Drumbeat: August 6, 2009

Britain's energy crisis: How long till the lights go out?

IN THE frigid opening days of 2009, Britain’s electricity demand peaked at 59 gigawatts (GW). Just over 45% of that came from power plants fuelled by gas from the North Sea. A further 35% or so came from coal, less than 15% from nuclear power and the rest from a hotch-potch of other sources. By 2015, assuming that modest economic growth resumes, a reasonable guess is that Britain will need around 64GW to cope with similar conditions. Where will that come from?

North Sea gas has served Britain well, but supply peaked in 1999. Since then the flow has fallen by half; by 2015 it will have dropped by two-thirds. By 2015 four of Britain’s ten nuclear stations will have shut and no new ones could be ready for years after that. As for coal, it is fiendishly dirty: Britain will be breaking just about every green promise it has ever made if it is using anything like as much as it does today. Renewable energy sources will help, but even if the wind and waves can be harnessed (and Britain has plenty of both), these on-off forces cannot easily replace more predictable gas, nuclear and coal power. There will be a shortfall—perhaps of as much as 20GW—which, if nothing radical is done, will have to be met from imported gas. A large chunk of it may come from Vladimir Putin’s deeply unreliable and corrupt Russia.

The looming electricity crunch: Dark days ahead

SOUTH AFRICAN burglars pay close attention to electricity. A moratorium in the early 1990s stopped new power stations from being built, and by 2007 demand was overwhelming the country’s electricity grid. So Eskom, the national power company, began cutting supplies to specific suburbs for hours at a time. One side-effect of the rolling blackouts that afflicted Cape Town and Johannesburg was that they disabled the electric fences, spotlights and alarms that adorn richer people’s houses, making them easy pickings for thieves. At first the blackouts were announced in advance; later, aware of the risks, Eskom imposed them without notice. Fortunately for South Africans, the economic slump has trimmed demand (and a huge, rushed building programme boosted supply), but it will be 2013 before order is properly restored.

Britain is running short of power too—so quickly that some economists claim, only just tongue-in-cheek, that the economic slowdown is useful. “A recession is the best demand-reduction policy ever invented,” says Dieter Helm, an energy economist at Oxford University. Many power stations are due to close over the coming decade (see chart 1), and supplies are getting tight. The government reckons that, of a total of around 75GW in generating capacity, 20GW will disappear by 2015.

Chevron Plans to Sell $100 Million in Plants, Assets

(Bloomberg) -- Chevron Corp., the second-largest U.S. oil company, plans to sell plants, equipment and other assets valued at $100 million by the end of 2009.

The San Ramon, California-based company disclosed the asset-sale plan today in a public filing. Chevron didn’t specify what types of assets it intends to sell.

Turkey and Russia Strike Deal Allowing Pipeline

ISTANBUL, — Turkey has agreed to offer Russia the use of its territorial waters in constructing the a gas pipeline under the Black Sea, a move that will help Moscow maintain its energy dominance in Europe.

The deal came as more than 15 protocols were signed in the capital, Ankara, on Thursday by Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to encourage bilateral energy, economic and cultural cooperation.

Mexico States May Issue Bonds to Bolster Finances, Delgado Says

Mexico’s budget deficit, which includes the servicing of debt from a 1990s bank bailout, will reach the equivalent of 3 percent of gross domestic product this year from 2.1 percent in 2008 and in 2007, the government predicts.

The gap may swell to as much as 6 percent of GDP by 2015 because state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos may fail to bring enough new wells on-line to offset a decline in output at its Cantarell field, Morgan Stanley said.

Amnesty starts for Nigeria oil region but militants split

LAGOS (Reuters) - A 60-day amnesty period for gunmen in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta began Thursday but key militant factions were divided over whether to take part and critics said it might only bring a lull in the violence.

President Umaru Yar'Adua offered an unconditional pardon in June to all militant fighters who take part in the amnesty, a bid to stem unrest which has prevented Nigeria from pumping much above two-thirds of its oil capacity in recent years.

Why there will always be an energy crisis, part 1

Well, at least an energy crisis for oil...

People often talk about oil as if it were a normal commodity, and apply textbook paradigms to understand why oil should trade higher or lower than it does. Perhaps the standard paradigm for a commodity is that marginal cost must equal marginal revenue. Yet, oil is a special commodity in that it's fundamental to sustained economic growth. Oil packs so energy-dense that it's tremendously efficient. Productivity gains, especially in developing economies, and in the US at one time, are based strongly on increasing mechanical power leveraged through oil. Because of oil's strategic importance, there's plenty of reason that it should trade higher than it might otherwise would. And given the strategic wrangling over resources (such as the Iraq War, among many others), it's clear that oil is not just plain old pork bellies.

U.S. fuel sanctions to hurt Iran, a boon for traders

DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. sanctions against suppliers of fuel to Iran would drive up the price the Islamic Republic has to pay for imports and provide a big money-making opportunity for oil traders able to flout the measures.

Sanctions busting has proved lucrative in the past for the less scrupulous in the opaque world of oil trade and could do so again if new measures seek to limit sales into Iran.

"Oil flows are really determined by market forces rather than politics and that's the bottom line," said analyst Raja Kiwan of PFC Energy. "Politics can be an obstacle, but can't block the flow."

Petro-Canada Short Gasoline at Over 50 Outlets, Sends Rail Cars

(Bloomberg) -- Petro-Canada dispatched rail cars from Montreal after a storm-related power outage July 18 shut units at its refinery near Edmonton, Alberta, causing a shortage of the fuel at more than 50 of the company’s filling stations.

“We are doing a number of things to alleviate the supply situation,” said Sneh Seetal, a company spokeswoman, in a telephone interview. Between July 20 and July 24, the company loaded 32 rail cars in Montreal with fuel to augment the shortage, she said.

Jet fuel probe to ensure no 2010 shortages

JOHANNESBURG — A jet fuel shortfall at Africa's busiest airport will be investigated to ensure no shortages during the 2010 football World Cup, South Africa's energy minister said Thursday.

Minister Dipuo Peters announced a multi-sector team to probe the dropping of fuel stocks at OR Tambo International airport to a two-day stockpile which the airport said was due to interruptions in the country's supply network.

Bangladesh Looks to the Sea for Energy Security

Bangladesh is among a group of the world's poorest countries that may be sitting on top of untold oil and gas wealth, but can't exploit it due to ownership arguments.

But with severe economic problems driving it forward, Dhaka is soon to go ahead and award a string of offshore exploration blocks, including to major international companies like Conocophillips (COP).

Govt studying uniform domestic gas price - Deora

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India will examine a uniform domestic price for natural gas, which is now sold at rates ranging from $1 to $5.73 per million British thermal units (mBtu) depending on source, Oil Minister Murli Deora said on Thursday.

"A study to consider the feasibility of having a uniform cost price regime is being undertaken, the report of which is expected to be made available within three months," he told lawmakers in a written statement.

Currently, the government fixes the price of gas produced from blocks given on nomination to state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp and Oil India, while for others pricing is determined in line with the production sharing contracts.

Clinton Seeks U.S. Africa Gains as China Expands Oil Purchases

(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shifts to economic statecraft this week on an African tour that stops in major oil and mineral exporters as she seeks advantages for U.S. investors in a market where China is making inroads.

After six months of dealing with North Korean provocations, Iran’s election unrest and a coup in Honduras, Clinton will turn to issues of trade and energy in sub-Saharan Africa. She will spend time in Nigeria and Angola, two of the biggest suppliers of crude oil to the U.S.

KBR awarded Yanbu refinery deal

KBR has been awarded an engineering, procurement and construction contract by ConocoPhillips and Saudi Aramco for the Yanbu refinery.

Saudi economy expected to lose SR478bn

A sharp decline in Saudi Arabia's oil income will depress its economy by a whopping SR478 billion (Dh468bn) in 2009, more than the combined economies of Bahrain and Oman, according to independent estimates.

It will be the first major decline in the kingdom's gross domestic product in nearly seven years and one of the largest annual falls in its economic history.

From a record SR1,753bn in 2008, the GDP of the world's oil superpower is projected to crash to nearly SR1,275bn in 2009, its lowest level since 2005, the Riyadh-based Jadwa Investment said.

Saudi takes away a source of monthly dread

Every month the world’s leading oil exporter Saudi Arabia sets official selling prices for its crude. It is an event of major importance for physical oil traders — and, until very recently, of major dread for energy reporters.

For years, the Saudi prices were among the most difficult pieces of information to track down and relay in a timely and accurate fashion.

As if sensing that pain, Saudi state oil company Aramco in June started to issue the prices by email.

Saudi Arabia to build Energy Park

DHAHRAN -- An Energy Park will be established in Dammam, Saudi Arabia following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Saudi Aramco and Oilfields Service Contracting Co. (OSCC).

