Drumbeat: April 14, 2009

Energy Executive On the End of Oil: 'We Have to Save, Save, Save'

The world could run out of oil in 20 years. This grim scenario is not the prediction of environmentalists, but of Michel Mallet, the general manager of French energy giant Total's German operations. In an interview, Mallet calls for radical reduction of gas consumption and a tax on aviation fuel.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is it even possible to increase oil production anymore?

Mallet: About 87 million barrels a day are produced worldwide. In the past, it was believed that this number could be increased to 130 million. I consider that an illusion. Realistically, the capacity is less than 105 million barrels.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: It sounds like the peak oil theory, which isn't very popular among your competitors. It holds that maximum production will be reached soon.

Mallet: The old oil fields are dying. In the future, we will have to invest more and more just to maintain existing production.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is the age of oil coming to an end?

Mallet: No, not really. There is plenty of oil, geologically speaking. The question is just how much can be produced a year.

Crude oil falls to $49 a barrel

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Oil prices slid below $50 a barrel Tuesday, as stock markets lost ground on signs the economic recovery may not be as close as some thought.

Oil Refining Margins Are 44% Lower Than Last Year, BP Data Show

(Bloomberg) -- Profits from turning a barrel of crude into oil products are 44 percent below the second quarter last year amid waning demand for fuel, according to BP Plc data.

BP’s Global Indicator Margin, a broad measure of refining profitability, averaged $4.60 a barrel so far this quarter up to April 8, compared with $8.25 in the year-ago period, and $6.20 in the first quarter of this year, Europe’s second-biggest oil company said on its Web site today.

Argentina Investigating ‘Unusual’ Merrill Lynch Stock Trades

(Bloomberg) -- Argentina’s securities regulator is investigating a Merrill Lynch & Co. brokerage for “unusual” sales of Transportadora de Gas del Norte SA shares less than two weeks before the pipeline operator defaulted on its debt.

Gazprom boss courts Libya

A high-ranking delegation from Russian gas giant Gazprom arrived today in Libya to discuss cooperation in the oil and gas sector.

Gazprom chief Alexei Miller led the delegation to visit with Libya's state-run National Oil Corporation Chairman Shukri Mohamed Ghanem as part of an effort to expand the gas giant's market base, the company said in a news release.

BP, Oil Stocks May Need ‘Mega Mergers’ to Advance: Chart of Day

(Bloomberg) -- “Only mergers between peers” may lift shares of the world’s largest oil companies any time soon, according to Fadel Gheit, Oppenheimer & Co.’s managing director of oil and gas research.

Pemex to Build New Refinery in Hidalgo State, El Universal Says

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil producer, plans to build its new refinery in Tula, in the state of Hidalgo, El Universal reported.

Retail sales tumble unexpectedly in March

WASHINGTON - Retail sales fell unexpectedly in March, delivering a setback to hopes that the economy's steep slide could be bottoming out.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that retail sales dipped 1.1 percent in March. It was the biggest decline in three months and a much weaker showing than the 0.3 percent increase that analysts expected.

A big drop in auto sales led the overall slump in demand. Sales also plunged at clothing stores, appliance outlets and furniture stores.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported that wholesale prices plunged 1.2 percent in March as the cost of gasoline, other energy products and food fell sharply.

Gas prices fell 13.1 percent, the steepest drop since December, while food costs dipped 0.7 percent. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the Producer Price Index was unchanged, below analysts' forecasts of a 0.1 percent rise.

Recovery in GDP seen delayed to October :EIA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economy is expected to take an additional three months before it starts to recover this October, the federal Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday in its revised forecast.

U.S. real gross domestic product is expected to continue declining until the third quarter, when monthly GDP is forecast to start increasing in October, the EIA said. That is three months longer than agency said in its March forecast, when it estimated GPD would begin increasing in July.

There will also be a longer lag in an improvement in the employment picture.

Oil vessel fire delays Apache offshore production

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Initial oil production from Apache Corp's (APA.N) Van Gogh field off Western Australia will be delayed due to a fire that damaged a production vessel in Singapore, the exploration company said on Tuesday.

A revised schedule for commencing production will be developed after the extent of the damage to the vessel is determined, it said. Acquisition and installation of new equipment is expected to take several months, it said.

A Nice Place to Stand and Wait for a Bus That Might Stop Coming

Two bus shelters on Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn — one at Ocean Parkway, the other at East Fifth Street — were replaced this week with shiny new steel-and-glass structures that can keep passengers on the B23 bus line dry on rainy days and unmussed on windy ones.

But the B23 is one of six bus lines in Brooklyn that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it will eliminate unless it gets a financial lifeline from the State Legislature.

Stimulus puts rail, transit plans on good route

As Brooks wrote, there is a real danger that the Obama infrastructure plan "will retard innovation and entrench the past." The existing power grid, roads and bridges, school buildings and sewage and water treatment facilities need refurbishment. If refurbished, where is the change?

Yet, the $787 billion Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act or stimulus package has more promise than I expected when it comes to fostering change.

The great electric car race

High oil prices, green regs, and better batteries are behind the mad dash to create the ultimate electric automobile. So far, Asian manufacturers are leaving U.S. rivals in the dust.

UK: Are eco-towns a good idea? Join the big debate

As the Government announced it would consider plans for eco-towns put forward by local authorities, forty-five councils have already come forward with plans for new homes and jobs to respond to serious housing pressures in their areas, and some authorities are also looking at plans for 'new settlements'. Ministers are now considering such plans within the Growth Points scheme, insisting on proposals for zero- or low carbon developments which make the best use of brownfield land.

OPEC Cuts Thwarted as Brazil, Russia Grab U.S. Market

(Bloomberg) -- As OPEC nations make their biggest oil production cuts on record, Brazil, Russia and the U.S. are pumping more, threatening to send crude back below $50 a barrel as demand slows.

U.S. imports from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries fell 818,000 barrels a day, or 14 percent, to 5.02 million in January from a year earlier, according to the latest monthly report from the Energy Department. At the same time, imports from Brazil more than doubled to 397,000 and Russia’s increased almost 10-fold to 157,000, a trend that continued in February and March, according to data from each country.

Interview with Matt Simmons, Part 2

Question: What are the big differences between the demand drops post-1978 and today?

Simmons: They’re as comparable as the Crimean War and the Vietnam War. I recently heard Leo Drollas and Ed Morse presentations in which they lamented that “we should have learned from 1979 that high oil prices kill demand: they always have, they always will.” I have told people over the last few months that today has no earthly resemblance to what happened in 1979. When oil prices were still rising in 1979, the world was seriously rolling out the only new form of energy in the 20th Century—atomic energy.

Aramco delays Ras Tanura refinery expansion-sources

DUBAI (Reuters) - State oil giant Saudi Aramco has delayed plans to expand capacity by 400,000 barrels per day at its Ras Tanura refinery, industry sources said on Monday.

The $8-billion project is one of five planned in the kingdom to boost domestic refinery capacity by up to 1.7 million barrels per day from 2.096 million bpd. Aramco has already delayed two of those projects as it looks to drive down costs.

FACTBOX-Saudi Arabia's oil refining capacity

(Reuters) - The world's largest oil exporter Saudi Arabia has put on hold plans to expand capacity at its refinery in Ras Tanura.

Late last year the kingdom put contracts for two new export refineries under review as it looked to take advantage of the global economic slowdown to cut costs.

FACTBOX-Global oil, gas projects delayed in 2009

Following is a list of oil and gas projects and oil refinery expansion plans that have been delayed so far in 2009.

The global financial crisis, falling oil demand and a slide in prices have prompted many in the industry to scale back spending and delay projects.

Tensions in Saudi Shi'ite town over secession call

Hundreds of Shi'ites have staged protests in recent weeks as police searched in vain for firebrand preacher Nimr al-Nimr, who breached a taboo to suggest in a sermon that Shi'ites could one day seek their own separate state.

The threat, which diplomats say is unprecedented since the 1979 Iranian revolution provoked anti-Saudi protests, followed clashes between the Sunni religious police and Shi'ite pilgrims near the tomb of Prophet Mohammad in the city of Medina, in the western region of the vast desert state.

Cameroon cuts growth forecast, power problems loom

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Cameroon has cut its 2009 growth forecast for the second time this month as commodity exporters watch unsold goods pile up and the government grapples with an energy crisis, officials say.

Floating rigs not completely immune to economic crisis

HOUSTON, TEXAS: The floating rig market is expected to weather the current global financial storm and emerge relatively strong compared to the over-supplied jackup market. However, no segment of the offshore industry is completely insulated from the current world financial crisis and the drop in oil prices.

Some softening in floating rig day rates and backlog is evident, although the long-term nature of most existing contracts will prevent the floating rig market from going into free-fall if oil prices stabilize this year.

ExxonMobil Wrangles to Recover Revoked Alaskan Leases

Having lost some of its rights to hunt for hydrocarbons on Alaska's North Slope, Exxon Mobil Corp. is forging ahead to regain control over several leases within the gas-rich region.

Get Smart: Exxon Outfits CEO With ‘Secure’ Phone

“If you’re a high-profile person, you’re going to be a target. Especially for big oil companies, when so many countries want to know what they are thinking, what their strategy is, it makes sense,” says James Andrew Lewis, senior fellow for technology and public policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of the recent blueprint for securing cyberspace.

Michael Klare, author of “Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy,” says electronic surveillance could touch executives anywhere from Moscow to their home office in suburban Dallas. “It might not only be state competitors that would be using this technology, it could be corporate competitors that would want to listen in on conversations,” he says.

Salazar, Offshore Oil Foes Find Little Room for Compromise

The Obama administration is winning little new support for a compromise proposal to explore for oil and gas in federal waters without drilling.

Marathon Oil’s Margins on Refining, Marketing Turn Positive

(Bloomberg) -- Marathon Oil Corp., the largest refiner in the U.S. Midwest, said first-quarter profit margins on making and marketing fuels derived from crude strengthened as petroleum costs tumbled.

The average margin was about 8 cents a gallon in the latest quarter, compared with a negative 0.26 cent a year earlier, Houston-based Marathon said today in a statement on PR Newswire.

Shale Oil: The Bubble Wrap Energy Solution

How could America extract over 2 trillion barrels of domestic oil without releasing dangerous carbon emissions in the process? That’s what scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and American Shale Oil are trying to figure out.

Producers Test Ways to Draw Hydrates from Alaska's North Slope

For several years scientists have pondered whether vast stores of methane -- the main component of natural gas -- locked in hydrates on the North Slope and elsewhere in the Arctic could ever be produced.

Now the U.S. Department of Energy is working with two Alaska oil and gas producers and a regional municipal government in an effort to find out.

Test wells planned in 2010 and 2011 could point the way toward a way of economically extracting methane from hydrates.

Urgency of Climate Change, New Research Emerges at MIT Forum

A sense of urgency pervaded Monday’s clean energy forum, which was sponsored by the MIT Energy Initiative and featured a who’s who of energy and climate change policy. The forum was moderated by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who is co-authoring legislation designed to tackle technologically and politically difficult global warming and clean energy issues.

First drive: Chevy Volt test

A few laps behind the wheel of an early version of GM's electric car shows the strengths - and possible weaknesses - of the technology.

Crash tests show gasoline savings can risk safety

Buyers choosing the smallest cars for low price and high gas mileage could be endangering themselves and their passengers, says a major auto-safety researcher.

In new crash tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rammed three automakers' smallest cars into their midsize models. Although the small cars had passed other IIHS tests, they flunked in collisions with larger but still-fuel-efficient sedans. "The safety trade-offs are clear," IIHS President Adrian Lund says. "There are healthier ways to save gas."

..."We're hearing people say, 'Everything gets a 'good' rating now, so I might as well buy a small car,' " Lund says. "A lot of people are forgetting that the laws of physics still hold" and even a little bit bigger still is safer.

Get Real: Energy will be increasingly expensive

It would be a soothing scenario to wake up one day and know that our country is now powered by vast wind and solar farms, putting out ample clean, renewable energy to run our homes, cars and businesses. Unfortunately, that scenario will remain just a distant dream for now, although I hope it will one day be a reality for my children. In the meantime, we need to get real, as the fundamentals point to higher energy prices and more scarcity in the decade ahead. As with all crises, it will be a time of change, hardship and opportunity.

