Drumbeat: August 25, 2009

Triumph of the commons: Helping the world to share

Four decades ago, ecologist Garrett Hardin published a ground-breaking paper on this phenomenon, arguing that when personal and communal interests are at odds, overexploitation of resources is inevitable. His tragedy of the commons referred to the destruction of communal pasture when individual herders act rationally in their own best interests, each putting as many cows as possible onto the land. The same fate, he noted, is likely to befall any shared limited resource, from the atmosphere and oceans to national parks and rivers. Over the years, and with the rise of environmentalism, Hardin's ideas have become hugely influential.

Does this mean we are doomed to plunder the world's resources and trash our planet? Even Hardin wasn't entirely pessimistic. He noted that groups can create institutions to manage their communal resources, although these usually fail because of "free-riders" - individuals who try to reap the benefits of cooperation without paying any of the costs. The solution he came up with was "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon by the majority of the people affected" (Science, vol 162, p 1243). In other words, people must give up their freedom to save the commons. I disagree.

Big Penalties Loom for Chevron in Ecuador

An Ecuadoran judge's ruling in an environmental case may make U.S. companies rethink the strategy of pushing lawsuits into overseas courts.

Largest firms need to double pace of CO2 reductions to avoid dangerous climate change: report

Based on current reduction targets, the world's largest companies are on track to reach the scientifically-recommended level of greenhouse gas cuts by 2089 – 39 years too late to avoid dangerous climate change, reveals a research report – The Carbon Chasm – released today by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

U.S. Crop Yields Could Wilt in Heat

Yields of three of the most important crops produced in the United States – corn, soybeans and cotton – are predicted to fall off a cliff if temperatures rise due to climate change.

Saudi Blasts American Energy Policy

The question of American “energy independence” clearly rankles officials in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter of crude oil, who seem increasingly puzzled by the energy policy of the United States, the world’s biggest oil consumer.

In a short and strongly-worded essay in Foreign Policy magazine, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former ambassador to the United States and a nephew to King Abdullah, said that for American politicians, invoking energy independence “is now as essential as baby-kissing,” and accuses them of “demagoguery.”

Peter Tertzakian: The biofuel factor on oil prices

Inimitability is an important characteristic for businesses making high-value products like gold, oil and diamonds, because it protects their market share from unwanted substitutes. We know lead can't be turned into gold and diamonds are technically difficult to copy. But when it comes to oil modern day alchemists have perfected large-scale processes to make petroleum substitutes. And although making fuels like gasoline and diesel from sources other than oil is nothing new, the long-standing assumption that such substitutes can't steal significant market share and alter oil prices is potentially opening to challenge.

Not long ago bioethanol and biodiesel were fringe fuels, but recently they have been making a subtle, but material dent in the US transportation market. Were it not for the effects of the global recession, the growing biofuel trend would have been even more noticeable.

Steve LeVine: Cyber-Attack Strategy: Part of Russian Attack on Georgian Pipelines, Report Finds

John Bumgarner, a former cyber-security expert for the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies, is attracting much attention for his report concluding that Russia's military offensive in Georgia last year was coordinated with a pre-arranged civilian cyber-attack on the country. What appears to have gone unreported is Bumgarner's conclusion that the region's oil apparatus was a strategic target of the overall conventional-and-cyber offensive.

One Start-Up’s Quest To Prevent Oil Thefts

Recently, Pemex has turned to Hi-G-Tek, which helps prevent theft by supplying fuel companies with remotely operated seals, locks and tags. These devices are embedded with sensors that alert the owner when an object is being moved, tampered with or opened. It also sells software to provide customers with a record of when and where the seals were opened.

Using radio frequency devices to track fuel shipments is nothing new, but most of the players in this space use passive tags, which only provide information when the tag is scanned. Since Hi-G-Tek’s equipment is battery powered it provides constant status updates to a central location.

OECD chief urges Mexico to seek green growth, cut fuel subsidies

MEXICO CITY (Xinhua) -- Mexico should seek a green growth and cut fuel subsidies to boost both the economy and clean energy, the secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Jose Angel Gurria, said at a Monday conference organized by Mexico's Environment Ministry.

"Green growth is an opportunity for exports, jobs and wealth," Gurria told the conference. "Developing green technology could be a business opportunity for Mexico."

China Racing Ahead of America in the Drive to Go Solar

WUXI, China — President Obama wants to make the United States “the world’s leading exporter of renewable energy,” but in his seven months in office, it is China that has stepped on the gas in an effort to become the dominant player in green energy — especially in solar power, and even in the United States.

Objectors to wind farms to be bought off

Ministers are considering whether to establish a “conservation bank” to help overcome planning objections to wind farms and other renewable-energy projects.

The Big Question: Should Africa be generating much of Europe's power?

A new report by Usaid this week estimated that there are now one billion people living in Africa. Despite urbanisation, the majority of them live outside cities, or without access to basic services. Exporting African electricity to Europe's businesses and consumers strikes some as grotesquely wrong. Many development agencies favour a patchwork of smaller projects using existing solar technology – photovoltaic – which is cheaper and more suited to a dispersed population. In contrast, an open energy market would see Africans competing with far richer Europeans for electricity generated from their natural resources. Considering the scant benefits that have accrued to ordinary people from other natural boons such as oil and minerals, these projects can be seen as a power grab.

World faces hi-tech crunch as China eyes ban on rare metal exports

Beijing is drawing up plans to prohibit or restrict exports of rare earth metals that are produced only in China and play a vital role in cutting edge technology, from hybrid cars and catalytic converters, to superconductors, and precision-guided weapons.

How a Solar-Hydrogen Economy Could Supply the World's Energy Needs

As the world's oil supply continues to dry out every day, the question of what will replace oil and other fossil fuels is becoming more and more urgent. According to the World Coal Institute, at the present rate of consumption, coal will run out in 130 years, natural gas in 60 years, and oil in 42 years. Around the world, researchers are investigating alternative energy technologies with encouraging progress - but the question still remains: which source(s) will prove to be most efficient and sustainable in 30, 50, or 100 years from now?

For Derek Abbott, Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Adelaide in Australia, the answer is clear. In an invited opinion piece to be published in the Proceedings of the IEEE, Abbott argues that a solar-hydrogen economy is more sustainable and provides a vastly higher total power output potential than any other alternative.

A Rare Peek at Green Energy Economics

California regulators have approved contracts for more than 8,600 megawatts of renewable energy, to be generated mostly by big solar power plants for the state’s largest utilities. But the details of those deals and the emerging economics of green energy often remain shrouded in secrecy, subject to confidentiality agreements.

That black box cracked open a bit on Thursday, when the California Public Utilities Commission gave the green light to two 25-year power purchase agreements between Pacific Gas & Electric and BrightSource Energy, a solar power plant builder based in Oakland, Calif.

Plotting the path of renewable power lines

A new state report tries to tackle one of the touchiest issues in California's effort to expand renewable power, suggesting possible routes for new transmission lines to carry electricity from wind farms and solar plants.

Power lines often generate intense opposition from environmentalists and landowners. But without new lines, the solar power plants and wind farms planned throughout California won't be able to ship their electricity to the towns and cities that need it.

So several state agencies, electrical utilities, renewable power developers and environmental groups have joined together to figure out where to put new lines, hoping to prevent public fights. The effort, called the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, released its latest report this week.

Plugging Into the Sun

Sunlight bathes us in far more energy than we could ever need—if we could just catch enough.

Watch out! Disaster looming for Kenya

Politicians cared little about the burning of East Africa's largest forest – until the lights in Nairobi started going out.

Extended drought threatens China farmland

The extended drought in China's north and northeast regions now threatens over 8 million hectares of farmland. Heeding requests from the country's drought-fighting authority that more be done to alleviate the situation, the oil and power industries have joined the campaign to bring some relief to parched villagers.

Zhangjiakou city, in Hebei Province, is experiencing its worst drought in half a century.

Over half of the arable land will not produce a harvest this year. Hundreds of thousand of people and livestock face a desperate shortage of drinking water.

Driving new changes in Asian irrigation

Without major reforms and innovations in the way water is used in agriculture, many developing countries will face severe food shortages in future, warns a new report Revitalizing Asia’s Irrigation: To Sustainably Meet Tomorrow’s Food Needs. It suggests the shift to a more economically viable approach.

South Asia hit by sugar shortages

Global sugar prices have been pushed up by growing demand in Brazil for sugar to be turned into ethanol for vehicle fuel, and a sharp fall in production in India, the world's largest sugar consumer.

Toyota to lift November Japan output: report

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp plans to raise its production in Japan for the first time in 16 months in November thanks to a recovery in auto sales driven by government incentives, the Asahi newspaper reported on Tuesday.

But the boost is likely to be temporary, as the world's largest automaker is expected to reduce output again early next year when the incentive programs end, the Asahi said, and analysts said Toyota still needs to cut its capacity in Japan.

Nuclear Weapons and 'Fourth Generation' Nuclear Power

'Integral fast reactors' and other 'fourth generation' nuclear power concepts have been gaining attention, in part because of comments by US climate scientist James Hansen. While not a card-carrying convert, Hansen argues for more research: "We need hard-headed evaluation of how to get rid of long-lived nuclear waste and minimize dangers of proliferation and nuclear accidents. Fourth generation nuclear power seems to have the potential to solve the waste problem and minimize the others."

Others are less circumspect, with one advocate of integral fast reactors promoting them as the "holy grail" in the fight against global warming. There are two main problems with these arguments. Firstly, nuclear power could at most make a modest contribution to climate change abatement, mainly because it is used almost exclusively for electricity generation which accounts for about one-quarter of global greenhouse emissions. Doubling global nuclear power output (at the expense of coal) would reduce greenhouse emissions by about 5%. Building six nuclear power reactors in Australia (at the expense of coal) would reduce Australia's emissions by just 4%.

NOAA, Coast Guard Hunt for Alaska Methane, Carbon Dioxide Sources

Recent observations have suggested that the air above Alaska may already hold the first signs of a regional increase in greenhouse gas emissions that could contribute to climate change around the globe.

To learn more about the region’s emissions, NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., has teamed up with the U.S. Coast Guard at Kodiak Island. The two partners are flying NOAA air-sampling devices aboard a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft conducting flights over the state through November.

Michael Lynch: ‘Peak Oil’ Is a Waste of Energy

REMEMBER “peak oil”? It’s the theory that geological scarcity will at some point make it impossible for global petroleum production to avoid falling, heralding the end of the oil age and, potentially, economic catastrophe. Well, just when we thought that the collapse in oil prices since last summer had put an end to such talk, along comes Fatih Birol, the top economist at the International Energy Agency, to insist that we’ll reach the peak moment in 10 years, a decade sooner than most previous predictions (although a few ardent pessimists believe the moment of no return has already come and gone).

Like many Malthusian beliefs, peak oil theory has been promoted by a motivated group of scientists and laymen who base their conclusions on poor analyses of data and misinterpretations of technical material. But because the news media and prominent figures like James Schlesinger, a former secretary of energy, and the oilman T. Boone Pickens have taken peak oil seriously, the public is understandably alarmed.

A careful examination of the facts shows that most arguments about peak oil are based on anecdotal information, vague references and ignorance of how the oil industry goes about finding fields and extracting petroleum. And this has been demonstrated over and over again: the founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil first claimed in 1989 that the peak had already been reached, and Mr. Schlesinger argued a decade earlier that production was unlikely to ever go much higher.

Gazprom May Say Profit Fell 73% on Low Sales, High Prices

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom, the world’s largest gas producer, may say first-quarter profit plunged 73 percent on lower sales, hit by the economic slowdown, higher prices and a dispute with Ukraine in January.

Net income probably dropped to 74.9 billion rubles ($2.37 billion) from 273.4 billion rubles a year earlier, according to the median estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. Sales probably slid 7 percent to 838.2 billion rubles as the economic slump eroded demand in the European market, the main source of revenue for the Moscow- based company.

