DrumBeat: January 31, 2009

Oil price slump a challenge to Obama: Alternative energy looking less viable

A slide in oil prices may be good for consumers battered by the U. S. economic slowdown, but it could pose a challenge for President Barack Obama's ambitious plan to revolutionize America's energy use.

..."Low oil prices are a very real danger because they do make alternative energy less commercially viable," said Peter Beutel, president of Cameron Hanover.

"We need the government to subsidize solar, wind, ethanol, etc. to make them commercially viable enough to survive this price environment."

The slowing economy has already started to take a toll on alternative energy projects that looked promising in 2008 when oil costs were soaring.

Doing the Recovery Right

The transformation of our fossil fuel driven economy into a clean energy economy will be the work of a generation, engaging a huge range of people and activities. But focusing on essentials, there are only three interrelated projects that will drive the entire enterprise: dramatically increasing energy efficiency; equally dramatically lowering the cost of supplying energy from such renewable sources as solar, wind and geothermal power; and mandating limits and raising prices on the burning of oil, coal and natural gas.

Can We Transform the Auto-Industrial Society?

The relative decline of public transport has been attributed to the very long-term preferences of Americans for being alone in cars, or for being free to go anywhere and at any time, or for living without other people in close proximity; to investments in the interstate highway system; and to the enduring patterns of American zoning and land use. But 80 percent of the US population still lives in metropolitan areas, and some 30 percent in the densely populated city centers. The pattern of land use in the expanding cities of the South and West—which have had the most rapid population growth, with very few people per square kilometer—was itself established over the period that has elapsed since the energy crisis of the 1970s. It is a consequence of prices as well as preferences, and of the changing distribution of public expenditure, or public partiality.

We're Working Longer Than Ever to Pay for Fossil Fuels

Americans are falling behind -- most of us anyway. We're working longer than ever before to maintain a standard of living that once we took for granted. With respect to gas prices, average Americans are much worse off than they were in 1970.

The working poor, in particular, are getting absolutely crushed. Their economic standing has deteriorated even faster than the middle class. At average prices in 2008, a full day's work at the federal minimum wage would scarcely pay for a single tank of gas. In a car-dependent nation, that means that even basic transportation is quickly getting out of reach for low-income families.

Russia's Drive for Global Economic Power: A Challenge for the Obama Administration

Until the recent global financial crisis, Russia's eco­nomic revival during the presidency of Vladimir Putin had helped to restore the country's standing as a major player in the world arena. Yet, prosperity has come with some unintended consequences. Russia's inva­sion of Georgia was fueled by Russia's economic growth and newfound wealth.

This economic comeback is largely the result of Russia's oil and natural gas exports, coupled with the high prices that other Russian commodities have enjoyed in world markets. With the seventh-largest oil reserves and the largest gas reserves in the world, and as the leading exporter of oil and gas, the Kremlin is using its energy exports, revenue from arms and met­als sales, and investments abroad in the mining and energy sectors to extend Russia's influence worldwide.

Oil production peaked in July 2008

There are numerous indications that world oil production peaked in July 2008. So says Professor of Physics Kjell Aleklett. According to him, the theory that oil production is on a downward path is gaining more and more supporters. Uppsala Physics Professor Kjell Aleklett has long been convinced that the world’s oil production will turn downwards in the near future. And the turn maybe has already happened.

“There are numerous indicators that world oil production peaked in July 2008 at around 87 million barrels per day”, he says.

Are The Planned Eco Towns A Good Idea?

Eco towns might sound uncontroversial, but they've provoked bitter argument. In the first of a new series, two experts debate the issue.

Iter: Flagship fusion reactor could cost twice as much as budgeted

The international project, which aims to produce cheap green power by recreating the conditions inside the sun, already absorbs half Britain's energy research budget.

Total in Fresh Talks with Venezuela on Expanding Ops

Total SA Chairman Thierry Desmarest said Friday the French oil giant is in fresh talks with the Venezuela government about expanding its operations in the South American nation.

"We are just at the beginning" of discussions, the chairman of the French oil giant said in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum here. "If Venezuela wants to offer opportunities on reasonable terms, of course we will look to those possibilities," he said, declining to provide further details.

Politics, oil declines ignite Venezuela elections

With petrodollars fading, Chavez is once again looking to hold onto power.

Mexico shuts Dos Bocas oil port on weather forecast

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico shut the Dos Bocas oil exporting port in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday as a cold front moved into the region and threatened bad weather, a port official said.

U.K. Calls in Acas After Series of Strikes Over Foreign Labor

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government has asked the conciliation and arbitration organization Acas to look into a series of unofficial strikes across the country this week over the use of foreign workers.

Pepco facing fuel shortage of 10,000 tonnes a day

LAHORE, Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) is under enormous miseries, facing a shortage of 10,000 tones a day supply of fuel oil to its power producing units as the consignments of Pakistan State Oil (PSO) remained stuck up at the port.

Top Chinese team to help Nepal overcome energy crisis: report

Kathmandu - A top Chinese delegation is in Nepal to help the Himalayan nation overcome its energy crisis as the nation prepares to face unprecedented load-shedding.

India - Steel rerolling mills should adopt biomass fuel: Official

Puducherry - Steel rerolling mills should adopt biomass fuel in their units to save energy and for efficient utilisation, a top official in the Union Steel Ministry today said.

Zimbabwe's starving millions face halving of rations as UN cash dries up

The United Nations is to halve the food ration to millions of Zimbabweans, bringing it below what will keep an adult alive, as the numbers of people dependent on aid rises sharply and donations from foreign governments fall well short of demand.

The World Food Programme is to cut the core maize ration in February from 10kg to 5kg a month – or just 600 calories a day – for 7 million Zimbabweans, about 70% of the people left in the country. The recommended ration is 12kg a month.

Saving Money In a Tough Economy: Tips For Saving electric

Portage County, OH - We’ve all heard often enough that it’s time to start thinking and saving electricity. We’re depleting the Earth’s resources in record amounts, and it’s becoming more and more clear that we need to start thinking in terms of protecting and preserving the Earth and her resources when we build.

Heating, air conditioning, lighting, cooking and refrigeration were the first elements easily identified as major power burners in private dwellings, and as such received a great deal of attention. Subsequent regulation has been directed toward building and insulation standards for climate control and hot water systems, especially for homes built to Energy Star and other efficiency and green building standards. However, there are many other sources of energy waste.

Less tasty -- and not as good for you

He points to another study in which researchers planted low- and high-yielding varieties of broccoli and grain side-by-side. The high-yielding varieties showed less protein and minerals.

The principle seems to be that when plants are nudged to produce as much as possible -- whether through lots of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides or through selective breeding -- they deliver fewer nutrients. It evidently isn't just the flavor that's become diluted in those bland supermarket tomatoes.

Greenwash: Gulf's green claims awash in a desert of deception

The attempted green makeover by the Gulf states is beyond irony: with spiralling emissions, desert ski slopes and refrigerated beaches, can they be serious?

Efficient market hypothesis is dead - for now

I have to report the sad passing of the efficient market hypothesis. The theory was officially declared dead yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos. There were no mourners.

The announcement was made at a brainstorming session that involved many of the world's top economists, politicians and business leaders ... together with a few bankers wearing dark glasses and false beards.

Atlantic crude spreads may change for good

LONDON (Reuters) - North Sea Brent crude oil may never again trade at a long-term deep discount below U.S. light crude futures, even after the recession has passed and U.S. oil inventories have been drained to more normal levels.

Environmental and financial pressures are leading to a long-lasting decline in demand for gasoline, particularly in the United States, just as use of ethanol, diesel, aircraft fuel and light heating oil is increasing, and this is changing the type of crude oil that oil refineries need to buy.

Light sweet crudes such at West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), are slowly going out of favor, while heavier grades such as Brent, traded in London, are increasingly in demand.

Refiner strike fears, outages boost gasoline

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gasoline led U.S. oil product gains on Friday as fears of a refinery workers' strike added to worries that supply may dwindle as plants undergo maintenance or undertake economic run cuts, traders said.

A possible strike by 30,000 U.S. refinery workers threatens to shutter more than half of the nation's refining capacity, although a top union negotiator expressed optimism a deal could be reached before Sunday's deadline. [ID:nN29306850]

"Gasoline is up a lot ... it's the threat of strike, I guess," a gasoline trader in the New York Harbor said.

Venezuela oil output may slide on cash woes

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela faces a growing risk of falling crude production in the coming months as oil service companies show signs they may halt key activities over a huge buildup in unpaid bills sparked by tumbling crude prices.

A major oil sector slowdown would devastate the OPEC nation's economy and force cuts in billions of dollars in social programs that keep leftist President Hugo Chavez popular among Venezuela's poor majority.

Some service providers have idled operations as they await payment while local firms are struggling to keep workers paid, foreshadowing a slowdown in critical oil field services required to maintain output.

UK - Oil refinery strikes: Union leaders warn against far right hijacking protests

Union leaders have condemned attempts by the far right to hijack the 'British jobs for British workers' protests for their own anti-immigrant agenda.

Qatar cuts Asia oil supplies

(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Meanwhile, Qatar has told Asian customers it will cut supplies of its main crude oil grade even further in March, while increasing shipments of its smaller stream, trade sources said yesterday.

Qatar, which pumps less than any OPEC member except for Ecuador, has notified at least six Asian term buyers it will cut supplies of medium-heavy Qatar Marine crude by 15 percent from contracted volumes in March.

Brazil's Petrobras says no oil delays in 2009

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - The head of Brazil's state-run energy company Petrobras (PETR4.SA) said there would be no project delays in 2009, bucking a wider trend, and that production was about 2.4 million barrels per day.

But he said the bulk of the oil would be used by Brazil, which aspires to be an exporter of refined products, rather than of crude and cannot join in with the OPEC effort to bolster prices by curbing output.

Why the Santa Barbara oil deal collapsed

A lack of disclosure by the company and environmentalists helped lead a state panel to kill the offshore drilling deal.

Raymond J. Learsy: "Exxon Profit Down 33% in the Fourth Quarter". Please Pity Poor Exxon!

Yes, that's the headline on CNBC.com. "Exxon Profit Down 33% in the Fourth Quarter". That is the kind of preferred phrasing that might well have been cleared by that great partisan and advertiser of oil themed beneficence, the American Petroleum Institute.

You see, the real headline would have been inelegant in this day and age of economic hurt, job losses, and spiraling recession, namely:

-"Exxon Mobil Reports Record $45.2 Billion Profit"-

Economist: Irish Graduates Should Emigrate to Australia or Canada

For students in Ireland who are leaving college soon he advised them to leave the country as the economy is in a very serious condition and there are very few employment opportunities. He recommended going to Canada or Australia as they are likely to have opportunities in renewable energy technologies as the world emerges from a global recession.

