Drumbeat: August 18, 2009

The Most Important Aspect that most Economists and Analysts fail to Recognize

The biggest problem that most economists and analysts fail to comprehend when making forecasts and predictions on the US Dollar, Precious Metals, Financials or the whole Economy in general, is the ability to get to the Root of the Problem. Most of them are using information and methodologies that are either outdated, superficial or completely worthless. Those economists who are either Keynesians or Monetarists are living in a economic model that will have a life expectancy of less than a century. Indeed, a blip in the history of mankind and increasingly worthless going forward into the 21st century.

...EROI, or sometimes known as EROEI, is what I term as “The Root of the Problem.” Before I get into why most economists and analysts are missing the boat in their present and future forecasting, I have to lay a basic foundation of EROI - Energy runs this modern economy of ours. Without cheap and abundant oil our global economy would come crashing down. We are able to have this modern lifestyle due to the surplus of energy we get from the energy invested. Basically, EROI is how much net energy remains after production. Cutler Cleveland of Boston University has reported that the EROI of oil and gas extraction in the United States has declined from 100:1 in 1930 to 30:1 in 1970, down to 11:1 in 2000

Shiite rebellion in Yemen raises concerns in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is concerned by the Shiite rebellion taking place just over the border in Yemen, prompting security officials from both countries to consult on the sudden flare-up in violence, Saudi officials said Tuesday. Saudi Arabia, a staunchly Sunni country with the world’s largest oil reserves, is worried about the rebels’ alleged links to Iran, the kingdom’s main regional foe which has established firm footholds in several Arab countries over the past few years.

Power struggle between Ambani bothers halts gas exploration project

At the heart of the row between Asia's richest siblings is the cost of gas from a huge field in the Krishna-Godavari basin in India.

USMC Energy Summit - August 13, 2009 - Washington, DC

The Growing Importance of Energy Technologies

The World is changing: Petroleum based fuels (the result of solar energy accumulated over millions of years) will soon be scarce and will eventually become depleted.

The cost of energy (in all forms) will continue to rise.

The Marine Corps is changing: Future Expeditionary Warfare concepts will require enhanced energy efficiency (fuel and electric) as well as enhanced self-sufficiency to operate as a distributed force over long distances in austere environments

See also: DoD Goes Green

Houston Energy Workers Rally Against Climate Bill

(Bloomberg) -- Houston energy workers rallied against U.S. climate-change legislation at an event that kicked off a plan co-sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute to hold 19 such protests across the country.

About 3,500 demonstrators filled the Verizon Wireless Theater downtown, according to Cathy Landry, a spokeswoman for the institute, which supports Energy Citizens, a group also sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

Ford plans vehicles to interact with power grids

DEARBORN, Mich. -- Ford Motor Co. says its future electric cars will "talk" to power grids across the country, part of an effort to drive interest in a new class of vehicles.

The nation's second-largest automaker is releasing details of a two-year collaboration with about a dozen utility companies on the design of a system that allows car owners to program when to charge the vehicle, how long and at what utility rate.

Angola’s Oil Exports Set to Rise to Highest This Year

(Bloomberg) -- Angola’s daily crude oil exports are scheduled to rise to the highest this year, signaling that Africa’s second-biggest producer continues to pump more than its OPEC quota.

Sixty-two cargoes totaling 59.1 million barrels, or an average of 1.903 million barrels a day, are scheduled to load in October, preliminary shipping programs show. That is the highest since December 2008 and compares with 58 cargoes, or 1.854 million barrels a day, planned for September. Preliminary schedules are subject to change.

Nigerian Communities May Get 5% Royalty From Oil Revenue

(Bloomberg) -- State governors from Nigeria’s main oil-producing region have proposed that communities in their area be paid a 5 percent royalty from oil revenue, the governor of Nigeria’s Rivers State Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi said.

The “south-south governors” made the proposal to Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua as part of changes to be added in a bill to reform the country’s oil industry now in parliament, Amaechi said in an interview in Johannesburg today.

Russia Oil Output Rising But Decline May Follow

MOSCOW (Dow Jones)–Russian oil output has risen this year, against expectations, but industry participants and analysts say the world’s biggest energy supplier is just postponing an inevitable decline in production.

Russian oil firms have cut investment programs following a drop in crude prices from last year’s record highs, but have surprised many by squeezing more hydrocarbons out of maturing fields in Siberia.

But this may prove unsustainable, with a steep drop in drilling this year pointing to lower production ahead, industry observers say. Dwindling output in Russia, which pumps around 20% of non-OPEC oil supply, could buoy global prices.

“Further oil output growth will be extremely challenging in Russia,” said Oswald Clint from Bernstein brokerage in London. He estimates that exploration drilling fell by more than 40% in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year, based on statistics from oil field service companies and independent energy consultancies.

Petrobras CFO Says May Need to Boost 2009 Spending

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, may need to increase its budget for 2009 on accelerated spending and costs, the company’s chief financial officer told investors and analysts.

Oil insecurity

BAGHDAD – The U.S. Navy says Iraq’s two oil export terminals, accounting for more than 70 percent of Iraq’s oil income, remain protected from would-be attackers now that the British Navy is no longer patrolling Iraqi waters or training the Iraqi Navy.

A successful attack would cripple Iraq’s economy and create a major environmental disaster.

Nigeria Sees ‘Encouraging’ Response to Rebels Amnesty

(Bloomberg) -- Nigeria’s offer of amnesty to militants in the oil-rich Niger River delta has had an “encouraging” response, Niger Delta Affairs Minister Ufot Ekaette said.

“Quite a good number have come out” and surrendered themselves to the government, Ekaette said at a conference today in Johannesburg, without being more specific. “I am confident the process of amnesty will have results.”

Turkey, Qatar discuss gas pipeline

ANKARA, Turkey—A state-run news agency says the leaders of Turkey and Qatar have expressed willingness to build a natural gas pipeline between their countries.

Uganda Seeks Consultancies to Conduct Study on Planned Refinery

(Bloomberg) -- Uganda is seeking international consultancies to conduct a feasibility study for a planned oil refinery following the discovery of commercially viable crude deposits, Ernest Rubondo, the assistant commissioner in the ministry of energy, said.

The East African country, which hopes to start production within three years, is tentatively looking at a refinery to produce 150,000 barrels a day, Rubondo said by phone today from Entebbe. “We have been looking at 150,000 barrels per day, but we are open to what the feasibility study will tell us,” he said.

Protesters Descend on Chevron's Richmond Refinery For Climate Justice, To 'Cap The Crude'

Richmond, CA – Hundreds of Richmond community members joined climate change advocates, public health experts, local government and labor leaders on Monday in a colorful march, protest and non-violent civil disobedience at Chevron’s Richmond refinery. After a festival outside the Richmond BART station with music, dancers and speakers, and an hour-long march that wound through the city streets, a mass die-in and nonviolent civil disobedience took place at the refinery gates. Thirteen people were arrested.

Turkey May Scrap Nuclear Tender to Allow State Stake, Vatan Say

(Bloomberg) -- Turkey may cancel a tender to build its first nuclear power plant so it can set a new framework allowing a state stake in the generator, Vatan newspaper reported, without saying how it got the information.

Ontario to launch wind forecasting service in 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The Canadian province of Ontario plans to launch a centralized wind forecasting service next year, its bulk electricity manager said on Tuesday, as it tries to add more wind-generated energy to its grid.

Ontario, Canada's most populous province and biggest energy consumer, already leads the other provinces in installed wind energy capacity, with 1,200 megawatts of power. But it wants to increase this and is seeking other sources of clean energy as it phases out dirty coal-fired power stations.

U.S. Airlines Agree to Buy Rentech’s Synthetic Fuel

(Bloomberg) -- Delta Air Lines Inc., AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and six other U.S. carriers agreed to buy as much as 1.5 million gallons a year of Rentech Inc.’s diesel fuel made from plant waste.

The synthetic fuel will be used starting in late 2012 for ground-service equipment at Los Angeles International Airport, Rentech and the Air Transport Association, the carriers’ trade group, said in statements today. Rentech rose to its highest in almost 11 months in NYSE Amex trading.

Sadad I. Al-Husseini: Lessons Learned from 2008 [PDF]

The year 2008 may go down in history as the year of many lessons learned but soon forgotten. For the oil industry, it is important to reflect on what in fact those main lessons were and what their relevance is to the future.

One answer should not surprise most oil professionals. The industry discovered that it had been operating at a production capacity plateau for several years and no longer can provide the supply elasticity required by global oil demand given the cost and complexity of the oil-supply chain.

The oil price surge that started in 2003 and collapsed in 2008 had its roots in 1998. At that time, oil prices had sunk to USD 10/bbl, which resulted in the drying up of capacity investment across the world. In time, low oil prices resulted in runaway oil demand that could not be matched by increases in supplies. This shortfall resulted in the rapid increase in oil prices that eventually contributed to the global recession and the price collapse of 2008.

Even though the industry returned to making massive investments between 2003 and 2008, it could not match the tide of rising oil demand. Ultimately, it was unable to exceed a production plateau of 85 to 86 million BOPD in spite of the best efforts by OPEC and non-OPEC producers alike.

...In hindsight, all of these events should have been predictable. While the global economy can shift its rate of growth within months, the energy industry is too complex and too mature to respond effectively, even under the most favorable economic circumstances. Politics, logistics, basin maturity, and technological limitations all converge to create an oil-supply plateau that cannot satisfy the growth of unconfined energy demand.

The existence of this ultimate supply ceiling will not recede under the current prospect for reduced upstream investments. In fact, there are good reasons to believe that this production plateau will become even more restrictive in the coming years.

Producer prices fall almost 1%

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. producer prices fell by a larger-than expected amount in July and notched a record decline compared with a year earlier as gasoline prices plummeted, government data Tuesday showed.

Falling oil revenue pushing Mexico to raise taxes

The Mexican government said Tuesday its 2010 budget will include new taxes to compensate for a decline in oil revenues that is expected to leave a $23 billion hole in the public finances.

"The future caught up with us. We have always had in mind the possibility that oil revenues were going to become exhausted, and now we are facing a very clear manifestation in that regard," Finance Secretary Agustin Carstens told lawmakers in a briefing on the draft budget President Felipe Calderon must present by Sept. 8.

Total leases fuel oil storage at Fujairah

DUBAI (Reuters) - France's Total has signed a deal to lease fuel storage at the United Arab Emirates' port of Fujairah as it seeks to expand its fuel oil business into East Africa, trade sources said on Tuesday.

Russian Hydropower Accident Threatens Aluminum Production

A serious accident at Russia's largest hydropower station, which killed at least 11 people and left dozens missing, could threaten output at Russian aluminum giant United Co. Rusal, one of the country's largest industrial-power consumers.

Damage at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydropower plant in Khakassia will take years to repair and could seriously disrupt electricity supplies to Siberia, Rusal said Monday. Sayano-Shushenskaya, Siberia's oldest hydropower station, sells 70% of the electricity it produces to Rusal's two local smelters.

Energy crisis cannot be solved overnight: Holbrooke

ISLAMABAD: Richard Holbrooke’s public statement a day earlier to help Pakistan overcome its energy crisis notwithstanding, the US Special Envoy has acknowledged that the problem was too deep-rooted to be solved overnight.

The crisis has been building up for 25 years and it’s quite obvious that it cannot be solved in a few weeks, he told a group of inquisitive journalists who wanted to know if the American trouble-shooter for the region had a concrete plan to meet the challenge.

US lures Pakistan away from gasline

ISLAMABAD - Asking to stay away from Iranian gas pipeline for enhanced American energy cooperation, the Washington left Islamabad in a fix on Monday to choose between nearest available gas line or help line from US in tackling the ever-growing energy crisis.

Coal is fuel of choice for power generation

MANILA, Philippines—Environment groups may be strongly opposed to its use, but coal is likely to remain the fuel of choice for power generation due mainly to its abundance and relatively lower price as compared to other fuel types.

U.S. report: Chavez moving to silence media critics

(CNN) -- The recent closure of 32 privately owned radio stations and a proposed law to punish "media crimes" are signs that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is moving to quash criticism of his government, according to a recent U.S. intelligence report.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia Since the 1930s

There have been two constants in U.S.-Saudi relations for decades: oil and Gulf security, particularly the security of the Saudi royal family. Our two societies have had little in common, and yet despite deep differences, we have had a "special relationship" with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for over sixty years, really since the early 1930s, though it was not described as a special relationship until after WWII. The two countries have had a compact based on Saudi oil in return for a U.S. security umbrella over the kingdom to protect it from all foreign foes. This is a relationship very definitely anchored in state interests, not common ideologies or political or social systems, which remain at extreme odds with each other.

Europe to Gulf by rail no longer a sleeper

Pieces of track are coming together that will eventually form a network between the Gulf and the North Atlantic. But due to organisational problems in Saudi Arabia, the central stop, its completion may be a good way down the line.

Brazil ethanol prices seen low despite sugar spike

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The recent surge in sugar prices to their highest level in 28 years and growing demand for ethanol in Brazil are insufficient to support prices of the biofuel, which remain below production costs.

Ethanol and sugar prices are usually linked as they have to compete for the same cane. But as many mills face cash constraints they see ethanol sales as the only way of raising cash to pay debts, pressing down prices.

First Solar, SoCal Edison set new solar projects

NEW YORK (Reuters) - First Solar Inc and utility Southern California Edison said on Tuesday that they would build two photovoltaic solar power projects with a capacity of 550 megawatts.

The projects in the California counties of Riverside and San Bernardino would provide enough power to supply 170,000 homes when completed in 2015, the companies said.

How a wind farm could emit more carbon than a coal power station

Building wind farms built on peat bogs, which can release their huge carbon stores when damaged, is not sensible.

Is there any point in fighting to stave off industrial apocalypse?

Very few of us are prepared to look honestly at the message this reality is screaming at us: that the civilisation we are a part of is hitting the buffers at full speed, and it is too late to stop it. Instead, most of us – and I include in this generalisation much of the mainstream environmental movement – are still wedded to a vision of the future as an upgraded version of the present. We still believe in "progress", as lazily defined by western liberalism. We still believe that we will be able to continue living more or less the same comfortable lives (albeit with more windfarms and better lightbulbs) if we can only embrace "sustainable development" rapidly enough; and that we can then extend it to the extra 3 billion people who will shortly join us on this already gasping planet.

I think this is simply denial. The writing is on the wall for industrial society, and no amount of ethical shopping or determined protesting is going to change that now. Take a civilisation built on the myth of human exceptionalism and a deeply embedded cultural attitude to "nature"; add a blind belief in technological and material progress; then fuel the whole thing with a power source that is discovered to be disastrously destructive only after we have used it to inflate our numbers and appetites beyond the point of no return. What do you get? We are starting to find out.

Oil Gains for First Time in Three Days Before Inventory Report

(Bloomberg) -- Oil rose for the first time in three days before tomorrow’s scheduled report on crude inventories from the U.S. Energy Department.

Oil stockpiles in the U.S. probably rose for a fourth week as refinery operations trailed year-earlier levels, a Bloomberg News survey showed. Still, crude tracked global equities higher today after economic data from the U.S. and Germany fueled speculation that demand for energy will rebound.

Brazil Seeks More Control of Oil Beneath Its Seas

RIO DE JANEIRO — Faced with the world’s most important oil discovery in years, the Brazilian government is seeking to step back from more than a decade of close cooperation with foreign oil companies and more directly control the extraction itself.

The move is part of a nationalistic drive to increase the country’s benefits from its natural resources and cement its position as a global power. But it could significantly slow the development of the oil fields at a time when the world is looking for new sources, energy and risk analysts said.

Oil Production: Brazil Making the Wisest Choice of All

A complacent view that’s developed here in the United States over the past 40 years is that oil in our own hemisphere can be regarded, functionally, as being our own. Interestingly, that’s probably a result of US production having peaked in 1971 at an average of 9.6 Mb/day. Since that time it’s been better to print dollars and trade them for oil than to worry too much about our own, declining supply.

Political turmoil slows big oil moves in Iran

DUBAI (Reuters) - Political upheaval in the aftermath of Iran's disputed presidential election has slowed international oil firms' efforts to find a way through sanctions to invest in the world's second-largest oil and gas reserves.

Just a few months ago, overtures to Tehran from the United States under President Barack Obama had the world's most powerful energy companies reassessing the risks of working in Iran and optimistic the shadow of sanctions might start to lift.

But outcry following the June election stirred the biggest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, slowing Iranian bureaucracy and spooking dealmakers in big oil firms.

Sasol mulls closure of nitro phosphoric acid plant

The plant is designed to produce 325,000 tonnes of phosphoric acid of which 100,000 tonnes has already been mothballed due to faling demand. Most of the product is used as fertiliser and some converted into animal feed-stock.

"Despite having explored a number of different options to avoid the closure of the plant, current feedstock prices are at a level that has rendered the plant's ongoing operation unsustainable, particularly in a declining phosphoric acid market," the company said.

BP, Iraq officials meet over Rumaila oil deal

BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - A technical team from oil major BP (BP.L) has met Iraqi oil engineers as part of preparations to sign a deal to develop Iraq's giant Rumaila field, senior Iraqi oil officials said on Monday.

Dhiya Jaafar, acting chief of Iraq's South Oil Co., said there were still some "technical issues" that needed to be resolved before BP and China's CNPC, its partner in the Rumaila deal, sign the development contract by the end-August deadline.

Huge gas deal warms China-Australia ties

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's economic relations with Australia appeared to warm up on Tuesday with news of a A$50 billion (25 billion pound) gas deal -- the biggest trade deal ever between the two nations -- but behind the smiles a welter of economic and political disagreements remain to be sorted out.

Australian Resources Minister Martin Ferguson flew to Beijing to unveil the liquefied natural gas supply deal between PetroChina and Exxon, a partner in Australia's Gorgon gas project, a day after the two countries seemed to patch up some of their differences over iron ore.

Expansive China faces grass-roots resentment

From having a handful of tiny investments abroad less than two decades ago, China has grown to the world's sixth-biggest foreign investor and overtook the United States as Africa's top trading partner last year.

That breath-taking rise has brought problems: allegations from emerging countries that China is stripping them of resources and suspicions in the developed world that obscure state interests lurk behind Chinese investments.

Chile sees tidal power filling energy gap

SANTIAGO, Chile (UPI) -- Chile is actively considering several tidal energy installations as a way of filling a major gap in its future energy needs and reducing dependence on coal-fired power generation.

A feasibility study on the potential for exploiting the renewable energy resource in Chile found the country had a "unique" wealth of natural sites that, if harnessed only up to 10 percent of available tidal power, could exceed the installed capacity of Chile's central grid.

Australia targets 20 pct renewable energy by 2020

CANBERRA — Australia's government will ask the Senate Tuesday to approve plans to produce 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 after the house rejected a proposed carbon trading scheme.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's centre-left Labor government passed the ambitious proposal to use green power to generate a fifth of the country's electricity in parliament's lower house late Monday.

