Drumbeat: September 1, 2009

North Sea oil exploration suffering as banks refuse to lend

Recession may push North Sea oil and gas production into a much steeper decline than previously forecast due to the difficulties faced by smaller oil companies in getting finance to pay for exploration and oilfield development.

Industry leaders warned in Aberdeen yesterday at a media briefing that up to a quarter of the 20 billion barrels of oil known to be still recoverable from the North Sea may stay in the ground because of the contraction in the lending capacity of the banks and other financial institutions.

David J.C. MacKay: Illuminating the Future of Energy

CAMBRIDGE, England — A few centuries ago, the developing world got most of its energy from windmills, from water mills, from whales and from plants. Plants contributed both wood for making heat and biofuels to power the labor of humans and other animals.

Nowadays, the “developed” world gets most of its energy from fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — along with nuclear power and hydroelectric dams.

But this era of easily accessible fossil fuels is likely to be but a brief blip in the history of humanity. The peaks of oil and gas production are expected to be reached within the next 50 years, and coal production is likely to peak about the end of this century, if business continues as usual.

Michael Lynch - Response to ‘Peak Oil’ Critics (the hydrocarbon age is still young: plan accordingly)

The publication of my op-ed on peak oil in the New York Times brought forth the usual tidal wave of criticism. The Oil Drum went so far as to put up a separate page for comments, and Joseph Romm issued a ‘challenge’ to me to wager on oil prices. (For an executed bet coming due next year, see the appendix below.)

Responding to each and every comment, or even the main ones, would be a Herculean (and Sisyphean) task, so I will (here) make some hopefully useful observations.

The Bankruptcy of American - End of the Petrodollar System

In 1971 a deal was struck between OPEC and the United States in which every barrel of oil purchased in the global marketplace would be bought with U.S. dollars. Any country, therefore, wanting to buy oil must have first exchanged its currency for U.S. currency. This “petrodollar” system has created an artificial demand for the dollar as global oil demand has increased.

Today several countries are moving their oil purchases into other currencies, in spite of this agreement. When OPEC officially decides to denominate oil sales in other currencies, the value of the U.S. dollar will decrease rapidly, leading to massive inflationary pressures on the U.S. economy.

Black gold or green disaster?

Everybody believes that the moment oil sands proponents have been waiting for is nearly upon us. The reasons?: the rapid depletion of easier-to-get-at oil from cheaper and more conventional sources (seven of the world’s top 10 oil fields are past peak, and 400 conventional wells become extinct every day); the United States’ objective to wean itself from politically troublesome Middle East oil; and the burgeoning markets for oil in places like India and China.

Together, these forces are bringing us rapidly closer to what experts refer to as “peak oil,” the point at which we will have used up half of the Earth’s known supplies of oil and will face a future of increasing scarcity. Alberta oil sands and their potential 173 billion barrels of recoverable oil are poised to become a major supplier in the world market.

Future of energy debate – Groningen

On the subject of peak oil and alternative energy, Mr Corson agrees that “oil and gas are limited reserves and other energy will play a growing role.”

“But for the foreseeable future, oil and gas will play a big role. There are substantial resources left to be recovered,” he said.

Blowpipes thwart Borneo’s biofuel kings

HUNDREDS of Borneo tribes men armed with blowpipes are blockading roads in protest against companies they accuse of destroying their rainforests to grow oil palms for “green” biofuel, cooking oil, soap and margarine.

Burma refugees carry lesson in imperialism to China

For China, the cost of oil and gas has just doubled. You will not find this new oil price quoted anywhere, but its burden will weigh heavily on the leadership in Beijing.

It is not an oil price that can be measured in dollars per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. There has been no cutback by Opec, nor has a hurricane toppled offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. It is China’s oil price; the cost of oil for the People’s Republic is now measured in refugees, in tens of thousands of people fleeing Burma into China.

Mexico Needs to Find New Revenue Sources, S&P Says

(Bloomberg) -- Mexican President Felipe Calderon must create new sources of revenue to offset declining oil income if the country is to avoid a downgrade of its debt rating, Standard & Poor’s analyst Lisa Schineller said.

S&P may cut Mexico’s BBB+ status before the end of the year, depending on how Calderon and legislators address ways to boost tax collection when they discuss the 2010 budget next week, Schineller said in an interview.

FACTBOX - Asset sales by Venezuela's Citgo

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA has been progressively selling off "nonessential" assets belonging to its U.S. refining unit Citgo.

A draft of Citgo's 2008 audited financial results, which have not been released to the public but were seen by Reuters, lists the value of the assets the company has sold in recent years.

Opec August oil output rises for fourth month

Opec oil supply rose in August for a fourth consecutive month due to higher output from top exporter Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Venezuela, a Reuters survey showed yesterday. Supply from the 11 members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries with output targets rose to 26.20mn barrels per day (bpd) from 26.11mn bpd in July, the survey of oil firms, Opec officials and analysts found.

Surviving Recession: Some Sacramentans ditch the AC

In this age of economic uncertainty, some people have found that cutting back on air conditioning, especially during a relatively mild summer, makes good financial sense. Others do it because it's the environmentally conscious thing to do.

Gulf Arab funds loosen purse strings

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—Government-backed investors bankrolled by Persian Gulf oil wealth are back on the prowl for deals in the West after mostly sitting out the past year's turbulence.

Clashes Erupt Over Gazprom Skyscraper

Public hearings on Gazprom Neft’s controversial Okhta Center in St. Petersburg became heated Tuesday, with several opposition activists detained and advocates of the project insisting that the tower needed to be 400 meters high to protect against suicide bombers.

The Respect conference, the crisis, and the general election

Global warming is expanding the deserts, melting the icecaps, drying up rivers, and destroying water reserves. It is reducing agricultural productivity and crop yields. Alongside this there is the approach of peak oil. The effects of this on any process of ‘recovery’ are already clear. As soon as governments start to talk up so-called ‘green shoots’ the price of oil starts to rise.

Global Economic Recession And Low Carbon : A Complex Mixture

Even if they dont know what is happening to their real economies, G20 leaders and their science advisers are sure and certain that world climate is changing for the worse, remedial action is urgent, and spending must be large. The closely linked stalking horse of Peak Oil does not openly figure in the rationale and reasoning offered for ever-rising, increasingly massive spending, and muscular legislation to force energy transition away from the fossil fuels, but surely adds yet more impetus to what will be huge long-term intervention in the economy.

Rome Falls While The Sun Shines

Discussing the end of population growth is as politically incorrect as saying the simplest solution to peak oil and climate change is to use less fossil energy, starting with the most oil and fossil energy intense economies and societies.

Climate-Summit Agreement Still Far Off

If you happened to walk into the Temple of Earth in Beijing — the nearly 500-year-old monument where Chinese emperors once prayed for good harvests — on Aug. 28, you would have noticed a steady drip. The environmental group Greenpeace placed ice sculptures of 100 children — made of the glacial meltwater that feeds China's great rivers — inside the temple to symbolize the risk that climate change and disappearing ice poses to the 1 billion–plus people in Asia who are threatened by water shortages.

Report maps out solutions to child obesity

To make it easier for children to eat healthfully and move more, local governments in towns and cities across the country need to help create a better environment, a new report says.

Children and their families should have access to grocery stores that offer plenty of healthful food such as fruits and vegetables, and schools shouldn't be surrounded by fast-food restaurants. Children should be able to ride their bikes or walk safely to school, and they should have safe places to play afterward, says the report out today from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council.

Increasing residential and employment density could mean reductions in vehicle travel, fuel use and CO2 emissions

WASHINGTON -- Increasing population and employment density in metropolitan areas could reduce vehicle travel, energy use, and CO2 emissions from less than 1 percent up to 11 percent by 2050 compared to a base case for household vehicle usage, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council, although committee members disagreed about the plausibility of achieving the higher estimate. Assuming compact development is focused on new and replacement housing -- as converting existing housing to higher densities could be prohibitively difficult -- significant increases in density would result in modest short-term reductions in personal travel, energy use, and CO2 emissions. However, these reductions will grow over time.

‘Clunkers’ boosts Ford, not Chrysler and GM

DETROIT - The Cash for Clunkers program boosted sales at Ford, Toyota and Honda in August as consumers snapped up their fuel-efficient offerings, but rivals Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors Co. withstood another month of falling sales.

Colorado commission considers Denver-Vail rail line

FRISCO, Colo. (AP) — A draft report estimates it would cost about $15 billion to build a passenger rail route from Denver into the heart of Colorado ski country.

The Summit Daily News reported Tuesday the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority developed the cost estimate for a line connecting Denver International Airport with the Eagle County Airport west of Vail.

Noam Chomsky: Crisis and Hope

In a narrow sense, it may be true enough that the food crisis results from Western lack of concern: a pittance could overcome its worst immediate effects. But more fundamentally it results from dedication to the basic principles of business-run state policy, the Adam Smith generalization. These are all matters that we too easily evade—along with the fact that bailing out banks is not uppermost in the minds of the billion people now facing starvation, not forgetting the tens of millions enduring hunger in the richest country in the world.

Also sidelined is a possible way to make a significant dent in the financial and food crises. It is suggested by the recent publication of the authoritative annual report on military spending by SIPRI, the Swedish peace research institute. The scale of military spending is phenomenal, regularly increasing. The United States is responsible for almost as much as the rest of the world combined, seven times as much as its nearest rival, China. There is no need to waste time commenting.

The distribution of concerns illustrates another crisis, a cultural crisis: the tendency to focus on short-term parochial gains, a core element of our socioeconomic institutions and their ideological support system. One illustration is the array of perverse incentives devised for corporate managers to enrich themselves, however grievous the impact on others — for example, the “too big to fail” insurance policies provided by the unwitting public.