Those who believe the current weakness in global energy demand is the wave of the future may indeed be right, as long as the “future” applies to 2009. Those with a longer term horizon should prepare for a different reality.

Monbiot: We spend millions on smallpox, but nothing on this far greater threat

Our leaders' approach to risk is unbalanced: huge resources to guard against an extinct disease, and nothing on oil running out.

Why Aren't Oil Companies Drilling?

With gas prices soaring to $4 or more a gallon, the call for off-shore oil drilling in places previously off-limits hit a fever pitch, reports CBS News chief investigative reporter Armen Keteyian.

But despite making record profits, today, oil companies are drilling on less than one-third of the acreage in this country that they have the rights to.

Good time to invest in energy: Kuwait

KUWAIT: Now is a good time to invest in energy projects due to a decline in the cost of construction and raw materials, a member of Kuwait’s Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC) told state news agency KUNA.

A recent decline in oil demand was temporary and there are indications that both demand and prices will rise again in the long run, KUNA yesterday quoted Khaled Boodai as saying.

Andy Rooney: Conserve Our Resources

The real question is: are we going run out of the things we need before we find substitutes for them? You know we're going to run out of oil and we're cutting trees down faster than we're growing them, too

It may be wrong to suggest impending doom, but if doom isn't impending, it's out there somewhere. If we don't find replacements for all the good stuff on earth that we're using up too many of too fast, doom is what we're facing.

Sprawling from Grace

Sprawling from Grace lacks the depth of expertise among its interviewees that some of the other peak oil docs provide. For example, whereas A Crude Awakening (2006) features numerous scientists and energy experts, Sprawling from Grace goes light on the scientists and energy experts in favor of interviews with politicians, urban planners, and social critics.

Turkmen leader: Russia must pay for pipeline blast

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — Turkmenistan's president blamed Russia's state gas monopoly for a pipeline blast that shut off the Central Asian country's exports, escalating the war of words that may help EU efforts to ease its energy dependence on Russia.

Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov accused Russia's Gazprom of "technological errors" that triggered Wednesday's blast, and demanded it pay for the repairs and compensate Turkmenistan for damages.

Investing in energy

Oil and gas extraction in the North Sea is at a particularly vulnerable stage.

As a mature field, it passed peak oil at the turn of the century; with the older, bigger and easier oil fields running dry, major companies have been moving out. The host of small independent companies exploring the new, smaller fields, where reserves are usually more technically difficult to access, have been dealt a double blow by the falling price of oil and the difficulty of raising finance as a result of the credit crunch.

Feds oppose gas terminal in Long Island Sound

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – The U.S. Commerce Department on Monday announced its opposition to a proposed massive floating liquefied natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound.

Environmentalists hailed the decision as a victory over "the corporate Goliaths of our time." Politicians in New York and Connecticut have campaigned for several years to stop what would have been the world's first floating liquefied natural gas terminal.

Browner: US needs to be world energy leader again

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A top adviser to President Barack Obama is urging Congress to pass an energy bill to spur the development of renewable energy while curbing the emissions that contribute to global warming.

Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change, says the country needs comprehensive legislation to help re-establish itself as the world's leader in clean energy production and slowing climate change.

Iran gives Shell/Repsol deadline on LNG project

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has given Royal Dutch Shell and Repsol until May 20 to clarify their involvement in a major gas project in the Gulf, a senior oil official was quoted as saying on Monday.

"If subsequent to the expiry of the deadline these companies do not make clear their involvement in the Persian LNG project, talks will begin directly with Chinese (companies)," Seifollah Jashnsaz, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), told the ISNA news agency.

Gazprom: The Russian Invasion

Why would Gazprom be so anxious to move into a market that is currently so well supplied? Russia, and by extension state-owned Gazprom, holds 20% of the global natural gas reserves. The top five countries it exports to are Germany, Italy, Turkey, Great Britain and France - all of which it supplies via pipelines. The U.S., for its part, consumes more than 20% of the world's natural gas, though it does produce a large majority of that domestically. But here's the key: By gaining entrance to the U.S. market - no matter how small and temporarily unprofitable the on-ramp - Gazprom diversifies its buyers.

Russia Gazprom estimates reserves up 11 pct in 2008

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia gas export monopoly Gazprom estimates its end-2008 reserves at 217.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent, the company said in a memo to its Eurobond issue, a copy of which was seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

That is broadly in line with analyst estimates, and represents an increase of 11 percent from 2007, when Gazprom's reserves were 196.4 billion.

Shell starts repairs on Nigerian oil pipeline

LONDON (Reuters) - The fire that shut down flowstations feeding into Royal Dutch Shell's Trans-Niger oil pipeline was extinguished on Monday and repair work will start on Tuesday, a company spokesman said.

"We do not have a timescale for restart of production or the amount of oil that is shut-in, we are investigating the situation today but the cause of the fire is not yet known," a Shell spokesman in The Hague said.

Shell said it thought the grade affected was Nigeria's benchmark grade Bonny Light BFO-BON but this could not be confirmed.

Angola eyes onshore oil search despite cash crisis

LUANDA (Reuters) - Angola state-owned oil company Sonangol is mulling a return to onshore oil exploration despite the global financial crisis, the head of exploration for Sonangol, Severino Cardoso, said on Tuesday.

Caracas lines up three-way Orinoco pact

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Venezuela's state-run producer PDVSA and French giant Total are in advanced talks on a complex three-way multi-billion dollar oil production and refining venture in the Orinoco play, sources close to the negotiations said today.

Senior officials from PDVSA, CNPC and Total are to meet in Caracas next month to discuss a 20-year pact to send 200,000 barrels per day of Venezuelan oil to China, possibly starting in 2013, with volumes rising after that, a Dow Jones report said.

Lukoil to Drill in Africa as It Urges Russia to Offer Licenses

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Lukoil, the Russian oil company with the most overseas assets, plans to drill three deepwater exploration wells in Africa in the next year as it urges the Russian state to offer more licenses domestically.

Shell in talks with Chinese on Iraq venture

BEIJING - Royal Dutch Shell PLC is talking to possible Chinese partners about a joint bid to develop oil fields in Iraq, CEO Jeroen van der Veer said on Tuesday.

“We are in the process of forming partnerships for certain bids, and Chinese companies are a part of that,” van der Veer said at a news conference.

PG&E makes deal for space solar power

California's biggest energy utility announced a deal Monday to purchase 200 megawatts of electricity from a startup company that plans to beam the power down to Earth from outer space, beginning in 2016.

Texas is wind king, but Iowa breezes past Calif.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Texas continues to blow away the competition, but Iowa can now generate more wind power than California, according to a new industry report to be released Monday.

The Lone Star state's 7,118 megawatts dwarfs Iowa's 2,791 megawatts and California's 2,517 megawatts, but wind power has grown into a key part of the energy infrastructure in Minnesota and Iowa, where each state generates more than 7 percent of their electricity from turbines, the American Wind Energy Association study said.

UK: Environment Agency questions green credentials of biomass

The Environment Agency has backed combined heat and power as the best way to reduce CO2 emissions in a new report, published today.

In their report, ‘Biomass – carbon sink or carbon sinner?’, the Agency says using energy crops or waste materials as fuel for generating electricity and heat could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions if the fuel comes from sustainable sources and is used ‘efficiently’.

Global Palm Oil Demand Fueling Deforestation

Indonesia is now the leading supplier for a global market that demands more of the tree's versatile oil for cooking, cosmetics, and biofuel. But palm oil's appeal comes with significant costs. Oil palm plantations often replace tropical forests, killing endangered species, uprooting local communities, and contributing to the release of climate-warming gases. Due mostly to oil palm production, Indonesia emits more greenhouse gases than any country besides China and the United States.

Organic pioneer fears his farm is being jeopardised by neighbour’s GM crops

GM crop advocate Jonathan Harrington claims to have grown genetically modified maize on his Powys farm and says he – and 30 other farmers – will do the same this year in defiance of Welsh Assembly Government policy.

Dems Divided On Climate Bills: Cap-And-Trade Or Carbon Tax

Schisms are developing among Democrats over how to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Fans of a cap-and-trade system are unsure how to structure it, while carbon tax supporters are gaining steam.

Democrats have long sought to cut carbon emissions in hopes of reducing global warming. But, like a dog that chases a car, now that they have firm control of government, they aren't sure what to do next.

China orders governments to go green: state media

BEIJING (AFP) – Local governments in China have been ordered to buy more energy efficient products as part of the national drive to curb pollution and combat global warming, state press reported.

Alleged power station protesters released on bail

LONDON (AFP) – More than 100 people arrested for allegedly planning to target a power station in a protest about climate change have been released on bail, police said on Tuesday.

Scores of officers swooped on the group at a school in Sneinton, Nottingham, on Monday night saying the suspected protesters posed a "serious threat" to the safe running of a nearby power station.

Dairy industry sees less-gassy future for cows

WAUSAU, Wis. – The U.S. dairy industry wants to engineer the "cow of the future" to pass less gas, a project aimed at cutting the industry's greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

Climate change to cost Japan dearly if unchecked

HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Half of Japan's sand beaches could be wiped out by rising sea levels, and extensive flooding could inflict damages of 8.7 trillion yen ($87.4 billion) annually by the end of the century if little action is taken to counteract global warming, a Japanese government study warned Tuesday.

Australia: Energy industry warns of blackout

CONSUMERS face possible blackouts and power stations could go broke unless the Rudd Government offers an extra $6billion worth of free permits under its planned emissions trading scheme, the energy sector has warned.

If the extra assistance is not forthcoming, the sector, responsible for about 70 per cent of Australia's carbon emissions, will ask the Government for a Rudd Bank-style financing facility to help raise the capital.

Scientists fear worst on global warming

Today's Guardian poll of attendees at a climate conference last month in Copenhagen exposes the gulf between political rhetoric and scientific thinking. Of more than 250 experts surveyed, more than half said the 2C target could still be achieved but only 18 thought that it would be. By the end of the century, most thought average temperatures would rise by some 4C.

another installment in the technology (corporate management technology that is) will save us meme:

"Oil Industry Braces for Drop, Process Excellence and Six Sigma May Be Savior"


and this from wiki:

[edit] Potential negative effects
A Fortune article stated that "of 58 large companies that have announced Six Sigma programs, 91 percent have trailed the S&P 500 since." The statement is attributed to "an analysis by Charles Holland of consulting firm Qualpro (which espouses a competing quality-improvement process)."[13] The gist of the article is that Six Sigma is effective at what it is intended to do, but that it is "narrowly designed to fix an existing process" and does not help in "coming up with new products or disruptive technologies." Many of these claims have been argued as being in error or ill-informed.[14][15]

A Business Week article says that James McNerney's introduction of Six Sigma at 3M may have had the effect of stifling creativity. It cites two Wharton School professors who say that Six Sigma leads to incremental innovation at the expense of blue-sky work.[16]

I think I may have seen these guys playing in the park-maybe the guy dressed up like King Arthur is one of the Black Belts http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_sigma

I am continually bemused by our corporate Best & Brightests' failure to realize that Six Sigma is a set of old tool and concepts masquerading under new nomenclature and packaging.

Less amusing is their insistence that Six Sigma is a panacea and the only correct method of solving all problems.

Six Sigma is the application of statistics and problem solving methodology to solve real world problems. It is thorough (yet slow), but when the future looks nothing like the past it will fail.

I work on Six Sigma projects on a daily basis (as the data gatherer, usually) and I find that it can be useful for solving problems when used correctly. The problem is that it frequently is used incorrectly... It's best used as a scalpel, but is frequently used as a hammer.

wolverine -

A number of years ago I had some indirect involvement with Six Sigma, mainly through some consulting work I was doing for a company that had recently just gotten on the Six Sigma bandwagon.

It became almost instantly obvious that the preachers of Six Sigma within the company were trying to apply the Six Sigma process to things for which it was never intended and for which it could never produce any benefits (other than to the consultants promoting the whole Six Sigma program).

What rapidly set in was an 'emperor's new clothes' mindset - people within the company down deep knew their Six Sigma program was mostly BS, but were too afraid to be seen as not being team players. The whole thing became so surreal, I felt as though I was living in a Dilbert cartoon.

