DrumBeat: July 13, 2009

Speculators leave oil market as regulator mulls crackdown

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Big speculators such as hedge funds and investment banks have sharply reduced their buying positions in oil futures in recent weeks, just as regulators are considering setting limits in energy speculation.

The drop in speculative positions likely contributed to last week's 10% slump in oil prices -- the biggest weekly loss in six months, analysts said.

Long, or buying, positions held by non-commercial traders, a category the regulator uses to classify big speculators, dropped by 16,382 contracts in the week ended July 7, according to the weekly Commitments of Traders report released by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission late Friday. One contract represents 1,000 barrels of oil.

That's the biggest drop in four months in oil futures traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange, according to COT historical data. Long positions held by speculators now stand at the lowest level since the week ended May 26.

Gazprom cuts investment, but by less than expected

MOSCOW—Russian natural gas company Gazprom will trim its investment program by almost 16 percent this year, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday -- a much smaller cutback than earlier suggested by the company.

Energy Stocks: Gusher or Dry Hole?

Investors who are still convinced oil prices are headed higher even if the economic recovery turns out to be much slower than initially expected must have been taken by surprise last week, as oil prices fell 10%, dragging energy stock prices down with them.

Qatar to Shut Largest LNG Unit Around October for an Inspection

(Bloomberg) -- Qatar, the world’s biggest producer of liquefied natural gas, is scheduled to shut its largest LNG production unit around October for about two weeks for an inspection.

QatarGas2, train 4, will be brought down to inspect the unit’s Frame Nine turbines, said a company spokesperson, who declined to be named citing company policy.

Nitol: Russia's Emerging Solar Power Star

Nitol Solar started making polysilicon for solar panels almost by accident. Now it's helping Russia become a force in the industry.

Europe Tries to Break Its Russian Gas Habit

For a quarter of a century, Russia has been Europe's single biggest gas supplier, providing about a third of all the gas the European Union uses each year. But while the gas is cheap and plentiful, this arrangement has created an energy dependency that makes the E.U. vulnerable to Moscow's shifting moods. That was the case in January, when Russia tried to settle a payment dispute with Ukraine, its main transit country, by turning off the taps. In the three weeks it took to get the gas flowing again, Bulgaria's reserves ran out, Slovakia was forced to declare a state of emergency, and countries as distant as Germany and the Czech Republic were affected.

Now the E.U. is attempting to wean itself off of its addiction to Russian gas with a new pipeline. On Monday, five European governments signed an agreement in Ankara to build the Nabucco gas pipeline, which will bring Middle Eastern and Central Asian gas to Western Europe via Turkey and the Balkans — completely bypassing Russia.

Price of gas down 10 cents in the last two weeks

CAMARILLO, Calif. - The national average price of gasoline fell about 10 cents a gallon during the past two weeks to $2.56.

That’s according to the Lundberg Survey of fuel prices released Sunday.

Analyst Trilby Lundberg says it’s the first significant price drop since early December.

Mexico May Approach Unsustainable Deficits, Morgan Stanley Says

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico’s fiscal accounts may be heading toward “unsustainable deficits” as a decline in oil production cuts government revenue, according to Morgan Stanley.

Mexico may need to curb spending growth to keep the deficit in check, Morgan Stanley analysts Luis Arcentales and Daniel Volberg wrote in a report published today.

Nigerian Authorities Free Jailed Militant Leader Okah

(Bloomberg) -- Henry Okah, the leader of the main rebel movement in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger River delta facing trial for treason and gun-running, was released today by Nigerian authorities.

Okah was freed by a Federal High Court judge in the central city of Jos after Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa withdrew all charges against him, Wilson Ajuwa, his lawyer, said in a phone interview.

Kunstler: Wobble Time

From a purely practical standpoint, the electric car is absurd. If they were produced on a mass basis, they would crash the electric grid -- assuming that the masses could afford to buy them, which assumes a lot. We simply don't have the electric generating capacity to run even one-quarter of the current car fleet on volts, and building the necessary nuclear or coal-fired power plants in five years is also an absurdity. (Don't expect wind, solar, biomass, or anything else to pick up the slack.) If electric cars were produced as just a niche product for the elite (e.g. Goldman Sachs employees), they would soon provoke the resentment of the non-elite left to the mercy of the oil markets.

Anyway, America's motoring dilemma has gone beyond the issue of how we power the cars -- and even beyond the insanity of blindly maintaining our extreme car dependency per se. The continuation of Happy Motoring now hinges on two other big quandaries: 1. the likelihood that there will be far less capital available for car loans, and 2.) the likelihood that there will be far less government money for road maintenance. The problem of Peak Oil -- and the prospect of price-jackings and shortages -- is just the cherry on top.

Designing a Cleaner ‘Tuk Tuk’

Last year, the International Energy Agency projected that the number of cars in China would grow seven-fold, to 270 million, by 2030. This year it adjusted that prediction to reflect a 20-fold increase.

In one sense, this is a positive indication of rising standards of living, and an expanding middle class, unfolding across the developing world. At the same time, however, experts warn that to limit climate change, it will be crucial to get a handle on emissions growth associated with transport — particularly in developing countries.

White roofs to fight global warming

U.S. energy secretary Chu backs a novel idea: to whitewash roofs and highways. It could save lots of money and highlights an increasingly proactive agency.

Web of Local Self-Reliance Rewoven

Community gardens galore, a human-scaled transportation system, honor for elders and creative exploration for kids — these are some of the goals members of New Haven’s now-official Transition group “webbed” together at a kick-off celebration on Saturday evening (pictured) as they develop a local post-peak-oil future.

Chinese Wind Power Developments

Currently, the world's installed capacity of wind power has reached 120 GW, and wind power is becoming an increasing part of the world's energy structure. Although a developing country, China places special emphasis on increasing its use of renewable energy such as wind power. By the end of 2008, the country's installed capacity of wind power had hit over 10 GW. The Chinese government also passed the Renewable Energy Law to provide strong legal support to the development of renewable energy in the country.

As part of the estimation in Medium and Long-Term Development Plan for Renewable Energy in China, issued by National Development and Reform Commission, the total exploitable potential wind power resources in the country could reach over 1,000 GW, of which onshore wind power resources would provide about 300 GW with offshore wind power resources around 700GW.

El Nino 2 fuels more Atlantic hurricanes, warnings

A new cycle of tropical ocean warming — a "subset" of climate troublemaker El Niño — could be key to predicting hurricanes that batter the USA, according to a study based on data that go back to the 1880s.

Researchers reported their findings in a recent issue of the journal Science.

El Niño is a periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean that usually leads to a quieter storm season. This new mode of El Niño, however, appears to cause more Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes.

Kurt Cobb: Canada is leaking emergy

That's not a typo in the title. Emergy is a term coined by famed energy and ecology researcher Howard Odum. An analysis underpinned by the emergy concept explains why importers of Canada's natural resources such as crude oil, natural gas, unfinished wood, grains and metal ores are getting a bargain as much of Canada's emergy endowment is given away for free.

Canada has long been a major exporter of natural resources. Blessed with large forests, massive mineral and hydrocarbon deposits, and fertile prairies, Canada's small population hasn't needed all that it can produce. And so, much of its natural wealth has been exported to other nations hungry for raw materials, energy and food. All of this has helped to make Canada a rich, developed country with an enviable standard of living and a wide array of well-funded public services for its citizens including universal health care.

A day to remember how political the price of oil has become

This Saturday just passed – July 11 – was unofficial Peak Oil Day. On July 11, 2008, the price of a barrel of oil hit a record $147.27 in daily trading. That same month, world crude oil production achieved a record 74.8 mbpd.

Since then, a pressure group called the Post Carbon Institute has been trying to get the anniversary marked as the day world oil production began to decline, with one activist at the Institute recently declaring:

"In July, 2008 the production of oil around the world peaked. For years prior to this, geologists, economists, politicians, and a growing number of concerned citizens had tried to sound the alarm bell – that world oil production would max out around the year 2010 and begin to decline, no matter what we tried to do."

Plan now for the flight from oil

DOWNWARD trends in car travel and surging public transport usage mark a turning point in history and a challenge for policymakers and politicians.

For the past 40 years or so, the game has been to plan for more car traffic and less public transport use.

Oil may have taken a back seat in the headlines amid the global economic downturn, but black gold is still the substance our economy depends on — and it's about to get more expensive.

Energy -- It Just Doesn't Add Up

I'm close to turning 50 years old and I'm having Energy déjà vu. Over the winter, fears of oil shortages put prices through the roof and energy production is being blamed for the climatic changes around the world. Chicken Little keeps telling us the sky is falling, yet forty years have gone by and the sky is still blue. Another thing that hasn't changed is that we still don't have an energy plan. How can we not have a strategy in place to quell the fear and stop the pain?

Out of gas but a better future awaits

Two new books say the rising price of oil-based energy will force us to change our lives for the better.

2009's winners and losers in the oil industry

It is pretty safe to say that so far 2009 is not shaping up to be a vintage year for most industries. However, the oil and gas sector has been weathering the storm better than most and while board members of most companies in the industry will not be lighting cigars with $100 bills this year, they won't be climbing onto the ledge of their office window either.

So seeing as six months of the year has already passed, ArabianOilandGas.com decided to give you our list of the eight biggest winners and the two biggest losers of 2009 so far. There are a few controversial inclusions that we're sure some of you will no doubt disagree with and even more exclusions that you maybe feel are more worthy contenders for the list.

Demand for jack-up rigs dries up in Middle East

A leading figure from a Middle East maritime services compnay has said that the bottom has fallen out of the market for jack-up rigs and that no orders have been placed with his company since September 2008.

...Earlier this year ArabianOilandGas.com reported that the state-owned energy giant Saudi Aramco was cutting the number of rigs it had in operation by up to 20% over the course of 2009.

Gulf majors may help build oil storage units along coastline

NEW DELHI: Several Gulf-based oil producers are considering a proposal from the Indian government to invest in creating large crude oil storage facilities along the country’s coastline.

This could culminate in a series of agreements, which will see India emerging as a regional hub for crude oil trade. The country is already a major exporter of refined petroleum products.

Inheriting Palin’s Pipeline Ambitions

In the wake of Sarah Palin’s surprise announcement to step down as Alaska governor, questions linger over her signature energy initiative: the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope to markets in Canada and the Lower 48.

Iraq PM says can sell gas to Europe via Turkey

ANKARA (Reuters) - Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday Europe can receive 15 billion cubic metres of Iraqi gas via Turkey.

Don't Shoot the Speculators

Speculators don't get much respect. Short sellers last year were blamed for their trades warning about the credit crisis, and commodities traders are now accused of causing higher oil prices. Even when traders are later proven right -- maybe especially when they're proven right -- we blame them for delivering the bad news.

Maybe it's human nature to reject Shakespeare's warning and shoot the messenger. The good news is that a recent proposal aimed at one group of speculators could prove that speculators of all kinds deserve our thanks -- or if that's too much to ask, at least to be left alone to bring valuable information to markets.

Iraq unions fight foreign oil players

Unions are lobbying against Iraq's new oil contract with BP and China's CNPC, but the weakened labour movement may have a hard time thwarting deals desperately needed to revive a struggling oil sector.

The Federation of Oil Unions of Iraq and the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq have condemned the Oil Ministry's decision to award a foreign consortium the contract to develop Rumaila, the country's largest producing oilfield.

Liquid fuel shortages in Zimbabwe - The truth

A sudden shortage of liquid fuels has emerged in Zimbabwe – mainly in the south of the country but also affecting northern towns and cities. Since we now trade in hard currencies only, this shortage is difficult to understand and I thought a short explanation was necessary.

Refined or crude? Battle for Uganda oil turns murkier

Competing interests tagged to either building of an oil refinery in Uganda or exporting crude products are delaying the country’s oil programme as the scramble to gain from the “liquid gold” intensifies.

Opti's future hinges on oil sands performance

Opti Canada Inc. OPC-T needs to show some progress at its underperforming oil sands project if its shares – down a hefty 93 per cent over the past year – are going to recover lost ground.

The company, which holds a 35 per cent stake in Nexen Inc.'s NXY-T $6.1-billion Long Lake oil sands project, has had a rough year, with a long list of woes that pummeled its stock.

