DrumBeat: February 9, 2009

Senate Is Set to Pass Stimulus Bill

The Senate voted to cut off debate on President Barack Obama's economic-recovery plan, setting the stage for a final vote Tuesday on the sweeping spending and tax-cut package the White House says is needed to stem the economy's decline.

Moscow names Sakhalin LNG date

Sakhalin Energy will produce 6 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas this year, or around two thirds of its designed capacity, with the first cargo to sail at the end of March, Russia's Energy Ministry said today.

Yushchenko blames PM for 'raw deal'

Under the terms of the contract, Ukraine will have to pay Russia $450 per 1000 cubic metres with a 20% discount while transit fees have not been revised.

"This is obviously unfair. I'm sure that those who have signed this agreement and accepted these terms will have to answer for their actions," Yushchenko said. . .

A Ukrainian presidential representative said on Saturday that Naftogaz could go bankrupt as a result of the deal on gas prices agreed with Moscow.

Oil prices fall despite OPEC project cancellations

Oil prices fell Monday as another round poor company earnings and job cuts tempered an OPEC announcement that the cartel would table dozens of planned production projects.

Light, sweet crude for March delivery fell 22 cents to $39.95 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil prices jumped earlier in the day to $42.43 as OPEC Secretary General Abdalla el-Badri's announced that the cartel would postpone 35 of 150 new oil and gas projects.

El-Badri said the group would likely fall short of its goal to raise production capacity by five million barrels per day by 2012, according to a research note by analyst Addison Armstrong. The OPEC secretary also said the cartel is close to completing its previously announced cut of 4.2 million barrels per day.

The Myth of Nuclear Waste

There's no such thing as nuclear waste! This nasty term was invented just to stop the development of civilian nuclear power.

The spent fuel from nuclear power plants is actually a precious resource: About 96% of it can be recycled into new nuclear fuel. No other fuel source can make this claim--wood, coal, oil, or gas. Once these fuels are burned, all that's left is some ash or airborne pollutant by-products, which nuclear energy does not produce.

Majors investing to avoid past mistakes

ConocoPhillips, the US’ third-largest oil company by market value said earlier this month it planned to slash its 2009 capital expenditure (capex) budget by 38 per cent. US No 4 Occidental Petroleum said, it was slashing capex by 25 per cent, while Russia’s fourth-largest oil producer, Gazprom Neft, said it could cut by 45 per cent. In contrast, US number 2, Chevron Corp said it was holding capex steady and the world’s second-largest non-government controlled oil company, Royal Dutch Shell said it would raise spending on projects by 5 per cent in 2009.

“The bulk of companies are pulling back capex,” said Robin Batchelor, manager of the World Energy Fund at fund manager Blackrock.

“The supermajors like Royal Dutch are in a different position. Some of them will be able to take advantage of the situation,” he added. “Supermajor” is the term applied to the five largest non-government controlled oil companies by market value. ExxonMobil Corp leads the club, followed by Shell, Chevron, Britain’s BP and France’s Total. . .

Most of today’s oil fields can turn a profit at $20/bbl crude and even the world’s most expensive oil, crude from Canada’s tar sands, can be extracted for around $40/bbl. However, developing new projects requires much higher prices.

Despite tentative pact, local strikes at oil firms still possible

Although the union representing oil workers has reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract, the potential for selective strikes throughout the industry is not over.

The 78 United Steelworkers union locals representing 30,000 oil workers in the production, refining, marketing, transportation, pipeline and petrochemical sectors of the oil industry have not yet ratified the proposed pact, leaving the door open for possible strikes at select refineries around the nation?and potentially putting another damper on the energy industry's need for oil country tubular goods (OCTG).

Updated: Crescent Oil files for bankruptcy

Crescent Oil Company Inc., a fuel supplier for six Midwest states, has filed for bankruptcy, citing volatile fuel prices and expenses tied to opening new convenience stores.

The Independence-based firm filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Kansas City, Kan., on Saturday. A spokesman for the company didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment today.

Gazprom Hit by Falling Demand

LONDON -- The global economic downturn is squeezing Russia's natural gas giant OAO Gazprom, as falling demand for energy forces it to scale back production and cut gas sales to Europe, depriving it of valuable export revenues.

In an interview, Alexander Medvedev, Gazprom's deputy chief executive, said the price its European customers pay for gas will fall by around a third this year, to $280 per thousand cubic meters, down from $409 per thousand cubic meters last year while exports to Europe will fall by 5% to 170 billion cubic meters.

Gazprom will have to reduce production to reflect falling demand, though he declined to say by how much. "We will not produce and sell more gas than the market demands," he said. "Our target is not to chase volumes."

US Senate urged to deny higher ethanol blending cap

A coalition of associations and organizations asked the US Senate on Feb. 6 not to approve a provision in the economic stimulus bill it is debating that would increase the current ethanol blending cap.

n addition to NPRA, the coalition included the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Lung Association, Engine Manufacturers Association, Friends of the Earth, International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, and Union of Concerned Scientists.

"Collectively, our organizations strongly believe that this issue should not be part of the economic stimulus package currently under consideration by the United State Senate," the letter continued. Before midlevel ethanol blends are allowed, testing by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy should be allowed to continue, and the results must indicate that higher ethanol blends in gasoline-powered engines do not pose a threat to air quality or consumers, it urged.

Alberta cries foul over duck disaster

The province of Alberta has filed charges against the Syncrude Canada joint venture after 500 ducks died after landing on a tailings pond at its oil sands operation in April.

The province alleges Syncrude failed to have appropriate deterrents in place to keep the ducks from landing on the toxic wastewater pond.

NCGA Calls Minnesota Ethanol Study Faulty

A recent study by the University of Minnesota that compares lifecycle emissions of gasoline, corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol is faulty because it does not use realistic, comparable data sets, according to the National Corn Growers Association. The report prematurely praises cellulosic ethanol as the best fuel alternative when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas and particulate-matter emissions despite the fact that it is years from production and use--while corn ethanol is available and being used today.

Cellulosic ethanol plant in Grand Junction on hold

Vancouver, British Columbia-based Lignol (TSX-V: LEC) and Suncor (NYSE: SU), based in Calgary, Alberta, said that the companies “have determined it prudent not to enter into a joint venture” to build the plant “given the instability of energy prices, the uncertainty in the capital markets and the general market malaise.”

Lignol and Suncor announced the partnership in October 2008 to build an $80 million cellulosic ethanol plant in Grand Junction. The plant had been announced earlier in the year in conjunction with a $30 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Risk and the Rebuilding of Confidence: Energy Strategies for a Turbulent Economy

CERAWeek 2009, our 28th annual event, will be a unique opportunity to grapple with the new global energy future in this time of financial and economic turbulence. Abrupt changes in markets, prices, and demand are creating urgent challenges across all the energy industries, while technology and new policies are raising fresh uncertainties for 2009 and far beyond. The Executive Conference and related events will provide unique insight into the choices faced by decision-makers across all sectors. Nearly 2000 CERAWeek delegates will hear from more than 150 leading industry executives, policy makers, the CERA team, and experts from across IHS. To provide understanding of the current economic crisis and its impact on energy and investment, we are holding a Special Economic Forum on Thursday evening. We look forward to seeing you this coming February in Houston.

Load Shedding Grips Bangladesh

Power outages turned severe Sunday evening following further drop in generation as the 70MW Baghabari power plant was closed because of ‘gas shortage’.

The load shedding reached almost 1000MW at 7:00pm on Sunday as the Power Development Boards generation came down to 3178MW against the official demand of around 4150MW.

China starts construction of world’s longest natural gas pipeline

SHENZHEN (Xinhua) -- China started construction of the eastern segment of the country’s second West-East natural gas pipeline in Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province on Saturday.

The pipeline, the second after the first West-East natural gas transfer project, will cross 15 regions and carry 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas every year to Zhejiang, Shanghai, Guangdong and Hong Kong, among others.

Russia, India to Sign Nuclear Fuel Deal

Russia will become the first supplier of nuclear fuel to India since a club of uranium producers lifted a three-decade ban on sales to the south Asian country.

A unit of state nuclear corporation Rosatom will sign a contract with Indian atomic energy monopoly Nuclear Power Corporation on Wednesday in Mumbai to deliver 2,000 tons of uranium pellets, both companies said. . .

The 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, founded after India detonated a nuclear device in 1974, ended its boycott of the country in September.

Excess supply weighs on natural gas markets

Changed outlook. However, the outlook for gas has changed, at least in the short term:

Europe. Economic slowdown is reducing both industrial demand for gas and demand for power more broadly. . .

Asia. In Asia, industrial demand is also falling. Demand for LNG in North-east Asia until recently has been supported by the combination of high oil prices and a lack of operating nuclear plant in Japan. . .

United States. In the United States, the gas market is experiencing strong supply growth on the one hand, owing to the success of onshore production from gas shale, and declining demand on the other, because of economic slowdown. . .

CONCLUSION: While falling industrial demand for gas will cause prices to fall, those lower prices will also consolidate natural gas's position as the hydrocarbon fuel of choice. Lower prices will also spur the development of LNG regasification capacity on security of supply grounds.

Oil's Happy Hedges

Along with debt coming due, analysts are watching hedge positions closely among small- and mid-cap E&Ps. At continued price levels, many of them face heightened pressure from lenders. In some cases, firms will likely be forced to sell distressed assets on the market to clean up their balance sheets. Major oil companies, typically flush with cash compared with the small fry, don't hedge much; they are stout enough to withstand price volatility and then reap the upside.

Poverty of Imagination (Kunstler)

So far -- after two weeks in office -- the Obama team seems bent on a campaign to sustain the unsustainable at all costs, to attempt to do all the impossible things listed above. Mr. Obama is not the only one, of course, who is invoking the quest for renewed "growth." This is a tragic error in collective thinking. What we really face is a comprehensive contraction in our activities, especially the scale of our activities, and the pressing need to readjust the systems of everyday life to a level of decreased complexity.

For instance, the myth that we can become "energy independent and yet remain car-dependent is absurd. In terms of liquid fuels, we're simply trapped. We import two-thirds of the oil we use and there is absolutely no chance that drill-drill-drilling (or any other scheme) will change that. The public and our leaders can not face the reality of this. The great wish for "alternative" liquid fuels (bio fuels, algae excreta) will never be anything more than a wish at the scales required, and the parallel wish to keep all our cars running by other means -- hydrogen fuel cells, electric motors -- is equally idle and foolish. We cannot face the mandate of reality, which is to do everything possible to make our living places walkable, and connect them with public transit. The stimulus bills in congress clearly illustrate our failure to understand the situation.

Why Peak Oil Prices May Rocket Higher

Will there be enough oil supply when oil demand recovers? Probably not at the current price. So it will rise maybe back to $100 a barrel very fast. The plunge in oil prices since last summer, the credit crunch since last fall, and weakening profits over the past six months are all depressing capital spending in the energy industry. When demand and prices rebound, energy producers are unlikely to ramp up their capital spending, especially on alternative sources of energy. Many of them must certainly regret the money they poured into the Canadian tar sands, into ethanol refineries, and other similar investments.

Montreal eyes ban on wood-burning stoves, fireplaces

City's proposed bylaw intended to help reduce air pollution in winter

The target is bad air. Montreal has had a record 25 smog alerts already this winter, and officials are worried because the season is far from over. Last winter there were 16.