Italy launches first clean hydrogen power plant

MILAN, Italy (AFP) – Italian power company Enel said Friday that it had started up a ground-breaking hydrogen-powered electricity plant producing no greenhouse gases.

Enel said the 12 megawatt plant, at Fusina in Venice's industrial zone of Porto Marghera, was the first of its kind in the world to operate on such a scale.

Asian competitors shadow German solar industry

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany's solar power industry, until recently the world leader in the technology, is facing an unprecedented crisis, analysts say, outshone by cheaper competitors from Asia, most notably Chinese firms.

64 missing workers feared dead in Russian accident

MOSCOW – The owner of Russia's largest hydroelectric plant says there is little chance that any of the 64 workers missing after an accident could be found alive.

...The accident shut the power plant down and left several towns and major factories without electricity. Supplies from other power plants were being rerouted to help cover the shortfall.

RusHydro says a faulty turbine at the plant launched in 1978 is likely to blame for the accident.

Chubu Estimates Nuclear-Plant Shutdown Costs $4.2 Million a Day

(Bloomberg) -- Chubu Electric Power Co., which halted its two functioning nuclear reactors after an earthquake shook Japan last week, said the closure is costing the company 400 million yen ($4.2 million) a day.

Chubu said yesterday the Hamaoka plant, which powers Nagoya, Japan’s third-biggest metropolitan area, will take at least three to four weeks to restart. The company will incur additional costs as it increases oil- and gas-fired generation to make up for lost output, Emi Kawashita, a spokeswoman, said by phone from Nagoya today.

Farmers kidnap 13 cops, 4 civilians in Peru

LIMA, Peru – Farmers freed 13 police officers and four civilians seized at a hydroelectric dam in Peru's Andean region after local officials agreed Saturday to provide them with fertilizer.

...Enersur, a French-Belgian company that operates the power station, said the dam's electricity output was under 40 percent of normal because of damage inflicted by the farmers. It said a control room was destroyed a floodgate damaged.

Why Urban Farming is the Future

The first odd thing about Cam Macdonald's Mt. Pleasant lawn is that it isn't a lawn. It's a farm.

Standing out amid the typical suburban sea of grass patches are his potatoes, carrots, beats, peas, shallots, squash, parsnips and more -- enough to have given food to 70 people by the beginning of July.

The second odd thing is that it isn't even Cam's yard. It belongs to Heidi Gigler and Jug Sidhu, a non-gardening couple who heard about Cam's soul search for right livelihood last year and agreed to let him pursue it by turning their turf into food.

1981: First Oil Rig off Cape in position; 1974 Staycation

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Two news stories from the past which could be in today's newspaper.

Scotland pushes CCS as North Sea runs dry

EDINBURGH, Scotland (UPI) -- The Scottish government and local companies hope to exploit declining North Sea reserves by moving forward with incentives for carbon-capture technology.

The Scottish Parliament sees carbon-capture, a process to strip greenhouse gases and store them in depleted reserves, as a compliment to the regional push for alternative energy as oil and gas reserves in the North Sea run dry.

Extreme weather 'biggest threat' to Taiwan

TAIPEI - Taiwan's leader said Tuesday the military will make evacuations and rescue operations one of its main roles as extreme weather events such as Typhoon Morakot and climate change now pose a bigger threat.

Uncertainty a sure thing

What if all those scientists are wrong and high carbon levels don't bring warming or acid oceans? If we act, the resulting changes may be beneficial. But we may strike economic trouble (especially if you factor in an inevitable decline in oil production, or peak oil), with global economic depression an unlikely but conceivable result. That would seem to be the worst that could happen.

On the other hand, what if we fail to act effectively and the current scientific view turns out to be right? We can be sure that with carbon emissions unchecked, nothing will prevent global warming and ocean acidification from gathering pace. We will still have peak oil. And as long as atmospheric carbon levels continue to rise, there is no upper limit to the potential impact.

Big Food rallies against climate change legislation

Multinational food and agritech giants are banding together in a bid to throw light on areas of climate change legislation they warn could severely hike food prices.

The consortium that includes Cargill, General Mills, Tyson Foods and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, is preparing to release studies it says will demonstrate the potentially drastic effect global warming could have on the cost of food items.

Climate Change Legislation: What It Means to Businesses

Fuel costs will rise for consumers and companies, and even suppliers won’t escape headaches from the increases.

Engineers warn of energy uncertainty

ENGINEERS have warned Australia’s government that continuing the tug-of-war over the country’s emissions trading scheme risks dangerous delays to the construction of much-needed power plants.

Scientists Say Uncounted For Source Of Greenhouse Gas Could Promote Global Warming

Scientists at the University of Calgary have found that methane emission by plants could be a bigger problem in global warming than previously thought.

A U of C study says that when crops are exposed to environmental factors that are part of climate change -- increased temperature, drought and ultraviolet-B radiation -- some plants show enhanced methane emissions. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas; 23 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

Cap-and-Trade Bill ‘Out of Control,’ Former Senator Wirth Says

(Bloomberg) -- Cap-and-trade legislation to limit U.S. carbon dioxide emissions has “gotten out of control” and needs to be scaled back in Congress, said former Democratic Senator Timothy Wirth.

“The Republicans are right -- it’s a cap-and-tax bill,” Wirth, a climate-change negotiator during President Bill Clinton’s administration, said in an Aug. 14 interview. “That’s what it is because they are raising revenue to do all sorts of things, especially to take care of the coal industry, and it makes no sense.”

The Climate and National Security

The problem, when it comes to motivating politicians, is that the dangers from global warming — drought, famine, rising seas — appear to be decades off. But the only way to prevent them is with sacrifices in the here and now: with smaller cars, bigger investments in new energy sources, higher electricity bills that will inevitably result once we put a price on carbon.

Mainstream scientists warn that the longer the world waits, the sooner it will reach a tipping point beyond which even draconian measures may not be enough. Under one scenario, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, now about 380 parts per million, should not be allowed to exceed 450 parts per million. But keeping emissions below that threshold will require stabilizing them by 2015 or 2020, and actually reducing them by at least 60 percent by 2050.

China Think Tank Urges Climate Action

HONG KONG -- China’s official think tank predicted for the first time on Tuesday that carbon emissions could peak around 2030 and drop back down to the levels of 2005, or even lower, by 2050 if the central government is determined to cap carbon emissions.

The Chinese edition of “2050 China Energy and CO2 Emissions Report” has aroused immense international attention, for it is the first time an official think tank has urged Beijing to set up “quantified targets” to cap greenhouse gas pollution, a policy which China has long been refusing to adopt regardless tremendous pressure from developed countries in the West.

Can Geoengineering Help Slow Global Warming?

As we pump billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we're doing more than warming the planet and scrambling the climate. We're also conducting what climatologist James Hansen has called a "vast uncontrolled experiment." In effect, we're on our way to engineering a world very different from the one we were handed. Belatedly, we're trying to turn off the carbon spigot, hoping that by incrementally reducing the emissions we've spent a couple of centuries pouring into the air we can stop the climate slide before it's too late.

But what if we can't do that? What if it turns out that slashing carbon emissions enough to make a difference — and it seems that means cutting output at least in half by midcentury — is economically and politically impossible? Do we need a Plan B?

Re: Cap-and-Trade Bill ‘Out of Control,’ Former Senator Wirth Says

If the supporters of the Cap-and-Trade Plan can't agree on The Plan, it would appear that The Plan is going to die. That might be a good thing, as there are other approaches to the problem which might produce larger reductions in CO2 emissions, while not killing the economy. Since the consumer would experience Cap-and-Trade as an increase in prices for energy, that experience would seem like a tax increase, which would feed the Repugs favorite anti-government rant.

One such idea is the rationing program recently presented to the British House of Commons. It's called Tradable Energy Quotas, or TEQ. After Peak Oil, energy prices may be expected to ramp steadily upwards, so any program which adds further pain would be a bad idea and likely to die. That's why a straight up rationing system would be preferred, IMHO.

E. Swanson

So glad to hear that someone else is using the r-word. Rationing is what we did during WWII. On both the GW and PO front, we are facing global challenges every bit as great as that today.

Peak Oil *will* be the method of rationing. Besides, on a per-capital basis, we've been rationing for quite a while...

Some have claimed that economics is really about the allocation of scarce resources. The market mechanism is supposed to provide this allocation, with the price of a commodity being set by repeated auctions between sellers and buyers. This process has also been called "rationing by price". The trouble is that this process does not guarantee a minimum level of access to these resources for all peoples on the planet. That is to say, many people are priced out of the market at the bottom. Such a result is particularly nasty when the commodity is food or fuel, since access to minimal levels of both is a necessity for life as we know it. After Peak Oil, it's difficult to conceive of a return to low prices for oil and other fossil fuels, given that there are considerable opportunities for fuel switching.

One of the biggest advantages of TEQ style rationing is that every person is guaranteed some access to energy. Also, every person is rewarded for individual efforts to use less of the resources, instead of simply being pushed out into the cold to freeze or starve. As I understand it, the Cap-and-Trade Plan would result in an auction which would then raise prices to the consumer just like a tax, which would leave many folks dangling over the abyss. And, a TEQ system could cover more fuels than gasoline for vehicles or coal for electric power plants, including all fuels which emit CO2.

E. Swanson

Yes, we've been "rationing" through finance--the wealthy get it, the poor don't.

But, as you presumably know, this is not the general meaning of rationing. Should the millionaire down the street have access to gas while emergency vehicles can't get a child to the hospital to save its life? These are trade offs that will become more common in the very near future even in the developed world.

Good point dohboi. Perhaps the term "reallocation" might fit better. Energy consumption actually shot way up during WWII but much was reallocated to the war machine and away from private consumption. It would be interesting to see how the public would respond to politicans cutting out their comsumption in favor of keeping industries growing.

Thanks, Rock.

Of course, everything is just horribly messy. Which industries will get priority? What is the probability that these will be picked on the best and most rational basis rather than based on political favoritism?

I think a necessary prerequisite for all of this is a sense that we are in a situation as more threatening to ourselves and our children than WWII was. If this mindset was widely shared, many would be on the lookout for anyone gaming the system. But as it is, after decades of being inundated with messages that self maximizing is the greatest moral imperative, I have my doubts whether we any longer have the communal spirit to engage in this.

But rationing is the only approach that begins to approach the enormity of the multiple problems that face us, however flawed it will inevitably be in practice.

But rationing is the only approach that begins to approach the enormity of the multiple problems that face us, however flawed it will inevitably be in practice.

I disagree rationing a declining resource is a very stupid idea.
Consider a person that gets a ration of grain then his rations are cut.
As long as he believes he will get his ration he will not change his lifestyle to find another source of food which may be incredibly difficult say letting his children starve so he can reproduce again with a renewable food source secured.

Rationing defeats this innate survival mechanism since the animal will tend to cling to the known declining food source until its simply to weak to search for another source eventually leading to total death of the population dependent on rationing or more likely rationing breaks down and a much smaller group survives using force.

If your goal is to ensure a significant portion of the worlds population eventually starves to death then rationing is probably the best way to accomplish this since rationing of any critical supply with declining values eventually ensures total collapse.

This is why free market or price rationing is such a nasty situation other more egalitarian rationing schemes do nothing to solve the fundamental issue that you simply have to substitute at any cost the declining resource with a potentially highly inferior substitute.

Maybe a way to look at it is to consider a critical substance that was in effectively infinite supply we actually pretty much have one in the form of oxygen we breath. In this case for the most part everyone uses equal amounts it becomes perfectly rationed as other substances work as constraints.

Thus in the case of near infinite supply rationing works and you have equality. Now whats more important equality or the supply level. I'd argue that attempting to maintain some sort of equality as supplies drop from infinity to zero does not accomplish what people assume it accomplishes since this forced rationing slows system adaptation.

In the oxygen example you could consider the hypothetical case of some mountain growing rapidly with people living on its sides. The intelligent people decide to pump oxygen up from the bottom to the top to support the status quo. You can see how this becomes ever more precarious overtime. Instead the right answer is to leave the top of the mountain and migrate to the bottom regardless of the hardship this causes. The pain is less than the certain collapse that will happen if you attempt to ration to maintain the status quo.

And it really does not matter how you ration the above could be price driven with the population on top of the mountain much wealthier than the bottom dwellers or via compassion with the rich bottom dwellers "helping" the poor top dwellers the rationing scheme is irrelevant. Rationing a declining resource simply does more harm than good in the end.

Of course, given the years of propaganda and brainwashing, there will always be those such as memmel who proclaim that the "free market" (no such thing has ever existed nor ever has) is the best solution to every problem.

When it comes to survival or other extremely high priority projects, capitalist countries always turn to other approaches. WWII was not won through some "fight-and-trade" scheme. Neither did we get to the moon by letting the market decide whether it was profitable enough for some company and investors to make a buck on it.

If your town was running out of food and you were not the wealthiest person in the town, would you rather be in the town that rationed food and made sure everyone got enough for as long as possible, or would you prefer the town were the very wealthiest one or two people in the town bought up all the food and ate it themselves while everyone (including you) else starved?

Presumably memmel would prefer the latter, to watch himself and his children and wife...starve. He would be in seventh heaven, knowing that the market was operating perfectly and, in Roubini's pungent words, had priced his life at a value of zero.

A free enough market exists for purposes of distributing fossil fuels.

Nobody is going to die for lack of gasoline like they would for lack of food.

Now that the obvious falsehoods are dealt with:

Allowing (or forcing) fossil fuel prices to rise will both encourage and allow positive adaptive behaviors. Not everyone will choose to adapt, in fact some people would rather die than give up any of their energy slaves, but for those who do choose to adapt it provides rewards since they will have more resources to spend in other areas.

Allowing the prices to float where they will is probably the best policy. Remove incentives, tax imports from countries that provide incentives, remove price controls, and enforce anti-trust regulations vigorously. People would hate it even more than they'd hate a gas tax, but that's life.

"Nobody is going to die for lack of gasoline like they would for lack of food."

What a strange statement. Hard to know where to start. How long have you been on this site? Are you aware how dependent most of our current food supply is on fossil fuels?

Here is one place to start:

"Allowing (or forcing) fossil fuel prices to rise"

Please note that I did not say fossil fuel prices would not rise.

"Remove incentives, tax imports from countries that provide incentives, remove price controls, and enforce anti-trust regulations vigorously. People would hate it even more than they'd hate a gas tax, but that's life."

Good luck with that. Anything approaching a "pure" market is always going to give further advantage to those who already have economic advantage. These new uber-advantaged players are always going to do all they can to manipulate the market rules to even further advantage them. This is how we ended up with the plutocratic, corporate-controlled society we live in today.

Espousing "free market" particularly after the fiasco's of the past year and a half, is either criminally collusive with the criminal class that has robbed us all, or criminally naive.

Did you fully parse what I wrote?

I'm hardly a lazy fairy capitalist, or I would not have included "tax imports from countries that provide incentives" and "enforce anti-trust regulations vigorously".

I am fully aware that oil goes into everything we eat. That doesn't mean that because Joe can no longer afford to drive his Camaro he'll die of starvation. That is why price rationing makes sense in this case. If the price should rise to the point where essential uses are crowded out by the merely wealthy, then rationing for those uses is called for.

I should perhaps use the term "well regulated market", since it is obvious that "free market" is too closely associated with "uncontrolled market", and even a well regulated market will not be fair but it will be less unfair than an uncontrolled market.

"If the price should rise to the point where essential uses are crowded out by the merely wealthy, then rationing for those uses is called for."

Great. Then we agree on this. And sorry if I mistook your points.

Though I hate to open another potential can of worms, I do think that the time is later than you imply here. On a global level, we are already here--billions have less than essential water and food while the (relatively) wealthy, including most on this forum, continue to enjoy relatively unfettered access to dense energy sources.

And if you add gw into the equation, it should be clear that it is long past time that we moved past letting the market work its "magic" (which as it turns out was really quite a dark necromancy indeed).

You raise good points, but reality interferes with good intentions.

People who do not perceive reality will actively fight against their own best interests, and I keep getting reminded that the set of "people who do not perceive reality" is pretty much everyone at one point or another.

This is why the first step of the classic 12 step program is "admit you have a problem". This is really the only step that matters, because once it is met there are several paths to a solution but if it is not met then there is no power in heaven or on earth that can help a person.

While this may seem like a diversion, it is actually my main argument for a market-based solution over an imposed solution.

With an imposed solution you are trying to solve a problem for people that do not recognize it as a problem. They will fight tooth and claw until you are worn down and the solution is undone. Then everything is back to square one, repeat until things collapse.

With a market solution there is still fight, but as individuals are enlightened to the problem (or at least whatever of it they can see) they stop fighting the solution and start working with it. This makes the solution more robust and more extreme measures will be taken on eagerly by the effected individuals than could ever be imposed from above.

Frankly, given a declining resource there is ultimately no fair allocation that could ever be agreed on. The best I think we can do is set up robust systems that will allow those who can adapt to continue on.

"admit you have a problem"

Good point. A prerequisite for any viable solution, market or no.

So once everyone admits and understands the gravity of the problem(s), why would there be such resistance?

Why would there be resistance?

Why would understanding a problem lead to a change in behaviour? This is humans we're talking about, right?

Everyone won't understand or admit the problem. Ever.

That is why a market solution beats a planned solution. The people who refuse to believe in the problem then take care of themselves by refusing to adapt.

You are leaving out a lotta stuff.
You make one huge and faulty assumption that the participants that make up the "market" are acting rationally and with full and complete understanding.
This is the same flaw that befalls all democratic processes.
I contend that a highly educated, highly moral multidisciplinary diverse group would make better decisions than the invisible hand.
The reason my preferred method has failed in the past is not because it's design is flawed, rather, it is because in practice it is difficult to prevent power from becoming corrupted.

The market will always reflect the short sighted nature of human desires and discount the long term unintended consequences.

On the contrary, I am assuming that most of them will behave irrationally.

If I thought they would behave rationally I'd favor a planned approach. At least with a well reasoned plan suffering could be minimized. With a market solution there is at least a chance for some people to catch the wind and make rational decisions and move around the irrational ones.

The problem is that if a planned approach is tried and there are enough irrational actors to block it then we get the problem that rational action through the market tends to get blocked as well by subsidies and price controls.

I am confused.
A planned approach implies a select few decide.
A market approach implies the majority decides?
Apples and oranges?
The dominant direction of the trend will always be decided by the un-enlightened majority via the market.

What you seem to be advocating is every man for himself.

What I am saying is that you cannot protect people from themselves.

A planned approach gives one path and will be chosen by people who, however well intentioned and intelligent, do not have complete information. This is an efficient system, but if the wrong choices are made can actually maximize suffering. It also attempts to protect people from themselves, which I believe to be a Sisyphean task.

