side for which having a truck is useful. Using the truck to haul firewood home, or garden supplies, or discarded appliances and furniture to be salvaged and repaired, etc.

It is harder to see a similar justification for the SUVs.

It is not common to see a pickup actually with cargo in the bed.
Not even here in farm country.

Hauling Gators and ATVs on a trailer? Yes.

Hauling grain,wood or anything else? Nope.

Mine right now has a big load of barn siding on it.Waiting to be dressed down. Free for the taking else it would have been dozed down,the barn that is.

So even farmers don't want to get their shiny new 4x4 Dually 350 pickup messed up with putting something in the bed!!!

I kid you not.

Airdale--mine is a Chevy circa 1988 with about 250,000 on the meter.
I will never buy another pickup instead will haul with what I have or with my trailer on my Jeep Wrangler. I haul a LOT of firewood.

And yet Mercedes still has a year to year and a half waiting list of people who paid $99 for a reservation number to be able to buy a Smart for Two car. Non-hybrid with 42 miles per gallon and an exterior design that looks like something other than the rounded hockey puck of the rest of the industry.
People still want to buy new cars, but they want something that has some exterior design and simple fuel economy. My 1962 VW beetle gets 35 miles per gallon with a fuel inefficient air cooled 40 hp motor. The new VW beetle has a 150 hp liquid motor and gets maybe 18 miles per gallon. I'd rather buy a new 1962 beetle than the new 2009 beetle. VW needs to get back to its roots?

VW has their own waiting list - for the TDI diesels. I have an older one - I get 48mpg highway, at least according to EPA. But if I am on the highway and keep the speed down I can easily get much better than this.

It's bad news all around for autos.
Visteon, a major supplier, just announced pay and hour cuts.
Hopefully GM, with already large staffing cuts will do the same.

Phew! So can we now expect the stock market to rally yet more? :-)

Tsunami destroys California, millions feared dead.

Dow Jones up 3000 points.

Well, many bemoan the loss of our industrial might saying it will be necessary to use industry to construct whatever to "make the transition to alternatives" yet they vote with their dollars when they buy foreign.
With that type of rationale is it any wonder the market behaves as it does?
To those of us still employed in the industry, we have seen the handwriting on the wall and are simply praying for enough time to prepare our exit.
Allowing the foreign manufacturers to operate here without the same fetters that shackle the domestics has doomed the domestics as surely as any other inaction by Congress.

Maybe this is a good thing. This will hasten the collapse of the automotive industry.

They might be perfect for some niche transportation, but IMO hybrids are just a babystep in the right direction in terms of human transportation.

given our conditions- economic, peak oil,...
i often wonder what solutions or even what to wish/hope for. kinda like how to land/crash a plane with failed engines; not if but maybe where/how.

i believe the best we can wish for on the economic front is deflation. an inflation allows greater credibility to government & controls with the ultimate inflation being war. the end result of an inflation will I believe result in a global economic collapse, coverup of this with war, etc. -this kind of kicking the ball down the road...

so here's wishing for deflation !!![BTW i'm set up better for inflation w/ my ira]. i hope largi, stoneleigh, et al are right.

also what to wish for re peak oil. the price runup was i think good re adjusting ; & now to have deflation take hold has brought less expectation of growth, being better off, etc.; so i think in most ways this combo of rising prices the economics knocking us all down some we won't have as horrible a reaction-less likely?- to going from economic growth to shortages as many of us thought likely. i'm thinking anger , looking for a scapegoat, etc. so something i'm grateful for the initial way peak oil is playing out. happy new year.
edited for clarification.


I actually am interested in what you have to say, but reading your post is kind of painful. Keep in mind that punctuation, grammar, etc. are a courtesy to those reading your piece. It really doesn't take much extra energy to use the shift key.



Remember when Chrysler introduced its K-car and in response to strong sales the company ran its "Thanks, America" campaign? With Chrysler's latest financial troubles and plea for government assistance, resurrecting that theme and giving the public a forum by which they could voice their support might have seemed like a good idea.... of course, they might have to re-think that second part....

See: http://blog.chryslerllc.com/blog.do?id=564&p=entry

Paul (who thinks back rather fondly to his '85 Plymouth Reliant station wagon, aka "Miss Plymouth")

My Dingy '83? Yellow Reliant K was my first car, $200.

"Doxology" .. after Sam Hamilton's horse in East of Eden.