Oil firms win Bangladesh rights

Bangladesh has granted Conoco Phillips of the US and Ireland's Tullow Oil three offshore exploration blocks in disputed waters in the Bay of Bengal.

The firms have been given the right to explore for gas, despite ownership claims on some of the territory by neighbouring India and Burma.

Iraq to Publish Oil-Licensing Round Tender Protocol in November

(Bloomberg) -- Iraq, which pre-qualified about 45 companies to bid on oil projects, will publish the tender protocol in November for the six partly developed and four undeveloped fields offered in its second licensing round.

Companies on the bidding list, including BP Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp., must hold at least 10 percent of any consortium and can participate in as many as four bids, Abdul Mahdy al-Ameedi, deputy director general at the Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate, said today at a bidding-round roadshow in Istanbul. Iraq will take a 25 percent stake in licenses awarded in the second round, Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said.

Newfield Exploration to curtail portion of its natural gas production; maintains year outlook

HOUSTON (AP) — Newfield Exploration Co. said it will voluntarily curtail about 2.5 billion cubic feet equivalent of its third-quarter production in response to low natural gas prices.

SocGen Plans to Hire More People for Commodities Team

(Bloomberg) -- Societe Generale SA, France’s second-largest bank by market value, plans to expand its commodities team about 35 percent by the end of next year, seeking to double the size of the business.

Centrica Prevails in Bid for Venture in North Sea

Centrica has prevailed in its 1.3 billion pound hostile takeover bid for North Sea gas producer Venture Production, The Daily Telegraph reported. Centrica won the bid despite strong opposition from Venture’s management.

Qatar May Stop Importing Diesel Fuel, Official Says

(Bloomberg) -- Qatar may stop importing diesel fuel by October as a new condensate refinery begins operation, the managing director of Qatar Fuel Co. said today.

The refinery in Ras Laffan will produce about 25,000 barrels a day of diesel, making government imports of the fuel unnecessary, Mohamed Khalifa Turki Al Sobai said in a press conference.

Byron King: Update on Canada Oil Sands, Part I

When we think about the concept of “Peak Oil” today, we need to keep in mind what we’re talking about. The curves show oil output peaking in so many parts of the world. This phenomenon is quite real, as long as you understand that it’s the “old fashioned” kind of oil deposit that Col. Drake was drilling. The light, sweet, easy-flowing oil is getting harder and harder to find, certainly in significant quantity.

But there are a lot of other hydrocarbon molecules out there. Most of those molecules are not light, sweet crude oil. Indeed, most of the hydrocarbon molecules that the world will use in the future will be “heavy,” with lots of carbon atoms and not so many hydrogen atoms.

Cairn Energy Says Export Pipeline From Mangala May Face Delay

(Bloomberg) -- Cairn Energy Plc, the U.K.-listed explorer focused on India, warned that the target for completing an export pipeline from its Mangala field by the end of the year looks to be “increasingly challenging.”

Output from the Mangala field in Rajasthan, set to reach plateau output of 175,000 barrels a day in 2011, is due to start on schedule this week, Chief Executive Officer Bill Gammell said today after Cairn posted a first-half loss. The fields will represent 20 percent of India’s domestic oil output.

Pike River Falls Most in Five Months on Output Delay

(Bloomberg) -- Pike River Coal Co. fell the most in five months in Wellington trading after the New Zealand miner delayed its first exports for the third time in six months.

The 60,000 metric-ton shipment to Japan, slated for mid- November, has been put back after road development slowed production rates, Wellington-based Pike River said in a statement today. The hold-up will require an extension of funding from investor Liberty Harbor LLC, it said. The stock fell as much as 12.3 percent.

Report: N.O. flood controls unreliable

WASHINGTON — Huge flood-control pumps installed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina don't protect the city adequately and the Army Corps of Engineers could have saved $430 million in replacement costs by buying proven equipment, a federal investigation finds.

The investigation by the federal Office of Special Counsel finds there was "little logical justification" for the corps' decision to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the "untested" hydraulic pumps, which are meant to empty millions of gallons of water from the below-sea-level city during storm-related floods.

A Rail Boondoggle, Moving at High Speed

The Obama administration's enthusiasm for high-speed rail is a dispiriting example of government's inability to learn from past mistakes. Since 1971, the federal government has poured almost $35 billion in subsidies into Amtrak with few public benefits. At most, we've gotten negligible reductions -- invisible and statistically insignificant -- in congestion, oil use or greenhouse gases. What's mainly being provided is subsidized transportation for a small sliver of the population. In a country where 140 million people go to work every day, Amtrak has 78,000 daily passengers. A typical trip is subsidized by about $50.

Our Energy Problems Are All Based In Human Nature

I know some very smart people who are fully armed with the data on resource depletion and peak oil, and who still choose to believe in a cornucopian future where humanity acts wisely, humanely, justly, and in concert with a view toward long-term planning, solving all of our problems without any serious hardship.

This time, they contend, it will be different. After all, aren’t we entering the Age of Aquarius, when humanity finally embraces unity and understanding?

Well, forgive me for being skeptical. The degree of cooperation they envisage has no precedent whatsoever in human history, and there are thousands of examples to the contrary.

Lots of Food, but for How Long?

In the city where I live, Vancouver, British Columbia, it has never been so easy to get food, any kind of food. You want a watermelon in January? Walk into the nearest supermarket. Complain about the prices if you must, but North Americans typically pay less than 15 per cent of their income to eat. That's half the percentage of some European nations. In poorer places, food often takes up more than 50 per cent of the family income.

But this glut of cheap food won't last if it's based on a false economy. Industrial agriculture doesn't pay the bills for the subsidized transportation network, to clean up its toxic runoff from fertilizers and chemicals, to bring life back into the topsoil it's stripping away, or to treat people for ill health from a dubious diet of "food products."

Twist of fate: horse and buggies replacing cars

While oil supplies decline, world demand increases, especially in China and India, both of which have a growing middle class, Stephenson said.

“Basically, there won't be enough fuel to go around,” he observed.

Despite the growth of new technologies, Stephenson and Fernbach are both skeptical about humankind's willingness and ability to deal with what they believe is a rapidly approaching crisis. Oil shortages will have a huge impact on the world economy, said Stephenson, who uses his backyard to grow vegetables and is learning how to preserve and can food in anticipation of the food shortages he is convinced are inevitable.

Fernbach went further, suggesting that “a realistic future” could see the reappearance of horses and buggies on Canada's roads.

Eco-convergence hits Montpelier

MONTPELIER – There's an eco-friendly celebration going on in Montpelier and across central Vermont, a weeklong educational forum and festival to bring the sustainable living community together to envision, build and maintain a better future.

Called the Village Building Convergence, it's modeled loosely on an annual event in Portland, Ore. The Montpelier-based event features 34 projects and workshops, as well as music, picnics and more, to highlight the need for sustainable energy, food sources, economies, transportation and other critical components of day-to-day living in Vermont.

Iran softens its nuclear stance - for now

A new report on Iran's controversial nuclear program will be released this week by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), ahead of the September deadline set by the Barack Obama administration in anticipation of more multilateral sanctions on Iran. All indications are that after a temporary lull, the Iran nuclear crisis will loom large again come this autumn.

Tokyo Electric to Restart Second Reactor at Quake-Hit Plant

(Bloomberg) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co., Asia’s biggest utility, will start a second reactor at the quake-hit Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant tomorrow after getting final approval from the local government.

Bulgarian nuke plant loan becomes callable

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's state power utility NEK will be forced to either renegotiate a 250 million euro ($357.3 million) loan syndicated by BNP Paribas, or pay it early in full, the economy and energy minister said on Tuesday.

NEK agreed the five-year syndicated loan in May 2007 and used the proceeds to launch the construction of a 4 billion euro nuclear power plant at the Danube river town of Belene.

But a plunge in power consumption following the global downturn worsened NEK's results and it breached the liquidity conditions on the loan making it callable, Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov said.

Electric DeLorean Foretells Hurdles for Ghosn’s Nissan Leaf Car

(Bloomberg) -- In the 1985 movie “Back to the Future,” Christopher Lloyd has trouble fueling his DeLorean car after altering it to run on plutonium. Today, Tomoyasu Fujii has the same problem after converting his DeLorean to electric power.

“My biggest headache is that the parking lot in my apartment complex doesn’t have a power outlet,” said Fujii, 39, an advertising salesman at a Hiroshima newspaper, adding that the building manager won’t install a socket. “Since no one else has an electric car, they don’t see why they have to bother.”

Charging ahead

GM was not an ostrich, ignoring all that was going on around it in hope problems would go away. The tall foreheads at the automaker knew all about the forecasts of peak oil ... and believed them. They also knew that the hybrid field had pretty much been captured by Toyota. So GM required something absolutely radical and new. It needed to move car technology past the hybrid with a great leap forward. Thus the electric/gas Chevy Volt.

A Farm on Every Floor

IF climate change and population growth progress at their current pace, in roughly 50 years farming as we know it will no longer exist. This means that the majority of people could soon be without enough food or water. But there is a solution that is surprisingly within reach: Move most farming into cities, and grow crops in tall, specially constructed buildings. It’s called vertical farming.

Even Small Towns Are Looking to Go Solar Power

In New York State, two smallish towns are taking on the big task of promoting solar energy, which may be the nation’s salvation now that even Oil Drum experts are talking Peak Oil by 2015.

In Colonie, population 8,591 (as of July 2008), the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is offering to pay up to $25,000 for businesses to install solar energy arrays. With perhaps a dozen firms competing for the privilege – the much-larger Albany is only few miles away – the outlay is unlikely to be significant, but the very fact that the town is thinking solar is a sign that America’s energy paradigm has shifted, albeit subtly, from fossil fuels to “clean” energy alternatives like solar.

Interview with solar power entrepreneur and clean energy advocate Jeremy Leggett

Jeremy Leggett has undergone quite a few large career changes, from oil industry consultant to Greenpeace scientist to solar entrepreneur. A geologist by training, he worked with the oil industry until his studies brought him face-to-face with the growing evidence of global warming. In an industry refusing to change, Leggett moved to Greenpeace and was part of the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) talks up to the Kyoto Protocol. Seeing the strong resistance to renewable energy, Leggett decided to move in that direction himself, setting up SolarCentury, the UK’s largest solar energy company, which helps support the sustainable development organization SolarAid. Leggett shared his experiences with Conducive Mag’s Christine Shearer, including his thoughts on the upcoming IPCC meeting in Copenhagen, what he sees as promising developments for renewable energy, and why he regards culture as the key to tackling climate change.

Biggest Solar Panels Still Not Big Enough

Considering that the world’s largest solar project (in Germany) covers about 210 football fields with approximately 560,000 thin-film First Solar panels – projected to top out at 700,000 – and still produces a mere 53 megawatts, or enough to power 15,000 households, it’s clear that solar efficiencies are the underlying problem when it comes to solar’s thin share of the electricity generation marketplace.

Powerful Ideas: Spray-On Solar Cells

Solar cells soon could be painted onto the sides of buildings or rooftops with nanoparticle inks, according to one chemical engineer.

The new nano-ink process could replace the standard method of manufacturing solar cells, which requires high temperatures and is relatively expensive, said Brian Korgel of the University of Texas at Austin.

"The sun provides a nearly unlimited energy resource, but existing solar energy harvesting technologies are prohibitively expensive and cannot compete with fossil fuels," Korgel said.

Suzlon Says Orders May Increase by Year End on Project Funding

(Bloomberg) -- Suzlon Energy Ltd., India’s biggest maker of wind turbine generators, said orders may increase by the end of this year as funding starts for alternative-energy projects, helping the company meet its sales forecast.

“There is a high degree of optimism globally in terms of the outlook,” Sumant Sinha, chief operating officer, said in an interview. “We are seeing some early signs of recovery, though there is a bit of lag in action on the ground in terms of project financing.”

