DrumBeat: February 13, 2009

The Complexity Theory

Complexity Theory argues that societies become progressively more unstable and vulnerable as the network of interconnections within them increases -- not particularly good news for a globalizing system in which increasing complexity is precisely the thrust of economics, finance, manufacturing, technology and almost everything else we do. The sobering implications may explain why many proponents of Complexity Theory preface their comments with an apology. "We don't want to tell you this," goes the essence of their message, "but we think you should know." When the New Scientist published two articles on Complexity Theory (Apr. 5/08), its editor anticipated some reader discomfort. "We are predisposed to pay attention to bad news," noted the editorial. "There is a good reason for this. We need to be warned of difficulty and danger so we can protect ourselves.... [But] if the warning is too scary or distressing, we attack the messenger as a doom monger."

Complexity Theory comes with its hint of doom, ominously reminding us that no civilization has ever survived the stresses of history, with the possible exception of China and Byzantium -- in a much reduced state for 450 years following the 15th century Arab invasions. But Sumer, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Maya and even Rome all collapsed, primarily because they succumbed to overwhelming complexities.

Economists paint gloomy picture

In a freewheeling discussion about “The Great Recession” and energy, top economists painted dark scenarios that could be ranked as bad, worse and horrendous.

“2009 is basically a write-off,” Harvard University economics professor Kenneth Rogoff told a packed audience at CERAWeek, the annual Houston conference that has come to be known as the Davos of the energy world. The other economists agreed.

The good news: “All economic crises end,” he said.

The bad news: Rogoff’s forecast was the most optimistic .

Norwegian Oil Firm Goes to Energy's Last Frontier

A Norwegian oil company has gone to the ends of the earth -- almost literally - to get at some of the world's last untapped energy resources.

StatoilHydro ASA operates a pioneering venture deep inside the Arctic Circle, energy's final frontier. The company pumps natural gas from under the freezing waters of the Barents Sea, cools it into a liquid and exports it to Europe and the U.S.

Author of The Prize saw need for an epilogue

Daniel Yergin packed 140 years of the oil industry’s vast history into 762 pages of his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power. It took only 11 pages for him to add an epilogue spanning the last 18 years, including oil’s stunning rise and swift fall in the past couple of years alone.

Yergin spent seven years writing the book, published in 1991.

Yergin, 62, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, added the epilogue for a reprint last month.

“It was clear the book needed to be brought into the current era,” he said Thursday at CERA’s annual
CERAWeek conference.

OPEC Crude Premium Shows U.S. ‘Awash’ With Oil

OPEC’s crude sells for a record premium to New York oil as the group’s biggest supply cut fails to draw down brimming U.S. stockpiles.

OPEC oils typically trade at a discount to crude sold on the New York Mercantile Exchange because they produce less high- value gasoline. The CHART OF THE DAY shows the relationship reversed this year and the basket of 12 export grades from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was $7.81 more expensive than Nymex futures yesterday.

CERA Week: Coal has staying power

The road for coal-fired electric power in the U.S. will be rocky, but the way forward is starting to become more certain.

That was a common theme among speakers on the subject at Cambridge Energy Research Associates’ annual CERAWeek conference.

Despite its environmental drawbacks and greenhouse gas emissions, “We are going to be burning coal in this country for many years to come,” conceded Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, in a speech Thursday.

PDVSA to Revamp Oil Ventures with Foreign Partners

Venezuela's state oil company will combine almost two dozen joint ventures with foreign partners into as many as six large companies, hoping to reduce costs amid financial troubles.

The plan by Petroleos de Venezuela SA, PdVSA, aims to cut its operating budget anywhere between 30% and 40% this year, as the country faces depressed oil prices, Eulogio Del Pino, a PdVSA director, told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview Wednesday.

IOC seeks more April sweet crude in tender

LONDON/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's largest state-owned refiner, Indian Oil Corp (IOC), issued its third tender for April loading sweet crude on Friday, the same day it bought 4 million barrels of Nigerian crude, traders said.

Grade offers for the tender are due on Wednesday with prices required by Thursday and the result is expected to emerge on Friday.

Saudi to import more diesel this year

Saudi Arabia will import a third more diesel this year, stoked by robust power and transport demand in the world's top oil exporter, offering some relief to an oversupplied market, industry sources said on Friday.

Around 2.3 million tonnes of diesel are expected to be imported this year, compared with 1.68 million tonnes bought last year, they said.

40% of road projects delayed or canceled

MADINA – Forty percent of asphalt road projects in the Kingdom have been either delayed or canceled as a result of an asphalt components crisis, according to contractors who feel that the crisis is going to affect some vital projects this year. Saudi Aramco has called for a meeting with the National Contractors Committee at the Dammam Chamber for Commerce and Industry on Sunday to discuss the problem.

Jordan: 'Technicalities hindering larger oil shipments from Iraq’

ZARQA/SHWEIR - The average crude oil imports from Iraq delivered to the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company (JPRC) stands at 10,000 barrels a day with chances of increasing the shipment to 30,000 barrels a day, according to a top executive at the company that transports the cargo.

Gail, NTPC to Lease India LNG Terminal on Demand Drop

(Bloomberg) -- GAIL (India) Ltd. and NTPC Ltd. plan to lease out part of their new liquefied natural gas import terminal in India to companies including BG Group Plc as reduced demand leads to lower utilization.

Gouging law could expand

RALEIGH – The state authorities who scrutinized gas prices during the shortage following Hurricane Ike could become year-round watchdogs.

Lawmakers will consider a proposal that would subject sellers of necessities like gas and heating fuel to a ban on price gouging, even outside of times of emergency.

Twenty-year quest ends

A Supreme Court of Canada ruling today denied two Alberta Indian bands up to $2-billion in alleged lost income from royalties on oil and gas deposits that lie under their reserves.

Toyota trims production further

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Toyota Motor Corp. is taking additional steps to scale back production at its North American plants, the automaker said Thursday, in anticipation of worsening auto sales.

Toyota said it will schedule additional "non-production days" in April at certain plants. The company has production facilities in Kentucky, California, Indiana and Texas.

Additionally, there is a "strong possibility" that Toyota will shorten work weeks at certain plants to 72 hours from 80 hours, a program the company calls "work sharing."

NZ's first mainstream electric car unveiled

With a teensy electric motor up front, a stack of lithium ion phosphate batteries, a three-point plug in the fuel filler and a whole lot of electronic wizardry, the Blade Electric Vehicles baby is more of a technical tour de force than it looks.

More importantly, it's an electric car you'll be able to buy, as a warranty-covered new model, maybe through Hyundai dealers from mid-2009.

Tesla expects to get $350M in government funds

Electric-car maker Tesla Motors Inc. said Wednesday it was told by the U.S. Department of Energy that its application for $350 million in government loans should be disbursed in the next four to five months.

Chrysler, Nissan halt product tie-up

REUTERS (DETROIT) -- Nissan Motor Co and Chrysler LLC said Thursday they had halted work on a product-based tie-up while both sides consider how to improve the projected financial returns on the 10-month-old deal.

Under the agreement, Nissan was scheduled to have supplied Chrysler LLC with an all-new, fuel-efficient small car made in Japan in exchange for a full-size pickup truck made by Chrysler in Mexico.

Canada backs India's nuclear boom

Toronto, ON, Canada, — Canada has been hostile to Indian efforts to generate nuclear power for the last 34 years. This policy has been in place since Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau cancelled all aid in 1974 to punish India for its minor nuclear detonation. Canada was incorrectly fed information by the nuclear proliferation lobby that Canadian help was responsible for this act.

...Trudeau’s policy stayed in place until January this year, when Canada wisely decided to participate in a project worth more than US$200 billion, building 30 to 40 nuclear power plants in India.

Stimulus: Uncle Sam goes green

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The $787 billion economic stimulus bill aims to create millions of jobs around "shovel-ready" projects.

That's where Paul Prouty says he can help: He has 500 projects ready to go.

Prouty heads the U.S. General Services Administration, an under-the-radar government agency that owns or leases more than 352 million square feet of space in 8,600 federal buildings in 2,200 cities and towns.

Among other responsibilities, the agency is tasked with cutting costs and emissions in the buildings it controls. The stimulus bill provides GSA with $4.5 billion for energy efficiency.

Weather delays Ontario's Wolfe Island wind farm

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Hydro Developers Inc said on Friday that harsh winter weather will delay completion of its 197.8-megawatt Wolfe Island wind project in Ontario by three months and increase capital costs by about 6 percent to C$475 million ($383 million).

Now scheduled for completion by June 30 -- the previous target was March 31 -- the project remains profitable, the Calgary, Alberta-based company said. It said it will fund the C$25 million cost increase from internal sources.

Vermont utility eyes major solar project

Vermont's largest utility is trying out a new way of generating power for its customers. Central Vermont Public Service, or CVPS, is planning to install a major solar array in Rutland. The company hopes to not only capture and distribute solar energy, but also learn more about its potential.

How to Save the Suburbs: Solutions from the Man Who Saw the Whole Thing Coming

The suburbs are really suffering. What’s the short-form diagnosis?
Americans are undergoing a fundamental shift in where they want live, work, and play. So this is not just a normal cyclical downturn. We’ve structurally overbuilt retail, office, and housing, and we’ve done so in the wrong places.

So where’s the bottom? Or, rather: Is there a bottom?
It’s not a matter of waiting for two or three years to absorb the overproduction. It’s a matter of drastically reducing real estate prices to well below replacement cost. And when you sell something for below replacement cost – that might sound like, well, “Somebody takes a hit but life goes on as usual.” No, life doesn’t go on. For the owners of that retail or housing space, every dollar that they invest will be money they don’t get back. That is another definition of a slum. There’s no incentive to invest in a slum. So here you are. You buy a 4,000 square foot house 40 miles outside town. You think, wow, I got great value. But when the roof begins to go, you just patch it, because if you put a new one on it’ll cost $20,000, you’ll still be at the same selling price. So, why do it?

U.S. oil refinery delays may spur supply crunch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The stage is being set for a fuel supply crunch in the United States once the economy rebounds now that refiners have pushed back more than $10 billion worth of upgrades they had on the drawing board.

Pressured by the oil price collapse and the economic malaise, companies have also either slowed or scrapped expansions which could threaten 340,000 barrels per day of new capacity, spelling a return to lagging processing capability that helped push pump prices higher until last year.

"If the economy comes back faster than expected, we are going to be caught flat-footed and we're going to see a big spike in prices," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago.

Gazprom Neft's oil exports fell 2.4% in 2008

MOSCOW, February 13 (RIA Novosti) - Gazprom Neft cut oil export by 2.4% year-on-year to 14.25 million metric tons in 2008, the oil arm of Russian energy giant Gazprom said in a financial report on Friday.

The export of oil products also fell, by 10.7% year-on-year to 8.6 million metric tons.

The decreases were due to redirecting oil to the domestic market.

Total Plans to Expand in Venezuela Rather Than Brazil, CEO Says

(Bloomberg) -- Total SA, Europe’s third-biggest oil company, plans to bid on new Venezuelan fields and intends to expand in that country rather than Brazil, Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie said.