OSCC will plan, build, own and operate the complex, the first project of its type in Saudi Arabia to adopt the Common User Supply Base concept. Under this arrangement, OSCC will provide full-service logistical capabilities, leaving clients to focus on their core business, i.e. oil and gas equipment manufacturing and services.

Petroplus Gains the Most in 8 Months After Net Beats Estimates

(Bloomberg) -- Petroplus Holdings AG, Europe’s largest independent oil refiner, rose the most since January in Zurich trading after second-quarter profit beat estimates.

Petroplus gained 10 percent to 19.85 Swiss francs as of 12:35 p.m. local time. That values the Zug, Switzerland-based company at 1.35 billion francs ($1.26 billion).

“Operating results were markedly above our expectations, mainly due to higher throughput rates and improved cost control,” Martin Schreiber, an analyst at Zuercher KantonalBank in Zurich, said today in an e-mail. “The company provided a rather positive outlook in the short term,” said Schreiber, who has an “overweight” rating on the stock.

Water Problems From Drilling Are More Frequent Than Officials Said

Methane released from gas drilling has caused a fatal explosion and water contamination across seven counties in Pennsylvania.

Solar power towers have maker beaming

As California and the nation seek to make electricity without burning fossil fuels, a new entrant jumped on the grid yesterday by focusing sunlight from 24,000 mirrors on a pair of towers north of Los Angeles.

The 850-degree heat atop the 160-foot towers boiled water, and when the resulting steam spun a turbine on the ground, the plant built by Pasadena-based eSolar became the first commercial solar tower project in the United States.

Bill McKibben: Four years after my pleading essay, climate art is hot

That pleading little essay I wrote in 2005? It was probably the last moment I could have written it. Clearly there were lots and lots of people already thinking the same way, because ever since it’s seemed to me as if deep and moving images and sounds and words have been flooding out into the world.

That torrent of art has been, often, deeply disturbing—it should be deeply disturbing, given what we’re doing to the earth. (And none of it has quite matched the performance work that nature itself is providing. Check out, for instance, Jim Balog’s time-lapse photography of glaciers crashing into the sea—if we could somehow crowd that thrashing sheet of ice into the Guggenheim for a week, people would truly get it.) But for me, it’s been more comforting than disturbing, because it means that the immune system of the planet is finally kicking in.

America's high-speed rail off to a slow start

President Obama may call a nationwide high-speed passenger rail network a priority, but it's going to take a lot more than $8 billion to make it happen.

Finnish Firms Announce Electric Car Plans

Valmet Automotive and Fortum will develop a new technology and build a concept car for four people that could be driven for up to 99 miles with one charge.

What energy crisis?

Zurich - General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz said in a newspaper interview published on Thursday that US consumers still wanted to buy big, gas-guzzler cars and suggested that GM had to respond to that demand.

Lutz told the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger that the ailing US auto giant had decided this week to ramp up production of big pick-up trucks and sports utility vehicles in the United States because stocks had nearly run bare.

"It remains a fact that the American public buys big, high consumption, cars," he said.

"It is completely wrong to hope that Americans will massively rush to economical vehicles."

Battery Shortage Slows Prius Sales; Will Batteries Hold Back Hybrids?

The Toyota Prius is among the most popular cars under the Cash For Clunkers program right now. But many people who want one will have to wait, as production of the popular hybrid has slowed because of a battery shortage. The supplier of Prius batteries, Panasonic EV Energy, can not keep up with Toyota’s 500,000 annual Prius capacity. While Panasonic EV says it should have its production capacity ramped up to a million units annually by mid-2010, this begs the bigger question;

Will battery packs hold back hybrid production and development?

Run-of-river projects in limbo following BCUC decision

Run-of-river power projects are in limbo after the B.C. Utilities Commission rejected the province's long-term power acquisition plan, according to a local proponent.

How To Live Without Air Conditioning: Syrian Beehive Houses

Houses in North America all look alike; you can find the same gablegablegable or faux chateau style from Calgary to Tuscon. But before thermostats, people designed to suit the climate, and did a damn fine job of it. Justin at Materialicious points us to a wonderful site, eartharchitecture.org, where I learned about Syrian beehive houses.

Harrabin's Notes: Breaking the jam

The Kyoto process has failed to deliver meaningful reductions in emissions and the Copenhagen climate meeting is doomed to failure.

The only solution is to abandon the cap-and-trade approach, re-frame climate change as an energy issue rather than a "green" issue, and persuade governments to invest massively in clean technology to provide increasing energy in a way that protects the climate.

Gas Glut May Grow as XTO, Devon Defy Slump With Gains in Output

(Bloomberg) -- The largest U.S. natural-gas producers may be doing too well at the wellhead for their own good, pumping so much of the heating and power-plant fuel that prices won’t soon recover from last year’s market collapse.

XTO Energy Inc. and Devon Energy Corp., two of the five largest producers of U.S. gas, yesterday reported record output and smaller declines in earnings than analysts estimated. Anadarko Petroleum Corp., London-based BP Plc and Chesapeake Energy Corp. previously reported second-quarter output gains that helped them beat estimates.

Even as they lament a gas glut, the companies have been reluctant to let revenue and profits fall further in the short term by being the first to curtail output. Second-quarter production at Fort Worth, Texas-based XTO jumped 32 percent, and Devon of Oklahoma City had a 12 percent gain.

Iran Poised to Reduce Oil Prices for First Time in Four Months

(Bloomberg) -- National Iranian Oil Co. is set to reduce the official selling price for its main Iranian Light crude oil supplied to Asia for the first time in four months, after Saudi Arabia cut prices yesterday.

Iran’s state-owned oil company will set Iranian Light for September at 9 cents a barrel above the average of Persian Gulf benchmarks Oman and Dubai grades, based on a quarterly formula tied to prices set by Saudi Arabian Oil Co. The premium will be down $1.75, or 95 percent, from August and will be the smallest in seven months.

Petrobras Probe Starts as Gabrielli Faces ‘Crisis’

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleo Brasileiro SA, struggling to meet output targets and finance a $174 billion spending plan, faces a new challenge today as Brazil’s Senate probes claims it evaded taxes and funneled cash to government allies.

The investigation, prompted by opponents of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, focuses on allegations Rio de Janeiro-based Petrobras evaded 4.4 billion reais ($2.4 billion) of taxes, overpaid for goods and may have favored the president’s supporters when it made charitable donations. Chief Executive Officer Jose Sergio Gabrielli denies the claims.

Lukoil Said to Obtain $1.2 Billion of Foreign Loans

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Lukoil, Russia’s second-biggest oil company, signed $1.2 billion of loans with 12 overseas banks, according to two people with knowledge of the deal.

The three-year deal makes Lukoil one of just seven Russian companies to borrow from foreign lenders this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The nation’s borrowers raised $9.5 billion in foreign loans in 2009, down from $46 billion in the same period last year, as Russia’s first economic contraction in a decade prompted banks to freeze lending.

Oil Set for New High in 2009, Barclays Says: Technical Analysis

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil is set to rise above $74 a barrel in New York, passing this year’s high, after prices formed an “inside bar” pattern, according to technical analysts at Barclays Capital.

The highest and lowest prices on Aug. 4 were within the trading range of the previous day, a formation on a candlestick chart known as an “inside bar” that usually indicates the continuation of a price trend, Barclays analyst MacNeil Curry said in a telephone interview from New York yesterday. A narrowing gap between monthly contracts of Brent crude and a “positive macro backdrop” lend support, he said.

Canadian Natural Reports Profit on Alberta Oil Sands

(Bloomberg) -- Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., the nation’s second-largest natural-gas producer, reported a second- quarter profit after production started at its Horizon oil-sands project in northeastern Alberta and raised its output forecast.

Gazprom Will Ship Gas to Asia in Bid to Curb Reliance on Europe

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom, the world’s biggest natural-gas producer, plans to start piping East Siberian gas to Asia, where an increase in demand over the next 20 years may outpace growth in its traditional European markets.

Gazprom will send surplus gas east from the Yakutia fields, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alexander Ananenkov said last week at a ceremony in the eastern town of Khabarovsk, as work began on a new pipeline to the Pacific Ocean.

Report urges separation of science and state

Science and politics mix badly, a bipartisan report said Wednesday. It called for changes to federal agencies and expert panels to keep the subjects apart.

The "Science for Policy Project," headed by the former House Science Committee chief Sherwood Boehlert, a retired Republican from New York, and Don Kennedy, former editor of Science, suggests conflict over stem cells, climate and other science "has left the U.S. with a system that is plagued by charges that science is being 'politicized.' "

For example, President Bush's decision in 2001 not to sign a climate treaty on economic grounds inflamed charges that science was being ignored. The discovery that a Bush administration lawyer had edited climate science summaries (critics argued he softened the certainty of global warming) in 2005 further alarmed scientists.

Adonis defends high-speed rail plan

The transport secretary, Lord Adonis, hit back at airline industry criticism of his high-speed rail plan today as he accused the Ryanair boss, Michael O'Leary, of having his "head in the sand" over the competitive threat posed by 250mph trains.