FACTBOX - How countries have coped with the oil "curse"

(Reuters) - Brazil's government proposed a major oil reform law on Monday, setting out its plans for managing huge recent offshore oil finds.

Oil riches in other countries have more often caused economic damage than benefit, a phenomenon known as the oil or resource "curse."

Following are brief descriptions of how other countries have dealt with their oil wealth.

ANALYSIS - Brazil needs to beat corruption to enjoy oil bonanza

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil needs to stamp out the dangers of free-spending and corruption if a proposed national oil fund is to help fuel economic growth and avoid the "resource curse" that has soured oil bonanzas in other countries.

Push Is On to Allow Drilling Off Florida

A powerful alliance of business interests says they're confident they'll soon overturn Florida's 20-year-old moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

Barney Bishop, president of Associated Industries of Florida, said that unlike this year when a measure to end the moratorium died in the Florida Senate, next year will find success for the efforts in the state Legislature, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times reported Sunday.

"I predict we'll pass the bill and the governor will sign it," Bishop said.

Petrobras Loses $7 Billion Value as Lula Seeks Stake

(Bloomberg) -- Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s plans for the development of the country’s offshore oil fields stripped Petroleo Brasileiro SA investors of $7 billion in a day.

The proposal, announced yesterday, may allow the state to boost its stake in the company and ensure most income from oil exploration “stays in the hands of our people,” Lula said at a press conference in Brasilia. Petrobras, as the Rio de Janeiro- based company is known, led the Bovespa stock index to the biggest drop in the Americas yesterday after the announcement.

Commentary: Michael Lynch, Daniel Yergin--The Denizens of Peak Oil Denial

Last week Michael Lynch and Daniel Yergin pummeled the concept of peak oil in two mainstream media outlets. Lynch's feisty but nearly fact-free op-ed for the New York Times and Yergin's more scholarly reflection in Foreign Policy whipped up further discussion in the blogosphere. Although the majority of on-line responses to Lynch's piece were negative, peak oil advocates were put on the defensive.

The two critics employ distinctly different separate styles — Yergin is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and suave, savvy corporate schmoozer, while Lynch resembles the kind of pit bull that enjoys attacking bicyclists from behind. Both have been pounding away at peak oil since its "modern renaissance" began with the March 1998 article in Scientific American, "The End of Cheap Oil." These two masters of denial enjoy flogging peak oil. It's clearly what their paying clients in Big Oil want to hear, and sometimes the peak oil community inadvertently hands them ammo that is too good to pass up.

Oil production nears terrifying drop-off

Energy consultant Michael Lynch argued last week in an op-ed in The New York Times that better extraction methods will postpone the production peak, which is significant since the economy runs on oil.

If he's correct, it means something more alarming: the drop-off in production after the peak will be that much steeper because there will be less oil left.

Google "net energy the oil drum" for a look at the terrifying cliff over which oil production may soon plunge.

Saudis decry anti-Arab tilt in US oil posturing

By specifically criticising Mr Obama for saying foreign oil “bankrolls dictators, pays for nuclear proliferation and funds both sides of our struggle against terrorism”, the Saudi prince has served notice that Riyadh is running out of patience with Washington’s disrespectful attitude.

The row has been brewing at least since March, when the Saudi oil minister, Ali al Naimi, asked western energy consumers not to give up on oil. But this is the first time a Saudi royal has voiced the kingdom’s discomfort with the wave of anti-Arab rhetoric emanating from the US. The spectacle of the first African-American US president promoting his energy policy on such rhetoric is ugly, but Mr Obama is not the only mainstream US politician to discriminate against “Arab oil”. The views of his chief Republican party opponents are even harsher.

A Tale of Two Pakistans

The country’s energy crisis is a prime example of this societal contrast. Because of poor infrastructural planning, the government has been caught off-guard by the spike in demand for energy accompanying increased population growth. To conserve energy in the summer months, when temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it has instituted load-shedding, or nationwide rolling blackouts. I was told to prepare for the worst load-shedding to date, with blackouts nearly every other hour. I heard about struggling families relying solely on candlelight to run their households. This is no way to live, but in theory, every Pakistani would bear the brunt of the government’s lack of foresight.

But that’s theory, and little goes according to plan in Pakistan. Like always, there are work-arounds—the upper class, unlike the majority of people, can afford diesel-powered personal generators. Their most pressing concern is flickering lights when the generator is activated.

China Raises Fuel Prices as Crude Oil Advances

(Bloomberg) -- China will raise fuel prices by 300 yuan ($44) a ton, or as much as 6.3 percent, tomorrow to reflect gains in crude oil and help China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., the nation’s biggest refiner, offset higher raw material costs.

Gasoline prices will increase by 4.6 percent to 6,810 yuan a ton and diesel prices will rise by 5.2 percent to 6,070 yuan a ton from midnight, the National Development and Reform Commission, the nation’s top economic planning body, said on its Web site today. Jet fuel prices will go up by 6.3 percent to 5,070 yuan per ton.

Saudi seen raising all crude prices to Asia for Oct

SINGAPORE - Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is expected to raise the price of all its crudes heading to Asia for October on healthy fuel cracks and improving refining margins, after deep cuts last month, traders said on Tuesday.

A poll of six refiners and traders said differentials for fuel oil-rich Arab Medium and Arab Heavy grades would likely rise more than lighter grades, as Asian fuel oil cracks improved sharply over the past month, while gas oil made small gains.

Kiev says Russia gas row 'sorted'

Russia and Ukraine have resolved all of the outstanding issues related to natural gas supplies, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko told local media.

Rows over gas supplies have dominated Russia's relations with Ukraine over recent years, leading last winter to the longest interruption to European Union supplies for decades.

"We have removed all of the gas problems," Tymoshenko told Russian news agency Interfax after talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Sopot, a resort on the Baltic coast in northern Poland.

"We feel that all the crisis-like occurrences in this sphere have gone."

Rosneft Net Falls 63% on Oil Price, Beats Estimates

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Rosneft said second-quarter profit fell 63 percent after crude prices tumbled and Russia’s biggest oil producer had a foreign currency loss.

Net income dropped to $1.61 billion from $4.31 billion in the year-earlier period, the Moscow-based company said in an e- mailed statement today. That beat the $1.49 billion median estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Saudi Aramco to Award Deals on $6.9B Gas Devt Projects

Saudi Arabian Oil Co. may award two contracts this month to help implement gas projects worth up to $6.9 billion to meet soaring demand for gas in the Middle East's largest economy, people familiar with the plans said.

Two key Nigerian rebels in peace talks with gov't

ABUJA (Reuters) - Two key militant leaders in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta have started informal talks with the government about surrendering their weapons in return for clemency, an amnesty committee spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

Representatives of Ateke Tom and Government Tompolo, the leaders of factions of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), have spoken with government officials about accepting an amnesty offer, said Timiebi Koripamo-Agary, spokeswoman for the presidential panel on amnesty.

Chevron Accuses Ecuadorean Judge of Bribery, Seeks His Removal

(Bloomberg) -- Chevron Corp. said it will seek to replace an Ecuadorean judge overseeing a $27 billion environmental lawsuit against the company, claiming videotapes show him saying he would rule against Chevron in meetings with businessmen seeking pollution cleanup work.

Theolia Questions ‘Right to Exist’ Amid Lack of Funds for Bond

(Bloomberg) -- Theolia SA, a French wind-power producer, said it probably wouldn’t have enough cash to meet an early redemption of convertible bonds in January 2012, jeopardizing its ability to operate.

“The bond puts a question mark on whether the company has the right to exist,” Chief Executive Officer Marc van’t Noordende said today at a briefing in Paris. “We are undercapitalized and absolutely need to do something about it.”

The global financial crisis has made it harder for wind- power developers to get funding for projects. Van’t Noordende acknowledged in April there was a risk of bankruptcy and said the company would sell assets, save costs and halt operations in some countries to regain investor confidence.

ZPG2: zero population and zero oil growth

One "emerging consensus view", even among politicians who continue rooting for economic growth if only to claw tax receipts for paying off swollen national debt, is that world oil demand will ceiling if not crater. Peak Oil has won converts, some of them even able to openly admit it is real, but mostly selling oil saving and oil substitution to consumers as part and parcel of the hunting down of the Evil Molecule called CO2. A new accessory to the claimed climate change mitigation imperative for eschewing oil is that Global Green Energy will generate jobs and profits.

In reality, geological depletion of global oil reserves sets a hard limit on flights of fantasy as to why we suddenly have to go green and hunt down GHG. As anybody able to read a few charts on world oil discoveries, reserves, incremental capacity costs and net capacity gains will agree, increasing net total supply is more than difficult. By 2025-2030 world oil supply could be down 25% or more from today's output, and export supply or "offer" will shrink even faster.

Talk of ZPG for Zero Population Growth may be on a lot shakier ground for media and political opinion manipulators, but like Zero Oil Growth has some very powerful logic behind it.

Congress Hears Alaskan Views on Arctic Ocean Issues

As oil and gas exploration and commercial shipping increases in Arctic regions, the U.S. Coast Guard is working to strengthen its presence in the U.S. Arctic, testing equipment and operating strategies to ensure safety, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen told a U.S. Senate subcommittee Aug. 20.

In his presentation to the subcommittee, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell called for a greater Coast Guard presence in the region, including a new duty station or port on Alaska's western or northern coast.

"Diminished sea ice and increased military and commercial activity require a greater presence. They (the Coast Guard) need to move north and improve their capability. To provide homeland security, the Coast Guard must have new Arctic-class ice breakers," Parnell said.

US agriculture interests split over energy bill

OMAHA, Neb. – Legislation to confront climate change could be an economic godsend to farmers and ranchers. Or it could be an enormous financial burden.

It depends on whom you ask, and not even farmers and ranchers agree on the matter.