Libya set to shop with oil fund cash

Libya's oil fund controls assets worth more than $65 billion but has only up to 23% of its available cash funnelled into investments, fund chairman, former National Oil Corporation executive Abdulhafid Zlitni said.

Tata's global dream turns nasty

MUMBAI - "Be prepared for hard decisions," Tata group chairman Ratan Tata warned in a New Year letter addressed to 350,000 Tata employees worldwide, acknowledging the unprecedented troubled times facing the 140-year-old Tata dynasty, one of Asia's oldest and most respected conglomerates.

The challenges faced at Bombay House, the stately 84-year-old corporate home of the Tatas in the Indian financial center of Mumbai, must be unprecedented: Tata Motors is struggling to raise funds in the capital market, thousands of Tata workers face lay-offs, factories are being shut down, supposedly temporarily, top executives are considering taking pay cuts and newly acquired iconic car brands Jaguar and Land Rover look to European government bailouts for survival.

Despite its Decline, Oil Remains a “Must-Have” Profit Play

Q: With crude oil prices down more than 75% from their record high set in July, do I really need to worry about “peak oil.”

A: Let me be blunt. Producers are operating near maximum capacity every day with 89.5 million barrels per day. We’re using 89 million barrels per day. That means there is essentially no excess capacity anywhere – period. If you factor in war, routine maintenance of pipelines or refining facilities, and diminishing supplies, we’re probably already running at a deficit even though current data does not yet reflect that. There is a very high probability that in the near future demand will outrun supply – and by that I mean permanently outrun supply.

Militant group threatens to attack Italian interests in Nigeria

LAGOS (Xinhua) -- The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the most active militant group in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta region, on Friday threatened to attack targets operated by Italian companies in Nigeria.

MEND stated this in an e-mailed statement receiving here on Friday, saying that it would not reverse decision to attack Italian interests in Nigeria, especial Italian oil firm Agip, who is one of the major oil companies operating in Niger Delta region.

In Europe, Wind and Solar Feel Financial Crisis

Last week I wrote about the struggles of the solar and wind industries in the United States, as the financial crisis deepens.

European renewables are also affected — though not to the same extent — as bank lending has slowed.

South Carolina regulators OK nuclear power project

WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) - South Carolina regulators have unanimously approved a request by the state's largest utility, South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), to join with a state-owned utility to build two nuclear reactors.

U.S. corn for ethanol to rise, growth to slow: USDA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. corn used to produce ethanol will increase in 2009/10, but beyond that, growth is forecast to slow with demand mirroring changes in gasoline consumption, the Agriculture Department said on Thursday.

USDA projected 4.2 billion bushels of corn will be used to produce ethanol in 2009/10, an increase from 3.6 billion bushels forecasted for the current year.

Overall, ethanol is forecast to command about 33 percent of the corn crop compared to 30 percent in 2008/09.

Solar: What Happens When Polysilicon Prices Collapse?

Yesterday afternoon, MEMC Electronic Materials (WFR) disclosed in an SEC filing after the closed that it had struck a revised silicon wafer supply agreement with Suntech Power (STP) which cuts the price Suntech is paying per wafer, but increasing volume to maintain the revenue targets under the deal for both 2009 and for the remainder of the 10-year deal, which was struck in 2006.

The revised agreement is a symptom of a key underlying dynamic in the solar industry: collapsing prices for raw polysilicon in the face of dramatically increasing supply. In a comprehensive report on the subject this morning, Collins Stewart solar analyst Dan Ries notes that spot market poly prices have fallen from a peak of about $450/kg in mid-2008 to the $130-$150/kg range more recently. That’s a pretty dramatic move - but the decline is far from over.

Oil Industry Ready to Work on Global Warming

HOUSTON — Confronted with a sharp change of priorities in Washington, international oil executives are expressing an eagerness to work with President Obama to fashion new policies to tackle global warming.

Model sees severe climate change impact by 2050

LONDON (Reuters) - Current efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions will do little to ease damaging climate change, according to a report issued Friday that predicts Greenland's ice sheets will start melting by 2050.

A computer model calculated that if carbon dioxide emissions continue to grow at the current rate over the next 40 years, global temperatures will still rise 2 degrees Centigrade compared with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

This would push the planet to the brink, sparking unprecedented flooding and heatwaves and making it even more difficult to reverse the trend, according to the report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in Britain.

Evangelist, Scientist Discuss Climate

A Nobel-prize winning scientist and a former lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals shared the stage at the Harvard Divinity School last night to call for cooperation between scientists and evangelicals on the issue of global climate change.

Avoiding ‘carbon curtain’

A DWINDLING band of economists still question whether the benefits of doing something about climate change justifies the costs in terms of foregone growth and poverty reduction, taking the view that future costs and harm are much less important than current costs. (This view ignores the possibility or impact of irreversible damage that cannot be meaningfully costed). The Stern Report effectively countered such arguments.

Technology is bound to play a central role in the transition to a low-carbon economy that drastically reduces reliance on fossil fuels for transport, agriculture, and energy production. Technology is seen by some as a form of “get out of jail free” card that will allow both rich and poor countries to keep growing their market econo- mies while simultaneously achieving the reductions in carbon emissions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.

But is this techno-optimism justified?

Crude Cassandra: As the price of petroleum plunges, the prince of Peak Oil finds himself a contrarian again.

Matthew Simmons has given 30-plus speeches in the past year, to audiences as diverse as the Pentagon and the Colorado School of Mines. One talk was tortuously titled: "Quo Vadis Energy? (Will Dawn Follow Darkness as Twilight of Energy Fades?)" Short answer: No. Simmons' message is always some variation on the global implications of Peak Oil--that point after which global crude supplies wane, prices soar and shortages spur geopolitical strife.

The Ukraine-Russia gas tiff is a first taste of the transnational energy disputes to come. Simmons believes Moscow's saber rattling is political cover for a more serious problem: a shortage of gas in Gazprom's pipeline system. "This is really serious stuff. We've had a peak in Russian gas. Next year Europe is toast. Cold toast." Could he be right? Chief Executive Alexei Miller stated last July that Gazprom's output had flattened out below 2006 production levels. Russia is already importing gas from the central Asian "Stans" and exporting it to Europe.

Oil climbs above $34 on mortgage reports

VIENNA – Reports that the U.S. government may subsidize mortgage payments boosted prices above $34 a barrel Friday after investor skepticism about the U.S. stimulus package pulled prices near record lows.

Light, sweet crude for March delivery rose 47 cents to $34.45 a barrel by midday in Europe on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.96 overnight to settle at $33.98 a barrel.

OPEC Cuts Global Oil Demand Forecast as Recession Deepens

(Bloomberg) -- The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reduced its 2009 demand forecast for a sixth consecutive month as the economic slump causes a “sudden and massive” decline in consumption.

OPEC lowered its estimate for 2009 worldwide oil demand this year by 530,000 barrels a day to 85.13 million barrels a day, the producer group said in a monthly report today. That means demand will contract by 580,000 barrels a day this year, or 0.7 percent. Last month it forecast a decline of 0.2 percent.

China May Approve Refining Stimulus to Help Economy

(Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s second-biggest energy consumer, may approve a stimulus plan for the oil refining and petrochemicals sector by next week to help spur the slowing economy, two industry officials said.

...The draft plan proposed that the government take advantage of low prices and stockpile oil products to help reduce an oversupply in the domestic market, one of the officials said. It was proposed that the state build a reserve of 10 million metric tons of fuels by 2011, he said. The officials didn’t give the value of the stimulus package.

Next Challenge on Stimulus: Spending All That Money

President Barack Obama plans to rely heavily on agencies like the Energy Department to approve contracts and issue loan guarantees and grants at a record clip in the $789 billion stimulus plan.

But there are signs that parts of the federal bureaucracy will need an overhaul to handle the huge workload heading their way. Such worries are apparent at the Energy Department, which will play a key role in Mr. Obama's bid to revive the economy and wean the country off oil.

Eni to Pump 2 Million Barrels of Oil a day in 2012

Bloomberg) -- Eni SpA, Italy’s largest oil company, forecast production will rise by 3.5 percent a year to exceed 2 million barrels a day in 2012.

Spending in the 2009-2012 period will fall by 1 billion euros to 48.8 billion euros ($62.8 billion) compared with the previous period, the Rome-based company said today in a statement. About 34 billion euros will be targeted for investments in oil production.

“Exploration will be the pillar of our sustainable policy,” Claudio Descalzi, head of exploration and production at Eni, told analysts during a presentation in London today.

Gassco Says Fault Halted U.K.’s Vesterled Gas Flows

(Bloomberg) -- Gassco AS, Norway’s natural-gas pipeline operator, said a power blackout halted gas flows to the U.K. through the Vesterled pipeline.

“There won’t be any flows during this gas day,” Gassco spokesman Kjell Varlo Larsen said by phone from Bygnes, Norway. A so-called gas day is a 24-hour period until 6 a.m.

Plunging Values of Used Vehicles Foil Rebound in New-Auto Sales

(Bloomberg) -- Doug Fox, owner of a Michigan Acura dealership, watched a deal evaporate last month when the 2006 pickup that a shopper planned to trade was appraised at $6,000 less than he owed.

Falling used-car prices have erased about 6 million potential buyers from the U.S. new-car market as they struggle with loan balances exceeding the value of their old vehicles, researchers at J.D. Power & Associates estimate.

ROAD TEST: A pricey new hulk, but no star as a hybrid

What General Motors calls the "world's first large luxury hybrid SUV" is a case of too much too late: a hulk that's only a little less out of step with the times than the conventional Escalade.

With a $73,000 price tag -- $3,600 more than a conventional comparably equipped Escalade -- and qualifying for a $2,200 federal tax credit, the hybrid offers fuel economy that, under the right conditions, can be a lot better than a standard Escalade in city driving but is only a little better on the highway.

The cost of hybrid repairs

Fleets adopting greener vehicles to cut their carbon emissions and reduce operating costs have been warned that hybrid vehicles could cost significantly more to repair then their petrol and diesel counterparts.

According to research carried out in the US, the Toyota Prius cost 8.4% more to repair than its petrol-powered counterparts, while hybrid vehicles in general averaged almost 4% more to repair.

Alberta Calls for Stricter Environmental Rules on Oil Sands

(Bloomberg) -- The Alberta government called for stricter environmental rules as the province’s oil sands are developed.

The province’s 20-year plan recommends that companies use less water in the extraction of bitumen, the tar-like raw material processed to make crude. It also seeks faster restoration of mined land and controls on tailing ponds and greenhouse gases.

Laid-Off Foreigners Flee as Dubai Spirals Down

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Sofia, a 34-year-old Frenchwoman, moved here a year ago to take a job in advertising, so confident about Dubai’s fast-growing economy that she bought an apartment for almost $300,000 with a 15-year mortgage.

Now, like many of the foreign workers who make up 90 percent of the population here, she has been laid off and faces the prospect of being forced to leave this Persian Gulf city — or worse.