This sort of group-think is another reason why I am highly skeptical about Fortune-500 corporate America ever being able to make the wrenching changes that will be needed to deal with our energy problem.

It became almost instantly obvious that the preachers of Six Sigma within the company were trying to apply the Six Sigma process to things for which it was never intended and for which it could never produce any benefits (other than to the consultants promoting the whole Six Sigma program).

Yep, someone used Six Sigma as a hammer, not a scalpel (see my comment above). Six Sigma works great for steady state processes that will continue for the indefinite future. It works poorly otherwise...

"I felt as though I was living in a Dilbert cartoon."

Dilbert is NOT a cartoon ... it is a documentary.

I concur, based on my own corporate experiences. The movie "Office Space" is also a documentary experience. The NBC version of "The Office" is so dead on that it is mentally painful for me to watch.


Thanks for your response and sharing your experiences. Mine have been much the same with regard to Six Sigma and its implementation.



"...people ... knew their Six Sigma program was mostly BS ...."

Don't be fooled... after a while they actually believed it.

Ignorant: I have posted a message downthread in response to something you posted a few days ago.

Thanks. My local hardware store recently hired a few mechanic to fix old machinery. Maybe there is hope.

Yes, yes, bring on the consultants and their latest buzzwords, that will fix everything. Maybe we can sick these guys on Wall Street - there would be a certain delicious irony in that.

Crash tests show gasoline savings can risk safety

This large car vs small car thing came up back in the 1970s. Why does the conclusion have to be that the small cars are deadly, deadly, deadly? The point really should be that bigger vehicles are a menace. I've heard people justify their conservative, materialistic, prideful mentality in vehicle choice with safety too often. What happens when the barge you are driving gets hit by a tractor-trailer, or better yet, a commuter train? Over say a ten year period a difference of a few miles-per-gallon is a major contribution to many things that are indeed life threatening: climate change, air pollution, oil wars and so forth.

Studies like this are all very well but they tend to reinforce the marketing to people of far more motor vehicle than they really happen to need. What one model of car does to another in a crash is only a tiny part of the picture anyway. There's a host of other things that cause car crashes including the fact there are too many of them being used too often for too little reason. Don't forget social factors as well: teenagers and aging drivers are bad news. This study says less about car design and more about how deeply embedded in our brains motoring madness is. In North America we've set our lives up around the car so much it is virtually impossible for most of us to imagine things any other way. The more a place is dominated by cars the more you need to be in one to protect yourself from the negative effects of that domination. Then you ratchet up to a Pathfinder, then you ratchet up to a Range Rover with kanagroo bars and then ...it'll never end until we give give cyclists guns!

not driving, or minimumizing driving will tip the odds back in your favor. the whole piece looks a lot like scare tactics. maybe these "conservative, materialistic, prideful" rat race competitors should just hide under the bed.

As an obvious counter example compare the UK and the US road mortality. ( wiki).
The smaller cars in the UK create less than half the number of road fatalities per habitant, and about 1/3 less deaths per billion-vehicle km.

The key, maybe, is that collisions they found to be more risky is when a smaller vehicle collides with a bigger one. (Riskier for the smaller one :-)

However, if more vehicles on the road are small vehicles, wouldn't the risk of colliding with a larger vehicle decrease? If most vehicles are small then... then smaller vehicles will probably result in safer roads overall.

My stereotype of US versus Europe says that in Europe there are more small vehicles and few SUV type vehicles. In the US it's the other way around. So this makes sense (it be riskier to drive a small vehicle in US, until more people abandon their SUV's that will crush a small vehicle like a tin can :-)

The increase in vehicle size in the United States has reached the proportions of a full fledged arms race. We need a serious attitude adjustment to change our direction. If the engine and drive train improvements of the past 20 years had been applied to improving efficiency instead of increasing size and speed, we would all be in a completely different situation right now.

"...it'll never end until we give give cyclists guns!"

Cyclists can have guns and using them could be justifiable self defense. I also think driving while on a cell phone of any kind is a serious offense equivalent to .8% DUI.

there have been study's that people who drive while talking on their cell phones are just as bad or worse then drunk driver's in response time.

Very few on the road, truly know how to drive. That's the real problem. 95% can make the car stop and start, hopefully point it in the right direction, but only about 5% really know what it means to operate a vehicle.

Number one problem solver, slow down. Save your gas and your a$$. The right thing to do. 55 mph needs to be the max on any road. Talking on the cel while driving should be a chargeable offense. Idiots in gov will ticket if you don't have a seat belt on though.....idiots in your gov....

The city in which I live is moving to a 40 KPH speed limit. This is about 28 mph. Current limits are posted as 60 KPH but folks drive 80 KPH

Originally they planned to have different zones for schools, hospitals, arterials etc but then they realized the cost of changing all the signage would be in the multiples of $100,000. So they decided to have one speed zone throughout the entire town and do away with all the speed signs. Once you enter city limits you reduce speed to 40 KPH.

This is really smart thinking. Getting rid of signage is an economic plus. Since I ride a bike the differential between me and other traffic decreases and this is most welcome. Plus the speeders provide a excellent source of revenue which can be applied to general funds.

My hunch is that there will be some tolerance on the actual speed so that you can go 10 KPH or so above the posted limit and not be charges with speeding. This would put the effective speed at around 35 - 40 MPH which is much better than the current tolerated maximum of around 55 MPH.

there have been study's that people who drive while talking on their cell phones are just as bad or worse then drunk driver's in response time.

More than just response time; driving while talking on a hands-free cellphone is as dangerous as DUI. See here or here for peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate this and explain the neural basis for the danger.

The principle applying to liability of a big car hitting a small car should be the same principle used in the Netherlands for bicycles. There is a presumption that the auto is at fault when hitting a bicycle. The person with the more dangerous vehicle has a special responsibility to avoid hitting a small vehicle, the bicycle. Makes sense to apply it to the mini car as well.

Lower the speed limit to reduce deaths equal yo or greater than the number of deaths in head on collisions experienced by drivers of small cars.

Society has a duty to tradeoff risks when determining public policy. A sole focus on short term risks, such as the risk of one's child being injured or killed in an auto accident needs to be compared to the long term risks to future inhabitants of the planet from the increased carbon emissions from larger vehicles. And consideration should also be given to the species that will disappear due to a changed planet.

Maybe the analogy is a bit strained, but our society seems to not be terribly concerned by the 120,000 people per year killed by guns.

The ultimate goal, in any event, should cities where the auto is largely unnecessary and highways where alternative modes of transportation predominate.

"The safety trade-offs are clear," IIHS President Adrian Lund says. "There are healthier ways to save gas."

As noted above - slow down and drive less come to mind! Could see this research helping to shift some of those unloved and unwanted SUVs as well as justifying higher insurance premiums for small cars.

Unfortunately, we need Gas-powered vehicles for some very simple reasons... For instance, find me a bike path between two major metropolitan cities at least 100 miles apart. Anyone...?

What is truly needed is more use of public transportation such as bus (or streetcar) and rail. I'd love to be able to hop on my bike, bike to a local terminal, and ride the train to work. It would be much safer than driving... And, more fuel efficient.

find me a bike path between two major metropolitan cities at least 100 miles apart.

Montreal, Quebec to Ottawa, ON

Montreal, Quebec to Quebec, Quebec


Il est très possible qu'il existe d'autres.

Bonne chance, mon ami

"120,000 people per year killed by guns."

Does that count war zones? Do you have a reference?

Guns don't kill people.

Bullets kill people. ;-)

people kill people

Yeh, just wait til the riots start in the cities, people will be killing alot of other people.....not where I want to be, even as a Brother.

"120,000 people per year killed by guns."

Does that count war zones? Do you have a reference?

I'm sure that is the figure for domestic violence in the US. That is one of the reasons the National Rifle Association is on a perpetual membership drive. They need to replenish their ranks.

The inclusion of war zones would significantly skew the result and show a much smaller number.

I hope that knee didn't bruise your chin when it jerked like that.

Causes of death in the US: Disease > Cars > Guns

If the NRA is having trouble with it's members dying it is more likely from food poisoning or car crashes than from guns.

Looks like medical errors outnumber gun deaths 3-1 in the USA http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/75042.php

OMG! We need to outlaw Doctors, they're killing people!


If there was only some way of applying the 'free market' to doctors. Oh wait. You can not. It is illegal to have a database of doctors who cost insurance firms money for malpractice so you can go 'I think I'll avoid that Doctor'.

Sorry, that figure is the number of deaths since 9/11. This was from Herbert's NYT editorial this morning and the figure I posted was from faulty memory. Anyway, that seems like a lot of dead people.

Even if there were any truth to the size/safety thing, how relevant is that for trips down city streets to the grocery store, or crawling along at 5mph in rush hour traffic? If one has any concern at all about driving at high speeds amongst tractor trailers on the highways, then it would make far more sense to own a small, fuel efficient car for everyday local travel, and then to rent something larger for those occasional long-distance highway trips (if passenger rail is not an option). That is what I've been doing for years.

What are some causes of crashes...?

The 6 Most Common Causes of Automobile Crashes

1. Distracted Drivers

Mark Edwards, Director of Traffic Safety at the American Automobile Association stated, "The research tells us that somewhere between 25-50 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in this country really have driver distraction as their root cause."...

2. Driver Fatigue

Drowsy drivers account for about 100,000 accidents every year in the United States, according to the U.S. National Traffic Safety Administration...

3. Drunk Driving

In 2004, an estimated 16,654 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, according to NHTSA. This is an average of one death almost every half-hour...

4. Speeding

Speeding is a multi-tiered threat because not only does it reduce the amount of time necessary to avoid a crash, it also increases the risk of crashing and makes the crash more severe if it does occur. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), when speed increases from 40 mph to 60 mph, the energy released in a crash more than doubles...

5. Aggressive Driving

"Operates a motor vehicle in a selfish, bold or pushy manner, without regard for the rights or safety of the other users of the streets and highways."

6. Weather.

Inclement weather, including heavy rain, hail, snowstorms, ice, high winds and fog can make driving more difficult.

And as for fatalities..

Causes of Automobile Fatalities

The chief factors contributing to automobile crashes are

-use of alcohol and other drugs
-excessive speed
-failure to use seat belts
-driver fatigue
-unsafe roadway conditions

Personally, I've noticed that 100% of automobile crashes involve... automobiles. If you want to reduce crashes, my best guess is to get people public transportation.

and i would add, visibility. it is impossible to see around these behemoths. say for example, you are ready to make a left turn and an oncoming behemoth is also making a left turn, well, you just cant see around them. your only safe option is to wait until the behemoth gets out of the way. you could be perpetually stuck in the left turn lane.

you could be perpetually stuck in the left turn lane.

This was precisely the fate of many Mastodons. They waited patiently, perpetually, in the left turn lane waiting for the opposing behemoth to complete his/her turn and then the ice sheets rolled slowly, ever so slowly, down.
A pity they lacked modern foresight and intelligence.

Re: # 4 Speeding

I know their statistics were just for illustration purposes but the criteria highlighted there seems laughable - anything between 40 and 60 mph seems pretty much irrelevant where I live... They need to do some real life studies at "actual" speeds:

65 - 70 mph on any surface roads posted 50+ mph.

At least 75 and typically 80 to 85 mph on the interstates.

I can extrapolate that the energy released in these real life circumstances is "a lot" higher than at the posted limits.

Funny too because I remember when the limit was first increased to 65 mph a few years back - the state police were promising a "zero tolerance" policy for even a couple mph over 65. Now I regularly see them sitting in the median while people buzz by at 80 mph.

The current behavior you can witness on even the shortest trip via car is a prime microcosm example for my reasoning behind being a doomer - observing the number of people being complete a-holes to each other on the roads (the total lack of common courtesy and the juvenile pissing matches so many people get caught up in) gives me absolutely no confidence that we'll suddenly come together to help each other when the chips are down...

One neglected factor in small vs large is that small cars are less likely to hit or be hit precisely because they are smaller. A Smart has about half the length X width of an SUV, so all other things being equal, the Smart car has 1/2 the risk of being in a collision in the first place. So the results of staged crash tests need to be scaled accordingly.