Loved that spunky little Mitsubishi Block in my 'American Revival Stallion'


Hi Bob,

"Miss P" was an attractive gun metal gray with red velour interior and was equipped with Chryo's own 2.2L four-cylinder engine. I bought it new in October 1985 as a sort of winter-beater for my SAAB and sold it twelve years later with over 270,000 km on the o-d. It didn't have an easy life (I'm sorry to say, I wasn't very kind to the poor ole gal), but it never once let me down and I hardly spent a cent on it. As for my 900 Turbo, that thing was pampered and puffed like you wouldn't believe and was the most troublesome piece of machinery known to man. It very nearly bled me to death and each new trip (or, more correctly, tow) to the dealership resulted in yet another bout of "uncontrollable SAABing".


The "Climate Scientists Plan B" article" shows what happens when a generation of children grow up consuming too many drugs and watching too much Star Trek.

At least the article includes one quote from one of the few clear-headed scientists:

"Relying on geoengineering schemes such as sulphate aerosols would be analogous to putting the planet on life support."

Ah...., but... there is no such thing as a "climate physician."

So Who will pretend to be competent enough to decide if life support is indeed necessary, and who will create and run such a life support"?

Who will play the role of Dr. Frankenstein? Who will be the Alan Greenspan of the Climate Science World?

"Stupid F*cks Destroy Earth's Atmosphere while Playing Godz," newz @ 11:00.

"Stupid F*cks Destroy Earth's Atmosphere while Playing Godz," newz @ 11:00.

While I agree with your sentiment about geo-engineering schemes, how is this any different from what we have now? Sure, our current geo-engineering goes under the guise of "consumer oriented technology" or "economic expansion" but it's part and parcel of the same mindset.


We got into this problem by doing what we COULD do, but not knowing all the long-term consequences.

So now the proposal is to solve the problem by: doing what we COULD do, but not knowing all the long-term consequences.


"Climate Scientists Plan B". When I see things like this it makes me feel horribly despondent. Even our slim chances of survival will evaporate if these nutty scientists are allowed out of their cage.

I dare say the Earth's natural response to rising temperatures will be chaotic enough, with severe fluctuations as it attempts to remove imbalances. Anyone trying to implement some sort of climatic control in the midst of all this chaos may well end up over egging the pudding and tip us into an even more extreme World.

Hello Burgundy,

Your Quote: "Climate Scientists Plan B". When I see things like this it makes me feel horribly despondent. Even our slim chances of survival will evaporate if these nutty scientists are allowed out of their cage.

If we are really unlucky: financiers will profitably steer these guys into tapping the Antarctic's gigantic energy reserves of katabatic winds, circumpolar current, and downhill ice flows. These are probably the largest, unharvested, ONE-WAY power flows left on the planet.

Of course, our ancestors thought nothing of stampeding herds of mega-fauna over cliffs so that they could profitably harvest a few pounds of meat....

"The flat area immediately below the kill site was where the hunters camped while they finished butchering the buffalo. A few tipi rings, the stones used to anchor tipis against the wind, can still be seen on the prairie level. It was here that meat was sliced into thin strips and hung on racks to dry in the sun. Large leg bones were smashed to remove the nutritious marrow, and the numerous boiling pits excavated by archaeologists in this area indicate these broken bones were also boiled to render grease. Boiling was done by throwing red-hot rocks into hide-lined pits filled with water.

"Much of the meat obtained from the buffalo carcasses was used to make pemmican. In order to make pemmican, grease and marrow and sometimes berries were pounded together with dried meat. Pemmican was a very nutritious staple food that could be preserved for years."


More than a few pounds of meat, Toto.

Hello Toilforoil,

Thxs! I always welcome further elaboration or refutation, but notice that much of the earlier mega-fauna is still gone. I haven't seen a woolly mammoth, dodo bird, American dromedary, or passenger pigeon lately...

Although humans were not responsible for the extinction of the mega-fauna in North America.

I think they were. Some people blame the warming from the last ice age. But the mega-fauna had survived many ice age cycles before. It was only with the advent of humans in North America they became extinct. It explodes the myth about Native Americans living in harmony with nature.

I think they may have had something to do with it - but the latest theory I've seen is comet impact (CNN.com had an article on it today) - there are signs of impact that would explain the megafauna extinctions as well as the big die-back in human populations at that time (13,000 years ago) - certainly seems possible as the Lake Toba supervolcano is estimated to have wiped out 60% of all humans 75,000 years ago...

The History Channel also throws the Younger Dryas into the mix. Right time frame. Seems there may have been massive dust storms for a thousand years or so.