“I’m really scared of what could happen, because I bought property here,” said Sofia, who asked that her last name be withheld because she is still hunting for a new job. “If I can’t pay it off, I was told I could end up in debtors’ prison.”

With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have maxed-out credit cards inside and notes of apology taped to the windshield.

Utah: I-15 to be natural gas refueling corridor

SALT LAKE CITY - Questar Gas plans to beef up the compressed-gas refueling network along Interstate 15 from Salt Lake City to St. George.

Gov. Jon Huntsman made the announcement Thursday at a Sinclair station in Orem that sells compressed natural gas.

Norway to present law on sea wind turbines in June

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway will present a draft law in June to promote wind turbines at sea in a shift to renewable energies from offshore oil and gas, the government said on Friday.

To slow climate change, tax carbon

Washington – Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California announced this month she intends to move ahead with legislation designed to lower the emission of greenhouse gases that are linked by many scientists to climate change. But the approach she's taking is flawed, and the current financial crisis can help us understand why.

Major airlines call for climate deal to include aviation

HONG KONG (AFP) – Four of the world's leading airlines on Thursday called for greenhouse gas emissions from aviation to be included in a new global climate deal.

The Aviation Global Deal Group (AGD) said the industry needed a "pragmatic, fair and effective global policy solution," ahead of crucial United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

Climate change to cause dark night of the shoal

PARIS (AFP) – Climate change will cause key species of fish to migrate towards the poles, badly depleting many commercial fisheries, scientists said in a study published on Thursday.

"The impact of climate change on marine biodiversity and fisheries is going to be huge," said its lead author, William Cheung, of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, eastern England.

US 'sea change' on climate talks: EU, UN

TOKYO (AFP) – Top UN and EU climate officials said Friday they saw a "sea change" in the United States under President Barack Obama, saying it showed a willingness to engage on global warming in their first meeting.

Hillary Clinton's climate-saving voyage

Hillary Clinton chose Asia, particularly China, for her maiden voyage next week as secretary of State. While the most urgent issue is Beijing's help to end a global recession, Mrs. Clinton's more planet-saving goal is to enlist China to set curbs on its carbon emissions. Without that, President Obama may not be able to win enough Senate votes for a cap on US greenhouse gases.

US energy chief floats idea of a carbon tax: NYT

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Energy Secretary Steven Chu has floated the idea of a carbon emissions tax to fight global warming, in an interview with The New York Times Thursday.

Big Science Role Is Seen in Global Warming Cure

WASHINGTON — Steven Chu, the new secretary of energy, said Wednesday that solving the world’s energy and environment problems would require Nobel-level breakthroughs in three areas: electric batteries, solar power and the development of new crops that can be turned into fuel.

CO2 hits new peaks, no sign global crisis causing dip

OSLO (Reuters) - Atmospheric levels of the main greenhouse gas are hitting new highs, with no sign yet that the world economic downturn is curbing industrial emissions, a leading scientist said on Thursday.

"The rise is in line with the long-term trend," Kim Holmen, research director at the Norwegian Polar Institute, said of the measurements taken by a Stockholm University project on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard off north Norway.

“Bankrupt Supplier Causes Gas Outages At Some Stations”


“One gas station owner estimates that three-quarters of the Shell stations in Tulsa are affected -- some 30 for the greater Tulsa metro region.”

“Tulsa is not alone in this. Crescent reportedly distributes fuel to some 340 locations in six states.”

Cheap gas is great isn’t it ? Just wait until it gets cheaper !!

I LOVE this article!! The only thing I would love more would be if these were actual mug shots, preceeded by actual perp walks and followed by actual trials.

Blameworthy - 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis

Check it out quick, before their lawyers pull it!

And who are we going to blame for the financial crisis in Great Britain, in France, in the rest of Europe, in Dubai, in China, in Japan, in just about every country in the world? Isn’t it a strange coincidence that at the exact same time we had politicians, bankers and money managers screwing the economy in the US, other politicians, bankers and money managers in almost every country in the world were also screwing up the economys of their respective countries?

Heare on CNBC this morning: This is the first worldwide recession that we have ever experienced. Could peak oil, and the extremely high prices it caused last year have anything to do with it? Energy production has stopped growing and therefore economies must stop growing as well.

Ron Patterson

If you think this could have gone on indefinitely if oil had stayed at $10 a barrel for the last 11 years you don't understand the situation. Scams collapse eventually-cheap oil could have delayed the inevitable but the fall would have been even more dramatic as asset values would have inflated even more. This is the largest systemic financial fraud in history, aided and abetted by the some of the most powerful governments.

Brian - Your assertion: "This is the largest systemic financial fraud in history, aided and abetted by the some of the most powerful governments." would imply a massive conspiracy.

Wouldn't it be a safer bet to say that most of the players made broad assumptions that proved to be false. As long as everyone was making a lot of money even real criminals like Bernie Madoff were able to operate with impunity. Humans are opportunists.

OTOH conspiracies require a lot of effort, planning and guile not to mention cooperation. I don't see it.


Was ENRON a mistake? Prosecutors didn't agree with you. Robert Rubin and friends set up the whole ENRON scam-how exactly does CITI differ from ENRON? CITI isn't the only one-it is the same scam all over the place. Accounting fraud being tolerated by governments-that is the whole story. Yes, it requires effort, planning and guile.

Joe, I'm not quite sure about your 'imply a massive conspiracy' statement.

This may not be an ipso faxo comparison

I can just as easily explain the massive fraud as a simple convergence of interest.

Namely, the idea that many people feel:

I better get mine while the getting is good

The authorities are not punishing the guilty

Everyone else is doing it

Let them find out when I'm safe in Portugal

It may occur to some people that we are approaching peak fraud, but there's probably more to come.

"safe in Portugal"?

Most of the wrongdoers are reclining in their multi-million dollar high-rise condo's or skiing Vail. Bernie Madoff should be in Gitmo subject to the tender mercies of sadistic interrogators but he's under house arrest in a 4 million dollar condo. Martha Stewart did time. Jeff Skilling is doing time. Why? :because like most primitive tribes we need a human sacrifice to appease the gods.

How many sacrifices will we need for this meltdown? Hard to say. I don't know whether this is any solace but in CA most of the millionaires were due to real estate speculation and rising values. With the current crash in values a large percentage of the Nouveau Riche are now caput!

Meanwhile: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?


GAD! Did I say that? Obviously not. It is a very bad habit of yours Brian, putting words in other people's mouths that they never uttered. Nothing goes on indefinitely! As I said in a post the other day, I have thrashed this straw for over 40 years. I knew that the collapse had to come sooner or later, but only in the last ten years did I know what would trigger the collapse.

Our economy, and the economies of almost every other nation, depends on growth. Populations are continuing to grow therefore economies must grow to employ all those extra people. Technology continues to get better, producing more products from less labor, therefore economies must grow for that reason also, work must be created for all the people put out of work because of the march of technology. And in a debt based economy, economies must grow in order to pay the interest on the debt.

In the US and most developed countries, the migration from the country to the cities slowed years ago and is now a trickle. But in developing countries like India and China, this migration is currently in full swing. That is a fourth reason economies, especially in the developing world, must grow. Their cities must find jobs for all the new migrants from the countryside.

But growth requires growth in the energy supply. For the last one hundred years, most economies have grown at about 1.5% an average. That is almost the exact same amount that our energy supply has grown. When the energy supply stops growing, economies must stop growing also. The oil supply stopped growing in 2005. And the very high price of oil over this period only exacerbated the situation.

And I will not comment on your belief that it was all caused by one huge conspiracy.

Ron Patterson

The deputy director of the FBI disagrees with you.

Brian - was that FBI deputy director the same one who ignored muslims in numerous flight schools around the country who were learning how to fly, but not how to land, commercial jets?

Ron - Over 20 years ago I saw my neighbor put an addition on his house, buy two new cars and take a lavish vacation. I assumed that they must have come into an inheritance. A couple of months later he told me that they refinanced their house, took out a line of credit and their payments were lower than they were before. Cheap money was the driver and a lot of us went along for the ride.

Although the dynamic of oil depletion may be a factor in the current economic collapse the detachment of the price of homes from anything resembling what average people could reasonably afford to pay back occurred over a period of not mere years but in the case of California decades.

California Dreamin'


Joe. Again a nice story about your neighbor, but perhaps not the only conclusion.

Your neighbor was victim of greed, and so were the people who lent him the money.

The main difference is merely one of scale.

Save your anger for better subjects. Know that rapacious greed is an incurable sickness and the bigger the fish, the greater the apatite .

Greed has made us what we are today.

...the bigger the fish, the greater the apatite.

Ca5(PO4)3(F,Cl,OH) ???

DD wrote:

Ca5(PO4)3(F,Cl,OH) ???

Thanks for the joke DD, I couldn's stop laughing.


Whalebones found in phosphate mines.

"...your neighbor was a victim of greed..."

Yeah, sure, right. Every miscreant is a "victim". Nobody's responsible for their own behavior.

"Every villain is followed by a sophist with a sponge" (short form of saying attributed to Lord Acton.) And oh, my, has the political correctness of non-responsibility ever burdened us with a vast overbearing surplus of sophists with sponges.

1.5% on average? Source, please.

CNBC doesn't think the Great Depression was a worldwide recession?

The Great Depression hit Asia much later than it did the US and Europe and it was not nearly as hard in Asia. From WikiAnswers.Com

Asia was hit by the Great Depression due to its dependence on the export of raw materials with Europe and America, predominantly rubber and tin for the automotive industry. Asian trade fell sharply as America and Europe were gripped by the depression. Firms in Asia responded by cutting their workforce and reducing wages.

And I am not sure but I think the guest on CNBC was referring to all the recessions that happened since the Great Depression.


"..........Firms in Asia responded by cutting their workforce and reducing wages"

Do you also hear the echo from the past ?

who are we going to blame for the financial crisis in Great Britain, in France, in the rest of Europe, in Dubai, in China, in Japan, in just about every country in the world?

After the oil industry, finance is the most globalized undertaking. Financial models developed in New York and London became examples imitated by the rest of the world. The refrain of "deregulate and the worlds problems will be solved" was heard and applied in most industrialized economies and the unquestioned spread of this philosophy was abetted by media organizations.

Understand that the role of Davos and other elite meetings permits the elite to share models and methods and then apply them in their home nations. The US has been the leader in financial sector innovation and the other blindly imitated this "success."

The financial innovations in the US resulted in a global flood of cheap credit. In the US, Spain, and England, this resulted in a housing spiral which has since collapsed resulting in insolvent banks on government life support.

Cheap credit supported the Dubai vision of artificial islands in the gulf. The lack of cheap credit dooms Dubai to collapse.

Canada escaped as our government refused to relax financial regulations; the type of financial products that drove the US housing boom were not available here. There was a boom but this was largely concentrated in the commodity export provincial economies.

Japan has been been trying to grow out of economic stasis for the past 10 to 15 years. Its property boom and bust came much earlier in the decade. It is a possible model for the future of the west.