Added to that they are far more maneuverable and should be able to avoid accidents more easily. I recently rented a Chevy Aveo followed by a Pontiac G6 and while still a compact car, the G6 felt like a barge compared to the Aveo. It would be interesting, no.. funny, no... tragic to see some of the behemoths try and compete in the World Rally Championship (2min utube video) where maneuverability at speed is paramount. Come to think of it they should rename it "The Rest of The World Rally Championship" since there are no US based entries, just European and Asian.

At least WRC and F1 have produced some advancements in the state of the art, turbo-charging, 4wd in cars, better tyres and, paddle shifting gearboxes come immediately to mind. Cant say the same for NASCAR, they just keep going round in circles!

Alan from the islands

Actually, I like that point. What we need to know is not what happens to a small car when it hits a medium one, but whether small cars are more or less likely to be in crashes, while controlling for other factors known to influence crashes.

Lies, damn lies and statistics.

It is good to be reminded that drowsy drivers are dangerous. In fact some research shows that a drowsy driver is not unlike an inebriated driver. I think some hospitals were sued for sending overworked residents to drive home after 24 hour shifts in the hospital, thus knowingly endangering everyone else on the freeway.

One neglected factor in small vs large is that small cars are less likely to hit or be hit precisely because they are smaller. A Smart has about half the length X width of an SUV, so all other things being equal, the Smart car has 1/2 the risk of being in a collision in the first place. So the results of staged crash tests need to be scaled accordingly.

The logic, that accident probability scales linearly with vehicle size is illogical. On random trajectories, the probability of a small object colliding with a larger one scales as the sum of the sizes. Since the small car is most concerned about collision with large objects, the effect is much smaller. And cars aren't traveling on random trajectories, they tend to be in lanes. A really small car might not be as visible as a large one either. Of course greater maneuverability could help, although generally drivers who think their vehicle is more maneuverable or crashworthy tend to compensate by driving more aggressively. I agree that actual; accident statistics, and not simpleminded arguments should be used. We should be striving for roads where Aptera sized vehicles would be safe.

It may not be true, but it is not illogical. And accidents can also be with small objects such as trees or utility poles or pedestrians. But I agree that actual driving statistics are more meaningful than crash tests, but that the statistics need to be adjusted for age, gender etc. Probably small cars tend to be driven by younger, less experienced and more reckless drivers.

.it'll never end until we give give cyclists guns!

Trust me, as much as I abhor weapons, there have been days when I've given that prospect some thought.

Ride a Bike or Take a Hike

Lehman Sitting on Bomb’s Worth of Uranium Cake as Prices Slump

April 14 (Bloomberg) -- Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. is sitting on enough uranium cake to make a nuclear bomb as it waits for prices of the commodity to rebound, according to traders and nuclear experts.

The bankrupt bank, in the throes of paying off creditors, acquired uranium cake “under a matured commodities contract” and plans to sell it when the market improves “to realize the best prices,” Chief Executive Officer Bryan Marsal said.

What, it's not bad enough that they blew up Wall Street? Who's next?

I wish they would blow up Wall Street!

One of the things that surprised me when I looked at the sudden price drop was how it hit all energy supplies simultaneously, including uranium. Of course, if a credit unwind is leading to lower demand, that is what one would expect.

With uranium, there are stories of inadequate supply as well. This article talks about lack of uranium supply as being the reason new nuclear capacity could not be brought on line in India. Is this situation unique to India, because of sanctions? I thought they had been lifted.

From my reading of this article, it sounds like India is trying to produce their own uranium for the new power plants, but it is not getting permission to mine the uranium from the local (Indian) state governments. BTW, most of the article is talking about how the lack of fossil fuels really stunted the growth of electrical power production in India.

I think the issue is probably lack of water for cooling, rather than lack of fossil fuel. See this article.

One of the things that surprised me when I looked at the sudden price drop was how it hit all energy supplies simultaneously, including uranium.

Why was this surprising? Commodities are cyclic; this has been standard investing wisdom for ages. This isn't something special about energy commodities; other commodities, such as metals, grains, and wood, are down as well.

This article talks about lack of uranium supply as being the reason new nuclear capacity could not be brought on line in India.

The article attributes the majority of supply slippages to trouble getting parts for plants:

"Unavailability of BoP equipment alone has caused slippage of around 4,000 Mw in the year."

Is this situation unique to India

Largely; major suppliers such as Australia are refusing to sell uranium to countries that have not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Lehman has about 500,000 pounds of yellowcake, triuranium octoxide, U3O8. This is not enriched in U235 at all, so it won't even fuel a reactor, let alone constitute a bomb, without enrichment (or massive amounts of heavy water, ala CANDU).
Note that the current value is only about $20 million for the price of the natural uranium, not much to help Lehman's negative balance sheet.

OPEC Cuts Thwarted as Brazil, Russia Grab U.S. Market (Update2)

This is my vote for nonsensical headline of the week. Explain again to me how a net oil importer (Brazil, at least as of 2008, EIA) takes market share away from OPEC? Curiously, the original story has vanished, replaced by a note that the new story (Update 2) will be forthcoming.

(Leanan has added the link uptop, and it looks like the revised story is now posted.)

Weird. Update 2 has been out for over an hour at least. I had the link in the queue for awhile, and did not change it.

Bloomberg does change the URLs of the stories randomly sometimes, which may have caused the problem you experienced.

OH MY GOOL- GOal- galoshes- er...



Pull yourself together Ignorant!

We're not doomed. You just need to put things in a US perspective:

Why is Brasil exporting oil to the US while it is an importing country?

The US has been a net oil importer since 1948, but we still export some amount of crude, and especially refined products. The net export metric measures the overall balance between production & consumption. Mexico is a net oil exporter, but they import a fair amount of refined product from the US.

More stuff on net oil importers like Brazill "Taking market share away from OPEC."


Denninger says deflation is here, and laughs at Bernanke's claims that he can stop it whenever he wants with the power of the printing press.

I was unaware of the Fed doing any quantitative easing. Ben never turned the presses on.

Bernanke's problem is that he is not using a helicopter to distribute the cash as he is often pictured in cartoons. The helicopter image implies wide random distribution to all below. That is not happening.

What is happening are giant air cargo shipments in jumbo jets to select large institutions such as AIG, big banks, GM, Chrysler and some others. While these select shipments probably will have some effect over time, the distribution of the money is problematic. Some of these shipments merely go to others on the list such AIG's going to Goldman Sacks. And a lot of the recipients of the Fed's largess just sit on the money fearful of further loan losses which may threaten there existence.

Those in most need of a bailout are at the bottom where the numbers are also the greatest but receive very little proportionally. As a consequence they are forced to cut spending big time which off sets the huge jumbo jet special deliveries made so quickly to the select few. So for the moment deflation may have the upper hand in competitive things like housing and commodities. But inflation lurks in other areas; masked but ready to jump out and scare us at any time.

Yes, the stupid helicopter analogy is irritating, however, IMO TPTB are aware of the implications of taking money from the public at large and delivering it to a select few because of political clout, so I wouldn`t term this as Ben`s problem-Ben will be just fine.

Denninger says deflation is here, and laughs at Bernanke's claims that he can stop it whenever he wants with the power of the printing press.

Well, at least the FED is confident it can control inflation...

Bernanke: Fed confident it can keep inflation under control

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday that policymakers at the U.S. central bank are confident they can withdraw the enormous liquidity they have pumped into the economy in time to prevent inflation.

"I can assure you that monetary policymakers are fully committed to acting as needed to withdraw on a timely basis the extraordinary support now being provided to the economy, and we are confidence in our ability to do so," Bernanke said in remarks prepared for delivery at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Poor Ben... He's working on the wrong side of the problem. Repaying the bailout is gonna be damned hard in a deflationary environment.

Repaying the bailout is gonna be damned hard in a deflationary environment.

Even more true if the underlying problem is insolvency and not one of liquidity. Sort of like giving medicine to the donkey when your wife is sick. Probably end up killing the donkey.

Poor Ben... He's working on the wrong side of the problem. Repaying the bailout is gonna be damned hard in a deflationary environment.

We'd just do quantitative easing. No one wants to start because the risks of inflation are huge in the wake of economic recovery, but a couple quarters of deflation might change their minds. Mind you, for some reason its nearly a forbidden subject.

Denninger's post shows this graph:

Denninger says:

Sustained deflation occurs when credit expansion reaches or exceeds its mathematical limit. Your buddies in the banking system reached that limit several years ago as we entered the 2000-2003 recession; a limit that was able to be approached and in fact exceeded as a direct consequence of regulatory changes made at the behest of the banking system and with the approval of The Federal Reserve.

Then, in 2004, the wall was again hit, and the Investment Banks, led by then-chairman of Goldman Sachs Henry Paulson (later elevated to Treasury Secretary) came to Congress and the SEC and asked that leverage limits be removed.

The catch is that the mathematical limit depends on how fast the economy is truly able to grow. All of the historical patterns occurred when the economy was growing long term. As we reach peak oil, the economic growth rate can be expected to be cut back and even decline. When this happens, the mathematical limit for debt drops way off--I would guess to less than 100% of real GDP (long term to close to 0%, as economic decline sets in). The need for borrowing to decline from recent past levels to the new sustainable level is what is pushing the current credit unwind.

This post by Denninger about the Marginal productivity of debt going to Negative is one of the best pieces he ever wrote.

More insight reg. this subject can be found in todays article by Antal E. Fekete: A CRITIQUE OF THE QUANTITY THEORY OF MONEY


I don't think this chart would be nearly as interesting if it was done in "Real GDP (constant dollars) per Capita."

i haven't noticed any price deflation, except for gasoline, ng will probably deflate. and now the assessor is telling me that my real properties are worth nearly 10% more than in in '07. unbelievable. the assesor has abandoned any attempt at actual valuation and the game appears to be to raise everyone's assesment, and those not ready, willing or able to engage in a bureaucratic war will be stuck with higher taxes.

last time around (assesments are done every two yrs) the board of review had a backlog of about 1 1/2 yrs, and in the end, they were ready to negotiate the values down. but not for long. the assesed value on one property was agreed on about a year ago and now back on the inflation treadmill. this is not my idea of effective government.

Rotterdam port throughput down 11 percent


and related : "he cannot escape the conclusion that especially in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods, the recession could cause ’a breakdown effect.’ In other words: further social deterioration of the already vulnerable parts of the city. "


As far as the BioEngineered CattleFeed, it looks to me like 'Solving an unnecessary problem with a complex solution'. I just scouted around for details about the Cow-Methane issue in more detail, to see whether there is really a clear picture on which cows are providing the methane.

Even 'GrassFed' is not a simple monolith, and as the details of Joel Salatin's 'Grass Farm' offer some insight into the very specific preferences that cows have in a well-diversified meadow, it seems obvious that if they are eating even the wrong grasses.. they'll get gasses.

Here's one example (hearsay warning)..

Comment #8

Another comment re Polyface Farm - they time grazing to grass’ growth cycle, which follows an “S” curve. It grows slowly when cropped short. As it gets some length, it grows faster. After a while, growth slows and the plant gets woody. (I got this explanation from the book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.) I think lignin increases towards the end of this cycle. At Polyface Farm cows graze towards the end of the fast-growth period, and are moved to other pasture before grazing the grass to stubs. This yields maximum growth of the grass over a season. It seems to me it would also minimize the cow’s intake of lignin, as they are grazing on non-woody grass.


and with our continent's history, it would seem that our grasses might be far better suited for Bison than Herefords and other Euro Breeds.. I'd like to hear it if anyone knows whether they've done any Bison Methane studies.


The thing everyone is missing with regard to cows is that their emissions are from biological sources -- the carbon they contain was extracted from the atmosphere before it was returned. There's a big difference between that and *fossil* sources of carbon. This carbon will be returning to the atmosphere whether it passes through a cow or not. Before cows were around, it was millions of bison or other ruminants.

Another point on this... grass fed cows mean that their feed comes from untilled or minimally tilled soils, which will have a much higher carbon content than soils used to produce annual crops, such as the typical corn/soy rotations. If you buy grass fed, you're promoting pasture-agriculture, and you're creating (or restoring) one of the biggest carbon sinks of all -- our soil.