He said, "If I was coming our of college today I would carve out a career in energy."

Mr Hobbs said that he believed in the theory of peak oil. He explained that as oil rich countries develop they are more likely to consume the oil they produce rather than sell it to other countries due to the growing demand of their own citizens. This means the price of oil will go up for oil importers. This will spark further investment and research in renewable energy technologies as countries try to become energy independent.

Thinking Wrong, Doing Right

I reached a certain point in my career about ten years ago. It wasn’t that I had reached the top, but I could see the top and it wasn’t a peak worth climbing. I made a conscious shift in where I was trying to go and it wasn’t just about a successful career in graphic design but something that, for me, was more meaningful.

We’re at multiple global tipping points where the future is going to be radically different than the past—global climate change, the backside of peak oil and fossil fuel, water issues, population growth in third world countries and the rise of the middle class there, the financial collapse. Everything is linked now. You have the Internet and nobody really knows yet what that means. You can either be pessimistic about the future or you can be optimistic. For me, an optimistic alternative includes ingenuity and creativity, and I package that under the big D: Design Thinking and how that can shape the future.

Why environmentalists should be conservatives (and vice versa).

Most articles arguing that conservatives would be better able to protect the environment base their claim on the belief that market forces would do the job of protecting the environment better than government. I don’t believe this to be that case and yet do believe that environmentalists and conservatives have more in common than either side is willing to believe. At root, I believe that they share the same principles. The environmental movement today is based around two main tenets: sustainability, and localization. If I ask which political philosophy more closely embodies those two principles I am lead to the inevitable conclusion that (paleo) conservatives embody them far more than liberals.

Seed center on Kauai goes solar

DuPont yesterday brought online a 1,500-panel photovoltaic system at its Pioneer Hi-Bred Waimea Research Center on Kaua'i.

The one-acre array can generate up to 85 percent of the research center's needs and is expected to generate enough power annually to power the equivalent of 75 homes. The facility will help avoid carbon dioxide emissions of about 100 cars each year, saving Pioneer an estimated $200,000 per year in avoided purchased electricity costs.

Climate Change's Impact On Invasive Plants In Western US May Create Restoration Opportunities

ScienceDaily — A new study by researchers at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs has found that global climate change may lead to the retreat of some invasive plant species in the western United States, which could create unprecedented ecological restoration opportunities across millions of acres throughout America. At the same time, global warming may enable other invasive plants to spread more widely.

The Next Step on Warming

It seemed that every chance he got, President Bush ignored or flat out refused to address the problem of climate change. So we were greatly encouraged by President Obama’s swift announcement that he is likely to approve California’s request to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles — a request the Bush administration denied.

The logical next step would be for Mr. Obama to quickly address the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to examine the effects of greenhouse gases and to regulate them if necessary. Mr. Bush dodged that one, too.

Try to meet the Carter standard

It turns out that Obama keeps the Oval Office at near-tropical heat levels. The New York Times reports that he doesn't wear a suit jacket at his desk because he has "cranked up the thermostat."

Explained adviser David Axelrod: "He's from Hawaii, OK? He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there."

So would the rest of us, if we could afford it.

Obama raises hopes for climate deal

Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on rich and poor countries alike to commit to big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, as the election of US President Barack Obama raised hopes for an agreement at key talks on a new climate treaty in Copenhagen later in the year.

Canada - The brown budget: Or how King Coal wins again

Much is being made of the contrast between Flaherty's "brown" budget – which gives the environment short shrift and continues the notion that it's in mortal combat with the economy – and U.S. President Barack Obama's "green" stimulus package.

But carbon capture can be found in the bowels of that plan, too. The version passed Wednesday by the House of Representatives includes $2.4 billion (U.S.) under the guise of clean-coal technology. The Senate is expected to boost that figure to $4.6 billion and to also make the technology eligible for a share of the proposed $50 billion in loan guarantees to the nuclear industry.

Net Oil Exports From: Venezuela + Mexico + Canada

In 2004, based on EIA data, their combined net oil exports were 5.0 mbpd. Based on Pemex data for 2008, and production data through 10/08 for Canada and Venezuela, I estimate that their combined 2008 net oil exports were down to 3.9 mbpd, an annual decline rate of -6.2%/year, on track to decline by half every 12 years or so, but I expect to see an accelerating overall net export decline rate.

WT - Mr. Hobbs in the above article seems to be a follower of your ELM:

Economist: Irish Graduates Should Emigrate to Australia or Canada

Mr Hobbs said that he believed in the theory of peak oil. He explained that as oil rich countries develop they are more likely to consume the oil they produce rather than sell it to other countries due to the growing demand of their own citizens.

Imagine that...an economist who doesn't believe the world is flat!


Mr. Hobbs will probably be sent to a forced vacation at a re-education camp.

re: Economists

From the Energy Bulletin article linked above

“When the topic is oil there are far too many economists that express themselves far too much about something that they do not understand.” -- Kjell Aleklett

Boom and bust in Alberta

Just a year ago, companies were expected to spend more than $20-billion a year in new projects, workers were flooding into the province to meet a seemingly insatiable demand for labour, and many observers in both the United States and Canada, including former premier Peter Lougheed, were voicing concerns about the sustainability of the effort.

Now, the industry's spending on oil sands has been slashed by half, layoffs are looming, and as a result the environmentalists appear to have won at least an approximation of the moratorium on development that they have long called for.


The de-facto moratorium on new oilsands projects will indeed give Alberta some breathing space. The flood of expatriate workers is already reversing. Last month's unemployment rate in Alberta rose to 4.1%; it will be interesting to see what the next figure is. So far in Calgary there is no obvious sign of mass layoffs; most layoffs seem to be in dribs and drabs. Alberta employers now have the luxury of getting multiple candidates for a job posting, instead of having to hire whomever they could find and hope for the best. 7-Eleven is still advertising for clerks but they are now offering $9.50 an hour, down from $11.

$40 oil is still profitable for conventional oil, although many rig operators are still too high in cost. I keep meeting up with people who are insanely optimistic about natural gas but I'm sticking with private-equity conventional oil, none of which has lost me money, even when oil was down in the $30 range.

Google has been crazy the past couple of days. I think they are trying to block the new generation of drive-by malware. But the cure is worse than the disease. All kinds of sites are now flagged "this site can harm your computer." And then you can't get to them (unless you put in the URL by hand, getting around Google). They used to give you a "visit site anyway" option, but that's gone.

Among the sites so blocked: FEMA.gov, IMDb, and Wikipedia.

"this site can harm your computer."

Ahhh, I saw that for only the second time yesterday, in all the hundreds of times I've used the service. What was flagged seemed odd but I continued with my task and didn't look any deeper.

Edit: I'm US based.

"The Oil Drum" - Google has determined that this site can harm your comfortable assumptions.

I have long been puzzled by Google search results. For example, the term "creaming curve" brings up first the peak oil sites and my blog is second. It would seem that some official USGS or petroleum industry site would top the list, yet we get us providing the top hits.

That's not the only one, BTW. I also get third hit for "Klein gas". I don't hold any special expertise yet stuff I post seems to come up pretty high in the search results. Does Google figure in the page requestor and that person's cookies somehow?

Google uses a secret proprietary algorithm. One key arbiter of search results is the number of sites that link to your site. So it is likely that since you developed an early PO site that later bloggers etc have linked to your information resulting in your high Google search standings.

Of course, it could just be that you have an outstanding site, Google be damned.

Thank you, that makes sense. My blog doesn't have a lot of traffic and has week Technorati ratings (I have since stopped looking at that stuff) but has been around since 2004, which likely explains it. http://mobjectivist.blogspot.com

I just tried Google using the words you suggested, but no warnings seen. Maybe this is just from your ISP? My computer is in Calgary.

It seems to be fixed now. Problems have been intermittent. Early this morning, only a few sites were affected. Then all were. Every single result on every search was flagged and blocked. Now it looks back to normal.

Yesterday, Google News was acting strange. It looked completely different, and some of the functions didn't work normally.

Looks like they're working on a huge update.

Same here. All searches for "paper mache" were deemed to risky to allow me to proceed. Take heed Google: I had to switch to Yahoo!

T'internet searching has been going downhill since 'Inference find' gave up about 10 years ago..

I just tried them all, from Pensacola Fl, and had no problem with any of them. I use Google extensively, every day, and have never received such a message. Ron

I use Google extensively, every day, and have never received such a message.

Then the error must not have happened as you did not see it eh?

I'm still having the problem I did yesterday. The link part in blue gives the right description, but the address below is wrong, and the link takes you to an advertising site. For example, the results of googling "oil drum" are:

The Oil Drum | Discussions about Energy and Our Future
Jan 30, 2009 ... A community that discusses ideas related to peak oil, sustainable development and growth, and the implications of these ideas on politics, ...
www.evolutionsolar.com - 46k - Cached - Similar pages

The Oil Drum | A Pretty Stunning Graph of World Cement Production ...
New feature trial: Comment rating · The Oil Drum · The Speech I'd Like to Hear from a Presidential Candidate on Energy and Climate Change, > ...
www.stanragnespianoservice.com - 242k - Cached - Similar pages

Drum Oil & Propane - WNY
Drum Oil and Propane has been supplying your energy needs since 1946.
best-products-here.com - 15k - Cached - Similar pages

CNET has a brief on the problem and indicates that the system should be up and running normally now:


Hi Consumer,

What you are describing is a browser hijacker. It is in your computer.

It is hard to get rid of it. Mine still has it even after taking it to the computer store for cleaning.

Fortunately it is more annoying than dangerous (according to the techs at the computer store). It generally only effects the first page of Google results (sometimes also Yahoo and MSN search - depending on the version of the infection)

Depending on which version of the hijacker you have you can either:
1) go on to page 2 of your search results (which will be back to normal) then click on "Page 1" at the bottom of the Google page to return to a normal non-hijacked first page.
2) use the Google search from any page EXCEPT Google. This avoids the browser. (I often just use the Google search box near the top of The Automatic Earth)

Seems like problem was "human error"

BBC News


Greg in MO

Find another place to do your computer business. You're getting ripped off. Or in this specific case you're getting lead on so they can keep charging you.

I haven't been in the field for a while and was unfamiliar with the term browser hijacker and did the Google search provided.

The bottom line is you have total control of the code on your PC. If you still have malware or whatever the name du jour is, backup your data and reinstall your operating system - and for sakes use something OTHER than IE.

The first link in that Google search tells you all you need to know. If in doubt read the rest of the links.


Formating a partition doesn't get rid of a Mbr virus.

Fixmbr used from the recovery console in W2K or XP will eliminate any mbr virus. There is an equivalent command in DOS and Vista.

correct. though one would need to know that it's a mbr virus.