China has boomed based on foreign direct investment using China as a production base for re-export to North America and the world. China is now on the ropes due to demand collapse for its exports not because of a collapse in the housing, or financial sector. Its situation is different from that of the US and UK and Spain where you do have an insolvent banking sector that threatens to cripple normal commerce.

Germany was conservative and escaped the major impact but will get sideswiped by the drop in global demand for its exports and Canada will be hurt by the fact that the customer for 87% of its production is no longer buying.

You could leave energy prices out of the analysis and you would still end up with a financial crisis if banks lend funds to people who cannot repay the loan and at the same time willingly accept false collateral values as loan security. Contemplate that these bad lending practices were then compounded by leverage of 10 to 1, 20 to 1, 30 to 1. That leverage is now working in reverse, collateral values have evaporated, and the banks are insolvent. Energy pricing is a sideshow to this problem.

Darwinian – It is widely understood that man is greedy, rapacious, self-interested, whatever. Which is exactly why banks, investors, the whole finance industry has been closely regulated to keep these in check.

Those who purposefully removed these checks KNEW exactly what would happen but you simply dismiss it as just a big boo boo. BS!

They Planned and executed it. Yes conspired.

You can just dismiss what is happening as just some silly monkeys acting up again.

Yes oil, or more likely net energy topped out and in order to continue the party TPTB tried to remove the connection between oil and energy by deregulating finance and everything else.


Send in the Druids!

This makes it clear how the game was played and who is wrongly getting the blame:


The Worst Case Scenario, by David Brooks

Good article . . . except that I would call this "the Best Case Scenario"

No one home: 1 in 9 housing units vacant

A record 1 in 9 U.S. homes are vacant, a glut created by the housing boom and subsequent collapse.

"The numbers are further documentation of the gravity of the housing problem," says Nicolas Retsinas, head of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. "This inventory is delaying any kind of housing recovery."

The surge in empty houses, condominiums and apartments is creating a wave of problems for communities desperate to shore up property values and tax revenues that pay for services. Vacant homes create upkeep and safety problems that ripple through neighborhoods.

Leanan -

And Obama seriously thinks he's going to stimulate the home construction industry?

If you build it, who will come?

I cant really see how a nation of bankers and McDonalds cooks will prosper, easy credit or not!

Tiny houses, maybe? Mine is 6x7 meters, 3 stories. Plus 2x6 meters on the ground floor, only, for the kitchen. All 4 of us live there. And I have 1 spare room which will be converted to a small office/library so I can work better at home. Not that the latter is a necessity: my workplace is a 5 minute commute by moped. The new roof (which was constructed along with the new 2nd floor) has 12 cm of insulation. The whole house has double glass windows, and can be (and often is) heated by a 5 kw wood stove, simply by opening the door to the staircase allowing the warm air to rise to the upper floors.

Next step: solar water heater, after that windside vertical windturbines. The first I can pay for next summer ( or maybe do http://beeractivist.wordpress.com/2007/06/20/solar-hot-water-heater-made... ). The latter will have to wait at least another year, unfortunately.

Overwhelming!!! I am taking my next vacation in China (not far from Thailand) and buy the biggest fireworks rocket I can find. Just in case I have to make a one way evacuation (up, not down, if you get the drift).

Not sure how many homes that is...but the last count of homelessness in the USA (2007) stood at 671,859. Not that the two shall ever meet!

Re: GM's Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

A hybrid Escalade is an improvement over a conventional Escalade in the same way that having diet soda with your extra-large pepperoni pizza is an improvement over having it with regular soda. Both completely miss the point.

I know what you mean...

The trend I see is that due to the problems in the credit markets, the market for all oversized luxury vehicles is essentially dying. People will either hang onto the vehicle that they currently have, or if they do get something, it will tend to be something less expensive, which will tend to be smaller, lighter, and get a somewhat better fuel economy.

The thing I find curious is the other story up above where they say that the market for used vehicles is plunging as well, but it sounds like it is again the large oversized vehicles that are taking the big hit. I imagine that if you had a car with a good fuel economy (like >40mpg), you could still get a relatively decent price for the thing..

Did anyone see this interesting article?

Rob Kirby seems to be claiming that the administration caused the oil price collapse by swapping light sweet crude for heavy sour stuff in the strategic petroleum reserve.

As evidenced above, crude oil has also been swapped – likely sweet crude, WTI - for less expensive sour crude. Under such a scenario – physical sweet crude left the SPR – creating a market glut of “premium sweet oil”. This set off an engineered over-supply chain reaction in the crude complex which depressed WTI’s price relative to Brent Crude. Because supply chain storage facilities are finite and were completely filled in the Texas / Cushing region – this also contributed to further price declines in the crude complex.

But there's been no change in the SPR inventory. Or does he think it was done secretly, and the inventory report is a lie?

Not sure really, and can't get the inventory link working at the moment, but he says:

In the scenario described above, there would be NO APPRECIABLE ACCOUNTING CHANGE to the reported gross number of barrels in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve [SPR] – but only the “subtle acknowledgement” of the composition alluded to in the DOE’s annual report.

You can see the cache here. I've been watching the SPR inventory for some time now.

In the scenario described above, there would be NO APPRECIABLE ACCOUNTING CHANGE to the reported gross number of barrels in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve [SPR] – but only the “subtle acknowledgement” of the composition alluded to in the DOE’s annual report.

I don't think he knows what he's talking about. The SPR inventory lists sweet and sour crude separately, as well as the amount of any swaps. There hasn't been any significant change.

Thanks for that. Hard to imagine how somebody can just lie like that and charge a hefty annual subscription for the disinformation! Or do you think it's accidental?

Is there a historical record of light/sour somewhere - just so I can check the figures myself?

I don't think it's lying or disinformation. I think he just doesn't know about the SPR inventory page. Even among us peak oilers, there are a surprising number of people who don't know that this info is on the web.

The earlier reports probably are out there somewhere. Via the Wayback Machine, if nothing else.

Here's one from Dec. 2006:


You can see the ratio of sweet to sour is about the same. As long as I've been following it, it's always been roughly 60% sour to 40% sweet.

Thanks again.

He does make a good question though, how do you know the information is correct?

CNBC: House of Cards

Okay - two bad things: 1) Watchingtwo hours of TV, 2) Watching two hours of CNBC.

But aside from puttign up with those annoying-as-h*ll Valentine's Day commercials I thought it was pretty good. You may not and that's okay, but I got a more-or-less overview of all the players in the house buyer->mortgage originator->MBS->CDO->investor(bagholder) chain.

And the excuses all along the chain seemed to be there were no laws against the behavior (although I sure thought about fraud and RICO).

And I am more convinced than ever that the Wall Street Banks need to die a horrible financail death.


CNBC presents the definitive report on the defining story of our time. CNBC correspondent David Faber investigates the origins of the global economic crisis, with first person accounts from home buyers, mortgage brokers, investment bankers and investors – most of whom let greed blind them, leading to the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression.


I thought this was a pretty good program too. The timeline and dissection of the players involved in the mortgage mess was fascinating. I particulary was fascinated with Greenspans views on what/how it all happened. He didn't seem to see himself as so culpable. His last comment..."in a few years....we'll be right back here talking about this again" (or something to that effect) was spooky.

last i looked the problem that caused all this came before 2001, which is the date the programed blamed for the 'start' of the mess.

"Hugh Hendry: Bank Chiefs, Regulators Have Damned Our Future"



Hey Soup,

Thxs for the great short video-link. Hope all TODers can view it.

Great Hendry Quote: "They [the topdogs] are children."

The United States federal debt will exceed GDP by 2015.


I have used the CBO's own projections in my analysis, and simply added in a moderate amount of stimulus and bailout spending (1.4 Trillion). Far more than this might be spent in the end.

I wonder at what point S&P/Moody's/Fitch would be willing to downgrade the US govt's credit rating? We would probably deserve to lose a notch or two once debt exceeds gdp.

the debt to annual gdp was about 125% at the end of ww2 and declined more or less continuously through good times and bad, war and peace, democrat and republican anministrations to around 33% at the end of the carter's term.

we can probably recover from this as long as another ronald regan or george bush the boy don't come along and bring us more brilliant economic trickle down programs.

Human limits, not human power, define the situation we face today…
The technological revolutions and economic boom times that most modern people take for granted resulted from a brief period of extravagance in which we squandered half a billion years of stored sunlight.
John Michael Greer

I doubt if there is a member on this site that doesn’t acknowledge what Mister Greer so artfully points out. However even among the relatively enlightened there is a stark disagreement on various judgments of how society will or will not adjust to scarcity of resources.

For instance I accept the contention that industrial society will have to collapse in a large and spectacular way before real change will occur. We have so much invested in modern industrial society that the law of previous investment will compel us to do everything we can to keep the present system going. Like a gambler spending his last dollar trying to get back his losses we will stay at the table until we are bankrupt. I worked for the casinos for many years. The house never worried about winners because sooner or later a player will give it all back

There are others that believe that it will be a slow and gradual down spiral where people will have the time and resources (including the good judgment) necessary to make adjustments. That would certainly be the most desirable outcome.

But the other day on TOD I read a particular poster accusing another of “wishing for collapse” so that he might enjoy the satisfaction of being right. That kind of pissed me off!

The suggestion that deeply unsatisfactory conditions cannot be solved but, rather, have to be lived with, is unthinkable and offensive to a great many people. JMG

A long forgotten definition of maturity is “being able to tolerate ambivalence”. That means that you can believe in Collapse and not relish it.


...you can believe in Collapse and not relish it.

Doesn't matter if people dread collapse or welcome it. Motives don't matter. Only outcomes do. Collapse by every metric appears to be inevitable. If so, it will happen regardless of how people feel about it.

There are others that believe that it will be a slow and gradual down spiral where people will have the time and resources (including the good judgment) necessary to make adjustments. That would certainly be the most desirable outcome.

Disagree. I think that would be the worst possible outcome. And Greer may agree, even though he thinks that is what will happen.

He points out that catabolic collapse means the society has time to truly trash the environment on the way down. As you note, we will do everything we can to keep our society going, until all resources and capital have been converted to waste. The end result is an environment so devastated that it cannot support a society of the complexity that used to exist before the collapsing society arose or arrived. For the US, that would mean people left with less technology than the Native Americans. Forests chopped down, rivers and lakes poisoned with toxic chemicals, animals hunted to extinction, soil ruined or eroded away, wells so salty the water can't be drunk.

I agree, let's put this puppy into the wall, and hope the survivors can sort this out with some wisdom and intelligence. The economic and social organization of the current system seems entrenched, and very inflexible. The clinging to capitalist and growth models are economic suicide, and ideologically toxic.

The end result is an environment so devastated that it cannot support a society of the complexity that used to exist before the collapsing society arose or arrived.

