DrumBeat: February 20, 2009

Are the Government's Energy Statistics Reliable Enough?

How much oil does the United States import each year? How costly would a cap on carbon dioxide emissions be? How quickly did gasoline demand fall in 2008?

These questions lie at the heart of the country's urgent debates over alternative energy, and the answers are being shaped by statistics that come almost exclusively from the Energy Information Administration. Long considered "the gold standard" of energy information, the numbers from EIA, which is run by the Department of Energy, are regularly cited by the media and politicians alike. Pumping gasoline.

And yet today, with energy at the top of the Obama administration's agenda, there are growing concerns that the agency's statistics are incomplete, outdated, or, in some cases, inaccurate. Budget shortfalls, large staff cuts, and neglect under past administrations, observers say, are compromising both the quality and quantity of EIA's data, leaving the agency frustratingly handcuffed as energy markets are moving faster and becoming increasingly complex.

Baker Hughes Rig Count Hits Lowest Since March 2005

(Bloomberg) -- The number of oil and natural gas rigs operating in the U.S. fell to the lowest since March 2005 this week, according to data published by Baker Hughes Inc.

Rigs exploring for or producing oil or gas declined by 39, or 2.9 percent, to 1,300, the lowest level since the week ended March 11, 2005, Baker Hughes said today on its Web site. The rig count has fallen for 14 out of the past 15 weeks.

Baker Hughes said natural gas rigs fell by 36, or 3.4 percent, to 1,018, the lowest since the week ended June 25, 2004. The count was down 37 percent from a peak of 1,606 on Sept. 12. Gas fell below $4 per million British thermal units today for the first time in more than six years.

Oil States sees weak 2009 on rig utilization decline

(Reuters) - Oil States International Inc forecast a weak 2009, after experiencing a sharp decline in utilization of its drilling fleet and pricing pressures, as the global recession and credit freeze took its toll on commodity prices and customer spending plans.

In a conference call, Chief Executive Cindy Taylor forecast an utilization of 30 to 35 percent for the 12 rigs currently in operation. This compares with a 79 percent utilization seen in the fourth quarter.

Shell to lend Nigeria $3bn

Royal Dutch Shell plans to lend Nigeria more than $3bn to sustain oil production and investment threatened by the lack of government funding.

The unusual move reflects Shell’s reliance on Nigeria, its largest source of oil and gas after the US. In 2007 Nigeria provided more than a 10th of Shell’s global production of about 3.3m barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Heads in the tar sands

Barack Obama and Stephen Harper's clean energy dialogue doesn't acknowledge that Canadian oil is a necessary evil.

Mexico oil output lowest since November 1995

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican oil production fell 9.2 percent in January to its lowest level since November 1995 as output from the aging Cantarell oil field continued to dwindle, state oil company Pemex said on Friday.

Mexico pumped 2.685 million bpd in January, down from 2.957 million bpd the same month a year ago, according to government data.

Cantarell lost its position as Mexico's largest single oil producer in January to the nearby Ku Maloob Zaap heavy oil complex, Pemex said.

Cantarell pumped 772,000 bpd in January, down from 811,000 bpd in December and down approximately 38 percent from a year ago.

Ku Maloob Zaap produced 787,000 bpd in January.

BP eyes expansion of Caspian oil project

UK supermajor BP and its partners plan to expand a crude production project in Azerbaijan’s section of the Caspian Sea from 2013.

The partners are developing the Chirag oil project, which will add more than 300 million barrels of crude to the potential output from the existing Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli fields, London- based BP said in report posted on its Web site on 17 February.

Sao Tome says close to signing oil deal with Angola

LUANDA (Reuters) - Sao Tome and Principe is close to signing a deal with Angolan state-owned oil company Sonangol to help start pumping oil from the tiny African island nation's coast, a senior government minister said on Friday.

Science Suggests Access To Nature Is Essential To Human Health

ScienceDaily — Elderly adults tend to live longer if their homes are near a park or other green space, regardless of their social or economic status. College students do better on cognitive tests when their dorm windows view natural settings. Children with ADHD have fewer symptoms after outdoor activities in lush environments. Residents of public housing complexes report better family interactions when they live near trees.

These are only a few of the findings from recent studies that support the idea that nature is essential to the physical, psychological and social well-being of the human animal, said Frances Kuo, a professor of natural resources and environmental science and psychology at the University of Illinois.

Electric cars get charge from stimulus

New legislation expands tax credits for electric cars to cover smaller, but not bigger, vehicles.

A solar startup heads to rainy Wales

Most of his rivals produce silicon solar panels for the first world. Hertzberg is building silicon-free solar strips, and says his earliest customers are in the developing world, especially Africa and India. Most solar companies seek government handouts; Hertzberg avoids them like the plague. And while few solar firms would think of bringing their product to a cloudy climate, Hertzberg set up his headquarters in Wales - in part to prove that G24i's technology can work anywhere.

Fix-It Nation: In Tough Times, Tailors and Cobblers Thrive

Where's the trendiest place to shop these days? Try your closet. To wit: Kelly Thorsen, a school secretary from Lakeland, Florida, needed a nice pair of boots for the holiday season. A new pair would have cost some $200, but a splurge was not an option for the mother of two. "Last year, I might have gone out and started looking around," says Thorsen, 46. "Now, we are being a lot more careful with where our dollars are being spent. To go out and purchase a new pair of boots was not in my realm."

So she literally dusted off a decade-old pair of ragged black leather boots sitting in her closet, and visited a shoe repair shop for the first time in her life. For a fashion-conscious woman, the thought of recycling 10-year old boots with worn out heels did hurt her pride a bit. "I walked in with my tail between my legs," she says. "It was something, initially, I was not proud of." Then she saw the price: $16. And the work: the boots looked good as new. "I walked out of there going, 'okay, all right," Thorsen says. She proudly wore her healed heels to all her holiday parties.

John Michael Greer: The unnoticed technologies

One of the wrinkles of catabolic collapse – the process by which societies in decline cannibalize their own infrastructure to meet immediate needs, and so accelerate their own breakdown – is that it can trigger abrupt crises by wrecking some essential technology that is not recognized as such. We are already witnessing the early stages of exactly such a crisis. What large trees were to the Easter Islanders and irrigation canals were to the early medieval Middle East, the current form of money economy is to modern industrial society, and the speculative delusions that passed for financial innovation over the last few decades have played exactly the same role as the invading nomads of ibn Khaldûn’s history, by stripping a fragile system of resources in the pursuit of immediate gain. The result, just as in the 1930s, is that a nation still relatively rich in potential resources, and provided with a large and skilled labor force, is sliding into crushing poverty because the intricate social system we use to allocate labor and resources has broken down.

Maximum overdrive

Two billion petrol-guzzling, fume-spewing cars. On one level, it’s natural to embrace this diffusion of prosperity. Who’d want to deny millions of Indians and Chinese the pleasures of the road trip, the freedom to pack up and rumble off wherever they please? But there’s a problem: Apart from the congestion and carnage (China saw at least 73,000 auto fatalities in 2008), those cars and lorries also emit all sorts of toxic pollution. Beijing’s air has ­already curdled into a thick grey soup thanks to its growing vehicle emissions. Worse still is carbon dioxide. The climate science is clear on this: if China and India add one billion new standard-issue, gas-­guzzling vehicles to the road, the Earth will heat to calamitous levels.

To avoid that unhappy fate, as Daniel Sperling and Deborah Gordon warn in their new book Two Billion Cars, the world has to rethink the automobile as we’ve known it for the past century. Until now, western countries have just tinkered around the edges of the basic car concept – adding catalysers to soak up air pollution or tweaking mileage standards – hoping that painless tech fixes can forestall the day we need to make more radical changes, or worse, alter our auto-centric way of life. But that day may finally be upon us.

Dig for recovery: allotments boom as thousands go to ground in recession

In the boom times of the 1980s, councils sold off allotments in their tens of thousands as it seemed no one in the Britain of conspicuous consumption could be persuaded to grow a single leek of their own. But as recession bites, the growing enthusiasm for homegrown veg has seen more than 100,000 people join waiting lists for a patch of land as demand hits an all-time high.

Today, following the initiative of chef and "real food" campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the National Trust is throwing its weight behind a campaign to share unused land, creating up to 1,000 new plots for use as allotments or community gardens.

Urban Composting: A New Can of Worms

Composting in New York City is not for the faint of heart. It requires commitment, space and sharing tight quarters with rotting matter and two-inch-long wiggler worms that look like pulsing vermicelli.

But an increasing number of New Yorkers have been taking up the challenge, turning their fruit skins and eggshells into nutritious crumbly soil in an effort they regard as the natural next step to recycling paper, bottles and cans. Food accounts for about 13 percent of the nation’s trash — it is the third largest component after paper and yard trimmings — and about 16 percent of New York’s.

Portland rescinds chicken ban - but it's hens only, no roosters

PORTLAND — The City Council is giving residents of Maine's largest city the right to raise chickens.

The council voted 7-1 Wednesday to remove its long-standing ban on chickens and allow people to keep up to six hens within city limits. Roosters, though, would not be allowed.

...An even dozen proponents of the measure spoke, and most said the issue is much bigger than a few chickens.

They said the measure is part of a broader movement to create a situation in which food sources are found as close to home as possible. The idea is to reduce emissions generated when food is transported long distances.

Moreover, the chicken supporters said, people have more security when food sources are local.

France pledges $730M to head off Caribbean riots

PARIS, France (CNN) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy is pledging $730 million (€ 580 million) in economic aid to France's Caribbean territories in an effort to head off escalating protests, his office said Friday.

Sarkozy made the announcement after a meeting in Paris with leaders from French Caribbean territories. He also proposed adding €200 ($253) a month to the salaries of low-paid workers.

The French territory of Guadeloupe has witnessed a month of sometimes violent demonstrations over low wages and living conditions. At least one civilian, a trade unionist, has been killed in riots.

Afghan supply base eviction prompts U.S. access scramble

(CNN) -- Kyrgyzstan said Friday its president has ordered the closure of U.S. military's only base in Central Asia, further squeezing access for troops and supplies heading into Afghanistan.

However, the closure comes as two other central Asian nations -- Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - reportedly agreed to allow transit of U.S. cargo en route to Afghanistan.

Azerbaijan Cuts 2009 Oil Output Forecast by a Fifth

Azerbaijan has cut its 2009 oil production forecast by a fifth to 45 million tonnes due to production problems and low oil prices, potentially ending a decade of rapid output growth, an Azeri government source said.

The revision comes after Azerbaijan in December became the only non-OPEC nation to offer output cuts at the group's meeting in Algeria, saying it was ready to cut output by 300,000 barrels per day to 540,000 bpd, its lowest output level in two years.

Obama's Canada Visit Highlights Oil Sand Woes

President Barack Obama's visit to Ottawa on Thursday has helped focus attention on the upheaval taking place in Canada's energy industry.

As plummeting crude oil prices have eroded the viability of newer energy sources, Canadian companies are racing to scale back investments in oil sands projects.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is starting to press for tougher restrictions on carbon emissions. After meeting Thursday, Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said they had agreed to a "dialogue on clean energy" and a joint effort to develop clean energy technology.

Oil's Carry Trade in Trouble

This week's oil inventory report seemed to justify traders' short covering in the overnight markets. Oil stocks, which analysts had forecast to rise by 2.7 million barrels, instead fell by 200,000 barrels according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Lots of bear spreads unwound ahead of the report, shortening the quarterly carry by $5 a barrel. The recent volatility in the spread has got some traders wondering if, in fact, the carry trade's days are numbered. The three-month carry had fattened to as much as $14 in mid-January. But enthusiasm for the trade has been dampened, in part, by rising financing costs and the topping off of storage capacity at the Cushing, Okla. oil terminus.

Petrobras Awaits 2 Oil Platforms for Major Fields Offshore Brazil

Brazilian state-run energy giant Petrobras (PBR) will take another step toward boosting crude oil output this week, when the company installs a new floating platform in the Campos Basin, the company said Thursday.

Iran says has own raw uranium supply

VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran's mines can supply raw uranium for its nuclear programme and it had no problems with a shortage of the material, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Thursday.

Is it selfish to have more than two children?

Is having more than two children selfish? The future of the planet rarely plays a part when planning a family, but that's got to change, say environmental campaigners.

Parents who have more than two children are "irresponsible" for placing an intolerable burden on resources and increasing damage to eco-systems, says a leading green campaigner.

Investors put Chevron on 'climate watch'

A group of activist investors, including the giant California State Teachers' Retirement System, on Wednesday placed Chevron Corp. and eight other companies on a "climate watch list" of corporations that aren't adequately addressing global warming.

Bill Mckibben: Why I’ll Get Arrested To Stop the Burning of Coal

On March 2, environmentalist Bill McKibben will join demonstrators who plan to march on a coal-fired power plant in Washington D.C. In this article for Yale Environment 360, he explains why he’s ready to go to jail to protest the continued burning of coal.

California’s green energy spike

California quadrupled the amount of renewable energy it installed in 2008 over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday by the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

Oil Sands: Canada’s ‘Dirty’ Oil Might Be More Important Than You Think

Much of the buzz surrounding President Obama’s first foreign trip—to Canada—centers around the environmental impact of Alberta’s oil sands.

But the importance of Canada’s oil sands goes far beyond bilateral relations or the Obama administration’s efforts to balance energy and environmental goals. The future of Canada’s oil sands could be the lynchpin of crude oil’s return to triple-digit prices.

For all the environmental hand-wringing over Canada’s oil sands—and the war of words is taking on apocalyptic tones—the industry’s biggest enemy right now is simple economics.

All inclusive energy strategy need of the hour

With markets in doldrums and oil prices oscillating in the mid-$30s, a consensus to develop an all inclusive energy strategy seems emerging. And it is not just coming from Saudi Arabia and fellow OPEC producers; pundits intricately involved with the industry also seem to be conceding.

At the 28th annual conference CERAWeek — almost an annual pilgrimage to the energy fraternity — the same sentiments kept echoing not only in the meeting halls but also in the corridors surrounding them.

“The recession shock has hit all of the energy industry hard, and indeed has taken it by surprise,” admitted Daniel Yergin, the author of “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power” and the CERA founder and conference chairman.

Pride To Lose One Mexico Rig, But Sees Opportunities

MEXICO CITY -(Dow Jones)- Pride International Inc. (PDE) hopes to move U.S.-based jackup rigs to Mexico this year even though Petroleos Mexicanos has said it will not renew a contract on one of Pride's six rigs in the country, a Pride executive said during a Thursday conference call.

The Pemex contract on Pride's Arkansas rig expires at the end of February and it will be brought out of the market, or cold stacked, until opportunities arise.

EU sweetens energy plan for France, Italy

BRUSSELS (AFP) — The European Commission on Thursday proposed extra funding for France and Italy in a controversial multi-billion-euro energy project package, which Germany slammed as "a jumble of national wish lists."

The new plans would reduce funding for projects in Britain and Germany.

Dominica: Service station owner encourages car-pooling

Following what was considered a fuel shortage on island, National Petroleum's (NP) Terminal Manager Heskeith Brumant has asked persons to car-pool.

TABLE - Vietnam's refineries and petchem projects

(Reuters) - Vietnam has taken the first step towards fuel self-sufficiency with the launch of its 140,000-bpd Dung Quat refinery on Sunday.

The Southeast Asian country has also been inviting foreign oil companies to invest in refineries and petrochemical plants as part of efforts to reduce Vietnam's reliance on imports and to achieve its target of becoming self-sufficient by 2015.

Kyrgyzstan: Winter energy crisis OCHA situation report

1. Scheduled power cuts are continuing around the country leaving hospitals and other critical institutions outside provincial centres without power for several hours a day. Preliminary results of a survey of medical institutions carried out for WHO by the Ministry of Health highlight some consequences of the power outrage including, disruption of laboratory tests and the cold chain, postponement of surgery to adjust to blackout schedules, delayed diagnose and irregular water supply.

2. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting informs that many residents of high-rise buildings in provincial cities are now using coal or wood burning stoves to make up for a loss of central electrically-provided heating. An increase in the incidence of burns and carbon monoxide poisoning has been reported. In addition, the State Agency for Natural Resources and Forestry stated that the energy crisis has led to a 6.8% increase in illegal wood cutting.

Pakistan: Impasse over CNG bus idea amid gas shortage fears: minister

KARACHI: Federal Minister for Environment Hameed Ullah Jan Afridi has said Thursday, “we are in the midst of dilemma of introducing CNG buses because if we go ahead now, the petroleum ministry might say after next six months that it is running out of fuel to feed these vehicles”.

Missouri: Senators consider 4-day school week option

With the economy on everyone’s minds, many citizens are looking closely at their budgets to see where costs can be minimized. School boards throughout Missouri are going through a similar process and are trying to find ways to cut overhead costs. One idea that has been gaining headway in some states is the four-day school week. We recently heard Senate Bill 345, sponsored by Sen. Brad Lager (R-Maryville), in the Senate Education Committee, and I am intrigued by the idea this legislation proposes.

