Drumbeat: April 8, 2009

Bill McKibben: The fierce urgency of now

Watching the backlash against clean energy projects build in Canada has moved me to think about what Americans have learned from facing this same problem. I have been thinking and writing for several years about overcoming conflict-avoidance and the importance of standing up for "Big Truths" even at the price of criticizing fellow environmentalists.

It's not that I've developed a mean streak. It's that the environmental movement has reached an important point of division, between those who truly get global warming, and those who don't.

Natural gas prices at 6-year low

The Georgia natural gas prices posted this week are as low as they’ve been in six years — and an 180-degree-turn from last spring’s gas market.

And that means a different message for consumers than last year at this time.

Owner of Aurora ethanol plants files Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Ethanol producer Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, the latest victim in an industry stung by volatile commodity prices and shrinking profit margins.

Toyota banks on tiny, green but pricier ‘iQ’

TOYOTA, Japan - Toyota’s new tiny car doesn’t boast any state of the art hybrid or plug-in technology. But the iQ has plenty else packed into a diminutive frame that blends stylish curves with safety, fuel efficiency and smooth handling.

The iQ at less than 3 meters (9.8 feet) long is smaller than Toyota Motor Corp.’s Yaris subcompact. It is being shown as a Scion model, which targets younger buyers, at the New York International Auto Show, opening to the public April 10. It went on sale November in Japan, earlier this year in Europe, and is being considered for the U.S. market.

Oil tanker companies may be in trouble if OPEC raises cuts

BANGALORE (Reuters) - Any further output cuts by OPEC, coupled with an expected increase in vessels in 2009, may dampen the oil tanker companies' ability to hold on to higher freight rates, denting their earnings potential in the coming quarters.

OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil supply fell in March, for the seventh consecutive month, but remained above its target as some members pumped more than agreed levels, a recent Reuters survey showed.

So far, OPEC has delivered roughly 80 percent of its pledge to decrease output by a record 4.2 million barrels per day from September.

But any further increase in OPEC compliance may hurt freight rates.

Getting Fuel Economy Right

The Obama administration has before it a rare opportunity to establish an aggressive — and unified — national standard for automobile fuel economy that could save consumers money at the pump, reduce oil dependency and greenhouse gases and help make America’s car companies (or what’s left of them after the present restructuring) more competitive.

Brazil investigates royalty overpayment

Brazil's federal police is investigating alleged irregularities in the payment of royalties from state-run Petrobras to city halls in Rio de Janeiro state.

Suspicion is focused in the state's north region, which receives royalties from production in the prolific Campos basin, the biggest oil-producing zone in the country.

Cash Management Crucial in Deflationary Market

Another interesting opportunity for cash management lies in the fixed-income securities issued by some of the world’s largest oil companies. Energy companies have huge cash reserves – many have more net cash than many governments! If you subscribe to the long-term view that Peak Oil will continue to pressure oil prices once this recession/depression concludes then bonds issued by these goliaths make good investment sense. Just be sure to keep your maturities under five years.

Wind power may need government help

LONDON (Reuters) - The credit crunch and a weak pound will stunt Britain's offshore wind power growth and undermine efforts to cut carbon emissions without more help from government, the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) said on Wednesday.

Major offshore projects could stall and Britain will waste another opportunity to set up its own supply chain unless the government boosts support significantly.

"We need to improve the economics," said Gordon Edge, director of economics and markets at BWEA.

Green groups want Shell oil sands permits rescinded

CALGARY, Alberta, April 8 (Reuters) - Canadian environmental groups asked regulators on Wednesday to rescind approvals for part of a $13.7 billion expansion of Royal Dutch Shell Plc's oil sands project, alleging the company backed off promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Oil Sands Environmental Coalition -- which includes the Pembina Institute, the Toxics Watch Society of Alberta and the Fort McMurray Environmental Association -- say Shell has broken a negotiated agreement to significantly cut the output of greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide from an expansion of its Muskeg River and Jackpine oil sands mines in northern Alberta.

Enbridge team plans CO2 storage pilot project

CALGARY -- A consortium led by Enbridge Inc. said on Wednesday it is ready to start a test project for injecting carbon dioxide from industrial operations into briny underground water reservoirs in Alberta.

We the People: Running on Empty

Much of the world already knows that it is possible to live without oil, but that it is impossible to live without water.

That reality is dawning upon people across the US as the country faces unprecedented water shortages.

Oil, Gas May ‘Slingshot’ Up After Credit Freezes Rigs

(Bloomberg) -- The credit crunch will keep U.S. oil and gas producers from ramping up exploration they do through drillers such as Nabors Industries Ltd., setting the stage for shortages and surging prices when demand recovers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc. are among producers spending no more than their cash flow after a collapse in credit markets drove up debt costs. That means they won’t hire the likes of Nabors and Rowan Cos. to drill more wells in anticipation of higher prices. Producers cut capital budgets 17 percent this year after demand slowed and prices plunged, according to Tristone Capital Inc.

“Quite frankly, they don’t have the credit, which exacerbates the problem that their revenue stream is far below the cost structure,” said Jud Bailey, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. in Houston. “They’re not jumping on lower service costs simply because they can’t. They’re literally stepping away from anything they’re not contractually obligated to.”

The result may be a “slingshot” effect as spending cuts leave a supply shortage once demand returns, Bailey said. The number of active drilling rigs worldwide has fallen 35 percent from the 23-year high reached in September, according to Baker Hughes Inc. The U.S. rig count has plunged by almost half.

Obama looks at climate engineering

WASHINGTON (AP) - The president's new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth's air.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

"It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table."

Energy Secretary Backs Clean-Coal Investments

WASHINGTON -- Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the U.S. should invest in technology to reduce the carbon produced by burning coal, but he said it will take at least eight years to be sure such systems work.

Chavez says world 'center of gravity' now Beijing

BEIJING — The world's center of gravity has moved to Beijing, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told his Chinese counterpart Wednesday during a visit focused on boosting Chinese oil purchases.

The frequent U.S. critic also praised China's response to the global financial meltdown that has sent prices of his South American nation's key export, oil, down sharply.

Gazprom to Sell Russia’s 1st Dollar Bonds Since July

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom, Russia’s biggest company, plans to sell about $2 billion of bonds in the first dollar issue from the country since July.

Nigeria: What if the president goes?

IN AN office in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, economists scour the morning’s newspapers for photographs of President Umaru Yar’Adua, hoping to divine a clue as to his well-being. The global financial crisis and the dive in the price of oil, Nigeria’s main export, are forcing the country’s businessmen and investors to rethink Nigeria’s hitherto unusually hopeful economic outlook. Ministers admit that Nigeria is in for a rough time. The prevailing view, however, is that it should be able to ride out the storm, provided there are no bad political squalls.

But what if the long-ailing president were to die or leave office prematurely? Then, says Bismarck Rewane, a prominent financier, all bets are off. When the departing president, Olusegun Obasanjo, hand-picked Mr Yar’Adua in 2007 to succeed him, the new man’s health immediately aroused concern. As governor of a remote northern state, Katsina, he set up a specialist unit in his local hospital to treat a chronic kidney ailment. On the campaign trail, his soft voice and persistent cough contrasted unfavourably with the rumbustious ways of Mr Obasanjo.

U.N. climate talks threaten our survival: Saudi Arabia

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - United Nations climate talks threaten Saudi Arabia's economic survival and the kingdom wants support for any shift from fossil fuels to other energy sources such as solar power, its lead climate negotiator said.

Contrasting interests of different countries are challenging faltering climate talks, meant to forge by December a new global deal in Copenhagen to curb man-made climate change.

Small island states say their survival is threatened by rising seas. But Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, says it could suffer from any pact which curbs oil demand by penalizing carbon emissions.

Price of Saudi Arab light oil jumps in March

The average price of Saudi Arabian light crude oil rose to $46.2 per barrel in March, above the break-even point for the national budget, compared to $37.2 in February, central bank data showed.

Saudi-Chinese trade soars above SAR150bn target

A surge in Saudi Arabia's oil supplies to China boosted their two-way trade above the official target of SAR150 billion (Dh147bn) last year and the relationship is poised for further expansion, according to a key Saudi bank.

Ecological debt: no way back from bankrupt

While most governments' eyes are on the banking crisis, a much bigger issue - the environmental crisis - is passing them by, says Andrew Simms. In the Green Room this week, he argues that failure to organise a bailout for ecological debt will have dire consequences for humanity.

"Nature Doesn't Do Bailouts!" said the banner strung across Bishopsgate in the City of London.

B.C. needs big energy changes

Fossil fuels or green energy: What's British Columbia's vision? The debate over British Columbia's energy future is heating up in the province.

This is a good thing. Global warming urgency and the growing energy crisis require communities around the world to debate and develop visions for a green energy future.

High-Profile Conference Zeroes in on Canada’s Forestry Crisis

Recent evidence suggesting that the effects of global warming will occur earlier than expected will be presented at SFM 2009 by University of Waterloo professor and best-selling author Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon, who will also challenge attendees to rethink convention when it comes to sustaining Canada’s forests. According to Homer-Dixon, many of Canada’s ecological systems are simply too complex to be managed precisely and it’s time to concentrate on a new approach that focuses on resiliency (designing ecosystems that can withstand shock and adapt) and triage (identifying which areas of forest will survive and which areas need to be sacrificed).

“We’re in a world that I would categorize as a world of uncertainty as opposed to a world of risk,” says Homer-Dixon. “There’s a lot of warming in the pipeline and much more to come. What we need to do right now is preserve as much ecological and genetic diversity as possible for our children and grandchildren.”

The Future of Oil Prices

As Matt Simmons points out: oil is not just another commodity. For industrial societies oil is as basic as food and water. That’s why the price of oil cannot go up very high after the production of oil peaks. Economic logic suggests that if demand is high and supply is low then prices will skyrocket. However, there are goods for which the prices cannot be set by the interplay of demand and supply, because if they were it would undermine the viability of the whole economy. Oil is one of these goods.

Treasury launches $5B auto supplier bailout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. Treasury said Wednesday that Chrysler LLC and General Motors Corp. have launched supplier support programs backed by up to $5 billion in U.S. government funds

GM sales in China jump 24.6%

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- General Motors Corp said on Wednesday its China sales in March rose 24.6% from a year earlier to 137,004 vehicles, setting a company record for monthly sales as China's stimulus policies bolstered the market.

The Corn Ethanol Debate Continues

Unquestionably, Corn Ethanol is responsible for the incredible spike in food prices experienced in late 2007 through much of 2008. Farmers were switching their crops to corn, the demand for corn to be used as fuel drove the price per bushel above $6 (from about $2 in 2006), and corn is an ingredient in a countless number of foods and food production.

Coal deposits provide a record of ancient methane emissions

Changes in the amount of methane present in the Earth's atmosphere over the last 400 million years have had a major impact on the global climate.

Shippers Taking It Slow in Bad Times

ABOARD THE EUGEN MAERSK, IN THE NORTH SEA -- On an early afternoon last month, the Eugen Maersk has left Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on the tail end of a journey from Shanghai. But the giant freighter is cruising at 10 knots, well shy of her 26-knot top speed.

At about half speed, fuel consumption drops to 100-150 tons of fuel a day from 350 tons, saving as much as $5,000 an hour. "The strategy now is to slow steam as much as possible," said Christian Hagart, the Eugen's chief officer.

Tankers anchor off Devon waiting for oil prices to rise

Almost a dozen oil tankers carrying millions of litres of oil and gas have anchored off the British coast because the cargo's owners are waiting for prices to rise.

Friedman: Show Us the Ball

I am really encouraged by President Barack Obama’s commitment to clean energy and combating climate change. I just have three worries: Whether he has the right policies, the right politics and the right official to sell his program to the country. Other than that, things look great!

