DrumBeat: June 25, 2009

Recession, expensive oil slow CO2 growth in 2008

AMSTERDAM – The global recession has an up side, at least for people worried about climate change: carbon emissions are growing more slowly than in recent years, Dutch researchers said Thursday.

But they also said the emissions of developing countries were higher than those of the industrialized world for the first time last year.

Less money in the bank, higher oil prices and a growing use of wind, solar and other renewable energy resources put a brake last year on the increase of the most common greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, said the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

Gas prices strain struggling households

The recent spike in gasoline prices comes at a particularly unfortunate time -- many Americans are still reeling from the economic downturn. Here is how some people have responded to the return of pain at the pump.

Beware of another oil shock

After hitting a low of around $32 last December, the price of a barrel of oil has risen above $70. While the net effect of this will lead to renewed inflation and hitting our wallets, what is the medium-term outlook for oil? All predictions are risky, but it is likely that prices will go right back up into the $100 level, resulting in many attendant problems for the world economy.

British Airways staff agree to pay cuts

Of the 40,000 employees, 6,940 volunteer for unpaid leave, part-time working or unpaid work, saving the company up to $16 million.

There's No Unseating King Coal

Last year's record run in crude oil prices renewed calls to develop other fuel sources. Yet while natural gas has received a lot of attention as a potential clean fuel source, the abundance of coal in the U.S. makes it another obvious choice for further energy development.

India: Guj demands sufficient allocation of fuel for its power plants

Patel urged the Union Power ministry to ask the agencies concerned to allocate adequate quantity of gas for existing and upcoming gas based power stations.

He said coal allocation and supply for power projects in Gujarat has also been inadequate because of which the existing coal based power plants have been operating at critical stock position.

John Michael Greer: The thermodynamic economy

The last twelve months or so of economic chaos has taught those of us in the peak oil community some useful lessons. Perhaps the most valuable of these lessons is extent to which conventional economic ideas have failed to make sense of the way that the twilight of fossil fuels is working out in practice.

Not too long ago, it bears remembering, most people on all sides of the peak oil debate – believers, skeptics, and everyone in between – assumed that the law of supply and demand would necessarily define the world’s response to the end of cheap oil. As existing reserves depleted, nearly everyone agreed, the intersection of decreasing supply and rising demand would drive prices up. Common or garden variety cornucopians insisted that this would lead to more drilling, more secondary extraction, and other measures that would produce more oil and bring the price back down; techno-cornucopians insisted that this would lead to the discovery of new energy resources, which would produce more energy and bring the price back down; green cornucopians insisted that this would finally make renewable energy cost-effective, and at least keep the price from rising further; and pessimists argued that none of these things would happen, and the price of oil would rise steadily on up into the stratosphere.

None of them were right. Instead, as the world crossed the bumpy plateau surrounding its 2005 production peak, oil prices moved up and down in waves of increasing violence, culminating in a drastic price spike driven in part by speculative greed, and followed by an equally drastic crash driven in part by speculative panic. The shockwaves from that spike and crash were not solely responsible for the economic power dive that followed – most of a decade of hopelessly misguided fiscal policy, criminal negligence in the banking and business sectors, and a popular psychology of entitlement extreme even by the standards of past speculative disasters, all had their own parts to play – but even a financial world less shaky than the house of cards that imploded last year would have had a hard time dealing with the body blow inflicted on it by the oil spike and its aftermath.

Iraq Studying If Sinopec Can Bid in Oil Round After Addax Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Iraq is studying whether to allow China Petrochemical Corp. to bid for contracts to develop its oil fields after the company agreed to buy Addax Petroleum Corp., which has assets in its Kurdish region.

The Oil Minister hasn’t yet made a decision, a spokesman at the ministry said by telephone today. The Chinese company, also known as Sinopec Group, is among the more than 30 oil producers short-listed by the Iraqi government to bid for development rights June 29 and 30.

China Pays Too Much for Oil in Iraq at $16 a Barrel

So why is China still paying too much for oil? Sinopec is paying about $16 a barrel of proven and probable reserves. The average for African and Middle Eastern deals in 2008 — a year with triple-digit crude prices — was under $5 a barrel, according to consultants IHS Herold and Harrison Lovegrove & Co. Throw in Addax’s possible reserves and contingent natural-gas reserves and the multiple drops to just over $7 a barrel of oil equivalent. Your average buyer would never factor in such rosy assumptions. But then Sinopec, 66%-owned by the Chinese government, isn’t your average buyer.

Is the Rig Count About to Rebound? Scenarios for The Future

Last week Baker Hughes reported that their rig count for active rigs in the United States increased by 23 rigs to 899 active rigs. While this count increased from the prior week, compared to a year ago, the rig count is down by over 1,000 rigs marking one of the worst downturns in the industry history. Our favorite chart shows the rig count for 2000-2009 compared to the rig count of 1973-1983. The similarities are stunning, but even more so if one plots the rig counts indexed to 100 at the start of the respective time periods.

Two-day conference on oil and gas exploration in Pakistan next month

LONDON (APP): As a part of its drive to secure foreign investments and overcome energy crisis, a two‑day conference on oil and gas exploration in Pakistan is being organised in the British capital next month. The July 23‑24 Pakistan Exploration Promotion Conference arranged by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources will comprise a series of events and interactive sessions between the various stakeholders for a share in South Asians country natural resources.

Malaysia: Government working to overcome natural gas shortage, says Najib

THE Government views seriously the natural gas supply shortage in the country and has carried out various immediate measures to overcome it.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak told William Leong (PKR – Selayang) that gas plants in Malaysia were only capable of producing two billion mmscfd (million standard cubic feet of gas a day).

“The demand for natural gas, especially from the industrial sector, has risen drastically over the past few years.

“Following the increase in de-mand, all of the natural gas produced in Peninsula Malaysia has already been fully contracted out to both the electrical and non-electrical sectors,” he said in a written reply made available yesterday.

Don’t Fight The Powerful Trends Now Underway

The Obama Administration has been desperately trying to prop up and maintain the petroleum-dependent American personal car industry. Unfortunately these efforts are a lost cause, because this way of life (a transportation system primarily based on billions of personal automobiles) is no longer a viable option. It’s ridiculous for America to be spending billions to keep Chrysler and General Motors on life support, when these car companies are going to die soon anyway. These dinosaur companies have very high costs of production, have emphasized the production of the most inefficient vehicles (such as SUVs and the Hummer), and are dangerously out touch with the fact that the world is running out of inexpensive petroleum. If the Administration could only put short-term political considerations aside, if it could only look to the needs of the future, it would probably have spent all this car company bailout money in a very different way. The money would much more productively be spent supporting small new companies offering innovative transportation products that do not depend on petroleum. I’m talking about companies like Aptera, Miles Electric, Venturi, Universal Electric Vehicle Corp., and Zen Motor Company.

The Value Of Detroit Fuel Economy

According to a new University of Michigan report, a successful turnaround for Detroit automakers could hinge on a rapid cultural transformation. What's that mean, exactly?

Well, the report, "Fixing Detroit: How Far, How Fast, How Fuel Efficient," noted that the existing culture within the domestic auto companies systematically underestimates the value of fuel economy - which has crippled profitability.

U.S. Stimulus Puts Bullet Trains on the Fast Track

One of the key ideas fueling HSR is that the U.S. in the 21st century has grown beyond a country of cities and suburbs to what urban-studies expert Richard Florida calls "mega-regions." Central Florida's I-4 Corridor, between Orlando and Tampa, is a prime example. Mega-regions "are natural economic agglomerations whose market potential can be harnessed if they're linked up by high-speed rail," says Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto. "If there's any place in the world right now where this makes sense, it's the U.S. Cars and jets won't do it; high-speed rail will."

Jamaica: Paulwell revives debate on nuclear energy use

THE DEBATE over the use of nuclear energy as a means of easing the country's depen-dency on oil is far from dead.

Opposition Spokesman on Energy Phillip Paulwell resurrected the issue in his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament on Tuesday.

According to Paulwell, "Utilising nuclear energy, as one, just one, of a menu of options to reduce our country's dependence on oil."

The Peak Oil Crisis: Stifling a Rebound

There seems to be little doubt that over the next few years, the world's oil supply will be forced into irretrievable decline from a combination of geologic and geopolitical reasons coupled with a lack of adequate investment. Should the demand for oil increase in the next year or so, there will still be some room for increased production without unacceptable prices increases for a while. The longer a recovery is delayed, however, the better the chances that oil prices will quickly surge to recovery-choking levels. While there are long-term solutions to this problem they will take decades to implement.