Thank you. The carbon cycle concept is really pretty simple, but so few seem to get it. Is it so hard to grasp that fossil fuels are outside of any these local processes that are basically net carbon neutral under reasonable time scales? The problem is not the gasses coming out of cow's asses or the firewood I burn that grew in the last couple of decades or so - it's the damn fossil fuels. That's it. That's all there is to it.

However, this is not the answer that is desired, and so it is rejected. And it will continue to be rejected, and mankind will do nothing of value to address this issue. Well, there is probably nothing we can do at this point, but it would seem proper to make at least some attempt.

The only thing we may try is to do some bone-headed mitigation that will go terribly awry.

I think the issue with "cow fart gasses" is not CO2 but methane. Methane is a more potent green house gas. Moreover I don't think your logic that it was "first extracted from the atmosphere" applies to methane as it does to CO2.

It would seem to me (in my non-expert opinion) that cow farts could actually be a real issue.

But hey, maybe someone could devise a method of harnessing the methane from cow farts and using it for fuel. (I can imagine cows with rubber hoses attached to their asses for this purpose :-)

Wrong end. It's actually the front end of the cow that emits the methane.

Now you tell me! Well back to the field, I've got lots of hoses to reposition....boy are the cows going to be mad.
ahh j/k, only thing I've done in a cow field is look for fungi.

Whenever organic material decays in one way or another, the carbon it contains will be released to the atmosphere. I believe that methane is more commonly produced by anaerobic environs, which is the case in a cow's rumen, as well as swamps, or even in a wet or compacted soil.

Methane is CH4; the carbon atom in this molecule will almost invariably have entered the plant in a CO2 moledule.

Either way, methane does decay (I remember seeing a figure of an 8 year lifespan being typcial), so the carbon eventually return to the CO2 it started as before it was absorbed by the plant during photosynthesis.

Don't underestimate the value of pasture ground to sequester carbon -- the amounts which were stored there (and have been released by modern agriculture) are enormous, even exceeding the amount we've released by direct burning of fossil fuels according to some calculations I've seen.

The idea of engineering a new "low methane" feed stock is ridiculous, if even possible. What do you think happened to the billions of tons of prairie grasses consumed by bison? I would be willing to bet that their emissions were nearly identical to those of cows (who were also once wild animals, btw). Their numbers were comparable to the number of cattle in the US today as well.

The methane issue isn't one of animals eating grasses which they aren't accustomed to (much if not most of what we feed our european/asian cattle on pasture are grasses from europe & asia), but rather just one of carbonaceous material fermenting in an anaerobic environment.

Capturing emissions from cows can only be done in a CAFO environment where all the cows are concentrated and feed comes in via trucks. CAFO's and the infrastructure required to support them are massive carbon emitters, not to mention that they produce an unhealthy and inferior product under inhumane conditions. There is certainly a valid argument against factory produced beef, for carbon emissions as well as a hundred other reasons.

BTW -- Joel Salatin (the farmer at Polyface) no longer focuses his grazing on pasture in the fast growth cycle, but rather on senescent grasses in something he calls mob-stocking. It's quite possible that this method will sequester even more soil carbon, although I'm not certain one way or another.

Either way, methane does decay (I remember seeing a figure of an 8 year lifespan being typcial), so the carbon eventually return to the CO2 it started as before it was absorbed by the plant during photosynthesis

The warming effect of a GHG is caused by the spectral peaks in its IR spectrum. Methane spectral peaks are at different wavelengths than CO2. The absorption peaks decay roughly exponentially as the frequency changes away from the peaks (line for spectroscopists), so the net effect is proportional to the logarithm of the concentration. Intrinsically methane several times less active (absorption wise) than CO2, but because its concentration in the atmosphere is so much lower the change in the logarithm of concentration is many times greater for adding an atom of methane, than for adding a molecule of CO2. This large factor (proportional to the inverse of the atmospheric concentration) more than makes up for the larger absorptive cross section of CO2. The bottom line, is that it should be much more cost effective to reduce GHG warming via reducing methane emissions than carbon (clearly on a long enough time scale that won't be true, as if you wait a few decades the methane will have oxidized). Programs to reduce methane, and nitrous oxide emissions make sense as early steps in getting global warming under control. Methane emissions from cows are several percent of total current greenhouse gas emissions, so a little bit of money spent on getting these under control could go a long way. The idea is to pick the low hanging fruit first.

I can't comment on the efficacy, of the various proposals to reduce these agricultural emissions, I have no way to judge whether a given change would be effective.

I certainly won't argue against reducing methane emissions, but exactly how could this be accomplished? If we get rid of ruminants, how much methane will be naturally released by the decaying grasses they would've otherwise consumed? Would we really be eliminating a source of greenhouse gasses, or simply creating a different path for them to return to the atmosphere?

A farmer who can't raise beef or dairy cows on pasture isn't going to let his land sit fallow, but would likely start intensive cultivation of some other crop (and thus contribute to the release of more carbon from his soils). Grazing stores carbon in the soil, and intensive cultivation releases it.

Intensive cultivation of grains for feeding to ruminants is clearly a bad idea, but I see nothing wrong with putting ruminants on pasture where they belong.

A Tax on meat consumption ---> fewer cows--->fewer emissions .....


A tax on meat consumption might mean fewer cows, but the carbon they emit (either as methane or CO2) would still be returning to the atmosphere -- just not through a cow. Perhaps more of it would be returning as CO2 rather than methane, but overall the problem is *not* solved.

What's more, fewer animals probably mean that farmers will be more likely to grow grains for ethanol production -- and that means *more* CO2 emissions, both through increased tillage of their soil and through the inherent inefficiency of ethanol production.

Perhaps I haven't made the point here that I wish to make, so I'll state it her plainly: Cows are not the problem, but rather the way they're usually grown can be a problem. Factory farming, with the confined animal feeding operations that rely on intensive grain cultivation, is undoubtedly a problem. Pasture based grazing is not the problem, as it will actually sequester carbon.

I've found that the people pushing the "cows cause climate change" argument are typically using it as a facade for an animal welfare agenda. As a former vegetarian myself, I fully support animal welfare, but I don't think livestock farming is inherently bad. I'm all for nuking factory farming as it currently exists, but we need to be certain that we're not destroying the future of well run farms (ala Polyface farms) when we get rid of the bad guys.

This is an interesting thread. It seems my "non expert opinion" proffered above was even more naive than I could have guessed :-)

Anyhow, I'm quite happy to see people more expert than yours truly explain some of this stuff.

Pasture based grazing is not the problem, as it will actually sequester carbon.

Out of curiosity... Would someone care to explain how sequestration through grazing works? I can see that the grass takes up CO2 through photosynthesis. But where does the carbon sequestered through grazing go? (I.e. where is the "store" of permanently sequestered carbon in the growing/grazing/digesting process?)



The upper layer of a typical grassland soil (mollisols are a common example) is much darker than most soils; that dark color is a result of organic matter (carbon) stored within the soil profile. Much of this would be from grass roots which died back (a process which is promoted by grazing animals) and some of it is often imported by soil fauna such as earthworms. Once organic matter is drawn down into the soil, it tends to last much longer because of the reduced temperatures and reduced oxygen which would otherwise cause it to oxidize. This dark layer is what most people think of when they hear the term "topsoil".

When a soil is cultivated, the soil becomes exposed to far more oxygen, and the organic matter oxidizes and returns to CO2 in the atmosphere much more readily than it otherwise would. The soil will become less able to sustain plants during drought, and will be less fertile overall.

For example, the soils on my midwest farm (see -- I've got a hidden agenda here 8^) were previously used for the typical corn/soy rotation, and contain 1.5% organic matter. Within the next 10 years, I fully expect to double that (and hopefully do it sooner or to a greater extent) through grazing our land. This is by no means an unattainable goal.

Say for the sake of argument that our topsoil is 6" deep. A cubic foot of soil on average is 78lbs/cuft, so each square foot of surface area would be half of that weight, or 39lbs. Multiply by 43560 sqft/acre, and that means our topsoil weighs about 850 tons per acre. At 1.5% organic matter, that's just under 13 tons of stored carbon. If I double that through converting the farm to grazed pastures, I'm sequestering an additional 13 tons per acre. Organic matter well beyond my goal of 3% is quite achievable; 6% is not uncommon. Now multiply that by the number of cultivated acres worldwide...

Yes the cultivation of soil is a huge problem. Fortunately many farmers are seeing the benefits of low till or no till agriculture. I started this in my approx 1/2 acre of vegetable cultivation and the difference in plant health and lower disease is amazing. I also have way fewer weeds to pull. I'll never go back to using the rototiller like I used to.

This is indeed an interesting thread, filled with many knowledgeable opinions and much common sense. Very glad someone here linked to my site allowing me to find this one!

My understanding is that pastured (grass-fed and grass-finished, I think is the term we want to see) animals require 6 times more land than CAFO-raised beef. So we could have 6 times fewer animals without changing grass decay, or whatever, for starters. Also some articles suggest that grass-fed animals emit as much methane as CAFO animals - I don't know whether this takes ideal pasture rotation into account.

I would be interested to see your source on the figure stating that a CAFO based animal uses 1/6th of the land that a pasture raised animal does. Perhaps they're talking about physical space used rather than land growing feed?

The same land growing either pasture grasses or corn/soy rotations will in the end yield about the same amount of beef per acre, and yields often favor pasture production. Though grasses have a lower feed value on a per-pound basis, the production per acre will invariably exceed the production of grain per acre, as the entire plant (less roots) is utilized.

I am not at all surprised that the CH4 emissions between pastured/grain fed animals are similar; The problem as I see it is not that certain types of feed create more methane, but that certain types of feed destroy soil carbon. The methane is simply the carbon stored in the feed which is being returned to the atmosphere, which will happen regardless of whether a cow is involved or not.

Thanks David;

A lot to keep up with.. and of course your initial point about it not being 'new carbon' is central to debunk the debunkers.. (and the 'oh yah', headslap for me) I do generally look at the cow-burp argument as yet another excuse for some to say either 'don't ask me to do anything', or 'blame them, it's their fault' (and if it's able to be pinned on environmentalists, all the better,whoohah, party time!)

Course, I'm STILL wondering about the digestive norms of ruminants who are eating an appropriate diet.. but maybe I'll just have to let that one go.


From memory, the problem seems to be with monotonous diets. Most pasture farms grow a monoculture of ryegrass, because it has the biggest yield of "dry matter" per acre. Cows fed on ryegrass produce methane. Cows fed on a mixed pasture of cocksfoot, fescue and other (non-grass) meadow plants produce far less of it. Those fed on mixed pasture and palatable tree branches (alder, poplar, etc) produce less again. More importantly to the farmer, the animals need less vet care ($). Soils are improved at the same time, cutting fert. requirements.

The "ryegrass monoculture" approach seems to arise from reductionism - trying to optimise one part of a system rather than the whole. A cynic might say "and from trying to make pastoralists dependent on industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals."

IIRC cows were originally a cool-temperate climate forest-margin species. Ryegrass monocultures may occur naturally (Darwinian might be able to tell us yea or nay), but I'm pretty sure they did not occur where cows originated. An appropriate diet for cows has a wide variety of plants.

Either way, methane does decay (I remember seeing a figure of an 8 year lifespan being typcial), so the carbon eventually return to the CO2 it started as before it was absorbed by the plant during photosynthesis.

The half life is approximately 8 years.

Re: PG&E makes deal for space solar power

Oh, no, not another Space Power Satellite "concept". Read the fine print folks and weep. This sounds like the original plans for the Space Station, which had many changes and cost overruns. Same sales job as on the Shuttle.

This mess is supposed to be lofted to synchronous. That in itself implies a very large launch vehicle, since extra boost is needed to blast to GEO. The Shuttle can't get there and the heavy launch vehicles (they claim 5 launches) don't exist as yet. They seem to think they will be up and running by 2016. What a laugh!

Oh, now I see it:

The military itself could become the “anchor tenant” for such a power source, due to the current high cost of fueling combat operations abroad, the study says...

"I think we have found the killer application that we have been looking for to tie everything together that we're doing in space," Air Force Col. Michael V. "Coyote" Smith, who initiated the study for the Defense Department's National Security Space Office, told msnbc.com on Thursday...