Those who are against the bill say it would lead to skyrocketing fuel and fertilizer costs, cutting into farmers' and ranchers' already unpredictable profits. Those who support it contend any losses would be more than made up for through a provision that would allow companies to meet their pollution targets by investing in offset projects, such as farms that capture methane or plant trees.

U.S. ethanol group wants origin labeling for oil

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. ethanol industry group is pushing lawmakers to craft legislation requiring gasoline filling stations to inform customers what country their fuel came from in hopes of increasing awareness about money spent on oil imported from overseas.

"Most Americans don't want their paychecks going to Venezuela and other regimes that don't agree with and support the U.S," said retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, who co-chairs Growth Energy, the industry group behind the push.

Sugar cane to return to Angola in biofuel move

LUANDA (AFP) – Angola will begin planting sugar cane for the first time in more than 30 years this month as the oil-rich country takes its first step toward biofuels.

Norwegian oil output to fall more than expected

OSLO — Norway says its offshore oil production will fall 10 percent more through 2013 than predicted a year ago, but will be partly offset by an increase in natural gas exports.

A Norwegian Petroleum Directorate report said Tuesday that oil production is expected to average 1.91 million barrels per day this year, and dwindle to 1.62 million barrels per day in 2013, a 10 percent larger decline than projected last year.

Production was about 2.2 million barrels per day at the end of 2008, after falling from a peak average of 3.1 million barrels per day in 2000.

Brazil: Policy Changes Signaling New Era of Oil Production Underway

Harold Hotelling was an economist in the 1930’s who wrote on a number of topics, but is known for his work in resource economics, and the eponymous Hotelling Rule. Writing in the Journal of Political Economy in 1931, Hotelling theorized that a rational producer of resources, say oil, would only be inclined to extract and sell that resource if the investment opportunities available with the capital proceeds were greater than simply leaving that resource to appreciate in the ground. Sounds reasonable, yes? But it’s not clear that the world–at least in the case of oil producers–has operated this way.

Brazil May Allow Workers to Buy Petrobras Shares, Official Says

(Bloomberg) -- The Brazilian government is considering a plan to allow workers to tap a fund known as FGTS to buy Petroleo Brasileiro SA shares and help finance the company’s plan to develop deepwater, offshore oil fields, a government official familiar with the plan said.

EPA drafts fuel economy rules

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency has drafted its version of fuel economy rules setting a 35.5-m.p.g. standard for vehicles by 2016, the first move by the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Monday.

The proposed rules under review by the White House would spell out the details of a compromise among automakers, state governments and the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from cars and trucks. The administration is expected to make the rules public next month.

EU to begin phasing out standard lightbulbs

BRUSSELS — The EU will start making the transition from power-draining lightbulbs to more energy efficient ones Tuesday, the European Commission said.

Several nations including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Philippines have already announced they will phase out or restrict sales of traditional bulbs as well. In 2007, President George W. Bush signed a bill that calls for the bulb to be phased out in the U.S. beginning in 2012.

Palo Alto plans for electric car boom

When it comes to energy policy, electric cars may be best known for the impacts they don't have. They don't require foreign oil, and they don't spew greenhouse gases.

That's one reason green-conscious Palo Alto officials are abuzz over electric automaker Tesla's plans for a new powertrain plant in the Stanford Research Park. The move has the city poised to be a hub for an environmentally friendly industry that some believe will take off in the next decade.

Eco-Cities: Building a Comeback?

The global recession put a damper on what are known as eco-cities, or big real estate developments that dramatically cut carbon emissions. The most notable delay has affected a major project planned for Dongtan, outside Shanghai. But with the recession easing and oil prices rising, plans to build such ultragreen model cities seem to be reviving.

Sustainable use of resources not an alternative

The world population doubled between 1650 and 1850 and has doubled again in the last 45 years. In the 20th century, global population explosion and our lifestyle of limitless energy fueled the exponential use of natural resources and resulting pollution.

By the mid-20th century, disturbing the ecological balance carried much greater consequences. With the prosperity of post WWII came the rapid growth of our material needs and vast use of plastics and fossil fuels. Not until the oil crises in the ’70s did we see limits of the supply of this easy energy, and the term “peak oil’’ became popular to describe the expected upper limit of our supply.

Chicken-keeping finds its place in our front yards

PORTLAND, Ore. — North Williams Avenue is a street with a soundtrack like most any other in the neighborhoods of Portland. There’s the swishing of bikes, the rustling of leaves, the whirring of motors.

But then there’s something else under those familiar notes: a tiny warble of clucks coming from a chicken coop set in a front yard.

Newspapers across the country have been splashing urban and suburban chicken-keeping across their front pages. It’s the latest thing, they said. But in Portland, it’s old hat. For the past few years, chicken keeping has found its place here.

Air pollution reducing 'good' rains in China: study

STOCKHOLM (AFP) – Air pollution has over the past 50 years led to a reduction of the light rainfall in China essential for the country's agriculture and water resources, a Chinese researcher said Monday.

A recent study conducted in Sweden, the United States and China showed that the number of days with light rainfall (less than 0.1 millimetre per day) dropped by 23 percent in China from 1956 to 2005.

That was because of air pollution particles that reduced the formation of rain clouds, researcher Deliang Chen of Gothenburg University told AFP.

Coal Plant Buries U.S. Taxpayers’ $1.5 Billion Along With CO2

(Bloomberg) -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar sang the praises of a North Dakota coal plant he visited in May. The Great Plains facility is the world’s largest that captures and buries carbon dioxide emissions.

“We need to figure out a way we can do it in other parts of the country,” Salazar said in a speech in Washington.

Great Plains may be an environmental success and a showcase for technology central to President Barack Obama’s plans to curb global warming. It was also a financial flop, defaulting on $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees before being sold for 4 percent of its construction cost.

The “clean-coal” plant’s travails should be a warning to Obama and environmentalists eager to use still-developing technologies on a commercial scale to curb emissions, said William Hederman, a Washington energy analyst.

Catastrophe bonds: a financial symptom of climate change?

Catastrophe bonds are, depending on who you talk to, either a smart way to spread the insurance risk around to ensure the market doesnt buckle under another Katrina, or a way of making money by trading on others' misfortune. Swiss Re, the world's second-biggest reinsurer, describes them saying: 'Cat bonds offer investors an attractive risk/return profile and serve to diversify portfolio risk'.

Essentially, rather than taking out reinsurance, an insurer offers to sell a specific catastrophe bond. The buyer (say, a trader at an investment bank) puts down his money on the understanding that he will get it all back over time, plus a high rate of interest. The only catch is that he will lose it all if some specified bad thing happens within a specified number of years (say, Bermuda being wiped out by a hurricane). If it does, the insurer keeps the lot.

Global warming and the sun

Recent studies seem to show that there's more to climate change than we know.

Our best guess about global warming may be wrong

They know that a dramatic spike in carbon dioxide associated with rapid climate change kicked off the epoch – called the “Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum” (PETM). But what scientists don’t understand about the PETM may hold the most relevant lessons for where the world’s climate is headed today.

So far, scientists have been unable to reproduce the PETM in a climate model. In order to get the climate they suspect existed, they have to crank up carbon dioxide far beyond what they think was actually the case.

They’re missing something – and that something may be key to understanding what happens after atmospheric CO2 increases beyond an unknown threshold. At some point, rising CO2 may trigger something else that further warms the climate. In other words, we may have significantly underestimated the effects of the CO2 now being released into the atmosphere. If the Eocene is any indication, the world is probably in for more warming than suspected.

UN chief sees climate change first-hand in Arctic

NY-AALESUND, Norway (AFP) – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moom on Tuesday visited a research community in Ny-Aalesund in the Arctic's Svalbard archipelago to see the effects of climate change first-hand, officials said.

Space Mirrors, Reactive Rocks May Be Needed in Climate Plan ‘B’

(Bloomberg) -- Sending giant mirrors into orbit and speeding up natural reactions between rocks and the atmosphere may be needed as a Plan ‘B’ to fight global warming, the Royal Society, the U.K.’s national science academy, said.

Ensuring a safe future for the Earth may rest on “potentially dangerous and unproven” geo-engineering techniques unless new efforts to cut heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions are more successful than those to date, the society said today as it released a report on the technologies.

Oceans Could Absorb Much More CO2

Earth's oceans are vast reservoirs of carbon dioxide (CO2) with the potential to control the pace of global warming.

It all hinges on the fate of marine "snow" -- a constant sprinkle of carbon-rich bits that flutter down from the sea surface to the cold depths below. And according to a new study, the flurries could suck much more of the greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere than previously thought.

EU presses US on climate change

BRUSSELS – The European Union is urging U.S. lawmakers to ensure the United States makes deep cuts in carbon emissions.

Sweden's Environment Minister Andreas Calgren says the 27-nation bloc, as well as the United States and other developed countries, "should deliver" on promises to cut emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.

Recession helps cut EU greenhouse gas levels: agency

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union fell for the fourth year running in 2008, thanks to the economic recession, the European Environment Agency (EAA) said Monday.

The official EEA estimates showed a 1.5 percent drop in emissions from the 27-nation European Union as a whole and a 1.3 percent drop from its 15 older and richer members.

There's another terrifying report in the Guardian today:

Driven by the loss of ice, Arctic temperatures are warming more quickly than other parts of the world: last autumn air temperatures in the Arctic stood at a record 5C above normal. For centuries, the ice sheets maintained an equilibrium: glaciers calved off icebergs and sent melt water into the oceans every summer; in winter, the ice sheet was then replenished with more frozen snow. Scientists believe the world's great ice sheets will not completely disappear for many more centuries, but the Greenland ice sheet is now shedding more ice than it is accumulating.

The melting has been recorded since 1979; scientists put the annual net loss of ice and water from the ice sheet at 300-400 gigatonnes (equivalent to a billion elephants being dropped in the ocean), which could hasten a sea level rise of catastrophic proportions.