Pollution caused by wood-burning appliances is an environmental menace fairly particular to Quebec. In the winter, 47 per cent of the air pollution is attributed to stoves and fireplaces, far more than either industry sources or cars and trucks.

Using a wood stove for only nine hours, or a high-efficiency stove for 2 1/2 days, produces as much fine-particle pollution as does a car in a year, according to a study by Environment Canada.

Europe leads effort to push for design of "green" drugs

European Union requires environmental review of new drugs. Sweden leads the way, creating database so doctors can check whether medications are "green" before prescribing them. . .

Some studies have shown that drugs such as the antidepressant Prozac and birth control pills that contaminate wastewater can harm fish, amphibians and other aquatic life. Traces of drugs also have been found in some drinking water supplies, too, although the potential effects on people are unknown.

Trashing the Fridge

After mulling the idea over for several weeks, she and her husband, Scott Young, did something many would find unthinkable: they unplugged their refrigerator. For good. . .

Ms. Muston now uses a small freezer in the basement in tandem with a cooler upstairs; the cooler is kept cold by two-liter soda bottles full of frozen water, which are rotated to the freezer when they melt.

In Bolivia, Untapped Bounty Meets Nationalism (Lithium)

In the rush to build the next generation of hybrid or electric cars, a sobering fact confronts both automakers and governments seeking to lower their reliance on foreign oil: almost half of the world’s lithium, the mineral needed to power the vehicles, is found here in Bolivia — a country that may not be willing to surrender it so easily.

Japanese and European companies are busily trying to strike deals to tap the resource, but a nationalist sentiment about the lithium is building quickly in the government of President Evo Morales, an ardent critic of the United States who has already nationalized Bolivia’s oil and natural gas industries.

... “We know that Bolivia can become the Saudi Arabia of lithium,” said Francisco Quisbert, 64, the leader of Frutcas, a group of salt gatherers and quinoa farmers on the edge of Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. “We are poor, but we are not stupid peasants. The lithium may be Bolivia’s, but it is also our property.”

Peak Lithium: Will Supply Fears Drive Alternative Batteries?

“Peak lithium” is back in focus, as the New York Times looks at Bolivia’s quest to cash in on the world’s biggest reserves of lithium, a key component in batteries. Simply put, global automakers and battery makers need to ensure a steady supply of lithium to power the expected electric-car revolution, but Bolivia’s populist government and its embrace of resource nationalism raises a lot of concerns about access to the country’s mineral wealth. TIME recently did a big takeout on Bolvia’s lithium, too.

Concerns about global supplies of lithium are a lot like the debate over peak oil. Some experts believe the huge increase in electric cars will actually strain the world’s lithium supplies in a few years; as with peak oil, “above-ground” factors like Bolivia’s politics may be just as critical as geology. Other experts figure lithium supplies are ample and exploding demand will just juice more lithium exploration, as happened with oil.

Either way, though, as hybrid and electric vehicles take a bigger share of the market, that threatens to push up lithium prices. That would make batteries, the costliest part of electric cars, even pricier, further threatening the economics of the electric-car revolution. (Ford on Tuesday announced its lithium-ion battery supplier.) A recent report by Lux Research called lithium availability the “ultimate limit” on electric cars’ future.

The information society and its limits (Kurt Cobb)

Environmental education giant David Orr likes to say that what we lack is "slow" knowledge. It is easy to learn how to take down a whole forest with a chainsaw. That's fast knowledge. But as I wrote in a previous post:

Teaching people the importance of trees in creating and protecting the soil, encouraging biodiversity, preventing runoff, storing carbon and influencing climate is a task that requires time, concentration and reflection. It assumes a body of knowledge about the natural world that most people simply don't have and therefore must acquire. And, it assumes an eye trained to look for subtleties in the natural landscape. Moreover, such learning does not yield the immediate and visible economic benefits of the chainsaw.

But even if we take the time to acquire the slow knowledge we need, we cannot solve the knowledge problem with more information. The world is too complex to comprehend by merely apprehending its parts. And, no human being can see all of the universe or even his or her part of it well enough to give anything but a very fragmentary account. We will always have huge areas of ignorance, particularly about the long-term consequences of the actions we take to reshape the ecosphere to our purposes.

New Grid for Renewable Energy Could Be Costly

The projected cost of the system is only one hurdle. Getting the high-voltage power lines build across the country would require the assent of local authorities and landowners, and might require federal intervention. "For that 15,000 miles of lines, I promise about 15,000 lawsuits," said Mr. Moeller.

The report is generating controversy because there is no guarantee that expensive power lines, if built, would be used primarily to move renewable energy. They could just as easily carry energy from coal-fired power plants in the Midwest or Great Plains.

New York and New England grid operators provided information for the report but say there might be ways to build resources in their regions more economically than hauling power from the Great Plains. "This study doesn't look enough at alternatives to huge transmission additions," said Stephen Whitley, chief executive of the New York Independent System Operator.

Utilities are proposing to build some new transmission lines already, but nothing on the scale of what the report says would be needed.

The WSJ has a whole section on Energy. Included in it are the following:

How to Go Green in Hard Times

We've chosen 10 changes and laid out how much they'll cost you and how much they'll save, as well as the payback time. In most cases, it's less than a year or two.

High-Tech Thermostats
Smarter Water Heating
Sealing Air Leaks
Low-Flow Fixtures
Leasing Solar Panels
Air Filters
Compact Fluorescent Lights
Lighting Motion Sensors
Window Treatments
Attic Insulation

The More You Know...

A groundbreaking 'smart grid' test in Boulder, Colo., is delivering some surprises for both consumers and utilities

Silicon Substitute

Solar panels that are cheaper to make than the silicon versions that dominate the market today could play a key role in shrinking what many people consider to be solar power's dark side: its high cost.

Energy Consumption by the Numbers

What country consumes the most oil per person? (Surprise: it isn’t the U.S.) Which one produces the most electricity from nuclear power? (No, it isn’t France.) Here’s a snapshot of how energy consumption patterns differ around the world.

Catching Some Rays

Condos and apartment buildings have proved resistant to solar power. That's starting to change.

Bad Call

Forecasts can swing abruptly when it comes to figuring out where natural gas is needed and how much. Expectations of future supply can change quickly, too. As this market grows and adjusts, once-lauded business plans can quickly be swept aside.

Less Demand, Same Great Revenue

With decoupling, utilities can promote efficiency and not fear losing money

Bottoms Up

Refiners are making progress in their efforts to more profitably scrape the bottom of the barrel.

A Gamble in Qatar

Royal Dutch Shell is making a huge -- and risky -- bet on technology that transforms natural gas to diesel fuel

Golden Ticket

Political changes in Australia are likely to lead to big increases in uranium production

Power Plays

The latest on alternative-energy deals, including a more nuanced view on coal power and spurring growth in the "green building" market.

UAE oil minister says oil price too low

LONDON (Reuters) - Crude oil prices at current levels around $40 a barrel are too low to attract enough investment in new supplies, the oil minister for the United Arab Emirates said on Monday.

full story:

Not that all of those energy saving efforts aren't worthwhile but that's more or less the same list we've seen running for most of the last 20+ years. Most should recover their initial capital costs is an acceptable amount of time even during a low pricing period we're seeing now. But even during high pricing periods such adjustments were relatively slow. Short of gov't mandates (yes... libertarian soul cringing as I type) I see no reason to expect a sudden DNA evolution of the general population. Just BAU + increasingly worse economic times = "I ain't buying no freaking new expensive light bulbs!"


I find your repeated claims to libertarianism to be somewhat perplexing. The other day you said that “I’m about as libertarian as it gets” and then proceeded to follow that comment up with this one:

...after hearing the thoughts of many smart folks here it seems that much (or all) of the current economic problems can be traced to the efforts of congress: grow the economy by ramping the housing industry by changing the regs to allow the sub prime market to expand. (emphasis mine)

But when we “changed the regs,” were we not following the libertarian prescript? After all, what is the libertarian creedo if it is not this: “It is only required to eliminate the foolish restraints and controls which former generations have sought to place” upon us? (Niebuhr) And is that not exactly what we did? Did we not remove all, or practically all, restraints and controls on the finance industry?

Another part I find confusing is this:

But it was a high risk ploy and we got called on it. We all allowed this to happen either by ignorance, not paying attention, honest but misguided compassion or by just plain greed. Thus we are responsible to cover the bet IMO.

To begin with, there seems to be a conflation here between crimes of commission and crimes of omission.

Second, it asks us to believe that a person buying a house and taking out a mortgage has, or should have, as much knowledge, training and information regarding finance as a bank president and/or his staff.

And third it ignores the fact that there are 116 million households in the U.S., and even if the most pessimistic projections come true, and housing prices drop another 40%, there will eventually only be about 12 million foreclosures. Granted, many more households will end up being upside down on their mortgage. But many will continue to “do the right thing” and pay their mortgage, even though it might not be in “their best interest” to do so. So 10% of households, plus a handful finance industry people, does not constitute “all of us.”

The other thing I find very puzzling is this:

Unfortunately many of us make poor choices and suffer the consequences. Having our leaders screw up doesn’t help but we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for our own lack of effort. With all that is wrong with the world at the moment I still see that my biggest current concerns are the result of my own poor choices in the past.

In an increasingly complex and complicated world we rely more and more upon experts to make decisions for us. If the experts we rely on are negligent, or criminal, in their duties, are we then to cast blame upon ourselves?

Furthermore, when you write that “I still see that my biggest current concerns are the result of my own poor choices in the past,” that indicates that you have a conscience. It indicates that you have engaged the issues, considered them from all sides, understood the choices they led to, and accepted the full consequences of the choices you made. How do you square that with the libertarian paradigm, with its P-utility maximization viewpoint, and its emphasis on pleasure, self-gratification, self-interest and greed? Or, as Etzioni puts it, “to the notion that people act morally only as long as it makes sense in economic terms: ‘Economic theory...tends to suggest that people are honest only to the extent that they have economic incentives for being so.’ “(Johansen cited by Sen, 1977)? After all, have you not noticed that some of the greatest champions of the libertarian credo, who only a couple of years ago were worshiping at the altar of free market fundamentalism, are now calling for mark to market to be done away with?

From the ideals you espouse in your comments, I don’t see you fitting the definition of a modern-day libertarian at all. Perhaps the libertarians of old—Smith, Richardo, Mills, etc. But this modern bunch? No way.

Sorry DS...short on time at the moment but I can answer your first question: the change in regs had the gov't require mortgage companies, under threat of fines, to lend home mortgages to folks that would not have qualified under normal conditions. Of course, many lenders didn't scream too loud since the feds set up Fannie and Freddie to cover much of the risk. And then the feds allowed derivatives to be invented which allowed this ill thought risk to be magnified many times. It was the gov't that could have prevented the ultra leverage of derivatives. It was the responsibility of the SEC to set guidelines. As you point out I'm not a purist: there is a need for some gov't oversight.

As far as I'm concerned the direct gov’t intervention into the home mortgage business was the absolute opposite from libertarianism. The gov't coerced (by both carrot and stick) all the lenders to set up this straw house. And IMHO, this is THE root cause of our current financial crisis.

I'll catch your other questions later...sorry again for the delay. Just had a project turn into '"the well from hell".

BINGO !!!!!
If my coupon is not wrong , that (UAE) oil minister was the last OPEC minister coughing this message during this last 30 days. Where can I pick up my monies ?

Ever notice how so many of these "how to be green" guides are lists of things you have to buy?

I'm just saying...