Bullshit with a capital B.


While *YOU* might think your claim is correct - and others here will go with 'If Airdale said it it must be true' - I'm going to ask you to Back up your claim. With a capital B.

How did ALL the mega-fauna except the buffalo go extinct at the same time? The natives just didn't like buffalo but loved Saber tooth tiger meat? At the same time, the Clovis culture disappears. Did they eat themselves? C'mon... doesn't pass the sniff test.

Correction: Above I said the Younger Dryas may have had something to do with the extinction. This is true, but the mechanism, if this turns out to be correct seems to be the shut down of the thermohaline circulation. That appears to have been caused by a cold rush of water from NA either from shifting ice opening and closing water routs via the ST Lawrence vs. the Mississippi, or an impact.


Youv'e inverted things. The Native Americans preserved the buffelo because it was a food animal but wiped out the perditors and other animals because they were useless to them. Perhaps they realised where they went wrong with the mammoths.

I can't think of any way to be charitable here: that's just silly. I know of no Stone Age culture, not that I'm an anthropologist, that went about slaughtering the fauna just for the hell of it.

It's good to know, actually, that you think this way on subjects other than AGW. Explains a lot.


Slaughtering other animals is what people do. When people arrive big animals get slaughtered. The fact the megafauna had survived multiple ace age cycles and everything else nature could throw at them for millions of years. But as soon as humans arrived they disappeared and the landscape was dominated by herds of buffalo, which is a native American food animal. I am not an anthropologist but I believe you can only stretch coincidence so far.

Logic, too, can only be stretched so far. It makes no sense that the best animal for food would survive while those others would be killed. What is the reason? the horse? The camel? The short-faced bear?

You are just doing what you do with climate change: clinging to orthodoxy. New evidence should engender re-thinking.

BTW, slaughter of animals is what modern and/or urbanized people do. Not so much those that live close to the land.


Try http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-05/uoo-ori052107.php

Two University of Oregon researchers are on a multi-institutional 26-member team proposing a startling new theory: that an extraterrestrial impact, possibly a comet, set off a 1,000-year-long cold spell and wiped out or fragmented the prehistoric Clovis culture and a variety of animal genera across North America almost 13,000 years ago.

Driving the theory is a carbon-rich layer of soil that has been found, but not definitively explained, at some 50 Clovis-age sites in North America that date to the onset of a cooling period known as the Younger Dryas Event. The sites include several on the Channel Island off California where UO archaeologists Douglas J. Kennett and Jon M. Erlandson have conducted research.

The theory is being discussed publicly, for the first time, today (11 A.M. EDT) in a news conference at the 2007 Joint Assembly of the American Geophysical Union being held this week in Acapulco, Mexico. Kennett is among the attendees who will be available to discuss the theory with their peers. The British journal Nature addressed the theory in a news-section story in its May 18 issue.

The recent UK Channel 4 series "Catastrophe" broadcast a NASA reconstruction which suggests the main impact took place on the North American ice-sheet and demonstrated how that would leave virtually no impact crater visible today.

And another recent article from the UK

Diamond clue to comet 'that wiped out a people'

A 'rare swarm' of comets rained fire over the entire region and melted a glacier that once covered the Great Lakes area, sending a massive flood down the Mississippi River, the researchers found. The waves of water caused changes in the Atlantic which ushered in the ice age known as the Younger Dryas. The comet would have hit about 65million years after the larger collision which killed off the dinosaurs.

Geophysicist Allen West, one of the paper's co-authors, said: 'Imagine these fireballs exploding in the air. A Clovis hunter standing and looking at these things would have seen a canopy of fire as these things came in and exploded. 'There would have been no sound. There would have been massive explosions. Brilliant light, brighter than the sun. 'There would have been radiant heat. It would have been capable, at the very least, of giving him serious burns and, at the maximum, of incinerating him,' he told the Washington Post.

Murray Springs in Arizona, one of the many sites where scientists found nanodiamonds

The theory that humans were responsible is just not credible for many reasons (timescale, human population size, percent of bones showing marks consistent with hunting vs other source of death etc),

totonella, and all up this chain:

By you last line I take it that we have learned absolutely sweet boom all. If, so I agree 100%.

If you compare these actions wrt the 5 stages of grief, I think we are approaching the negotiation phase. Note that the original article stated that:

"could save the planet from the worst effects of climate change, at least until deep cuts are made in CO2 emissions."

