DrumBeat: January 14, 2009

Obama energy goal hard to meet: Bodman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama will have a hard time significantly increasing America's alternative energy production, outgoing U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said on Wednesday.

As part of his economic stimulus plan, Obama wants to double output of alternative energy over the next three years.

"I think it's going to be extremely difficult to get there in three years," Bodman said in a final briefing with reporters before he leaves office next week.

Shaky economy means ‘bye-bye baby’ for some

From a demographic standpoint, a small drop in U.S. birth rates would not pose a concern. The U.S. birth rate has been at replacement levels for the past three decades, which, plus immigration, ensures the population remains robust.

There were 4.2 million babies born in 2006, the largest number in more than four decades, according to the latest CDC figures. More concerning would be an extreme change similar to many European countries, where birth rates have fallen below 1.5 children per woman, a point where the population ages and can’t sustain itself.

“The No. 1 thing I would expect to see in this calendar year is postponement,” says S. Philip Morgan, a sociology professor at Duke University who studies fertility trends. “But if this translated into a long-term fertility drop, it would be a big deal,” Morgan says.

Apache sees tough 2009, may have writedowns

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Apache Corp may write down the value of some assets in 2009 because of a sharp drop in energy prices, but this would not affect its $2.3 billion credit facility, the independent oil and gas company said on Wednesday.

Switched-On Highways

Electric cars are cheaper and faster than any hybrid on the market, says Shai Agassi.

Crude Oil Falls After U.S. Supplies Increase to 16-Month High

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil fell after a U.S. government report showed that stockpiles climbed to a 16-month high as fuel demand tumbled.

Inventories of crude increased 1.14 million barrels to 326.6 million last week, the highest since Aug. 31, 2007, the Energy Department said. Supplies of gasoline and distillate fuel also rose. Fuel demand dropped 6 percent to an average 18.6 million barrels a day, the largest one-week decline since February 2004.

“There is not one bullish element in this report,” said Rick Mueller, director of oil markets at Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Massachusetts. “Demand is poor. Even with cold weather refiners are producing more fuel than is needed.”

Bank Loses Investment Grade

Gazprombank, the country's third-largest bank, saw its credit rating lowered to "junk" status by Standard & Poor's on Tuesday.

...Gazprombank is 42 percent owned by Gazprom and is the main provider of financial services to the gas giant.

Russia Calls Energy Summit in Moscow to Resolve Gas Dispute

(Bloomberg) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called an emergency summit in Moscow to resolve a dispute with Ukraine over prices and transit fees that’s disrupted shipments to the European Union for eight days.

EU nations and Ukraine have been invited to the Jan. 17 meeting, which will also seek to prevent a repeat of the crisis that’s paralyzed supplies to the 27-nation bloc, Medvedev told state television.

Gazprom's Not-So-Quick Recovery

In a twist of irony, Gazprom, the Russian gas giant that everyone feared could be used by the Kremlin, has become the victim of political play.

It’s a week since Gazprom turned off Europe's gas pipes through the Ukraine, amid a dispute over prices, and analysts are already warning that the costs to the company could be significant and irrecoverable.

Saudi oil minister: OPEC committed to stability, but market not reflecting fundamentals

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — While benefiting global economic recovery efforts, current low oil prices are not reflective of true supply-demand fundamentals, Saudi Arabia's oil minister said Wednesday, stressing that OPEC was committed to bringing stability to the market.

"Stability means oil prices maintained at a level that encourages investment, helping create a climate conducive for the development of all viable energy sources," Ali al-Naimi said.

OPEC may trim supplies more, ignore low price calls

OPEC, the supplier of 41 percent of the world’s oil, may deepen supply cuts in coming weeks to revive the price of oil, ignoring pleas by consumers to keep costs down as the world’s economy faces its worst recession since World War II.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is “willing to cut 2 million more, 4 million more barrels to preserve the price of oil,” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told the National Assembly in Caracas on Tuesday. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, said it will trim output next month to below its OPEC-agreed target, without waiting for a March 15 meeting.

“They are making announcements of oil cuts in the hope that prices will go up, but they should understand the world economy needs a break from high oil prices,” Richard H. Jones, the deputy executive director of the International Energy Agency, told the Petrotech petroleum conference in New Delhi today. The Paris-based agency advises 28 oil-importing nations on energy policy.

Report: Iran signs oil deal with China

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's official news agency says the country has signed a $1.76 billion deal with China to develop the North Azadegan oil field in southwestern Iran near the Iraq border.

The IRNA report says the deal was signed Wednesday between the National Iranian Oil Company and the China National Petroleum Corp.

Qatar Halts LNG Output at Qatargas-1 Plant on Fault

(Bloomberg) -- Qatar, the world’s biggest producer of liquefied natural gas, halted production of the fuel at its Qatargas-1 plant on Jan. 8, idling about a third of the country’s total output.

“There is a mechanical problem,” a spokesman for Qatargas said today in a telephone interview, declining to be identified because of company policy. “Qatargas-1 is currently shut down.”

A Chill Blows Through Wind Power

The financial crisis has hit the wind power industry hard as credit has dried up. Will government spending provide the needed stimulus?

TVA ordered to clean up coal-fired plants

(CNN) -- A federal judge has ordered the Tennessee Valley Authority to clean up four coal-fired plants that he said were engulfing parts of North Carolina with air pollution -- emissions that fouled the region's health, economy and natural resources.

Greenhouse-Gas Limits Touted by Industry to Congress

(Bloomberg) -- The most detailed proposal yet by industry and environmentalists to reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions will call for raising the costs of new coal plants and rewarding nations for protecting forests.

Environmental group wins oil and gas appeal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - U.S. Forest Service officials, in a rare move, have granted an appeal by a Western environmental group concerned about the impacts of potential oil and gas development on tens of thousands of acres in northern New Mexico.

Enjoy low food prices, they are not here to stay

At least the price of stuff is coming down. Faced with a rash of corporate bankruptcies and the threat of mass unemployment, the only piece of good news for the Government is that white van man isn’t screaming about the cost of filling up. Demand destruction has done its grim job and diesel is back below £1 per litre.

The fall in oil and metal prices is unprecedented. Commodity hedge funds that gobbled greedily in the spring found in August that someone had turned off the power and the choc ices had dissolved into a sticky mess. Over the past five months, a barrel of crude oil has lost three quarters of its value. So rapid and steep has been the commodities collapse that for many companies, mines and wells are loss-making. The outlook is even worse because at these prices – oil at less than $40 a barrel, for example – investment in new projects is not economic.

Loss-making oil and metal barons? Who cares. But this is not just about the economics of oil, it is also about the economics of food and it is about why very low prices today will engender very high prices tomorrow.

IEA may slash demand forecast

"We are likely to cut our demand forecast, although I don't know by how much," Tanaka told Reuters on the sidelines of an energy forum in Tokyo.

"It's because the economic situation is extremely bad," he added.

EIA Predicts 'Fairly Loose Oil Market' over Next 2 Years

The U.S. on Tuesday forecast that crude oil markets will stay "fairly loose" over the next two years, noting that OPEC will have difficulty implementing pledged crude output cuts.

EIA: OPEC Members Could Barrel in $387B in Oil Revenues for 2009

Based on projections from the EIA January 2009 Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO), members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could earn $387 billion of net oil export revenues in 2009 and $526 billion in 2010. Last year, OPEC earned $972 billion in net oil export revenues, a 42 percent increase from 2007. Saudi Arabia earned the largest share of these earnings, $288 billion, representing 30 percent of total OPEC revenues. On a per-capita basis, OPEC net oil export earning reached $2,691, a 40 percent increase from 2007.

Qatar oil min says $70 right price for oil

NEW DELHI - Oil at $70 a barrel is the right price to keep companies and producers investing in new resources, Qatar’s oil minister said on Wednesday.

“Low oil prices will reflect a freeze in investment in new resources. When growth comes back, we will have another shock, as resources will not be there to meet demand,” Abdullah al-Attiyah said on the sidelines of Petrotech, India’s biggest oil and gas conference.

The Russian Gas Trap

At the time of this writing, the natural gas crisis in Europe is entering its 13th day.

While the topic has only penetrated the Western mind as an issue in recent years, Russia and Ukraine have been spatting about the details of natural gas deliveries, volumes, prices and transit terms since the Soviet breakup in 1992. In the end, a deal is always struck, because Russia needs the hard currency that exports to Europe (via Ukraine) bring, and Ukraine needs natural gas to fuel its economy. But in recent years, two things have changed.

EU Nations Threaten To Sue Russia, Ukraine Over Gas

Several European countries that have been left out in the cold by a natural gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine are threatening to sue both Moscow and Kiev.

Slow start to Mexico oil reform as board delayed

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The implementation of Mexico's 2008 energy reforms has gotten off to a slow start after the government failed to make key appointments at state oil company Pemex.

The legislation called for President Felipe Calderon to nominate four so-called professional directors to the Pemex board by the end of December but the government has so far not made any announcements.

Bolivia primed to pump up volume

Bolivia aims to boost natural gas output by 6 million cubic metres per day this year on the back of $1.5 billion in investment from state-run YPFB and foreign energy companies, Energy Minister Saul Avalos said.

The planned investments would allow Bolivia to increase production by roughly 15%, Avalos told Reuters in an interview.

BP Shuts Angola’s Greater Plutonio Crude Oil Output

(Bloomberg) -- BP Plc, Europe’s second-largest oil company, shut crude production from the Greater Plutonio fields off Angola in January “for operational issues.”

The company stopped production from Jan. 11 for “several days,” BP spokesman Toby Odone said in a telephone interview today.

Odone declined to specify the reason for the shutdown, adding that it wasn’t the result of a cut in OPEC production quotas.

Transneft Says Credit Crisis Stalks China Pipeline

Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft says it is sticking to plans to launch a major oil route to China this year even though contractor problems caused by the global financial crisis pose a threat.

President Nikolai Tokarev said on Tuesday that Transneft aims to launch the 2,700-km oil pipeline to the Chinese border at the end of 2009, already a year late after the initial plan changed in 2007.

Major power cuts cause unrest in Nepal

The government in Nepal has announced major power cuts to battle the growing shortage of electricity in the country. From this week, supplies will be cut off to homes and businesses for a staggering 16 hours a day. Industries are running on less than 20 percent of their capacity. Nepal's Maoist government has declared a "national power crisis."

The Philippines: Oil prices rolled back; LPG price hike noted

Five oil companies cut pump prices by 50 centavos, it was learned yesterday.

The "Big Three" oil firms – Pilipinas Shell, Petron Corp. and Chevron Philippines (formerly Caltex) – enforced the half-peso cutback on diesel, gasoline and kerosene at 12:01 a.m. yesterday.

Questions remain about repairs to transmission line

Questions still remain one day after an avalanche that knocked out a Snettisham transmission line 40 miles south of Juneau, causing the city to rely on backup diesel generators for power.

Mass. residents sue electric utility

WORCESTER, Mass.—Residents of three Massachusetts communities served by electric utility Unitil have filed a class action lawsuit against the company, alleging "gross negligence" in its response to last month's ice storm.

Chu vows to push nuclear power

Steven Chu said on Tuesday that he would push as the new energy secretary to help the nuclear energy and clean coal industries jump-start their contributions to battle the nation’s energy crisis.

The Nobel Prize-winning physicist told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during his confirmation hearing that he’d help streamline nuclear loan guarantees that would help the industry construct several new plants to produce low-emission energy and would push the Energy Department to examine options for recycling nuclear waste.

Sharon Astyk: Reasons for good cheer

In the last couple of months, several major peak oil activists have confided to me that they have had moments of despair. In each case, these were not ”doomers” or people who have long since thrown up their hands - instead, these are people making a difference, with viable plans for shifting the way we live, and they suddenly came up against painful economic reality - that the investments they’d hoped we make, many quite modest - simply aren’t going to get made.