Crude declines as API reports big rise in supplies

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Oil futures fell Wednesday for a fourth straight session, marking their biggest losing streak in two months after the American Petroleum Institute reported a large increase in crude inventories.

Roc Oil's Zhao Dong field on way to meet '09 plan

(Reuters) - Australia's Roc Oil Co Ltd said it started production under its 2009 drilling plans at the Zhao Dong fields offshore China, with a total gross production of 21,500 barrels of oil per day (bopd), or about 35 percent of its 2009 target.

Daniel Yergin on $40 Oil, Iran Diplomacy (video)

Daniel Yergin of energy research consultancy CERA on the prospects for $40 oil on continued economic weakness.

Official: Iran to produce bio-ethanol

TEHRAN (Xinhua) -- Ali Ameri, head of the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company, has revealed that Iran plans to produce bio-ethanol, the local Press TV reported on Wednesday.

"The project to produce bio-ethanol is to start in the next three months" and the Oil Ministry "is to sign an accord in this regard with the Iranian association of ethanol producers," Ameri was quoted as saying.

Despite drop, county hit hard by fuel prices

There are some economists who blame the speeding up of the current recession to the dramatic increase in gasoline prices in 2008. Reaching $4 a gallon last summer, the price of transporting anything - from people to food - rose dramatically.

For Wright County, in the departments that require extensive driving, cutting back wasn’t an option. The “Big Four” users of gasoline - the highway, sheriff’s, parks and planning and zoning departments - all felt the budget pinch in 2008.

Drug dealer who charged gas surcharge sentenced

VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) — A convicted drug dealer who authorities say charged an extra $15 to deliver cocaine in northwestern Indiana because of high gasoline prices has been sentenced to four years in prison.

Hemp Could Be Key To Zero-carbon Houses

ScienceDaily — Hemp, a plant from the cannabis family, could be used to build carbon-neutral homes of the future to help combat climate change and boost the rural economy, say researchers at the University of Bath.

When Oceans Get Warmer Carbon Dioxide Uptake On Marine Plankton Will Be Reduced, Potentially Increasing Climate Change

ScienceDaily — The global ocean plays a central role in Earth’s climate system and has considerably slowed down climate change by taking up about one third of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted through human activities.

Oil Giants Loath to Follow Obama’s Green Lead

The Obama administration wants to reduce oil consumption, increase renewable energy supplies and cut carbon dioxide emissions in the most ambitious transformation of energy policy in a generation.

But the world’s oil giants are not convinced that it will work. Even as Washington goes into a frenzy over energy, many of the oil companies are staying on the sidelines, balking at investing in new technologies favored by the president, or even straying from commitments they had already made.

Oil falls below $48, following stocks down

VIENNA – Oil prices fell Wednesday, weighed by weaker stock markets and waning optimism that the U.S. economy will soon recover from its severe recession.

Benchmark crude for May delivery fell $1.32 to $47.83 a barrel by noon in Europe in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.90 on Tuesday to settle at $49.15.

Shell Said to Limit U.K. Gasoline Sales After Fault

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc is limiting gasoline sales from the U.K.’s second-largest oil refinery at Stanlow in Cheshire because of a fault, a person familiar with the situation said.

The refinery outage threatens to reduce fuel supplies and drive up prices at a time when Total SA’s Lindsey and ConocoPhillips’s Humber plants in northern England are also undergoing maintenance.

IRAN: There will be oil, and lots of it

Iran is reporting huge new discoveries of oil that contain "billions" of barrels of reserves, state radio quoted the managing director of the country's National Oil Co. as saying today.

Seyfollah Jashnsaz said Iran has discovered seven new oil fields in unspecified locations around the country.

"Billions of barrels of oil will be added to the country's existing oil reserves," he said in comments broadcast on state radio.

The turning point and the new commodity bubble

Is oil at a turning point? Get ready bubble buyers as the next big oil bubble is getting inflated once again. There is 1.1 trillion dollars of global economic stimulus and a global interest rate imbalance between the United States and Europe and this is creating the same type of macroeconomic conditions that caused oil to spike up to $147.00 early in this economic crisis. Forget about supply and demand for the moment because they are just a passing afterthoughts. The commodity markets seek to adjust to what the UK Prime Minister calls a ‘New World Order”. A new world order that favors Europe as the money that the G20 pumped into the IMF and the World Bank. And this is money the EU is not going to have to spend to stabilize weaker developing EU Nations.

Shanghai Exchange May Trade Crude Oil in April, Herald Says

(Bloomberg) -- Shanghai Petroleum Exchange may start trading crude oil, diesel and gasoline contracts as early as this month, the 21st Century Business Herald said, citing a member unit of the exchange it didn’t identify.

Petrobras to Cut Natural-Gas Price to Distributors, Folha Says

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-run oil producer, will reduce the price of natural gas it charges distributors, Folha de S. Paulo reported, citing Maria das Gracas Foster, head of the company’s gas and energy business.

Forecasters See Lower Average for 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Season

According to forecasters at Colorado State University, the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to show average storm activity from June 1 to Nov. 30.

The forecasters cite an average of 12 storms for the active season, six of which will transform into hurricanes with two set to become intense hurricanes, which are defined by sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or more.

Pemex May Squeeze Extra 3 Billion Barrels From Cantarell Field

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleos Mexicanos, the state oil company, may recover an extra 3 billion barrels from its Cantarell field, or 20 percent more than planned, by using a technology that extracts hard-to-reach crude.

StatoilHydro Extends Statfjord Field's Productive Life beyond 2020

The Statfjord late life project has prolonged this North Sea field's productive life beyond expectations.

"We are highly satisfied with every single year we can add to the Statfjord field's productive life," said Stale Tungesvik, senior vice president for the operations west cluster in the Exploration & Production Norway business area.

"During the late life project we have extended the production period at the Statfjord field beyond 2020. The planned field production period has been prolonged by 12 years, which is two years more than we expected when we submitted the plans for the Statfjord late life project."

A Cheaper Way to Draw Oil from Shale

A new ceramic-composite material that can withstand high temperatures and constant exposure to moisture could provide an economical way to unlock America's vast oil-shale deposits.

South African Road Freight Strike Over Pay Enters Second Day

(Bloomberg) -- A strike by South African road freight workers, which may disrupt fuel supplies across Africa’s largest economy, entered a second day as talks to break a deadlock over minimum wages and working conditions continued.

UAE to Slash Food Costs

DUBAI - The United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday it would move to bring down the cost of basic food items charged by retailers because they were no longer appropriate following a slump in world commodity prices.

The second-largest Arab economy last year signed a series of agreements with supermarket chains to fix the cost of basic food items such as sugar, cooking oil, rice and flour at 2007 levels in an effort to curb inflation at a 20-year peak.

China’s Grand Plans for Eco-Cities Now Lie Abandoned

Mostly conceived by international architects, China’s eco-cities were intended to be models of green urban design. But the planning was done with little awareness of how local people lived, and the much-touted projects have largely been scrapped.

Time to Deliver: No Turning Back, Part I

Terrance's last post heroically set out and engaged the two dominant scenarios about the American future that progressives seem to be wrestling with right now. These two scenarios might be described as:

1) Permanent Decline -- Due to Americans' native hyperindividualism, political apathy, and overweening willingness to accept personal blame for their country's failures, the corporatists finally succeed in turning the US into Indonesia. This time, we will not find the will to fight back (or, if we do, it will be too late). As a result, in a few years there will be no more middle class, no upward mobility, few remaining public institutions devoted to the common good, no health care, no education, and no hope of ever restoring American ideals or getting back to some semblance of the America we knew.

2) Reinvented Greatness -- Americans get over their deeply individualistic nature, come together, challenge and restrain the global corporatist order, and finally establish the social democracy that the Powers That Be -- corporate, military, media, conservative -- have denied to us since the 1950s. This happens in synergy with a move to energy and food self-sufficiency, the growth of a sustainable economy, a revival of participatory democracy, and a general renewal of American values that pulses new life into our institutions and assures us a much more stable future.


The nonpartisan Reform Institute today released a new report that lays a clear pathway for comprehensive energy reform. The report - Reforming American Energy: Overcoming Reliance and Ensuring Reliability - outlines the benefits and limitations of each U.S. energy sector and provides specific reform recommendations. With energy and climate legislation taking shape in Congress the timely new report outlines the energy challenges facing the nation and proposes a new direction for U.S. energy policy.

Highlighting the threats to U.S. national security, the economy, and energy and environmental sustainability posed by current energy policy, the report challenges the effectiveness of a piece-meal approach and calls for a cohesive national energy strategy.

An End to Dependence on Middle East Oil

Over the last 40 years, the United States has become increasingly dependent on foreign oil and reluctant to develop domestic, fossil fuel resources. Today, America imports two-thirds of its oil at a cost of $300 billion per year, much of it from politically unstable, Middle East countries which control 45% of the world's oil, overall.

This is occurring despite the existence of bountiful, untapped oil resources within the United States. Developing these resources could free America from imports, create badly needed, oil-production jobs and meet U.S. energy demand for the next 200 years. With nearly three-fourths of Americans favoring increased energy exploration, the only obstacle standing in the way of our energy independence is a lack of political vision and will.

Santa Barbara County reverses oil drilling stand

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Months after making national headlines for supporting offshore oil drilling, the county famous for spawning the modern environmental movement reversed course Tuesday and voted to oppose the drilling.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, citing a need to preserve its coastline, voted 3-2 for a resolution to oppose oil exploration and extraction in the county.

US Interior Sec. Salazar Gets Earful on Drilling

A contentious public hearing Monday highlighted the Obama administration's challenge to craft an energy policy that emphasizes alternative fuels but also recognizes the dominance of traditional sources.

Opponents of offshore drilling dominated the hearing, convened by the White House to gauge public opinion on whether the government should expand oil and natural-gas production in federal waters. Drilling supporters focused on the industry's improved safety record, as well as billions of dollars in potential government revenue.

Breezy Talk: Interior Secretary Salazar’s Offshore Wind Dreams

Secretary Salazar, in Atlantic City for the first of four public meetings to discuss America’s offshore energy resources, raised eyebrows when he said offshore wind farms could replace 3,000 coal-fired plants. He contends that the offshore wind potential just in the Atlantic—the easiest region to develop–totals about 1,000 gigawatts.

Let’s put that in context. The entire electricity-generation capacity of the U.S., including coal, gas, nuclear, hydropower and other renewables, is just over 1,000 gigawatts. There are only about 1,400 coal plants in operation in the U.S., accounting for about 336 gigawatts of power. So that would indeed be a lot of wind.

But of that nominal 1,000 gigawatts of Atlantic wind potential, 770 gigawatts are in deep waters (that is, 200 feet or more). There are currently no deep-water wind farms anywhere in the world.

Recession saps energy from ethanol industry

A year ago, the ethanol industry was riding high on spiraling gas prices that made corn-based biofuel a highly attractive home-grown supplement to costly gasoline. Federal mandates were in place to more than triple ethanol production by 2022.

Since then, the bottom has fallen out of the industry. Newly built refineries are shutting down, and some ethanol companies are facing bankruptcy.

Can ethanol help save the U.S. economy?

As the Obama Administration searches for ways stimulate the economy and takes some unpopular positions, such as aiding banks, automakers, and in-over-their-head mortgage-holders, there may be an opportunity in another controversial area – ethanol.

UN sounds warning after Antarctica ice shelf rips

PARIS (AFP) – The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said the breakway of a Jamaica-sized ice shelf from the Antarctic peninsula could accelerate global warming in this already vulnerable region.