- Can I borrow a few bucks? Just until I get back on my feet of course!
- May apartment lease expires tomorrow, can I stay with you for a while?
- I'm being evicted, at midnight. Can you and your truck help me move?

I am not making this up, and as asinine as these examples are, I don't see much difference between them and GM, or AIG that expect extraordinary actions after failing miserably at prudent planning.

Plan B will do one or more of the following:

- It will fail miserably and divert time, energy and resources.
- It will succeed and a cost benefit analysis will be done, and it will become the new BAU, dressed up as "carbon capture"
- The law of unintended consequences will be invoked (insert disaster here).

The mindset, as has been said, is the key, so I fear that the question of whether we have time to turn it around (I think not) is irrelevant.

I can't wait to see what Plan C looks like. :-)

Its my belief from much reading of the frontiersman and such that the white man was more the reason for the demise of the buffalo than the red man.

There are numerous 'speeches' given by indian chiefs complaining of the white mans thoughtless slaughter of what the plains indians needed to survive on. I don't think they drove herds over cliffs. I think that is mostly 'made up' bullshit to push the blame elsewhere.

Read some of Allan Eckarts historical novels that are profusely footnoted and very well researched. The Frontiersman,Gateway to Empire,
a couple about Tecumseh and the Shawnee. Many more.The saga is frightfully saddening and most blame can be laid at the foot of 'us'.

I have heard this saga of driving animals over cliffs but I think that would be more on the order of ice age timelines where good weapons were not yet on the scene. Such as the bow and spear.

Or I could suggest you view Dances with Wolves. A fairly accurate film even though fiction yet it captures the real sense of people driven from their homelands and in fact they were the ones 'slaughtered'.

It seems from my recent research on MY ancestors who was of the Cherokee and being driven on the Trail of Tears did escape here in Ky and married the first of my kin whose name I bear and founded all of those with the same name. Yesterday I visited a man who was quarter Cherokee and he confirmed what my research.

The Cherokee tried to adapt to the white mans customs and culture but were gathered enmasse and driven hundreds of miles dying as they went and carrying their dead children in their arms as they were driven on. They did not call it the Trail of Tears...that is our name..they called it the Trail Where They Cried.One narrative states that they were beyond crying from the desperation and sickness. They just carried their dead and moved on and on and on.

In the town of Hopkinsville a few counties away is a park and statues of two chiefs who perished there, dedicated to that event and when they stopped there to camp along the way.

They crossed the Mississippi very close to where I live. That crossing point though bears no sign markers of any kind. Some had to swim the river in the dead of winter.

Sorry to carry on but not sure who you were blaming for what exactly.
If anyone is to blame for destruction of habitat it is surely beyond doubt that it is US. US. We have and still are about the business of totally destroying everything. The natives who were her prayed to mother earth. They prayed to the spirits of the animals. They lived by using those animals wisely.


There is significant archaeological evidence of several buffalo jumps in NA. There is also same that indicates that it was not a wanton act, as processing areas nearby were set up to make use of all parts of the animal. Googling "Buffalo Jump" gives lots of info.

If I remember right, the venerated Bill Cody holds the record for buffalo slaughter as he would sit near the edge of a herd and sequentially drop as many animals as he could. Not being able to see any direct threat, the buffalo would not stampede. This was referred to as a buffalo "stand". The biggest problem that Mr Cody had was keeping his rifle barrel cool and had an assistant pour water on it, or alternate rifles.

This pastime was not frowned on, because it freed grazing land, and reduced the food for the indigenous people.

I do not recall actual number but remember being astonished so I'm guessing the number was well into the thousands.

Sorry, Google failed me. I got tired of looking at links for Buffalo Bills souvenir stands and fooball stories.

If anyone can add to or refute this, please do so.

All that said, there seems to be little doubt that the white man was responsible for the extermination of the buffalo.

This vid http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jBt69umbfU sums it up pretty well. The last few minutes are particularly appropriate considering the financial mess we are in right now, regardless of anyone's interest in buffalo.


From WikiAnswers:

William Frederick ("Buffalo Bill") Cody got his nickname after he undertook a contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat. The nickname originally referred to Bill Comstock. Cody earned the nickname by killing 4,280 buffalo in eighteen months (1867 to 1868).

I thought that I was responding to Weatherman and his statement that this sheds a difference to the myth of the Native Americans living in harmony with nature..

It was late and I may have got it wrong.



You were, and you got it right. I was just chipping in about who killed the buffalo.

Hope you don't mind.


Sure, but the thing is.. you have to try. WE have to try - to help correct things.