Adonis rejected claims by O'Leary that investing billions in high-speed rail in the UK to replace short-haul flights would be "insane". O'Leary told the Guardian there would still be heavy demand to travel by air between the UK and Europe because the Channel tunnel is the only rail link between Britain and the continent.

For Panama Canal, a new era of trade is coming

How much of an impact the bigger, better canal will have on global trade patterns remains to be seen. Roughly 65% of the goods sailing through the canal go to or from U.S. shores, and American ports and rail yards that compete with the canal will fight to retain as much business as they can. Cargo from Asia, for example, can reach U.S. markets either via the canal or by docking at a West Coast port and riding rail lines to inland destinations.

Shippers must balance myriad factors — fuel costs, type of cargo, time and distance — in calculating the best route for individual shipments. "It's possible to reach Chicago a lot of different ways," says Paul Bingham, managing director of global commerce and transportation for IHS Global Insight.

But Peter Keller, president at NYK Line, says the expanded canal will send a seismic shock through the business of transporting goods around the globe. Among the fallout: construction of larger vessels for bulk cargo, such as iron ore, and a tougher climate for American dockworkers seeking pay raises.

Arctic Ocean may be polluted soup by 2070

WITHIN 60 years the Arctic Ocean could be a stagnant, polluted soup. Without drastic cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions, the Transpolar Drift, one of the Arctic's most powerful currents and a key disperser of pollutants, is likely to disappear because of global warming.

Baby emissions fuel global warming

Estimates of the carbon legacy of bringing a child into the world suggest that the green choice may be to stop at two kids.

Carbon credits won't work: economist

QUEBEC -- Carbon credits -- to package and trade offsets to greenhouse gas emissions -- won't work, says McGill University economist Christopher Green.

"This cure could be worse than the disease," says Mr. Green, rejecting the argument of Premier Jean Charest, who wants the Montreal Exchange to be the carbon market for all of Canada.

As an alternative to Charest's "cap and trade" proposal for carbon credits, Mr. Green proposes a carbon tax.

Canada: Coping with American cap-and-trade systems

"We're seeing ever-increasing signs that what happens here will reflect what happens in the U. S. more closely than previously believed," said Adam Chamberlain of Borden Ladner Gervais in Toronto. "Government sources have told me that both the provincial and federal governments are doing their best to work with the Americans."

What is known is that the federal government, which has issued a draft carbon-offset plan for public comment, has sought consultations with the Americans on a North American cap-and-trade system. "The government's going to have to come up with some method of creating a marketplace that works inside and outside the country," Mr. Chamberlain said.

Air conditioners cut out ozone-depleting gas under new rules

With an estimated 4 million air conditioners likely to fail this summer in the USA, deciding whether to spend the money on a new system is going to be a common predicament.

What isn't so well-known is that early next year, a government-required shift in what air-conditioning and heat pump systems use to regulate temperature will take effect.

Peeing in the shower: the rules

New television advertisements in Brazil are encouraging people to pee in the shower as a way of conserving water.

Amazon deforestation speeds up: Brazil space agency

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest in June was four times more devastating than the month before, further depleting what is seen as one of the biggest buffers against global warming, official data revealed Tuesday.

Satellite imagery analyzed by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research showed 578 square kilometers (223 square miles) of Amazon woodland was burned or cut down.

That was more than four times the devastation recorded in May, and roughly equivalent to the size of Switzerland's Lake Geneva, or half the area of California's biggest city of Los Angeles.

Limits on Speculative Trading Needed to Protect Energy Markets, U.S. Regulator Says

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Wednesday that the agency wanted to impose new restrictions on so-called speculative traders, not to reduce price volatility but to prevent the energy markets from being dominated by a few huge investment funds.

“I believe that at the core of promoting market integrity is ensuring markets do not become too concentrated,” said Gary G. Gensler, the commission chairman. “I think we would all agree that if one party controls half the market, that party is more likely to lessen liquidity than enhance it.”

Oil Prices to Heat Up Slowly

Looking beyond 2012, questions of capacity haunt the analysis -- not the old "peak oil" scares of last year but the more prosaic issues of maintenance. The declines in price and demand during the past year have already put much exploration on hold, delayed development spending, and discontinued several projects.

Cash-strapped Russia, in particular, has cut out just about all exploration, though recently Moscow did invite Royal Dutch Shell to participate in new leasing in the Sakhalin Island development. Even more significant, perhaps, is that Russia has neglected the maintenance of existing fields, which will limit the draw from those fields for years to come.

Qatar Cuts July Crude Oil Prices on Weak Asian Demand

(Bloomberg) -- Qatar Petroleum, which exports most of its crude oil output to Asia, reduced July official selling prices, reflecting weak demand for grades usually refined for middle distillates such as diesel.

Qatar to Supply Full September Crude Oil Volume, Refiners Say

(Bloomberg) -- Qatar Petroleum, which exported crude oil only to Asia in the past two years, will ship full volume under term contracts in September, refining officials said.

The state-owned company will maintain supply for a second month, said officials at two refineries that hold one-year contracts, asking not to be identified because of confidentiality agreements with the supplier.

Chavez bans Ecopetrol from Orinoco

Colombian state-run Ecopetrol will not have any role in developing Venezuela’s oil-rich Orinoco Belt, President Hugo Chavez said.

“Nothing,” Chavez told reporters late yesterday when asked what role Ecopetrol would have in developing the region, where Venezuela is studying reserves that it says will add up to more than 200 billion barrels.

“Zero,” he said in a Bloomberg report.

ExxonMobil: Green Company of the Year

Oil from algae? Just a sideshow. Exxon's real thrust into green energy is a big bet on natural gas.

Lawmakers reach $2B 'clunkers' deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate reached a deal on saving the dwindling "cash for clunkers" program late Wednesday, agreeing to vote on a plan that would add $2 billion to the popular rebate program and give car shoppers until Labor Day to trade in their gas-guzzlers for a new ride.

Nigeria oil rebels amnesty offer starts Thursday

ABUJA (Reuters) - Niger Delta militants are expected to start turning in their arms at collection centers on Thursday when an unconditional pardon offered by President Umaru Yar'Adua begins, the amnesty committee said.

Yar'Adua offered a 60-day amnesty to gunmen on June 24, in an effort to stem unrest in the oil-producing delta region which has prevented Nigeria from pumping much above two-thirds of its oil capacity.

Attacks have cost the world's eighth-biggest exporter billions of dollars a year in lost revenues.

Toyota Prius top-selling car in Japan for 3 months

TOKYO – Toyota's hugely popular Prius hybrid ranked as Japan's top-selling car in July, clinching the spot for the third consecutive month as tax breaks boosted sales of green vehicles, an auto industry group said Thursday.

Venezuela: Socialism for the 21st Century

Oil prices have begun to rise again in spring 2009 and given the continued global demand for oil and that we are reaching peak oil production, oil prices are likely to grow rapidly again in the future. This will provide Venezuelawith plenty of oil revenue. Foreign exchange from growing exports of natural gas will also increase. The challenge for Venezuela is to use oil and natural gas revenue to diversify the economy in order to attain food and production sovereignty in an economy not dominated by private capital and where workers and communities run the economy. Hopefully these oil and gas revenues will also fund the development of appropriate technologies for domestic production, perhaps in joint ventures with other Latin American countries. This development of appropriate technologies is necessary for the development and diversification of local industry and production that hopefully are environmentally conscious.

How Is America Going To End?

If and when America expires, we probably won't agree on the cause of death. For proof that autopsies of empires are inconclusive, consider the case of Alexander Demandt, the German historian who set out in the 1980s to collect every theory ever given for why Rome fell. The final tally: 210, including attacks by nomads on horseback, blood poisoning, decline of Nordic character, homosexuality, outflow of gold, and vaingloriousness.

In tribute to Demandt, I've gone looking for every possible reason why America could fall. I've paged through the work of scholars who have studied the characteristics of declining and failed societies. I also collected theories from futurists, doomsayers, separatists, economists, political scientists, national security experts, climatologists, geologists, astronomers, and a few miscellaneous crazy people. The result: a collection of 144 potential causes of America's future death.

‘The Great Squeeze’ joins long list of doomsaying eco-films

Our planet’s supply of safe drinking water is rapidly diminishing. We have reached peak oil (according to some experts). The polar ice caps are melting, causing sea levels to rise and threatening coastal areas and island nations everywhere.

The Great Squeeze, a documentary by director Christophe Fauchere (of 2007’s film Energy Crossroads), is full of such apocalyptic observations, none of which should surprise anyone even vaguely environmentally-minded.

UK: Ban sales of poorly insulated homes, says Energy Saving Trust

Owners of poorly insulated homes should not be allowed to sell or rent them until they have invested in energy efficiency measures, the Government’s advisory body on domestic energy use says.