If you have a virus on your computer simply assume that it has claimed all available vectors (including MBR) and proceed appropriately.

You can't be too paranoid when cleaning up a compromised system.

Same here (Google South Africa).

I had tried a search on Traci Lords, a rather naughty lady, and every site came with a warning.

So I tried Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, and General Motors.

Every one of them: "This site may harm your computer."

She's married now and has a child. The world really is coming to an end.

"Septicemia" Is Killing the World

I have long sought an analogy to illustrate what I see occurring on a global level.

For those who don't know, septicemia is:

The presence of pathological bacteria in the blood. If allowed to progress, the organisms may multiply and cause an overwhelming infection and death.

A typical medical response is to try to find the source of the bacteria while administering antibiotics (often going from ones with minor side effects to ones that have significant side effects) and, if necessary amputating extremities. Because blood flows throughout the body, the infection is systemic.

Currently, a number of different "bacteria" have entered most of our global systems. These "bacteria" range from greed to shortsightedness to belief in failed theories to overpopulation to climate change. Individually, each of these has the capacity to kill the host.

All we need do is look at the actions being taken to kill the "infection" in the economy to know that the patient is on life support. In the case of economics, first interest rates were lowered. Then the money supply was pumped up. Followed by direct financial intervention. And, finally (at least likely) at some point, nationalizing financial institutions. The last could be equated to amputating an extremity in a last desperate attempt to save the patient.

Similar patterns of action can be found in other areas of concern. Taken together, death is almost a certainty. The only question is how long death will take.

I believe this analogy offers the easiest to understand picture of what is occurring and how it will play out.


Todd, I cannot even remotely agree with your diagnosis. What is happening to the world is does very much resemble a disease, more like cancer than anything else. But it is not. What is happening is nothing but the natural outcome of the circumstances humans found themselves in.

For tens of thousands of years humans bred to the very limit of their existence, but still their population was kept in check, primarily by disease and famine. Then we stumbled upon this enormous cache of detritus in the form of fossil energy. With all this near free energy we invented ways to multiply our food supply many times over. It also allowed us to find ways to cure most diseases and extend our lifespan by decades. In other words all this enabled our population to explode.

The afflictions you describe, greed, shortsightedness, belief in failed theories are nothing more than human nature. Overpopulation and climate change are the natural results of humans who found no natural barriers to their exploding population.

And all those desperate attempts to save the dying patient; well hell, what would you expect them to do?

Ron Patterson


I think cancer is a poor diagnosis for a number of reasons. First, it tends to be localized for a long time allowing its "removal." Second, many cancers may never kill the individual, witness prostate cancer. No, I'm all for septicemia.

As far as saving the dying patient, I'd frankly let the patient die and save the extraordinary efforts for the "unborn." In this case, a new paradigm - whatever that might be. Sometimes, it's best to pull the plug.


I think the septicemia makes sense to me, at least in terms of a pathology that is not treated by boosting the body's own innate defenses, but simply targeting the pathogen's directly. That is, the ones you can detect, and the ones you care to target. Our bodies are constantly killing cancer-cells, infections and other non-conforming entities in the blood-stream.. but we have apparently chosen to take out the bad guys surgically and chemically (and economically), without simply designing and enhancing the system that will do this automatically.

Auto-immunity sounds a lot like a robust regulatory agency in this case, does it not? (Possibly a functioning Anti-trust Anti-monopoly program, and a balanced Corporate Chartering System, as well.)


I don't think medical analogies are particularly useful, not least because people find medical stuff confusing. Analogies are supposed to make things clearer; I think this one does the opposite.

However, if you are correct, Todd's analogy is apt. Septicemia is the result of the immune system running amok. A version of "cytokine storm" - what killed so many young and healthy people during the Spanish flu epidemic, and also what makes hantavirus and ebola so deadly. It's the immune response that kills, not the infection. The immune system, a natural and usually beneficial thing, goes wild due to out of control feedback loops.

That is probably a better analogy for our situation than cancer.

Todd and Leanan,

I think you both misunderstood my post. Todd seemed to wish to place blame for our predicament with his use of such terms as greed and shortsightedness. No one is to blame; Homo sapiens were just doing exactly what was in their nature to do.

But if we must compare it to a disease then I think cancer is the most apt. Cancer is nothing but malignant growth or tumor caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division. In other words cancer is uncontrolled growth. Growth was traditionally controlled primarily disease and famine and occasionally by such things as war and infanticide. So I guess you could say we have destroyed our immune system. More like AIDS than septicemia.

But I don’t even like comparing our predicament to any disease. We, Homo sapiens, lived to the very limit of our existence for tens of thousands of years. Then we found this cash of near free energy, which produced massive amounts of food, and our population just naturally exploded.

So what happened was just natural, not a disease. It is what always happens when any species finds enough excess food that last for long a long enough period of time.

Ron Patterson

Infectious disease is also natural.

The malignancy of cancer also experiences a die-off when its support system, the host, collapses.

People find medical stuff confusing, Leanan? No, it's more that people find biological stuff confusing. Or maybe they find science confusing.

Scratch that, most people find most things confusing.

Civilization is to humanity's support system as cancer is to a host.

I usually operate in a state of constant confusion. I sometimes worry about the people who aren't confused by the world.

Greed is like herpes.

Everyone has it in them but it only manifests itself under certain conditions.

have no money you die.

have money you live.

Greed is appropriate.


It's not a matter of "blame." To me, blame signifies that the entity had a purpose in its activity and that the action was volitional. The bacteria have no secondary purpose to kill the host. They just want to multiply. Similarly, the banksters did not plan to destroy the system which provided their lively hood. They just wanted to grab as much as they could.

But, this is getting away from my purpose. People can understand that a systemic infection can kill them. Reading about CDOs, ABCP, derivatives, et. al., I believe, does not help them recognize the depth of the problem...and that it may kill them.

Similar arguments can be made vis-a-vis population, etc.

Well, I have to plant some stuff. Maybe more later.


Todd seemed to wish to place blame for our predicament...

Well, he says he didn't, so fair enough. But even if he did, what would be wrong with that? Blame is at the core of accountability - no blame, no accountability. Yeast, cancer cells, and animals are all just preprogrammed automata that do nothing but what they do. No blame. Any self-restraint that might exist in the respective cases would have been built into the programming the long slow hard way by evolution, with the operation of the programming in some cases impeded by genetic mutation that has yet to be eliminated by natural selection. For example, it would be utterly futile to try a bear for murder after it ate a person, as the bear is nothing but a blindly pre-programmed eating-machine, perfectly capable of killing, and perfectly incapable of murder.

But it would not be entirely futile to try some of our banksters for their behavior - to assess blame - if only pour encourager les autres, a concept utterly inapplicable to yeast, cancer cells, or bears. After all, it's well-known, for example, that some human societies, even very early or 'primitive' ones, have applied some constraints on reproduction. So it seems possible for humans to move at least somewhat beyond pure blind soulless pre-programmed instinct. It follows that totally unfettered reproduction (or unfettered bankster thievery for that matter) is not exactly 'just natural' - nor is it exactly a 'disease', i.e. something arising from ineluctable or exogenous causes. The 'disease' label serves here as little more than yet another Political Correctness Run Amok excuse, on the seductive theory that no voter is ever to be held responsible for any of his or her irresponsible, shiftless, stupid, or otherwise execrable behavior.

So what, exactly, would have been so wrong with assessing some blame for ill behavior carried out by some of the only creatures on the planet capable of agency?

So what, exactly, would have been so wrong with assessing some blame for ill behavior carried out by some of the only creatures on the planet capable of agency?

Absolutely nothing! Hell, I often blame others for all kinds of ill behavior. That is why we have the police, courts and other methods of stopping ill behavior. The only problem Paul, is that we are not talking about ill behavior! We are talking about placing blame for the current human predicament. Is anyone to blame for the situation humanity finds itself in today? Is anyone to blame for the population level of 6.7 billion people? Or for the starvation and misery of over two billion people? Or for the desecration of the environment? Or for the coming decline of oil and other natural resources?

But power to you Paul. If you can find the culprit, then we will bring him in and hang him....right after we give him a fair trial of course.

Ron Patterson


We've always been on the same page regarding the future but have seemed to talk past each other this time around.

So, to go a bit further, "blame" requires a moral/legal judgment. The shit that is coming down is systemic within the "system" - septicemia. There is nothing moral or legal about it. Whether it is genes or stupidity or greed doesn't matter. It simply "is."


PS It was more fun planting potatoes than posting a reply.

Todd, I think we can agree here as in most other cases. But I think here you miss my point completely. We are deep into overshoot and no one is to blame for this sorry state of affairs. Unless of course you wish to place the blame on everone, which is in effect to blame no one. For if everyone is to blame then it is, or rather was, just human nature. Which was my point al along.


I'm siding with Ron. A good analogy is apt only if it mimics very closely the mathematics underlying the behavior. Oil consumption in general does not follow typical biological entities; oil molecules do not mate and reproduce for example.

The analogy is we consume something that is distributed and often-times well hidden and there is a finite supply of it. Humans do the looking and consuming and so we are to blame. That is the extent of the analogy. The math ends up being pretty simple and nothing like a contagion.

Is anyone to blame for the situation humanity finds itself in today? Is anyone to blame for the population level of 6.7 billion people? Or for the starvation and misery of over two billion people? Or for the desecration of the environment? Or for the coming decline of oil and other natural resources?

While I agree with your analysis from an ecological standpoint (not quoted), I'd like to take on your challenge to blame. Now that I think about it, calling it a challenge seems kind of silly. The challenge would be to suppress blame, but I'd discourage anyone from taking on such a thing. It may seem noble by the standards of humanistic pacifism or Judeo-Christian ethics -- perhaps even liberating if you prefer Buddhist-style escapism -- but in fact you'd just be shutting up and taking it. Don't be a tool.

On the first point, though, let me reiterate that I understand our challenges in terms of carrying capacity, habitat destruction, draw-down and our instinctual drives as animals. Cf. the seminal work Overshoot, William Catton, 1980. Note that Catton also exculpates the human individual, citing these ineluctable ecological principles, and implores us to seek solutions without rancor but rather with the cold vigor of enlightened intellectuals. Again, I disagree -- and with plenty of anger and blame to go around. If I were to review Overshoot, I'd laud it as practical prophecy, but with this one reservation.

Where to begin? I won't attempt to paint a picture of the historical instances of malfeasance, greed, brutality and exploitation that I would classify as willful and avoidable causes of our manifold existential problems. My goal here is pragmatic, not academic. I only wish to encourage your imagination to find the necessary conclusions. Besides, I'd need to pick names out of a hat; seems kind of arbitrary.