Some, many, probably most of the cockamamie techno schemes will prove either unaffordable, inneffectual or will have bad unintended consequenses.. but I disagree that trying to find some helpful programs are as bad as creating the problem in the first place.

Clearly, the most important steps will be to 'Stop Digging'.. to reduce CO2 emissions, vastly lower consumption, pollution, etc.. That doesn't mean that there aren't going to emerge some complex, costly and in some way intrusive forms of Human Meddling in things that could actually help to extract carbon from the atmosphere, re-radiate more solar energy, if that shows itself to be either possible or desirable.. etc..

This is not borne entirely of Hubris, and while I'm often skeptical of people who are too-entrenched into Technologism.. there are actually thinking and more humble people in these fields as well who are well aware that 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions..'

I don't think the best response to BAD leadership is NO leadership, as I don't believe the best response to HARMFUL technology is to be NO technology. It's an over-correction, which we are in prime territory for making at this point.

It's a constant series of balances that will have to be restruck as the imbalance of our EnergyFat-Civilization sees it's precious, chunky armor shedding off..

WE have to try - to help correct things.

I agree with the first half, but vehemently disagree with the second half. We have neither the knowledge nor wisdom to "correct" things through action.

I don't believe that those opposing such actions are seeking to implement NO leadership, but positive leadership away from the hubris of western culture.

It is not a question of replacing harmful tech with no tech, but of recognizing that all tech, be it a plow or a nuclear reactor, impacts the environment in ways we can not fully account for. If we do not have the wisdom to use our current technology (which is neither good or bad until implemented) in a manner that assures our own future, can we really believe that we will use even more expansive technology wisely?

Hi Shaman;
I think the problem is that we've applied our science and tech without really ever watching to see what it does interacting with the natural world. We carry a legacy of thinking the world's too big for us to have a damaging effect on it. That message is getting a lot of contradictions now, and I don't think that everything touched by human hands will be spoiled by it.

I'm not particularly convinced that plans to float trillions of miles of Mylar at the North Pole would even ever materialize, nor would I play Laissez Faire to such plans.

While I'm not ready to throw out all the Plows with the Heavy Water Reactors, the massive adoption of 'Grass Farming' like Salatin's 'Polyface Farm' in Omnivore's Dilemma might be a 'New Ag Technology' that would restore topsoils, grassland and Farm Health (I believe including the renowned CowFart issue) .. with subsequent benefits to Aquifers and Regional Hydrologic Health, Gulf of Mexico's Dead Zone and sometime afterwards the biodiversity of the Northern Gulf waters.

And there might be higher tech applications that would offer their own win-wins in our relationship with the Biosphere. As a completely unresearched example.. I wonder whether Nanotube and other carbon structures could become building materials, so whatever we are building to restructure and green our housing stock could be pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. Could we remake roads from some Carbon compound, and get out of the asphalt business? Come up with a Concrete Substitute? (But NOT make them black, which converts Solar UV into lower frequency trapped photons..)

Part of my answer to your last question is that it might not be an expansive technology, but technologies that would be copied from home to home, town to town, country to country .. which show clear ways for people to exist in a benign and not a confrontational relationship with our world.

It's not really from the tools we use, but the viewpoint that has let us think we are separate, profoundly separate from the world.

It was supposedly 'knowledge' that cast us from the garden.. but in fact, we never did leave the garden, and it was the 'idea of this knowledge' that has been in our eyes, distracting us from seeing and being healthy members OF this garden.. (That was hard to type with Eric Idle singing the 'Universe Song' in my ears, but I hope it made sense. Now, I'm just too proud to change it.)


I agree with the "stop digging" bit. But to stop digging we must remove the tools from those doing the digging. The scientists are the group that are exhorting the others to dig even faster and providing the tools to do so.

Those who panic at the concept of deliberate environmental intervention, are only considering half of the issue. We are nondeliberately intervening in the way the biosphere/climate works. Only its directed by a bunch of locally greedy motives, with no concern for the global impact. Current unplanned human interventions on unbalanced climatewise (they strongly favor warming). With a little bit of foresight we might be able to bring the net effect closer to zero. Thats what those studying potential geo-engineering schemes are trying to do.

Fair point, but even if we assume all of the players have the best of intentions, they may not have the best knowledge or understanding.

If there was one unified body with peer review, like the IPCC, the danger is lessened but not eliminated. Although the climate models have improved, I don't think we know enough to determine acceptable risk, because the system is so complex.