Climate Change To Spur Rapid Shifts In Wildfire Hotspots, Analysis Finds

ScienceDaily — Climate change will bring about major shifts in worldwide fire patterns, and those changes are coming fast, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with scientists at Texas Tech University.

Arctic meltdown is a threat to humanity

I am shocked, truly shocked," says Katey Walter, an ecologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. "I was in Siberia a few weeks ago, and I am now just back in from the field in Alaska. The permafrost is melting fast all over the Arctic, lakes are forming everywhere and methane is bubbling up out of them."

EU: Earth warming faster

OSLO/BONN (Reuters) – Global warming is likely to overshoot a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) rise seen by the European Union and many developing nations as a trigger for "dangerous" change, a Reuters poll of scientists showed on Tuesday.

Nine of 11 experts, who were among authors of the final summary by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 (IPCC), also said the evidence that mankind was to blame for climate change had grown stronger in the past two years.

Ten Principles for a Black Swan-proof World, by Nicholas Taleb

1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Nothing should ever become too big to fail. Evolution in economic life helps those with the maximum amount of hidden risks – and hence the most fragile – become the biggest.

2. No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains. Whatever may need to be bailed out should be nationalised; whatever does not need a bail-out should be free, small and risk-bearing. We have managed to combine the worst of capitalism and socialism. [snip]

3. People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus. [snip] It is irresponsible and foolish to put our trust in the ability of such experts to get us out of this mess. Instead, find the smart people whose hands are clean.

4. Do not let someone making an “incentive” bonus manage a nuclear plant – or your financial risks. [snip] It is the asymmetry of the bonus system that got us here. No incentives without disincentives: capitalism is about rewards and punishments, not just rewards.

5. Counter-balance complexity with simplicity. Complexity from globalisation and highly networked economic life needs to be countered by simplicity in financial products. [snip]

6. Do not give children sticks of dynamite, even if they come with a warning . Complex derivatives need to be banned because nobody understands them and few are rational enough to know it. [snip]

7. Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence. Governments should never need to “restore confidence”. [snip]

8. Do not give an addict more drugs if he has withdrawal pains. [snip] The debt crisis is not a temporary problem, it is a structural one. We need rehab.

9. Citizens should not depend on financial assets or fallible “expert” advice for their retirement. [snip] We should learn not to use markets as storehouses of value: they do not harbour the certainties that normal citizens require. Citizens should experience anxiety about their own businesses (which they control), not their investments (which they do not control).

10. Make an omelette with the broken eggs. [snip] Let us move voluntarily into Capitalism 2.0 by helping what needs to be broken break on its own, converting debt into equity, marginalising the economics and business school establishments, shutting down the “Nobel” in economics, banning leveraged buyouts, putting bankers where they belong, clawing back the bonuses of those who got us here, and teaching people to navigate a world with fewer certainties.

Then we will see an economic life closer to our biological environment: smaller companies, richer ecology, no leverage. A world in which entrepreneurs, not bankers, take the risks and companies are born and die every day without making the news.

In other words, a place more resistant to black swans.

I wish I could have just quoted the whole piece, it is priceless. I snipped a bit to comply with fair use and TOD policies and all that.

I am in absolute awe of Taleb's brilliance.

Yes, Taleb is smart but IMO everybody knows these things-they are obvious. Obama knows them, Bernanke,Geithner, everybody. Taleb is starting with a totally unrealistic set of assumptions i.e. the primary goal is to build a wealthy, sustainable USA economy. IMO there is a very strong psychological resistance on the part of the American public to facing what is actually occurring, which is a looting and a permanent weakening of the USA economy. If this were accidental as is commonly assumed, the capital distributed would not be narrowly targeted based on political control and connections-steps would have been taken to benefit the overall economy. No steps have been taken yet, and so far 13 trillion dollars of USA capital has been allocated based on political connections, not economic policy. The whole operation is taking place in relative secrecy, so much so that even the names of the recipients is unclear. This is a classic 3rd world scenario.

Taleb is starting with a totally unrealistic set of assumptions i.e. the primary goal is to build a wealthy, sustainable USA economy.

Taleb is saying what should be done, not what is being done. He's fully aware of the banksters' crimes.

"In the US in the 2000s, the banks took over the government. This is surreal."
-- Taleb

Should be done? By who exactly?

By our duly elected gov't, who is SUPPOSED to represent "we the people".

It's time for a wholesale changeout of the Congress. They've abdicated responsibility while selling their influence to the banksters.

Taleb eloquently organized and stated many of the same thoughts I'd had. It's not that he's unusually brilliant in observation, but that he organizes and frames the information so cogently.

Of course saying this is what needs to be done isn't the same as doing it -- Taleb has no real authority. The electorate won't come awake until things get considerably worse, so those with voting power are impotent. We are most likely well and totally screwed, for at least a generation, by this farce.

Yes, you're right. Let's just shut down all alternative financial blogs. Oh and might as well just shut down TOD as well as TPTB don't listen to us either.

No point in anyone suggesting what should be done because it's pointless.

Just what exactly is your point?

"Just what exactly is your point?"

I got it. That the yeast are in control and nothing
will be done* until waste exceeds population, sugar,
and flour.

Nature ALWAYS limits failed experiments.

*-a drastic change in temps will be the thing that
stops the yeast growth.

Well while I don't want either of you to go away just what purpose do you believe you serve here on TOD and why don't your's (and Briant's) comments deserve the same criticism directed at Taleb - ie effectively a waste of space?

Also your definition of a failed experiment and the definition of some of TPTB may be quite different...

"Well while I don't want either of you to go away just what purpose do you believe you serve here on TOD and why don't your's (and Briant's) comments deserve the same criticism directed at Taleb - ie effectively a waste of space?"

Well thanks for that. And where do we start?

With a veiled threat? Should you be reported to Leanan?

;} I won't. Because I protect and serve myself,
thank you very much. Now where were we? Oh yeah,
that my comment are a waste of space because I'm saying,
in so many words, that collapse IS a solution and that
NATURE will apply that solution.

If humans don't. And I think I'm giving a POSITIVE
answer to the Fascists in control of World Energy.

Which is what Taleb is saying as well. Because all of his comments point to corporate/state control being
the cause of the greatest Wealth Disparity in the history
of Human Civilization. That's a long time and made possible only because of the discovery of fossil fuels
with a simultaneous strengthening of a Plutocractic

And either this system is dismantled immediately or
Civilization stops. And it really is the Elite .01%'s call. Cantarell drops by the moment.

That answer your question?

With a veiled threat? Should you be reported to Leanan?

Good grief, if you think that was a veiled threat you're more paranoid than even I am!

I'm saying,
in so many words, that collapse IS a solution and that
NATURE will apply that solution.

If humans don't. And I think I'm giving a POSITIVE
answer to the Fascists in control of World Energy.

How do you know collapse isn't the plan?

Hi mc,

It is interesting and relevant about the intersection of FF with the "giant person" status of corporations and their "super-size" persons - ones who may exercise a greater degree of control (if anyone does).

It's that structure that (together w. it's human members) really does so much harm. Rather amazing, really. Especially because it's a structure that's hidden to most people.


re: "And it really is the Elite .01%'s call."

Well, yes and no.

It's only their call until the next level of persons - or, perhaps some percentage of all the rest of us - take action.

One thing I've found interesting. There's a group of people - (one of several, but I focus on them for a particular reason) - who de facto serve in the interests of the point-zero-one (or less, really - aren't they? fewer in number) - and that is: scientists, both academic and those in industry.

I don't believe they see themselves this way. They serve, either directly (via various kinds of consultancy) or by remaining silent on matters of import.

Something to think about.

You would be referring to the "technocratic" class.

IMO there is a very strong psychological resistance on the part of the American public to facing what is actually occurring, which is a looting and a permanent weakening of the USA economy.

I've been thinking about that. I have an in-law relative who is heavily involved with the real left. He tells me that the American middle class has been co-opted in a "divide and conquer" fashion. For years we've been implored to be "rugged individualists." Now practically no properly educated, red blooded American will every admit that they need the assistance of other folks or that there is strength in association with others. Our unions have failed. Our political parties are co-opted by the oligarchy. Now there is no hope for the middle class. We're all pawns. Even our head of state is a unknowing pawn.

For the last ten years I've tried to adopt a class and color blind perspective. Unfortunately the upper class and oligarchy hasn't. They continue to pillage life, energy and resources from the middle class. I can't see how we'll ever get beyond class struggle. It must be in our genes. It's a damn shame too.

In my opinion we need to get the middle class back on the road toward working together toward collective power. Class struggle is all the oligarchy understands. That's their zeitgeist in relating to the middle class.

If the middle class is unwilling to empower itself. What in life is left for them other than to be a mechanistic consumer.

An interesting discussion with William Greider that touched on some of your points, on the Diane Rehm show today.

William Greider: "Come Home America"

Why America is losing its global leadership position and how ordinary people can use profound global changes at hand to build a more equitable society

"Why America is losing its global leadership position and how ordinary people can use profound global changes at hand to build a more equitable society"
The US has 5% of the global population and consumes 25% of resources. Hardly equitable it seems, but not in the way the author means i guess..

In 1870 the average income in the world's richest country was about nine times greater than that in the world's poorest country. By 1990 it was forty-five times greater.

From Homer-Dixon's Upside of Down.

Of all the talks about class struggle and "lost of American's global leadership"... I guess we all know who we are losing this leadership to -- yeap -- Mao's babies...

The rich has no loyalty to country -- that is the fact. They will do whatever to maximize their profit. Their profit now is being in bed with China. GM just announced a 25% sale increase in China -- so GM will try to take USA bailout money, unwind USA assets, and invest in China. Companies are moving operation to China if it gives them a 10% margin. We will invest in Chinese companies if these have 10% better return -- etc... Wage in the US is forced lower and lower for most of the average workers.

Every year, our company would have a performance review and then you have your yearly wage increase. The top will have their 5% which have more than enough cover for the inflation of their basic need; while the bottom 90% will have their 5% that won't cover for the inflation. You wonder why our saving rate is 0%. I guess if plot the saving rate vs income, the number will be a lot worse -- the top keep accumulating more while the bottom keep going more and more into debt. How is it that a lot of us slowly becoming slaves w/out realizing it? Does that mean our system have failed? I guess for the rich and powerful -- it's their system -- it isn't our system for the past 30 years.

I think class warfare is a un-ending side effect of civilization as there will always be people who think the rich have to much or the poor are getting too much.

Hi TrueKaiser,

So, it's merely a matter of opinion?

There's no way to think about it otherwise?

Taleb is correct and the things he proposes should be done at the very least for reasons of equity and efficiency. But the question remains. Did the rise in the dominance of finance causes the destruction of the rest of the economy or did it rise as a substitute for an economy that was in decline for other reasons such as foreign competition and resource constraints.

We need to have an economy not so dependent upon finance and housing but is that even possible given globalization, especially the rise of China as an economic superpower. Part of this dominance will be ensured because China has flooded its country with engineers as opposed to lawyers and financial types. Our best and our brightest, such as they are have gravitated to where the money is, which is not in things like manufacturing.

Everything else being equal, which it is not, we will not be able to recover for a generation even if we tip the balance back to skills like engineering and other skills that are required for the nonfinancial side of the economy. But the sheer numbers of very smart people in China cannot be matched by the U.S. regardless of what we do.

Having said all that, the thing that scares me is not the economy but the accelerating global warming reported above in drumbeat. The artic melting with bubbling methane is a scary combination which should help seal our fate while we leisurely debate the merits of cap and trade and energy taxes.

Prozac nation, apparently, is still asleep and cannot be awakened.