As Hamilton has found, Greenland's glaciers have increased the speed at which they shift ice from the sheet into the ocean


For an interesting contrast, compare the Guardian story from Greenland with the one from the L.A. Times linked to above.

Global warming and the sun

In the L.A. Times opinion piece, the author admits he knows little about the scientific aspects, yet consumes lots of ink writing about the fact that we are seeing a rather unusual minimum in the sunspot cycle. While it's obviously true that there have been few sunspots this time, it's also obvious that the Arctic sea-ice is still melting at a rapid rate. The melting is still underway so the minimum extent has yet to arrive, but the extent at present is already considerably below the average of the longer period of data. If the global-warming-is-solar club expects to be listened to, they need to do a better job of explaining the loss of sea-ice over the Arctic.

E. Swanson

The sunspot minimum is a weak as any in 100 years. Only time will tell where it ranks in history.

The artic ice melting has slowed, and could hit bottom any day now. 2009 seems to be tracking 2008, maybe a little higher.

To wit: When one speaks on a topic, one should have at least the basic facts at hand, particularly if one is taking a contrarian stance that is unsupported by any and all scientific research for the one is clearly moving into the realm of either propaganda or gut instinct. The former is, of course, immoral whereas the latter happens fairly regularly and helps move knowledge forward, often in world-changing ways. I am utterly amazed that human beings are so capable of the former. Or the corollary of speaking out of ignorance. The thing is, we always know when we are doing so if we have any intelligence at all, which brings us back to the point in the previous sentence.

Let's get on with it:

1. While a new minimum in extent now seems unlikely, I will guarantee here and now that a new minimum in total ice mass will occur. Just as it did in 2005, 2007 and 2008. The ice is melting from the bottom, too, you must remember.

2. It is unfortunate that the scientists focus so much on extent because it allows deniers and the ignorant (non-pejorative connotation) to mislead others or themselves, respectively. The fact is, the thickness of the ice plays a vital role in the likelihood of the next summers melt. The thinner the ice, the more melt there will be if all conditions are equal. Less total ice cannot be construed as positive in any way. This metric is all the more important since extent is actually quite misleading when winds spread the ice out. The area of extent is quite significantly affected by this effect. Again, this is shown by conditions in 2008 - and almost certainly in 2009, also - where the extent was greater than in 2007 but there was actually less ice in the Arctic.

3. One thing the science behind the issue of Climate Change has never been is one-dimensional. While denialists (of the lying sort rather than the merely ignorant) often attempt to make the argument about single issues, such as GCMs or temperatures, it has always been real, well researched observations that drive the science, not the other way around and never about just one observation. No, the science is based on a huge number of observations and measurements that are then studied, tested, and reproduced as well as possible by GCMs and other models. Besides reductions in ice globally, someone like yourself will make the sort of post you did and either out of ignorance or intention act as if it is significant when all you have done is present one tiny piece of the puzzle - the proverbial blind man describing the elephant.

Not only is the Arctic sea ice reducing, but so is the ice of the Greenland ice sheet, the WAIS, the vast majority of glaciers around the world, etc. And, no, these effects are not "leveling off." (Of course, even if they were, a short-term change does not a long-term trend make. A topic for another day, but a favorite of the deniers. Do keep in mind the Younger Dryas, a 1,000 yr long massive cooling period, was part of a long-term warming trend.) Taken en toto, it is impossible to look at the numbers and conclude something positive is happening.

The question for deniers, and even the ignorant, is why are you so comfortable misleading people with out-of-context data?



In the L.A. Times opinion piece, the author admits he knows little about the scientific aspects, yet consumes lots of ink writing about the fact that we are seeing a rather unusual minimum in the sunspot cycle.

Mr. Swanson - It is now clear that journalists and writers have found a rich vein to exploit as I can hardly open a magazine without some new and improved perspective on the AGW phenomena. However I would venture to guess that there are quite a few who have little or no scientific training. I went to my local bookstore perusing the Science/ Environment section and there were literally hundreds of titles. That's probably a good thing because it tells me that a lot of serious people are thinking about it. At the same time there were as many books denying global warming as there were sincere books designed to educate the general public.

The folks who brought us "intelligent design" are now bringing us "fair and balanced" journalism. One tip-off is when the author claims to be selling this book in order to save us from "junk science" and "hysterical environmentalists".


Joey the Turtle published a paper talking about the decline in food in and around his home. The publishing date would have been in current figures about the time of the PETM, but dates weren't used back then.

Everyone claimed he did not know what he was talking about, after all he was one of those "Intelligent Design" turtles, and thought his friends in the "Environmental Movement" were worry worts.

But Lo and Behold, Joey the turtle died when his food sources dried up due to Climate Change.

You know in the grand scope of things, the earth warmed for a while, cooled for a while and goes on doing that odd dance. Man showed up and we are doing our darnest to change things for the better, but in the end we are just as clueless as Joey the Turtle or his friends about what was going on in their neighborhood.

Oh by the way I am selling my books in order to save us from "Junk science" , Everyone knows the Science of Junk is only as good as the Yard Sell you sell it at.

If your point is that even people who hold beliefs that we disagree with can have valid observations, then I agree with you. It is difficult to listen to someone you know holds beliefs you consider irrational.

Joey the Turtle was obviously a keen observer, quite aware of what was going on around him, yet because he wouldn't take his observations outside his comfort zone he was ignored and ultimately suffered personal consequences.

Also the short article in the CSM posted above.

There is no hard proof, yet, but I fear that we will eventually discover that we are already too late, that we've already passed the tipping the point and are already into runaway GCC territory.

With all due respect, I don't see a mechanism which might produce a "runaway GCC" in the near future. There is a major limiting factor in that the IR emissions are a function of the fourth power of temperature, where temperature is measured in absolute scale. Thus, a slight increase in temperature at the emitting level of the atmosphere would be quickly balanced by the increase in energy leaving the Earth. Of course, a large change in methane would make things hotter, but methane does not reside in the atmosphere very long, so my WAG is that direct efforts to reduce man's CH4 emissions could offset some or all of the expected increase in the rate of emissions from natural sources.

If you can offer a scientific analysis which says otherwise, I would be interested in seeing it. GreenPeace is probably not a good source for such work, I'm sorry to say. There's still denialist claims that there are negative feedbacks in the climate system, an issue which may yet be shown to be correct, though I would not bank on it...

E. Swanson

Lou's blog has some good starting analysis on the Arctic methane issue. There are several articles over time so search around a bit. Lou really needs a methane category.

The short term effect of methane in the atmosphere is over 100 times that of C02. There is an awful lot of methane available to enter the atmosphere under warming conditions.

Under the circumstances, WAGs are inappropriate given the risks. How much can man's CH4 emissions be reduced and how fast?

As the ABC story linked to points out, the thawing of the permafrost and the resulting lake formation would lead to greater emissions of methane. Also, the under water methane clathrates might decompose if the THC slows and the cold water at the bottom of the oceans is not replenished to replace that which upwells around the Earth. One possible scenario is for the THC sinking to move from the Greenland Sea into the Arctic Ocean, as the salt rejected by the increasing area of thaw and freezing sea-ice densifies the surface layers. There is already a warm salty flow below the surface from the Nordic Seas into the Arctic thru the Fram Strait, similar to the warm layer produced by the outflow of bottom water from the Mediterranean Sea.

For a real fun scenario, consider that without the THC, the water in the subtropical gyre of the North Atlantic (AKA, the Sargasso Sea) would have nowhere to to and would begin to increase in density as evaporation moved H2O to other regions. Some of the model results results suggest that this increase in salinity would cause the THC to resume. However, I suppose there would be a point at which the warm water would just sink to the bottom at lower latitudes, displacing the cold layers there and perhaps releasing methane from clathrates as well as releasing CO2 stored in the very cold layers. I recall that Wally Broecker once wrote about evidence that the bottom waters of the Pacific had once been much warmer than now...

E. Swanson

There's still denialist claims that there are negative feedbacks in the climate system, an issue which may yet be shown to be correct, though I would not bank on it...

Of course there are negative feedbacks in the climate system. No one ever denied that they existed. - feedback mechanisms buffer climate change and keep weather patterns fairly constant within a given region over time. But - feedbacks have a way of turning into + feedbacks when stressed. This is true of both homeostatic systems such as the body's temperature regulatory mechanism and homeorrhetic systems such as climate regulation. The rapidity and severity to which anthropogenic insults to climate regulatory feedbacks have occurred, have already triggered + feedbacks capable of acting in concert to bring about "runaway" global warming. These feedbacks include, in no particular order and not inclusively: decreased albedo; increased CH4 emissions from thawing permafrost, offshore clathrate deposits, livestock eructation, & anaerobic decomposition in rice paddies; decreased primary productivity due to heat stress & increased UV irradiation resulting in decreased C sequestration as biomass; deforestation via land clearing, forest fires and bark beetle infestations releasing C directly while reducing the potential for future sequestration; ocean acidification decreasing sequestration as CaCO3 in sediments; emissions of NO2 from fertilized & eutrophicated soils & sediments. All of these + feedbacks come on top of massive continued release of oxidized carbon from powerplants, vehicles & fertilizer production. These feedbacks do not act independently - their cumulative impact is greater than the sum of their effects. The reality is that these + feedbacks do indeed have the potential for triggering "runaway GCC" and probably have already done so. - feedbacks that mitigate anthropogenic global warming are being overwhelmed.

Nicely put. The methane now emerging from the oceans and tundra do pose the potentially largest feedback, but there are, as you point out many other fast and slow feedbacks.

Also note that methane has 70-100 times the power of CO2 as a global warming gas over the relatively short time period that it persists in the air. And it is no great relief that it does not generally persist for more than a few years, since most of it turns into CO2, which lasts centuries.

