DrumBeat: July 22, 2009

Candide's Garden

The past thirty years have been a period of perceived resource abundance, particularly with regard to oil as the main resource of the global economy. It is oil that has greased capitalist expansion. By contrast, the coming thirty years -- an uncertain transitional phase away from the oil economy -- will be marked by a deficit of resources and a logic of scarcity. This will apply not only to oil and gas but also to more elementary resources such as food and, in particular, water. The ominous, globally shared perception of scarcity will allow an economic logic of protection to appear rational. Together, greater spatial distance and no smaller temporal distance will lead to a partial reversal of globalization.

Instead of a globalized world economy that crosses continental barriers with ease, we will see continental autarchic zones being formed that will be shaped by the military defense of the basic resources available in each zone. We will thus see the logic of imperial expansion replaced by an aspiration to autarchic inclusion (already the EU strategy). The internal market of each zone will reassume economic primacy. This process does not have to end in war. It could well take an ordered course and lead to a multipolar equilibrium, the stability of which -- like that of the Cold War -- is guaranteed by an awareness of what military options are not available.

Opec urged to set annual targets for oil production

Opec needs to alter its strategy and set annual production targets to ensure stability in the oil market in the long run and avert a serious slowdown in crude demand in the future, according to a top Western energy analyst.

Leo Drollas, Deputy Director of the London-based Centre for Global Energy Studies (CGES), said the global financial distress is not the only factor that caused crude prices to crash from their peak level of $147 in late July.

In a study presented to a recent energy conference in Houston, the United States, Drollas ruled out a fresh oil price spike similar to that in 2008 and said prices could settle at about $50 a barrel in the long run.

Iberdrola Results Good News For U.S. Wind Power

The world's largest developer of wind farms remained profitable in America despite an economic downturn and falling fossil fuel prices.

Climate bill needs "off ramp": Senate farm chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The climate bill being assembled in the U.S. Senate should include an "off ramp" allowing the United States to relax its greenhouse gas rules if other nation fail to control theirs, said the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman on Wednesday.

Climate change could put the heat on California crops

A new study from UC Davis, to be published today, found that the number of winter chilling hours, essential to the flowering of orchards, has declined as much as 30% since 1950 in large swaths of the Central Valley, where most of the tree crops are grown.

Only 4% of the Central Valley is now suitable for apples, cherries and pears, all high-chill fruits that could once be grown in half the valley, according to the study. By the end of the century, it says, "areas where safe winter chill exists for growing walnuts, pistachios, peaches, apricots, plums and cherries are likely to almost completely disappear."

Winter chill hours could decrease 60% from 1950 levels by mid-century and by as much as 80% by the end of the century, according to the study.

"Climate change is not just about sea-level rise and polar bears," said UC Davis researcher Eike Luedeling, lead author of the study. "It is about our food security. Climate change may make conditions less favorable to grow the crops we need to feed ourselves."

Ramirez frets over US military in Colombia

Venezuela's oil minister said today he is concerned over plans that would allow US military personnel to operate from military bases in neighboring Colombia.

"It's an act of aggression toward our country," Rafael Ramirez told reporters. "We are worried about what's happening."

Forties Crude Price Slumps After Shell Sells Stored Cargo to BP

(Bloomberg) -- Forties crude slump to the lowest in more than five weeks relative to Dated Brent after Royal Dutch Shell Plc sold BP Plc a cargo stored on a tanker off the U.K. since April and failed to find a buyer for a second shipment.

A cargo of Forties loading between 10 and 21 days in the future cost 45 cents less than Dated Brent today, compared with 28 cents yesterday, according to Bloomberg data, the biggest discount since June 15.

Total looks for bigger bite in Angola

French giant Total is looking to increase production capacity in Angola and is likely to bid for oil licences if the government opens a new tender, a senior company official in Angola said.

The last licensing round for oil blocks was suspended in the first half of 2008, before the country's first post-war parliamentary election.

Gazprom Selling First Euro Bonds From Russian Company This Year

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom, the Moscow-based gas export monopoly, is selling $2.5 billion of bonds including the first euro-denominated issue from a Russian company for more than a year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The state-owned borrower is issuing 850 million euros ($1.2 billion) of 5 1/2-year notes, Russia’s first deal in the common European currency since June 2008. It’s also selling $1.3 billion of dollar notes, the third deal in the U.S. currency by a Russian company this year, Bloomberg data show.

In Pursuit of Natural Gas, Companies Inch Ever Closer To a Nuclear Blast Site

The goal of the Rulison detonation was to unlock natural gas deposits deep underground. The bomb succeeded in doing just that, but there was a catch: The gas released from underground was too radioactive to sell, prompting the energy department to ban drilling below 6,000 feet on the 40-acre site.

The Colorado State Oil and Gas Conservation Commission enacted wider restrictions, requiring a hearing when an application is received to drill within a three-mile radius of ground zero.

Forty years after the blast, the natural gas industry has proliferated in Colorado’s gas rich Piceance Basin, and dozens of gas wells are located within three miles of the site.

PG&E, citing infrastructure, seeks rate hikes

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. wants to raise its electricity rates 6.5 percent in 2011 to fund repairs to its aging power grid, the utility said Monday.

Charles Gibson anchors a well-oiled ABC News special

Oil is as rich a subject as ever, if not more, with many meanings for many people.

"ABC World News" anchor Charles Gibson pumps out various aspects in "Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil," a new ABC documentary airing Wednesday, July 22. In considering everyone from speculators who price oil to consumers who need it to run cars and heat homes, Gibson covers a lot of territory -- also with his own mileage during the hour, which takes him from New York's Wall Street to the Gulf of Mexico.

..."You report the price of oil each night, but I didn't know how that was derived," he says. "We're in an unsustainable situation at the moment, in terms of the amount of oil we consume ... . The world's demand for oil is getting so much greater, it's going to get more expensive for the United States all the time just with supply and demand.

"We have to get to alternative fuels," Gibson says. "There's an interesting question of whether Americans will go to smaller cars, as the Obama administration seems to want, but I suspect Americans want larger cars. It's what we're used to, our highways are designed for them, and there's the so-called 'soccer mom' movement that minivans and SUVs are made for."

Slovenia least prepared for gas crisis

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (UPI) -- European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs singled out Slovenia as the least prepared for a natural gas crisis of all member states.

The European Union declared energy security a top priority, calling on all member states to appoint a gas supply czar, determine any risks and recommend the necessary actions to prevent an energy crisis.

Petrobras case threatens Brazil’s boom

It may be the worst crisis in Petrobras’s history, says the company’s president, and it comes as Brazil’s state-owned oil group is ratcheting up development of the country’s potentially vast deep-water oilfields.

Last week, members were selected for a Brazilian parliamentary investigation committee (CPI) into allegations of fraud, corruption, over-invoicing and tax avoidance by the company.

The inquiry, which begins hearings next month, risks complicating the Brazilian government’s efforts to set eagerly awaited new regulations to cover some of the world’s few big, unexploited oil reserves, which some analysts say place Brazil on the cusp of a new oil boom.

Calif. budget plan includes new offshore oil

LOS ANGELES – The deal to close California's $26 billion budget deficit included a plan to drill for offshore oil, drawing allegations that the fiscal crisis was used for a backroom deal following rejection of the idea by state regulators earlier this year.

Democrats agreed to Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's request to expand drilling from an existing platform off Santa Barbara to generate a one-time $100 million advance royalty payment this fiscal year and an estimated $1.8 billion in royalties over 14 years.

Oxy Bulks Up on Low-Cost U.S. Oil Production

For nearly two decades, Occidental Petroleum Corp. (OXY) has been bulking up in producing oil in the U.S., exploiting low-cost opportunities while its competitors look abroad.

While Occidental, the fourth-largest U.S. oil and gas company by market value, has also made significant investments in the Middle East and in Latin America, the company has remained committed to keeping most of its reserves inside U.S. borders.

That's a marked change from 1990 when Occidental produced little oil and gas from U.S. sources. Now, production in the U.S. accounts for 70% of Occidental's reserves of about three billion barrels of oil equivalent -- the largest percentage of any major oil company. Occidental has built up those reserves by finding opportunities onshore and away from headline-grabbing -- and often expensive -- new oil and gas finds in the U.S.

Tropical storm unlikely in Atlantic basin: NHC

If either system, however, does develop into a tropical storm with winds of 39 to 73 miles per hour, it would be named Ana, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.

By this time last year, there were already four named storms in the Atlantic basin.

Brazil plans social fund from oil money

Brazil may create a fund to pay for education and other social programmes using cash from sales of oil from recently discovered fields off the nation’s coast, Cabinet Chief Dilma Rousseff said.

New regulations to govern the exploration of the so-called pre-salt fields may include a “new social fund” to ensure Brazil’s population benefits from the nation’s oil wealth, Rousseff told reporters today in Washington.