The Energy Saving Trust said that the 5.5 million homes in the lowest two bands for energy performance — more than a fifth of all homes — should also be subject to higher council tax bills and additional stamp duty. It believes that tough measures will be needed to achieve the Government’s target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from home heating by 29 per cent by 2020 and to “almost zero” by 2050.

Garden tour to explore local produce

"It's going to be harder to grow food when there's less oil and it costs more to transport it," Mueller said, noting the pressures of climate change and peak oil.

"Everybody's style is really different. We can learn from each other," she said.

Mueller said the garden tour is a way of getting people together and doing something positive on these issues. "It's what I do in my work life and home life," said Mueller.

Zoning change eyed after N.D. coal projects blocked

Officials in southwestern North Dakota say they will consider changing a zoning rule that could block development of a coal mine, a coal drying plant and a synthetic gas factory.

The rule allows any landowner within 200 feet of a proposed zoning change to block any rezoning. When it was approved in the early 1980s, its drafters probably intended to require that neighbors be notified of any zoning proposal, rather than give them power to stop it, said Tom Henning, the Stark County state's attorney.

Hunger hits Detroit's middle class

DETROIT (CNNMoney.com) -- On a side street in an old industrial neighborhood, a delivery man stacks a dolly of goods outside a store. Ten feet away stands another man clad in military fatigues, combat boots and what appears to be a flak jacket. He looks straight out of Baghdad. But this isn't Iraq. It's southeast Detroit, and he's there to guard the groceries.

"No pictures, put the camera down," he yells. My companion and I, on a tour of how people in this city are using urban farms to grow their own food, speed off.

In this recession-racked town, the lack of food is a serious problem. It's a theme that comes up again and again in conversations in Detroit. There isn't a single major chain supermarket in the city, forcing residents to buy food from corner stores. Often less healthy and more expensive food.

Battle Brewing Over Giant Desert Solar Farm

Tessera Solar plans to plant 34,000 solar dishes — each one 40 feet high and 38 feet wide — on 8,230 acres of the Mojave Desert in Southern California.

Although the lengthy licensing process for the Calico solar farm remains in the early stages, several environmental groups are already raising red flags about the massive project’s impact on such protected wildlife as the desert tortoise, the Mojave fringe-toed lizard and Nelson’s bighorn sheep.

Spanish region to scrap 2.3 GW wind power plan

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's north-westerly region of Galicia will scrap a 2.3 gigawatt wind power plan involving contracts for Gas Natural, Acciona and Italy's Enel, a local government spokesman said on Wednesday.

The project, which was criticised by some of Spain's power utilities when it was approved by the previous local government in 2008 after most of the contracts went to local companies, had been drawn up by Galicia's previous government.

Hawaiian Electric to seek new bids from biofuel suppliers

Hawaiian Electric Co.'s new $137 million generator at Campbell Industrial Park has been completed, but won't be providing electricity to HECO customers until the utility can find a new supplier for the renewable biodiesel it will burn.

Fumes from rotting seaweed on France's northern beaches could kill

Holidaymakers have been told to keep away from beaches in northern France covered in seaweed after doctors gave warning that it could give off lethal fumes when it rots.

A stretch of beach had to be closed after a horse rider lost consciousness as a result of the putrefying algae. His horse was killed. Local residents have also been treated in hospital.

The incident was in Brittany, where green seaweed is spreading across the region’s beaches as nitrates pollute the water supply as a result of intensive agriculture.

Psychology is to blame for humans not acting on climate change, psychologists say

PolarIf you ever wondered what is to blame for the world's sluggish reaction to climate change, wonder no longer. The American Psychological Assn. has concluded in a 225-page report that the culprit is...

...human behavior.

China negotiator optimistic on climate treaty

BEIJING – China's top climate envoy said Wednesday he is optimistic that upcoming negotiations will produce a new treaty to fight global warming, but said developed countries have slowed the process by not setting emission-reduction targets.

The nature of global warming means the cost of failure is too high, Yu Qingtai told a news conference.

China Balks at Greenhouse-Gas Capture Costs in Climate Battle

(Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s biggest carbon- dioxide polluter, is balking at the cost and effectiveness of extracting greenhouse gases from hundreds of coal plants and storing them underground.

China can achieve larger emissions cuts instead by spending money improving the energy efficiency of buildings and vehicles and investing in alternative power sources such as wind and solar, said Su Wei, director-general of the climate-change unit at China’s National Development and Reform Commission.

Pacific islands survival 'depends on climate deal'

CAIRNS, Australia (AFP) – The survival of some of the world's most vulnerable Pacific nations depends on world leaders taking action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Thursday.

Permafrost Could Be Climate's Ticking Time Bomb

Permafrost, or frozen ground, covers approximately 20 to 25 percent of the land-surface area in the northern hemisphere, and is estimated to contain up to 1,600 gigatons of carbon, primarily in the form of organic matter. (One gigaton is equivalent to 1 billion tons.)

By comparison, the atmosphere now contains around 850 gigatons of the element as carbon dioxide.

"Permafrost historically has served as a carbon sink, largely isolating carbon from participating in the carbon cycle," says Jacobson, whose research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. "However, global warming could transform the Arctic into a new carbon source by accelerating the rate of permafrost melting. This undoubtedly would have a dramatic effect on the global carbon cycle."

Jacobson says the key concern is that permafrost carbon will oxidize to carbon dioxide as melting accelerates, causing a positive feedback to global warming. A vicious cycle is created as a warmer climate facilitates more carbon release, which in turn favors more warming.

Heard on MSNBC this morning: We, the USA, have been importing far more than we export and we have basically been printing money to pay for it. Therefore we have been getting the goods for free. Well, that is free for now and future generations are supposed to pay our bills. This is like living high on the hog today by charging everything on our credit cards and then expecting our children and grandchildren to pay our bills. This, the talking heads claimed, is unsustainable.

I mean wow! What a revelation that was.

Also they said that interest rates are about to go very, very high. The reason; China and other nations will demand a higher return on their money before they will continue financing our spending spree.

The link up top: How Is America Going To End? It is a game and you get to choose five of The top 144 scenarios. Most people on this list would choose Peak Oil as one of their choices and so would I. But three of the last four are:
141. China Unloads U.S. Treasurys:
143. Default on Debt:
144. Deficit Spending:

I would put all three in with my five. But I think all three should be one category as they are all part of the same thing.

Ron P.

I think that 141,143 and 144 lead to 135: Hyperinflation: The federal government prints too much money, and it takes a wheelbarrow full of dollars to buy a loaf of bread. Individuals lose their life savings, and the American economy becomes a permanent weakling.

All of this deficit spending has to be monetized sooner or later. Inflation is the only sure fire way to do it. There's no way that we can tax our way out.


Yes, perhaps that is true. High interest rates and high inflation go hand in hand as they did during the Carter Administration. Of course printing money means printing the debt. Greenbacks are printed as they are ordered from the Federal Reserve Banks to replace worn out currency and destroyed or for operating currency which must be paid for by the Fed.

But high inflation has one advantage as far as the debt is concerned, it inflates it away. Borrowed money is paid back with money that is worth a lot less than when it was borrowed. So hyperinflation actually reduces the debt.

Ron P.

"...But high inflation has one advantage as far as the debt is concerned, it inflates it away. Borrowed money is paid back with money that is worth a lot less than when it was borrowed...."

The problem is that most money is being borrowed on a short time frame (see the Fed buying back 7 year treasuries issued last week {by the way this is a very important thing it more or less means the debt IS being monetised despite all the denials}). As inflation increases then lenders insist on a higher rate of return = interest to compensate for the decrease in value they expect at the end of the term. Thus the costs of servicing the debt increase, surprisingly there is no such thing as free lunch despite popular misconception.

Also many of the government's expenses will increase more or less in line with inflation. The bottom line is that with high inflation the government pays more, I believe there is some research confirming this but can't put my finger on it right now.


The Financial Times and UBS see it the same way.

The debt-inflation myth, debunked by UBS


141. China Unloads U.S. Treasurys: Unwilling to finance any more of America's debt, China dumps its investment in American Treasury securities and buys up gold. With America a lousy investment, there aren't any other buyers out there. The country goes bankrupt.

Saying "China unloads US Treasuries" or pointing to similar scenarios as if China was the IRS and could just come collect the funds is one of the biggest economic fallacies out there. China would have to sell a massive amount of bonds on the open market to other buyers, who would themselves be aware that this was going to crush the market. If China was able to move a significant amount of the bond, it is China that would suffer the immediate loss as the price of the bonds would collapse. The only immediate impact on the US would be having to direct interest payments to another claimant. There is no reason China would do this and I will be happy to enter into a bet with anyone that China does not sell a significant portion of existing bonds.

Over the longer-term (which in this case would be pretty quick) the impact would be much greater and more complex. US borrowing costs would go up immensely, particularly as one of the largest buyers would be out of the market and other players could be saturated. The US would have to urgently find another way to finance expenses (print money) or slash expenses (more likely). This would have an enormous negative impact on the US. However, China would also suffer greatly. Their exchange rate versus the $ would soar. Combined with the economic damage already done to the US, this would slash exports to their most important customer. China buys the bonds for a reason (exchange rate management) and it is the US that is pushing them to let the Yuan appreciate.