NASA’s Hansen Pushes Capitol Coal Protest

James E. Hansen, the NASA scientist who has moved ever more into the arena of environmental activism after four decades of climate research, has called on the public to join him at a large demonstration on global warming March 2 at an antiquated power plant supplying the Capitol with electricity and heat from a mix of coil, oil and natural gas. (The coal has been forced into the fuel mix by two congressmen, according to the Washington Post.)

Transportation Secretary LaHood eyes taxing miles driven

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn - an idea that has angered drivers in some states where it has been proposed.

Gasoline taxes that for nearly half a century have paid for the federal share of highway and bridge construction can no longer be counted on to raise enough money to keep the nation's transportation system moving, LaHood said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled," the former Illinois Republican lawmaker said.

Most transportation experts see a vehicle miles traveled tax as a long-term solution, but Congress is being urged to move in that direction now by funding pilot projects.

Oil falls below $38, reversing big overnight gain

LONDON – Oil prices fell below $38 a barrel Friday as tumbling stocks and weak economic data reminded investors that crude demand is likely to soften further.

Profit-taking also weighed on prices, which had spiked higher overnight on reports of much lower-than-expected U.S. inventories.

Cash opens doors as China seeks resources

Long spurned in the international market but now flush with cash, China is once again on the hunt for global energy and resources. But this time, China is being welcomed to invest overseas.

China Invests $35 Billion in Energy to Boost Growth

(Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s second-biggest oil consumer, has approved and started energy projects that cost at least $35 billion since November as the government implements a stimulus plan to spur economic growth.

Proposed Massachusetts gax tax hike could stave off higher road tolls

BOSTON — The Massachusetts gasoline tax would rise by 19 cents a gallon — to a nation-leading 42.5 cents — under a transportation system overhaul Gov. Deval Patrick was scheduled to unveil Friday, top aides said.

Combined with the 18.4-cent federal gas tax, the change would leave Bay State drivers paying 60.9 cents in fuel surcharges on every gallon of gas they buy. It could also stave off a proposed doubling of Massachusetts Turnpike tolls slated to take place this spring, assuming the Legislature acts quickly to approve it.

Alaska sees $1.25 billion budget gap on oil price drop

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – Sliding oil prices and production have prompted Alaska officials to forecast a state budget shortfall of $1.25 billion in the next fiscal year instead of the surplus they predicted just two months ago.

The dramatic change in state fortunes poses a stiff challenge for Gov. Sarah Palin, whose record during the oil price boom helped propel her to the Republican vice presidential nomination in 2008.

Energy secretary predicts higher demand for oil

WASHINGTON – Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a champion of renewable energy and biofuels, has no delusions about the future of oil. Global demand for it will increase over the next two decades even with more efficiency and alternative fuels, he says, and prices will again go higher.

Nippon Oil to delay setup of venture with CNPC

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's top refiner Nippon Oil Corp said on Friday it would delay the establishment of an oil refining joint venture with state-owned China National Petroleum Corp.

Spill shuts Sunoco pipeline

Sunoco Logistics shut a 142,000-barrel-per-day crude pipeline linking Ohio to Michigan after an oil spill at the line's pump station in Cygnet, Ohio, the company said.

The Maumee pipeline was shut down in the late afternoon on Wednesday and it was unclear when it would restart, a Sunoco operating official in Houston said, according to a Reuters report.

National Guard goes green to conserve energy, cost

SANTA FE, N.M. – The rapid whop, whop, whop of a wind turbine outside the New Mexico National Guard headquarters hints at a new mission for the homefront military: Going green.

Efforts nationally since 2001 to conserve energy and fuel also include a solar array that provides some power for the New Jersey Army National Guard's training center in Wrightstown, and the Ohio Air National Guard's 180th Fighter Wing opening of an alternative energy site in Toledo last September.

"Energy's become one of our top priorities here in the National Guard," said Thomas Gurule, a retired Guard lieutenant colonel who is now its energy manager.

Canada Consumer Prices Fall for Fourth Month on Autos

(Bloomberg) -- Canadian consumer prices fell a fourth consecutive month in January, led by reduced costs for natural gas and motor vehicles.

Nigeria's oil production dips further, as militants continue onslaught

PRODUCTIONS at Nigeria's oil facilities may have continued to drop drastically, owing to increasing tension in the oil-producing region, Niger Delta.

Leaving no respite for smooth operation, the act of militancy in the region has halted several production activities, which had resulted in shut-in of about 25 per cent of the nation's oil production capacity of 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd).

Bahrain halts gas talks with Iran over insult

MANAMA, Bahrain — Bahrain's foreign minister on Thursday blasted Iran for an Iranian official's remarks perceived as a threat to Bahraini sovereignty _ a stinging rebuke a day after the tiny Gulf Arab kingdom halted talks on a key natural gas imports deal with Tehran.

Iranian officials, meanwhile, looked to soothe the rift sparked after former Iranian parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Noori _ a prominent cleric close to Iran's supreme leader _ was quoted by Arab media last week as saying that Bahrain was the 14th province of Iran until 1970.

Obama reassures Canada on open trade

OTTAWA (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday assured Canada, his country's biggest trading partner, he would not pursue protectionist policies and the two neighbors agreed to cooperate on cleaner energy technology.

Obama Climate Plan May Spur Trade Row Over Company Protections

(Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s plans to limit greenhouse-gas emissions may be stymied by the specter of an international trade war.

U.S. Steel Corp., American Electric Power Co. and the AFL- CIO, the largest U.S. federation of labor unions, are all pressing lawmakers for protection against imports from countries that won’t have to bear the costs of any new measures to curb global warming.

Schlumberger aims for Mexican win

Schlumberger has emerged with the lowest bid on the first of two new 500-well drilling and completion contracts on Mexico’s Chicontepec heavy oil belt, dropping its price significantly below its own previous rates to fend off competition from Weatherford International.

Acciona, Endesa Suspended After Report of Enel Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Endesa SA was suspended from trading in Madrid after El Pais reported Enel SpA had agreed to take full control of the Spanish power producer.

GM's Saab unit files for protection from creditors

STOCKHOLM — General Motors's Swedish-based subsidiary Saab went into bankruptcy protection Friday so the unit can be spun off or sold by its struggling U.S. parent, officials said.

The move comes after Sweden turned down GM's request for government help for Saab.

Just say no to Madison Metro bus-fare increase

There are no compelling reasons to raise fares now, and many good reasons not to. Some middle-class people, with their comfortable incomes and lifestyle, may not have noticed, but we are in a deep recession, considered the most serious since the Depression. This is not the time to raise fares 33%.

We live in the age of Peak Oil. Most people expect that gas prices, despite the recent downturn, will continue to climb in the long term. This will make long commutes expensive and lower the value of suburban development.

Newly poor swell lines at U.S. food banks

Once a crutch for the most needy, food pantries have responded to the deepening recession by opening their doors to what one pantry organizer described as "the next layer of people," a rapidly expanding group of child-care workers, nurse's aides, real estate agents and secretaries who are facing a financial crisis for the first time.

Overall, demand at food banks throughout the country increased by 30 percent in 2008 from the previous year, according to a survey by Feeding America, which distributes more than two billion pounds of food every year. While pantries usually see a drop in demand after the holiday season, many in upscale suburbs this year are experiencing the opposite.

Recession grows interest in seeds, vegetable gardening

Hard economic times are acting like instant fertilizer on an industry that had been growing slowly: home vegetable gardening.

Amid the Washington talk of "shovel-ready" recession projects, it appears few projects are more shovel-ready than backyard gardens. Veggie seed sales are up double-digits at the nation's biggest seed sellers this year.

What's more, the number of homes growing vegetables will jump more than 40% this year compared with just two years ago, projects the National Gardening Association, a non-profit organization for gardening education.

"As the economy goes down, food gardening goes up," says Bruce Butterfield, the group's research director. "We haven't seen this kind of spike in 30 years."

Kunstler’s spooky future vision

UNITED STATES — If you’re already frightened by news of the reeling economy and the millions of jobs lost around the country, you might want to avoid the writings of James Howard Kunstler. He predicts, for example, that the Dow Jones Industrial Average will sink from its current range, hovering near 8,000, to about 4,000 by the end of the year.

He also predicts that this may be the year when many citizens of the country begin to feel the effects of being shut off from the endless easy credit that has allowed so many to live beyond their means for so long. He says the same will be true for states, counties and other municipalities, who will be forced into bankruptcies and the resulting reduction in services will lead to negative consequences such as increased crime or widespread health emergencies.

The end of the world?: Noted Author Jared Diamond Predicts 49 Percent Chance of Civilization Collapse

This is no casual number-tossing game from a newbie. Jared Diamond has studied the success and failure of world societies more closely than anyone living today. He describes himself as "cautiously optimistic" but worries that the outlandish financial decisions being made by the world's leaders have put us all in a precarious position from which western civilization may not emerge intact.

In my own view, the financial challenges facing our world are, indeed, quite severe. And they may yet bring down the entire global banking system. But in the medium term, I see Peak Oil as being the far greater threat to the continuation of human civilization as we know it. Cheap, plentiful fossil fuels discovered in the last hundred years (or so) spurred a food bubble, which led to a population bubble. Cheap oil, in other words, created the temporary conditions necessary to support a runaway population explosion that is, without question, unsustainable without cheap energy.

Transition towns on track

The Transition Towns movement has grown to include 121 towns and communities working to meet the twin challenges of peak oil and climate change.

Mr Giangrande and Ms Banks now work full-time training people how to make their communities more self-reliant in food, energy and the many goods and services that a community needs to survive and thrive.

They are currently on a world tour of the USA, Canada, New Zealand, China and Japan as well as Australia.

Cost of ‘green’ HECO fuel supply rising

Hawaiian Electric Co.’s commitment to use only “green” fuel to run its new power plant at Campbell Industrial Park will cost Oahu residential customers up to $2 more a month.

Left without a local source of biodiesel after its supplier scrapped plans to build a fuel plant here, HECO now has to pay more to have the fuel shipped from the Mainland, stored in a tank and trucked to the power plant.

Ethanol companies run into trouble, but experts say the industry will survive

Not so long ago, the biofuel ethanol was a political and policy darling as gas prices soared and the world focused on reducing emissions.

But the companies that produce the colourless liquid appear to be running into trouble as the global economy tanks. Canadian producers are shelving plans to build or expand plants and U.S. companies are idling their facilities.

"Basically because of the economic recession and because of the slump in the crude oil prices, since the cost of producing ethanol is fairly high, none of these activities are economical," said Suren Kulshreshtha, an agricultural economics professor at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

BP to Produce Cellulosic Ethanol by 2012

BP and Verenium announced a new joint venture to produce cellulosic ethanol on a commercial scale by 2012.

Biofuels boom could destroy rainforests

STANFORD, Calif. (UPI) -- A U.S. researcher is warning the boom in the production of biofuels might lead tropical farmers to destroy rainforests to plant biofuel crops.

Holly Gibbs, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment, said policies favoring biofuel crop production might actually contribute to, not slow, the process of climate change.

Canada: Green energy dollars wasted?

Focus should be on wind and solar rather than less cost-effective biofuels, report says

Solar shines at these wastewater plants

Two California counties this week unveiled new solar power installations that track the sun during the day — in one case from storm water runoff ditches.

Meltdown 101: Will the sun soon power our homes?

After 30 years of trying to squeeze electricity from sunlight, the solar energy industry is finally gaining some traction in its effort to compete with fossil fuels.

Does that mean most of the power in our homes will soon be coming from the sun?

U.S. short on line capacity to fully use wind, solar power

The U.S. has inadequate transmission capacity to carry the electricity that wind and solar power projects could produce, according to a report by two renewable-energy groups.

The wind power projects waiting to be hooked up to transmission lines could supply 20 percent of the nation's electricity needs, according to the report issued by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Wind Energy Association.

Green law to restrict location of wind turbines, minister says

There's virtually no health danger posed by wind turbines, although Ontario's new "green energy" law would set province-wide guidelines on how close they can be to populated areas, says Energy Minister George Smitherman.

The law, to be introduced in the Legislature Monday, is aimed at bringing more renewable energy projects onto the grid as well as pushing conservation, including incentives to retrofit buildings to reduce electricity consumption, he told reporters.

Should we pave the desert?

California’s desert lands are in some ways a perfect fit with the renewable energy industries necessary to combat climate change. There’s sun. There’s wind. There’s space.

But without careful planning and regulation, these “climate solutions” could irrevocably damage the planet they are intended to protect.

AP Interview: Reid pushing for climate change bill

WASHINGTON – Saying it's time to "take a whack" at climate change, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he plans to push for Senate action on global warming by the end of summer.

Climate change on table for Clinton in China

Clinton's focus will center on energy issues, as China now exceeds the U.S. as the world's leading emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, a leading cause of climate change.

Scientists map CO2 emissions with Google Earth

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A team of US scientists led by Purdue University unveiled an interactive Google Earth map on Thursday showing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels across the United States.

Humanitarian costs of climate change unpredictable

JOHANNESBURG (IRIN) - New projections of the impact of climate change make headlines every day, but a report by a leading research institution has underlined the need for "meaningful data" to help aid agencies prepare for the future.

The report by a group of researchers at the Feinstein International Centre of the US-based Tufts University also uses various models to project the likely rise in humanitarian spending over the next 20 years as the frequency and intensity of natural disasters increases.

In a recent DB someone posted on leap2020, but without providing a link.

"It is high time for the general population and socio-political players to get ready to face very hard times during which whole segments of our societies will be modified (4), temporarily disappear or even permanently vanish. For instance, the breakdown of the global monetary system we anticipated for summer 2009 will indeed entail the collapse of the US dollar (and all USD-denominated assets), but it will also induce, out of psychological contagion, a general loss of confidence in paper money altogether (these consequences give rise to a number of recommendations in this issue of the GEAB)."


Edit: I'm not sure why the link doesn't work

"Edit: I'm not sure why the link doesn't work"

That's why I don't provide the link.

It takes work to get it. ;}

But they've been right on the mark.

Along with Elaine Supkis and Ilargi, with
Orlov, Lundberg, and WestTexas/Ace, resilient communities
(John Robb) are us. ;}

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn - an idea that has angered drivers in some states where it has been proposed.

I guess this is the punishment for fuel-efficiency? On the one hand, this is a tax that will penalize small car buyers just as much as large, and will remove the tax incentive to use less gas. On the other hand, it will push people to alternate modes of transportation.

But of course the real reason is that people are driving less, so tax revenues are down while expenses are up. The idea of simply spending less on roads doesn't seem to even come up in the conversation.

The system would require all cars and trucks be equipped with global satellite positioning technology, a transponder, a clock and other equipment to record how many miles a vehicle was driven, whether it was driven on highways or secondary roads, and even whether it was driven during peak traffic periods or off-peak hours.

It's nicely technological. I wonder how long before they charge more for speeders as well as vehicle class, weight, and so forth? Surely we'll need a progressive scale for luxury vehicles?

In one sense, it's good. It means that TPTB have accepted that the end of the age of oil is coming, if it's not here already. Gas taxes won't work to fund roads if we're all driving electric cars.

OTOH, it's clear that the idea of no more happy motoring at all is off the radar completely.

OTOH, it's clear that the idea of no more happy motoring at all is off the radar completely.

Absolutely. I've posted before that TPTB cannot conceive of the transformation necessary to move away from personal vehicles as the primary mode of transportation. Indeed it is difficult, given the way we have designed an entire society in the US around the car, for me to imagine it on a scale that would have an impact. There are simply too many of us locked into our current arrangements.

Personally I am able and prepared to commute to work by bike (in the SF Bay Area). But that's because I am lucky in working close enough to my home. And that's partly because I was able to buy a house 25 years ago that is an old style suburb (i.e fairly close to the center) in what passes for a small town with lots of jobs (Palo Alto). The vast majority of my working peers have to live miles from their work because the area is in population overshoot and affordable housing is only available miles away. And that housing is not amenable to being served by public transportation because it was designed with the car in mind.

If we have a recognizable future, it will be electric cars, hence the continuing focus on roads and bridges in the stimulus bill.

How long until they start taxing bicycle miles?

Bicycles too, use the road for transportation...why do they not pay their fair share?

That law really pisses me off, though. I'm in one of the states (NC) that's looking into the mileage taxation and the thought that the jackass down the road with the Cummins Diesel pickup, that's probably never seen an honest load in it's lifetime (it's spotless), is going to essentially get a tax break at my expense (1988 Honda CRX) and for that matter my sister's expense (1989 Honda Civic) just gets to me.

If I didn't think I'd be squished like a pancake, I'd probably put an electric assist motor on my bicycle and attempt to ride to work during the summers - but it's rather like asking for death to ride at non-ideal times.

I doubt that TPTB are thinking about Peak Oil as yet. I suspect that they are looking at the latest budget numbers and are trying to come up with a way to keep the funding going for their buddies in the road building business. If they seriously worried about Peak Oil, they might realize that many people might drive much smaller cars, carpool or stop driving entirely, thus the need for more roads out in Edge City would vanish.