Husky to get subsidy for ethanol plant

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Husky Energy will collect an operating subsidy of up to C$72.8 million ($67.4 million) for its ethanol plant in Minnedosa, Manitoba, the Canadian government announced on Monday.

The money comes from a federal fund established in 2008 to boost production of renewable fuels. Ethanol from grain, such as that produced at the Minnedosa plant, generates up to 40 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, the government said.

Fires rob pollution-choked Athens of fresh air filter

ATHENS (AFP) – The latest fires to ravage woodland around Athens are an ecological disaster which will affect the quality of life of the capital's 4.5 million residents for years, environmental experts said Monday.

"It's not really the first time that Attica (the prefecture including Athens) has been affected, but we have never seen a fire on such a scale before in the region," said Dimitris Karavellas, the Greek head of the environmental pressure group WWF.

Mexico water body warns of risk of 'critical' shortage

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Mexico's water commission warned Monday of the risk of a "critical" water shortage at the start of 2010 and called on state governments to act now to save water.

"El Nino (seasonal warming), climate change and low rainfall could increase drought in the country, and cause a critical situation in the first quarter of 2010," a Conagua statement said.

Farming and some water supplies across the country have already been hard hit by this year's drought.

Senators tour US park, hear about global warming

ESTES PARK, Colo. – Global warming is threatening America's national parks. But there is no consensus about how to prevent the harm.

Climate protesters play cat and mouse with police

LONDON (Reuters) - Climate change campaigners will pitch their tents in a still-secret location in London on Wednesday at the start of a week of protests against financial institutions, multi-national companies and the government.

Organisers say more than 1,000 people will protest against what they see as the "green posturing" of politicians and firms who talk about saving the environment while expanding airports and coal-fired power stations.

EU warns dirty airlines to clean up or face ban

Over 3,500 airlines and business jet operators globally will have to sign up to the new European Union Emissions Trading Scheme by 2012 or face financial penalties when flying to the continent, the EU has warned.

In its official gazette, the EU has published a list of operators, which includes the likes of Lufthansa, Qantas, KLM, Emirates and United, that could be penalised unless they comply.

Exxon Works Up New Recipe for Frying the Planet

(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. is trying to put one over on you.

The world’s biggest publicly traded oil company wants you to believe that it actually supports the fight against global warming. But its tactics, which have been unfolding on opposite sides of the globe, are just another recipe for cooking the planet in three easy steps. Exxon’s old formula wasn’t working any more. The oil giant used to bankroll scientists who claimed all that stuff about starving polar bears and melting ice caps was just mumbo jumbo. In a 1998 memo, the American Petroleum Institute -- the industry group in which Exxon has long been dominant -- said it would achieve “victory” when doubts about climate science become “part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’” That helped create a noisy minority of skeptics, but it won’t block climate legislation forever.

UN scientist backs '350' target for CO2 reduction

PARIS (AFP) – The UN's top climate scientist has, for the first time, backed ambitious goals for slashing greenhouse gas emissions that many climate negotiators say are beyond reach.

Report: Future U.S. heat waves will be worse

The nation is headed for strong heat waves in coming decades that will hit cities and farmers and threaten wildlife with extinction, a new global warming report warns.

The report, "More Extreme Heat Waves: Global Warming's Wake Up Call," sponsored by medical, environmental and civil rights organizations, comes as a legislative fight over a climate change bill gets ready to resume next month in Congress. Its remedies are based on recent findings of global warming effects by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which coordinates climate research across federal agencies.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce seeks trial on global warming

The business lobby, hoping to fend off potentially sweeping emission limits, wants the EPA to hold a 'Scopes'-like hearing on the evidence that climate change is man-made.

The Michael Lynch editorial in the NYT is a golden opportunity for The Oil Drum to put up an all-star response guest editorial. I thought Robert Rapier might want to write something, but I think maybe we need people from the upstream / geology side of the business. We also need people who haven't made premature or rash predictions in the past. I started thinking...Kenneth Deffeyes...Jean Laherre? Would Webster Hubble Telescope de-cloak?

First thing in the response is to attack Mr. Lynch's own past predictions on price and production.

Lynch's article is nothing but a fistful of red herrings. Either he doesn't understand what "peak oil" means or he is purposefully attempting a misdirection.

Since he's not a stupid man, I'll have to go with the misdirection. Is that really worth responding to? I'm not sure. In some cases, the most telling condemnation is to ignore.

Is it worth responding to??? Only if you think it's important to keep people from being misled into exactly the kind of behavior (both consumption and voting) we don't want to see.

It's worth responding to because of the venue, not because of the quality of the arguments.

Yes, I agree. This op-ed is causing a huge splash, simply because it's in the NY Times.

Also Lynch is not above telling outright lies. An example:

When the large supply disruptions of 1973 and 1979 led to skyrocketing prices, nearly all oil experts said the underlying cause was resource scarcity and that prices would go ever higher in the future.

That is nothing more than a bald faced lie and Mr. Lynch knows it. I very well remember those days and no one that I know of said the reason was resource scarcity. We all knew it was because of OPEC. In 1973 it was because of OPEC cutting supply because they were pissed off about the way the West favored Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was on the evening news every night. And in 1979, and for the next few years we all also knew it was because of the Iranian revolution along with the Iran-Iraqi war and the subsequent "tanker wars" in the Persian Gulf.

How dare he make up such a dammed lie? No one, I repeat no one who had any knowledge of the current OPEC situation claimed that it was because of resource scarcity. After all, non-OPEC production during that period just kept right on rising.

And today I might add, non-OPEC production is falling and has been falling since it peaked in 2004.

Ron Patterson

Ron -

I concur, and appreciate your raising the point.

OPEC deliberately withheld oil supplies as political punishment for US support of Israel in the early 70s. The 'wise and forward-thinking' heads of the time said two types of things: (1) we need alternative energy sources because our access to oil might be constrained, and (2) the OPEC embargo was hurting the Saudis at least as much as it hurt us (the 'let the free market work' argument). Hardly a soul said the world was running out of oil.

Similarly, 1979 was about geopolitics (Iran) not physical supply. With that replay of high prices, the Saudis in particular came to regret using oil constraint as a political weapon and went to the other extreme in the 80s, using oil abundance to drive out alternative supplier and alternative energy competition.

I'm drawing on some excellent pieces by Tom Whipple of ASPO for these thoughts. He seems like a strong 'rebuttal witness' to this line of argument by Michael Lynch.

On the subject of opinion pieces, what about this one from today's WaPo?


Looks like some of those pesky "above ground factors" that Lynch wrote about are still to play out. The quote at the end says it all:

...in five years, absent American help, he answered bluntly: "Iraq will be a colony of Iran."

Are we living in interesting times or what?

E. Swanson


Absolutely right. I remember hearing President Carter's energy speech live on the radio, while the family was taking a leisure drive (remember those?) in our 1973 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon (6 mpg in town). Carter did not say that the world was running out of oil, but that we were dependent on Middle Eastern oil, and as such, we were subject to dangerous embargoes, and that we should conserve, use coal, and use renewable energy as a response. He didn't consider invading the Middle East as a solution until later on in his term, after the Iranian Revolution.

My Dad liked to say that the Olds Custom Cruiser was "the last of the dinosaurs." His next car was a 1600 cc Volkswagen Rabbit.

He is a "consultant" for the oil industry. I think that we can safely assume that this piece was a paid-for project.

Or, if not outright paid for, an attempt to market his consultancy business.

Here's more advertising for his consultancy business:

"Prices have just begun to drop," said Michael C. Lynch, of Amherst, an oil-industry analyst who heads Strategic Energy & Economic Research Inc. with clients ranging from the U.S. Department of Energy to Aramco, Saudi Arabia's national oil company.

Growing supplies of oil and oil products, coupled with weak demand, which is the response to the past year's high prices, have been reducing the price of crude oil, he said. From its current price of about $67 a barrel, Lynch said he thinks "it will stabilize in the low 40s within the next year."

Springfield Republican, Sept 9, 2006

You can TRY to post a comment about the reality of peak oil or suggesting some resources to check the other side of the story in the comments section of NYT's articles but they will never see the light of day.

I will bet that you couldn't even get an AD prominently placed rebutting this article in the NYT and if you think THIS is bad,CONSIDER THAT MOST PAPERS ARE EVEN WORSE.

I would love to be proved wrong about the comments this time,but how can it be otherwise when thier lead environmental columnist won't touch peak oil with a ten foot pole?

Well, I did try and my letter is now currently the only Editor's Selection. Sometimes they listen. (See "Bit by bit...")


My recent interactions with the Washington Post lead me to believe there is more space for the peakist view than ever before. That's not to say the game is won, not by a long shot, but the journalists I've spoken to are beginning to get it.

Perhaps I spoke too soon...it shows up on my Safari browser but not on Firefox. Odd...

Interesting - I've often thought the best way to handle spammers would be to allow them to post and see their own post, but no one else would see it. Don't tell the spammer/troller that you are doing this, and they will simply believe they have succeeded in posting, but then no one seems to be paying any attention to them...

Most spammers these days don't care if you pay attention. What they're posting is "link spam" - links to try and get higher in search engine rankings. That's why they sneak back to threads that have been dead for months or years to post their spam. No human will see it, but the search bots will. Indeed, avoiding human notice is the point.

That's why we have the warning that links automatically get the nofollow attribute. We still get spam, though. I suspect most of our spammers either don't read English or are not human.

I am not seeing your comment on my IE8 browser.

Nor do I, and the page now says, with ZERO comments that "Comments are no longer being accepted."

I'm seeing the same thing...my comment is gone. Could have been a technical glitch I suppose. I thought my comment was rather cordial. Here it is (I've learned to save them before clicking 'post'):


Bit by bit smart people are going through the math and concluding that the near-term peakists (2020 or earlier) are likely correct. It takes time for this to occur, just like it took time for the world's scientists to sort through the evidence for climate change (decades in fact), but now that evidence is solid despite what a few dissenters think. Mr. Lynch is one of the people who will hold out until the end on the matter of oil.

A few big items about oil Mr. Lynch fails to mention:

* yes there is lots of oil out there but it's difficult to extract compared to what we've built our civilization on. On-shore oil production peaked in the early eighties, what's left is the expensive off shore and heavy oils, and much of that is in places inhospitable to Western companies.

* the net exports problem. In short, the oil-producing countries are increasingly using more oil themselves and they export only the oil they don't use. Going forward there will be less oil available for oil importing countries. If their economies continue to expand (likely) we don't have until the end of the century to get off oil, we must be off between 2040 and 2060 — but the problems start much earlier than then.

* the declining net energy profit of oil. At one time we could spend one barrel of oil to get back 100 barrels. Those days are no more. We have to spend enormous amount of money and energy to get oil out and it is getting worse. Just like a business with dwindling profit margins, we are a civilization with dwindling net energy profit. As the money and energy required to get more energy out increases, there will be fewer oil projects and less "energy profit" to spend as we wish, causing the world economy first to slow its expansion, then to contract.

There is much more that Mr. Lynch fails to mention in addition to his mischaracterizing the notion of peak oil. For a more accurate view of the dilemma we face, I recommend the books of Michael Klare, who is much more objective than Mr. Lynch.

-André Angelantoni

Mind cutting and pasting it here? I'm always interested in hearing how others comment in such fora.

He's not getting much if any slack in these comments though, is he?


What does he mean by, "...arguments about peak oil are based on anecdotal information, vague references and ignorance of how the oil industry goes about finding fields and extracting petroleum."?????

Personally - after reading that - I don't see this guy as being technically credible.

credible is a word that cannot be spoken in the same sentence with his name w/o commiting blasphemy.