ANALYSIS - China still a distant challenger as Asia bunker hub

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's marine fuel market looks poised to double in size in the next few years to become Asia's second largest, but it will be cold comfort for traders watching dwindling demand for similar quality fuel oil from the power sector.

Oman bumps up oil output

Non-Opec producer Oman's average oil production increased by 6.9% year on year, to come in at 789,800 barrels per day in the first five months of the year, according to official data published today.

The Gulf Arab state is targeting average output of 800,000 bpd this year, up from 757,000 bpd in 2008, a Reuters report said.

Sakhalin Exports 200th Oil Cargo From Gazprom-Shell Venture

(Bloomberg) -- Sakhalin Energy, the OAO Gazprom-led joint venture in Russia’s far eastern Sakhalin Island, exported its 200th crude oil cargo since production began in 1999.

The tanker, also called Sakhalin Island, will deliver 100,000 tons of oil from offshore facilities in the Sea of Okhotsk to a refinery in South Korea, the venture said in an e- mailed statement today. The partners loaded Russia’s first commercial export cargo of liquefied natural gas in March.

Oil & Gas Returns to Pakistan Insurgency Region

(Bloomberg) -- Oil & Gas Development Co. plans to drill in Baluchistan for the first time in six years as the government increases security against attacks from insurgents, tapping a region that holds half of Pakistan’s gas reserves.

Nigerian militants free 6 oil tanker hostages

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Nigerian militants have freed six crew members abducted earlier this month from an oil tanker, a Norwegian oil services company said.

Eni Ends Export Limits on Nigerian Brass Oil Exports

(Bloomberg) -- Eni SpA, Italy’s largest oil refiner, ended export restrictions on shipments of Nigeria’s Brass crude, the second indication in as many days that the security situation in Africa’s largest producer is easing.

The Rome-based company halted two so-called force majeure declarations on Brass exports announced in June and earlier this month, a company spokesman said on condition of anonymity. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s largest oil company, yesterday said it resumed production of Nigeria’s EA crude blend after stopping more than three years ago because of security concerns.

Petrol shortage threat if workers strike

PETROL stations across South Africa could soon be running dry if workers in the petroleum sector, who are still discussing a wage increase offer from their employers, decide to down tools.

The workers – represented by the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union – are yet to decide whether to accept a 9.5% wage increase offer.

Arbitration panel gives oil field to Sudan

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – An international arbitration panel on Wednesday awarded the Sudanese government control over almost all major oil reserves in a disputed region of Sudan that erupted into violence between state forces and southern rebels last year.

The arbitration is a crucial test for a 2005 agreement that ended 20 years of warfare between the government and the southern Sudanese insurgents. Both sides said they accepted the decision and southern officials said they would accept it as a step toward permanent peace.

Why Kurds vs. Arabs Could Be Iraq's Next Civil War

With a projected capacity of about 40,000 barrels a day, the new oil refinery inaugurated Saturday by the Kurdish regional government of northern Iraq on Saturday is modest even by the standards of Iraq's dilapidated oil industry. But its significance shouldn't be underestimated: In Kurdish minds, the region's ability to refine the oil it pumps is a vital step towards deepening its autonomy from the Arab-majority remainder of Iraq.

EU probes Austria's green electricity act

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission opened an in-depth investigation into Austria's new green electricity act on Wednesday because of concerns it may favor large energy consumers.

German automakers drive toward gas-electric hybrids

After years of championing diesel power, high-end German automakers are rushing into hybrids.

They aren't abandoning diesels — more are coming. And they know gasoline engines will dominate sales for the foreseeable future.

But they've decided hybrids are the best way to improve their green image, boost fuel economy to help meet tight 2016 U.S. standards that favor hybrids and target what looks to be a bigger market.

Nissan to produce electric fuel cells in Sunderland

LONDON (AFP) – Nissan is to invest 200 million pounds to build electric car batteries in Sunderland, in a move that was hailed on Tuesday as a bold step towards turning Britain into a global leader in green auto making.

The move will create 350 jobs in Sunderland, and makes it a contender to build the Japanese car giant's new generation of electric vehicles.

Verbund, Siemens Plan Austrian Grid for Electric Cars

(Bloomberg) -- Verbund, Austria’s largest utility, Siemens AG and several partners plan to invest as much as 50 million euros ($71 million) to build the Alpine country’s first power network for recharging electric cars.

Mountaintop mining legacy: Destroying Appalachian streams

Of all the environmental problems caused by mountaintop projects — decapitated peaks, deforestation, the significant carbon footprint — scientists have found that valley fills do the most damage because they destroy headwater streams and surrounding forests, which are crucial to the workings of mountain ecosystems.

US moving toward strong climate action

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States has undergone an important mood-shift on climate change and is on the path toward "strong climate action," a key UN official said here Tuesday.

"The mood is completely different now... There's a sense that the country's on the move toward strong climate action," Michael Zammit Cutajar, who chairs the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) working group on long-term cooperative action, told reporters.

UN climate expert warns against carbon tariffs

WASHINGTON – The head of a U.N. panel on the science of climate change says trade tariffs in a House-passed bill to limit heat-trapping pollution have only served to irritate international negotiations and could undermine U.S. efforts to persuade developing countries to enter into a new global warming treaty.

Rajendra Pachauri, whose Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore in 2007, told The Associated Press that lawmakers should remove the tariff provision, which in 2020 would impose a "border adjustment" on goods from countries that do not limit the gases linked to global warming.

He warned that developing countries could in turn tax U.S. exports, which are probably some of the most carbon-intensive in the world.

IPCC chief: Benefits of tackling climate change will balance cost of action

Measures needed to tackle global warming could save economies more money than they cost, the world's top climate change expert said today.

Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told the Guardian: "The cost could undoubtedly be negative overall." This is because of the additional benefits that reducing greenhouse gas emissions could bring, beyond limiting temperature rises.

Climate change: Bye-bye, black sheep?

The smaller sheep that now dominate the flock are also lighter-haired ones, a link that has been proven by gene analysis. Bigger sheep tend to be darker.

Why would coat colour make a difference?

The answer, suggests the team led by University of Western Australia's Shane Maloney, is that, in colder times, sheep with darker coats have an advantage.

Genetically modified rice 'crucial in drought battle'

MANILA (AFP) – Genetic modification may be the only viable way to produce sufficient quantities of rice in the future as drought, climate change and dwindling acreage impact yields, experts said in a new report.

Rice is the staple food of around three billion people and the main challenge facing producers is how to raise yields of the water-dependent crop as 70 percent of the world's food-growing areas turn increasingly parched, said the International Rice Research Institute in its latest quarterly magazine.

System impacts of Windfarms on Energy Cost

A report highlighting the issues of intermittency from renewable sources on the power grid, and thus cost. It doesn't cover approaches to smooth the delivery of power, or smarter cost/demand leveling. Mind you they are all extra costs on top anyway, so its not obvious they would deal with the cost/finance issues highlighted.

Summary report PDF here

If there is going to be a market for generators to be very flexible (short notice starts, low load factors) it might be easy to retrofit old coal plants with a couple of CCGT's to add capacity at a low cost.

Resposive heat pumps would allow demand to be changed almost instantly, and be able to store a few days worth of heat by warming or cooling a building a few more degrees than normal.

HVDC would allow efficient linking of grids over wide areas, and various storage technologies are being developed. It's not going to be a major issue until wind power is more than 10% of the grid, we are a while away from that.

Both the news report and PDF summary are interesting.

The title of the news article is Windfarm Britain means (very) expensive electricity

A recent industry study into the UK energy sector of 2030 - which according to government plans will use a hugely increased amount of wind power - suggests that massive electricity price rises will be required, and some form of additional government action in order to avoid power cuts. This could have a negative impact on plans for electrification of transport and domestic energy use.

The study itself does not say that electricity costs will be very high in so many words, although that might very will be the outcome. What it does emphasize is that there will be a need for a huge amount of backup facilities that will be needed only a few hours some years, and that the market will not be sufficient to pay for the cost of these back-up plants, unless electricity generated by these plants is priced at very, very high levels. Because of this, it thinks there may need to be government intervention, with respect to building these high-cost plants. Ireland is in worse shape than Britain in the need for backup.

Here's an interesting tidbit:

China Financial Markets

I don’t know how much you travel around China. Tom and I do a fair bit, and most recently we were in Guiyang. I thought I’d seen insane excess in the past – 200 thousand square meter malls completely empty next to apartment complexes with 40 thousand units and 30% occupancy rates, etc. etc. But what we saw over there is rather hard to fathom. It seems the Guiyang city mayor had the same idea as the Shenzhen mayor – to move the old downtown to a piece of undeveloped land.

Of course Guiyang has a quarter the population and probably a quarter the per capita income of Shenzhen. They built sprawling new government buildings about a 20-minute drive north of town. And then the residential high rise projects started going up. From driving around the area, Tom and I figured well over 100 20+ storey buildings.