This idea has been floated in NC too. In this state, there is a new version of the annual inspection which requires that the vehicle mileage be entered into a data base. It would be a simple matter to calculate each vehicle's annual mileage after each inspection and inspection must be done before registration is allowed. That would be much simpler than having all that extra GPS technology with it's implications of Big Brother tracking your every move. Besides, how long it would take the hot rod outlaws to figure a way to remove the GPS device and leave it in the garage?

That's not to say I like either proposal, since both penalize the frugal drivers who are trying to conserve. The mileage tax is sort of like a sales tax, which hits the poorest segment of the population the hardest. A mileage based tax is almost a subsidy for big gas guzzlers. It might be reasonable to calculate the tax as a function of both mileage and fully loaded weight...

E. Swanson

I used to have a 1997 Celica, all you had to do to stop the odometer (and speedometer) is unscrew a cable right behind the dashboard. Probably harder in most modern cars.

In modern cars it is actually easier. The instrument cluster is really just a simple CPU with some memory - you just alter the memory to roll the odometer. I have heard of 3rd party tools which let you do this with nothing more than a laptop and a special cable.

"It might be reasonable to calculate the tax as a function of both mileage and fully loaded weight..."

- yes, that's called a gasoline tax. Because fuel consumption is directly proportional to vehicle weight (other things being equal). And the system is already in place to collect that tax. All they have to do is raise the rate. I can't for the life of me figure out why X pennies per gallon are OK and Y>X is not OK? Eventually the system will break down, when many people drive electric cars, or don't drive at all. We're very far from that point for now. If electric cars escape the fuel tax, that's a good thing, an incentive to drive electric, we need such. In the longer run though the roads and bridges are toast. See today's installment from Greer...

I doubt that electric cars would escape the tax.

Our NC state inspection includes both safety and emissions, so an electric car would still need the safety part. My county is outside the emissions control area, so we don't have the emissions inspection requirements as they do around Charlotte or Raleigh-Durham. Besides, vehicle weight is not the only component of gas mileage and at highway speeds, it may not matter much as the energy used to accelerate happens only at the start of a trip and energy for driving up hills is recovered going down the other side. Aerodynamic drag becomes a large factor at highway speeds, increasing rapidly at speeds above 50 mph.

E. Swanson

When I said "escape the tax" I was referring to the gasoline tax (which I was proposing to raise instead of the by-the-mile madness).

And regarding vehicle weight I said "everything else being equal". If you get EPA mileage ratings of various cars, and plot them against the weights, the correlation is almost perfect. I did a little study like that a few years ago, before buying what may be the last car I'll ever buy (a Toyota Echo, weight about 2000 pounds).

A few years ago, the EPA tests understated the impact of aerodynamics, as the highway speed simulated on the dyno was less than 50 mph on average. One reason for this was the fact that the test was designed back in the 1970's, when the national speed limit was 55 mph. The newer test process runs the cars at higher speeds and the resulting MPG data might be closer to that actually delivered. Your comparison would likely produce results which would be invalid compared with real world results.

E. Swanson

Because fuel consumption is directly proportional to vehicle weight (other things being equal). And the system is already in place to collect that tax. All they have to do is raise the rate.

Thats not quite true. Generally a heavier vehicle should be able to do more ton miles per gallon than a smaller one. If shape and speed is fixed, mass would scale as linear dimension to the third power, but aerodynamic drag as the square. Also as noted above, road damage scales much more rapidly with weight than either fuel consumption or ton miles. Even at fixed weight, mileage may vary substantially. Compare a Prius to the same weight sports car.
Of course the unmentionable issue, is that the Grover Norquist types have made raising the tax an impossibility. The bigger issue is inflation has seriously ate into what a fixed tax stream can buy. Lower overall fuel consumption merely compounds that problem. Electric vehicles would almost certainly be among the lightest of vehicles on the road, so their contribution to roadway damage should be very small.

(some) states tax the gvw at the time of registration.

But consider this thought experiment. Let's say that some technomagic happens, and we all get electric cars. With a fuel-tax based way of funding roads, the highway authority gets cut off completely. Some here might argue that this would be a good thing :-).

Cars have minimal effects on roads. Trucks do almost all the damage. Does anyone envision big rigs running on something other than diesel anytime soon?

The trucking industry today pays a tiny bit for the wear-and-tear they create (those stickers saying "this truck pays $23,000 in over-the-road taxes" show how little they actually pay for their infrastructure). Trucking should be the first industry to go away, in favor of Alan's trains. If there is a mileage tax, the trucks should pay over 1,000x cars for the damage they do, and that would be a superb nail in the coffin for them.

From another blog, unsourced: "The damage to roads comes from the amount the road surface is deflected, which tends to follow the fourth power of the axle weight. An 80,000 lb five axle truck is 16,000 lb per axle, while a 2,000 lb two axle car is only 1,000 lb per axle. A 16x difference in axle weight gives a roughtly 16^4 = 65,536x difference in road damage.

Essentially all road damage is due to either heavy trucks, studded tires, or water caused subsidence. Everything else is noise."

The numbers above are a bit off, given that almost no cars are less than 1 ton, and most are more like 2 tons. Still, 8^4 is 4,000x more damage than cars. A related more researched article:

  • http://www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/JFE/bin/get6.cgi?directory=July99/&filename=...
  • When you add in collateral damage from truck dropped debris, blown tires, kicked up road debris, vastly asymmetric collision damage, and effective congestion footprint versus cars, and fuel inefficiency and labor required versus trains, the difference is astounding. All long-haul trucks offer is "just in time" delivery speed, which is itself a weakness driven by a market mandate for rapid inventory turns.

    But fair taxes won't happen any time soon. Trucks and farmers will both get exemptions, and the most politically disadvantaged will carry the cost, as always.

    As the tracks were taken up & the right-of-ways developed, I had a strong feeling that we were going to regret the decline in rail infrastructure. To bring rail transport up to what it was when I was a kid would be an enormous undertaking. And what is the source of the electricity to replace diesel locomotives supposed to be? Wind? Nukes? Yeah right.. I'm afraid that the damage has already been done, and that electrified rail on large scale is only the pipedream of a few visionaries whose advocacy borders on fetishism. What is supposed to replace rail & truck transport as we've known it in the past? Nothing. The era of hauling massive amounts of freight across continents is drawing to a close.

    Just because YOU don't want/need people to move heavy freight doesn't mean there won't be people, and lots of them, who DO want to be on both the sending and receiving end of that kind of system.

    In answer to the 'What is supposed to replace rail and truck..' question. Primarily Rail and Water are the answers, I suspect.

    Paleocon: If there is a mileage tax, the trucks should pay over 1,000x cars for the damage they do, and that would be a superb nail in the coffin for them.

    An increase in the cost of trucking will likely be passed straight through to the consumer. So at the end of the day, the consumer would pay either way. The answer does indeed lie in the massively increased use of rail.

    One of the things that has recently perplexed me is the relative efficiencies of rail compared to shipping - I find it hard to believe that the difference in efficiency of large marine engines is solely responsible for the benefit, given that it requires considerably less energy to move through a gaseous fluid (air), than through a liquid fluid (water). Then it occurred to me that any vehicle moving more than 15 mph, is expending the majority of its energy overcoming aerodynamic resistance and ships do not usually move very fast.

    So the answer is to move as much freight as possible to rail, and have fully automated electric trains that crawl across the country at 15 mph. High speed electric passenger trains would need to be on a completely separate network.

    Developing that kind of infrastructure and building it so that it lasted practically forever would rival the creation of the interstate highway system. This is one of the few legitimate places to spend 'stimulus' dollars - it will not happen while no-compete contracts with guaranteed profits (way above 2 or 3%) are awarded to companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Titan Corporation, KBR, Halliburton, etc.

    An increase in the cost of trucking will likely be passed straight through to the consumer. So at the end of the day, the consumer would pay either way.

    Yes...annnnd? You were so close and just let it go. The answer here, is that the cost which is passed through to the consumer - is the one buying the stuff that caused the damage!

    That is, the person who ordered or bought the product which was shipped and caused the road damage gets to pay the bill for the damage, rather than an other person who did not order or buy the produce which was shipped and cause the damage. So in essence, it would pass the cost of the damage more directly to the one that caused it, rather than subsidizing the cost by charging those who didn't.

    The argument put forth, was that a vast increase in the cost of trucking to reflect the true wear and tear, "would be a superb nail in the coffin for them". This would only be true if the increased cost was not passed through to the consumer.

    I am not, as you appear to suggest, arguing if it is right or wrong that the consumers cost of living should more accurately reflect the costs associated with delivery of their consumed items. I am rebutting that an increase in the costs of trucking would be a nail in the trucking industry's coffin.

    "This would only be true if the increased cost was not passed through to the consumer."

    I disagree, as the product sent by rail would then be cheaper, because it would not have this cost being passed on, and so would be preferential to the consumer.

    More of that freight could travel by rail - then go just short distances on the roads. More sidings could be reopened to facilitate even shorter distances by truck transport.

    If the tax used Gross vehicle weight as a multiplier it would be more "fair". It would encourage smaller vehicles which regardless of powerplant (electic, hybrid, biofuel, whatever) are more effiecient. And charges the most destructive users of the road the highest fees - which would help push freight onto the rails where it belongs.

    The danger is that in the scramble to go lighter the auto manufacturers would likley toss safety out the window.

    I recall a time in the UK when the road tax was based on the bore size of the engine and the number of cylinders (it was called the RAC taxable horsepower rating of the engine) The result was engine designs with ridiculous stroke/bore ratios - they should have taxed displacement instead but took a shortcut - leading to the un-intended consequences.

    Never fear! The whole and entire job of the politician is to figure out how to get more work or money out of you. If this magical thing happened, they'd figure out a way. Anyway, electricity is now taxed in several different ways, so adding a "charging your battery" tax would be relatively simple.

    The idea of simply spending less on roads doesn't seem to even come up in the conversation.

    The problem is that the cost of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure is hidden, buried in some other tax or levy. Once the true costs of car ownership are exposed then we can expect increased demand for public transit and a recognition of the true cost of suburban living (recent study in Ottawa, Canada found that dwellers in the urban core were subsidizing suburban dwellers to the tune of close to $1,000 per year).

    Combine such a pricing initiatives with congestion pricing and you create real economic incentives to modify behavior and mitigate both AGW and PO.

    I would argue that such GPS systems should also include automatic billing (fines) for excessive speeds and reckless driving with automatic suspension of a driver's license if the errant behavior is not corrected.

    People will howl about "big brother" and there are issues there that need to be addressed. But I used to be involved in offshore safety - workplaces that could (and did. But not mine) become an immediate explosive inferno, be hit by rogue 70 foot waves, or off course container ships, or Titanic sized icebergs, or dead helicopters. And I felt much, much, safer out on the rigs than I have ever felt in rush hour traffic. The way people drive is insane, the fatality rate reflects this and the only reason nothing is none is due to the psychology of risk perception: something "foreign" is viewed as being of greater risk than the true risks to which we have become habituated. This, in a nutshell, is the same problem associated with the recognition of PO and AGW.

    La Hood's proposal will never happen. It is very biased against drivers in rural areas who have to drive long distances for work and shopping. It would be political suicide to push this proposal.

    I therefore suspect this is a stalking horse for the the real proposal to come which is an increase in the gas tax. The psychology here is that the gas tax increase is so much less onerous that the mileage tax. It might even work.

    I do not think La Hood would propose such a tax without first presenting it to Obama. Obama knows that a milegae tax would be a hard sell in big red states and the Midwest where it would in effect be a tax on ethanol.

    There is some clever political gamesmanship behind this. The mileage tax will be dropped in negotiations in exchange for a gasoline tax increase which is long overdue.

    A gas tax increase would be even worse for the rural people you mention. They would still pay more, because they drive so much. And they often need trucks and other gas-guzzlers, because of the work they do and the road conditions where they live.

    Increasing the gas tax would be an "apples to apples" calculation.
    Changing to a miles driven tax would be an "apples to oranges" calculation. Are we so stupid, not to do the math?

    Definitely, the guy living 40 miles out in exurbia and driving a little gas sipper to L.A., just to get by, is getting hammered. There goes the money he will save on the new mortgage assistance program.

    Yeah, but the "Red States" will love it. The way they see it, those yuppies in their Priuses are using the roads while not paying their fair share.

    And for the vast majority of people, who think oil will run out but will not mean the end of the American way of life, taxing per mile seems inevitable. We'll still need roads, but we won't be using any gas any more.

    And they often need trucks and other gas-guzzlers, because of the work they do

    If this was a GPS based system (as was indicated) then it would be possible to modify the cost per mile driven by geographic location.

    If you need to move your combine between fields you pay a lesser rate than the dude out in the country with his SUV so he can spend the day snowmobiling.

    Yeah, but boy, would Big Brother be watching. And people think EZ-Pass is bad...

    would Big Brother be watching.

    Carry a cell phone?

    They know where you are.

    Nope. Don't own a cell phone, and don't plan to.

    Besides, cell phones can be turned off. I imagine it would not be allowed with these GPS things.

    Besides, cell phones can be turned off.

    This may not be of much benefit. Another reader may be more familiar with current cell phone technology but what I understand from the following link is that even if the phone is off as long as it has a live battery it can be pinged and located:


    So disconnect the battery.

    BOP, nothing in the link you posted indicates that a turned off phone can be pinged. It says only a "live phone" can be pinged. A phone that is turned off is not live. Basically there is no way to ping a phone that is turned off.

    Also for the triangulation to work three towers must be able to pick up the phone. That is very seldom the case. True, areas overlap but there are many cases where you get no bars at all, no tower can pick you up. Many cases only one can pick up. Three towers within reach is not the normal case.


    It says only a "live phone" can be pinged. A phone that is turned off is not live.

    Many electronics have a 'sleep state'. My Android still consumes power when the 'off' button was pressed and it looks 'off'.

    Also for the triangulation to work three towers must be able to pick up the phone.

    Hence the 'tri' in triangulation. Doesn't stop the gathering of information 'X phone was within this circle of range at this time' That is a whole lot more location information than was otherwise known of the masses.

    It's called suspend to ram/sleep mode. please look it up, just about every modern phone sans a few pay as you go phones use it. Generally there is NO way to turn those phones off other then to rip the battery out.

    You can still disconnect any cell phone from the network, power on or off: Every student of physics or electrical engineering learns at some point about a "Faraday Cage" - simply a conductive container with apertures (if any) smaller than the wavelength (half-wavelength?) of the frequency in question. No electromagnetic waves get in or out.

    In other words, a metal box. Copper would be best but steel or even several layers of aluminum foil will probably work just fine.

    - Dick Lawrence

    Tin foil hat? :)

    Yeah, but it gives Fuzz Buster a whole new product line to develop and sell. I think I will keep my 1994 truck a whole lot longer.

    How many people realize you can now get a GPS based device which will warn you if you are approaching an intersection with red light cameras?

    GPS Angel

    Hmmmm... One of the advantages of living in very wired Korea: I had no idea there was any other kind.


    How resilient will GPS be in our near term future? If it goes down (or becomes patchy due to multiple satellite failures) then you can forget it as a navigation system for aircraft, or the military , let alone a transport tracking system.

    There are only a few spare satellites currently in the orbiting fleet. One or more could die without warning. In the medium term I see its demise as inevitable. We won't be able to support a satellite programme indefinitely.

    Just install a GPS jammer,

    Do you have some data regarding how much rural people drive? Who are rural people who drive so much who need trucks for the work they do driving on roads in poor condition?

    I know of exurban commuters who drive too much and do it alone. If it takes a mileage charge AND a high gas tax and high parking fees to get them to car/truck share or to organize rural public/cooperative transportation, I'm all for it.

    Mileage charges will come and they will be strongly supported by the trucking industry, which is not about to sit around assuming a greater and greater tax burden for the road network while yuppy exurbanites drive their hybrids and electric whatnots from Wisteria Woods to Latte Lane.

    I'm just speaking of my personal experience. As I've mentioned before, my dad is an agronomist, so I often lived in rural areas. Utility vehicles were required because the roads were so rutted or steep. Even people who didn't farm needed a truck, Jeep, or Range Rover to drive on certain roads.

    Guess they've never heard of SooBahRoos. I took my little CRX on a Ho-Lee-Shiite road about a month ago to a derelict fire tower - a little sketchy at times, but it made it. Later on when I was coming down, all I saw going back up were full size 4WD pickups. Subarus, though, have the best all-wheel drive system I've ever run across. It sounds like a commercial but seriously, snow, mud...they handle it with ease and they generally have a few more inches of ground clearance than most cars. Beyond that, Toyota makes the Corolla Matrix 4WD. There are some classics...my favorites being the Suzuki Samurai, and the old skool Geo Tracker/Suzuki Sidekick (before it ballooned in size). My friend used to have a Tracker, it got mid 20's to low 30's mpg depending on how he drove it (the things are stratospherically geared) but he took that thing into a lot of places that he shouldn't have and managed to get it back out. It was excellent for getting around in those places where the "roads" became "ruts."