Sealing airleaks costs little money for supplies but takes a huge amount of hard, piggy work (as I contemplate moving blown attic insulation to seal the large leaks in the attic floor that should have been sealed before the insulation was blown in but weren't....). Many older houses have alot of leak sealing that can be done. This costs work and time, but little money.

also keep in mind that the leaks are what keep the old houses from molding up from water vapor helping fungus grow.

Snarky as usual. Nice way to harp on people doing some due-diligence in insulating and sealing up.

One, there is often plenty of mold in older houses, and plenty of uncontrolled damp areas and condensation that soaks and rots window sills, wet insulation, roof-dams, dank, stinky basements.

Two, the Sealing up that PaleoBotanist refers to is the appropriate measure to help prevent water vapor from blowing out of voids into your insulation, where it condenses and freezes, defeating the insulating effect as well. There are ways of doing it right.

It's worth being aware of the issue and unintended consequences from improper insulation, but your reply didn't offer that, it was similar to the Jeavons Paradox response to efficiency proposals, which basically says 'you'll never get anywhere, and anything you try will be countered by this or that..'

Hmm. I wonder if there is a way we could, say, PAY people who need work to weatherize homes...?

Nah, that's crazy. Where's my tax break?

I've been saying we need a new Civilian Conservation Corps, trained to do just that. That 15% (and soon to be 25%, according to Sunday's TAE) unemployed are going to need some way to bring in some money.

Not only to bring in money, but to repair the environment as they do so. The two must go together.

Could it be that you haven't already bought those things which will change your "green footprint"? Most people have already bought those gas guzzler cars and houses, which can not easily be made more efficient. That means that they will need to buy something else to cut their energy use, be it a new car or more insulation and efficient appliances, etc. Are you ready to junk your portion of the "non-negotiable American Lifestyle"?

E. Swanson

You can insulate, improve or shut off portions of your big house.. or divide and rent, or take in some more family members..

You can carpool with the big gas Hog, and you can find ways to use it less.

There's a lot that can be done without huge 'family infrastructure' purchases.

That's exactly the issue I have with many of these types of articles. There are lots of things people can do that will reduce their energy consumption, the carbon footprint, their fossil fuel use - whatever measure you want to use - that DO NOT require purchasing infrastructure or "upgrading" technology. Indeed, for the vast majority of us, simple dietary changes would have the biggest impact.

Instead all we get from the mainstream media is the continuation of the worship of growth, shopping as our religion and proselytization of consumerism as the road to salvation.

I agree that there are lots of little changes one can make with little expenditure. But, insulation isn't free and the time it takes to install it and plug air leaks must be considered as well. If one has a job, adding insulation might be done by an outside company, so one pays for labor as well as the insulation. To me, adding insulation is a form of "upgrading". And, making a house very air tight would likely lead to the installation of a heat recovery vent system, which is another expense.

The next step is likely to be better windows, which requires much more bucks. Replacing an older furnace or junking an SUV before it's time also requires spending money sooner than usual. When time comes to upgrade, the choice of a higher efficiency unit is likely to cost more than a regular model.

There's no easy, cheap way, IMHO. And, yes, I've read "Diet for a Small Planet"...

E. Swanson

A sweater is a lot cheaper then insulation. And if you learn to knit one yourself, you've gained even more than a little warmth.

Unfortunately, in the U.S., the second you mention the word "sweater" in the same paragraph as anything related to energy policy, you automatically get tagged as a Jimmy Carter apologist. Here, it's practically a neo-con codeword for "malaise" and "surrendering our God-given Way of Life". Might as well also start asking Americans to eat less and exercise. Or turn off right-wing talk radio and start thinking for themselves. Good luck with that.

making a house very air tight would likely lead to the installation of a heat recovery vent system

Plugging air leaks is fairly easy; finding the big sources of infiltration can make a significant difference in heating bills. All it takes is walking around with a candle on a windy day, passing it over areas that are the likely culprits, looking for a shift in the candle flame that would signify a draft.

Most houses are so leaky that stoppering the major leaks still leaves enough air changes per hour, not enough to warrant an HRV.

It's not hard to blow cellulose insulation in attics; all you do is rent the unit and built the cellulose.

Get real. The other day I posted about friends who I helped reduce their combined electric/gas bill from ~$300/mo to ~$150/mo at a cost of $650. He did it himself.

I have to say that your strawman argument)s) really pisses me off. People need to take these actions and throwing up a lot of crap is wrong.


I've done several houses myself, including blowing cellulose into the walls of my parents' 1940 house, which had none to begin with. Sure, there are still some folks who have below code insulation. Great, they can add more. But, it still costs money to buy the insulation and someone has to do the work, the more so if one isn't handy with tools.

Worse, if the job isn't done properly (as often happens when a novice is doing the work), the result can be a mess. For example, how many folks go to the effort to provide a proper vapor barrier for the insulation? I've seen insulation put in by stapling to the sides of the stud, not the face. That leaves a small air space between the inner wall (usually sheet rock) and the paper (or foil) vapor barrier. If the top and bottom are poorly sealed, a thermosyphon loop can form between the inner cavity and the outside wall, which will bypass the insulation. Worse, it can move moisture past the vapor barrier into the insulation, leading to rot in the wall. In a super insulated wall, the placement of the vapor barrier is usually MIDWAY THRU the insulation, thus preventing moisture migration from either side into the insulation, especially in warmer climates when the structure is air conditioned in summer. How many people understand those aspects of the problem? Did you?

E. Swanson

How many people understand those aspects of the problem? Did you?

Presumably this smart-assed response is directed at me. As a matter of fact, I do understand this stuff since I used to design and build houses. These included standard construction and passive solar houses.

I am forcing myself not to get into a major ad hom. Get the chip off your shoulder.


If anyone has a chip on their shoulder, it really seems to be you.

You seem extremely ready to take offense.

Perhaps he wasn't referring to experienced builders, which most people are not.

[edited to add: This place is getting really prickly again - things are getting on people's nerves, and I feel like there are a lot of hair-triggered responses coming down. In fact, I'm noticing this everywhere, both in the virtual and actual worlds. Peak civility? ]

I'm getting this too. I've been deleting a lot of my own posts before I send them, and still have sent some I shouldn't. Good to remember we're all here because we are at least somewhat on the same page, while our solutions differ.

'This isn't the People Front of Judea! The PFJ, are you joking?!! This is the Judean Peoples Front!'

I've been deleting a lot of my own posts before I send them, and still have sent some I shouldn't.

Me too, and me too.

We all need to take a deep breath now and then, I guess.

I have deleted a ton of mine in the past.

However there is a psychological aspect to those of us termed 'doomers'. Especially the doomers that post here and are given short shrift by the intelligencia thats on the order of SlashDot googlemeisters.

You have to give Todd some slack. He has posted reasonable comments in the past but I suspect that like me he has seen many many years of bad information and has little respect for such.

If someone wishes to counter with technical then it should be on the 'front end' and not as a rejoinder. Easy to reply with google at your elbow and quote reams of quite useless data.

When one speaks from experience and the responders lack such then a shouting match can erupt. For those who know of Todd's background his comments need to be understood in light of what he has accomplished and his past ventures.

We all get angry. The pyschology I speak of works this way.

You give up a lot of hope for the future and hope is what we used to have a lot of in this country. When you give up that handle on HOPE you tend to have to replace it with something else. For me and others I believe that is replaced with a lot of hard work doing SUSTAINABLE objectives.

Niggering quibbles about how many politicians can dance on the head of a pin recedes far far away into the horizon. For those with hope and perhaps hope in the political process..well it rings badly in the ears of doomerish folken. Infuriates them perhaps.

A lot of DB is about that very thing. I go for the facts and what is occurring in the big picture. The day to day debates are getting to be in the area of meaningless, at least for me.

I had high hopes for the advent of the new Campfire domain. So far wiht the exception of a few very good key essays , like Jason and a few others, its been disappointing to me. Hopefully it will morph into more of a 'what can we do if the inevitable occurs' rather than more discsussion on the pros and cons of other subjects that will not be usable when 'the inevitable' starts painting the sky black and we all lose the last dregs of 'hope'.

Its all fleeing rather rapidly at this time. I care less about a Stimulus Package and DC junk. I have seen FEMA and its about worthless.

We are surviving the worst diaster EVER to hit this part of the country and all N. Guard can do is go around pulling meters? Sheeshh. They are gone now I think for I see them no more.

What I do see is many volunteers from way off. Church groups mostly and I might add that churches get a bad mouthing here on TOD. Very bad yet these folks are here on their own 'dime' and asking nothing in return. I am amazed at the response of ordinary folks.

For the gov? I am underwhelmed. Immensely.

Take what I say as someone living right in the middle of it.
Washing you underwear in a pan and having to haul water a couple miles in a jug to do so teaches one very very fast how bad it can get and how to live with it.

I am talking 2 WEEKS into this diaster. 2 weeks. No power for a some weeks yet. No running water. Stores gouging us. The list goes on and on.

The gov will do very little and if they do it will be too late. Basically they just throw money out. And normal folks see NONE of it.

Its enough to make one weep. I don't know the death toll as yet.

People? This is just 'weather'. Not out of oil. Not out of money. Just nature showing us who is in control.

Airdale-give a few diehard survivors a break especially if they are almost living it daily or experienced it uThey live without that hope that cornucopians have. If they do have hope its mostly in their own skills and hard work. Not in some global far off Disneyland East.

Been there, done that for months and even years for many in New Orleans.

Living for a year or so in a tent inside their gutted home with only running water and sewage. No heat or a/c, power, telephone. Or in a trailer designed by the gov't to be uncomfortable (FEMA spent a few million to make them easier to get people out of them) and poisoning them with formaldehyde (FEMA lawyers ordered field personnel not to test despite MANY medical problems.. Finally Sen. Landrieu got CDC to investigate the proven epidemic & deaths and find the cause).

It is true about the church volunteers.

Best Hopes Anyway,

I picked that salutation AFTER Katrina,


I'm but a lowly college student, but every time I go home for break I give myself a goal of something eco friendly to do. In just over a year, I've sealed up a solid number of air leaks, insulated the pipes in my boiler room, replaced all (non-dimming) bulbs with CFLs, put in "extra heat" (redirects dryer heat into the house), started line drying clothes in the summer, and my biggest accomplishment would have to be convincing my parents to replace our 50+ year old oil boiler and ~15 year old water heater with a new one (of which I did all the research and dealt with contractors). It was also the most efficent combination I could get, with a triple pass boiler and indirect hot water tank.

If (or more likely when) oil hits $5 per gallon I'm going to try to get my parents to hopefully get a blower test done and get some serious insulation action going on. Also got my friends' parents interested in solar hot water (just as one option, there may be a better option for them), although I'm going to wait and see what the natural gas market does before doing the final follow through on that front.

Also, I've noticed that the more you do stuff like this, the more others pick up on some of your habits, and often find them better than what they were doing. My sister found she loves biking to work (in the summer, of course), my mom and sister now use reuseable bags and water bottles, and my dad has discovered taking the bus to the beach. \

Fighting back as best I can

Sounds like you're doing a bang up job, Dan.

A minor point considering what you've done - but are you keeping track of the moisture you're introducing via the dryer heat ? Not knowing your geographic, it may or may not be important.

Keep up the good work !

The dryer heat is very moist, but I'm on long island and in the winter it can be pretty dry, but it's very important to keep the basement door open, or else it becomes a sauna. On a positive note, it does make your house smell like clean laundry, which is pretty sweet.