Chilling story of world gas shortage could be all hot air

THE world, and Britain in particular, is running out of gas. The world and Britain is having to rely on imports from states with giant reserves but which are politically volatile or happy to manipulate the market - countries like Russia, Iran and Qatar.

Shipments of LNG, the liquefied natural gas technology that is supposed to change the world's energy market, aren't stopping here and if they are, they are for top dollar.

All this has contrived to push up the price of gas to historic highs. It means that UK homes are paying more than £1000 a year for their household energy. It means Shell and BP report annual profits measured in the tens of billions of pounds. It means UK energy suppliers such as British Gas, E.On, npower, EDF, Southern Electric are counting their profits in the billions.

But what if this is in fact one of the greatest cons of all time?

Japan to get oil for its reserves from ADNOC

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan has concluded a basic agreement with the United Arab Emirates to start receiving oil from Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) to help stock up its oil reserves, the government said on Thursday.

ANALYSIS-China oil deals flow where politics less involved

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Sinopec's $7.2 billion bid for oil explorer Addax Petroleum is a sign that China's energy giants find it easier to secure reserves in parts of the world where there are fewer hang-ups about Beijing owning local natural resources.

Africa and the Middle East, where Swiss-based Addax has its main assets, are more politically disposed to China than are developed nations such as the United States, where local politicians blocked CNOOC's $18.5 billion bid for oil company Unocal in 2005, analysts say.

China's unquenchable thirst for oil

A refinery in Singapore. Oil and gas fields in Central Asia. A pipeline in Russia. Ultradeep crude deposits off Brazil. Production wells in Libya.

And now Toronto-listed Addax Petroleum Corp., AXC-T with its oil fields in western Africa and Iraq's Kurdistan.

China's cash-rich, state-controlled oil companies and its state development bank are on a buying spree, taking advantage of low crude prices and shrunken credit markets to snap up global assets that will help feed the country's enormous appetite for energy.

Gazprom may cut its investment program by 30 pct this year

"Taking into consideration the decline in demand for gas on the world markets, Gazprom intends to cut investments," Kruglov emphasized. He said, "The overall scope of investment programme adjustment may amount to about 30 percent downward". Gazprom's investment programme, which is calculated on the strength of the forecast for average annual oil price of $42 per barrel, amounts to 920,000 million roubles this year.

Petronas Profit Falls First Time in 7 Years on Costs

(Bloomberg) -- Petroliam Nasional Bhd., Malaysia’s state oil company, posted its first annual profit decline in seven years as the global recession sapped energy demand and production costs remained high.

Nigerian rebels say major Shell pipeline blown up

LAGOS (AFP) – Nigerian rebels said they carried out a pre-dawn attack against Royal Dutch Shell facilities in a warning to Russia not to invest in the country's oil and gas industry.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said the attack was to coincide with a visit to Nigeria by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during which major energy investment deals were struck.

Iraq Opens Oilfields as Exxon, Shell Seek $16 Billion Foothold

(Bloomberg) -- Iraq is set to welcome back foreign oil companies into the war-torn nation to develop the world’s third-largest crude reserves three decades after expelling them.

Eight of the world’s top 10 non-state oil producers, including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, are vying for the right to help Iraq develop six oilfields and two natural-gas deposits. More than 30 companies in total are bidding for $16 billion worth of technical service contracts for producing fields that will be awarded in Baghdad on June 29-30.

China, Turkmenistan seal landmark energy deal

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan—China signed a 30-year deal to increase purchases of natural gas from Turkmenistan by 30 percent, state media reported Thursday -- a landmark agreement for Beijing as it competes with Moscow for access to Central Asia's energy wealth.

Energy companies "overcharge" customers

LONDON (AFP) – Customers are being overcharged by an average of 74 pounds as energy companies fail to pass on savings made because of falling gas and electricity prices, an independent watchdog said on Thursday.

Consumer Focus found that the average household paid 1,293 pounds as their energy bills soared by 42 percent over the past 12 months.

Over the same period, the energy companies saved 1.6 billion pounds as the price of crude oil plummetted from a peak of 147 dollars a barrel in July 2008 to just 70 dollars.

Time to lock in energy prices?

Matthew Simmons, Texas author and investment banker and the guy who bet oil will hit $200 a barrel next year, feels pretty good.

Oil has doubled to $70 recently as the economy shows signs of life, and "prices do seem poised for the next leg up," he says on the phone. "By sometime a year or two from now, we'll look back and say, yeah, prices were really cheap."

Perhaps the leading proponent of the idea that oil is running out, Simmons probably won't win his bet, made with New York Times columnist John Tierney. But the prospect for further increases raises the question of whether you should buy future energy at today's prices, to the extent that you can.

Why gas will not go to $4 this summer

Houston consultant Matthew Simmons sees higher prices ahead as well. OPEC's supply capacity is strained, he said, and the recession has halted refinery expansions, pipeline improvements and offshore-drilling projects. "There's no extra crude in OPEC's pocket," he said. "We have no cushion."

Energy demand is "on the move again" in China, India and Brazil, where the economic downturn "seems to be ending prematurely," he said. And he warns of imminent danger in a host of oil-producing nations -- not just Iran. Venezuela may be the most volatile, he said. Nigeria's "on the brink of a civil war," and Russia shows "significant turbulence."

With a major crisis in any one of those nations, he said, speculators will pounce. "You could see oil breaking $200 this summer."

Somali Pirate Attacks Boost Shipping Insurance Rates

(Bloomberg) -- The cost of piracy insurance has increased as much as 20-fold after attacks on shipping off the Horn of Africa doubled in the first quarter, insurance broker Marsh said.

Attacks on large commercial vessels such as the Sirius Star, a Saudi oil supertanker that was released in January, almost two months after it was hijacked with a cargo of 2 million barrels of oil, have spurred premiums and demand for coverage.

Venezuela Central Bank, Government Approve PDVSA Bond

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s government and central bank approved a bond sale by state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said today in Maracay, Venezuela.

The bonds will be denominated in bolivars and the money will be used for domestic operations, Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters separately.

Pump Prices Driving More to Mass Transit

As the American Public Transportation Association triumphantly reported in March, mass transit ridership in the U.S. reached its highest level since the 1950s last year. But do those crowded buses, subways and commuter trains reflect a long-term trend, or merely a transitory reaction to the price of gasoline?

The answer appears to be both: A newly published study finds "a small but statistically significant amount of ridership fluctuation is due to changes in gasoline prices." But perhaps the most interesting findings in the report by geographer Bradley Lane of Indiana University is how the trends differ from one metropolitan area to the next.

EDP Says More U.S. States Are Now Attractive for Wind Energy

(Bloomberg) -- EDP-Energias de Portugal SA, the owner of wind farms from New York to Oregon, said more U.S. states are offering investment opportunities for wind power development as local governments encourage renewable energy.

“We’re seeing today a bigger number of markets that are attractive than in the past,” Chief Executive Officer Antonio Mexia said in an interview in Cascais, Portugal. “There has been an increase in the number of states that have standards and that give importance to renewable energy.”

Plant making gas from wood opens in Austria

GUESSING, Austria (AFP) – A new plant that produces gas from wood was opened in Austria on Wednesday, paving the way towards new possibilities in renewable energy.

According to its backers, the gas produced at the plant can be used in urban heating systems, for gas-powered cars or by power stations that work on gas.

"We still need fossil fuel of course, but this plant shows what is technically possible," Austria's Environment Minister Nikolas Berlakovich said at the plant's inauguration.

'Cash for Clunkers' mostly a clunker

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- If you think the new "Cash for Clunkers" law is going to help you buy a new car, you're probably wrong.

As it's written, the law will benefit few car shoppers and those who might actually benefit from it probably shouldn't be buying a new car to begin with.

China will review planned dam that threatens fish

BEIJING – China's environment ministry said Thursday that it has ordered an ecological assessment for a proposed Yangtze River dam that conservationists fear could threaten hundreds of fish species and drive the giant Chinese sturgeon into extinction.

Chinese environmentalists and scientists are trying to halt the Xiaonanhai dam, upstream from Chongqing city in mountainous western China, saying that it and two other dams would flood most of the last remaining fish reserve on the Yangtze, preventing the migration of rare fish.

More than "renewable" energy needed: Microsoft

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The head of Microsoft Corp's $9 billion research unit thinks the debate over stopping climate change is being muddied by talk of renewable energy.

Efforts should be focused on stopping output of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas which helps heat the planet, rather than moving to a source that can be regenerated, said Craig Mundie, the man who replaced Bill Gates as the world's largest software maker's futurist.

Conservation and radical technologies, including new nuclear, could be key, he said.