What was most distressing was that the development has been totally uncoordinated – a project with 15 buildings here, in another field two miles away a project with one building, another mile in another direction three buildings, sprawled over what was easily over 30 square kms. of farmland well north of town. Every building we got close enough to see was either incomplete/under construction, or empty. Our tone gradually went from “Haha, another one!” to “Oh my God, another one.” We conservatively guesstimated that we saw US$10bn of NPLs in one afternoon. The only buildings that were occupied were six-storey towers built to accommodate the peasants who had been displaced by the construction.

The writer goes on to discuss financing and debt in China, and ultimately concludes that China will likely undergo a "Japanese-style" contraction.

Here's a strange postscript:

Chinese HT Engineer does it again!

At around 5:30am on June 27, an unoccupied building still under construction at Lianhuanan Road in the Minxing district of Shanghai city toppled over. One worker was killed.
It's the footings that give it away - like what you might use around a fencepost.

There are pictures of the building lying on its side. The thing that is odd is that the building doesn't show a lot of external damage - it almost looks like it was built that way. Yet it is no doubt a complete loss..

And no doubt the flats in neighboring, apparently identical buildings just lost some value as well.

Gives a whole new meaning to *FLATS* now, doesn't it?

Fortunately their set-backs were sufficient to avoid a domino effect.

Possibly on purpose, by now anti-domino set-backs may even be in their building codes :)

This has been around the web for a month.

However, as an example of how not to do it, this one is hard to beat.

The (lack of ) deep pile foundations are self-evident.

The buildings are on ground next to, and several metres below the level of, a sizable, embanked river.

Having finished the building, the engineers then decided to excavate an underground car park.

They piled the excavated earth against the river's embankment, metres from the building.

The freshly piled earth slipped, pushed against the building, and toppled it over.

Fortunately, in the US our engineers are all much smarter than that.


Come on, people. Didn't you read the whole thing?

"Indeed this whole building was made to fall over as part of a test by JL Hoot University scientists to prove how bad British-made windows really are but, as we can see, they failed at that as well."

I have been watching, with interest, the erratic oil production from Russia. July, it seems, will be a particularly good month for them, up near last year's highs. Many don't think they will hold these numbers however. I found this while searching with news.google this morning. (Bold type mine.)

Petroeconomics--the U.S. vs. China

Since October 2004, according to US government statistics, the global oil supply has not grown materially, despite the enormous price increases that preceded the current recession. Will the oil supply now experience a breakout, surging to new levels? Many in the oil business doubt it. Most of the oil majors are post peak production and are at best struggling to hold output levels. The same is true of countries. Research published by Douglas-Westwood indicates that, while 52 countries were post-peak in 2002, there are now at least 66. In particular, Russian oil production is likely to fall significantly over the next few years — some expect by 500,000 b/d (at the time when China will be increasing its share of Russian output).

This is a very good article. More about China than anyone else. It tells how China, well aware of the coming oil crunch, is taking the long term view and securing oil sources for the future. However I found this interesting.

Macquarie, a leading natural resources investment bank, sees oil supply and demand returning by 2013 to the tightness seen in the first half of 2008. This could imply oil prices re-visiting the $150 level. Can the global economy sustain such high prices? The evidence suggests not. The recessions of 1974, 1980, 1983, and 1991 were all linked to high oil prices.

Ron P.

The connection between oil prices and the earlier recessions has been mentioned on The Oil Drum before. See Jeff Rubin: Oil Prices Caused the Current Recession and Further Evidence of the Influence of Energy on the U.S. Economy. I should probably have included that in my post a couple of days ago.

"Charles Gibson anchors a well-oiled ABC News special"

There is an incredible disconnect between what is being reported in the MSM and what is discussed here and other media space. Like, you know, for real, if only the speculators and producers would stop conspiring to control fuel costs, alternative fuels would be a no brainer. But the political force of the soccer moms..... jeez...

"Mountaintop mining legacy: Destroying Appalachian streams"

Well duh. There's a news flash. Where do they think the mountaintops go? Trucked to a landfill? It's called MTRVF - VF = Valley Fill. F-ing idiots.

Just shoot me.

Reading the top article with Gibson, it just gets infuriating.

We need "hydrogen".

We pull oil from "as high as an airplane flies." It just reinforces the wow factor with the majority of people, that we can do anything. Where's WT's comment on on the North Sea and Texas and the best tech money can buy.

"We have to get to alternative fuels," Gibson says. "There's an interesting question of whether Americans will go to smaller cars, as the Obama administration seems to want, but I suspect Americans want larger cars. It's what we're used to, our highways are designed for them, and there's the so-called 'soccer mom' movement that minivans and SUVs are made for."

One really doesn't know if the proper response to this is to laugh maniacally or just sob in quite desperation.

Somebody needs to slap these people really hard every time they make statements like this.

There's an interesting question of whether Americans will go to smaller cars ... I suspect Americans want larger cars


What Americans want, and what they can actually afford, are likely to be two very different things.

The breakdown of costs is the issue though: I suspect even with significant oil price rises many americans can afford to buy a big car, they just won't be able to afford to run it. (I guess it does depend how much resale prices are factored in to the calculations, but given the depreciation rates for cars I doubt it's a big factor for most.) In theory one would expect people not to buy something they can't afford to run, but in practice...

Like, you know, for real, if only the speculators and producers would stop conspiring to control fuel costs, alternative fuels would be a no brainer.

Pray tell Cosmo, just how do they pull off such a conspiracy? Just how do they control fuel costs. I know of one organization that does have the clout to "somewhat" control fuel cost. And they do conspire, but quite openly, to keep fuel costs high. That organization is called OPEC. Currently they are holding about three million barrels per day off the market in order to keep prices as high as they are.

Three million barrels per day is a lot of oil, but that is what it takes. And make no mistake producers want high oil prices but they also must produce all the oil they possibly can. And that is exactly what all non-OPEC producers are doing.

Speculators on the other hand, have virtually no clout whatsoever. A hedge fund, speculating, might sell a block of futures contracts, momentarily pushing prices down slightly. But eventually they must buy back this block of contracts, and this has the exact opposite effect as when they sold them. In the end, as far as the effect it has on prices, it is a zero sum game. Also speculators are not an organized bunch, they do not work together. They generally work against each other. Each trying to make money at the expense of the other. If one sees prices out of line with demand, they quickly jump in, buying or selling to push prices back in line with what they think the market dictates.

Bottom line, when people make bold comments about market manipulation, it behooves them to explain exactly how they are accomplishing this feat. If they fail to do that it must be assumed that they are just expressing their opinion, and viewing the circumstances, a very wrong opinion.

Ron P.

I think he was being sarcastic.

If that be the case then you have my sincere apologies Cosmo.

Ron P.

NP, Darwinian. I should have used quotes or tags.

Your response does however point to the ignorance of the CG report that's going to be viewed by millions and accepted as the truth. That fills me with despair.

Thanks for the understanding Cosmo. After re-reading your comment it is obvious you were being sarcastic. I will try to be more careful next time.

Yes, the price collapsed last year when the economy collapsed. World oil consumption, (yearly) peaked in 2007 and held there until the collapse in the third quarter of 2008. That demand was driven by China and other developing Asian nations. But consumption in the West began declining a year earlier. The handwriting was on the wall. Some saw it and some did not. The speculators who were long lost their shirts. Those who were short made a mint. That means about half of them made a mint and half lost their shirts. That is simply the way it works in the futures market.

What most people do not realize is that speculators are always trying to outguess each other. And at any given moment just as many are short as long.

Ron P.

And they do conspire, but quite openly, to keep fuel costs high. That organization is called OPEC.


THE European Union fined energy giants EON of Germany and GDF Suez of France 1.1 billion euros ($1.97 billion) for agreeing not to compete on sales of natural gas in each other's home markets.


This week, an Administrative Law Judge at FERC found that Officials at El Paso Corp., parent company of El Paso Natural Gas, violated federal rules and engaged in "blatant collusion" to gain control of the flow of natural gas into California.

Just keep posting about how there are no conspiracies Darwinain.

Eric, this stupidity really takes the cake. I post that there is an open conspiracy and you interpret that to mean me saying there is no conspiracies. No, damn NO, there are always conspiracies, I have stated that fact over and over again. OPEC is a conspiracy. The FBI always conspires, with undercover agents, to trap criminals.

Damn fellow, where the hell do you get off?

What I stated is that there are no giant secret conspiracies that involve hundreds or thousands of co-conspirators.

Ron P.


We are advancing, albeit it very slowly BUT the death of 'soccermomism' is some kind of huge victory in the war against wastefulness, of unabashed ignorance and supreme stupidity of the soccer moms and all they stood for.

I can cheer a little bit as I go to check my tomatoes after a tremendous 4 inch rainstorm that almost overflowed my rain guage.


Apuleius once said: "when a soccer mom cannot fuel her minivan to ferry her kids to soccer, she as ceased to be a soccer mom."

About 25,000 years ago an ice sheet covered Lake Champlain (Vermont, New York, Canada) with more than a mile thick ice sheet. In the Green Mtns. it still gets down to 30 below zero in the winter time there so the sheep need very thick wool.