    You're probably right about the trucking industry, but they ought to be assuming more of the burden rather than shedding it. As was pointed out upthread, they do essentially all the damage to the roads.

    I think your observation is accurate. There is also the issue that requiring a GPS and a bureaucracy to track your mileage and charge you for your mileage is filled with loopholes and can be used and abused on both sides. And there's also the problem of reliability--the whole electronic system is at the mercy of any space borne bombs and the activity of the Sun--and everyone would be required to have GPS, cellphone or on board. This is just too much complexity for a simple need--so a gas tax is the best way.

    The system would require all cars and trucks be equipped with global satellite positioning technology...

    GPS may soon be a thing of the past if space debris takes out the satellites. Perhaps Israel will hit Iran & the Iranians will loft a cannister of ball bearings into orbit & rupture it, in retaliation. Or China will whack a few more defunct sats with ground launched projectiles. Who knows? I wouldn't count on any space based tech being viable for much longer.

    The inevitable failure of increasingly complex systems. The complexity increases the cost of maintaining them and makes them more vulnerable to sabotage.

    perhaps I'm just seeing what I expect to see, but I'm seeing that many systems are failing already.

    There may already be sufficient junk in orbit to bring about the end of satellites, without resorting to sabotage. Satellites could begin failing from a "domino effect." One is hit by high speed debris, generating more debris that hits more satellites, in a cascading manner, until they're all disabled. I'm not sure how likely this scenario is and I'm sure that those who have a better idea aren't saying, so as not to jeprodize the investments or NASA funding upon which their livelihoods depend.

    That's some quite time off yet. The GPS satellites are around 12500 miles up. There not in the crowded low earth orbits where the problem is currently located.

    I read a pretty good review of the cabinet members of Obama's team and I think they will definately do two things. First, find ways to increase taxes and second disguise it behind a climate change agenda.

    President Obama’s Energy Picks: “True Believers”

    First, find ways to increase taxes

    I hope they do. Our fossil fueled system is grossly underpriced thanks to hidden and not so hidden subsidies. Taxing it more heavily should help correct this market failure. Game on.

    RFID installed in license plates with detectors in highway interchanges and in major intersections in cities may be a better way to go. Weight based taxing is also feasible this way. The advantage of fuel tax is it is easy to collect since it is a pay as you go system. If the money isn't there to buy the fuel then the road use isn't there. A mileage tax would also need a way to pay as you go. Currently fuel taxes average around 2 cents per mile for cars and around 8 to 10 cents per mile for heavy trucks.
    Fuel use is not as well connected to vehicle weight as many think. There is a roughly a 2:1 spread in mileage among vehicles of the same weight. Fuel use is more closely connected to engine size and horsepower.

    LaHood's talk of mileage tax nixed

    WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will not adopt a policy to tax motorists based on how many miles they drive instead of how much gasoline they buy, his chief spokesman said Friday.

    Press secretary Robert Gibbs commented after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told The Associated Press that he wants to consider the idea, which has been proposed in some states but has angered many drivers.

    If they thought people were having a hard time making up their minds to buy cars before, wait till these new travel tax ideas kick-in. People will be so uncertain about the risks that they will hold off on car purchases indefinably.

    Can you imagine the face on some guy when the new car salesman says, "pay no attention to that government GPS tracker, it's ONLY for calculating you tax"?

    I believe Robert Rapier performed a similar analysis in the past, but here's my take on how much energy the world might need in the future, and what kind of investment that would entail:


    I'm optimistic that we can cut energy usage by 70% in the US without a major change in quality of life - but even then, the future investment in renewable energy will have to be enormous.

    As an example, if the world's population levels off at 9B, and if solar panels were to drop in price by 90%, it would still require an investment of $60 Trillion to sustain per capita energy consumption in a long term fashion. See the above link for my calculations.

    I believe that we'll be cutting our energy usage in the US by more even than that 70%. But I also believe that it will come with a major change (downward) in the quality of life (or more accurately, standard of living or per-capita GDP). We will make massive investments in renewable energy, but it won't be nearly enough - we simply won't be able to afford it, and even what we could afford will be delayed and mis-spent.

    Globalization, taken to its logical conclusion, implies a convergence toward global mean wages for all except the very top elites. Peak oil (and peak everything) means less energy use per capita, and per capita GDP is strongly correlated with per capita energy use. Then there is the massive deleveraging that is just getting started and will take decades to complete.

    Oh yes, we will be using a lot less energy, and we will be poorer. Count on it.

    we will be poorer. Count on it.

    Agree with your points WNC except for this one. Most of what makes us "rich" is stuff that gets discarded after a year, or buried in the garage, or basement. We may in future end up "richer" in that we move away from the consumerist, bowling alone model, and rediscover community, or at least the communal wheelbarrow.

    Just saw that one of Leanan's new postings makes exactly this point. Woman needs new winter boots and "discovers" a pair hidden in her closet for the past ten years. Closet Mining - its the new gold rush.

    When I talk about "poorer", I am referring to real per capita GDP. It is quite possible to live a very good, happy life on far less than the present US per capita GDP. But there are things that are an affordable part of the typical lifestyle that comes with our present per capita GDP that will no longer be affordable for most people once our per capita GDP drops a lot lower. Yes, we'll adapt, and yes, we may even be better for it, but giving up some things we now take for granted will be a necessity.

    I just ran through these numbers on another board last weekend

    Population x (per capita income) x (energy input per dollar of output) = Global Energy Demand

    In 2000:
    global population ~= 6,000,000,000
    global GDP/per person ~= $6500 US / person
    global energy use ~= 10 million joules per $US dollar of GDP

    6,000,000,000 x US$6500/(person-year) x 10 million joules per $US output per year =
    0.4 billion-trillion joules

    It took to 0.4 billion-trillion joules of energy to generate the 2000 economy.

    Now lets look into the future a bit

    In 2050:
    global population ~= 9,000,000,000
    global GDP/per person ~= $18000 US / person (2% growth rate for 50 years)
    global energy use ~= 10 million joules per $US dollar (no increases in efficiency)

    9,000,000,000 x US$18000/(person-year) x 10 million joules/($US output per year) =
    1.6 billion-trillion joules (in round numbers)

    It will take 1.6 billion-trillion joules of energy to generate the 2050 economy based on the above assumptions, a quadrupling of our energy needs.

    It seems very unlikely to me that we could quadruple our energy output by 2050.

    But ...

    I went back and looked over the last 25 years of data for global energy user / GDP. Turns out that we used approximately 60% less energy in 2004 than we used in 1980. Round it off a little and it looks like energy efficiency can double every 25 years or so. So, in 50 years, we might need only 25% of the energy we need today to produce a dollar unit of GDP.

    So ... in 2050, we might see numbers like this with 2% growth of GDP per-capita
    9,000,000,000 x US$17500/(person-year) x 2.5 million joules per $US output per year =
    0.4 billion-trillion joules.
    No change at all! The number balance out.

    If GDP per capita grows at 3% per year, energy requirements grow to
    0.6 billion-trillion joules.
    A growth in energy output requirement of 50%. Not outrageous.

    I started this exercise assuming we were screwed. But knowing how fast we improved energy efficiency over the last 25 years, I have to conclude that we might actually be able to keep up with energy requirements. We still need to make the transition off of crude oil though ...

    I feel a bit thick for asking this, but here goes:

    Do these numbers actually mean that we are using energy more efficiently or do they reflect increasing populations in areas where energy is not reliable or generally unavailable?(or even increase in number of places where energy unreliability/lack is prevalent?)


    Globally, less energy is needed to produce a given amount of goods over the last 25 years. It could reflect more goods being produced in low energy regions. It could reflect more goods being produced with less energy in energy intensive regions. It probably show some mix of both. I haven't tried to drill down into the particulars yet.

    Physics will dictate a lower bound of efficiency beyond which you cannot go. As we approach that boundary, the cost of gaining efficiency will go up and the gains will get smaller.

    This is just like purifying a chemical. You cannot get 101% pure. The upper bound is 100% and for all practical purposes you never reach it, instead settling for 99% pure, or 99.9% pure, or 99.99% pure, etc. And worse, the cost to go from 90% pure to 99% pure is usually close to the cost of going from 99% pure to 99.9% pure (or even higher). Likewise with efficiency, you can only extract so much efficiency before physics brutally slices the throat of the damnfool economist who thinks he can do this forever.

    We are so far from from diminishing returns on energy efficiency on a macro level that this doesn't scare me. How many power plants use heat-capture, reuse tech? Automobiles increased efficiency all through the last 20 years - we just kept adding weight - so strip the weight. Homes and business are still poorly insulated. Low efficiency lighting in homes. And on and on ... Just as a WAG, we could probably double energy efficiency without any new technology - just through wider deployment of our current tech.

    But, on a micro level, i.e., individuals, there are limits to current technology. For example, 16 years ago, I installed a new, high efficiency gas furnace in our house. It was rated at 95% efficient. I could have bought one that was 98% efficient, but that cost more and I didn't see much reason for the extra expense. Similar situations exist regarding other appliances, such as water heaters and CFLs. The biggest remaining gains are in deeper structural changes, such as adding more insulation to walls and roofs or buying smaller refrigerators or cars. Of course, living closer together and using mass transit would make a big difference too, but doing that would destroy the "value" of the outlying suburban investments which millions are locked into.

    The problem is that these macro changes require serious lifestyle modifications. Those changes won't be easy and the structural changes won't happen until out governmental leaders stand up and say "Sorry folks, it's game over time", followed with measures such as rationing of transport fuels. I'm not going to hold my breath on that one...

    E. Swanson

    By half and in then some. We're about to upgrade the lighting in a drugstore that, upon completion, will reduce their electricity usage by 83,685 kWh/year, and by more than 100,000 kWh/year taking into consideration the related a/c savings. If you take the cost of this work and amortize it over ten years, the cost per kWh saved is less than 1.4 cents and after that, it's effectively free.

    This is the client's monthly cash flow based on their 20 per cent co-pay:

    And this is how much they will save over the next five years, at current rates:


    Thank you for the reply.

    I have to wonder, however, at the impact of the "services" component of GDP. How does that skew the "stuff we are producing" part of the equation?

    Also - is it not so that retail sales are measured in GDP? If so I would like to propose a thought experiment.

    Can a third world piecework manufacturer earning 10$ daily buy the 120$ track shoes they make? Likely not. Most of the value of those shoes miraculously is created when they arrive where people can pay 120$ for them. If they were to be sold where they are created, then they would be worth 10$ or 20$ at most. Yet we include the inflated rate in GDP calculations by way of consumer spending. How much energy is used up in this creation of value? The more we outsource the more we have this miraculous creation of value, but I doubt this represents efficient energy use. ie - we are not measuring energy use per shoe made but per dollar value - means little I think when dollar value of the shoe beyond a certain minimum is socially variable.

    I think, that to more accurately measure energy efficiency we would have to use different back of the envelope figures rather than GDP.


    I doubt that we are actually going to see that 9 billion, though. There are just too many things that will take their toll, and that's not even throwing a major war or pandemic into the mix, both of which have a significant probability of occuring. By 2050, we could very well be back down to 6 billion, or even lower.

    I also doubt that global per capita GDP is going to grow much at all. It is starting to decline now, and may not recover.

    Finally, I doubt that the global supply of energy from all sources in 2050 will equal your 0.4 billion-trillion joules. Oil and NG will certainly be down considerably, coal will have at least leveled off, nuclear will not have ramped up all that much, and renewables (including biomass) will undoubtedly have ramped up some, but far less than what is needed to offset the decline of oil and NG. This in turn suggests that the price of energy in real terms, from all sources, will have risen considerably from your 10 Mj per $1 of GDP.

    This equation doesn't predict a rosy future. It merely allows for a future that is not in decline. If our population never hits 9 billion, that's great. Fewer people the better. No question we have will have decline in oil and natural gas. That means more coal and nuclear. That means an electric future if bio-genetics cannot deliver fuel-farting bugs or alcohol-veined plants. It doesn't make EROEI go away. But it does point out that there is a counter-veiling factor - improving energy efficiency in production.

    Unfortunately, I'm afraid that I must see decline as being the BEST CASE scenario. We'll be lucky if we can simply manage a decline and can somehow manage to avoid a catastrophic collapse. Unlike some people on this forum, I don't see collapse as an absolute, unavoidable given, but I do acknowledge it to be a real possibility.

    The irony is that by resisting rather than accepting decline, we end up doing exactly the most wrong and counterproductive things, thus making it even more likely that we'll end up in the death spiral of collapse instead of the scary roller coaster ride of decline.

    You have raised a good point about energy use, energy intensity(energy/GDP), and efficiency, and population.

    Changes that will decrease energy use are;1) improved efficiency of appliances, better insulation, better MPG ( essentially the same job with less power).
    2)Structural changes in economy( of the world), that improve energy used per GDP unit, we see this in a move from manufacturing to services as we become more prosperous(eat out), telecommunications, buying insurance, banking, internet services. Their is also a saturation of appliance use(watch one of 3 TV's or be on internet, or drive one of two cars)
    3)Replacing an inefficient technology with one more efficient; steam power(5%efficiency) replaced by diesel(30%) replaced by electric(80%). Replacing cars using gasoline to EV using electricity will give a X3-4 improvement with only a slight change in product. If electricty is generated by wind or solar rather than coal or NG will also use less energy for the same kWh.
    4)Larger population works against the first three except for the increase in urban density give improved efficiency in transportation.

    The first three multiply with each other, giving much higher GDP/energy use, and in aggregate, GDP units/energy unit, can continue to rise, even if specific appliances reach 100% efficiency. Thus a new computer or mobile phone may use the same amount of power, but do a whole lot more than it did 10years ago( due to both hardware and software changes), and thus be more valuable in GDP terms.

    Provided the population only increases slightly in next 50 years, energy use( in kWh) could be 50% less, and GDP per person much higher.

    A peak oiler from Singapore posted this photo at PO.com:

    I was looking for suitable photos to describe Singapore's recent collapse of 34.8% in the exports figures.

    I found this one of cargo ships sitting idle in the Singapore harbour area, dozens of them as far as the eye can see.

    I was there back in December and the view from onshore at night is even more amazing -the whole horizon was lit up with lights from left to right. At first I thought it was the light coming from buildings on the other side of a bay...


    About 20% of the vessels we serve is waiting for cargo

    Edit: I'm considering offering my employer to cut my pay

    A sign of the way things are seen, I suppose, but there's really no method by which an employer can lower wages. There's an underlying assumption in people getting yearly raises, that there will always be more next year, or that a person's time is going to be worth more a year from now - but there isn't a flip-side to raises. So in general the only recourse is to fire someone entirely, rather than go through and cut wages company wide. There's definitely been an attempt lately to do things differently - cutting back hours, and cutting wages. But it's difficult to get people to step down a bit and little precedent for it.

    Then of course, you have those situations like the airlines faced a few years on back when they went into negotiations with the union over wages...the union agreed to lower wages for everyone so the airlines would be saved - then the f%&king CEO's celebrated with multimillion dollar bonuses for themselves!

    Many of these ships might be idle with no cargos to drop or pick up, however this would be a normal picture of Singapore Roads at any time over the recent past.
    I sailed in to Singapore on a Soviet passenger ship in November 1971 and we sailed past lines of hundreds of anchored ships in a scene that would have looked exactly like this one.
    No doubt Singapore is seeing serious decline but a picture of anchored ships does not necessarily show it.
    By the way, it is an interesting place to visit. If you go have a drink on the porch of Raffles Hotel for me.

    I was there in November. It took our cruise ship almost an hour before we stopped seeing these ships. This image doesn't say anything clear about the recession though because these boats were here when the world economy was humming too.

    Here is a bit of humor for those tired of the consumerism...

    Sony releases new piece of junk that doesn't work

    Language not safe for the office.

    I did a Google and I couldn't find a store to buy that POS here in Reno. Maybe in SF?

    Um...you realize that The Onion is satire, right? It's fake news, meant to be humorous.

    None of it is true, though some of it is prophetic.

    Leanan: Not to worry ... lots of miles on this old frame. I thought maybe Nancy or someone else from SF might know where to find this Sony POS, put lipstick on it and sell it to deniers. :-)

    Hilarious, thanks!

    18 Years

    How long is 18 years, and what can happen in that time period?

    It's the time period between birth and the (technical) onset of adulthood.

    It's the time period between the discovery of the largest oil field in the Lower 48, the East Texas Field (in 1930) and the US becoming a net oil importer (1948). So a child born in 1930, when the US was a leading source of oil exports to the world, graduated high school at a time that the US was dependent on foreign sources of oil to meet all of its demand.

    In less than half that time (8 years), Indonesia, a founding member of OPEC, went from final production peak to zero net oil exports.

    It's the time period between 2008 and 2026, when our middle case is that Russia and Norway will be both approaching zero net oil exports (from mature basins).