In a globalized economy, the long term trend of wages worldwide is to converge toward a global median. That is enough just by itself to guarantee a long term decline in the median household and per capita GDP in the USA (since we have been way above the global median). It just amazes me that there has been absolutely NO discussion or acknowledgement of this fact - the media blackout and self-censorship has been staggering.

Then there is the gross underperformance and utter dysfunctionality of the US education system. We have now produced at least one, maybe two, generations of dummies. Our students do not perform at the top of the heap when it comes to international comparisons of educational performance, but rather we come close to the bottom. It is only the import of massive numbers of intelligent and educated people from other countries that is keeping our high-tech industries afloat. Even if we didn't have anything else working against us, the decline in educational attainment and ability of an increasing percentage of the US population by itself is sufficient to assure our long term economic decline.

Add to that global climate change (which will render large swaths of the southwest and low-lying coastal areas uninhabitable), oil depletion, over-leveraging of the economy, and general corruption and incompetence amongst the corporate and governing elites, and it all suggests a pretty bleak outlook for the future.

The bottom line is that the US is destined to become a much poorer country. We will actually be lucky, whether we recognize it or not, if we can manage to level off at something close to the global per capita GDP; we could end up much worse. Forget about finance, and there won't even be very much manufacturing for export. Raising enough food to feed our people, making a few things that people really need, and maintaining a few of the most essential services, is about all that our future economy will be able to support.

The USA is rapidly on its way to becomming a has-been nation, and I very much doubt that there is anything we can do to turn it around. We could manage the decline in order to make the most of a bad situation, but that requires that we first acknowledge and accept that we are in decline and cannot reverse it; that is very unlikely to happen. More likely, we'll stay in denial, and end up making a bad situation worse.

In a globalized economy, the long term trend of wages worldwide is to converge toward a global median. That is enough just by itself to guarantee a long term decline in the median household and per capita GDP in the USA (since we have been way above the global median). It just amazes me that there has been absolutely NO discussion or acknowledgement of this fact - the media blackout and self-censorship has been staggering.

The media continues to portray the economic world as a collection of national economies. This isn't so much self-censorship as it is the deployment of a discursive tactic that focuses attention on the things that they want it focused on. Always remember that our "news" media's primary purpose is the selling of advertising time/space. They must sell that advertising to remain profitable and in business (and for the "average" worker, employed).

That means that they are going to portray the world in a manner that will deliver "eyeballs" to their advertisers. You won't get much in the way of repeat viewers/readers if you constantly tell people that there world is getting worse. However, telling them that other people's lives are worse than theirs seems to work pretty well. So does the diversion (I see Lindsey is now dating Britney). But the tried and true appeal to patriotism does it's job as well.

It's not a conspiracy in the true sense of the word. But the news media doesn't report the sort of things you are talking about because the very system you are opposing is designed to prevent it. Indeed, it is designed to make your concerns appear to be the rantings of a disaffected outsider (you probably own a "foreign" car, so it's all your fault anyway).

Then there is the gross underperformance and utter dysfunctionality of the US education system. We have now produced at least one, maybe two, generations of dummies. Our students do not perform at the top of the heap when it comes to international comparisons of educational performance, but rather we come close to the bottom. It is only the import of massive numbers of intelligent and educated people from other countries that is keeping our high-tech industries afloat. Even if we didn't have anything else working against us, the decline in educational attainment and ability of an increasing percentage of the US population by itself is sufficient to assure our long term economic decline.

The US education system has its problems for sure however I would argue a large part of the problem is the dysfunctional families the kids are coming from. The "dummies" are reproducing en masse while those with any intelligence are having small families [1-2 kids] or passing on children all together.

I grew up in a family where a college education was expected of me. Some of my friends grew up in families where they were told a college education was a "waste of money" and getting into a good "union" was all you needed in life. One guess where those old high school friends ended up.

Our failing education system has nothing to do with federal/state funding, quality of teachers, school facilities or equipment. It has everything to do with the kids that are attending and the families they come from.

I don't think I buy that. Not that family doesn't matter, but this is a problem faced by every country, not just this one. Yet we lag behind. Especially certain states. Nearly half the population of some southern states are illiterate.

I also don't think college is the answer for everyone. Especially with peak oil looming, I suspect it is a waste of money for many people. The percentage of Americans who go to college has jumped, but the percent who get the degree has been flat. Which means a lot of people are dropping out before graduation, leaving them with the debt, but not the degree. Not everyone is suited for college, and it's not necessarily a matter of intelligence.

Nearly half the population of some southern states are illiterate.

Wow. Can't quite wrap my mind around that. Coming from most posters I would dismiss that as hyperbole, but Leanan is Word.
Nearly half of the population of an entire state in the US cannot read or write? What? Is that what you said? How can that be?
I may have just moved one giant step to the doomer side.

Welcome to the Dark Side. We have (solar oven-baked) cookies ;)

sounds far fetched to me as well, but some would be too young to have learned how to read and write.

maybe there is a hidden population of formerly literate.

wondering what percent of nominal graduates are illiterate despite their "higher" education ?

I live in the south. I have traveled through much of the country, and several foreign countries as well. There is no significant difference in literacy rates in 'southern states' compared to any other state or province in the US or beyond.


Do not measure a groups literacy based on their ethnicity or location - that only leads to racial bigotry and yet more repression. I would be very sadden if this were Leanan's intention - and I hope that it wasn't!

It's not race or location at the root. It's politics and economics. Southern states tend to spend the least on education, and it shows.

It is more than that.

IMHO, more money per se will not have a significant effect.

I graduated from a public high school in Alabama, no greater funding than most in Alabama (not that much local industry, much of the valuable property was owned by the state and paid no taxes).

Slightly more than 400 graduates in 1971 from Tuscaloosa High School. 16 National Merit Scholarship finalists. Very few of even the drop outs were functionally illiterate.

Faculty of the University of Alabama had, for decades, insisted on decent schools. Tuscaloosa County High School was distinctly inferior academically, although probably better than most Alabama high schools.


It boggled my mind, too, when I first read it.

Education in Kentucky suffers from the same negative stigma as many other Southern states. Some statistics, such as ranking 47th in the nation in percentage of residents with a bachelor's degree[1] and an adult illiteracy rate of about 40%[2], seem to justify the stereotype, while others, such as ranking 14th in educational affordability[1], 25th in K-12 attrition[3], and being named the 31st smartest state using a formula by author Morgan Quitno[4] (ahead of western states like California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico) suggest that the stereotype may be overblown.

Being born and raised here in KY I will make an observation.

The illiteracy rate depends very much on where in Ky you measure it. IMO that is.

In the Appalachians you will find more. In central areas you will find less,illiteracy. Over here in the western part its a mixed bag.

If I go into nearby Missouri or Illinois or Tennessee around the border areas I tend to find the same level of literacy.

Seems kids are really a lot less literate everywhere these days.

IMO one can have intelligence yet being measured by some tests might indicate illiteracy when they are not exactly stupid. They are just smarter in other ways.

Of course when you meet them and see blackened stubs of teeth and lots of snuff(not much of that anymore for some reason) and they reek of ignorance then you might as well dismiss them and go on your way. I find this in say Chicago or St. Louis as much as anywhere.

There was a huge push in education back some years ago here. The administration types ran it into the ground with the trivia and meaningless chittering and policitical aspects of it.

The days of the committed teacher is IMO pretty well over. Today its just a job and one that pays very well and has generous time off.

Here the best paying jobs are in schools. You work very few hours, gets lots of vacation and don't work too hard at that. Its full of nepotism as well.

My daughter is a certified teacher with a degree in Instructional Technology. Fancy name for the job of writing lesson guides. Yet she is hard put to even teach my granddaughter,her child. She was exposed to the material at the University. Thats about the size of it. Just exposed and passed the tests I guess. Or in todays Universities I think its pretty easy to sleepwalk thru it all.

Airdale-I know some here that might be teachers will disagree. I am talking on the average and not specifics but I am sure its all gone way to hell. The clerk at the local store ,none of them are capable of making and counting change. None. The middle aged woman at the hardware store has a huge problem in understanding beyond the level of grunting,yet I am told she did very well in High School. I almost have to chip it out on a rock and pass it to her. Makes one want to weep, just that bad.

PS. I was team ldr in my dept. We hired a new black guy fresh out of college. We were all programmers. So help me this guy foundered on large words. Found out that he could barely write. Had a hard time spelling. Couldn't follow the simplest of instructions. Never coded anything. Never took his suit coat off. Went to lots of meeting that had nothing to do with his job or our dept,,he did it to get 'exposure' since he wanted to go into mgmt. He was later fired for using his office phone for a business he was starting. It took an act of God to fire him. I am not playing the race card here. He graduated from a formerly all black college. I tried to help him but he was basically almost unteachable. Nice guy. Wrong profession.

"Functionally illiterate" would probably be more accurate and credible. Hand them a piece of paper with the words "dog" and "cat" on it, and yeah, they can probably read that. Give them a newspaper to read, and they would really struggle - wouldn't recognize a lot of words, and thus wouldn't be able to really make out what was being said.

Depends on the rewards in your world.

Know a gent who is a gym teacher. He has to sound out the words - says he knows how to read the sport pages just fine. To wash out of the NBA after college he didn't need to know how to read.

Dysfunctional families are a problem. Of course, that is nothing unique to the US - divorce and dysfunction are widespread throughout advanced economies. The overseas elites tend just as much to have smaller families as do Americans. They all have TVs at home that kids can watch, too. On the other hand, though, most other advanced economies provide some form of universal health care and a better safety net for the unemployed; many also provide quite generous maternity leave, and some actually give parents money to help defray the cost of kids. Parenthood in the US is a daunting, frightening prospect; I don't know how many folks handle it, and many in fact don't. It is made quite a bit easier for people in some other countries, the attitude is that the welfare of the nation's children is the nation's business and not just the parent's business, so parents are not left to sink or swim entirely on their own. Thus, I do not accept uncritically the argument that poor US educational performance can be chalked up entirely to poor parenting.

The thing is, though, in many other OECD countries, a smaller proportion of students NEED to go on to college, because they get what they need by the time they graduate. For example, in France, they go 13 years rather than 12, and if you pass your Bac, you are probably at least as knowledgeable, literate, and numerate as the typical state university graduate. They just do a better job with their students while they have them.

No it is not a matter of funding, for in fact the US spends more per capita and per student than most other countries, yet gets poorer results for that money. Quality of teachers is harder to measure; my impression is that teachers in other countries get a lot more respect than they do in the US, I don't know if that might possibly work to attract a better quality of teacher. Our facilities and equipment are generally as good as or better than what most foreign students get, so that's not the problem.

So where's the difference:

-Time: Most overseas students are in school more hours per year than US students. That does matter.

-Focus: Most overseas schools don't go in for sports or all the other non-academic distractions that dominate US schools. The focus is intensely on academic subjects; in their schools, it is all business.

-Tracking: Most other countries are realistic enough to recognize that one size does not fit all, and that many students are not going to be college material. Rather than pay lip service to the fiction that everyone can go to college and succeed at it, they are quicker to identify those who will benefit from a vocation track, and to place them in it. This frees the students left in the academic track from being held back by the underperformance of the slower students.

-Security: Many US schools have become near war zones, and even in the ones that are not that bad, teachers and students must put up time and time again with disruptive students. A huge amount of valuable time is wasted dealing (or not dealing) with these students. My impression is that most other advanced countries simply don't have these problems. Part of that is due to their having a more homogeneous population than we do, and that is a difficult challenge to overcome. We've decided to integrate our schools, and that was the right thing to do. Our problem was in assuming that there would be no problems with that and not having a proactive plan to deal with it. We needed to invest a lot more in school security from the beginning. We also needed to have a national understanding that while every student has a right to be in any classroom regardless of who or what they are, they do not have a right to disrupt learning for everyone else. We have gone too far in the direction of protecting the rights of the individual disruptive student, to the point where the rights of obedient students to receive a non-disurpted education have been trampled upon.