Unfortunately, the primary negative feedback, reaction of CO2 with rock, is very slow in the natural course of things.

And the main natural sink for CO2 is becoming saturated and may become a net source in years to come.

Please do inform us of any serious studies (not Lindzen) that suggest there are important sinks and negative feedbacks that have been overlooked.

As things stand, things look very grim, indeed.

The main thing is that the negative feedback mechanisms that don't get swamped outright will not be sufficient to generate a new dynamic equilibrium with the current climate.

Things will stabilize, eventually, but the climate (and map) are going to be much different when they do.

Humanity would have to somehow reduce CO2 in air, that is, in addition of not putting in more CO2 through fossil fuels burning also actually reduce CO2 in air that is already there. One way is to grow green crops (grass, leaves, alfalfa etc), take away that crop from land and burn it into coal in a closed store-house. Then take that coal and burn it into ground. Once we return as much coal to ground as fossil fuels we have taken out the climate can return to normal. Any surplus land yet available should be used for that, surplus land that is not still in use for growing food and clothing crops.

To have an easy start we can start burning the green output of world forests like amazon etc and carefully return the carbon to ground. I think the burning process do emit NPK in air in some form of gases. We should be careful that we have to take out only carbon and only from air. There should be a way through which the process happen without any soil nutrients NPK going into ground, if they do then we would be facing a huge drop in green output of forests which we can't afford.

Another way is to plant as much trees as we can and those trees that grow in one or two years. There is a kind of tree we called "sufeeda" here that grow even in salty water and grow full in one year. We have to take out wood of those trees and dig it in ground. The tree roots of alive trees in the area would be able to extract the soil nutrients going into ground along with wood leaving carbon in soil. Such trees can be planted very easily and even in cities because they require little ground area to grow and very little maintenance. I have seen those trees growing shoulder to shoulder making a kind of wall through which not even a goat's child can go. That shows how many of these trees we can have.

I think the burning process do emit NPK in air in some form of gases.

P & K have no gaseous component to their cycles.

Yup, P gets chem-locked readily in our environment-->another reason why [P]hosphorus is Numero UNO on Asimov's list. Newbies, an 11-page PDF primer from Dana Cordell:


I would like to see her factor-in a Peakoil sharkfin scenario in future reports. All that raw ore isn't mined, beneficiated, then globally dispersed to countless farmgates by the magic of a 'Star Trek Transporter':

"This is Captain Kirk, Beam me 180-210 million tons of P-ore, Scotty".

"Captain, Captain--she just won't work anymore!"

Any surplus land yet available should be used for that (burying coal), surplus land that is not still in use for growing food and clothing crops.

Actually, you bury the coal with the crops, its called biochar, and it enhances the quality of the soil.

I still think the use of the term "runaway" overstates the problem. If the Earth warms enough, many of your supposed positive feedbacks will stop increasing, since many of them depend upon mankind's continued insults to the biosphere. If things get hot enough in some areas such that lots of people start dying, the results would be less increase in the feedback. By that I mean that should the surface temperature hit 50C (of whatever), it would not get worse, cause there would be fewer people to add to the various causes that you list which could make things worse.

Conversely, if the THC in the Nordic seas shuts down, the climate in some areas would actually cool, compared with what would be happening in other locations. One study I saw suggested that this cooling would offset the overall warming which would otherwise occur over Northern Europe.

Furthermore, the notion that albedo would change over the Arctic as the sea-ice cover declines ignores the fact that the difference in albedo between sea-ice with melt ponds and open water is not a large. The reason for this is that the direct beam of sunlight in summer never rises high above the horizon, thus the water exhibits a higher albedo compared to the situation at lower latitudes, where the sun is high in the sky and the albedo can be as low as 0.05. As the sea-ice melts and ponds form, the albedo over the ice drops considerably, below 0.50. Then too, once the Arctic is free of sea-ice, all that open water would be a great source of moisture during the early Winter, moisture which would tend fall over land and produce snow. As an example of this process, think of the "lake effect" snows around the Great Lakes. Early snows would increase the albedo over land at lower latitudes and the greater snow accumulation would also increase the albedo during the spring, by delaying the date of melting. I would not rule out the possibility that global warming might start another ice age. The ice core data suggests that at the end of the Eemian interglacial period, temperatures were higher than that of the 20th century.

Things are not as simple as "CO2 will cause a runaway warming"...

E. Swanson

I think runaway warming is when the temperature rises in a short amount of time. It seems like you define it as a constant increase. Obviously, a 6C or greater increase in a few years would radically change everything -- it doesn't matter if the earth goes into an ice age afterward.

I agree that such terms as "runaway" are qualitative, not very useful and better off dropped from usage.

As for a shutdown of the thermohaline circulation in the north Atlantic, should it occur northwestern Europe would indeed cool substantially. The climate of the UK would approximate that of Labrador. However, global net temperature balance would be positive since warm tropical water would cease flowing northward along the surface to be cooled and sink. Warm surface water would accumulate in the tropical latitudes where it would just get hotter. Globally, this would constitute yet another positive feedback.

Good point about there being little difference between open water and meltwater ponds on surface ice. However, decreased albedo isn't solely due to melting ice in the arctic. Melting mountain glaciers worldwide contribute to decreased albedo, as does desertification. Even the shifting of treeline northward onto what was previously tundra contributes.

The Eemian interpluvial was the period between the Illinoian and Wisconsinan glaciations in North America (between the Riss and Wurm in Europe), and it was indeed warmer than the current interpluvial at present. As I have explained in this forum before, the current interpluvial hasn't yet reached its thermal maximum and won't for another 25K years. This is because Northern Hemisphere summer insolation is increasing due to preponderance of the obliquity cycle of orbital forcing. It's entirely possible that the ongoing interpluvial will prove as warm if not warmer than the Eemian, with or without anthropogenic potentiation. In fact, what with the anthropogenic contribution, it's a good bet that it will prove considerably warmer.

My understanding is that deserts have a lower albedo than ground covered with vegetation, particularly forests. Green plants are very dark. Desertification, especially at tropical latitudes which would tend to be covered by plants all year long, would thus tend to increase albedo.

High latitude locations that experience snow fall which have been covered with forests have higher winter albedo after the forests are cut, but that would be temporary if the forests grow back. Forest lands converted to seasonal crops would stay at the higher albedo in winter as the crops are removed each year, leaving little to stand above the snow and intercept the sunlight before the light reaches the snow on the ground. Part of the study of past climate involves historical changes in land use. I suspect some of the warming over the U.S. in the middle 20th century was the result of abandonment of crop lands and the return to forest cover...

E. Swanson

Doesn't heat/light energy from the sun striking vegetation convert that energy to food for the plant instead of contributing to heating?

Not really much. Photosynthesis is only about 1% to 2% efficient converting insolation to carbohydrates. A very few plants can do somewhat better, sugar cane in tropical climates wth good fertility and moisture up to perhaps 5% to 8% depending on how insolation is counted.

Bare ground is usually more reflective than vegetation but the transition is seldom from forest directly to desert, but from grassland to schlerophyllous desertscrub, rather.

The movement of treeline northward onto what was previously tundra is permanent, for all intents & purposes, and it results in decreased albedo. You have a point about abandoned farmland at higher latitudes returning to woodland and thereby decreasing albedo, likewise. The net trend is toward decreased albedo altho there are numerous local exceptions.

One unhelpful thing is all this talk about deserts forming everywhere. It is accepted that a warmer world will be wetter. There will be more evaporation in the oceans, and warm air can hold more moisture. There will also be more storms. Evaporation will be higher but they should balance out. In fact nature is quite good at stopping water loss from land when it needs to. Has anybody factored this in?.

'It is accepted..' ??

As with the sometimes misleading term 'Global Warming', we might be seeing more of both extremes. With more intense storms and droughts, heat and cold, we might see a level of river overflow leading to massive soil erosion.. More intense Wildfires leaving forest soils vulnerable to erosion and more dead spots that once were lush.

More water, just like more C02, doesn't automatically mean more growth and abundance. Those bounties are the product of a series of eventual balances, not wild surpluses and sudden shocks.

There will be more evaporation in the oceans,

A warmer world means more evaporation, full stop. There seems to be general agreement amongst climate scientists that a warmer world will result in increased evaporation (drying out the land) combined with more severe, but not more frequent, weather events (storms, cyclones, etc) that overwhelm the ability of the soil to absorb the moisure. So we'd get increased evaporation + increased runoff = drier soils, leading to deserts and semi-deserts in some places.

This can be anecdotally tested to a degree. After your local dry spell has ended with a big storm, dig into the soil. You'l find that although a huge amount of water has fallen onto the surface, not a lot has made it's way below ground, as the surface layers got saturated quickly, and further rainfall simply washed away.

Evaporation will be higher but they should balance out. In fact nature is quite good at stopping water loss from land when it needs to.

There is concern that heat may convert some tropical rainforest into deserts -not so much because of a lack of rainfall, but because of the thermal limits on plant survival. I believe there is some evidence from the PETM, that the tropics may have been barren.

It has also been observed, that while rainfall is increasing, the number of days of light rain has actually been decreasing. And if we simply get a lot more year to year variability, the occasional drought probably controls the ocurrence of multiyear plants, such as trees.

My understanding is that deserts have a lower albedo than ground covered with vegetation, particularly forests. Green plants are very dark. Desertification, especially at tropical latitudes which would tend to be covered by plants all year long, would thus tend to increase albedo.

Yes. And no. Yes, forest is darker than desert. And no, tropical albedo would not increase much, if at all. The tropics are cloudy; their albedo is dominated by cloud reflection. With warming, cloud cover may increase, or it may decrease. It's already high, so the "headroom" for albedo increase is limited. The downside risk is greater.

The net result: a massive release of carbon from forest fires and from the drying out of tropical wetlands, with an unknown, but likely small, change in albedo.