I am not panicking, but I am old enough to remember many "good intentions" that everyone will be paying for long after I'm gone, and every time I hear someone say, "Yes but we know so much more now, it's safe."

Bullshit! I have worked in technology all my life, and the more I learn, the less I trust it.

The stakes are so high we must either get it right or we don't do it at all.

Just my $.02

It is quite frightening, indeed. The comments after the article were also stark. Some were stunned at the thought, others felt that we deserve what happens, AGW skeptics on the rant with alarmists. It reminded me of someone yelling fire in the theater. In any case this is an excellent related TED presentation==>


David Keith hit's it on the head with the moral hazard conundrum. If people think there might be a "quick fix" then we'll be less likely to do anything to cut emissions. And, of course, since we're not doing anything meaningful anyway, it is seems more likely that someone might try a 'plan b' if things get a little too hot.

He does not support geoengineering solutions but Keith suggests that unless this ethical question is vetted publicly (like physician assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, etc), we might one day be surprised to find that China has taken the matter into her own hands.

Hurry up Peak Oil! Ironically, a Kuntsler-esque collapse might just save us. Climate takes back seat to food.

I'm reading today's FT. One of the front pages articles is captioned: "Paulson says crisis is sown by imbalance".

This is so deep! Who would have thunk?

"Pyromaniac says that fire is caused by too many matches".

Yep, sure.

Paulson is mouthing the Neo-liberal economist views about money markets and the price of "money". From my limited understanding of Mankiw's introductory text on macroeconomics, the price of "money" (i.e., bonds) increases as more demand exists for the bonds, which results in lower interest rates. So, the trade deficit, which moved gobs of dollars overseas, caused an increase in demand for bonds, pushing interest rates down. Lower interest rates would have fueled more mortgage lending, etc, setting up conditions for the housing bubble. Yup, sure sounds right according to the standard of first year college economics, which is likely his intended audience. If only our consumers had saved more, instead of buying all those cheap imports from Cindia.

Of course, he probably didn't mention the impact of massive leverage from derivatives on the availability of lots of mortgage money OR the effects of large budget deficits which acted as a fiscal stimulus since Old Ronnie RayGun cut taxes and increased defense spending after 1981 OR the impact of the recent run up in the world price of oil...

E. Swanson

To be fair, although Paulson doesn't deserve it, the caption probably doesn't do justice to Paulson. The man is working on behalf of people other than those on main street, but I doubt he's stupid.

Hello TODers,

Dispersive Multi-mile Movement of Mega-tons of O-NPK by IcebergRiding:

Life on Ice

...The scientists estimate that icebergs are raising the overall biological productivity in the Weddell Sea by nearly 40 percent. The reason lies within the bergs themselves. As glaciers scrape across the land, they accumulate debris and grind up rocks. After the glaciers calve icebergs, melting gradually releases this debris and pulverized rock, along with tens of thousands of years of accumulated dust. The terrestrial material acts as oceanic fertilizer, Smith explains. “These are nutrients required by the phytoplankton.”
I would imagine that, as the fishing industry discovers this news, that they will then aggressively lobby for the Mega-dynamiting of the floating ice shelves and the ice stuck on land behind; wasting the WAIS to create Mega-Numbers of icebergs & Mega-jokulhaups for Mega-fishing profits.

Could future Antarctic carpet-bombing runs by B-52s & B1 bombers be the best friend of the fishing industry? /rant off

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

Long the embodiment of American confidence, Sin City is now in limbo

Today, one piece of the seemingly boundless expansion stands outside Convention Center Souvenirs. It was to be Boyd Gaming's Echelon project. It promised 5,000 rooms in six hotels in a complex that would be lush with landscaping and luxury accommodations. All for a mere $4.8 billion.

The 50-year-old Stardust casino was imploded to make room, and construction rolled along for more than a year and nearly 12 stories — until the credit markets choked. In August, Boyd executives abruptly put the enterprise on hold. Nearly 800 construction workers were left to find new work.

"This creates a whole new culture here, I think, one that I don't know that we're ready to deal with."


I grew up in Vegas in the sixties and seventies. The town back then was a small destination with two-story resorts on the Strip and mini-high-rise casinos downtown. The shopping area was Fremont Street with Sears, J C Penny and Woolworth's straddled next to The Horseshoe and The Golden Nugget. The development was spread out on a grid with less than 50,0000 residents in 1962. The biggest employer was the military with Nellis Air Force Base in the NE section of town. Back then there was still a sense that this was a grifters paradise and the bubble could pop anytime.