If I had to sum the above list up, I am forced to conclude that the fundamental flaw in the US approach to education is a lack of national seriousness. We give education lots of lip service, but when it really comes down to it, we just are not taking it nearly as seriously as are the countries we are competing against. That is why their students are doing better than are ours.

Dysfunctional families are as old as humanity, not solely a problem of the rich.

You do have a couple of good points in there though: summer breaks without school are bad for non-farm students and lower overall achievement, and there is a built-in assumption that students will go on to post-secondary education of some sort to learn their "real" skills. You'd think after 13 years of education a person would be able to fill an entry level job in their chosen profession without further training (except, of course, in jobs requiring exceptional training).

Children of farming families tend to have more than enough to do to keep hands and minds busy during school breaks, so wouldn't be expected to backslide as badly as urban/suburban students.

No, dysfunctional families within the tribal situation, without abundant cheap energy to waste, would not have survived. Period. Cheap energy has meant, among other things, postponement of the processes of natural selection.

But only postponed, not avoided.

People who cannot function in the absence of vast energy surplus (I have seen quite a few of those) are not the same as dysfunctional families by a long shot.

Failure to operate as a healthy family unit does not preclude operating as a survival unit. I doubt the ancient Greeks had anywhere near the surpluses that the poorest countries in the world today have and they wrote volumes on dysfunctional families in a manner that indicated that it wasn't new to them, either.

True. Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel were not exactly a functional family, and it doesn't go much farther back than that.

dysfunctional you say ? who begat who ?

If I had to sum the above list up, I am forced to conclude that the fundamental flaw in the US approach to education is a lack of national seriousness.

We have no national purpose, and our patriotism is just mob rule for political purposes. And we have the belief that life is easy and we can do what we want and hard work is not required. People don't go into some field because it may be needed by the country (e.g., engineering) or, god forbid, needed by humanity (local agronomy), but because it will make them a lot of money (MBAs, etc.). We all just want lots of money gotten in the easiest way possible (like 10% rises in housing values).

This discussion appears to pre-suppose that the U.S. will recover(?)and that the rise of China as a super power threatens our ability to recover. One of the major problems with the economic discussion is that it leaves out that 60 per cent of our government resources are spent annually on military actions or procurement. This nation cannot recover nor continue to exist if the military is not brought under control. The U.S. is bankrupt morally as well as financially and without a major reduction in the "American Way of Life" there will never be a recovery. Gobal climate change is assured and mitigation would require cooperative actions however, we appear to be caught up in the its not my fault blame game. Party over.

Citation on the 60% ?

I don't doubt you, as I grew up in a 'military industrial complex' family, just looking for reliable statics.

But the question remains. Did the rise in the dominance of finance causes the destruction of the rest of the economy or did it rise as a substitute for an economy that was in decline for other reasons such as foreign competition and resource constraints.

That is the key question.

Gail recently did a TOD article stating that the current financial collapse is due to high FF prices reducing the ability of consumers to pay their bills with the consequence of mortgage defaults and global bank defaults and risk of systemic global financial crash. In my view this thesis is utterly wrong (and if I have recapitualted her this incorrectly please search for the original.)

Your question provides a useful entry point into a more comprehensive understanding. If you look at the start of stalled middle class income growth you trace this back to roughly 1970. Look at the commencement of globalization and you arrive at the same date. The change was due to the first OPEC embargo which resulted in a significant rise in US dollars held overseas - they were called eurodollars.

Starting in the late 1970s you see increasing income inequality in the US, the "hollowing out" of the middle class, an increase in returns to capital and a concentration of wealth in the top 10%. I think you can make the case that this "hollowing out" has continued up to the present.

There was a change in the late 1990's where the only way to maintain returns on capital was to encourage the population to borrow and this increase in credit sparked the boom and demand for all goods and services including FFs. However this growth was based on increasing levels of debt to the point that the debt service cannot be supported and consumption must slow in order to pay for past consumption.

The Roman Empire did not collapse over a period of 24 hours. There were decades of bad decisions and short term thinking that weakened the social structure and made it less resilient. In a sense the final "cause" is immaterial. Roman society structured itself in a way that resulted in it weakening over an extended period of time such that it became prone to final collapse. I believe the same applies to the current financial crises. It is the outcome of a series of bad decisions - US dollar as world reserve currency rather than creating a true "neutral" reserve currency, US loss of energy hegemony, outsourcing of US production to lower cost nations and exporting back to the US, creation of a stateless global elite with little in common with the needs of the ordinary person and little of no concern for the welfare of the ordinary person except as a source of profit.

To really build out the thesis requires a Braudel. But your question is key to an understanding of the current crises.

To a great extent I suspect that long term US decline was inevitable. Nothing lasts forever, especially empires. US "exceptionalism" has been much commented upon, but the truth is that there are no exceptions.

IMHO, we were at a fork in the road in the late '70s. We were starting to get serious about energy conservation and renewables, lots of people were seriously into frugal living, and the US was in retreat around the world. Had we continued down that path, we might very well be a poorer nation today, but we would also be much less dependent upon foreign oil, we probably would have avoided this massive build up of indebtedness, and we wouldn't have a bloated military occupying half the world. In short, we would be much better positioned for the inevitable decline than we are now. We decided to take a different path instead, and now we are seeing where that path led.

So the answer to the question above: yes, financial industry dominance did arise as a substitute for a more sound and solid economy (thus constituting what I call the "funny money economy"), the economy was in decline anyway and inevitably so; however, by relying upon a financially-dominated "funny money economy" as an alternative for embracing the reality of decline and managing it as best as we could, we have guaranteed that decline is now going to be harder and more painful and more catastrophic than it needed to be, and this pain IS the responsibility of financial industry dominance.

who was it that said, "altriuism within groups, competition between groups - all the rest is commentary" ?

I'll see your Francois Braudel and raise you a Friedrich Engels and a Howard Zinn

;) j

I'll see your Engels and Zinn and raise you two Christopher Lasch, a J. L. Talmon, and a Sheldon S. Wolin.

I'm sure we'll both get banned for playing poker on Drumbeat. Its not socially productive like arguing over interpretations of Darwin or the the number of birds that can sit on the end of a windmill #%-)

edit: read parent before replying. disregard.

"Did the rise in the dominance of finance causes the destruction of the rest of the economy or did it rise as a substitute for an economy"

My take on this is --- with all the capital we HAD --- instead of pumping money into a housing bubble, what would happen if we invested in "solar", "wind", etc... -- all the stuffs that we now think we have to have in order to stop this FF madness and GW dragon on our tail. For that end, the financial long-term inefficiency of our capital market destroyed our economy -- it built up this bubble beast that in the end it can't control. Not only that, it ended up costing a huge amount of money NOW when we least can afford.

China has a planned economy -- sure it's a bit more capitalistic than 30 years ago but it's still planned (still it doesn't stop their own housing bubble). For the past many years, they run a nice trade deficit which can be used to re-invest in their country and they really do that. There are metro being build in all cities with population above a few millions -- that is a lot of them. They have a maglev running b/w Shanghai airport and the city. Roads, rails, etc... are being build at a rapid pace. Money spent that will greatly benefit the future -- not society -- but the future. Sure compared to the US now, China is still quite far off -- but arrogance will cost us dearly. I think that the key difference with us in the past 30 years. We expect businesses to do a lot of things but business is myopic -- they only see the next few quarters. CEOs only see an opportunity where they can exercise their options. The last President we have that wanted to do something big was JFK with the space program -- which we get a lot of technology from. IBM & Bell Labs used to be wonderful private companies that had the "future" vision but that "future vision" was sold to the highest bidder.

Yes, I saw it in the FT and clipped it for my wife.

I am in absolute awe of Taleb's brilliance.

To see and say that the emperor has no clothes makes one brilliant in an era when everyone is either blind or has their hands over their eyes.

But Taleb seems to share with mainstream analysts a disregard for the physical side of things. Never mind all the necessary adjustments to capitalism -- the physical realities are not going to allow a resumption of growth.

There was also an excellent interview by Bill Moyers of William Black recently. Black also laid things out very forcefully, very clearly, again from the point of view of an honest and courageous financial cop, but no discussion of physical reality.

But Taleb seems to share with mainstream analysts a disregard for the physical side of things. Never mind all the necessary adjustments to capitalism -- the physical realities are not going to allow a resumption of growth.

I'm not so sure Taleb doesn't fully get peak oil but chooses to stick to his area of expert knowledge in public. In fact a belief in near term PO makes his reforms even more pressing. He wants to make the economy more resilient to flat or negative growth and remove the "self-destruct" built into the system to, at least, give us a chance to move forward without worrying if the ATMs will work the next day.

Yes, everything Taleb advocates holds true even more for a declining economy. We simply cannot afford any more of this monkey business; indeed, we could not afford the monkey business we've already seen.

What our situation is crying out for is managed decline. Cutting out the nonsense is very much a big part of managed decline.

What our situation is crying out for is managed decline. Cutting out the nonsense is very much a big part of managed decline.

Well, that is certainly true. I hope you (both) are right about Taleb.

UK will not recover until 2012

Even with more realistic viewpoints on the depth of the recession/depression there seems to still be an expectation that it will be symmetrical and that we will pull out a quickly as we went in. Nobody seems to be considering that the lack of investment in new oil fields when coupled with the decline in old will significantly limit the available production rate in the next few years.

The expectation should be the world recovery will be sharply curtailed by hard production limits and price spikes. We will 'hit our heads' on the oil question quite soon after the recovery starts and should be considering return to BaU to be a low probability occurrence.

Donkeys live a long time. None of you has seen a dead donkey. (source... for extra points)

We need to go thru the disbelief stage, and get to despair

its easy to wait - all you have to do is stick around

very few people alive today (perhaps no one) have lived thru what we are going thru - we have no frame of reference. as they saying goes - no one has seen this movie

Animal Farm. Do I get air miles ?

Benjamin the donkey in "Animal Farm".

This puts me in mind of Eeyore the Doomer Donkey.


Meanwhile, it appears that car sales in China may have hit an all time record in March, while US auto sales were up by about 25% over February (but still way down year over year).

If total vehicle sales worldwide fall to about 60 million vehicles, from about 72 million in 2007, we would still be looking at about a quarter billion new vehicles worldwide over a four year period.

Do we have the petroleum production capacity to fuel them?

Khebab and I (with Khebab doing doing the heavy math & graphics work) are working on updating our top five paper, with an emphasis on cumulative net oil exports.

First an obvious fact. The top five post-2005 net export fuel gauge was 100% full at the end of 2005, i.e., by definition they had not yet shipped any of their post-2005 cumulative net oil exports.

The 2006 to 2008 net export numbers for the top five are falling between our middle and high cases, which suggests that the top five post-2005 net export fuel gauge will be at half empty some time between 2012 and 2015 (three to six years from now), i.e., our projection is that they will have shipped about half of their post-2005 cumulative net oil exports in the 2012 to 2015 time frame, with the other half being shipped in the following 19 to 24 years.

Will this paper address global decline rate as it occurs with (or because of) no new replacement projects currently in the works?

We are primarily focused on the top five--Saudi Arabia; Russia; Norway; Iran and the UAE--but the slowdown in drilling is certainly a factor which might push future numbers down closer to our middle case.

In any event, in the bottom half of the top 10 we have countries like Mexico and Venezuela showing rapid net export declines, with Mexico, our #3 source of imported oil, probably around zero net oil exports by 2012.