But these longer term impacts really are not dependent on China dumping any bonds. The more likely scenario would be that China would stop or reduce new purchases, which is possible, but not likely. The imbalance between China and the US is a two way street that reflects complimentary weaknesses on both sides. Some day that may change, but I doubt it is now.

US debt and deficit spending are huge problems that could lead to significant deterioration of the US, but it is not Chinese kindness that is propping the country up and it would not be that simple for China to pull the plug.

Saying "China unloads US Treasuries" or pointing to similar scenarios as if China was the IRS and could just come collect the funds is one of the biggest economic fallacies out there. China would have to sell a massive amount of bonds on the open market to other buyers, who would themselves be aware that this was going to crush the market.

Jack, this ain't necessarly so. The vast majority of the debt is in shorte term notes, 2, 5 and 7 years. All China would have to do is stop buying and then redeeming their treasury notes as they expired. Think about it, if the US could no longer borrow then they would have no money to redeem treasury notes as they expired. This alone would sink the economy. Of course it might sink China as well they would do this only if they had no choice. That is only if their economy sank so low that they could no longer afford to finance our economy.

Basically we have a dual economy. Team 'Chimerica'

Ron P.

I agree with that 100% and don't think it contradicts my points at all. The threat is not from China dumping treasuries, it would be from them halting new purchases and redeeming existing bonds at maturity. I agree that this would either sink the US economy or force a default. But at the end of the day it is, as you point out, a dual economy. China can't hurt the US without hurting itself in the process.

The point I was trying to make is that the scenario of China dumping existing bond holdings is extremely unlikely. I don't think the US is in great shape or has played it's financial cards very well. But the common view that China could simply pull the plug on the US at any time is wrong.

Of late -and with the reduction in many commodity prices over the last year- China appears to be plotting a new course and that is to stockpile commodities. China has basically gone on a spending spree this year and is using its reserves to buy actual stuff rather than US paper (its still buying US paper as it can't be seen to be fleeing that game just yet).

In order to industrialise China needs a great deal of commodities and I think this demand will continue for a long time -its one reason why oil, copper and some of the other metals have risen so much IMO. China needs a disproportionate amount even in the face of a recession.


Hey thanks Earl, this is great. Folks take a look at this video posted by Earldaily, there may be less to the Chinese economy than meets the eye. Looks like it is all a bubble based on their "stimulus package" that cannot possibly last. If that Chinese bubble burst, and it probably will, it could possibly, or will likely, take the US economy down with it.

Ron P.

Ron, i have been hearing this from my Chinese contacts for some time. The economy has been based on exports which have significantly decreased (as have Japan & Germany), the domestic economy is far too small to take up the slack. Lots of speculative property is standing empty. IMHO the government has blown their own bubble to try and keep the people happy.

Thinking about the US borrowing requirements, China has about USD 2T in foreign reserves of which a good proportion are held in Treasuries so I don't think they can finance the US requirements for long even if they wanted to.

Edited to add a bit more!
Fannie and Freddie have over USD 5T in loans and this week a report has guessed that half of all US mortgages will be underwater by 2011 so that's another 2.5+T needed there alone.

A trillion here a trillion there it's starting to add up. With all this wealth destruction it is easy to argue for deflation.

This is what I call REAL NEWS - and directly 'in your face' to say the least.(full screen mode)

Amazing information about China on that video Earldaily. What he was saying is true. Either the Chinese are propagandizing their economic data, are benefitting from short term stimulus money or stockpiling products to sell later. But in any case, it represents a bubble that when it bursts will have a ripple effect on the world economy.

So glad you posted that because I've been in and out of chinese solar and wind making money on equities, but will avoid them for now until I know more information or the bubble bursts.

If the fool "with asset" is stupid enough to get into debt, then sooner
or later the bank will come for their collateral. China is not stupid.
When they feel it the right time, they will come to auction off whatever
of America.

Or they just make sure our children, and children' children keep working
to pay off the interest -- slaves for eternity... Books will be written on how current Americans sold out their future generations -- no doubt about it.

There is no collateral. US Treasury bonds are non-recourse. China can not come and auction off anything. Your comment is a perfect example of the ignorance I was trying to dispel.

US debt levels are a big problem and Americans will suffer for it in the future. But bondholders don't have anywhere near the level of power people want to think they do.

Also there is almost no possibility the US will default on its debt since the debts are denominated in USD and these can be "printed" to order. The UK has never defaulted on its gilts (GBP debts) despite the dark days of two world wars and depression.

IMO, we will chose printing money over default.

The Slate piece is a spin on the 210 reasons for the decline and fall of Rome which I posted in Ugo's last essay. Note the Slate readerships' top 5: Loose nukes, peak oil, China unloads treasuries, Isreal-Arab War, antibiotic resistance. Witty stuff for all its morbidity; the icon for Outer Space Emigration is a giant McDonald's "M" superimposed on Mars, for instance.

Slate readers are about halfway on the dieoff scale, and primarily lay the blame on mankind for what will happen. Peak Oil is at the far left of the 2nd row down, represented by the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz...took me a while to find it.

"Oil Can! Oil Can!"

"The total potential federal government support could reach up to $23.7 trillion," says Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, in a new report obtained Monday by ABC News on the government's efforts to fix the financial system. "
Here are 23 trillion more reasons for the fall. Our entire annual GDP is $13.7 trillion. Our Federal Debt is $11.750 trillion and growing at $100 billion a month. Our net worth is -$63 trillion.
The problem is that the FED hasn't been elected by anyone but our Congress will not exercise any oversight.

Haven't read the article yet but how about the world gets sick of putting up with american interference?

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.


Now that article about the solar farm in the Mojave desert showcases precisely what a barking mad bunch of idiotic carbon-based life forms we are on Planet Earth. Here is a large scale renewable energy source being condemned by ecologists and environmentalist because it will adversely impact on the local wildlife. For crying out loud! Shut The F*** Up you daft wallies! You should be embracing this sort of development!!! Dang fools...

(only in America...!)


"Shut The F*** Up you daft wallies! Dang fools..."

Back at ya, good buddy. Really, there have got to be locations that are less fragile and ways of doing it that minimize impact.

But the real point is that 9/10ths of what we need to do is to reduce usage, starting with the really stupid waste. We need reduction much more than we need more sources of energy.

The permafrost and clathrate time bombs are the biggest stories that mostly still don't get much press. Thanks for posting the article on it. Basically our AGW, bad as it is by itself, is really just the finger pulling on the trigger of a much larger gun--feedback loops (or better death spirals).

The trigger has been pulled, the pre-cocked hammer has now dropped, and the cartridge is in the process of discharging.

Here's the latest unwelcome development:

Sub-Arctic timebomb: warming speeds CO2 release from soil

Climate change is speeding up the release of carbon dioxide from frigid peatlands in the sub-Arctic, fuelling a vicious circle of global warming, according to a recently published study.

An increase of just 1°C over current average temperatures would more than double the CO2 escaping from the peatlands.

Northern peatlands contain one-third of the planet's soil-bound organic carbon, the equivalent of half of all the CO2 in the atmosphere. ...

So the sub-Arctic promises as much doom as the Arctic.

The intersting thing is that the more alarmist the scientists get, the less the sheeple listen. People are just so jaded and bored of it all now. The wolf is being cried on a daily basis. Regardless if the wolf is real or not very few people give a s**t.

I would be surprised to see a 20% drop in anthopogenic C02 in 10 years. Let alone a 50% drop within 10 years which is probably more near to the mark if we want to avert disaster.

I think it's now way past prevention time. It's adapt time.


Hi Marco,
Long time lurker here- (My hrs got cut back so I will probably comment more often in the future.)

"I think it's now way past prevention time. It's adapt time."

Your last 3 words sum up so many things it aught to be a bummer sticker (haha)



It's adapt time

Oh, our ecological systems will adapt whatever way they can.

They don't, however, have any special regard for mankind.

They don't, however, have any special regard for mankind.

Correct Phil.....but here is the only question that matters: whats going to get us first; coatbolic collapse or mother nature?

If like me you've done some hard time at the academy of THEOILDRUM then you could hazard a guess as to the answer to that question!!


At last Bjorn Lomborg seems to have seen the light and has thrown his weight behind a drive to forge a global deal to halt rising world temperatures at a summit in Copenhagen this year. Having questioned aspects of climate change science in the past, Lomborg now says "the basic scientific questions [on climate change] have been answered pretty unequivocally".

So it appears an influential sceptic has finally changed his tune, having had a robust discussion with him in the past this is welcome.

Thank God for Bjorn Lomborg. Looks like we're saved after all and everyone will be weaned of carbon tomorrow.