Countries betting tech can clean up coal

(CNN) -- In the high-stakes game of climate change, the United States and other countries are betting on the idea that technology can make dirty coal cleaner.

Small town fears quakes from geothermal energy project

ANDERSON SPRINGS – Residents in this tiny Lake County community have complained for years about the earthquakes touched off by the geothermal energy projects that tap the vast reservoir of steam in the mountains behind their homes.

Now, with the federal government, Google and some of Silicon Valley's top venture capital firms committing millions to test a new way to mine clean energy from the earth here, the locals are finally getting some attention.

England seen missing 2010 renewable energy target

LONDON (Reuters) - England is set to miss its target to generate 10 percent of its power from renewable sources, such as wind, the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) said on Monday.

BWEA said that on average across England only 50 percent of the renewable electricity generation would be met, with some regions such as the South West failing to reach even a third.

Number of wind turbines to quadruple under Renewable Energy Strategy

The number of wind turbines is set to quadruple over the next decade under government plans to force through wind farm planning applications.

Ministers have put wind power at the heart of a Renewable Energy Strategy, which is due to be released on Wednesday. It will outline how Britain is to meet its target of a 34 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2020.

Tilting at Wind Farms

The Government’s plans to concentrate on wind power at the expense of other renewable energy sources could prove to be a costly mistake.

BioFuels are No Longer Just a “Field of Dreams”

In the movie "Field of Dreams," Ray Kinsella (Kevin Kostner) hears a voice saying "if you build it, they will come." Following his dream, he builds an elaborate baseball stadium in the middle of an Iowa corn field, and lo and behold, the Chicago Black Sox return from the afterlife to play ball on his field, and his stands are soon filled with fans. For more than a year, a number of proponents of biofuels have suggested a similar approach for solving America’s energy crisis: require auto manufacturers to produce "flexible fuel" vehicles that can run on alcohol fuels, and the demand that these vehicles will create for alcohol fuels will result in the production of additional billions of gallons of alternative liquid fuels that will replace gasoline and help end our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. Rather than "build it, they will come," their approach has been "make Detroit build cars that can run on alternative fuels, and the alternative fuels will come."

Months after ash spill, Tennessee town still choking

A few hours before dawn on December 22, the walls of a dam holding back billions of gallons of coal ash waste trembled and, finally, crumbled. The waste, a toxic soup containing ash left over from burning coal, which is then mixed with water, was stored at the Tennessee Valley Authority coal power plant in neighboring Kingston, Tennessee.

On that cold morning, 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash sludge barreled through this community, covering 300 acres.

Sarah McCoin, who lives about a mile from the spill site, awoke to a community in shambles: homes and trees uprooted and a once-lush, green landscape turned to sludge.

"It makes you want to cry, knowing what has been lost," McCoin said. "I want my life back."

Feds document shrinking San Joaquin Valley aquifer: Aquifer levels drop 400 feet since 1961

California's San Joaquin Valley has lost 60 million acre-feet of groundwater since 1961, according to a new federal study. That's enough water for 60 Folsom reservoirs.

This is among the findings in a massive study of groundwater in California's Central Valley by the U.S. Geological Survey. It helps shed light on the mysteries and dangers of California's groundwater consumption, which is mostly unregulated.

According to the study, groundwater pumping continues to cause the valley floor to sink, a problem known as subsidence. This threatens the stability of surface structures such as the California Aqueduct, which delivers drinking water to more than 20 million people.

to cry, knowing what has been lost," McCoin said. "I want my life back."

Greening the Internet: How much CO2 does this article produce?

Wissner-Gross estimates every second someone spends browsing a simple web site generates roughly 20 milligrams of C02. Whether downloading a song, sending an email or streaming a video, almost every single activity that takes place in the virtual environment has an impact on the real one.

As millions more go online each year some researchers say the need to create a green Internet ecosystem is not only imperative but also urgent.

"It is part of the whole sustainability picture," Chris Large, head of research and development at UK-based Climate Action Group, told CNN.

Obama remains diplomatic on oil and guns

Behind all the inspirational words and “Yes we can” sound bites of Barack Obama's first presidential visit to sub-Saharan Africa, questions are lingering about two key issues that formed a tacit subtext to his visit: oil and military bases.

Mr. Obama's visit on the weekend to Ghana, so early in his presidential term, is the latest sign of Africa's mounting strategic importance to Washington. The continent is a growing source of U.S. oil supplies and a crucial battleground for the U.S. fight against Islamic radicals, who are increasingly powerful in Somalia and North Africa.

Ghana itself is an emerging source of oil and a possible site for “forward operating bases” in the U.S. anti-terrorism campaign. But both subjects have sparked so much controversy and resistance from Africans that Mr. Obama was careful to use diplomatic language when he talked of oil and guns.

Oil up near $60 on weaker dollar, Nigeria attack

Oil prices rose above $60 a barrel on Monday, halting last week's falling trend, as investors turned to commodities for protection against a weaker dollar and after attacks on oil facilities in Nigeria.

By midday in Europe, benchmark crude for August delivery was up 13 cents to $60.02 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the contract fell 52 cents to settle at $59.89.

Oil price drop crimps energy profits, drags down stocks

Troubles in the oil patch are spilling into Wall Street as investors worry the same things hurting crude prices will injure the stock market, too.

Slack worldwide demand for energy and concern that the economic recovery will be slower than hoped are pushing oil prices down and threatening the profits and stock prices of energy companies.

That's discouraging investors from buying energy — and even non-energy — stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average sank 1.6% last week, bringing its 2009 loss to 7.2%.

Oil May Dive to $50 If Bull Defense Fails: Technical Analysis

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil prices may plunge to $50 a barrel, a level the commodity hasn’t seen in more than two months, after closing below $60 last week, according to analyst Stephen Schork.

Oil, which dropped 10 percent in New York in the week ended July 10, is in a “consolidation pattern” between $61.25 and $58.59, said Schork, president of Schork Group Inc, an energy- trading consultant in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The prices correspond to the 50 percent and 62 percent Fibonacci retracement levels, he said.

The international oil and gas industry will produce oil to meet consumer needs

Jad Mouawad in New York reported in the July 10 issue of the New York Times that oil prices fell below $60/bbl on Thursday. Traders and investors now accept that global economic recovery will take longer than earlier hoped. After a volatile session, crude oil closed above $60. In the last six trading days, prices have fallen by $10/bbl. On Thursday the U.S. Energy Department reported higher gasoline inventories indicating weak consumption. Michael Wittner at Societé Generale in London expects prices to fall to $50/bbl. Still oil prices have rebounded sharply from the $33/bbl low of December 2008. The International Monetary Fund thinks the global economy will shrink by 1.4% this year. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is contemplating a clamp down on speculation. Still, even with continued weak demand, many analysts do not expect a substantial fall in prices. OPEC has managed to reduce production to match the drop in demand. Oil consumption is expected to fall again in 2009.

Nigerian Rebels Say Fighters Attack Lagos Oil Jetty

(Bloomberg) -- Nigeria’s main rebel group said it attacked a jetty used to off-load oil tankers in the commercial capital, Lagos, setting a depot and vessels on fire.

“Heavily armed” fighters attacked the Atlas Cove jetty at about 10:30 p.m. local time yesterday, Jomo Gbomo, a spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said in an e-mailed statement. The Nigerian Navy Director of Information, Commodore David Nabaida, confirmed the attack.

“The incident led to a fire outbreak and we lost some men,” Nabaida said by phone from Lagos without giving further details.

Nabucco Gas Pipeline Forges Ahead Without Contracts

(Bloomberg) -- European countries planning a pipeline to reduce reliance on Russian natural gas today sealed an agreement that may help companies led by OMV AG find customers for the 7.9 billion-euro ($11 billion) project.

Officials from Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria signed an accord in Turkish capital Ankara on the Nabucco project, which has been in planning since at least 2004. The U.S.-backed venture has been delayed by a lack of commitments from customers, transit nations and gas suppliers.

Pakistan Targets $15 Billion Five-Year Investment in Gas, Oil

(Bloomberg) -- Pakistan’s government is targeting $15 billion in investment to develop its oil and gas industry over the next five years as explorers including Eni SpA drill in offshore fields, an official said.

The majority of the investment in rigs and equipment will be directed off the country’s southern coast, said Asim Hussain, adviser to the prime minister on the oil industry. That compares with $1 billion expected this year, he said.

Japan’s Power Output Falls for 11th Straight Month on Recession

(Bloomberg) -- Japan’s electricity generation declined for the 11th straight month in June, falling 5.6 percent from a year earlier, on lower demand from factories amid the global recession.

Siemens, Munich Re Plan ‘Visionary’ Sahara Project

(Bloomberg) -- Siemens AG, Munich Re and 10 more companies agreed to draw up blueprints for a project described as “visionary” to harness power from the Sahara Desert sun to bring extra electricity to European homes.

The plan, including technical and financial requirements to pipe power from the Sahara under the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, will need three years to be developed and incorporated under German law, the companies said today.

U.K. Needs More Nuclear Power, Less Gas and Wind, McKinsey Says

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. needs to invest more in nuclear power and less in natural gas and wind to meet its emission-reduction targets, McKinsey & Co. said in a report for the Confederation of British Industry.

The European Union’s second biggest economy should promote construction of at least 10 new nuclear reactors and get 34 percent of its power from that source by 2030, compared with 20 percent under current policies, said Venkie Shantaram, a London- based McKinsey partner who helped write the group’s new report.

Thorium nuclear power

The uranium that makes conventional nuclear power possible has a number of significant disadvantages. For one thing, uranium reactors generate large quantities of waste. Much of this remains dangerous for thousands of years, and a proportion of it can be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium. A second issue is that uranium is a comparatively scarce material, which exists in significant quantities in only a small number of countries. The theoretical risk of giant explosions caused by uranium reactors is a further concern.

For all of these reasons, a growing number of scientists and energy experts believe that the world should switch from uranium to thorium as its primary nuclear fuel. Compared to uranium, thorium is far more abundant as well as much more energy-dense. In addition, the waste products generated by thorium are virtually impossible to turn into plutonium – and they remain dangerous for hundred of years rather than thousands.

The Truth About Green Business

Although the book is full of practical information for making a business more sustainable, Friend either avoided or ignored some rather significant issues. He frequently uses Wal-Mart as an example of a company that is trying to do the right thing. However he ignores their abysmal record in the area of labor relations. If management expects employees to buy into a sustainability program shouldn't they be treated fairly at the bargaining table or in one-to-one negotiations?

The other issue that I felt Friend glossed over was peak oil. Although he does acknowledge peak oil will be a significant issue for business, he down-plays it to a certain extent, merely saying that oil prices will be 'volatile' in the future.

Strong Consumer Interest in Electric Vehicles Bodes Well for New Era of Sustainable Transportation

PALO ALTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nearly one in three (30%) U.S. car buyers are interested in purchasing an electric vehicle (EV) for their next car, according to a recent study on consumer EV sentiment sponsored by Better Place and conducted by Ipsos, a leading global market-research company. While interest in EVs was strong in all five nations surveyed, interest was highest in Israel, where 57% of drivers are interested in purchasing an EV for their next car. Denmark (40%), Australia (39%), Canada (35%; Greater Toronto area only), and the U.S. (30%) followed. And, 28% of Israeli respondents said they would only consider an EV for their next vehicle.

Charging Uphill -- the Art of Selling the Electric Car

WARREN, Mich. -- When you hit the POWER button of a Chevrolet Volt, nothing seems to happen. Then you push the shifter to D. There is no sound. Push down hard on the accelerator and the car takes off, pressing you firmly back into the seat. The Volt can hit 60 miles per hour in about 8.5 seconds. The driver feels no gearshift points because in an electric car there aren't any.

Electric cars could dominate U.S. roads in 2030

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Electric car sales could jump to 86 percent of U.S. light vehicle sales in 2030 if consumers don't have to buy batteries themselves, according to a University of California, Berkeley study to be released on Monday.

McKibben: Engine trouble

The book Two Billion Cars arrives in stores at the close of a quarter that has seen auto sales plummet 30, 40, even 50 percent, depending on the manufacturer. The Big Three went to Washington to plead for a handout (and Toyota has passed GM as the world's biggest automaker, even though its sales are also in steep decline). One imagines that auto executives now view the title of this volume—the idea that the planet will soon double its auto fleet from the current billion—as an unlikely prayer.