    Finally, by the time that a child born in 2008 graduates from high school in 2026, our middle case is that the combined cumulative post-2005 net oil exports from the top five net oil exporters will be about 97% depleted.

    Thanks for reminding me. My son is 6 and my daughter is 3.

    Daddy is going to order some more seeds now.

    Where's the rope...

    Actually, when I read things like this my Monkey-Brain tells me it can't happen, that something must be wrong with your simple model and that everything will 'turn out alright' because if not it probably means that:

    1. The US and most of the West has been living in a dream world due to the fact that they industrialised first and for the best part of 20+ years have fooled themselves into thinking that they can build consumer based societies based on services...
    2. ...when all they have really done is created the civilisation equivalent of a Ponzi scheme -exporting manufacturing, debt and living off others savings as energy supply depletion tsunami appraches.
    3. That we have been fooled into thinking that we have time to make a transition when in actual fact it is more likely that we will be repeatadly beaten down to the average energy usage levels of the Chinese (US:11Kw/pp, Europe:5Kw/pp, China 2Kw/pp) -I wonder who will feel worse off?
    4. The Graduating child will arrive in a depleted, depressed and possibly violent world where only a fraction of current opportunities make any sense pursuing.


    The idea that moving from the US to China is a process of being "beaten down" is ludicrous. Just hop a flight to HK and then on into mainland China--and the transition is seamless (other than culture shock). Hundreds of millions of Chinese live decent, comfortable lives with much less electricity usage than we do, true, but they're also not wasteful: lights are turned off when not in use, as are water heaters (most are on-demand), and occasionally there is a blackout. Even going to Haiti, where the energy usage is far, far less than China, is relatively seamless. What they don't have in energy hogs, we could also not have and do well--it is not necessary to have a clothes dryer (the sun does a good job), nor do we absolutely have to have microwaves or electric burners. The idea that somehow the US is superior to other countries because of energy usage is silly--the quality of life in other so-called lesser developed countries is often far superior to the US.

    Having lived all over the world, from first to sixth or seventh world countries, I think there is a wide range of high-quality lifestyles that may be "down" in energy usage but "up" in quality. I prefer the US nowadays mainly because of familiarity and my banking system (credit union) is relatively secure and I hate having to always be watching my stuff--and my wallet--in other countries.

    Perhaps "beaten down" is not the right term, but I am not sure what you are talking about. I admit I have not traveled much in the last 10 years, but judging from my two month stay in Tanzania in 1986, I can tell you life there was shockingly different from here. The houses I visited (in the countryside) often had no chairs, the majority of children were undernourished, and the village I stayed in had a single radio (no TV). The hospital in Tanzania's capital city, Dodoma, ran out of gloves on a night when they had two C-sections, and the medical directors at other, more rural clinics, considered themselves lucky to have a bicycle. Everyone in villages was wearing torn clothing, and all medications were donated by Unicef.

    I remember visiting Great Britain in 1989 and thinking to myself that they are "second world" and probably don't realize it. Houses were small and run down, and in my sister's apartment n Leeds, you had to feed the hot water heater change in order to take a shower. In France, where I lived outside of Paris for a year in 1974, we were the only family at my school with a telephone, which of course never rang. The television had 3 channels (the US had maybe 23 at the time), two of which did not broadcast all day.

    It is hard to describe just how off the scale our energy usage has been, here in the US. My quality of life certainly is not diminished with 3 channels instead of 103 (OK OK, I have no TV...), but what will all the people involved in programming do for a living?

    ' The adjective "beat" came to the group through the underworld association with Herbert Huncke where it originally meant "tired" or "beaten down." Kerouac expanded the meaning of the term, over time adding the paradoxical connotations of "upbeat," "beatific," and the musical association of being "on the beat:" the Beat Generation was on the bottom, but they were looking up. Other adjectives discussed by Holmes and Kerouac were "found" and "furtive." '

    Glad to see your correction in the WSJ.


    The DOW has opened to a new 52-week low. Another 50 points and it will eclipse the low set in 2002, taking us for a ride on the wayback machine to levels last seen in 1997.

    The S&P has another 20 points before it sets a new 52 week low. It's already lower than it was in 2002, so a new low will also be the lowest since the 90's.

    Denninger was musing if today was going to be the next meltdown day. Europe is down several full percent.

    On the plus side, gold is up $20+, and is pushing $1000 per ounce.

    Holy Heisenberg. Denninger is pessimistic today, even for him:

    My personal confidence is shaken and on the verge of being destroyed, at which point I may as well take my wealth and depart the system entirely with it, buying a piece of arable land, some chickens and goats, a passel of firearms with many cases of ammo and, just in case, some horses so I can still get around if we suffer a catastrophic economic collapse.

    Yes folks, I do think it could get that bad, and it could happen very quickly if our government does not step up - now - to address the above.

    You should modify your epithet -- Heisenberg is uncertain, not pessimistic. :)

    As you know, Denninger never uses a little hyperbole when a lot would suffice, but his view of trends has been pretty accurate. Orlov would say "give him plus or minus 5 years" on collapse scenarios, but it does seem to be happening quickly.

    It's payday. Must go buy some ammo and drop another couple C-notes in the safe.

    Personally, I don't regard Denninger as hyperbolic at all. His rhetoric is very accurately calibrated to the true degree of the moral outrageousness of the fraud, criminality, and mendacity that he is denouncing.

    Probably meant Hindenburg.. ?

    So, I only live 2 miles from town. If I get a horse, do I need one of those Obama GPS trackers for my saddle?

    One of our current requirements for our property search is that we must be "within a days ride" of a rail station. Of course hoping that we have enough energy to even run trains at that point...

    This raises the question if it won't happen very quickly as well if your government does step in.

    Denninger has every right in the world to be angry and discouraged:

    U.S. Tries a Trillion-Dollar Key for Locked Lending

    Under the program, the Fed will lend to investors who acquire new securities backed by auto loans, credit card balances, student loans and small-business loans at rates ranging from roughly 1.5 percent to 3 percent.

    Depending on the type of security they are borrowing against, investors will be able to borrow 84 percent to 95 percent of the face value of the bonds. Investors would not be liable for any losses beyond the 5 percent to 16 percent equity that they retain in the investment.

    ...many people might take a dim view of the TALF program because it provided government subsidies to investors like hedge funds. Investors who borrow from the Fed could enjoy annual returns of 20 percent or more.


    So let me get this straight. Hedge funds borrow money from the govenment and pay 1.5 to 3 percent interest. They then turn around and lend the money to banks, who then loan the money out to consumers who pay 25 or 30 percent interest. If the banks don't pay, then the government indemnifies the hedge funds for thier losses up to 95%.

    That's a hell of a deal if you can get it. How many of us do you think could get a deal like that? My mother has her money in bank CDs. It's guaranteed by the government too, but she only makes 2 or 3 percent interest.

    Here's another scam:

    Pimco's power play

    On Sept. 7...the government placed Fannie and Freddie under conservatorship. That move trashed Fannie and Freddie's common and preferred equity but provided a huge boost to their bonds - and to Pimco. The Total Return fund jumped 1.3%, or $1.7 billion.

    He (Josh Rosner) thinks that the government should have clipped bondholders as well as shareholders when it took over Fannie and Freddie....

    Pimco also made a bet on GMAC, the struggling finance arm of General Motors...

    In a Pimco newsletter published on Sept. 4, 2008...Gross wrote: "We, as well as our sovereign wealth fund and central bank counterparts, are reluctant to make additional commitments" to troubled companies unless the Treasury essentially guarantees their solvency. Later that day Gross made the same argument to CNBC's Erin Burnett. "You can say that I'm talking my book," Gross told Burnett...

    Last fall GMAC executives applied to make GMAC a bank holding company so that it could access federal funds. Before they would approve the move, federal regulators insisted that 75% of GMAC's bonds be swapped for equity to shore up the company's capital base. Offering 60 cents on the dollar, GMAC was able to buy 59% of its bonds. But Pimco, which held a big chunk, refused the deal. The government blinked, allowing GMAC to become a bank holding company in late December even though it hadn't met the 75% threshold. After the conversion, GMAC bonds rose in value; Pimco says it plans to hold them to maturity.


    [Pimco chief Bill Gross:] "The policy prescriptions I've proposed were a realistic attempt to assist the markets. In my eyes, they had nothing to do with bailing out our positions."

    When an industry or a person can dictate government policy, making money is soooooooo easy!

    In case you were asleep, about a million people are ahead of you at the ammo counter. Just google for ammo shortage 2009.

    Handgun ammo was impossible to get last time I went shopping, and even the ubiquitous .22 LR has been rare according to the internet.

    Glad I'm not in a serious situation and actually need it.

    Sorry -- this may have showed up in the wrong thread

    BofA is Toast ----- Combination of Countrywide, Merrill Lynch massive bonuses sinking the ship.

    Shares of BofA, Citi fall on nationalization fears
    Shares of Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc plummeted for the sixth straight day on Friday, hammered by increasing fears that the government could take the control of the banks, wiping out shareholders.

    Bank of America shares were down -0.54 to $3.39 / -13.74% in trading, their lowest level since 1984, while Citigroup fell 12.3 percent to $2.20, their lowest price since 1991.

    Bank of America's CEO is subpoenaed.
    Bank of America CEO and Chairman Kenneth Lewis has been issued a subpoena by the New York State Attorney General's Office, which is investigating whether the bank violated state law by withholding information from investors.

    The only reason I don't think this will happen is because it makes too much sense. Besides, I think BofA has a get-out-of-jail free card to play since Merrill was shoved down it's throat.

    All the same, I wouldn't hold a bank stock over any weekend. If BofA is in business on Monday, it could be a good trading opportunity.

    I would expect Citi to be the first candidate if they did attempt nationalization. At least BofA was trying to help out the system. Citi on the otherhand was a disaster long before the current crisis.

    As for the subpoenaes, I would suspect since Paulson and Bernanke personally wrote the agreement, that BofA is in the clear on that as well.

    I don't really know for sure, but I since you posted it, I thought I would join the discussion.

    Gone in 60 Days : Citi and Bank of America Won't Live to See May ...

    So far we've committed 10 times the total net worth of these banks to propping them up. This is Obama's "plan"? Citi and BOA are zombies, waiting for the torch to end their undead corpses.

    Like the article says, they may not survive the weekend.

    Both are down so far today (and further this week) that something almost has to happen to them immediately.

    Well, it's Friday. Bank failure day!

    Get ready for a wave of bank failures

    NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- If it's Friday, there must be a bank failing somewhere across the country.

    The funny thing is, if Citi's not on the list this week (as linked elswhere):

    Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis tried to assure his senior team that the bank would not be seized by the government, the WSJ says. As nationalization talk gains momentum in Washington, Lewis also reportedly asked the government to say publicly that it is not considering this option.

    then the resulting value-weakened position will probably put them there next week, absent another weekend-rescue. In a market like today a few hedge funds could probably short them into receivership?

    Lewis is likely going to be a whipping-boy for Obama and others -- somebody will get thrown to the lions after one too many bail-outs.

    Closing distressed banks according to federal law and FDIC policy is not the same as nationalization. I think people feared closing of banks, even if the government does not plan to nationalize them. If banks will get federal support they might have to pass a "stress test." This has been an Obama administration theme. Specific details unknown.

    Banks pounded by nationalization fear

    Bank of America's stock plummeted 18% and shares of Citi sank 21% as investors focused on 'worst-case scenario.'

    No Executive in banking is safe.
    Even if free cards were given in the past.
    If BofA is not nationalized, then it will continue to drop anyway.

    "Citi Denies Nationalization Talks", (I'm not beating my wife, honest!)

    Bin Ali Whalid, a Saudi prince, owns a significant percentage of Citi stock. I believe he upped his holdings in the past year. Problem with nationalization is that when you wipe out the stockholders you will be creating a great deal of foreign ill-will.

    Even the hint of this will likely scare off, or reduce, FDI in the US.

    Are you somehow implying that people in the Middle East might start hating America?

    Preposterous I say...


    In the past I have been highly critical of Jarad Diamond. I found his explanation in "Guns, Germs and Steel" of why some nations prosper and some fail, to be because of the lateral nature of agricultural development, highly dubious and based mostly on a desire to be politically correct. However my opinion of him just went up about ten fold.

    I have preached for decades that fossil energy lead to an increase in cheap food and enabled our population to explode. And that is the exact explanation given by Diamond in the clip posted by Leanan above: The end of the world?

    Cheap, plentiful fossil fuels discovered in the last hundred years (or so) spurred a food bubble, which led to a population bubble. Cheap oil, in other words, created the temporary conditions necessary to support a runaway population explosion that is, without question, unsustainable without cheap energy.

    Cheap fossil energy was responsible for the population explosion and its depletion and eventual disappearance will also lead to the crash of that population. People can talk of alternatives until the cows come home but it is all wishful thinking. No alternative can be produced in such quantities as is now available from fossil energy, and nothing can be produced at anywhere near the price.

    Ron Patterson

    I've always held him high (I didn't read any of his books), as his appearance in End of Suburbia was impressing.

    It wasn't just lateral vs. longitudinal. That was just one of several factors.

    I found his insight very interesting. IMO, it's one thing we don't think about enough: how very dependent on the natural world we are. Sure, we think about water, and arable land, and usable resources like timber and gold. But not about things like trying to move crops longitudinally vs. laterally, and that some animals can be domesticated while some cannot.

    Even now, we have people who think climate change will just mean growing corn in Alaska instead of Kansas. Diamond understands that it won't be that easy.

    I took his basic thesis to be: "All people may be created equal, but their homelands certainly are not. Geography does make a big difference." That seems to me to clearly be true.

    The article certainly sets forth some of the reasons I am angry as hell (which has been evident in some of my posts recently). What pisses me off is the damn degree of denial and much of the rhetoric by those who believe that all that's needed is a little massaging of life style.

    My anger stems from the fact that a multitude of nameless people, who can't seem to recognize horrid times are coming, are going to impact me no matter what I do. I have no guarantee that the actions I have taken will increase my chances of survival. But, it's going to make my life a heck of a lot harder when people are running around like chickens with their heads cut off crying, "We didn't know!".


    Todd, I have news for you. You aren't going to survive. You may survive for a while and some of the sheeple you are angry at may die before you. But sooner or later you are going to die. We all do. Get over it.

    Solar Dude,

    Thanks for the reply. I feel much better already reading your words and, after a week of being snowed in, I finally got our private road open and the sun is out. Who could ask for more?

    Were I grumpy, I'd start a philosophical rant but, instead, I'll just say this: I'm old. I've lived longer than my dad and one grandfather. I've had the benefit(?) of all the crap that is going to go away and, were I to die today, I will have had a "richer" material life then you will. I have no regrets on the material front. By this I mean I appreciate that I haven't had a hard scrabble life.

    Now consider yourself. You are likely far younger than I. When, not if, it hits the fan are you going to simply say, "That's the way it goes," or will you be angry at the generations before you who squandered resources and say, "Those lousy bastards!"

    My anger is directed at the fact that some of the future pain could be mitigated were it not for denial. Obviously not all of it - but some. I grew up in a far more simple era. There was no TV, movies were a now and then treat, we didn't go out to eat, etc. There were no organized activities for kids and adults mostly sat on the porch in the glider (there's something you don't hear about these days) with family and, sometimes, talked. Yet, life was good.

    There is a window of opportunity to recapture this low on the hog lifestyle and avoid the psychological, and some of the material, pain. But, it ain't going to happen.


    Hi SD,

    I thought you'd reply by now so we could have a discussion. Oh, well. I hate to be snide/snarky but it's after dinner and I have some time to kill. I want to return to your last comment: Get over it. I love it so here are a few things for you to get over:

    1. I retired at 59 1/2. That's over 10 1/2 years ago. Will you be able to even retire?

    2. My medical insurance averaged ~$500/month during the five+ years until I got Medicare. I paid this via a small state pension and my IRA which was not losing value. I did have to give up optical and dental care though. Do you have similar insurance and how much is it costing?

    There's more but why beat it to death. Now, I realize past performance is no guarantee of future returns. But, I'd say I'm well ahead of the game.

    What I find ironic is that I'm the one who is concerned about your ass and all you have is Get over it.


    I think it was last summer on here that I asked a simple question. Basically how many people here are really preparing for the World we all know is coming. The silence was deafening apart from the few like yourself.

    I concluded that denial runs so deep that even well informed people such as those on here are afflicted by it. Applied to the population at large means we're toast. All we can do is make our own personal descent as pleasant as possible, but descend we must all do. If we're lucky in our preparations, then the strongest currents of chaos will pass us by, if not, then we enter the meat grinder. Nothing is certain when all about is collapsing.

    I'm already being buffeted by the turbulence surrounding the economic collapse as I try to put in place my own plans. But if I do manage to put everything in place in time, then I've done all that I can do. The rest is really down to luck.

    God help those who have done nothing to improve their chances, even luck won't be enough to get them through.

    If you lived in a city, the impact of millions of people in denial (and doing the wrong things as a consequence) would impact you considerably more.