In high latitudes, the dominant effect of increasing temperature seems to be that forests invade areas which were previously tundra, incapable of supporting trees. So boreal forests are spreading, decreasing (summertime) albedo.

Winter albedo is not relevant in high latitudes; there's not much incoming radiation there in winter, so it doesn't really matter whether more or less of it is reflected. What matters is the reflection of the (much larger) summer insolation.

The tropics are cloudy; their albedo is dominated by cloud reflection.

Depends. Most regions only cloudy in the rain season. Most months of the year sunny.

I agree that such terms as "runaway" are qualitative, not very useful and better off dropped from usage.

Weart uses Rapid Climate Change. Works for me.

That said, if something is beyond our ability to affect and going in a direction we fear, it is, indeed, runaway. The two of you are splitting hairs that I see no need to split. "Runaway" gives a sense of urgency that is exceedingly appropriate, fwiw.


DD you wrote "If things get hot enough in some areas such that lots of people start dying, the results would be less increase in the feedback. By that I mean that should the surface temperature hit 50C (of whatever), it would not get worse, cause there would be fewer people to add to the various causes that you list which could make things worse".

I honestly hope that this will happen-though I am haunted by Stephen Hawking's vision of a Martian landscape portrayed in the DeCaprio hosted doc on Global Warming.

Oops that first sentence second paragraph should read: I honestly hope that this will not happen.

Yes, a massive die off of the human species could indeed constitute a negative feed back--nice way to put the "negative" back in negative feedback.

Was this intended to cheer us up?

But really, most of the feedback mechanisms mentioned do not depend on further inputs from humans once they get going.

And of course humans will likely continue to be a positive feedback, as warmer conditions lead to more air conditioning leads to more coal burning leads to warmer conditions....

Albedo is only one of many feedbacks and perhaps not the most important. But an ocean mostly covered with ice (even ice with some pools on top of it) is simply not going to have the same albedo as an open ocean. And of course that open ocean will heat up much more than those icy pools ever could, since melting ice cools whatever is around it--phase change and all that.

All the methane is not likely to burp out at once tomorrow, but that doesn't mean that well documented increases in methane release from tundra and sea bed are nothing much to worry about.

These additional GHGs are being added to a world already well above the 300-350 ppb CO2 that would likely keep GW within acceptable ranges. Getting there even without these new sources factored in would mean rapidly phasing out coal (where as you know half our electricity now comes from) and then oil (which we have to do anyway) and natural gas. We haven't really begun to do any of this. CO2 emissions increased this decade over last decade (till we had our nice little recession).

We COULD and SHOULD reduce human generated sources of all GHGs, but so far we haven't. Saying we could doesn't make it so, unfortunately.

You can edit your posts...as long as there are no replies to them yet.

DD you wrote "If things get hot enough in some areas such that lots of people start dying, the results would be less increase in the feedback. By that I mean that should the surface temperature hit 50C (of whatever), it would not get worse, cause there would be fewer people to add to the various causes that you list which could make things worse".

I didn't write this. Black_Dog (B_D) did. I believe that anthropogenic global warming would continue for decades if not centuries following human extinction, due to + feedbacks that have already been triggered. And in any case, global warming will continue for about 25K yrs due to orbital forcing.

There are negative feedbacks that aren't going to be eliminated. Sooner or later they will come into equilibrium with the positive feedbacks and things will stabilize.

At least until insolation increases to the point where the stable temperature is too high for all the coping mechanisms to deal with, then hello Venus II.

I'm curious about this. I thought I read somewhere this year that the current interglacial is more like one of the shorter ones rather than the longer ones. Perhaps I am misremembering.



There is a major limiting factor in that the IR emissions are a function of the fourth power of temperature, where temperature is measured in absolute scale. Thus, a slight increase in temperature at the emitting level of the atmosphere would be quickly balanced by the increase in energy leaving the Earth.

That is largely true. At some hellish global temperature north of 50C we enter runaway territory, whereby the increase in water vapour (which is a greenhouse gas) with temperature increases the infrared opacity sufficiently to overwhelm the T to the fourth effect. But no scientists expect we will get to that point.

There's still denialist claims that there are negative feedbacks in the climate system, an issue which may yet be shown to be correct, though I would not bank on it...

There are negative as well as positive feedbacks. The key is the size and sign of all the feedbacks added up. But the strong consensus is that positive feedbacks overwhelm the negative ones. If that were not the case, global temps would have been too stable to allow small perturbations in the distribution of sunlight to cause major changes, such as ice ages. The fact that paleoclimate shows wild changes should be a source of caution, not complacency.

With all due respect, one of the areas of climate we appear to know the least about is rapid climate change. We simply don't know what causes the bifurcations to happen. 7 degrees or more in a decade has happened before. A false sense of security is a bad thing given the science has been way behind actual climate change.

Let's do keep in mind that just a few years ago Arctic sea ice decline, Antarctic ice sheet decline and Greenland ice sheet decline were all considered a hundred years, if not hundreds of years, away.

So was methane from clathrates.

There is far more evidence for concern than for optimism, imnsho. We are very, very unlikely to be able to scientifically document the bifurcation before, or even as, it happens. Intuitively and looking at the observable evidence, I agree with the poster above. One can even note at least one metric that proves we are there: 350 ppm. If Hansen, et al., are right, we are way past the cause of the tipping point and have only one way to prevent its full effects: get back to 350ppm or less.


Scientists believe the world's great ice sheets will not completely disappear for many more centuries...

There are three remaining great ice sheets in the world: The East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS), the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), and the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS). The EAIS won't disappear for many millenia if it ever does. At the rate the GIS is melting it will take centuries for it to completely disappear, as the article states. However, the rate at which it is melting is accelerating. The wild card is the WAIS. Unlike the EAIS & GIS, the WAIS sets on unconsolidated glacial till on the sea floor. It has apparently "collapsed" (i.e., floated free, broken up, drifted northward & melted rapidly) several times over the course of the Cenozoic. How likely this is to happen anytime soon is anyone's guess, altho the British Antarctic Survey in 2006 concluded that the potential for imminent collapse is of very real concern. The collapse of the WAIS can potentially take place on the scale of decades, not centuries. If it happens sea level will rise about five meters, inundating major coastal cities worldwide.

2 m over 100 years would be a non issue in Sweden, it would be slower then the wear down time for the costal infrastructure and 2 m is not very much. It is litterally close to nothing in our far north where the land still rises since the ice age.

But 5 m over a few decades would be close to a panic to handle and woe for Holland etc.

5m in just a few decades would be a disaster for much of eastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks. Much of Florida and Lousiana would be underwater as well.

Yep, here's a map of that:


Also of intertest- that red smudge on the southeastern coast of Cuba is Guantanimo Bay. In other words, gitmo would be underwater. So much for that...

I suggest these maps of sea level rise include at least 30 ft. for hurricane storm surge where appropriate, and lower for regular storms, where appropriate.


Well I live in South Florida in an area that would most certainly be inundated.

Image courtesy of NASA

Dark blue is less than 5 meters in elevation, Light blue less than 10.

If it happens sea level will rise about five meters, inundating major coastal cities worldwide.

DD there is a blind that is getting very little attention. If we stopped burning FF completely tomorrow we are still looking at a rise of 3 to 6 ft in the near term. No problem right?

Wrong! Salt water intrusion will overwhelm coastal farming. Salt water moves laterally. This would bring the end to the San Joaquin Valley (among countless others) the most productive area in the U.S.

It's been over ten years since Kyoto Protocol. AGW is now accepted by all but the crazies, but last year we had an overall rise of 2.2 PPM in global CO2 levels. CO2 emissions are rising even faster. When the polar ice melts that will halt the global conveyor belts giving rise to putrefaction of the Oceans.

Game Over!


Low lying rice growing regions in southern Asia will be subject to salt water infiltration. This will impact billions. The San Joaquin Valley is relatively insignificant in comparison.

Not to California or the U.S for that matter.

By some estimates, 12.8% of the United States' agricultural production (as measured by dollar value) comes from California, and the majority of that is in the San Joaquin Valley.


Yes, and the San Joaquin Valley is boned.

Great article Barrett.

I have lived most of my life in the desert southwest. I'd never heard of Peak Oil until about 5 years ago (David Goodstein Out of Gas: End of the Age Of Oil) but I have been harping about water to friends, family and colleagues for over 20 years.

It is my conviction that people can adapt to less oil but water...that's another story. Please read or re-read Caddilac Desert by Marc Reisner. Even though it's over 20 years old it is every bit as compelling today as it was then.

But then you look at what water wealthy regions have done to their water and it is discouraging. If you can spare an hour watch Frontline's (best show on TV) Poisoned Waters.

The primary difference today is population. In 1960 the populations of the desert SW was a fraction of what it is today. Today tens of millions of Americans are wholly depend on that flimsy Colorado River. BTW Mexico doesn't get a drop.

Water in the SW will need to be prohibitively expensive to get people to conserve. Guilt trips are a waste of time. For example: My sister lives in Las Vegas and 5 years ago she put in a huge pool and landscaped it with hundreds of S.F of grass and water hungry succulents. Egad! On top of that I didn't get an invite to the pool party. I guess it'd be like inviting the parson to an orgy.


A big thumbs up to Cadillac Desert!

Today tens of millions of Americans are wholly depend on that flimsy Colorado River. BTW Mexico doesn't get a drop.

The Mexican Water Treaty of 1944 guaranteed 1,850 million cubic meters per year to Mexico. In bad years, the U.S. has to pump water into the Colorado River to ensure that Mexico gets its share.

My first reaction to seeing the Southwest was to wonder why they bothered to take it away from the Indians. After careful reflection, I've come around to the P.O.V. that it was definitely a mistake. They should give it back and go somewhere where there's enough moisture to support suburban life.