If there were ever a book outdated by the pace of events, this is it. In the months between its writing and its publication, one development after another has upended the old consensus about cars, about energy, about global warming and about the economic future.

Barack Obama, Stephen Harper, climate change, and Herbert Hoover

Obama and Harper could start by refusing to divert any more tax dollars to bail out troubled automobile companies, whose products have been a major contributor to the problem. Then they could try to raise global awareness of the consequences of peak oil--and develop appropriate policies in response to this reality.

Only then will Obama and Harper avoid comparisons to Herbert Hoover, who flubbed one of the greatest challenges of the 20th century.

Azeri blogger detained, oil major presses case

LONDON (Reuters) – An opposition blogger in Azerbaijan has been remanded in custody pending trial on hooliganism charges, prompting protests from his employer, oil major BP Plc, a media rights group said on its website.

Peak oil means peak food as well

I like to think of myself as a scientist (but that is always for others to judge). For a scientist the principal we hold most dear is objectivity. We must try to interpret data without superimposing our own beliefs, values or desires upon it. Even when it tells us what we do not want to believe. Even when the data make us sick to the pits of our stomachs with terror.

I am pessimistic about the future because I have seen and understood the data on resources. I know that oil production peaked in July 2008. (I have seen the unpublished reanalysis of the International Energy Agency’s own 2008 report that shows this conclusively.) I know that our use of other resources - such as water and phosphate - is critically unsustainable. Now that energy is declining there will not be enough to invest in building the alternative energy future that many of us dream of.

Back to the land: the next gen

Sonja Myllymaki made a major career change this summer, from letter carrier to full-time farmer. And she didn't leave the city to do it.

She didn't have land of her own, but she found a way around that, too. She found vacant lots, she rented allotments and contracted space in friends' backyards.

Myllymaki is pioneering SPIN gardening--Small Plot Intensive agriculture--a business model started in Saskatoon a few years ago. Bringing small-scale commercial gardening into the city is the latest development in the local food movement that is rapidly gaining momentum and sending shoots out in all directions.

For many, a simpler life is better

Shrinking paychecks and rising environmental concerns are prompting Americans to pare back their lifestyles.

"Perhaps the silver lining (of the recession) is that people are coming to realize they can live with less and their lives are richer for it," says Michael Maniates, professor of political and environmental science at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.

A third, 32%, say they have been spending less and intend to make that their "new, normal" pattern; 27% say they are saving more and plan to continue, according to a Gallup Poll in April.

Nearly half of consumers, 47%, say they already have what they need, up from 34% in November 2006, according to the 2009 MetLife Study of the American Dream.

"People are feeling forced and inspired to get back to what is core to them," says Julie Morgenstern, author of Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life. She says they're valuing objects less and experiences and people more.

Baby Boomers Your Financial & Economic Winter is Coming, The Fourth Turning

It is very likely that Barack Obama will lead the country into the next Crisis. He will not lead us out of the Crisis, as it is unlikely to subside until 2025. As the Unraveling transitions into Crisis the apathy reflected in historic low voter turnout will reverse itself as Americans become mobilized by the Crisis. The economy always undergoes wrenching transformations during a Crisis. The U.S. economy will likely be racked by panic, depression, inflation and war. We have witnessed a preliminary financial panic, but the real panic will be much more traumatic. The separateness and blame witnessed during the Unraveling will transform into gathering and family togetherness. McMansions will become useful as three generations will more frequently live under one roof. Immigration will decline as the population will fear outsiders and place strict restrictions on foreigners entering the country. During the coming crisis, our culture will likely be cleansed, censored, and harnessed for the public good. The current ongoing financial debacle will ultimately contribute to the Crisis causing trigger of a worldwide oil shortage.

Krugman: Boiling the Frog

I started thinking about boiled frogs recently as I watched the depressing state of debate over both economic and environmental policy. These are both areas in which there is a substantial lag before policy actions have their full effect — a year or more in the case of the economy, decades in the case of the planet — yet in which it’s very hard to get people to do what it takes to head off a catastrophe foretold.

And right now, both the economic and the environmental frogs are sitting still while the water gets hotter.

U.S. officials to prod China on climate change

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke visit their ancestral homeland this week to press China to join with the United States in stepped-up efforts to fight global warming.

The two Chinese-American cabinet officials arrive in Beijing on Tuesday to talk with senior Chinese leaders and highlight how working together to cut greenhouse gas emissions would benefit both countries and the entire planet.

Is cap and trade Dems' next 'BTU'?

As Democrats congratulated themselves on the House floor last month for passing a controversial climate and energy bill, Republicans let out a cheer of their own, chanting, “BTU! BTU! BTU!”

The acronym was chilling for some Democrats who remember the infamous 1993 BTU tax debacle that quickly became a code phrase for forcing members to cast a vote that amounts to political suicide.

A slim majority of House Democrats nervously backed the Clinton administration’s calls for a tax on the heat content of fuel, which became known as the BTU tax, only to watch it die in the Senate under intense opposition from the manufacturing, coal and transportation industries.

Republicans jumped on the vote as a campaign issue in 1994 and used it to help them take over the House for the first time in 40 years.

The energy bill's ticking timebomb

The Holy Grail for climate change advocates is creation of a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon dioxide and other harmful gas emissions.

But to secure that coveted prize, proponents must answer two questions: Will consumers suffer from the costs, and is the system doable?

Twenty ideas that could save the world

Ingenious, madcap and perhaps not strictly legal: the Guardian's search for the greatest plan to tackle climate change.

With apologies to Mr. Kunstler and some authors of the Energy Bulletin:

This past week I had an odd schedule and, as a result, spent some time with a few Amish aquiantences just prior to the start of their work day. During the long early morning talk the conversation went in a direction that I never thought I'd ever be part of... and made me realize something:

I think many people have it all wrong: The Amish values ARE NOT a result of their lifestyle... BUT the Amish lifestyle IS a result of their communal values.

So when people say that energy decline will re-introduce values back into this country I (now) don't believe it. The rat race is NOT a result of hi-tech things per se (there are orders of Amish who drive cars, yet live a lifestyle of simple values) and there's nothing about low-tech things that will re-introduce values to those who don't want to make an effort to accept those values.

History confirms this. There will never be a gadget that changes human nature. Genocide, feeding people to Lions, Nailing them to crosses and burning them in furnaces are all a part of history. Rawanda, Uganda, Kosovo, Babylon, Sparta, Persia, Russia, Germany, Rome, Vikings, Hunns, Spaniards, British, Americans..etc.. It's a longer list than this. What one has or doesn't have does not affect his character.

There will never be a gadget that changes human nature.

Ice pick.


From the eye sockets into the brain.

I think you'll find that through the ears is easier.

I'd rather have this bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

The article up top, Peak oil means peak food as well, is really great. Best line in the whole article however is:

"Optimism" is the problem, not the solution.

Ron P.

You're sounding a little like Reagan today, Ron.

He said 'Government is the problem'. I would say 'Bad government is A problem' .. but not all government is bad, and it's not always hamstrung by an inflexible net of Corporate Ties like ours is today.

By a similar token, there is 'misplaced Optimism', to be sure, but to target Optimism overall.. Well, that's just plain grumpy. You can be optimistic about trends and projects that are going in the right direction, it doesn't mean "Everything will be fine and there's no reason to worry or work hard at other solutions anymore.." but that is how anyone with a bit of positivity and energy seems to get regarded by those with an avowed dislike of hopeful actions..

There are a ton of Rants at this site with how sick and wrong our society is, and I don't disagree that it's sick and very often wrong.. but I hope there's also an awareness that RANTING is a part of that illness.

Rating: +100

Too much misanthropic dysphoria lately.

There is a difference between being 'optimistic and wrong' and being 'optimistic and correct'.

Because of the failure to admit reality by consistently taking an over-optimistic view, we find ouselves in a serious world economic situation - our leaders were 'optimistic and wrong' about the timing of peak oil, 'optimistic and wrong' on how far house prices could rise, 'optimistic and wrong' about the banking system, and on and on - and nobody challenges them.

It is normal for humans to be 'optimistic and wrong' because they are not adapted to live in such a complex interconnected society as ours, this is why many people on TOD expect yet more 'optimistic and wrong' policies in the future. Until you admit to the problem you can't propose an adequate cure.

.. so is it the 'Optimism' part or the 'Wrong' part that caused the problem?

Loyalty does not have to be a problem. But BLIND LOYALTY is.

Faith is not necessarily a problem. BLIND FAITH is.

Hope, or BLIND Hope..

Same for OPTIMISM, same for PESSIMISM.

The common problem is the BLIND part.. right?

Pick the right targets. Aim carefully.


'The cat that steps onto a hot stove will never step onto another hot stove. But it also won't step onto a cold one.'

Like I say if you don't admit to the cause of a problem you can't fix it. The 'wrong' is a symptom of the over-optimistic 'cause'.

It is the on-going built-in 'blind optimism' that is likely going to lead to non-optimum responses to the predicament we suddenly find ourselves in.

Cats seem more sensible than humans - the evidence I see is politicians doing the same over-optimistic thing that caused the failure as an attempted cure.

But then are you agreeing with me that there is an essential distinction to be made between 'Optimism' and 'Blind Optimism'? THAT is where this thread started, and is the point of my rattling Ron's cage.

ie, don't toss the baby out with the bathwater.
(on my personal quest to use every old saw I can find today)

My point is that you are stuck with the over-optimism (or blind optimism as you call it) humans are not rational. The problem is nobody is throwing out the bathwater even though it should be, baby isn't safe he/she will die if the water goes cold - the unintended consequence of wrong policy.

The water never gets chilly in that metaphor. I checked.

No.. the point is that any mention of Optimism instantly gets branded branded with the accusation of being Over-Optimism.

You're misusing the metaphor, though. The Baby is not our imperiled world or our people.. The Water, is the 'Blind' part of blind Optimism. The Baby is the optimism, which is to say the hopefulness that gives people a reason to take the next step, to keep going. The 'Bathwater' would be the misguidedness that concludes that all problems are solved, ie, EXTREME OPTIMISM. I reject that extreme as much as anyone on this site.. but Hope is not ALL extreme like that.

If you are under 40, you have grown up in a casino, and haven't been outside of the doors yet.
Optimism makes a casino run, and it can't function without being peopled with mathematically challenged and unrealistic beings.
The scream will start, as the people are forced out the doors, and into the sunlight.

Everyone under 40, eh?

Enough, please. Thankfully, the world, and even the USA is far more interesting than such a dour philosophy.

It's like this assumption that anyone showing enthusiasm is clearly a flake, because they're not just weeping uncontrollably. Extremes, meet the middleground..

George Carlin:
"Everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot, and everyone who drives faster than you is a maniac."

I'm just pointing out the world and conditions in which this generation of people have grown up in--
Post Reagan, free market, superstition based world.
Unfortunately, they have few references points of anything else, other that credit, expansion, bubbles etc.
Real wages stopped rising in the mid 1970s, and wealth from then on was through borrowing and "financial Instruments".
Reality is just catching up, and the actual conditions of our present reality is going to be devastating.

I tend to think more in terms of repudiating the pseudo-Beatles philosophy "ALL you need is optimism". I don't mind if someone who has looked at the problems and sincerely believes they're taking actions which will form an effective part of dealing with the problems being optimistic. What I can't stand is people who talk about how "we" will overcome all the problems when they are neither taking active part in any of the ameliorating actions nor indeed engaged in a deep study of what the problem is. (This includes most pundits of various type, whether economists, op-ed writers, etc.)

I wouldn't class tend to class this as "wrong" in the sense of having a considered opinion that's wrong so much as not even understanding the basic issues.

Allen Ginsberg also repudiated it in a documentary on the Beatles entitled All YOu need is Love. He said that All YOu need is Awareness.

Optimism = hope. From a long term point of view, what is it that you hope for?

What do we do if those things that people would normally consider "good" make our situation worse? This is the problem if you believe, as I do, that we are well into population overshoot - I want peace, prosperity and for people to move towards living in harmony with our environment as much as anyone. I have two children I love and want for them to have happiness and fulfillment in their lives, and I'm working hard for them to have that. But on a global level there won't be enough to go around, and we're still not taking any worthwhile steps as a larger society. About the best I can think to hope for is for a long, gradual reduction in population that is matched by a slow reduction in resources and climate change - but even this is looking like a pipe dream.

