DrumBeat: June 26, 2009

Iran’s Oil Exports So Far Spared by Protests

It may have been no coincidence that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran used a petrochemical facility as the backdrop for his first major speech since the elections to blast President Obama and strike a note of defiance after Iran’s controversial election results.

Oil is Iran’s mainstay and the source of 70 percent of the government’s revenue. High prices have enabled the government’s assertive foreign policy in recent years.

But at a time of intense internal divisions within the ruling clique, the presence of the oil minister, Gholamhossein Nozari, at Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech on Thursday was important, given the speculation that the Iranian president is seeking to tighten his grip on the oil ministry. Mr. Nozari’s deputy, Akbar Torkan, was fired on Monday, apparently for political reasons, and various reports from Iran on Thursday suggested more reshuffling within the strategic ministry.

Crude Oil, Gasoline Fall After Savings Rate Gains, Stocks Drop

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil and gasoline fell after the government said the U.S. savings rate climbed to the highest level in more than 15 years, an indication that the economic recovery will be slow to gather strength.”

...Crude oil for August delivery fell $1.09, or 1.6 percent, to $69.14 a barrel at the 2:30 p.m. close of floor trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The August contract is down 1.3 percent this week. Prices have increased 55 percent this year.

Gasoline for July delivery declined 2.4 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $1.8743 a gallon in New York.

US rig count up as oil prices lure back drillers

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The number of U.S. rigs working rose for a second week as improved crude oil prices lured back drillers even as natural gas activity weakened, according to figures from Baker Hughes Inc on Friday.

The rise appeared to support predictions made a few months ago by oil services company executives for a bottoming of the closely watched rig count in the second or third quarter."

US natgas rig count resumes slide, down 5 for week

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States resumed its downward track, falling 5 to 687 this week, according to a report on Friday by oil services firm Baker Hughes in Houston.

U.S. natural gas drilling rigs have been in a mostly steady decline since peaking above 1,600 in September, but last week the count unexpectedly rose by 7 to 692, the first gain since November 2008."

Nigerian Militants Claim New Attack After Amnesty Offer

The main militant group in Nigeria's southern oil region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said it blew up an oil facility operated by Royal Dutch Shell just hours after President Umaru Yar'Adua declared an amnesty.

T. Boone Pickens: Calling It Like I See It

I've been in the energy business my entire professional career, and since 1950 I've watched our country go from buying some foreign oil to buying a lot of foreign oil to buying too much foreign oil.

Do you think the U.S. can afford to spend half a trillion dollars on imported oil? I sure don't, particularly with our economy in the shape it is today. Yet that's how much we spent in 2008. And if we keep buying more and more foreign oil, we'll spend an estimated $2 trillion a year by 2020.

Does this make sense to you? It sure doesn't make sense to me, especially when we have so much domestic energy right here that we're not tapping into.

Mills see dim future for Texas oil and natural gas production

Alex Mills, president of Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, the largest state organization of independent oil and natural gas producers, operators, and service companies in the United States, spoke grimly about the future of petroleum production under proposed Obama administration tax changes when speaking to the June meeting of the North Texas Home Builders Association, held Thursday, June 4th, at The Wichita Club.

Mills discussed eight tax changes proposed by President Obama that he said will kill domestic oil and natural gas production within three years.

Make purchases without cash

(FSB Magazine) -- Tina Ames owns the Craftsmen Cafe, a Clarence, N.Y. eatery that specializes in organic comfort fare such as chicken soup and apple pie. Recently she needed to replace her restaurant's roof, a $7,000 job. Ames was loath to part with that much cash and didn't want to take out a loan.

Her solution? She cut a deal with a local contractor who handled the roofing job in exchange for a Ford F-150 pickup that Ames no longer needed. "I grew up on a farm," she says. "If you had eggs and someone else had corn, you traded. It's an old way of doing things, and it makes a lot of sense."

Projected food, energy demands seen to outpace production

MADISON -- With the caloric needs of the planet expected to soar by 50 percent in the next 40 years, planning and investment in global agriculture will become critically important, according a new report released today (June 25).

The report, produced by Deutsche Bank, one of the world's leading global investment banks, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, provides a framework for investing in sustainable agriculture against a backdrop of massive population growth and escalating demands for food, fiber and fuel.

"We are at a crossroads in terms of our investments in agriculture and what we will need to do to feed the world population by 2050," says David Zaks, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the Nelson Institute's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

By 2050, world population is expected to exceed 9 billion people, up from 6.5 billion today. Already, according to the report, a gap is emerging between agricultural production and demand, and the disconnect is expected to be amplified by climate change, increasing demand for biofuels, and a growing scarcity of water.

Gas Dispute Offers European Union an Angle

BRUSSELS — Just as Europeans are packing their bags for the beaches, another Russia-Ukraine dispute over natural gas is flaring up. The European Union could use it as a stimulus to speed up connecting its energy networks to reduce eastern Europe’s vulnerability to gas cut-offs.

Ice on fire: The next fossil fuel

Clathrates are rapidly gaining favour as an answer to the energy crisis. Burning methane emits only half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal, and many countries are seeing clathrates as a quick and easy way of reducing carbon emissions. Others question whether that is wise, and are worried that extracting clathrates at all could have unforeseen and perilous side effects.

If countries and companies are exploring the potential of clathrates only now, that's not for lack of scientific interest over the years. Research over the past two decades has shown that the energy trapped in ice within the permafrost and under the sea rivals that in all oil, coal and conventional gas fields, and could power the world for centuries to come. Oil and gas companies have been slow to catch on, however, believing methane clathrates to be unreliable and uneconomical. Feasibility studies and the diminishing supplies of conventional natural gas are changing that, making commercially viable production realistic within a decade, says Ray Boswell, who heads the clathrates programme at the US Department of Energy.

Picture of the day

This toaster was built from scratch by Thomas Thwaites, a design student at the Royal College of Art, London, as a project in extreme self-sufficiency and to highlight the effects of mass production we take for granted.

Using a £5 ($8) toaster as a model he spent a 9-month period, gathering the raw material by hand from mines across the UK and processing them himself. He smelted the iron ore in an old microwave.

Nigeria militants want amnesty talks with president

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria (Reuters) - Four Nigerian militant factions on Friday accepted in principle an amnesty offer from President Umaru Yar'Adua, giving a boost to his efforts to end years of unrest in Africa's biggest oil industry.

Nigeria 'to release key militant'

Nigeria's government is offering clemency to oil rebel leader Henry Okah as part of its 60-day amnesty deal for militants in the Niger Delta.

Forest owners stand to win big in climate bill

WASHINGTON - For years, landowners have gotten paid for not farming. Now they may get paid for not cutting down trees.

While U.S. families could see their annual energy bills rise hundreds of dollars under a massive climate bill that President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to push through the House, owners of large swaths of forestland — timber companies, large farms, even foreign countries — could reap billions of dollars.

GM bailout triggers calls for boycott: Conservative commentators stoke anger against 'Government Motors' Image: Chevrolet-Saturn dealership

Barring an unexpected setback, a "new" General Motors will emerge soon from bankruptcy after eliminating most of its debt, hundreds of dealers and a fair share of its work force — saved by up to $50 billion in federal bailout funds.

But while the once-dominant automaker certainly wouldn’t have been able to survive without that federal largesse, the question is whether it can survive its unlikely alliance with Washington — which will hold a 60 percent stake in the company that emerges from the Chapter 11 process.

Let’s Get Rid of the Economy of Growth

Isn’t it obvious that the Keynesian idea of growth at all costs, particularly growth fostered by large governments that can print money, has failed? Isn’t it clear that we can’t keep on throwing money at this failed economy and that something quite different is needed? The U.S. economy has been devoted exclusively to the idea of perpetual growth since the end of World War II, and it has allowed any number of evils-environmental destruction, greenhouse gases, pollution, resource depletion, military expansion, government inefficiency and corruption, corporate political domination, unregulated financial institutions, immense inequality, a perpetual underclass, the decay of public education, and that’s just for starters-in its pursuit. Isn’t it obvious that it doesn’t work and that the current Great Recession is the proof of that?

Let us posit that the three greatest perils we face are resource depletion (particularly oil, but don’t forget fish and fresh water, for example), global warming and the alteration of habitats and species, and an excessive human impact on the planet at all levels. They are all the result of unchecked economic growth, and on a planetary scale. If we continue business as usual we will surely meet up with their disastrous consequences.

The alternative? Nothing complicated: a non-growth ecnonomy. A human-scale economy. A steady-state economy.

Which Matters Most? The Size of the Tap or the Tank?

Energy optimists are fond of citing very large numbers for worldwide fossil fuel resources such as oil and natural gas. But they conveniently leave out the critical variable. How fast can we actually produce these resources?

The Coming Mystery Of The Missing Barrels Of Oil

We have been conditioned throughout the oil age to count our supply of energy by the barrel. And over the first half of oil's production curve that's been a fair and accurate way of doing it. But as we go through the topping of the curve, things are going to change drastically. There are two big factors that will be doing this and both are little appreciated.

The first is net exports. You have to consider that, post peak, the global production decline rate must be modified by the rising internal consumption rate by the growing economies of the oil producing nations. A rising oil price enriches the producing economies and creates growing oil demand, cutting the amount of oil they put on the market for the importing nations. This has been modeled by Jeffrey Brown, a geologist, and is known as the ELM (Export Land Model). You can read a detailed description of it at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Export_Land_Model but the upshot of it is that we, that is the importing nations, will be coming up short on our barrels of energy if we're just counting barrels produced as this ELM chart shows...

Analysis: Industry Gears Up for Drilling as Crude Rises

After plunging to their lowest levels since 2003, NYMEX crude oil futures have rallied strongly during the first half of 2009 and appear set to move even higher, giving oil and gas companies the incentive to start drilling with renewed vigor.

Can Big Labor Save Big Oil?

A group called the Oil & Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee took out a full-page ad in The New York Times last week, touting a "labor-industry initiative to support policies that develop America's oil and natural gas resources -- and preserve and create high-quality jobs." They describe a partnership formed to increase the number of Americans -- now at 1.8 million -- working in the oil and gas industry.

According to the group, developing federal oil and gas reserves could create more than 160,000 jobs, especially in refinery and pipeline construction. Among others, unions that compose the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, as well as the International Union of Operating Engineers, have joined the 15-union coalition, whose trustees include ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson and Devon Energy chairman Larry Nichols.

Pemex in need of reforms

The reform of the energy sector constitutes an important challenge, given the fiscal dependence on oil revenues and the lack of competition in the sector. The Mexican Constitution reserves the right to exploit national hydrocarbon resources to the state, and Pemex operates on its behalf. Oil reserves fell in December 2007 by 5.1 percent from the previous year. At current substitution and extraction rates of approximately 3 million barrels per day, proven oil reserves would last only nine more years.

The investment rates of the past two years are not sufficient to increase the production rates, or even to keep current production stable; on the contrary, the latter has been decreasing in the past two years.

Kurdistan prime minister rejects Iraq oil auctions

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The prime minister of Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdistan region condemned on Friday plans by the Oil Ministry to auction six fields in a June 29-30 tender for service contracts, saying they violated the constitution.

A row between Kurds and the central government in Baghdad over control of Iraq's oil reserves, the world's third biggest, often sees them refusing to recognise each other's dealings with foreign firms.

Oil players to battle for Iraq deals on live TV

The secretive world of Middle East oil deals will be thrown open in Baghdad next week when a contract auction is broadcast live, shining a spotlight on big oil dealmakers that prefer to stay behind the scenes.

"This is shaping up to be unlike anything I have ever been involved in," said one senior executive for a major western oil company to Reuters.

"It is quite unique and will be some theatre. I don't think any of us really know how this is going to work out."

TNK-BP Has ‘Best Year’ on Output Growth, Safety, Peattie Says

(Bloomberg) -- BP Plc’s joint venture in Russia is having its “best year” after starting production from new fields and improving its safety record, said David Peattie, a non-executive director.

Gas exporters meet but group’s sway still weak

DUBAI/LONDON - The world’s biggest gas powers will discuss an unprecedented slide in global demand and prices when they meet in Qatar on Tuesday but there is little they can do about it - yet.