I'm sorry for the sarcasm but a few things have to happen to the whole of humanity before any meaniful cuts are going to happen.

1)Population control.
2)Reversal of globalisation.
3)Psuedo-Socialist multinational government in place.
4)Complete renouncement of consumerism.
5)Massive crash program of nuclear and renewable.
6)Massive crash program in transportation.
7)Immediate punative changes in all aspects of our lifestlyes.

I took my reality pill some time ago. The way we humans are....i'm sorry it ain't going to happen any time soon that is going to matter. With the other 4 billion poeple in the developing industrialised countires (ie ChIndiaStanUssia) around the world striving to be just like us Amer-Europeans-ozzies.

I tell you what is going to come out of Copenhagen this winter: Hot air followed by some sparrow fart token gusture that MIGHT reduce or C02 to 1990 levels by 2020. If AGW is absolutely correct, which the science for makes a very strong case, then the kind of cuts we need to make....well see my list above.

Do you know what the real cherry on top is? The world economy is so screwed that any self respecting Govenrment that wishes to be voted in with his/her appendages still attatched is not going to agree to anything worth agreeing to - especially if they have to implement ANYTHING that is on my "to do list" above.

AAArrrrgggghhhhhhhhhh get your heads out of the eco-sand.


Marco, like you I have little expectation that the politicians will do anything much. I merely thought it a good sign that someone who was opposed to doing anything about climate heating has changed his tune. Let's see if he has really changed his ideas.

Given our celebrity mad culture it is probably quite effective to recruit celebrities to promote the "cause", after all this is what advertisers do all the time.

I'm not really ranting at you! I'm ranting at a world that is unable to change it ways.

The problem is, as stated clearly by the article, this is simply a fall back position for the ff industry, a way of acknowledging the obvious-to-everyone-who-is-not-a-paid-shill that AGW is real and dangerous, while proposing a "solution" that is no such thing but that can be used as an excuse to essentially ignore the problem and go on burning hydrocarbons, making billions in profits by sealing all of our doom.

About half of U.S. mortgages seen underwater by 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The percentage of U.S. homeowners who owe more than their house is worth will nearly double to 48 percent in 2011 from 26 percent at the end of March, portending another blow to the housing market, Deutsche Bank said on Wednesday.

Home price declines will have their biggest impact on prime "conforming" loans that meet underwriting and size guidelines of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bank said in a report. Prime conforming loans make up two-thirds of mortgages, and are typically less risky because of stringent requirements.

"We project the next phase of the housing decline will have a far greater impact on prime borrowers," Deutsche analysts Karen Weaver and Ying Shen said in the report.

And Denninger this interesting item. A major lender shut down by the feds, for some kind of unspecified fraud.

About 5,000 people were reportedly laid off at the close of business yesterday and the company has essentially shut down.

This appears to be related to the FBI raids on Colonial and TBW's headquarters with subpoenas in hand, and an allegation by HUD that there was some sort of false statements made with regards to auditor relationships.

The impact of this shutdown will be significant; loans in process will not fund, and this was not a small correspondent lender - they were one of the few left that supported the independent mortgage broker and were a very significant FHA channel.

So we're launching into the second "L" of the double (or multiple) L depression.

So we're launching into the second "L" of the double (or multiple) L depression.

Like this?

And on that note- 'only' half a million people lost their jobs last week...

Initial claims drop in latest week

The number of Americans filing first time claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, while the number of people requesting ongoing benefits rose, the government said Thursday.

There were 550,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended Aug. 1, down 38,000 from an upwardly-revised 588,000 the previous week, according to the Labor Department's weekly report.

Ahhh, don't worry- they'll eventually join the half a million folks whose unemployment benefits ran out...

My unemployment benefits ran out

These 5 have been unemployed so long enough they exhausted their unemployment insurance - just like half a million Americans about to face the same fate. How did it happen, and how do they cope without a weekly check?

how do they pay the bills? Quite possible they don't. Everyone that I know of that is unemployed is only paying what they absolutely must. In my case, that means the mortgage, car insurance, and the Internet. (The internet is essential when job hunting, and when what little income you have comes via doing website programming remotely.)

I won't be able to pay my mortgage this month, I don't believe, and all my other loans are now 45 days delinquent. I've been liquidating assets, such as I just sold my 2000 Honda Civic HX, and I have a motorcycle I may unload as well. (I love that bike, though, and in a fuel-constrained world, 80mg is pretty good.)

I've also started donating plasma, which allows me money to do things like buy food, gasoline to get into town, and pay my internet bill. *laughs*

~Durandal (http://www.wtdwtshtf.com)

If you are in the US and have a non-recourse mortgage then seriously think about stop paying right now unless you have tons of equity. You will be able to live rent-free for some time by which time things will be much clearer.

Still don't see a lot of chat about the "downside of growth"... That is, compounding.

Regards, Matt B

PS. Just curious how many TODers continue to live mainstream, more or less. A good percentage? Wondering how to escape much of it myself, but of course, family and friends seem to be the trade-off. I mean, how do TODers continue to pay the bills?

Im afraid that I am a TOD reader that basically understands PO, climate change, resource constraints but I live "mainstream".

I recycle metals (or at least I put them in the tub, I cant be sure what happens after that). Glass, paper and #1 and #2 plastic.

I compost, and pee on the compost heap rather than flush it down the toilet as much as I can.

I have been experimenting with home gardening, but so far its been an energy loser. With my mix of compost and some INPK, lack of attention (due to having a full time job) my outcome has been - suboptimal. A few small peppers and onions. but I feel I have learned a lot and maybe that was the point. Some of it (like the blueberries) will yeild more later.

I drive a 30mpg car (better than the average American - but worse than the average European). But I drive a 50 mile round trip every day. My excuse is the schools in the county I work in are bad, so I choose to live in a better county and dont want to move. I also have a 60mpg motorcycle but for right now dont use it much.

I have zoned programmable thermostats, and I cheapskate the heat and AC to some extent, although if costs went up I would probably suffer more heat in summer and cooler temps in winter. I try to avoid phantom loads, have a lot of flourescent and CFL lights to save energy.

I have a golf cart for in-town transit, very convenient and cheap on a per mile basis - but costs about $100/year on average in batteries.

The cold hard truth is this:

Until Natural gas hit $3 or $4 a therm I am not going to buy a wood stove insert and start chopping my own fuel for winter.

Until electricity gets more expensive (about 2 or 3 times current prices) I wont invest in a tankless water heater, or start cutting back the Air conditioning.

When gasoline hits about $4 a gallon I will ride the motorcycle more often, but for right now I like staying warm and dry in the winter and staying safer in my steel cage.

Until gasoline hits about $9 a gallon I am not going to contemplate moving closer to work (selling ones home and moving costs a lot of money - counting real estate fees etc...)

In essence unless the payback period is less than 5 years, closer to 1 or 2 years, most people wont change a damn thing, because in most cases changes cost money or requires some sacrifice.

People will continue to do whats "fun" so long as they can afford it. That means buying cars with big engines because its "fun" and sends dopamine through their system.

Even though the rational part of me knows that resources are limited and that my daughters generation is getting the shaft, the other part of me (the part wired towards the next dopamine fix) still wants to continue to live the easy life.

Those small token gestures - the baby steps - are a way of trying to mitigate that internal conflict. In reality they dont do a damn thing and I know it. Money talks BS walks (or in this case drives a sporty car).

Perhaps its like NIMBYism, or more correctly "you first".
I know I wont change my habits until energy prices rise.
I would like to change my habits by sacrificing and cutting back but I dont want to be the only one doing it.

So put an energy tax on the ballet and I will vote for it, but unless we all suffer the high prices together I dont have the willpower to suffer alone.

Hi, my name is Phil and I am a selfish fossil fuel addict. There I admitted it.


Don't be too hard on yourself, you're certainly not the only TOD reader reluctant to give up certain aspects of our cheap energy lifestyle.

I feel like I have a similar grasp of what's coming, but you've made some better mitigation efforts than I have.

I also heartily agree that there are definitely parts of the cheap fossil fuel life that I really enjoy.

I readily admit it's going to be mentally trying when reality forces me to give those things up.

I posted an article a few days ago, about how even climate scientists who should know better are still jetting off for ski vacations, etc. It argued that information is not enough. Even the most rational and informed people will not change their behavior based on data. It's just not how humans work.

The article suggested that art might be a better way to really reach people. Which is why I thought the McKibben piece (posted up top) was interesting.

I seem to recall someone on TOD (I think)saying something about an event is needed to get people to act. For instance, in my case, our water situation is really changing people's behavior... although whether long term change occurs is a horse of a different color. I still hear people parroting the MSM line... 'when the market turns around' or 'when the market comes back' or 'when the economy improves'.

Some friends of mine just had their loan discounted by the FDIC 15% just to get a local lender to take it. They (friends) had commitments for a condo construction (purchase, build, mortgage) which they were going to occupy. The bank went under and now they have to sell it because they can't get funding. And yet, and yet... they STILL think they can make money on it. I think not but keep my mouth shut. I'm pretty much the doomer of the group.