"A careful examination of the facts shows that most arguments about peak oil are based on anecdotal information, vague references and ignorance of how the oil industry goes about finding fields and extracting petroleum"

LOL! Sure, individual wells, fields countries and regions peak and decline, but these are only "anecdotal information". TOD is also full of "vague references". And the oil industry experts scrolling here are certain to be "ignorant of how the oil industry goes about".

F*cking unbelievable.

And he ends
"Oil remains abundant, and the price will likely come down closer to the historical level of $30 a barrel as new supplies come forward in the deep waters off West Africa and Latin America, in East Africa, and perhaps in the Bakken oil shale fields of Montana and North Dakota"

And he ends
"Oil remains abundant, and the price will likely come down closer to the historical level of $30 a barrel as new supplies come forward in the deep waters off West Africa and Latin America, in East Africa, and perhaps in the Bakken oil shale fields of Montana and North Dakota"

According to this Cera graphic, the marginal cost for most of those fields is above $80, so why would anyone develop them?


Especially if oil is going to stay at $38/barrel...

Hey- BTW- Are we trading at 2 Yergins yet?

Hey, don't knock it -there are OCEANS of $38 oil out there... It's just gonna cost us $80/bl to find and suck it out... :o)


Yes, it is indeed a golden opportunity--but only if it's done properly.

People on the reality-enhanced side of the peak oil and climate change arguments have a long and very sorry track record of terrible performance in such public exchanges. Far too often our side gets bogged down in minutiae and forgets the seemingly obvious point that the audience is not the person we're arguing with, but the mainstreamers watching the whole affair.

One does have to wonder why a newspaper that was just about foaming at the mouth against the GOP's "Drill, baby, drill" nonsense just twelve months ago should now be touting what is little more than a dressed-up recycling of the same garbage?

WNC, an OP ED column is so named because it is usually printed opposite the editorial page. Opinions printed here are often diametrically opposed to the opinions generally espoused by the newspapers editors. So the New York Times is not necessarily touting this garbage, they are just giving the opposition a chance to express their opinion. This in turn gives the newspaper more credibility because they give both sides of the story.

Ron P.

All very true. But imagine an Op-Ed editorial that was this lazy, this disingenuous, and this vacuous opposing, say for example, the research that's shown that historically underperforming racial or class groups on standardized tests can see greatly improved test scoring results when certain social/environmental/classroom/teacher variables are changed? I don't think newspapers generally allow anyone to let it rip on any subject on the Op-Ed page. There is perhaps an issue of competency here. The NYT, for example, would never imo--as a paper that has covered education/social and pedagogical issues for decades--allow such an unrigorous tirade on such topics in their Op-Ed. I think part of what's going on here is that Lynch has media cred, and there is zero competency at the NYT on this subject.



I understand that - except for the fact that the NYT is highly selective in their choice of op-eds to run. They do not, in fact, always provide a full-spectrum forum for all points of view. Just because something is run as an op-ed does not necessarilly mean that the editors disagree with it. In fact, it sometimes serves their purposes to run something that way.

I have noted that when the NYT editors are feeling very brave and present an op-ed that they REALLY disagree with, they will often pair that with their own editorial presenting their opposing viewpoint. Sometimes, they will even pair their very moderate-sounding, well-reasoned, public-spirited sounding editorial with an op-ed that sounds overly strident and extremist, just to make their own piece look better. Games like this are played by newspaper editors. When you DON'T see a pairing with an official editorial, it suggests to me that the editors don't find the position taken by the op-ed piece to really be all that far out of line with their own.

Come on. Don't ya'll recognize industry sponsored propaganda when you see it? Lies & misinformation work when it comes to derailing health care reform for the benefit of the insurance & pharmaceutical industries and to the detriment of public health, so why shouldn't they work to the benefit of the oil industry and to the detriment of the environment? Surely TOD readership isn't so naive.

".... most arguments about peak oil are based on anecdotal information, vague references and ignorance of how the oil industry goes about finding fields and extracting petroleum."

lynch has been quoted as claiming that the petroleum industry only needs to "overcome the laws of physics."

it's on here somewhere, i just cant find it right now.

The Op Ed page of the NY Times this morning appears to be a personal attack by Michael Lynch on various individuals rather than a fact-based argument.

He titles the piece with the term "Peak Oil" which is so politically and emotionally charged that the use of that term alone can derail any debate.

The counters in relation to Mr. Lynch's three points are:

1a. Discoveries have not been keeping pace (he fails to realize that subsequent reserve revisions ARE accounted for and backdated in most global analyses); 1b. The easy oil HAS already been found and produced. How do we know this? The resources (energy and funding) required to find and develop incremental oil today have been steadily increasing relative to the amount of energy and required return on investment. This is why the price of oil has been rising. 1c. Depletion rates have been increasing due to advanced drilling and production techniques. Just look at offshore depletion rates for an extreme example. Offshore techniques are now being used onshore.

2. Nobody is blaming politics for declining discoveries, more expensive exploration and production, or increasing depletion rates. Mr Lynch tries to tie the current debate to the oil embargoes from 40 years ago - but tellingly doesn't mention one person today.

3. Mr. Lynch's final argument about total resources available being enormous mentions "some geologists". Again, he tellingly doesn't mention one name or organization to substantiate his claims.

The more frightened people become, the more they entrench. This article is just a rant. A classic case of shout your opinion as loudly as possible and it will be truth. I'd like to see him produce evidence, charts and calculations in a methodical scientific manner. He won't because he is just shouting.

Michael Lynch knows better and probably has access to more informed opinions about oil production than we do.

The question is really then, why attack the geological fact of peak oil now? (And with such puny ammunition, easily deflected by a wave of the hand?)

Could it be that the relentless rise in the oil markets, despite the best attempts at jawboning it down, and despite all the games being played in the futures market, are finally telling us the real story?

Being the cynic that I am, I see this article as yet more proof that peak oil has arrived and that there is a perceived need by TPTB to calm the flock. And articles like this belong to the cockroach family - there are always more of them around if you bother looking. I bet that we see more of this drivel in the next few days from a number of so-called experts. Where is Yergin when he is needed?


I agree! YouTube is positively buzzing with people who give updates on their predictions of when economic collapse is coming. Some of these people have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. The average person is starting to get a whiff of the smoke in the auditorium.....I`m sure the government would prefer that everyone remain as calm as possible and continue to support, well, the government!

But the Lynch piece was truly a gem! I edited in the word "forever" in the following sentence he wrote:

"As the Saudis proved in recent years at Ghawar, additional investment---to find new deposits and drill new wells---can keep a field`s overall production from falling---FOREVER!!!"

So, basically, no worries (whew! That was close but luckily my little editing job will keep us in oil, well, forever.) Let`s hope the NYT is reading TOD and adds in that tiny change I`m suggesting. Then we really can relax and get back to BAU.

I`m too modest to accept the world`s effusive thanks.

Oh well!!!

That was the top story in yesterday's DrumBeat. Foreign Policy did a special report on oil, called The Long Goodbye. In addition to Yergin's piece, there's articles by Peter Maas, Prince Turki al-Faisal, Amy Myers Jaffe, Fatih Birol, and others.

Seems I found the egg before I found the chicken. Oh well - that is the way it goes with them roaches....

On the other hand, developed economies are on an efficiency kick like never before

Really? That is a joke! Pray tell where this 'efficiency kick' is taking place? Nonsense.

why attack the geological fact of peak oil now?

Because if all them damn Peak Oiler's are right, it's too scary to even consider! Why our very way of life would no longer be possible! The economic "recovery" would come to a screeching halt.

Yes, most people with a working ego will try to deny what PO is about and the implications simply BECAUSE it will require one to reconsider their whole world view. This should not be a surprise. And all those commenter's who say "but Michael Lynch is a smart guy" are deluding them selves. This is not about logic, this is about profound fear and loss of one's world view. No one gives that up easily. Denial is the front line protection of the ego.

This is not about logic, this is about profound fear and loss of one's world view. No one gives that up easily. Denial is the front line protection of the ego.

I'm not sure that in the case of Lynch and his ilk it is a matter of fear or denial. I think it is more a narrowly defined self-interest. These are people who do not question the ability of the capitalist system to prevail / continue for the long term. So even thought they may know very well that oil's time is coming to an end, this does no threaten their view of the world, they merely look for ways to advance their own pecuniary interests.

Articles like this are not about engaging in a debate, they are about selling a service.

narrowly defined self-interest


ways to advance their own pecuniary interests

are exactly what I mean by "ego".

Which would put you quite at odds with Freud and the way "ego" is used within psychology.

The "Iron Triangle" strikes back. I debated Michael Lynch and an engineer from ExxonMobil on a local PBS program back in 2005, if memory serves. Lynch called in on a phone line.

I subsequently coined the term "Huber/Lynch" type oil fields, in honor of Peter Huber & Michael Lynch. These are oil fields (tended to by elves & fairies, with unicorns grazing in the pastures) where individual discrete wells peak and decline, but the total field output, i.e., the sum of the output of depleting discrete oil wells, increases forever.

This is basically the argument he is making when he says that the sum of the discrete regions like Texas & the North Sea, that have peaked or that will peak, will practically never peak. So, we take the sum of the output of regions like the following (the 1972 Texas peak lined up with the 1999 North Sea peak), and assume a virtually infinite rate of increase in production:

"Iron Triangle" Essay:

I always find it interesting that people like Matt Simmons (who are encouraging energy conservation) are widely blamed by some critics for high oil prices, while some major oil companies, some major oil exporters and some energy analysts are--in effect--encouraging increased energy consumption.

The prevailing message from some major oil companies, some major oil exporters and some energy analysts can be roughly summarized as follows “Party On Dude!”

The main thing about the reserves growth argument I've never been able to wrap my head around was why anybody was suggesting it mattered. An elephant field will do wonders for your profile; here's what US production looks like when you subtract the North Slope:

Not quite so asymmetrical anymore without Prudhoe in the picture. Yet Lynch and Co are always maundering on about how Kern River was due to have ground to a halt in the 50s. And I ask: So What? California production has still been in a nosedive since the late 80s, and we punched no less than 43,887 crude oil development wells in 1981, the peak year of an absolutely insane burst of drilling. And my above chart is the result - a rather pathetic plateau and very minor uptick, followed by a return to inexorable decline.

This was analyzed in great detail in this paper: The Relationship of Oil Drilling and Oil Production Very highly recommended.

Looking at nearly 60 years of data in this plot, four important things are clear:

(1) People debate the likelihood of a global oil production peak heatedly but, from a domestic point of view, peak oil
is very old news: U.S. oil production peaked in 1970—a peak that we’ve never since exceeded, despite the
subsequent 38 years of technology improvement, major events like the ramping up of North Slope oil production,
and the economic incentive of increasing oil prices (remember the average price of oil at the 1970 peak was about
10 dollars a barrel—and that’s in inflation adjusted dollars!)

(2) Over this large time scale, there is remarkably little correlation at all between drilling activity and oil
production. For example, from 1955 to 1970 drilling activity in the U.S. decreased steadily, from over 2500 working
rotary rigs all the way down to 1000. Yet during this time oil production increased by over 40%. These were the
good old days when boys were boys, men were men, and the U.S. domestic oil industry was still a young industry—
with large and easily accessible fields just waiting to be drilled—rather than the mature, literally “over the hill”,
industry it is today.

US minus Alaska may end up as a close to perfect

... when they sum up US Oil History in a couple of decades.

An EROEI curve (of some sort, number of cumulative wells, yield per well ...) superimposed on that curve would be very revealing and educating. Joe SixPack down on the corner might even understand what that means ?!

I love your Texas and North Sea chart, but would you consider switching the years around? I think it would be easier to read with the North Sea years on top, by the North Sea line, and the Texas years on the bottom, closer to the Texas line.

Good point. I think that would be an improvement.

I can't believe you guys are actually suggesting to a Texan that he place the Lone Star State anywhere but on top...