The global economic downturn and its impact on gas consumption will be high on the agenda when ministers from a club of countries holding more than three-quarters of the world’s gas reserves meet on Tuesday in Doha.

Gazprom Warns Europe Against ‘Fetish’ for New Gas Suppliers

(Bloomberg) -- Europe should avoid turning its drive to diversify sources of natural-gas imports into a “fetish” that could alienate Russia, OAO Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller said today.

Europe’s plans won’t necessarily ensure greater energy security, Miller said. Political risk and a lack of technology and infrastructure in some countries with major fuel reserves could destabilize deliveries, Miller said.

Pakistan to import gas from Qatar

Pakistan has agreed to import natural gas from Qatar following delays on a proposal to build a pipeline to transport the fuel from Iran, officials say.

Pakistani and Qatari officials met yesterday in Doha and reached a preliminary agreement to ship 1.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year to Pakistan, a government energy adviser told Bloomberg. “There is a shortage,” said Asim Hussain, a petroleum and natural resources adviser to the Pakistani government. “We are a country that is not self-sufficient in gas.”

Bangladesh: 500 mmcf gas may be added from existing fields

The country can add 300 to 500-mmcf fresh gas to the national grid from the existing gas fields taking a vigorous augmentation plan, local experts claimed.

"At present, the country is able to produce 1,850 to 1,900- mmcf gas per day against the demand of 2,100 mmcf, but it could produce another 300-500 mmcf every day and increase its proven reserve to four TCF from two TCF taking the vigorous systematic plan," Maqbul-E-Elahi, former director of Petrobangla, said.

Gazprom ready to buy Azeri gas from 2010

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Gazprom (GAZP.MM) is ready to start buying small volumes of Azeri gas from next year to supply volumes to Russia's southern regions, chief executive Alexei Miller said on Friday.

Big Oil’s Answer to Carbon Law May Be Imports, Idle Refineries

(Bloomberg) -- America’s biggest oil companies will probably cope with U.S. carbon legislation by closing fuel plants, cutting capital spending and increasing imports.

Under the Waxman-Markey climate bill that may be voted on today by the U.S. House, refiners would have to buy allowances for carbon dioxide spewed from their plants and from vehicles when motorists burn their fuel. Imports would need permits only for the latter, which ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer Jim Mulva said would create a competitive imbalance.

“It will lead to the opportunity for foreign sources to bring in transportation fuels at a lower cost, which will have an adverse impact to our industry, potential shutdown of refineries and investment and, ultimately, employment,” Mulva said in a June 16 interview in Detroit. Houston-based ConocoPhillips has the second-largest U.S. refining capacity.

The same amount of gasoline that would have $1 in carbon costs imposed if it were domestic would have 10 cents less added if it were imported, according to energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie in Houston. Contrary to President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing dependence on overseas energy suppliers, the bill would incent U.S. refiners to import more fuel, said Clayton Mahaffey, an analyst at RedChip Cos. in Maitland, Florida.

Anadarko’s Hackett Says ‘Flawed’ Climate Bill Will Hurt Economy

(Bloomberg) -- Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett said a “hugely flawed” U.S. legislative bill on climate change would damage the country’s economy through higher prices and job losses.

China power output growth to turn positive in June

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Friday its electricity output will show a year-on-year rise in June, for the first time since last October, due to a recovering economy and hotter-than-usual weather.

Power generation in the world's second-largest electricity market is expected to rise 2.37 percent this month over June last year, the National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC) said on its website, www.ndrc.gov.cn.

A recipe for clean, green hydrogen power

Water containing enough potential hydrogen energy to equal all of Saudi Arabia’s remaining oil reserves flows down the Columbia River every 67 days.

“It’s one of our great, undervalued resources,” Jack Robertson told the Northern Wasco County PUD board of directors during their meeting on Tuesday.

For 15 years, Robertson watched that untapped resource flow to the sea as a deputy and occasionally acting director at Bonneville Power Administration. He longed for a way to tap that hydrogen energy potential. When he left Bonneville a few years ago, he helped form the Northwest Hydrogen Alliance, nonprofit group whose focus is to tap that elusive resource.

Permit granted for experimental farm in Moncton neighbourhood

It's always risky to count your chickens before they're hatched, but it looks like a go for a plan to raise egg-producing hens in a suburban Moncton neighbourhood.

The Greater Moncton District Planning Commission has granted a local group a one-year temporary permit to run an urban experimental farm. The project, sponsored by Post Carbon Greater Moncton, will involve the keeping of up to four hens within the city boundaries. The group hatched the plan as a response to concerns that rising oil prices will one day force people to return to being more involved in their food production.

ExxonMobil's Weapons of Gas Destruction

ExxonMobil has a loaded gun pointed at the U.S. natural-gas market -- and it isn't the only one.

The ammunition is liquefied natural gas. Exxon is scheduled to start up another three LNG projects in Qatar this year. They will produce more than three billion cubic feet a day of natural gas and freeze it for transportation. Europe and Asia are potential markets. But the U.S. could be a magnet for LNG cargoes, despite not really needing it, a paradox that spells low prices.

Venezuela state oil company borrowing to pay debts

MARACAY, Venezuela -- The Venezuelan oil minister said Wednesday that the state-run petroleum company will borrow money so it can pay outstanding bills owed to contractors accumulated since oil prices began sliding nearly a year ago.

Rafael Ramirez said the company will raise the money at home by selling bonds denominated in Venezuelan bolivars, but provided no details on how much debt would be taken on or when the sale would take place. He told reporters the proceeds would go "to pay our national obligations."

Are Batteries in Electric Cars Safe?

Yet even as carmakers race to showcase these green vehicles, some experts are raising concerns about their safety. The worst-case scenario: thermal runaway, which can happen when a short circuit inside a battery sparks a chain reaction, causing overheating or a fire. In mobile phones, laptops, and other portable gadgets, thermal runaway can occur in 1 of every 5 million to 10 million cells, says Brian Barnett, a battery expert at technology firm Tiax in Cambridge, Mass. The incidence can be higher for the products of less experienced battery makers, he says. A laptop battery usually has six cells, but electric cars will likely rely on 75 or 80 cells, meaning they would be more susceptible to problems. Another difference: Cars move at high speeds and carry passengers. "It's not going to happen all that frequently, but the consequences could be catastrophic," says Barnett.

Uranium resources seen rising 10-15 pct-IAEA expert

VIENNA (Reuters) - Uranium worth extracting should rise by 10 to 15 percent this year with Australia, Russia, Canada and India racing to feed rising demand for nuclear fuel, a U.N. atomic official said on Wednesday.

Experts at an International Atomic Energy Agency symposium said this week they expect uranium demand will continue to grow despite the global downturn as countries turn to atomic energy to replace fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.

A new (under) class of travellers

Victims of a warming world may be caught in a bureaucratic limbo unless things are done to ease—and better still, pre-empt—their travails.

Peak Thinking Revisited

I see no reason why peak oil is the end of our way of life, any more than peak sex is the end of marriage.

Peak water, peak fish and the end of everything - ‘Peakonomics’ forgets there is such a thing as innovation. The Stone Age didn’t end because they reached ‘peak rocks.’

What do salmon dinners, SUVs, and subprime mortgages have in common? They all depend on cheap oil, at least according to the book jacket of Jeff Rubin’s bestselling new book, Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller.

Rubin is a former chief economist for CIBC World Markets, and a recent convert to the economics of peak oil—the supposed point at which global oil production reaches its maximum level, after which it enters a long, slow decline. The result, Rubin argues, will be a world where demand increasingly outstrips supply—and the end of the entire global economic order.

But, surprising coming from a guy whose last job was predicting where the world economy is headed, all this talk of peak oil is old news. The peaknik movement has already moved on from its obsession with oil and—like the peacenik movement of yore—split into a multitude of factions, each warning of the impending catastrophic consequences of one form of peakonomics or another.

Oil rises towards $71 after Nigerian attack report

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil rose toward $71 a barrel on Friday after Nigerian rebels said they blew up a wellhead in a Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) oilfield and as equity markets rallied on perceptions the global recession was easing.

The move followed a 2 percent gain on Thursday and put oil on course for a 7 percent gain this week, buoyed by prospects for an economic recovery that has lifted prices from below $40 over the past four months.

Nigerian president offers amnesty to oil militants

ABUJA (AFP) – Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua on Thursday offered militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta an amnesty in a bid to halt attacks on global energy majors that have badly hit Nigeria's image abroad.

"I hereby grant amnesty and unconditional pardon to all persons who have directly or indirectly participated in the commission of offences associated with militant activities in the Niger Delta," read the amnesty statement.

Gazprom: Energy Prices Have Already Reached Bottom

MOSCOW (AFP) — Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer, on Friday expressed confidence that it had seen off the worst of a crisis that has forced the Russian energy giant to prune its investment plans.

Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said at the state-controlled firm's annual shareholders' meeting that the last few months had shown a "stable dynamic" in gas demand, which had slumped due to the global economic slowdown.

"Today we are seeing stable growth in prices for hydrocarbons which allows us to say that the worst of the crisis in the energy sector has already passed," he said.

Gas contracts with Ukraine will not be changed - Gazprom CEO

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) - Gas contracts with Ukraine will not be revised, despite the Ukrainian president's demands, the head of Russian energy giant Gazprom said at an annual meeting of shareholders on Friday.

Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko has called for a review of 10-year gas supply and transit contracts signed with Russia at the turn of 2009.

"The contracts should be implemented and are not subject to change," Miller said, adding that he "understood" the problems facing his Ukrainian partners.

Weak gas prices a snag in Alberta aid program

Alberta's Energy Minister Mel Knight is confident his renewed push to aid the industry will help get rigs back to work, but the plunge in natural gas prices remains his biggest roadblock.

Mr. Knight boosted the province's aid package to $3-billion from $1.5-billion by extending two incentive programs now under way. The programs had been set to expire next March, which would have meant less incentive to drill during the key winter season.

China may reject Hummer deal: Report

BEIJING–China's planning agency is likely to reject a Chinese company's bid to acquire General Motors Corp.'s Hummer unit, in part because its gas-guzzling vehicles conflict with Beijing's conservation goals, state radio reported.

The National Development and Reform Commission is also likely to say Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Corp., a maker of construction machinery, lacks expertise to run Hummer, China National Radio said late Thursday. It cited no source.

UAE says oil wealth no bar to hosting renewables centre

ABU DHABI (AFP) – The oil-rich United Arab Emirates insisted on Thursday that it has every right to host the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) even though critics say that per capita it has the largest carbon footprint in the world.

Adventurer targets first round world solar flight

DUEBENDORF, Switzerland (Reuters) – Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard unveiled on Friday the prototype of a solar powered plane he plans to fly around the world to highlight the potential of alternative energy sources.

Jatropha tree examined as a biofuel alternative

FORT MYERS, Fla. — What some see as the biofuel of the future starts out as short, thick stems with a few leaves sticking out at sharp angles. But in just a few years, they will be tall, leafy trees with bright green spherical pods spilling their seeds all over the ground.

The jatropha tree doesn’t have the name recognition or lobbying clout of corn-based ethanol, but the energy industry is increasingly spending development dollars and examining it as a potentially better biofuel source: It is easier to grow than corn, untied to the food market and free from any carbon dioxide or sulfur emissions.

For sale: Houston biodiesel plant, nation’s largest

GreenHunter Energy said today it is exploring a possible sale of its massive biodiesel refinery at the Houston Ship Channel as it works to improve its balance sheet and struggles with a tough market for the alternative fuel.

The Grapevine-based firm also said it has struck an agreement with lenders to delay some loan payments until November and waive any events that may put the company in default before then.

EPA says Monsanto mine violates law

BOISE, Idaho – Federal regulators said Thursday an Idaho mine that Monsanto Co. depends on to make its Roundup weed killer has violated federal and state water quality laws almost since it opened, sending selenium and other heavy metals into the region's waterways.