Hi Dan,

Thanks for talking about your practical efforts.

I'm working (along w. a few college students) on a project you might be interested in. If you have a chance, could you possibly email me? (info in user profile).

I busted my ass to get our home's air leakage down to a still quite miserable 4.77 ACH @ 50 Pascals. Relative humidity during the winter months normally runs between 30 and 40 per cent and double that come summer if I don't keep the windows and doors shut and the dehumidifer running. Although I did install a HRV as a precaution, it operates in recirc mode 99 per cent of the time.


I think the biggest green impacts relate to 'less' - less travel, fewer calories and BTU's, forgoing children. The current direction of the economy is taking care of a lot of this in any case.

The government never misses an opportunity to convince us to go shopping. Their role in society has morphed from one of promoting the public good to one of managing and growing the economy. All other considerations are merely fodder for ad campaigns and sales promotions. We're no longer citizens - we're consumers.

Unfortunately, this has thus far restricted society's response to the environmental crisis to the intellectually bankrupt idea that we can *shop* our way out of the problem. I hate to paraphrase Reagan, but...

"Shopping isn't the solution to our problems, shopping IS the problem."

The government?

I don't think this is one you can hang on the government. Nearly every aspect of "American" society conspires to reinforce this message - your personal worth as an individual is wrapped up in what you have bought / can buy / want to buy.

"Enough is never enough when the going gets tough
Too many things coming up for one dope to handle
Just foot in mouth lean on crutch
Wish I was with the Ancient Egyptians
With how many thousand Gods
Someone to turn to someone to pray to
Someone to listen to the silence of my tears
Enough is never enough when the going gets tough
A diet of instant time inspiration
Just foot in mouth lean on crutch
Firing blanks at critical moments
When the going gets tough
The tough goes shopping
To buy something a little nothing
To fill up the hole in his heart
To buy something a little nothing
To fill up the hole in his heart"

Tuxedomoon - "Egypt"

hehe true enough. We do maintain at least a semblance of democracy, so in theory an intelligent and informed populace would be able to elect people who are capable of being more than simply shills for the business community. Said populace should also be able to comprehend and follow through on the need for self-sacrifice for the common good. I see no more evidence of this sort of populace than you do unfortunately!

What was it Sartre said? "We all get the environmental collapse we deserve"? Naw I'm paraphrasing again. :-)

I was mainly centering in on the original poster's reference to "how to be green" guides, which government/business is putting out these days. They invariably involve going out and spending a bunch of money, because government/business doesn't really care whether or not you're green - just that you go out and spend that bunch of money.

Bottoms Up, "...Jeff Morris, the chief executive, sees this as a way for Americans to keep their car-centric lifestyle without ignoring the environment. "Americans can have their cake and eat it, too," he says..."

Just when I was thinking there might be some change with a new pres talking about the environment and energy along comes Jeff Morris saying people can have their cake and eat it:-(

It really is quite simple, we cannot continue to use up finite resources in ways that pollute without any regard to the future of humanity.

"It really is quite simple, we cannot continue to use up finite resources in ways that pollute without any regard to the future of humanity."

tonyw - If you are speaking from an ethical viewpoint you are absolutely correct. But from a realistic perspective we can continue using finite resources.

Here is the truth: In a little while I'm going to have dinner...I'll probably have a glass of wine as well and watch the news on TV. If it gets too cold I'll turn on the heat and later I'll burn a fluorescent bulb as I read the last chapters of my novel before I turn in.

Tomorrow I'll drive my car to work on a crowded freeway with 4 lanes in each direction. I'll get to work and perform my little "job", I'll call my wife at lunch and then we'll have dinner at 6. Occasionally I'll notice the sea of humanity doing the same thing and I'll flinch when I think about the terrible fate of my children and grandchildren but I'm not going to stop until they cut off my power and turn off the gas pumps or I expire.

On the plus side I ride my bike on the weekends and for short trips, (I put a basket on last year)I recycle religiously, I don't eat fish or meat and I work with local ecology groups performing habitat restoration projects. But I do those things for me. The idea that any of my puny efforts might halt AGW or Peak Oil is a fiction.

Let's face it: the world is overpopulated and until Malthusian limits reduce our numbers to a sustainable population (less than 1 billion would be an educated guess)we will continue to "use finite resources". We're human and that's our nature.


Then there's this interesting little factoid that the Malthusian limit is not a fixed number. It decreases as we degrade the environment of spaceship earth. That's where you start getting into catabolic collapse...

Cornucopians would, of course, agree but take the opposite view: the number isn't fixed, it can be indefinitely expanded. 7 billion? Heck, why not 70 billion... or 700 billion? All you have to do is let those wonderful "free" markets unfettered by pesky gov't bureacrats and those "innovation" killing environmental regulations do their thing, and we could fill the earth's surface (and presumably its oceans as well) cheek-to-cheek with a living "skin" of unbroken human flesh and human technology. And everyone enjoying a standard of living that would make today's rich look like paupers. Think Trantor or Coruscant.

If you don't think there are large numbers of your colleagues, neighbors or casual acquaintences out there who truly believe such an alternate future to be plausible, think again. The Kool-Aid is strong and runs deep in America.

A lot of stuff I can agree with.


On Kurt Cobb's Information Society article:

I'm not even sure that a lot of information that we have is even correct.

Not only do I keep hearing stories from many sources that a lot of papers are just copies of someone else's research (and depending who the original author is, it may be wise not to disagree), but I'm not even sure that the original research is even valid. I'm not going to start on that; but this weekend I went to see a guy I know (has three degrees) because he was going to prove to me that Hubbert's theory was wrong. I was really curious. Well, he starts off by telling me that just because Deffeyes is an Ivy League professor it doesn't mean that he knows everything.

Okay, I say, lets look at the numbers.

To make a long story short, we never get to the numbers. All I heard for 1 & 1/2 hours is how there is nothing super-human about Deffeyes nor any other Ivy League Professor.

Denial is not a disease.... Denial can be a symptom of many mental diseases. All of which seem to be in epidemic numbers today.


Your description of your time with the anti-Deffeyes guy is a lot like some experiences I've had. Is one of those degrees that your three-degreed friend has in science? Is one in geology? Petroleum geology? Has he read any of Deffeyes's publications? Does he have info about Cantarell, Ghawar, or other fields in decline that counters what is known by the rest of us who are working in many and various ways to help wring as much of the OOIP out of those fields as possible?

Sounds like another person who's just too lazy to read, reflect, read some more, think about it some more, and then think about his own belief system.

Like at least a few other TODers, I'm coming to the conclusion that until more people take the time to learn the basics - forget learning the details - of the physical and earth sciences, it will only get worse before it gets worse. Not every important fact or facts can be explained completely in 20 seconds, in sound-bite format a la Rush Limbaugh. Unfortunately, your acquaintance with the three degrees is probably more typical than atypical.

Deffeyes (and Hubbert) have only one thing to base their thesis on.

Unfortunately, that one thing is unassailable: the fundamental theorem of integral calculus.

To disprove them, your friend has to take his quarrel up with Liebnitz and Newton. If he thinks he can, then his education was a waste.

He could attack Deffeyes's and Hubbert's estimates of the date of the peak. But that is a waste of effort. If Deffeyes is wrong, all we get is a postponed reckoning.

I've not slogged through these public records but it strikes me that they are bound to mention energy. So people with more time on their hands than I have can go a-digging.


Wikileaks has released nearly a billion dollars worth of quasi-secret reports commissioned by the United States Congress.

The 6,780 reports, current as of this month, comprise over 127,000 pages of material on some of the most contentious issues in the nation, from the U.S. relationship with Israel to the financial collapse. Nearly 2,300 of the reports were updated in the last 12 months, while the oldest report goes back to 1990. The release represents the total output of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) electronically available to Congressional offices. The CRS is Congress’s analytical agency and has a budget in excess of $100M per year.

http://sunshinepress.org/wiki/Congressional_Research_Service is supposed to have the torrents

they do, and i recommend anyone who can here also download it. It would be a very good idea so that so many copies can be spread around that if the government decides to stop it they won't be able to.

For anybody who wants to know the real truth about lithium supplies, I recommend you go to:

Lithium in Abundance:


Like the upcomming P shortage, the sea *BY VOLUME* contains much in the universal solvent of water. Here's a number for gold:


but the sea water of the Earth's oceans contain about 25 billion ounces of gold

There is 'plenty' of 'whatever matter' - but the energy needing to be invested to harvest and gather that material then process it leads to only some places being where Man is going to go. Unless there is some kind of magical high powered, low risk energy source that man has not found, processing 'low grades' won't happen.

Keeping and recycling P is the brick wall that is a-comming.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

Doesn't burning of biomass also dump P into the atmosphere as phosphate? What happens to farming as ever more "waste" containing P is removed and used as biomass energy, thus reducing the amount usually recycled back into the ground? Could that P be recovered from the flue gases, while capturing the other emissions, such as sulfate?

E. Swanson

When P-containing wastes are burned, the P remains in the ash. In the P cycle, there is no atmospheric component, which is unlike the N, C, and S cycles. Trace amounts of P probably get airborne for some distances in particulates going up and out the stack, but not much more than that.

Black_Dog -

While almost all of the nitrogen content of biomass becomes volatilized in the form of various types of nitrogen oxides, most of the phosphorus content remains with the ash in the form of various phosphates. However, a certain fraction of this ash goes up the stack as fly ash, while the remainder stays as 'bottom ash'. Unless the fly ash is collected, such as in an electrostatic precipitator or a wet scrubber, its phosphorus content will be lost to the atmosphere (but eventually dispersed over a given area after it settles out).

Wood ash is not only a source of alkali (as the result of various mineral oxides formed during combustion), but it is also a source of phosphorus, albeit a relatively weak one. You can't use too much of the stuff, as it will tend to make the soil excessively alkaline.

As far as trying to separate phosphorus from fly ash or SO2 scrubber sludge, I very much doubt that doing so is economically worth the effort.

Joule and Petrographer,

Thanks guys for setting me straight. Your replies seem to be saying that the P is not really "lost" by burning, just difficult to recover...

E. Swanson

just difficult to recover

The 'loss' that is harder to recover is not burning but getting the P back outta urine. If there was not sodium in the urine, then one could take the nitrogen rich pee and add it back to the land.

To get the P outta pee, a website called caveman chemistry talks about using lead for the vessel, heat for making the P a gas, and sand to bind the Na. A whole lotta work to close the loop.

Right now, P gets mined, processed then added to soil. Excess application washes it to the watershed (Sea) and with every flush of the toilet, a bit of the P from the land doesn't make it back to the land.

And getting the P outta the sewer system where it has been diluted even further will still require energy.

Too much of "modern" waste disposal is dispersal. Lead and PCBs are no problem if they can be spread out far enough, etc.... Yeah, right. It would be difficult to reengineer the human body to deal with P differently, but all of our other industrial processes should be reexamined to make concentration of wastes much easier. Eliminate the dispersal approach. Muni sewer systems, incinerators.

Yeah, the whole "solution to pollution is dilution" mantra ignores bioaccumulation.

Another service provided by the gulls and other seabirds: The sea creatures they eat are full of P, which makes it back to land in the form of guano. It's not just a few famous islands like Nauru that collect the bounty - wherever you see the seabirds, you can bet that phosphorus is being broadcast.

- wherever you see the seabirds, you can bet that phosphorus is being broadcast.