    Or maybe people would rather not talk about it.

    I know for a fact that many people here are making preparations, preparations that even here might seem extreme. They didn't reply to your post, and I don't blame them.

    Some don't want to seem too wacky. Some are just private people who don't want to talk about themselves. Some don't want people to know what they're doing out of self-interest. Some are afraid others will copy them and it won't work out - they don't want that responsibility.

    I think everyone is probably preparing in some way. What's different is "the world we know is coming." We don't agree on that, and obviously, that affects your preparations.

    One must also consider that much of the "preparation" discussion runs towards a particular set of slightly self-inconsistent memes about survivalism on quasi-Amish farmettes. Apparently those memes are almost exclusively American and leave out non-US readers, as exemplified by this scoffing at a keypost by an Australian reader:

    Mate, all this doomer stuff is a bit Seppo*, yeah? What next, category E firearms license and the bangstick hidden down your trousers?

    Furthermore, almost everyone is left out save for strongly-built fit youngsters. And the same could be said of another set of memes concerning walking and bicycling, in the light of the distances and rough terrain common in the US. For most of the many TOD readers who are not Americans, or who are Americans but not youngsters any more, this line of discussion may be quite bootless or even bewildering.

    Back in the days of yore, of course, this inconvenient demographic issue was not a problem. Large numbers of oldsters simply did not exist. That the USA is such a new country seems to cause great naïveté on this point. Few Americans who pop off on these matters will ever visit an 18th-century cemetery and reflect on the sheer brutal brevity of life in those days, as the country is so new that large swathes are without such places.

    To put it another way, any approach that requires an 18th-century-young population in order to work is bound to be stillborn and futile as a proposition for broad adoption. The Amish and others across the globe who live somewhat similarly keep their populations young by having large families. Encouraging that would cause tremendous population growth, far, far beyond the most pessimistic UN projections. Given how crowded this planet already is - the omnipresent crush of people seems inescapable in any but the most harshly undesirable places and oftentimes not even there - arable acreage would simply run out in a big hurry.

    So at the end of the day, there may not be a whole lot to discuss along these lines without getting into a shouting match that sheds much heat and no light. Putting everyone but highly fit youngsters (and perhaps a minute genetically lucky handful of fit oldsters) out onto the curb might conceivably fly as a trial balloon for abstract discussion in a graduate ecology seminar. But out in the open, it's bound to run into a social and political buzz-saw for blindingly obvious reasons. It simply won't do as, say, an election platform.

    *N.B. "Seppo" is not exactly a compliment.

    Well Pauls, you can believe what you'd like. Like Airdale I go a lot on my own observations. I go into town every now and then and get my free coffee at the local hardware store. My peers there are all 60+.
    We all work our homes. Put wood by, heat with it, raise livestock, garden, a term from the 70's was "farmstead". Us geezer types seem to be doing just fine.

    I haven't seen a doc in over 5 years, not a spare bit of fat on me. I eat well, I exercise, and I get tons of fresh air. Most of all I sweat. I expect some of you youngsters would have a bit of a time keeping up with my day. It's my opinion that the lifestyle I live adds greatly to my health and well being.

    I've never said this type of life is for broad adoption, it is a very viable option for many people, those willing to get off their ass.

    As I age I have to rethink some things, I never move firewood that isn't dry, a lot less weight. I did have to get a smaller chain saw, from an 028 woodboss sthil, to the mini boss. That's the aging loss of upper body strength. I don't work in the sun as long as I used to, I pace myself more.

    My grandfather was a blacksmith, he lived to 90, my father is still going at 88 (a little slower but still going) so I suppose you can lump me in with "a minute genetically lucky handful of fit oldsters". But I'm surprised there seems to be quite a cluster of us around these parts of maine.

    There might actually be some benefit to providing what you need. Sorry this might seem to far fetched for you or maybe just to hard. I guess the population can self-select. I expect they will run out of the Xtra-large coffins quickly.


    Don in Maine


    Are seeing any significant return of your local critters to your area ?

    Out here in the corn belt I've seen a few geese flying around.

    Over the last couple decades this area usually get it's last snowfall in middle March. It can be several inches but very wet and the day temps usually melt it quickly. It looks like we are going to be 'normal' at this rate. I kind of got to liking the mild winters.

    I grew up through grade school age in central NY, and I don't miss those lake effect snows at all !

    The "doomstead" is preparation for only one possible future.

    Awhile back, there was a fascinating discussion about food among Stuart Staniford, Sharon Astyk, and John Michael Greer. Roughly, the three main flavors of post-carbon future. Stuart thought industrial agriculture would continue. Sharon has her farm in the boonies. Greer, with his catabolic collapse view, thinks a farm near a city is a smarter choice.

    You are right that any discussion of preparations runs into this disparity of views, and usually ends up with people telling each other they're stupid and unprepared and sure to die when TSHTF. As with religion and politics, it's just not worth arguing for many. No wonder they don't want to talk about it.

    I will also add that the least represented online are those who think the future will be 1984. The ones who think that learning to farm is the worst thing you can do, because it will ensure that you end up in the lowest class in our brave new world. Obviously, if you fear Big Brother, you're not going to post about it online.

    I think that a lot of our discussion revolves around food security, shelter and community. Several of our posters are rural or semi rural - so there picture may be amish in tone. Several others are urban and are exploring urban solutions (ie community gardens)

    I would agree with you that through all of the discussion is a theme of harder times requiring fitter, more robust humans.

    I would disagree with your conclusion that because we are not all young, fit davey crocker types these solutions won't happen. It may happen regardless. I would like to emphasize the "may".

    You speak of memes - I would like to put one forth.

    We are all guilty of examining issues raised on TOD as they are presented in the here and now. In the world of BAU. However, what we discuss is meant to exist in a future which is significantly different than our recent past.

    For example, population control. In the here and now it is repulsive to think of someone externally imposing controls on my reproduction. In a pleasant future I believe that feeling would remain. If the future were darker I might, depending upon how it is darker, actively rebel or personally agree with stringent reproductive control. If the future were darker still I might personally actively engage in population control. The condition of the future will determine the number of grandchildren I have - whether I like it or not.

    Also, transportation. If my vehicle can only reliably get me 40 miles on a charge and I have to go 60 miles each way to my job then this won't work so I need a better option. Well, what if the situation is such that this is all I have? 40 miles. What do I do?

    Food security. We can't grow enough food to feed ourselves on our plot of land so this is a stupid solution. It certainly is - for now. But what if the food supplies are unreliable? What then about our garden? Even if we can't completely feed ourselves? Have I considered enough alternatives that I can bend with the wind or was I stuck in BAU?

    It is really hard to move our collective brains away from where we are. I like to read the post and then imagine "what if". Arguing the relative efficiency of PV versus passive solar, thorium vs uranium is only meaningful when both are available. "What if" they aren't. How can we use any PV? How can we use passive solar? How can we use biodiesel or wood gassification? Whether they are scalable or the answer for everyone is not as important as the fact that we discuss each one and add each solution into our own personal toolbox.

    Rant off (for now)


    Yes a lot of people here are preparing, but it's hard to talk about it.

    Each afternoon after visiting mother in the hospital I stop for a beer or two, five or six of us sit around the bar and talk about sports, local politics.
    Do I bring up the end of the world as we know it or what I'm doing about it. NO

    I've learned my lessons. and when the SHTF I would rather have them looking somewhere else and forget about that poor guy over there with the garden.

    Ed, now in Delaware


    Burgundy: I have been preparing for a decline, but not for the full-scale, doomer die-off collapse. That is for the simple reason that I don't believe that the collapse is survivable, except as a matter of luck for a very few.

    Get them thru what? There is a financial crisis but I still se lots of relevant investments being done by individuals, small and large companies and both local municipialities and national government. So far its only an unusually steep recession, lots of people are having a hard time and lots of people are prepairing for the good times that will come after the recession.

    A very large part of those investments makes sense from a resource efficiency perspective since they are related to the maturing district heating industry, a continuation of improving energy efficiency in buildings and companies, the investments in nuclear power and alternative power making the country into a net electricity exporter and numerous investments in the industries making up the plus side in the trade ballance by exporting wood products, paper, minerals, speciality steel, wehicles, weapons, oil refining(since oil use is dwindling the refineries are changing over into exporting special oils like transformer oil and refined fuels), food, power distribution eqipment, large ball bearings, etc. And there is establishment of new industries making wave powerplants and solar stirling units for export, parts for hybrid drive trains, etc.

    If the financial crash would be total it would wipe out a lot of the export companies as economical entites but the facilities and personell would still excist. Regardless of how rough it will be those that invest will benefit personally or as part of a society from higher efficiency and there will be enourmous stranded resources to do something smart with. There are private finance that have an institutional memory from the depression and everybody knows they are biding their time to pick up industrial bargains.

    Most government and municipiality institutions work ok and most of them have an ability to learn and adapt. I find that perfectly logical since they are full of people and people think. The latest micro news I noticed were that the small government fund for encouraging climate change adaption were being swamped by aplications from municipialities who mostly were making preparations for handling extreme rainfall like preemptively installing backflow valves in the sewage lines. There were no detailed government order for doing exactly that, there were media on some flash floods, buzz in the business media, encouragements from the insurance companies, a government mandated revision of the large hydro dams and some gentle governmental encouragement for doing something smart about it. It all adds upp to preemtive investments prioritized on a micro level that will make the next flash flood rain less disruptive.

    I see small success stories all over the Swedish map and also pick up some from our nordic neighbours. I could take a large scale example instead, GM is hurting and the Saab part of GM that largely is situated in Sweden where it were born is close to bankruptcy. Is our government handling billions to save Saab? Nope, they are saving billions for easing the birth of whatever happens after the current mess, it might be Saab cars or something else.

    Since I see a society around me that is adapting and using a fair ammount of the mental energy and resources for handling long term problems I expect individuals and government to do relevant things and up the change pace if things turn realy bad. There is no run on small calibre ammunition over here...

    Yup, no matter how you slice it, no matter what the details of how this plays out, fossil fuels are the key. There are two main branches of the trouble we're in - First fossil fuels have enabled us to make way too many of us. Second, the liberation of the carbon in the process of recovering the energy has altered the climate, more or less permanently in any time frame that's relevant.

    All of the chattering just makes my eyes and ears glaze over now, because none of it addresses these issues - because they cannot be addressed. We can make the symptoms worse if we make stupid decisions, which we are, but it's too late to fix the main problems. Kinda bleak, but this is the path in front of us - it's just a question of details and timing.

    Ron, your purported explanation of Diamond's position sounds like an extreme simplification. It almost seems as if you did not finish the book.

    The lateral aspect of agricultural spread was an important factor but not the only one. Also related were issues such as the number and quality of species (both plant and animal) that could readily be domesticated. A primary example is that the middle eastern area where agriculture began had access to horses, cows, oxen, and camels all of which could be domesticated. In contrast, Africa had species which fought domestication and were very hard, if not outright impossible to domesticate for labor purposes (the zebra is an example). North and South America had but one such species, the llama (having already killed off the horses thousands of years before).

    And of course there were other issues as well, such as the exposure to diseases brought about by domestication, and the development of immunities to such diseases. Further, such immunities in one society would aid that society in conquering others simply by the inadvertent spread of such diseases.

    It's a fairly complex thesis and has nothing to do with political correctness so far as I can see. You may wish to re-read it a second time.

    ...the middle eastern area where agriculture began had access to horses, cows, oxen, and camels all of which could be domesticated. In contrast, Africa had species which fought domestication and were very hard, if not outright impossible to domesticate for labor purposes (the zebra is an example).

    This is likely an artifact of the coevolution of the African fauna with Homo. Extinction of large vertebrates in Africa was likewise more gradual & less severe than it was elsewhere when Homo abruptly appeared on the scene. Theoretically, it should have been possible to domesticate other large American animals besides camelids & turkeys (Bison perhaps, for instance) but the sub-Arctic big game specialists who first invaded the Americas weren't interested in domesticating animals. Instead, they largely hunted them to extinction.

    Absolutely agreed! But because the hunter-gatherer homo sapiens had removed certain large species from their territory, when homo sapiens finally did turn to agriculture, the result was the disparity we see in available species for domestication. What their predecessors did shaped their future options. In Africa and the Americas, the actions of those predecessors narrowed the options of their descendants more than they had elsewhere.

    GreyZone, I did finish the book and I realize that Diamond posed many other reasons but the lateral transfer of agricultural plants, because of the same climate across Europe and much of Asia, was his primary reason. I also read The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor by David S. Landers. Landers gives a totally different reason for why some nations are much advanced than others. It has to do with the industrial revolution and a few other factors not mentioned in Diamond's work.

    As far as the PC content of Diamond's book, I would rather not go into that. It just opeans up a can of worms that I would rather leave alone. Sorry I even mentioned it. However I will say that it has nothing to do with race but with climate also.


    Multiple pieces to the puzzle, I say. I have always thought Kennedy did great work with Rise and Fall, and his explanation was different, too, but any less accurate? Not necessarily.


    Ron, starting with the industrial revolution in trying to explain the disparities in development of human societies is akin to trying to explain the outcome of a football game by observing just the fourth quarter. It's part of the picture, surely, but the major part? Hardly. Why were those nations poised to become industrial powers? Look at the 4 centuries preceding the industrial revolution - what if those 4 centuries had played out differently? Would the same nations have had the resources and wealth to become industrialized? Where did they get that wealth anyway?

    I think Landers does a wonderful job of explaining the industrial revolution's impact but he woefully neglects the millennia of history that preceded the industrial revolution but which were necessary for that revolution to occur.

    Again GreyZone, it has to do with climate. If one lives in a tropical climate it is pretty much the same year round. No need to prepare for winter, no need to build a store of grain or anything else to get you through the winter. People who lived in the tropics spent far more time defending their territory than gathering food. And almost constant conflict, from neighboring tribes, did not lead to the best environment for other endevours. But if you live in an area where it is cold for half the year, you must prepare to survive through the winter, you must be industrious.

    Not all that simple I know. But colder climates required people to build strong shelters, to make warm clothes, to make sure their animals survived the winter. Cold climates are sometimes very harsh and only the hardiest survived. Such were the lives of those people for far more than 400 years prior to the industrial revolution.


    On the Lighter side - "Eat the Rich" By P. J. O'Rourke
    is a journey & county-by-county performance summary of political & economic systems & reasons why many go hungry while others live in abundance - reasons other than hydrocarbon inputs however.

    The topic of population and its impact on both consumption and global warming has come up in these threads frequently, so I will unabashedly take this opportunity to announce the publication of my modest contribution to the Global Population Speak Out (GPSO) effort. The essay can be found at: Question Everything or at: my academic web site. Several pointers to source material on energy and EROEI in The Oil Drum are included in the essay.

    However you may feel about the claim that there are too many people on this planet and that between overpopulation and over consumption by a significant proportion of that population, we are destroying the life support systems we depend on, I ask that you try to approach the subject with an open mind. My thesis is that what puts us in this situation is the impending decline in exergy production (energy available to do economic work) due to the combination of peak oil and declining EROEI.

    The purpose of the GPSO is to get the issues on the table for honest assessment and discussion. The questions regarding what to do about it are yet to be addressed, but one thing is sure. If these assertions are correct then the choices we face are probably limited and in the end nature will make the choice for us if we do nothing. We can't really determine what those choices are until we put this issue (in the context of peak oil and global warming) front and center.


    Not that I envy them particularly, but the Chinese seem to be far better at long range strategic energy planning than the rest of us. $41 billion in foreign oil investments in February? Mopping up oil resources at firesale prices while your $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves are still worth something seems like the way to go. The oil price collapse is going to create another wave of supply crunch not too far down the road. You don't have to be card-carrying member of the peak oil secular doomsday cult to admire the Chinese effort.

    Good point Kenny. And many aren't aware that this isn't a new trend. China has been financing and buying interests in oil fields around the world since the early 90's. In the mid-90's many folks laughed at them when the paid Venezuela over $200 million for a field producing less then 300 bopd. OTOH, a US company bought a similarly underdeveloped field making less then 100 bopd and in several years had increased production to 45,000 bopd. They actually could have increased production further but the tax laws at the time would have taken 100% of income from production exceeding that 45,000 bopd. To the best of my knowledge the Chinese have never released any info on their efforts redeveloping that field.

    Additionally, about a year ago the Chinese cut a deal with Hugo: the Chinese would build 3 refineries in China and 4 tankers all specifically designed to hand Vn heavy crude. Thus not only is China diverting much of the sweet crude away from US refiners they are also setting themselves up to perhaps control a major segment of Vn's largest remaining reserve base.

    Since the national petroleum council was formed
    in conjunction with the CIA and the Truman doctrine
    that's been our long range oil policy and we've known
    since 1979's Church Committee (Matt Simmons) that
    ghawar would peak in 03.