Only if everyone expects not to drive very far. :)

Let's see what the EIA says

Over the next 25 years, world demand for liquids fuels and other petroleum is expected to increase more rapidly in the transportation sector than in any other end-use sector. In the IEO2008 reference case, the transportation share of total liquids consumption increases from 52 percent in 2005 to 58 percent in 2030.

Then later:

In the projections, the transportation sector continues to rely heavily on liquids to meet demand for travel. Total world liquids consumption increased by 35 percent from 2005 to 2030, and the transportation sector accounts for three-fourths of the increase.

If one believes that the EIA is okay at predicting demand, which is all they have been doing historically, and one believes that the supply cannot grow, which is the general belief here at TOD, then the answer is no.

There is lots more information in the report.

Well to be fair its not the gross numbers that are important, its the net addition. Let's say 25,000 new net cars in a year, each travelling 10,000 miles per year and doing 30-35mpg. That's .... about 600 extra barrels per day?

I suggest if 2-5Mbpd has been cut from demand, and replacement decline rate is 4-5Mbpd then, say, halving the new production rate over that planned would eat up the demand reduction just as the economy starts to turn around.

Very Roughly.

It appears that an estimate of 25,000 net new cars might be on the low side.


In 1990, there were approximately 410 million running vehicles in the world with production reaching 35 million per annum.

There are approximately 700 million operational vehicles worldwide (est. 2008)

This is an observed net rate of increase of about 3%/year, which would imply about 21,000,000 net new vehicles per year, but three points: (1) I think that the average age of the US car fleet is going up and (2) The number of cars being scrapped in developing countries relative to new vehicle sales is, I assume, a much lower ratio than in developed countries, because the car fleets in developing countries are so much smaller; (3) The most recent data, for the past five years, might show a sharper net rate of increase.

At a net increase of 5%/year, we would shown a net increase of about 200 million new motor vehicles in five years.

Yep, I mixed my millions and billions in going from your original numbers.

Multiple by 1000 and we get 25m new cars, which is comparable with your 40m number from above.

Thus 600,000 new barrels a day.

Not inconsiderable, but I'd suggest the fall off in development activities is still the dominant force. 7m new bpd down to 3-4m new barrels would bring things less than the replacement level and constrain production down to the depressed demand levels. The new vehicles just compounds it.

I think there's an oil shock due on any global recovery that's not getting factored in.

So we're going to crash in pretty much the same spot we crashed before? (so to speak)

over and over again, in all liklihood.

In image terms, adapting the above graph, its something like this:

with the green line as production capacity falling away as investment doesn't keep up with old field decline. You can argument just how steep that green line fall off is, but the expectation has to be we hit it as a 'cap' before we fully 'recover' from this dip. Quite possibly it kills any chance of recovery with oil price spikes.

This is exactly the argument I make. Effectively there is no real recovery before we enter into a resource constrained depression.

Remember that GDP or economic level and oil usage tend to diverge as the economy worsens. I dub it the McDonalds effect. It takes just as much oil to drive to work at McDonalds and it does to drive to your six figure brokerage job. Also for people that use oil for work like say someone in construction they tend to burn more for less return. Say doing more small jobs and more estimates for a lot lower total return vs more energy than going to one construction project everday. A even better example is the salesman who makes 2-3 times more trips for less sales then previously. The return on your oil investment drops and your oil usage actually climbs.

Overall you get a situation where oil usage may bottom and start climbing even as the economy continues to contract as people chase ever more marginal returns.

This is the UK remember, the US might get 6 months of growth ahead of us but then again its probable that its the massive consumption of the US that causes the supply/demand gap to grow, the price to spike and the next price induced Energy Depression to begin...

The 2012 Olympics might be the last time the UK gets to 'shine' b4 the lights go out...


Reminds me of a song from years ago:

From the back streets theres a rumblin'
Smell of anarchy
No more nice time, bright boy shoe shines
Pie in the sky dreams

Lights out, lights out in London
Hold 'em tight til the end
Better now you know we'll never
Wait 'til tomorrow

Lights out, lights out in London
Hold 'em tight til the end
God knows when I'm comin' on my run

Heaven help those who help themselves
Thats the way it goes
The frightening thoughts of whats been taught
And now it shows

Lights out, lights out in London ...

Nice little Peak Oil anthem eh? The Brits have already been through a collapse of Empire and at least they got some good music out of it. Maybe that's something to look forward to?

Forgive me for stating this, but the 'lights' have been going out in the UK for the past 5 years, by my reckoning. I seem to recall numerous posts that suggested that China would drop off the face of the earth after all of their Olympic spending was over. They haven't done so - at least any more than any other country in the world has.


Still life goes on...

The assumption by the G20 that money printed out of thin air is both necessary and sufficient to return us to a renewed path of global economic growth is deeply flawed. Trillions of dollars in new stimulus money will soon “find their mark” and stampede off looking for something to do. The energy to support all this money does not exist, at least if the independent efforts of three diverse institutions that have studied the data are to be trusted (and I do because their conclusions are so similar).

The combination of rapid declines in existing fields and a collapse in oil field investment means that it is extremely unlikely that we’ll have enough oil to return the globe to robust growth.

While it is possible that we’ll close some of the energy gap with efficiency measures, a decade or more of lead-time sits between the development of more efficient technologies and their full market penetration, which means that efficiency is unlikely to play anything other than a bit part in this developing drama.

Any plan to stimulate growth that does not take this energy reality into account is highly suspect and is probably flawed. Why this most obvious of all connections is not being openly discussed will be for future historians to dissect. For now, it is up to each of us to define for ourselves how much importance we place in this line of thinking.

When a major discussion is in order, it is necessary to gather your experts. I believe it was Julian Simon who won the bet, not Matt. CERA is Northeast solid and a good one to get. Please do not disturb the sleeping giant. For every hero of TOD there are a couple other experts who say; "no sweat, 10 or 20 years from now if it ever happens". Reality right now is that gas is affordable to most and much better than last summer. With things getting better, why worry? Only when Peak Oil, Global Warming, NPK shortage, or other commodity reality bites hard will anyone in or out of government pay any attention. I am a confessed Doomer because I believe by then it will be too late.

Lynford, It was Chuck Colsen of watergate fame, who maintained a plaque on his wall that said " when you've got em by the balls their hearts and minds will follow". I am in the doomer camp like you and believe that should say " only after you"ve got em by the balls will their hearts and minds follow" and then it, of course, will be too late.

To recap:

AA posts larger than expected losses, $.61 v $.44,

and futures are in the green.

Alcoa’s actions are “already beginning to bear fruit”
but still losing more "fruit" than expected.

"Alcoa will raise about $2.5 billion this year in proceeds from the sale of its interest in Rio Tinto to Aluminum Corp. of China and an offering of stock and convertible bonds.

Alcoa will use proceeds from the offerings to pay down debt drawn from a one-year revolving credit line and to cover “general corporate expenses,” the company said March 16.

“Investors want to see evidence that the $2 billion-plus is enough for the company to live off in these market conditions,” BMO’s Robson said.



Real-Time: 8.06 Up 0.27 (3.47%) 9:48AM ET

So the more AA loses the higher the stock goes.

Spies! Now in the electrical grid! Oh Noes!


WASHINGTON -- Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

(insert comments about SCADA and about how a cyber czar/president with the power to shut down the internet is gonna work better and solve all our problems here.)

Plenty of reasons to leave the grid, this being one among many. I look at it this way, when my power goes out, I have nobody to blame for myself, but it also means that I can be back online in a short period of time if I'm properly prepared. (Always have backup systems.)

Speaking of being off-grid, obtaining a Amateur Radio and getting anyone you care to communicate with to have one would be a good idea. Case in point:
Ice storm here knocked out power to a lot of areas, and eventually the backup generators at many cellphone towers ran out of diesel, thus eventually making it to where my cell phone would not work, and I was unable to reach any person via telephone. Fortunately I was able to communicate over the internet, which was through a different cell phone provider. So, a HAM radio is on my to-buy list for this half of 2009.

~Durandal (http://www.durandalnet.com)

Our system is so designed on creating unnatural dependencies. I'm happy to be on the grid, and buy and sell (someday) power with others, but it should be an option, not a perpetual lifeline. Our Homes are all hitched up like patients on life-support, hoping we don't get unplugged by some arcane court-order.. well some are hoping they DO get unplugged, too.

I'm keeping an eye out for the chance to get some Ham gear, as well. So far, CB is all I've assembled. But I just got the bad news about our taxes this year, so job #1 is stop digging, start climbing. (and stop blogging so much.. see ya!)


My local utility. kcp&l called us yesterday asking if we would like a whole house ups installed at the demarcation point between our house wiring and their wiring in the neighborhood. I am tempted to say yes.

Sounds like an interesting concept. How many kW will the UPS provide and what kWhr storage is included? Are they going to use the system to load level, i.e., cut your connection during peak demand periods, perhaps during those few very warm days of peak AC demand using a smart grid connection? Will you pay less for the electricity you use which was generated off peak but consumed during the daily peak? Finally, what's your cost going to be and is that cost to be spread over the lifetime of the system, say, 20 years?

E. Swanson

I wish my utility would call me about this. I have been thinking about installing some sort of UPS anyway, and have collected several large server UPSes that were going to be scrapped at work. Now I am thinking something like this, though maybe with NiFe batteries in place of the Lead Acid bats they have installed by default.


Everett, Northern Tool never says what the actual WH capacity is. The way they state the specs. you could easily be fooled into thinking it's much higher than it is.


Nevermind. Leanan's back.

I gather a bigger increase was expected.

Cushing is down 900'000 barrels.

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending Apri 3, 2009

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged nearly 14.3 million barrels per day during the week ending April 3, up 129 thousand barrels per day from the previous week's average. Refineries operated at 81.8 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased last week, averaging nearly 9.0 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production increased last week, averaging 3.9 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 9.3 million barrels per day last week, down 222 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged about 9.4 million barrels per day, 243 thousand barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 1.0 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 161 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased 1.7 million barrels from the previous week. At 361.1 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased 0.6 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and gasoline blending components inventories rose last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 3.4 million barrels, and are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased last week by 1.3 million barrels and are above the upper limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 2.9 million barrels last week and are above the upper limit of average range for this time of year.

[Edited for factual accuracy as the numbers I'm seeing for January now don't match the figure I thought I noticed previously in PSM.]

I notice product supplied for "finished motor gasoline" is still effectively flat. Latest revisons just came out for January in Petroleum Supply Monthly. Down 1.5% on last year (weekly report said -0.5). That suggests that the current weekly figures are still out but not as much as before when it comes to product supplied.

Total Product Supplied in January has been revised down to -5% ; weekly report said -2.8%

Total Exports for January revised up from 1.5 million barrels/day to 1.9 million barrels/day. So the source of the error still appears to be the weekly supply model considerably underestimating the very high levels (historically) of US exports.

Another oddity. US Crude production has been revised upwards for January from 5062 kb/d to 5246 kb/d

Oil rises above $51 on EIA supply data

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil swung to above $51 a barrel on Wednesday after data from the U.S. Department of Energy showed fewer crude imports and more refinery efficiency in the past week.

The Energy Information Agency (EIA) said inventories of crude rose 1.7 million barrels to 361.1 million barrels in the week ended April 3. Analysts had forecast a build of 1.9 million barrels.

Interestingly this week's reported build in US crude inventories is 1.7 million barrels. The weekly production increase in US crude over last year is 2.2 million barrels according to the weekly report.

Now that Thunderhorse and friends are finally online and producing. It will be interesting to see what happens as these platforms are periodically shut down during hurricane season each year.