But offshore wind turbines are our salvation! They will power our electric trains. The fact that they kill seabirds is irrelevant. We need electric trains more than we need seabirds, & P recycling.

Remember that when the price of P becomes prohibitive, a substitute will be found. A different element can serve to form the backbone of the codical domain, and as a component of our energy currency (ATP). Economic theory says so...

The sea creatures they eat are full of P,

That would be the biosphere getting energy from the sun, doing the work. I'm just not sure how Man's system of economy will work with people obtaining 100's of thousands of dollars (or millions) doing whatever VS the people trying to increase soil fertility so the 'well off' can dole out a few tokens for the important work of creating food.

If there was not sodium in the urine, then one could take the nitrogen rich pee and add it back to the land.

Don't salt your food. Don't add salt (NaCl) to recipes, don't buy food with added salt. You may still need to dilute your morning urine but in general, you can just pee in your garden & on your compost pile, if you don't include excess salt in your diet.

That's really interesting. The range of sodium in the urine is very large (up to 100 fold difference between a low-sodium urine and a high-sodium urine, from what I could gather during a fast google). The dietary range is between a minimum of 500 mg of sodium per day to a typical American diet that is often 5000 mg or more. The recommended level is 2000-2300mg of sodium per day, which corresponds to a teaspoon of salt. As a comparison, I typically put a half teaspoon of salt in soup I prepare for the entire family, but there is also a teaspoon of salt in many recipes, from baked goods to salad dressing... I also read somewhere that the American Medical Association had considered a statement that sodium was a substance that is harmful to humans (clearly connected to hypertension, which is the norm in Americans over 60 years of age), but that effort had been thwarted by the beverage lobby, which depend on salty snacks to inspire additional beverage consumption.

I am not peeing on my compost, but would like to know how I would do that if I ever needed to. One would have to almost never eat foods made by commercial sources (anything packaged sold in a store, or sold by a food establishment, or a school cafeteria...) in order to be in good control of one's sodium intake. A wide variety of processed foods, some of which do not taste salty, can have eye popping sodium contents, but fruits, vegetables, and grains do not.

Old style outhouses were usually planted with a fruit tree once the pit was full. There doesn't appear to have been too much salt in them.


One would have to almost never eat foods made by commercial sources (anything packaged sold in a store, or sold by a food establishment, or a school cafeteria...) in order to be in good control of one's sodium intake.

Sadly, you're correct. The human salt craving is an artifact of adaptation to the ancestral environment, where salt was difficult to come by. The modern citizen of the developed world ingests way more salt than is good for their health. Natural foods have sufficient Na^+ to meet minimum requirements and many times more than minimum requirements are added to processed food. Not only does excessive salt adulteration of food contribute to the pathologic consequences of hypertension, as you point out, but it also renders an important natural fertilizer (urine) too hypertonic to be useful. The urine of most citizens of the developed West must be diluted least it cause plasmolysis of plants due to it's excessive saltiness. But if you eat a natural diet & don't ingest any more salt than is naturally in the food you eat, your urine shouldn't be too salty to use as a soil amendment. Once I did an experiment:

Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) grew in cracks in my sidewalk. In one place I peed on the knotweed when I first awoke in the morning, and in another place I peed on it later in the day. The knotweed peed on with darker, more concentrated morning pee died. That peed on with clearer, more dilute pee later in the day thrived more than did a control area watered with well water, presumably due to the urea fertilization it received. This experiment was conducted years ago, before I consciously sought to limit salt intake. Today, perhaps even the knotweed peed on with morning urine would thrive, due to limited salt intake resulting in a more isotonic urine. In any case, I always pee outside (well, to be honest, sometimes I pee in a bucket in the house on cold winter mornings) and often pee on the compost pile. I keep a milk crate next to the compost to stand on, since the heap is often 4 ft. high. I also often pee directly in the garden altho usually not with dark morning urine. If I was harming the plants or soil by doing so reduced yields would make the fact obvious. Such does not seem to be the case.

Hi darwins

Thanks for sharing your experiment.

I'm curious and questioning about the salt thing, though. I had the impression that for some people, salt is actually good for them. This is all I could find on short notice.
From Mayo clinic website on low blood pressure:
Use more salt. Experts usually recommend limiting the amount of salt in your diet because sodium can raise blood pressure, sometimes dramatically. But for people with low blood pressure, that can be a good thing. But because excess sodium can lead to heart failure, especially in older adults, it's important to check with your doctor before upping your salt intake.

Also, if one gets, say, three or four hours of exercise per day - waling and biking or whatever - do you still think that no added salt would work?

I actually don't feel good unless I have a fair amount of salt. )though I haven't tried going without for quite a while.)

You're right. Urine from people on a low sodium diet makes an excellent organic fertilizer. A urine:water ratio of 1:15 is the only fertilizer I applied to my garden last year.

Lots of people are having success with it. Google: urine fertilizer

Wood ash is definitely alkaline, but if you have some time and space, can't it be spread on the ground and gradually neutralized by carbonic acid from the CO2 in the air?

What passes for "soil" around here (aeolian loess deposits devoid of organic matter) is already alkaline: pH ~8.2. Amending with sulfur is only a temporary fix, as the pH rises after S amendment relatively rapidly. Supplying chelated Fe is more commonly resorted to than is attempting to lower soil pH. I amend with wood ashes, despite its high pH, figuring that if artificially lowered soil pH rapidly returns to the baseline so will soil pH that's been raised by wood ashes. In my garden, years of organic amendment has brought the pH closer to neutral, anyway. I'm not going to waste the nutrients in wood ashes just because it may temporarily raise pH.

For anybody who wants to know the real truth about lithium supplies, I recommend you go to:

Lithium in Abundance:

I keep hearing two different stories on Lithium, either, there isn't enough we are in trouble, or plenty of supply. In the meantime, I don't think Lithium batteries have been proven reliable and long lived enough for it to become an issue. It is not at all certain that Lithium will become the crucial ingredient for the battery of choice. Zinc-air, if it proves out and scales (big ifs) would be better. But today I wouldn't buy a vehicle using Lithium betteries, because I fear expensive battery replacements (I have no qualms against Metal-hydride).

Yeah, I agree.

Lithium has a number of issues dealing with overheating and overcharging - thus requiring computer control - notice that energizer AA Lithium batteries aren't rechargable? It's because of this over(heating|charging) issue.

Nonetheless, barring breakthroughs in ultracapacitors or battery technology, Lithium batteries will probably be just fine in a heavily computer controlled Prius (like any other modern car where everything is very computerized). With the exception of cost.

http://www.mpgomatic.com/2008/01/22/hyundai-accent-gas-mileage/ - so you might as well get a Honda Accent or some such cheap sedan (that's my thinking anyway). Save the batteries for your house. Even the '09's have a starting MSRP of about 11K. The Prius is over double that in cost, and unless the next generation (circa never?) gets motorcycle gas mileage it's not going to be worth it (think 80 mpg).

I'm not pushing these cars - I just wanted to pick a cheap high mileage car for a real world example.

I think lithium batteries in cars is problematic because of environmental temperature issues.

Lithium batteries age and deteriorate fairly rapidly at high temperatures. Temps over 100F can kill batteries in a few months. Charging batteries that are too cold is also damaging.

I've been using lithium batteries here in Chicago for many years to power my vehicles (bicycles & tricycles). When my batteries aren't in active use I keep them in a chest freezer converted into a refrigerator at 35F to minimize their aging. I do likewise with the batteries for my laptop, camera, mp3 player (whole thing goes in), power tools, etc.

However, I can't see popping the battery out of a car after each use to store it properly. What could make sense is to install batteries in a car in a heavily insulated box with an electric heat pump that can be plugged into grid power whenever the car is parked to protect the batteries. Actually it will be a bit more complicated than this because one must also consider keeping the batteries from overheating while in use while using a minimum of power for active cooling. However, I expect manufacturers are unlikely to worry about maximizing the life span of the batteries and instead will focus on 'performance' and minimizing upfront purchase cost. But this will make frequent battery replacement costs prohibitive in many climates.

As for needing fancy computer control to protect lithium ion batteries that is a myth. While it would be desirable and should be done to maximize performance one can do ok with simple controls to prevent overcharging and under discharging. I build my own packs of raw unprotected cells and protect them with nothing fancier than a fuse and a volt meter. I charge my packs with a variable dc power supply and for normal day to day use simply charge to about 75% of peak charge which eliminates the need for frequent cell balancing and also does much to lessen the aging effect of cycling the batteries. I also terminate discharge with about 25% of the battery capacity remaining. All of these practices result in much longer useful life then the average user gets from their cell phone or laptop batteries which have fancy computer protection but one that isn't programmed to maximize useful life.

Very interesting comments Speed. I wouldn't think for engineered (as opposed to do it yourselfer projects) that computer control wouldn be much of an issue. A very cheap low performace system on a chip would probably do just fine (and I suspect would cost under $1). A bigger issue would be the sensors, and control circuits. But on something like a car, I don't think that would be much of a problem either. But, imagine if even .1% of such batteries flamed out, like some laptops did. In a car, that would be a scandalous safety issue. Orders of magnitude more serious, then the Ford Explorer plus Bridestone tire fiasco of a few years back. So these babies aren't likely to become mainstream products until they have had several years of field experience to prove that they are reliable enough to expose to a litigious public.

Most cell phones and many other small devices now use lithium cells and they have sophisticated computerized battery management systems that only cost a few cents in mass production. But a car battery is a different beast. It will likely be between 100 and 400 volts, ie from 25 to maybe 100 cells in series. Each cell (or more likely module of many cells in parallel) will likely handle somewhere between 200 and 1000 amps. The digital logic to supervise the cells is cheap and the sensors are also fairly inexpensive, but the logic needs high current capacity switches (such as power transistors) to be able to protect the cells. A fairly cheap approach would be to have a single switch that cuts off the entire battery whenever any single cell is approaching a boundary condition. But that will be a very unsatisfactory approach for a big car battery as the performance of the whole will be limited to the weakest link. On the other extreme, putting switches on every cell will be somewhat expensive and incur some performance issues as switches are not 100% efficient and consume some power and produce some heat. Good battery management for a car is a big issue.

My expectation is that the first generation of liion powered electric vehicles will use the safer lithium battery chemistries such as the lithium phosphate cells being used in some power tools. These cells can withstand some abuse and will minimize the need for elaborate protection. These cells tend to have good power density but poor energy density which will significantly limit range. Thus I expect much more focus on hybrid vehicles instead of pure electrics.

Pure electrics can be done practically now for an affordable price if people are willing to accept much smaller, lighter, slower and less powerful vehicles. But we live in a system optimized to maximize our wants as opposed to one optimized to simply target our needs. Thus I fear we will endlessly be waiting for new technology to solve problems we can already answer.

I wonder about storage. Not sure when cold is too cold. Batteries store better in the cold - to a point. As for heat issues: in the case where the car is sitting in the parking lot catching rays - I'm not sure how that would go over. I'm sure it requires the batteries have some sort of ventilation/insulation setup specific to the car. But I would imagine those issues aren't incredibly different from the current hybrid batteries.

Although those may be some of the issues delaying the next gen Prius (besides scaling up production).

And actually, I think they do emphasize lifespan over performance (from Wikipedia about the Prius) "They are normally charged to 40–60% of maximum capacity to prolong battery life as well as provide a reserve for regenerative braking;". It has the battery power to be a hybrid (in use at low speed accel, and quick starting) using much less than the installed capacity - just like any regular car's battery requirements.