There seems to be little ability to stop this global warming that began with the retreat of ice age continental glaciers. Contrary to the statements of some politicians a switch to green energy will not bring prosperity to the common person. It might enrich special interest groups. It is likely tarrifs on imports from developing nations will not stop the import of cheap goods from carbon intensive areas nor reduce the expansion of fossil fuels in those areas as they may seek to fill orders for energy intensive goods for developed nations no longer able to afford to produce them on their own.

There is weakness in the statment that tariffs will stop China from using coal. Most of what they produce was consumed internally. They are now the world's leading consumer of autos and are rapidly expanding hydrocarbon use.

I think more effective than tariffs are the predictions that Asia will suffer first and worst from climate change. China is probably politically better suited to taking the long view than we are, so they may actually do something about it. Not to save the world, but to save themselves.

China... may actually do something about it. Not to save the world, but to save themselves.

There's nothing the Chinese or anyone else can do about it. The world, or at least the biosphere as we know it, is beyond saving.

Things are definitely going to get a lot worse and stay that way for quite awhile imo but I think most of the biosphere will outlast us and go its merry way.

I don't think we are going extinct any time soon either-unless thru a flat out nuclear war maybe.

Periods of continental glaciation or "ice ages," and the "interpluvial" periods between them, are caused by orbital forcing. The predominant contributors to orbital forcing - the so-called "Milankovitch cycles (named after the Serbian geophysicist who described the three major cycles) - are as follows, with their periods:

Axial rotation (precision): 26K yrs
Axial tilt (obliquity): 41K yrs
Orbital eccentricity: ~100K yrs

Another cycle, which Milankovitch did not consider is:

Orbital inclination: ~70K yrs

These cycles may be modeled as sine waves (or more realistically as terms of a Taylor series) with periods as given & amplitudes determined as insolation at 65^o N. Using insolation in the northern hemisphere to determine amplitude gives the most useful information regarding influences on climate.

Superimposed, these cycles sometimes more or less cancel one another out and sometimes they potentiate or reinforce one another. When the latter happens the Earth experiences continental glaciation or warm interpluvials, respectively, depending on which side of the mean the combined peak or trough comes. Currently, the Ocean Planet is in an interpluvial dominated by the obliquity term. Net insolation in the northern hemisphere will increase for the next 25K years; in other words, the planet will not experience another ice age for at least 50K years. Orbital forcing by itself will result in an increasingly warmer planet for a long time.

In addition to these orbital cycles and their influence on climate comes the anthropogenic emissions of high heat capacity gasses into the atmosphere and surface oceans. During the Napoleonic wars, frostbite was "treated" by rubbing snow on the frozen body parts. Of course, this just made matters worse. The world is warming naturally, due to orbital forcing, and has been doing so since the end of the Pleistocene. By emitting massive amounts of oxidized carbon and other "greenhouse" gasses into the atmosphere, humans are effectively rubbing snow on a frostbite. Positive feedback mechanisms have been set in motion by human activity that are leading to rampant and catastrophic warming that is resulting in the mass extinction of species, collapse of ecosystems including agro-ecosystems, and the rapid melting of remaining continental ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland along with mountain glaciers worldwide. This melting, along with the thermal expansion of the oceans, is causing an increase in sea level that will inundate great coastal cities and low-lying rice growing regions of south Asia that are the breadbasket of billions.

All of this is inevitable and can't be stopped, even if humans stopped buring fossil fuels immediately. This is humanity's and the biosphere's future. We have set in motion forces, on top of natural orbital forces, that can't be stopped and will result in a planet whose climate is radically different from that to which humans and the ecosystems that support us have evolved adaptations. The rapidity of change outpaces natural selection by several orders of magnitude. The outcome equates to the mass extinction of species including our own.

The rapidity of change outpaces natural selection by several orders of magnitude.

Indeed, and the rapidity of change in atmospheric and ocean chemistry outpaces the rate of similar changes in the past, e.g., PETM, by perhaps four orders of magnitude.


One thing that is rarely noted or commented on:

It used to be until quite recently that people assumed that the earth's climate, and indeed all of nature in general, was a static system. They assumed that things as they are now is how they have always been and always will be. Anything that upset stasis, such as a hurricane, was thought of as being an abnormal event, and thus a bad thing.

We have just recently - pretty much within my own lifetime, really - come to really appreciate how dynamic the earth really is. We now understand that the underlying chaos of natural systems generates its own higher level order and stability. We now understand that the earth has been and continues to constantly change. Continents collide and break apart, mountain ranges rise up and are worn down. Species and entire ecosystems come and go. And yes, climate constantly changes.

Scientists now understand this, and many educated people - like TOD readers - do as well. However, this new way of understanding the earth has not yet fully moved into the general culture and population. There are even many otherwise well-educated "greens" who seem to be thinking that we need to take drastic action to somehow freeze our global climate into some fixed range. That isn't going to happen, because it isn't possible.

If you believe the world is 6,000 years old, it seems like you almost have to believe that climate is always the way it has been.

Charles Lyell was figuring out the great antiquity of the Earth & dynamism of geological processes in the 1820s. I highly recommend that people read his three volume "Principles of Geology," despite their first editions having been published in 1830, '32 & '33. The classics are always worth reading and the Victorian prose isn't as incomprehensible as many suppose it to be. The "Principles" greatly influenced Charles Darwin, who read at least the 2nd & 3rd volumes while on the Beagle voyage. He corresponded with Lyell regarding how his observations after the 1835 earthquake that leveled Concepcion, Chile, confirmed much of what Lyell had written. I may not be too aware of what the general culture & population understands but I was reading the likes of Lyell & Darwin as a teenager. Lyell's 1863 "Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man" is also worth a read altho Tom Huxley's "Man's Place in Nature" squares better with Darwin's insights.

"It used to be until quite recently that people assumed that the earth's climate, and indeed all of nature in general, was a static system...."

maybe wrt climate, but certainly not all of nature:


I don't doubt that everything you described influences climate and climatic cycles, but do you doubt that the solar output is to some extent variable?

The 11 year sunspot cycle demonstrates that solar output is somewhat cyclical. There are other longer term cyclical variations in solar output but the cycle with the longest known period is a mere 6K years. Given these short periods I feel that any influence of solar output on climate is completely swamped by orbital dynamics and anthropogenic GHG emissions. The IPCC says that the contribution of solar output variation to climate change is negligible and I concur.

Here's what I wrote about the relative strength of sunspots (and La Nina) versus AGM in newspaper column submission recently.


“…global warmng b___s___”
(overheard at work a couple of months ago)

The speaker was looking out of the window at yet another bitterly cold spring day. He was implying that since the winter and spring that we had been enduring was so abnormally cold, global warming must therefore be the “myth” that the occasional climate science denier asserts it to be.

What the speaker didn’t seem to know was that there are many other factors that affect our weather besides CO2 and methane. The Jack Frost that was mostly to blame at that time was actually a “baby girl”. In Spanish, it is known as “La Nina”, a pattern of colder weather due to a particular shift in the Pacific Ocean currents.

La Nina’s opposite is, of course, El Nino, or the “baby boy” (more precisely, the “Christ child”, since when the El Nino ocean current is active, it hits the Peruvian coast around Christmas time). El Nino is also a very strong weather force. In 1998, it was responsible for the largest forest fire in Alberta’s history.

But we are now back in neutral territory, since La Nina lost most of her oomph back in April (though May and June have still seen a bit of a chilly hangover now and then).

The curious thing is the general silence in the media over it. The only mention about it that I came across was by David Phillips (Senior Climatologist for Environment Canada) on the Weather Network.

The other cooling factor that had been affecting our weather related to an alarming lack of sunspots over the last year or so. The media has been slightly more responsive on this one, as both Peter Mansbridge from the CBC and Bill Greenwood from the Advocate had brought up the subject.

Sunspot activity usually goes up and down on an eleven year cycle. When there are a lot of sunspots, the planet heats up ever so slightly. And when the sunspots disappear, things cool down.

The effect can be significant. The normal sunspot cycle tends to heat or cool the planet’s surface by about 0.1% compared to the average energy we receive from the sun. The absence of sunspots in the 1600’s that Bill Greenwood wrote about lowered the sun’s energy by about 0.25%.

On the warming side of things, greenhouse gases are heating the planet by about 0.2% (when converted to the same radiative forcing measurements that are used to determine the effects of sunspot activity).

So on the surface, it looks as though we may have more to fear from a potential cooling effect than a potential warming effect. However, whereas La Nina’s and sunspots come and go (and in fact, the latter are now finally starting to appear again), greenhouse gases keep on building up in the atmosphere – and now at an accelerating rate. Part of this is due to China and India aspiring to our middle class lifestyle, but what is truly scary are the various natural feedback effects that are starting to cause a runaway warming of the planet. I have written about these feedback effects in previous columns, so if you’re still in the dark, just type “positive feedback” and “climate change” into a search engine.