California weighs global warming fees on producers

SACRAMENTO — California air regulators on Thursday will consider leveling the nation's first statewide carbon fee on utilities, oil refineries and other industries as a way to pay for the state's landmark greenhouse gas emissions law.

The move comes at a time of rising unemployment and great economic uncertainty in the nation's most populous state, prompting concerns that the regulatory fee will impose yet another burden on California's struggling business climate.

Report: Climate change would make Minnesota swelter

A science group has released a report showing that Minnesota summers could become much hotter if global warming goes unchecked.

The Union of Concerned Scientists released the report ahead of an expected vote Friday on a climate bill in the U.S. House that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Get used to it: Report predicted heat waves, flooding

Chicago sweltered Wednesday: O'Hare's high was 94.

The extended outlook? From the 80s to the low 90s through Saturday.

The really extended outlook?

Deadly heat waves at least every other year. More frequent flooding and droughts. And an increase in diseases transmitted by insects and caused by contaminated water.

EPA Barred Criticism of Carbon Finding, Republican Barton Says

(Bloomberg) -- A top-ranked Republican lawmaker accused the Obama administration of suppressing analysis that didn’t back up its proposed finding that greenhouse-gas pollution poses a danger to the public.

Representative Joe Barton of Texas, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson that criticism was barred after the administration decided to issue the finding.

Opposition to "cap-and-trade" grows in U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three-quarters of Americans believe the U.S. government should regulate the release of greenhouse gases from cars and factories to reduce global warming, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But fewer -- 52 percent -- support a cap-and-trade approach to limiting gas emissions similar to the one the U.S. House of Representatives will probably pass this week, according to the poll posted Thursday on the Post's website.

Climate bill tweaked for biofuels

Washington, D.C. - Biofuels producers would be shielded from emissions rules that could restrict the industry's growth under a congressional agreement intended to smooth House passage of legislation addressing global warming.

Gore, Buffett Take Sides in Tug-of-War Over Climate Change Bill

(Bloomberg) -- Al Gore and Warren Buffett joined the fray over a bill that would limit greenhouse gas emissions, with each taking opposite sides as a legislative battle over the measure entered its final hours.

Gore, the former vice president who now focuses on environmental issues, is set to appear today on Capitol Hill to endorse the bill. Buffett, the chairman and chief executive officer of Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., took to the airwaves yesterday to call the legislation “regressive.”

Global warming bill still contains some smoke and mirrors

George W. Bush fought global warming policy all the way to the Supreme Court. And he lost. Despite this judicial rebuke, he opposed climate-change legislation to the end. Now, with President Obama, White House views on global warming finally are in line with scientific data. But this doesn't mean that politics can't still trump science.

California Collapsing

California’s jobless could go beyond 15 percent. Worse, if you include part-time workers seeking full-time work plus workers who have given up looking entirely, it could reach 25 percent, exceeding the worst national unemployment levels of the Great Depression.

“Our wallet is empty. Our bank is closed. And our credit is dried up.” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

California will likely be the first state to totally collapse, followed by New York, followed by...

Ron P.

I read one analysis that said Arizona was the state in the worst shape. Due to the housing collapse, I assume.

New York probably won't be facing the music for awhile. Unlike the vast majority of states, their fiscal year ends in March.

Well, I don't know about that.

Hey New York your next after California

The top honor goes to California, which is projecting that it will fall about $25 billion short come fiscal 2010. Taking second place is New York with a projected $17.6 billion deficit for fiscal 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan policy research organization in Washington, D.C.

However on a per capita basis a lot of other states could be a lot worse.

New York is not in good shape. They haven't suffered the housing collapse other states have, but they are so dependent on Wall St. that they're definitely hurting.

I just don't think they'll be next, simply because they won't really have to deal with the problem until next year. Most states have fiscal years that end June 30. New York is one of four states that don't.

I received this today from a health-care professional friend in the SF Bay Area:

The system is falling apart already at SFGH. [San Francisco General Hospital] Elevators not working, computers slow, all of the medical assistants laid off (so we do the work they used to do) - 8% pay cut coming soon and likely another 10-12 % to follow soon after. It seems we are seeing the effect of the economic and social stress on the pregnant women, nobody is normal any more, everyone gets severe preeclampsia or preterm labor at 29 week or horribly protracted labors. Yesterday I took care of three women with preeclampsia and slow labors all day, all three ended up with cesareans.

Just a reminder that the $24 billion shortfall in CA is a lousy metric of the scope of the true problems there.

Any idea how much nurses in CA make?

I was making $33 + shift differentials as a respiratory therapist when I retired in Oct. Nurses salaries are higher.

Salaries for new RNs in California range between $83,000 and $89,000 per year
The average hourly wage in California is about $40-46/hr for staff nurses
More experience and more education means more money.

Yes, Wharf Rat:
toward the high end of your RN range.

And all of this is going to lead to more foreclosures, more bankruptcies, and more deflation in housing prices...

My AZ Asphaltistan could quickly be in the very worst shape if a whole bunch of Cali-consumers bail out and relocate here. But it is now our blazing heat season, therefore my guess is that any relocating Calis are probably headed more North. Is Cascadia ready?

Part of it is housing, of course. But part of it is also we're so dependent on sales tax as a revenue source. I read somewhere--sorry I can't provide a link--that 55% of our revenue has shrunk because of sales tax falling as well as other taxes here.

Our legislative drama this spring has been as dramatic as California's, but doesn't get the same coverage in the media. I've had friends, working in State government, go to half time for a few weeks and then go back to 38 hours a week. This is in the agency I used to work in before I retired. Two or three staff able to retire did so in face of having to go to half time. That saved the agency some money. this is a small agency and non-essential to state services. If there's no budget by next Tuesday, my friends will spending a lot of time at home!

Negotiations are underway but they could fall apart. this is a nasty argument between a republican dominated legislature and a Republican governor. She was not elected; she took over after Janet napolitano went to D.C. In my view, the governor is practical and humane, she supports a small tax rise, subject to the approval of the voters this fall. the legislative republicans look like really mean minded next to her.

just my 2 cents and anecdtoal look at the situation,

Our legislative drama this spring has been as dramatic as California's, but doesn't get the same coverage in the media.

Yes, and I think that's true of a lot of states. California and New York get all the attention, because they are so big. And also because the right-leaning financial types just can't resist a dig against the two most influential "blue" states. But there are a lot of other states in the same pickle.

States like many businesses thought the prosperity would never end and further, they don't think it is over, just a mini-pause.

Criticism is not limited to party affiliation. California and here in Nevada legislators were spending money like it was free, thank you. Rather than be conservative with taxpayer’s money, the legislators (either party) just spend it and get all the bells and whistles too. Who cares if the kids don’t get educated? We need a new soccer field.

Just like the post yesterday about visiting a city hall and asking, “What if things get worse?” Absolutely clueless and I for one have been and still am POed. (that's not Peak Oiled, though not a bad idea in these times. Say what Airdale?)

Followed by Illinois...and told to me by a resident. Someone I think might very well know. I was told that Chicago is nearly bankrupt already.


That writing has been on the wall for a long time. Almost every time I hear about some grand project that will go on in Chicago, I hear "it will only cost this much, it is a deal". Then several years after the project was supposed to have been finished and multiple cost overruns, the politicians say "that is they way things go". I still cant figure that out, if a project is supposed to cost say $100 million and take 3 years. Then why are the contractors getting more business when the project eventually costs $200 million and takes 5 years. I believe there is some major corruption going on somewhere. Say you want your roof redone. You agree on a price and half now and half when it is done. If the contractor loses their ass because of not figuring things out correctly, then their loss. In the other world, if things don't work our exactly as planned, then we will just charge more. Plus, I would like to know who does the financial planning for those projects. I cannot recall any major projects that have been accomplished in Chicago in the last several years that actually came within budget. That is why they are bankrupt. Dont worry--Saint Obama will save the day. Dont forget that mayor Daly and him are chums.

Rockhound, I too am mystified as to how the public servants can get away with lowballing works projects, time and again, all across the country. Clearly somebody is in somebody else's pocket.

But to cast it as a partisan political issue is, well, dim. We only have one party in the US, and the preposterous political posturing is merely bread and circuses for those among us who are stubborn enough to see only the corruption in the "other" side.

Don't confuse the term, "public servants" with "politicians."

Yeah you are correct. I have seen corruption in places other than the US. Corruption is party independant. The only difference is in the US, they give us a can of petroleum jelly before they corner us in the shower. Then they say some niceties afterward and tell us it was for the improvement of America (The land of the free). Meanwhile, we are still walking away bow legged.