True enough. I was thinking in global terms. Impact on American agriculture would be substantial if we lost the San Joaquin but globally insignificant compared to loss of low lying rice growing regions of southern China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam..

There is a risk for severe power shortages in GB:

This Swedish factory making very long 1000 MW sea cabels:

Is right now idling:

GB could order a set of long bipolar 1000+1000 MW cabels to Norway or short ones to France for ASAP delivery.

The production lines for the PEX insulated cabels are as far as I know going full tilt and are being enlarged.

(Oups, commented the wrong article. But the point that there seems to be a practical solution is ok. GB do of course have to find the cash for placing the order and then buy the elctricity on a free market but it should not be worse then importing coal and it would also be a lot better for our environment. )

Some warn of deflating asset bubble in China

A month-long plunge in the main Chinese stock market is raising questions about the outlook for China's economy. The Shanghai composite index sank 6.7% Monday, worrying global investors and capping an August bear market that has stripped more than 23% from share prices.

The nerve-jarring drop prompted some — including the head of China's $298 billion state-run investment fund and a former top Morgan Stanley economist — to warn of a deflating asset bubble. "Some of us were over-optimistic about the ability of China to become the engine of growth for the region and the global economy," said Joshua Aizenman, professor of economics at the University of California-Santa Cruz and a former consultant to the Chinese government.

I'm still skeptical about those supposed green shoots. The consumer is still moribund, and there's a lot of mortgage trouble coming down the pipe.

There is also a lot of reason to doubt the Chinese GDP figures as they only measure production (in a typically communist way). Their figures do not measure sales - or turnover - but factory-gate production. There are stories of politically-sympathetic peasant villagers waking up to a delivery of a new fridge and hotplate, even though the nearest power socket is miles away. Certainly without the US credit card holder the GDP numbers in Asia look cookey.

If you like somewhat detailed analysis then read this about the CRE market.


Guest Post: The "Other" Real-Estate Issue Revisited

We want to kick off this analysis with some data we have never shown you before. But it is certainly very timely right now. Why? Because this data is both current and market value based. We’re NEVER going to see this type of data coming from the banks as they will lie as long as they can about CRE values on their books. They have the blessing of the government, so don’t hold your breath in terms of trying to find truth coming from the financial sector. Alternatively, and very importantly, the institutional investment community still marks their real estate assets to market each quarter in terms of keeping integrity in calculating ongoing total rates of return for their funds. Thank God someone is willing to tell the truth, right? It seems there’s less and less of it around each day.

The markets have been powering ahead for 5/6 months now -Bullish as I am even I think there is an increasing risk of a short term 1-2 month sell off or trade down/sideways. I still think we might end the year up a bit though.

Does anyone still think this is as bad as the Great Depression or are we just 'not there yet' as Shrek might say?


If you ever see the stock ticker during the depression, you'll notice it wasn't straight down then up. It was more like a sawtooth...


A lot of people still think this will be as bad or worse than the Great Depression. The Automatic Earth. Denninger.

I like Denninger's analogy, because that's what happened during the Great Depression. People who went out to pick up fish - grab assets at what they thought were insanely cheap prices - got wiped out when prices fell further. Rinse and repeat.

As for me personally...I think there is still an awful lot of "systemic risk." This will become obvious eventually, but it may take longer than Denninger or the folks at Automatic Earth think. It just seems like these things always take longer than people think. During the dot-com boom, people started warning that it was a bubble years before it burst. Basically, it lasted twice as long as some of those early Cassandras predicted it would.

The basic mistake that 99.9% of people are making is assuming that this is an episode; they don't know exactly when it will end, but all assume that it will, and then we resume the upward path.

It is not an episode, it is a turning point. Things are not going to be getting "better", not to any appreciable extent, and not for longer than just very temporarilly. In fact, rather than moan and groan about how things are today, you had best enjoy them! It is bound to get a lot worse, and you'll be looking at these days as part of the good old days, when things had not yet gotten so bad!

This is just the first dip downward. It will be a sawtooth rather than a slide, but we've got a long, long ways to go.

IMHO, there is no point in listening to anyone who talks about "recovery", either happening now or any time within our lifetimes. It isn't going to happen.

Hello WNC Observer,

Your Quote: "It will be a sawtooth rather than a slide, but we've got a long, long ways to go."

Sliding down a sawtooth is, of course, much more painful than just merely sliding smoothly down a razor's edge. Also, the ongoing corruption is equivalent to a heavy salt & sewage coating on the jagged teeth.

Jay Hanson Quote: "The best the poor can hope for is a quick and painless death."

For any TOD Newbies: Please google Thermo/Gene Collision, and also Richard Duncan + Olduvai Re-Equalizing. YMMV.

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

People who said fall out (of stocks in bubbles, of industralization due to peak oil etc) is near are true and that is what would be happening IF other people (especially in govt) are not putting in breaks already to soften the fall out. Watching the ice berg approaching from the deck of titanic if an observer shouted "we ALL are going to die" he is true if the captain didn't took mitigating actions by reversing the engines, stearing off to have a side hit instead of a front hit etc. Seeing the captain's actions if somebody shouted "we are saved" then he is not wrong. The ultimate result of the ship hitting the ice berg was neither death of all the passengers not saving of all the passengers, it was something in between. 30% or 50% or 70% being saved, rest died.

Anybody who like to predict future must also take in account the expected actions of those in power to soften the situation and then predict a likely future scenario. In case of a linear thinking of simply extra polating you can end up in predicting a future that would be way worse than the actual future approaching us shortly. Once people say a better-than-expected situation they call you doomer, cry-wolf-lad etc and don't take you seriously in your further predictions.

Most of us at TOD made the mistake of predicting a linear rise in oil prices all the way to $200 once it hit $100. At some point negative feed backs kick in in everything softening the situation. Reality is usually not a thing that is very bad and also not a thing that is very good, it is in between.

Watching the ice berg approaching from the deck of titanic if an observer shouted "we ALL are going to die" he is true if the captain didn't took mitigating actions by reversing the engines, stearing off to have a side hit instead of a front hit etc.

I think you have your Titanic history wrong. They had maybe a minute warning, and did take the very actions you suggested. The side hit was what did them in. It is likely a direct hit wouldn't have sank her. But the side hit took out five compartments, and the boat was unsinkable if four or fewer compartments were compromised.

Yes, it is true that the Titanic saw the iceberg too late, tried to turn, and sideswiped the iceberg - ripping open the watertight compartments.

If they had just smashed into it head-on at full speed, they would have only crumpled two or three watertight compartments, the remainder would have worked as designed, and the ship would probably not have sunk.

Of course, the more prudent thing would have been to slow down when they knew there were icebergs around. But they had deadlines to meet, and they were trying to set a speed record.

Hi Wisdom, there is some truth in you analysis but some observers said that it was Volatility that would increase not price.

It IS possible that we might see $25 oil again, following a complete collapse induced by $300 oil so much spare oil would flood the market that it would have to be 'priced to sell'. At this point we would have 25%+ unemployment, collapsing Industry, HyperInflation, etc.

In other words a "Linear Realm" has entered / passed through some sort of boundary into a "Chaotic Realm" where very few of the previous rules can be applied and still work.

I wathced a documentary about Naomi Clines "Shock Doctrine" last night and it has happened many times in the last 4 decades...

I'm not sure who these 'people pulling the strings' would be at this point as all would suffer IMO (but I may be very wrong on this -after all a few islands protected by gaurds could be a mini-paradise for a few but they would be isolated and 'culture' would be lacking so is it really something to aim for/induce?).


"...there's a lot of mortgage trouble coming down the pipe."

This is a really good site for gazing into the mortgage industry crystal ball - doubleplus ungood!


Concerning the uptop link Norwegian oil output to fall more than expected

I googled it trying to find more info and came across this: Rocksource -6.6% As Cuts 09 Oil Output Target; Books 2Q Loss

Shares in Norwegian oil company Rocksource (RGT.OS) tumbled 6.6% Tuesday after it revised down its 2009 oil production target on a sharper than expected fall in U.S. output and swung to a second quarter net loss on lower revenues....

The company has faced a number of technical challenges at its onshore U.S. production wells, forcing it to cut its 2009 production target to 1,300 barrels of oil equivalents a day, from 1,700 boe/day previously.

Rocksource has oil production wells in a lot of other places other than Norway. So not only is Norweigan oil production falling faster than expected, Rocksource's US oil production is also falling faster than expected.

I am a little confused by the term its onshore U.S. production wells. I was under the impression that Rocksource's US wells were all offshore.

In its outlook, Rocksource said it plans to shift its focus to firming up exploration wells and establishing a low risk, high potential drill queue in Norway, West Africa and the Gulf of Mexico. "Rocksource aims to prove more barrels faster and at a lower cost,"

Ron P.

It looks like the UK MSM are being used by the Government to steadily drip information about our likely upcoming UK predicament.

In the last couple of weeks or so several newspapers suddenly have lots of PO, energy, and climate change related stories. Last week the BBC had a good couple of programs on food problems related to inadequate fresh water around the world.

By 2020 we will likely have very little UK sourced coal, oil and natural gas and a large chunk of electricty generation will have been shut down, hence today's headline in the Daily Mail :

Blackout Britain warning as Government predicts severe power shortages within a year

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1210297/Blackout-Britain-warning...

The Guardian has an article about the UK saving 10% of carbon emissions by 2010 :


Presumably they expect a massive recession to do the trick, so the public won't have to do much thinking about how to do it. ;-(

Approaching 42 I fondly remember the good -old blackouts of the the mid 70s in the UK. How much fun was it sitting around with lit candles as a 6 year old. I don't remember being cold -but then I think we had a coal fire. Central heating was a luxury that did not arrive untill I was a bit older -along with wall to wall carpets.

Now then, strikes me that a couple of solar panels, a spare 12v car battery, some wire and a string of Eco-Bulbs might be a wise investment for the next decade. Candles are fun but not very bright as I recall...