As I've often pointed out, when carrying capacity is exceeded, population crashes & K resets at some level below that previous to overshoot. The more that population exceeds K the lower the reset level will be. In temperate terrestrial ecosystems, often collapse of large vertebrate populations will occur at levels of overshoot in the range of a few tens of percent. Even at these levels K resets at some significantly lower value. For a large vertebrate population to exceed K by an order & a half of magnitude is absolutely unprecedented. Following collapse K will be negligible. Collapse all the way to extinction may be expected. If collapse doesn't result in extinction right away, K will be within the range where Allee effects result in the extinction of population relicts within a few generations.

Collapse all the way to extinction may be expected.

You are clearly uninformed and have not viewed Three Days of the Condor in which the Redford character is lectured to the effect that if the "people are cold and hungry they are not going to ask about morality. They will just expect us to go get it for them."

Remember that the American way of life is non-negotiable, that US military spending equals that of all other nations, that US militarism is largely unquestioned within the US due to its many domestic benefits, that the US reserves the right to attack anyone, at any time, for any trumped up reason, refuses to contemplate war crimes prosecutions for actions that fit this definition, refuses to abide by international treaties including those it has already signed, and that it has enough megatons to destroy the world three times over.

Given all these advantages your claim to extinction cannot extend to the American people.

For a large vertebrate population to exceed K by an order & a half of magnitude is absolutely unprecedented. Following collapse K will be negligible.

I've just completed Harrison Brown's "The Challenge of Man's Future", 1954. Ouch. He focuses a lot on what happens with the diminishing quality of resources - how in each case more energy is required to use resources of lower quality. And how when that energy tapers off, all of a sudden we are back to agricultural society [if we're lucky] because the resources - at low concentrations - become instantly unavailable. If for any reason society loses the ability to process any of the low concentrations of required resources - poof. In passing, he mentions that war might leave more and better quality resources in place than a highly orchestrated, totalitarian society of alphas, betas, gammas and deltas dedicated to squeezing every last bit of thorium from seawater and granite.

It sucks that "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" and the consequent world-wide carnage might well be a better plan for planetary and human survival than what the Obambis do. Ten years, 50 years, 100 years. It depends on the time frame. Dennis Meadows says that hard problems become easier if the time frame is extended. Ooops.

One of the quotes from the book:

We have seen that plants grow more rapidly in an atmosphere that is rich in carbon dioxide. It would perhaps be easier to adopt methods which would increase the carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere as a whole...[p142]

Double plus ooops.

cfm in Gray, ME

If for any reason society loses the ability to process any of the low concentrations of required resources - poof.

Rock phosphate, for instance. It's getting scarce, & the FF energy for extracting & transporting it is becoming more expensive (temporary price reprieve not withstanding). No P for ag & - poof - no harvest.

We have seen that plants grow more rapidly in an atmosphere that is rich in carbon dioxide. It would perhaps be easier to adopt methods which would increase the carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere as a whole...

It's only true that plants grow more rapidly in a CO2 enriched environment when CO2 is the limiting nutrient, which is seldom the case. It would be nice if anthropogenic CO2 emissions stimulated primary productivity & the excess oxidized carbon just ended up in biomass. Sadly, this isn't happening. In fact, warming temps due to the accumulation of high heat capacity gasses appear to be reducing productivity.

DD, you might want to look at this:


It seems plants have a lot of genes that "switch on" when CO2 levels rise. Respiration goes way up, and, evidently photosythesis as well.

BTW, didn't I read, recently, that the Global "Leaf" Count was up something like 6% in the last decade (about the same as CO2?)

...wells so salty the water can't be drunk

Leanan - I gave a short presentation to a community group last night about the water situation in San Diego. We are now going to rationing and there is a hesitancy on the part of local politicians about creating the draconian measures necessary to reduce water consumption.

I talked about: rapidly falling groundwater tables bringing on salt-water intrusion, wasteful agricultural practices, poor landscape design using water thirsty plants when we live in a desert, etc.

After I was done someone asked me if I didn't think it's all just was a ploy to raise water rates and capture revenues.


I was in northern California last week. I found their water conservation efforts quite striking. Low-flow faucets and shower heads everywhere. The toilets all had signs saying not to use too much TP because it would clog the low-flow toilet. The public bathrooms had signs about how you could reduce your water use at home. ("This toilet saves water. You can do the same at home by putting a brick in the tank!")

I stayed near the Port of Sacramento. It had received a shipment of natural gas generators for a new power plant that was supposedly the heaviest shipment ever. Wind turbine blades go through there, too, with blades so large they hang off the end of the ship.

What's shipped out is mostly rice. Apparently, they flood the desert so they can grow rice, which is shipped to Japan. That doesn't seem like a wise use of water for an area that suffers from chronic water shortages.

I drove I-5 from Sacramento north to Redding last fall. That portion of the central valley is really notable for its wet-dry contrasts. Within a few yards of each other you can witness extremely dry-climate plants along the roadside (palmettos), bone-dry grasses, active rice farms, and wetland-type wildlife areas with egrets strutting about. To add to the fun, a number of farmers were burning off their fields (old rice?) that day, producing numerous dense smoke clouds billowing up into the otherwise-merely-hazy sky. In fairness, it looks like they're able to produce a heckuva lot of rice from that Sacramento River water. There were several sites with enormous, warehouse-sized stacks of bales of rice straw which I think were intended for use in some sort of biofuel scheme.

Palmettos in Cali? Are you sure? As far as I'm aware the range of Serenoa is limited to Florida & the Gulf coastal plain. Maybe they've been planted in Cali as ornamentals & have gone feral. I dunno..

No, not sure, but they certainly did look like palmettos. Approximately 5-6 feet high, if memory serves. Right along the edge of the freeway right-of-way, too. Not a lot of them, but enough to notice. Looked a lot like this picture:


I wouldn't be at all surprised if they had been imported and escaped, as you suggest. When I was up in Redding, I was told that the palm trees that grace some of the median strips in town are transplants, and require not-infrequent replanting when they're killed by the occasional freeze.

Probably is an invasive exotic, then. Wouldn't surprise me. Cali has a big problem with things escaping cultivation & going feral. Spartium the Spanish broom is a recommended xeriscape plant here in NM but in Cali it's invasive & has contributed greatly to the fire hazard. Even the seemingly innocuous little Delosperma "iceplant" from South Africa has become a problem in Cali seaside dune communities.

One problem with the california water system, is that there is no canal to connect the north part of the state (sacramento river), to the california aqueduct and points south. So there generally is an adequate supply of water north of the delta (stockton), and a dearth of water to the south. The rice fields are all north of the delta and can draw from the Sacramento river. This water is unavailable to the San Joaquin valley, LA, and Bay Area.

One problem with the california water system, is that there is no canal to connect the north part of the state (sacramento river), to the california aqueduct and points south.

I don't know the details, but IIRC, Southern California gets much of its water from north of the delta, essentially, pumping it across the rivers, and on down to LA. So I think the south owns the water from the far north, and SF gets its water from due east in the sierra. And a great deal of water is pumped out of the delta to be pumped south (perhaps this is the same LA water that belongs to LA and environs). The delta pumping is under threat from endangered delta fish which are sucked up and killed by the pumps. It is also claimed a good earthquake could breech enough levies to suck salt water up from the bay cutting off a large portion of water supply to most of southern cali. Fortunately this is well east of where most of the crustal deformation occurs, so strong quakes should be rare.

The delta pumping is under threat from endangered delta fish which are sucked up and killed by the pumps.

Don't you have this backwards? Shouldn't you have said: "Endangered delta fish are under threat from delta pumping which sucks them up and kills them."

Best hopes for bigger, more rigid, tougher, gooier and in every way more nasty fish. With every fish, perhaps a section or two of steel rail.

Southern Cal gets most of its water from the Colorado river. The city of Los Angeles owns all of the water rights of the Owens valley, east of the Sierras and is sucking that dry. I'm not sure how much of the water from north of the delta goes to Southern California but I suspect not a large fraction.

One problem with the california water system, is that there is no canal to connect the north part of the state (sacramento river), to the california aqueduct and points south.

No. Not a bug. That's a feature.

The biggest disconnect from reality is The Imperial Valley a large farming community in the center of one of the driest parts of America.

The Imperial Irrigation District has two core businesses and one overarching mission - to keep the lights on and the water flowing. These two basic functions of IID, both having to do with meeting our customers' essential needs, require extensive planning, teamwork and, above all, consistency.


Every year Imperial Valley farmers flood their fields to degrade the salt. They could easily alter the crops they plant and go to a drip irrigation but as long as the state gives them water for nothing why would they? When you look at long held practices such as these is it any wonder that scientists and ecologists are throwing up their hands.

Cadillac Desert, the prescient book written by Marc Reisner in 1986, is still the definitive analysis of water policy in the western United States.


A major theme in the book is about the long competition between the U.S Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corp of Engineers building you guessed it: Dams. A million years on when they are dusting over the bones of our dead civilizations they will no doubt assume that we were a primitive civilization that worshiped...dams.

When I hear Congressmen talk about returning to building dams and roads as a cure for economic stress I want to scream!


Didn't the city of San Diego recently buy up scads of Imperial Valley farmer's water rights to allow continued growth of the city?


Are they still watering the golf courses ???

Of course they are. We receive only 8.2" of precipitation here per year, on average, yet the city council feels that retirees won't want to relocate here if the golf courses aren't maintained. Another big "sport" around here is "rock crawling;" people haul their ORVs on trailers pulled by diesel pickups from far & wide to the BLM "sacrifice areas" allocated to the fun hogs. These areas are devoid of vegetation & erode horribly following (infrequent) rain. Periodically there's a story in the paper about some kid killed or paralyzed with a broken neck from an ATV "accident." Darwinian selection in action, I guess.

"Are they still watering the golf courses ???"

We still are watering the courses in Phoenix:

..The sport is feeling the pinch nationwide.

...Around the country, the number of rounds per day is down 5 to 6 percent, he said.
IMO, they ought to require the duffers to piss on the grass to help save water and NPK. If I was Tiger Woods advisor: he would come out with a line of Tiger products so the duffers could 'mark their territory' like a real tiger does as it wanders about. Recall my earlier postings on innate territoriality.

Exactly Leanan. If we think we have the sixth great extinction going on right now, just wait until things get really bad. Bush meat will be taken, not just in Africa but in everywhere else the world as well. I remember reading, after one great famine, I can't remember which, that the song birds were trapped and eaten. It took years after the famine for the bird population reach normal again.

All famine's to date have been local famines. This will be the first worldwide famine. When the wildlife is eaten this time, there will be nothing to replace it.


We keep talking about "decline" and "collapse" as if they were two distinct, well-defined things. I tend to see a spectrum from stagnation through decline to collapse, maybe with extinction being at the far extreme. I don't see a hard and fast distinction between decline and collapse; I can imagine scenarios that could either be called a hard decline or a soft collapse. I can also imagine multiple scenarios along the decline portion of the spectrum, and other multiple scenarios along the collapse portion of the spectrum. There also is nothing that says that a society needs to stay at one place along that spectrum.