"In a mature society, 'civil servant' is semantically equivalent to 'civil master'." -- Heinlein

"Nothing is ever built on time and within budget." -- Cheops, ca. 2630 BCE

I still cant figure that out, if a project is supposed to cost say $100 million and take 3 years. Then why are the contractors getting more business when the project eventually costs $200 million and takes 5 years.

Sometimes it can be a result of the process. In order to have any chance of winning a project, certain very rosy assumptions have to be built in. Don't do that and your competitor, who used rosier assumptions than you wins the contract. Then as the project proceeds, the rosy assumptions don't pan out, and the contracting agency has to make a decision, "abandon the entire project -sunk costs and all -leaving a half finished mess, or pony up some more and try to muddle through. As long as the bidding process goes to the lowest bidder, the tendency for those with the most optimistic (or maybe I should say unrealistic) projections will win out. You also have an incentive to just make up the rosy scenario as a tactic to win.

I understand your point. In that case, if I bid on say rebuilding the Brooklyn Bridge. I could bid $1.00. But, realistically the project would cost much more. The system should be set up so that if there were time or cost issues, the company would have to cough up the difference not the tax payer. I have seen that on many projects, and it works fine. I have seen some with incentives, where if the project is finished early--there is a BONUS. I am not saying that shoddy work should be done to finish work early. Engineers are held up to have high integrity. If something goes wrong, they are held accountable. The same should go for accountants.

I think thats fine on some projects like roofing your house, but it doesnt scale to larger projects. Most contractors who win these bids have very little capital relative to the size of the project. They often pay their workers and buy materials with loans or the last bit of cash in the kitty.

If you get halfway through a major project - costing millions of dollars - and demand the contractor finish with their own money - they just go bankrupt and go home. Most agencies would rather keep paying and have the same contractor finish the job - this saves time. If you bankrupt your contractor and send him home you are back at square 1, start the bidding process over again and you still pay someone to finish the project.

Thus the government has been subsidizing failure a lot longer than AIG or GM.

I believe there is some major corruption going on somewhere.

In Chicago? Impossible!

I grew up in the Chicago burbs in the 40s and 50s. Once, when 16 years old, I had a job sweeping floors in a place. But one day the boss sent me to Chicago in a station wagon full of crates of live chickens. I got downtown, made a left and got pulled over by a cop.

The cops says "you made an illegal left". Sorry officer, I didn't know. "Well, it's clearly marked right up there!" Sorry, I didn't see it. "Well, you did!" This went on for what seemed like ten minutes. Finally he yells at me, "Just get out of here."

My dad explained it to me that night. All adult Chicagoans knew to have a five dollar bill folded in their driver's license. You hand that to the cop and everything is over. I guess Daly saved money of salaries, courts and stuff like that.

"I believe there is some major corruption going on somewhere."

minor league corruption, the search for wmd's, now that is a cost overrun.

tax and spend is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more responsible than borrow and waste.

I remember my wifes brother telling me a story one time. He told me about a time in the Chinese country side where some people cut down some trees and laid them across the road. Traffic stopped at the trees, the bandits or whoever they were would move the trees if a toll was paid. Someone went to the police. The police showed up and demanded half of earnings the bandits made and them left.

So what are the legal options for a state bankruptcy? It would be totally stupid to shut all parts downs.

- Will bond obligations be wiped out?
- Will services be reduced to cover only fire, police, and ambulances?.. with schools in there if there's extra change?
- Immediate layoffs?
- State paying workings in some barter medium?

A state (as far as I know) has never gone bankrupt before. Back in the 19th Century bankruptcy laws were changed so that some recovery plan could be implemented to help railroad companies recover so that they could make money again rather than have a complete liquidation.

Any ideas on what a state bankruptcy would do (in practical terms)?

I don't think it will happen. I think there will probably be some kind of bailout.

NYC almost declared bankruptcy, 35 years ago. They had a plan:

The statement, which pointedly invoked the comptroller, Harrison J. Goldin, a sometime Beame adversary, went on to say that the city had applied for and obtained a court order to preserve its assets from creditors.

It said that “rational and humane” priorities had been approved to make payments in this order: police, fire, sanitation and public health services; food and shelter for people dependent on the city; hospital and emergency medical care for those with no other resources; bills from vendors of essential goods and services; school maintenance; interest on city debt; and payments due the retired and aged, beyond those from pension funds.

Something will happen, but I'm not sure the Federal govt. will bail out all 50 states.

Whatever happens it'll be interesting.

Not all states are in trouble. North Dakota has a surplus.

In the long run, we are probably headed for localization, but I could see a medium-term future that looks an awful lot like communism. The government owns everything, and everyone works for the government. Because nobody else has any money.

Corporatism is your future, not communism. This is just another scam. How many times do the corporations need to scam you before you catch on? (Oil speculation 2008, mortgages 2007-08, Internet 2000, S&L, etc. etc. etc.)

I think corporations are losing their leverage. And this will only accelerate as globalization unwinds.

Corporations are strictly means of capital becoming more efficient, and being able to control the spread between user and exchange value. They are part of the system, not a problem with the system.
I think you know where I'm heading with this---
Anyway, I agree they will become less effective as globalization declines, and the barriers to break through, and the ability to cannibalize weaker entities declines.

I'm not so sure. Take a look at this and tell me if corporations, large and small, aren't co-opting "Green. Anything here look remotely sustainable to any of you?


I said nothing about sustainability. I don't think that's in the offing, no matter what happens.

Sustainability wasn't my point. The fact that the entire "totally green city" is a corporate creation, AND it's green washing, which is the new vehicle to corporate wealth/power.

There are some nice concepts embedded in the project, though.


I don't agree that green washing is a vehicle to corporate wealth/power.

I think the recent massive bailouts are probably a sign of "peak corporate power."

I didn't used to think that. You can go back over my comments here over the years, and see my predictions that one day we'll all be indentured servants at the ADM plantation.

But now I think globalization will fade, and with it, corporate power.

It won't happen fast. It may not even be noticed for years. But I now think we're more likely to end up working on the government poor farm than the ADM plantation.

"But I now think we're more likely to end up working on the government poor farm than the ADM plantation."

Yup, but management and operation of the farm will be outsourced by the gov. to ADM.

Don in Maine

You and I often seem to agree while talking around each other.

I am concerned about the transition period, for that is what will most fully determine the depths of the fall prior to (hopefully) the next rise.

The pages I referenced are developments happening today, not in 50 years, so the context is today. There is a big move to "sustainability" that is anything but, as exemplified in the link and links therefrom that I provided earlier.

One of the "ecotowns," for example, has homes ranging from 300,000 to 3,000,000. Yeah, that's affordable and sustainable.

What does seem to be taking shape is the concept of enclaves for the wealthy. These towns are likely forerunners of such places: grow their own food, recycle their water, solar power, etc. What they fail to consider is, once your wall is built, how do you get additional goods in and out? Repairs? Etc.


Let's all move to NDak!

Minnesota is starting to come apart at the seems. The gov's a lap dog to the rabid no tax people and is eager to look like a tax-pledge lion to his national rep ideologues.

He's out cold on the next election cycle though.

We just need to hang in there.

I guarantee you won't like the winters.

What would a state do? Well try going into one of the social services offices and asking about a fictitious person who qualifies and what services are available.

I did and it was not a fictitious person. I was serious as it was my 91 year old mother...I was told quite up front that they had NO money and I would have to put her on a list...next stop was the Senior Citizens office and was told that NOTHING was available and to get on a list there as well. All low income housing was totally locked up as well for new tentants.

Then our road and crew departments are cutting way back. Laying off those in county departments. Taxing the hell out of us as well.

The other aspect was they tried to raise everyone's property appraisals by a very large amount. Some didn't fight it. I did and a few others...

Property values dropping like a rock in a pond and they try to raise the values as a way of getting more revenue. Not the rates just the value...which is beyond belief.

Another is to threaten that they will turn some jailed criminals loose. Scare tactics or not that is one of their MAJOR responsibilities ,,to protect the public..But.............


For one thing, the rating companies will make California bonds "high risk" which will make bond interest rates very high. Note the above financial recomendation article recomends that readers dump California paper ... quick.

To make ends meet, thousands of state jobs will be cut and unemployment benefits will be minimalized. This is in a state with the highest unemployment already.

Californians will live in interesting times.

i don't have a source on this, but saw on TV.

There is no provision for bankruptcy for states, only for cities, and people.

The bond holders can sue the state for judgements to sieze state assets. So for example, XYZ hedge fund trades bonds for Golden Gate Bridge, and makes a toll bridge. After the judge approves. It is just like a person having lots of illiquid assets with no market for the assets.

States are not subject to bankruptcy

Individuals and companies will just stop doing business with any State that can't honor its obligations.