Shecky Greene, a local comic, once famously stated: "My friends warn me to get out of Vegas. 'It'll be a ghost town Shecky!' they say. 'Yeah but more ghosts keep movin' in.', I say"

Mr. Greene, now 82, is no longer making a 7 figure salary. Perhaps it's time to heed his friends warning.


LV has always been the poster child of what is wrong with the universe. Let it die a painful death, and become the sleazy desert stop that it was in the past.

I remember going to Las Vegas on a trip with my parents in 1971. It was not such a sleasy place as it is now. The casinos had very strict rules about letting minors (like me) into gaming areas, plus I don't think the shows had anywhere near the nudity that they have now. LV in 1971 seemed much like a regular small western city once you got away from the strip.

Hello TODers,

As posted before, IMO, I believe the I-NPK cartels are much more nimble at supply chain management than the OPEC cartel, but market volatility is brutal for both as long as we continue to pursue BAU & JIT methodologies.

I would prefer you read the entire weblink vs my teaser segments below:

Agrium set to ride out market mayhem

..It's become a place of extremes wherein reactive markets can eviscerate commodities in the blink of an eye, and where demand dynamics see farmers able to buy fertilizer holding out for fire-sale prices while those who want to buy can't, as access to credit has dried up..

..The challenge here for Agrium is managing production, Wilson said, which means shutting in production "and then to communicate to the shareholders that we believe that this is a deferral, not a demand destruction."

..If the market turns in the spring, when Wilson believes it will, the infrastructure may not be there to deliver the product, the product may not be there, and the weather may not co-operate to allow farmers onto the field.

"But no one in the world wants to think beyond three months," he said.
Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

We are slaves...
Watch this video from the good old 70ies:


Back-to-the-future renewable-energy supertanker [No exhaust, but it still wastes much horsepower]:


Difficult to watch for nine minutes. Recall from my earlier Morocco posting that a young European woman was worth 38 times the price of the avg. male.

....to the shores of Tripoli...

Yes, Toto, that was brutal to watch.

Thanks all the same for posting it.

DJIA up 300 points almost? Have I missed the hell something today?

China factories cut output at record pace:

Manufacturing index at 28-year low

And …

Stocks rally in the new year

Best Hopes for Manufacturing in the USA.



I have been watching the same phenomena for the last six months while shaking my head.

The best explanation I heard was: "The stock market is a drama queen".

I now look at the numbers simply out of curiosity, but I am convinced the NYSE is ~99% disconnected from reality. It is no longer an investment vehicle for me; I'm not sure it ever was.

Did you see those headlines while the stock market started falling?
The stock market was ahead of the curve.
Recap from 1982
Headlines: 4 wallstreet firms file for bankruptcy.
Stock market was up 2.5% that day on heavy volume. It never looked back The bottom had formed some time back. I am not saying that we have seen the bottom but I believe thatstocks can dsicount more things than one can realize.
Personally I think it is rare that one can buy such extraordinarily good companies at such prices.

Personally I think it is rare that one can buy such extraordinarily good companies at such prices.

As many people were saying in .... 1930.

From an arbitrary future perspective the "good" companies today are undervalued and the "bad" ones will always be overvalued. The trick is knowing which are which TODAY.

A deflationary scenario, like Ilargi and Stoneleigh have articulated many times here and on The Automatic Earth blog, could easily swamp any relative successes in a spiraling drain of value.

I personally like the prospects for small, high-value, practical, modest-energy-required US manufacturing companies long-term, but I'm not investing in anything until I understand the rules of market play again. I think the current market is designed to fleece small investors and 401K funds while rewarding insiders and big-money gamblers. Why would anybody invest after seeing how the gov't has handled the past year?

Most people end up losing money in the stock market. Maybe 10 people saw the great depression coming after the first leg down. Here all 6 billion seem to know it is coming. Either we are all wrong or the market has discounted most of it.
Energy service companies and fertilzer companies look very cheap to me and I am up 25-40% in them but I am not selling.

On the internet, you may meet a great many bears such as I, but out in the real world, the vast majority of people I encounter still expect recovery to be two quarters away. Don't make the mistake of thinking the people you encounter in blogistan as being any way representative of conventional wisdom.

If its conventional, it's probably not wisdom. :-)

I wonder what percentage of active traders are aware of PO, let alone the implications?

Any that are aware are either going short or gaming the system on volatility IMO.

There are very few things I would go long on, if any, as I dislike gambling. A better ROI for me would be insulation, a heat pump and a garden.