Nonetheless, I think your main point is quite valid - that these are complex issues, and perhaps prohibit electric cars from being "cheap" for some time - especially when it comes to lifespan. Replacing a Prius's batteries may be more costly than an engine replacement.


Thanks for the link.

Vile p.o.s. goes up in flames.

Flames have engulfed a tower of the new CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, a state-of-the-art building designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, housing the unfinished 40-story Beijing Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

I'm laffing me arse off. definitely a metaphor in there somewhere.

It was a hotel, not the CCTV tower that burned, and there were people inside.
So laugh hearty.

Fire Engulfs Beijing Hotel Complex
The burning building housed a luxury hotel and cultural center, next to the main CCTV tower. Flames were visible from the ground floor to the top floor of the large building.
People watching noted that the timing of the fire — coming at the end of the spring festival — was inauspicious.


From your link:

The 241-room Mandarin Oriental hotel, which had been due to open this summer, was unoccupied at the time, hotel executives said.

No guests, just staff.

Princeton University installing 2nd biggest campus solar array in the East at 370 kW.

See details at:


Can anyone link or post an overlayed graph of Oil production/World GDP/Population.

Energy Consumption (PDF)

Look at wind versus solar. The top ten US states have more wind energy than the top 10 solar energy producing countries (which includes the US - with a little solar energy than the state of Minnesota).

I wonder how they measure this. Is it peak power? (If so, I was under the impression wind rarely hits peak - where solar can come close more regularily.

Assuming there measurements are correct, then either wind is more politically viable, or it actually is better. I've some of the articles on wind versus solar. And it seems to depend where you place it, and other specific circumstances (urban vs. rural, plains versus hilly, etc).

In my pricing out things, an AIR X turbine does seem more economical than a Kyocera panel - but it's hard to calculate. There's always the sun. But is there wind?

Both wind and solar receive very large tax and investment credits, but considering these, wInd is a whole lot less expensive than solar. This is a recent graph from a Credit Suisse report, showing the US levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), when one takes into account investment tax credits (ITC) and production tax credits (PTC) currently available. As one can see, on this basis, the cost of solar PV is more than double the cost of other sources. With its big credits, wind is competitive with other electric power sources. That is a big reason less solar PV is installed than wind.

This is a chart of effective tax rates (first column) from a recent study by Gilbert Metcalf, discussed in this post. It may give a little idea of the credits involved in the Credit Suisse graph above. Since the sources are different, the credits may not match up exactly. Without any credits, the effective tax rate is 39%. With credits, the effective tax rate can be very low or even negative (very, very good).

New nukes will get the same incentives as wind (from memory) *IF* anyone will actually build one.

Level playing field for those two non-GHG sources.


Level playing field for those two non-GHG sources.

Wind has not federal level liability waver like fission gets via Price-Anderson.

Level playing field, sure. No Price-Anderson.

I think if you add in all the maintenance performed on Wind Turbines, and the trucks and truckers who perform all that maintenance year in and year out, solar starts to look quite attractive.

My array is approaching 18,000,000 watts and they only thing I've done is look at it from time to time. It doesn't kill birds and you can't really even see it.

The payoff was supposed to be 10.7 years generating 4024kw a year. Fortunately, it has consistently generated 5300kw a year. And while the panels are only guaranteed for 25 years, these units will be generating something close to forever.

Best of all, no transmission lines required.

If teams went from school to school, house to house, with standardized panels and inverters it wouldn't cost nearly as much as these one at a time projects which makes the installers rich but don't really get the scale required. I could have put four more panels up for the money spent on the permits and the detailed plans necessary to get the permits.

This constant argument of "what do you prefer, crapping or peeing" simply misses the point and only confuses a not-too-bright society even more. We need lots of both. And while peeing is easier, at my age I can get quite cranky if the other gets delayed too long!

The payoff was supposed to be 10.7 years generating 4024kw a year.

kw is NOT a unit of energy. kw is a unit of power. 4000 kw is roughly the consumption of 3000 average homes!

In any case wind doesn't scale down in size very well. Megawatt units (these are a couple of hundred feet high) can be competitive. But, small home sized units don't make economic sense. Solar doesn't scale down as well as we would hope. The cost of inverters and utility ties adds a lot of cost for homeowner sized units. But still, the extra cost for a home sized unit probably only doubles the cost per KWhour, as opposed to a utility sized PV plant.

I'm afraid you don't know what you're talking about. You're telling me the average house uses 1300 watts a year? That's ONE lightbulb for 20 hours.

My personality might suck, but at least I can do math.

1,300 watts x 24 hours x 365 (or 366) days = 11,388 kWh per year.


My array is approaching 18,000,000 watts ..

Now let me see ?!?
Rule of thumb says that a PV-panel yield some 15% efficiency. That is 150 W / sq. meter. I never saw kWh mentionded in your reply, which I expect from a Solar owner. Anyways ...

Your system is (installed capacity, I guess)

18,000,000 W : 150 W / sq. meter = 120,000 sq. meter = 1,291,669 sq. feet =>> That's A BIG pRIVATE sOLAR aRRAY

The biggest difference is that solarPV is not, and will never be, a DIY project because you have to get the cells from a BAU-type manufacturer. Wind is DIY-ready. I've yet to see anyone factor this in. The only things you absolutely must buy or scrounge somewhere are wire and magnets. Neither is trivial, but I'd guess both are in greater supply than PV cells, no? Maybe not. Still, with the wire and some magnets, anyone can build a windmill. Well, tools are helpful.

I wonder how many kilowatts are already going uncounted because of DIY wind generators...


Wind is DIY-ready. I've yet to see anyone factor this in. The only things you absolutely must buy or scrounge somewhere are wire and magnets.

I know of no DIYers who mine ore, smelt and process it into metals, then make sheet steel, angle iron, tubes, guy wires, or mine minerals to make fire at 1100 (or is it 1800 deg F) to eventually make concrete.

To make a wind turbine of your own, you'll need a bit of 'BAU' input.

Wind *CAN* be on a 'lower level' of technology than thin film solar with layering to obtain more

I wonder how many kilowatts are already going uncounted because of DIY wind generators...

I'd guess less than the power calculated from small turbines that should be operating but are not.

There is no need to state the obvious. I mean, yeah, I'm gonna go smelt me some metal and make my own bolts... /sarc

Fer cryin' out loud...

I disagree. I think there really is some merit to the partial DIY project. There is a lot you can fix with a wind turbine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windbelt (not a wind turbine, but you get the idea).

But once a solar PV cell dies, what can you do?

And there seriously is something to making your own bolts, and whatnot (although that will probably be the least of your worries when scrounging for parts).

Eric, you and I all agree, I think; I was just teasing him for being a bit nit-picky.



Not a drop of rain has fallen on Beijing for more than 100 days, the longest dry spell for 38 years in a city known for its arid climate. The Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters described the drought as a phenomenon “rarely seen in history” as the Government declared a state of emergency.

I believe there are plans (!controversial) to route water from the Southern provinces. The 3 gorges dam(n) project went sooo well.

As I heard one oceanographer say the other day...without the blue there is no green...think blue!

California, as I am sure most here on TOD are aware...is looking likely to be experience severe drought:


Excellent book preview:


Some of our science is missing
It’s vital that people get serious about basic scientific research conducted entirely for its own sake. In March 2008, Britain’s Science and Technology Facilities Council announced that it could no longer finance Cheshire-based Jodrell Bank, one of the world’s leading centres of radio astronomy. As the Times noted, the proposed saving of £2.5m a year was equivalent to the grants and subsidies paid out to the Prince of Wales in 2007.
In the US, weak investment by general business is the context for dismal investments in energy R&D, whether public or private. Between 1959 and 2007, the ratio of gross private investment to America’s GNP hovered around 15 per cent. By way of comparison, in continental Europe in the 1950s, the ratio of gross fixed investment to GDP mostly exceeded 25 per cent. In China in 2004, the ratio of total fixed capital formation to GDP was an astonishing 41 per cent. Worse, from 1999 to 2005, US outlays on non-residential equipment and software dropped from 55 to 45 per cent of gross private fixed investment, while those on housing rose from little more than 25 per cent to nearly 40 per cent.

This strikes me as another dimension of catabolic collapse:

Family of four recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning
A Southeast Portland family of four is recovering this morning from carbon monoxide poisoning after a gas-powered generator emitted extremely high levels of the poison in their home.

The family - three adults and a 12-year-old - live at 10329 S.E. Harold St. They were using a generator because power had been turned off to the home, fire officials said.


So a family of four gets an all-expenses-paid trip to the ER because they were too broke to cover the electric bill. Yeah, that's an efficient use of resources, all right.

Now I realize that somebody has to pay for the electrons we use, but where's the sense of proportion that says it's wrong to shut off their power in the depths of Winter? Or you may ask, where's the sense in forcing people out to sleep under bridges so that their foreclosed houses can sit empty until they're stripped and trashed?

I guess I'm not a capitalist.

Maybe hope for our scary world exists when enough people realize the narrow-mindedness of concepts such as "deserving" and "undeserving", and question the prevailing opinion that poverty itself is a marker of a person with serious moral flaws.

Then again, when TSHTF, helping those in need may seem a laughable luxury.

"The means ARE the end" vs. "the ends justify the means".

They couldn't afford to pay their power bill, but they could afford to run a generator?

Every time I hear about an incident like this I wonder why people don't know that running an ICE in an enclosed space is dangerous? I've known this ever since I could start a lawnmower, because my dad told me along with other instructions for running the mower. Unless these folks had never seen and used a small ICE before it's really hard for me to comprehend these situations. I hope the family has a speedy recovery.

Does a simple heat exchanger / exhaust system exist to allow you to use a generator for space heating? a 5kW petrol / diesel generator would give off about 10kW of heat while it was running, and it could be a simple way of adding backup power /CHP to a building.

"Compact household cogeneration system is a high-efficiency energy supply system for homes that generates electricity with a natural gas engine and utilizes the exhaust heat to supply hot water. Cogeneration systems have been rapidly implemented by industry for factories, large-scale buildings and other facilities, but it has been thought unfeasible to develop a practical household cogeneration system due to the difficulty in making the units compact while maintaining a high level of efficiency. Honda has combined the world's smallest GE160EV natural gas engine utilizing our clean energy technology and long-life engine technology nurtured over many years with its unique sine wave inverter technology in a compact power generation system with an efficient cogeneration layout suitable for installation in homes. This household cogeneration unit has been installed in approximately 30,000 households (as of May 2006). It achieves a high total energy efficiency of 85% with a power generation output of 1kW, and thermal output of 3.25kW, and reduces CO2 emissions by approximately 30%* in combination with the hot-water supply and heating unit that utilizes exhaust heat, making it a very environmentally friendly household cogeneration system. "


Check it out.

Unless these folks had never seen and used a small ICE

I'd be willing to bet that is quite common, particularly for city bred and/or poor people.


"So a family of four gets an all-expenses-paid trip to the ER because they were too broke to cover the electric bill. Yeah, that's an efficient use of resources, all right."

No, sorry, they got a trip to the ER, cause Dad was an idiot. Personal responsibility...Where is that? How big is their house? What other expenses do thay have? Many things go into not having juice.

One thing goes into running a genny in your house. Stupidity. The guys kids need to be taken from him for child abuse.

The guys kids need to be taken from him for child abuse.