Yesterday I was visiting a sister in San Antonio and she talked about schools that were being consolidated, locally owned restuarants doing poorly or closing, post offices closing and car dealership closings. But they finally completed all the road construction on Loop 410 at US281 and IH10, replete with fly overs and multi-level interchanges. And the lone star that seems to get branded on every state and federal project. Throw in some little Alamos for local color. What, pray tell, will be the event that changes our auto-centric lifestyle?

Today I drove to Dripping Springs for construction material. The widening of US 290 east towards Austin continues. To add insult to injury, there, in the middle of an exceptional drought and drepression (new word) were large water trucks spraying the ROW to get the grass to grow. In the middle of the day. Aggggggggghhhhh!

And +100 degree heat for +40 days. Wouldn't surprise me a bit if people started losing it... kinda like what happens to caged animals when the stress keeps coming. Under stage 3 drought management... no watering with sprinkler, no sprinkler systems, no ponds, no filling/refilling pools, no washing cars, sidewalks, driveways and resturants only serve water if requested.

At least the humidity is low... today.

Obesity. There more information available about what makes us fat than any time past, yet obesity keeps going up.

This is a very funny and honest confession Phil! Haha.

But I wouldn't worry too much about it as I'm sure a lot of people who come here are exactly the same -we can't all be Joan of Arc or Al Gore and friends eyes glaze over when you talk from the next decade.

I too deceive myself with a tomato plant on the balcony -"look!" I cry; "I can grow things in water!" (its a hydroponic experiment and doing very well). Most of time I just get blank incredulous amused stares and I can see people thinking Why would you want to do that when you can get them down the supermarket?

But change is in the air and one day my super-abundant tomato plant will show the way to a whole new generation of pissed of sons-and-daughters of current FF addicts, maybe.

"Monster tomato3":oP http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYatPXoTEAM


Thanks for the honesty Phil, though I'm not sure whether I feel better or not!

I guess I'm a little fortunate, having run a business from home for more than a decade, that I've had frugal ways for some time. It helps the missus works locally, kids attend school five minutes walk away.

But of course, there's the eternal battle of the what the right household temperature should be (my wife's the math/science teacher, so should probably know better!) and the like. I know two weeks in Fiji later this year is hardly "walk the walk", but I think of it as probably the last overseas holiday... And part of the kid's learning?

No doubt as it stands, it's a terrible burden on the mind; waiting for things to "go bad" before those I love get onboard with me. Seems an odd way to live. Perhaps TOD needs an "AA" thread for confessions. Or maybe not; might be data overload. :)

Thanks again,
Matt B
PS. I run most of my errands on a 150cc motorbike. If you can do it out of peak-hour traffic, it's a heck of a lot more enjoyable than the tin can.

Hi Phil,

Sounds like you're doing just fine. There are dozens of seemingly trivial things we can easily do through the course of the day that do make a meaningful difference. I once had an office with eight 4-lamp fixtures drawing 180-watts each. I refused to turn them on and by doing so offset all of the electricity I used at home. If I was walking down a hall and passed an empty conference room with the lights left on, I'd dart in and turn them off.

Which raises this question: why do North Americans feel compelled to turn on the overhead lights when there's more than enough light streaming through the windows? And why do they not turn them off when they leave the room? This makes about as much sense as connecting your toilet to the hot water line and removing the flapper so that it flows continuously. It's just plain stupid.

Paul (otherwise known by my former colleagues as The Prince of Darkness)

I suppose it is rather relative. To a lot of people in the small town in which I live, I'm way out of the mainstream. At least it seems that way when I'm walking to work and everyone else is zooming past (but then mention to me later how much they admire my walking to work). To a lot of people here who have already set up their doomer retreat in a remote location, I must seem very mainstream.

I would say that as a general rule of thumb, if you really do understand that the curve for future per capita GDP is going to be bending down and not up, and if you are taking that to heart and are trying to live accordingly, you are definitely not mainstream.

I would guess most of us live fairly mainstream lives. We wouldn't have the means and leisure to spend time online otherwise.

This is something Greer writes about frequently. Whatever you are doing, it needs to make economic sense right now, not just in some imagined future. Especially when said future might be very different from what you think it will be.

Yes and no. Living in a walkscore 77 home, making it more energy efficient (bronze weatherstripping underway, tankless gas water heater, solar clothes dryer, more insulation now & coming), starting to plant (two papaya trees first, fast and heavy bearing), small garden.

Renting two rooms, which lowers per capita consumption.

Walk and use streetcar a lot. By local standards, slightly greener than average. By USA standards, much greener than average.

In the middle of an urban environment, which doomers do not applaud, but may be the better choice in the years to come.

Best Hopes,


Hi Alan,

Are you married? Do you have kids? If so, are they happy to go along?

I have a real passion for building (recently completed a largish two-storey extension with my own hands, with my retired dad as a part-time lacky) and love the idea of buying well away from the city; going rural, fishing in a stream, doing my own thing.

I'm still young enough to do it, know I could. But...

* I'd be on my own.
* Real estate is still way over-priced (Melbourne, Australia).
* The water situation is becoming dire (the multi-billion dollar desal plant is still two or three years away - and is just for the city).
* I'm a bit of a pussy with the creepy-crawlies. :)

If things do take a turn ten years down the track, I suspect I'll still be here, in MS. Which is the hard bit to get my brain around. It's a pickle.

Regards, Matt B

No, and no children.


Detriot is already far ahead of the rest of the country with respect to the oncoming energy decline... Heck, they don't have supermarkets and are cultivating urban farms...

Hunger hits Detroit's middle class

All I have to say is thanks to the incompetent Detriot politicians like Kwame Kilpatrick for making things so bad that folks in Detroit will have a head start when things go post-peak.

Geckolizard -

I noticed that you twice spelled Detroit as 'Detriot.'

Maybe you are prophetic, and 'Det -RIOT' may soon turn out to be the more descriptive name. Time of course will tell.

Well... Srory for the jubmled spleling... I'd like to agree with you, but what probably will happen to Detroit is something along the lines of what happened to Gary, Indiana...

This is really kind of creepy...

Medical Papers by Ghostwriters Pushed Therapy

Newly unveiled court documents show that ghostwriters paid by a pharmaceutical company played a major role in producing 26 scientific papers backing the use of hormone replacement therapy in women, suggesting that the level of hidden industry influence on medical literature is broader than previously known.

Merck did something similar to promote Fosomax and Vioxx. The papers were genuine reprinted and summarized articles, but the journal they were in (Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine) was fake. Only articles favorable to Merck products were printed.

it really doesn't surprise me. the fda is drug company compliant.

This is just more proof confirming my long held belief that the medical-industrial complex is a complete joke filled with liars and quacks.

The best thing anyone can do is make healthy choices that keep you OUT of the medical-industrial complex.

For me, this boils down to:

1) Eat a balanced diet based on quality food.
2) Get regular exercise and rest.
3) Avoid smoking and limit alcohol intake.

If more people made better choices in their day-to-day lives they would have fewer issues with the medical-industrial complex by staying out of it.

I advocate the same approach with the "just us"...er...I mean "justice" system. Do whatever it takes to avoid any involvement with it because if you're not in the police-lawyer-judge club, you're not going to get justice from the "just us" system.

I think I feel better...
That story helps me see that I don't need to be so Neurotic that I'm too Paranoid.

Your prescription sounds right on. Nancy Reagan might have had the best Soundbite for it..

"Just say NO to drugs!"

I had my Summer Lobster with Mom tonight. A local beer (Geary's Summer), Local Corn, Homemade Coleslaw.. sitting on the porch as the Seagulls and the Jumbos from the Jetport flew overhead.

I'm carless all week, too. Getting to all my jobs on bike.. so I'll sleep well!


A lot of people I know in their late 40s early 50s are on some sort of pills -- high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, calcium, etc...
I am trying hard to tell them to look on how they live and whether those drugs are really needed -- but no luck. Everyone is happy popping pills and the doctors are happy to do the pharma's evil works.

The medical-industrial-military-finance-big ag-media-legal complex are filled with bright people who will spin (= lie & cheat) anything for the benefit of their careers, stock options, bonuses, ego ....

It's quite like Upton Sinclair says "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it"

Agree completely on making healthy choices.

And you thought GM was going to make small fuel efficient cars?


Buick Plug-In Hybrid SUV Coming in 2011

Unlike the 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car, the yet-to-be-named Buick crossover will use a more traditional dual-mode hybrid powertrain, similar to the one found in the Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid, but with a smaller 3.6 liter V6 flex fuel engine and a high capacity lithium-ion battery pack. With half the capacity of the Volt's battery pack, the new Buick is expected to be able to be driven just 10 miles at low speeds on electric power alone. General Motors says it can be fully charged in five hours using a standard household electric outlet.