What does Willy E Coyote hope for in that moment between when he looks done and when he begins to fall?

We apply too many 'Global Extremes' to these words. Polarizing definitions kills the conversation.

One of those Topquotes says 'Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race..' or some such thing. That person didn't see bicycles as the Fount of Eternal Youth, as a Perpetual Motion Machine.

There are plenty of things to be despairing and regretful of, to be terrified of - and I am. Just because I know many smart and strong people who are working to address the myriad dragons that threaten us, doesn't mean I've forgotten that these fiery beasts could jump in and kill us in a heartbeat.

Optimism and Hope (For me) don't mean 'everything is going to be fine'. I think that's a terribly cynical interpretation of these words.

There is misinformation and delusional thinking out there.. but there are also smart people who have simply been paying attention to other pressing concerns at different levels, and aren't on the lookout for 'this particular Iceberg'.. ( Child Abuse, Elder care, Farming, Education, Media Watchdogs, on and on.. )

What did Shackleton hope for as he set his crew to playing Football and Stewing dogs for 18months in Antarctica? They didn't give up.. and even if they thought they were sure they would soon perish, their ACTIONS were the clearest definition of Hope that I could put forward.


Which is why I am focused locally - starting the long journey toward localization, increased self reliance and lower energy use. Small hopes, I guess, but about mitigation and triage really.

It's well and good to say there are smart people out these who are presently focused elsewhere, but when they do get busy what do you hope they will accomplish? Bicycles, electric rail, local organic farming, improving home insulation, many others - all great ideas and worthy of support - are still mitigation.

This is the full paragraph Ron quoted:

"Optimism" is the problem, not the solution. We use it as an excuse to avoid thinking about the desperate measures we must take to cope with what is coming. We use it to put off actually doing anything. As long as Dr X, CEO Y or Minister Z says, "I’m optimistic that we will develop new energy sources" then we can go back to sleep because someone is obviously taking care of the problem - aren’t they?

If we had a realistic public discourse about what the future holds, and how many will get to be a part of it, then there would be reason to have some optimism about how were approaching the mitigation strategies we need to be pursuing now. Misplaced optimism about "fixing" the present model is a reason for those who are paying attention to be pessimistic.

By a similar token, there is 'misplaced Optimism', to be sure, but to target Optimism overall.. Well, that's just plain grumpy.

Jokuhl, I dearly wish you had read the article before you let loose with your rant. The author of the article was clearly not talking about optimism in general but implying that optimism that everything would be okay, that the "Don't worry, be happy", optimism was the problem not the solution.

But if you truly wish to rant and nitpick before you even read the article, then please have at it because you probably need your rant fix today.

Ron P.

Nonetheless, there is a definite rhetorical tendency to absolute condemnations of "optimism" and "hope" and other powerful motivating emotional states that does not require reading the quoted article to see.

You chose the quote. You chose the tone.

Well well, another ranter. No, my quote was in the same tone as the author of the essay. I realize now that I should have posted the entire paragraph because some people are always looking for things to criticize in other's posts and I left an opening you could drive a truck through.

I will try to be more careful next time and not give the nitpicking ranters an opening.

I was hoping to get people to read the article and comment on that. I am not the subject here, the article is, and as I said it is a damn good article.

Ron P.

No need to be insulting about it.

You presented the article in an unfavorable light. Whether the article is good or not has no bearing on your choice of presentation and you have no cause for complaint if people react badly to it.

I wrote:

The article up top, Peak oil means peak food as well, is really great.

You replied:

You presented the article in an unfavorable light.

Nuff said.

Well no, enough is not said. This is a tremendous article. It was my wish then, and now, that more people would read this great article. It, in a very few words, presents the case that peak oil will eventually mean mass starvation. Blind stupid optimism that everything will eventually be okay is just that, blind stupid optimism. No, everything will not be okay. People get off your ass and make preparations for the coming catastrophe. Try to be among the survivors. From the article:

If we objectively understand our true situation and what, feasibly, we can do about it then we can take appropriate action and not waste our precious remaining fossil energy on optimistic - but ultimately futile - "solutions".

Ron P.

No, everything will not be okay. People get off your ass and make preparations for the coming catastrophe. Try to be among the survivors.

There is absolutely no point in making preparations. Even if there are survivors their lives will be miserable and short. Surviving just to suffer is pointless.

On this point we differ. Yes, it will be a hell on earth for many years but eventually a Phoenix will rise from the ashes..... Or... am I just being overly optimistic. ;-)

Ron P.

I liked that article too. Some of it echoed statement I've made recently on these threads almost verbatim. When someone states clearly what the enormity of our situation is, people tend to assume he saying that we should "give up." But we can't possibly begin to imagine an adequate response unless we have a clear idea about what the actual situation is that we are facing.

Ultimately optimism and pessimism are irrelevant. If one is a complete pessimist, but act in ways that minimizes harmful effects to future generations and fight against forces that are harmful to the same, it is pretty clear to me that that is better than one who is an optimist but goes about blissfully destroying the future. This is the usual case in my experience, though the obverse (harmful pessimist worst than beneficial optimist) is also true.

Ultimately of course both are simplifications. Few are optimistic about everything, and few are pessimistic about everything. I am usually labeled a doomer, but I think that when individuals wake up to the real enormity of our unfolding catastrophe, there is a glimmer of a chance for...not quite redemption, but at least a bit of maturity, and I think, painful as that moment can be, awareness of one's affect on the world is a good thing.

But then (for similar reasons) I think the play "Oedipus the King" is a comedy.

"Don't worry, be happy", optimism was the problem not the solution.

I wonder if human optimism is genetically inherited. Think about it: If we are huddling in a cave starving to death, terrified of being lunch for some larger carnivore the most optimistic will be more likely to procreate than the primate that is more "realistic". Depression and E.D. are co-dependent as our pharmaceutical companies know all too well.

Currently civilization has superseded "Natural Selection". If I have a higher I.Q. ,better job, a good education, make more money and have a more pragmatic POV than the other guy this has little to do with passing on your genes(which is the point to life whether you acknowledge it or not). The guy at the restaurant flipping burgers has as good or better chance of passing on his genes as you do.(probably better) Remember we're an opportunistic "r selected" species so quantity trumps quality.*

Now imagine for a moment that we could go Back To The Future to Easter Island when their population was just reaching it's maximum and you could warn them with the advantage of precognition of the coming collapse. Would they believe you?

They'd probably kill you.


*In unstable or unpredictable environments, r-selection predominates as the ability to reproduce quickly is crucial. There is little advantage in adaptations that permit successful competition with other organisms, because the environment is likely to change again.

I wonder if human optimism is genetically inherited.

I would say yes, based on twins studies and such.

It's also clear that humans are naturally biased to be optimistic. Not just humans - other mammals like dogs, rats, etc., too.

Now imagine for a moment that we could go Back To The Future to Easter Island when their population was just reaching it's maximum and you could warn them with the advantage of precognition of the coming collapse. Would they believe you?

They'd probably kill you.

Disagree. I think the Easter Islanders could see what was coming. In fact, they did make some changes as resource limits became apparent. It just wasn't enough. They were in a political/social rut, and it became impossible to get out of it.

I think we are in the same situation. Tainter described it; it was the fifth of his five basic concepts. We cannot simplify unless there's a power vaccuum. As long as we are in competition with other societies of similar complexity, we cannot "powerdown."

Ranting is not part of the illness, but part of the solution. Complex societies always seek ways out to solve the current problems. This is what TOD and many other organizations and people do. Seek a way out of the current problem - most likely the solution is decentralization due to reduced amount of energy. This happened many times in history.

There is a big difference between Ranting and Critical Debate, a frank exchange of views.

Ron thought my response was a rant. Fine. I think a rant is the kind of critique where the writer is raging, insulting and out of control. There's little to be gained from such rage-fests. A difference of opinion is par for the course.. but calling it a 'Rant' doesn't necessarily make it one.

The catharsis of a good tantrum or a hundred might be a bit addictive.. but I don't believe it helps us find any useful answers. It has clearly led to a deterioration in too many discussions. Wasted Energy, fatigued exclamation-mark keys.

He said 'Government is the problem'. I would say 'Bad government is A problem' .. but not all government is bad, and it's not always hamstrung by an inflexible net of Corporate Ties like ours is today.

Government that can't pay it's bills is a problem...

Uncle Sam is $1 trillion in the hole

Federal budget deficit rises by $94.3 billion in June, pushing the total shortfall for the current fiscal year to $1.09 trillion.

The federal budget deficit increased in June as spending surged and tax receipts sunk, pushing the total budget shortfall to over $1 trillion in the first 9 months of the fiscal year, according to a government report released Monday...

The deficit was the largest shortfall the government has ever recorded in the month of June, and the first time it has come up short in June since 1991, according to a Treasury official. The largest monthly deficit on record was February 2009, when the government increased its shortfall by $193.9 billion.

For the first nine months of the fiscal year, which began in October, the total deficit hit $1.09 trillion.

Somewhere, a money printing press is being built just to solve this problem...

To think Paul Krugman wants a further fiscal stimulus.


You"re right about the method but so last century it ain't funny about that press.All they gotta do is tell the programmer it's time to add another couple of zeros to the electronic funds transfers and relevant checking accounts nowadays.

Of course when it gets so bad nopbody will TAKE a check anymore(u gotta hide from the tax man and look poor enough for the welfare lady),some greenbacks -with some extra zeros-will be needed,so I guess you're right after all.


There is lots of talk on TOD about the need for community now and in the future to deal with all the is coming down. Here is an example from the boondocks - The Second Annual Wild Fire BBQ.

My "community" is about 4-8 square miles depending upon how you measure it. There are about 12 full-time families that live here. Some of us have known each other for 30 years and others are "new-comers". Last year we had a wild fire that burned 8,800 acres and came within a few miles of here. We all drew closer during the fire, passing on whatever information we could glean. Following the fire my wife and I had a BBQ for everyone (25-30 people)to review how to deal with the future. This past weekend we had another BBQ to discuss more stuff. For example:

We distributed a new parcel map with up-dated phone numbers and email addys.

We decided to erect a bulletin board on the county road where notices could be posted unlike the current practice of tacking stuff to telephone poles.

We are investigating whether we can have some kind of audible alarm system since people are not always at their phones or computers. It has to be loud as hell to be heard over this large an area.

In the same vein, we are going to establish a formal phone tree.

We determined what equipment we have available in the event of an emergency. FWIW, "we" have a D4 CAT, a D6 CAT, a small track hoe, a 2,000 gallon water truck and one guy is finishing up rebuilding an old fire truck.

With a couple of exceptions, no one was interested in establishing a discussion group to cover prepping, survival or world events. The reason is that they think BAU will go on forever.

There's more buy this gives a flavor of what went on.

So, this is "community" in the boondocks. And, I have to say that the fire brought us all together for real rather then just waving at each other on the road.


More community stuff....

Communities print their own currency to keep cash flowing

A small but growing number of cash-strapped communities are printing their own money.

Borrowing from a Depression-era idea, they are aiming to help consumers make ends meet and support struggling local businesses.

Newsom's fresh idea: mandates on healthier food

All city departments have six months to conduct an audit of unused land - including empty lots, rooftops, windowsills and median strips - that could be turned into community gardens or farms that could benefit residents, either by working at them or purchasing the fresh produce. Food vendors that contract with the city must offer healthy and sustainable food. All vending machines on city property must also offer healthy options, and farmers' markets must begin accepting food stamps, although some already do.

The mayor will send an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors within two months mandating that all food served in city jails, hospitals, homeless shelters and community centers be healthy.

And effective immediately, no more runs to the doughnut shop before meetings and conferences held by city workers. Instead, city employees must use guidelines created by the Health Department when ordering food for meetings.

Examples include cutting bagels into halves or quarters so people can take smaller portions and serving vegetables instead of potato chips.

Printing money, like California's IOUs?