For many people who imagined peak oil as a steady build up in energy prices, or marked volatility, but trending upwards and leading only eventually to an economic collapse, the sudden shift into credit crisis is a crisis indeed - all of the signals that high energy prices were sending are erased now, and while demand is falling, so is the ability to invest in infrastructure.

A Bicycle Evangelist With the Wind Now at His Back

PORTLAND, Ore. — For years, Earl Blumenauer has been on a mission, and now his work is paying off. He can tell by the way some things are deteriorating around here.

“People are flying through stop signs on bikes,” Mr. Blumenauer said. “We are seeing in Portland bike congestion. You’ll see people biking across the river on a pedestrian bridge. They are just chock-a-block.”

Soylent black

So here is yet another explanation for the secret: terra preta derives, at least in part, from a thousand years of burying the dead under the floors of the houses, in clay jars.

Slight Majority Of U.S. Energy CFOs Disagree That World Has Reached Peak Oil

Approximately 48% of U.S. E&P chief financial officers believe that the world has reached its peak petroleum production rate or will reach it within the next few years, while another 52% disagree with that statement, according to a new survey by Chicago-based national professional services firm BDO Seidman LLP.

The BDO Seidman Natural Resources 2009 Outlook survey was conducted by Market Measurement Inc. in the fourth quarter and included input from 100 U.S. E&P CFOs.

The survey finds there are similarly differing opinions in predictions regarding when the world’s demand for petroleum will peak—31% believe it will be in less than 10 years, 43% believe it will be in 10 to 20 years, 14% believe it will be 20 to 30 years and 8% think it will reach peak more than 30 years from now.

EIA again cuts 2009 US gas supply growth estimates

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Tuesday again cut its estimate of domestic natural gas production growth in 2009 and further increased the expected decline in demand as economic activity continues to slow.

In its January short-term energy outlook, EIA forecast U.S. marketed natural gas output this year would rise 0.41 billion cubic feet per day to 58.88 bcf daily, up 0.7 percent from last year but down slightly from a 0.9 percent gain forecast in its previous monthly report.

China to Cut Fuel Prices After Global Oil Declines

(Bloomberg) -- China, the world's second-biggest energy user, cut fuel prices for the second time in a month to reflect the decline in global oil prices and reduce costs for factories as the economy slows.

StatoilHydro announces cost cuts for 2009

OSLO, Norway — State-controlled Norwegian oil company StatoilHydro ASA announced plans Wednesday to cut its 2009 costs by 1.5 billion kroner ($215 million) to adjust to weaker market conditions amid the world economic downturn and lower crude prices.

Gas-starved EU nations seek end to energy crisis

MOSCOW – The leaders of several gas-starved European nations traveled to Ukraine and Russia on Wednesday, pressing them to restore supplies as the EU threatened both with legal action for halting energy deliveries in the midst of winter.

But Ukraine's natural gas company said for a second straight day it would not send Russian gas along to Europe. It claimed that Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom was trying to force it to cut service to parts of Ukraine in order to send the gas along.

Russia wants EU gas flow via Ukraine resumed on acceptable terms

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller to do everything possible to resume the flow of Russian gas through Ukraine, but only on conditions acceptable to Moscow.

Serbian power grid overloaded amid gas dispute

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- Serbia's government is warning that its power grid is getting overloaded, as thousands switch to electricity for heating amid gas shortages caused by the Russia-Ukraine energy dispute.

Authorities said the capital Belgrade is facing increased air pollution as residents and businesses switch from using natural gas to oil for heat.

Europe's energy myopia

Russia and Ukraine's gas dispute was a chance for the EU to tackle coal consumption. Instead, the nuclear lobby stepped in.

Ruble Devalued to Six-Year Low as Gas Dispute Deters Investors

(Bloomberg) -- The ruble fell to lowest in six years against the dollar after the central bank devalued the currency for the third time in four days and the government’s dispute with Ukraine over gas shipments remained unresolved.

Niger Delta anger at 'execution'

Militants in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region have claimed a gang leader was executed by soldiers.

But a military spokesman said that Tubotamuno Angolia - also known as Boy Chiki - was killed as he tried to escape arrest.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said they would break a ceasefire with "spectacular attacks" on soldiers as a result.

China oil imports recover on stockpiling

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's crude oil imports in December recovered from the year's lowest in November, as oil firms, as well as the state, rushed to build up stocks following the crash in oil prices.

The increase came despite ample fuel supplies and sluggish demand at the pump as the economy took a worse-than-expected toll from the global financial crisis.

Oil is weapon against Israel, U.S., says Iranian aide

TEHRAN (Reuters) - An aide to Iran's top authority said on Wednesday oil could be used as a weapon against Israel, the United States and their allies, echoing an earlier call by an Iranian commander to impose a crude oil embargo over Gaza.

Iran to spend $1 bln on Lanka refinery - minister

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Iran is contributing $1 billion to help Sri Lanka double the capacity of its refinery to 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), the oil minister of the island nation, A.H.M. Fowzie told reporters.

"Iran will be giving us $1 billion and we will contribute about $500 million for the expansion," he told reporters on the sidelines of the Petrotech conference.

New twist for Pickens in energy independence fight

WASHINGTON – Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens is adding a new wrinkle to his push for U.S. energy independence: monthly updates to remind Americans how much money they're paying for foreign oil.

T. Boone Pickens seeks stimulus funds to convert trucks to natural gas

WASHINGTON – T. Boone Pickens said Tuesday that he's seeking as much as $28 billion from the economic stimulus plan to convert heavy-duty trucks from diesel to natural gas engines.

DART to reconsider natural gas engines for new buses

Members of the DART board will hear new information today about the costs involved with choosing either diesel-powered or compressed natural gas engines for its new fleet of passenger buses.

Greening the stimulus

Bill McKibben: I think we should at least keep in mind the possibility that we won't really get out of this economic crisis -- that far from being a cyclical downturn, it may be a signal of something more remarkable: the confluence of forces, like peak oil, finally starting to bring our growth era to an end. If so, it makes sense to push at least a little investment in the direction of infrastructure that would support a different kind of economy than the one we've spent the last hundred years building, i.e., globalized, centralized and always growing. I'd put some money into decentralized and local renewable energy and into rebuilding the local agricultural infrastructure that's been allowed to rot away. A few billion dollars would buy a bunch of slaughterhouses and small food processors, and it would serve as a kind of insurance that we may need -- especially since, however many green jobs we create, we're not going to entirely ward off climate change.

Choosing What Our Cities Will Look Like in a World Without Oil

As we draw nearer to reaching the point of Peak Oil, it benefits us to imagine what our cities will look like in a world without oil. Does this conjure up images of cities turned into urban farms just to produce enough food for us all? Do we devote all our energy to growing, bartering and trading the food we grow? Or will the city become divided, with the wealthy moving to the center while higher costs of living force lower-income families to the outer-ring suburbs, where access to goods, services and transport will be limited?

Produce will sail into Ballard

Sail Transport Network has teamed up with Sustainable Ballard and led a team of volunteers to haul an array of organic produce and food from Kitsap County Farmers to the public dock of Ballard's Shilshole Bay Marina.

Dave Reid, co-founder of Seattle Peak Oil, took the reigns as lead engineer for Seattle's Sail Transport Network. The concept, originally thought up by California activist Jan Lundberg, is to mitigate peak oil and climate change. The mission of the company is "natural transport for the local economy and community."

ConocoPhillips CEO urges balanced energy policy

WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama's plan to create a "green energy economy" is designed to address the problems of energy security, climate change and job creation, but its cost could be greater than policymakers realize, the chief executive of oil company ConocoPhillips said Tuesday.

"We agree that we must reduce the environmental footprint of energy production and consumption. But we must be realistic about the cost of green energy ... (and) about its true potential and how long it will take for commercial-scale supply contributions," ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO Jim Mulva said in a speech at the National Press Club.

Conoco may take fourth-quarter writedown for Lukoil: analysts

HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.S. analysts said on Tuesday that ConocoPhillips may need to take a big write-down in the fourth quarter related to its investment in Russian oil major Lukoil, as weakness in the crude oil market and other factors sap the value of the venture.

Conoco may need to take a year-end writedown as large as $1.7 billion as it adjusts the value of its 20 percent interest in Lukoil, according to a note from energy investment bank Simmons & Co Int'l.

Conoco reports big oily water spill at Alaska field

ANCHORAGE (Reuters) - A corroded pipeline ruptured on Christmas Day at ConocoPhillips' Kuparuk oil field in Alaska, causing one of the biggest-ever spills of oil-laced water on the North Slope, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said on Tuesday.

Environmental group pressures Nigeria to stop gas flaring

LAGOS (AFP) – A global environmental group said Tuesday it has launched a campaign to push the Nigerian authorities to effectively ban gas flaring after the expiry of another government deadline.

Mexico president: no Obama talk of reopening NAFTA

MEXICO CITY – Mexico's president said Tuesday that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama did not mention reopening the North American Free Trade Agreement when the two met, but did stress the need to address labor and environmental protection aspects of the pact.

Group sues on 'extreme-density drilling'

LANDER -- A prominent environmental group is trying to stop the construction of new roads and new drilling pads on the Jonah natural gas field in western Wyoming.

The Laramie-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming on Tuesday in an attempt to protect native wildlife -- such as the declining sage grouse population -- in and around the 40-square-mile Jonah gas play south of Pinedale.

Industry Outlook - Alternative Energy

Assuming that GDP growth is slightly negative for the next 3 to 4 quarters while the credit markets gradually strengthen, let's consider the outlook and opportunities for the Alternative Energy industry over the next 6 to 12 months. Many companies engaged in the solar power market offer profitability with strong average long-term annual earnings growth expectations of approximately 40%, stock price valuations significantly discounted from their recent historic highs, and a favorable political environment.

Mass. governor unveils big push for wind power

BOSTON – Wind turbines would increasingly dot the Massachusetts landscape under a plan unveiled by Gov. Deval Patrick to ramp up the state's reliance on wind power over the next dozen years.

Patrick said Tuesday he wants the state to be producing 2,000 megawatts of wind electricity annually by 2020, enough to power 800,000 homes — or about 10 percent of the state's current energy needs. The state has just nine major wind turbines now, producing less than seven megawatts of power annually.

Biofuel producers hope to rebound after tough year

SCOTLAND, S.D. – Cellulosic ethanol, the next big hope for a biofuels industry hampered during the past year by volatile commodity price swings and shrinking profit margins, is continuing its slow march toward commercialization.

More U.S. backing seen possible for ethanol plants

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress may add $1 billion to a U.S. loan guarantee program for construction of cellulosic ethanol plants, the president of a renewable fuels trade group trade said on Tuesday.

During a teleconference, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen said lawmakers apparently were looking at $1 billion for loan guarantees to bring new feedstocks into use.

Study: Nations that sow food crops for biofuel may reap less than expected

Ethanol and biodiesel manufacturers have been extremely optimistic about the potential of food crops such as corn and soybeans to produce biofuels, but a new study suggests that the projections they relied on have not been realistic.

The study by University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota researchers, published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, determined the global yields of such crops have been overestimated by 100 percent to 150 percent.

Army goes electric with new Chrysler vehicles

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Army on Monday received the first of 4,000 electric vehicles that it plans to lease for use on bases, a deal the military says is the largest acquisition of such vehicles in the U.S. and comes as automakers are touting electric technology.

Tesla Motors to Supply Batteries for Daimler's Electric Mini Car

DETROIT -- Tesla Motors Inc. said it will supply batteries and chargers to Daimler AG for its new electric Smart car, which is slated to come out in the second half of 2010, as the race to get electric vehicles into the market heats up.