Anyway, on a slight tangent, I've always wondered about the statements from peak oilers that execs were insisting in the late 90s that the North Sea had a good 10 years left in it. Digging around in the Google News archives, I found this, from Monday, September 8 1997: Article: U.K. North Sea production could reach 2nd peak by 2000, says engineering... | AccessMyLibrary - Promoting library advocacy

Like the venerable Gulf of Mexico - which has had numerous reincarnations - the British Sector of the North Sea is headed for a "second peak" in oil and liquids production during the next three years.

So say consultants Wood MacKenzie, who recently related a huge upgrade in oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) for Norway's Sector of the North Sea (IRW, 8-25).

Woodmac says some 20 new British North Sea oil developments likely within the next five years will help U.K. production to hit all-time highs of 3 million b/d between now and 2000.

However, that output rate probably will diminish rapidly unless further significant oil finds are made to add to reserves, says the Edinburgh, Scotland-based firm.

That doesn't sound like hyperbole to me; maybe I'll add the dread term "CEO" to my next search.

This would all merely be good sport were it not for the final line:

But we can’t let the false threat of disappearing oil lead the government to throw money away on harebrained renewable energy schemes or impose unnecessary and expensive conservation measures on a public already struggling through tough economic times.

This says it all, and is evidently the real reason why this piece was written. As I suggested in another post above, I suspect that this consultant is for hire, and is paid for what he does, and that includes this piece.

This is just a disinformation propaganda piece that is attempting to derail support for renewables and energy efficiency. That is the real agenda behind this op-ed.

This is just a disinformation propaganda piece that is attempting to derail support for renewables and energy efficiency. That is the real agenda behind this op-ed.

Ya think?!? :)

And the guy gets a fat cheque from MIT.

There is an extremely strong link between the Saudis and MIT

MIT Club of Saudi

Have some fun and Google MIT and Aramco

What a contradiction!!!! We cannot afford to conserve in these tough economic times?

What does Michael Lynch believe caused these tough economic times?

Has he looked at the Oil production curve in the US since 1970?

Has he noticed that 2/3 of oil producing countries are past peak?

Does he really believe that there are 10 trillion barrels of oil in the world?

Peak Oilers are undermined through a concerted campaign of Stigmatization.

Think about it: Informed people who have for years either studied issues of resource depletion or worked in the resource extraction business and cry out for Limits To Growth! are being undermined by the derogatory association with End Of Timers and 2012 Armageddon crazies.

What's the Deal: I'm out to dinner with friends and this person asked me to express my views about Obama and his "New Deal" policies. I bucked the party line because I think Obama's stimulus programs are a "travesty of a mockery of a Sham".

When I talked about the tragedy of suburbia and what Kunstler describes as "the largest mis-allocation of resources in the history of civilization" and backed my position up with fact this person responded derisively : "You sound like those end of times Pentecostals!"

When you stigmatize someone you don't need to refute their arguments.


The Op Ed page of the NY Times this morning appears to be a personal attack by Michael Lynch on various individuals rather than a fact-based argument.

He titles the piece with the term "Peak Oil" which is so politically and emotionally charged that the use of that term alone can derail any debate.

First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.

"I know the animals...are laughing at us
They don’t even know...what a joke is..."

Slidesong: Talking Heads - Animals

"Then they fight you."

It could get ... awkward, for the people they (the oil establishment) decide are their enemies. I hope ASPO et al are preparing for smear campaigns, etc.

LiveSmart dies young

Companies specializing in green energy solutions are seeing red over the cancellation of LiveSmart BC, a move they say will hurt the province's burgeoning green industry sector and undermine the Campbell government's efforts to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

Cancelled without warning late last week, LiveSmart BC offered a range of cash incentives for homeowners who invest in energy-saving technology.

See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/livesmart-dies-young/articl...

We're told by the Minister responsible that this programme was a "victim of its own success", which suggests that if you come up with something that works well, it will be terminated, but if you aim for mediocrity, you'll be assured ongoing financial support.


"Politcal ideology can corrupt the mind and science" Edward O Wilson

Slums of Suburbia: At ground zero in the housing meltdown

The irony in all these empty houses is the valley's rapidly growing population, which presumably needs a place to live. By 2050, it is expected to more than double to 7.9 million, accounting for 14 percent of the state's population, up from 6 percent today. More development was inevitable, researchers and officials agree; they just think it should have been managed differently. Though expanding, the valley's population is overwhelmingly young and poor, with a median age of less than 30 and poverty rates that rival Detroit and Appalachia. Big, sprawling, single-family suburban houses were the wrong fit. But the farmland was cheap, the zoning codes were lax, and, with Proposition 13—state legislation limiting property taxes—squeezing their budgets, city governments were eager to sign off on expansion. "Part of the sprawl problem we have is that [municipalities] are expanding housing to try to get a little more tax money to survive, and that's what's destroying the ag[riculture] and the open space and everything else," says Rollie Smith, the valley's federal HUD director. "But Prop 13 really makes it impossible for these places to do anything else." With no regional-planning mechanism to stop them, the borders of the valley's 62 cities sprawled outward.

The result was one of the most stunning changeovers of land use in our time. In a region where it's nearly impossible to hold a conversation without at least one mention of the valley's unique agricultural advantages, the rate at which farmland was converted to urban use doubled in a decade. It was paved over at a stunningly inefficient rate: an acre for every eight people, according to Edward Thompson at American Farmland Trust. The real problem is more technical, he says; because most of the valley's cities are located right on top of the most productive land, their rapid expansion was destroying the best of the best.

Nice garden plots with water utility no doubt in place.

My thoughts as well. Why not take this opportunity to work with a sustainable platform of living spaces for the growing number of homeless.

A small house and a very big garden space. Take it from the bank/government...Give it to these guys to do something with.


Small is beautiful, baby.

Except there is no top soil there. It was stripped off and sold. You can go buy it at the home and garden center in 40lbs bags if you want it back.

Dying on the Vine

After three years of drought, California's legendary water wars are flaring once again, and towns like Mendota, San Joaquin, and Firebaugh are getting a first glimpse of what their future might look like. Farmers blame the area's blight on a "man-made drought" brought on by increasingly strict environmental regulations, but that is only the beginning of the story. There's also the crushing confluence of political negligence, drought, and a century's worth of unbridled growth. Now, as residents wonder if normalcy will ever return, planners are forced to consider a far uglier question: should it? Is a new "normal" required?

"It took a century of bad decisions to get us here. The good news is, we are on the verge of making some major changes on what we're going to do about it," says Jeff Mount, a water-geology researcher at UC Davis who supports the peripheral canal proposal.

The "peripheral canal proposal" is typical of government proposals. They're big, expensive (this means profits for a few groups or individuals: the basis of capitalism) and in the long run accomplish little.

Example: A few years ago I went to work for a small solar power installer selling residential and commercial solar power systems. The hope was that there would be a significant subsidy for small residential Solar Photovoltaic in CA. Instead we got the California Solar Initiative, a complex series of small 20% rebates that often left the installer waiting for months filling out paperwork for a rebate which could be death for a small installer. In the end the state would trim the rebate, like an HMO, leaving the installer at times upside down on a job. As a result I left the field. I do however admire and respect the people in that field that persevere like Texas Wildcatters praying for the "big gusher".

My point is: California has one thing in overwhelming abundance: houses. They don't have to build large scale "wind and solar farms" further decaying the landscape. However TPTB don't appear to want "the People" generating their own power cheaply.

What might work: The solar electric subsidies along with insulation and window upgrading need to be >50% with cheap, easy, long term financing. This would create work and lead to long term solutions. The water authority needs to be peopled not by political cronies but by a focused, draconian group that has the authority to go in with a whip and a chair and tell farmers what crops they might grow and what types of landscaping is appropriate in residential communities. This might mean scrapping the old "First use, first in line" and upgrading sewer treatment to recycle waste-water. (yeah that might mean toilet to tap!)

"But noooooooooooooo!" John Belushi SNL

Sound like Socialism? You bet. With close to 30 million people living in an area that is unsustainable in the short term are we going to wait until we turn on the tap and nothing comes out and electricity becomes so expensive that we schedule rolling blackouts and punitive rates?


Hey, if you could dam the LA area's drainage canals they could be pretty good for moving canal boats if TSHTF

So, instead of TSHTF it`s going to be TSHTT (The s___ hits the taps ;<)

Regarding "A Rail Boondogle" in the Washington Post, another example of selective inclusion. Please add to this list of transportation subsidies:
military to safeguard transport of oil, road construction and maintenance, Highway patrol (most police calls are also road related), FAA, TSA, corn ethanol, parking lots, oil industry tax breaks, health related costs from the ICE, subsidies to attract airlines and airport faciities, Department of Motor Vehicles, cash for clunkers, tax breaks for gas guzzlers...

What are the maritime subidies?

Man, what is going on today!?!?! First the NYT comes out with that hairbraned Lynch op-ed, concluding: "But we can’t let the false threat of disappearing oil lead the government to throw money away on harebrained renewable energy schemes or impose unnecessary and expensive conservation measures on a public already struggling through tough economic times."

Then the Wash Post comes out with this piece against ANY passenger rail in the US.

I might expect such pieces in the right-leaning WSJ, but THESE papers?!?!? They haven't exactly been front and center on renewables and energy efficiency, but apparently now they have turned downright hostile. What happened? Apparently some decisions were made in high places, with the result being what we are seeing now. Beyond that I could only speculate, although I very much suspect that some very big oil money is ultimately behind this to a great extent. The only other thing I can figure is that Obama is in trouble, and is evidently going to have to back-peddle on something and cut back on the spending, and someone has decided that renewables and energy efficiency are going to be "it".

Stands to reason: do all the wrong things, and then give up on doing the one right thing that might possibly have held out a shred of hope of making a positive difference.

The educated people in positions of power & influence know the score. They aren't in denial about the reality of the situation but they want the general public to be, in order to further their own short term interests. Because they know that long term interests don't matter anymore. They have given up "hope of making a positive difference" because they see clearly that it's all coming crashing down and they think that the only hope for themselves and their children is to plunder as much of the collective wealth as possible now, while it's still possible to do so. They are betting that enormous personal wealth will insulate themselves and their families from the dire consequences of human overpopulation and environmental and socioeconomic collapse, at least for awhile. At least long enough for themselves and their children & perhaps grandchildren to live out their natural lives. After that, they don't care what happens. Why should they? And why should they care about what happens to the rest of us? Perhaps they even believe that it will be their descendants who survive to repopulate the planet following population collapse. Perhaps they believe that their prescience & perfidy are evidence that they deserve to be among the few survivors, in some twisted Darwinian sense.

Norse Greenland's End: Thus, Norse society's structure created a conflict between the short-term interests of those in power, and the long-term interests of the society as a whole. Much of what the chiefs and clergy valued proved eventually harmful to the society. However, the
Greenland Norse did succeed in creating a unique form of European Society, and in surviving for 450 years as Europe's most remote outpost. We modern Americans should not be too quick to brand them as failures, when their society survived so far in Greenland for longer than our English speaking society has in North America. Ultimately, though, the chiefs found themselves without followers. The last right they obtained for themselves was the privilege of being the last to starve

Jared Diamond Collapse


I haven't looked at the Wash Post editorial. Probably the Metrorail accident is weighing on the editorial board in addition to whatever additional pressures.

Maybe its too early to call this recent spate of articles a 'peak oil backlash' but it leaves the impression that more than just the usual TOD-posting cranks are expressing concerns about Peak Oil to the establishment. Peak Oil is bubbling up enough that oil advocates feel a need to fight back hard.

Peak oil means economic decline, and the ultimate failure of the perpetual "onward and upward" project. As I noted in yesterday's DB, the mindset of the power elites is that failure is not an option. When people here talk about whether or not the power elites are "peak oil aware", they need to understand that "awareness" of peak oil amongst that crowd does not elicit the same response as it does amongst us. Given their mindset, their only response is to deny its inevitability and fight against it. They will stop at NOTHING in their efforts to sustain the unsustainable.