The trail of breadcrumbs that is the internet have lead me here:


> UNILETS interest-free time-based currency in U.N.
> resolution C6 to Governments in the
> http://www.un.org/millennium/declaration.htm

"6. To make serious commitments to restructure the global financial architecture based on principles of equity, transparency, accountability and democracy, and to balance, with the participation of civil society organizations, the monetary means to favour human endeavour and ecology, such as an alternative time-based currency. To give particular attention to eradication of unequal taxation, tax havens, and money-laundering operations, and to impose new forms of taxation, such as the Tobin tax, and regional and national capital controls. To direct the international financial institutions to eliminate the negative conditionalities of structural adjustment programmes."

As a midwesterner with some 15 years of experience with "small" prescribed fire (600 acres or less at a time), I will confess a certain fascination with the large-scale wildfires that seem to be a regular feature of life out west. In trips to California, Colorado, and elsewhere, I've been struck by the willingness of people to build vulnerable structures in the most exposed locations imaginable: steep, heavily wooded terrain, in drought-prone country. Every fire season, the national media offer up similar fare from California and elsewhere: images of walls of flame roaring through some unfortunate subdivision, and the interviews with the newly-homeless. Sad, tragic, and utterly predictable, not unlike the looming energy crisis associated with fossil fuel depletion.

Based on your previous posts, you certainly seem to be someone who is inclined to worry about possible future events (something that I applaud!) In that vein, I'm curious what land-management measures you have taken, or are considering, to reduce your exposure to wildfire danger, both on a personal level and on a neighborhood level. Thinning of brush and trees around your homes? Prescribed fire during periods of relatively low fire danger to reduce the fuel load? Other?

Hi Stclair,

I'll talk about myself first. We live on a mile long private road. One family has a 1/4 mile side road to their house that comes off at the gate by the county road. We are at the end, a mile up. There is one other full-time family and some city people who have a cabin who come up about a week a month.

We have done substantial clearing on the side of the road but still have a long way to go. In fact, we are at the point where we can't clear any more this year until we can burn our brush piles this fall - one is about 20x20' and another is about 40x40'. We don't have a ton of brush but lots and lots of trees that we haven't taken out over the last 30+ years we've been here. All the grass is mowed at least 50' away from structures.

We have 4,700 gallons of water in tanks that can be used for supression, another has 10,000 gallons and there is a pond on the corner of our property. There is also an old gravel landing strip just off our land that can be used (and has been) to refuel helicopters.

At a meeting last year of most of the people who live off the county road (not just my area) we talked about forming our own volunteer fire company but the cost was too high and we didn't feel it was fair to hitch onto existing volunteer companies since we really don't want to work out of the area.

One of the reasons the fire near us last year got so big is that it started on BLM land that is an ACEC (Area of Critical Environmental Concern) and they wouldn't allow fire crews in much less cutting fire lines. In the end, all the rare and endangers plants got killed anyway. It also has led to a lot of anger by the people around here since their homes were place in danger.

In the larger area, there have been a series of seminars put on by a non-profit covering everything from appropriate marking of water sources to communications.

I believe everyone is aware of fire danger but it's easy to become complacent. However, one fire ignition source comes from underground marijuana grow operations that use generators that over heat and burn.

I hope this answers some of your questions.


It sounds like you've put in an impressive amount of effort. Good luck to you with the fire season this year.

Every time I set flame to a pile of unwanted brush/trees/whatever I find myself wishing I had a way to make better use of that energy. But when it's too far out in the field, it's just not worth the trouble. Lots of BTU's available there if we could figure out how to make it work.

Actually, what I do with "ordinary" brush piles is to make small ones so I can get the charcoal out for my terra preta beds. These piles are only about 6x6x6'. Unfortunately, big piles are too hot to get near to rake it out to any degree - although you do get some.

Charcoal - that sounds like something that I should have thought of before now. Any tips & techniques that you'd be willing to share? On the garden side, have you noticed any increase in fertility with the beds that have received the charcoal?

I'll just do a quick reply since I have to get back to the garden to tie up some vines plus I don't want to turn this into a garadening thread.

First, I'd suggest you do a search of TOD because we've talked about terra preta before. One I posted was something like Todd's Black Gold Method.

At this point I have converted about 750 sf to terra preta. I started 4-5 years ago. They're about 2% charcoal and that is as high as I want to go. I have another 1,000+ sf of beds terraced into the hillside that I will start to add charcoal to this fall. Yes, there have been improved yields but I haven't done real research since I don't have replicated plots, etc.

A good source of research papers is http://www.biochar-international.org


If you live in a fire zone, and your house is in danger from time to time, I would suggest you have the wrong type of house. Why not build underground? Let it burn. Why keep the BAU going and then make all of the Chicken Little noises about prevention? A wildfire is going to burn, whether you have 50,000 gal of water handy, or 5 million. A helicopter landing pad???? Tax money paying for this?? WTF ??

Sooo many people cling to the ideology of current BAU. Build underground, or move. Underground is the future man...live it.

I'm not much into smart-assed replies. Why don't you carry your "logic" over to all the people who live in tornado prone areas, flood prone areas, hurricane prone areas, etc.

In fact, when I designed our house 30 years ago, I did consider going underground. Unfortunately, we are in the mountains in a high rainfall area and drainage would have been extremely difficult and too much of a risk.

I personally think going underground makes a lot of sense in the right location.


Not to mention that underground you are building a dam VS the earth. Guess what's gonna win over time?

(and going underground would do nothing to stop the removal of O2 from the area in a big fire)

Yep, not really trying to be a smart a$$ here. But, so much has been built with the free energy we have taken for granted these last 100 years. Standard four square house, built out of sticks, in the woods? How big is the house? Too much risk to build underground? Then you should never have built it. How much taxpayer support do you get for your mansion in the woods? Whats it cost to bring in the Bomber with the flame retard.? Is there Line power to the place fromm the local utility? Who do you think pays for that?

Earth sheltered, or underground solves so many problems. With the coming forced power down, it would be a very smart way to go. Learn to live with nature, not fight it. Every other animal on this planet lives within a natural way of life, humans need to as well, but won't, so they will mostly all die off. Living in the forest, let's see, think it will burn once in a while? Stop trying to fight the natural way of things. Go underground. Stop the merry go round of BAU.

And yes, I do think that the idiots who build stick houses in the Tornado Alley, New Orleans, and Hurricane areas, never should get a permit to build, or one tax dollar spent to rebuild, or any subsidy at all for insurance. Simple, you build it, you pay for it 100% when it burns down or blows away. We have the tech to build a completely fireproof or windproof house. It's really pretty simple, but those MCMANSIONS gotta look like every other house on the street.....Free energy has allowed far too many people to take the easy way out.


I'd love to continue our conversation but I've got other things to do and it would probably be a waste of time.

I'm one of the few people up here with home owners insurance. The VAST majority of houses have zero insurance so they have a compelling reason to be fire safe. With the exception of grading the dirt and gravel county road, we don't get much from the .gov on a regular basis. I know they sure as heck aren't paying to maintain my road - but I still pay property taxes equivalent to people who get these services.

I'm not at all convinced that stick built houses use more energy to build than underground ones. In CA at least, all block cores or foam cores have to be filled with concrete and have significant steel reinforcing with a concrete bond beam at the top of the wall. These are both more energy/pollution intensive products than wood.

I guess I should mention that I designed my house to get substantial passive solar heating.

I'll tell you one thing I would have done that I didn't do when I built our house...I'd have used cement board siding (Hardie board) rather than redwood plywood. Of course, we have a metal roof as does our rental house (and our city neighbor's cabin).

Well, I'm signing off on this.


Dude, just build a castle...
(See today's video from CNN here.)

Jim Bishop, a semi-retired welder, has sweated for over forty years, building a monstrosity of a fortress near Rye, Colorado. They call it “the Jim Bishop castle” and Jim has carried an estimated 1000 tons of rocks and metal to build his enormous “house.”

The Jim Bishop castle has stained-glass windows, enormous fireplaces, towers with connecting bridges, and even a wrought-iron sculpture of a dragon’s head that breathes smoke.

But why was the Jim Bishop castle built? There is no real answer – Jim just calls his project “a monument to hardworking people.” He claims his castle is the biggest one-man project in the United States.

Heh, I FINALLY have seen something built in the states that might survive post-peak.

It really is worth stopping to see if you are ever traveling though the area. Most unsafe structure I have ever been on, yet still fascinating. Makes a lot of crazy construction in East Asia and other poor countries seem over-engineered. I seriously doubt it would stand for many years before huge chunks start falling off. His castle is a true testament to American insanity and grit.

Rather than make big brush piles, you might want to take a look at the current wood chippers that are available. Self powered and 3 point tractor powered. The prices have come way down in the last few years. A good "community tool"?
Grind up the waste wood and use the chips for mulch, paths, or just blow the chips over the landscape and let it decompose naturally replenishing the Earth. Also, you can make big wood chip piles and when it starts to ferment inside the pile it produces enough heat to heat a home for an entire winter!
Much better all around than burning a brush pile.

Hi Jon,

Actually, one of the families has a chipper. So, why aren't we using it?

First, I'm 70 and I've hired a guy to do the limbing, etc. We considered having him chip it but that adds more cost. I can light up and tend a fire for free.

Second, our road is about 1 1/2 cars wide in the mountains. Therefore, the brush would have to be hauled to where our burn piles are and then chipped. Ok, our problem is the liability of having our guy work with the chipper. Sure, our home owner's insurance might cover an accident but I wouldn't count on it. Further, the guy doing the work is the son of some land owners here. Even if it was his fault were he injured, it would destroy our relationship with his folks.

So, while I understand your suggestion, it ain't going to happen.



Brush in most rural areas is an asset,not a liability,for those who own any significant acreage and are nature lovers.

Do you have a place back from your house and road where you can dump it for the benefit of whatever small animals live in your area?

And if you have more time than money,you can make charcoal from brush to use for cooking out very easily.

Find a large clean steel drum,the kind that uses a band to retain the lid.Punch some ventilation holes around the bottom.and fill it with small brush with the lid off and light it and let it burn until the fire starts dieing down,clap the lid on and shovel a little dirt around the bottom to cut off the air.You are finished when she's cool,except for sorting out any large chunks that are still mostly unburned wood.

After a couple of trys you can make better grilling charcoal than you can buy.Free.Your burgers will taste better than ever,and the fire will be ready much faster than a fire made with purchased briquets.

But it will burn out a lot faster too,making it a little harder to cook food such as baked chicken.

I use poplar,oak,hickory and apple wood for this purpose.Imo poplar is the best all around ,and apple is the best for pork.

I don't see any reason this charcoal couldn't be used as a soil amendment,but making enough to matter for that purpose is probably too time consuming for most people.

Good idea there Mac. Have to give it a trial run and see.

Been meaning to make a charcoal burner but it involves a whole lot more metal work. Two barrels and lots of pipe to use the wood gas to fire the kindling/limbs etc. The heat is wasted is the bad part. Plans are on the net somewhere and I have links but too lazy to post right now.

I am still going to build me a japanese style forge and make my own charcoal so I can use the recent anvil I autioned in last year.

Hickory IMO is the top of the grade for BBQ. A renown fella in Marionl,Ill won contests with apple but I ate his ribs last week and they are now were trash.but once were excellent...'Will success spoil Rock Hunter?'...answer is Always.


North Korea: Nukes, terminal cancer and an ambiguous succession plan all rolled into one...

Media report: North Korea's Kim Jong Il has cancer
The report was not confirmed by South Korean intelligence sources, but it underlines the uncertainty surrounding the North Korean leader's eventual succession.

North Korea's reclusive dictator Kim Jong-il has been diagnosed with life-threatening pancreatic cancer, a South Korean TV station reported Monday.

The report cited unnamed South Korean and Chinese intelligence officials. Representatives from the two countries are meeting now in Seoul to discuss how to deal with a North Korea that has become increasingly belligerent in recent months.

However, South Korean officials declined to officially confirm the report, and US officials had no comment, according to Reuters.

If true (and that's a big fat 'IF'), puts a very strange spin to that situation. Will Kim try something before he dies? Go for a push south, even if it is suicidal? I mean, if you're dying anyway, does it really matter what the consequences are?

And if he does nothing, there may be a fight over succession between his sons. What does that look like? And if a new Kim gets into office (for the unknowing masses, the first name is the family name in Korea), what does that look like- will they want to push south or fire more crap off? Or will they continue to be a lapdog of Beijing? Or, will they even turn toward the west...?