Now that we have significant production in deepwater GOM we have a new dynamic of potentially very erratic shifts in production annually during hurricanes. At the minimum this adds a bit of volatility to the oil markets. This is of course on top of the normal GOM/Hurricane situation.

Given Mexico is gearing up to be able to enter into deep water GOM production as we go forward we will see a ever increasing precentage of oil production coming from a hurricane prone region.

I'm guessing that the US SPR will have to work as a ballast if you will for this production however if they open the SPR every year to cover for hurricane problems and we really are post peak they will have the problem of refilling the SPR later as the delayed production from the GOM is just that delayed and effectively enters the market years in the future.

If this cycle of SPR releases and filling really gears up it would act as a strong floor on prices as we are forced to fill the SPR once domestic production is brought back online negating any price control.

So from a price standpoint strategic and other storage expansions act on average to remove seasonal demand variations and force demand consistently high. They really are just trading price spikes for overall high prices.

Now whats really interesting is that if instead we had a real price spike and shortages then demand would drop for real. I.e temporary outages would induce true demand destruction over a brief time. We actually had this in 2008 as supply shortage developed. This is a good thing and better than balancing agianst storage. In the long run since large storage levels prevent spikes they also have the effect of ensuring that future supply remains strained.

Interesting in my opinion. This shows how attempting to hoard in the face of intrinsic shortages does not really do a lot of good. For a price it prevents outright shortages but it pushes ever more strain on future supplies.

My jaw dropped as I read this one, but I really shouldn't be surprised. We should expect this as the government runs more and more of our economy.
Pulp Nonfiction

Thanks to an obscure tax provision, the United States government stands to pay out as much as $8 billion this year to the ten largest paper companies. And get this: even though the money comes from a transportation bill whose manifest intent was to reduce dependence on fossil fuel, paper mills are adding diesel fuel to a process that requires none in order to qualify for the tax credit. In other words, we are paying the industry--handsomely--to use more fossil fuel. "Which is," as a Goldman Sachs report archly noted, the "opposite of what lawmakers likely had in mind when the tax credit was established."

That makes perfect sense in our toxic culture.

As Greenspan said in 2001/2, "They're gaming the System !!!"

Of course, Greenspan (may he have a soul and may It reside in Hades for eternity) then poured on more "credit" so "they" could game the system even more.

Bend over america...

when i was a kid i saw the old "war of the worlds" with gene barry.
scared the carp out me. my favorite scene is when gene barry drives his truck full of scientific instruments into a mob. they pull him out and climb aboard. one fellow with a suitcase tries to get on. a tough guy is pushing him off. the suitcase says he has lots of money. the tough sez,"havent you heard? money aint any good no more!". the tough guy punches suitcase in the nose and tosses him over. the camera pans suitcase gathering his strewn money.
another movie a japanese anime, "fist of the north star". shows some people walking through a waste land. brutal thugs buried in the sand
jump up and savagely murder everyone. the thugs rummage the belongings tossing aside siutcases of money, gold and jewels. the main thug speaks to the other thugs, "see! i told you they would have food and water." mad max in "thunderdome". he visits bartertown. i could go on and one. almost every blockbuster high gross movie in the past 60 years has a mime or meme of the destruction of the usa. our death wish is devious. "zardoz" is the most accurate. a minority of elite immortals in control of advance technology wall themselves off from the masses who live short violent dirty lives.
in the "star trak" universe we are the borg, the ultimate consumers.
the collapse that TODers long for will be chaotic. those who think they are the chosen ones will find out they are not. no one gets out of here alive. NO ONE! the gun is good because it shoots forth death and rids the earth of a plague of men.

China’s Grand Plans for Eco-Cities Now Lie Abandoned

Not only in China. As soon as construction has only begun problems show up in Masdar, Abu Dhabi, where a zero CO2 city is planned.

It looks like the energy supply of the future city is not properly planned, now requiring either more space for solar collectors outside the (walled) district, or even the import of more trash from outside to feed the waste-to-energy facility.
Development in Masdar is also said to have been hit by the financial crisis. And critical voices are becoming louder, asking whether spending such large amounts of money ($15 billion) is justified for an eco-city of 50.000 residents which can hardly serve as a model for existing cities in the world.

There is a German report about it in DIE ZEIT.

On a related note, Good magazine has photo montage of livable streets, and it made the front page of Digg. Looks cool, but all that construction looks expensive: lots of bollards, landscaping, raised medians, and textured crosswalk paving.


"BONN, Germany (Reuters) - United Nations climate talks threaten Saudi Arabia's economic survival and the kingdom wants support for any shift from fossil fuels to other energy sources such as solar power, its lead climate negotiator said."

And you all know, your elected government criminals, are stupid enough to pay them for using up all their oil.

We are DOOMED....take to the trees.

the kingdom wants support for any shift from fossil fuels to other energy sources

Paying KSA $58 for something that only cost $2 to produce sounds like a pretty equitable subsidy to me.

Sounds like the KSA is practically admitting that they are the first ones on the gangplank, before us.

At least we've still got trees..

Re: An End to Dependence on Middle East Oil

The "news" article linked above provides links to an up coming meeting on "Reforming American Energy" to be held 21 April in Washington. It looks like lots of TPTB will attend. On reading the
meeting agenda,
it's a bit difficult to discern the focus of the meeting, in spite of the fact the keynote speakers are both well known Repugs. I think that any TODers in the neighborhood might be interested in attending. Registration cost appears to be a rather reasonable $95.

E. Swanson

According to Homer-Dixon, many of Canada’s ecological systems are simply too complex to be managed precisely

Hmm. Canada's forests are too complex to be managed but the Obama administration has all the knowledge needed to regulate the biosphere by launching dust into the upper atmosphere. I never realized that a sub-assembly could evidence greater complexity than the complete unit. Simplicity increases with increasing integration of complex parts. Interesting concept.

Perhaps I read incorrectly and the Obama adminstration is planning to launch Summers, Rubin, and Bernanke into low earth orbit supported by parasols. That would solve at least one problem.

I think the article did say "pollutants" - do Summers, et al. qualify as pollutants? ;-)

From Denniger by way of several other sources we find that there are two Senate Bills that could in the future directly affect TOD and related sites. I'm a security professional and despise the idea that what I'm doing is illegal. But that's what these bill's seek to accomplish with licensing. Making my profession illegal.

I see this as being one of the first steps toward controlling the only newsource the oligarchy doesn't control - the blogsphere.

How? By allowing any entity the sole ability to determine what constitutes a threat to national security and giving them the power to remidiate that threat we give them the power to shutdown blogs which are critical of the processes of government.

TOD is probably squarely within the crosshairs of the intent of these bills.


"A pair of bills introduced in the U.S. Senate would grant the White House sweeping new powers to access private online data, regulate the cybersecurity industry and even shut down Internet traffic during a declared "cyber emergency."

Senate bills No. 773 and 778, introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., are both part of what's being called the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, which would create a new Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor, reportable directly to the president and charged with defending the country from cyber attack."

From pages 21 and 22 of the Senate Bills we may have to be ***licensed*** and certified.


20 (a) IN GENERAL.—Within 1 year after the date of
21 enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Commerce shall
22 develop or coordinate and integrate a national licensing,
23 certification, and periodic recertification program for cy-
24 bersecurity professionals.

(b) MANDATORY LICENSING.—Beginning 3 years
2 after the date of enactment of this Act, it shall be unlawful
3 for any individual to engage in business in the United
4 States, or to be employed in the United States, as a pro
5 vider of cybersecurity services to any Federal agency or
6 an information system or network designated by the Presi
7 dent, or the President’s designee, as a critical infrastruc
8 ture information system or network, who is not licensed
9 and certified under the program

I hope I'm wrong.

I miss the good old days when we could blame Dick Cheney for stuff like this-at least the guy looked the part of Dr. Evil. This new guy is way too smooth.

Roger that Brian:

As time goes on most will realize the answer to difficult questions; "Bush Lied" will have less and less impact. Of course for some; Republicans ("Repugs") are left to blame but to little avail with Timmy et al running the show. It might as well be Larry, Moe and Curly.

I'm a confessed Doomer and I have seen nothing yet to change my mind.

BTW: Yesterday, I worked a few wheelbarrels full of sheep NPK into our sandy soil. About a ton and a half to go. Toto will be proud. What have you done to mitigate your future p-poor condition when the grid goes down?

I'm not that much of a Doomer-IMO the North American electricity grid will stay more or less intact for quite a while. My assumption is that the grifters running the show realize a functioning electrical grid is far more important than most things taxpayers money is wasted on (important to their needs also).

Hello Lynford,

Kudos on the wheelbarrows of O-NPK!

The recent G20 protestors disappointed me with their ill-planned actions; marching on asphalt accomplishes nothing compared to what they could have done if they just used some simple asymmetric strategies:

Try to imagine protestors duplicating this photo:

massive numbers with wheelbarrows moving dirt

1. They could have arranged a giant, multi-thousand 'flash-mob' to meet at a golf course to instantly transform it into a community veggie plot. Imagine what a few tractors w/disc harrows, a multi-dozen chainsaws, a few wood-chipping machines, and thousands of wheelbarrows bearing pitchforks, shovels, seeds & seedlings, plus other hand tools could have done with just a few hours of work.

Imagine if these thousands of protesters had pre-stored up jugs of urine and also brought bags of leaves, humanure, kitchen compostable-residue, etc. They could have instantly made huge multi-ton compost pits with the added wood-chips, and hacked-up non-edible bushes from the golf course.

2. They could have also had a flash-mob attack on the clay tennis courts of Wimbledon: mix lots of O-NPK with the clay, then planted lots of suitable veggies. Fill each seat in the stadiums with a lovely pot or planter full of flowers or various veggies. Jackhammer and/or pickaxe the parking lot for access to more land for instant topsoil enrichment or for composting pits. Some outer fenced, practice tennis courts could have been instantly filled with chicken coops or rabbit dens, plus a clubhouse gutted, then filled with a year's supply of donated feed.

3. They could have attacked a pre-scouted, structural steel suitable, empty big-box warehouse/store to carry off the miles of steel to quickly lay down a SpiderWebRiding Network on this converted golf course, then start building various cargo and passenger versions of this railbike:


The trees trunks [cut down from the golf course], plus lumber recycled from the big box store could have provided tens of thousands of railroad ties for a narrow gauge track.

4. Attack a closed car-dealership, then convert it into a free, solar-powered, community bath/laundry facility for the homeless. The protestors could bring tens of thousands of glass bottles, then hook them together to heat the water like the previous TOD posting of what a poor chinese peasant did to heat his house's water supply.

The abandoned car service bays could be filled with tooling suitable for recycling and/or reusing various items [building more SpiderBikes and Track?], plus provide later food bank storage for the harvested veggies and livestock from the golf course and tennis courts. In sum effect: the former dealership would be turned into a community focal point and food market.

5. Attack the playing fields of an elite private school for the rich [Eton? Cambridge?] Convert the soccer & cricket fields, plus the asphalt parking lots into veggie plots or animal pasturage. Turn the swimming pools into catfish ponds.

All it takes is some careful pre-planning to accomplish these objectives--strategically and tactically this is much more effective for Optimal Overshoot Decline than mindless anarchy.

I am sure us TODers could come up with other asymmetric protest ideas that directly help the common man while at the same time directly hurt the exclusive leisure activities enjoyed by TPTB's Iron Triangle.

The Masters Tournament is getting underway down in Augusta, Georgia this week. Recall my earlier postings on how many golf courses are now in dire financial problems.