C_A, I thought you were a proponent of Darwin. :-)

Seriously, his kids have his genes and he apparently has little to teach them, so I would say the abuse is already a fait accompli

His progeny will be part of the generation running the show as we slip into our dotage. Frankly, I'd prefer if they didn't "help".



Somtimes Darwin can't work fast enough! Ha!

But seriously, what's the real story behind this guy? As the changes come, more and more people will be without juice to power their homes. Education as to how a person deals with this is nowhere on any list. Lot's of insane gibberish about Thorium Reactors, Super Grids and other crap, but nothing about how to keep warm when the lights go out.

Power Down.

"...how to keep warm when the lights go out."

I wonder about this a fair bit. My city is surrounded by deforested crop land.

Winter lately has been shorter with snow on the ground and below freezing temps from only the end of Oct to early May, but that's still a long run of cold weather. So how do we keep warm if we run out of natgas and hydro? Coal or trees? I could see deforesation happening rather quickly given our population. I could see coal trains coming. But each of these solutions implies the ability to reliably transport the resources to our homes and assumes our homes are configured for their use. Can we do this? Our current population is so much larger than when this area was settled that I can't see how we could have warm homes given the resources at hand with no natgas or hydro. I wonder whether we will be able to maintain our grid but I don't feel particularly confident that it will survive the surge of everyone plugging in their space heaters when/if the gas lines poop out. If it fails under these circumstances will we be able to get it up and functional in any meaningful time frame? Would it 'just' be fuses which need replacing?

I took a look back at how our indigenous population coped and what did I find? Well, they dressed for outside inside(lol) and primarily used heat for cooking. If things get really bad is this how we will manage? Dave Mart often talks about super-insulating one room which really has caught my attention. Even one well well well insulated room needs a heat source in this climate though.

A bit of a ramble here. I am truly hoping for a slow rather than a fast collapse. Either way, if TS really HTF, I think my area is in for hard times.


The threads on Passive Solar are ALL about how to keep warm without being fed 'subscription power'.

Don't know if you're opposed to using glass as a technofix or not, but otherwise, it's a pretty low-tech solution. (Or can be.. you don't HAVE to use fancy materials at all.

'The truth is out there' Fox Mulder


Indeed. If my hopes are realized, I will buy a bit of land with a significant percentage wooded. Any timber will come from my land as I'm expecting to go simple post and beam straw bale or some sort of cob or rammed earth, for example. I'll explore not even using nails if I can find either the right info/training or find a carpenter with the skills to put up a frame and/or roof w/o nails.

I don't see any way around having to use metals and plastics for electricity and such, tho. I *can* do my best to use recycled/waste materials.


Take a look at the article - the generator was malfunctioning; it "emitted extremely high levels of the poison." Who knows, maybe it was out on the enclosed porch to keep it from disappearing, but it made so much CO that it poisoned them anyway.

I can't be so glib about sentencing the poor, the ignorant, the desperate to die.

"out in the enclosed porch"

What part of that guy being an idiot don't you get?

"I can't be so glib about sentencing the poor, the ignorant, the desperate to die."

If you live in the US, that's exactly what you are doing. Every day.....

Meanwhile, Techonology marches on:

Carbon nanotube avalanche process nearly doubles current


“Single-wall carbon nanotubes are already known to carry current densities up to 100 times higher than the best metals like copper,” said Eric Pop, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the U. of I. “We now show that semiconducting nanotubes can carry nearly twice as much current as previously thought.”

Welcome back theantidoomer. Lets see if *THIS* time you'll answer questions when asked.

I was just hoping we could make Carbon Nanotube Bundles into 2x6's, and build our houses with pure Carbon-Capture.. no, seriously. (No, not so seriously, but for all I know, it would probably actually work and then what would I have to joke about?)

Ahh, but if the home was struck by lighting, would it burn or just conduct to ground without fire?

My design would just have it turn into nano-diamonds, which would pay for the next house.

U.S. Taxpayers Risk $9.7 Trillion on Bailout Programs

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- The stimulus package the U.S. Congress is completing would raise the government’s commitment to solving the financial crisis to $9.7 trillion, enough to pay off more than 90 percent of the nation’s home mortgages.

This is pretty ample evidence that the real problem does not lie in the residential mortgages. If the problem was contained to mortgages, then committing 90% of the total outstanding mortgage value would have resolved the issue. (Assuming that at least 10% of the outstanding mortgages are performing properly)

The $9.7 trillion in pledges would be enough to send a $1,430 check to every man, woman and child alive in the world. It’s 13 times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Congressional Budget Office data, and is almost enough to pay off every home mortgage loan in the U.S., calculated at $10.5 trillion by the Federal Reserve.

So our money, and the next generation's money have been committed to making the rich richer. Many of you may remember the link I posted the other day showing that the top 7 firms taking TARP money paid out bonuses equal to 61% of the Tarp monies. Now we've got another "stimulus" and another "bailout" on the table. Just how are we going to be robbed this time and why aren't people pissed enough to gather down in Washington DC, en masse, as a demonstration of how large a group of people Congress and the Banks are pissing off?


IMO people aren't upset because they don't understand the math-even though 9.7 trillion has been added in taxpayer obligations, taxes have not increased so the frog doesn't realize the water is getting warmer, or the frog likes the more comfortable warmer water. When the chickens come home to roost, everyone is going to be screaming "why were we not told". They are being told but they are too ignorant to comprehend.

This is pretty ample evidence that the real problem does not lie in the residential mortgages. If the problem was contained to mortgages, then committing 90% of the total outstanding mortgage value would have resolved the issue. (Assuming that at least 10% of the outstanding mortgages are performing properly)

Actually, paying off all those mortgages will never be considered because it does the opposite of the intent of the bailout: it transfers wealth to the poor and middle classes.

Of course, it would make many households immediately solvent, it would pay off toxic assets up the yingyang, and recapitalize banks all at the same time.

So, what's the problem? See above. If I'm not mistaken, and I may well be, all those CDOs and such would lose their value as the interest income and cash flow would vanish. They'd almost certainly still make a profit, but not *enough* to satisfy their greedy, twisted souls.

Besides, welfare for the poor and middle classes is EVIL. It's COMMUNISM. It's SOCIALISM. We can't have that. Socialism and communism are strictly for the wealthy. Just as Bernanke and Paulson.


Gingrich: Economy headed 'off a cliff'

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday morning painted a dire picture of the U.S. economy, saying that it is headed "off a cliff" and that President Obama has failed to bring fresh and original thinking to the problem so far.

Mr. Gingrich, 65, said that the nightmare scenario used by top financial officials to persuade President Bush into crafting the $700 billion bailout last fall is still on the way.

"Probably I would have voted yes," Mr. Gingrich said of the bailout, "just because if you have the secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve chairman saying to you, 'Vote yes or we're all going to go off a cliff.'"

"Well, the fact is, we're all going to go off a cliff. That's what's happening. This is a much more profound problem than people think," said Mr. Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia, during a breakfast with reporters and columnists organized by the Christian Science Monitor.

"I keep getting told there's another [$1.2 trillion] in losses coming down the road, minimum. Goldman Sachs, I think, said Friday, $4 trillion to finish bailing out the banks," he said, predicting another "three to five years, at a minimum, of working our way through this."


I think the plan to keep interest rates low is faltering, and that is part of the reason we are headed over the cliff (all of course, eventually, going back to peak oil).

US plan to curb mortgage rates falters

The US Federal Reserve’s efforts to drive mortgage rates lower by purchasing home loans have faltered and rates have risen over the past month.

The rise in rates is a disappointment to government officials, who had hoped that a steep fall in house prices and low financing costs would lure new buyers into the nation’s depressed housing market.

Since January 13 the rate on standard long-term mortgages charged by lenders to prospective home owners has jumped from 5.04 per cent to reach 5.51 per cent on Friday, according to mortgage market analysts HSH Associates. The jump represents an almost 10 per cent rise in borrowing costs.

Jerome a Paris has a post on Daily Kos talking about the FT article above.

In a sense, this is not unexpected: variable mortgage rates are linked to long term Treasury rates, rather than to short term Fed rates, and Treasury rates went down to unusually low levels late last year as a massive flight to safety made investors wary of any financial assets not backed by the full credit of the US government. Now that things are stabilising somewhat in asset markets, and that people start looking at US debt on a standalone basis, and not just as a safe haven, prices are moving back to "normal." . .

But, pontificating aside, the reality is that we had a large scale grand robbery of the past few years. To make it simple: the Fed printed money, gave it for free to rich people, who lent it to poor people at at nice profit instead of paying them wages; reimbursement was possible only if house prices went up, and that lasted for a while. The rich made out like bandits on their assets, financial or otherwise, and the poor thought they were more or less keeping up with the Joneses (the reality was a large-scale transfer of wealth from one group to the other, no bonus points for guessing which was which). Now that it's no longer the case, the poor lose their house, stop paying their debt at some point, put the banks in a pickles, and the economy unravels. Except that the banks are being bailed out, which means, fundamentally, saving the owners of financial assets (bank bondholders specifically, and bond holders in general) at the expense of taxpayers, thus having the goverment validate and consolidate the past transfer of wealth.

It's amazing but it's also not. Remember, we are in some fundamental ways just like yeast. So the strong ones are doing what they can to reinforce, strengthen and consolidate their advantageous position. If that comes at the expense of the weak ones, they are sorry but it's codified in the dog-eat-dog competitive system. I guess it's a zero-sum game now that peak energy has been reached. If someone is to thrive someone else must suffer.

What we can expect in the future is more of this: consolidation of their wealth and position and the government helping the rich as much as it can because it needs their wealth and their strength too, the government will eventually resemble some sort of monarchy maybe, a symbol, surrounded by scheming courtiers. Now that they have the bailout money in their bank accounts, the ultra rich will convert it to assets as inflation takes off. Perhaps land, and lots of it, will be on their shopping lists as food becomes expensive. They will go where they can maintain the value of their investments. People who aren't ultrarich will see their wealth lose a lot of value because they can't compete with the multibillionaires when inflation arrives. I imagine that the ultra wealthy do not fear inflation. They can win the race by outlasting everyone else.

The future of America perhaps looks more and more like the Europe of hundreds of years ago: millions of starving peasants and a few supremely wealthy and powerful nobles.

These two guys are corraborating what Gingrich is saying:

Dr. Doom & Black Swan: You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

Nouriel Roubini :
Officially the write-downs have been about $1 trillion; I see another $2.6 (trillion) coming up,” he said. “…Losses are mounting and this severe recession is going to get only bigger.”

Nassim Taleb :
“If I follow my logic to the end, what I thought would happen was anything fragile…would break, namely the banks and people who have a lot of debt and private equity," he said. "This is just happening. It’s not finished yet; it hasn’t probably started."

The ethanol industry needed subsidies and federal laws requiring use of ethanol and they still went into massive business failures. Now they need a state controlled system to require switching to more ethanol at public expense, yet this will not gaurentee the success of a nation, rather it was the whim of a greedy minority. The set up is not a free enterpise, nor a free trade type of arrangement.

The economist Roubini who predicted the severe recession in advance was quoted today as saying the bad bank plan was tried by Japan, and it failed. The United States would be better served using the Swedish nationalization model that succeeded in saving the Swedish economy after massive bank failures.

Yes, and Bernie's clients would have been better served if he had not stole their money-not only is the USA not Sweden, it is in no way on the path to becoming Sweden.

GM, Chrysler May Face Bankruptcy to Protect U.S. Debt

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC may have to be forced into bankruptcy by the U.S. government to assure repayment of $17.4 billion in federal bailout loans, a course of action the automakers claim would destroy them.