'Air fares to soar' as Brown calls for £60bn-a-year global fund to fight climate change

Gordon Brown today sparked fears of soaring air fares by calling for a £60billion-a-year international fund to help poor nations adapt to climate change, partly funded by aviation taxes.

The Prime Minister said developed countries should make the massive pot of money available to developing nations so their economies could grow even as they adapt to the changing global climate - and he committed Britain to paying its 'fair share'.

The Global Warming Bill's Rough Ride Through Congress

If Nancy Pelosi gets her way by the end of the week, the U.S. House of Representatives will have passed landmark global warming legislation. But you might not know it from the near unanimously bad reviews so many different interested parties are giving it. Groups as disparate as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Farm Bureau, the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers have expressed either strong concerns or outright opposition to the bill.

Handful of Democrats hold key to climate bill

WASHINGTON – A handful of undecided Democrats hold the key to whether the House will confront global warming and begin a shift away from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy.

House Democratic leaders were scrambling to round up additional votes to pass the climate legislation Friday before lawmakers depart for a weeklong July 4 holiday recess.

Major provisions of House climate and energy bill

In an effort to curb global warming, the House is considering legislation that calls for:

Questions and answers about the US climate bill

Cap-and-trade? Offsets? Pollution credits? The climate bill under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives tackles global warming with new limits on pollution and a market-based approach to encourage more environmentally friendly business practices. But what exactly do the proposed rules mean, and how would they work?

EU: we want US climate bill to succeed

BRUSSELS – The Europe Union wants a U.S. climate change bill to succeed so the United States can move swiftly to curb greenhouse gas emissions, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Friday.

Monbiot: Why do we allow the US to act like a failed state on climate change?

It would be laughable anywhere else. But, so everyone says, the Waxman-Markey bill which is likely to be passed in Congress today or tomorrow, is the best we can expect – from America.

The cuts it proposes are much lower than those being pursued in the UK or in most other developed nations. Like the UK's climate change act (pdf) the US bill calls for an 80% cut by 2050, but in this case the baseline is 2005, not 1990. Between 1990 and 2005, US carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels rose from 5.8 to 7bn tonnes.

China welcomes U.S. climate bill, says more needed

China's top climate change official on Friday welcomed a U.S. climate change bill but said Washington needed to take stronger action to ensure success at year-end talks to settle a global framework on warming. Skip related content

Xie Zhenhua, a deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission who steers climate change policy, said the bill was a positive break with the stance taken by the Administration of former President George W. Bush.

But he said the legislation still did not meet international expectations for U.S. action, or ensure a strong deal could be reached at U.N.-led talks in Copenhagen in December.

The Climate Change Climate Change: The number of skeptics is swelling everywhere

Among the many reasons President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority are so intent on quickly jamming a cap-and-trade system through Congress is because the global warming tide is again shifting. It turns out Al Gore and the United Nations (with an assist from the media), did a little too vociferous a job smearing anyone who disagreed with them as "deniers." The backlash has brought the scientific debate roaring back to life in Australia, Europe, Japan and even, if less reported, the U.S.

The House and Global Warming

By any measure — drought, famine, coastal devastation — the costs of inaction, of clinging to a broken energy policy, will dwarf the costs of acting now. It is this truth that the House must keep firmly in mind as it votes.

Rethinking the Value of SUV's

Crumbling infrastructure is certainly one of the foreseeable results of Peak Oil/Peak Exports, and JHK, Leanan and many others have talked about, but I am surprised at the speed at which it is happening, e.g., Michigan is planning to let some roads to back to gravel because they can't afford to keep them paved, and a Texas story follows. I suppose that it is a confluence of many events--many bridges and roads reaching, and exceeding their 50 year design life; the credit meltdown & recession and thus declining revenue; Peak Oil/Peak Exports, etc. A couple of civil engineers I have talked to said that they expect catastrophic bridge failures to become more and more common.

In any case, it occurs to me that as roads deteriorate, an investment in a solid mid-size SUV might be a good investment--as long as one is to some extent still car dependent.

Special session may not be enough to keep Dallas-Fort Worth road projects going

Some area leaders now say the best bet is for North Texas to look to Washington for help, especially given plans in Congress to pass a new six-year transportation bill that many predict will have hundreds of billions of dollars of new money in it. But on Thursday, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation James Burnley, who served under President Ronald Reagan, said in an interview that such hopes are misplaced – at least anytime soon.

The federal system, which also depends on gas-tax receipts, is in even worse shape than Texas. And there is "absolutely" no way a transportation bill will pass this year, he said, noting President Barack Obama's focus on health care reform. "There is no solution in the next two years," said Burnley, now a Washington lawyer whose firm is heavily involved in transportation. "We have got a hellacious mess on our hands."

I'm thinking it might be worth buying a larger car. In case I end up living in it.

A cabover camper on a pickup, or pulling a small trailer is much more comfortable than living inside your car. Also, a pickup will negotiate badly potholed or non-existent roads much better than a car.


Lots of other manufacturers, but you can buy used and save much money.

I don't need that much room. I also think a car or SUV is more secure than cabover or pickup.

I'm thinking of those women who ended up sleeping in their cars in a church parking lot.

I'm with Ignorant. If we stop maintaining the roads, a truck or SUV really isn't going to help much.

Hello Leanan,

Did you go into the link to see the smaller models? They are comparable to living inside your closets' space. As I recall, you have a small car: perhaps a lightweight A-frame camper/trailer?


Beats a tent by a long shot, and I think your car could easily pull this setup. Mini-trailers suitable for pulling behind a motorcycle are available, too:


Imagine if you went to your employer offering to take a big wage cut so that you don't get laid-off. Just ask if you can RV-camp in the parking lot, in your little Chalet trailer, with an extension cord running back to the building. Much more privacy than sleeping nightly under your cubicle desk, plus greater security for your employers' lot as more eyeballs on the premises 24/7 to help keep an eye on things WTSHTF.

If I owned a big company: priority #1 would be turning some of the parking lots into a RV-campground.

Nope, this is what you need. I hope they make a come back:

VW Fifth Wheel


Wow! I want one of those for my VW GTI.

I'm not a fan of trailers. Not least because I'd have no place to park one.

Though a friend of mine is planning to get one of those "teardrop" trailers - precisely because they can be pulled by small cars.

And falling for a fad probably. Those trailers are expensive too! BC is summer trailer town, so we see all types. For functionality, light weight and reasonable fuel impact, I would recommend a tent trailer. Plus, one can mount a small boat or canoe on top, or bicycles.

It was a fad...about 30 years ago!

Probably 50+ years ago. My grandmother had one and my grandfather built a simple wood toy-scale replicas so she could practice backing up.

Our family of five traveled across Canada in 1968 in an 8' tent trailer towed by a VW six passenger truck. It's amazing what you an do with 98 HP.

I mean the latest retro fad for these tear-drop trailers. I don't know if they are any more functional or efficient than the other options available today, but they do cost about 2x a good tent trailer. At least up here anyway.

Nearly all the older Mack dumptrucks-the kind with the stumpy sruare hoods built all thru the eighties-had only 237 horsepower and they hauled(still haul in most cases) up to fifteen tons legally and often over twenty tons if the cops weren't around.I've driven one often.

We could easily get by with twenty five horsepower cars.

I lived in a truckcamper for a few years as I traveled around doing contract work. It was fun. I could unload the camper then have the truck to drive. I always stayed in campgrounds that had electricty and showers.

I'm not sure how much of a good investment it would be. Back in the 1980s I drove to see the memorial built to Emilio Carranza, "the Lindbergh of Mexico," that's located at his crash site in Wharton State Forest, NJ. Before I found the only (still) maintained road to the site I tried one of the "forgotten" roads that was still on the map.

Not only do roads go back to gravel, but the gravel and chucks of asphalt gradually heave and shift (even without the help of vegetation). Until you see something that's gone it's hard to conceive of how bad it can go.

It's incredible how fast a lack of maintenance shows up. A Chevrolet dealer near me closed down earlier this year and the still-newish building and lots are vacant. Barely are we into summer and the yard is already splitting and sprouting with greenery. Any place there was a seam or patch in the asphalt there's weeds now. Even if an interstate or provincial highway is better constructed than a parking lot it doesn't take long for nature to do a number on the works of man, that's for sure. That and other things could create a surge of interest in smaller, fuel efficient SUVs along the lines of the old Land Rover products. 4 cylinder engines, small but robust body work, easy to care for. If it gets so bad that roads are left to go back to gravel then there won't be much need for going anywhere far will there? On the other hand the unemployed are available to scrape road beds, do erosion control projects and install and level cobble stones? ...okay, maybe not.

Leanan posted a good article the other day by Kurt Cobb, about the "Green Shoots" that he has observed--grass growing in cracks in the crumbling roads:


I've been in agreement with Leanan on this for some time - here in the North East the combination of sun, rain, freeze-thaw cycles, and plant/tree roots will destroy the structure of just about everything. And far more quickly than people imagine. It certainly won't erase all trace of it, but it takes very little to render it useless. One of the mental games I play as I drive around is to try to imagine how various areas will look some time in the future, and to what uses various infrastructure will be put. The highway systems will still be useful as they've been graded and smoothed - they'll still be good for foot and muscle driven traffic for a long time. Bridges will be used until they collapse, and some may be rebuilt for foot or rail use after that.

Supposedly my small road will be paved next month, as the Township has the money in escrow from a development that went under up at the other end. I find this ridiculous as it is only some blacktop on dirt now, there are at most 12 homes on the whole two mile stretch, and it doesn't go anywhere useful. What a waste.

I was thinking of an appropriate vehicle for use as the roads deteriorate. A mid-90's Jeep Wrangler with a 4cyl might be useful for a while - but if they pave the road now I'll just keep what I've got running. There's a Haflinger pony in the paddock and surrey in the barn - for as long as we can manage to feed her and hold on to the property anyway.

I must admit to having a somewhat perverse desire to see roads around me to continue crumbling just to watch the multitude of a-holes with their low riders buzzing around at 20 mph over the posted speed finally get their teeth rattled out of their skulls. After witnessing how these idiots drive I can only imagine that they are paying a fortune for replacement of suspension components and that they are destined for serious back problems in the not too distant future.

I'll just keep plodding on by in my trusty Subaru and give a friendly wave as I always do...

Dirt Roads = Fewer People = More Wildlife :)

In basic form, the Niva has a carbureted 1.6-litre overhead cam four-cylinder petrol engine producing 54 kW (72 hp) and 126 N·m (93 ft·lbf), a four- or five-speed manual transmission, and full-time four-wheel drive. 28.5 mpg

Lada Niva http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lada_Niva

It works in Russia

Once there were parking lots
Now it's a peaceful oasis
you got it, you got it

This was a Pizza Hut
Now it's all covered with daisies
you got it, you got it

'Nothing But Flowers' Talking Heads


If anybody buys a survival vehicle it better not be a land rover or any other low volume exotic.The first time she breaks down,it'll cost about five times as much to fix as a Ford or Toyota-and aftermarket parts are nearly non existent now for exotics.

You will probably be able to get salvage parts if not new for popular trucks for many years even if tshtf.Fuel will probably be the bigger problem.

small block chevy with points and a carb.

Avoid recent model Jeeps, too. Only 13 hours to build each one and some of the lowest Initial Quality Ratings in the business:

Ok crew, stop and think about this thread for a second. It seems all the vehicle suggestions are road vehicles, doesn't that appear along the lines of BAU thinking or "in the box"?

As we ponder the doom-scope, what are the fair assumptions;
- roads will be in all states of disrepair
- where catastrophic failure makes the section of road impassible, a diversion will be created through a field or woods. See this all the time in back roads.
- bridges may be decrepit, or worse taken over by gangs for tolls
- dirt roads will be more prevalent, (actually liked this in St. Augustine around the beaches), or a bitumen surface may be applied
- Getting there and back will be more important than time or speed

How about an ATV? But my choice is the Argo off-road amphibious vehicle. These things can go places where a four-wheeler can't (including plowing down tag alder or willow), carries four people plus some cargo, and can be used as a slow speed boat. They do have an attachment for a small outboard. The motor is an air-cooled Techumsee (sp?) or B&S, but if required any type could be bolted in.