With a few minor exceptions, bankruptcy laws are a federal matter (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 of the US Constitution gives Congress the authority to enact uniform bankruptcy laws across the states). I am not a lawyer, but to the best of my knowledge, there are no provisions in federal law for a state to declare bankruptcy. Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy statutes provides for reorganization (but not liquidation) of municipalities and counties, but does not apply to states. California may become insolvent next month, but I don't believe there is any means for the State or its creditors to seek protection in federal bankruptcy court.

As for "turning off" services, there are some constraints. In particular, services which are funded in part by the federal government often have strings attached that preclude the State from shutting the service down very quickly. Examples: (1) the federal Food Stamp program (now SNAP) is mandatory; states must administer the program; (2) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (the program that most people mean when they say "welfare") is voluntary, and California has put shutting the program down temporarily on its list; (3) unemployment insurance is voluntary, but in states that do not run a "conforming" program, the feds will run one, but the immediate result in most states would be a tripling of unemployment insurance taxes levied on businesses (UI financing is peculiar).

As a result of these strings, you tend to see many states all making the same decisions. Furloughs, wage cuts, and layoffs for employees where it can be done. Shut down the subsidized state parks. Cut K-12 education funding. Stop paving projects and other construction.

A state (as far as I know) has never gone bankrupt before. Back in the 19th Century bankruptcy laws were changed so that some recovery plan could be implemented to help railroad companies recover so that they could make money again rather than have a complete liquidation.

Any ideas on what a state bankruptcy would do (in practical terms)?

Indiana effectively declared bankruptcy after the "Mammoth Internal Improvement Act" fiasco and the 1837 Panic. They then adopted a new constitution which forbid the state government from borrowing money, and the state from then on operated on a "pay as you go" basis (at least up through the late 1980s, I haven't been there since then and I don't know if that is still the case).

As discussed in previous threads, the bottom line is that we cannot afford our current level of government spending. Layoffs and cutbacks in services are happening now, and they will continue to spread--from local to state and ultimately to the federal level.

And the most marginal will go first with the most critical last at all levels simultaneously.

But not to worry, the S&P 500 50 day simple moving average is rising and crossing the 200 day SMA. This is a very bullish signal.

maybe a lot more is collapsing? This morning on the The Automatic Earth I read this:
In its current issue, HSL reports rumors that "Some U.S. embassies worldwide are being advised to purchase massive amounts of local currencies; enough to last them a year. Some embassies are being sent enormous amounts of U.S. cash to purchase currencies from those governments, quietly. But not pound sterling. Inside the State Dept., there is a sense of sadness and foreboding that 'something' is about to happen ... within 180 days, but could be 120-150 days." Yes, yes, it's paranoid. But paranoids have enemies -- and the Crash of 2008 really did happen.

HSL's suspicion: "Another FDR-style 'bank holiday' of indefinite length, perhaps soon, to let the insiders sort out the bank mess, which (despite their rosy propaganda campaign) is getting more out of their control every day. Insiders want to impose new bank rules. Widespread nationalization could result, already underway. It could also lead to a formal U.S. dollar devaluation, as FDR did by revaluing gold (and then confiscating it)."
Sorry if this was already mentioned, I didn't see it here.
I don't know how to make pretty highlighted text-thing links. Here is the TAE link to the story:

As dramatic as always, Darwinian. California merely has an flexibility problem, not an economic problem. $25 billion is just 1.5% of their GDP - not much of a deficit really.

Even though we're of the same mind, really, I've not been a fan of Greer's writing, but this is spot on. It's also something you have little or no understanding of, apparently.

I suggest you read it.



That post doesn't relate to mine. Please double-check so that you reply to the correct posts and so that your links are relevant. It's annoying to have to skim through a lot of rubbish just to find out it wasn't even related.

It does. You just don't get it.

Well, in the sense that cries of "Doom is upon us. Doom I say! Doom! Doooom!" is relevant to just about anything.

But other than that, your link does not have anything to do with my observation that California's deficit is very small in relation to its GDP, and therefore is very manageable. The citizens just need to agree on how to balance the budget.

Hello TODers,

I merely request that you explore Leanan's toplink: "Chilling story of world gas shortage could be all hot air"--author Robert Lea

My guess is that he has not read my weblink in yesterday's DB that talked about the sour natgas trend and the rising cost of S-extraction as sweet gas is increasingly hard to find. Perhaps a few rotten egg whiffs of hydrogen sulfide and/or Mercaptan might ignite his [S]ynaptic Wildfire[S] as I doubt a Yeasty Peakoil Shoutout would help his comprehension powers.

I also added much more detail in yesterday's DB in my reply to TODer Elwoodelmore, if any other TODers are so inclined.

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

Past comments at TOD queried about the fate of half-built exurban residential projects. Here's one example of a developer (who also lives at the project site) creating a community garden on unsold lots....

Business fizzles but a garden grows

...together with his neighbors in the townhouse development he has built as owner of CreekStone Partners, Ayers has turned a vacant lot on Dawson Lane into a community garden. "That way we can say our business is growing," Ayers said with a laugh.

Any other creative re-purposing out there?

Does this count?

Desperate Maine lobstermen sell from trucks, homes

.. probably not. Any excuse for a Segue.. Actually, thanks to the silly naming, I can also mention that I've seen two Segway's on the streets of Portland last week. They give me the uneasy feeling that I've fallen into a bad SciFi movie. Oh, yeah.. I did.

FWIW, I drove past the guy in the top picture there, who sells out of a gas station in Portland, and for a couple days at least, by the time I went by, he was sold out.. so he's getting SOME business.

I can also say I just acquired from Freecycle another Treadmill, which boasts a 2.5hp DC Motor onboard, which I hope to turn into the "Outboard" motor for my bike.

Will let you all know how THAT wacky adventure transpires or expires..


I met a person at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association energy fair (which, BTW, once again broke its attendance record- 23,206) who had re-purposed an electric motor from a forklift as the drive component for a Geo Metro. He kept the 5-speed manual in place but said he doesn't use the clutch and could, if needed, start out in any gear. Said the whole project, Geo included, cost under $2000.

Great project, but was any renewable energy actually used for it?

Not sure. There's a 100+ page series of posts on his build here:

That site in general looks like a healthy place for support for those looking to engage in DIY vehicle projects.

Speaking of DIY projects. Mother Earth News has some interesting articles about producer gas vehicles. There is one article from Oak Ridge National Laboratory that shows how to make your own low tech producer gas system. It is based on systems used by England during WWII. That and other articles mention about using producer gas in everything from cars, farm tractors, to powering a small sawmill. Then again, we all cant have producer gas vehicles-Not enough trees to go around.


What have you done so far in this area. I once had plans to put a small ICE on my Huffy. However I think a DC motor would be far more appropriate.

Yes please share your experiences in this area. A Campfire article would be nice perhaps.


IMHO the best bike conversion used a Huffy ....


Well ...... except maybe mine .....



So far my progress in the E-bike direction is purely collecting of potential parts. I've also gotten the 400w motor, controller and asst parts from a Razor Scooter that some neighbors had trashed, and have schemed to use the scooter wheels side by side to make a powered Bike Trailer, so the Bike is left unmodified, and when I have stuff to pull behind, I have that bit of extra help on hills, etc.

But it's all just part of my 'Inventions Inventory' so far. The thing I like about the handfull of motors I now own, is that any of them can serve to collect energy from wind, water, exercise bikes, etc.. OR they can serve in the other direction and drive tools, vehicles, pumps..

There are some great E-bike and EV-diy sites to troll, to hear about controllers, batteries etc.. there is a great and growing pile of collected experience to help keep the rest of us from reinventing all the snafus that came before.


U.S. Jobless Claims Rise, Total Benefit Rolls Climb (Update2)

June 25 (Bloomberg) -- The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits UNEXPECTEDLY rose last week and the total number receiving payments increased, indicating the labor market may take longer to stabilize...
My CAPS above: I sure wish they would qualify exactly who was surprised by rising unemployment. The author could provide weblinks to TAE,TOD,LATOC, and many other blogs that are not surprised to see more people losing their jobs.

I sure wish they would qualify exactly who was surprised by rising unemployment

If nobody expects it, nobody can get the blame.

Most of the 'sheeple' don't know what to expect since our system is too complex and chaotic, tell them a lie for long enough and they'll believe anything!

Since these economist 'experts' are never correct I wonder what purpose their forecasts serve and what use they are to society, they appear to be about as useful as a virus?