New tax credit for wind power

WASHINGTON (AP) - Did you put off getting those new double-pane thermal windows or an energy efficient hot water heater or furnace? From a tax perspective, your procrastination could save you money.

Congress renewed the tax credit for energy improvements to homes, but skipped the 2008 tax year. The credit will reappear in 2009.

However, if you installed a small windmill to generate energy for your home, you may qualify for a credit for up to $4,000 of the cost. Wind-produced energy was added for 2008 to the alternative energy sources under the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit.

Halt all carbon emissions by 2050, says Worldwatch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - To avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, world carbon emissions will have to drop to near zero by 2050 and "go negative" after that, the Worldwatch Institute reported on Tuesday.

This is a deeper cut than called for by most climate experts and policymakers, including President-elect Barack Obama, who favors an 80 percent drop in U.S. carbon emissions by mid-century.

Study links swings in North Atlantic oscillation variability to climate warming

The research team found the variability of the NAO decade-to-decade (multi-decadal scale) has been larger, swinging more wildly, during the late twentieth century than in the early 1800s, suggesting that variability is linked to the mean temperature of the Northern Hemisphere. This confirms variability previously reported in past terrestrial reconstructions.

"When the Industrial Revolution begins and atmospheric temperature becomes warmer, the NAO takes on a much stronger pattern in longer-term behavior," said Goodkin. "That was suspected before in the instrumental records, but this is the first time it has been documented in records from both the ocean and the atmosphere."

Obama to lead fight against climate change: Clinton

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Incoming President Barack Obama will lead "a global and coordinated response" toward combating climate change, secretary of state designate Hillary Clinton told a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday.

Clinton told Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that he was among "the very first in a growing chorus from both parties to recognize that climate change is an unambiguous security threat.

"At the extreme it threatens our very existence but well before that point it could well incite new wars of an old kind over basic resources like food, water and arable land," Clinton said.

I screamed loudly at my TV this morning. On the NBC Today Show they broadcast a story on the UK flying car, about to embark on a transcontinental trip. Besides proving out some what I consider promising engineering ideas, it looks like they are raising money for charity.
After the segment ended Meredith Viera said this:
"SOME PEOPLE HAVE TOO MUCH TIME ON THEIR HANDS", and her fellow clueless stooges chuckled.

Screw you, Meredith Viera, and the chimp you rode in on.

Apparently a new season of American Idol is starting, plenty of news on that coming up I am sure.

Sorry but I had to vent.

BBC video on SkyCar

That's not a very nice thing to say about Meredith, now is it?

A bit nicer would be.

Screw you, Meredith Viera, and the Chimp that rode you in....

You should not be watching TV anyway. Begin to Power Down. Turn it off.

I get most of my news from the BBC these days, but they didn't see this story as being worthy enough to air this morning..

Ah the TV set, my favorite kind of rant. I find myself talking back to the TV set way too often. A neighbor threw his coffee cup through the screen once, waited 5 months to cool down before he bought another one. You might consider self medication before watching, a tall cool gin and coke with ice. It won't help with the content of what you are watching, but you might feel better about it.
Three cheers to unemployed TV personalities, and brain dead programing.

If American Idol is the common denominator of the collective mental wavelength how do you possibly get that changed except by harsh economic force. I fear we stuck in a herd headed over a cliff. If Stalin were alive perhaps he would say "TV is the opiate of the masses".

We are the curr dogs here on TOD.

TV is the Pablum for the masses, here in the U.S of A..

Hehe - I have attributed that same pseudo-quote to Marx and not Stalin in the past..

I hadn't considered the benefits of gin and coke for breakfast.

Speaking of things TV....

Here's a man well known to viewers of This Old House who clearly "gets it".

See: http://www.rstreps.com/pdf/ContracMag10-04.pdf

I wonder what he thinks as he works with homeowners adding enormous additions to their already gigantic sized homes.


He has plenty to say about McMansions. Here is an interesting quote:

The biggest issue is a global issue. I've read two books lately, and they've changed my outlook. One is "Out of Gas" by David Goodstein. The other is "The Party's Over" by Richard Heinberg. That one is probably the better one from a readability viewpoint. In it, he discusses Hubbert's Peak. Back in the 1940s, Hubbert wrote that we would reach our peak in getting oil out of the ground in 1970. Everyone laughed at him, but we're on our way down in our production of fossil fuels. And our consumption is going up at a rate that is mind boggling. This fossil fuel will go away.

Edit: I just noticed that this quote is from 2004.

Too bad he didn't also mention district heating. That fits hydronic systems like a hand and glove. Why build and fuel a heating plant in each house when you can build a larger-scale and more efficient one to serve a whole neighborhood? You have more interesting and cost-efficient geothermal options with a larger district plant as well.

Also too bad that he didn't talk about solar water heating. That is arguably one of the most cost-effective renewable energy options available today. The great thing is that you can scale up a solar water system just a little bit and it makes a great pre-heater for a hydronic heating system.

Some questions about district heating:

Don't you lose a lot of heat in between residences? I'm picturing pipes of hot water running under the streets of Minneapolis, losing most of their heat. How far down do the pipes have to be to avoid this? Do you then have to reheat at all at the house level?

This article is about an island that uses district heating.

Some of the heat dissipates in transmission, but the design is 80 to 90 percent efficient, says Lasse Lillevang, a consultant and the former planner for Samsø Energiselskab, a company that organizes and provides consulting for renewable energy projects on the island.

Andrea Bassi, one of my co-authors# on the TRB paper, is currently on that Danish island. His girl friend works there on R&D.

# Andrea has also written a couple of articles for TOD. My other co-authors were Hans Herren and Ed Tennyson.


I spent a few days there on a renewable-energy trip over a year ago. It was very interesting and shows what can be done.
They off-set their fossil fuel use for transportation by generating a lot of windpower using an off-shore windfarm.
Denmark shows that determined government support can bring large benefits when it comes to renewables.
The Danes consistently and reliably supported the production of kilowatt-hours from windpower for many years.
Eventually it paid off, commentators on the sidelines really must understand that you must support renewables over
long timeframe to enable mistakes to be made and experience gained with the technologies. But you should be carefull
what you support. In the case of windpower the Danes supported the end product - kilowatt hours. So people had to design,
construct and operate windturbines to produce power in order to get the support.
We visited another Danish island on the same trip.
Aero - this island has the largest solar thermal plant in the world supplying district heating to a village.
It has about 19,000 square meters of panels combined with a 10,000 cubic meter water heat storage tank.
The engineer in charge was an ex-marine engineer like myself so I got the non-tourist tour.
In fact a friend became the Irish agent for the solar panels used in this installation after our trip. They are
commercial panels of 12.5 square meters with a 10% better efficiency than the usual domestic variety with a much
lower cost per square meter.
Our host was most insistant that the secret of solar is plenty of cheap efficient square meters!

I'm sure there are some losses (not sure exactly how much), but insulation of pipes can keep it pretty low.

There is a reason why so many large multi-building institutional campuses are heated by a central heating plant rather than individual units in each building.

It seems like this would be prohibitively expensive in a municipality that didn't already have it. If the infrastructure is already set up for individual heating, would it ever make sense to rip up every street to bury the pipes and then make everybody get rid of their furnace?

Not an ideal situation, but we already know that we are going to have to do some pretty massive reconfiguration and re-engineering of those areas that are going to continue to house people. The flip side of suburbs being vacated to become ghost towns is that more viable neighborhoods will have to become more densely populated. They will see lots of infill development, accessory apartments put into cellars, basements and garages, single family residences turned into duplexes, and commercial buildings repurposed into multi-family residences. We also know that there will be a massive shift in transport, with most people getting around through a mix of walking, bicycling, very small EVs, and various forms of mass transit. We also know that all of the existing residential buildings are going to need energy conservation retrofits, and those that have the right roof orientation will need solar panels of one type or another. Throwing a district heating plant into the mix might actually make good sense.

When district heating were introduced in Sweden before the 70:s oil crisis it were indeed done by ripping up streets. The justification were air quality issues with numerous small oil and coal boilers and a shortage of workers, the small boilers were tended manually. It made economical sense to replace worn small boilers with large cetral boilers and CHP plants burning dirt cheap oil in an efficient way while getting rid of inefficient jobs.

And boiler is hot water boiler, not steam boiler, everybody had hot water systems.
The original about 40 year old infrastructure is now worn out and is being replaced. The modern pipes are a lot cheaper to manufacture and install. Back then in my town where I live they dug a ditch, cast a concrete culvert and installed premanufactured pipe segments with a steel pipe and an outer steel shell and between them mineral wool and cork insulation and then they put a concrete lid over it. Now is the standard a steel pipe with plastic foam insulation inside a plastic shell and the modern pipes also have two copper wires in them that has no insulation used to automaticaly detect leaks in the system. The only good thing with the old system is that you often can install new pipes in the old concrete culverts without opening the whole street.

District heating then grew both with new built areas and further replacements if old boilers. The oil crisises gave a change over from oil to coal and garbage and then due to the CO2 issue and the fuel being cheap biomass and garbage. Biomass is now the dominating fuel. There are also some large scale heat pumps and fairly large ammounts of industrial waste heat.

The systems grew with improvements in pipes and how they are laid. Now are there both steel pipes, flexible coper pipes and all plastic pipes for fairly sparse urban areas with small houses.
And the boiler technology has allowed smaller and smaller biomass fueled CHP plants, single digit MW electricity plants are now starting to be economical.

District heating is umbiquitos but it has taken several decades of investments and they will continue for another decade to fill the market and then probably slow down as the newer techology has a longer life lenght. About 45% of the heating is now via district heating.

The economcal limit is mosty due to housing density and if the houses already have a hot water radiator system. They are expensive to retrofit and for manny houses that were built with resistive heating during the nuclear boom its more economical to add an air source heat pump or a pellet stove or both.

I dont know how large the accumulated investment is, I would guess that twenty billion dollars per million people is in the right ballpark. But such figures are meaningless, the important thing is that it works in all scales and you can also us the same technology and equipment for district cooling instead of having numerous small an inefficient airconditioning units.

numerous small an inefficient airconditioning units

Because of the volumes involved (millions/year instead on 10,000s/year) the highest tech always go to the small residential units first. The best small units are always more efficient than the best larger units.


My apartment complex uses a central ice water air conditioning plant. The buildings are all cooled by the water that is pumped in. It works, more or less.

The smaller apartments are cooler than the bigger ones. You have to flush the sediment out of the tubes every year. Some units leak. The high and low settings are very similar in intensity. I suspect that shoddy maintenance makes it less effective then possible. Offices with lots of computers have to put in auxillary airconditioning units. But it is quieter than the typical airconditioner.

On my roughly 100 BsF monthly condo bill about 8 BsF comes from electricity to power the airconditioning plant, a little less than the electricity to light the common areas and a little more than the elevator operators salaries.

On a side note, the giant network of tubes that was supposed to "vaccume" the garbage out to a central processing plant is a complete disaster. At least once a week a guy comes around with a broom pole to deal with the clogs, and down below they have workers with mini dumpsters on wheels ferrying the garbage around.

There are manny installations in Sweden with pipe runs over 10 km. Its a mature and efficient off-the-shelf technology that can be used in any scale from two homes sharing a boiler to CHP plants that output hundreds of MW. But the long pipes need to be sufficiently large and well insulated, you can not share your 30 kW pellet burner with someone in the next county. ;-)

My impression is that district heating + hydronic residential heating systems is a pretty common configuration in many parts of Europe. It is the US that is exceptional with its near-universal use of stand-alone forced air central HVAC systems.