Oh, and low wear and tear on roads and pathways...

I experienced lack of highway maintenance first hand during the oil price collapse after 1985. I was living in Louisiana and drove LA-1 south of Shreveport to work. LA's revenue at the time was partly from oil and the state budget had to be cut. Many roads like LA-1 did not get resurfaced, but the top layer of asphalt was ground off in preparation for the eventual resurfacing that ended up being a couple of years away. Successive layers of asphalt peeled off and my windshield constantly got hit by flying asphalt. Needless to say that the road surface was very rough and potholed. Fortunately I-49, which paralleled the old road, was completed a few years later.

Westexas -

It doesn't even have to be a large SUV to have good off-road capability. An old VW Beetle set up as a 'Baja Bug' with raised reinforced suspension and huge tires, and upward pointing exhaust would do the trick nicely (though comfort might be an issue for many people). Ditto for dune buggies. Trouble is: Beetles (real ones, not the New Beetle) were once as common as stones, but these days nice ones are hard to find and are no longer cheap.

The German Army 'Kubelwagen' (bucket car) of WW II was based on the VW chassis and drive train, only weighed about 1,500 lbs, and could do anything the US Jeep could. They even had an amphibious version appropriately called the 'Schwimmwagen'.

Anyway, it's amazing how short a period of time it takes for roads and other infrastructure to deteriorate without regular maintenance. Once a certain level of neglect sets in, the process becomes almost irreversible.

My golf cart will run rings around any SUV when the going gets tough. Its like a little electric mountain goat.

Then there is the ultimate off road vehicle, but you have to have access to a supply of hay.

We came to a similar conclusion while designing the UnCrash Course. My degree is in civil engineering, so I'm spending a fair amount of time at looking at infrastructure issues right now.

A few other points about our infrastructure to consider:

  • U.S. roads are generally built as cheaply as possible (lowest cost bidder always wins); this is different from how the Europeans do it. The result is that without constant maintenance, our road quality quickly degrades. New rules were instituted in 2006 to build better roads, but of course that won't make a material difference to the situation in time.
  • as Clifford Wirth points out, a few big potholes and "highway speed travel" lowers to just 10mph
  • we have two replacement curves peaking for water pipes. The first are those placed at the beginning of the 1900's, with about a 100 year lifespan. The second is the post-WWII placements, with about a 40 to 60 year lifespan. Not only do I expect many catastrophic bridge failures, I expect our water systems to rupture so often that many places simply will lose running water because repairs will not happen quickly enough. Already we are doing "whack-a-mole" with ruptures due to fiscal constraints when we should be replacing or lining whole stretches of pipes
  • without water, cities quickly become uninhabitable; disease spreads, fire suppression suffers and business generally stops
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the US infrastructure a grade of D (I recommend watching their front-page video)
  • Most water retaining structures (dams, levees) are coming to the end of their lifespan, too.

Here is slide from the course that helps make the point:

It's sobering to dwell on the amount of infrastructure that will be failing in the next decade if we don't make replacing it a priority.

PNAC: "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century"

How about: "Rebuilding America's Infrastructure: Hyperinflation, Starvation and Debt Servitude for a Century"?

A proposal for selective abandonment:

Net Oil Exports Revisited (8/06)

A Proposed Triage Plan

I believe that vast expanses of American Suburbia are going to become virtually abandoned in the years ahead. Alan Drake has noted that a good deal of suburbia was so poorly constructed that a lot of it is biodegradable. Alan has outlined how we can go back to what we used to have: electric trolley cars connected to electric light rail lines.

CBS Sunday Morning, on 8/20/06, had a segment on "tiny houses." They profiled a home designer and builder who specialized in building very small functional homes of about 100 square feet. You can find more information on his website.

What this builder has realized, and what millions of Americans are just beginning to also realize, is that anything over 100 square feet or so per person is not a necessity; it is optional consumption, a want, instead of a need.

The US is not Switzerland, but Alan Drake has described how Swiss per capita oil consumption in the Second World War was about 0.25% of current US per capita oil consumption. They did it primarily by electrifying their transportation system.

I propose a sort of triage operation: "tiny" homes and multifamily housing along electric mass transit lines. In my opinion, it is the only way that we can preserve some semblance of a civilized society. The suburbs are, by and large, a lost cause.

Yes, density will be key to maintain basic services. We simply will not have the money/energy to replace all the services the incredible distances they are extended now.

I think it's likely that people will start abandoning the suburbs not just because of travel costs but also because basic services start experiencing common and severe disruptions, like water delivery to the home. Municipalities are having trouble with roads now, water and sewer pipes are next. I think it's likely we can keep electricity operating for longer, but eventually it too will experience intermittency.

I suspect quite a few people over the pond have a larger scale triage in mind - at the nation state level. Cut all external energy inputs to the most energy inefficient 5% of the global population and we immediately have an extra decade to prepare for energy transition.

Not that I expect those 5% to see it that way... :)

Yes, contraction, curtailment, triage, powerdown. These are the terms that need to be on everyone's lips for any number of reasons.

K. Sales' article above says, "The alternative? Nothing complicated: a non-growth ecnonomy. A human-scale economy. A steady-state economy."

But we are long past the point where steady state is possible or desirable. We need a to model and implement a rapidly shrinking-state economy. Are any major economists working on this now?

By "we", are you talking about North America or about China?

The Earth is much more likely to be destroyed by a shrinking global economy than by a growing economy.

It sounds like you are a firm believer in the religion of infinite growth on a limited planet, and I have learned long ago that trying to reason with religious zealots is pretty much a waste of time. If you don't think we are at least bumping up against limits (not to mention far into overshoot), perhaps you should read the threads here and in related sites more carefully.

But ok, I'll bite. How do you see the earth being destroyed by a shrinking economy? If you say that it well get us into resource wars, well, that would be war that would destroy the world, not the shrinking economy.

Presumably as a devout pro-growth zealot you will be thrilled if I wish upon you not just growth, but multiple growths all over your body.

What? You don't want growths all over your body? Then why wish it upon the earth?

West Texas,
The Swiss also made good use of a technology that just might see a revival -wood gasification.
It enables you to run a car or truck or farm tractor on wood scraps or firewood purpose cut.

The process and equipment are both relatively simple.The burner is tuned to starve the fire of oxygen so that the primary combustion product is carbon monoxide,which is cooled and filtered to remove ash and tar and then fed into the engine with a special carburetor.The carburetor is similar to a propane carburetor.Fuel economy is reputed to be about one mile per pound of dry wood in a midsize pickup truck.

Many thousands of vehicles were converted in occupied Europe but it seems that none have survived.A few minutes net search will turn up some modern examples.

Any good all around mechanic with a well equipped shop can convert a suitable vehicle using mostly salvage materials in a few days-once he has done the first one.

I'm looking for the right vehicle now-a sound old model 4x4 Chevy 3/4 ton long wheel base with a granny gear four speed and a 350 engine.Cheap.

I have settled on this particular truck for it's simplicity, durability,towing and hauling capacity,ability to navigate any thing that even looks remotely like a road,ease of finding salvage parts,and so forth.You can get any part aftermarket for such a truck overnight at the worst whereas late model truck parts are sometimes dealer only and take a week to arrive.

Fuel economy(probably 2 pounds per mile) won't matter much as we own a few acres of trees and at any rate it will not be used much if tshtf-an occasional emergency trip to town and a maybe a couple of planned hauls every month or so.Home will be the place to be when gasoline exceeds ten dollars per or is simply unavailable.

It looks as if it might take a couple of hours to prepare the wood and get her fired up and ready for a half day of use.Once fueled up,you probably can go from a cold start in less than ten minutes.

The appartus will take about half the space in the cargo box of a short bed pickup.

It's looking like that rail crash in DC may have been at least partly due to infrastructure issues. The train cars were so old they should have been replaced years ago. There was some kind of signaling problem. It looks like the operator tried to brake, but it didn't seem to work.

Now they're putting the oldest cars in the middle of the train, where they'll be protected in a crash.

Alan from Big Easy has commented frequently about the supposed longevity of light railcars.
Perhaps I missed it but has he commented on this as well?

aangel -

About a hundred years ago (well, it was actually 1966) I found myself in a summer job with the county engineering department inspecting bridges over county roads. I was the head of a team of three other engineering students, and we'd go around to the various bridges, taking measurements, noting rust damage, concrete deterioration, and also making as-built plans for bridges that the country somehow had lost the drawings of.

It was hardly interesting or demanding work, but one thing it did make me aware of was the absolutely terrible condition that many of our bridges were in. And mind you, this was way back 1966. I would hope that many of these have since been replaced with new bridges, but I strongly suspect that not all that much has been done and that the overall condition of the county's collection of bridges is probably even worse today.

As a suburban dweller outside Washington DC, it is amazing how quickly the roads near me have fallen into disrepair. My family has always joked that you needed to drive a truck to go into DC, but now they are increasingly useful all over the region.

However, I do agree with the Baja Bug idea too. In years gone by, I drove an old Escort on long-abandoned mining roads -- as long as you keep from busting the oil pan on a boulder and don't high center, you can take a car almost anyplace. As long as you have gas.

I sold my '93 Pathfinder a few years ago when it started having more problems. I ended up buying a '99 Honda CRV. (only after did I realize it only seemed to be little blue haired grannies that drove them - but I was being very pragmatic). It is still an AWD. It has a good brand name - Honda - (realible?). It also improved my milegae from 20 mpg to 30 mpg. Also it is still SUV'ish. It has the large rear compartment, which to Leanans point, I can sleep in the back and live in it if necessary. I'm thinking in a fast crash scenario, an SUV type vehicle is worth having.

I think that the true nature of the collapse we are witnessing is so overarching as to render our previous conceptions of preparation nothing more than abject folly.

The paradigm or world view that we shared prior to the onset of collapse has blocked us from making accurate calls on how it would actually unfold, instead we comforted ourselves with nonsense like walkable communities, light rail that would magically appear to meet our transportation needs, or the most ridiculous one of all, the election of a liberal democratic president who "gets it".
Throw in the acceptance of a crushing gasoline tax by an increasingly impoverished public to top it off and I rest my case.

In any case, it occurs to me that as roads deteriorate, an investment in a solid mid-size SUV might be a good investment--as long as one is to some extent still car dependent.

Only if your definition of an SUV is Simple Utility Vehicle... AND you know how to fix it yourself, and by that I mean have the capability of making your own spare parts. Do you have your own forge and machine shop? I don't even want to think about maintaining computers,electronic components, power windows and such. Good luck with your SUV!

That old jeep is hardly any better off the road than a compact 4wd pickup truck which will haul three times as much and cost half as much to maintain.Also the truck is safer, faster,and infinitely more comfortable.I speak from experince as a four wheel drive owner who actually uses 4wd several times in an average month off the road in the line of work rather than play.

The ONLY THING old jeeps have going for them is a reputation earned when there were almost no other 4wd utility vehicles available.We owned a bunch of them back in the days before you could buy a cheap used Chevy S10 or Ford Ranger 4wd.

Damn few of us will live long enough to need to rebuild a vehicle in a machine shop ,as the quantity of good salvage parts available is incredible-if you choose your vehicle wisely.

At any rate,there will be lots of independent small shops around.Surviving machinist will have to work just like every body else.

Something most people don't realize-modern vehicles just don't wear out-they break down and don't get fixed.Only the parts exposed to rust and dirt are LIKELY to fail.

Almost any stickshift truck that is well cared for will last over two hundred thousand miles,and when it finally needs a head gasket,you usually find that the engine is showing no visible wear.

The gasket set is apt to be under 200 bucks but the labor to install is likely over a thousand.
Cars are junked because the cost of repairs are out of line with the cash value of older cars,not because they are worn out.

Warren Buffett to CNBC: U.S. Economy In "Shambles" .. No Signs of Recovery Yet

There were a lot of excesses to be wrung out and that process is still underway and it looks to me like it will be underway for quite a while. In the (Berkshire Hathaway) annual report I said the economy would be in a shambles this year and probably well beyond. I'm afraid that's true.