But that’s in the long term. In the short term, our farmers in eastern Alberta could use some more heat and moisture. The good news is that Environment Canada is forecasting above average precipitation and above average temperatures for the next three months. The bad news is that it may already be too late for some crops.

As for global warming, we may be too late there also. For that, we can thank the climate science deniers, since I fully expect that their forecasts will turn out to be about as accurate as Wall Street was on the economy.

A pretty good post. But I think some of the strengths of your effects are a bit off. Solar cycle forcing is about .1%. We don't have a way to measure total solar irradiance during the Maunder minimum, so any value assigned is an "educated guess". In any case the concurrent little ice age was a regional -not a global cooling (which doesn't mean the solar forcing couldn't have caused it). The current CO2 forcing is 1.7W/M**2, or roughly .5%, so it clearly is more than a little larger than the other effects. Interestingly aerosol forcing is similar in size to the CO2 forcing, but of opposite sign, other greenhouse gases pretty much cancel out the aerosol cooling. The recent LaNina, was fairly weak, and the correlation with regional weather anomalies is weak (meaning has only minor predictive ability, not that it can't be detected with statistical techniques).

Of course the global data have June as the second hottest ever, hot areas outside of the US more than made up for the coolness in central and eastern US.


Thanks for the patient explanation.
This is TOD at its best.

As so eloquently pointed out by darwinsdog, our present warming situation is in no way related to the warming which melted the glaciers after the LGM some 21k years ago. I'm sorry to say that your lack of understanding of these facts has been demonstrated yet again in your post. Not that you are alone in having this problem, given the continual flood of disinformation from various conservative groups, as documented so well by Chris Mooney in his book, "The Republican War on Science". Please do take some time to learn about the science before you throw out another mindless rant, as you will likely again find yourself the butt of the jokes...

E. Swanson

"Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil," an ABC News special reported by Gibson, will air on FRIDAY, JULY 24 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) as a special edition of "20/20" on ABC.

ABC News

Document the atrocities...

Thanks, I was not finding it on the listings for tonight, looks like The Pres. conference preempted it.

Go to the ABC link and make a comment ...

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending July 17, 2009

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged nearly 14.8 million barrels per day during the week ending July 17, 326 thousand barrels per day below the previous week's average. Refineries operated at 85.8 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production rose last week, averaging 9.2 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production increased last week, averaging nearly 4.1 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 9.2 million barrels per day last week, down 346 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 9.3 million barrels per day, 723 thousand barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 1.0 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 252 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) decreased by 1.8 million barrels from the previous week. At 342.7 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 0.8 million barrels last week, and are near the upper limit of the average range. Both finished gasoline inventories and gasoline blending components increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories increased by 1.2 million barrels, and are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 2.0 million barrels last week and are above the upper limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 1.9 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

After a peak in Oman in 1999, oil has now regenerated enough for them to start pumping more again. What is to say the rest of the world can't do this as well? Maybe the other middle east countries are even pumping at the same rate as oil regenerates? This would mean they can keep this up indefinitely.

Maybe the other middle east countries are even pumping at the same rate as oil regenerates? This would mean they can keep this up indefinitely.

Oil doesn't regenerate. One you pump it out and burn it, it's gone forever. You're probably talking about stranded oil slowly draining into depleted reservoir rock as the field is rested.

Oil doesn't regenerate.

Sure it does. It's just that, unfortunately for us, it takes hundreds of millions of years for it to happen.

OK, I should have said that oil does not regenerate in the same well/field in which it is currently being extracted.

I knew whatcha meant. I was just pickin' nits. :)

I think you meant "fortunately for us" :0

I can't imagine what would happen if we could raise production for another fifty years. Of course, we may just replace some of it with oil sands, shale, and CTL; which would be unfortunate, but, methinks, as we ride the slide these options will be pulled off the table.

Well, unfortunately for cultural BAU but fortunately for the biosphere. How's that?

IMO, if PO came last year or comes 50 years from now, it wouldn't make a whole lot of difference in regards to impact on the biosphere. The outcome is already in the works. The damage is done.

I heard a presentation by Alan Weisman (World Without Us) where he noted that the build up of un-decomposed plant matter (algae) that formed much of the existing oil resource only occurred because plant matter (primitive photosythesizers) was new to the earth, having evolved over millenia in a very different biosphere. Since no species had developed at that time to effectively decompose it, it accumulated at the bottom of oceans, seas, whatnot. Gradually, other organisms came along to take advantage of the energy represented by primary producers. The build up of un-decomposed primary producers was a one-off event.

So, it may be more accurate to suggest that regeneration of oil is unlikely to ever happen again on this planet.

Weisman's contention is nonsense. Self-replicative, auto-catalytic organic redox systems (i.e. "life") had evolved on the Ocean Planet by 4 bys bp. These first organisms were chemoautotrophs resembling extant archaean extremophiles. Saphrophytic and predatory heterotrophs evolved right along with them or very soon after. Evidence for the presence of anoxygenic photoautotrophs - purple sulfur bacteria - doesn't appear until ~2.4 bys bp and that for oxygenic photoautotrophs - cyanobacteria or their ancestors - ~2 bys bp. It's clear that heterotrophic metabolism preceded photoautotrophism by at least a billion and a half years. It's crazy to assert that undecomposed organic material could have "built up" for long periods before decomposers evolved to process it when it's well known that heterotrophism preceded photoautotrophism by such a long period of time.

But, but doesn't that mean that oil probably isn't abiotic? Dang that's hard to believe.

what period of time is alan weisman refering to ? this doesnt sound plausible.

It was an outdoor speech and I had a beer where my notebook would normally be, so my original post is about what I recall him saying. Sorry!

Oil doesn't regenerate.

Oil from the ground? Not in a human scale.

Oil from animals? Rough on the wildlife/population of Obese humans.

Oil from plants? Ranges from been done for generations to trying to make it work via algae.

The energy density of oil means whatever humans exist in the future will use it. Even if it is bio-crops.

Since hitting a recent peak of 980,000 bpd in 2000 (EIA, Total Liquids), Oman has--like many other countries--shown a year over year increase to a level below their recent peak rate. Their 2008 production rate was 760,000 bpd. Having said that, I haven't seen any logistic profiles on Oman, but their overall production has been heavily influenced by the fairly rapid plunge in production in the Yibal field, when the water hit the horizontal wells (which surprised Shell and contributed to a big writedown in their proven reserves).

In any case, Oman is one of the 15 export examples I cited--where observed net export decline rates have exceeded production decline rates. From 2000 to 2008, Oman's production fell at -3.0%/year, while their net exports declined at -3.8%/year.

A 2004 NYT article on the Yibal Field & Shell:


The Royal Dutch/Shell Group's oil production in Oman has been declining for years, belying the company's optimistic reports and raising doubts about a vital question in the Middle East: whether new technology can extend the life of huge but mature oil fields. Internal company documents and technical papers show that the Yibal field, Oman's largest, began to decline rapidly in 1997. Yet Sir Philip Watts, Shell's former chairman, said in an upbeat public report in 2000 that ''major advances in drilling'' were enabling the company ''to extract more from such mature fields.'' The internal Shell documents suggest that the figure for proven oil reserves in Oman was mistakenly increased in 2000, resulting in a 40 percent overstatement. The company's falling production and reduced reserves in Oman are part of a broader problem facing Shell, the British-Dutch oil giant that earlier this year lowered its estimate of worldwide reserves, a crucial financial indicator, by 20 percent, or 3.9 billion barrels. Documents show that senior executives were told the calculations of reserves were too high in 2002, at least two years before the company downgraded its estimate this January.

a public traded company overstating thier reserves ? i am shocked, shocked i tell you that over booking is going on here in rick's american casino.

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.

Before too long, someone may be questioning the Economist Magazine's assertion that Saudi Arabia could maintain their 2005 production rate for 70 years, "Without finding another drop of oil." Of course, at their recent rate of increase in consumption, Saudi Arabia would be consuming 176 mbpd in 2075.

He is the Energy Export Databrowser "All Fuels" plot for Oman's oil and gas production histories:

With no major new oil discoveries being developed, they certainly appear past peak with regard to oil. Natural gas may be a different story, however.

-- Jon

I think that if all human beings were equally smart as you Tommy - we could all find ourself dumbstruck in THAT very same moment - down to the same split second as a matter of fact..

Someone blew it on the ABC special airing today, because the TV schedule shows no listing of 'Over a Barrel, etc.' The article doesn't even mention a time. What gives?

Yes, it is possible to reply to your own post. The only time I've conclusively found for that ABC special, is:

"Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil," an ABC News special reported by Gibson, will air on FRIDAY, JULY 24 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) as a special edition of "20/20" on ABC."

Cslater, you do not need to reply to your own post. If no one has replied to it you can simply hit the "Edit" link and change it.

And it has already been pointed out above that the program was changed to Friday night because Wednesday night was preempted by a Presidential news conference.

Ron P.