This sounds like a good idea, but I thought we were looking for redundancy here instead of efficiency. If a central heating plant went down then everyone would lose their heat source at the same time, no?

As I understand it, CHP usually have redundancy built in, unlike central home heating. How many people have two furnaces, one NG, the other oil, etc. ?

The big advantage for CHPs that I see is electrical generation is often done first with the fuel.


That is correct but in practise it has been very uncommon in Sweden. Partly its becouse we need large spare capacity to handle -20 C or lower cold spells withouth providing bad service and mostly becouse properly maintained facilities seldom breakes down.

But we have problems with failures in the older parts of the pipe the system in my home town. To handle such situation they have mobile oil fired boilers with equipment to hook up a section of the system as an iceland.

I'm curious about what's going to happen to Geithner. Cabinet picks in the past have been deep-sixed by "nanny problems." And he's not only got a nanny problem, he tried to cheat on his taxes, got busted, and didn't pay up. This is the guy who's going to be in charge of the IRS?

Even stranger...Obama apparently knew all this, but picked him anyway. What was he thinking? Either he's lacking in judgment, incredibly arrogant, or Geithner has photos of him in a compromising position.

Ever heard the phrase......

"A sacrificial lamb is a lamb (or metaphorical parallel) killed or discounted in some way (as in a sacrifice) in order to further some other cause. In typical modern usage, it is a metaphorical reference for a person who has no chance of surviving the challenge ahead, but is placed there for the common good. The term is derived from the traditions of Abrahamic religion where a lamb is a highly valued possession, but is offered to God as a sacrifice to obtain the more highly valued favour of God."

Hooo Boooy this Big O is a trickster.....

Hmmm, somebody with all the "right" credentials, but with potentially show-stopper skeletons. He gets rejected and Pres. O has to come up with a "second choice" quickly. Not all the perfect credentials but no show-stopper skeletons either. #2 passes and is someone who might actually do something different.

Sacrificial lamb strategy might be exactly what's going on here.

Sacrificial lamb?... "a person who has no chance of surviving the challenge ahead,"... which were you refering to, Geithner or Obama?

It really doesn't matter. Those who think that Obama is the saviour, won't care and those who know that he isn't, don't care either.

If there weren't any problems, I'd agree that those would be issues, but since Geithner will have to save the financial system from day 1 (if it doesn't collapse before Jan 20 that is), all this is going to be quickly forgotten.

"...but since Geithner will have to save the financial system from day 1 (if it doesn't collapse before Jan 20 that is), all this is going to be quickly forgotten."

Except that Geithner's one of Bernanke's disciples.

And Bernanke's, Paulson's heads should be rolling down Capitol Hill now.

O has failed his first term.

Change? Where.

If he's not putting people in jail w/in hours of Inauguration Day.

He won't. It's over. and you can forget about that sacrifice BS.

Americans are sacrificed out.

well, it's a change. black democrat instead od white republican. it may not be much more than that, but some change it definitely is.

Take O out and it's zero change.

He's got hours and days. With definitive decisions
that will resonate not with Wall St, DC and Hollywood
but with Tulsa, Omaha, and St Louis.

Zero change would mean he would continue the legacy of corruption, incompetence, cronyism, torture, science denial, etc. of the last 8 years. He ain't gonna be perfect but zero change is not in the cards. I am far from a cockeyed optimist, but I still think there is hope in many different areas. Will the hard core get all or even most of what we want? Of course not!! Ain't gonna happen under any person who has the remotest chance of getting elected.

I am disappointed with many of his appointments, but not as much perhaps as some others who were under the illusion that change meant he would buy in to their every position on different issues. Anyway, Bush will be outta here in 6 days. Hallelujah.

Yes, I am a very cynical person, but I think that people have taken it too far. He won't be perfect, he's still a politician, but he's orders of magnitude better than Bush. I think he has some real potential - he's smart and hard working, and not evil.

I was pretty disappointed by the Vilsack pick, that's one I think could have been more transformational.

We may at least get some decent judges. Judicial appointments comprise one of the most lasting legacies a president can leave.

You're being ridiculous.
The man hasn't even been sworn in yet, and you're writing it all off. Very helpful, McGowan. He is going to be fairly 'establishment'.. it comes with the job, and we know that there are some serious blindspots in that. But asking him to hack and slash on his grand entrance is a kind of extreme that ALSO represents 'same-old, same-old' .. Have a little patience and trust, just a little.

(You didn't go to school in Maine, did you? .. I knew an M McGowan around 1980.)


Who knows what he was thinking, but Geithner is close to Larry Summers and Robert Rubin, the same guys who helped set up this credit crunch due to their "relaxing" of the rules. These people ought to be prosecuted and jailed. I agree with Denninger, how can anyone trust the system when it's entirely in favour of the big boys and they can change rules on the fly?

It's a sad state of affairs. I'm only hoping that Obama holds these people accountable eventually, trying to spend your way out of a crisis that was a result of overspending and overborrowing is non-sensical ideology. The actions of Geithner, Rubin, Paulson and Bernanke have only served to make the problem worse. When the bond markets dislocate due to the excessive borrowing, which they will eventually, that's when even more SHTF, interest rates of 15% or more is going to severely affect the global economy.

I don't know what it is - rigid ideology, monumental stupidity, a planned conspiracy or addiction to power and gambling?? But whatever it is, the actions of these people is going to affect billions. In a mostly harmful way :-(

Is there a link for this? Everything I've read indicates that his nanny problem was a situation where her papers were originally in order but lapsed during his employ, and his tax problem was due to complications he didn't fully understand and he did, in fact, pay up with penalties. I haven't seen anything that even remotely fits this summary.

I too heard that the tax issue was related to a period of employment at the World Bank which has a very singular way of handling employee tax contributions, the complexities of which results in numerous filer errors. Why the World Bank insists on their policies is beyond me...can anyone explain this?

He has more than one tax problem. In one case, he was told there was a problem by his accountant and didn't re-file.

But that's not really what I'm wondering about. I'm wondering why Obama was so bent on picking him, when he knew about these problems. Geithner may well get through...but Obama will have to use up some of his political capital to make it happen. It's a distraction, and it's making them look either incompetent or crooked. Is there really no one else he could have picked?

Do you honestly believe that Obama makes his own decisions?

Not sure what you mean by that. By "Obama" I didn't necessarily mean him, personally. I meant "the Obama transitional team."

Though it seems Obama himself was warned about Geithner's issues, but insisted on picking him anyway.

If it was someone else making the decision, the question still holds.

So far, in every single appointment decision Obama has chosen credentials over competence or integrity. I have mentioned this to a few people and their rebuttal is that I am expecting way too much from the guy-he doesn't know anything about any subject connected to his job and he is naturally relying on the "experts" with the most impressive and connected resumes.

Elite (correctly) thinks that people just won't mind. Ask yourself - do people in USA really do care about who is going to run Treasury? They just want someone to fix the problem, that's all. It might be shortsighted, but it is, what it is.

Most people in the USA don't know what the Treasury department does. A year ago, I bet over 50% of people wouldn't have known that there was a treasury dept.

Try this one on for size: Ask people where electricity comes from. You'll be surprised how many don't know.

I'll flip that around. Why do the elite mind so much?

I guess because Treasury is the only really important position in the government. I haven't seen Bush doing much about financial crisis at all. Probably Paulson approved even those few speeches that president gave on the matter.

So, what's the REAL power of the president?

I just don't see what Geithner offers that someone else couldn't. His pal Larry Summers has been through the confirmation process before. Same outlook, fewer skeletons.

largi i think had an article that indicated geithner warned of the subprime problem & has more radical ideas for intervening to correct the problems than summers et al[as i remember].

Who knows, maybe he like media attention more than Summers does. There could be 1000s of reasons and we can only guess. Maybe it is the fact, that Paulson thinks highly of him. FWIW, I think that Paulson is extremely intelligent, has very good rhetorical skills and hasn't shown any weakness whatsoever. You cannot come to that position by accident, especially not now.

The fact that Paulson is highly intelligent is a cause for concern. You don't become CEO of Goldman Sachs by being dumb, this guy was the one who repealled glass-steagal, letting the hell of leverage loose. These people get the math, they understand how the system works, they get to see it in real time. So why on earth are they pushing this plan that is so clearly designed to help the banks as opposed to people?

How can a few bloggers like Mish, Denninger, Ilargi etc provide spot on, accurate information for free letting the masses understand the crisis precisely but the people at the top don't get it? It's because they don't really care about anything apart from protecting the system that got them into power.

Power corrupts, absolute power absolutely corrupts.

The credit crisis is solvable, it can be done, the more bailouts they do,the longer they allow banks to hide toxic assets, the more fiscal stimuli, it all adds to the debt burden, worsening the problem. The debt must be paid down or defaulted, why aren't they letting this happen?

Some very hard questions need to be asked. Only the German Finance Minister has said anything that remotely makes sense with the current crisis. Kudos to him.

"So why on earth are they pushing this plan that is so clearly designed to help the banks as opposed to people?"

It seems obvious to me. People just don't matter. What matters is control over people and you get that precisely through banks. Mish et al get it, because they don't gain anything by not telling it . Does it really matter if they do it? In the grand scheme of things it doesn't really.

The sad truth is that the middle class has to start spend less, because the resources are getting thinner. Maybe it is a good thing after all.

When it comes to finance related appointments it comes down to someone willing to take a 90%+ pay cut.

I'm curious about what's going to happen to Geithner. Cabinet picks in the past have been deep-sixed by "nanny problems." And he's not only got a nanny problem, he tried to cheat on his taxes, got busted, and didn't pay up.

Those are actually extreme interpretations of simple honest mistakes. Apparently the world bank has strange complicated tax collecting, and a lot of their US employees have not realized they were supposed to pay the SS taxes as if they were self-employed. He paid the taxes, with interest as soon as this was brought to his attention.

Again, to the nanny issue, she had a lapse in her immigration status for a few months before getting her green card.

These are the sorts of quibbling errors that anyone could be caught up in.

That is true. We have a friend who used to work at the World Bank. She is Australian by birth, and the entire time she worked there she didn't have any taxes withdrawn from her paycheck at all. When she did retire, she did some odd jobs for someone else we know, and when she got her 1st paycheck she was complaining bitterly about how much money was being "stolen" by the government. The rest of us just laughed.

The rules for U.S. citizens who work there may be quite different for all I know.

This it is possible and even likely that the World Bank just doesn't take anything out at all and leaves it to every individual to do whatever it is that needs to be done. Or for that matter, they incorrectly keyed it in, and nobody noticed because they have weird rules there..

I also know someone who used to work at the World Bank, from Norway, and he also paid zero income taxes (he was stationed in D.C.).

Geithner mess has to be resolved now

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which describes itself as a non-partisan public policy group, said in a statement Wednesday that Geithner's nomination should be withdrawn. And if it isn't, the CEI urged the Senate to vote against his nomination.

"The Obama transition team members clearly dropped the ball. In an effort to please some on Wall Street and keep the bailouts going, they glossed over their nominee's credentials and judgment," the CEI said in its statement. "Geithner's errors and/or misjudgments make him unfit to serve as Secretary of the Treasury."

At the very least, a lengthy confirmation process would not be good news.

The best natural gas resource is the trash we throw away. Check out this video:


That is pretty neat. Though wouldn't it make more sense for people to have the gasifier units at their house, that created and stored that gas. Then simply fill the gas tank with the BioGas to run the car.

Fargo makes money from garbage, waste

Methane capture to generate power, and wastewater from the dump is sent to an ethanol plant to substitute for scare groundwater. And the city obtains hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Chicago Climate Exchange.