Why is the level of cash in 401K's at the highest level ever? Not because people expect a recovery or because only bears have 401Ks.

CNBC had an poll on oil prices--I'm not sure if it was analysts or viewers--but in any case none of the respondents thought that the price of oil would exceed $75 in 2009.

It's all about drama

Cheers ;-)

That pretty much sums it up :-)

When I saw a Utube link, I expected this:


Cheers back at ya'


I owe an apology to Positive_Phototaxis. I accused him of making up a passage from Jimmy Carter. It is, of course, easy enough to find copies of the famous sweater speech on-line. But in my haste, I grabbed an abridged version. Something was bugging me about it so I went back and looked again and sure enough, the suspect passage does indeed appear in the speech. Here is the full paragraph.

World consumption of oil is still going up. If it were possible to keep it rising during the 1970s and 1980s by 5 percent a year as it has in the past, we could use up all the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.

Of course, context is everything. I knew that speech well, but the interpretation that P_P was making as substantially at odds with my understanding of the text. So, when the suggestion was made that Carter thought we were about to use up all proven reserves, I balked.

I should have taken more care. Mr. Carter is a smart man and certainly would not have made such a claim. I missed the opportunity to point this out. I'm not going to sit down and do the math to figure out if the full claim is correct, but anyone who reads the quote in context would understand that the IF statement is not something Carter expected to happen. It was essentially an argument ad absurdum.

Here is a link to a full transcript - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carter/filmmore/ps_energy.html

Just wondering has anybody noticed what’s been happening to the price of oil? It jumped 14% on the last day of 2008 & toady its up over 4% (at time of writing). I was always strongly of the opinion that the price decline had a lot to do with hedge funds unwinding various complex bets as opposed to mere supply & demand fundamentals. I wonder if that processes is now nearly complete the Yen is also looking a little weaker against the dollar (Yen carry trade nearly finished?) where’s Moe gamble when you need him.

There are a few reasons for the price increase. The first is that the price of oil moves somewhat in line with the stock market. Traders see the stock market as a sign of expected economic activity so that when the market goes up oil tends to go up in the absence of other news. Second there is a story up top about the strategic reserve increasing by 12 million barrels of oil next year. The story suggests the oil will be bought in February, March and April, that is 4 million barrels per month or one million barrels per week. The crude inventories appear to be in balance right now so the removal of that many barrels is supportive of the price. Also the latest OPEC cuts have not been felt yet. Even if OPEC only cuts 50% of their 2.2 million barrell target it should also help support the price of oil. Finally the medand destuction that we saw at $150 oil appears to have levelled off at $40 oil.

I can't speak to today's action, but Wednesday's action was caused by a single item.

The price on the last day of the year is the number that the SEC requires publicly traded oil companies to use in determining their proven and probable numbers based on how much they have at this price. So, the striped the price at the close to try and get it as high as possible. I can't prove this, but many others (seeking alpha) have come to this conclusion as well.

Most companies couldn't show growth with last years $98, so at $44, expect Feb and Mar to be a bad month for Oil Company Annual Reports. The new rule of yearly average doesn't go into effect until 2010.

In addition to what has been said above, Russia is said to be exporting about 0.5 mbpd more than in November beacuse of the tax issue. Oil is also flowing out of tankers (at a net rate of well over 1 mbpd according to Oil Movements). This extra supply will dry up sooner or later.

And it's not only the SPR: new storage capacity is coming on line (China, Korea, tankers) as well and I think it makes sense to fill up now because the contango is still strong.

Oil Movements and Petrologistics have a different take on OPEC compliance by the way... I can venture guesses but if anyone actually knows why, I'd like to hear the explanation.

Most daily/weekly moves are just noise anyway IMO. I don't think you need much of an explanation for the recovery considering how low the price dropped since the last expiration: February WTI is only up three bucks and change since then (I didn't double-check the number so it may be off).

Here is Steve LeVine's article on the subject, For Big Oil, a Day of Reckoning. Steve posts here occasionally.

Manufacturing was reportidely at a 28-Year Low, that was c. 1980 when it was this low. There were fewer people in the United States then.

The low EROEI ethanol corn production may be unprofitable today. A potentially more expensive cellulosic ethanol organization finds a lack of investors willing to risk losses:


The worldwide recession has weakened export demand for corn:

OK, i have tirelessly read every thread here today, and can honestly say that I need a drink. (it's 5 O:clock somewhere)

Hey bartender, make that double!