Wow, big insight.
Anyone not in hope mode can see this.
Because of the collective refusal to admit the obvious the only way out will be a collapse.

"hope mode.." I love it, my new favorite slang!

Similar to "try mode" as in "I'll try to do that for you."

Yup and the check is in the mail and I won't.......................in your.................

from the Maclean's article on peak fish, etc:

There is no reason to think this sort of across-the-board progress cannot be sustained.

A fitting epitaph if there ever was one.

Agreed. Not as pithy, but I also liked this one a little earlier in the editorial:

peakonomic thought rejects the foundational economic principle of our civilization, that over the long term, increased productivity leads to ever-higher levels of prosperity,

Increasing productivity is a common economic assumption, but 'foundational economic principle'? Hardly. Keynes preferred to stick close to the facts: 'In the long run, we are all dead.'

a revealing quote. Like most technocopians he assumes increased productivity to simply be a result of the introduction of more efficient technologies without examining other components such as cheap energy inputs and outsourcing component manufacture, etc.
the interesting thing to me is that 'peakonomic thought'(such as it is) does not at all reject the thought that over the long term increased productivity leads to increased prosperity.
We simply accept the obverse: that diminishing real productivity in the form of falling EROEI will inevitably result in vanishing prosperity and increasingly desperate attempts to maintain the status quo.

Not just that.

The statement "increased productivity leads to ever-higher levels of prosperity" is simply false. It does lead to higher levels of prosperity, but only for a given few.

This is true. What increased productivity does is that it creates more goods at a much cheaper price. But as the Luddites first observed, it also puts people out of work. This is one of the three reasons that the economy must grow or else it will collapse.

New technology, like the flying shuttle, put a lot of Luddites out of work. It continues to do so today therefore the economy must grow in order to find work for these people.

In a shrinking economy with people being laid off new technology is far more of a curse than a blessing.

Ron P.

Darwinian, can you elaborate more on the reasons our economies must grow (you mention there are 3)? I have been trying to understand this for a while now.

One reason: as population grows, more people enter the workforce. Politicians must keep unemployment levels low or social turmoil increases (and the politician is voted out of office). A growing population is the underlying trend for which we have designed many of our systems.

But here in Canada it seems to be the other way around -- we need to have immigration in order to have population increase in order to maintain economic growth. I don't think it's so simple because then any country with no population growth therefore wouldn't need economic growth, which doesn't seem to be the case. I think it has to do with the central banks printing new money and how this affects inflation, but I don't understand it.

Most of what we see as money is actually credit which must be repaid with interest. And the money to repay the interest is not created with the credit, so growth is required to create the money (ie. more credit/debt) to pay the interest.

Take all the outstanding debt (individuals, institutions, companies, governments, et al) globally and the interest bill for it which has to be paid every year. If there was no growth, that interest bill would have to be paid from the static amount of money globally, year after year. Each year the interest bill as a proportion of the available amount of money would grow and the amount of money available for everything else would shrink.

Economic growth is essential to keep the finely tuned economic system (our life-support system) teetering on the edge of the abyss from falling in.

At the median, Canada is bringing in more qualified and wealthier immigrants than the USA (although less so than in the past). The problem with USA immigration is that it is not focused toward helping the USA economy rather than hurting it-employers needs are being addressed with no accounting for the overwhelming public costs attached.

(you mention there are 3)

Yes, as Aangel mentioned above the population is always growing so new jobs are needed for them. This along with mechanized farming continues to drive people off the farms and into cities. This has largely already happened in the US but is still in full swing in much of the world like China. New jobs are needed for these ex-farmhands so a growing economy is necessary.

The third reason is that we have a debt based economy. The economy must grow to pay interest on the debt. In a shrinking economy people do not borrow money, or cannot borrow money, and the money supply dries up. And those that still owe a lot of money are unable to pay even either the interest on their loans, not to mention the principle.

So without growth everything collapses. End of story.

Ron P.

This along with mechanized farming continues to drive people off the farms and into cities. This has largely already happened in the US but is still in full swing in much of the world like China.

When mechanized farming runs into trouble because of lack of diesel, then many people will find jobs in agriculture again. When I remember well what I read last year, this happened in the U.S. in the '80's.

Hi Null Hypothesis

I think the reason constant growth is required is because an ever growing working age group is needed to pay for pensioners either by taxes and state pensions, or by profits and dividends. Of course the boomers would have swamped that theory even if BAU had been maintained. With growth now over; life is about to regain its former form as short, sharp and brutal. Especially for us boomers. Previously generated wealth might even be irrelevant if our social systems (especially money) break down. Life will become hand to mouth with nil surpluses. If you are old and feeble you could be "rich" and still starve unless you have family willing to look after you.

Nevertheless that is why politicians (and everybody else) supported growth. Beyond that it is hard wired into our genes. We are destined to suffer what ecologists call overshoot. The first bit is the fun bit. Now we are beginning to see the second die-off stage. We can do nothing to prevent maximum consumption, even now. Jevons paradox ensures that any technological efficiency developed is immediately converted into greater output, not savings. So sit back, keep your eyes open; and do your best to survive the next 10-20 years. Gathering a large extended family grouping around you (if possible in a compound that can be defended physically) and becoming streetwise is probably the best strategy.

The aphorism that comes to mind re; 'Productivity' is the old Carpenter's Saw,

"I cut this board three times, and it's STILL too short!!"

The statement "increased productivity leads to ever-higher levels of prosperity" is simply false. It does lead to higher levels of prosperity, but only for a given few.

In China for dozens of millions who found work in the big cities this decade. Increased productivity is impossible and many allready left the cities.

I guess then that Peak Chestnutwood hasn't happened. Good... I always wanted a chestnut coffee table; I heard it stands up to cats' claws nicely.


The Stone Age didn’t end because they reached ‘peak rocks.’

A common delusion. The Stone Age hasn't ended. We're using more stone now than at any time in the last hundred thousand years -- more than ever, in fact.

The same goes for bone, wood, bronze, iron, and steam. Not one of those "ages" has ended yet.

Good point, the ages seem to be named for when they started.

Record fall in Japan prices fuel deflation fears

TOKYO — Deflation is clawing its way back in Japan, and that's not good news for an economy trying to recover from its worst recession since World War II.

Japan's key consumer price index tumbled at a record pace in May, the government said Friday. The core nationwide CPI, which excludes volatile fresh food prices, fell 1.1 percent from the previous year in the third straight month of decline.

The result marked the biggest fall since the government began releasing comparable data in 1971.

Japan appears to be "heading for another lengthy period of deflation," said Richard Jerram, chief economist at Macquarie Securities in Tokyo.

Americans saving more, spending modestly: Household savings rate at the highest level in more than 15 years

WASHINGTON - Households pushed their savings rate to the highest level in more than 15 years in May as a big boost in incomes from the government's stimulus program was devoted more to bolstering nest eggs than increased spending.

Re: Americans saving more, speding modestly

or as Denninger comments about that:

"Saving", by the way, includes debt paydowns; the government in its "infinite wisdom" computes the "savings rate" as "income less spending", which is not actually correct; money that goes from income to paying down debt isn't "saved". This increase shows that consumers continue to reduce borrowing activity (out of both choice and necessity) and are desperately trying to tread water in their sea of debt (never mind the occasional shark that comes by for a snack!)

I am accellerating debt pay down - the house.

Related to the increase in income - really? Denninger furhter comments:

A couple of paragraphs into the release the BEA explains:

Private wage and salary disbursements decreased $12.4 billion in May, compared with a decrease of $0.7 billion in April.

Notice that number - it is dramatically worse than April. That's the REAL income contribution (or in this case, loss) to the economy. One must be careful to actually read these economic releases and not listen to the headline number on CNBC!

Re: Monsanto phosphorous mine

Monsanto takes phosphate ore from the mine and turns it into elemental phosphorous, a key Roundup ingredient. Toxic selenium and other heavy metals are also exposed during open pit mining and dumped in waste rock piles, where they can concentrate and be carried away by runoff or natural springs.

I kinda think Roundup doesn't include elemental phosphorus, unless burning of the crop when it rains is the intended effect. The active ingredient is glyphosate.

It degrades in the soil to phosphate, so perhaps we should stock up.

False advertising

In 1996 Monsanto was accused of false and misleading advertising of glyphosate products, prompting a law suit by the New York State attorney general.[73]
On Fri Jan 20, 2007, Monsanto was convicted of false advertising of Roundup for presenting Roundup as biodegradable and claiming that it left the soil clean after use. Environmental and consumer rights campaigners brought the case in 2001 on the basis that glyphosate, Roundup's main ingredient, is classed as "dangerous for the environment" and "toxic for aquatic organisms" by the European Union. Monsanto France planned to appeal the verdict at the time. [74]

[edit] Scientific fraud

On two occasions the United States Environmental Protection Agency has caught scientists deliberately falsifying test results at research laboratories hired by Monsanto to study glyphosate

I don't think anything from Monsanto can be trusted to be benign. From beginning to end their products are the poster child of everything that's wrong with our modern world.

Glyphosate sure works good though. I'd have to quit farming without it.

a farmer, or a monoculture agro-alchemist ?

X,Actually you wouldn't-as long as nobody else has it either.

Ditto antibiotics in feed that are present in meat.
Ditto a bunch of pesticides-but not all of them.Every body elses expenses would go up just like yours,and so would prices.

Food would cost a little more.Maybe a lot more in some cases.

That's an amazingly stupid review of Jeff Rubin's book from MacLean's, I stopped after the first page because I couldn't take any more :) .

At least the readers' comments to the article make sense.

EDITORIAL: Switching to gravel road offers mixed blessings

As Michigan’s economy crumbles, so are some once-paved rural roads. Lack of repaving funds are forcing some counties in Michigan to turn the roads back into gravel.

It’s not occurring in Oakland County just yet but, excuse the expression, it’s probably just “down the road.”

About a quarter of the state’s county road agencies largely left out of the federal stimulus package, which focuses on highways and other major thoroughfares, say they can’t afford some costly repaving projects and have crushed up deteriorating roads.


The thought comes to mind that in order to minimize damage to the roads, some localities might either ban heavy trucks, or raise the road taxes to cover the true level of damage that they do to the roads. With a twofold purpose, really - first to recover the costs required to repair the roads, and secondly to provide an incentive for shifting freight to travel by rail.

Nonsense - nothing will be done to impede whatever business remains. Actually, nothing will be done period - it won't be full speed into the wall, because the machine won't go full speed anymore, but we'll hit as fact as we can still go.

Time to start a new sideline, windshield repair and replacement.

Better yet: invent a steel, chicken-wire screen, that can be push-button lowered, to cover the front windshield to prevent most flying rocks from causing damage. I would expect this to be the most-desired 'must-have' option when our roads go back to gravel.

The collected rocks will be handy ammo for future slingshots.

The Science of Economic Bubbles and Busts

worldwide financial meltdown has caused a new examination of why markets sometimes become overheated and then come crashing down.

The dot-com blowup and the subsequent housing and credit crises highlight how psychological quirks sometimes trump rationality in investment decision making. Understanding these behaviors elucidates the genesis of booms and busts.

New models of market dynamics try to protect against financial blowups by mirroring more accurately how markets work. Meanwhile more intelligent regulation may gently steer the home buyer or the retirement saver away from bad decisions


The public is starting to realize that MSM rags like scientific american are a waste of paper-here is a summary of a competing viewpoint on this one http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/26793903/the_big_takeover/print

In what way is this a competing viewpoint (at least in the online version)? The major thrust of the SA article is that people, both in companies and individually, make decisions that don't match up to reality and end up with severe economic shocks. The RS article basically says that when the banks discovered they'd screwed up mega-time they decided to extend their political control and extort the money they needed from taxpayers. They viewpoints would only be in competition if the RS article alleged they'd deliberately set out to lose the money in the first place rather than losing it by greed, stupidity and general human emotions.

I think the SA article is written by a journalist who's concern is primarily to interesting rather than accurate, as is the RS article. And if the people cited in the SA article believe all they need to do is find a better "comprehensive economic models" rather than admit economic modeling is inherently limited then I think we're in for even more shocks, but that doesn't invalidate the basic idea that individuals in society make "bad for the economy" decisions as well as individuals working in mega-corporations.