    "In 1948, President Truman summoned Allen Dulles to be part of a working group tasked with making proposals on how the work of the fledgling CIA could be improved. The group's efforts resulted in National Security Report 50 (NCS50), which for the most part reflected Dulles's own vision: covert operations should be one of the CIA's central functions, and Wisner's OPC should be incorporated directly into the CIA. In 1950, Allen Dulles himself became chief of planning for the CIA. Shortly thereafter, he became Deputy CIA Director, and in 1953, was appointed Director of Central Intelligence. At that time, his brother John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State."

    You should not envy the Chinese too much, they may not be in as good a position as you think. The Chinese have one huge problem, agricultural modernization and mechanization is pushing people off the farms by the millions. They are migrating into the cities in masses. But because of China's phenomenal growth the cities have been able to absorb these people. The vast majority of them are working producing products for export.

    However Chinese exports have been dropping like a rock. Chinese exports plummet in January

    Chinese exports plummeted in January, the latest evidence of the sharp drop-off demand that has hit Asian economies hard, even slowing the pace of China's once-booming economy to a level that is fanning concerns of joblessness and social unrest.

    Now, as you point out, China will be in the catbird's seat as far as the availability of oil is concerned. But with hundreds of millions likely to be unemployed they will be sitting on a time bomb of social unrest. After all, they can't eat oil.


    Not to mention they are losing massive amounts of arable land to desert in the west.

    They have huge rapidly growing city populations all relying on a shrinking farm poplulation, farming ever shrinking amounts of arable land.

    The food crisis will hit them very hard I suspect.

    Road to riches ends for 20 million Chinese poor

    The family's cash earnings have evaporated, snatched away by a manufacturing crash cascading across China caused by falling global demand for its goods.

    The nine people in the Tang family are facing an income of zero; their best hope to survive is to grow rice and raise pigs at home in the Sichuan Mountains.

    "Farming is really hard. It needs a lot of hard labor," says 22-year-old Tang Hui, who lost his manufacturing job four months ago. "None of the young people want to farm nowadays. The income is extremely low."

    They can't eat oil, but I think it's very much in the minds of China's leaders that we're eating fossil fuels. China is the only major nation that keeps large food stockpiles, and they do it because of fear of social unrest.

    We tend to forget that China is a communist dictatorship that makes up the rules as it goes along. The people cannot fire their leaders and the leaders know it. If things get bad enough then they will not hesitate to throw all foreigners out, confiscate their investments, and then kill any threats to communist party power. Their strong and lasting hold on power allows them to follow long term planning with no regard for any opposition based on environmental or human rights. They can build nuclear power plants quickly because no one can take them to court over why they shouldn't. The objections to the 3 Gorges dam by the displaced population or by foreign environmentalists had absolutely no effect on the construction schedule.

    Do I detect just a hint of envy?

    This may be a slight exaggeration. China has about 600 million in cities and the other 800 million in the countryside. 20 to 40 million unemployed because of the slowdown and back on the farm is not going to create turmoil. Also, China has modernized its farming, but not the majority. In every city and town, people still "farm" every vacant piece of land they can find and many city dwellers have gardens in their condos and apartments. With a massive stimulus package in place and expanding all the time, the displaced workers, those who returned home to the farm, will find work again; in the meantime, their quest for the "good life" (i.e., money) will have to wait.

    The chinese are not just buying oil investments on the cheap but all kinds of mining. Just last week they got to cherry pick Rio at a bargain price. Where I often work the lady next to me is Chinese and she said that Australia would be stupid to allow it.
    On a side note Airdale a few days ago mentioned his mothers financial losses and his expectations for no inheretance. I guess I'm in the same boat as my father has lost over half a million in his share portfolio on one mining stock and he hopes to get a small fraction back IF the Chinese buy the junior miner. also lost a few hundred thousand on banking shares. Dumbest thing is he borrowed $200,000 from the bank (CBA in Australia) to invest in more CBA shares. Bought at $44 when he thought they were cheap (down from $60) now about $30. He keeps thinking that the price will rise but I keep passing on financial titbits from TOD so his expectations are slowly turning from a short turnaround to a longer and longer horrizon. He must be an optimist as he is 79 and expects to see the recovery.
    For myself, I have no shares, no cash, no property and NO DEBT. Only assets are some tools, some gold and my investment in my kids education. I guess that makes me better off for "interesting times" to come than for the ignorant sheeple I pass everyday.

    Metal and coal prices were dropping so fast some miners might have to close mines and/or go out of business. For an older person they recommend a balanced portfolio with a large percentage of money in bonds, insured CD's, etc. Prudent portfolio theory recommends diversification across multiple sectors and multiple companies. Many junior mining companies went out of business in the best of times as the ore grades turned out to be low and the capital requirements high. It was easy to miscalculte the costs of mining and arrive at a loss. Today it is difficult for the mining companies to borrow or issue new stock as many who were in the habit of investing there get wiped out. Often times even if a minimg company had high grade ore, it was in narrow lenses that were quickly exhausted and could not pay back the money invested theirin. The investor was left with an empty hole in the ground and depleted cash reserves.

    CBC radio interviewed one of Obama's energy advisors, Terry Tamminen.
    He's an adviser to President Obama's transition team.


    An interesting insight into Obamas understanding of the oil sands.

    The WSJ had a cover story yesterday that claimed that Canadian crude oil exports had doubled in four years. I emailed the writer, asking about his source, and pointing out that the EIA shows that Canadian net oil exports from 2003 to 2007 only went up by 17%. No response yet.

    In any case, just the decline in net oil exports from Venezuela, from 1997 to 2007, slightly exceeds total 2007 Canadian net oil exports (EIA).

    My personal opinion notalemming: the oil sands folks have little to worry about from our new president. He is, if nothing else, an absolute pragmatist. As you point out, declining exports from Canada and Venezuela leave the US few options in the short term (5 to 10 years). All the lip service to conservation and alternatives won't change our dependency on FF by any significant degree in this time frame. In fact, between low oil prices and an injured economy I fully expect us to be even more dependent upon imported energy over this period. I'll even go as far so guess that should the global economy much quicker then many expect the US might even offer to help fund increased oil sand development. Sure....not very likely. But it's amusing to speculate how our politicians might try to spin such an effort.

    "All the lip service to conservation and alternatives won't change our dependency on FF by any significant degree in this time frame."

    The usual gang of protestors such as Greenpeace are squawking, and get some press coverage in Alberta, but they have had no real impact. They had a conference in Calgary last week to discuss protest tactics and I suspect that half the attendees were undercover police. (Reminds me of G.K. Chesterton's novel "The Man Who Was Thursday".)

    Premier Ed Stelmach has been pushing the tarsands companies to clean up their act, especially the tailings ponds, but he is a farm boy who appreciates nature, not because he is scared of Greenpeace. The oilsands operations will become greener at a deliberate speed, not in panic. In case of conflict between economics and environment, the former will win. The bitumen will flow come hell or high water.

    Of course the "hell or high water" may come sooner than we think. Another perspective:

    Unfortunately, Rees's most recent finding-that humanity may be inherently unsustainable, the theme of his upcoming book-isn't earning him many friends in high places. Neither are his recommendations. In effect, he says, we need to do away with all the shopping, yesterday, and pull the emergency brake on runaway economic growth. And if we don't? "We will trigger or disrupt something on a scale never before imagined, and take the whole system down," he says matter-of-factly. "It may not be the end of life on Earth, but it will make it very difficult to have civilized life."


    Nice to see some intelligent conservative commentary regarding the foreclosure and other initiatives of the federal government (with the almost universal support of state and local governments; i.e. people dealing with real world, real time, issues).

    < These injustices are stoking anger across the country, lustily expressed by Rick Santelli on CNBC Thursday morning. “The government is promoting bad behavior!” Santelli cried as Chicago traders cheered him on. “The president ... should put up a Web site ... to have people vote ... to see if they want to subsidize losers’ mortgages!”

    Well, in some cases we probably do. That’s because government isn’t fundamentally in the Last Judgment business, making sure everybody serves penance for their sins. In times like these, government is fundamentally in the business of stabilizing the economic system as a whole. >


    Neighbors helping neighbors—to break into vacant houses

    Poverty rights activists broke into at least a dozen vacant Minneapolis buildings this week and helped homeless families move in.

    “This is the modern underground railroad,” said Cheri Honkala, National Organizer for the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, the group organizing the “takeovers.”

    Get ready. Some of these, like the guy falling off
    the train are LOL:

    William Conrad, son of C.D. Conrad, president of the Conrad National Bank, was killed in a Kalispell, Montana hunting accident while by himself and his gun theoretically became lodged in some underbrush and shot him in the chest 1/01/1930

    Brooklyn banker Vito Bonventre was shot by what police called "business rivals" 7/16/1930

    The body of Samuel I. Lipp, Cincinnati, Ohio banker thought to have fallen from the train, was found on the tracks of the New York Central Railroad 8/21/1930

    He was vice-president and attorney of the Security Savings & Loan Company, Cincinnati, member of the Ohio Grand Lodge of Masons, past chancellor of the Knights of Pythias and a memeber of the Cincinnati Elks Club.

    Columbus, Ohio banker William C. Willard shot himself at his athletic club 12/12/1930

    Was vice-president of Huntington National Bank, vice-president and treasurer of Columbus Savings Bank, director of Columbus Railway Power and Light Company


    We asked six of those who earned their wisdom during the Great Depression to recall the unvarnished minutiae of the era, from unplumbed lows to dignity reclaimed. Today, the stories of Rose Humphrey Wilson, below, and Jimmy Jones.

    Depression Era Series

    I don't know if this series was spotted before. Anyone have good book suggestions on the Great Depression?

    Which one...this one occurring now or the one back in '29?

    Lol! Good point. But this one I have better covered!

    Your question prompted me to do something I have been meaning to do for a long time. Years ago, I remember reading a marvelous book on the (1930's) Great Depression at my aunt's house in South Carolina.* I just called her to ask for the name of the book. It is "We had everything but money." I highly recommend it.

    You can find it at www.alibris.com and www.amazon.com.

    *BTW, my aunt, in her eighties, does not now have, nor has she ever had, a credit card. To quote her this morning, "If I couldn't pay cash, we did without."

    Thanks everyone for the recommendations. I will track these down.

    I am young enough to have no real experience with long term economic down turns. So even though I believe it will happen, my intuition is totally unprepared for it. It is really hard to see your own blind spots.... but I know they must be there. Hopefully, reading some of these books will help me find them before getting side swiped.

    This one focuses more on the Dust Bowl, but it personalizes the era very well:

    The Worst Hard Time

    *BTW, my aunt, in her eighties, does not now have, nor has she ever had, a credit card. To quote her this morning, "If I couldn't pay cash, we did without."

    I got a CC a few years back to use as a "convenience card"...there's really no other (good) way to buy things online. Plus, it's a good emergency measure for getting petro-distillate after hours when the stores have closed down (pay at the pump).

    Here's one that I highly recommend:

    Since Yesterday
    by Frederick Lewis Allen

    available online at:


    He also wrote another book about the 1920s:


    J. K. Galbraith - The Great Crash

    The singular feature of the great crash of 1929 was that the worst continued to worsen. What looked one day like the end proved on the next day to have been only the beginning. Nothing could have been more ingeniously designed to maximize the suffering, and also to ensure that as few as possible escaped the common misfortune. The fortunate speculator who had funds to answer the first margin call presently got another and equally urgent one, and if he met that there would still be another. In the end all the money he had was extracted from him and lost. The man with the smart money, who was safely out of the market when the first crash came, naturally went back in to pick up bargains. (Not only were a recoreded 12,894,650 shares sold on 24 October; precisely the same number were bought.) The bargains then suffered a ruiness fall. Even the man who waited out all of October and all of November, who saw the volumne of trading return to normal and saw Wall Street become as placid as a produce market, and who then bought common stocks would see their value drop to a third or a fourth of the purchase price in the next twenty-four months. The Coolidge bull market was a remarkable phenonmemon. The ruthlessness of its liquidation was, in its own way, equally remarkable."

    "we too are the people" by louise v armstrong.

    she was from chicago and worked as a new deal administrator in a rural michigan county. she and her husband were there because they were middle class and there was real fear that violent revolution was imminent.

    it's out of print and very difficult to find. the single copy in my library system has been there since 1940 and was literally falling apart in my hands.

    if you find it you will get an education about the great depression that will leave you awestruck. the writing is straight forward and first rate.

    It is all over for ethanol, this will be the last straw:

    Muslim cleric decries biofuels as sinful

    Sheik Mohamed al-Najimi of the Saudi Islamic Jurisprudence Academy told the the Saudi newspaper Shams that the prophet Mohammed prohibited all dealings with alcohol—which would include buying, selling, transporting, drinking, serving and manufacturing.

    Dow drops below 1997 levels - just flashed up on Bloomberg

    Dow 7257

    A bit of a mid-day rally. Dow at 7310 at 2:10 p.m., EST. Numbers back above October 2002 levels, but only marginally. Should be interesting to see if the market ends the day at anything approaching 21st century numbers.

    If not, 1997 and before.... slip sliding away. Nostalgia, this is not.

    There is a major uptick on no news. Either there is some option expiration action of some sort getting ready to close out the day, or there is a leak of major news coming out after the close.

    Edit: Maybe it's this statement from the White House?

    WASHINGTON -- Amid fears that Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. could be on the verge of being nationalized, the White House gave assurances that it prefers banks to remain out of the government's hands.

    "This administration continues to strongly believe that a privately held banking system is the correct way to go, ensuring that they are regulated sufficiently by this government," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday. "That's been our belief for quite some time, and we continue to have that."

    Is this code for another bank bailout, or just talking the market up?

    I don't think that's it. The bank stocks still aren't doing that great. CNN says it's a rally in tech that has turned it around.

    With gold giving up $13 in gains, half the day's increase, it sure seems like there is some new sense that a floor is being supported. Maybe the market is happier with the idea of bank bankruptcies or fire-sales versus some form of nationalization?

    The floor is fluid these days. We're still above the 2002 thresholds, but not by much.

    What a week it's been. Wonder how much of a factor the stimulus package passed on Tuesday has been on confidence? Not much if the numbers are to be believed. The Dow finished Friday at 7365.67, a decline of 567.09 points since the beginning of the week (Monday being a holiday in the US), a somber 7.15% decline.

    And that on the heels of supposedly good news -- a fresh face at the helm with another cavalry-like rescue of 780 billion dollars acquiesced by Congress.

    With few props left in the central banks' and public administrators' magic bags to handle the next bad news revelations is 6000 an optimistic bottom?

    It was little over a year ago that someone posted this gem on TOD:

    What a difference a year has made? Gold still at about $1000/ounce, but oil at $40-$45/barrel, the markets (the robust ones) at half their value, and many time honoured institutions discredited. Yes, whiter shade of pale.

    Something is happening behind the scenes.

    Thanks. I think Leanan touched on what it may be!

    Mexico oil output lowest since November 1995

    Oil production down. Violence up:

    Drug violence spins Mexico toward 'civil war'

    "The grisly portrait of the violence is unprecedented and horrific," said Robert Pastor, a Latin America national security adviser for President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s.

    "The spillover into the United States is bound to expand and bound to affect U.S. institutions," Birns said.

    Pervasive corruption among public officials is central to the drug cartels' success.

    Last week, the former presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil called for the decriminalization of marijuana...


    I want one of these. It's only $15.

    The Galileoscope has been designed as a tribute to Galileo Galilei, who lofted his telescope toward the heavens 400 years ago and started a revolution in the way we see the universe. This telescope would have knocked Galileo's stockings off: It is made to more exacting 21st-century standards, is easier to put together and shows the night sky's wonders more clearly than they were ever seen back in 1609.

    ...The telescope already has gotten great reviews from tryouts at recent scientific meetings. "Everybody who's looked through it has been very excited about it," Pompea told me.

    That is cool! Just ordered one for my daughter. Thanks.

    Where do you find all the stuff you post? It's amazing!

    Thanks. I ordered one too. Hard to resist at that price.

    You guys are nickle and diming the economy back to recovery. Thanks!

    lol! Maybe we will discover some alien lifeforce that can come help us!

    Great find!

    is easier to put together and shows the night sky's wonders more clearly than they were ever seen back in 1609.

    Unless you are prepared to drive a hundred miles into the country (to find dark skies), unfortunately that is not true. In the 1700's Charles Messier found/catalogued approximately a hundred deep sky objects, using an instrument far inferior to a cheap pair of binoculars. I have a twelve inch scope at home, but more than half of the M objects cannot be seen with it!

    Latvia's government collapses

    Latvia's center-right coalition government collapsed Friday, a victim of the country's growing economic and political turmoil and the second European government, after Iceland, to disintegrate because of the international financial crisis.

    It's a parlimentary democracy, the ruling coaltion was defeated by another party. I'm just not sure the word collapse is the right word in this situation.

    Drillers slash outlook
    Now the group is set to release a report predicting 11,176 wells will be drilled in 2009, well below the 14,300 it forecast in the fall and half the 2005 and 2006 levels.

    Natural gas prices sunk below $4 (U.S.) per 1,000 cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday — about half of what most producers would need to make their drilling economically viable.