This is not just about attempting to discredit peak oil advocates, obfuscate the issue and confuse the public. They really do want to kill off renewables and ALL energy efficiency initiatives if they possibly can. They know full well that society cannot be sustained by renewables at present levels of end energy use, and that means changes to their non-negotiable lifestyles. They know full well that mass transportation means that they must share their transport with the masses, and that is a prospect too unpleasant to them to even be seriously considered as a possibility.

Oh yes, they are "peak oil aware" all right. Just don't think that this awareness will translate into the type of policies that you might think that peak oil awareness should engender. Instead of seeing wise and intelligent managed decline, what we are going to be seeing is exactly all of the wrong things being done, all the way down, in a futile attempt to prevent the unpreventable. The rest of us have nothing to look forward to except far worse suffering than we should have had to face.

I would disagree in one specific point - for you and I peak oil means economic decline, for Lynch and for much of the economic elite peak oil does not mean economic decline. They are essentially techno-cornucopians without the explicit discussion of technology.

For this group it is not the case that "failure is not an option." For the "power elite" failure is not even possible (it's not even a discussion you can have with them).

Their assumption is that we will continue to use oil until we don't and then we'll use something else. Oil depletion is not an issue that impacts prospects for growth. I know that such a position is anathema to folks who hang out here. But, as obvious as the problem is to us here, it is essential that we understand the mindset of those on the other side of the argument.

Yes, they are peak oil aware. But there response is not to simply grab what they can during the collapse. Their response is to look for ways to secure and improve their "power elite" position in a perpetually growing economy that is not (in their view) contingent on energy inputs for that growth.

Any attempt to question the inevitability of growth is to be scorned and to have contempt heaped upon it (and that includes those pesky peak oil nut cases). They are not (at least not necessarily) cynics with irresponsible anti-social responses to a crisis - they don't believe it is a crisis and thus are following actions informed by their belief in that growth economy.

...and they continue to drag out the same old analogy of the hairy 70s hippy saying 'the end is nigh' only to be told/shown it wasn't so...

...you only have to be correct once for this game to end...


Then the Wash Post comes out with this piece against ANY passenger rail in the US.

WNC, please see my post above on Op Ed pieces. The Washington Post did not come out with a piece against passenger rail. Op Eds are not editorials of the paper. They are guest editorials. They are usually placed opposite the editoral page in order to give the opposition equal time. They do not always oppose the editors opinions but far more often than not they do.

Ron P.

Samuelson is one of about 30 regular "op-ed" columnists for the WaPo. There are variety of viewpoints represented, from center-left to center-right. Very few extremists from either wing. At least as far as the WaPo is concerned, they are not "op-ed" because they disagree with the editors (sometimes they do, sometimes they don't), but simply because they are expressing their own opinions as opposed to editorials written by the editorial staff.

The thing that threw me is that neither the WP nor Samuelson have been flaming right wingers. They have tended to be mostly centrist. Neither the WP nor Samuelson have been known as being opponents of the Obama-Biden administration, and they certainly knew that passenger rail was one of Biden's pet projects. It all just struck me as something really out of character, not what I would have normally expected from either of them.

Yes, I know that Samuelson is a columnist and can write what he wishes. I suspect that there are some parameters that are regularly discussed between himself and the WaPo editors, and if he chooses to stray too far into waters uncomfortable to the editors, they both understand that there might be a parting of the ways. It is not unprecedented for an editor to drop an op-ed columnist that is generating more heat than light.

Again, I point out that there was no editorial running against this Samuelson column. If the editors really disagreed and wished to distance themselves from Samuelson, they could and would have done so. On the contrary, if you go to the Aug 24th website, you will see that Samuelson's is the FEATURED op-ed column, with a color photo. They certainly didn't have to do that.

Samuelson isn't even trying to be evenhanded in the article-he states that rail can't compete with air over 500 miles, so it is a no go. NYC to Philly is 94 miles, San Diego to LA is 121 miles (just two examples). He is quite aware of these facts, he has an obvious agenda.

Some kind of new Japanese "in-wheel electric vehicle" company announces it will start production of cars in 2013. It is some sort of joint venture between Keio U., Benesse (publishing) , and Gulliver (used car co.).

What is different about "in-wheel" electric car technology?
It uses some sort of battery, right?
What sort of battery? Is this going to be viable and replace the 600 million cars alive on the planet right now? Or is this another one of them thar "boondoggles" I heard Dmitri Orlov talking about??

Pray tell!

The idea is very simple. The car is a go-cart with an electric motor built into each wheel. Precisely 4 moving parts in the drive train.
Driven directly by the batteries.

The problems are making the motors strong, powerful and efficient enough to stop them overheating and burning out. Also, adds to the unsprung weight of the car, which affects the ride and road holding.

This will work best for very small cars which require less peak power. If they get it working, it will drastically cut the production cost of electric cars (apart from the batteries of course).

Not directly on point, but here is some interesting information about how many cars are produced each year and by whom: www.worldometers.info/cars/

'Is this going to be viable and replace the 600 million cars alive on the planet right now?'

You're being a bit hyperbolic, eh?

Wheelmotors are going to be a useful tool which simplify much of the requirements for moving many types of vehicles. the bicycle hubmotors are already making huge strides in creating lightweight, durable and low-profile propulsion for a new generation of 'Motorcycle/Moped', and larger Wheelmotors will have countless applications, using fewer materials, fewer moving parts, adding less weight, and so by definition reducing many facets of the energy and material demands of vehicles.

The solution to an eating disorder is not to stop eating. The ways we need to approach our transportation issues is not going to be addressed by saying 'No more Driving' .. There will still be wheels and paths for them to travel over. We need to figure out what trips are necessary, and what to make those cars and roads out of..


I didn`t know much of what you pointed out. I have zero background in engineering, actually.

Your reply was very helpful. I never thought of it like that before (although I should have).

No problem, sorry if I was snippy at the top..

There are so many times that a workable project gets jumped on because it is accused of 'Trying to maintain BAU' .. and it's usefulness just becomes an additional target of the Jeavon's argument.

We anti-establishment types can be a bit like a body that rejects new organs.. we habitually attack anything even WE try to establish...

The invariably polite Michael C. Lynch has been debating these issues for a long time See for example his USENET posts (as mclynch) from the 90's at sci.energy, sci.geo.petroleum and other sites. He has also posted occasionally at the yahoo group energyresources, usually as wilfrid02144.


taken from the google groups link:

The Hubbert argument is primarily used for forecasting by people outside the
industry, who are trying to promote ethanol, electric cars, etc

Now that is just a plain old lie. Most of the geologists I have spoken to or read use the 'Hubbert argument'

Does this guy have any oil industry experience? What are his credentials?

Kind of like the "Oil will last forever" argument by people who sell oil.

See my comment above. The whole point of this article is not about peak oil, it is about trying to derail renewables and energy efficiency. The NOCs and IOCs obviously don't want to see a big investment in renewables and energy (the Saudis said as much in their Foreign Affairs article), and they probably sense that an opportunity is emerging for a round of budget cutting somewhere, so these initiatives are vulnerable. There might also be some back room horsetrading going on: support for the health care initiative in exchange for scaling back green technology. Today's articles are the opening salvo in the media blitz to give the done deal some cover in the court of public opinion.

Mick Lynch has mentioned on more than one occasion that his degree is in political science. There has been some confusion as he had some association with the cornucopian economist Morris Adelman. He has claimed no hands on experience in the oil industry but has been studying the subject for many years.


This article was far from 'polite'.

The vulgarities are all between the lines, so as not to upset the typesetters, but his intention here is as far from one of 'invariably polite debate'. He's wielding a knife, and aiming between the shoulder blades.

He has surely claimed to be a 'knowledgable professional' by such statements, and their smirking dismissals of 'motivated group of scientists and laymen ' who he clearly tells us he can best in evaluating the data ..

Another critic, a prominent consultant and investor named Matthew Simmons, has raised concerns over oil engineers using “fuzzy logic” to estimate reservoir holdings. But fuzzy logic is a programming method that has been used since I was in graduate school in situations where the factors are hazy and variable — everything from physical science to international relations — and its track record in oil geology has been quite good.

(Don't let the production numbers fool you on that one..)

But he did clearly unsheath his dagger with that closer about conservation and renewables being "Hairbrained"

What a gent!

I and others have argued with Lynch for more than a dozen years. His responses have been quite polite compared to the usual internet standards.

I would say more refined than polite.

I'll concede to your experience in direct communications. But I think this OpEd is not in that same vein.


Ben Bernanke - 4 more years?????

Now we know why he has been stating "recovery is happening".

The only recovery was Ben's job..........What about the millions of others who are now unemployed?

Now that he is back in for 4 more years, his tune may change again.

The Federal Reserve may help the money situation, but can do nothing about the oil problem.

My vote is with Karl Denninger, Bernake should be in jail for fraud. This financial mess will surely implode within 4 years.

At least the piece about vertical agriculture is based on something approaching technical reality.

All it needs to become a physical reality is a way to make the sun shine come in horizontally and to do away with shadows,plus a ton of money.

But I do expect to see some of this stuff become a reality-there is a good possibility that roof top greenhouses will be economically viable for instance,any where there is a good market for premium produce.The land costs will be small ,the water is there,etc,and all that is needed is few changes in building,plumbing,zoning and business codes.

All ya gotta do is give up the penthouse and move all the hvac stuff to the basement,har,har,har.

If small automated fast composters can be built and the yuck factor overcome,it might even be possible to reduce the sewage bill.

Once upon a time we spent a lot of time dreaming about this sort of stuff as under grads in ag schools every where.

May be it's time has arrived-and passed on by too,without us noticeing.

I have no idea what it would cost to build a vertical farm and locate it in such a way as to ensure it is not selfshaded, or shaded by nieghboring buildings.Not much grows in the shade.

I can't even think of a way to get adequate sunlight into such a building,other than an array of mirrors similar to the ones used at csp plants.

I guess that such an array can be fitted into the city by tearing down from twenty to a hundred acres or so of existing buildings.

I m open to the possibility that if energy is ever cheap again (har ,har, har) that lots more ag will move under roof -at ground level only- a little way out in the country side for all the reasons listed in the article.

Green houses aren't cheap.

But there is no denyiny that you can really make production jump in a greenhouse,and econimically ,too, except for energy,capital, and labor costs.

Once commercial real estate finishes its collapse, there will be plenty of glass-clad empty office buildings. If these are disassembled carefully instead of just imploded, there will be plenty of glass that could be used for greenhouses. Some of it is less than ideal - wrong coatings and all that - but in a pinch it will be better than nothing.

"and economically ,too, except for energy,capital, and labor costs."


Totally agree, Mac. I said much the same, in a more long-winded way, on Climate Progress (Look for comment #8.)

"Cash for Clunkers" renamed "Cash for Congressmen"

Can we trade in our old Congressman for $4500?
They are over budget, behind schedule, and extremely wasteful and inefficient!

Is that like "WANTED: Dead or Alive: $4500"?

Its probably overpaying, most couldn't waddle very fast.

RE: China Racing Ahead of the US in the Drive to go Solar

Meanwhile, while the media is opening up the campaign to convince the public that renewables are just a "harebrained" scheme and should be defunded (a decision that I'm assuming has already been made behind the scenes), China surges ahead by correctly seeing what is in its long-term national interest and investing in same.

The U.S. - or more correctly, "We, the people" - have been well and truly $crewed. (And, as I am a registered independent, let me make myself clear: it has been a bipartisan effort from start to finish.)

The article mentions the pay for engineers in China, but didn't go far enough. Another article I saw mentioned that the Chinese graduate some 300,000 engineers each year, while in the U.S., we only "produce" about 60,000. And, in the U.S., engineers may not be well used, given the problems of finding funds to do anything. Of course, my perspective may be a bit biased, having received both BS and MS degrees in engineering, but having not worked for most of the past 40 years. Many times I learned that I was "over qualified" or that there were something like 20 people applying for each job I thought my skills and experience would fit.