U.S. taxpayers currently take a backseat to prior creditors, including Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to loan agreements posted on the U.S. Treasury’s Web site. The government has hired a law firm to help establish its place at the front of the line for repayment, two people involved in the work said last week.

If federal officials fail to get a consensual agreement to change their position regarding repayment, they have the option to force the companies into bankruptcy as a condition of more bailout aid. The government would finance the bankruptcy with a so-called “debtor in possession” or DIP loan, a lender status that gives the U.S. priority over other creditors, said Don Workman, a partner at Baker & Hostetler LLP...

...The issues are “extremely complex,” said Bruce Clark, a credit analyst at Moody’s Investors Service.

The existing loan agreements appear to give the banks a superior position to the government, Clark said.

“The ultimate position of the government could end up being determined by whatever concessions various creditors make, and the determination of a bankruptcy court if it ever gets there,” he said...


There is a school of thought which alleges that the USA is being systematically destroyed from within-sometimes it appears rather credible-this gigantic sum loaned is 1/557 of the 9.7 trillion added to the taxpayers' liabilities. The auto loans certainly don't get 1/557 of the press coverage-they might be getting the majority of the press coverage.

I understand the need to include articles from all sorts of different sources. But do those sources have to include the LaRouche group? Talk about lunatic fringe.

Yeah, the "Myth of Nuc Waste" article almost raised a hackle, until I saw who produced it.
Never mind - not worth my breath.

I will have to admit I don't read their things. This particular post has at least some points worth thinking about, even if, on balance, one disagrees with most (or all) of it. France recycles most of its nuclear fuel. If I remember correctly, the prohibition against recycling nuclear fuel in the US was removed last year. Recycling nuclear fuel would help with two problems at once--need to mine so much uranium and waste disposal.

It simply boils down to a uranium mine and a parking lot are cheaper than a reprocessing plant.

There still is a lot of nuclear waste in France. With reprocessing nuclear waste some radioactive material can be regained for reuse. However there is still a large part of it left in the remaining waste. The actual volume of nuclear waste (in cubic feet) is increasing since reprocessing means contaminating other materials which turn into radioactive waste afterwords. The reprocessing plant in le Havre is also heavily polluting the sea with radioactive waste. The same is true for Sellafield which pollutes the Irish Sea.
The technology designed to reuse nuclear fuel in an almost infinite cycle was the breeder reactor. But even in France this technology proved not to work. The breeder reactors built there were shut down permanently after a long series of accidents.
There actually is a lot of nuclear waste which nobody wants to have.

I wouldn't mind having about 2 or 3 kg of strontium 90, in a cask, buried under my ground floor. It would provide about 5,000 to 10,000 BTU/hr over about 30 years. That would save lot of fuel oil and firewood. The cask would probably need to go outside, into the shed, in the Spring.

I believe nuclear has a role in the generation of electricity, and that America is not fully engaged in dealing with nuclear waste, but I do agree -- LaRouche?!?!?!?!?!?!

They have enough strikes against them to make any pronouncements suspect. It's too bad they are being given the whiff of respectability here.

I probably am more willing than most to listen to people who others would dismiss. One reason is that sometimes they can offer insights that I would miss if I only listened to the "right" sources. I know I can always disregard something that strikes me as illogical or exaggerated. Sometimes there is a nugget of truth buried in the exaggeration.

I am sure that a lot of people dismiss people who believe in peak oil as a bunch of nuts, who aren't worth listening to. I was taught to do unto others as you would have them do unto you--so I listen to people, even if they aren't quite right in some way (wrong degree; exaggerate too much; not well off financially; paid by a big corporation, etc.).

The Larouchites are something else, Gail. I too believe in listening to oddballs, but that group is really toxic. I wouldn't waste my time. Whatever facts they have in their writings are better gotten from other sources.

Bart / EB

While I agree that much of the writing on the LaRouche site is somewhat "strange", his prediction of the US housing crash (about 3 years ago) and subsequent financial meltdown was much better than the MSM and most other financial commentators could manage. (He picked September 2006 as crunch time, which was rather early, but at least he foresaw the crunch). This prediction lead me to look much more carefully into where BAU was taking us.

His ambition for a new "Bretton-Woods" financial re-organisation might (or might not) be a feasible path to follow, but it certainly could not be worse for the bottom 98% of the population than the present "Bail-out or Bust" approach.

His fixation with Felix Rohatyn and the "Anglo-Dutch financial conspiracy" seems paranoid to me, but other info on the site can be well thought out and worthy of consideration. BS can grow great vegetables!!

The waste seems to be a political problem
more than a technical one, Only a fraction
(<10%) of the current high level
radioactive waste in the US is from Steam Power
IMO The real issue is potential to
be future targets. NIMBY.

Check out:

Kiddofspeed - GHOST TOWN - Chernobyl Pictures -
Elena's Motorcyle Ride through Chernobyl-
A story about town where one can ride with no stoplights,
no police, no danger to hit some dog.....


In case it hasn't been done - Welcome, Longtimber.

Elena has been discussed here a couple times that I know of - you could google the TOD archives if you're interested.

Thanks, missed discussion before,
hoping it was something new,
Is an interesting read,
even if the actual tour may have
been fabricated. Has that
Planet of the Apes feel
which entertains & makes
you think.

Elena's Motorcyle Ride through Chernobyl-
A story about town where one can ride with no stoplights,
no police, no danger to hit some dog....

Except that the descendants of abandoned dogs and cats do live there. But, there will be no angry pet owner to come after you for squashing fido. Wildlife, both natural, and abandoned domestic animals are doing fine in the contaminated zone. Having their lifespans cut short by high cancer risk is nothing to nature. Having the two legged uber-predators gone is a the big win.

sources have to include the LaRouche group?

Well they seem to be the source document of the picture of Grasso with the FARC leader.

Its a fine picture...makes one wonder why a Wall Streeter is in the jungle hugging a terrorist.

Bloomberg: Only the stimulus bill to be approved this week, the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program passed four months ago and $168 billion in tax cuts and rebates enacted in 2008 have been voted on by lawmakers. The remaining $8 trillion is in lending programs and guarantees, almost all under the Fed and FDIC. Recipients’ names have not been disclosed.

“We’ve seen money go out the back door of this government unlike any time in the history of our country,” Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, said on the Senate floor Feb. 3. “Nobody knows what went out of the Federal Reserve Board, to whom and for what purpose. How much from the FDIC? How much from TARP? When? Why?”

Obviously Senator Dorgan has no Presidential ambitions.

Anybody wondered about this one: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/09/nyregion/09roosevelt.html

"Some Tenants Face an Unfamiliar Squeeze on Their Pocketbooks: An Electric Bill"

How the heck do you use $1000 of electricity in one month, in an apartment?

Last week, managers at Roosevelt Landings, the home of many low-income and working-class families, handed out sample electricity bills. The bills, for a 33-day period from November to December, were based on the readings of submeters installed in individual apartments.

Vera Velloso, 40, who lives in a three-bedroom unit with her husband and three children, received a bill for $1,050.43, which was about half of what she pays in rent. Missy Feliciano, 39, who lives in a four-bedroom unit with her mother and three children, was stunned by her bill: $815.51.

Vera is paying $2100 a month in rent (working class?)-time for her to leave town.

baseboard electric heaters and poorly insulated walls.

Yup, totally believable. I'd also want the electrical distribution checked into. Then people's behavior.

baseboard electric heaters and poorly insulated walls.

Maybe the grow lights for the marijuana plantation in the basement? Seriously folks, a great deal of power in consumed by growers. I think the authorities can use power bills, and infrared heat emissions from basement windows to locate growers.
Of course, it is also concievable that some clever neighbor has fugured out how to steal her power.

The "growers" issue could be easily solved if this society wouldn't get it's knickers all twisted in a knot over marijuana.

Even more mind-numbing is that idiotic American lawmakers have outlawed

Cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. sativa, the variety... grown for industrial use in Europe,

etc., which

contains below 0.3% THC, while Cannabis grown for marijuana can contain anywhere from 6 or 7 % to 20% or even more.


Any body politic that would outlaw a plant that is useless as a drug because it sounds and looks like one that is... well... there are no words to describe such idiocy.


Yes, there is a word...it's called your .....GOVERNMENT.

All drugs should be legalised ASAP, and stop this insanity filling the prisons with innocents.(that mr. "I'll be back" govenator of CA, is going to be forced to let out anyway.)

True insanity lives in washington.

Robert Rapier posted on the new WSJ new energy page.

This article is about the smart grid development.

A groundbreaking 'smart grid' test in Boulder, Colo., is delivering some surprises for both consumers and utilities

Yes sir. "Technology marches on".

and on ..right overtop the peak of 'Mount Resource Depletion'.

Watch your footing!

Look out for that Entropy rolling at you !!

Airdale? Anybody heard from Airdale?

Apologies if I missed an update.

- RK

Jim shoots from the hip again. Pretty good writing today.

February 9, 2009: Poverty of Imagination

The attempted re-start of revolving debt consumerism is an exercise in futility. We've reached the limit of being able to create additional debt at any level without causing further damage, additional distortions, and new perversities of economy (and of society, too). We can't raise credit card ceilings for people with no ability make monthly payments. We can't promote more mortgages for people with no income. We can't crank up a home-building industry with our massive inventory of unsold, and over-priced houses built in the wrong places. We can't ramp back up the blue light special shopping fiesta. We can't return to the heyday of Happy Motoring, no matter how many bridges we fix or how many additional ring highways we build around our already-overblown and over-sprawled metroplexes. Mostly, we can't return to the now-complete "growth" cycle of "economic expansion." We're done with all that. History is done with our doing that, for now.

As stated in a 2009 state of affairs meeting in my company recently, "We are not looking to grow our market this year, but minimize our losses." That about sums it up for all of us.

all this talking about plugging the air leaks in a house makes me chuckle. Most of europe lives in apartments, in blocks several stories high. you don't have to heat the roof and most likely 3 sides of your home, because it's either a neighbour or your other room. The outside wall can be dealt pretty easy with, and there are virtually no air leaks, if you have a double glazed window.

it's true, you don't have the pleasure of owning a back yard and a pool and all the other stuff, but from the start some of your problems seem sci-fi.
did i mention this helps with the daily commute? as in get to work with public transportation?

perhaps you're trying to solve the wrong problem. just like the eco-friendly 20mpg hybrid suv's

Sounds like animal cages to me. No thanks.

Hi X, I'm looking foreward to yer first positive reply with yer brain engaged...
Will it happen this Anno Domini , do yah think ?

And more important, can you compare a flat with an animal cage ? Is this possible in your world ?

For once I will defend x.

Different strokes for different folks. Different values and life experiences.

I would die of boredom in a rural and even small town lifestyle. But others enough it.

So be it ! No where is it written that we must all be the same.

Best Hopes for diversity,


well Alan .. everybody cannot call 'The White House' home, just because they wish to. !
Now, try to be AlanFromTheRioSlums , just for a second, and imagine what it will take to become AlanfromBigEasy ...

Denmark has about 19% of its electric generation capacity from windpower, Spain and Portugul 10%.


In the United States installed capacity of windpower has surpassed 2% of total electric generation capacity. Windpower is the fastest growing source of renewable energy. The Great Plains of the United States provides the highest opportunity for affordable renewable energy. Offshore windfarms had a projected lower rate of return on invested capital.