Also from the Star Tribune...
Mosaic lifts Cargill net to 25% gain for quarter

The fertilizer company, two-thirds owned by Cargill, saved the company from reporting lower earnings... Boosted by its two-thirds stake in Plymouth-based fertilizer giant Mosaic, Cargill's earnings of $1.19 billion for the quarter ended Nov. 30 were 25 percent higher than the previous year.

"The best natural gas resource is the trash we throw away."

Thats great! Now all we need to do is generate more trash.


I always cringe when someone says that "all biofuels are crap" or something to that effect. Biogas is a biofuel too. The technology is simple and already deployed in thousands, if not millions, of sites around the world. The EROI must be pretty good, certainly far, far better than corn ethanol, and maybe even than Brazilian cane ethanol. It is not the solution to all our problems (no such singular solution exists), but it definitely has a place in our energy future.

No one objects to methane capture from landfills, sewage disposal facilities, feedlots, etc. This is a significant resource that becomes a pollutant if allowed to "go to waste." The objection is to growing biomass as a feedstock for biofuel production. Using food for fuel is a blatant crime against humanity and against the biosphere, but even growing crops - such as switchgrass or poplar trees - that aren't edible by humans or using food crop residues for biofuel production, is a bad idea because the resources invested in growing them could be invested in growing food. Also, residues need to be returned to the soil to retain tilth & micronutrients and for the sake of carbon sequestration. Even if it was possible to grow sufficient biomass to feed the world AND provide significant amounts of biofuels doing so would be wrong because it would force marginal land into production, resulting in soil degradation & loss, reduced habitat and ecosystem services.

"Using food for fuel is a blatant crime against humanity "

why? you have already said that the world cannot support almost 7 billion people. I think that it is better to have 6 billion starving people than continuing BAU and have 9 billion starving people at some point.

of course I am biased, as I live in the "developed world". I feel for hungry, but nothing can really be done (except short term).

I would like to see human population reduced to the vicinity of 200 million worldwide by means of reduction of birthrate and natural attrition. At no time have I advocated population reduction via increase in death rate. However, what I'd like to see and what I expect to see are two different things.

We can go to 200 million only with massive hunger/wars.

We can go to 200 million only with massive hunger/wars.

We could go to 200 million via intelligent population policy. Unfortunately, nothing in history gives any indication that we will do so. Hence, I can't disagree with you. I don't have to like the idea, tho.

How about a little thought experiment. Assume the average person lives 70 years. If every woman in the world gave birth to only one child then how long would it take to lower the population to your goal of only 200 million. It would take 70 years to reach 3.5 billion. Another 70 to reach 1.75 billion. 70 more to reach 875 million. 70 again to reach 437.5 million. 70 more to reach 218,750,000. That's over 350 years to reach your goal. If we are already at an unsustainable population level then severe famine and disease is our collective future.

If every woman in the world gave birth to only one child... That's over 350 years to reach your goal.

To my mind 350 years isn't an unreasonable time frame. But if deemed necessary to attain sustainable population levels more rapidly, some percentage of women would just have to forego the pleasures of motherhood.

Ah, and there's the catch. Who gets to choose which women can have children, and which cannot? We're each the product of 3 billion years of ancestors who successfully bred. There is no deeper genetic imperative than to have children.

Wars have been fought over much less important principles than the freedom to have children.

I don't argue that it isn't necessary to drastically reduce our population. I, personally, will have no children. But it is ridiculous to imagine that any significant portion of the global population will willingly submit to reproductive limits.

I think it's possible. Some countries now have naturally declining populations, because people are voluntarily not having children. If we turned the power of Madison Ave. to it, we could probably get better results than China's one-child policy. People do like to have sex, and they do like to care for cute little things, but those can be separated from parenthood.

The problem is that TPTB tend to see falling population as a problem, not a solution. The ponzi scheme must go on. That means ever more taxpayers coming in at the bottom.

Tainter discusses this a bit in The Collapse of Complex Societies. He found that population growth slows, even reverses, as a society approaches collapse. Those in power almost always see this a problem that needs to be fixed. The Maya could not feed everyone, so fed women at the expense of men (since the number of fertile females determines population growth). The Romans set up orphanages to care for abandoned children and enacted laws that encouraged child-bearing, even though they had trouble providing for the existing citizens.

We are doing the same - seeing a lower population as a problem, not a solution. IMO, it really has little to do with genetic imperatives, at least on the individual level.

- profit motive
- usury
- power motive
+ sense of community (the means of containing power and profit, thus usury)
+ localization
+ sustainability paradigm
+ long-term planning (7 generations?)

I think absent any of those, it fails. The successful models we have for managing population are either too small (aboriginal) to indicate success with billions, or occur out of selfishness (Japan, Europe). People are not limiting children to help society, they are doing it because they want to be comfortable. One thing being a parent is not, is comfortable.

Complexity argues against successful organization of billions of people. It also argues against extremely long-term sustainability w/o access to extraterrestrial resources.

A crash will come minus a global paradigm shift. Whether now or in a thousand years, it will come. In fact, nature being the capricious creature it is, it will likely come anyway. Even if we intentionally or unintentionally engineer a semi-permanent inter-glacial, one day the fossil fuel will run out and the carbon return from whence it came. Then the area we inhabit will likely shrink a great deal. Perhaps we will end up in the sea in the end.

A bit of a ramble.


Who gets to choose which women can have children, and which cannot?

Yes, your point is well taken. It isn't my intention to advocate for any specific policy, only to outline possibilities. Two approaches could be taken and both begin with people voluntarily agreeing to abstain from becoming (biological) parents. Since I agree that refraining voluntarily from reproduction is apt to be numerically inadequate, the first approach would be to offer tax incentives for remaining childless. After all, children tend to require services paid for with tax revenues. Taxing parents more heavily than childless people might serve as motivation for remaining childless. Other financial &/or social incentives could be used to ensure that only those most highly motivated to have kids choose to do so. The second approach would be to let geneticists dedicated to preserving genetic diversity choose. This approach would require oversight to prevent racial or socioeconomic bias from creeping in. The primary difference between these two approaches is that the former provides for self-selection for parenthood despite disincentives against it, whereas the latter involves selection by qualified others. As odious as either of these approaches may seem, they are preferable to population reduction brought about by increase in death rate.


There is a flaw in your experiment, which tripped me up as well.

To simplify:

If we start off with 1000 20 year-olds that reproduce we get 500 new humans, total 1500
20 years later the second generation reproduce and we add 250, total 1750
20 years later the third generation reproduce and we add 125, total 1875
10 years later the first generation die and we subtract the original 1000, total 875, or 87.5% population remaining, not 50%

The "problem" is that the first generation sticks around while the next two generations reproduce.


You should have carried your reasoning on a few years:
10 years after you stop your calculation you add ~63 people to 875 to get ~938
10 years later: 938 - 500 (second generation dies) = 438
10 years later: 438 + 32 = 470
10 years later: 470 - 250 (third generation dies) = 220
and so on...

So after 90 years you are down to 22% of the original population.

We would get down to 200 million in less than 150 years.

Personally, I agree that a population of 100 million or so - pre-industrial levels - would be good. Such levels should be sustainable with decent comfort given our current knowledge whilst allowing the biosphere some room to recover (at least partially) from the overburden we are placing on it now.

What are the chances of getting there voluntarily? They seem very remote, but it is worth keeping in mind.

And of course you can further accelerate that if you manage to convince most to put off child bearing for a few years, a trend that is already happening in many places in the world for a variety of reasons. I am always surprised by how frequently this element is left out of discussions of populations dynamics.

I know, it was late.

The point I was trying to make (poorly) is that the front end reduction is too slow. 70 years from now, I think we will have less than 87% of the population we do now, but it won't be through a "one child" policy.

Chances of voluntary reduction? Greater than 0, but only just. It's too hard wired.


darwinsong -

I'm all for bio-gas generation from waste, but I think some people here are either not aware of or choose to overlook some of its inherent limitations.

First, the anaerobic digestion of organic waste material is incapable of complete conversion to methane. The more difficult organic compounds are not completely broken down or, in some cases, not converted to anything at all.

Second, unless carried out in a temperature range considerably above ambient (say 90 to 125 degrees F), the anaerobic digestion process is slow. Many digesters, particularly those in cold climes, use a considerable fraction of the methane produced just to keep the digesters warm. This means less methane available for actual consumptive uses.

Lastly, bio-gas from anaerobic digestion is typically (by volume) about 70% methane and 30% carbon dioxide. Thus, the production of bio-gas constitutes a CO2 source even when discounting the CO2 generated when the gas is burned.

While anaerobic digestion of waste has many benefits from a waste management standpoint, it is not the most efficient way of extracting energy from organic material.

Hi joule. I posted the other day about how I once designed an anaerobic digester as a project for an environmental science class as an undergrad. I began assembling materials to actually build the digester but never completed it. So I have some idea of the potential and limitations of this technology. Since the heat capacity of CH4 is so much greater than that of CO2, it's better to collect methane to flame off rather than release it into the atmosphere. Better yet to put it to some useful application, however limited that may be.

The latest issue of popular mechanics features a Dairy farmer in PA who used a state grant to build a large underground digester. He slops his cow poop into the digester, and a local snack food plant gives him some industrial waste (leftover corn chips) to feed the bacteria some extra starches. I assume the local corn chip plant would otherwise put that stuff in the landfill?

Hes got a Caterpillar Natural gas engine running off the CH4, which is stored in a giant bladder. The generator is 130kW! Enough power for continuous supply to his dairy farm and some surrounding homes.

Many Natural gas engines like those Caterpillar sells are also equipped with cooling systems that use waste heat for heating homes/buildings(instead of just blowing the heat away from a radiator near the engine - you plumb the heat into the farmhouse). This approach called CHP or combined heat and power - popular in Europe - can double the efficiency of the unit. His engine was so equipped.

Compared to a "normal" dairy farm this guy is not only avoiding using traditional electrical power (created by burning coal) but hes preventing the release of all that CH4. A win-win.

needless to say since the government provided the majority of the funding for his project - the one photo of the owner shows him wearing a big $h** eating grin. Pun intended.

Yes, hog farms in South Africa and municipal sewage treatment facilities in India, among others, routinely collect methane and use it to power their operations. We're well behind the trend here in the US. Collecting the waste product of anaerobic decomposition and putting it to beneficial use thereby keeping it out of the atmosphere truly is a win-win proposition.

darwinsong -

Not that long ago I was involved in a conceptual design involving, among other things, a heated anaerobic digester for a piggery in Ireland (long story). As I recall, it was just on the borderline regarding the size where a bio-gas fired generator would make economic sense. I think they wound up flaring the excess gas not used for digester heating.

Evidently, the use of bio-gas from animal feedlots is far more extensively practiced in Europe than in the US, particularly in Denmark and the Netherlands.

From a waste management standpoint it makes a lot of sense. However, I think that deliberately growing things for the purpose of generating bio-gas through anaerobic digestion is a dubious proposition at best.

From a waste management standpoint it makes a lot of sense. However, I think that deliberately growing things for the purpose of generating bio-gas through anaerobic digestion is a dubious proposition at best.

I'm in complete agreement here.

Its probably the second most efficient way of making fuel out of biomass, the most efficient way ought to be gasification. But biogas will often win due to the numerous opportunities to complement waste fed digesters with purpose grown biomass transported with minimal logistics.

I worked for a company that did sewage plant design long ago. Sewage plants everywhere, yep even the USA that all good greenies like to trash, use their methane for power. The stuff is an explosion and suffocation hazard and has to be dealt with. Doing something useful with it is usually profitable and always cheaper than get it vented or flared safely.

Yes, we should be using those resources to grow more humans instead, still another "crop" not (currently) edible. Personally, I prefer the switchgrass...
Saw a story about palestinian refugees living in a 2 room hut, one had 8 kids, the other had 10. THAT's a crime against humanity.