    As well, a freeze in credit markets has taken a big toll on the industry, Herring said.



    Hello TODers,

    Have you hugged your bag of NPK today?

    From Too Much Fertilizer to Not Enough

    Recession grows interest in seeds, vegetable gardening

    What's more, the number of homes growing vegetables will jump more than 40% this year compared with just two years ago, projects the National Gardening Association, a non-profit organization for gardening education.

    "As the economy goes down, food gardening goes up," says Bruce Butterfield, the group's research director. "We haven't seen this kind of spike in 30 years."

    At W. Atlee Burpee, the world's largest seed company, seed sales will jump 25% this year, Chairman George Ball estimates. "It's weird to have everyone else you talk to experiencing plunging markets. We're on a roll."

    Sierra Sage Golf Course might be closed

    ..Sierra Sage would be the third government-owned golf course in Reno to close in recent years. The Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authorized in January decided to close Northgate and Reno closed the Brookside course in fall 2006 after the Airport Authority of Washoe County reclaimed the land to build a new airport tower.
    Lots more news on golf course problems in google. Some operators are seeking bailouts from city, county, or state govts, or trying to get out of operating contracts, even a golf course closing in Hawaii [Kaluakoi Golf Course at the shuttered Molokai Ranch].

    Has anyone snapped a photo of Yergin pushing a wheelbarrow yet?

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

    Re: Desert golf courses: maybe it's time to go to astroturf. It's easy to hit off of, green, and requires no water.

    I do not think there will be banana plantations in South Carolina anytime soon, in spite of all this global warming speculation, but there is a projected growing demand for cheap fossil fuels.

    A rather interesting/amusing paper in sciencedaily today. The author likes CO2, for its global warming, which will allow us to significantly delay the next ice age. The problem, we are blowing all the fossil fuels in one shot, he recons after 170,000 years, enough of the CO2 will have dissipated to allow the next ice age to begin. He recommends an optimal burn strategy, which husbands the FF so that the CO2 stays just high enough to fend off ice ages. Bottom line, if we did that we could hold off the ice age for 500,000 years! Talk about a low discount rate (valuing the distant future). We can't get our BAU culture to plan beyond the next year or two!
    avoiding the hothouse, and icehouse

    There are both rice and tea plantations in SC though, right now. So you never know. . .

    Today in Venezuela there are a lot of the newspaper headlines are saying "Don't worry: Account holders money is guaranteed" and "Members of the board of directors of Stanford Bank have been prohibited from leaving the country"

    On a more personal level I recieved 4 comments about how lucky I/we/someone was to be living in Venezuela instead of "over there" today. Usually the random conversations I have are much more pro-US/europe and anti Venezuela

    ...lucky I/we/someone was to be living in Venezuela...

    Hmmm...better keep your nose clean...power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. How long before the now unchecked President-for-Life starts shooting blog posters, just out of paranoia?

    The recent referendum gave elected officials the opportunity to run again as candidates for the same political post. It hardly counts as president for life, although Chavez is quite popular, and will probably be re-elected if things continue as is.

    Corruption? Yes there's some of that, but it was present before the current administration and although they're trying to diminish it. I bet it will continue for a very long time irrespective of who is in office. Its a pervasive cultural thing.

    Venezuela has more freedom of speech than most countries, and as many people here exercise that freedom forcefully and frequently I'm not to worried about posting X in blog Y. People go on television and scream that the president is a meglomaniacal dictator with no repercussions.

    What interests me is that there seems to be a general trend that crosses class and political orientation. Before there was a general conception that life in North America and Europe was materialisticly better. Now the same people beleive that putting your money in a foreign bank is risky, and that their relatives outside the country face higher risk of unemployment, natural disaster and anti-immigrant violence.

    More, alt energy goodies:

    Alan will be jealous, someone is ordering hybrid, diesel-electric locamotives:
    BHEL signs deal with GE for hybrid diesel-electric locomotives

    GE has emerged the single bidder for assembling and supplying 1,000 dual-fuel locomotive engines to the Railways. The company is yet to receive the final order. "First, GE has to get the order for supplying the locomotives. Only then can we go ahead and form the joint venture," Kumar said.

    The proposed joint venture will make 100-120 high-powered locomotive engines capable of running on both diesel and electricity at Marohwara.

    GE Locomotive is designing a hybrid diesel-electric locomotive that will capture the energy dissipated during braking and store it in batteries. The energy can then be reused by the crew on demand, reducing fuel consumption by as much as 15 per cent and emissions by as much as 50 per cent compared to most freight locomotives in use today. The energy dissipated in braking a 207-ton locomotive over the course of a year is enough to power 160 American households for that year. The hybrid locomotive will capture that energy, which can be used to produce more more horsepower and simultaneously reduce emissions and fuel use.

    First mainstream LED light?
    Philips launches its first mainstream LED light

    The significance is that Philips, the world's No. 1 lightbulb maker, has shown confidence that the price of LEDs has now dropped enough to make the most technologically advanced lighting sector into one that’s affordable.

    The LED system draws about 18 watts to produce 1,100 lumens, compared to about 33 watts to get a CFL to make 1,200 lumens. Philips declined to release the cost per bulb. Most of the component manufacturing and all the assemble work is expected to be done in the U.S. for the North American product.

    "33 watts to get a CFL to make 1,200 lumens"

    Yikes, where'd they buy that CFL, in some back alley by the docks in Hong Kong? I pulled one to check and it claims 1750 lumens for 28 watts. LEDs may well eventually be the way to go, but non-credible hype only tarnishes them. I would also observe that the applications they list - and don't list - in the article suggest that the color rendition might still be abysmal. Oh, well.

    Hi Paul,

    I trust this data didn't come from Philips, as their 25-watt Universal SLS CFL produces 1,750 lumens, which is a very respectable 70 lumens per watt. The colour temperature and CRI are 2,700K and 82 respectively, making it well suited for residential applications, and it has a rated life of 15,000 hours; at an average of four hours per day, that's more than ten years of service. They even work down to -36C/-32F, so cold weather performance isn't an issue. Best of all, they're widely available and retail for less than $5.00 CDN. Spend $50.00 or $100.00 on a LED lamp when I can get as good and in many respects far better performance from a $5.00 CFL? Nein, danke!

    Incidentally, I have a half dozen of these lamps that have each logged more than 20,000 hours of operation -- the phosphors have aged considerably and light output has steadily declined over the years, but they continue to fire up each time I flip the switch. I'm convinced the damn things just won't die.


    GE Locomotive is designing a hybrid diesel-electric locomotive that will capture the energy dissipated during braking and store it in batteries.

    What a freaking waste. An all electric locomotive, would not need batteries, the energy captured during braking could be fed back into the (overhead) power supply.

    If there is going to be a smart DC grid, let it be above rail tracks - kill two birds with one stone.

    Houston, I agree but what bothered me was the lack of detail. Be it batteries or a return to the grid, is regenerative braking a product of the locomotive, or the entire train? Presently, trains use air pressure to brake. There is the energy expended, to create the air pressure and then much more energy is dissipated in the form of heat when that air applies pressure to the brakes of so many cars following the locomotive.

    A typical LRT system has traction systems in each car and so each car returns energy to the grid during braking.

    I am going out on a limb here, because it is not my area of study, but what if the generative capacity of the locomotive was distributed to the cars in the form of electricity rather than traction? The generators would be the same size, but the motors may not need to exist at all in the locomotive, but distributed in the cars. In effect, the train would push the locomotive. Similarly, each car would be its own generator.

    Yes, I am sure that railroad companies would scream about the cost to make new rolling stock, or retrofit older cars but a SWAG tells me the energy savings could be significant. Each car could have batteries, or each car could have a pantograph connection, either way a significant portion of the energy could be conserved.

    Motors are cheap, energy is expensive and getting more so. I know copper and iron cost energy but conservation seems to be a better route.,

    Call me silly, but if we are the road to hell, we should try to make the trail less steep.

    That is pretty much what I suggested a while back - each wagon has its own motor that becomes a generator when braking. I suspect that one or two wagons per train with a power connection (pantograph or 3rd rail) would be the cheapest arrangement. If all wagons have a power connection then in theory the whole system could operate like a giant version of the baggage handling system at some major airports. All wagons of all types would use the same mass produced running gear components and control gear.

    A fully automated train would not need a locomotive / driver. If we can get a plane to take off, travel to another airport and land using computers, then a train ought to be a no-brainer.

    Los Angeles to New York is about 3,000 miles and at 15 mph would take 200 hours or 8 days. Full automation removes the cost of drivers and 15 mph minimizes the energy cost (and also the wear and tear). Same-day delivery should be restricted to kidney transplants! The only issue to resolve is the transportation of perishable items - refrigerated containers would likely consume far more energy staying cold (unless it is winter) than the energy required to move, so maybe they could go faster (at greater cost to the customer).

    I see 3 major problems with trains taking 8 days for a journey at 15 mph.
    1/You would need alot more rolling stock with many extra billions in tied up capital.
    2/At 15mph and no guards or driver the trains would be magnets for hobos looking for free rides on such easy to mount targets.
    3/ The hobos and others would pilfer huge amounts of cargo making frieght customers soon wary of such trains.

    The trouble with distributed drive is that the railroads in the U.S. usually don't own the cars they are pulling with their locomotives. The cars (along with their contents) are what is shipped, often being transported over several different sets of track in a short period of time. Sure, some RR companies run their own cars, but that's the exception rather than the rule. The individual cars are built at as low a cost as possible and their maintenance is often delayed. Lots of accidents are but one result.

    E. Swanson

    Hello TODers,

    Pakistan Govt decides to maintain strategic reserves of urea fertilizer

    ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to maintain strategic reserves of urea fertilizer to ensure its availability in future.

    ..He claimed that the government has decided that in the future: strategic reserves of the urea fertilizer would be maintained to avoid any shortfall of the commodity. About shortage of urea in the country, the Additional Secretary said that apart from shortage and hoarding, panic is responsible for urea crises.
    Glad to see Pakistan is going to greater social resiliency with their real-asset version of my speculative 'Federal Reserve Banks of I-NPK'. The best way to prevent any panicky run on a bank is to have plenty on deposit for all to see. Also, no reason for some to try and hoard for parasitic profit, as adequate reserves preclude this possibility.

    IMO, this is the best way to overcome FF/I-NPK latency and smooth market volatility to meet the critical seasonal timeslots for the best potential harvest yields. Let's hope the Pakistanis learn to properly size, then manage this strategic reserve effectively.

    Now, will this be developed in other countries to enhance their own national security as we go postPeak? Having extra I-NPK is an essential buffer as we necessarily bridge to full-on O-NPK recycling.

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

    Hello TODers,

    First off, this is a rather long and detailed posting, so by my placing it at the end of a relatively stale DB-->I hope Leanan won't delete it for excessive length.

    Next, I believe Matt Simmons & Putin are the two superior, longer term, strategic thinkers for the postPeak, thus I would like to expand where I think some recent trends may be heading as far as FFs & I-NPKS.

    Disclaimer: I don't have access to the bigBuck$ proprietary I-NPKS market analyses and forecasts--I could be entirely wrong, just my feeble two cents. So now let's move on:

    I was pondering Matt Simmons' claim that the reason for the recent Ukraine natgas cutoff was due to insufficient Russian production ability to quickly ramp natgas flowrate & supply during a wintry blast of cold; the Russians decided to meet their internal needs first--someone else would have to be cold.

    Additionally, shutting down Ukraine, Russian, and Eastern European industrial ammonia and carbamide [urea] production during this period would also allow some portion of additional natgas flows to be diverted for essential heating and cooking.

    Natural gas dispute fuels EU's search for alternatives

    ..Fertilizer production bore the brunt of the supply shortage and some chemical producers that use gas feedstock were also affected.

    Russia-Ukraine 'Gas War' Damages Both Economies

    ..According to reports, Russia's Gazprom lost more than $1.1 billion in revenue for the unsupplied gas.

    ..It has also been claimed Ukraine incurred major losses because its steel and chemical plants, the backbone of the nation's economy, were temporarily shut down due to the lack of gas.

    Russia is currently experiencing a recession in most sectors of the economy, and Ukraine, which has fewer natural resources, had a 20 percent decline in national production in late 2008. The damages incurred on each side during the latest gas dispute are undoubtedly major blows to both wounded economies.

    In January, cargo flow of Yuzhniy, Ukraine port totaled 86% of planned volumes

    ..The reduction of shipment volumes of chemical bulked cargos (the third and the forth moorings) also affected the general cargo flow. In January, the cargo flow totaled 24% only from planned volumes of ammonia, 40.5% of methanol.

    This next link is rather long and obtuse, but I tried to extract what I thought was the relevant parts related to natgas and [N]itrogen ferts:

    Dry hope for Uralkali

    ..Hints from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Sechin and others suggests they are considering disposing of Rybolovlev, and reorganizing Uralkali under the control of Vyacheslav Kantor, who currently controls the nitrogen fertilizer producer and exporter, Acron.

    ..Sechin's colleague in charge of the farm sector, First Deputy Prime Minister Victor Zubkov, is also playing coy - this week with Russia's nitrogen fertilizer producers and exporters. A public warning from him that he may reinstate the recently lifted export duties on nitrogen fertilizers will be tested by the domestic industry in the run-up to a cabinet session scheduled for March 5.

    ..These measures were taken by Zubkov to encourage the producers to sell to domestic consumers, instead of export to the higher-priced global markets.

    ..Industry analyst Mikhail Frolov of the Finam investment house in Moscow says the price decline to December 31 was followed by a rise in prices during January, and that traders, rather than producers, may have been responsible.
    What might also help tell the tale would be to know how much recovered [S]ulphur from Russian sour crude and sour natgas decreased during this timeframe. The export duty is still on, and S is a major Element of I-NPKS production and industrial processing; it is strategic to Russian GDP and can also be very effective when applied as an 'induced Liebig Minimum' to 'throttle' Eastern Europe GDP. Recall my prior postings on S as a lifeblood Element to modern civilization.

    With their economy hammered, and no pricing info in this article, it is hard to tell just how much recent I-NPKS pricing inside Russia has increased, but you would generally expect some demand increase as the I-NPKS will soon be required for spring planting. It would be interesting to know how much Russian ammonia and urea production was temporarily curtailed if what Simmons said is true.

    Also, if Russian oil & natgas is on a potential downslope: reorganizing their internal I-NPKS supply chain predominantly around [N]itrogen only makes sense from the strategic viewpoint of their national food security as they go postPeak. Recall that N is the most largest % Element in most I-NPKs; most required by crops to avoid a Liebig Minimum. Reread that first paragraph above again --> "Hints from Putin..."

    If Russia can remain the lowest cost I-NPKS producer, while simultaneously ratcheting the FF & I-NPKS pricing pressure upon their nearby export markets: this can, over time, help add greater value & stability to the ruble. If Putin suddenly announces a directive to build a Russian Strategic Reserve of I-NPK: this can serve as a further force multiplier, and it would only be prudent to enhance their food-growing security & societal resiliency if they are indeed headed into a combo of economic depression and declining FF supplies.

    So what is the US doing in preparation of the above events? IMO, nowhere near enough in terms of our national security:

    U.S. Fertilizer Production Capacity & Production In Decline

    Source: ERS/USDA
    Please see graphic & data inside as I don't know how to post visuals.


    Domestic Production and Use: Ammonia was produced by 13 companies at 22 plants in 16 States in the United States during 2008; 5 additional plants were idle for the entire year.

    Sixty percent of total U.S. ammonia production capacity was centered in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas because of their large reserves of natural gas, the dominant domestic feedstock. In 2008, U.S. producers operated at about 78% of their rated capacity.

    Net N import reliance is 48%
    Import Sources (2004-07): Trinidad and Tobago, 56%; Canada, 15%; Russia, 12%; Ukraine, 10%; and other, 7%.

    What I would like to know is if Russia & Ukraine curtailed their imports to the USA: would ramping our utilization % up [plus the 5 idle plants] be sufficient to meet our postPeak needs? Do we have the skilled workforce ready to go? Are these idle plants well-maintained or rusty and unsafe?

    Since I-NPKs & LNG is highly fungible on global markets: can we expect Trinidad & Tobago to start selling to other markets if Russia is on the downslope as described above by Simmons and our own TopTODer Westexas in his many postings? Can we ramp our internal N as fast as the imports might decrease if our import sources all start declining and/or selling elsewhere to higher bidders?

    Additionally, TopToder ACE, and now Robert Hirsch, et al [see Recent EB posting] are forecasting rapid decline in the offshore GoM area. Will the massive concentration of Haber-Bosch [H-B] ammonia plants in this area have to have new pipelines routed to them when the GoM declines? Is TODer SacredCowTipper's Stranded Wind Ammonia initiative the better option? Or will we become sadly reliant upon LNG & I-NPK imports from the far-flung MidEast as they are ramping their infrastructure?

    As posted before: we can daytime walk, then nightly sit in the dark, but we can't do starvation.

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