A market approach gives many paths and allows for adaptation to circumstances as they arise. There can be problems due to fraud and collusion between competitors. The base system here is robust but breaks down if a significant number of participants are allowed to make their participation too efficient, so regulation is needed. There will be suffering under this system, but if the regulation is sound it will be more often self-inflicted.

"Every man for himself" would be an unregulated market solution, which would pretty much automatically break down into a few parties efficiently abusing the rest of the population.

"regulation is needed."

Great, we agree on this. But who makes the regulations? You're back to a few people making the decisions.

And in a capitalist system, the people with the capital are always going to make sure the system is rigged in their favor.

So even if in theory the market starts out with multiple players, it always ends up with monopolies or a few very powerful players working in collusion.

To think otherwise seems the hight of naivety, at best.

What you describe is exactly how we got where we are.

I suspect, though I do not know, that it will be easier to make the market more fair than to replace it.

The iron law of oligarchy

..the first step of the classic 12 step program is "admit you have a problem". This is really the only step that matters, because once it is met there are several paths to a solution..

Admitting that one has a problem may indeed be the first step towards finding a solution to the problem, but it by no means guarantees that a solution will be found. Some problems are simply unsolvable. I would contend that problems related to gross human excess of carrying capacity and consequent degradation thereof, mass extinction of species, poisoning of atmosphere & oceans with high heat capacity gasses, depletion of fossil fuels & phosphorus, etc., are prime examples of problems that are unsolvable in any time frame pertinent to human concerns. After all, as you say yourself in response to a post by bmcett below:

..but some things are inevitable.

It depends on how you define the "solution".

Learning how to live with reality as it exists doesn't change reality, but it does solve the problem of trying to survive based on the wrong set of rules.

Some of the things you list as problems are likely beyond their tipping points already, and with most of humanity putting the pedal to the metal on GW nothing is in a hurry to change for the better. This leaves figuring out how to set up conditions so that no matter which way the world falls you have a chance at winning.

This includes a plan for some miracle occurring and BAU picking back up for another decade or two, which unless it is an Old Testament scale miracle would likely be the worst possible case...

Espousing "free market" particularly after the fiasco's of the past year and a half, is either criminally collusive with the criminal class that has robbed us all, or criminally naive.

I guess you weren't around when the iron curtain fell? If you had, you would have seen a real fiasco. The current dip is insignificant in relation to the upward trend enabled by economic freedom. (And the current dip is in large part constructed by the Fed and Congress, btw.) Take an index of Economic Freedom in the world and see if you'd like to live in one of the top countries or in one of the middle or in one of the bottom. It's fairly easy - try it!

Rationing is stupid. Period. You can throw hypothetical dying kids around all day - rationing will always do more harm than good in the real world.

You worry about millionaires consuming too much. But that is just small drops in the ocean - in the real world, political decisions about how much everybody can consume will ensure that *everybody* will waste gas in relation to optimal use. And what are the guarantees agriculture and infrastructure investments will get enough resources when politicians try to appease car owners' more immediate needs? I assure you that resources will get better allocation at market prices.

And seriously, you are an ignorant buffon who are unjustifiably aggressive and condescending towards those who try to reason with you and give you some insights. Please end the socialist parroting for a while and take some time to stop and think instead.

Ah, finally, the real capitalists step into the fray.

"Rationing is stupid. Period. You can throw hypothetical dying kids around all day - rationing will always do more harm than good in the real world."

That's your story and your stickin' with it. Good for you. Clearly an irrefutable argument (since no argumentation was involved).

"You worry about millionaires consuming too much. But that is just small drops in the ocean"

Ummmmm, WTF are you talking about. Are you on some kind of drugs? If so, can I have some?
According to the UC Atlas of Global Inequality, "Currently, the richest 1 % of people in the world receives as much as the bottom 57 %."


If the equivalent of the consumption of 57% of the world population is "just small drops" to you, I'd hate to see what a cup half full would mean to you. Do you even think or look anything up before setting this stuff down?

And note that this is just the top 1%. Go to the top quarter and you have a truly huge portion of the worlds resources being gobbled by the rich: "the richest 25% of the world's population receives 75% of the world's income"


Sorry to disabuse you of your capitalist wet dream.

"in the real world, political decisions about how much everybody can consume

And in the real world, those with the lion's share of the money/power largely dictate those political decisions. That's why a radical change in the power structure is also crucially needed.

"those who try to reason with you and give you some insights"

Still waiting for any reason or insight from your general direction.

"you are an ignorant buffon"

Excellent. I am certainly ignorant of many things, but at least I can spell "buffoon."

Please end the capitalist parroting for a while and take some time to stop and think instead.


Generally I am sympathetic to your arguments,and I have recently commented that I believe the trend towards concentrating so much wealth and power into so few hands will result in either a new fuedalism or another French Revolution.

And we as rich Westerners (mainly) certainly are hogging the commons.

But there is a big difference between owning and actually consuming.I'm not rich by any means,except by comparision to a third worlder,and my footprint is probably much smaller than the footprint of most of the readers here.

I know people with hundreds of times more money than I have but I will guess that most of them consume only four or times as much energy as I do,and certainly not twenty times or fifty times as much.But none of them are jetsetters either.I don't know any really rich people.

Unless you are really rich if you can build a two million dollar vacation house w/o a mortgage.We have a new nieghbor who is apparently capable of that.He has been consuming a hundred gallons a day just jackhammering out a basement for months.He also seems to think he owns the local roads but he will soon enough get into an accident and find that the local judge is a populist and not fond of rich people.

If my spelling is off a little,it's because I'm getting to old to remember the important stuff,let alone the trivial.;)

It could well be that you and your acquaintances are the exception, especially if most of your and their wealth is in land that you and they are taking careful stewardship of.

But generally wealth is a pretty good indicator of overall footprint. Even if you just hold money in a bank or in stocks, that money is likely very busy doing all sorts of harm to the environment.

I think very few of us in the US can pretend to escape the imperative to take part in the destruction of the future. We live in a kind of moral hell that way. As Bob Marley put it, "Think you're in heaven, but you're living in hell."

These days about the only glimmer of hope I hold on to is that some will, Oedipus like, some will come to some awareness of the degree to which we have killed our Father and f*cked our Mother.

Spelling is an arbitrary system cruelly imposed on us that we should all rebel against. I just couldn't resist giving jep a little grief.

Oldfarmermac, we on this site are all rich, we have computers or access to them. I volunteered with Mother Theresa's sisters in Haiti about 10 years ago. I promise you that all in the first and second world are rich. To the Haitians comparing your richness and that of the Rockefellers would have little meaning to them.

Additionally, and not directed to you oldfarmer, but to the free market lovers, despite the Heritage foundation's list of economically free countries, the reason we are rich is NOT because WE are free but because we enslave other countries. We have learned to hide it. If anyone has any doubts they need to read "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" by John Perkins http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Economic-Hit-John-Perkins/dp/1576753018 in which he explains exactly HOW we enslave other countries to prop up the wealth of the first world.

Jeppen - please review our guidelines. Especially #4 and #5.

I think you should reconcile yourself to the fact that some form of a rationing system is inevitable. In spite of the popularity of anti-tax rhetoric, America is not at core a libertarian country. Those of us who lived through the '70's and the imposition of the 55 mph speed limit need to remember how relatively quickly that was accomplished once the country had a sense of collective danger and collective purpose. In my experience people were voluntarily in compliance with that law for as long as the sense of crisis remained, and by sense of crisis I mean long gas lines. I certainly don't remember a groundswell of opposition to the rationing plans then, most everyone just wanted an end to the anarchy of the lines. Any vendor who would have chosen to allocate by price certainly risked social ostracism at the least. Americans will prefer a rationing system to allocation by price, that is not just my opinion but lived experience.
I also think that our dependence on the auto is so entrenched that as VMT is cut due to price spikes, those cuts will be not just to fat, but to muscle and bone. By that I mean that at some relatively low price point, say $5 a gallon, we will collectively feel a sense of crisis. Millions of low-wage working Americans who are indispensable- nursing homes, hospitals, even airline pilots apparently- simply will not have the resources to be able to commute to work without a workable rationing plan. Look at the programs to help them to buy overpriced houses in communities they could not otherwise afford to live. The political impulse to help these vulnerable populations will be irresistible.

Roubini's pungent words, had priced his life at a value of zero.

Its not what I want of course I'll fight for my own survival and for my children. Given how I think if rationing did start happening I'd hoard my rations and get the hell out of Dodge. Far more likely is you will probably find out I left Dodge long before rationing started.

Next the real problem as you point out is for many many people their real value is effectively zero i.e their life has for all intents and purposes no value. Thats what happens when you create masses and masses of humanity the value of and individual human declines over time.

People are simply not worth much any more and as core commodities get in short supply the value of human life for all intents and purposes becomes negative. Your worth more to the rest of humanity dead than alive.

Thats the horror we face to denying it does not change reality.

The vast majority of the human population is better off dead by any measure.

This is how badly we have ****** up. Its probably the biggest mistake humanity will ever make in our species lifetime. Its hard to imagine a time in the future that could be more screwed up then now.

The top post

Shows that we have been rationing for some time. Now your going to find out what happens when this approach fails as it must.

How people "feel" is not relevant rationing has finally resulted in us reducing the problem to one of basic survivability of the individual, populations and even to the point of threatening the very survival of our species amongst many at now at risk. We have managed to systematically bring ourselves to the brink of extinction and your worried about rationing schemes ?

"The vast majority of the human population is better off dead by any measure."

Hard to know how to respond to that one. I assume you don't count yourself among those whose lives would be so greatly improved by not being.

We have created a catastrophe, but more specifically it was the fantasy of limitless growth and free markets in the last 30-50 years that most recently accelerated many already truly bad situations into our pretty totally hopeless situation today.

We have managed to systematically bring ourselves to the brink of extinction and your worried about defending and preserving some chimerical ideal of perfect capitalism?

We have managed to systematically bring ourselves to the brink of extinction and your worried about defending and preserving some chimerical ideal of perfect capitalism?

Dohboi I don't think you understand what I'm saying. I could really care less what type of rationing scheme gets invoked in various areas of the globe as it becomes clear that the total amount of critical resources is obviously less than needed to support the current population much less growth.

I don't think it matters. Its simply not important. Some sort of market like mechanism backed buy terror via military strength is generally the most efficient approach and very common. Others require some sort of enlightened group that is willing to share which is generally not very common esp as the group size increases.

But I don't care how the various groups go about choosing straws over the coming years over the longer run i.e ten to 100 years only regions that are reasonably close to sustainability will support decent sized populations.

As far as humans go I'd not look much past the level of the traditional clan for any type of smart rationing for the group but this rationing will also be with clearly defined members and non-members.

Plenty of documentation exists showing that humans generally work best with groupings of clans or villages of about 100-200 people less rigidly linked as a larger group less than a few thousand. Socially, physically whatever we have not evolved past the core hunter/gatherer primitive agricultural social network level. Larger networks seldom if ever do anything for the common good. A simple rule of thumb is we don't deal with anything more than a friend of a friend with compassion.

Given the way we work and the problem we face I just don't see rationing at the scale of our current social orders involving millions as relevant.
Once the problem is reduced to one of the clan/village level and its a question of short term rationing for the greater good in a sustainable society thats a utterly different problem.

Tightening the belts in the dead of winter is not the same as sharing with billions.

Obviously most of the planet will need to see a significant population loss before any sort of sustainable communistic solution becomes viable. In any case promoting rationing schemes beyond where they are viable simply does not matter regardless of the nature of the scheme.

My own suggestion is what I call systematic collapse which remains ill defined but in this context the idea would be to revert to these stable village/clan based social units as the peak or final one with all larger social units of a limited nature i.e trading partners etc.

Whats interesting is we really don't know the minimum social integration required to support a high tech culture. Its not clear if its greater or less than our intrinsic social level. Given the technical achievements of fairly small companies i.e < 1000 one can assume that we can continue to have a high tech culture within the natural clan/village social network.

But I'd suggest that not a problem we face at the moment. And regardless until the social systems devolve back close to the natural groupings its simply not yet time to talk about actually climbing back out of the pit.

Thanks for the clarification, mem.

"My own suggestion is what I call systematic collapse which remains ill defined but in this context the idea would be to revert to these stable village/clan based social units as the peak or final one with all larger social units of a limited nature i.e trading partners etc."

Interesting idea. Of course, it would be hard/impossible, just like any other scheme.

If implemented, it would probably have the advantage of avoiding large-scale war, since these can only be waged by larger units, usually with many layers of embedded or "nested" units within it.

You know, of course, that many will label your idea anarchism and not only dismiss it but suspect you of various terrible motivations (speaking from first hand experience, here).


I could really care less what type of rationing scheme gets invoked in various areas of the globe as it becomes clear that the total amount of critical resources is obviously less than needed to support the current population much less growth.

I didn't like what you said about rationing earlier, but I am beginning to follow you. As long as we are instinctively driven to increase the tribe, rationing schemes will fail.

You mentioned the value of human life is approaching zero. I agree with that. Maybe we could try to ration people instead? Put a verifiable premium on human life, better aligned with resources and carrying capacity.

Cap and Trade people. Now you're talking.

You pretty much nailed it :)

The deeper underlying problem is our current society has debased the value of humanity. Globalization is a fairly obvious way to leverage cheap energy to lessen the cost of labor.

You could go on forever on how the status quo has relentlessly resulted in a steady devaluation of the value of the individual human even as the quality of life has maybe increased.

How do you make people valuable ?

How do you make people valuable when your facing a steady decline in core commodities ?

I'm not and anarchist I just don't think these are problems that can be answered leveraging our current structure.

Almost every solution seems to result in a more evenly distributed population with smaller concentrations of people and variants of ELP ( Economize localize Produce) ELP is in my opinion not consistent with our current social and political infrastructure since in my opinion at its heart the village becomes the top social level.

Certainly you have other larger groupings but these are specialized arrangements for a narrow well defined purpose defense trade etc.

The law and the rule of law if you will would stop at the village level with only specialized dispute settlements beyond this. Obviously taxes would also not be collected beyond the level of a village.

I don't really know but the concept is villages are sovereign states with no higher power. I think our real problem is a long time ago the city states where stripped of their power. This goes back to the dawn of modern civilization. Greece in a sense rose to power on the back of independent city states as other empires in the region declined. But always the city state was eventually taken over by a larger empire. If you look some of the regions that have kept closest to the city state form have become the most successful Switzerland for example.

My gut feeling if you will is this is the only form of government that can possibly ensure that natural resources and human value will be treated as valuable. The village can I believe effectively practice human birth control and population management. It can offer members that work within its rules enough value to ensure that the village population remains stable.

I googled a bit for this and plenty of links suggest that this concept is correct.


And another good one.


Until the commons are returned to the village I think we will simply continue to suffer Jevons Paradox.

I just don't see any other way but to manage population, land, resources etc at the village level and this requires granting sovereign rights at this level. Its of course not without its problems but one may think that overtime this sort of village based society could eventually steadily increase its wealth within a sustainable framework to the point that individuals are wealthy enough to no longer worry about physical needs and most desires.

Given enough investment its almost trivial to come up with a wealthy high tech village centric solution as long as population remains within the local renewable resource constraints. Indeed villages have formed the basic source of wealth for centuries its just that in general this wealth has been stripped by more aggressive larger social entities.

The key seems to be to not go beyond this level which in my opinion is simply the political ramifications of Westexas's ELP (Economize, Localize, Produce ) concept.


u are on.

the neural wiring we have is that we are wired for communication/empathy/compassion[as u say] in very small groups < 8-10; & the linking of these groups.

this is the way out of the 'tragedy of the commons' that dogs our way of life at all the larger social structures/sizes.

we need to recognize our limitations & choose within them.

Dohboi - you're trying way too hard.
Watching you argue with Memmel is like watching a kid with a Kazoo try to out perform the Boston Pops.
I don't believe you're fit to carry Memmel's boots.

My advice to you - the next time you get the urge to post a statement that 1. Accuses Memmeml of being brainwashed by the media, and 2. Accuses Memmel of an absolute to which he has not subscribed, please kick back and remember - carry the boots, read, and try to learn.

Whoever votes for rationing in peacetime will not get re-elected.

We have been lied to so much by so many politicians that who would ever believe that rationing was not just a political scam for the companies who lobbied the most.

So, IMHO, it will never happen unless there is a real fear of starvation and by then supply will be the rationing agent.

What the USA needs is a gasoline credit trading market administered by Goldman Sachs. This would be the most efficient mechanism to promote an orderly transition.

An orderly transition of money from our pockets to GS, you mean? Yes, I am certain that what you propose would work just as intended.

Don't worry-it will all trickle down (first they need to run it through their kidneys).

"Whoever votes for rationing in peacetime will not get re-elected."

Ummmm, we are in fact at war. Two wars, in fact. One of which was arguably started in order to secure a rich source of oil.

Indeed, the multiple lies have hurt public perceptions, but that is not a very good excuse for not telling truths now, however inconvenient they may be.

Whoever votes for rationing in peacetime will not get re-elected.

You are quite right. At least in the US rationing is a non-starter. We are way-way-way-way to hung up on our ideology. It would be far easier to sell socialized medicine government funded healthcare than fuel rationing, and look at all the effective lies thrown out against the former. We are wasting our time discussing it. The foolishness of our population insures it won't happen.

Lynford isn't a common name in the US, so perhaps you're not in the USA, but even if not, it's still interesting to see someone on TOD suggest that this is peacetime, even as the US escalates into Afghaninam and the populace is told that leaving 30-100,000 troops in Iraq is "withdrawal."

“I think a necessary prerequisite for all of this is a sense that we are in a situation as more threatening to ourselves and our children than WWII was. If this mindset was widely shared, many would be on the lookout for anyone gaming the system.” Posted bu dohboi

During WWII, this mindset rapidly came to pass and was easily maintained. Unlike resource depletion and climate change, there was a clear, easily identifiable villain on the scene. Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo could be easily caricaturized and demonized. I remember my father telling me of how, during WWII, you could get toilet paper with Hitler’s face printed on it. This creates a focus on the enemy and contributs to a sense of dedication to prevailing over him. Kind of hard to do this with Peak Oil, etc. We have met the Enemy and he is us????

Antoinetta III

Bingo. It is very difficult for humans to focus on an enemy (or other task) that does not have a clearly identifiable and demonize-able face on it. The is one of the main reasons that it is hard to get widespread buy in for effectively addressing either PO or GW.

Neither are recognizable immediate threats.

We're programed to recognize a threat as the face of a stranger or beast in front of us about to harm us or a loved one.

I love the idea of pictures on TP. Perhaps pictures of coal plants and SUVs?

You can buy toilet paper with Obama's picture on it.


As long as were are talking REALITY cap and trade IS as they say in impolite company xxxxing into the wind.It's PERFECTLY obvious to anyone not religiouly oriented in his thinking (including 99.5 percent of the greens,liberals,engineers who plan on building this stuff,etc in religiously oriented)that China,India,and the rest of the lesser developed world will continue to burn anything and everything they can put thier hands on and in my humble opinion the only way to stop'em is to nuke'em.