For the past 8 months, some locals and I have tried to start something in the renewable energy field. I'm the only one with a background in the technology and our efforts seem to be dying out fast. It's truly sad, since solar thermal hot water systems are less expensive than electricity, which is the most common water heating system in use around here. I suppose that's because the man on the street doesn't appreciate the economics and neither does the housing industry. When one buys a house with one of those "old fashioned" 30 year mortgages, the monthly payment does not include the cost of the energy to fuel the space conditioning and hot water systems, so the builders do not take the extra effort to install solar or add more insulation, either of which would reduce the overall cost to the consumer. If the home owner could finance a solar hot water heating system with a similar 30 period, the $6-7k cost would be seen as a small monthly payment, but the banks and the real estate system are not set up that way.

Yes, we are really screwed...

E. Swanson

Some readers were curious about a comment I made last week in the article The Coming Oil Crisis, asserting that OPEC never actually adopted the system of basing quota on the size of reserves, and wondered what my source was; unfortunately I didn't have time to reply. I first came across this assertion in Crop circles in the Desert (pdf), Michael Lynch's critique of Matt Simmons. Robin Mills repeats it in his book The myth of the oil crisis. Readers may take exception to the outlook of either of these authors, but I consider it extremely unlikely that both would make such a statement without basis in fact.

It couldn't possibly be that 2 shysters are trying to cash in on what people want to hear?

I can't comment about Robin Mills, but I can come to such a conclusion about Michael Lynch, based on his current offerings.

Mills is ex-RDS, now Senior Evaluation Manager with Dubai Energy. Lynch has authored detailed analysis in the past; these criticisms are just sniping. I'm not on board with either in re: endless URR, but, again, neither is the type to just make up facts without basis.

Feel free to actually ask OPEC, too: How does OPEC function?

Representatives of OPEC Member Countries (Heads of Delegation) meet at the OPEC Conference to coordinate and unify their petroleum policies in order to promote stability and harmony in the oil market. They are supported in this by the OPEC Secretariat, directed by the Board of Governors and run by the Secretary General, and by various bodies including the Economic Commission and the Ministerial Monitoring Committee.

The Member Countries consider the current situation and forecasts of market fundamentals, such as economic growth rates and petroleum demand and supply scenarios. They then consider what, if any, changes they might make in their petroleum policies. For example, in previous Conferences the Member Countries have decided variously to raise or lower their collective oil production in order to maintain stable prices and steady supplies to consumers in the short, medium and longer term.

Nothing about reserves = quota. If that were the case why have deliberation at all?

Mills's book is excellent reading, too, that is, if you're interested in having all the cornucopian repostes laid out in one handy volume.

How to Improve Michael Lynch's Approach to Peak Oil (aka Evil Genius Plan #1)

Whomever may be among The Powers That Be, whether you're in the CIA or the oil industry or whatever, listen up. You've done a fairly good job so far at spreading mis- and dis-information to bolster your profits, your infrastructures, your ways of life. Unfortunately, it's soon not going to be enough and you're going to have to change tactics.

Misinformation is content only, and you have to realize that content is the last stop in a chain of how the general public, or sheep, process any information that you want to give them. First they process social cues, then they process emotional cues, then they process content.

The work you're all doing through people like Michael Lynch, mini-nukes at 9/11, is creating confusion and chaos, which has been good so far. Unfortunately while means that virtually no-one can get a handle on the hard facts to pierce the chaos, you as TPTB must actively spend more and more money and energy in order to maintain everyone else's lack of control.

So you need to attack the problem at a level that uses less money energy over the long run. Like this.

1. It is not necessary to spread disinformation everywhere.

2. You only need to use principles of social and emotional influence, coupled with disinformation, directed at the small audience of motivators to which large sections of society are attached. Making general blog postings directs at the entire audience. You need to be more focused on the small areas that actually make a difference.

3. Identifying this audience of motivators can be best understood by reading Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point". He calls them connectors, mavens, and salesmen.

4. The principles of social influence are reciprocation, authority, similarity, consensus, consistency, and emotional liking. As TPTB, you usually excel at authority, but after that you're one-trick ponies. You may be able to fake the rest from time to time, but you don't do it well, and this is why it's always a source of friction between you and the general public. They have no sense that you have done anything for them, they don't feel similar to you, they are all in consensus (based largely on social motivators mentioned above) about their negative feelings toward you, they are consistent in their opinions as you are consistent in the behaviors they find unpleasant. And they don't like you.

It's not necessary that you as TPTB actually change, you just need to fake it better. That comes with practice and training.

More about how to accomplish this can be found in Robert Cialdini's "Influence: Science and Practice".

5. The emotional cues to be passed before content get through are about 80% body language and 20% tone of voice, and they must be appropriate for the content. George Bush's main failing as a figurehead was that his content was not appropriate for his tone of voice, and sometimes his voice was also out of sync with his body language. Again, practice and training overcomes this.

6. Using these principles to finding how to get through to this small audience is easy, as they make their thought patterns freely and regularly known through their written language patterns on the Internet. It can be done with off-the-shelf screen-scrapers, databases, and a small amount of programming.

7. Michael Lynch is wasting energy in his current approach, by using authority only, and by using omnidirectional attacks. By using social and emotional influence on a smaller audience of motivators, will accomplish far more change while using less money and resources. It is a far more efficient approach.

Evil Genius Plan #2:

Who is this Lynch guy anyway? Why is he even mentioning that dirty P--- O-- word? No normal person would even consider anything so ludicrous. Now, back to making Hollandaise Sauce...

(send donationations to Ignorance in Lobbying, c/o TOD, etc.)

The volume of discussion today about Michael Lynch's idiotic comments in NYT is understandable. But I wonder if this piece from above--which no one has commented on yet--may be of far greater significance.

World faces hi-tech crunch as China eyes ban on rare metal exports


Then the world bans oil exports to China.

Yes, the article in the UK's Telegraph sent a shiver down my spine.

We have been having a discussion of the Telegraph article on the staff site today. Perhaps we can get someone to write an article on the implications.

On the ASPO-USA conference last year it was said that China has control over 95% of rare metals. I thought that was included mines in other countries. From the article the conclusion is that all 95% is in China.

The article says also:

it will take years for fresh supply to come on stream from deposits in Australia, North America, and South Africa. The rare earth family are hard to find, and harder to extract.

It cannot be true that 95% of those metals are concentrated in China. So they will find much more.

Apart from the possibility of banning oil exports to China, they know that they depend on other countries for growth (or what will be left of it after oil runs downhill). So this is only shouting to demonstrate their power, nothing more.

Even if the rare earth metals are located in multiple areas, it takes both time and money to build the specialized facilities to mine and refine them. In a world with less resources, that is a problem.

It cannot be true that 95% of those metals are concentrated in China. So they will find much more.

If memory serves, China's production all comes from one ultra-lucrative site (surely someone here can provide more illumination than that), which implies that one huge find elsewhere could be enough to solve this particular resource bottleneck.

There are also smatterings of rare earths elsewhere in the world that aren't market competitive with the Chinese stuff (the article mentions the site in California being mothballed for this reason), but if China did cut off all exports of neodymium et al., you have to figure those would be put into production sooner rather than later.

US establishes 50% Walmart Tariff.

It's a good point, though. That NYT piece is precisely the kind of red meat/irritant for posters here to get distracted from less obvious stories that might be flitting through..


Buy stock quick!

Any recommendations out there?

For sheer versatility, it's hard to beat an American Shorthorn.

I thought the comment section was riveting - I have rarely read such a display of nationalistic posturing. The one person appearing to be posting from the Chinese viewpoint ("deadgirl") displays a hatred of the West that is chilling. Hopefully these posts do not accurately indicate what the average Chinese thinks of us...

It becomes a game of who can hold out longer: the Chinese also stockpile oil, and ramp up coal and renewables, right, so maybe they can hold out longer while we find that we can't transition out of an oil-based economy without reliable access to these rare minerals, and continue to wallow in recession/depression.

On their side, they are racing to develop a consumer base before global warming and drought takes out the base from under millions - this is costly to mitigate, and requires energy, as another article above explores. No nation here clearly has the upper hand, but it appears wise to hoard as much of as many resources as possible, and use them strategically. Rethink all relationships. Coercion seems so much more reliable than cooperation...

As for Michael Lynch, Ben Bernanke and all the others trumpeting the Good News!! of our times - I think it is a large propaganda effort - "If you build it, they will come". Like we said yesterday, Pravda never had it so good. It's scary how coordinated it is - but not surprising - everyone, from the local Chamber of Commerce to the traders on Wall Street, to the guy trying to sell his house or get a job - needs Americans to be optimistic.

Todays Boulder Daily Camera headlines read like this: Domestic Violence on the Rise/Car Dealers Report Strong Sales. Reminded me of college biology exams: True? True? Related?

I think Deadgirl was saying that she knows a hemisphere of chumps when she sees one.

Say what you will about China's government, it does seem to be led by people who do have a very clear grasp of their country's long-term strategic interests. They put their national interest first, and they operating on planning horizons of at least several decades, if not a century or more. I guess that comes from being in a civilization that has been around for 4000 years.

By contrast, here in the US our leaders only have a clear grasp of their own and their faction's interests, and there is no such thing as a planning horizon longer than the next election cycle, or maybe even the next news cycle.

So which nation, do you think, has the better long-term prospects?

Not China. 1) Too many people. 2) Too many different tribes.

They put their national interest first, and they operating on planning horizons of at least several decades, if not a century or more. I guess that comes from being in a civilization that has been around for 4000 years.

I guess this is why they are doing a massive build out of their 4 lane highway system and ramping up production of automobiles? They know that cheap easily accessible oil will be available for for at least the next 100 years (century)?

When China runs out of mobile energy and food, overpopulated China will not be a very pleasant place!

My guess is that they are building those highways for the same reason that Ike did: to facilitate the rapid movement of troops around the country.

Looks to me like some cold-warrior type got loose in the editorial room of the Telegraph.

Government agencies are always developing these sorts of reports to provide to policy makers. Doesn't mean they'll be implemented.

And here's the simple truth, were the Chinese to attempt to limit export of any critical rare earth metals, they'd find their economy returned to levels not seen since the "Great Leap Forward."

But not to worry, the decision makers there know this. And we would be foolish to assume they are stupid.

Seems like this is a step in a direction the Chinese have been moving in already.

This article reads like the ban is a foregone conclusion.

Why the Recent Chinese Government Decision on Heavy Rare Earths Has an Impact on Matamec's Kipawa Rare Earths-Yttrium-Zirconium Deposit!

Another article from 2007 for background:

Japan urges China to ease rare metals supply

A Chinese ban like that could start a nasty trade war. Its risky for China, in my opinion. However, a full-scale US-China trade war is possible and this move could be part of it.

It is also a question of how much time would it take for the west to replace rare metal production. Other countries have rare metals too, but China produces them cheaper.

Anything that undermines globalization is good. China starting a trade war with rare metals would remind the world that depending on foreigners is a bad idea and hopefully encourage localization.

River that supports Australia's bread basket replaced with desert and toxic algae

Farmer Mazzareno Bisogni fights back tears as he stands among the remains of trees he planted 35 years ago, victims of a drought hitting "Australia's Mississippi".

Bisogni's orchard lies in the heart of the once-mighty Murray-Darling river system which irrigates Australia's food bowl, the vast southeastern corner responsible for 40 percent of agricultural output.

The eight-year 'big dry', the worst drought in a century, has devastated the region, an area covering 1.06 million square kilometres (410,000 square miles) -- the size of France and Spain combined.