What part? The living in a two room hut, or having 8 or 10 kids?

The Israelis obviously see it as a problem. I wrote this about it yesterday.

Warsocialism, as Hanson puts it. Is that somehow better than global nuclear war? I can guess what Lovelock would say about that. Question is, am I a citizen of US or a citizen of the world?

cfm in Gray, ME

For thousands of years people have used a high percentage of their land to grow crops which is used to fuel draft animals. In much of the world this practice continues. Is this a crime against humanity? Would you plow every acre of pasture and semi-arid rangeland to grow crops which the poor still couldn't afford? It is unaffordability of food for the poor which is the crime, not the production of biofuels. The generation of biogas only extracts 1/4 of the energy of the feedstock with the residue being an excellent organic fertilizer.

"Using Food for fuel is a blatent Crime against Humanity"

When you make this kind of statement you show that you do not understand agriculture or food production. Until the advent of gasoline and diesel powered equipment on the order of 20 percent of the productive land was used for draft animal feed.

Draft animals combined with improved equipment (reapers etc.) allowed less labor to produce more food than systems reliant only on human muscle power. In the late 19th and early 20th century this freed up large amounts of labor for other tasks. Few people who have actually tried producing food using only manual labor turn down the chance to use modern equipment or even draft animals. It takes a LOT of work to grow your own food with just hand tools.

The advent of gasoline and diesel power resulted in an instant 20% (plus or minus) increase in food production. This unsung part of the Green Revolution is what peak oil will undo.

I can see no difference between using 20% of productive land to feed heavy draft horses or using 20% of productive land to produce ethanol or biodiesel to power agricultural equipment.

"They starve so that you can drive."

The greed and lack of compassion for the 900 million malnourished people in the world exhibited in the previous couple posts, is exactly what I expect from spoiled elitists in the developed West.

Neither of these two posts said anything about driving. It looks to me as if when your ignorance is exposed you are resorting to namecalling.

I realize I should be thanking you for promotion to "Elite" status but I am having too much trouble seeing myself as "Elite".

You should ask yourself why "900 Million people are malnourised". The example of Zimbabwe comes to mind. A corrupt government destroys a modern agricultural system because of their greed and racism (the farmers were white). Result the population gets hungry.

If you can get Americans to give up eating meat, you might have more corn available. That would shut down much of the fast food industry except for the soft drink and fries part. Then you might have to shut down numerous meat processing facilities across the MidWest and elsewhere. After than you might have to determine what will happen to the cattlemen and their families. And if the cost of a pound of corn does not have much impact on the price of a $20-$30 restaurant, it sure has affected some mothers who depend on tortillas for their babies.

By placing quotas and subsiidies on ethanol Washington manipulates the corn markets and the gasoline/ethanol markets.

As if the doubling of the price of cereal has not caused any hunger amongst people who depended on cereal grains for their food. As more land was pushed towards biofuels production what happened to the price of rice?


Bad government from Washington?

I think most corn not used for ethanol goes to make high fructose corn syrup, used as a cheap substitute for sugar in the US. The EU disallows HFCS in foods, AFAIK. I seem to recall that corn grown to eat is a very small portion of the overall crop.

The best natural gas resource is the trash we throw away.

It is the best source because the NG, is the highly efficient greenhouse gas otherwise known as methane. Even if the cost of capturing the methane isn't fully paid for by the power/fuel, the eliminated greenhouse gas emissions are a pretty large external. Of course we gotta realize that the total amount of NG available in this way is pretty small. This is not a silver bullet for either energy or environment. But, it is an important silver BB that should be pursued with high efficiency.

Mortgage rates dip to new all-time low
The 30 year fixed rate fell to 5.01%, its lowest level since Freddie Mac started conducting its survey in 1971.

Mortgage rates fell to another all-time low, declining for the tenth consecutive week...

Mortgage rates continue to respond to the Federal Reserve's decision to purchase mortgage backed securities from Fannie Mae (FNM, Fortune 500), Freddie Mac (FRE, Fortune 500) and Ginnie Mae, according to Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist.

"On November 25, 2008, the Federal Reserve announced that it planned to purchase up to $500 billion of these securities by the end of June this year. For the sake of comparison, there were roughly $4.7 trillion of such securities backed by home mortgages available as of September 30, 2008," Nothaft said in a release Thursday.

Deflation anyone? Or... Maybe... Are we going right back into the same mess we just got ourselves out of with housing? And notice how the government has become the explicit lender of last resort...?

They will try, no doubt about it. They might pull it off, but then again, maybe not.

I, for one, sure won't be buying any real estate (except maybe farm land).

Are we going right back into the same mess we just got ourselves out of with housing?"

We can't. The entire model has been blown up.

loans take leverage. Not to say growing energy source.

And no one's talking about raising wages.

A letter to the editor with shocking! peak oil reference:

Portland Press Herald.

Tom Atwell's Jan. 9 column on the efforts by Roger Doiron of Scarborough to get President-elect Obama to plant an "organic" garden on the White House grounds ("Can't eat the view? Wait for final vote") drew this response from the executive director of Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association: "The garden could not be declared organic until three years" after non-certified materials had been used.

To this I respond: So what? As long as Obama isn't selling his produce to the public, or has net sales under $5000 annually, he can call his garden whatever he pleases.

Furthermore, if indeed he decides to plant the garden, which I think is a fabulous idea, the president should avoid the label "organic," even if he uses traditional methods. To do so would suggest that some gardens are more worthy of national recognition than others. The last thing the president-elect needs as he enters his term is the taint of elitism.

Besides, in the coming era of declining oil production, every garden will be a "Victory Garden," and stamps of political approval simply won't matter.

"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

I'd like to see a soils test please. That lawn is probably toxic. A great example that would be, to plant victory gardens in unsafe areas. Might not matter to the President; he'd be so gracious as to donate the food to the local food pantry.

cfm in Gray, ME

I suggest such gardens use raised beds, car tyres, rusty bathtubs and upturned fridges filled with night soil, mulched ornamental trees, roadkill (Soylent Black), wood ash and soil trucked in from safe areas. Add earthworms. If necessary give them a year or two to sanitise. Maybe not so much around the White House but demolition rubble could be used to make raised beds eg bricks, solid sheet and wooden boards.

Wheelbarrowed in by ex bankers and hedge fund operators looking for honest work. If they fall by the side of the road, add them to the Soylent Black. Another thing to add to the "doesn't it suck list": doesn't it suck that such a program would be better better for environment and planet than whatever the Obama team is going to try?

cfm in Gray, ME

Sounds good to me. Said bankers and hedge fund operators are no doubt highly experienced at shoveling fertilizer.

Several states are having trouble paying for road construction and maintenance. There are proposals for increases in gas taxes and also for taxes based on miles driven. Here's a story from today's NYT:

Some States in a Pinch May Raise Gasoline Tax

There is also a blog running on the subject. My comments are at #22.

E. Swanson

I'd put some money into decentralized and local renewable energy and into rebuilding the local agricultural infrastructure that's been allowed to rot away. A few billion dollars would buy a bunch of slaughterhouses...

Like people are going to be eating meat post-peak. Some people think they "get it" when in fact they're clueless.

I suspect grazing of chickens, ducks, geese, goats, sheep, pigs, and yes some cattle will still be happening 30 years from now, and that it will be less energy intensive to process carcasses in a smaller regional facility than in a massive distant plant. I envision ag in 2020 to look much like ag in 1920. Wisconsin at the turn of the last century had hundreds of community dairies that received daily milk delivery by horse-pulled carriage and used ice from the mill pond to cool their storage. And most villages had a small slaughtering and butchering facility.

I expect that anyone capable of defending livestock from rustlers will do their own butchering.

I suspect those "hundreds of community dairies" are suburbia now.
Just another post picking a time in the past applying it to today and thinking all will be fine.

Not fine. But we do need a whole raft of "community kitchens" and small scale ag processing units. Slaughterhouses being one of them. In Maine, last I heard there were only *two* places where one could get chickens slaughtered and packaged for resale. The right scale for processing units is - VERY ROUGHLY AND GROSSLY SIMPLIFIED 200 to 500 acres of production. More or less. These can't operate 24x7, can't employ a full time USDA inspector, and can't provide such USDA inspector his own private bathroom. And they should employ "culinary arts" students from the local community colleges that we can locate in so many soon-to-be-vacant shopping malls - esp now the state universities are going to be going on a slimfast program.

Chris Martensen asked in a blog post a couple of days ago what $5B would do for permaculture spread across the US. But there will have to be other changes along with that. We need to go on a rampage of corporation busting, so the Hannafords and Shaws (or their English and Belgian owners) can't write the legislation crippling the community kitchens. There is a huge raft of policy work needs to be done.

cfm in Gray, ME

some will eat human flesh. I have no doubt about it.

Oh, they'll b eating meat - "long pork".

See Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore for "long pork" cooking methods.

Thanx, that book received some great reviews on Amazon. I'll look it up after I finish the last of the Terry Prachett books I'm reading.

Homestead style farms have always raised animals. A dozen chickens will feed themselves during the growing season on bugs that would otherwise eat your garden, give you four dozen eggs/week for 10 or 11 months per year, and give you a dozen chicken dinners as you raise replacements.

Three sheep (minimum number for happy sheep) will keep your fencerows clear while providing wool and lamb. Three lambs is Sunday dinner all year.

Farm people will eat meat.

For many people, animals are the way they get through the lean season (whether that's winter, the dry season, or whatever). If the climate isn't right for grain, and it doesn't get cold enough to store potatoes long-term, you need another way of storing food, and that is often animals.

Some backyard poultry producers fed chickens cracked corn, scrapped their plates after supper to give the birds the leftovers, and then let them scratch the soil.

Dairies have been condensed to feed barns as pasture land taxes were heavy and suburbia moved in. Dairy cows were fed a typical mixture, "corn grain, hay, cottonseed, and silage."

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending January 9, 2009

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged nearly 14.6 million barrels per day during the week ending January 9, up 64 thousand barrels per day from the previous week's average. Refineries operated at 85.2 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production fell last week, averaging 8.8 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production increased last week, averaging nearly 4.7 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 9.7 million barrels per day last week, down 756 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 9.6 million barrels per day, 237 thousand barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 797 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 215 thousand barrels per day last week.

UU.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased 1.2 million barrels from the previous week. At 326.6 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 2.1 million barrels last week, and are in the upper half of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and gasoline blending components inventories increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories increased by 6.4 million barrels, and are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories decreased last week by 2.6 million barrels and are in the upper half of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 8.2 million barrels last week and are above the upper limit of average range for this time of year.

And here is what was expected.

According to a consensus estimate of industry analysts surveyed by energy information provider Platts, analysts were looking for stockpiles of crude oil to increase by 3 million barrels.

Stockpiles of gasoline were expected to build by 1.8 million barrels and stockpiles of distillates, which are used to make heating oil and diesel fuel, were expected to be up 1.7 million barrels.

Pretty incredible that imports are exactly the same as 12 months ago, given the economic slowdown.

Somali Pirates sending a 1/4 of saudi daily production right along.

Should be here any day now.


I disagree.
CrudeOil is now at a 75% discount as compared to the cost only 1/2 a year ago. Some understand that this will not last -- and it can not go any cheaper (given the average global production costs ....)

Todays oilbuyers pay productioncost --- pluss a minor fee and cheaper than cheap transport. People talk about 25 dollars given some particular occurrences ... then I'll claim that all Norwegian production will be going offline, untill further notice.

Shipping rates hit zero as trade sinks

Freight rates for containers shipped from Asia to Europe have fallen to zero for the first time since records began, underscoring the dramatic collapse in trade since the world economy buckled in October.