"Expert", I like that word. Anyone can claim to be an expert. There does not have to be any kind of certification or length of term in industry in order to claim to be an expert. Heck, I can claim to be a flower expert because I know what a dandelion looks like. that is the problem I have with experts, they make claims of predicting the future of things. Well, if they were that good, they would be Billionaires and not have to work for a University or a think tank. "Experts" remind me of infomercials--If you do what I say, spend $1.00 and in 2 months you will have 4 Ferrari's in your garage. Meanwhile, they drive a Honda Civic back and forth to work (No offense to Honda Civics).

“Expert: a man who makes three correct guesses consecutively.”
Dr. Laurence J. Peter

Then I guess I am an "Expert". The next 3 days in Mexico are going to be HOT.

I define an 'expert' as somebody who knows almost nothing about almost everything - IMO that makes most of the world's population 'experts', they are nothing special, so we shouldn't let them have any power over us without deep questioning and severe penalties if they break the law after being given any power.

The law should apply just as much to Governments, elected officials and Corporations as to individuals - otherwise things like peak oil will not have any adequate mitigation at all.

Reminds me of an old - very old - exchange I heard about between a liberal arts major and an engineering major.

The liberal arts major said that the engineer was learning more and more about less and less subject matter until they would know everything about nothing.

To which the engineering major replied that the liberal arts major was learning less and less about more and more subjects until they would know nothing about everything.


Exactly, they know just enough to be dangerous. Which leads me to the question of where the train derailed in the American system. I thought it was supposed to be by the people and for the people. Today it is by the politician and for his special interest groups (which gave large campain donations). So in other words "The people be damned", sure they got me here through votes, and by that I will do things that "I" feel is in their best interest. Even if they dont agree.
That is why we have elections, but that system is broken. If it worked things would have changed. They talk big before the election and then change their minds after. Why, because of the good old boy network. This is through all parties and is the system of "you wash my back and I will wash yours". It happend just as much before Obama as it is happening now, just the person standing in front is different. So nothing is going to change. Only times when things change is when there is revolution. But that is only temporary.
Inother words, we let the "experts" think for us.

Replace "special interest groups" with "moneyed interests" and you've got it dead right.

There have been populist movements against entrenched moneyed interests before in America, and there can be again, but there is no guarantee of winning.

"Special interests" is actually a clever bit of misdirection where the moneyed interests manage to get themselves lumped in with religious, environmental, and social action groups that are in most cases their natural enemies.

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Ben Franklin.

In 1988 and again in 1992 I did some database programming for one of our state representative and she had 10 times the money due to PACCS than her opponant. Her opponant would say something (probably true) like, "She did this or that." She would come back with ten or more adds, "I didn't do that, he did it." She won, of course. Whoever has the money has the greatest chance of winning ... the golden rule applies.

During the U.S. presidential election of 2008 I voted for Nader because he was the best candidate to wrench control of the American government from lobbyists. How about you?

After 2000 Nader needed to find somebody younger and of a similar philosophical bent that he felt he could trust and begin assisting them.

That he keeps running for the job personally indicates to me that he lacks the perspective necessary to do it properly.


The recent bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler probably have thrown a lot of people out of work – directly or indirectly. However since many auto workers were already collecting unemployment benefits while their plants were ‘idled’, it may not show up as an immediate large increase.

Also as many are unemployed for more than a year or so, their unemployment benefits will run out and they will no longer be able to file a new claim any time soon. So we may see unemployment claims drop in a few months, which would belie a unemployment situation growing only worse.

Hello TODers,

I wonder if Tiger Woods & Justin Timberlake are aware of all the golf course closings? There are so many that I find it hard to believe that they do not know what is going on:

SPRING HILL — Golfers and workers were stunned Wednesday afternoon when sister courses Spring Hill Golf and Country Club and Seven Hills Golfers Club shut down without warning..

Glen Annie To Close--Financially Embattled Golf Course Runs out of Options

..When the golf course project was begun in 1994, the agricultural land use designation was maintained, along with a conditional use permit granted by the County allowing a golf course to operate there. According to those rules, said Chase, the land is supposed to revert to pure agricultural zoning should the golf course fail.

If your family tribe or survival commune is interested in buying a golf course with a clubhouse as your Eco-Tech Bunker:

Six for sale from just one company

Charles Johnson, general manager of the Madison Country Club and its historic but tax-troubled private golf course, makes it clear he denies all the rumors swirling because of the bad economy affecting the business.

.."It's true a couple hundred golf courses might close and go down around the country in this economy," he added. "Golf is a wonderful sport, and it's a shame that's going to happen.
IMO, his estimate may be way too low.


Golf Course Left In The Rough

The owner of struggling resort Lake Las Vegas, the luxury development built around a man-made lake some 20 miles from Las Vegas Strip, is shuttering another of its money-losing golf courses.

..Lake Las Vegas is a planned residential community and resort located in Henderson, Nev., that also boasts two luxury hotels and a 320-acre lake in the desert. The resort filed for bankruptcy in July 2008, blaming its financial woes on a combination of more than $800 million in debt, the housing downturn and lack of cash brought on by the global credit crunch.
My bet is that 320-acre lake will become a huge, stagnant mosquito breeding pond before it finally evaporates away.

I'm glad I got out of Las Vegas in '92. My father in law swore La Vegas was recession proof. I didn't buy it (or a new home) and left a year later. Glad I did. That place is no place to live or raise a family (I don't have any kids).

It's losing it's money due in part to the Indian casinos in California. Funny thing is - now I live in San Diego county - the county with the HIGHEST number of Indian reservations in the nation, not necessarily the most Indians. The number of casinos here in the county is amazing.

One of the problems golf courses have is the high maintenance costs due to the fact golfers have demanded increasingly high manicure standards. Maybe many will go back to the way they were tended in Scotland centuries ago and mow them with sheep. This would also solve the fertilization problem.(free drop with no penalty if your ball lands in a sheep pattie)

I think the idea is not to play golf but to put the land into useful agricultural production. Use the clubhouse for cohousing community house and dwellings and convert the cart barns into stables for oxen, draft horses and hay storage. Las Vegas would be my last choice. It is in a desert with dwindling water supplies. Climate change is and will continue to pound the southwest. Anasazi redux.

You can do whatever you want with your golf course. I am going to herd sheep, eat mutton, wear wool sweaters and play golf. I might even sell toto some fertilizer.

Thxs for the TODer replies.

Tales of Woe At Lake Las Vegas

..The development wasn't completed but new home construction seems pointless right about now. The LA TImes article states that 10 percent of the homes on the market at Lake Las Vegas were either bank-owned or short sales and even more incredibly 80 percent of the homes listed were vacant...
IMO, they should make this giant miss-development the World's Most Exclusive Housing Project for the Homeless. It would fill up very quickly.

More green shoots?

U.S. GDP revised to 5.5% decline in first quarter

The U.S. economy contracted at a violent 5.5% pace in the first quarter, capping the worst six-month stretch in more than 60 years, the Commerce Department estimated Thursday.

U.S “Mass lay-offs” at RECORD high

Jobs are being lost in the U.S. at least as fast as during the Great Depression.

I believe that we are in the first stages of total collapse of the economy.

Ron P

I don't think we'll go to total collapse immediately... but just in case anyone wants to prepare for a post-industrial society there is a really great museum on pre-industrial technology in Doylestown, PA.


Even if you're not a doomer it's still a great museum.

I am perplexed by this job loss data. I live in Wyoming and have seen massive downsizing. I can recall a major road into one field. For the last several years traffic has been super busy all day and all night. Then at the beginning of the year, things slowed down. Traffic was only busy during shift change. Now, even on shift change things are sparse. In retrospect, 2 months ago I went to Indiana (where he unemployment is supposedly horrendous). I did not notice any difference than when I lived there a few years ago. The highways were full of people and businesses were buzzing like a bee. I could be wrong, but could that "buzzing" be just people using their credit cards more and hoping tomorrow will be better. In Wyoming, businesses are closing their doors and the stores are open, but empty of CONSUMERS. Maybe they are tightening their wallets more, either way we are screwed. Because we will have to bail out the tomorrow people.

"those "green shoots" are in fact marijuana plants and our President along with his economic advisers have been smoking 'em.

Yeah, must be some good stuff going by the numbers they come up with. I believe the saying is "pipe dreams". Too real.

The article

China Pays Too Much for Oil in Iraq at $16 a Barrel by Philip Davis

really stood out to me. China's aggressive moves to secure petroleum sources is leaving the US flat-footed and out maneuvered. Fast forward ten years and I could imagine the US issuing insane press releases like North Korea is doing now, warning people to respect us or we will throw a temper tantrum.

I think I need to take a summer break from the news. Too many bad stars are aligning right now...

I'll be news and internet free for at least a week--
The redwoods call!