Also let me acknowledge that any of my points below can be challenged using reductionist arguments ranging from the mundane and exhausting -- it's all just human nature -- to the more sophisticated, but ultimately exhausting, questions about the efficacy of blame and anger. Let's just call my perspective the impassioned will to seek justice.

Is anyone to blame for the situation humanity finds itself in today?

Yes. And don't go quoting "We Didn't Start the Fire." At the risk of unloading vague and incendiary rhetoric, people to blame include, first and foremost, the modern progenitors and protectors of technics and coercive ideologies (Imperialism, Corporatism, Scientism -- the Cult of Progress).

To a large measure, my degree of hatred toward these people and the systems they represent relies on their success. I hate Dick Cheney more than the guy with a Dick Cheney bumper sticker. I mentioned the Cult of Progress, and this is related. Especially in the West, we tend to blindly favor success without nuance because we've been taught to find meaning and purpose in "progress" -- "You've got to give it to Henry Ford; he really revolutionized business based on assembly line principles", "despite its shortcomings, Capitalism works better than any other economic system." Compare these with logically equivalent statements that most people consider false based on social conditioning or sheer ridiculousness: "Adolph Eichmann can serve as a role model for efficiency in business", "we've really got to respect and support the success of smallpox."

Speaking of Cheney, lets blame another American politico-corporate personality on the downslide. Let's blame Donald Rumsfeld, in general, but in particular for his leadership at G. D. Searle & Company, later acquired by Monstanto, whose work contributed to the pharmaceutical and agricultural practices we have today. Apropos to your question, I blame the pioneer efforts to engineer the (first) Green Revolution and more recent developments in GM foods as a means to hotrod the ecosystem to support further exploitation of peoples throughout the world. I'll be the first to say that we can blame the corporate system and Globalization for this. Moreover, I'll admit that if you removed all the executives in place today, they'd be replaced tomorrow with yet more scruple-challenged men in suits. The same goes for politicians. But why not blame both the system and the people driving it?

Or for the desecration of the environment?

We can certainly blame people here. But first, let me promote another term to replace "environment." Like people, words in this tightly-connected age get co-opted and debauched. The word "environment" now carries the stigma of ideology -- Environmentalism -- and is thus compromised by its association with certain political and social interests. When I hear someone say, "the environment," I picture (in this order): a serene meadow with some monarch butterflies flitting in the foreground, that famous first picture of Earth from space, Al Gore standing before a colorful statistical chart, a cadre of Hippies spinning near a drum circle, a polar bear balancing precariously on a small ice floe and finally, a compact fluorescent light bulb. I force myself to stop there because it's clearly a fruitless train of thought. All this, and I haven't watched TV in six years. Anyway, I suspect I'm not alone in my gut associations of the word, "environment," and here's my problem with it: none of these images immediately conveys what we all know about the significance of the subject -- our very existence depends on it and we treat it like a special interest. So I'm working through alternative words, injecting them into casual conversation and judging their fitness. I don't expect wide adoption, but what the hell. My efforts are ultimately tragic, since wide adoption will doubtless render that new word useless too in short order. So it goes. I think "planet" is too grandiose, "biosystem" too wizbang, "land-base" too clumsy. So I'm calling it our Habitat. I'm not thrilled with this one, though. I get a Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom sense, or a hamster cage in serious need of fresh cedar chips. I'm open to suggestions.

Now let's get back to the blame game. For this one, I'll blame Arnold Schwarzenegger. But wait! He's made the environment (sic) one of his main priorities! As far as politicians go... (you fill in the rest). This time I choose to blame Arnold as a means to point out the insane choice he's recently delineated: the economy or the habitat. California has a budget crisis, so we've got to sh*t in our beds. This is a false choice, a dangerous all-to-common meme, and I blame anyone who perpetuates it.

As you can see, I'm picking people to blame at random. You can play along too, but it gets tiresome.

So you could say that we've got a disease. You could say this as an attempt to limn and illuminate a complex subject, as one Todd (I'm another Todd) did at the top of this thread. I say we -- Homo sapiens -- have contracted a disease in a concrete, non-medical sense. Jack D. Forbes calls the disease Wetiko in Columbus and Other Cannibals. I believe this disease incubated in ideologies, took its nascent form in political and corporate structures and spread widely and multiplied through modern technology. The disease preys on our survival instincts in order to perpetuate itself, zombifying the host while satisfying its most basic needs. Witness the conservative construction worker defending the system that has him building out crap suburbia, or now struggling to get back into the game; the office wage slave sitting in a cubical under florescent lights, plugging away at a terminal to shuffle around digital funny money; the CEO who lives extravagantly yet hasn't spent significant time with his family in weeks. I don't hate these people, for they're victims, slaves, zombies. For a more compelling narrative, read the first half of One-Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse (the second half collapses into narrow animosity over the sorry state of academia).

Here's where you need to apply some discerning thought if you're asking yourself, If we've all got the disease, how can we blame anyone? Before I answer this question, you should ask yourself why you're trying so hard to let everyone off the hook. I think we've conditioned ourselves to behave more like lambs than human beings. Pay attention: those in power willfully perpetuate the horrific status quo for selfish gain. It's absurd to think the powerful are powerless. Perhaps things would be clearer if they had to march and chant, "We, the power, will never be defeated!"

Now that I've spread the blame, I'd like to change the subject back to the matter at hand. Are humans smarter than yeast? Let me put it the other way: are you powerless?



I assume that is the canonical reductionist counter-argument?
i.e. the wild card symbol

It takes a lot of effort to unwind these arguments :)

If you can find the culprit, then we will bring him in and hang him...

Actually, on some occasions the justice system orders the culprit to modify his or her behavior on pain of punishment, rather than just carry out a hanging post-haste. If the culprit is "everybody", or a large slice of "everybody", that would seem to be the more practical starting-point.

Of course, since a large slice of "everybody" seems to want to reproduce without limit, it may very well be that the process of accommodating whatever limit there is on population will turn out to be undemocratic to some degree, perhaps a considerable degree. Neither physics nor any other natural process cares in the slightest about the views of the average TV viewer...so if the control of population is left to natural processes, it seems likely to occur in one of the most undemocratic ways possible.

That's really my original quibble, that the original argument seems to lead directly to fatalism on this point. Perhaps fatalism is justified, but the societal "we" can never know that for sure, unless it actually undertakes an honest and possibly somewhat undemocratic effort to cope with the problem and finds that it simply can't. So far, there has been no such effort, and any discussion tends to get squelched on Political Correctness grounds; those may be points in favor of fatalism.

On a note of levity, I found it amusing that you guys are arguing about which analogy is better. ;) That really brought a smile to my face, seriously. I figure I might as well get my two cents in there.

I think Yeast is the best analogy. Yeast consumes sugar and multiplies and we consume oil and multiply. When the sugar runs out, the yeast are overshot and die off. When the oil runs out, same thing...We die back to what the sun can sustain. I can't remember off the top of my head which TOD'er it is, but the signature, "Are humans smarter than Yeast?," really sums it up perfectly.


According to your analogy, we are at least not smarter than yeast. But I must point out the yeast have no idea what they are doing while we do, thus, we are, indeed, actually dumber than yeast.


Analogies? I'd look to myths folktales and even modern stories for wisdom.

"The Fisherman and His Wife" (Grimm fairytale)-- talk about the Maximum Power Principle and violating nature's rules! The woman wants to be god, her demands increase exponentially and with shortening times between them, and the situation ends in total collapse. She won't listen to "reason" (in this case the warnings of her husband).

Many Greek myths also show hubris (wanting to be god-like) as a terrible--even fatal-- flaw.

Stephen King's "The Langoliers" (1995) (about passengers on an airplane) is in my opinion a coded Peak Oil warning. (There are empty airports, a greedy businessman is the passenger who endangers the others and cannot see the true danger because of his focus on money, problems with energy as food and fuel from another era won't work, the "langoliers" are strange machine-like mouths that "eat" time--I suppose these could be a critique on the way we have devoured the future through wasting resources)I recommend this movie BTW!

"The Rocking Horse Winner" (1926) by D.H. Lawrence shows money being made to cover debts, first slowly then quickly and in greater amounts, ending in collapse of the money-making system (this takes the form of a boy who rides a rocking horse violently in order to magically ascertain the names of racehorses who will win upcoming races, which his relatives place bets on.)

These are just a few examples. I sort of study this.

I see the basic underlying mechanism seems to be a machine that function smoothly at first then small hiccups occur, then more serious failures, the thing goes into overdrive and operates faster and faster without producing real benefits (housing bubble, for instance) then crashes and crashes, more seriously each time...

If there is any disease analogy, perhaps it's neurosis or psychosis, a mental disease, a total failure to understand what is really happening. The denial prevents correct diagnosos of the "disease" so the cure (living in villages, returning to simpler ways of life) cannot be found, the situation only gets worse.


I don't think neurosis or psychosis are analogies, but they are in fact what we are seeing on a daily basis. Many people, quite simply, are delusional, dysfunctional and self-destructive.

As things wind down, there is going to be a very unpleasant encounter with reality and I suspect many won't be able to adapt.

Yes, in a nutshell this is why I chose "pi"---an irrational number--for my name here.

Pi -- "sort of study this" - very interesting.

Thank you. I was a lit. major in college and grad. school and I am still very very thankful to work in this area since I enjoy it so much.

Have found the whole PO discussion very useful in giving new perspectives and ideas on energy and its role in culture which I've recently used to analyze lit. texts.

I am in a posting mood today:

I don't think medical analogies are particularly useful, not least because people find medical stuff confusing. Analogies are supposed to make things clearer; I think this one does the opposite

This whole science of disease and its responses is really difficult and complex - I have to laugh as look at the discussion below to see how it confuses ;) as foretold in the box.

For tens of thousands of years humans bred to the very limit of their existence, but still their population was kept in check, primarily by disease and famine.

Actually, primitive societies evolved mechanisms to keep population levels in check; search for 'primitive population control' to find evidence for this. Epidemic disease and famine can both be traced to the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago, as described by Richard Manning in Against the Grain.

Unicorn, it is largely a myth that primitive peoples had a means of population control. Of course there was infinticide if you wish to count that.

Homo sapiens, just like all other species, have had to overproduce in order to have enough survivors, after disease and famine, in order to have enough to keep up their population levels. Also, there is another reason that primitive populations, including pre and post agricultural revolution needed to keep up their numbers.

Not only are human societies never alone, but regardless of how well they control their own population or act ecologically, they cannot control their neighbors’ behavior. Each society must confront the real possibility that its neighbors will not live in ecological balance but will grow its numbers and attempt to take the resources from nearby groups. Not only have societies always lived in a changing environment, but they always have neighbors. The best way to survive in such a milieu is not to live in ecological balance with slow growth, but to grow rapidly and be able to fend off competitors as well as take resources from others.