Actually I thought the Scientific American article was very good. It was about the science of bubbles. Your article however seems nothing but a senseless rant, implying that the global economic crisis has nothing to do with money but only with power. And I really don't think Wall Street insiders are trying to use the bailout money to start any kind of revolution. If so, what or who do they hope to overthrow?

All that being said, I think the global economic crisis was triggered by declining, or static, oil production and very high oil prices, not power. Of course the housing bubble played no small part. Real estate investors and lending institutions got real greedy. They thought that housing prices would rise forever. So part of the cause is pure stupidity. Nevertheless, this part of it was about greed, not power.

Ron P.

For more on the subject human decision making I would recommend reading "How We Decide" by Jonah Lehrer.

Here is a NYT book review

It discusses the reward circuitry of the brain.

The Sciam article also connects with Nate's recent video post on "Collapse Dynamics" from the London School of Economics which is excellent.

The way I see it is, we had (have) a very complex world economy that was in "unstable equilibrium" and one of the most important variables, oil supply/price, spiked beyond a certain threshold throwing the world into an economic collapse. Chaos theory in action!

I think the global economic crisis was triggered by declining, or static, oil production and very high oil prices, not power.

How is this even possible? How do you claim a primary source of virtually all production has nothing to do with power? And how is the control of money/economy not about power?


Re: the declining condition of US roads and infrastructure.

I think we're all so struck with the novelty of the problem that it's hard to think clearly. We think it is terrible, disasterous, etc.

It is an engineering and planning problem. Given fewer resources and less wealth, how does one cut back on an infrastructure? What are the important parts to keep? What are the non-essential parts to abandon?

How does one replace a costly, wasteful infrastructure with one that is cheap, resilient and long-lasting?

Even at greatly decreased levels of spending, the U.S. infrastructure could be far better than that available to the mass of humanity, or to civilizations of the past.

Bart / Energy Bulletin

How about a Roto-mill Asphalt grinder that is fueled by asphalt.

Fold a 4 lane highway into a 2 lane, 2 lane into a single...

"Cheap, resilient, long-lasting": pick two out of three.

Hi Bart, definitely count me in as part of the group that sees our infrastructure problem as potentially disastrous.

How does one replace a costly, wasteful infrastructure with one that is cheap, resilient and long-lasting?

Well, I don't immediately see how it's possible to have "cheap, resilient and long-lasting infrastructure." Do you have some examples in mind? Infrastructure, by its nature, has always been one of the more resource intensive actions any civilization undertakes.

To make my point, the American Society of Civil Engineers is recommending $2.2 trillion be spent in just the next five years. Presumably it will be long-lasting, perhaps resilient — but certainly it is not cheap.

I think another mistake you make in your thinking is that we can operate our systems at greatly reduced levels of spending. With significant spending reduction (resource allocation, if you will) we are more likely to have breakdowns that render large parts of our systems almost or completely unusable, first at the periphery but also as a whole. For instance, a single water main break can cut off the water supply to entire neighborhoods or even cities. A break in the levees in New Orleans virtually destroyed an entire city. With our systems, "small" breakdowns, if they occur in just the right spot, can have a large impact.

If one includes cascading effects, the situation is even worse. Our electrical system routinely shows how a single failure can have massive impacts. Note the transformer that blew up in Ohio in 2003, causing a series of cascading failures along the East Coast.

Before the single transformer blew up:


After the single transformer blew up, causing a cascading failure:

After Blackout

It does seem to me that you are underestimating the magnitude of our infrastructure problem. In my view, selecting an area to live with reasonably maintained infrastructure, or at least infrastructure that will last a bit longer than average, I think is going to be one of the prime determinants of having a 'successful' post-peak life.


Presumably it will be long-lasting, perhaps resilient — but certainly it is not cheap.

I think it's the opposite. It will be cheap (for infrastructure), perhaps resilient, but certainly not long-lasting.

The problem is not, as you suggested upthread, that the lowest bidder always wins. The project plans will spell out what must be done, and how, and inspectors should make sure the plans are followed. There are also various safeguards to make sure the bidders are legit, and submitting reasonable bids.

The problem is that the public wants cheap, and far more importantly, the public doesn't want to be inconvenienced. They don't want the highway shut down for a year while the pavement is replaced with 5' deep perpetual flexible pavement. So they get a microsurfacing "paint the road black" job, which will have to replaced a couple of years.

People in Europe and Canada seem much more willing to put up with inconvenience; I think that's why they have better-built roads. The people there are willing to put up with longer construction times, and all the inconvenience that goes with that.

The problem is not, as you suggested upthread, that the lowest bidder always wins. The project plans will spell out what must be done, and how, and inspectors should make sure the plans are followed. There are also various safeguards to make sure the bidders are legit, and submitting reasonable bids.

Yes, you are correct. I used "cheapest bidder always wins" which, although true, doesn't really explain how the bidding system works or why it was created that way.

Or does it?

When the Interstate system was built out the goal was to have it built within two decades and to make the money allocated go as far as possible. So the thinking that created the system really was "do it cheap so it gets done more quickly and we get more road per $." That context, "do it cheap," created the bidding system. A different system, one used in Europe, is "guarantee your roadway for twenty years and tell us how much it will cost." Innovation and quality occurred in this system, whereas there was virtually no innovation in the US system of building roadways because each bid simply had to meet the same low spec — and the lowest bidder then won.

The Interstate system was built at a time of unprecedented optimism. They saw no reason to build to last, because they expected constant progress to make the current stuff obsolete. The Interstate system was built with a 30 to 40 year expected lifespan, because they figured by then, we'd want all new roads anyway. The idea that we might not be able to afford it just never entered their heads back in the booming '50s. Worse, they never imagined how dependent we'd become on that new infrastructure, and how that made it so much more difficult to replace. (No, we're not going to close down I-95 while we build a new one.)

There were even some people who seriously argued that we'd soon all have flying cars, and so not need highways.

It sounds like there were several reasons the roads were built "on the cheap." I knew only of the time limit but your reason sounds very likely, too.

In the '50's GM designers worked within a "Rocket City" scenario.
Hence the original Firebird Concept cars.
Recall also the Jetsons' and Supercar children shows that worked at indoctrinating youth, "our greatest resource" into the flying car fantasy.
The video at the linked site should be required viewing for bart at EB or anyone else who view entropic realities as having "engineering solutions".

Private air transportation has only been realised by a fortunate few, notably Bob Lutz, and their numbers continue to shrink.

Hi Spaceman. Agree on "entropic realities". Disagree that there are no engineering solutions. They may not be the engineering solutions that the mainstream wants, but there are solutions.

Engineering means coming up with designs and solutions for given parameters. It doesn't mean the results will be the fat, dumb and happy designs of the current day.

It's helpful to look at what nations do during wartime. They ration, restrict private transportation, reallocate resources. Planners and engineers do not throw up their hands and say "It's impossible!"

Good engineering will work post-peak same as it does now. Study the problem. Establish priorities. Examine alternate designs, etc.


Hi Bart.
The entropic realities we are encountering are the result of the engineering designs and solutions for the given parameters of the day.
Our roads and bridges, our entire transportation infrastructure is in itself a marvel of design and engineering.
It is crumbling because of the amount of embodied energy in the various forms it carries.
Whenever energy is expended, part of it becomes waste, therefore the more energy is used, in any event the greater the amount of waste there is that accumulates.
High energy systems decay at accelerated rates because it is natural for them to do so.
And there is simply no way of designing or engineering around that fact.

So we design low energy systems to fill the same roles.

They won't be as fast or convenient, but the point is that they don't need to be.

Or do you think that when the oil runs out people will get stupid and forget how to solve problems? I suspect rather the opposite to be the case, lots of brainpower currently spinning its wheels on non-problems will suddenly find real work again.

r4ndom: "lots of brainpower currently spinning its wheels on non-problems will suddenly find real work again."

Nicely said. I think it will be more fun to be an engineer again post-peak. Those who are able to deal with the new realities will have plenty to do.

There's an analog in software engineering. In the early days of computers, code had to be tight and efficient because memory and computing power were at a premium. Now that computers are dirt cheap, code can be fat and wasteful.

Limited resources bring out human ingenuity.

I have a fondness for old engineering approaches, for their minimalism and resilience.

A friend pointed out that in the event of collapse, it would still be possible to communicate via CW (Morse code via radio waves). Vacuum tubes can be manufactured by hand, and code can punch through conditions that defeat other forms of radio transmission.

What disturbs me on this thread is the Learned Helplessness. Smart, talented people who are emotionally invested in the concept that all is lost if we can't keep things going as they are now.

I feel differently because I had a very bad time in my early 20s (~ 1970). I didn't have anybody to pick me up, and I realized that if I was going to survive, I couldn't give in to despair. Instead, I gave up my preconceptions about respectability, status, material goods.

There are a few really important things in life and they aren't that hard to get. Water, a couple thousand calories, shelter, clothes to keep you warm, friends.

Everything else is gravy.

Bart / EB

Your understanding of the important things is such that I would be proud to have you for a nieghbor-espesially when the going gets tough!

"selecting an area to live with reasonably maintained infrastructure, or at least infrastructure that will last a bit longer than average, I think is going to be one of the prime determinants of having a 'successful' post-peak life."

I live in MN, where all our bridges are above average, so we should be just fine :o|

New Orleans is a great example. There are several different levee systems. The ration thing to do would be abandon chalmette/Lower 9th Ward and East New Orleans, and redensify the higher ground in New Orleans and East Jefferson.

See how to do it is not hard, the political will is hard.

Throwing down the gauntlet to the engineers and other technical people. I thought you folks were supposed to have a "can do" mentality?

You are thinking too conservatively. That is, you see the problem as how to maintain the present infrastructure in its present form.

There are many parameters that go into the description of a system. Assuming that the problem is to have a infrastructure that is "cheap, resilient and long-lasting," what other parameters could be changed so as to make this possible?

Appropriate Technology (Intermediate Technology) specializes in problems like this. (I notice that AT has been experiencing a renaissance.)

We may have to go looking in history, other cultures, other fields for ideas. Present-day American engineering seems to be stuck in rut, as far as dealing with problems like this.

Here are some examples off the top of my head.

During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong and North Vietnam had logistics systems that operated at a fraction of the cost of that of the US. If I remember, they relied heavily on bicycles and human muscle.

Our high tech medical system, dependent on expensive specialists, is not viable in poor countries. (May not be viable in the US, but that's another story.) The Hesperian Foundation publishes a series of books and promotes an alternative model of medical care that works much better for poor rural populations: "Where There Is No Doctor," "Where There is No Dentist," "Disabled Village Children" http://www.hesperian.org/index.php

Dmitry Orlov claims that Soviet-era appliances and equipment were built for endurance and repairability. Probably not as elegant as Western models, but much more appropriate for collapse than our highly optimized and unrepairable equipment.

I'm only a fan of good engineering. What can you come up with? You folks are the experts.

Bart / Energy Bulletin

I'm personally taken by the idea of 'Ultralight Rail', as in Toto's Spiderweb Riding, or some variation of it. It might require a bike that has guide-wheels and outrigger that pull up and away to roll on roads and paths when you're out of track.. but the track loads may be light enough to allow this sort of bikepath to even be built from Wooden rails, where iron is inaccessible..

A variation Bob Shaw has linked us to a few times is a two or four seater on a Light-light rail setup.. it's not at all hard to extend the proposition to a vehicle or chain of them pedaled by more folks.

But thanks for the prod. There is a strong current of whinnying denial around here, when many viable solutions are not actually impossible to find. As with the Electric Car discussions lately, we get the protest that they'll be inconvenient and expensive. I think it's safe to say that much of anything worth doing will be inconvenient and (relatively) expensive..

'Step softly, for you are stepping on my Traumas..you Can-do types!'


My favorite mini-rail:


I also earlier posted Youtube links of railbikers pedaling along this totally beautiful little track, but sadly, stupid Bureaucrats seem to be shutting it down:

Updated May25th,2009.