You're correct, of course. Rate of social change follows a continuum from virtual stagnation to instanteous annihilation. Only a massive ET bolide impact would result in the instantaneous extinction of humans, altho an all-out nuclear exchange on the part of the major players would approximate this outcome. Since the implosion of the Soviet Union I no longer expect full-scale nuclear holocaust altho population collapse will probably involve one or more limited regional nuclear exchanges. By "collapse" I mean a rate of population decline measured in years or decades, or within a single or few generations. I feel that human extinction is possible within the lifetimes of those already born, altho not highly probable. Human extinction within the next couple of centuries, on the other hand, I feel is a virtual certainty.

A daydream I've had, based on an assumption of run away global warming/climate chaos:

1. In-ground dwelling
2. in-ground greenhouses probably with mirrors for redirecting adequate sunlight

This gets past both the excessive heat and the dangers of wild weather.

The more I think about it, the less likely extinction seems. I don't, however, feel the same about "civilization." The collapse of large civilizations given a 4 - 6C temperature rise is a virtual certainty, imo.


I agree with you Leanan... the more time people have to hang onto the old ways after they can't be supported the more and longer lasting damage that will be done. An example from around 1000 years ago: The Anasazi also tried to maintain their way of life after they could no longer maintain its infrastructure, and in the intervening time the area they lived in never regenerated the large and plentiful trees that once made it possible.

When the population drops below 1 billion it will still be above carrying capacity.


Re real change, IMHO the 2012 USA presidential race will see the rise of a viable 3rd party candidate. I realize my prediction is pretty far out at this point, but the way Obama is going I think 2012 will be set up for a Ross Perot type character (Ron Paul?). I don't think the candidate can win, but I expect a record vote total for the outsider.

But the other day on TOD I read a particular poster accusing another of “wishing for collapse” so that he might enjoy the satisfaction of being right. That kind of pissed me off!

Actually it was John Michael Greer who said that:

With those caveats, here goes. The following books should be read, if you can manage that, in the order I've listed them...

10. A book predicting a dramatic social transformation that didn't happen. Choose one that you would have rooted for at the time... [I]f you're secretly hoping for social collapse and mass dieoff, read one of the hundreds of books that have been predicting exactly that for the last dozen centuries, and so on. Try to put yourself into the mindset of the readers who believed it when it first saw print; see why it seemed to make sense at the time – and then step back and explore the reasons why nothing of the sort actually happened. Bring everything you've learned from the previous nine books to bear on this one.


Greer is not an apologist for nihilists or flagellants. Some may think he's on the same page with them, but he really isn't. He self-identifies as a Druid, and while there's precious little known about the ancient Druids, there are signs it embraced paganism and animism, with a reverence for various aspects of the natural world, such as the land, sea and sky, and veneration of other aspects of nature, such as sacred trees and groves (the oak and hazel were particularly revered), tops of hills, streams, lakes and plants such as the mistletoe.

The pagan virtues are:

♦ Justice

♦ Courage

♦ Temprance

♦ Prudence

Animism is a philosophical, religious or spiritual idea that souls or spirits exist in humans, animals, plants or other entities. Animism may also attribute souls to natural phenomena, geographic features, and metaphors in mythology.

So what Greer offers is a philosophy or relgion to live by in a changed world. This is a far cry from the hopelessness and despair homilized by the prophets of doom.

According to Diodorus, "...in very important matters they (Druids) prepare a human victim, plunging a dagger into his chest; by observing the way his limbs convulse as he falls and the gushing of his blood, they are able to read the future."

Tacitus says that Druids "deemed it indeed a duty to cover their altars with the blood of captives and to consult their deities through human entrails."

Ritually slain victims preserved in anaerobic bogs from Ireland to Denmark give support to the position that Roman accounts of the Druids practicing human sacrifice may be more than mere propaganda.

I wouldn't be so eager to romanticize the Druids, DS.

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is suprise... surprise and fear... fear and surprise... Our two weapons are fear and surprise... and ruthless efficiency... Our three weapons are fear, and surprise, and ruthless efficiency... and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope... Ah. Amongst our weapons... are fear, surprise..."

Everyone has blood on their hands.. but with propaganda like a 'devil with a horned head', you have to give the Abrahamans, Romans and Christian Era some special credit for demonizing all the Animist religions with an extra special zeal. The bloody sacrifices continue to this day.. they just got outsourced.

JMG would be the first to tell you that his order has very little to do with historical druidism other than a vaguely poly/pantheistic outlook and a reverence for nature, learning and history.

That said, a lot of what the Romans wrote about Druid practice was surely propaganda.

DS - Have you done any field work actually studying and measuring ecosystems?

I don't know anyone who is working in the field of habitat restoration that doesn't struggle daily with the grind that is the net result of hopelessness.

Consider the fact that we are losing species at a rate of 3-5 per hour primarily due to habitat destruction. That is 300,000 times the normal rate of extinction and 30,000 times the rate of the last great mass extinction: The Cretaceous. We are in what is called The Late Quaternary Extinction. By 2050 we can anticipate having lost up to 50% of extant species.

The source of that information is no raving Cassandra but E.O. Wilson, the eminent biologist, educator and Pulitzer Prize winner.

E.O. Wilson devloped a very simple equation:

Population x technology x affluence divided by resources = problems

BTW I just heard Senator Boehner decrying spending stimulus funds for "preservation of salt water estuaries in California". Excuse me if I'm not moved about the mention of "ancient Druids".


In the 1930s, Roosevelt was convinced (cajoled) by a conservative editorial cartoonist named Ding Darling to direct millions of dollars to wetland purchases. FDR had recently installed Ding as head of the federal agency that would become the Fish and Wildlife Service, and by some accounts Ding snuck the appropriations through. The millions went to (a) state and local governments holding tax-forfeited wetlands and (b) remaining farmers left in the swamps, buying their farms and help them move to better (more productive) farmland (we had in the 1930s a federal resettlement agency charged with moving people out of remote areas). The result is the Necedah Wildlife Refuge and dozens of other similar refuges born in the darkest days of the Great Depression, spurred by a wealthy conservative. Times have changed.

The result is the Necedah Wildlife Refuge and dozens of other similar refuges born in the darkest days of the Great Depression, spurred by a wealthy conservative. Times have changed.

Once upon a time, conservative included conservation. But those times are long past in the USA.

World oil production potential weakening: Total

LONDON (Reuters) - The oil price collapse has weakened the industry's capacity to increase output and future production may top out at a lower level than earlier expected, the chief executive of major oil company Total (TOTF.PA) said.

Christophe de Margerie said that world oil output may hit a plateau below 90 million barrels per day in the years ahead, less than earlier envisaged.

"The capacity that the oil industry has to go to 93-95 million barrels per day is already over," the CEO of the French oil major told reporters on Friday at a briefing in London.

full story:


Everything's going down (except atmospheric CO2).

German woes spark fastest economic decline in eurozone history

The recession in the eurozone deepened at a record rate in the final three months of 2008, partly down to an unexpectedly grim picture in Germany.

Official figures published today said output across the 15-nation single currency zone fell by 1.5% between October and December. It marked the third successive quarter of contraction and the fastest decline since the eurozone was created in 1999. Analysts at Capital Economics said the "recession in the region is deepening at an alarming rate" and forecast a 3% decline this year.

At least here in the UK we have the benefit of that 'comparative advantage' in our banking sector...

Lloyds stuns City by revealing potential HBOS loss of £10bn

The new Lloyds Banking Group stunned the City this afternoon by issuing a profits warning and admitting that the losses incurred by HBOS last year would reach £10bn, much higher than previously forecast.

Shares in Lloyds plunged 40% to just 54.9p after the group warned that HBOS's corporate division had lost even more money than thought.

Time to buy oil?


Oil reached a peak of just under $150 a barrel last year – today it stands at jaround $40. The demand that pushed the price to record highs has slumped as many global economies have slowed. Some analysts are reticent to suggest how long the global recession will last, but when the stimulus injected by central banks begins to filter through the demand for oil will pick up.

Several already believe that investors should start to look at oil – they do not say the price has bottomed or a spike in the price is imminent, but they reckon that a floor cannot be too far away.

Demand for oil has collapsed because of the very weak economic conditions, and the price of oil has fallen as a result. Production is also falling – non-OPEC production peaked last year and is now on the decline.

Time to buy oil ?

No I'd not touch it with a 10 foot pole.

Take a long look at the NG futures then at the Oil futures. The NG market is functioning the Oil futures market is still broken. Until we seek backwardation start showing up along the futures chain the market is unstable. The longer we continue to see the front month collapse the higher the probability that we will finally see the futures markets collapse and enter backwardation price increases after this happens are likely to be real and not the result of a distorted market. Also of course the front month could rise strongly and this could cause backwardation to set in. How it happens is not important but until it does I simply don't think the market is stable. With that said if the 2015 contracts start hitting 30 bucks you wold be a fool not to buy. Given where we are now and a bit of guess work my best guess is the futures will finally fall into the 50-60 dollar range out into 2015 or so they could fall into the 40's and we should see strong backwardation set up in the front months this implies that the 2009-2010 futures have to fall under 40.

Whats interesting is that in my opinion the Oil market right now is predicting a quick recovery but I suspect this is wrong and the SP500 will crash to 500-600 sending oil into the 20's crashing the futures market causing OPEC to have to cut back overshooting the decline then finally we enter the end game with a weak economy and steadily rising oil prices.

If OPEC had actually acted and cut back viciously to soak up the excess supply then we probably would have seen what I had predicted previously which is oil over 100 headed towards 200 but with a more steady supply and investment in the oil business. By not acting quickly they have probably ensured serious overshoot on the downside. If it does play out that the SP500 hits 500-600 and oil hits 10-20 then I think we will be really screwed.

Well, it took me a while, but it's looking like it will prove worth the effort.

26f and Windy in Portand this morning, and my Solar Hot Air box is blowing 106-degree air into the house. Granted, it is just recycling house air, but the input vent was getting its air at 65 degrees F, so it looks like a good start.

The collector is a homebuilt, glazed box with a layer of black polyester felt dividing a front and rear air chamber, and collecting the solar heat. The tempered glass is about 34x70" from a discarded sliding glass door (and I have eleven more sheets of this!), the box is OSB, very cheap plywood from a construction dumpster, with a layer of 1.5" foam insulation inside that, and Galvanized rain trim outside. (trim also recovered from construction junk) I added a 'concentrator' in the form of Silvered Vinyl Fabric Doors that can shut over the box when I don't need the heat and want to protect the unit from heat damage or other weather factors. A 12vdc 12ah battery is running the fan right now, but this will be switched over to a PV panel, which should provide a simple, Automatic Fan Control, as long as I've matched the Panel to the fan well enough.

This is the design the basic system is based on.
at this useful site..

Since I've reinvented and revised almost everything on this, it has been a time-consuming pain in the neck.. but so was college, and I'm glad now that I didn't forego either one, despite the heavy investments.

Bob Fiske

Good work, Bob. My solar hot air box is on the roof & is considerably smaller. It doesn't heat the air as hot but it takes in outside air. It has a 110v fan in the attic space that moves the air, that I can turn on & off from inside the house. The fire can go out during midday so long as the sun is shining & someone is home to turn the fan on. What hours is your unit effective over? Mine really only works for 3 - 4 hours at midday.