So Momma's saving dimes from the grocery money while Daddy's drinking up the mortgage and car payment money.That said,I do advocate doing anything that might actually help,but the money that's apparently going to go into this scheme could be far better spent on conservation or the buildout of more renewables.

And it will be obvious to any one with any naturally or artificially acquired immunity to niavette that the bill is geared toward another handout to those who either have plenty of money already or those who should be broke any way.Environmentalism is the necessary fig leaf over the cap and trade coalition's banana as in "Is that a banana in yout pocket ,or are you just glad to see me?"
CONSIDERING THE LIKELY FUTURE PRICES OF OIL AND COAL,I find it hard to imagine that we wouldn't be better off spending that money buying up uranium,building nukes,and researching the next generation or two of nike tech.We do know that the new style reactors CAN be built and that thery WILL WORK.That 's not a bad starting point,Given the overall situation ,it looks better than ccs to me,because as I see it:

A nuke up and running emits no co2 but a coal plant either running or to be built will be owned and operated by someone with plenty of clout and plenty of backing from cash strapped customers and the ccs will be put off,put off ,put off,even if it does work-eventually.

Does any one here think congress is going to raise the price of electricity in a big way in a declining economy,when the results will be immediate and obvious?(It's easy to pass laws that only apply to future times far enough away that the voters can't remember who passed them.

It will be another altogether to tell a local utility to install ccs and deal with the utility customers at the next election,especially if times are tough.

Conservation will not be SERIOUSLY considered until the situation is such that there is a winning and willing-to-pay-to-play coalition of people and business able to buy the air time and votes both indirectly at the polling place and directly in Washington on the floor of the house and senate.
Whether such a coalition will ever arise is an open question,but it seems very unlikely that it will arise in the next year or two ,in my opinion.Maybe if we get very lucky it might come into being over the next decade or so.

Off topic but maybe relevant: There is always three sides to every story,his side,her side,and the truth.The mental ruts are worn so deep that we can't see over the tops any more,and most of us don't even try,as we are not even aware that we ARE in a rut.

I bash everybody's pet programs and sacred cows on the theory that although I don't necessarily know what will work I know that way too much of what is being done,defended, or proposed from either end of the political spectrum will NOT WORK and we need to move on to something else.

It bothers me that so many people have apparently made the assumption that since the conservatives have been wrong on some things(very important things,CRITICAL THINGS ,SOMETIMES) that they are wrong on every thing and that they have cornered the market in graft and corruption.It ain't so folks.

I read both kinds of news magazines.Let me introduce you to a quote from an articulate rethuglican speaking on the issue of family values in (to some)a right wing nut publication.I will buy a gift subscription to the first person that can identify the preacher, the publication, and the issue if they will post an address and name.But they gotta promise to read it!


From a speech last year: "Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and committ crime,nine times more likely to drop out of schools,and twenty times more likely to end up in prisons."

I has taken me up until the last couple of days to make up my mind as to the reality of speculators driving the price of oil for the last few years..Westtexas has convinced me it wasn't that way.The public made up it's mind a long time ago,very few waited for the facts,and very few will ever know the facts,let alone heed the facts.

The Oil Drum is MOSTLY populated with people who are interested in facts.There are the technical sort of facts and the people sort.Badmouthing the people who diagree with you on the debateable people "facts" is a near perfect formula for making sure they close THIER minds to any real examination of the technical sort of facts.

I have a strong urge to thank the God of my childhood for the FACT of the Oil Drum.

I too think the demonization of conservatives is childish and selfish.

Few who preach global equality understand its consequences. If limited resources were allocated fairly, we'd all live something between an African and Chinese lifestyle, and likely enjoy their "freedoms" too.

The western way of life - and its "freedoms" - was created in unfairness, and is sustained by unfairness.

Conservative friends admit this fact in private. Liberal friends deny it. They seem to think that if only "the rich" were less stupidly mean-spirited, everyone in the world could be free and equal. They refuse to admit that they are "the rich" or that their over-consumption is unfair. Compared to an African, they certainly are, and it certainly is.

The thing is, fraud, theft and criminal activity isn't conservative or liberal, but it is rampant in the USA right now and both groups are being taxed to pay for it.

for sure, both parties are shamelessly corrupt.

and, both parties talk nonsense in public, too.

i mean only to say that conservatives suffer from less self-deception about limits to growth.

they're just as happy to deceive others about it, tho.

"...conservatives suffer from less self-deception about limits to growth."

What does this mean? Drill baby drill, climate change is a cruel hoax, co2 is plant food, wink ;-)

Are you sugesting that conservatives are more likely to have realistic views on resource depletion, habitat destruction, revenue (tax) requirements for necessary services, and climate constraints yet they CHOOSE to promote (repeal!) BAU because to do otherwise would somehow compromise their conservative integrity?

"...conservatives suffer from less self-deception about limits to growth."

What does this mean? Drill baby drill, climate change is a cruel hoax, co2 is plant food, wink ;-)

From what I can tell, that is just talk. A politician does not speak his mind. You need to stop taking political speech so literally. They never mean what they say in public.

When Dick Cheney had his secret energy panel meetings, I guarantee you that none of your talking points were spoken by anyone.

The panel almost certainly discussed the reality of the situation - the fact that fossil fuels were running out, and alternatives don't scale. The decision to go grab Iraq and establish a permanent military force in the Middle East was a business decision made by businessmen without public discussion.

All the talk about 9/11 and Al-Qaeda and WMD and all those years goofing on Bush was just a distraction, meant to keep you from interfering with important business.

"When Dick Cheney had his secret energy panel meetings, I guarantee you that none of your talking points were spoken by anyone."

Well, since the meeting, as you pointed out, was notoriously top secret (since the people are presumably not worthy even to overhear the plans being made for them by their public servants), that's one guarantee you will never be called to make good on.

So I'll make an equally safe "guarantee," that, since they specifically wouldn't allow any environmental groups in, that they spent most of the time strategizing ways to undermine said environmental groups.

I guarantee it ;-)

conservatives suffer from less self-deception about limits to growth.

What an utterly ridiculous thing to say. Conservatives don't even believe in reality, much less limits to growth.

What an utterly ridiculous thing to say. Conservatives don't even believe in reality, much less limits to growth.

You need to distinguish between what they say and what they do. What they've been doing lately, is grabbing whatever resources they could, while the getting is still good. If they didn't believe in limits to growth, why rush?

When they say that drilling offshore restores energy independence, they are lying. But when they make the business deals behind closed doors, all parties are very aware that there are 18 billion barrels at stake - about two years' supply. I guarantee you that there are no talking points in the business meetings.

The fact that conservatives would get so excited about two years' supply shows that they understand that we are near the limits of oil supply.

Liberals' blind faith in energy independence by renewables, however, is not just a public-facing lie. It's a self-deception.

In this way, conservatives can be more realistic. Everyone lies to the public, but at least the conservatives aren't lying to themselves (as much.)

Energy independence will come, with or without renewable energy.

At some point there will simply be no energy out there for us to buy at any price.

If we have a renewables industry in place when that day comes we will be riding much higher than if we don't.

I don't know who's lying more between the R's and D's, but some things are inevitable.

bmcnett wrote:

Liberals' blind faith in energy independence by renewables, however, is not just a public-facing lie. It's a self-deception.

To my mind, anytime someone vilifies an entire group, it can't be accurate. Can anyone even define with any degree of accuracy what the terms liberal or conservative mean? Personally, I'd like to conserve our planet liberally.

That being said bmcnett, could you explain how it is even possible, in the long run, to have energy independence with anything but renewables?

I believe it is possible for humans to develop an advanced eco-technical civilization that is 100% sustainable, powered entirely by our sun and its ancillary effects, but not with anywhere near our current population and/or consumption levels. But then, why would we want to?

How is anyone's quality of life enhanced by a global population of six, seven, or ten billion people? How is anyone's quality of life enhanced by profligate inefficiency that delivers more waste byproduct than desired commodity - e.g. using an electric space heater as a light source (incandescent bulbs), or using a 20% efficient ICE to move three tons of steel and one 274 pound occupant (my Expeditionist neighbor)to a Sprawl-Mart?

At some point, if we continue to exist as a species, we will have a sustainable population level, powered by renewable energy. The unknowns are how impoverished the planet will be, and how long it will take to get there. Who knows what size that sustainable population might be. It's certain to be far less than our current one though. Five hundred million sounds pretty peachy; inhabiting perma-cultured garden cities surrounded by vast tracts of protected wilderness and interconnected by high speed electric rail lines. Internal combustion would be banned globally of course, under the universally ratified Earth Species Bill of Rights, which guarantees peace and quiet for all along with a fluffy kitty that never becomes a cat.

Some might reasonably ask: "if you think decreasing the population so beneficial, why don't you do the world a favor and vote your own over-consumptive American ass off the island?" To be honest, if somebody guaranteed me the result for doing so would be an ecologically sustainable, egalitarian civilization with high quality of life for all participants, I would. And I don't even have any kids of my own who would benefit. Of course, no such thing could be guaranteed, so I'll stick around for a bit - me and my fluffy kitty.

Typical rethug treasure-tove of stupidity.

No facts cited, no argument presented, the weirdest reverse batshit illogic anywhere.

Conservatives are more 'realistic' because liberals are more self-deceptive.

Conservatives deny peak oil, therefore it is true.

Conservatives lie(he knows/guarantees because they talk about it at business meetings)except to themselves!

Everyone lies.
Therefore liberals lie.

Even without Peak Oil, Amerka is doomed.(or not!)


'Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)'
---Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Great rant. To answer your question, Gogole tells me that your quote appeared in Barack Obama's 2008 Father's Day Speech.

But, facts is facts and there are lots of Rethugs who don't want to face them. Not that the Dems are much better, but we know that the Dems have shown less inclination toward secrecy than the Rethugs.

I've been reading Hersh's book, "The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House" (1983), a book that may not have penetrated far beyond the academic world. Hersh was writing long after Nixon was out and during Ronnie RayGun's glory days, but he exposed many FACTS regarding the way Nixon ran the War in Vietnam from the White House, ignoring advice from both the State Department and the DOD. I've just finished the chapter on the rebellion in East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh), during which many thousands were slaughtered and some 10 million refuges fled to India. Nixon and Kissinger supported West Pakistan, failing to intervene in any way because Pakistan was part of their back channel communication with China and Nixon wanted to take credit for "opening" China.

There are still many secrets hidden away, such as the FACT JUST REVEALED that Nixon enlisted Brazil's president in efforts to destabilize Chile. Democracy does not work when the government does not allow the free flow of information. If I live long enough, I suspect we will learn that Bush 43 made Nixon look like an amateur.

As for FACTS, remember that the Three Mile Island accident resulted in 20 tons (40,000 pounds) of melted fuel elements being produced and it took some 8 years to get to the bottom of the containment vessel. We were dog damn lucky with that one, IMHO. And, the latest dollar cost of a new nuke is about 5 times what they cost back in the 1970's, so adding more nuke power plants WILL CAUSE the price of electricity to soar...

E. Swanson

Careful who you badmouth. It may be the majority and some may visit TOD. You talk as if all TODDERS are dyed in the wool liberals. My guess is that most scientists have a conservative bent due to the nature of their work.


I see your survey and raise you: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1276/science-survey

The 2500 scientists self-identified as 52% Liberal, 35% Moderate, and 9% Conservative.

(See the second to last table.)

I once took an online quiz to see if I was a liberal or conservative. Turns out I'm 5/8 liberal & 3/8 conservative. These tired old labels should have gone out of usage with old Bush's term in office.

We should be surprised that scientists refuse to identify with a group that has been demonizing them for decades now?

According to Webster what passes for conservative in the USA today isn't. But a couple of those definitions do look like they describe many scientists.

From today's (London) Independent:

Johann Hari: Republicans, religion and the triumph of unreason

How do they train themselves to be so impervious to reality?

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Something strange has happened in America in the nine months since Barack Obama was elected. It has best been summarised by the comedian Bill Maher: "The Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved to a mental hospital."

Myself, and all the other scientists I work with, would fall in the secular liberal category for the most part. There's some good data in The God Delusion regarding studies linking more progressive liberal mindsets and secularism with those in a, shall we say, more mentally challenging line of work. There are exceptions, though. Dr. Behe may be great at his particular line of work, but he knows jack when it comes to evolution and others kowtow a more conservative and religious line, using science they take out of context to support certain partisan views e.g. many AGW deniers.

My guess is that most scientists have a conservative bent due to the nature of their work.

That may have once been true. It might still be if US conservatives had not changed so much. But conservatism in the USA has grasped upon anti-intellectualism (anti-science, as well as anti other forms of intelectualism) as a key means of gaining power. So the vast majority of scientists, and any others who consider the search for truth to be the highest calling have had no choice but to flee the movement.


You haven't named the magazine and current issue yet,so no cigar-yet.

I can disagree with you concerning what I call "people facts" and we can still find some common ground that we may be able to get some things done that we can agree on.

Our disagreement concerning nukes is sort of half and half. Half technical,half people.

Suppose we are getting enough juice from nukes twenty years down the road that we decide we don't have to occupy Canada for thier remaining oil and gas?;)

Now as far as Ronnie Ray gun is concerned, I will read your author if you will read mine-Alexander Solzhenitsyn.I daresay he is the more creditable of the pair by any standard.

You may have felt the same way Ronnie Raygun did about taxes for instance if you were a struggling dreamer and finally had a good year and found out that uncle Sam wanted ninety percent of your good year.

Or unions,if you have ever been outside one trying to get in,or tried to get something done where unions dominate.like remodel your apartment building in NYC in those days.

I was once married to a NYc girl,and her liberal 'crat Daddy took me around to see the buildings landlords walked away from because between rent control and union labor they could not be kept up to code.Damn nice buildings,some of them,and structurally perfectly sound.

Somehow I doubt that you are well acquainted with the realities of the cold war,or communism ,or Ronald Reagen.The Gulag Archipelago is a great place to get started.

But I was reading the Washington Post every single day ,sometimes TWICE a day,with either fury or great relish,often both, during the Nixon years,and I am well acquainted with tricky dick.Of course I can always learn something new!

And I nearly coughed up my soup when I heard that these dyed in the wool 'crats inlaws of mine were fixing to retire to ...drum rooll,horns fireworks!!!!! Jesse Helms's home town-not exactly but a few miles away only.Seems as if they had developed a yearning for a publican type environment-tough cops,low taxes,etc.

There are always individual cases one can point to for problems with unions. But in all probability if we had had much stronger, progressive unions in the last decades we would have universal health care (as exists in every other advanced industrial country), public transit, stronger public schools, safer work places, less disparity between the richest and the poorest....

Strong unions is not the same as communism (much less the same as the sham of the USSR).

that China,India,and the rest of the lesser developed world will continue to burn anything and everything they can put thier hands on and in my humble opinion the only way to stop'em is to nuke'em.

You sure got that one backwards. China and India are embarking on very agressive renewables projects. They are coming around very fast. The country that needs a serious threat to be made to come around is us!

this cap and tax scam will only reward corporate and govt. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citi group, (hmmm, correct me if I am wrong, but didn't these same companies receive tarp money? They have their hand on the spoon of this ripoff called cap and trade. Which will reward them significantly, with help from the Govt passing a cap and tax. it's not about CO2 emmissions. It's about money. and us taxpayers are the saps, that must pay into it. The administration is lying to us about global warming. It's all a SCAM! We are being played! It's not about the planet or our health, it's about money.

about healthcare? no it's not. it's about control:
read this:http://www.desertconservative.com/2009/07/23/healthcare-bill-facts-obama-does-not-want-you-to-know/

It's Fascism! cut and dry. corporate owns washington. and we the stupid public citizens must pay $$$ to the Fascist govt. If the govt taxed 100% profits from all business, microsoft, berkshire hathaway, etc, the healthcare reform bill would still be in the hole, needing more $$$. It's a bottomless pit. I heard that on financial sense newshour, 08 aug 09.

dems or repubs, is really nothing more than what Gerald Celente (CEO of Trends research Institute) calls it the "Two headed one party system"

Lets face it, he's right, they are no better than each other. both are corrupt as all get out .
wikipedia: goldman sachs, harvard or brown university, look at the alumni, note how many are in very powerful positions. the latest club handshake just went to sonya sotomajor (yale) to supreme court. Where did Henry Paulson come from? Dartmouth, then Goldman Sachs. Timothy Geithner? Dartmouth, and John Hopkins. Bush 41? Yale, Bush 43? Yale and harvard. Bill and Hillary Clinton? Yale! Obama?
Columbia and harvard.
See a Ivy league trend here? And I am just pulling a few famous names here. It seems incestious to me.

Get it? see the trend? The nation needs new blood.

sorry to go on a rant, nat gas keeps dropping in price. I need it to go up!

The writer of this blog quits:

"Our downfall as a nation is no accident. We know how this happened and why. Yet despite this knowledge and awareness, the downward trajectory of this country remains the same. The growing grassroot movements and widespread discontent and unrest we are now witnessing is not going to stop it. All they want is what everyone seems to still want, which is a return to a “business as usual” model of preminence, privilege and excess and material consumption.

This cannot happen, if for no other reason then resource limits have now been reached.."


It was probably inevitable. He writes (his emphases):

Missing from this equation is the entire real world of life and death, the suffering and struggling that goes on each and every single day to simply retain the most basic right of all, applied to all things on planet Earth — the right to exist. This is a basic right to all things, the right to exist without coercion or exploitation...

Oh, my, he gets the all-time prize for cheap sentimental fatuousness. To take an extreme example for the sake of clarity, many fish and insects produce hundreds or thousands of fry or nymphs. And in his otherworldly conception, every last one of them, as a member of the class of "all things", has "the right to exist" free of interference.

Sure, why not. Grant them their "right" by some kind of magic from some other universe, and in less than a century they'd mass to more than Jupiter. And he'd no doubt be excoriating gravity itself for the very considerable interference it would be exerting against their "right" to exist, as it remorselessly squashed the ones at the bottom into very dead dwarf-star matter. This quixotic nonsense goes so far beyond everyday fatuousness, such as entertaining the notion that every dreamy four-year-old might have the "right" to a pony, that words could never encompass it. So how could it possibly ever lead to anything but the ultimate in frustration?

Paul: True, but the nonsense on the other extreme is far more common-the Star Trekkie fantasy of terrafirming other planets, etc. We cannot even create a new TREE (not a hybrid, a NEW creation). Your argument is that biodiversity of life on Earth is unnecessary and possibly you are partially correct, just like you can remove many bricks from a wall until it collapses. However, since NOBODY has any idea why this biodiversity was engineered in the first place (the best the esteemed authority figures can come up with is "random")no one actually knows the minimum level of biodiversity necessary for human survival. I have met many who are quite confident we could pave the entire planet without even mussing anyone's hair. Then we just move on to another planet (maybe even better) that our vaunted techowizards will create someday.