P.S. There's something sweetly ironic that the leader of a rogue nuclear state that has been doing nuclear tests on their own soil is dying of cancer.

You're assuming that the change in tone in recent months isn't connected with his imminent demise?

A mushroom cloud shaped epitaph maybe? The world would remember his name then.

What change in tone? I haven't noticed any.

Up until a few months ago things were getting quiet. Work progressing to dismantle old nuclear power station. No missile launches. Negotiations on really closing down the nuclear programme, etc.

Then things shifted and quite quickly it was nuclear tests, long range missiles, etc.

Now it could well be they were playing dumb to see what they could get. It could be they are looking for attention and rattling the sabre.

But it could be the glorious leader found out then that he wasn't likely to last long.

That was par for the course for North Korea. They go through cycles. Rattle their sabers, until they get the attention (and aid) that they want, settle down for awhile, then rinse and repeat.

I think the recent bout of saber-rattling is more because of Obama than because of Kim Jong Il's health. Whenever we have a new president, North Korea "tests" him with new saber-rattling.

There has definitely been a ratcheting up in rhetoric and provocative acts from NK. One interpretation is that it represents a power struggle between the candidates lining up to replace Kim Jong-il.

NK is the last of the old, hardline stalinist states. We (and probably our intelligence services ) have no idea what is really going on in that bunker.

That said, I don't anticipate it will escalate into an attack. Certainly the rest of the world has been playing it cool.

Imports of high end brandy are a barometer of internal tensions. Kim Jong-il uses gifts of brandy to "buy" loyalty and reward faithful service.


Meh, I stopped going there when they did away with the green sauce.

The red stuff tastes like dusty vinegar.

They could really do with anything green :)

I went there for lunch. Only thing worse than the burnt quesadilla was the unbelievably terrible Taco Bell Radio. Hint: Take iPod with you to Taco Bell if ye choose to eat there.

Story about how California state workers are handling their unpaid furloughs:

The faces of furloughs

And the Governator is planning another one.

That would effectively be a 4-day work week, with four Furlough Fridays a month. And a 20% pay cut.

a few yrs back, congress, the gop congress that is, brought the govt. to a stop, furloughing non essential personel and i'm asking why do we have non essential personel ?

Probably a poor choice of words. "Non-emergency" would probably be closer.

...and i'm asking why do we have non essential personel ?

Presumably you consider yourself essential to your place of work- people would die if you called in sick for a couple of days. I think that's part of the definition of essential personnel for government: other people likely die if they don't work (think everything from prison guard to VA hospital staff to heating plant operator).

Non-essential personnel do everything else; the list is long, but consider, for example, property rights- if you own land, your local government maintains the records needed to verify your ownership claim (the cadastre system); we can probably go a few days without the local Register of Deeds, but months? Years?

"Presumably you consider yourself essential to your place of work-"

you are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off the mark here. i am pseudo retired. work ? who needs it ? i have kicked nearly all my addictions and work was a biggie.

Yeah, and the 20% pay cut for those workers is just the icing on the cake... Because their paycheck is printed by none other than the State Of California, a.k.a. the IOU state.

Big banks stop cashing California IOUs
Residents have fewer places to cash in IOUs after large banks stop redeeming them. SEC warns potential buyers and sellers of possible scams.

Californians have fewer places to redeem IOUs issued by the cash-strapped state.

At least three major banks, Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500), JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) and Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), stopped accepting the IOUs after Friday.

The state, the world's eighth largest economy, has issued more than 90,000 IOUs worth nearly $355 million. Also called registered warrants, the IOUs pay an interest rate of 3.75% and can be redeemed on Oct. 2 or earlier if divided state officials reach a budget deal...

Some people actually want to get their hands on the registered warrants, posting ads on online marketplaces such as Craigslist. Several postings offer to buy the paper for 85 cents on the dollar, while another listing is looking to sell the IOUs for 95 cents.

This practice, however, has heightened fears that desperate IOU holders might be taken advantage of and that counterfeiters might make copies of the warrants.

California scrip, anyone?

The little 2 branch bank Todd and I use just cashed mine (tax refund). 5 day hold to verify it, but no problem.

They will get the interest; fine by me.

My company just went to 4 day workweeks, 20% pay cut also. I'm applying for unemployment for that one day, but if I get it, it would only be about $50 for that day a week.

I think WT mentioned preparing for something like this....

Ouch. Most people can't easily afford a 20% pay cut. And yet...that is still probably the best way to deal with the long-term economic contraction many of us expect. During the Great Depression, they even passed a bill mandating a 30-hour work week, in order to spread the jobs around as much as possible. (FDR vetoed it as "socialism.)

What I especially like about it is that the extra time off can be used to prepare for the future. Whether you think that means subsistence farming or a lot of nuclear engineering. I think a lot of people will use that extra free time to do the things you do when you have more time than money - sewing, gardening, clipping coupons, cooking from scratch, etc. Which may turn out to be very good preparation for the future indeed.

Anybody have any information about the relative efficiency of turning biomass into liquid fuels vs gas? Probably the most efficient way to use biomass is to use it in cogen gasifiers, which luckily is taking off in many places in the northeast.

Check out this article on the Gaviotas community in Colombia.


All profits (after overhead) are plowed back into the project to plant more Carib pine and African palm trees at Gaviotas and the new site. The idea is to create more greenhouse gas-trapping carbon sinks, and provide wood for residents to convert to steam heat and biodiesel. This process more than offsets the inputs and waste generated.

Money hiders risk a wealth of woes

Statistics on the number of people in the U.S. who stash cash at home are hard to come by, but a 2007 survey of 1,500 British adults by Virgin Money found 8 percent of them stash between £300 and £1000 (approximately $500 to $1,650) around the house, usually tucked within a drawer, “biscuit tin,” mattress or safe. Many of those surveyed pointed to emergencies as the primary reason for stashing cash, but others said they’re concerned about bank charges or even bank collapses.

This is, I think, common among the very old in their declining years, when they become increasingly confused and worried about money. When my grandmother died (aged 100) in 1984 we found several hundred in cash under the mattress . She had thousands in the bank and lived with us (her family). The usual explanation given when ask is - 'to make sure I leave enough to pay for my own funeral'.

At the other extreme my father-in-law got dementia and before we realised what was happing, he had invested tens of thousands (of his wife's money) in dodgy legal trusts and other investments at the recommendation of his 'financial advisors' who wined and dined him well. He liked to say yes.

Most of that money is gone for good.

Last time I was home for Christmas, my mom took me aside to show me where she'd hidden her valuables.

She had good reason, though. Their house was robbed. Actually, a bunch of homes in the neighborhood were robbed. It's a good neighborhood, so people are perhaps not as careful as they should be. The burglars were teenagers who carefully removed the windows, climbed in, stole small things like jewelry, and fixed the windows when they were done. My parents didn't even know they'd been robbed for quite awhile. They noticed things were missing, but thought they'd just been misplaced. Finally, they noticed the damaged window, and heard about the other, similar robberies in the neighborhood.

What I find interesting about the article is that it seems to discourage the practice in general, rather than to address specific risks. People lose thousands of dollars routinely, due to investment losses, illness, job changes, and so forth but they mostly don't stop investing, living, and working. Realistically, with a decent safe and a fireproof box, how likely is it that cash will disappear from your home?

I believe EVERYBODY should have at least a month's worth of cash in hand just for unforeseen emergencies. Hardly any area of the country is immune to a local disaster, and when the power is out only cash already in hand works. Much more than that in cash equivalents can't much hurt if you can afford it -- if cash is part of your savings portfolio, why not keep much of that part at home?

During hurricane season, I keep the tank at least half full, 5 gallons of diesel in a plastic can and several hundred in cash. Also water and food at home.

Post Katrina some small banks went black, and any money in there was unavailable for several days, just when people needed it.

Hint: Nothing larger than $50 bills. $100 bills can be hard to change sometimes.

Best Hopes for a Functioning Banking System,


Swine flu resembles feared 1918 flu, study finds

WASHINGTON - The new H1N1 influenza virus bears a disturbing resemblance to the virus strain that caused the 1918 flu pandemic, with a greater ability to infect the lungs than common seasonal flu viruses, researchers reported on Monday.

...In addition, they found that people who survived the 1918 pandemic seem to have extra immune protection against the virus, again confirming the work of other researchers.

Interesting stuff. Also interesting is that obesity seems to be a risk factor. It's not for other strains of flu.

Yeah, I buy that obesity is a factor. Japan has less then 2% obesity, thousands of confirmed cases, and not a single fatality. This puts the U.S. in a precarious state this Fall.

EDIT1: After doing some more reading, it looks like Japan has obesity rate around 3% (Obesity by country). That is the lowest rate I have seen.

I was surprised yesterday when the CDC was reporting a vaccine available for 1/3 of the U.S. population in mid-October since everything was pointing to mid-December at the earliest. The WHO seems to think the mid-December date is more likely today (LINK):

A fully licensed swine flu vaccine might not be available until the end of the year, a top official at the World Health Organization said Monday, in a report that could affect many countries' vaccination plans.

A quick personal note: Kawaoka, the researcher cited in the article, has his lab located in a research park two blocks upwind of our house. On a quiet evening in the backyard, the hum of his air handling equipment is an audible reminder of the lab's presence. We all hope that they've done a thorough job with their biohazard containment measures. :)

The Atlanta Airport should be deserted then.
Sometimes I think going to Tulsa or Atlanta is like landing on another planet.

The monsoon is late, and India is freaking:

India water shortage.

I expect the same kind of machete' moshpit dance-action in the USA's SouthWest & Northern Mexico at some future point: "Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting" and "Water flows uphill to money".

When was the last time the monsoon totally failed ?

I vaguely remember the monsoon failing in the 1960s and famine resulted.

Also, living conditions before the monsoon arrives in a normal year are almost unbearable.


This is far more than just about monsoons. It is about groundwater tables falling and rivers running dry. It is just a matter of time before anarchy breaks out all over India.


In India, water shortages are particularly serious simply because the margin between actual food consumption and survival is so precarious. In a survey of India’s water situation, Fred Pearce reported in New Scientist that the 21 million wells drilled are lowering water tables in most of the country. In North Gujarat, the water table is falling by 6 meters (20 feet) per year. In Tamil Nadu, a state with more than 62 million people in southern India, wells are going dry almost everywhere and falling water tables have dried up 95 percent of the wells owned by small farmers, reducing the irrigated area in the state by half over the last decade.

As water tables fall, well drillers are using modified oil-drilling technology to reach water, going as deep as 1,000 meters in some locations. In communities where underground water sources have dried up entirely, all agriculture is rain-fed and drinking water is trucked in.

With water tables falling 20 feet per year it is just a matter of time before the water cannot be reached by drilling wells. Drilling 21 million wells will yield nothing. What then?

Ron P.

What then? Well, you simply irrigate your crops using the glacier-fed rivers coming down from the Himalayas. ;-)

Himalayan glaciers 'melting fast'

The glaciers, which regulate the water supply to the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Thanlwin, Yangtze and Yellow rivers are believed to be retreating at a rate of about 10-15m (33-49ft) each year.


Yes, that was my point - surely you saw my sarcastic winking smiley?

This is why I love the internet: you can signify your knowledge of the impending near-starvation of two billion people with a winking smiley face constructed from punctuation marks.

From the article :
" In nearby Indore (pop 1.5 mill) the ration is half an hour's [water-]supply every seven days."
ALSO ....
"In Bhopal (pop 1.8 mill) the Upper Lake, had reduced in size from 38 sq km to 5 sq km by the start of last week.They have water for 30 min every 3 days."

Marie Antoinette : Let 'em have Coke ? Actually Coca Cola is blamed for 'helping' to lower the water table in at least two Indian states.

Fishy Issues
The upcoming documentary 'End of the Line' explores the dire state of ocean inhabitants

..The facts are bleak, indeed. According to the latest data collected and analyzed by a think-tank of ecologists and economists, the world will run out of seafood -- and all large fish stocks --by 2048 if current trends continue.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) says 70% of our global fisheries are currently being fished at capacity, or beyond. Experts estimate 90% of large fish such as tuna are gone, and beyond recovery.

The global fishing fleet is 250% larger than the oceans can support.. ---------------------

Why are bats dying and what does it mean?