Thanks, DD.
This is day one, so the data is just coming in. It was turned on at 9:45 this morning, and immediately was blowing air to above 82 degrees (from 65 or so) .. there is a temp switch built in that will connect a fan circuit at 110f and disconnect at 90f, I believe.. this is one of a number of controls that I will play with to find the best setup.. but I'm hoping direct PV to Fan will work, at least for a while. Simplicity (when possible).

I think I got the dim's wrong, too. More like 80" by 32", for what it's worth.. (and surface area is worth a lot, in this line of work.)


Did you use double pane glass from a sliding glass door? That would have increased your efficiency vs. the single pane type. Also, what are you doing about condensation? I've used OSB a bit and find that it does well outside if it is primed and painted to seal it against moisture. In your situation, I would paint the inside as well as the outside.

My southwall collectors reach 120 F above ambient on a clear day when the sun is most directly shining on them, exceeding 160F on mild days. These days, the sun is moving higher into the sky at local solar noon, so my output is less. Today's outside temp is around 50F so I might see 140F an hour from now...

E. Swanson

The designer, Bill Kreamer, recommended Not using doublepane, as he felt it offered only a marginal gain. On the Campfire post this week for a homebuilt window heater, poster RENOFREEPRESS http://campfire.theoildrum.com/node/5095#comment-470594 was also cautioning against it when box temps could (and for him did) break glass subjected to too much differential stress between them.. (EDIT- The other thing about the glass is that I can make 12 of these in single-pane, which doubles my collector area.. I suspect that area increase would be a gain vs. the deferred heat-losses of double-pane constr.. (?))

I'm agnostic at this point, and this setup runs at fairly low temps, which might make double-pane viable, if you don't mind the added weight.

The OSB is painted.. outside only and then Sheeted over with ext. trim, but caulked tightly to the PolyIso Foam on the inside. I'm eager to see what the vapor performance is like. There is house air running through it, but the constant sun exposure should keep it pretty dry.. and then airflow is gated shut at night. My Unit is standing on the roof, instead of flush-mounted to a south wall.. so I have insulated duct-hose running some 5-8 feet from the room to the panel, and have to keep it from thermosiphoning in cold at night. I still have to add to the hose insul, and the backface of the box.. but right now at 12:37, it's giving me 108.9f at the register.

I've got to say, it's making me really eager to keep boosting my insulation, since I don't want to throw this precious, free heat away. Seems kind of opposite from the Jeavon's paradox prediction, but I've seen it happen with Solar Electric homeowners, too. You're suddenly aware of the heat you are paying for, and the heat you aren't, and like the Cola Taste Tests, simply makes you much more cognizant of your energy flows in general, and how much you can avoid wasting if you tried.

It's also like anyone who has ever made their own maple syrup. After boiling 40 gallons of sap down to 1 gallon of syrup, the last thing you are going to do is leave a huge puddle of the stuff on your plate to be fed to the wash water.

One of the problems with solar is that the amount of energy available decreases as the outside temperature decreases. That's the reason for using double pane glazing. Of course, there might be problems with thermal expansion/contraction, which a good design would solve. Also, if the air flow is cut off, the temperature can rise to the stagnation temperature, which can become quite high in summer. That's the reason I chose a south wall system, which has no solar input in summer because of overhang. My system runs all year round and I don't have forced cooling. That mounting option is not as efficient as a tilted mounting, but then I don't need to worry about overheating. You might want to cover your collectors in summer.

Today, my system temperature went to a maximum output of 145 F with an outside temperature of about 51 F.

E. Swanson

The coverings I have covered. The 'Concentrator Barndoors' double as shade covers when closed, and reflective boosts when opened. These are fixed open for now, but have been set up to be positioned individually, allowing me to get a little more early and late day sun, and then to shut tight for hot weather or perhaps hail and ice storms, etc.

It was a good first day. I will still be doubling the insulation on the exposed hoses and the back of the box, and will experiment with the other options. I can certainly try setting up a second layer of glass/airspace and make some comparisons.

Thanks for the comments.


"Laid-Off Foreigners Flee as Dubai Spirals Down"

Alberta isn't spiralling down (yet) but the easterners are fleeing back to Ontario and Newfoundland. January unemployment rate was 4.4% in Alberta. No mass layoffs, but hiring freezes everywhere and dribs and drabs of layoffs in small numbers. Alberta's unemployment rate is staying low because the expatriates are leaving to be on some other province's statistics, not ours.

We are tiptoeing along the edge of the abyss in Calgary. The 7-Eleven index (advertising signs in front of their stores begging for help), which I use as an indicator of Calgary's true labour status, is down to $9.50 an hour for clerks from a peak of $11. No more signs seen offering retention bonuses for the clerks as well. Houses aren't selling but this is due to overbuilding, not because of the economy.

Lots of interest in private-equity petroleum. No one here in their right mind will sell freehold mineral rights (I don't blame them).

energy generating shock absorbers
Shock absorbers that generate electricity rather than dissipating the energy. They claim 10% improvement in hybrid mileage. But, there test vehicle was a hummer, I assume it was offroad mileage, and not highway mileage here.

Windation rooftop wind unit
I am pretty skeptical about the benefits, they claim $50K for a 5KW unit. At that price PV is much cheaper, so why would you bother with an expensive rooftop wind generator?

Shock absorbers that generate electricity...

Complicated gimmickry that adds to initial purchase price & is expensive to fix or replace when it breaks, as it's soon certain to.

...PV is much cheaper, so why would you bother with an expensive rooftop wind generator?

Because you hate birds & bats and want to shred as many as possible?

expensive rooftop wind generator?
Because you hate birds & bats and want to shred as many as possible?

1) A rooftop generator would introduce vibrations to the building. Changing a statics problem to a dynamics problem. Bad plan.

2) Got numbers to show that the bird/bat death rate when compared to normal human structures? How about VS the domestic feline?
Getting rid of tabby cats would do more than banning wind machines.

Getting rid of tabby cats would do more than banning wind machines.

I agree that cats are a significant source of avian mortality. So are plate glass windows. But consider your logic, Eric, when bringing these facts up in defense of windmills. Do two sources of mortality really justify a third?

Consider that:

1) If we are that concerned about bird/bat mortality, why not ban glass and cats?
(And do argue how plate glass - needed for passive solar - is the greater good)
2) You have no links to back up your claim. Show some numbers on bird mortality WRT wind turbines. You claim it is a problem. Show it on modern sites.

Show some numbers on bird mortality WRT wind turbines.

A little arithmetic might put things into perspective. I read that WTs kill about 1 to 6 birds per year per megawatt of capacity. So how much utility do we get per bird death? Assuming a capacity factor of 30%, a 1MW turbine provides 2.6 million KWhours per year. If I assume a KWhr is worth ten cents, our 1MW turbine provides $260,000 per year of electricty. Divide that by 1 to 6 birds and we get electricity worth from ($43000 to $260000) per bird death. If these dead birds were all Whooping Cranes, or California Condors, that would be a seriously bad deal. If they are sparrows (or pidgeons, which are nuisances) it would be no big deal. By contrast a $20000 car probably hits a couple of birds over its lifetime. I know of an instance of a bicycle crash where a bird tried to fly through the spokes! So my guess is in terms of bird deaths per unit of economic activity WTs are not unusual. When I used a wood stove for heating, I had a single (very bizarre) bird death from that. In this case, the bird had gone down the chimney into the cool stove box. When I opened the box to clean out the ashes, it flew out, knocking itself unconscious hitting the ceiling. It didn't reach the floor, the cat intercepted it's fall.

See. We really need to ban cats.

The article clearly points out there are no exposed blades on the unit. Try reading before making snotty comments.

The unit has no exposed blades, which means less impact on birds or bats. The Global Wind Energy Council estimates that one to six birds die each year per installed megawatt in the U.S.

What part of less don't you understand?

The Wind Energy Council estimates are based on typical installations. So in the context of the sentence, Windation's tech does not impact birds and bats and the total impact of ALL installed wind is LESS overall. Maybe I should have said improve your reading comprehension.

Hello TODers,

With Dubai going belly up, eventually camels and Bedouin tents will be the most desired/acquired status symbols again. IMO, they ought to just go ahead and start renaming a whole bunch of global cities Ozymandias to help further Peak Outreach:

America's Emptiest Cities

Vacancy rates in these spots spell lots of empty neighborhoods.

Call it a modern-day tale of two cities.

For decades, Las Vegas, ripe with new construction and economic development, burgeoned into a shimmering urban carnival. Detroit, once the fulcrum of American industry, sagged and rusted under its own weight.

These days, it's the worst of times for both.

Las Vegas edged Detroit for the title of America's most abandoned city. Atlanta came in third, followed by Greensboro, N.C., and Dayton, Ohio.
Also, please see on the sidebar of the above link: "In Pictures: America's 10 Most Miserable Cities".

Hopefully in the future: someone will run camel trains across the vast deserts of the North American continent.

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

I always enjoy your posts, Bob. Quirky and to-the-point.

How on earth did you end up in Phoenix?

My parents moved here in 1964.

Bob -

Dubai is a perfect Ozymandias scenario waiting to happen. History is replete with examples of wretched excess reaching a zenith just before a fall. (Think Versailles, Roaring Twenties, Dot-com boom, NOW .... you name it.)

Well, suppose that 3,000 years hence (assuming that we haven't all gone extinct by then or become mutant grub-eating brutes) a team of 51st-Century archeologists searching the endless desert sands should happen to stumble upon that indoor ski slope in Dubai. Now that would surely be a one great WTF moment!

What would they conclude? Perhaps that, contrary to all of the meteorological data collected up till then, the Persian Gulf region during the 21st Century was actually undergoing a second ice age that made it cold enough to go skiing indoors.

However, what they would NEVER conclude is that their ancient ancestors were stupid enough and decadent enough to bear the difficulty and expense of building an air-conditioned ski slope in the middle of a desert where it is often over 115 degrees F outside. No, that explanation wouldn't make any sense at all.

World's largest storage locker for Soylent Green? :(

The OPEC February report (PDF) is out. Here's their estimate of production through January.

Hello Undertow,

Thxs for the essential info, but IMO, our TODer ACE is better because he forecasts ahead [not just posting past history].

It sure would be interesting if OPEC posted their anticipated future scenario versions of Megaprojects [with full oilfield auditing], as suggested by Matt Simmons. But this seems ever more unlikely with the passage of time.

Has anyone been googling for anymore Gigacell Ghawar simulations, or attended the last SPE Reservoir Simulation Conference? I haven't had much luck with my googling:


two relavent abstracts can be found here:



i doubt they will be of much help, unless someone can get you a copy of the actual paper. i am no longer a member.

Hello Elwoodelmore,

Thxs for the links, but I have seen those before too: yep, not much help. I am not an SPE member either.