"They have already hit zero," said Charles de Trenck, a broker at Transport Trackers in Hong Kong. "We have seen trade activity fall off a cliff. Asia-Europe is an unmit­igated disaster."

Shipping journal Lloyd's List said brokers in Singapore are now waiving fees for containers travelling from South China, charging only for the minimal "bunker" costs. Container fees from North Asia have dropped $200, taking them below operating cost.

Industry sources said they have never seen rates fall so low. "This is a whole new ball game," said one trader.

Interesting to watch the BDI creep up very slowly from 666 to the 911 it is now. (There's symbolism in there, just can't quite put my finger on it...)I realize it was over 12,000 last May and that increase means nothing. But still going the opposite way I would have thought.

With the feel of things and the look on people's faces, I don't believe these numbers mean much anymore. The change has already started. The only variable is speed now.

Humans, yeast, etc..

There seems to be some inverse correlation with the dollar index. As the dollar dropped back from its highs last summer, the BDI bottomed out and started back up. Of course overall the BDI is at extreme low even with the recent blip back up.

It is important recognize the importance of this type of news item.

IMHO, It is a leading indicator of grim times ahead.

I could RANT about silly talking heads and tunnel vision analysts/economists continually stating that the 'recession' will end in the second half of 2009...when at the same time Ben at the FED says it will last 'at least' til the second half of 2010(and he usually isn't the pessimist in the group).

Do any of these analysts read a paper even!!! Or perhaps they work for Madoff lookalikes...squeezing the last scam out before they jump out of a plane...BAH!!! Why does anyone trust ANYONE in the financial world anymore...WHY? Serial liars...am I wrong?

Sorry for the rant...but I feel better.

Yeah. My reaction on seeing this article is that there's a Cat. 5 pink slip hurricane heading our way.

Is there any appreciable change in your catabolic vs. fast collapse meter?

Not poking fun, truly interested.



Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking forward to The Greater Depression.

But it is very much what I expected. Part and parcel of catabolic collapse.

I seem to recall you commenting the speed is a little surprising. Has that contracted your sense (I use the word intentionally since prediction is far too strong in this case) of the time scales?

I see the complexity as being a serious issue. Every time I think on this I visualize a bifurcation graphic. Seems to me we are somewhere between the 2nd and 4th generation bifurcation, i.e., the point where all hell breaks loose.

I posted this idea a good while back, but didn't preserve the permalink... I think you get the idea without the link.


The speed of the economic crisis seemed rather alarming last September. But things have slowed down again.

The other day, I posted an article about a glacier in Greenland. Scientists did an analysis that found that yes, the ice was melting much faster than the models predicted, and yes, it was because of global warming. But it would not continue. They predicted that the glacier would find a new equilibrium, and the melting would slow down.

That seems to be how it is with the current financial crisis. There are moments when it seems like we're on the verge of total meltdown...but then things settle down, and we get used to the new, lower equilibrium.

In any case, even if we do plunge into another Great Depression...it doesn't mean fast crash dieoff. The first Great Depression caused a lot of suffering, but no dieoff and no collapse.

That seems to be how it is with the current financial crisis. There are moments when it seems like we're on the verge of total meltdown...but then things settle down, and we get used to the new, lower equilibrium.

Yes, but those periods of stability - keeping in mind not only the economics are at issue - get shorter and shorter.

On the immediate horizon:

- mortgage resets surge in '10 and '11
- commercial real estate taking its big dive now
- hundreds of trillions in play money debt yet to blow out
- home prices not yet back to trend and needing a big drop yet to get back there
- food and power shortages still around and not deceleration, at least as far as the news seems to indicate

What is your timeline, if any? Perhaps catabolic and fast collapse need definitions. Error bars on time scales, maybe...


You missed one: $915B in credit card debt, part of which has been securitized.

I agree. Timescale is an important consideration.

Re: The Depression. Everyone remembers the great crash of 1929 but it was actually a series of crashes over 4 years or so.

In our present ecological collapse, I could argue that it is falling off a cliff, in geological terms.

I can't speak for everyone, but maybe part of it is just wanting to get this mess over with but, as they say, one should be careful what one wishes for.

LNG shipping is yet a going concern. LNG bound for the U.S.A. may be diverted to Europe as the Gazprom crisis continues. Russia devalued the ruble and a large Russian bank's bonds were rated to junk status.

Another Great Depression is not fast collapse in my book (as disruptive as it might be to individuals, including me). To me, fast collapse means dieoff. Tainter says societies that collapse suffer an 80-95% drop in population. If that happens in the US within, say, ten years, I'd call that a fast crash.

But I really don't see any point in trying to quantify it. My view is that the future will be messy, and not easily categorized. I expect we will have moments of crisis, where the US looks like Argentina during the economic crisis or New Orleans after Katrina. But it won't be a linear collapse from there. We'll recover, for awhile. Find a new, lower equilibrium. Until the next crisis. Historians looking back may see our long decline starting from, say, WWI, and not see our lifetimes as being more interesting than previous generations'.

My view is that the future will be messy, and not easily categorized.

I second that. Like ACC, there will be winners and losers depending on local conditions (culture, resources, climate etc.)

To further muddy the waters, there will be gross opportunism, warlords or at least fiefdoms. At best, think of Huey Long in Louisiana not long ago. At worst, your guess is as good as mine.

On the bigger stage there will be large events. If Pakistan fails, one can not rule out limited nuclear war.

In the background there will always be people with their own ideological agenda, be it the rapture, or Al Qaeda.

As for Black Swans.....??

So, as you say, there is little point in trying to quantify it, apart from an interesting intellectual exercise and making certain reasonable plans.

All that said, I don't think that The Great Depression is a very good yardstick. There is more different than there is the same.

It will be interesting to see how those retailers still operating will do with zero inventory on their shelves. Recovery 2nd half 2009? Sure, Right!


I suspect there is a lot of unsold inventory of all kinds in warehouses around the world, so the shelves will remain stocked.

For example, I read the other day that Honda will start selling their 2010 model Insight in April. I also read that some Chrysler dealers still have new 2007 model vehicles unsold on their lots. Pretty tough to justify paying new prices for a three model year old vehicle (especially a Chrysler). I'm guessing there will be some crushing going on soon.

There may be inventory, but will anyone have the cash to buy it??

Deutsche Bank reports euro4.8 billion 4Q loss

BERLIN (AP) -- Deutsche Bank AG, Germany's biggest bank, said Wednesday it lost an estimated euro4.8 billion ($6.4 billion) in last year's fourth quarter as the global downturn weighed heavily on its bottom line.

Financial system "could yet collapse"

An eminent political economist has warned that the global financial system is still perilously close to breakdown despite a raft of government rescue packages.

Professor Peter Katzenstein said the industry is exposed to trillions of dollars of bets that could still turn sour. Switzerland would be particularly vulnerable if the financial crisis develops further.

Retail sales drop for 6th straight month

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Retail sales fell for the sixth straight month in December, the longest consecutive stretch of monthly declines in the measure in at least four decades.

"Consumers aren't spending and that's not good for the economy," said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics with Moody's Economy.com.

EU/Ukraine/Russia - How long can this go on?

Rather, does anyone have details on NG storage in Europe?

When does this become critical...or does it?

I would suspect it does at some point, and hopefully won't get there...but I am curious about storage numbers in terms of days forward.

When does this become critical...or does it?

I would imagine it's already become critical to some elderly person freezing in some grim concrete Soviet era apartment building in Belgrade, Prague or Sophia. What a bizarre situation! Millions of people dependent on a fossil fuel that must be piped to them from hundreds of kilometers away and purchased from people who care more about profit than they do about the wellbeing of the consumer. Millions of people living at high latitude thru cold winters with no alternative to this situation. How did human society ever become this crazy?

"How did human society ever become this crazy?"

This is a rhetorical question, right?

Millions of people living at high latitude thru cold winters with no alternative to this situation. How did human society ever become this crazy?


Jay Hanson and Dieoff.org

Posted by Nate Hagens on July 24, 2006

After several years of research, I concluded that little -- if any -- of the so-called "social sciences" (including economics) taught in our universities had anything relevant to say about the real world. Instead of discovering facts and principles, most social science is little more than a program designed to "rationalize" (invent socially-acceptable excuses for) the current plutocracy. Moreover, I was astonished to find that the global economy is based upon Catholic religious dogma that I was able to trace back to St. Thomas http://www.dieoff.com/page243.htm ! Eventually I discarded social science altogether because it had absolutely nothing worthwhile to say about sustainability.

By placing the results of my research in order of importance for sustainability, I can simplify over ten years' work down to two sets of physical "laws". These laws place harsh limits on what is possible for us: #1 ENERGY LAWS, and #2 BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION LAWS. For purposes of sustainability, nothing else matters.

Thanks for that link mcgowanmc. Wish I'd been around in 2006 for that discussion. Some good comments in that thread. Funny that I recognize few of the ids from only 2 & a half years ago. TOD readership & participation must have considerable turnover.

That's pretty typical of all web sites. Turnover tends to be very high.

I've been reading the comments to the Jay Hanson & Dieoff lead from 2006 that mcgo referenced above, and I think I can see why turnover is high. We rehash every day the very same issues they were arguing over back then. Eventually this must get old.

That's part of it.

But people also just lose interest. They decide the financial crisis or climate change is a bigger issue. They decide they've talked enough, and now it's time to take action. They decide to start their own site.

And sometimes, they just change their screen name. AlphaMaleProphetofDoom, in that thread, is Matt Savinar, who still posts here sometimes as TheChimpWhoCanDrive.

I guess once you learn the basic gist of it, there's only so much more you can learn and discuss. I've stopped discussing on many financial sites recently, same old stuff getting rehashed inflation vs deflation and this plan will work and this won't, conspiracy theories and all.

On a side note an article actually praising Bush, these are rare indeed in the British Press especially. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/4241865/History-will-sh...

The decisions taken by Mr Bush in the immediate aftermath of that ghastly moment will be pored over by historians for the rest of our lifetimes. One thing they will doubtless conclude is that the measures he took to lock down America's borders, scrutinise travellers to and from the United States, eavesdrop upon terrorist suspects, work closely with international intelligence agencies and take the war to the enemy has foiled dozens, perhaps scores of would-be murderous attacks on America. There are Americans alive today who would not be if it had not been for the passing of the Patriot Act. There are 3,000 people who would have died in the August 2005 airline conspiracy if it had not been for the superb inter-agency co-operation demanded by Bush
after 9/11.

The next factor that will be seen in its proper historical context in years to come will be the true reasons for invading Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in April 2003. The conspiracy theories believed by many (generally, but not always) stupid people – that it was "all about oil", or the securing of contracts for the US-based Halliburton corporation, etc – will slip into the obscurity from which they should never have emerged had it not been for comedian-filmmakers such as Michael Moore.

Instead, the obvious fact that there was a good case for invading Iraq based on 14 spurned UN resolutions, massive human rights abuses and unfinished business following the interrupted invasion of 1991 will be recalled.

Well if Human rights abuses were so high on the mind of Dubya than why not invade and protect Darfur? Congo?

I think I'm going to be sick...

And I swore the next time someone brought up darfur,
I was going to bring up Gaza.

Bush, the Worst POTUS in history.

History is not done yet.

The writer is an idiot. How do you prove a negative? What history SHOULD remember is that Bush ignored the intel given him by Clinton which possibly led to the success of those attacks.

It should also remember that the same system that just scrambled military jets to track a tiny little private plane abandoned by its pilot when it could not scramble ANY jets to track 4 huge airliners. Note that this scrambling to track suspicious or disabled aircraft happens hundreds of times a year, iirc.

And, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

And that Iraq and Afghanistan have led to double the number of American deaths than occurred on 9/11.

And that up to a million have died while 4 million or so are dis-possessed.

And that using armies to battle terrorists is flat stupid.

And that the Iraqi oil profits WILL be flowing to western companies - the same ones who were originally tossed out - and not the Iraqis. Gee, must be an accident of history.

The writer is an idiot, a fool or a neo-con.


Or Tony Blair writing under a pseudonym :) which of course does not negate in anyway your last assertion.

Bush and Dick Cheney take great pride in the fact not a single terrorist attack took place after 9/11 on American soil - I think the stricter security at airports and better/more paranoid immigration control might be a better explanation than the war on Iraq.

Worse human rights violations have happened in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Rwanda to name a few than in Iraq. It's a bit rich to assert that only altruistic reasons were at play here.


Funny that I recognize few of the IDs from only 2 & a half years ago.
TOD readership & participation must have considerable turnover.

This stuff gets pretty depressing and pretty repetitive.

It's hard to tell what the readership size is from the names of those who comment.
Many times I just read without commenting.

It was interesting though to go back in time (2.5 years ago) and see what the thinking was:

1. Technology will save us.
2. The Market (and Invisible Hand) will save us.
3. Politicians will save us.

Here we are, many years later, and no wiser or better off.
The politicians have once again run off with the money and the markets have collapsed. Still holding my breath and waiting for cold fusion to come to the rescue.

I'm wondering: at what point do the Russians and EU decide to just build a larger pipeline through Belarus, and then just tell Ukraine to enjoy their empty pipeline?

My understanding is that a major northern pipeline was proposed by Russia but turned down by the EU due to excessive cost. Hence, the Russians aren't as sympathetic to the plight of freezing Europeans as they might be. I remember reading something to this effect awhile ago but don't recall the details. Maybe others know more about it.

No, the problem is not with financing it. It will be profitable and Russia is financing most of it it. Previous German chancellor Gerhard Schröder is a head of the company that is working to build this pipeline. Russia has already put pipes toward the sea but some EU countries have been fighting hard against it for apparently no logical reason... At least no logical reason I can see. Officially it is stated that they are concerned for the environment, so the company set up to build this pipeline is spending huge sums of money on environmental investigations to confirm that it will be safe (basically that there are no old WW2 chemical weapons on the sea floor in places where pipeline will be). Unofficially some countries stated that it will increase EU dependence on the Russian gas. This seems illogical since dependence or independent has nothing to do with pipeline. Additional pipeline will give an opportunity for EU to buy Russian gas with no interruptions or black mail by other countries. But it will not force EU to buy any additional gas from Russia. This pipeline will simply make Russian gas deliveries more reliable without any drawbacks.

More info is here:

Thanks for the info hifis.

One of the reasons that some dislike the proposed northstream pipeline is thatit would make it easier for russian interests to put preassure on fragile east european countries including countries that are members of EU.

Russian financing of the project is being questioned by some after the oil price crash and problems within russia with handling the finance crisis. Time will tell if they have cash for the equipment.

And the project is not the smartest of ideas since Russia realy ought to prioritze development of new gas fields and pipelines to them to have gas to fill the existing pipelines and contracts.

And if there is need for another pipeline it could be built on land and then probably both be cheaper and allow additional pipeline revenue creating business along the route and provide more redundancy by interconnecting with existing infrastructure.

The core problem is that europe realy needs a good Russian / Belarus / Ukraine business climate for investmets that take a decade to build and decades to pay. Withouth it EU will not get gas and they will make themselves into a slow motion economical disaster.

You are basically repeating all of the inane anti-Russian talking points of the people trying to sabotage Nord Stream. Ukraine has amply demonstrated that Russian gas WILL be hijacked by countries en route to EU customers. To deny this and start chirping about how land lines are cheaper than under the sea lines is nothing but intellectually insulting nonsense.

The claim that Gazprom would not be able to afford Nord Stream is based on nothing. What have oil prices got to do with gas? Do you expect oil prices to go to $5 per barrel and gas prices to go to $50 per tcm? The EU is supposed to be paying $420 per tcm when oil prices are hovering under $40.

The assertion that Russia would not survive without the EU is vapid arrogance. The EU has been very active at avoiding investing in Russia. Yet Russia has managed to do quite well after 1998. In fact its recovery was stellar before 2004 and high oil prices.

Europe is in dire trouble, as it has to effectively decide between Russia and US. The trouble is even worse, as Europe is in fact owned by USA. There are still many US military bases in Germany, Italy, etc... However, without Russia's resources, Europe is dead meat.

Europe is trying to be diplomatic and all, but it seems to me that the patience is rapidly waning.

as Europe is in fact owned by USA.

I find that statement pretty strange. The USA is now a very large net debtor. Even accounting for the substantial US debt held by China, Japan, and the Gulf states, I'd bet Europe owns more of the USA than the US owns of Europe.

'owned' not in a sense of possession. Europe just can't act alone. Don't get me wrong, maybe it is a good thing that they are paralyzed, they cooked up enough world wars as it is.

I would be very surprised if the baltic countries and Poland hijacked gas to other EU states.

I dont know much about belarus but they give an impression to be about as stable as Russia and Ukraine. The problem with this is that a bad business climate hurts all expensive and long term investment projects. They need such stability regardless of EU to be able to invest in new gas fields for local consumption, efficiency, nuclear power and so on. But with such stability you also get the opprotunity to use the already excisting infrastructure more efficiently and that gives an opportunity to focuse the resource use.

The statement about land lines is based on the lack of heavy pipe cladding and an easier environment for welding and maintainance. On the other hand are heavy logistics harder on land.

The claim about gazprom is indeed based on little but the apparant stand still in prestige projects and falling russian markets plus a lack of news about investments in new energy infrastructure to feed northstream etc. This might very well be becouse to little news reaches me.

Russia can of course survive without EU. But I would prefer to be neighbour to a rich and prosperous Russia with democrarcy and equal rule by law and thus I would like russia to get its act togeather wich also gives opportunities for trade.

I would be very surprised if the baltic countries and Poland hijacked gas to other EU states.

Yeah. They will let it run through a pipeline right there, just screaming BLOW ME UP, while the local population freezes. Just the same way that new HVDC grid is going to transmit power from the windmills in the Gulf of Maine to Connecticut and NYC, bypassing cold dark houses in Western Maine.

cfm in Gray, ME

There would be no problems as long as Russia inputs enough gas and if Russia isent inputing enough gas to honour all contracts along such a pipeline I would presume the countries along a route thru EU to share the gas available. They are after all integrating their gas and electricity grids and have a parliament etc for common decisionmaking and that promotes solutions that share such a burden.

But that makes no sense at all. How is not having this pipe makes anything different at all? Are you really trying to say that these "east European countries" can now blackmail EU gas deliveries? And in your view this is good for EU? How is the current situation good for EU? How does it make any country more secure (if that what you meant by pressure)?

Right now we have a situation where this pipeline would've made a difference. I just fail to see how any of EU countries are winning in the current situation? How is not having this pipe (and gas that it can provided) is better for EU countries?

Such theories are circulating in press and blogs. I know too litte about Russian and Ukraine politics to be sure about them but things seems to be wrong with the business climate.

The realy strange thing were a period when a lot of Swedes regarded northstream as a military threath, I never got the logic of that idea.

There is no logic, just knee-jerk reaction. Listen to the current pronouncements by EU talking heads. They claim Nord Stream increases their dependence on Russian gas, but Nabucco will decrease it. So they are worried that Nord Stream will undermine the Nabucco project. They assume Turkmenistan (or as they call it "central Asia") will supply more than enough gas to offset Russian supplies. But Turkmenistan's exports mostly go to support Ukraine (55 bcm per year) and its future export growth will go to China amongst other places. Westexas keeps on bringing up how the ELM for Russian gas production will soon reduce its exports significantly. Well, Russia will be a consumer of Turkmen gas in the future as well.

The "logic" that Nord Stream increases dependence is utter rubbish. It confirms that the EU has been getting an economic advantage from the Ukraine gas theft and resale racket. Russia has been competing against its own subsidized gas to Ukraine and the EU has been getting a reduced price for well over a decade. Nord Stream destroys this perversion. It is the same Russian gas through a different route without parasite intermediaries there is simply no increase involved.

What if Saudi Arabia lowered its production from 7.7 Mbd in Feb to 7 Mbd in March and 6 Mbd in April to help restore a $55+ price?

It's an economically rational thing for them to do - especially if it is done in collaboration with other OPEC members...

I write about the possibility as non-OPEC supply wanes at:

Onwards in the Sustainable Energy Transition,

Military Report: Mexico, Pakistan at Risk of 'Rapid and Sudden Collapse'


Our military would have 2 new countries to go tend.

The think tank had gathered a nonpolitical collection of people they called doers and scholars (and practitioners like me who do not accept the distinction) involved in uncertainty in a variety of disciplines...

My first surprise was to discover that the military people there thought, behaved, and acted like philosophers--far more so than the philosophers... They thought out of the box, like traders, except much better and without fear of introspection... I came out of the meeting realizing that only military people deal with randomness with genuine, introspective intellectual honesty--unlike academics and corporate executives using other people's money... [T]he military collected more genuine intellects and risk thinkers than most if not all other professions. Defense people wanted to understand the epistemology of risk.

--Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan

From an El Paso Times article on the Pentagon report:


The U.S. military report, which also analyzed economic situations in other countries, also noted that China has increased its influence in places where oil fields are present.

The MMS has posted its most recent update on the production of gas and oil from the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. You can find it at http://www.mms.gov/ooc/press/2009/press0114.htm

In a nutshell, approximately 11% of oil production and 15% of gas production are still shut in. Since reacting to the oncoming hurricanes, the running average daily loss of oil production is more than 465,000 BPD and gas is more than 2.7 million CFD. Since the events, the amount of oil production "lost" compared to maximum capacity is more than 65 million barrels.

It looks like all the easy stuff has been repaired and the rest is just going to take awhile.

There should be a short term increase in Gulf of Mexico production as more platforms restart production.

Unfortunately the long term trend shows production decreasing from its peak of 1.73 mbd in June 2002. Production was 1.25 mbd in August 2008 according to the most recent EIA data.

click to enlarge

There have been three peaks in the GOM production. Each represents "new technology" and exploring farther afield at ever increasing depths (building upon the declining base to increase to another peak). We should just about be out of those unless we find a Ghawar in the GOM.

And in the most recent trends from hurricane damage the recovery seems longer and the total never seems to reach pre-hurricane levels (even though individual well complexes have sometimes reported a dramatic and substantial recovery and increase after repair).

Despite drop in oil and corn prices, food prices have held up:


Does anyone have links available with good pictures of Nigeria's oil patch infrastructure ?

Thanks in advance.

Hello TODers,

Recall my earlier postings on postPeak 'real asset' I-NPK investing as opposed to just creating pointless financial paper:

Morocco's BCP bank buys stake in OCP for $600 mln

..OCP has a 45.5 percent share of the global market for lime phosphate, 49 percent of the phosphoric acid market and 12 percent of fertilisers, according to the company's data.

..Morocco is the third-biggest phosphate producer in the world after China and the U.S., with 28 million tonnes of output a year. It is the largest phosphate exporter, with a 31.6 percent market share.
Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

In a postPeak world of diminishing FF-energy-->we will do anything to keep NPK flowrates going. I hope Obama understands the national security need for early ramping of full-on O-NPK recycling. Pres. Clinton seems to understand this need when he advocated for closing our landfills--I hope he made this point again at the recent gathering of Presidents in the White House with Obama.

IMO, control of NPK and sulfur flowrates is a very powerful weapon because like water, there are No Substitutes to these Elements.