.."We recognize that this truly is a biological crisis," said Mary Parkin, who is with the northern region of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Because it is spreading so fast in an alarming rate."

..White Nose Syndrome is now in nine states and there is concern it could spread to the Midwest where huge bat colonies live alongside agricultural areas. Latest reports indicate the fungus is already present in Canada.

Tigers locally extinct in Panna Panna Tiger Reserve

Brazil's Rare Native Plants Face Mass Extinction

A U.S. study indicates more than 40 percent of animals living in mangrove ecosystems around the world are threatened with extinction.

Poachers pushing rhinos to extinction
Of course, none of the above concerns most people. They are riveted to who gets custody of MJ's kids, sports, and other non-important activities and events.

Thanks for these links. The global mass extinction that has been underway for decades and is accelerating greatly is the biggest story in fifty million years, but it goes mostly untold.

The global mass extinction that has been underway for decades...

It's been underway for millenia. The ascendancy of the genus Homo co-occurred with the extinction of several species of hyenid, presumably due to competition pressure. However, since the African fauna coevolved with Homo anthropogenic mass extinction (AME) didn't really pick up steam until the diaspora of humans and our congeners out of Africa. Naive fauna fell easy prey to the ecocidal ape as its population spread like a metastatic neoplasm across the planet. Islands were especially hard hit: the faunas of Madagascar, the Hawaiian archipelago, Hispanola & Jamaica, etc., were severely impacted. Continents suffered too: Australia & the Americas saw the downfall of many of their large animals within only a couple millenia of human invasion. With the invention of firearms, ages of sail & of steam, the industrial revolution, invention of chemical biocides of all sort, exponential explosion of human numbers with consequent destruction & fragmentation of habitats... AME has accelerated wildly. The loss of biodiversity and with it, of ecosystem integrity, is, along with peak oil and anthropogenic global warming, among the most serious threats to the biosphere and to the continued survival of the human species. Each of these threats is extremely serious in its own right but their combined effects interact synergistically & nonadditively. I've come to the conclusion that few posters in this forum appreciate how dire the situation actually is. All the "tipping points" have already tipped. Human extinction within the lifetimes of those already born is a distinct possibility. Hoarding food and other "preps" aren't going to make a bit of difference to the outcome.

Human extinction within the lifetimes of those already born is a distinct possibility.

Not while I'm alive to stop it!

Thanks for the elaboration, darwinsong. We seem to be much of the same mind.

From Kuntsler's Wobble Time, linked above:

We simply don't have the electric generating capacity to run even one-quarter of the current car fleet on volts

That's a testable proposition. Tesla's Roadster allows a range of charging configurations, but if you want to charge to full power from a dead battery overnight, you need 32 amps and their 240-volt connector, which draws 7.7 kW. This at least doubles the load of your biggest household applicance, so you can see where Kuntsler is coming from.

Current US fleet is around 62 million cars, 25% is ~16 million cars. That's 123.2 GW of electrical demand. Accounting for 7% line losses, you would need ~132 GW of generating capacity. US current fleet is 911 GW of capacity, operating at 60% load factor (i.e., the ratio of average demand to peak demand). So something like 300 GW of generating capacity sits idle overnight. This tells me it is not that hard to accommodate a quarter of the automobile fleet, with existing capacity. It would be problematic to accommodate a 100% switch with existing generation.

But that last argument is a bit of a strawman. We can't flick a switch and go from ICEs to EVs. EVs would take time penetrating the market, even if we committed to them full bore.

Cost of EVs and availability of advanced battery elements may be limiting factors, but I think he is exaggerating the limitations of the electric grid to accommodate EVs.

One sabot in this calculation - the grid is not designed to run flat out 24/7. It needs to run at lower power overnight to allow that 7% lost as heat to disipate and cool the wires back down.

The capacity limits are more various than just the generating supply.

Thanks for that reminder. What would you calculate (or guess) to be the amount that could be generated at night, above what already is generated then, while still allowing for the cooling you mention?

Any links on this would be more than welcome.

I'll grant you the point, but I don't think it adds up to a blanket statement that the grid can't accommodate a significant number of EVs. Large swaths of the grid already run close to flat out to accept baseload generation. I've heard of lines overheating during the daytime at peak loads and summer temps, but it takes a contingency (a line or generator failure) to cause that to happen at night. The absence of the sun helps to dissipate heat all by itself.....

What you've got there is a 5min, back of the envelope calculation to see if you're even in the right ballpark in regard to generation capacity when some very simplistic assumptions are made. OK - that's only one issue, and the answer is hardly conclusive. Now there is the entire transmission and distribution aspect to consider.

On the other hand, I'm not sure Teslas, the highest end EV's--about $100,000 each last I heard--are the best car to measure from. What would similar calculations for Volts or Zenns be?

I agree with the article that cars of any kind aren't the answer and we should move rapidly to the walking, biking, public transit society he describes. But some EVs may serve as a kind of methadone for ICE car addicts, perhaps.

And with some sort of smart grid or device couldn't a whole lot of batteries in cars help to smooth out the fluctuations in the intermittent output of renewables?

I agree that Teslas aren't a great case to go from. I pick on them because they put their owner's manual on-line.

It would be useful to get charging specs for other cars, and to better understand the electric capacity requirements of mass transit options.

I doubt we'll ever swap EVs for ICEs straight up. The future would have to be more oriented around electrified mass transit, leased/rented EVs, scooters & bikes and ICE 'dead-enders.'

I think you are right. If several households in a subdivision connect a 7+kW load at night, it could mess with substation capacity. Cars could charge at work and spread that load out a bit, but then you run into peak demand issues.

I don't think electric cars are a slam dunk, but Kuntsler is overly dismissive. They save a lot of oil, and reduce CO2 even if the electricity is sourced to coal (which much of it isn't).

Here's a Reuters report on China's potential electric car market:



Electric vehicles will certainly have a place. Just like biofuels might be workable as power for agricultural equipment. I can well imagine small low-speed utility EVs for getting produce to market, or for getting to the local train station. 30-35mph would be much faster than horse-drawn.

It just doesn't work when you try to use it to replace gasoline for automobiles as we have used them. Nothing does. Personal automobiles, as we have used them, do not work without fossil fuel, or oil more specifically. That is because oil is a media that is already "charged" with energy and very portable, so we got to skip those steps. As soon as you have to generate and transfer that energy in more-or-less real time the problem becomes very difficult. And that's even with most of our electric generation coming from another fossil fuel - if we have to get it from actual renewable sources it gets even harder.

The basic premise of the EV supporters is that we can use the excess capacity of the grid, with the implication being that a big investment in capacity infrastructure is not needed and/or prohibitive. This is tied up with the "smart grid", which seems to mean using communication technology to better manage the existing capacity, thus avoiding an even bigger investment in actual increased capacity.

Anytime someone tells you that we can run a large and complex system like that at a much greater percentage of its capacity for a much larger amount of time, alarm bells should start ringing. I don't really believe that excess is there in the way it is described, but even if we can, it means using up the spare capacity and reducing resiliency. Is that a good idea? Is that excess capacity really there enough of the time, and in enough regions, to base a new transportation infrastructure on? What if it was rush hour all the time?

It would seem like we would need additional fuel to run electric power stations more hours at full capacity (or close to full capacity). This would seem this would require more coal and natural gas, unless wind and solar are enough to make up the difference. So we would have a net increase in coal and natural gas burned. Or am I missing something?

I thought we had estimated that the energy needed to move an electric vehicle was several times smaller than that needed to run a comparable ICE powered vehicle. It's not just the relatively low conversion efficiency of most ICE engines, but the energy required to keep engine and transmission parts rotating. Factor in the fact that electric vehicles will be made smaller than the corresponding ICE ones. This will happen because the cost of battery capacity is high, and the only way to make the vehicle affordable is to scale down its size and power requirements.

So if we had affordable electric -or even plugins available, they wouldn't be grid killers. As long as the lead time for significant penetration of EV or NEVs is longer than the time needed to upgrade the grid, there shouldn't be any major problems. And given the slow pace of advance of battery technology, a painfully slow transition seems unavoidable.

Pardon me as I recycle a post made a long time ago

Lets use Tesla's numbers here

If we use NG as an electricity source we get a well to station (I assume your outlet) efficiency of 52.5% The Tesla has a vehicle efficiency of 2.18Km/MJ so we get an well to wheel efficiency of 1.14km/MJ.

Crude oil has a well to station efficiency of 81.7%, A prius has a vehicle efficiency of .68 giving us a well to wheell efficiency of .556km/MJ.

But the Tesla number comes from using NG as an electricity source. NG makes up only a tiny fraction of our electricity sources (from the chart posted below) and is used mainly for peak generation. If we use the average effeciency for a thermal electric plant, 31% we get a much different number for the Tesla.

The average thermal electric plant has a well to station efficiency of 31% The Tesla has a vehicle efficiency of 2.18Km/MJ so we get an well to wheel efficiency of .67km/MJ.

.67 for the Tesla is only slightly higher than the Prius at .556.

So if I did that correctly (and please correct me if I didn't) it comes down to how you generate the electricity.
So I'll put the question to you, how do you propose to charge all these EVs (and I guess PHEVs as well)?

Also there has been discussion about this supposed EV maintenance advantage. But in actuality ICE engines and transmissions need very little if any maintenance in modern cars. Most maintenance for an EV and and ICE is pretty much the same (brakes, shocks, bearings etc). The "the energy required to keep engine and transmission parts rotating" is pretty much negligible.

In short EVs are not a huge energy saver over ICEs. But theoretically they do free up liquid fuels which is predicted to be in short supply sooner than overall energy. But then overall fossil fuel energy is going to peak in 2017 anyway http://geocities.com/rethin/

Ironically, the things many EV advocates are trying to preserve are exactly the things that, by their elimination, will free up large amounts of electricity.

Shopping malls & big box retail (with acres of parking) with McMansion Suburbia.

Retail space/capita has grown 1000% from 1950. Pulling back to twice 1950 levels will free up large amounts of electricity.

New SFRs grew from just over 1,000 sq ft (for larger families) in 1950 to almost 2,500 sq ft in 2007 (for smaller families) (since down almost 200 sq ft). Overall, suburban households use twice as much electricity as urban households.

Replacing 2,500 sq ft McMansions with complex shapes (maximize surface area) with new well insulated (and well built) homes with shared walls and simple geometry could easily cut electrical consumption by 80+% /household.

Since EVs are likely to be a "day late and a dollar short", we may get both effects. A move to walkable neighborhoods served by Urban Rail and small EVs for short trips (low VMT > low electrical use).

Best Hopes,


Also, Kunstler didn't read the article from Doug Korthof on www.evworld.com
Refining oil takes a lot of electricity. Saving that could run the EV fleet.

Cost of EVs and availability of advanced battery elements may be limiting factors

Yes, especially with an increasing amount of people without work.

1) Joe SixPack will likely start charging his EV as soon as he/she gets home and not "overnight".

2) Where is the fuel going to come from for the extra GWh demand ?


In colder parts of Canada people use bock heater and car warmers, some have them on all the time but a lot use timers to save electricity. Since we are talking about a lot higher consumption for plug-in vehicles and some will need to be plugged in most of the evening a few JSP's wont crash the grid if using a 110v outlet. He will be using less than an A/C or stove or dryer. With smart meters will probably have much better use of the present grid with little need to upgrade because of EV's.

Where is the fuel going to come from for the extra GWh demand ?
Each vehicle will not be needing 32kWh charge per night(even Tesla that's >200km range most don't drive that each day), the Chevy Volt is 8kWh maximum and many vehicles will not arrive home needing a full charge, although some of these will use some gasoline.
Refining oil uses about 10% of the energy from NG and electricity(say 4KWh/gallon gasoline) possibly saving 50% of the electricity needed for EV's. As wind power continues to expand ( presently adding enough capacity /year to charge 10million new cars per year) so just the 8GW new wind capacity added in 2008 would be able to continue charging all of the new cars and light trucks sold in that year for the next 20 years IF they were EV's. I would expect greater wind capacity additions in future years.

block heaters

Is that why my old Mercedes diesel has a 110 V plug ?

On larger issues, predicting consumer behavior for a novel technology is quite risky.

I know quite a few people who never let their gas tank get below half or 3/4ths empty. Those people will, when coming home, plug in their EV "just in case" they need to go out again.