"Your argument is that biodiversity of life on Earth is unnecessary..."

It's a radical leap from "nothing in biology really has a right to noninterference or even existence" to "biodiversity of life on Earth is unnecessary", so I'm not sure where that came from. Nevertheless, I do suspect biodiversity is greatly overrated in these discussions, and except maybe on the part of specialists in biology, that may be driven by sentimentality. As I've said before, everyone seems to want to embalm the world as it was when they were 17, and they'll latch onto any argument in service of that end. (For example, if you want to make suburbs illegal because houses threaten to overrun some nondescript patch of land you remember from childhood, well, no one really needs to care. So argue that they will kill everyone via AGW, obesity, or whatever else happens to be the cause du jour.)

Biodiversity tends to tail off drastically as one goes from the Amazon to the poles, with hardly a soul seeming to miss it at the reduced levels. As to what is 'necessary' to human survival, who knows, food species and in the long run enough other stuff to keep the oxygen level up. The latter might be the real kicker. Of course, should someone invent a working Mr. Fusion, maybe virtually none at all would be truly 'necessary'.

"...why this biodiversity was engineered..."

Let's agree not to even think of going there; teleology leads only to heated flame-fests around here - and the flame-fest up above that started off with rationing seems enough for one day.

As to what is 'necessary' to human survival, who knows, food species and in the long run enough other stuff to keep the oxygen level up.

This statement pretty much sums up why there is no hope whatsoever for general human understanding of biogeochemistry & ecology to come to grips with the urgent environmental problems that are rapidly driving our species, along with hundreds of thousands of others, towards extinction. This level of understanding would be laughable if not so utterly emblematic of the hopelessness of the situation.

We cannot even create a new TREE (not a hybrid, a NEW creation)

Well, maybe not a tree...yet!


Synthetic genomics, the subject of the conference, is the process of replacing all or part of an organism's natural DNA with synthetic DNA designed by humans. It is essentially genetic engineering on a mass scale. As the participants were to learn over the next two days, synthetic genomics will make possible a variety of miracles, such as bacteria reprogrammed to turn coal into methane gas and other microbes programmed to churn out jet fuel. Still other genomic engineering techniques will allow scientists to resurrect a range of extinct creatures including the woolly mammoth and, just maybe, even Neanderthal man.


Beyond that is the possibility of creating synthetic organisms that would be resistant to a whole class of natural viruses. There are two ways of doing this, one of which involves creating DNA that is a mirror-image of natural DNA. Like many biological and chemical substances, DNA has a chirality or handedness, the property of existing in either left-handed or right-handed structural forms. In their natural state, most biological molecules including DNA and viruses are left-handed. But by artificially constructing right-handed DNA, it would be possible to make synthetic living organisms whose DNA is a mirror-image of the original. They would be resistant to conventional enzymes, parasites, and predators because their DNA would not be recognized by the mirror-image version. Such synthetic organisms would constitute a whole new "mirror-world" of living things.

The latest projected path for Bill from the NHC:


Dust off your sou'westers all you New Englanders and Atlantic Canadians.


The further north, the less predictable hurricanes are.

History Reveals Hurricane Threat to New York City

Because of the population density, a successful evacuation of vulnerable low-lying areas in and around New York City and metropolitan New Jersey would actually have to start sooner than what is typically ordered in Florida and elsewhere, officials have determined based on studies by the Army Corps of Engineers.

But hurricanes move more quickly and become very difficult to predict when they head north of the Carolinas. In a likely scenario, experts say, there might only be hours of warning.

Hi Leanan,

No question, it's still early in the game, but it's not a bad idea to begin preparations by adding a few extra tin goods to your weekly shopping list, checking your supply of batteries, topping up your gas tank, etc.; even a glancing blow can give rise to localized flooding, property damage and extended power cuts. A number of our friends right up to the day it hit were convinced Hurricane Juan would miss our city and some of them were subsequently without power for up to two weeks (and without gasoline or groceries for a good part of that).

Here are Accuweather's projected paths:


Edit: Of everything I've seen thus far, this one is creeping me out the most:



It's approaching Cat 3 status now and looking good. Still looking like it may miss virtually everything though. Bermuda at serious risk however. All that can change of course.

{GOES-East Floater 2)

And I just remembered a handy Guide to Hurricane Tracks.


Hi Undertow,

Now officially cat 3 and perhaps onward to 4.

See: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/refresh/MIATCUAT3+shtml/190030.shtml?


Are there any weather experts currently logged into TOD? What are the chances of any part of the US, including Hawaii, of ever getting totally swamped with 80 inches [2 meters] of rainfall from a hurricane like what hit Taiwan from Typhoon Morakot? Is this greatly increasing in statistical probability as Climate Change kicks in?

As a long time desert denizen: my brain has a hard time picturing this amount of water coming down in such a brief period:

..Typhoon Morakot dumped more than 80 inches (2 meters) of rain on the island more than a week ago. That spawned flooding and massive landslides that stranded thousands in mountainous southern Taiwan..

Records Broken by Tropical Storm Claudette [1979]

A new record was set in Alvin, Texas for the heaviest rainfall in a 24-hour period in the U.S. Just over 43 inches of rain fell and this record remains unbroken..
Any TODer near this location back in '79? What was that like as inquiring minds would like to know? Does the house shake from that much water hitting the roof? Is the fear of drowning really palpable when the roof runoff precludes you from seeing out any window or door porthole? Even if your dwelling is on high ground: do the thunderclaps preclude sleeping, or is it more like an exhilarating roller-coaster ride for 24 hours?

Some of the world’s heaviest average rainfall, about 10,922 mm (about 430 in) per year, occurs at Cherrapunji, in northeastern India, where moisture-laden air from the Bay of Bengal is forced to rise over the Khāsi Hills of Assam State. As much as 26,466 mm (1,042 in), or 26 m (87 ft), of rain have fallen there in one year. Other extreme rainfall records have included nearly 1,168 mm (nearly 46 in) of rain in one day during a typhoon at Baguio, Philippines; 304.8 mm (12 in) within one hour during a thunderstorm at Holt, Missouri; and 62.7 mm (2.48 in) over a 5-minute period at Portobelo, Panama.
Thxs for any replies. Here in my AZ Asphaltistan, we jokingly call our very infrequent precipitation a 'six-inch rainfall'-->one drop sporadically hitting every six inches, not even long enough in duration, or heavy enough in rainfall amounts, to really wash a vehicle clean.

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

The stat that I just heard on the radio was over nine feet of rain in under three days.

That is truly an insane amount of rain.

When you start having events that are so far outside of the range of expected events, you should know that something very strange is going on (unless of course you have some emotional or some even less worthy reason to pretend that everything is just fine.)

We had fourteen inches of rain in one county last year, about doubling the last all-time record. Towns and farms completely washed away. People from around the state pitched in to help folks down there recover and rebuild. (Corporations such as Whole Foods, on the other hand, tried to use the opportunity to screw over some of the worst hit farmers.)

I can't begin to imagine what nine feet of rain coming out of the sky would look like. Poor bastards.

We all, of course, can take some blame for this. We're all locked in a system that forces us to destroy the living systems of the earth.

Now officially cat 3 and perhaps onward to 4.

Made Cat 4 now.

Hi Undertow,

There's now little doubt about it.... this bad boy ramping up and has Atlantic Canada in its sights.

See: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/refresh/MIATCPAT3+shtml/190842.shtml

and: http://www.examiner.com/x-11224-Baltimore-Weather-Examiner~y2009m5d28-In... (click on the forecast models button in the upper right corner to see the projected paths)


The Paul Kingsnorth / George Monbiot back and forth is interesting. I'll need to got back and read it more carefully when I have a few spare minutes.

I was struck, though, by a comment Monbiot makes early on that seems to really sum up his (and many others) position with regards to his "concern" about the coming collapse. I'll excuse that its unsubstantiated given the forum, but it is well worth pointing out that it is an assumption based in Western European political philosophy and by no means a demonstrable truth.

He says;

2 When civilisations collapse, psychopaths take over;

Not only is this not backed up by any specific historical evidence, but there is certainly a strong argument that it is "civilization" that is psychopathic and those that "run" it the psychopaths. After all, is it the "uncivilized" that have built up the horror show we are confronted with at present?

The article is good, very good, but one should read the whole thing before commenting. Both Monbiot and Kingsnorth make very good points. Monbiot is most correct when he says:

Neolithic must be able to see that the weapon of planetary mass destruction is not the current culture, but humankind.

But therein lies the problem. There is just no way to fix humankind. And despite Monbiot's ranting there is just nothing that can fix the massive problems humankind has found itself in. We have followed our nature and it is leading us right over the cliff.

But most, like Monbiot, pledge to fight on to try to save civilization as we know it. This, in my mind, is a serious mistake. True we should fight on but fight to preserve our own little nook of civilization and forget about trying to save the whole world. Kingsnorth makes this very point when he speaks of The Dark Mountain Project.

Both men know what is about to befall us but Kingsnorth has, by far, the most sensible approach.

Ron P.

There is just no way to fix humankind. And despite Monbiot's ranting there is just nothing that can fix the massive problems humankind has found itself in. We have followed our nature and it is leading us right over the cliff.

This is the point I have been attempting to make in recent posts. Contrary to popular belief, global scale anthropogenic environmental degradation did not begin with the wholesale oxidation of fossil fuels at the beginning of the industrial revolution, nor did it begin with the advent of agriculture. The anthropogenic mass extinction pulse began before humans even left Africa, and picked up pace as our species spread like an infection thruout the world. Entire biotic communities and ecosystems have been destroyed by humans with only a Neolithic level of technology. We saw yesterday that anthropogenic climatic warming began with the the widespread clearing of land for slash & burn agriculture. I would contend that it began earlier than that. Humans were using fire as a landscape (mis)management tool long before agriculture. Overgrazing and consequent watershed degradation was also having a deleterious environmental impact millenia before largescale agronomic systems were in place. Overgrazing, deforestation, desertification, watershed degradation, the extinction of species... have been the heritage of human activity even before the level of social complexity we call civilization was attained. With the attainment of that level of social complexity all these environmentally destructive outcomes became ramped up by orders of magnitude in rapidity & severity. Civilization isn't something to be proud of nor is it something we should try to maintain at all cost. Or at even any cost. Civilization is merely a mechanism for creating disorder from order at the most rapid possible rate. It is an engine for the disintegration of biospheric integrity and a certain prescription for extinction.

Exactly DD! Earlier, before the evolution of homonoids, every species competed with every othere species for territory and resources, generally speaking of course. Then homonoids came on the scene. At first they had little advantage over the other great apes but then something happened, or rather something evolved, higher intelligence.

This gave us a tremendous advantage, not just over other great apes but all species. We could think and plan ahead. We could make weapons of sticks and stones and kill animals many times our size. Then our intellect brought agriculture onto the scent. For all practical purposes it was all over after that.

- As for pointing to our mental failures with scorn or dismay, we might as well profess disappointment with the mechanics of gravity or the laws of thermodynamics. In other words, the degree of disillusionment we feel in response to any particular human behavior is the precise measure of our ignorance of its evolutionary and genetic origins.
- Reg Morrison, The Spirit in the Gene

We have been, and still are, competing with other species for territory and resources, and we are winning...big time. The problem is, of course....

Ron P.

It seems to me that this is rather a self exonerating view point.

If any change in an ecosystem resulting from human activity is measured as destructive, than what have you really defined?

Perhaps it is the expectation of some pristine non-changing ecosystem predating human intervention that needs to be questioned.

Otherwise, I suspect you may be granting more uniqueness to the human animal than is truly warranted. (yeah, I know all the arguments about self reflective consciousness changing the game - I just don't buy it).

If any change in an ecosystem resulting from human activity is measured as destructive, than what have you really defined?

Shaman, are you for real? If any change...? The Aral sea, whose fisheries once fed millions, is now a dried up salt bed because the rivers that fed it were diverted to irrigate cotton fields. Most of the ocean fisheries now produce nothing but trash fish. The Yellow River in China now no longer reaches the sea for most of the year. The Colorado River never reaches the sea anymore.

Of course changes in the ecosystem predates human intervention. But to say that the dramatic and very sudden changes, as measured by geological time, are all natural phenomena is truly absurd. The point is, Shaman, that by our actions we are dramatically lowering the carrying capacity of the world.

Perhaps it is the expectation of some pristine non-changing ecosystem predating human intervention that needs to be questioned.

But of course that it! The rain forest would have disappeared anyway. The trees would have just fallen over on their own. The massive fisheries of the ocean would have just died out on their own. The whales would have disappeared on their own. The water tables of India and China would be dropping anyway due to some strange natural phenomena.

And yes, I am granting a lot of uniqueness to the human animal. No animal has ever before evolved with such success to outcompete every other species. Nothing, nothing, could possibly be more obvious than that.

Let me lay one other little fact on you Shaman concerning our competition with other species, especially with other great apes. The total combined number of all other great apes on earth, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Gorillas, and Orangutans, is 200,000 animals. That is all them combined number approximately 200,000. The other great ape, Homo sapiens, grows its numbers by approximately 220,000 each day! Think about that, our numbers grow by more daily than numbers of all other great apes combined!

Now that is what I call winning the competition for territory and resources.

Ron P.

Misdirection does not serve you well, Ron.

Show me where I argued that we weren't impacting the ecosystem to our own detriment?

If you'd like to address the issue I raised, I'd be happy to respond.

The fact is that all animals impact their ecosystem. Indeed it could be argued that an ecosystem is nothing but a bunch of living things impacting one another.

You can call that "competition" if you like. But the path your argument is taking is "reductio ad absurdum" - and oddly enough you appear to be saying that's the way it "really" is. (Usually reductio ad absurdum is used to belittle, no support).

"all animals impact their ecosystem"

How many other species completely obliterate whole ecosystems, though? How many individual species are have ever been responsible for one of the six (including the current one) great mass extinction events?

This takes "impact" to a whole new level, wouldn't you say?

Again - I am not questioning the stupidity of what we have done.

What I am objecting to is the absurd reduction of these problems to "well that's what human beings are."

Consider your use of the world "responsible" - if you accept the validity of a concept like "responsibility" than you have indicated that intent or volition is involved. (To be clear, it does not require intent to destroy the ecosystem only intent of some kind which might then lead to to recognition that our actions caused detrimental side effects)

But if you allow for responsibility and intention you are throwing out the "that's what human beings are" argument - such an argument does not allow for intention (except under some bizarre "self awareness is predetermined" philosophy).

"What I am objecting to is the absurd reduction of these problems to "well that's what human beings are.""

OK. I certainly don't want to take humans, and particular humans and human cultures/ideologies, off the hook. It does seem a bit of a dodge to say, "human nature made us do it."

I think it is important to discuss human nature, even if final definitive answers remain illusive. But more to the point is what is our own nature. Are we using philosophical discussions to avoid facing what part we personally play in this cycle of destruction?

I agree with you. The whole set of possibilities needs to be out there and under discussion. References to "human nature" are not enlightening, they are merely attempts to shut down discussion.

As far as I'm concerned it is important to recognize that humans have been held responsible for ecosystem destruction for millenia (although sometimes the conclusions of archeologists should themselves be questioned). But arguments from biology are arguments of inference, not proof. (and are all too frequently based on human cultural biases - like the assumption of male lion dominance in a pride).

Rather than shutting down discussions we should be encouraging the full explication of as many different interpretations as possible. Only there, in the free exchange of ideas and intentional valuation of different interpretations for their explanatory power will we find insights into how to deal with our current situation.

Indeed, Homo sapiens has been a mistake.
It all started in Atapuerca. Atapuerca

" Monbiot is most correct when he says:

Neolithic must be able to see that the weapon of planetary mass destruction is not the current culture, but humankind."


It is true that extinctions of mega-fauna happened with suspiciously synchronously with human migrations, but in many areas, the extinctions did not then accelerate--people came into some new equilibrium with their new environment and they developed spiritual systems to support this equilibrium--I'm thinking of the Australian Aborigines and Native American cultures. Even at their most destructive, early cultures did not trigger global mass extinction events. It is only our current global capitalist industrial culture that has managed to accomplish this feat (though industrial communism was doing a pretty good job of it too before it collapsed).

"But most, like Monbiot, pledge to fight on to try to save civilization as we know it."

I'm not sure that this is completely fair to Monbiot, but I do think that even as insightful a writer as Monbiot may need to reconsider how much of "civilization" can or should be saved.

I look forward to reading more on Kingsnorth's Dark Mountain Project.

Monbiot is not fighting to save BAU or civiliazation as we know it. He is advocating a steady state or a reduction in our resource consumption with the hope that we can save the planet while also maintaining a society not ruled by fascists and people are engaging in mass killing of each other and what little will remain of other species. This becomes clear if one carefully reads the entire debate on The Guardian.

His opponent in the debate argues that we need to let industrial civilization collapse as it cannot be sustained by the use of alternative energy amongst other remedies. He argues that we can engage in a long transition to some better state.

The problem with this view is that man, in his transition away from the industrialized state, will take the rest of the planet down with him. We will enter a period of chaos and extreme conflict over the few remaining resources that are left over.

While I think that Monbiot's approach should be given a chance, I don't see the powers that be voluntarily choosing a steady state or any sort of graceful transition to a lower consumption world. We will attempt to cling tightly to our resource intensive culture as long as possible. There will not be grace. We will fall over the cliff and end up with mass dieoff. Feeble attempts, at best, will be executed along the lines that Monbiot envisions.

One argument against Monbiot's approach is that resistance is futile. The tsunami is one the way so one might as well ride the last wave.

Civilization should be maintained in the sense that we find a way to be civilized, not that we find a way to continue the current form of industrialization.

"man, in his transition away from the industrialized state, will take the rest of the planet down with him. We will enter a period of chaos and extreme conflict over the few remaining resources that are left over."

This is exactly what pro-growth people would say about Monbiot's steady state proposal.

We are likely in for extreme chaos and conflict no matter what.

I think we have to calmly and steadily tell people in as many venues as possible that the gig is up. We have failed as a species about as spectacularly as anything could fail.

What we should be aiming for is a universal kind of mindful penance, or pensive mindfulness, stopping almost all but the most vital functions, removing our support for the monstrous military, financial...structures that are most central to the universal destruction.

Hey Ron - One must wonder what it is that drives so many of us to fight to preserve a system that we know intellectually is killing us.

As to the question of current culture vs. humankind - this has always been the point at which you and I part ways (even when we agree on so much more).

My reservation on committing to the "humankind" side of the equation is really quite simple. When you (generic) say it is humankind you are arrogating to yourself a level of knowledge about precisely what humankind is that I don't believe is possible. The intellectual risk is that you commit to a definition of humankind which is merely a product of your own bias or belief system.