Steven LeBlanc, “Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage” page 73

I find it a little absurd to suggest that there were no epidemic disease or famine before the agricultural revolution. To argue that you would have to also argue that there are no epidemic disease or famine among other species. Disease often desimates large popluations of animals and frequent famine is just a part of their existance. Floods, drought and pestilance are all causes of famine and they have, historically, caused massive deaths among all species, including pre agricultural Homo sapiens.

Of course the problem was much worse after the agriculturl revolution but only because there were a lot more people to be affected.

Ron Patterson

Yes, there was infanticide. Also abortion and encouragement of suicide.

But there were also less dramatic measures, such as late marriage and birth spacing via breastfeeding or cultural taboo. (Some primitive societies do not permit sex for five years after a child is born.)

Yes, as Manning points out, pre-agricultural people did not have a steady source of soft foods to wean children at an early age, so breast feeding was more prolonged.

So, when you get right down to it, the person who bears full culpability for human overpopulation is the dude who invented the blender.

That, and the invention of cheap margarita mix.

I find it a little absurd to suggest that there were no epidemic disease or famine before the agricultural revolution. To argue that you would have to also argue that there are no epidemic disease or famine among other species. Disease often desimates large popluations of animals and frequent famine is just a part of their existance.

Do non humans suffer epidemics? My understanding is that epidemics in humans require high population density and close proximity to domesticated animals so that mutating pathogens may jump species. That was not the case pre-agriculture.

Famine is a result of overshoot. As primitive societies evolved there was pressure against behaviors that would lead to overshoot. So they may have seen their share of famine as they developed, but it is not at all a myth that social means of population control did develop. A flood or drought wouldn't cause a famine for pre-agricultural humans because it would have to wipe out all the great variety of plants and animals in different ecological niches that foragers eat. Peoples that depend on monocultures are vulnerable; it would take a major cataclysm to do more than make hunter-gatherers complain about their longer workdays.

LeBlanc in your quote is looking at societies from an agricultural point of view. Yes, agricultural societies must expand constantly and take over their neighbors' land, or else collapse. Higher birth rates would logically follow from that need. However, foraging favors smaller populations that are able to migrate frequently. Foragers do get into conflicts with their neighbors, but they do this too with an evolved strategy, usually a variant of this: "attack your neighbors randomly, and counterattack when attacked". The upshot of this strategy is that it reduces violence as much as possible. If your tribe never attacks another tribe, you will be seen as easy pickings and attract fighters. If it attacks too much, you'll lose too many people.

Do non humans suffer epidemics?

Are you serious? Of course non humans suffer epidemics. Domesticated animals suffer epidemics. Ever hear of hoof and mouth disease. Wild animals suffer epidemics. The black plague was an epidemic among rats. Ebola disease, (viral hemorrhagic fever), is also an epidemic among rodents, and in this case rodents that do not usually live among humans. There are literally thousands of diseases that are epidemic and contagious among animals.

Famine is a result of overshoot.

Baloney! Famine is a far more frequent occurrence among wild animals than humans, and there is no overshoot of wild animals. The Irish famine was caused by a potato blight. But most famines, by far, are caused by draught. Famines have been around, among animals, since animals evolved, and have been around among humans since humans evolved.

LeBlanc in your quote is looking at societies from an agricultural point of view.

Not so, the exact same scenario would exist among hunter-gatherers. Hunter-gatherers have a territory to defend. Rival tribes would encroach on their territory, which would be defended, unto death, by those who occupied the territory at the time. That, in all likelihood, was what wiped out the Neanderthals.

Ron Patterson

Domesticated animals suffer epidemics. Ever hear of hoof and mouth disease. Wild animals suffer epidemics. The black plague was an epidemic among rats. Ebola disease, (viral hemorrhagic fever), is also an epidemic among rodents, and in this case rodents that do not usually live among humans. There are literally thousands of diseases that are epidemic and contagious among animals.

Domesticated animals are in the same boat as agricultural humans (high population density, close association with other species) so those don't count. The other examples you gave (Black Death and Ebola) support my point; they are not epidemics among rats and fruit bats (respectively) but rather endemic, and their association with humans coupled with high human population density produced epidemic outbreaks.

Yes, it was a serious question; I'm not contesting that all animals have endemic infections, but epidemics are another matter.

and there is no overshoot of wild animals.

Never? What happens if a predator goes extinct? What happens if a resource base disappears due to climate change? What happens if a new species is introduced?

Where is the line between "drought causes famine" and "drought reduces the carrying capacity of certain niches, causing overshoot by default"?

Hunter-gatherers have a territory to defend. Rival tribes would encroach on their territory, which would be defended, unto death, by those who occupied the territory at the time.

Rival tribes of foragers would have little incentive to encroach beyond the "just take me seriously" conflict strategy I summarized. For sure, once agriculture arose, conquest and genocide were the main ways that it spread (with some exceptions). Hunter-gatherers don't have large enough populations to withstand agriculturalists, as we see by the very few remaining; the ones that survive do so because we can't farm on their land, thus have no interest in it.

That isn't to say that a hunter-gatherer tribe wouldn't cheerfully wipe out its neighbors if it had the means, but that wasn't very easy (or very necessary) until the advent of agriculture.

There are several hypotheses regarding the Neanderthals, but I haven't read enough about that to have an opinion. Perhaps you could recommend some reading?

The other examples you gave (Black Death and Ebola) support my point; they are not epidemics among rats and fruit bats (respectively) but rather endemic, and their association with humans coupled with high human population density produced epidemic outbreaks.

The Hanta Virus is highly contagious and epidemic among animals but is not spread human to human. Humans are infected when they inhale vapors from contaminated rodent urine, saliva, or feces. I could research and find dozens, perhaps hundreds of other such diseases that are epidemic among animals. But why bother. You have already decided that humans are somehow very different from other animals and do not suffer from epidemic diseases as humans do. This is very strange. How could anyone who knows anything about animals and animal diseases hold such a strange position?

Never? What happens if a predator goes extinct? What happens if a resource base disappears due to climate change? What happens if a new species is introduced?

I suppose I misspoke there. Animals do not suffer long term overshoot as humans do. Animals, such as field mice, often for one generation, overshoot their environment. They immediately die-off. Climate change is not overshoot. A resource base disappearing is not overshoot.

That isn't to say that a hunter-gatherer tribe wouldn't cheerfully wipe out its neighbors if it had the means, but that wasn't very easy (or very necessary) until the advent of agriculture.

Hunter-gatherers, just like all other forging animals, had a territory that they defended. Other tribes, when in times of severe hunger, would invade and try to take territory and resources from neighboring tribes. I suggest you read Constant Battles: Why we fight

The group with the larger population always has an advantage in any competition over resources, whatever those resources may be. Over the course of human history, one side rarely has better weapons or tactics for any length of time, and most such warfare between smaller societies is attritional. With equal skills and weapons, each side would be expected to kill an equal number of its opponents. Over time, the larger group will finally overwhelm the smaller one. This advantage of size is well recognized by humans all over the world, and they go to great lengths to keep their numbers comparable to their potential enemies. This is observed anthropologically by the universal desire to have many allies, and the common tactic of smaller groups inviting other societies to join them, even in times of food stress.
Steven LeBlanc, “Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage” page 73-74.

Note, the title of the hardback was: “Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage” but when it came out in paper back the title was changed to: Constant Battles: Why we fight.

No one really knows why the Neanderthals went extinct. There in no written history. Therefore we can only speculate as to why they disappeared. But many paleontologists and anthropologists speculate it was because of the higher intelligence of the Cro-Magnon. They were simply "out competed" for resources and territory.

Edit: There is archeological evidence that the Cro-Magnon was more advanced than the Neanderthal. They had more advanced stone tools and heated their caves by carrying heated stones into them at night.

Ron Patterson

The whole medical analogy is off because these agents are renewable. Oil isn't or it only renews over the course of millions of years.

Extinction of species by harvesting by humans is about the only analogy that comes close. And that does not show the same dispersion, and mathematically it doesn't really hold because of species reproduction.

The Hanta Virus is highly contagious and epidemic among animals but is not spread human to human.

I was under the impression that Hantavirus is endemic to its carrier species, not epidemic. Am I confused about the terms?

Regardless, Hantavirus doesn't seem to bother the rodents that carry it, only turning pathogenic when it infects humans. A virus that is harmless in one species may be virulent in another, but the greater the virulence, the greater the population density needed to go from an outbreak to an epidemic. I guess that's the crux of my position. Epidemics simply weren't much of a problem to pre-agricultural man.

Thank you for the book recommendation, I will check it out. I still suspect LeBlanc is talking about food producers rather than foragers. Here is where I got that idea:


(scroll down to 'The Gentle People')

Maybe when the core itself has the septicemia, it's the Extremities that will 'self-amputate' and find that there's a way to live without the umbilical from the Central Circulatory System.

Governments across Europe tremble as angry people take to the streets

France paralysed by a wave of strike action, the boulevards of Paris resembling a debris-strewn battlefield. The Hungarian currency sinks to its lowest level ever against the euro, as the unemployment figure rises. Greek farmers block the road into Bulgaria in protest at low prices for their produce. New figures from the biggest bank in the Baltic show that the three post-Soviet states there face the biggest recessions in Europe.

It's a snapshot of a single day – yesterday – in a Europe sinking into the bleakest of times. But while the outlook may be dark in the big wealthy democracies of western Europe, it is in the young, poor, vulnerable states of central and eastern Europe that the trauma of crash, slump and meltdown looks graver.

That guillotine manufacuring business I was thinking about going into keeps sounding better and better all the time.

In France this is business as usual.

This sounds like very much what one would expect. The people from poor nations and the displaced workers from poor nations that are working in rich nations will be the first to be severely affected by the downturn. I am afraid we will be seeing more of this.

I have been surprised at how the British energy strikes relating to the use of foreign workers have been continuing and expanding. If the British workers are successful, there will only be more displace foreign workers, making the problem worse for poor people working in rich countries.

Hmmm... The rich and the middle class are also being badly effected too, but, they're not going to protest (not yet anyway), they still have something left to protect. The coming collapse of the middle class will however bring them flooding onto the streets in due course. No doubt someone will use the anger and discontent of the former middle class to propel themself into power.

I find it somewhat strange with Britain on the verge of a possible energy crisis, the first unlikely spark of industrial discontent is within the energy industry. Should there be an energy crisis, the strikers will likely take the blame. A convenient cover to take the heat away from an already threatened political elite.