Conventional versions of the new Buick will also be available with a choice of either a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder or 3.0 liter V6 gasoline engine.

So the "plug-in SUV" gets a 3.6 liter V6 engine and the regular version gets only a 2.4 liter I4 or 3.0 liter V6. Does this mean that the regular versions will get better gas mileage than the Plug-in hybrid?

Also, it goes 10 miles on battery alone! WOW! And it takes 5 hours to charge the battery so only an hour to charge for every 2 miles of driving. I can hardly wait 'til 2011. Wheeee.

GM (Government Motors) at work? They are doomed!

If you live 10 miles from work, and gasoline becomes very expensive or unavailable, you would be able to still get to work, and perhaps pick up a few work mates stuck with ICE only vehicles. Five hours charging is plenty of time to re-charge at work or at home. That will be using a 110v regular outlet. If gasoline goes to $10/gallon even longer trips are going to save $4 per trip using EV mode.
I wonder what you will be driving in 5 years, or if you will be driving?

If you're only living 10 miles from work -- probably good to get on that bicycle.

If you live 10 miles from work, and gasoline becomes very expensive or unavailable than you are probably screwed no matter what vehicle you drive.

Obama's kids took a look at their books and finally grokked how GM made it this far.
Since they want their money(silly taxpayers, money belongs to the govt., they just let us use it) back, a-building trucks we go!

"...They are doomed!..." Funny that, I thought they were in the too big to fail club.

off topic, it is California, again.

"court has given employers a virtual green light to spy on employees via hidden camera for almost any reason"


Nothing about California surprises me anymore... After all, it's the state where the governor backs Hydrogen powered Hummers...

"I can promise you that when I go to Sacramento, I will pump up Sacramento."- Arnold Schwarzenegger

Keep pumping, Ahnold... Keep pumping...

As for a few more Ahnold Quotes...:

"To those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say, Don't be economic girlie men!" –at the Republican convention

"We have to make sure everyone in California has a great job. A fantastic job!"

"The public doesn't care about figures." -discussing his economic views

"Don't worry about that." -on the environment

"My relationship to power and authority is that I'm all for it. People need somebody to watch over them. Ninety-five percent of the people in the world need to be told what to do and how to behave." –in a 1990 interview with U.S. News

Hello Everybody,
I have been lurking around TOD for some time as it is one of my favorite places on the tubes.
The people here are nothing short of incredibly savvy, and now I guess after a couple of years,I might have some things to contribute.
I asked a question of Marco but then I thought it might be an interesting question for all:

If Civilization is a project, where do you think (1)WE and (2)YOU are in the
1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic
4. Search for the Guilty
5. Punishment of the Innocent
6. Praise and Honors for the Non-Participants

Personally I am between 3 &4 as both have been prime motivators to get busy.

I don't think society ie (1)We is even at stage 1 yet - no one even realises that the cliff we are about 1 step from throwing our selves over is shortly going to become a project in unpowered flight.

I personally ie "(2)You" am at stage "7.exit stage"

Similar to what you are doing is something we've analysed before here and that is the 5 stages of grief.


You'll find the whole spectrum posting here! I'm depression going on acceptance minus some brain cells and a bit of liver (I leapfrogged 4 with the aid of some beer). Off topic musings now, but It's strange knowing that my kid is going to grow up in a world very different from the one I know.


I love your comment Marco- ya definitely have a sense of humor and that counts for a lot.
I suppose the 6 Phases of a Project match up better to the current politics than to the decline of western civilization.
As regards to 4. "search for the guilty", i know what you mean in the literal sense- a fruitless endeavor for the little guy. The guilty parties are the ones who have convinced many that there is no end to growth,telling us to 'buy and hold', finance more home than we can afford, look forward to techno-fixes, etc.
Those happy talkers get no more of my resources- it is all now going towards preparation.
No retirement, no future.
And to close my thought with your

It's strange knowing that my kid is going to grow up in a world very different from the one I know.

Part of the motivation for putting everything one has into preparation means that there may be something useful for the kids and grand kids with a big helping of "good luck!"

Common actions, seldom said about PO and the next generation or two. "Screw em, let em find their own oil like we found ours."

I am trying to teach my 11 year old grandson woodworking, solar things and gardening but he is really more interested in Sponge Bob, internet games and texting. I try to make it fun and interesting for him but it is not what he would rather do. Of course there are no shop classes in this school system any more ... what a shame.

Well just don't forget you're not alone, Lynford.

My girl will be able to handle a Band Saw and a Spokeshave before I'm done, and even at six, I can tell she'll have no shortage of ideas to make things with them.

There are too many kids that don't get to learn skills, or don't get support from enough adults to see the richness in such ability.. but others do teach, as you and I do. It's not over yet.. it's just gotten mighty dim out there.



It's great that you are woprking with the kids.

Don't mourn the passins of shop classes too much.If you REALLY KNOW a shop teacher,so that he will talk off the record with you with his job on the line,you will most likely find that his classroom /shop is used to seperate the shall we say ,er,um, UNDERACHIEVING students from the rest of the student body.

In that case,if your kids are from sound homes(as they are I am sure as witnessed by your efforts)they are probably not going to learn much,excepting new bad habits.

None of my close friends can afford to send thier kids to private schools but they are working two jobs and driving clunkers and burning firewood and doing whatever else is necessary to keep them OUT of public schools.

Otoh,the kids that are "out of sight " in shop classes in schools that have them are in the regular classrooms in higher numbers in the schools that don't do shop any more.

Sponge Bob is the devil.
When that show is on, and it's on ALL the time, my kid will try every trick in the book to get out of helping me.
The lone survivalist role may not be in his future but politics or CEO of a large corp. may be.

Thanks for the compliment. Sometimes it is said the humour is used as a defense mechanism. I don't know if I do but it sure is better to look on the bright side of life!

I realize it's late at night, but I frequent financialsense.com as do other TOD'ers. however, I was looking at the schedule for newshour, a weekly podcast schedule showing someone by the name of Robin M. Mills will be discussing "the myth of the oil crisis", i presume a debunker of peak oil.
Of course its a ways out. Friday, 03 Oct 2009, should be an interesting conversation, with more holes than swiss cheese. surprised Jim Papluva allowed him on the newshour, but like radio legend Art Bell, on coast to coast am, must hear everyones point of view.

The world has abundant oil and gas for decades to come, geopolitical conflicts can be avoided by adroit policies, and we can learn to use hydrocarbons without unacceptable environmental damage.


'.. About the Author: Robin M. Mills is an oil industry professional with a background in both geology and economics. Currently, he is Senior Evaluation Manager for Dubai Energy. Previously, he worked for Shell. Mills, who speaks Farsi and Arabic, is a member of the International Association for Energy Economics and Association of International Petroleum Negotiators. He holds a Master's Degree in Geological Sciences from Cambridge University. ' http://www.praeger.com/catalog/B36498.aspx

'There is no other book by an industry insider that effectively counters the peak oil theory by showing where and how oil will be found in the future. There also is no other book by an insider that lays out an environmentally and geopolitically responsible path for the petroleum industry and its customers. The Myth of the Oil Crisis, written in a lively style but with scientific rigor, is thus a uniquely useful resource for business leaders, policymakers, petroleum industry professionals, environmentalists, and anyone else who consumes oil. Best of all, it offers an abundance of one commodity now in short supply: hope for the future.' (my emphasis.. their abundance)

The solar tower story, virtually completely ignored by the mainstream media, even though it is built on the edge of Los Angeles, one of the biggest media markets in the world. I guess they were busy covering the Jackson child custody hearings


On his TV documentary series "The Day The Universe Changed", Dr. James Burke pointed out that the Industrial Revolution did not begin, as many folks believed, with giant factories and motors and steam engines costing millions.

The Industrial Revolution began with places like Coalbrookdale, small sheds with little 5 or 10 horsepower steam engines, tiny little chimneys no bigger than the chimney of a large house. They would have went unnoticed by most folks, mixed in with thousand of chimneys, but inside the shed, with a tiny little steam engine, a revolution was being born.

Compared to the birth of the steam engine and industrial revolution, the renewable energy revolution is already far along its trajectory, the "small" solar tower plant not even covered in the mass media is a GIANT compared to the plants that birthed the industrial revolution.

It is these "small" power plants, ignored at the time they are built, that are the seeds of a changing age. Just as the industrial revolution was already well underway by the time it was really noticed, so the "marginal" renewable revolution will be like an aggressive cancer, not noticed until it is spreading so fast it cannot be stopped. Such is the nature of technical advance...some guy in a shop or a garage unleashes genies that cannot be contained, cannot be put back into the bottle. First rule: Never Trust A Mechanic. He will surprise you and make your rules, regulations and projections useless even before you can notice he is there. Such was the steam engine. Such was the automobile. Such was the airplane and the radio. Make no mistake: Technology has not stopped just because some people "don't like it." I only hope us baby boomers can live long enough to see a hint of what is to come. It should be a glorious age.