Any universal statement about what humankind is (beyond the banal) is going to always run in to the problem of a counter example.

In the end, though, I reach the same place as you - any attempt to "fix" humankind is bound to be futile. However, my reasoning is different (I believe). The reason any fix is futile is NOT because we are immutable but it is because we are not broken.

When you (generic) say it is humankind you are arrogating to yourself a level of knowledge about precisely what humankind is that I don't believe is possible. The intellectual risk is that you commit to a definition of humankind which is merely a product of your own bias or belief system.

It is not possible to know what humankind is? Shaman, pardon my language but that is sheer nonsense. Humankind is what you are looking at when you look at civilization, crowded cities, the destruction of the biosphere, ocean fish disappearing, rivers and lakes drying up, the clear cutting of forest, the massive extinction of species, the depletion of natural resources, the destruction of the world as we know it. To say that we cannot say that humankind is doing all this because we cannot know what precisely humankind is, is utterly absurd. Like perhaps it is something else doing all this? Some other species perhaps?

And make no mistake I am more than willing to make such a claim, the risk to my intellect notwithstanding.

Ron P.

I applaud your hubris. But you have not said one thing that suggests you know what humankind is - you just use a bunch of metaphors and descriptors. You can have at that all you like and the next person can add a hundred more - many being precisely the opposite of yours.

Shawman, the idea that we cannot say, within any degree of certainty, that humans are destroying, or at least greatly damaging the biosphere and reducing the carrying capacity of the earth because we do not know precisely what humankind is....is....well absurd beyond belief. I will no longer attempt to refute such a statement because most people on this list have at least some common sense and that is all that is needed.

Your argument would be like someone arguing that a person being electrocuted would not necessarily die because we do not know, and cannot know, the true nature of electricity.

Ron P.

Ron - show me where I said we can't know that humans are destroying the biosphere and I'll grant you all the rest.

Ron - show me where I said we can't know that humans are destroying the biosphere and I'll grant you all the rest.


I said: Monbiot is most correct when he says:

“Neolithic must be able to see that the weapon of planetary mass destruction is not the current culture, but humankind.”

But therein lies the problem. There is just no way to fix humankind.

(Notice I am agreeing with Monbiot who says the planetary mass destruction is being caused by humankind.)

Then you replied:
My reservation on committing to the "humankind" side of the equation is really quite simple. When you (generic) say it is humankind you are arrogating to yourself a level of knowledge about precisely what humankind is that I don't believe is possible. The intellectual risk is that you commit to a definition of humankind which is merely a product of your own bias or belief system.

Now it should be clear to anyone that you are saying that I cannot justly blame humankind for the problem because I don’t know precisely what humankind is. In other words we cannot say that humankind is causing the destruction of the biosphere because we cannot precisely define humankind.

It could not be clearer than that Shaman. Okay?

Ron P.

Ron - could I perhaps suggest a basic course in reading? How you got from that statement to the idea that I don't think humans are causing damage, perhaps destroying, the ecosystem is beyond me.

If you would have taken the time to try to understand BEFORE you wrote your answer, you would have recognized that the "'humankind' side of the equation" I was referring to was YOUR argument that it is our human nature that is the problem. Meanwhile, I have been quite consistent in arguing that it is a cultural issue, not biological.

But I guess it was more important to you to argue than to understand.

When you (generic) say it is humankind you are arrogating to yourself a level of knowledge about precisely what humankind is that I don't believe is possible.

Keep from being eaten.

These three simple functions really are what life is all about. This is as true for humans as it is for every other species of organism. You don't have to complicate the situation any more than this to explain "what humankind is." Once the simple concept of differential reproductive success sinks in, you really have little more to learn in order to understand life. Everything else is mere details of the process. Alas that it's only been 150 years since this simple concept has been understood and simple as it is, most people not only don't understand it but are driven by superstitious stupidity to actively seek not to understand it. It seems to me that Ron is one of the minority of people who actually does understand the selective process, and its implications for biotic (including human) nature.



Rest is BS

Thanks for bringing this up. I kept agreeing with one and then the other. Both are good writers.

And I agree with both sides of your point. I live surrounded by refugees from Somalia and the surrounding areas of East Africa. It is clear that the collapse of governments in those areas have lead to some truly horrific scenarios with psychopaths committing genocide and constant, wrenching civil and tribal wars...

But I met someone who had been in the forestry department in Somalia. He said (and this has been confirmed by other reports I've heard and read) that the civil unrest was preceded by a denuding of the country of its forests (once covering 40% of the land, now less than 2%) mostly by foreign companies. This larger neo-colonial psychopathic "civilization" played a serious role in spawning these local horrors.

The more basic question of hope is also important and one I would like to hear more discussion of here. At a recent talk here I heard one of the best responses to the question of hope: hope for what. If the answer is anything like, "Hope for BAU," then the answer must be no, there is no hope for that (except for a while longer for the very wealthy).

Another basic question that arose is whether we as humans are basically extinction machines (the position George Monbiot seemed to take) or if it is really modern industrial capitalism that is driving the current mega-death. Again, I see arguments on both sides, but clearly the current scale of destruction outstrips anything humans have done in the past.

In general, I remember reading in Monbiot's generally admirable book _Heat_ where he compares our situation with that of the character Faust--we need to continue at our frenetic pace (for M this means frenetically developing alternative energy sources...) to keep from being pulled down to hell by the devil. I've been as big a promoter as anyone of alternative energy, but this struck me as an even deeper kind of hopelessness. I do agree with Paul that a deep reconsideration of our place in the world is what this moment calls us to do, more than rushing to the next thing to shore up our unsustainable path.

..it is really modern industrial capitalism that is driving the current mega-death.

No. Modern industrial capitalism is merely a mechanism for accelerating the rate of the Holocene extinction pulse. Anthropogenic mass extinction began long before the invention of industry or capitalist economics.

I guess we may be getting into not-very-useful definitional issues. It is my understanding that it is only recently that a significant percentage of all species is going extinct or is under threat of the same. This is what I mean by mass extinction.

If you limit yourself to mega-fauna, you may have a case that a significant percentage have been hunted to extinction before the advent of modern industrial society. It certainly has been a very effective mechanism for accelerating extinctions.

Do you think other cultures are merely less effective, or do you think some cultures may give some clue for how to live as a human in a way that does not undermine the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem?

Do you think other cultures are merely less effective, or do you think some cultures may give some clue for how to live as a human in a way that does not undermine the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem?

It is my opinion that technologically less sophisticated societies were merely less efficient at wrecking ecosystems and causing the extinction of species than is modern industrial society. The view that certain societies were in some sense more ecologically attuned to their environment and organized their behavior in order to foster sustainability is mere romanticism. Give technologically less sophisticated peoples rifles, chainsaws, pesticide applicators, bulldozers... and they will wreck as much environmental havoc with them as any civilizado will inflict.

This said, bear in mind that the environmental carnage caused by peoples possessing Neolithic technologies was profound, especially when they first appeared in habitats previously devoid of humans. It may have been the "megafauna" these peoples hunted & trapped to extinction but the extinction of big game caused the collapse of entire ecosystems, driving smaller species, the predators & parasites of the game animals, plant communities structured by grazing or browsing, etc., extinct along with the direct objects of human predation.

Thanks for the clarification of your position, one I have sympathies for.

One problem I have with it, though, is that is seems a bit to convenient. There is no doubt in my mind that the very vast majority of destruction of the planet has taken place as a direct or indirect result of actions and ideologies of the West, of my culture. Saying that this was essentially inevitable lets us off the hook a bit too easily, it seems to me.

The urge toward expansionism is deep set in most western cultures. Where exactly this drive comes from is hard to say, but it seems to go back at least to the Indo-Europeans who expanded so successfully across most of Europe and central South Asia.

I did not say that traditional, non-technological societies were perfect or pristine. Whether every singly traditional culture has acted exactly like their western counterparts when given modern tools is I suppose a testable hypothesis, but it seems to me that there is quite a bit of variation, to say the least.

I do find it interesting how predictable it is that when anyone ever mentions one of these cultures in anything other than derisive language, they are accused of "romanticism." I hope you agree that any such romanticism is left far behind in the dust by the incessant and well funded romanticism of the current consumerist culture.

I'm generally inclined to think that the cultures least responsible for ecological destruction are the KhoiSan and the the African Pygmies (Aka, Efe, and Mbuti).

But even if they have been relatively harmless, the lessons that they have for the rest of us may be of limited use. As far as we can tell they stayed in on near their original habitats and so are not the exotic invasive species the rest of us have become.

Another basic question that arose is whether we as humans are basically extinction machines (the position George Monbiot seemed to take) or if it is really modern industrial capitalism that is driving the current mega-death.

Yes, humans are basically human extinction machines. It is simply our nature. Not just our nature but it is the nature of almost all predatory animals to kill other predators. Lions try to kill hyenas and hyenas try to kill lions.

It is simply our nature to take territory and resources from other species. We don't set out to drive them into extinction, that is simply the results of our actions to expand and perpetuate our genes into the next generation.

- The destruction of the natural world is not the result of global capitalism, industrialization, 'Western civilization' or any flaw in human institutions. It is a consequence of the evolutionary success of an exceptionally rapacious primate. Throughout all of history and prehistory, human advance has coincided with ecological devastation.
- John Gray, "Straw Dogs"

Ron P.

Not wishing to start a spitting campaign, I think that we should not focus on the term "psychopath", a word which long ago escaped the confines of the psychiatric ward and entered the mainstream mind. The latest term in the academic world is "sociopath", which may be defined thus:

someone with a sociopathic personality; a person with an antisocial personality disorder
Unconcerned about the adverse consequences for others of one's actions

Many of the more power hungry and violent people in politics and business could be called "sociopaths", as they have not problem with actions which will result in much pain for individuals. Officers in the military who send their troops to certain death or who cause the deaths of innocent civilians? Politicians who write budgets and pass laws with little concern for what happens to people's lives? The sociopathic mind might be a fundamental characteristic of capitalism, where the corporation is able to conduct business without "feeling pain" in any real way.

Looking back over my life, I'd say that the sociopaths have been in control all along, but that they manage to do a great job of hiding the strings that control things, thus Joe SixPack (and the rest of us as well) can no longer see the Man Behind The Curtain. If (when?) TSHTF, those illusions will fade as the veneer of civility shatters and the knuckle draggers take to the streets...

E. Swanson

I think that illusions will be even greater at that point. The Man Behind The Curtain will be sure that most J6Ps blame whatever minority is closest at hand rather than the real powers. Just look at the rage already directed at immigrants. The strings that control things will always remain carefully hidden.

"The executioners knife is always well hidden." Bob Dylan

I would contend that selection never equipped humans with the propensity for concern for the well being of others beyond the extended family or small social group, and that the extension of concern to the larger social sphere is an artifact of fossil fueled affluence. So-called "sociopathy" is merely the normal human condition. In the environment of ancestral adaptation anyone you didn't know well was apt to be out to eat your kids and thereby warranted no concern for their welfare.

Except for the inconvenient little fact that there are very few species that kill as many of their own species as does homo sapiens. Individuals of the same species do indeed quite commonly compete against each other, and often even fight; however, it is very uncommon for individuals of the same species to fight to the death - although there are a few examples where it does happen. One would think that a more beneficial strategy for most species would be to kill members of OTHER species, if there was any killing that needed to be done. The fact that it is this which seems to be by far the more common pattern would seem to lend support to my premise. This in turns suggests that killing other members of one's own species, while it might appear from time to time, is not actually an effective evolutionary strategy, but more likely a pathway leading to the dead end of extinction. This is a pathway not traveled often, but some species do wander on to it from time to time - for a while, until they have killed off so many of each other that they wander off the planet altogether and into extinction.

Homo sapiens is clearly one of the most notable exceptions - perhaps THE big exception: the species that kills its own most commonly. We are, by nature, murderers; there are very few of us that are not capable of killing if the circumstances are right, and very few indeed who haven't thought it and wished it from time to time. The really great surprise is that we have managed so far to keep from killing each other off to the point of extinction. Much of human history could be interpreted as a desperate effort to get us off the pathway to extinction by at least limiting, if not eliminating, our natural tendency to murder each other. It has not been a very successful effort, to say the least, and has come with a lot of unintended and negative consequences. Be that as it may, I am far from convinced that relegating all of civilization to the dust bin and returning to the paleolithic will do anything except assure our rapid progress down the remaining stretch of the pathway to extinction, killing each other all the way to the end.

The really great surprise is that we have managed so far to keep from killing each other off to the point of extinction.


I think you have the mechanism exactly backwards. Humans contend for resources, occasionally causing death. As resources become more constrained and our populations larger, killing can become more common but it is not inherently necessary. If one tribe could corral resources by inflicting injuries and scaring off the other, they would readily choose that over killing. Killing simply to kill is, as you say, maladaptive. But, in the context of resource conflicts it is one of a number of behaviors that has been adaptive in some situations.

IMO, reducing human beings to murdering machines oversimplifies things.

I would argue that people killing other people is never "necessary", except solely in defense from being killed. Were this simple rule (which is explicitly embraced by most religious and secular ethical and legal systems, btw) to be universally embraced, then the vast majority of homicides that have ever occured would have been "unnecessary" and would never have happened.

Conflict and competition, yes, and when human population has overshot its carrying capacity, then competition becomes difficult to resolve without the death of the surplus population in some way or another. I am not convinced that refusing to share resources that one's own family or group needs to survive, and thus resulting in the starvation of the "have nots" is exactly the same thing as actively seeking out and murdering the "have nots" (or even worse, murdering and looting the "haves"). The former is a tragedy, but the latter is, in fact, murder.

Is eliminating potential competitors ("have nots") or acquiring resources held by others ("haves") through murder a successful adaptive strategy? It is easy to see why people would be tempted to think so, but in fact it is not. This actually becomes a variant of the "Prisoner's Dilemma" type of non-zero sum game. When people defect from what is in fact the optimal rule for success (i.e., don't start murdering other people), then everyone ends up defecting, and everyone ends up losing.

This, I believe, is why murdering other members of one's own species is not widespread and common amongst all species, but rather is relatively rare. It is also why I suspect that the few examples we do see are the ones we've just happened to catch a glimpse of on the road to extinction. There have been a few others, from time to time, but we don't see those because they are already gone. It is a tempting strategy to try, but over and over again, those who try it discover to their detriment that it is actually a losing strategy.

Hi WNC -

Just to be clear, I appreciate and have sympathy for your general outlook as expressed in your postings.

But I can't let you off the hook here. In your follow-up post you expand the definition of murder to such a degree that virtually any species can qualify as murderers of their own kind. Top predators scope out a territory and actively defend it against intruders of the same species. This is resource competition. But if it is murder when the weaker ones lose territory and starve, then all complex life are 'natural born killers.' I just don't buy that it's unique to humans.

I think you and I (and others) are converging on a similar bottom line, though. Humans have to make a complete break with their legacy to survive. Ironically, we may have to extinguish our nature up to this point in order to persist 'sustainably.' Maybe it's impossible (our nature too deeply embedded), maybe it doesn't matter (planetary ecological extinction inevitable regardless), but it seems like the only way forward.

Much of this discussion reminds me of the book Homo Necans ("Man the Killer") by Walter Burkert. Anyone familiar with it?

Just to make things clear, it is my position that merely defending one's turf against competitors, with the result that those competitors must slink away and then die of starvation, is not "murder". It is murder when one is not content merely with defending one's turf, but only with the rival being actually violently killed by the "winner". It is murder when it is no longer a matter of just fending off competitors, but of actively wiping out anyone nearby that might potentially be a competitor. It is also murder when a challenger is not content just to drive off his rival (probably to inevitable death by starvation or predation or whatever), but insists on killing him/her then and there. (That does happen more commonly, and one can understand why it does. But it is still murder.)

It is a sad and tragic thing that there are losers in this competitive game we call life, but there are. As the old saying goes, life is unfair.

One reason it is not a good strategy for species to murder their own is because individuals do not live forever. The winners eventually get old and weak and diseased and die, or something unexpected happens to them in their prime. For that matter, their young might not make it to breeding age, either. It is not to the advantage of the species for the old alphas to have wiped out all potential replacements.

What you're talking about is the difference between direct or interference competition and indirect or scramble or exploitation competition. Referring to direct competition, either intra- or interspecific, that results in mortality as "murder" is nothing more than anthropomorphism.

When you say "It is not to the advantage of the species for..." you demonstrate that you don't understand natural selection or modern evolutionary biology at all. No individual of any species, with the arguable exception of humans, ever operates for "the advantage of the species." Stating otherwise is an example of long discredited early to mid 20th century group selectionist thinking. You really should read George Williams or, if your background in biology is weak, read popularizations of William's thinking by such authors as Richard Dawkins or Matt Ridley.

... you demonstrate that you don't understand natural selection or modern evolutionary biology at all ...

It seems to me the evidence clearly shows that, in reality, very few people "understand natural selection or modern evolutionary biology at all." That evolution occurs by means of natural selection is beyond dispute, at least by those with any intellectual honesty, creation "scientists" notwithstanding. Just how that occurs - i.e., specific mechanisms - is not nearly so settled an issue as many, particularly those with a political agenda, would like to believe, or like the rest of us to believe. No scientific theory or doctrine arises, context-free, in a vacuum - and none are immune from revision or even rejection in the light of new information or a new theory which better explains the information.

TOD is not the place to go deeply into this subject, but in terms of group selection theory, I would add to the above-mentioned reading list: Lynn Margulis, for a broad background on competition vs. cooperation in evolution; Elliott Sober & David S. Wilson; C. V. Wynne-Edwards; and Yaneer Bar-Yam, for starters. (Remember, Google is your friend.)

Natural selection is startlingly simple. If you can understand domestic selection then you can understand natural selection. Dog breeders, horse breeders, pigon breeders and every other kind of domestic animal breeders understand domestic selection. Natural selection is the same thing except nature does the selecting instead of the animal breeder.

People like Lynn Margulis would like you to think that that there is a lot more to natural selection than there really is. Darwin got it right there is no need for Lynn Margulis' lateral transfer theories or her hopeful monster theories. She, and a few others, would like to replace Darwin's masterpiece with their own. However few biologists of any note pays much attention to her and others like her.

Natural selection is all about natural variation. There is always variation in all offspring. Nature, or the animal breeder, chooses the variation that is most suted for survival and/or reproduction. The only mystery that remained after Darwin was why variation occurs. Neo-Darwinians have answered that question. The DNA from the sperm and egg combine inside the egg and form the zygote. But the combining of the DNA is imperfect, errors occur. Some call this mutation but I just like to say it causes variation. But that's another story. The point is there is nothing complicated at all about natural selection and any biologists worth his salt understands it perfectly well.

But you are correct Google is your friend. Google Richard Dawkins, John Maynard Smith, Mark Ridley, Matt Ridley, Steve Jones and I could name many others. Read their articles on the web or buy their books and learn for yourself just how startlingly natural selection really is.