Smith said the military would prefer to buy its power from a commercial space provider, rather than operating the system itself. "It is our goal to move this entire project out of DOD [the Department of Defense] as quickly as possible," he said. "Energy is not our business. We want to be a customer."..

Uh, this thing is supposed to be located at GEO. The military won't be powering their stuff on the other side of the world with this one. Maybe they want to build a couple of other ones, perhaps stationed over the Persian Gulf or Pakistan...

E. Swanson

Fear not, the carbon nanotube space elevator is going to save us all!

Look, they already built a 6-foot tall LEGO model that totally proves out the concept:

Japanese Team Creates Working Space Elevator... Made of Lego Blocks

All our problems are solved!!!

So, I've gone from "it's impossible" to "it's ridiculous" in 2 hours flat, and I outright said that it wasn't going to happen.

That's the best turnaround I've gotten yet on a simple statement of fact.

They say that people ridicule things that they aren't equipped to understand.

And you are replying to what postings? BTW, I used to do spacecraft design...

EDIT: I see, you are referring to the 12 April DrumBeat space elevator thread...

E. Swanson

Yep, and apparently so was wolverine, since that is the only mention of carbon nanotubes in any capacity on the site for months that I've seen.

It irks me when somebody so obviously responds to a comment made on a previous Drumbeat like that.

This is amusing since I was away from my PC on the 12th and had no idea there was a space elevator discussion.

FWIW, the physics may work, but currently available materials and systems are nowhere near meeting the calculated requirements. Next generation versions won't get us significantly closer.

Space elevator implementation will also be severely energy and commodity limited going forward, much like missions to Mars and several other topics frequently discussed in these forums.

I think that it will be good if someone can actually do a test. We do a lot of picking winners and losers in advance. I presume someone has looked closely enough at this to think it is worth a test.

If space solar can work (somewhat), we than have a baseline to start from to see whether there is any chance of feasibility. Nearly always, the first pass at something can be improved upon.

Gail, I don't believe a word of it. This whole thing has the smell of a con job.

Solaren currently consists of about ten engineers and scientists, but plans to grow to more than 100 over the next twelve months.

About ten engineers and scientists? With that small number, one would think he could be more exact. But probably that is because none of them work full time, just meeting one or two nights a week to talk about it.

I worked in the space industry for over 17 years, at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The cost of launching such a satellite into the geostationary orbit would be in the billions. They claim that existing lift vehicles can be used. I believe this would be impossible. 200 megawatts is not a lot of power as power plants go. Nevertheless this would require a huge amount of solar cells in space and an enormous amount of hardware to convert the electricity to radio waves and transmit them to earth. We do not currently have a vehicle that could launch such a huge payload into the geostationary orbit. Perhaps we could launch the pilot project they are talking about.

The billions required to design, build, launch and assemble in the geostationary orbit would take decades, if not centuries, to return the investment from catching a relatively small patch of solar energy in space. And remember we have never assembled anything in that orbit which lies 22,236 miles directly above the equator. All communication satellites in that orbit are relatively small and were assembled entirely on earth before launch. We have never launched anything of the size and scale they are talking about into the geostationary orbit.

And....the technology to do this is questionable at best. I doubt however that they will be selling stock in the venture. Sounds like they are looking for a huge government grant to develop the project. And that is the con!

Note: A geosynchronous orbit and the geostationary orbit are not exactly the same thing. An earth geosynchronous orbit is any orbit that orbits the earth is exactly 24 hours. A geostationary orbit is a geosynchronous orbit that is also directly above the equator.

Ron P.

Might make more sense to have a relay station in the geosych orbit to beam the microwaves to earth, and have the PV arrays someplace easier to manage - maybe at a Lagrange point - where they can be permanently oriented toward the sun, and beaming the microwaves to the relay station(s).

Not likely. The energy needs to be pointed toward the receiving antenna 24/7, which likely means the satellite would need to be positioned within line-of-sight at all times. That's one of the major selling points of the GEO location, the ability to provide continuous power to the antenna on the ground. If located at L1 or L2, the view from the Earth would be no better than that of placing your PV out on the ground or roof.

E. Swanson

Naw, that is even more improbable. Or more impossible? ;-) Lagrange points 1 and 2, only about a million miles from the earth, are extremely unstable. The stable Lagrange points, 4 and 5, are about 93 million miles from the earth, the same distance as the sun. The distance alone would prohibit any possibility of transmitting energy back to earth. No beam of electromagnetic energy could concentrate on such a small target from that distance.

However these two points are probably full of debris. Lagrange Points

The stable Lagrange points are the most interesting for astronomy, because stuff tends to accumulate there. For example...

In other words they are full of rocks and junk. They would probably bump into our sattellite and do damage.

Ron P.

Earth-Lunar Lagrange points are much closer than Sun-Earth Lagrange points.

Well, too bad we can't get power from Moon-shine...

Oh, wait... That'd be Ethanol.

Which may not be good for powering cars, but has been powering imaginations for centuries :)

Oh yea, I forgot about that. But as pointed out by E. Swanson above, another problem arises. The receving sattellite would be hidden behind the earth for several hours every day. But there is still another problem. While L4 and L5 Earth-Lunar points are stable they are still about 250 thousand miles away, the distance from earth to the moon. Even a laser would be highly diffused at that distance. Bouncing Laser Beams Off of the Moon

A laser beam that starts out from a telescope on earch at about 1 meter width slowly diverges and is blurred by the atmosphere until it is about 10 km wide on the surface of the moon. While that’s a pretty big beam, it’s still only a tiny fraction of the Moon’s surface, so all sorts of ridiculous analogies about the level of accuracy can be invented. For instance, it’s like a pigeon pooping directly into my coffee cup while flying at 35 km/hr at 32,000 feet (don’t check those numbers too closely, never mind the physical limitations on flying that high, suffice to say that it’s not an easy aim). The image on the right is courtesy the McDonald Observatory from their laser ranging facility.

The energy beam of radio waves, from quarter a million miles away would be extremely wide, far wider than a laser beam, by the time it traveled that great distance, and, and, hitting a small target from that great distance would be like a pigeon crapping into a coffee cup from 32,000 feet. And that is with a 10 kilometer wide beam. If you think the beam would not widen, then it would be like the pigon trying to hit the cup from the moon.

Ron P.

Believe it or not, I agree with you on this one.

Beaming space-based solar to Earth doesn't have many characteristics that I like.

Mind you, I can see potential for space based industry, but the further down the current path we go the less likely it is to get started on this civilization cycle. Too many prerequisites to be met.

IF we get fusion or other cheap, high-density power working, and
IF we can get a space elevator or other advanced lift system going,
THEN we might have a thriving space-based industry and community down the road

The probability is non-zero still, but not by a whole lot in my opinion.

Would make even more sense to put Air Force Col. Michael V. "Coyote" Smith, and his power mad colleagues, in some form of capsule and launch then directly toward the sun. The advantage is their ability to access a near infinite source of power plus the gravitational acceleration that would lower the overall energy cost of the mission.

And that way, they would experience at least one moment of brilliance, however brief.

Gail, your showing your technological optimism. Actually doing a test would not involve building something at GEO, but could use the existing Space Station as an orbital test site at much lower cost.

SPS is still a very hypothetical source of electric power and the proposed system depends heavily on other systems, such as the yet-to-be-built heavy launch vehicle and (probably) the associated solar powered ion engine powered propulsion transfer vehicle to reach GEO. It not so much about picking winners or losers as it is about allocating funds today, since money spent on building a single SPS could finance very many roofs covered with PV arrays or low temperature solar thermal systems, which we know how to do today.

Besides, there are many known technical problems which these guys may be avoiding in their sales campaign. One of my favorite is the problem of solar wind, which is a function of area and which would mess up the orbit of anything as large as this proposed SPS. One result of this problem is that there would need to be an active station keeping system to regularly move the satellite back to it's proper position. That takes some fuel, even for an electrically powered ion engine...

Here's a link to a DOD study done in 2007. I haven't read the full report, but the Executive Summary mentions the basic problem, which was the same as noted in an earlier 1997 report:

Several major challenges will need to be overcome to make SBSP a reality, including the creation of low-cost space access and a supporting infrastructure system on Earth and in space...

E. Swanson

Uh, this thing is supposed to be located at GEO. The military won't be powering their stuff on the other side of the world with this one. Maybe they want to build a couple of other ones, perhaps stationed over the Persian Gulf or Pakistan...

As long as it doesn't get smacked down...

NASA photos show giant cosmic hand

New photographs released by NASA have captured images of a vast stellar formation resembling a human hand reaching across space...

It shows what appear to be ghostly blue fingers -- thumb and pinky clearly discernible from index, ring and middle digits -- reaching into a sparkling cloud of fiery red.

You know it's a slow day when NASA posts pictures of a giant hand in space and it makes the news...

But seriously- Power in space? The EROEI is horrible when compared to everything else and is just marginally positive...


Ok, so Gary T. Spirnak, CEO of Solaren, is running this show from home. .... Gary Spirnak’s previous work dealt with black world military projects. .... In short: The various death ray projects would have a viable power source.

And about beamed power - I can remember spanking hard the last gent who was a-pimp'n this.

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4336?page=1 (actually gets ya there)


As for potential health risks, Damphousse insists that "by the time the beam has reached the surface, it has spread out considerably. The energy density is one-sixth that of the noon-day sun."

So we've went from 2 times the 'normal' PV to now 1/6th the energy density of normal sunlight.

And about beamed power - I can remember spanking

Not sure what you would call this:

Not sure what you would call this:

Like space based power at 1/6 the wattage of PV - an expensive boondoggle.

And yet, if North Korea decides to start lobbing missiles around it might just be useful.

It wouldn't do any good against any of the larger nuclear powers, since it lacks the range, but it is almost custom fit for a conflict with a small country that's doing its best cornered wild animal imitation.

"we" have an answer for that - Mututally Assured Destruction (MAD).

The space PV->electrical power on earth is a boondoggle. But you are right on it being a fine weapon system - and the owner of cryptogon connected them thar dots. http://cryptogon.com/?p=8029

(If its a weapon system, then call it that VS trying to sell it as an energy system guys.)

MAD doesn't work for the cornered wild animal scenario. It assumes that you are dealing with a counter agency that feels they have something to lose.

And the weapon system, if you follow the link, is an airborne anti-missile laser system with a range of a few hundred miles. Designed for tactical range missiles, but usable against ICBM's if you can get close enough during their boost phase.

A solar PV system that is too weak to provide effective power is going to be too weak to use as an effective weapon also, the two use cases have an amazing amount in common.

PG&E makes deal for space solar power

I can only hope PG&E signed the deal (if you supply the power, I'll buy it), simply to make them go away! Actually expecting this concept to be cost effective is lunacy (Pun intended).

Ah, but having PG&E signing on gives them the ability to raise limitless amounts of money from the gullible. This is a shrewd bit of work. The space power station will never exist, but hundreds of millions of dollars will quickly go into the pockets of those who own this company.

And it's even legal.

People are reacting to the stress of recession...by going on luxury vacations.

Giving the recession the finger

"There is a kind of adolescent thinking that does not pay attention to the fact that there are times when you can't have everything you want," said Potash. "Many young people, and people in their 30s, have always had it good. They aren't used to living without, and it's going to take them a little bit longer to adjust."

Better to change your thinking so that you want everything you have or, better yet, less than you have. I have a young friend who was having trouble doing her income taxes because she did not have a handle on her expenses for a business she ran during the year. She is also deeply in credit card debt with no sign that she is reducing the debt. I suggested she use Quicken because she could better monitor her expenses for tax purposes and could also get a better handle on what she was spending in general. She stated she doesn't want Quicken because she "doesn't want to know" what she is spending her money on.

To really know where you stand financially could make one realize that one is in a relative state of poverty. Better, from my friend's perspective, to be in ignorance so one can pretend that one is not in a state of relative poverty.

Given the fact the big financial institutions get bailed out from unbelievable and incalculable amounts of bad debt, there is a message to the individual, especially the young, that debt doesn't matter. Perhaps they are waiting for the bailout that will be focused on the individual. If we can cram down mortgage debt, why not credit card debt?

Why not just declare a debt Jubilee and start over?

Oh, btw, my friend is flying to Florida next week for a holiday. Not a luxury vacation, but still.

She is just using Mark to Model for her expenses.