You are right, but everyone did this to themselves (Even the Chinese). The US, Europe, and the rest of the world got cheap widgits. While China got severe pollution. Sure, they have a bu)nch of money to throw around, but it is at the expense of future generations health. For us it is economic, for the Chinese it is environmental. We look at it now and say that they are sitting high on the hog, but for how long. The economy is global, they can continue to suck up resources here and there all they want. If the rest of the world is in the tank, who will buy their manufactured goods. They need exports to continue to grow. A couple of years ago, the Chinese government tried a series of measure to encourage domestic spending. It didn't work very well, they just wound up putting more money into the bank is all. The older generation Chinese people got burnt real bad in the past and they dont want to relive it again.
So if China buys up all these resources around the world, with 1.6 Billion (that's with a B) wanting to live the "Old) American dream, how long will those resources last. Either way, the outcome is the same. It doesn't matter if the US and Europe use those resources or China. They are taking their best interests into account, which you cant blame them for that.

An argument that "human nature" may be more malleable than you might think:

Why Do We Rape, Kill and Sleep Around?

One evo-psych claim that captured the public's imagination—and a 1996 cover story in NEWSWEEK—is that men have a mental module that causes them to prefer women with a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 (a 36-25-36 figure, for instance)... The studies, however, failed to rule out the possibility that the preference was not innate—human nature—but, rather, the product of exposure to mass culture and the messages it sends about what's beautiful. Such basic flaws, notes Bingham, "led to complaints that many of these experiments seemed a little less than rigorous to be underpinning an entire new field."

Later studies, which got almost no attention, indeed found that in isolated populations in Peru and Tanzania, men consider hourglass women sickly looking. They prefer 0.9s—heavier women. And last December, anthropologist Elizabeth Cashdan of the University of Utah reported in the journal Current Anthropology that men now prefer this non-hourglass shape in countries where women tend to be economically independent (Britain and Denmark) and in some non-Western societies where women bear the responsibility for finding food. Only in countries where women are economically dependent on men (such as Japan, Greece and Portugal) do men have a strong preference for Barbie. (The United States is in the middle.) Cashdan puts it this way: which body type men prefer "should depend on the degree to which they want their mates to be strong, tough, economically successful and politically competitive."

Depend on? The very phrase is anathema to the dogma of a universal human nature. But it is the essence of an emerging, competing field. Called behavioral ecology, it starts from the premise that social and environmental forces select for various behaviors that optimize people's fitness in a given environment. Different environment, different behaviors—and different human "natures." That's why men prefer Ms. 36-25-36 in some cultures (where women are, to exaggerate only a bit, decorative objects) but not others (where women bring home salaries or food they've gathered in the jungle).

Careful. All the great totalitarian ideologies were founded on the idea that human nature is malleable. Think Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Leave it buried. Don't give politicians the idea they can change us.

This is a little known fact but, when he was in exile, Lenin asked men whether they found this or that woman hot. He wrote everything down in a notebook which he gave to a preeminent German politician which shall remain nameless for the time being. He used his dastardly research to convince the politician that he could overthrow the revolutionary government in Russia. Lenin was subsequently allowed to return to Russia by the German government and the rest is history.
I happen to have inherited this notebook from a distant relative. In furtherance of your noble endeavor of documenting the totalitarian liberal conspiracy, I am offering to procure you this invaluable item. The finder's fee would be quite modest but advance payment to my account in Nigeria would be required.

A "malleable human nature" is a contradiction in terms. What the article basically states is that we have the ability to adapt to different environments with different types of behaviors. From your link:

Where, then, does the fall of evolutionary psychology leave the idea of human nature? Behavioral ecology replaces it with "it depends"—that is, the core of human nature is variability and flexibility, the capacity to mold behavior to the social and physical demands of the environment.

But of course. No evolutionary psychologist would argue with that point. A lot of people seem to be really confused about the nature of human nature. No evolutionary psychologist would deny that people have the ability to change and adapt to different environments. A man who would be prone to rape would not do so if he thought such an act would bring about his imprisonment or death. Therefore people who had a tendency to obey the law, or in a cave man society, the traditions of the tribe, would have a high survival rate while a rapist who could not control himself would be killed off and his gene pool would end there.

Human nature is the behavior and survival traits that has allowed us to survive. One very important human nature survival trait is to be flexible, to change as circumstances change, to adapt to different environments and to alter one's behavior when survival depends on it.

Hey, it's all just human nature and it is not malleable. Human nature basically means it is coded in the genes and it is impossible to change one's genetic code. And evolutionary psychology has not fallen, it is alive and well. It has triumphed.

Ron P.

Yeah, I think that sums it up: the argument is about the nature of human nature. Neither side is denying that evolution shaped the human brain. The argument is over what, exactly, that shape is.

And I don't think evolutionary psychology has triumphed. We are still arguing about the nature of human nature.

And I don't think evolutionary psychology has triumphed. We are still arguing about the nature of human nature.

To even admit that human nature exists is a triumph of evolutionary psychology, or sociobiology as it is called in most circles. Since the death of Stephen Jay Gould there is not a biologists of note anywhere who is still a behaviorist. Behaviorism is dead. However it still lives on in the heart of the fanatical politically correct.

The last book that received wide distribution touting behaviorism was Not In Our Genes, published in 1984 and is now out of print.

You can read all about the triumph of evolutionary psychology, or sociobiology here:
The Triumph of Sociobiology

Darwinist heavyweight Alcock (Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach) understands what's at stake in evolution as well as any scientist living. In this dispassionate appeal to scientific method, he champions the idea introduced by E.O. Wilson in his classic and controversial book, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis: that human nature is the product of natural selection.

It is all about the scientific method verses political correctness. Science has indeed triumphed. However you do have a point Leanan, there will always be people who argue for political correctness instead.

Ron P.

The article criticizes evolutionary psychology, not sociobiology (though they are related fields). In particular, modularity and the idea that the brain stopped evolving after the stone age.

Well no, as far as humans are concerned, evolutionary psychology and sociobiology are exactly the same thing. Sociobiology is about all animals while evolutionary psychology is the sociobiology of humans only. Evolutionary Psychology and Sociobiology

Sociobiology (of which evolutionary psychology is a subfield that particularly concerns humans)

The debate about modularity is basically one between evolutionary psychologists and other evolutionary psychologist. Wikipedia: Modularity of mind It has absolutely nothing to do with when the brain did or did not stop evolving. Though the authors of the article may wish to inject that point, it must be pointed out that they are not evolutionary psychologists.

There is no point in history where it can be stated that human evolution ceased. However all biologists know that natural selection loses its grip in times of plenty. That is, when most everyone survives, even the sick and weakly, as is the case today, then there can be very little change due to natural selection.

Ron P.

Punctuated equilibrium.

That title is ridiculous-an overt attempt to continue the feminization of the American public. Jeez, I wonder which two of the three acts mentioned is illegal in all civilized societies?

Phenotype = (genetic component)(environmental component)(nonadditive genetic x environmental component)(dominance component)

Behavioral traits are phenotypic. Phenotypic traits are readily measurable. Components to the right of the equal sign are at least theoretically measurable via sib comparisons, twin studies, etc., altho they may be difficult to measure with accuracy & precision in practice. Measure them as best you can then algebraically rearrange the equation to solve for the component of interest. This is how the tired old "nature vs. nurture" issue is handled by quantitative geneticists.

Most men don't know what they want... most women don't know what they want.

Humans are no different than fish. Wiggle something bright and shiny in front of them and they'll bite... and get hooked.


One rebuttal from psychology today.

(and a much longer, older defense of EP.

At least most of Saad's article is common sense-that Newsweek article was absurd, like something out of THE ONION (now guys in Britain are into big guts?)

Nate, thanks for these links. They are both great. From the first one.

Hence, EP does not imply that we are endowed with a perfectly rigid and inflexible human nature. Rather, we do possess an evolutionary-based human nature that subsequently interacts with environmental cues. That said this does not imply that human nature is infinitely malleable.

I, several years ago, concluded that opponents of evolutionary psychology are not just trying to be politically correct, they are basically....err.... below average in intelligence. (I am trying to be nice here.)

Ron P.

Okay, I just read the Newsweek article. The analysis by Hill focuses, as far as I can tell, entirely on behavior within a social group. I find that to be almost absurd. Rape and violence are used against OTHER tribes, not one's own people. That is where it evolved as a competitive advantage, in war and wars of conquest. There are always two (or more) sets of social laws, one for your own tribe (and allies) and another one entirely for enemies.


Shale plays push up US gas resource estimate

Reevaluation of shale plays has pushed the Potential Gas Committee’s assessment of the US natural gas resource to its highest level ever.