Ron P.

Ya give 'em books, and give 'em books, and give 'em books, and they just chew on the covers ...

I admit that I have been using oversimplified and not technically precise language. And you are right, it is not really my field. Nevertheless, I do know a few things. One of them is that all species have been around for a while now, long enough for instinctual behaviors that are not beneficial for the long term perpetuation of the species to have been bred out of existence. The behaviors that we tend to most commonly see in most species can probably safely be assumed to be the strategies that have most commonly been found, through trial and error, to work the best for species. The exceptions are those few species that, at the moment, are trying something different, something that is going to prove to be an error, and are probably thus on the way to extinction. Constant experimentation with different strategies is a feature, not a bug, and itself is a driver of evolutionary change, as some species once in a great while stumble across something new that works; for most, of course, the experiment proves to be a failure, and their line dies off.

I realized overnight that I forgot to mention what might be the most important point of all:

If all the potential rivals of a breeding individual of a species are killed off, then what breeding opportunities does that leave for its offspring? Siblings, mostly. Repeat for a few generations and you've got a serious inbreeding problem, the genetic defects start becoming serious, and it isn't long after that before the line declines and dies off. Nature very much prefers to keep gene pools well mixed. Behaviors which inhibit individuals from killing off rivals unless absolutely necessary are therefore actually good adaptive behaviors, because it leaves open more mating possibilities for the subsequent generations. That is another reason why, IMHO, killing off all of one's potential intra-species competitors that one can is not the normal course of behavior for most species. For that matter, even human behavior usually isn't THAT extreme; even we humans are at least somewhat inhibited in our murderous behavior, for the good of our own species.

Written by someone who apparently doesn't know anything about modern biology.

Homo sapiens is... the species that kills its own most commonly.

I debunked this falsehood the other day with the examples of pimelodid, pangassiid, clariid catfishes precluded by dams from undertaking their upriver spawning migrations hoovering up eggs & fry of their own species, and don't wish to go into it again.

Oh, I readilly acknowledge (and explicitly did so in my post) that there are other species that also kill their own. There may very well even be a few that do so to a bigger degree than ourselves. However, if any intelligent aliens were to visit Earth, we are they ones they would notice and write up in their paper.

DD - People are no more individuals in an ecosystem than an ant. We are collectives of cultural groups that organize in cooperation. Human groups, like any other social species, move into a new area and will fill an environment to over-shoot quickly.

But over time a viable species will come in balance with his environment (see: r/K selection theory.)

Correct me if I'm wrong: You appear to have reached the conclusion that all human cultures are out of balance with their environment. On that point I believe you're incorrect. It is my conviction that certain tribes of the North American Indian hunter gatherer cultures had reached a level of a mature-culture and had lived in balance for hundreds of years prior to the invasion of Europeans.

But the dominant culture of Europeans exterminated those tribes or absorbed them into the dominant culture. So now Indian Tribes are opening Casinos, drive Mercedes Benz and play golf.


It is my conviction that certain tribes of the North American Indian hunter gatherer cultures had reached a level of a mature-culture and had lived in balance for hundreds of years prior to the invasion of Europeans.

Steven Pinker completely destroys this myth in "The Blank Slate". But he does it much quicker in this TED 19 minute video:

Steven Pinker on the myth of violence

This myth has been destroyed many times over and recently by Steven LeBlanc in this great book:
Constant Battles: Why We Fight

The hardback of this book was called "Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful Noble Savage". It is one of my favorite books.

Not only are human societies never alone, but regardless of how well they control their own population or act ecologically, they cannot control their neighbors’ behavior. Each society must confront the real possibility that its neighbors will not live in ecological balance but will grow its numbers and attempt to take the resources from nearby groups. Not only have societies always lived in a changing environment, but they always have neighbors. The best way to survive in such a milieu is not to live in ecological balance with slow growth, but to grow rapidly and be able to fend off competitors as well as take resources from others.
Steven LeBlanc, “Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage” page 73

Ron P.

Ron - you fundamentally misunderstand me. What I said was that certain North American tribes had become a mature K type species.

Violence was necessary to keep populations constant.


Do you care to specify which particular tribes reached this level, in your view?

A good example of long standing hunter-gatherer populations was the Kumeyaay Indians of Southern CA. Their populations ebbed and flowed according to the availability of natural resources.

The Kumeyaay settlement practices were clearly dictated by the distribution and availability of critical resources. The overall population density for the region was less than one person per square mile.

As described by Almstedt, "each clan was associated with a particular territory which included all the area from which the group derived subsistence during the course of an annual cycle"

This breaks down to a population of 6 to 12,000 people along the shore areas and certain inland mountainous areas from the Baja Peninsula to Santa Barbara.

Were they violent? Yeah. If that bursts your bubble about the "peaceful warrior"...sorry. But their numbers had been almost constant even with one tribe pushing out other tribes over time. They even had permanent settlements from time to time. But they were experts of the land and it's resources and they lived within those limits. That's what a K Type species is.

What are populations in those areas today? Mutiply the tribal numbers by 1,000. What does the "new man" know about the land driving down I-5 in their SUV's. They don't know squat. What's even worse is they don't care that they don't know anything.


Good point. It is not romanticizing anything to say that the Kumeyaay were living a hell of a lot more sustainably than are most of the current residents of southern CA. In fact it is pretty darned obvious to anyone who doesn't have some rigid ideological ax to grind.

How many traditional cultures came up with a basic operating program that says "grow infinitely." I'm guessing pretty much none. I'm guessing also that it is not a complete coincident that the one culture that came up with this doozy as their basic operating principle also is the one that is driving the much of the living world to oblivion.

You don't have to say that the other cultures are perfect to see that none of them have had the deleterious effect that modern industrial culture has had.

One would think that a more beneficial strategy for most species would be to kill members of OTHER species, if there was any killing that needed to be done.

One would be wrong. The most intense competitor for the resources that a member of a species needs is other members of that species.

The most intense competitor for the resources that a member of a species needs is other members of that species.

Not only that, the flesh of one's own species contains the optimum proportions of essential amino & fatty acids.

Yum! You are what you eat ;-)

And it is also an excellent way to spread pathogens from one population to another. Maybe that is a reason why it has become a taboo amongst most populations, and why those that do practice it are few and those that do not are many.

..it is also an excellent way to spread pathogens..

That's why we cook meat.

That helps, but it has only been in the last century or so that we've learned how to properly handle meat, and the reasons why not doing so is dangerous. Even now, we still often get it wrong. And, of course, there are even advanced civilized cultures that nevertheless consider raw meat to be a delicacy.

Of course there is also the problem of various toxins becoming more highly concentrated as one moves up the food chain, and of us being at the very top of the food chain.

Competitors, yes. However, I am not of the impression that most species that might possibly have the ability to do so routinely kill competitors of their own species. It occasionally happens, but my impression is that it is much more common that individuals will avoid competition with other individuals unless absolutely necessary to secure food, water, or reproductive rights, and even then will back away if the risk of serious injury seems too great (i.e. they are outmatched by the competition). Similarly, those individuals that outclass their rivals (the alphas, we are talking about here) tend only to assert themselves sufficiently to convince any rivals of their dominance. It is a waste of energy, and there is too much risk of injury, to press it any further than is absolutely necessary. Only in the rare case of a confrontation between two very closely matched rivals might you see things carried on to the point that one of them is mortally injured or is actually killed. The "flight" part of the "fight or flight" instinct almost always kicks in with one of them before that point. That, at any rate, is what seems to be the most common pattern, and I suspect it has been so for a very long time - probably because that is what works best.

Thinking about this further, might part of the reason why we humans are so lethal towards our own is our capability of "over-riding" our "fight or flight" instinct?

One would think that a more beneficial strategy for most species would be to kill members of OTHER species, if there was any killing that needed to be done.

What one would choose as a strategy, is to kill off those others that compete for the same limited food supply. Most of the time other groups of our own species are our most serious competition. So once the population/culture reaches some sort of quasi-steady state, some combination of disease, starvation, or warfare must bacome efficacious enough in limiting the population that it reaches a quasi steady state. (By quasi steady state, I mean that averaged over a long enough period of time, the population doesn't change. Over shorter timespans it will likely flucuate somewhat.)

Secondarily, a lot of predatory induced extinction, is not a deliberate plan to wipe out some lifeform, but rather the predators are simply too efficient, and wipe out their own food supply. There is no Giaa goddess making sure that doesn't happen. Although those species that are too successful that way may themselves go extinct. That is the only thing that reduces the frequency of such events.

My impression (which could be mistaken, it is not really my field) is that there is not usually all that much interspecies competition within any given ecological niche. I believe that research has established that if two species are in direct competition in a given niche, then if one is just a little more successful at breeding than its competitor, then it will end up completely taking over that niche and excluding its competitor.

More common are two species that are not completely competitive, but do occasionally overlap. For example, you will sometimes see larger and smaller carnivores inhabiting the same range both going after prey species that are on the margin between the two niches (about the largest the smaller carnivore would go after, about the smallest that the larger carnivore would go after). The smaller carnivore is going to lose that fight, more often than not, but that just means it becomes less ambitious in the future. Were the larger carnivores to actively seek out and destroy all the smaller carnivores, though, that would not be a good move. They would not be interested in going after all the small prey that the smaller carnivores take (too little energy reward for energy expended), that would result in a population explosion of small herbivores. That in turn would throw the ecosystem out of balance and most likely result in less food for the larger prey, and the decline of their population. Killing off the smaller carnivores would thus ultimately result in a death sentence for the large carnivores. That is why you don't usually see it done, except for the very occasional encounter between a very hungry large predator and a very foolish small one.

Re Kingsnorth and Monbiot:

No one else picked up the resemblance (at the least) to Hamlet's soliloquy?

".. whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles ..."

(The sea being literally one of our troubles, ironically.)

George's remark towards the end, about who is really optimistic and who pessimistic, settles it.


Commercial real estate gets worse

Hundreds of smaller regional banks, which are heavily exposed to commercial mortgages, could go bankrupt the next two years, Newport says.

Unwilling to seize devalued properties in a moribund market, lenders have foreclosed on fewer than 10% of the loans, says Real Capital Analytics. That's prolonging the crisis by keeping properties from being resold at lower prices, says New York real estate lawyer Edward Mermelstein.

A bigger problem: the nearly $1 trillion in short-term commercial mortgages slated to mature by the end of 2010. With property owners unable to refinance, even solid loans could go into default.

Would this be all those "brown shoots" we've been hearing about? Oh wait, somethings not right about that. Nevermind.

Denninger thinks the banking system is screwed over this, big time.

And, he's probably correct.

...Here's reality folks:

The system still has too much non-performing debt in it, and that percentage is going up, not down.

It is getting worse, not better.

The only reason we have any "resemblance" of a functioning credit system at all at the present time is that the government and Fed are pumping upwards of $250 billion dollars a quarter - that is, $1 trillion a year - into the system to subsidize bad credit risks and keep those who have been and are getting screwed by these frauds - so long as they're other banks and businesses - from having to bear the cost of these acts...

Don't know how many people actually read this site, but each and every one of you should send the link above to every man, woman, child and criminal government employee you have an e-mail address for.

The Officers in the Military took an oath. Where are they hiding now?

Denninger spells it out pretty plain.

The term "fireside chat" will begin to take on a new meaning, if the criminals in washingtoon continue to Fiddle.

Further down in his rant, Denninger went on to endorse the carrying of arms in the open at these protests. I believe this is where he is dead wrong.


I suggest you read the Constitution again.....

Are you a government employee working in Illinois or Washingtoon?

"I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God." (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959, for officers.)

I suggest you explore the ramification of this action. Sure it is legal for these NUTS to do so, but their message were all about brazen intimidation. Further down on his rant he even confuse this with Rosa Park and MLK! WTF! I appreciate Denninger's financial insights but I'm afraid he is dead wrong on this issue.


A little history other than the Pablum spewed by the Mainstream Media.....

MLK could never have been elevated to the heights he achieved, without standing on the shoulders of those, not afraid to put a Bullet into play. He rode the wave, as Yin to their Yang. He knew full well what he was doing.

The "ramification of this action"??? WTF???

What are the ramifications now, when your criminal government is robbing you, your children, your granchildren, etc.....BLIND? Read the Federalist Papers, The Declaration.....Sh!t. Gonna just stand there and wimper? Do the idiots in your congress think the "Town Hall" meetings are getting loud because of healthcare? The pitchforks are coming out, and the sooner they do, the better we will be.

Sorry, but this government is NOT your friend. Stop drinking the Koolaid.

There is a simple answer to the question: "What can/should we do about it?"

The answer: Pay off all your debts ASAP, don't take on ANY new debts, and cut up your credit cards. Starve the beast to death, that's the only thing that is certain to work. Without a constant inflow of blood, the leaches will all certainly wither and die.

No toting of guns or threats of violence, or actual violence, is necessary. It is still, technically, a "free country", and it is certainly true that no one is forced to take on a penny of debt or use a single credit card even one time against their will.

Don't anyone give me any CRAP about how this would be "bad for the economy" if everyone were to actually do this. DAMN that "economy"! It is no "economy" at all, but the exact opposite of what the word means. Far from making the optimal use of scarce resources in behalf of the highest and best ends, what we have is the most wasteful possible use of resources for the lowest and worst ends. Yes, we certainly DO need things to be VERY BAD indeed for THAT "economy", for only then will we have any chance of sweeping it aside and starting to build the true economy we need if we are to have any chance at all of avoiding total national ruination.

Best suggestion I've heard in awhile. Starve the beast indeed!

Great manifesto!

I hope to be debt free (house paid off, no credit card debt) in about a year. The next step is getting as far from being dependent on the whole cash economy as possible.

Best of luck to all in helping to starve the beast!

Glad to hear I am not alone.
I have posted to use cash only and in fact take money out of the banking system.

And how are banks reacting to this pain? By pulling back...

Banks still reluctant to lend
Fewer banks tightened lending standards in the past three months, but loans are still tough to come by. Banks said this won't change until next year at the earliest.

Loans for consumers and businesses remained tough to come by over the past three months, according to a report published Monday by the Federal Reserve.

In the central bank's latest survey of senior loan officers, banks said they lent less from May through July, as demand for loans dwindled further and the creditworthiness of potential loan recipients worsened.

The only category of loans where banks reported greater demand was prime residential mortgages, home loans to borrowers with the highest credit quality. Mortgage rates fell during the May through July period, sparking a wave of applications for refinancing.

So, this can't be good for home prices when fewer folks can get home loans...

Housing starts down 1%. They were expecting a 3% increase.

But hey, it's good news. Gotta work through that built-up inventory.

The amazing thing to me is that there are any housing starts at all. You have to wonder to what extent this is builders just taking one final, desperate roll of the dice, hoping that the market will come back before they must dismiss all their workers and shut down for good.

Many banks in Georgia seem to be troubled. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Screws tight
 on Georgia banks

Federal and state regulators have put as many as one-third of Georgia’s 300 banks under intensified monitoring and recovery plans, mostly strict enforcement orders a step or two short of seizure, according to banking experts.

A majority of these 90 to 100 banks, these experts say, are operating under “cease and desist” orders that require them to complete tough turnaround plans within strict deadlines.

The only sure way to rob a bank in America is to own one.

I checked what stats were available to the public back late last winter and it was obvious to me then that a lot of GA banks appeared to be in trouble. I suspect that the FDIC has been bending over backwards to avoid having to shut them all down in one fell swoop, as the consequences of that would be unnerving to the general public, to say the least.

There have been some articles about why Georgia banks are in so much trouble. Suopposedly, it's because the real estate market there was so hot for so long.

I suspect that a great many retailers are just hanging on by their fingertips, hoping against hope that this will be a good holiday buying season. It will not, and that will be followed by a great tsunami of retail store shutdowns and retailer bankruptcies, followed by another tsunami of CRE loan defaults and property owner bankruptcies. Something is definitely coming in 2010, but "recovery" it is not.

Humans spring eternal on Hope's breast...

What happens in Vegas is hurting Vegas

Las Vegas has a foreclosure rate more than 7.5 times the national average. Lenders seized one in every 47 housing units in July. And condo prices are less than half what they were a year ago.

And yet, hotel developers continue to plough ahead. The Hard Rock Hotel recently added a 490-room tower. The Mandarin Oriental chain plans to set up shop in December. Some 7,000 new hotel rooms are slated for completion in 2010.

Tax Bills Put Pressure on Struggling Homeowners

With the economy faltering and property values plunging, homeowners and landlords are falling behind on their bills or abandoning their property, just as governments are facing huge budget shortfalls.

Private investors step in and buy tax liens, paying governments upfront all or part of the value of the taxes. The investors then get the right to foreclose on the properties, taking priority over mortgage lenders, and to charge interest rates as high as 18 percent on the unpaid taxes.

“It beats the heck out of any certificate of deposit,” said Howard Liggett, executive director of the National Tax Lien Association.

Panning for gold makes a comeback in bad economy

Because times are tough and gold prices are high, Bryant is seeing a lot of people in their 20s start prospecting — as well as a lot of people in their 50s. "People can make more money in a few days prospecting than they can working five days a week at McDonald's or Wendy's."

Prospecting equipment sales have tripled since last year, Shock says. "That tells me right there that there are a lot of people looking for gold, and not just here." Indeed, prospectors have staked 54 gold mining claims in Tuolumne County this year, vs. 47 all last year and 32 in '07. A claim lasts one year.

...which just goes to prove that if you want to make money in the gold-panning market don't bother getting in the stream. Instead you should focus on selling the pans!

Methane seeps from Arctic sea bed

The research team found that more than 250 plumes of methane bubbles are rising from the sea bed off Norway.

Yippee!! Bring on global warming, I say. About time the Norwegians pulled their weight. The rest of us are doing our upmost to cook the planet but the Scandinavians have been lagging. Good to see them catching up, this is a team effort after all.

If it gets warm enough we can just drop inverted cones on the ocean floor instead of having to drill for the hydrates.

Thanks for bringing this important article to our attention, barrett.

Here the passage that really got me thinking:

"Most of the methane reacts with the oxygen in the water to form carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas. In sea water, this forms carbonic acid which adds to ocean acidification, with consequent problems for biodiversity.

Graham Westbrook, lead author and professor of geophysics at the University of Birmingham said: "If this process becomes widespread along Arctic continental margins, tens of megatonnes of methane a year - equivalent to 5-10% of the total amount released globally by natural sources, could be released into the ocean.""

So we either get acid oceans or big jumps in atmospheric ghg concentrations.

And of course this is a feedback loop--the more methane gets into the atmosphere, the faster the warming, the more methane is released....

And this is only one (though a very big one) of many such feedback (or vicious cycles or death spirals) that now seem to be underway driving us toward runaway global warming.

The time is very late, indeed.

And of course this is a feedback loop--the more methane gets into the atmosphere, the faster the warming, the more methane is released....