Actually, I know several older people here in the UK who are spending on big ticket items/holidays/etc now because their view is that so many other people are spending more than they can expect to bring in given likely future prospects that some combination of the following will happen: (a) any money in savings will be partly taken away by increased taxes (which by definition are only paid by those who have the money to pay them), (b) some form of relief will be granted to those "in financial hardship" which by definition won't be available to the prudent or (c) institutions which have their money will fail/abscond/etc. Even I'm spending slightly more these days, on the assumption that it's probably better to have slightly more physical stuff that won't be taxed away than be saving as much as possible.

The message to the old (I probably don't qualify as old yet, but I'm getting this) is that, at least until the workhouse is reintroduced, it's better to spend today than have the money you have to spend with taken away before you can spend it tomorrow.

I'm spending my money on insulating and increasing my home's energy efficiency. I am thoroughly convinced that heating/cooling costs will go through the roof... The Rate of Return in investing in energy improvements for my home is much higher than putting my money in the bank.

But hey... vacations are fun too. Going to Europe in a month, so I won't knock anyone else who wants to go and have fun...

Have you looked into the property tax consequences of "investing" in insulation for your house?
Increased property taxes which have to be paid every year forever may totally wipe out any planned savings in the future?

I'd rather take the *risk* of increased property taxes versus the certainty of increased heating and cooling costs due to Peak Gas... Besides, the amount I am investing- in the order of $20K- is small compared to the value of the home (which is ~$140K after improvements). It's not like I'm doubling the value of my home...

Many internal improvements elude the assessor's watchful eye. The more hidden and obscure, the more likely that the assessor will not know. The same for the home buyer: if at the time of sale you don't highlight efficiency or utility bills, all the insulation in the world may not lead a buyer to pay more for it. So it comes back to: is the house really worth more because you put insulation in it? Maybe. But its doubtful that an assessment will increase to reflect that. Swimming pools, on the other hand...

That's my impression as well. We gutted our home to the bare studs to re-insulate and air seal and installed a new heating system, but none of this work was visible from the street and no building permits were required. However, when we built the garage, a permit was pulled and, no surprise, the tax auditor paid us a visit soon thereafter.

If you do this work yourself, take pictures as you go so that you can supply visual proof to prospective buyers, along with copies of your utility bills. Third party certification in the form of an independent energy audit is a good selling tool as well.


What an unhelpful argument.

You know that making a home more energy efficient is clearly a sound decision if you have any awareness of energy issues at all.. so why not look at this from a more proactive position? Tossing the quotes around "Investing" reads as simply snarky.. just because it isn't a financial product doesn't mean it isn't a real Investment.

This discussion shouldn't move towards 'Why you don't want to insulate', but 'Where we need to change property tax laws' to make sure everyone has a clear path forward to do so.


I remember a comment like this before, probably you right ?

Since I have a lead on certification in this area I've been poking around this a bit, and to tell the truth it sounds a bit whacked out.

You got an actual case of property tax consequences on the record ?

As an Australian it is strange to me that you pay taxes on improvements. Here land taxes are based on unimproved capital value so you pay the same tax on a shack as a mansion. Is it possible to make your house look like a run down dump whilst hiding the improvements?


What’s the secret to an endless vacation?

As many as a million Americans now live nomadic lifestyles, and their numbers appear to be growing because of the ailing economy and the aging population. Richard Grant, author of the book “American Nomads: Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers, and Bullriders” says the influx is being fueled from two sides of the income spectrum. At the top end, “it’s people taking early retirement and living on boats, folks with money finding ways to stay on permanent vacation, that sort of thing,” he says. And at the bottom, travelers who have lost their homes and jobs and don’t want to wait around to find out what’s next.

“For now, it is early in this trend and there is no reliable data,” says Clark University history professor Deborah Dwork, who is an authority on the subject. “All you have to do, however, is look at the lines of people snaking around city blocks, hoping to get a minute of a recruiters’ time for the few jobs that are in the area. You can ascertain what the future holds for many of them.”

Only in the USA could a story about homeless vagrants be spun to the point where they are said to be on an "endless vacation".

Some days you want to take a brick and just throw it through the screen.

Ahh, yes, but WNC, we have ample vacation homes available for these folks...

Move-in’s: Squatters adopt foreclosed homes

When the woman who calls herself Queen Omega moved into a three-bedroom house here last December, she introduced herself to the neighbors, signed contracts for electricity and water and ordered an Internet connection.

What she did not tell anyone was that she had no legal right to be in the home...

Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said about a dozen advocacy groups around the country were actively moving homeless people into vacant homes, some working in secret, others, like Take Back the Land, operating openly.

Why pay for that which you can get for free...?

Interesting times we live in...

You can quite literally see GM's collapse here...

1 Week Later...

One week later, the destruction of local GM plants are instoppable. This Delphi Parts plant is one of many that have come down and will come down in the city of Flint, Michigan, over the course of the next couple of months.

Where did the jobs go? How many jobs were lost? What will happen to vacant land?...

Somehow, if we are going to make electric cars, or even high efficiency ICEs, we need to re-use existing capacity as much as possible. Clearly we have too much capacity now, but we need to be converting to something sustainable. How about manufacturing durable bicycles?

The thing is though, the automobile fleet of the future is going to be shrinking no matter what the power plant under the hood; people are going to be holding on to their cars longer between trade-ins; and as cars become smaller and electrified, there will be less that goes into their manufacture. The bottom line is that we probably don't need anywhere close to the manufacturing capacity we now have. This was forseeable years ago, but apparently wasn't by anyone in charge in Detroit. Industries stuck with massive over-capacity have to go through a painful contraction, and not all of the companies or employees make it through to the other end; sad, but that is the reality of the situation.

Want to know the really sad part? Think of this: the average car in America lasts for 17 years before it is junked. Perhaps hard times and better engineering have the potential to stretch this out to 20 years. Now, think of how far we will be down the oil depletion curve in 20 years. This means that for people buying new cars today, most of those cars will need to be scrapped well before their useful life is over, because in much less than 20 years, even Civics and Corollas will use too much fuel to be practical. I would bet even a 2009 Prius will be very undesirable in 2029.

Here's the sad part. If I'm ever asked what car I would recommend, I say "get the best gas mileage car you can tolerate." I could elaborate more and say "The newer a vehicle you buy, the better it's gas mileage should be to retain its value." But I really don't think people have enough of a clue for any of this to make sense. It's probably best for GM, etc that they don't know how quickly their big new cars are going to depreciate.

Durability is the problem, citizen.

Rending is better than mending. Rending saves jobs.

My many thanks to so many of you on this board who contributed to my thinking on this matter wether you meant to or not....


Easter and “fun holiday” never went hand in hand in my world before this last weekend. What a change this year was. I have 11 nieces and nephews, who all think I’m a jungle gym. Their individual personalities and constant musings make for an extremely humorous day.

I think about them a lot, and wonder what sort of world they will inherit. The only hope I have is that they seem to like the farm a lot, and to play with livestock. Every day it looks like “The Walton’s” lifestyle is going to make a comeback.

The folks in Washington DC spent the last several decades making sure that the ultimate ponzi scheme called social security will bankrupt these youngsters. The Keynesian Economic model that our government justifies to rack up enormous deficits will have to get paid with the production of labor from these little tikes.
While the government is hell-bent on enslaving everyone who was innocent in its debauchery of spending orgies, the market itself, thankfully is currently looking out for their well-being.

I enjoy studying oil production rates. I find it fascinating that trend-line production turned south a couple years ago. This means we will have less oil every year from now on.

What does this have to do with little kids you ask? A LOT! You see, there are a lot of the same folks who pushed all their economic woes onto future generations that would like to mine all the remaining oil now, before the next generations could get a chance at it. It’s thinking like this that truly burns me. There is one good force that is working to offset the evil powers of government and its social security ponzi scheme.

Mr. Market is punishing oil drillers with incredible ferocity for taking the kid’s oil out of the ground. In the last few months, $50 oil has sent a lot of drilling activity into a fallow-like state. It’s always easier to stop something than it is to start something, and this drilling activity will remain stalled until a new bull market is well underway.

At that point, (and it won’t be long) Mr. Market will turn its fangs on the consumer of energy, biting and clawing into the livelihood of folks who would otherwise burn up the last drops of dinosaur blood.
Production of light sweet conventional oil was dropping BIG TIME even before the price crashed, and now its falling much faster. $50 oil used to make oilmen rich, but because oil is harder to reach, $50 doesn’t cut it.

It’s clear that the periods between crushingly high prices will get shorter. What is new in my thinking is that the market must perform its duty of rationing what little remains of useful reserves in the ground. The only way to prevent excessive drilling is to crash the price after destroying demand. So Peak Oil is every bit as much about crashing prices as it is about skyrocketing prices. Both of these things HAVE to occur for the market to properly protect the youngsters.

It does my heart good to know that although the government in all its evilness would gladly crush the hopes and dreams of the next generation, one can still count on what remains of the market to fight the good fight.

I’m excited about forming a “Tea Party” tomorrow on April 15th. The tyranny of Uncle Sam is out of control, it’s clear that we’d be far better off without government, and we need to get rid of it altogether.

If homo sap. ever does go extinct, our inherent tendency to excessively discount the future will have a lot to do with it. Ditto for the US of A.

Those who discount the future to zero are doomed to have zero future.

I believe there are several countries in Africa that are pretty much without any government. Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria come to mind. Fine examples to emulate.

I thought tyranny was about taxation without representation? I am represented. Heck, the majority of people are represented. I think too many folks are confusing tyranny with losing an election. To further paraphrase Jon Stewart: Pace Your Rage. Being in the minority party is a bummer and you have only been there for a few months. Chin up, chin up.

Once again I wrote something, and it came out completely wrong. Guess I should learn to edit. Obviously some government is good, but what we have now, and have had for decades is a certainly the road to serfdom.

That wasn't my point though.

I view the market's job as one of rationing. It looks like the market will go to extreme lows to ration reserves by crushing drillers when its not making new highs to ration consumption.

The market's action since 2004 appears to favor the future generations. I expect the market to continue to perform BOTH of its rationing roles. Rationing consumption, and rationing reserves.

Here's what I'm pretty certain we will see with oil prices going forward. A 18 to 24 month span between extreme rationing events, followed immediately by price collapses to inflation-adjusted all-time lows.

The reason I expect this is the market has two jobs;

1) Drasticly reduce consumption (ration consumption)

2) Drasticly reduce production. ( ration reserves, or keep the remaining oil in the ground as long as possible.)

The market is the most efficient allocator of resources. No man could ever match in deciding what should be drilled, or what should be left in the ground.

The market, I'm happy to say, is looking after the young ones. We can say things all day long like, "We should drill here, and we should drill there", but we won't. You can rest assured the market isn't foolish enough to allow the selfish baby boomers to consume the last petro.

The market is brutally punishing nat gas producers, who are losing $$ at a frentic pace. The market is punishing oil drillers with a vengence. The clowns in congress can do what they want, but the market says the OCS is off-limits, and the market is right.

I really have to stand back and admire the beauty of it. Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand" is looking out for the wee ones, protecting them from the folks who already mortgaged their future.

After disfiguring, biting and snarling at the drillers, and making them think twice about ever investing in risky projects again, the market will wheel around like a jackel, and take after its other arch enemy, the energy consumer/waster.


Here's what I'm thinking on oil prices;

1) Trend line production is down, probably 2% per year. This condition is totally permanent.

2) No large scale alternative energy platform will ever present itself. (Nothing so far is remotely close)

3) The market must ration consumption. (force us to build trains, btw, whatever happened to them?)

4) The market must ration oil reserves with extreme viscousness.

Wow. My advice is that you spend just a bit of time looking into who is funding the tea parties and instigating all this "overtaxation" angst. Hint: it's not the little guys; you may want to start with Koch. BTW: you are likely to see a tax cut as a result of the 2008 election; keep that in your mind as you protest your government.

I suggest everyone here who runs this blog and talks about the financial situation of the world invest some time, money and effort in getting legal council considering this disturbing trend.


South Korea's democracy seems to be deteriorating by the day — this time with the proposed 18-month incarceration of a blogger critical of the South's economic policy.