I am not getting my hopes up, but it would be utterly fascinating to me if some kind of flash-mob activity occurred. It could be something as simple as protestors merely chanting over and over, "Master Golfers should be Master Gardeners" while exosomatically circling the grounds like this chap:


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

When I first started reading this post, I thought you were going to say that they should have brought wheelbarrows loaded with dirt, urine, feces, and other fertilizer to downtown London and dumped all this into the streets. After this was accomplished, they would use the appropriate tools, including some commandered backhows and plows to form all this into a beautiful downtown garden covering up what were previously some of the major streets of London. This could be turned into the ultimate farmer's market, one where the transportation costs of the local produce produced were virtually zero.

It may or may not be a problem. Mandatory licensing is only for providers of cybersecurity services to "any Federal agency or an information system or network designated by the President, or the President’s designee, as a critical infrastructure information system or network". Critical Infrastructure is a buzzword that could bring private networks under federal jurisdiction, but I doubt that would extend down to GAIS Host Collective (TOD's web host).

The licensing and certification could be something as basic as a CISSP or it could be much more. It's all up to the Commerce Dept. Depending on how wide they draw the net that includes cybersecurity professionals, I doubt they could expect an extensive certification for entry level positions like the Level 1 NOC agents watching alerts.

Critical Infrastructure is a buzzword that could bring private networks under federal jurisdiction, but I doubt that would extend down to GAIS Host Collective (TOD's web host).

It could be anyone they want to to define as critical infrastructure. Anyway the EFF is against it. I hope there are changes to the law before it becomes law.

My only concern with these bills at this time is with the *licensing* of professionals working in the infosecurity realm.

To me it chills free speech and it probably kills telling the truth. It means that a licensed security professional working in whatever a "critical infrastructure" is will not be open to detailing risks and infractions to their employer or government licensing authority if they fear they will loose their license. No whistle blowing will occur.

Certification is justified. Licensing isn't. To me that demonstrates intent to *regulate* a profession where no regulation is needed. The employer does that bit of the business, not the government. This one-step-beyond certification is what causes me to put my tinfoil hat on. It makes me suspicious of the intent.

"It makes me suspicious of the intent."

Think deeply of this and then answer your own question. I bought a toilet Monday and the Federal Government decreed how much water could be used per flush!

Chills free speech? Well, are you really free if you're posting behind a pseudonym because you are already afraid? Perhaps you're using a pseudonym for other reasons, I'm not judging, just pointing out a possibility.

If it comes to the point where I can't tell the truth in my career, then the system is so broken I should no longer be supporting it anyway.

Eric Hacker, CISSP

ps. I was born with and stand out with my aptronym. ;)

And then there is this: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677#30096316

About Obama's DOJ position on warrantless wiretapping.

I really like Jonathan Turley in general and in the follow-up segment.



One year? Three years? That doesn't give the cyber-naughties too much time to figure out workarounds.

Some random food-related news...

Robot gardener plants, tends and harvests

Fruit and veggies without the fuss are the promise of a new robot being developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The robot could someday plant, tend and harvest your garden for you.

Distance from grocery store determines weight: Study

VICTORIA — Want to lose weight? Move closer to a grocery store.

A new study from the University of British Columbia shows people who live within a kilometre of a grocery store are half as likely to be overweight, compared to those living in neighbourhoods without grocery stores.

The study shows that old-style urban planning that mixes retail with residential zones gets people out of their cars, onto the sidewalks, and helps them keep their weight down.

And if one grocery store is good, two or more is even better, the report released Monday showed.

Researchers found that every additional store within a kilometre translated into an 11 per cent reduction in the likelihood of being overweight.

Lady chimps will mate for meat

A savory meat dinner goes a long way, as in all the way, in the chimp world, according to a new study that found wild male chimpanzees exchange meat for sex with females on a long-term basis.

It's also suspected the same holds true for hunter-gatherer humans, since earlier studies show better hunters tend to have more sexual partners. Females of both primate species benefit by receiving better nutrition, especially during depleting fertile periods, so they may be driving the relationship between reproductive success and good male hunting skills.

The RV capital of the world is hurting...and trying to figure out how to diversify.

One notion that seemed whimsical at first — to convert former RV factories into fish farms raising tilapia — is gaining some traction.

“Everybody laughed and thought it was a crazy idea,” recounted Mike Yoder, an Elkhart County commissioner and dairy farmer. “It does diversify our economy a bit because it gets us into a food economy, and it actually makes some nice connections regionally. And we’ve really struggled with developing a regional economic development plan, so maybe something like this can help.”

If I were an RV manufacturer in Elkhart, I would be actively working on developing a module sized to just fit through a standard 1-car garage door, a module that could quickly and inexpensively convert that garage into a code-compliant accessory apartment. Not every zoning code allows such accessory apartments, but a great many do. There must be lots of people out there that would like to take in a renter so that they could afford to stay in their house, but just don't have the space. What I am talking about could get them into the rental business very quickly. Just get the necessary approvals, get the water, sewer, electric, and telecom services out to the garage, take delivery on the module, slide it in, make the connections, and it is ready to rent.

They also need to be talking to FEMA about building and pre-positioning temporary housing for the next disasters - something without the quality and environmental problems of the post-Katrina junk.

One of my colleagues built a house by first building the garage, and putting a trailer home inside it.

He couldn't afford to build the entire house (due to minimum size requirements meant to exclude trailers). So he built the garage, with running water and electricity, and hid the trailer inside. It took him three years to save up enough money to build the rest of the house. His family lived in the secret trailer all that time.

He does a lot of work now in the affordable housing field. He thinks those minimum size requirements are a serious barrier to affordable housing.

He thinks those minimum size requirements are a serious barrier to affordable housing.

You bet it is. AKA "snob zoning".

It is quite common for zoning codes to allow accessory apartments, though. They are otherwise known as "mother-in-law" apartments, and that is a clue as to why they are allowed: too many movers-and-shakers and well-to-do people in town that have to take in mom-in-law, but don't want her under the same roof if they can avoid it. They also make good servant's quarters for full-time live-in help.

The good news is that there is no minimum income or wealth test for accessory apartments; either they are permitted or they are not, and if they are, anyone can have them. This is why I think that it is an explosion of accessory apartments that we are going to be seeing first. Micro-houses might come later, once the economy has declined far enough that there are very few snobs left, and no money for zoning enforcement. Accessory apartments are something that people can do right now, and the rental income that they can bring in can result in a pretty quick payback period for the construction costs, especially if an existing building like a garage is remodeled.

Give it a small generator / motor and some battery capacity and it also becomes a plug in hybrid / backup batteries & generator.

There are five grocery stores/places to buy food within 7 blocks of me (two are full service enough to have a deli). However, despite quite a bit of walking, I still have over 20 (+ ?) lbs I could do without.

The concept of health food is still stuck on a sandbar somewhere up the Mississippi river.


US Oil Output Down Last Week: Noise or the beginning of a new trend?

See these details from the weekly EIA report at:


This won't cause any major supply crunch in the near-term, but is important for us to monitor for the medium term...



The United States has been in a long term decline in total oil production. This is not a 'new trend' by any stretch of the imagination.


Production increases...now those are a new trend.

Interesting article about the modern American Revolution-kill your family, your friends, then yourself http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/07/AR200904...

Hello BrianT,

IMO, this is just the expected genetic assertion of Hans Selye's General Adaption Syndrome [GAS]. I expect to see mind-boggling global numbers of these sad occurrences going postPeak forward. Fits nicely with Foundation predictive collapse and directed decline for Optimal Overshoot Decline. My feeble two cents..

Word is FOX is planning a reality show around this called DUCK-HE'S GOT A GUN but it isn't ready yet so this is their hot one http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090408/ap_on_bi_ge/tv_fox_layoff_show

...that would free up an awful lot of global oil supply...

McKibben is right that renewables should be fast-tracked, and that some environmentalists don't get it. Yet he himself mentions plug-in vehicles while ignoring walkable communities and mass transit. Does McKibben get it?

I'll just take that question as a rhetorical setup. McKibben doesn't ignore those points at all if you've heard much of his commentary. Hearing the views in this article, it seems to me that those things he failed to mention aren't off his radar, just that they are obvious enough that he feels he's mentioned them too often by now..

but in the spirit (and letter) of 'Trust, but verify'...


Americans are not very satisfied with their lives, and the loss of community is part of that.

Q: You wrote about those problems in your book Deep Economy.

McKibben: That was an essay about my hope for the emergence of a more localized economy. Now, it’s happened, or begun to happen, with amazing speed. We’re flying less and driving less. The only houses holding most of their value during this economic downturn are in the city or along the transit lines or in the walkable suburbs. All of a sudden, the fifty-year American dream of building a bigger house away from people is turning into a nightmare. SUVs have gone from being objects of desire to expensive planters.

I know that McKibben emphasizes those pieces elsewhere, but I disappointed by his exclusively production-side emphasis in this piece, and I speak as someone who adores nearly everything McKibben has written, I've had him over to my house and gone out for drinks with him.

Environmentalists too easily fall into something close to the green equivalent of Dick Cheney--they get so excited about production that they nearly lose sight of the central importance of massive conservation and downscaling that will be necessary to come anywhere close to the goals for reducing GHGs.

Also, stupid wasteful projects are not going to help us get where we need to be. Often these are proposed by corrupt business types looking for a fast buck, don't give a damn about actual GHG reduction, and are perfectly happy to trample rights of those that their projects might affect.

This brings up another problem with the much mainstream environmentalism--it doesn't tend to challenge the basic power structures that have largely created this catastrophe and that continue to make short-term profits from it. Andrew Simms, who also has an article on the thread, is a notable exception to this tendency. His book Ecological Debt is a must read for anyone who wants a historical insight into the actual power relations that brought us to this sorry state.

There is probably too much embedded energy, money and power in the urban sprawl that we find across the country. It will not be given up so easily.


It is my opinion that serial hybrids are a more practical step in transportation needs than full electric vehicles. There were many 'vehicles' that got the equivalent of 150 mpg in the 60s using such technology. My father used to work on many, and he talks about them quite often. Its ironic that GM is touting their Volt as new technology.

Obama looking at cooling air to fight warming

The president's new science adviser ........

His concern is that the United States and other nations won't slow global warming fast enough and that several "tipping points" could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of "really intolerable consequences," he said.

Twice in a half-hour interview, Holdren compared global warming to being "in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog."


"in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog."

I can handle that. It's trying to survive on this blue marble with two metling polar ice caps that's going to hurt.

South East Florida - a foot short of rainfall already in 2009.


There is a drying wind blowing here in California ... it doesn't look good.

Climate change has definitely come to Hawaii. Coolest and wettest winter in anyones memory. Not colder than ever before and not more rain than ever before, just consistently cool, high 50's low 60's in the morning, and rain showers every day for the last three months. I know , I know, Not looking for sympathy, it is just an interesting change.

The monsoon season started here in Bangkok about a week ago. Up till then, it was the hottest March anyone can remember. Rains every day now, at least once, followed by a nice sauna effect as the sum turns the water on the streets to steam. The good news is the air is cleaner and Songkran water festival starts tomorrow [unofficially]. :)

Shouldn't Santa Ana season be over?

Los Angeles is smack in the middle of what I've been calling yo-yo season - bounces from hot to cold every few days, just so you never know what to wear. Impossible weather to get comfortable with. Seems to last longer every year. Real interesting to garden for, too.

The most amazing of the many amazing items provided to us by the wondrous Leannan to me was the Simms piece (Eoclogical Debt... near the beginning). He is one of the clearest thinkers on our current situation and writes a good article here. But what is really shocking is how many of the respondents totally agree or even think he is down playing the gravity of the situation. Of course there are the requisite denialists (as there will doubtless be here), but the number of people that "get it" seems to be increasing, based on these responses, at least.