Yes, UK Nat Gas supply next week seems bloody tight to put it relatively mildly. I don't know what's going on at Nat Grid but they are currently predicting a greater than 10% chance (much greater) of a Gas Balancing Alert being called next week as the cold weather moves in. The 90% confidence level demands a max gas supply of about 435 mcm/day on Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu but the current GBA trigger level (ie what they think they can supply) is only 414 mcm. By comparison this time last year the GBA trigger level was about 500 mcm. Roughly what this means is Nat Grid may have trouble maintaining supply next week and may have to drain certain storage virtually to empty just to do it.

Even more curiously Nat Grid published the GBA trigger level for tomorrow at 129mcm - that would mean something was seriously broken somewehere and there would be immediate gas and electrical power cuts tomorrow if correct. In the last hour or so they have just published a correction which says

31/01/2009 19:22:29
Please be aware due to an un-identified system error an incorrect GBA figure of 129 mcm has been published on the National Grid website for gas day 01 February 09. The correct GBA trigger for 01 Feb is 414.1 mcm

One small piece if good news is that the IUK interconnector will finally return to import mode tomorrow but only at a trivial rate. Still that's better than it being used to export like Britain was the gas hub of Europe as it's been doing recently.

But it's just the end of January and UK gas storage levels are already officially well below the level required to support a "firm demand" if severe weather should persist for the rest of the winter. But rejoice - the free market will solve all our problems and, if it doesn't, the government can always blame the strikers, as you say, if they can be provoked into hitting gas production just at the exact time the system was going to fail anyway :-(

Here's the cheery weather outlook for next week from the BBC

Big freeze expected to hit the UK

Icy winds heading for the UK will make temperatures feel "sub zero" as the coldest winter in 13 years continues.

Snowstorms from Russia are expected to hit the eastern part of England on Sunday night.

You're in the UK, right? What's going on with the banking crisis there? Last week, everyone was freaking out and talking about the pound and the dollar at parity. Now, it's dropped out of the news. Did the politicians manage some kind of rescue or something?

Everything is fine, we have low interest rates, low inflation and low government debt apparantly.

All the main banks but one have been nationalized. The economy is set to fall by 2.8% this year,unemployment set to go to 3 million. Apart from that everything is fine.

I think the devaluation of the pound is exactly what the government wants at the moment. Makes our exports more competitive and discourages people from travelling abroad and spending money there.

Slight problem is that the main export it seems to have encouraged is natural gas!

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has just arrived in Britain. I suspect Britain and China have come to some kind of understanding behind closed doors.

British PM: Britain-China ties never been better

LONDON, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- The Britain-China ties have never been better, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Friday in a written interview with Xinhua.

Just one day before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrives in London for an official visit, Brown said that Wen and he launched a "new stage of this partnership" in Beijing last January, and the year since then has been a "momentous one" in bilateral relations.

"Our bilateral engagement, and our cooperation on issues of international concern, have deepened throughout the year with new mechanisms established on foreign policy and economic cooperation," said Brown.

"The mutual respect and confidence we have developed enable us to address difficult issues constructively," he said.

The British leader hoped that in 2009 the two countries "can build on the strong foundations established so far -- through our response to the global economic crisis, our cooperation in the G20, and our approach to the crucial climate change negotiations in Copenhagen at the end of the year."

"I believe we should set our joint ambitions high and work tirelessly to achieve them," he said.

Brown said he would discuss global financial crisis with Wen during his visit, noting that it would be "vital" for Britain and China, two of the world's leading economies, to work together to tackle the issue.

Last week, everyone was freaking out and talking about the pound and the dollar at parity. Now, it's dropped out of the news. Did the politicians manage some kind of rescue or something?

"Don't look here. Look over there"

Is everything fixed? No

Are we ignoring it? Yes

Here's the latest update on the situation.

First off the National Grid website is no longer displaying lots of recent data. For example the percentage depleted figures for storage and daily draw down figures are not displayed (the columns are no longer displayed). Whether this is due to intentional removal or a side-effect of whatever system problems they say they are having I don't know.

However the real time energy flow data is still there so it is possible to see what's happening even though it is not currently listed in the main summary or prevailing view. What this data shows isn't too bad (at the moment). To make up supplies for the cold snap several things have happened in the last 24 hours.

1) The Langeled pipleline has increased flow by about 15mcm/day.
2) The IUK pipeline has switched to import at currently 25mcm/day
3) Grain LNG terminal is supplying approx 10 mcm/day

The central forecast demand for tomorrow is 409mcm with a GBA trigger of 414mcm which is incredibly, uncomfortably tight. However the fact that the IUK pipleline is back in import mode possibly means that the GBA trigger can be revised upwards slightly - will be interesting to see what happens.

Short and Medium Range storage is not currently being called upon thanks to import boosts (but this is Sunday and unless imports increase even further it will likely have to be used tomorrow when weekday demand returns). SRS and MRS both remain below the "Firm Monitor" line implying insufficient gas in storage to support a "firm demand". Long Range Storage is still being tapped to make up the demand balance.

There still doesn't appear to be any major impact on gas production due to any wildcat strikes as of now.

All info from http://marketinformation.natgrid.co.uk/gas/ReportExplorer.aspx

Note that this still contradicts what your data says:


I hope your info is most accurate!

Tea lights and blankets to the ready..!

You want http://www.interconnector.com/iuk/onlinepage for current flows and forecast for next day - currently says

As at 01-Feb-2009 17:00 (UKT)
Gas Day
02-Feb-2009 	-206,855.8 	Reverse
01-Feb-2009 	-141,005.0 	Reverse
Reverse Flow  since 01-Feb-2009

Or click http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Gas/Data/efd/ezgraph.htm for real time (and last 24 hours) data. The IUK Interconnector is listed under Bacton Sub Terminal Flows as Bacton IC (blue line) and it switched to import about 10am today. Even for tomorrow though it's only running at 25% capacity.

One other piece of good news. Looks like a nuke has just come back online today as current generation has increased to 7.2GW up from about 5.2 in recent weeks/months). Either that or we've just pushed everything else back up to nameplate capacity (many UK nuclear power stations run at below rated capacity to extend lifetime). I haven't followed the recent situation with nuclear power generation closely enough to know off-hand. Likely there will be some news links tomorrow explaining the surge.

Crisis May 'Spark Social Unrest'

France's finance minister Christine Lagarde say(ed) leaders needed to send a clear, understandable signal to ordinary people about how governments were intending to act...

"We're facing ... social unrest ... "We need to restore confidence in the systems and confidence at large," she added.

Carrying banners reading "you are the crisis" and throwing snowballs at security guards, the demonstrators said those at the forum were not qualified to fix the world's problems...


Mz Lagarde wants governments to figure out "how to act."

Meanwhile, the 'ordinary people' want to re-write the script from scratch.

Meanwhile, the 'ordinary people' want to re-write the script from scratch.

ROFL. Yeah, right. What 'ordinary people' want seems to be identical to what some not-so-ordinary people have wanted and sometimes gotten - effortless hallucinated wealth. That, after all, is what sustained the housing bubble and got us where we are. So I guess 'ordinary people' in France will once again man the barricades, decrease wealth by breaking some things and burning others, and call expansively and expensively on wealth that never existed in the first place. At least that last is bog-standard.

Oh, well, round and round it goes.

The problem with the large banks is that they are not exposed only to mortgage defaults, but they are exposed to large scale gambling in derivatives, futures, etc. They type of trading that took Enron down.

"At mid-year, June 30, 2008, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) reported that Citi’s primary banking unit, Citibank NA, held $37.1 trillion in total notional value derivatives, including $3.6 trillion in credit default swaps, which, in recent months, have proven to be the most dangerous category."


The government might not be able to borrow enough to bail out some of these incompetent bankers. They should have looked at the problem before committing capital to try to help. It is better to let some fail than to take down an entire nation to save a few.

Three bank failures yesterday:

Ocala National Bank, FL
Suburban Federal Savings Bank, Crofton, MD
MagnetBank, Salt Lake City, UT

Hey Rainsong,

I posted this link from Ilargi yesterday but I think you'll find some of the figures interesting as well.

These are the OCC's numbers for the big 3 US banks:

Notional Amount Of Derivative Contracts, Top 25 Holding Companies In Derivatives
September 30, 2008, In $ Millions

JPMorgan $91,339,207

Bank Of America $39,979,154

Citigroup $38,186,196
The total assets of these three banks are $3.9 trillion, which is a somewhat questionable number, since we don't know what the assets -which they largely valued themselves- are. But it's still, as Martin Weiss pointed out, 43 times the amount the banks have thus far received in government assistance. However, even more significant is that JPMorgan's derivatives amount to 400 times its alleged assets. Talk about leverage. Which bookie allows you to bet 400 times what's in your wallet?...

...Obama's stimulus plan is not for banks. The next bank bail-out will follow soon. My guess is that it will add up to $2 trillion in public, and $4-5 trillion in reality. When looking at the numbers above, though, as well as the reservations by the real number crunchers, it becomes ever clearer that the risks are huge that any subsequent bank bail-out will go the same way as the multi-trillion dollar ones that have preceded it. Tim Geithner, in his hearing, has made it very clear that he has no intention of coming clean. And while there are lingering questions about the potential losses from derivative positions, we know it'll be between 0% and 100%. Even if, just for the 3 biggest US banks, it would be 1%, that would be a $1.78 trillion loss. However, the more volatile the market becomes, and the more money is lost by these institutions across the board of their activities, the higher the derivative risks and losses will also be. There is in that situation no reason to discount the possibility that 10% or 20% will be lost. At 20%, we'd be looking at 3 times annual US GDP. And then we would have a big smelly whopper of a problem. If and when Geithner and the bankers want to prove that this is not so, they should know what to do. My money is on the notion that they won't, because they know what I know. And that to me gives a whole new "shine" to the term "confirmation hearing".

This really shows the scale of the problem. If a 1% decline in the overall value of derivates equates to a loss of $1.78 Trillion for Just the top three banks, you can deduce it's even larger for the entire industry. And that's only a 1% decline!

You stated:

The government might not be able to borrow enough to bail out some of these incompetent bankers. They should have looked at the problem before committing capital to try to help. It is better to let some fail than to take down an entire nation to save a few.

I agree the government might not be able to borrow enough to bail out some of these incompetent bankers. I think the entire system needs to collapse before we'll get any beneficial change/action on the matter. However, from the government perspective, they can't just let some fail and "save" the rest. That's the real sinister part of the derivatives problem. This stems from the closed market for derivatives. When I say "closed" market, I mean that the pricing information is not freely available for these financial instruments. It's so hard to "mark to market" when you don't know what the "market" is.