On May 22nd I notified the county that I would begin remove my railroad starting September 1st of this year...

Meanwhile, France seems to be expanding their Rail-biking Spiderwebs:

Great interactive map with 50 different SpiderWebs?

More links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_gauge_railway

I am still hoping engineers and human-biometric experts here on TOD can advance this narrow gauge 'ribcage' tech further as I think Alan Drake's RR & TOD has got the standard gauge 'spine & limbs' tech pretty well-covered.

Trench Railways represented military adaptation of early 20th century railway technology to the problem of keeping soldiers supplied during the static trench warfare phase of World War I. The large concentrations of soldiers and artillery at the front lines required delivery of enormous quantities of food, ammunition and fortification construction materials where transportation facilities had been destroyed. Reconstruction of conventional roads and railways was too slow, and fixed facilities were attractive targets for enemy artillery. Trench railways linked the front with standard gauge railway facilities beyond the range of enemy artillery. Empty cars often carried litters returning wounded from the front...

[I'm no infrastructure engineer.] I'm only a fan of good engineering. What can you [people] come up with? You [engineer] folks are the experts.

That's a funny one Bart.

You have a brain, same as the rest of us.

Why don't you pick up a couple of engineering books over the weekend, skim through them, and then you'll be caught up and one of us "you people" who is able to suddenly radically transform the world?

After all, on the Energy Bulletin (and I'm a big fan, BTW) you want the average Joe to play catch up re PO, AGW, etc. If they can play catch up, why can't you?

Of course, I say all this with tongue in cheek (sarcastically) because I don't believe the human brain is capable, after say age 20, of rapid learning. For your average Joe, it's too late. He'll never mentally "get it" re Peak Oil, re Global Warming, re Population Bomb, etc.

Just look at some of the Republican Congressman debating Climate Change today. They'll never get it. Not because they are stupid or dishonest, but rather because the cement in their brains has solidified around the "Greed is Good" and "The Market will save us" models.

P.S. I also got a good chuckle from reading David Brooks (NYT) today on his understanding of evolution and how we humans have "developed certain mental modules, which have been passed down to us [from our hunter-gatherer ancestors] through our genes".

All I can say is ... OMG.

Rest of Brooks editorial is here.

I wish I could make this stuff up, but truth exceeds the insanity of all well reasoned fiction.

This would make more sense if you substitute the word meme for gene.

Hello step back. You wrote:

You have a brain, same as the rest of us. Why don't you pick up a couple of engineering books over the weekend, skim through them, and then you'll be caught up and one of us "you people" who is able to suddenly radically transform the world?

I understand engineering principles very clearly, step back, and have worked with engineers in an engineering environment for about 22 years. (I was a technical writer.) For the last five years, I have worked with engineers and scientists in multiple fields on a daily basis.

Although I don't have formal training in engineering, I did programming and software design. I don't have specialized background in civil engineering or the other disciplines that are under discussion here.

However, I am a fan of good engineering and I recognize good work when I see it. I would like to think that I picked a sense of good engineering from the many fine engineers I worked with.

My point is that the whining about not being able to deal with new circumstances is NOT good engineering. To me this is just lazy thinking.

I'm not saying we're going to have the Jetsons, or the happy motoring world of today. I'm saying that given new material circumstances, one can design systems that can meet certain essential priorities. This is basic engineering.

We did it all the time at HP. Schedules are moved up, resources are cut, specifications are changed. Yes, we bitched, but we got the jobs done.

A number of people at TOD and in the peak oil and sustainability movements are tackling the problems right now.

For sure though, recycling the approaches of the last few decades is not going to work. It will take talent and tough thinking.

Bart / EB

step back writes:

I don't believe the human brain is capable, after say age 20, of rapid learning. For your average Joe, it's too late. He'll never mentally "get it" re Peak Oil, re Global Warming, re Population Bomb, etc.

I once had the same cynicism, step back, but I don't any more. People are capable of amazing feats when they have the motivations.

For example, at the beginning of computers, we would never have imagined that ordinary people were capable of understanding such arcane concepts as memory, processing power, bandwidth, etc. Now, we've got pre-teens as well as octogenarians handling this stuff with ease.

You're right that the young people pick up the new concepts much more easily than anyone over 30. Of course they have to be paying attention.

Still though, if you keep using your brain , you can still learn Ancient Greek as a senior, just as journalist I.F. Stone did after he retired. There are plenty of graybeards at TOD, and they seem to be doing pretty well at absorbing new ideas.

Bart / EB

I strongly suspect that we will enter into an era similar to the Victorian as the Industrial Revolution bubble deflates. Where we will live with a mixture of both the new (modernity) and the old (rediscovered sustainable older methods) in a reverse order to the Victorian era. The milieu will then be of adaption to less rather than more, to sustainable rather than the unsustainable enabled by technology and increasing availability of energy.

In terms of engineering, the Victorians made things to last and much of their public works (bridges, tunnels, rail networks, reservoirs, sewerage systems, etc) are still in use today and are the keystone to much of the infrastructure in the UK. The reason for their success was that engineering was a means to a clearly defined end. Whereas engineering today is both the means and the end in itself and so produces massive amounts of junk in order to perpetuate itself (the wii console suddenly comes to mind here).

I think engineering will again be defined by clear end goals and designed to last. Less, but more in terms of utility.

I would love to see something like the old Citroen 2cv, Mini or the Volkswagen beetle reintroduced but with modern precision engineering (no microchips, power steering or anything else found in modern cars, just the old basic design).

I'm an engineer. Of course people will continue to design things. But in the near term we face the combined crises of PO and CC, the social consequences of them that show up as our political and economic problems, and ultimately the real problem of too many people. Who will buy the things that are designed? Who will invest in the factories? Who will feed the engineers once the miracle of the green revolution is done (turning oil and NG into food)? How will these things happen during a time of huge social upheaval?

Meanwhile, as we have outsourced manufacturing, so have we outsourced design (Paul Craig Roberts has documented this in many of his articles). Our corporations are now empty shells with no capabilities - what passed for engineering there has really been turned into contract management).

Learn to grow food. While I'm still designing products to (hopefully) make our distribution of electric power more efficient, my focus is on tomorrow and learning to grow food. In the future, there will be much fewer people involved in non agricultural activities, which means less engineers, doctors, lawyers, bankers, etc.

s get rid of the economy of growth"

we don't have to
nature will take care of that for us

This documentary is six months old but I just now found it. Watched about half of it so far. It is good, really good. It is a video produced by CNBC and broadcast as a two hour documentary last December. However without commercials here it is one hour and thirty one minutes long.

House of Cards

Regardless of what you think about CNBC or Wall Street the evictions will disturb you. They blame everything on Wall Street...and the Fed and the Bush Administration... so don't think they are protecting them.

Ron P.

This toaster was built from scratch by Thomas Thwaites, a design student at the Royal College of Art, London, as a project in extreme self-sufficiency and to highlight the effects of mass production we take for granted

Humbug ! He smelted iron ore in a microwave, he says. Sure, buddy.

this caught my eye as well, can anyone explain why this is or is not

Interesting developments..

I guess he didn't want to just try to make his toast in the microwave, huh? It would be pretty awful toast, I guess.

Jeff Rubin will be interviewed on tomorrow's Financial Sense Newshour. He was last week's guest on Radio Zapata George.

Is it me or is Rubin fairly drowning under all the media attention he's gotten? Whereas Stephen Leeb's latest book, which I found as detailed or insightful as Jeff's, scarcely warranted much press at all.

Rather a doomerish couple of days here on my part. Here are some thoughts I've had.

It's been brought up about cities and states going broke and they affect on public service like police and ambulance. I work part time for a private ambulance company that runs 911. I think a lot of people take for granted/don't realize the availability of ambulances. If you have an emergency in a city or suburb, you generally can expect an ambulance in 4-5 minutes. As private companies or cities start taking more financial hits, the number of ambulances on the streets may well go down. It's amazing how often 3 or 4 calls can drop in an area in just a couple of minutes. With less ambulances out there, can people imagine having to wait 10, 15, 20 minutes for a response?

Other topic. My car was broken into yesterday while I was at my day job downtown. I went to the body shop afterwards to see about getting it fixed. They said they had been seeing a lot more break-ins and attempted or actual auto thefts. The link between poverty and crime I am sure is well established. Now with the economy crashing, I'm guessing crime will be going up a lot. Now imagine a hard fast crash scenario, what will crime look like? Just a real life example that brings all these conversations to close to home.

Last topic, I was watching on DVD last night "Welcome to Sarevjo" about Sareavjo in 1992. It's maybe a realistic scenario of life in a hard crash scenario. Everyone is seeming to turn "gangster". Being tribal is very important. The kids were turning into thugs. Women were becoming prostitutes. Random people being killed by sniper bullets. Rather a doomerish movie.

Ugh. I need something a little cheery. Time to stick my head in the sand.

IMO the USA, to a far greater extent than other countries, is two different nations (when it comes to crime) sharing the same country. The bad areas are really rough and in a lot of the safe areas people aren't locking their doors. If those safe areas turn "gangster" then the ship has really sunk IMO, but I think it is unlikely.

Hello BrianT,

Recall my prior postings about Asymmetric Attacks on potential vulnerabilities of gated, secured communities for the elites. IMO, they had better get started on hiring skilled sniper Mercs. Since water flows uphill to money: it will be very easy to disable an elite area by cutting off their tapwater flowrate at some vital point external to their compound.

Those areas that can have their own hand-pumped wells, from a shallow water table, will be at a strong advantage.

I had a taste of things to come the other day as well. A passing convoy of gypsies stopped at our village for a rest and their children immediately set off on a scavenging foray. The result was that my chicken coop was ransacked for eggs and they also scouted the vegetable plot for food.

Like you, it made me think of the future and how vulnerable we are to such thieving. We are constantly battling predation and crop damage by animals and insects, resulting in ever increasing amounts of fencing and barriers. Now it looks like additional measures are required to keep the two legged foxes out too.

I would hate to think of growing food or keeping animals in a city, where the problem of theft will be many times greater.

Hello Burgundy,

IMO, children taking your eggs is just another example of how we are like the other animals. Recall my Youtube video of hyenas comfortably eating the high ERoEI internal organs of a wildebeest first, as the animal screamed and groaned in utter agony. Recall that our sense of smell is highly attuned to activated-S compounds, as in all lifeforms: it only follows that we evolved to first seek out high-protein sources like yellow, sulfurous eggs. Since P [#1 on Asimov's List] is generally very chem-locked, but S [#2] can chem-release it: finding S in food generally includes P, too.

Compare the two photos below:


"She comes down from Yellow Mountain..."

What kind of stuff were they stealing, anyways? Did they want the car, or the contents?

That reminds me of how the best car for Boston traffic is some beatup old shitbox. People see you coming and they get out of your way. There tended to be a lot fewer breakins as well, but it wasn't a guarantee that you were safe.

There was a joke about the city of Sommerville - people would put their cars up on blocks and put a sign in the window that said "no tires".

These days stealing radios doesn't make much sense any more - there are anti-theft things in there to prevent someone from hooking up a radio to some other car without knowing the code..

"..people would put their cars up on blocks.."

that is yard art here in east des moines.

A fellow Iowan! Tis very popular here in the Quad Cities as well!

Shawnott - Watching this little presentation made me feel better than I have for a long time. (then it wore off)

"Paul Stamets on 6 ways mushrooms can save the world"


Where would the fellow in the 2nd vid be without his benefactor?

This guy and his amazing will, help me get back on my feet.

RE: can people imagine having to wait 10, 15, 20 minutes for a [ambulance] response?

From what I've observed in an area where the ambulance comes tragically late if ever:

Short Term: Don't wait for an ambulance. Do get a couple of standers by to drag the victim to the nearest car (or motorbike if traffic is bad). Don't stress about immobilizing the spine, untrained standers by will inevitably jostle the victim anyways. Do concentrate on staunching blood loss as with all the jostling the victim will bleed.