Rethinking Consumption Patterns

An operating assumption that I had was that as oil became more expensive, wealthier countries would tend to outbid poorer countries for oil, and we have certainly read case histories of individuals in developing countries being negatively impacted by higher oil prices.

However, what is interesting is that while US oil consumption, based on EIA data, in 2008 was at the same level as its 1999 consumption rate, 19.5 mbpd (after rising and hitting a plateau of about 20.7 mbpd in this time period, before declining to the 2008 rate), many developing countries have shown steady increases in consumption even as oil prices steadily increased. And some posters commented on this over the past couple of years.

For example, here is what the EIA shows for consumption in Kenya:

Matt Simmons was in Kenya in 2005, and he was surprised at the level of motorized road traffic, at a local gasoline price at the equivalent of about $5 per gallon. I wonder if developing countries will tend, in effect, to outbid developed countries for declining oil exports, as the discretionary spending portions of economies in developed countries continue to contract.

One of the reasons that I started rethinking consumption patterns was that I have not been able to find a single example of an exporter, at least one that exported a few hundred thousand barrels per day at peak, that did not show a net export decline rate that was in excess of their production decline rate (or rate of increase in production in the case of China).

Try Denmark, Norway and Azerbaijan. But they are the exceptions.

The statement:

Nearly all oil exporting nations also show annual increases in their internal consumption of oil.

is verifiably true.

Try Denmark, Norway and Azerbaijan

My point was that I had not found an example, so far, of an exporting country, whose production had started declining, that showed a net export decline rate lower than the observed production decline rate. In other words, net exports tend to decline at a rate faster than production (and furthermore the former net exporters, and most exporters with multiyear net export declines, showed an accelerating rate of decline in net oil exports).

Based on EIA data, the net export decline rate in excess of production decline rate pattern holds true for Denmark & Norway. The Azerbaijan section is down for maintenance. Here is what the EIA shows for Denmark & Norway:

Denmark (2004-2008):
Production Decline Rate: -7.6%/year
Net Export Decline Rate: -16.3%/year

Norway (2001-2008):
Production Decline Rate: -4.7%/year
Net Export Decline Rate: -5.1%/year

Adding Denmark to the list brings the count up to 16 current or former exporting countries that have shown net export decline rates in excess of production decline rates (or rate of increase in production for China).


I hope you know that I am a big supporter of the concept of "Export Land" where exports decrease faster than production decline. And I applaud your constantly reminding people of this undeniable fact. This is one of the big issues that is not fully understood in the press.

My main concern is that your message sometimes comes across as a bludgeon without concern for the subtleties that exist in the data. Yes, the EIA data for Denmark from 2004-2008 show increased internal consumption in Denmark. But if you go back only a little further you will see that Denmark is a poster child in Europe for reduced oil consumption"

True, I am using data from the BP Statistical Review, but the EIA data show a similar trend.

I will also admit that the audience I am targeting may be different from yours. I am trying to provide scientists and policy makers with the tools to educate themselves and I know from experience that these people will use any factual errors as an excuse to throw out an entire hypothesis. (e.g. Denmark is a currently exporting nation, not a former one.)

So if you feel I am nit picking, understand that I mean it as constructive criticism so that you can hone your argument for use in a more academic setting.

Best Regards,

-- Jon

One of the criticisms of the export model is that surely many exporting countries will moderate their consumption so that their net export decline rate will be about the same as, or lower than, their production decline rate--once their production starts declining.

So, I have gone back and now reviewed 16 case histories of exporting countries showing lower production (or in the case of China, going to net importer status with rising production). So far, without exception, the net export decline rate exceeds the production decline rate (with the special China case) in all 16 cases. This is over a 24 year time period, with a huge range of demographic factors such as per capita income, energy subsidies/taxes, etc.

Now, the bottom line for importing countries is the volume of (net) exported oil delivered to the market. The EIA data show that Denmark's production fell by 26% from 2004 to 2008, but that their net oil exports fell by 47% from 2004 to 2008. That is my point.

Denmark's consumption decline rate from 2004 to 2008 was -0.5%/year. In order for their net export decline rate to have been the same as their production decline rate (-7.6%/year), they would have had to cut their consumption at about -7.7%/year from 2004 to 2008, or about 15 times the rate that they did cut their consumption. If they had wanted to maintain their 2004 net export volume, they would have had to cut their consumption at about -20%/year, 40 times the rate at which they actually cut their consumption.

So, what is the prospect that we will see an export pattern materially different (from the 16 case histories) going forward as more and more exporting countries start showing lower production? Furthermore, the math and recent examples show that net export declines are very much front-end loaded, with the bulk of post-peak cumulative net oil exports being shipped early in the decline phase.

Again, what I am searching for is an example of an exporting country that meets two conditions: (1) Production is declining relative to a recent peak and (2) Net Exports are declining at the same rate as, or at a lower rate than, the production decline, relative to the recent peak. I think that Denmark is probably the smallest net exporter that I have looked at. Here is the largest:

Saudi Arabia (2005-2008)
Production Decline Rate: -1.0%/year
Net Export Decline Rate: -2.7%/year

At first I thought you couldn't be right. How can production fall AND consumption fall, and then have net exports drop more than production. Then I did the math, and sure enough...

I must ask you to cease and desist. Every time you do more math wrt net exports, you cause me mental anguish.

Then I did the math, and sure enough...

That's the problem. Most people aren't doing the math, and in general I get qualitative arguments against what is basically a quantitative model. But even I am somewhat stunned that every case I have found so far shows that net exports declined faster than production declined.

But even I am somewhat stunned that every case I have found so far shows that net exports declined faster than production declined.

Why should this be stunning? It seems intuitively obvious that this should be the case, doesn't it?

I expected to at least see some exceptions.

"I wonder if developing countries will tend, in effect, to outbid developed countries for declining oil exports, as the discretionary spending portions of economies in developed countries continue to contract."

Shouldn't we expect this to happen to some degree just from simple, if much-maligned, economics? Uses of oil (or anything else) vary greatly in their frivolity or lack thereof, which contributes to 'demand' being a curve rather than a fixed quantity. To a degree, a poor person putting oil to a core and valuable use might outbid a richer person putting it to a frivolous use. After all, said poor person might not so poor that his or her time is absolutely worthless, and said richer person might not be the rare Bill Gates who pretty much can't be outbid on anything. There's really no huge surprise here.

Likewise, Matt Simmons, being a banker and versed in economics, really ought to know better. Kenyan traffic doesn't rise to OECD levels, but while many Kenyans are poor, many are also not so utterly poor that their time is absolutely worthless. The latter may find it rational to drive sometimes because, under most circumstances, all available alternatives will consume vastly more time. (We also see this in the USA, where what is often seen as a major light-rail/trolley buildout still doesn't amount to a hillock of beans in the overall energy picture. Usually it simply takes too bloody long to get anywhere except by driving, so most people, who are still a lot richer than Kenyans, drive, and they even drove last summer at over $4/gallon.) So there's really no huge surprise here either.

Perhaps it's useful sometimes to take economics - in this case the opportunity cost of time - into account, even if some ideologues around here refuse to do so. Economics might not tell the whole story, but its judicious use could cut down on the astonishment and surprises. It might suggest that responses to supply decline could prove more complex than what one might think based solely on ideology and moralizing sentiment. And it might even help us understand how it is that, while the talk around here about transit, biking, walkability, etc. might resonate amongst members of the choir, it leads almost nowhere beyond.

Paul: Good points-cars aren't leaving because car travel is luxury travel compared to public transit. The other problem in the USA is that public transit can attract a lot of undesirables, e.g. persons who are not good public citizens. The other day in Miami a couple transit riders dragged a 5 foot shark onto the light rail train (they were trying to sell it for a few bucks-couldn't get any takers).

I put it this way on the Roman thread:

I guess the question I am asking is will a farmer in Kenya, who buys a small efficient diesel tractor, be able to effectively outbid, in a contest for diesel fuel, a soon to be be FWO (Formerly Well Off) suburbanite in the US who bought a large Powerstroke four wheel drive diesel pickup to navigate the wilds of outer suburban areas?

The answer is yes. The first reason is that he does not need very much diesel for his small plot of land. And the second reason is that the small diesel will increase his productivity dramatically due to timely fieldwork. It's like tilling a garden with a power tiller verses a hoe. Huge difference.

This happened in the U.S. in the 1930's. Farmers were some of the least well off people in the country, but they were able to afford tractors and fuel anyway because of the large productivity gains when tractors replaced horses and humans. A tractor does not get tired.

The FWO suburbanite will be forced to downsize his vehicle by his income situation. The saved fuel will be purchased by the Kenyan and others like him.


You are so right it hurts about that farmer versus the suburbanite.

This line of reasoing is expandable to all sorts of energy usage ;as less important uses are abandoned and more critical ones are retained,the amount of oil used can decline.

But every barrel becomes more and more important as consumption falls,as each barrel still used is burnt for an ever more important purpose,relative to the barrels no longer used.