Lack of water this year meant the fruit on Bisogni's apple and pear trees in Victoria state literally cooked on their branches under the furious Australian sun, making them suitable only for jam. ...

We have India and China and Australia with droughts, and biofuel use from foods up at record levels. It is hard to see how this is going to work out well. Where are India and China going to buy the food their countries need?

Please do not go into hyperfentilation. You, Gail the Actuary, are a very intelligent man.
Why do you believe this drought thing?
They do have drought in Australia's Murray river region.
But there is NO drought in China nor in India. And there is absolutely no drought in Western Australia, the most important Wheat belt.

There is no drought in Europe, we are expecting a monster crop once more.
There is no drought in Russia, Ukraine and all the other countries, which you do not know.

Gail is not a man.

And India and China are indeed suffering droughts. Several articles have been posted about this over the past few days.

I would contend that there is no such thing as "drought." How much precipitation that falls is how much precipitation that falls. The amount varies quite a bit from region to region and from year to year, decade to decade, etc. If there is insufficient precip to grow a crop then attempting to grow that crop where insufficient precip falls is inappropriate. If there is insufficient precip to feed a population then the problem is that the population is in overshoot of the carrying capacity, not that a "drought" is occurring.

I would contend that there is no such thing as "drought." How much precipitation that falls is how much precipitation that falls.

By the same logic there is no such thing as a flood either. All these pictures of floods are not floods at all, just places where too damn much rain fell. Like there is a difference.

Flood Pictures

Ron P.

By the same logic there is no such thing as a flood either.


True, although your pictures are nice, they reflect a completely human attitude towards the rain. It rains, so what. Sometimes it rains more, sometimes less. The Mississippi Delta is a natural result. New Orleans is a perfect example of human failure. Try to force a technological fix, where none is needed.

There are no floods.

Only stupid humans trying to force a technology driven way of life on the planet. Soon to be gone.

Floods don't care if you have technology. The rabbits drown with the villagers.

Nor do droughts. When the water doesn't come the deer starve with the farmers.

Quit being silly people.

The word "drought" is subject to a certain definition - most people accept this common def. and understanding..... and can thus discuss it's ramifications.

Wikipedia starts like this on "Drought" ==>> A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation.

... and behold her is some on "Flood" as well.
(all words are there for a reason and if you like to deviate from the common definition .... you are begging for trouble. I know :-)

Personally I am disputing the often described supply / demand gap in oil-trading.
There is NO such thing.On the contrary ; where is the Gap-Oil (... stored until further notice) ?

Hmmm... she doesn't run the 800 meters does she? :)

Back on topic, IIRC Argentina also had a "100 year" drought which has affected their soya and wheat crops. Ukraine and Russia seem to be having quality problems with their wheat also. Something also going on in China which has imported 85,000mt of wheat in July, a sharp rise YOY from 373mt in July 2008. India is due to release wheat from its buffer stocks to alleviate widespread shortages, Kenya is up the creek, South Africa is having problems, in fact Africa is practically on the brink due to soil fertility falling off a cliff.

To misquote William Gibson; "The future of food is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet".

Desdemona Despair has 108 posts on drought. Many are about India, China, Australia, Africa, Mexico and Texas. Here are some of the more recent ones.

Desdemona Despair Posts on Drought

Ron P.

Ron - thanks for the Blog address. I bookmarked it.


Why do you believe this drought thing?

Given the sources cited here, why do you say there is no drought? Doesn't the reporting country establish what precipitation levels are considered drought? (Or perhaps a UN agency?) You say there is no drought but give no references or explanation.

I think what DD is getting at is that the major problem is the human reaction to weather and climate.
This is certainly the case in the Murray-Darling basin where there has been a massive over-allocation of water rights.Droughts/floods and everything in between are a part of the Australian environment.It still hasn't got through to the cornucopian majority that we have to adapt to this,not fight it.

He's talking to euro, not to DD.

If you can't tell which post is being replied to, click on the "parent" icon. The one that looks like this:

It will take you to the comment's "parent" - the post being replied to.

..we have to adapt to this,not fight it.

Bingo. The problem isn't with nature. It isn't that there's too much water or not enough. The problem is with there being too many people dependent on crops that need a certain amount of water and not too much. If there are too many people for the climate to support that isn't the fault of the climate, it's the fault of there being too many people. If water periodically inundates a river valley and causes a problem for people, that's the fault of people being in the way, not the fault of the "flood." Blaming nature for "droughts" and "floods" just abrogates or absolves people of responsibility for their own stupidity. There are no floods or droughts, I say. There's just natural variation in precipitation and the magnitude and frequency of this variation can be described as a power law. If people can't see things this way they need to open their eyes to the reality of nature.

There are no floods or droughts, I say. There's just natural variation in precipitation and the magnitude and frequency of this variation can be described as a power law.

This is a strange language discussion. If in a country where normally every year falls at least some rain, several years in a row falls not one drop of rain you can use the word 'drought', otherwise you can eliminate that word from the dictionary.
Some African countries are famous for this droughts.
Floods are happening in a lot of countries also because of deforestation. Haiti is a well known example.

You can use the word "drought" for a statistically low amount of precipitation over a given period of time just as you can use the word "flood" for the converse, if you care to do so. People will certainly understand what you mean. Personally, I'd just as soon that these concepts be dropped from consideration because they imply that there is something amiss with nature rather than being amiss with human expectations and settlement patterns. The terms are arbitrary in that what may be statistically remarkable over a timescale of years may be well within normal variation over a timescale of centuries or millenia.

Three "100 year floods" have occurred on my property in the past 16 years. They have done no damage since all "developments" are above the "100 year flood" level. They merely rip magnificently thru the riparian bosque below my house. A "500 year flood" event might damage the leach field of my septic system but would harm nothing beyond that. But a "10K year flood" or "100K year flood" would certainly destroy my home. I would love nothing better than to set up on the slopes above and witness such an event, tho it left me homeless. I certainly would not resent nature for such a thing. If anything, I'd blame my own stupidity for living there. Hence, I have little sympathy for those whose lives are disrupted by so-called "droughts" or "floods" either one. Nature is just doing what nature does and the fault, if any, is with those who get in nature's way.

If one talks about droughts or floods you can let the influence on humans out of it.

Hello TODers,

If your potable water flows uphill to your money, and that is nearly All of Us, then eventually you will have severe problems [timing uncertain]. I greatly admire those very, very, lucky few who have land with easily hand-pumped water, or an artesian spring, and/or a reliable and clean stream nearby.

Obviously, the TOD archives are packed full of info on aquifer depletions occurring all across our Little Blue Marble. When this infinitely priceless fluid goes dry and/or we don't have the energy to make this aquifer or other river water flow uphill [or even carried uphill in jugs balanced on our heads], then we have reached the very bottom of Maslow's Hierarchy of Need. IMO, it will be shockingly horrific:

Zim kids scooping stagnant water
Mothers cry as their babies die...

Perhaps so. But do remember to enjoy the irony caused by the tendency of even subsurface water to flow downhill. Oftentimes, the places where water is within hand-pump range or in a nearby stream will be the same rainy and/or low-lying places prone to the flooding that was the original subject of DD's less-than-readily fathomable line of argument. For all I know, we might even have too many people on too little land for all or even most of them to live where they can have it both ways - easy water and little or no disruptive flooding.

..DD's less-than-readily fathomable line of argument.

Less-than-readily fathomable? Nothing could be simpler. I'm simply saying that the amount of precipitation that falls is the amount that falls. Calling that amount "drought" or "flood" is an arbitrary human value judgment. People who look at precip in terms of "drought" or "flood" are employing an anthropocentric concept that only exists in the human mind. Nature doesn't care how you conceptualize precip amounts.

Calling that amount "drought" or "flood" is an arbitrary human value judgment.

Calling oilproduction pre-peak or post-peak is an arbitrary human value judgment. Why TOD exists ? What are we doing here ?

Calling oilproduction pre-peak or post-peak is an arbitrary human value judgment.

No it isn't. Global oil production has either peaked or it hasn't. There is nothing arbitrary about it. Calling a given amount of precipitation a "drought" or a "flood," on the other hand, is completely arbitrary. Look up the definition of "arbitrary" in a dictionary, why don't you? English doesn't seem to be your native language.

If the plants are dying, it's a drought.

If the animals are drowning it's a flood.

There you go. Easy peasy.

I agree. I have lived most of my life in the US desert SW and I understood on a gut level what The Tragedy of The Commons was long before I read Garrett's paper. In fragile environments it is easy to see the change in one human lifetime if you pay attention...even a little bit.

I believe that Peak Everything (Video 9 min)as Heinberg outlines will be the driver of the collapse of industrialized societies. With almost 7 billion people on the planet there ain't gonna be enough provisions for everyone in the near future. It won't be just one thing. It'll be everything. All at once.


Drought, Europe and Tragedy of the Commons
There's certainly drought in Europe, very clearly in the Mediterranean, At least in Spain the wheat harvest is going to be smaller than usual, and also in Greece.
But I wanted to say something about the problem of sharing scarce water resources, that some consider an example of The Tragedy of the Commons -which is a very right wing study, if you think about it and criticized because of that.
Needless to say in the Mediterranean shores of Spain water has been always scarce and a source of conflict. In Valencia there's a Tribunal de las Aguas /Water's Tribunal. Its origins are lost in the mists of time -yes, really. Some claim it goes back to the Roman times, others believe it may hark back to the time of Abderraman III (960 AD). In any case, the tribunal meets every Thursday (the day before Friday, the Arabs holy day) at the door of the Cathedral of Valencia (it used to be a mosque), hears the complains about abuses of its rules, and fines the culprits.
It decisions are final and not open to appeal.

It is a good example of how a tightly woven community, under the rule of its own laws, can ration a scarce resource.
It didn't happen overnight, it has been a long evolution of rights, interests and understanding.
I point out this example because the author of The Tragedy of the Commons says that the ecological problems of the Mediterranean arose because of the common ownership of some land -the ejidos.
I don't think so. I know my peasants and they look on each other with a beady eye and any abuse of rights would find quick retribution.
Wikipedia doesn't have an article in English about this Tribunal, there's one in Spanish, also in French


I understood that the Tribunal de las Aguas is considered an example of how to successfully manage a common resource.

Hardin pointed out that the tragedy can occur when the users of the resource do not know or trust each other, and there is no central authority to enforce judgements - as in the case of fishing in international waters, or grazing common grasslands where there are two or more cultures who do not trust each other.

It seems to me that a key part of the problem is mobility of the resource (fish in the ocean) or the users of it (nomadic herders). With water, mobility is not such a problem - rivers don't change course very often, and peasants mostly stay on the same land for their whole life.


Returning to the topic, in summary we have drought in Argentina, North India, Northern China, southern Europe, southern Africa, and Eastern Australia.

On the plus side, Western Australia, North America, Brazil, the Former Soviet Union countries, South-east Asia, central and Northern Europe, and East and sub-Saharan Africa are on track for average or good harvests.

Overall, then, the situation is not unusually bad at present. That said, we certainly don't want it to get worse.

I don't think so. I know my peasants and they look on each other with a beady eye and any abuse of rights would find quick retribution.

I would love to listen to the arguments, however despite being reasonably fluent in Portugues, Spanish and Italian, I highly doubt I would be able to follow the "Valenciano" ;-)

El juicio se desarrolla de forma rápida, oral e íntegramente en valenciano.

You would, FMagyar. I can only speak a smattering of Valenciano, but I understand it well enough, and with your command of Romance Languages you'll catch on immediately. It is quite a show!

In response to "Saudi Blasts American Energy Policy," I challenge Saudi Arabia to open its oil fields to independant auditors from OECD countries (including a representative from The Oil Drum) so the oil importing countries do not have to guess at how much Saudi oil and production remains. With accurate data OECD countries could plan a conversion to alternative energy sources at a rate that keeps Saudi Arabian oil fields pumping at maximum capacity.