Medium Term: Make friends with doctors, paramedics, the security guards at the places you frequent. Try and figure out who would be able to give cpr, the heimlich, or whatever else when you need it. Try and build up a good first aid kit, and keep things like towels and pain killers on hand. Always carry a cell phone and you keep useful numbers like doctors, taxi drivers, pharmacists etc. Make a habit of regularly checking in with your loved ones and associates.

Long term: Practice preventative medicine. Try to make good risk management decisions. Get used to the idea that you or your loved ones might die unexpectedly. Enjoy what you can while you can.

IMO, narrow gauge, lightweight SpiderWebRiding meets all three requirements.

1. Cheap: steel readily available by careful dis-assembly of the top floors of skyscrapers and empty big-box stores and malls. People pedaling [with possible batt-assist for upgrades] means minimal FF-energy inputs. Tunnels can be hand dug, if required: see sixty miles of Chicago's underground narrow gauge railway [jumpstarted in a downtown tavern in 1890s].

2. Resilient: steel wheels on steel rails can easily last a lifetime if ball-bearing races receive proper maintenance or replacement as required. Compare bicycle tire wear through potholes, mud, ice, thorns, broken glass, sewage overflows, etc to a smooth-riding steel network above it all.

3. Long-lasting: maintenance costs of steel rails is a mere fraction of asphalt or concrete, and we have plenty of steel that can be recycled into rails and cargo-carrying railbikes.


I do believe this concept has considerable merit.

Now if Bill Gates or somebody with plenty of loot would just build a town from scratch someplace and lay the rails to demonstrate the concept.....

Hello Oldfarmermac,

Yep, that's the major problem: trying to convince people to think outside-the-box before TSHTF. That's why I hope the Peakoil Shoutout can become more popular: thinking outside the wine-box or beer bottle.

I picture a bunch of drunks in that 1890's Chicago tavern, fully fueled on [S]ynaptic Wildfire[S], slurring out that hand-digging sixty miles of tunnels would be a fun thing to do.

Rails are much more sensible than asphalt roads when it comes to "sustainable" transportation. Not many people realize that crude oil has not only provided fuel for travel, it has also provided the roadways that allow us to use cars. If it became difficult to transport large quantities of asphalt from, say, Alberta to Pennsylvania, there would be no way to repair asphalt roads. Railways can be easily maintained with hand tools and muscle labor. The steel rails themselves need to be manufactured, but once in place they should last a hundred years or more. Everything else -- gravel and wood ties mostly -- can be had anywhere.

That "Clean, Green Hydrogen Power" article was such infuriating nonsense, I just had to post a letter to the Dalles Chronicle editor. (Besides, I'm a local.):

Kathy Gray's stunning display of ignorance in her "Clean Green Hydrogen Power" article demands some kind of response.

Did anybody there bother with a back-of-the-envelope calculation as to how much of that "surplus" hydropower you'd need to replace, oh, how about TWO PERCENT of our current fossil-fuel consumption? And how exactly would you compensate for all that extra drainage from your reservoirs when you keep the dynamos cranking full-bore all night?

How about this trivial concern: Did you think to check Wiki about the efficiency of the Haber-Bosch process? The very best (read: largest) of the ammonia production plants can't achieve 15% thermodynamic efficiency - the rest is waste heat.

In short, this techno-fantasy is way too small in potential scale to make a difference, which is fine because making ammonia just to burn it would be such a stunning waste of energy anyway. Not that the USA has that kind of money which you'd need to capitalize such a huge boondoggle anyway.

This feel-good story is pure crap, distracting us as a nation from the remedial energy-conservation measures that we must put into place NOW if we are to maintain any semblance of our society intact through the coming fossil-fuel crunch.

I'm peeing into the wind again, but at least it's free fertilizer.

Nice letter Mr. Quixote.

Yes, reading that article was one of the more surreal experiences I've had recently. A couple of other bizarre points in addition to those you picked on:

- They are talking about using renewable hydro, wind and solar power that is already being generated and distributed. Their point seems to be that this power is currently "wasted" because it cannot be used locally so has to be sold cheaply to other districts, and their "green" solution is to use this clean power to generate ammonia, ie basically waste the vast majority of that energy.

- They talk about recycling the water as if that is a significant benefit. I wonder if they have done the calculations of how much electricity they will have and how much water they will actually use. This is the Columbia river they are talking about after all. Somehow I don't think water usage is going to be the limiting factor here.

- They claim the cost will be less than the cost of wind turbines. But they have already said they would be using wind power to help generate the ammonia in the first place.

And to finish the article: “We’ve been saying for a long time that if the country is going to solve its energy challenges, it’s got to use innovation”

This actually reminds me of a similarly bizarre story, also waving the I word - a guy who discovered he could generate electricity by towing a trailer behind his car that has a wheel that was used to drive a generator, so he could charge a battery and generate "free" power for his house, and perhaps for entire communities:


What is most depressing is that in both cases government officials who should be shooting these thing down in flames seem instead to make encouraging or at least non-committal comments.


The lady is EITHER a mouthpiece or an idiot-or maybe just thirty years ahead of her time. nuff said.

As far as peeing into the wind is concerned,you will find that you get better results distributing your organic fertilizer down wind,as pee is a rather concentrated fertilizer as naturals go,and too much in a small spot is apt to burn your veggies.

There is actually a possibility somewhere WAY down the road that there will be enough surplus wind to manufacture SOME ammonia,which will be desperately needed for fertilizer.That would depend on a huge buildout of wind power that actually could not be put on the grid on really good wind days due to a lack of transmission capacity.The peak capacity of the wind farms would have to be roughly two to three times the capacity of the transmission lines in order to utilize the lines efficiently.

In regards to the article up top, Iran's exports so far spared, I surmise that conclusion may be more than a bit premature. Where are the facts that support this conclusion anyway? Oil Movements reported yesterday that Mideast OPEC exporters will cut shipments in early July. Being that US oil companies have also reported that the Saudis cut back epxorts to the US in March and haven't changed them since, it is not far fetched to think Oil Movements may be seeing the beginning of an Iran oil export drop.

Hello Leanan,

Thx[S] for the DB toplink:

Gas exporters meet but group's sway still weak

..Weak demand and sagging prices in some markets may give impetus to GECF moves to increase cooperation, said Jonathan Stern, director of gas research at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

..But you can't do it with gas transported in pipelines. Anyone can put oil in a bucket and keep it there until prices rise. But with gas you simply cannot do that..
..but with a Webb/Pomerene cartel-cooperative structure--you sure can massively stockpile the sour natgas recovered-S until S-prices rise sufficiently to provide real-time cash to boost further E & P. It will be interesting to see if the IOCs & NOCs & natgas companies discuss any moves in this direction to constrain S-supplies.

IMO, they probably have not forgotten how much money they recently made when crude = $147 and recovered-S = approx. $1,000/ton in some far-flung markets:


..This was 17% higher than that of July 2008 and
NEARLY 20 TIMES [my CAPS for emphasis] what it was in August 2007.

Hello TODers,

Leanan's DB weblink is worth reading,IMO:

Ice on fire: The next fossil fuel

[Last 3 paragraphs]..The acid test will be an experiment planned for January next year. ConocoPhillips intends to pour liquefied CO2 down a borehole into the Alaskan north slope's clathrate deposit. If all goes well, the CO2 will fill the clathrate crystals and the displaced methane will shoot up the wellhead to the surface. The method could be both a safe way of capturing the methane and an environmental argument for pursuing the goal - the clathrate structures would be acting as a carbon sink.

It is an intriguing possibility. Sooner rather than later, burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas will only be acceptable if the CO2 emissions are captured and stored. Right now, there is a rush to develop a practical system for capturing and burying billions of tonnes of CO2 underground per year.

So far, the focus has been on old oil wells, salt deposits and even old coal mines. The big problem is that the huge infrastructure required to dispose of the CO2 may quickly make burning fossil fuels uneconomic compared with alternatives like solar, wind or nuclear power. Disposing of CO2 down the same pipe used to bring up more fuel could be the answer.
Assuming they can positively, absolutely avoid setting off clathrate tsunamis..


..it would be fascinating to know the Overall [ecosystem and energy] ERoEI of this idea. But I suspect it won't be any better than the various biofuels [maybe even lower?]. Hopefully, the TOD Editors can get someone from COP to write a keypost on this after the testing results come back sometime in early 2010...

I think an important issue would be how much CO2 is sequestered per methane molecule pumped downhole. My guess is it is close to one to one. If so it isn't a carbon sink, but a carbonfree energy source. Of course the methane would presumably need to be burned (and CO2 captured) fairly close to the wellhead (or else we need both NG and CO2 pipelines). Of course if it takes more than 1 molecule to get one out -it is a carbon sink, but imports of CO2 from some other source would be needed to keep it going.

Hello TODers,

This doesn't seem to be good news as it tends to help 'trigger' the clathrate gun down under:

Ozone hole trims polar water’s CO2-absorbing power
Simulations also suggest that the dearth of ozone over Antarctica leads to ocean acidification

..For the next half century — the period that scientists estimate it will take for the ozone hole to heal itself after banning ozone-destroying chemicals (SN: 12/24/05, p. 418) — reduced CO2 uptake in the southern oceans could exacerbate or speed the effects of climate change globally.

..In 2008 the United States Department of Energy National Laboratory system[16] and the United States Geological Survey's Climate Change Science Program both identified potential clathrate destabilization in the Arctic as one of four most serious scenarios for abrupt climate change, which have been singled out for priority research. The USCCSP released a report in late December 2008 estimating the gravity of this risk.[17]

I wonder if the 1,2 punch of warming & more acidic seawater can setoff much faster phase transition in clathrates:

..Clathrate hydrates are not chemical compounds as the sequestered molecules are never bonded to the lattice. The formation and decomposition of clathrate hydrates are first order phase transitions, not chemical reactions.

..Catastrophic release of methane from the decomposition of such deposits may lead to a global climate change, because CH4 is more efficient greenhouse gas even than CO2 (see Atmospheric methane). On its turn, the fast decomposition of such deposits is considered a geohazard, due to its potential to trigger landslides, earthquakes and tsunamis. However, natural gas hydrates do not contain only methane but also other hydrocarbon gases, as well as H2S and CO2.

Participant in the sulfur cycle

Hydrogen sulfide is a central participant in the sulfur cycle, the biogeochemical cycle of sulfur on Earth. As mentioned above, sulfur-reducing and sulfate-reducing bacteria derive energy from oxidizing hydrogen or organic molecules in the absence of oxygen by reducing sulfur or sulfate to hydrogen sulfide. Other bacteria liberate hydrogen sulfide from sulfur-containing amino acids. Several groups of bacteria can use hydrogen sulfide as fuel, oxidizing it to elemental sulfur or to sulfate by using dissolved oxygen, metal oxides (e.g. Fe oxyhydroxides and Mn oxides) or nitrate as oxidant[20]. The purple sulfur bacteria and the green sulfur bacteria use hydrogen sulfide as electron donor in photosynthesis, thereby producing elemental sulfur. (In fact, this mode of photosynthesis is older than the mode of cyanobacteria, algae and plants which uses water as electron donor and liberates oxygen.)

[edit] H2S implicated in mass extinctions

Hydrogen sulfide has been implicated in some of the several mass extinctions that have occurred in the Earth's past. The Permian mass extinction (sometimes known as the "Great Dying") may have been caused by hydrogen sulfide. Organic residues from these extinction boundaries indicate that the oceans were anoxic (oxygen depleted) and had species of shallow plankton that metabolized H2S. The formation of H2S may have been initiated by massive volcanic eruptions, which emitted CO2 and methane into the atmosphere which warmed the oceans, lowering their capacity to absorb oxygen which would otherwise oxidize H2S. The increased levels of hydrogen sulfide could have killed oxygen-generating plants as well as depleted the ozone layer causing further stress. Small H2S blooms have been detected in modern times in the Dead Sea and in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Namibia.[3]
Thus, we may be inadvertently triggering more release of global warming Elemental-gases than we could ever hope to sequester..

"She comes down from Yellow Mountain.."

Re: Climate Change of Climate change

Couldn't hold back, so posted only to my blog.