And as the use becomes more critical,the higher the price can go.

I haven't quite thought of a good quick way to express why I think so ,but I belive that oil use cannot fall as fast as economic activity,in the near term,once some of the more wasteful uses have been weeded out.

Potentially this could mean that there is no upper limit to future oil prices.

The farmer in Kenya will not be able to outbid the warlord down the road, however, who uses the fuel to
increase the efficiency and power of his gang of enforcers when they go to take everything the farmer has.
If you think the ROI for the diesel is good when used on a farm, the ROI of plundering a farm is even higher.

The suburbanite is still f***ed though. warlords and farmers both have something to eat (most warlords
at least are smart enough to make sure there's something to plunder again next year). Perhaps the best strategy
for the suburbanite will be to sign on as hired help, working for the warlord or for the farmer.

Ideally, the warlord down the road will be buying fuel for his farmers as well as his troops.

Not always the case, but the warlords who do will have a competitive advantage over those that don't since their troops will be better fed.

Matt Simmons was in Kenya in 2005, and he was surprised at the level of motorized road traffic, at a local gasoline price at the equivalent of about $5 per gallon. I wonder if developing countries will tend, in effect, to outbid developed countries for declining oil exports, as the discretionary spending portions of economies in developed countries continue to contract.

There must be some metric for this. Something like the Oil used vs. GDP - where again we are the worst offenders (as opposed to the Japanese). I'm curious where 3rd world countries fit into that graph.

Or are there other things that may be better metrics for who will be hurt the most? My guess is that we are continue to be suprised at who fails and who succeeds. I'm certainly curious how this plays out locally. I would also argue, that unlike the US, other more inefficient but less specialized countries (like Kenya) will also be able to weather shocks better (probably because have the easiest ability to increase efficiency and quickly).

Another metric that I hope to include in the Energy Export Databrowser in the near future is energy used per capita. This is certainly related to oil vs. GDP but not identical. And the numbers on population are more reliable than those on GDP.

A country like Kenya may have an increasing amount of oil used per year while at the same time a decreasing amount per person. As the price of oil increases, individuals will have to make difficult decisions about how important it is to increase or just maintain their energy consumption patterns. I agree with PaulS that many in developing nations will determine the increased standard of living well worth the additional money as oil prices increase. Will SUV drivers come to the same conclusion?

So it may turn out that developing nations outbid the West for oil as the per capita benefit of increased oil consumption in developing nations greatly outweighs the per capita benefit in OECD nations.

Rune Likvern on The Oil Drum Europe has been talking about less developed nations outbidding other nations, for example in this post:

http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/5277Has OECD Oil Consumption Peaked?


I'm not sure about my thinking on this, but I'll throw it out anyway:

Does the mix of motorized vehicles not matter? I am thinking that a very great percentage of that motorized traffic in Kenya must be in the form of motor bikes and scooters, small jitneys and shuttle buses, and sub-compact cars. In contrast, US traffic is dominated by much larger vehicles. If my assumptions about the different mix of vehicles is correct, then might one also suppose that there are differences in vehicle miles or passenger miles per gallon? In other words, might it be that a gallon of fuel in Kenya moves a person a lot farther (or moves more people over the same distance, which is the same thing) than it does in the US? Furthermore, might it be that Kenyans would be quicker to downsize - say, selling the subcompact car to a taxi driver and getting a motor scooter - than would be Americans?

If this were to be the case, might the Kenyans thus be able to leverage their greater efficiency and greater flexibility into a little bit of a competitive advantage over the less efficient and less flexible Americans, when it came to competing for motor fuel?

I don't know to what extent such things come in to play, but it does lead me to suspect that what we are looking at is a more complicated situation than might appear at first glance.

Makes sense. The lower consumption per passenger mile travelled would make the sensitivity to price less, a sort of Jevson's dillemma in reverse. Plus, the real cost is the cost of production, not of revenues foregone. David/Goliath??

Islandboy reporting from London here and the differences in car culture here are stark. Many more smaller more fuel efficient cars and a lot more public transport. I guess US cities with more developed mass transit infrastructure would be more comparable to London than say Miami or LA. The main point is that Europeans in general can go a whole lot further on a gallon of gas than Americans, probably twice as far. As a result they can and probably do pay almost twice as much for motor fuel.

I have been looking at the European rail network and it's pretty amazing. It sort of feels like one could get to within miles of anywhere you wanted to go using trains only. For an idea of the coverage those interested can look at this pdf map. Air travel is still very popular and lots of people would never think of traveling by rail but the important thing is that the option exists. An oil price spike could easily tip the balance towards rail and away from air travel and some semblance of life could go on.

I think one thing is common about all societies is that people will carry on their happy BAU motoring lifestyles until they are faced with hard choices like, park the car or buy next weeks groceries. The critical difference is how fast people in different circumstances get to that point and how important the consumption of oil is to their earning a living. A minibus/taxi operator in the Caribbean is not going to stop buying fuel until he can no longer make a living ferrying people around. That point may be long after price of oil makes it impossible for Americans to justify driving a 5,000 lb. light truck a mile to the local grocery to pick a quart of milk or a pack of smokes.

Alan from the islands

"It sort of feels like one could get to within miles of anywhere you wanted to go using trains only."

The map indicates this to be somewhat true in many areas - especially those that are crammed wall-to-wall with people, such as Germany, The Netherlands, and northern France. It appears less so in less thickly populated areas, such as much of Poland and Spain.

In sparsely-populated areas, people will have a real problem if car fuel became really short and enough supplies are not available locally. "Parking the car to buy next week's groceries" will be problematical where the groceries are 50 miles away.

Of course, that situation that would be essentially impossible to realize in a tiny country like The Netherlands, where not only are there wall-to-wall people, but you would have to choose a 50-mile route with some care to avoid leaving the country. And on many Caribbean islands, well, just a few miles in any one direction will get you a dunking.

The geography and demographics of Canada, Australia, and most of the USA and Russia, are utterly different from Europe, with its fussily tiny, densely populated countries, or the Caribbean with its multitude of flyspeck islands. This seems to lie almost beyond the comprehension of Europeans and Caribbean Islanders. (I've heard it too many times to count from visitors - "I knew intellectually, but didn't really grasp, what [overland] distances were like in your country.") So the effects of future fuel shortages will differ in different regions, and this - like poor farmers outbidding richer SUV drivers under certain conditions - should come as no surprise if one simply thinks about it.

With respect to local transit, in the USA only New York City has a large area densely populated enough to support comprehensive rail transit ("the subway"), and most of Staten Island and considerable portions of Queens and The Bronx are not served. Local buses in New York are, of course, essentially rubbish, as they rarely exceed twice walking speed, and (for example in daytime "crosstown" travel in Manhattan) they may at times only manage one-fourth of walking speed. Elsewhere there are other rail services, but they generally cover tiny compact areas (San Francisco Muni) or ridiculously narrow corridors (Minneapolis, Miami, or almost any other "light rail" one can name), so there's some chance one end of your trip may receive service, but practically no chance both ends will receive it.

Oh, and in many places, the trains don't run on Sunday, or late at night (and neither do the buses) - that would cost money and inconvenience the powerfully unionized drivers, who, unlike you, may receive double or even triple time on Sunday. So if you're poor enough to make a car a huge problem, you're flat out of luck, because you're probably also poor enough to have little choice but to work nights or weekends.

Transport is going to have to be multi-modal. Even in places ideally suited to passenger rail transport, like NYC, the rail lines can't take one everywhere.

What will people do in really remote areas?

1. On market day, you will walk or bike or ride a horse to your neighbor's place a mile or two down the road. This is at the crack of dawn, because you've got a long day ahead of you.

2. Then, when several of the other neighbors all rendezvous there, everyone piles into a truck or van (if motor fuel is still available) or a horse-drawn waggon (if motor fuel is no longer available). You are all traveling to the nearest bus stop, which might be five or ten miles away. Everyone shares the cost for the motor fuel or the horse feed.

3. Everyone then piles in the bus for a ride to the nearest passenger rail station. This might be a further ten or fifteen miles away.

4. The passenger train takes one into the nearest town of any size, which might be another fifteen to twenty five miles away. It might be almost mid-day by the time you get to town at this point. You all are going to have to get your marketing done quickly, or all plan to stay overnight and return the next day (in which case, you had better have made arrangements for the horses to be cared for).

The return trip home is the reverse of the above, and it is after sunset before you get back to your house.

This is probably not something that people in this situation would do on a weekly basis; maybe once a month or so at the most, or maybe even just once a quarter.

Variations on that theme will have to apply to almost everyone, everywhere - to the extent that they travel away from their homes at all.

Pandemic H1N1 news regarding vaccines seem to be split in two camps: one camp led by the CDC is saying mid-October and is reassuring, the second camp led by the WHO has been saying that the production is hitting snags with the yield and it will take more time to perform trials.