And this is only one (though a very big one) of many such feedback (or vicious cycles or death spirals) that now seem to be underway driving us toward runaway global warming.

You need to get realistic with the numbers. If I take the 10% of "natural" Methane sources number to be an upper limit, it is only an incremental worsening of the situation. Natural methane is only a fraction of total methane production, which is only a fraction of total anthropogenic GHG. So what we have at worst is an incremental increase in the long term climate sensitivity to anthropic emissions. This isn't a catastrophic end of the world finding, but yet another small increase in the seriousness of the situation.

"If I take the 10% of "natural" Methane sources number to be an upper limit"

Not likely. Do you have any special expertise in this area. 'Cause all the articles and books I've read talk about amounts of methane in frozen sea bed "clathrates" to be many times the amount of CO2eq that humans have released since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Try wiki-ing "clathrate gun."

And it is also my understanding that some of these frozen clathrates cap much larger stores of pure methane, so as they melt they not only release their own methane, but free up huge deposits to suddenly burp into the atmosphere.

By the way, one of my favorite scientific terms, PLFs, comes from this field of study. The acronym is for Pungo-Like Features.

Put that in your pipe and google it!

"Most of the methane reacts with the oxygen in the water to form carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas. In sea water, this forms carbonic acid which adds to ocean acidification, with consequent problems for biodiversity.

OK, I can see that CH4 + 2H20 = CO2 + 6H, and that CO2 + H20 = H2CO3, but are the 6 H atoms just released at 3H2 molecules, or do they combine with something?

Most of the methane reacts with the oxygen in the water

The methane reaction is with dissolved oxygen not water.

CH4 + 2O2 = CO2 +2H2O

Hmmm .... I wonder if the oxygen depletes so that just methane escapes to the atmosphere at some stage?

I wonder if the oxygen depletes so that just methane escapes to the atmosphere at some stage?

Not likely in the cold waters of the Arctic. Unless the CH4 emissions are massive.

The CH4 emissions ARE potentially massive. And the Arctic waters, especially along the coastal shelf are much warmer than in previous decades. (Sorry, too late/tired to post links...try to get back to it tomorrow)

Taken a step further:

CO2 + H2O => H2CO3

It's Carbonic acid.

This is another method of acidifying the ocean.

Gekolizard -

It's just a little bit more complicated than that. When CO2 dissolves in the ocean, it becomes partitioned between several chemical species: i) dissolved CO2 gas, ii) H2CO3, which when (almost immediately) ionized splits into hydrogen ions plus bicarbonate ions (HCO3-), and carbonate ions (CO3-2). Given the pH and alkalinity of sea water, the bicarbonate ions predominate over the carbonate ions by several orders of magnitude.

One must keep in mind that sea water has a decent amount of alkalinity and is fairly well buffered, in that small infusions of hydrogen ions do not result in wide swings of pH. So, serious acidification of the ocean is not something that is going to get out of control any time soon.

I will offer a conjecture: we could probably convert all the known reserves of fossil fuel into CO2 and put them into the oceans, and if the oceans were perfectly mixed (which they are not), we would not have a global-wide catastrophic drop in pH. And don't forget: there are many billions of tons of CaCO3 down there to also help neutralize major infusions of hydrogen ions.

In my view, the acidification of the oceans is quite real, but should not be anywhere near the top of our collective worry list.

Maybe not at the top, but not at the bottom either.

As you note, the ocean does not mix very much, so we are really talking about the surface of the ocean where most of the plankton live--the basis for much of the ocean food chain and the source of a good portion of the earth's atmospheric oxygen.

This surface water has already gone from 8.2 to 8.1 on the logarithmic ph scale, so about a 30% increase. So I would say serious acidification is already getting out of control now.

Ah, should have read more carefully. Thanks.

Is it CH4 + 2O2 = CO2 + 2H2O = H2CO3 + H2O

Of course the sweet irony is that if we harvest the methane and burn it Global Warming will be helped... Because methane is over 20 times more potent than C02 as a global warming gas.

Also, methane has a tendency to combine with oceanic O2 to make C02, and by extension Carbonic Acid (because it's dissolved in the ocean). So, these releases help acidify the oceans as well.

Of course the sweet irony is that if we harvest the methane and burn it Global Warming will be helped... Because methane is over 20 times more potent than C02 as a global warming gas.

In the long term it doesn't really make any difference; CH4 in the atmosphere is eventually oxidized to CO2 anyway.

In the long term it doesn't really make any difference; CH4 in the atmosphere is eventually oxidized to CO2 anyway.

And the estimated lifetime of methane in the current atmosphere is ten years. Some have speculated that due to saturation (lots of methane), that perhaps during the PETM (55 million year old global warming extinction event), that methane lifetimes may have become much longer. The longer lifetime is needed if methane releases are to provide significant heating, as estimates of PETM CO2 concentrations seem to indicate there wasn't enough to fully account for the warming.

Hello Barrett,

Thxs for the link, but I was hoping to further read some kind of risk assessment on the possibilities of this methane hydrate [or clathrate] release causing the next Storegga subsea landslide/tsunami:

The Storegga Landslides: Catastrophic Underwater Natural Methane Explosions
Recall that it is flank failures off the sides of giant volcanos, like in Hawaii, that really sets off a huge mega-tsunami. The Storegga tsunami pales in comparison.

I'll bite. What's the 'road' we see starting from the bottom left and curving to the upper middle of the image?

I'd guess that it's the scar from a bottom trawler.

That's the main road to Atlantis.

Bell -- I've seen this before. It's actually an ancient dino feeding trail. But more likely it's a deep sea channel. These have been documented around the globe for decades. Dense flows (turbidites) of muddy water will travel from the coast lines many hundreds of miles into the deep ocean basins and have a very similar appearence to river systems. They'll even have levees developed along the way. Just a guess but I think that's what we're seeing in that pic.

Is there any evidence that these methane plumes haven't been there all along?

The researchers speculated that there may have been methane being released since the last ice age in the area. The trend is the water has warmed by 1 deg C in the last thirty years, and the stable depth increased from 360m to 400m in the same time period.

Jean Laherrère mentioned in his last piece here on hydrates that it was noteworthy they hadn't been seen bubbling to the surface, so this is a newly observed phenomenon.

Jean also mentioned a plan to utilize the bacteria found in kangaroo stomachs in ruminant's guts, as 'roos don't emit methane. Alternatively we could develop a taste for joeys - or cut back on eating meat. Ruminants account for 18% of global methane emissions, hydrates 2%. Another sizable amount comes from wetland agriculture; a minor amount is also released from tropical dams, landfills, etc.

That is the scariest article I've read for a while.

All perfectly natural of course...
It's even happened before; that time it killed thousands of species, and seems to have cleared the way for the emergence of the higher mammals.

..the higher mammals.

What's a "higher mammal"? Giraffes?

Giraffes and any arboreal or alpine species.

Moles & pocket gophers must be "lower mammals," then. :)

A mammal that cultivates cannabis.

Rocky Mountain High

Ren and Stimpy.
"We're evolving into higher Mammals!"

A temperature increase of 6^oC occurred at the Paleocene/Eocene boundary over a course of 20K years. This represents a mean increase of .0003^oC per year. This rate was sufficient to precipitate a 2nd order extinction episode (not one of the "big six" mass extinction events but still a significant dieoff).

Mean global temperature has risen 1^oC since 1880. This is a mean increase of .008^oC per year. Over an order of magnitude faster. If this trend continued linearly it would take 780 years for the temp to increase 6^oC. 26 times faster than at the end-Paleocene. Of course, the trend isn't likely to be linear; i.e., it's likely to accelerate. In fact, the IPCC "worst case" scenario is that temp will have increased 6.4^oC by 2100. As we know, the IPCC "worst case" seems to be milder than what is actually being observed. If a 6^oC temp increase over the course of 20K years resulted in a 2nd order extinction event, it's easy to see that AGW alone is sufficient to produce a 1st order dieoff - at least as bad as the end-Cretaceous event. And that doesn't even take into consideration habitat destruction & fragmentation, eutrophication & acidification of aquatic habitats, the introduction of invasive exotics, and other anthropogenic contributors to mass extinction.

Is the picture beginning to become clear?

darwinsdog -

I confess to being somewhat of an agnostic when it comes to some of the more catastrophic forecasts regarding global warming, and while I've followed the subject superficially, it would be a hopeless task for me to get up to speed on the latest technical findings.

However, one thing has always puzzled me, and perhaps you can help:

I have no problem understanding how we've come up with estimates of mean global temperature in the recent modern age, where we have thousands of weather stations, data-collecting satellites, oceanographic data networks, all using extremely accurate instrumentation and all connected into sophisticated data banks.

But when I see a statement that the mean global temperature has risen 1 degree C since 1880, the question that immediately leaps to mind is: how can one be so sure? While there are lots of temperature data for urban areas in Europe, the US, and other more developed parts of the world, the fact remains that for enormously wide swaths of the globe, there is virtually no reliable data. For example, how many 1880 data points do we have for say the northern reaches of Siberia, the Sahara Desert, the Patagonian plains, or Antarctica, a place where hardly anyone had even set foot upon, much less operated weather stations?

And surely, the oceans must have been even more thin on data. While various ship captains might have dropped a thermometer (an accurate calibrated one?) in the ocean now and then and recorded temperature, but on an area-weighted statistical basis I find it very difficult to believe that we have sufficiently reliable ocean air and surface temperature data for 1880 to draw conclusions about temperature rises in the single-degree range. Am I missing something here?

Global temperature estimates for prehistoric times have to be even more dodgy. As I doubt there were any humans taking temperature measurements at the time (or any other measurements for that matter), these estimates have to be based on surrogate data and extrapolated by various modelng techniques to yield something related to but not actually being temperature. Correct so far? Things like ice core composition, or ratios of various isotopes, or other geophysical markers come to mind. But again, what is the level of accuracy and precision in doing such, and does it really justify a statement that there was a 6-degree C increase over 20,000 years? I tend to suspect that much of this is little more than an educated guess.

Really, I am not trying to be argumentative or antagonistic, but I just want to be enlightened as to how such finely bound conclusions can be drawn in light of what appears to me to be very sparse and/or highly indirect and highly interpretative data.

It's nearly time for me to go home so I don't have time for the level of detail a proper answer to your questions deserve. Maybe I can reply more fully tomorrow. Briefly, paleoclimate can be estimated by ratios of isotopes in sediments and bubbles frozen in ice.

Hi joule, a good resource for getting up to speed on climate science is RealClimate's Start Here page. Your question about the surface temperature record is a good one, and you can read more about it here: Surface Temperature Record. Enjoy!

Barrett808 -


Will check it out.

Barret -- Not trying to steal anyone's thunder but submarine NG and oil seeps are a very old and well cocumented story. I saw a film of live oil seeping from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico over 35 years ago. Out in CA the state estimates 175,000 bbls of oil per year naturally seeps from the floor of the Santa Barbara Channel. But its always good for the public to hear about such natural events.

Thanks for the info -- I definitely hope you're right!

Don't fear the zombies?

Science ponders 'zombie attack'

If zombies actually existed, an attack by them would lead to the collapse of civilisation unless dealt with quickly and aggressively.

That is the conclusion of a mathematical exercise carried out by researchers in Canada.

They say only frequent counter-attacks with increasing force would eradicate the fictional creatures.

The scientific paper is published in a book - Infectious Diseases Modelling Research Progress.

In books, films, video games and folklore, zombies are undead creatures, able to turn the living into other zombies with a bite.

But there is a serious side to the work.

In some respects, a zombie "plague" resembles a lethal rapidly-spreading infection. The researchers say the exercise could help scientists model the spread of unfamiliar diseases through human populations.

...In their scientific paper, the authors conclude that humanity's only hope is to "hit them [the undead] hard and hit them often".

They added: "It's imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly or else... we are all in a great deal of trouble."

Replace zombie with someone dependent on aid say food aid and you just described why rationing is not a good idea see my earlier post.


For all intents and purposes your creating "zombies".

Serious candidate to the IgNobel Prize.

...In their scientific paper, the authors conclude that humanity's only hope is to "hit them [the undead] hard and hit them often".

For any newbies, I suggest googling, then browsing Bioweaponeers for several hours. IMO, there is a strategic reason in the growth of top-level Biohazard Level 4 labs and why smallpox was Not Driven into Extinction. YMMV, but as TPTB like to say, "All options are on the table."

Please wash your hands before sitting down at your table.

There is a whole group out there who think first H5N1 and now pandemic H1Na are bioengineered to do us in. But your have hit the nail on the head, they don't need an unreliable flu virus that could quickly become something other than what they intended. They already have smallpox, a known reliable killer, and a world population virtually without immunity, and a vaccine for those they want to protect that is tested. So IF there is a nefarious cabal that seeks to reduce world population this will be their method of choice. (unless they are idiots which I don't rule out). But a warning to nefarious plotters, if you wipe out the workers who will shine your shoes. The 1300's plague left the working population so decimated that afterwards those left were able to bargain for higher wages.

The ultimate reason for accumulating wealth is not the actual wealth but the relative wealth. The plebes are needed for many reasons, one of which is to be a contrast to the wealthy. Thus the poor you will have with you always. If all the poor were knocked out some of the wealthy would be forced to play that role.

Good points. And if you take their inverse (converse? obverse??), it is clear that overpopulation is in the best interests of the PTB--one reason why any attempt at population control is likely to fail as long as we have the current power structure.

...In their scientific paper, the authors conclude that humanity's only hope is to "hit them [the undead] hard and hit them often".

Zergling rush!

Denninger is really letting go today.

Have you enjoyed watching JP Morgan and other big banks that got tens of billions of taxpayer dollars lease tankers and then bid up the price of oil - causing it to double - with your tax money?

Anyone catch the pithy little statement ending NY Times coverage of the Russian hydro-turbine mishap?


Meanwhile, the environmental toll continued to grow. The damaged plant has released a vast oil slick on the Yenisei River, the Natural Resources Ministry said. Power was lost to five major factories, which will now be supplied by burning coal, company officials said. Restoring the plant could take years.

Two steps backward...

Hi Wisco,

On the other hand, turning an old, dirty coal-fired power plant into a LEED Platinum office building is at least a half step forward.

Watch it happen before you very eyes at: http://www.nspower.ca/en/home/community/lowerwaterstreetrelocation/defau...

No more coal-fired power plants!


This is going to start happening more frequently all over the world as infrastucture is not being maintained properly and highly subject to breakdowns and accidents.

What happens when the coal plants break down?
What happens when the trains powered by diesel cannot deliver the coal to the plant?
Get your Solar PV, Wind Turbines, and generators ready!

Southern California Home Prices Fall 23 percent in July on Foreclosures (Update2)


Kudos to the hard-working staff of TOD - I see that the Yahoo "oil and gas news" site is apparently now linking to TOD as a fixture.


Did that just start for you?

It's been like that for years for me. At first, it was only if I was logged in, but after a few months, it was all the time, even if I logged out.

I know Google serves up different results depending on what else you've searched for. I suspect they use cookies even if you aren't logged in. I wonder if Yahoo does the same.

This is the first time that I've noticed the links there. I would hate to think that I've been so oblivious to have not noticed it all this time, but I can't rule it out. :)


I just wanted to share some news with you on my shift to focus on a specific oil consumption reduction project, the East Coast Greenway. For details, see the post titled - "If you like SET, you'll love the East Coast Greenway Alliance:"




RE: Australia targets 20 pct renewable energy by 2020

The Scehme is the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target.

The renewables target, which works by forcing electricity companies to buy a portion of their power from renewable sources, will be submitted to the Senate on Tuesday and is expected to be voted on later this week.

Some of this Renewable Electricity is in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). With the premature cessation (with 8 hours notice) of the Solar Grants scheme, and the start-up of the Solar Credit Scheme, households (typically) who install rooftop PV are entitled to a 5-for-1 REC deal on the first 1.5kW of installed capacity (additional capacity is given RECs at a 1:1 rate), which they can then sell to offset much of the cost of the system (Under the old scheme, a 1kW system might cost $0 - $2500, after the $8000 rebate. Under the new scheme, the RECs are worth about $7000, so a system starts at about $3000, after the sale of the RECs).
This means that your 1kW system, which will probably produce about 5kWh/day in Brisbane, is selling 25kWh/day in the form of RECs. Big polluters can then buy these RECs and claim they are 20% Renewable, despite the fact that only 1/5th of the electricity they claim is being produced, actually is. They get to cover the rest, typically by burning Coal (brown coal, in the case of Victoria and much of New South Wales).

Greenwashing much?

You may not be aware that the 5:1 for PV is a transitional arrangement that expires in 2015, and goes back to 1:1. So by 2020 when target is to have 20% renewable this so called "greenwashing" will not be operating.
However you look at it, 20% renewable is a lot better than the 1.5% renewable we had under 10 years of Liberal government.
A lot of additional large wind farms look likely to go ahead around Australia because of the REC being expanded.
Of course the usual belly aching; subsidy is too high or the target too low, or the numbers are not real or we will now use less natural gas and more coal fired power. If the green party doesn't support a 20% target because it's too low, they will have lost my vote for good. My thinking is 20% now is better than 25% at some unspecified time in the future.

You may not be aware that the 5:1 for PV is a transitional arrangement that expires in 2015, and goes back to 1:1. So by 2020 when target is to have 20% renewable this so called "greenwashing" will not be operating.

No, I wasn't aware of that. I figured it would end 'sometime' but didn't know when.

If the green party doesn't support a 20% target because it's too low, they will have lost my vote for good. My thinking is 20% now is better than 25% at some unspecified time in the future.

I think the 20% target is too low. Even the 'esteemed' Malcom Turnbull (the current temporary Leader of the Opposition) is on record as saying that we need our entire energy generation systems to be CO2-free (in operation) by 2050 if we have any hope of reaching any scientifically reasonable target (not his exact words). And then we still have to look at transport and land use. :(

On a whim, I did some calculations (Maths was never my strong suit in school, and I don't enjoy the activity, so this may be completely wrong):
According to this document, in 1998, households around Australia used about 373PJ of energy(about 103,600,000,000 kWh). 'Simply' equiping each of our roughly 8 million households with a 1kW PV system would result in 11,680,000,000 kWh of generation (assuming 4kWh/day/system), or roughly 11% of household energy use, but a mere 1.35% of total energy use. We've got a ways to go. :( I'll have to do some figures at a later date for electricity-only percentages.

TA benefit of a high MRET is that it provides the framework for the infrastructure we need posk-Peak. A bigger MRET with the same time-end-point means more will be built, with all the mitigation benefits that brings. And the stuff we do early (say, the first 40%, to pull a figure out of my proverbial) will be the easy stuff, and should be able to be completed relativly more quickly and cheaply than the remainder.

I'm not disagreeing that 20% now is better than maybe 25% later, but I think we can do much better than 20% relatively easily, escpecially given much of our fixed assets are approaching EOL anyway.