Add a few Urban legends about someone who did NOT plug in immediately.

Many (most) programmable thermostats are not programmed, the % of VCRs with the correct time (and not flashing "12:00") is low.

Personally, once EVs get high market share (not just those that traded in a Prius for an EV), I expect at least half of EVs to add to the 6 PM peak (primary or secondary peak almost everywhere).

This concept that almost everyone will wait to recharge is unproven and, IMO, unlikely.

Your displaced refinery electricity argument is just plain wrong.

First, refineries & petrochemical plants generate a lot of their own power, often fueled by or for process heat. No refining, no generation.

Secondly, refining is very confined geographically. About half is on the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi to New Orleans/Baton Rouge. Very large areas of the USA have little or no oil refining.

Yes, New Orleans EVs can charge on power that once went to oil refiners. Not true of Phoenix, Las Vegas, New England, and most of the USA.

And thirdly, oil refineries make more than gasoline. Eliminate 100% of gasoline and only half of refining will end. The way I read their "analysis", they assume all oil refining goes to gasoline.


You have a good point that it's unpredictable what people will do, but we will be having a 15 year transition even if every new car is an EV or PHEV, so lot's of time to adapt smart grids etc if needed(but still a short time in terms of expected oil decline rate). If the US was building only enough new wind/solar/nuclear for 1 million new vehicles then there would be a supply as well as a peak issue. While the US has 440GW of NG capacity a secondary peak at 6 or 7pm will not be too serious, but could be an issue as coal is replaced by NG/wind/solar.

As oil becomes more expensive I would expect various distillates such as heating oil, diesel to be replaced by electricity or NG. Diesel trucks have a slower replacement than cars so the medium truck replacement should be a slower process. Hopefully long distance trucking will be replaced by rail.
The ability to rapidly re-charge at truck stops could facilitate the move of medium haul trucks to electric or diesel/electric PHEV.
Truck drivers drinking more coffee!

Hello AlanfromBigEasy,

As you alluded to in your posting: My Asphaltistan would have to choose between charging the PHEVs or running the A/C at night, as the high power draw is nearly constant during our hot summer nights [currently 90F @ 2:15 AM, 30% humidity]. Imagine the nightly power draw for a wealthy family with 4 PHEVS [Dad, Mom, & two teenagers/college kids], swimming pool pump, and A/C for a McMansion. Each McMansion would need its own substation/transformer. Can't be done,IMO.

If those 4 PHEV's were Chevy Volts, you would be charging an average of 0.5kWx4=2kW over 16 hours. Considerably less than the A/C for a large house. I suggest they close off two rooms in summer so they can have almost gasoline free driving.
Second alternative, move to a cooler climate in summer, I mean if you have wealth why live there during that.

Yes, it cannot be done.

Thus the efforts to keep energy cheap regardless of the impact, and following Republican promises of BAU forever.


"Current US fleet is around 62 million cars..."

I think you're off by a factor of four. The generally accepted value for the US (light duty) fleet size is 250M, plus or minus.

See Wikipedia for example:


"Overall, there were an estimated 250,851,833 registered passenger vehicles in the United States according to a 2006 DOT study."

I like back-of-the-envelope calculations and use them all the time to gain insight. But you have to start with the right numbers.


Hello Steve_Piper,

Your Quote: "Current US fleet is around 62 million cars, 25% is ~16 million cars."

Way,way too low numerically. Multiply by 4X to get closer--According to the latest from the US Census:

2006 Total registered Vehicles = 244,166,000
2006 Total registered Automobiles [including Taxis] = 134,012,000
2006 Total registered Motorcycles = 6,643,000
2006 Total Licensed Drivers [All types] = 202,810,000

Source: U.S. Federal HighwayAdministration, Highway Statistics, annual. See .
No 'friggin way we can put batts in all these vehicles. Our lifestyle has to dramatically change to Kunstlerization, Alan Drake's standard gauge ideas, narrow gauge SpiderWebRiding, and Strategic Reserves of Wheelbarrows & Bicycles. Otherwise, the Tlameme Scheme will predominate for a short while until even that becomes unsustainable:


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

Gov's home goes green with solar panels, wind turbines

Lansing -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm is taking her campaign for green technology to the governor's residence, where a wind turbine has been erected and solar panels soon will go up to increase the home's energy efficiency.

With a new sprinkler system that saves water by taking the weather and what's planted into account and a small area of the garage roof covered with sedum plants and a special membrane to keep it cool, the residence provides an example of ways consumers can save money by using Michigan products.

"Average citizens can see a 30 percent reduction in their own energy expenditures through weatherization and just simple stuff," Granholm said. "They don't have to put on live roofs or install solar panels. It's all just energy efficiency."


She is peak oil aware and deserves some credit for promoting conservation and renewables.

It appears things could be inching forward on this front...

European Firms Seek Solar Power in the Sahara

MUNICH -- Munich Re AG and 11 other European companies signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a pioneering solar-power initiative that would feed electricity to Europe from the Sahara.

The Desertec Industrial Initiative is aimed at developing a road map -- and a detailed business plan -- that will clarify over the next three years if such a project would be technically, financially and politically feasible.

If the consortium decides that it is, Munich Re management board member Torsten Jeworrek, who is coordinating the initiative for the 12 companies, said the first thermal solar power plant could be built in the desert in 2015.

See: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124752067580934873.html

However, in other news.....

Debt, lack of fuel, “executive orders” shut down 17 of 41 power plants

SANTO DOMINGO.- Of the 41 power plants available, 17 are shut down or out of service due to outstanding Government debt, for lack of fuel or by “executive orders” of their owners.

On Sunday when electricity demand is at its lowest, the power companies’ output reached a mere 119 megawatts, leading to blackouts as long as 10 hours.

See: http://www.dominicantoday.com/dr/economy/2009/7/13/32584/Debt-lack-of-fu...


How much scope is there to move from oil to gas? Anyone who can avoid dependence on oil prices is likely to want to switch. Here is quite a nice discussion of the rise, and expected rise, of the nat gas industry.

Karoon Gas: a nat gas startup in Australia

The founder and chief executive of Karoon Gas, Bob Hosking, joins Inside Business to discuss the company's quiet rise to success

Mostly behind a paywall:

U.S. Airlines Fly Into Credit Squeeze

The recession, plunging travel demand and a tough lending environment are battering U.S. airlines, raising the prospect of a liquidity squeeze that could lead to bankruptcy filings by winter if conditions don't improve.

The five largest hub-and-spoke carriers are expected to report second-quarter losses, starting with AMR Corp.'s American Airlines on Wednesday and followed by Delta Air Lines Inc., UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, Continental Airlines Inc. and US Airways Group Inc. next week.

Well, I'm not very pleased about this, and hope the Nova Scotia Public Utilities Review Board denies NSP's request.

Nova Scotia Power board approves biomass deal with NewPage

A proposed biomass-fuelled generating facility to be constructed on the site of the NewPage Port Hawkesbury mill is moving ahead, with the approval earlier this week of Nova Scotia Power’s board of directors.


The project is expected to produce 60 megawatts of power, and would require significantly more wood material than the mill currently consumes... The new facility would require 600,000 to 700,000 tonnes of biomass annually.

See: http://www.pulpandpapercanada.com/issues/ISArticle.asp?aid=1000332163

Environmentalists decry clearcutting to produce biomass fuel

Nova Scotia Power is looking at a new plant that would require cutting 50 per cent more wood in the province to produce more green electricity.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2009/07/09/clear-cutting-environmenta...

Mr. Premier: Take renewable energy out of Nova Scotia Power’s hands

THE MERITS of a proposed forest-fed biomass power plant at the Strait of Canso is being disputed before the Utility and Review Board. We should not miss the larger meaning of this event: It gives us another glimpse into our failed alternative energy policy, and should remind us that changing it is as big a challenge for the new government as fixing health care.

Nova Scotia Power is desperate to get some production going — by burning the forest or otherwise — because it’s failing to meet its deadlines under the 2007 renewable energy regulations: five per cent renewables by next year, 20 per cent by 2013. It’s failing because its wind power strategy is failing. That’s failing because NSP chased most windmill contractors out with its command-and-control strategy.


Burn coal, not trees!


Changing generating station operating regimes could cut CO2 emissions sharply without cost:

How to shut down 93% of coal without building new plants or reducing power supply

Posted by Sean Casten on June 1st, 2009 |

To understand the opportunity, let’s look at a bit of simple math.

In 2006, the gas fleet generated 816,441,000 MWh, or 20% of what it could have produced if it had run 24/7/365.

The coal fleet, by contrast, generated 1,990,551,000 MWh, or 68% of what it could have generated if it had run 24/7/365.

If we never built another gas-fired power plant, but simply increased the annual capacity factor of the gas fleet up to the coal fleet’s 68% capacity factor, it would generate an additional 1,845,485,000 MWh, effectively displacing 93% of our coal fleet without the construction of a single new power plant.


Hi Steve,

Aren't many of these smaller gas peakers operating at 20 to 30 per cent efficiency and designed for light duty?


GE says it's brand new simple cycle nat gas plants run at 44% efficiency I believe, although older peaker plants are certainly lower. Brand spanking new combined cycle plants are 60%, while coal can't get over 45% really, and most, even new build, are lower. Plus, the construction costs for nat gas plants are very low, so new construction doesn't increase rates too much.

Plus, the article mentions how the most efficient nat gas plants would replace the least efficient coal plants, and luckily natural gas seems to be much more abundant in NA than was predicted a few years ago, which should keep a cap on nat gas prices, so the increased cost should be minimal.

Probably the biggest reductions in CO2 emissions in the near term (if the cap and trade bill passes, hopefully) will be from the shift to natural gas and wind. Wind still provides something like 5x the amount of electricity as solar.

The niche demand for domestic hot water is economically served by solar today (for almost all of the USA, preferably with NG or propane back-up).

For this few % of total energy use, the trend should be electricity & natural gas to solar.

Best Hopes,


No question, current generation turbines are more efficient, in particular, the combined cycle, as you point out. I'm still left wondering what percentage of the installed base falls within the lower end of this band. Also, is it technically feasible/desirable to expand their hours of operation significantly, efficiency considerations aside, if they were originally intended for light duty only?


Exxon to Invest Millions to Make Fuel From Algae

This might deserve a story of its own. Internal discussions within Exxon must have been fascinating.

- Dick Lawrence

Exxon to Invest Millions to Make Fuel From Algae
By JAD MOUAWAD (New York Times)

The oil giant Exxon Mobil, whose chief executive once mocked alternative energy by referring to ethanol as “moonshine,” is about to venture into biofuels.

On Tuesday, Exxon plans to announce an investment of $600 million in producing liquid transportation fuels from algae — organisms in water that range from pond scum to seaweed. The biofuel effort involves a partnership with Synthetic Genomics, a biotechnology company founded by the genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter.

I guess the real question here is whether you think Venter is making snake oil or not..

Hello TODers,

I am not a climate scientist or a 'climate engineer', but the idea of pumping huge amounts of Element [S]ulfur as sulfur dioxide into our atmosphere strikes me as a dubious proposition:

The Solution to Pollution is Not More Pollution

..The second problem is that sulfur engineering would be difficult (and perhaps impossible) to reverse without risking calamity. As Graeme writes, "sulfur aerosols would cool the planet, but we’d risk calamity the moment we stopped pumping: the aerosols would rain down and years’ worth of accumulated carbon would make temperatures surge." So if we began pumping sulfur into the atmosphere and then realized, after several decades that there was a large unexpected cost -- greater than foreseen fishery depletion, say -- it would be hard to turn back.
If TPTB decide to go ahead with this S-idea: I would expect recovered-S pricing/ton to go through roof. Then, the cascading blowbacks from having drastically less S available for normal usage would make I-NPKS very pricey, then food, clean water, and so on through the numerous products for civilization.

EDIT: If TPTB are even slightly considering this S-idea, then they better make damn sure that full-on O-NPK recycling is going like gangbusters all over the planet first IMO.


Personally I don't believe there is any chance whatsoever that tptb will ever go for deliberatly creating a sulfur aerosol,and The Atlantic makes the reasons why I think so clear.

But if you've ever read Atlas Shrugged and remember Ma Kip ......

The Atlantic is a very fine magazine and well worth a look for any one who is not acquainted with it.