The 31-year-old blogger's crime: falsely reporting that South Korea had barred banks from purchasing U.S. currency. The authorities said the blogger, Park Dae-sung, will find out his sentence on April 20 for posting the inaccurate story that prosecutors said undermined the county's credibility, The Associated Press reports.

scapegoat anyone?

then again they are only following the lead of the British who did this with a bbc editor earlier in the year.


better hope it doesn't get this bad..

"Retail sales tumble unexpectedly in March"
"Recovery in GDP seen delayed to October"

That retail sales tumble was not at all unexpected - at least not by those of us who believe that what we are facing is not a "V" or even a "U", but rather an "L" - to be followed by futher stairsteps descending.

"Recovery" is in the future - and always will be.

I suspect the recovery will take other forms. Most likely Y.

As in Y
.......... Y

I could keep going but essentially from this point it is Y's all the way down.

Truly, this should not be a surprise to anyone who noted that over half a million jobs per month were disappearing in the US economy. And I did have the understanding that WALL STREET did watch such things.

Retail #'s are MUCH worse than what has been reported so far in the MSM.

Saw an article today in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about how Fastenal saw lower sales numbers for the first time ever.

That's a pretty ominous sign from the suppliers' supplier.

The EIA Short-Term Energy and Summer Fuels Outlook is just out. They say non-OPEC all liquids will increase this year, but just barely. They have 2007 at 50.04 mb/d, 2008 at 49.75 mb/d and expect 2009 to be 49.77 mb/d.

Non-OPEC Supply. Non-OPEC supplies in 2009 are expected be close to last year's levels. The United States, Brazil, and Azerbaijan will show large growth in supplies this year. However, these increases in production are offset by large declines in production from Mexico, the North Sea, and Russia (Non-OPEC Crude Oil and Liquid Fuels Production Growth). Even this pessimistic forecast still contains considerable downside risk, especially from additional project delays and higher-than-anticipated decline rates. Non-OPEC supply is expected to increase by a modest 260,000 bbl/d in 2010, due to increasing production from Brazil, the United States, and the former Soviet Union.

Ron P.

Riding the Green Wave

I always suspected they made traffic lights purposely obstructive to make money in fuel tax...

I hadn't realized it was even controversial. "Green waves" are pretty routine in the US.

The problem, of course, is that they only work one way. If you're going the other way, you may end up with a red wave.

Roundabouts are better than traffic lights, IMO.

Roundabouts are growing more and more popular, but they aren't suited to every intersection. And they can be pretty darn annoying if you have one every block, as you do traffic lights in some areas.

I love green waves (or timed lights) along my commute. No "red waves" though because the streets are all one-way.

Loved the CBS 60 Minutes piece on conserving our natural resources by Andy Rooney. However, it seems to conflict with the story they ran in January about speculators running up the price of oil. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4713382n

Regarding the above article with the title: ENERGY EXECUTIVE ON THE END OF OIL.
I'm wondering, why an US blog like the OIL DRUM is publishing articles from SPIEGEL Online, a German based newsmagazine!?
Are you US people not talking about peak oil over there?
This is just another example, how ignorant and silly this US albeit AngloSaxon Finance culture/Impire has gone.
Here in Europe, we have no recession, all restaurants, almost all and shopping areas in the towns are full, more as full, traffic jam everywhere and happy people. Because we have not even 20% of your consumer debt and real estate is just fine. Well, except of UK and Ireland. But those countries not really belong to the EU. They are Anglo Saxon countries.

TOD collects noteworthy news items from around the world, this is common for sites like this.

But to directly answer your question: no, on the whole we are not talking about peak oil, just a very small minority are.

Yeah, I hear real estate in Spain is going gangbusters. Not. But maybe you can blame that on the Brits.

Of course, Europe stops at the Pyrenees. We Spaniards are in recession, 4 million unemployed, 1 million without benefits or food stamps. The only healthy real state in Spain is Real Madrid.
As to Ireland being an Anglo Saxon country, I don't think the Irish would agree with that.
You shouldn't call the Americans ignorant, you made too many elementary mistakes in your short and nasty piece.
[edit] No, Cygnus, we don't blame the Brits. We are very good at making mistakes ourselves.

Consumer debt is only part of the problem. The big problem is that our banks our overleveraged. And European banks, by some estimates, are even more overleveraged than American banks. This is an international crisis.

Here in Europe, we have no recession, all restaurants, almost all and shopping areas in the towns are full, more as full, traffic jam everywhere and happy people.

Energy prices fall as recession deepens in Europe

British workers compete for seasonal jobs as recession bites

And I could post dozens more such news reports about this Global Recession. Don't you think it is just a little silly to say that there is no recession in Europe just because you see restraunts full and traffic jams. That is what is called anecdotal evidence. I can show you full restraunts here and lots of traffic jams as well but I don't take that as evidence that we have no recession.

Ron P.

Are you US people not talking about peak oil over there?
This is just another example, how ignorant and silly this US albeit AngloSaxon Finance culture/Empire has gone.

Much as it shames me to say this about my own people,
We are not talking about PO over here.

Instead we go to church on Easter Sunday
and pray really really hard that the deity will solve our problems;
because we believe,
because we really really believe,
and because we're good people as surely the deity knows.

We go home and watch corporate sponsored TV.
We watch President Obama tell us that printing trillions of pieces of paper (a.k.a. US dollars) will stimulate and save us.
We watch advertisements telling us that we each can become a gizzillionaire if only we buy foreclosed real estate right now before the economy bounces down against the solid floor and rebounds --as it surely must because "history" teaches us so.

No. we don't talk about Peak Oil.
We're too smart.
We study "history".
History teaches us that gloomers have come and gone, and yet we're all still here. Right?

Reporters from INFOWARS.COM were harassed and threatened with arrest in downtown Kansas City, Missouri after filming the local branch of the private Federal Reserve building.


As posted before, since Nate & I are both 6 feet-five inches tall: we request first dibs on the longest available bunks in the prison camps. :(

Every day, it becomes more apparent that only thru force of arms, will real change come to this country....

A nitwit security Bimbo threatens arrest for "filming" a public building? Sadly, the local yokels would probably back her up. The real criminals are in Washington DC, and hiding behind the walls of the Federal Reserve.

It is a bright cold day in April..... Winston Smith, where are you?

Ugh. You can't think of any reason why a BANK won't want people with video cameras stationed outside? Yeah, it's a public building, but it's a BANK, with lots of money and valuables inside. I'm an idiot and even I know it would be pretty stoopid to set up a camera shoot outside of a bank without first getting some kind of permission or clearance. Please chill the _uck out.

You're half right.

Yet smart enough to acknowledge it. People who are certain that they know it all make me more than nervous.

So it's a bank ... whoop dee doo. You don't need permission from anyone to take pictures in a public place. I swear, since 9/11, Americans have been racing to see who can justify fascist bullshit the fastest.

Every day, it becomes more apparent that only thru force of arms, will real change come to this country....

The only vote one has is where one spends their money.

If the consumers^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hcitizens opted to not spend that money or spend it here VS there, that would effect change.

(I suppose a functioning grand jury system where citizens could bring their evidence of felonies would be good for a laugh too)

Thxs to Leanan for the toplink: "Retail sales tumble unexpectedly in March".


How could have any reasonable journalist been so deluded with 'wishful thoughts' when the bad news was so obvious? Is a Tinkerbell-like delusion the basic requirement to be a MSM reporter?

Did Tinkerbell, and the rest of the 'something for nothing' bunch really and truly-->gleefully anticipate that retail sales would be ramping up gloriously since Xmas, and are only now "unexpectedly" disappointed; instantly dejected by this reporting surprise?

IMO, there is way too much Pixie Dust in Washington DC, Wall Street, and the rest of the Iron Triangle.

GM needs to revisit their Volt marketing campaign because a senior editor at fortune doesn't get it

Despite the car's limited range (40 miles between charges) and stiff price (estimated at $40,000) GM (GM, Fortune 500) had made the Volt its standard-bearer and touted it as an antidote to climate change and oil imports

Didn't any one from GM appraise the guy of this answer from the GM Volt web site FAQ page.

The car is being designed to drive at least 40 miles on pure electricity stored in the battery from overnight home charging. After that the gas engine will kick in and allow the car to be driven up to 400 miles on a full tank (6-7 gallons) of gas.

Alan from the islands

A few days ago, "Ignorant" made a comment here complaining that it was impossible to buy a good alarm clock or timer. We talked about the fact that the old ones were made so much better than the junk being made now.

I've just happened to come across a company that specializes in restoring old alarm clocks, many of them made in USA. I post this mainly as an example of something we are likely to see more of in the future.

Thanks. As I mentioned above, my local hardware store recently hired mechanics to fix old machinery.
Now if I can only find someone who makes shoes the way they made them 25 years ago... I used to walk 6 miles a day on city concrete and the shoes would last at least two years. Today I walk about 30 minutes (at most) on carpet and I'm ready for a replacement in about one year's time... at least for appearance sake. Use the beat up shoes for weekend hikes. Comfortable, but risk trench foot when it rains.

Just a bit of humour. Even the econonmist's have problems handling the situation.
Is it his bad?

No, it's the toxic effect of being that close to Glenn Beck. Most watchers were surprised the dude lasted that long. "Brain...melting!"

Men!!! are we supposed to laugh or cry?
Darn! that was quite anticlimactic.

Economic collapse?

Nobel Prize = Booby Prize ??

Paul Krugman recommends building Giant Stone Heads

Krugman in Need of Remedial Education

(Krugman said) "..If the Treasury were to bury (dollars) at suitable depths in disused coalmines and leave it to private enterprise to dig the notes up again, there need be no more unemployment.

And the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is.

It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing."

(Mish's response) Once again any eighth grader would understand the folly of paying people to do useless work. Those same eighth graders would understand the idea that if reckless spending got us into this mess, then reckless spending cannot possibly get us out of this mess.


I think economists should be buried in coalmines - THAT would stimulate the economy.

economists should be buried

That's a bit unfair.
They were brain washed just like the rest of us.

They were told to go to school and study hard.
They were told to work hard and climb the corporate ladder to "success".

They were fed carrots when giving the "right" answers in eco class.
They were whipped when questioning dogma.

Now it's all falling apart.
And we want to sling mud at these mentally abused suckers?

Doesn't quite seem fair.

Krugman was quoting John Maynard Keynes -- pretty much verbatim too. This "Mish" seems, umm, economically naive, on this showing.

Very few paid occupations in the 'developed' world are _not_ useless. I have just read an article featuring a marketing consultant, sales agents for recreational travel, and a spokesperson from a pleasure cruise ship company. All unnecessary jobs, in basic terms. The only 'value' they have is that they help to move money from some people to others.

I wonder what those eighth graders will think when they graduate into the world of work? Will they be grateful that 'reckless spending' gets them an unnecessary job in a shop or an office? Or will they think "this is bogus. I'm gonna, like, grow vegetables and stuff"?

I would like to thank the Brits among us for a wonderful voice ... turn up the volumn, kick back and enjoy.


How can you go wrong with a good Cinderella story?

Very nice.

(Considering this is the song of a Girl who is accepting that she'll never get the boy she loves, and will soon die on the barricades.. I'm such a sucker!)

How about a new opera called "Les Misrable Oil Addicts"?

And a new song to go with it?

I Dreamed An Infinite Energy Dream (new lyrics)

There was a time, when oil was cheap
And its end was just a murmur
And its promises were so so inviting

There was a time, when I was blind
And the world had a creamy nougat center
And the center was endlessly giving

There was a time it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and cartopia was my living

I dreamed that oil would never die
I dreamed that God would be ever giving

Then I was young and unconcerend
And dreams were made and used and wasted

There was no OPEC ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no petro untasted

But the Hubberts came at night
With their curved declines soft as thunder

As they tear your hopes apart
As they turn your dreams to doom & gloom

Big Oil filled a summer by my side
It filled my auto with endless wonder

It took my childishness in its stride
But prices soared when autumn came

And still I dream prices will decline
That oil would remain for years and ever

But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be
So different from the hell I'm living

So different now from what it seemed
Now Hubbert has killed the dream I dreamed

[applause] [applause]
[Simmon Cowel: I didn't see Peak Oil coming. Total surprise. I'm stunned. Biggest oh oh of the season]