I'll let a Denniger post explain the rest:

See, today if I call a prime broker (say, Goldman) and ask for a quote on a CDS for Frobozz Company, they can quote me literally anything. They might be able to buy that contract on the market at 400 basis points, but they then quote me 500. Is that a fair price? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not - but the fact that I can't sit in front of my computer and see all the bids and offers in the market like I can with a stock, option, or futures contract allows the dealers to game the market and screw the customer with impunity. The dealers love this, but one of the hallmarks of an efficient market is that pricing information must be made available to all market participants equally.

The other thing that happens with exchange-traded markets is that the clearinghouse becomes the intermediary - that is, they are the seller to every buyer and the buyer to every seller, effectively guaranteeing performance. That in turn leads them to impose strict margin supervision on the firms doing business through them, because if they fail to do so they are on the hook when counterparties cannot pay. As a consequence centralized clearing instantaneously removes the "systemic risk" that CDS currently pose to the financial system as a whole since nobody in their right mind is going to permit firms to run without proper margin supervision under such a paradigm.

When Lehman was allowed to fail and their assets auctioned off, this set market prices for certain derivatives. Other firms with these derivatives were forced to mark them to market, causing more capital problems. They are all so interconnected that way that it's pretty much all or nothing. I'm sure the system will collapse. All the efforts today are meant to delay the disclosure of the true value of the assets. They're just trying to ride it out for as long as possible.


I saw the link yesterday, and I figured that perhaps the numbers were off. I read today the derivatives market is 600 trillion dollars globally. There is a bill in congress to regulate the industry. Some in the industry do not want regulations. I figure that banks should not be allowed to gamble on such items. They have invested in what is not safe nor easily understood. There should only be collatoralized derivatives trading if they are going to gamble, and they should not be allowed to put up depositors money to gamble. There should be a clearing house for such transactions if they are not outlawed. Have the derivatives traders bail themselves out. I do not want to have my tax dollars going to bail out gamblers who rolled the dice and lost the shareholders and depositers money.

There are winners in the game too, and they need you to bail out the losers so they can take the losers again and again. Sad state of affairs.

Your last sentence echoes something that George Stiglitz said in a CNN News interview yesterday. Talking of excessive risk taking, faulty incentives and problems with corporate governance, he said that these are deeper problems that:

Many people do not want to address because this system has served a few people extraoridinarily well...

In another subthread above, the argument was over medical analogies to peak oil.

I see an analogy between predicting peak accurately with the valuation of CDS. We only have a vague understanding of how much oil is under the ground, and we only have a vague understanding on how much money is in derivatives.

But then again, CDS valuation sounds like a virtual thing and it can go *poof* at any time, whereas the oil is quite tangible, yet hidden from view.

I think one mistake in your analysis is that not all derivitives are long. A PUT is a derivitive that rises in value as the underlying asset fails. I have consistently used derivitives since the dot-com bust to protect my assets from catastrophe. It's easy to buy 50K in a stock, sell calls and use some of the proceeds to buy puts. Even though my notional value is 150K, my at risk is usually only a thousand or two.

Take the Lehman Brothers derivitive book. When they got together and netted out the positions, the total exchange in money was only about $20B or around 1%.

I understand it's really bad, but I don't think you can use linear math to determine what the value would be if the underlying assets fell.

One other thing I've been wanting to add is that these derivitives have counter parties, which means that one party may gain from a loss by the other party. There are plenty of hedge funds that aren't in the news that are making a killing right now.

Again, I realize things are REALLY bad right now, just not 600 Trillion bad.

Is what you are doing essentially a customized hedge fund that you set up yourself?

So on your stocks you aren't really looking to make any money on stock value, just on dividends? Or the hedging is that you have enough to save on the chance that it turns south that it will cushion the fall to only lose a couple thousand? Or is the risk that if the stocks you invested in go up like 500%, then you will also lose a lot? Or at least not gain so much? I think that feature might be lost on a lot of people. If this is true, then the whole hedge fund idea is finally starting to make sense to me.

(my customized hedge fund is a CD. Low gain, low risk :)

I was looking for a little help about a topic I see here from time to time.

I watch the BDI everyday. The low was around 650 or so in mid December. For the past say 3 weeks it has trended upwards to 1070 yesterday. I know that it was 15,000 last May so this is relative, but as ugly as things look any ideas on why this might be drifting up? I use that stat with clients to help explain "things". I guess I need a little education myself.


The BDI references the price for Spot Fixtures, which is what happened yesterday. Some day's there are ships available to rent and some days there aren't. When there aren't, the price goes up and vice versa. Also, the BDI is a composite of several other indexes, so if shipping through the Panama Canal is busy, the BDI will go up even if other routes are down. Yesterday the BPI was up 11% while the BCI was up .5%

I know a lot of ships are empty, but if you need to move coal from Australia, then the ship needs to be near Australia.

The BDI is more like a daily weather report and has very little predictive value in my opinion. And for what it's worth, the current value is close to normal.

Thank you so much; that makes good sense.

In the current economic situation why would the value be close to normal? I would think it would be far below.

In my opinion, it's because prior to three years ago, shipping dry bulk was THE most boring industry in the world. It only costs $5000 a day for interest, people, food, and fuel to run one of these things. (I know this because I used to read all the annual reports). So if you can get 7500 a day, it was considered a good day. There wasn't a lot of traffic 5 years ago either, not until China went ballastic.

So anyway, the day rates and charters skyrocketed to 20000, 50000, a 100000 a day and suddenly every shipyard in Korea was running at capacity. That's when the boom bust started for this industry. Now, you can't get a loan to build a new ship, the current orders are being cancelled, and Korean shipyards are ghosttowns.

So, in my opinion, these are normal rates that ships used to make a decent profit at. The only way you can lose money in this industry is to borrow like mad at high rates and use the money to overpay for ships. Sound familiar? Now there are too many ships (houses, cars) and the banks want their money back. It's the same old story, only this time it applies to ships. You could argue that houses are fairly valued, but if you paid 50% more than it's worth, then it looks like a bust.

The DryShips site used to disclose everything about the business and what they were making on each ship in the fleet. You might try there for more information as well. I wouldn't buy their stock under any circumstances, except gambling. The reason why the overpaid for all there ships is because the bought them, and I mean literally bought them from family members and friends. They are the Satyam of shipping.

Good luck.

Out of curiosity, why would you post a news item by Learsy? The guy is nothing more than a conspiracy theory hack and has made numerous claims that peak oilers are in the conspiracy!

I've challenged him repeatedly to explain what evidence he brings to bear against peak oil theory and he simply ignores the challenge. On the other hand, his acolytes, when they praise him for exposing the peak oilers, he acknowledges their good judgment!

Go figure.

Because the title of his book 'Over a Barrel: Breaking Oil’s Grip on Our Future' is correct?

Part of the set of 'peak oil' overlaps the set of 'lets get off oil'. Pointing out that Exxon made money is worthy of The Oil Drum.

In the same way that if you had a site dedicated to questioning stock market fraud posting a link to Lyndon LaRource's picture of Grasso hugging a FARC leader would be correct. Lyndon may be a nutter, but that doesn't invalidate his observation/data outta hand.

DrumBeat links are not endorsements. I occasionally post links to articles by Jerome Corsi, too, but that doesn't mean I believe in abiotic oil.

I post articles that I think are interesting or important. That includes articles about how the political spectrum is reacting to energy issues. I think Learsy is interesting because he's an example of how the left is in denial about energy, just as much as the rightwingers like Corsi.

"I post articles that I think are interesting or important."

i thought you posted some of these articles just to keep the inmates stired up !

Leanan should be the oil industry expert for HuffintonPost, which is the position that Learsy got himself somehow annointed to. I can post comments on everything on HuffPo except for something written by Learsy. then my comments go in a black hole. The guy needs to be removed immediately because he has taken his populist drum-banging to an extreme level. He is like a Lou Dobbs, who gets people agitated for the completely wrong reasons.

Hungry Again
Job losses and plunging incomes are pushing millions into poverty—and creating another food crisis.

. . . food prices are likely to begin spiking again toward the end of this year or early next. Agricultural goods, unlike other commodities, are still more expensive now than they were 12 months ago, before the first food crisis began.

A Chatham House report released last week notes that even the recent fall from peak prices is only temporary, as future supplies are likely to be constrained in part by a continuing lack of investment in agriculture. The economic downturn means small farmers can't afford to plant to full capacity, and there are early signs that the credit crisis has dried up some of the private investment that was supposed to spark a second Green Revolution. As always, it will be the poorest that suffer first.

YOY Ag commodities are Down, Significantly, all across the board.


I suspect that the Newsweek writer was talking about retail costs. Here is the USDA outlook:

Food Price Outlook, 2009

In 2009, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food is projected to increase 3.0 to 4.0 percent, as lower commodity and energy costs combine with weaker domestic and global economies to pull inflation down from 2008 levels. If commodity food and energy costs remain below 2008 levels, pressure on retail food prices will subside and this could result in low to moderate food price inflation in 2009.

Food-at-home prices are forecast to increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent, while food-away-from-home prices are forecast to increase 3.5 to 4.5 percent in 2009. The all-food CPI increased 5.5 percent between 2007 and 2008, the highest annual increase since 1990. Food-at-home prices, led by fats and oil prices (up 13.8 percent) and cereal and bakery product prices (up 10.2 percent), increased 6.4 percent, while food-away-from-home prices rose 4.4 percent in 2008.

While listening to
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/podcasts/oneplanet/ today

they mentioned this book


Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations explores the compelling idea that we are—and have long been—using up Earth's soil. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the lifespan of civilizations. A rich mix of history, archaeology and geology, Dirt traces the role of soil use and abuse in the history of Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, China, European colonialism, Central America, and the American push westward. We see how soil has shaped us and we have shaped soil—as society after society has risen, prospered, and plowed through a natural endowment of fertile dirt.

This is a frightening situation. We have been able to cover up the decline in soil quality with all of our fertilizers and pesticides. As fossil fuels deplete, the quality of the soil will be more important. I see it is from the University of California press--probably a faculty member there.

This is a frightening situation.

The fact that by far our most important resource is dirt seems to be appreciated by almost no-one.

From the BBC:
Iowa's green energy policy struggle

I spoke to POET's Vice President for Project Development, Larry Ward.

He insists that despite the use of natural gas in the production of ethanol, it is a good bargain.

"There's a tremendous net gain from an energy standpoint. Using natural gas to produce ethanol you have a gain - for every unit of energy you put into the plant you get two units of energy out."

Ummm, did we remember to include the energy the farmers put in.


Thanks for the link. Have you read Sacred Cow Tipper's(SCT) posts here on TOD ?

IA is 85% coal ? Wow. I thought NE was high (47% or 62 % depending). That's where I'm at and I keep on eye on what is going on 'next door' as I am job hunting in RE as in other sectors.