Updated article from the second camp:
Efforts to improve swine flu vaccine yields drawing a blank, experts warn

Updated article from the first camp:
World's 1st Swine Flu Vaccine Trials Start in Australia

Any insights on who is more right? I think the vaccine time frame may be important since Tamiflu-resistant pandemic H1N1 may be 100% of the flu circulating by then.

I don't think there's much doubt over a relatively early vaccine. It's the quantity that seems to be the problem. The official US position is that

Questions & Answers: Novel H1N1 Influenza Vaccine (CDC)

Q. When is it expected that the novel H1N1 vaccine will be available?

A. The novel H1N1 vaccine is expected to be available in the fall. More specific dates cannot be provided at this time as vaccine availability depends on several factors including manufacturing time and time needed to conduct clinical trials"

It says absolutely nothing about what quantities the vaccine will be available in.

Plenty of articles in Camp #1 refer to 100 million doses (2 doses per person so enough vaccine for 50 million people) by mid-October. I am guessing the "official" statement came from somebody with the CDC.


Clinical trials are expected to begin later this month to test whether a vaccine developed to combat the virus is safe and effective, and the CDC is working with state and local public-health authorities to figure out how to get as many as 600 million doses, or two for every U.S. resident, into people's arms. Results of the trials aren't expected until early October, but officials say they expect to have the first 100 million doses of vaccine ready by mid-October.

I believe that is a badly mistaken report. 100 million doses of seasonal vaccine will be available by mid-October but that won't protect against swine flu.

I can't find any statement on an official government site claiming 100 million doses of swine flu vaccine by mid-October.

Found it. I think the 100 million doses of seasonal vaccine is to be ready by the end of August.

100 million swine flu vaccine doses expected by October

Federal public health authorities hope to have 100 million doses of swine flu vaccine ready by October, as long as clinical trials scheduled for next month go well.

The goal emerged Thursday at a swine flu summit called by the White House and attended by 500 public health and education officials at the National Institutes of Health.

I watched the entire day of the US Flu Summit they refer to online. The 100 million figure referred to was for the seasonal vaccine - some reporters can't tell the difference.

Here's a reporter who actually stayed awake and got it right.

Swine Flu Vaccine Likely to Be Ready in Mid-October

No final decision has been made on vaccination, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the meeting.

But studies with experimental doses of the new swine flu vaccine are set to start in early August, to see if they're safe and seem to work. If all goes well, some vaccine could start to roll out in mid-October, she said.

...The 100 million-plus doses of regular winter flu vaccine are set for the usual October inoculation start. But those shots won't protect against swine flu.

Thanks. That is pretty pathetic journalism to report a quantity for the wrong vaccine -- it was widely broadcast through multiple sources.

CDC briefing on July 17

Anne Schuchat: You know, the yields—what we have heard about yields is consistent with the way we were planning, so while I think, you have directly spoken with companies about what they′re seeing, we incorporated some of those kinds of expectations into our planning, so far, we haven′t heard news that has changed our expectations for vaccine availability in the fall. As you know and Dr. Goodman certainly knows, manufacturing is a challenging business and there can be additional surprises. Based on what has been described to us so far, it′s within the range of our planning assumptions but that doesn′t mean we won′t have more surprises.

If you quote the question replied to by that paragraph above it is even more worrying.

First, going back to vaccine production; I have spoken to about three companies so far that have said yields from egg production have been very low and I sense from them that if they are not able to boost yields with future tests that it could become a real problem.

So CDC is actually planning on low yield: "we incorporated some of those kinds of expectations into our planning,"

Hadn't actually read that transcript but I get the impression they are worried.

I want to expand a little bit on that and tell you that we have learned a lot about this virus from experience here in the U.S.and what we′re seeing in the Southern Hemisphere and that information is helping us focus our concern on preparing actively for the fall.

Google PB1-F2 stop codon if you want something else to worry about.

Just to complete this thread before it closes there are now sourced claims for 160 million swine vaccine doses planned for October. This is based on the US quintupling it's vaccine capacity in the last three years apparently - sourced to Dr Robin Robinson of DHHS in multiple media reports. However this is still a planning assumption and not a prediction. More details projections are expected after August 15th - it will be difficult to back out of this claim if things turn ugly so I hope he's right.

Even so, you don't want to be fighting both a garden-variety flu infection AND swine flu at the same time. That could well be a fatal combo for almost anyone.

The attention given to the flu is taking attention and resources away from all the other infectious disease being kept in check by cheap energy.

Pandemic H1N1 news regarding vaccines seem to be split in two camps: one camp led by the CDC is saying mid-October and is reassuring, the second camp led by the WHO has been saying that the production is hitting snags with the yield and it will take more time to perform trials.


Any insights on who is more right?

I seem to be hearing that the pandemic is expected to really get going once the school system opens. If that be the case, the difference between these two camps won't mean much, as the pandemic will likely be past peak before we get any vaccine. This has always been a race between the vaccine makers and the virus, and I'd put my money on the virus.

The argument in favor of an early peak, is that this virus hasn't been stopped by the usual summer doldrums, which implies it is very good at spreading.

News from EESTOR

Recently we've had this story by Joules Burn about the secretive EESTOR company which claims to develop a revolutionary supercapacitor.

Well, there's some more news now: Dick Weir, CEO of EESTOR, claims that nothing is standing in the way from commercial production by the end of this year.

Lots of bold claims (yet again), but still no more details in terms of physics. So probably nothing is going to change for now: The believers will continue to believe, the others (including me) will continue to claim that's it's all a huge scam.

But at least Weir is on record now. This at least is new for this secretive company.

Good catch!

And I completely agree; Weir has gone as far out on a limb as he can, without actually putting something on the market. We shall see what we have in Q409: a game-changer, or more 'just you waits...'.

(I'll even give him until Q1 2010)

Time on Where We're Spending Now

In some ways, this recession is very different from previous recessions.

And Denninger warns that commercial real estate likely won't hit the fan until a couple of years after residential did.

I fully expect commerical real estate to be at least as bad in terms of severity as residential and it may be worse due to the insane leverage that is usually employed. This will destroy many regional banks (it already has figured prominently in almost all of the bank failures thus far) and anyone who thinks that we will "come out of recession" while there is quite literally another $2-3 trillion worth of bad commercial real estate deals on the books that cannot be refinanced or cleared is simply out of their minds.

What you've seen thus far is just the leading edge of this tsunami starting to curl over; picking up fish under such conditions is not the recommended course of action.

Great news!

UARB rejects power company's biomass project

The provincial regulator has rejected a proposal by Nova Scotia Power Inc. to burn waste wood to create electricity.

NSPI's biomass agreement with a Cape Breton mill called for enough wood — about 11 per cent of the annual provincial wood harvest — to generate power to run 50,000 homes in the province.

See: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2009/07/22/ns-uarb-biomass.html

Surely we can come up with better solutions than this.

Edit: An interesting comment posted by a reader....

I think it is also time the UARB start looking into why wood pellets are selling for 7.00 a bag. Just a couple of years ago it was only 5.50 or so.

Wood pellets users are being ripped off and it needs to stop. I have a feeling most of the pellets produced in this country are being shipped to Europe and we are left with the leftovers, this would also explain the shortage last year....

I hadn't realized the cost of pellets had increased to $7.00 a bag. If true, that makes pellet heat more expensive than residential fuel oil (got to love the irony in that).


Range Announces Second Quarter Results


"From inception, Range has drilled and completed 46 horizontal Marcellus Shale wells, of which 41 are on production. Range currently estimates that of these, 24 wells (those with at least 120 days of production history) have an average gross ultimate recovery of 4.4 Bcfe. Range has posted on its website a zero-time-plot production curve based on the production to date from these 24 wells."


Nice! Thanks!

I have not seen enough estimates for Marcellus to know if these are high or low. Right about the median you were predicting for Haynesville. Lower than the average.

Ha... at first I read that Candide's Garden blurb as saying the coming decades will be marked by a "scarcity of logic", rather than the converse. Sounded about right.

"Where the healthcare debate seems bizarre"


"So people in Europe continue to watch with bemusement as American legislators grapple with reforming a system that basically needs to be junked. Professionals like Ashton answer calls from reporters and try to refute right-wing misinformation that floats around the debate. Those damned lies and statistics.
The only statistics on health care systems that really matter are life expectancy and infant mortality. Both speak to accessibility and affordability. If you want to know how the U.S., the wealthiest nation on earth, stacks up, here you go:
In life expectancy, the U.S. ranks 38th or 45th depending on whether one uses the United Nation’s statistics or those compiled by the CIA. (In both cases, life expectancy in Cuba is higher!) According to the CIA World Factbook, the U.S. has many more infant deaths than its EU counterparts or northern socialist (to right-wing ideologues) neighbor, Canada. While the U.S. has 6.26 deaths per live births, Canada had 5.04. Britain, France and Germany? 4.85, 3.33 and 3.99, respectively."

Yeah but the US is doing a better job of containing population growth...[/snark]

But I bet our health insurance execs have bigger houses, and isn't that really the metric we should be looking at?