The PGC, guided by the Potential Gas Agency of the Colorado School of Mines, raised its biennial assessment to 1,836 tcf at yearend 2008 from 1,321 tcf at yearend 2006.

The committee has been reporting resource estimates for 44 years.


at least they are using the term resources for this pie in the sky. probable, possible and speculative technically recoverable resources. the msm calls these figures reserves and talk like we can run our bau transportation fleet for 100 yrs.

probable technically recoverable refers to production and drilling without economic restraints. possible technically recoverable sounds like the term for figures pulled outta theys azz. speculative technically recoverable ? well that is probably more like a t boone wet dream.

Experts See Big Future for Wind, More Distant Outlook for Solar

In a penetrating and provocative talk on the opening day of an IEEE photovoltaics specialists conference, on June 8, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Samuel F. Baldwin drew attention to a recent report assessing what it will take in terms of generation to meet the country’s stated carbon reduction goals. Walter Short and Patrick Sullivan of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory modeled the U.S. electricity system to identify the main effects of cutting U.S. carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, as the Obama administration has promised. The results are arresting. Average electricity prices increase only modestly, to 10.5 cents per kilowatt-hour from 9 cents/kWh. Carbon prices, however, range from $80 to $100, five or six times present-day trading levels.

The NREL linear programming exercise found that with carbon emissions just one-fifth of what they are now in 2050, renewables account for almost half of U.S. electricity, but most of that is wind—solar concentrators contribute a significant share, but the role of photovoltaics is still minor. As for traditional fuels, the amount of electricity generated by coal contracts sharply, by about a third, and natural gas's generation decreases appreciably; nuclear holds about steady but does not increase.


Exxon Mobil Takes Auto Industry by Storm With Launch of Fully Electric Maya 300



Canadian EV.

35 mph streets only.

Not approved for highway driving.

I guess it competes with those electric scooters.

The only way to make them work is to ban all other cars.

What is crazy about all this is that it doesn't cost much in fuel to drive about the city and its 35 mph streets (5000 miles per annum at 20 mpg =250 gallons X $3 =$750 per annum-the car purchase, maintenance and insurance is a lot more. Keep the old car and drive less-if you have a long commute all these electric vehicles won't help anyway.

Brian its the thought that counts :)

Of course how many people in the city have a place to charge their electric car ?
Your lucky if you have a permanent parking spot. I'd have to guess in many places a permanent spot with electricity would probably run you about 5-10k a year or more.

I think there are many valid criticisms of ev's, but these aren't them.

Why would having ev's on the road make it impossible to have ICE cars on the road. That one just boggled my mind. There are both on the road right now, in my neighborhood, at least, with absolutely no problem. I realize that you don't have to know anything about a subject before posting on it, but perhaps a moment of thought before doing so would reduce the number of such bizarre assertions (that is if a moment does not seem too onerously long and if thinking does not seem like too much hard work).

Electricity is available everywhere in an urban setting. An extension cord is a few bucks, not thousands. In MN people used to have cords going out to their cars for engine warmers and many parking lots had outlets available for the same. This is so not a big deal.

..If you have a long commute, do you expect anything is going to help?

..and if there are 10-block lines for the $10 gas, all these ICE cars aren't going to help much, are they? As for Memmel's questions, I would expect that there will be an appearance of Charging Options at Parking Lots and Garages, and in the lots of employers. Not every 'urban' commuter parks streetside.

Moving onesself into Bike range commutes and Mass transit sites should take the lion's share.. but EV's will make sense for a number of folks, too.


"What is crazy about all this is that it doesn't cost much in fuel to drive about the city and its 35 mph streets (5000 miles per annum at 20 mpg =250 gallons X $3 =$750 per annum-the car purchase, maintenance and insurance is a lot more."

And this is just silly, too. If you buy the new ev instead of a gas guzzler because your old car died, then as your figures show, you will be saving $750 every year you own the ev, and probably over $1000, since pretty much everyone on this site agrees that gas prices will rise.

Not too shabby! How many investors can get that kind of reliable return these days?

"Keep the old car and drive less-if you have a long commute all these electric vehicles won't help anyway."

As j said, the days of long commutes are pretty much over anyway, and should have been a long time ago. The limits imposed by ev's are what I see as one of their great advantages--does anyone NOT think that we have to start living as if the world has limits??

The world spewed 31.5 billion tons of carbon into the air last year, more than double the amount in 1970, it said.

But the good news is the GROWTH in CO2 last year was less than in the previous year. This kind of good news is much like the good news we get that unemployment this month increased by less than expected, or GDP contracted by less than economists predicted. I'm not sure how much of this 'green shoots' perspective is really that great.


D'oh. No toilet paper in paradise? Good thing I have Ti leaves.

I wonder if Easter Island started this way...

update: http://www.khon2.com/news/local/story/Matson-Fears-Stoke-Buying-Frenzy/4...

Leanan - the decision should be made tomorrow long before I wake up....

Hello TODers,

Have you hugged your bag of NPKS today?

From: Earth Policy Institute--Published June 25, 2009 03:18 PM

The Oil Intensity of Food

..This prospect of peaking oil production has direct consequences for world food security, as modern agriculture depends heavily on the use of fossil fuels. Most tractors use gasoline or diesel fuel. Irrigation pumps use diesel fuel, natural gas, or coal-fired electricity. Fertilizer production is also energy-intensive. Natural gas is used to synthesize the basic ammonia building block in nitrogen fertilizers. The mining, manufacture, and international transport of phosphates and potash all depend on oil.

..Fertilizer accounts for 20 percent of U.S. farm energy use. As the world urbanizes, the demand for fertilizer climbs. As people migrate from rural areas to cities, it becomes more difficult to recycle the nutrients in human waste back into the soil, requiring the use of more fertilizer. Beyond this, the growing international food trade can separate producer and consumer by thousands of miles, further disrupting the nutrient cycle. The United States exports some 80 million tons of grain per year—grain that contains large quantities of basic plant nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The ongoing export of these nutrients would slowly drain the inherent fertility from U.S. cropland if the nutrients were not replaced.

Irrigation is requiring more energy worldwide as water tables fall. In the United States, close to 19 percent of farm energy use is for pumping water. And in some states in India where water tables are falling, over half of all electricity is used to pump water from wells. Some trends, such as the shift to no-tillage, are making agriculture less oil-intensive, but rising fertilizer use, the spread of farm mechanization, and falling water tables are having the opposite effect.
While I applaud Lester Brown's article linked above, but I don't think he is focusing enough attention on the Outright Non-Substitution of the Elements NPKS for photosynthesis. Recall that Potash[K] was VALUED 67 TIMES MORE than crude oil back in 1916 [and probably even higher than that back in the days of original pot-ash if you google the First US Patent]:


IMO, we should expect much the same of I-NPKS as we postPeak descend the Net-Energy Hubbert shark-fin. Recall the IFA's Kathy Mather's Quote: "We are probably near the mining and manufacturing theoretical chem-limits of I-NPK efficiency."

Recall that a 40 lb bag of high analysis I-NPKS has energy-embedded in its beneficiation process: 3-5 gallons of gasoline equivalent [see prior postings in TOD archive]. As FF-ERoEI continues to decline: this necessarily means that more and more raw crude, coal, and/or natgas will have to be processed for each subsequent bag of I-NPKS. As we also push into P & K mining areas of thicker overburden, deeper depths, and less-concentrated ores: this will also tend to increase the BTUs-embedded per bag.

Will we see 10 gallons of embedded gasoline equivalent per 40 lb bag once it arrives at the farmgate, then is finally applied to the topsoil? I have no idea, but imagine what the sky-high price might be! People will be eager to bicycle & wheelbarrow so that they can get the funds to buy I-NPKS or O-NPK.

Just another reason why we should want S/ton to be very expensive now to help force a speedy transition to full-on global O-NPK recycling and SpiderWebRiding.

Since we can substitute human labor for many tasks, but we cannot substitute for vital Elements and potable water: a Webb/Pomerene forcing of high S-pricing for recovered-S from the IOCs & NOCs & Sour Natgas Producers seems logical to me if we have any Non-BAU desire for Optimal Overshoot Decline, reducing the specie extinction rate, and retaining some facets of civilization for future generations.

As noted before: we are evolved to sit in the nightly darkness, then bust our ass in the daylight, but we can't do [S]tarvation. Currently, S is priced like a waste-product; it can be essentially bought for the cost of shipping. IMO: we should be valuing S, and the other Elements as does Nature as detailed in Asimov's List: P is #1, S is #2, and so on.

"She comes down from Yellow Mountain.."


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

I think the editors are trying to get permission to post Brown's article as a key post here.