Denninger touches on several topics upthread: banks, hunger, anger,,,

Here's the link for those - like me sometimes - that have caching ussues: Here It Comes


Thanks for the link,

I'm still having those caching issues. I have to delete my cache every time I want to see if denninger has something new....in the process of moving from IE to Firefox.


Edit: Firefox now installed. Finger's crossed.

Since I upgraded to Firefox 3.0.5 I've had nothing but trouble. Links stop working. Windows open to blank windows...

It may not be Firefox itself, but the problems are all in using Firefox. I upgraded a couple drivers and it has helped, but the problems persist. I sometimes have to reboot to get it back in working order.

I'm on an older system (bought in Dec. 2005), so maybe it's a compatibility issue with the new release. I had no problems with the earlier version I had. I loved Firefox, so I wish I hadn't upgraded.


Surfers paradise! http://www.opera.com/download/
This browser has all the amenities that you'll ever want, IMO. From top of my head, I've never had any error message for "ten" years . It's neither on the IE nor Firefox core.

..or, have a peek at Opera 10 (alfa) new rendering engine/facilities here : http://www.opera.com/browser/next/

If you use Ctrl + Refesh (F5) it will open the page from source rather than cache, might help.
And pressing Alt + F4 allows you to see the IP of anyone else browsing the page.

Alt +F4 closes the browser window in Firefox.

There is no way to present the IP of other people browsing a page to one of those persons browsing. You could obtain this information if you had control of the http server serving the page, or the router between the http server and the net, but regular browsers could not obtain this info without admin access to either of those devices.

Urban Dictionary: ALT +F4

1. Alt + F4

shortcut key for nearly all Windows Operating Systems to Close the active window or application.
Also used as an insulting tool by the 1337 or l33t people to have a bad/angry gamers, aka noob, to trick them to quit the game.
friend: dude, how do I quit this?
me: hold 'Alt' and press the 'F4' key at the top of the keyboard.

l33t: to fix the lag, hold Alt and press F4

l33t: sweet, less lag...works all the time.
by Edward Evil, CEO of Evil INC Nov 16, 2004 share this comments

2. Alt + F4

Used in online games to 'pwn'/scam 'nobbies' due to the fact that this command closes your current open window.
l337: To duplicate money/items drop them on the ground and press alt+f4

Nub: OK!

(nub leaves game)

l337: haha, j00 got pwnt
by JimE Ray Jan 24, 2005 share this comments

If ALT-F4 does indeed list the IP addresses of other people browsing the same page for OMGlikeWTF I hate to think where they work :-)

I was trying to bring some humour to the table, with all the rest of the problems we are going to face over our lifetimes a good sense of humour is going to be very useful!

Here are some excerpts from Denninger's report:

California appears to be functionally insolvent. As in now. How far is the state from widespread inability to pay police officers and firemen, and how long does it take before widescale riots break out . . .

A nation's standard of living is not based on its ability to borrow in aggregate, but by its ability to produce. Therefore, we cannot borrow our way to prosperity nor can attempts to "spur lending" lead us out of recession. Rather we must produce actual goods and services - not push paper - to grow our way out. Over the last 20 years we have replaced production with false claims of "wealth creation" that are nothing more than the creation of additional credit through intentional mispricing of risk. That scam has now come to an end as the true lack of value has been exposed. All major busts in reasonably-modern time (e.g. back to TulipMania) have come from credit excess.

There are all sorts of theories about why prices of both stocks and bonds fell this last couple of weeks. They are all wrong. There is only one reason - supply and demand. Treasuries are being rained into the market like a monsoon and this is depressing price; what's worse is that it is sucking up money from the system which then causes a supply:demand imbalance in stocks. In order to issue the sort of supply necessary to fund the grand schemes of former Treasury Secretary Paulson, the last and present Congress and President Obama, as well as "keeping the promises made" by the previous administration (some $7 trillion worth!) the amount of supply that must be issued will literally destroy both stock and bond prices.

And now Denninger is going off about the octuplets that we discussed yesterday.

Here's his RANT


Here's the article on the Momma of the Octuplets

I seriously doubt "welfare" paid for in vitro fertilization. If you could get free in vitro in California, they'd be flooded with infertile couples from all over the nation.

There's something odd about this story. In vitro isn't cheap. She apparently worked for the state of California, so possibly she got it done under their health insurance plan. Still...I find it hard to believe they would pay for five in vitro pregnancies.

I have a friend who worked for the state of New York, and tried to get in vitro. There was only one health plan that would pay for fertility treatments at all, and even they didn't want to pay for in vitro. He had no children, but his wife had a child from a previous relationship, and they said for that reason, they wouldn't pay for fertility treatments. He looked into paying for it himself, but it cost $10,000 per try, with no guarantee of success.

And they voted against gay marriage. Seems like some gay couples could adopt unwanted kids, and save the state on some welfare cash.

They could help out these "breeders", as my gay friends characterize these people.

You seem to be onto the trail, Leanan.

I would guess connections, related to our empire policies. I would also guess the family is Shia.

There are so many reasons why the fertility doctor should be strung up by his thumbs that I don't know where to start.

As Denninger says, this is what we are up against.

It's probably futile, but I really hope Obama is smart enough to realize that "more of the same" isn't going to cut it. Even if he is in the pocket of the banking industry...surely anyone with two neurons to rub together can see that doing the same thing and expecting different results is insanity.

I think Denninger might be jumping the gun a bit with predicting rioting and such, though. He's been talking about riots and protests ever since the bailout was suggested, and so far, Americans seem more resigned than angry.

I wonder what's going to happen to retirees. Stocks, bonds, and pensions might all go down the toilet. Even if they want to return to work, will anyone hire them? They'll be competing with millions of younger people.

Assuming I was hiring, which I am not, I would prefer to hire older staff and retirees for many reasons. The question is, would older people be able to get much of a premium on their salaries?

Really? You would hire an 80-year-old guy who had been out of the workforce for 20 years over a 35 or 50 year old who was just laid off last year?

Maybe you would, but I think most companies would not.

I may be in the minority, but here is my reasoning.

Young people tend to have poor work habits and a sense of entitlement
Middle aged people have usually achieved some level of management, thus are used to giving orders, rather than taking them.
Retired people likely do not have as many family encumbrances, understand responsibility and the work ethic.

I realize these are generalizations, so to put it simply, I see potential advantages and no reasons to disqualify a retired person.

Makes sense to me.

Moreover: 80yo likely to have some form of pension (= can offer less money for them to be able to support themselves). In the UK, B&Q have already worked this one out - not only do they get the brownie points for hiring those aged 60+ ("it's good for the country" to hire the retired) they also know that they can offer closer to minimum wage as they don't need to pay them "market rate plus pension provision")

Finally, there are people repeating what Denninger, The Automatic Earth and Schiff have been saying all along: bank assets have to be exposed to the market and sold at market prices. Period.

Here are two old-time heavyweights on the Bad Bank proposal. One wonders, are the prescient folk above being listened to, or are there actually one or two sane people in finance and banking?

Hedge fund legend Julian Robertson, chairman of Tiger Management, and David Roche, of Independent Strategy, discuss the best ways to fix the banking mess.

One of them even states the this isn't going to be a short-term issue and that living standards *must* fall and that the public needs to be told.

Very late to the game, but refreshing nonetheless.


One of them even states the this isn't going to be a short-term issue and that living standards *must* fall and that the public needs to be told.

Very late to the game, but refreshing nonetheless.

Too late in the game for the so called experts to be finally coming to their senses. Considering that TOD and other sites have been around for years now, books have been written about our current situation when it was still just the coming situation. I suspect the feeling of helplessness I have right now is comparable to WW2, where countries like Latvia and Poland (only to mention 2) sat between the angry Russians and the Nazis. One had nowhere to go. Just sit and wait for the inevitable to happen. May as well get front row seats and get out the popcorn. Maybe even start making amends. Or do like those 2 Jewish brothers did in the recently released film (I read the book 25 years ago). Head for the Hills (in their case the forests) and prepare to do battle. It also gives one the perspective that this is how the right wing feels, still to this day, in Israel. Its us or them.

Best of luck to all

Oil price slump a challenge to Obama: Alternative energy looking less viable.

When the economy is bad, there's never enough money/credit to build anything, such as electrified rail, that can permanently reduce fossil fuel use. Plus politicians don't think this is priority -- jobs and rescuing banks are thought to be much more important.

Which begs he question: Why not do it when the economy is good? But then we're told steel, concrete, workers, and energy are too expensive. Plus nobody who's in the middle of a consumption orgy cares about the long term consequences of that type of behavior.

Therefore, it never gets done, or in other words: "were're screwed because it's always a bad time to do good things"

Refinery workers prepare to strike, some refineries might close:


Thanks! I see others are starting to carry the story, too.

Thousands of refinery workers prepare to strike

I noticed that the crew over at Financial Sense are getting to be more and more downbeat about the overall shape of the economy. Aside from being hit or miss on their gold price outlooks, their view of the economy has been pretty spot on for the last couple of years. I have no shortage of doomer porn these days it seems. Before they called 2009 the "crisis window". Then there was the Oreo cookie theory for 2008, now they are using the "D" word a lot to describe the unfolding conditions. I did enjoy the podcast for this weekend, you should swing in there and check it out.

I said much the same about their predictive abilities in a post yesterday and was duly chastised by someone who argued their predictions had been wrong in many ways. They did suggest the Oreo cookie theory in early 2008 and it was accurate up to a point. They previously called the sub-prime mortgage problem correctly also. Puplava admits that the creamy filling was very thin and that the subsequent pain was much worse than they had expected. In particular they were completely blindsided by the oil price crash and subsequent damage to the rest of the energy sector. I can certainly recall Puplava recommending people hold their energy stocks earlier in the year. I also believed in the "safe haven" aspect of energy given the known supply problems and, as I have posted previously, it cost me dearly, particularly in the energy service sector. They also felt that the dollar would continue to slide and have been blindsided by the flight to safety that has occurred. I think they are still wrong on that score in the sense that, when comparing paper currencies, it is impossible to imagine any other currency outperforming the dollar in the medium term. They may all fall together of course and then gold, and possibly oil, would be the winners. Although Gold hasn't taken off yet, it has held up better than any other asset in the past year, so Puplava is half right in his predictions there.

Shame about their global warming blindspot, although, I can understand it, if not forgive it, when you realise they are viewing the world through a purely short/medium term economic lens.

I do completely enjoy your point of view here. I really never made any moves based on what they had been talking about myself. I don't think there are any sages out there who can get the time line down with sooo many variables still unknown. A currency could collapse tomorrow and the whole game could change. These bailouts could work and the problems are solved. For sure, we are living in history. We now live in the great leveraging of society.