Her is my new favorite quote about the stimulus:

" . . . Serious observers believe that recovery cannot begin until we acknowledge that losses in the financial system amount to some trillions of dollars, rendering many institutions insolvent. The temptation will be to muddle along, hoping that these institutions can gradually regain strength without putting massive amounts of taxpayers' money at risk. If we go down that road, we are likely to end up with zombie banks whose balance sheets are riddled with near-worthless investments — banks that cannot lend to credit-worthy customers and who cannot trust one another," Galston wrote.

William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Clinton White House adviser

The current situation is similar to a parent supporting a child who is a compulsive gambler. The bookies have threatened to break his legs because he cannot pay his debts. You pay off his debts and give him some more money to gamble with, hoping now he will win although his track record is dismal. You have embezzled the money you gave him from your employer (the taxpayers)-your employer hasn't caught on yet. Your runt feels entitled to place larger and larger bets and you are afraid to control his behaviour as he is so darn "gifted".

The current situation is similar to a parent supporting a child who is a compulsive gambler.

I think it is more like the bigtime high roller, has a doomsday bomb set up to explode if the loanshark kills him. And we feel obliged to pay off his debt, because we want to live. The real problem was letting him construct his doomsday weapon. At this point the bailout is a logical if desperate measure.

At this point the bailout is a logical if desperate measure.

Really? That's $6363 per household in the US. What if that were given to each household for energy efficiency/production projects in each home?

What would it buy? Up to six DIY wind generators. Up to six PV panels. Any number of DIY solar concentrators. How much insulation? How many double walls? How many berms around houses? Etc?

- The financial stimulus would be huge, and real.
- The savings on energy costs, particularly over time, would be huge.
- The future stability to society - few, if any, freezing/boiling people and increased savings from less spent on energy - would be significant.


If only this were a sane and rational world.


$6363 would buy a lot of insulation, no doubt. and once we are warm and comfy in our newly energy efficient houses, what are we going to do ?

we are on an energy and debt joy ride. thankfully, we just had a change of drivers and the former driver, toonses the monkey who could drive, went home to crawford, tx.

cnn is playing the footage of brilliant boener making a fool of himself over and over.

Live simply; powered down. Using key resources to support key elements of society, if we can keep a viable society going. Elements such as the internet. Science and development, but with a twist towards deploying things cautiously and only those that help us remain closely connected to natural systems, etc., etc.

The driver isn't going to matter much. $15B/yr for renewables? It would be hilarious if it weren't so sad.


What stands out for me there is the phrase "Credit-worthy Investments".. leading to the need that we define what has actual and enduring value from here on in.

Solar Prices Poised to Fall Dramatically - Really!

We've all heard solar's price will drop soon for years - 2009 seems to finally be the year.

See details at:



I'll believe it when I see it .... Looking for 1500-1600 watts .. 8 panels

Best I've seen is Evergreen 205W blem's for $3.25 a watt. But that's for a pallet of 28 so maybe a group buy within a local area.

"So in essence we are breathing aerosolised oil spill in our big cities."

Mmmm, yummy.

Researchers link car exhaust fumes to heart attacks


From "how to save the suburbs" up top:

You buy a 4,000 square foot house 40 miles outside town. You think, wow, I got great value. But when the roof begins to go, you just patch it, because if you put a new one on it’ll cost $20,000, you’ll still be at the same selling price. So, why do it?

And this is the quintessence of how we got into the financial meltdown. Nearly the whole so-called middle class seems to think that housing should magically give them a lucrative ride for free, that all they should need do in this life is to sit around on their gargantuan backsides, giving nothing of value in trade while someone else feeds and carries them.

So this guy thinks routine maintenance like replacing a worn roof ought to raise the value, when maintenance just counters wear and tear and brings his house a little closer to what it was when he bought it. Sheesh. This rabid entitlement mentality is almost enough to give a person doomerish feelings about where this is all going to end up. (Not that it's really a huge surprise that people think this way, even as the government once again punishes workers and savers in order to reward parasites and mess-makers.)

the govt can give everyone a house if they like, but if the newborn homeowners can't, won't or don't maintain it, they won't have a home for very long. but unfortunately, that seems to be the mentality of many.

maybe it is a dna relic of a nomadic past ?

Matt Simmons is on Fast Money right now.

I assume it will be posted to the web eventually.

Nothing too new there, I didn't really understand his explanation of the massive contango situation.

VIENNA – Reports that the U.S. government may subsidize mortgage payments boosted prices above $34 a barrel Friday after investor skepticism about the U.S. stimulus package pulled prices near record lows.

Yeah, sure, "record lows"... what a crock that is.

Hard Times in Dubai

In Dubai 200 high rise glass towers have been built in the past five years. The harbor is lined with yacht slips. Many foreign professional workers lived in the towers with the spectacular views. First the crash in the price of oil. Now comes the real estate crash. With many layoffs and project cancelations foreign workers were fleeing the country.


Jared Diamond author of “Collapse” interviewed about the recession.

"The Newshour's Paul Solman and "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" author Jared Diamond examine how societies handle crises and can even thrive in the aftermath."

Here is the MP3 link.

Basic message: A society succeeds if the rich and the rulers suffer along with the population. It is the only way to motivate the elite to solve the problems of that society.

PS: I am pretty sure that being sternly scolded by congress doesn't count as suffering.

PS: I am pretty sure that being sternly scolded by congress doesn't count as suffering.


A bit of comic relief: Sean O'Grady's imagined menu at the G7 Meeting

G7 menu


Italian Berlusconi ham

with banker's capers and a subprime salad

Seasoned hash-Brown


Ms Merkel's special pickle


Humble pie, green shoots and leaks

Debt à la toxique

Roast Darling served with a Moreno and Crosby morass

Yes We Canned essence of hope

To follow

Banker's Ramp

Chickening Out

Baked Obama

On the trolley

Raspberry fools

Mervyn's Surprise

Fred the Shredded Wheat

Sour grapes

Hard cheese

Smorgasbord of fiscal and

monetary policy options


Chateau Sarkozy 2007 (rather cheeky)

Bernie Madoff's New World in the Red (barely palatable)

Vat not charged; discretionary bonuses at 12.5%


I have a Theory I'd like to share, called 'Economic Collapse by way of short term Greed'.

There is a growing swell of business people that are no longer interested in making a good living over a lifetime of dedicated work. The business atmosphere today is geared to altering standard business practices to achieve as much short term money as possible. And I don't mean a few hundred thousand or even a few million, but rather a willingness to toss out regulations along with ethics and morals in pursuit of billions.

Look at oil prices reaching 145 a barrel, with inventories low and now the price is less than 40 a barrel and yet the inventories are full. Sure, I know we are in a recession, but when gas is cheap people drive more. So what got manipulated to provide the short term profit at such high prices? Greed of short term gain without regard to how it would affect the economy or the millions of people it might cause financial harm.

Then we have the big kahoona of them all, the deregulation of the loan industry. Throw out all the regulations set in place since the Depression and cause yet another Depression, but make so many billions that you can retire a billionaire.

It use to be the 3rd world countries with the Marcos' of the Philipines, or Cacesceau of Romania that ripped off their citizens in the name of billions to place in Swiss accounts. But now we have that same pervasive atmosphere worldwide.

The change that seems to be happening is a loss of any moral compass. A willingness to rip off how ever many people it happens to in the self interest of massive short term income.

Even bailout money has gone to lavish parties and bonuses. Its almost like a disease that has caught on and can't be stopped, even when the proverbial crap hits the fan. Like a bunch of kids playing pranks, adults are ripping off the masses to get their platinum parachutes.

Maybe it was that show, Lifestyles of the Rich and famous or Lewinsky making millions, but something fundamental has caused a shift that I think is bringing down the whole economic system. I see these events and changing attitudes as harbingers of a full collapse.

The small country Austria had a powerful economy and almost zero unemployment.
Then came 2 Russian Oligarchs, one an obvious cretin, the other an obvious casino trickster, accompanied by Mr. Putin who acted as lift boy and luggage boy for the former two.
They bought share majorites of Austria companies on credit backed with deposit of Russian stocks.
The situation has changed somewhat.
The deposit lost 80% of its value the Oligarchs do not return margin calls and
3 Austrian banks are at the brink of collapse and Austria is to bail them out
but Austria cannot. It is beyond their means.
So 2 Russian Oligarchs, one obviously a cretin, the other obviously a suburbian casino trickster, are about to topple the Euro.
That is what happens when greed is backed by politics.
If common sense had ruled, the banker had realized one is a cretin the other a suburb casino gangster and the third is their luggage boy I am not going to lend them a single cent.


Will this lead to a full collapse?

I liked what the interviewee had to say on the link provided by Bitteroldcoot (back up the thread):

Question: Do you have your own economic forecast of what's going to happen?

Answer: No I don't, because it depends so heavily on people's choices, and I don't know what people are going to choose to do...

People often ask me to make predictions. My ususal answer is it depends on the choices we make, and I don't know what choices we will make.

something fundamental has caused a shift

I've been tracing this since the eighties, when it became apparent that the USA was to endure the bewildering horror of losing it's enemy.
Without this decades-enduring foe, around which the american psyche had moulded itself, I theorized that several things could happen:

  • the attributes that US vilified in the 'soviet threat' would, being no longer suppressed by being projected onto en externality, start to show up as characteristics in it's own behaviour
  • that the energy devoted to learned-response/posture of confrontation would be repurposed to some as-similar-as-possible activity
  • that american values, being no longer threatened by an existential agressor, would start to lose thier meaning, and amercan culture and society would experience rudderlessness, compassless, undirected evolution, vulnerable to exploitation by the cynical.

I'd say that neocolonialism, corruption, and cupidity show that I mightn't have been too far off...

Isn't there an optimum level at which complex systems operate, aka maximum power principle? Apparently photosynthesis and air circulation from the equator to the arctics (from the book Eating The Sun) operate at "maximum power", which confers a survival advantage. Can this be related to the complexity of the system?

Complexity theory pertains to systems theory and is, narratively, at the opposite side of chaos theory.
An example of complexity theory, however often presented as example of chaos theory, is that the form of ant hills or termite mounds is a consequence of each ant solving the traveling salesman problem.
The condition is energy= minimum for every ant. Not maximum.
The traveling salesman problem has connections with the Koenigsberg bridge problem solved by Euler and hence complexity theory should be based on topology. This makes a lot of sense as topology has invariants.
What matters more in self organizing complex system is fractal dimensionality.
The fractal dimension is not a topological
invariant but an invariant relative to similarity transformation of topological object. Thus in self-organizing complex systems there is no maximum but rather
a "bottom" which is scaleless similarities of minimum.
Speaking of complexity one has to be very clear about what complexity means. Complexity is a measure while "complex" is an ambiguous phrase.
Logical complexity has the term true for no reason ( Boolos ) or truth without proof ( Feferman) meaning that the response of a complex system is not computable/decidable ahead. However in complex self organizing systems we have algebraic complexity.
A simple example is Elliott waves which give a very low complexity as a "pattern" repeats itself scalelessly. This "pattern" is the minimum.