Now then, strikes me that a couple of solar panels, a spare 12v car battery, some wire and a string of Eco-Bulbs might be a wise investment for the next decade.

Very good up until the Eco Bulbs. So far I have found little in the way of super efficient lights available commercially. I make my own using cheap white LEDs at less than $.10 each US. Most manufacturers are concerned about light output per LED, which was fine when LEDs were expensive, but no an issue with cheap ones. So while the typical 12V LED circuit will have three 3.5V LEDs and some resistors to make up the rest, I just use four LEDs. Each LED is a little less bright, but no waste heat from any resistors and the overall light output is higher.

Of course if the voltage goes up too high, I'll lose the light easier than if I had resistors. A typical 12V battery isn't going to exceed 14V.

I recently invested in some "Grow LEDs" and they just string a series of 'N' Diodes together...

For 240v and -say- 3.5v per diode that's 240/3.5 = ~70 diodes... I think there might be a 300v smoothing cap in there as well...


From Drumbeat 29 augustus, Darwinian's comment:

All gains have been already made and counted. And this type (ed. water, steam, gas) of EOR has already been figured into estimated recoverable reserves.

Tertiary CO2-EOR increased URR a lot more 'recently'. It will slow decline but the question is how many countries are able and willing to make the investments for this expensive projects.

About making the decline less steep, that is what Aramco says they are doing. They are using MRC (Multiple Reservoir Contact) horizontal wells along with the water injection they have been doing for decades, to slow the decline of some of their fields to 2%. MRC wells however are nothing but super straws. They slow down decline rate while greatly speeding up depletion rate. They are just sucking the water out a lot faster. When the water finally does hit those horizontal wells, the oil will be, for all practical purposes, gone. Their decline rate will drop off a cliff when that happens.

Ron, here I recall a comment on TOD some time (6-12 month) ago that this 'dropping off a cliff' in the Aramco fields won't happen. I don't remember well who wrote that, it could have been ROCKMAN. Thinking about the 'superstraw technique' I can imagine that production suddenly can decrease rapidly, even with so called 'good reservoir management'.

Han, I don't remember who wrote that this "dropping off a cliff" won't happen either. However I would suggest that this "cliff" is set in stone, no pun intended" Consider this:

Saudi Arabia

One challenge for the Saudis in achieving this objective is that their existing fields sustain 5 percent-12 percent annual "decline rates," (according to Aramco Senior Vice President Abdullah Saif, as reported in Petroleum Intelligence Weekly and the International Oil Daily) meaning that the country needs around 500,000-1 million bbl/d in new capacity each year just to compensate.

Their 5 to 12 percent decline rate comes out, apparently, to an average of 8 percent. Now I ask you to consider this from ARAMCO's own Nawaf Obaid: Saudi Arabia’s Strategic Energy Initiative

Without “maintain potential” drilling to make up for production, Saudi oil fields would have a natural decline rate of a hypothetical 8%. As Saudi Aramco has an extensive drilling program with a budget running in the billions of dollars, this decline is mitigated to a number close to 2%.

These depletion rates are well below industry averages, due primarily to enhanced recovery technologies and successful “maintain potential” drilling operations.

Now if they have truly decreased their decline rate from an average of 8 percent to 2 percent with the aid of superstraws then this only means they are sucking the oil out faster. And Mr. Obaid confuses depletion rate with decline rate, he seems to think they are the same thing. No, decline rate is how fast production is falling, depletion rate is how fast the oil is disappearing from the reservoir. If you decrease decline rate then you automatically increase depletion rate.

Remember they are doing this with horizontal MRC wells. This not only cuts decline rate it also drops the water cut because you are taking the oil from only the tops of the reservoir. No magic has happened here, just as much water is going in as ever but less is coming out. Sooner the water will hit these horizontal MRC wells at the very top of the reservoir then production from this field, (Ghawar), will drop off a cliff. It cannot help but happen if they keep pumping.

Ron P.

If you decrease decline rate then you automatically increase depletion rate.

Yes Ron, how someone can confuse these two
parameters ? To please governments, industries, people who don't want to think ?

... Sooner the water will hit these horizontal MRC wells at the very top of the reservoir then production from this field, (Ghawar), will drop off a cliff. It cannot help but happen if they keep pumping.

No 'fuzzy logic' here. New techniques are helpfull and increase comfort (cars, telecommunication, medicine, etc), but a big danger for oil extraction if one considers the consequences.

Isn't there a third factor here: recovery rate?

How do these techniques affect recovery rate? By that I mean the fraction of OOIP that is removed. I have heard that typically only about 1/3 of the oil in place is ever recovered. Do these "modern" techniques increase or decrease the fraction recovered?

The methods mentioned probably either don't change the recovery rate or potentially make it worse.

Other methods do increase recovery but they are expensive in the production rate is substantially lower generally 10% or less of the peak production. However often the decline rate in production is very low. Read about stripper wells esp in the US.

Thats why although I think we can see a steep decline in production from our current levels I also think that if the world does not fall into disarray then we could keep production levels close to at least 50% of todays for decades. Maybe even as high as 75% of todays production with a fairly low decline rate.

Once the good stuff is gone rising prices will boost expensive recovery efforts and further searching.

However this does not address EROEI because the EROEI of the remaining reserves is substantially lower. So we could see a 50% drop in EROEI or more even as production only drops say 20%. And of course you have things like peak light sweet also. Thus once you go over the top assuming a fast decline other secondary issues outside of simple raw production numbers seem to increase rapidly.

And of course we would assume generally high prices so export land will still be a major issue.

And last but not least above ground issues would become pretty much a sure bet so assuming oil production is not hit by above ground issues such is wars seems pretty unlikely.

I figure once we are down about 10 million barrels in world production then oil as a resource readily available to many is not going to be true and reserve estimates for the remaining oil become increasingly unimportant as other factors loom large.

The only thing thats really important about this hard to get oil is reserves of this stuff are increasingly mixed in with whats left of the easy to get oil.

My best guess is the worlds on its last few billion barrels of good oil something like 50-200 billion barrels of oil thats useful to our current civilization and this oil accounts for about 30-50mbd of our current production.

Figure the depletion rate is higher than 10% or we are close to toast in about 10 years max. These are very rough numbers but its hard to figure how much oil is being produced at a high depletion rate. My opinion is a lot.

If you have field data its fairly easy to see if production remains on a plateau for five or more years your probably in a high depletion fast extraction phase. Obviously my interpretation of Saudi production is at odds with the general one. They are actually the worst offenders on the planet on the depletion side beating everyone else even the US and North Sea production is extracted at a lower depletion rate than KSA.

memmel, you summed up all the 'facts' and problems in a few alineas. The most ugly factor problably is ELM, followed by EROEI decline.
Regarding the oilprices: the question remains what the economy can bear, preventing it from collapsing. Something like $ 100-120/barrel could be a maximum.

I'll watch what I say but to put it bluntly people need to drive to live.
Oil in our modern society is just as critical as food.

As with food trying to claim some price is too high is probably a mistake.
There is no intrinsic upper bound. Certainly at some point you may see countries forcefully invade oil producing countries and effectively take the oil but the price they pay per barrel for such efforts is still very very high and measured in human death and suffering incalculable.

Given we have already past the stage where countries are taking oil by force regardless of the cost I think trying to determine some sort of upper bound is senseless. I think its simply not the correct view.

Now how the price varies is a supply and demand problem and higher prices feedback to cause demand to lessen. Certainly you can have situations where demand is falling faster then production and production capacity leading to a surplus and falling prices. But thats not a fundamental situation and is outside the scope of any sort of fundamental price predictions since it depends on the inner workings of a very complex ponzi scheme economy thats intrinsically susceptible to fast contraction at least at first. These are our historical sharp and generally brief recessions.

Given what I said about oil what happens when the economy is no longer in a traditional recession ? I'd suggest we have already left the traditional recessions behind so the future is not determined by any historical examples we have since we introduced fiat currencies in the 1970's. Pre fiat examples are also not good predictors. We have no historical precedent for whats going to happen next and the nature of oil as equal to food puts no upper bound on prices.

And last but not least to be clear differential changes from fast economic contraction vs oil production are certainly still possible but as the economy reduces waste they become less and less likely however to treat them as fundamental is a mistake they simply are not. In fact we are exiting the worst recession on record yet oil prices have been rising for some time. Another contraction like we just had which did cause prices to fall could well be fatal.
So sure we can have a fast contraction in the economy and falling prices but its getting to the point where another sharp contraction leads to collapse of the system itself making the price of oil a mute point.

Given that most of the major economies are now on life support with pretty much direct injections of money via printing of fiat by the governments I simply can't see any government allowing its economy to collapse rapidly. They may not be able to stop deflation but now the mechanisms are in place to ensure that none of the major economies are going to face a structural collapse in the near future. Despite expectations I don't see any financial collapse coming anytime soon I also don't see any improvement basically on the financial side you pretty much have Japanese style deflation now in effect.

But this is not a good predictor for the future since Japan itself deflated while commodities where relatively cheap again we simply don't have any good historical predictor for whats going to happen next.

My own opinion is that the world is actually reaching the point where fractional reserve lending is simply no longer effective and money will be forced to become a store of wealth or the currency will collapse. We are going to be forced into a financial framework that works with the new reality of ever shrinking economies. How this unfolds exactly is not clear but its a sure bet that anything purchased with longer term multi year debt will be subject to massive price deflationary forces. Houses, Cars and Commercial real estate are in deep doodoo. I think the situation in these areas is going to get a LOT worse than it is now and there is nothing the government can do about it as printing enough money to spur the economy to support current prices puts tremendous pressure on commodities. Its not just a matter of giving out loans to people but also ensuring they can make the payments. Most of the loans handed out this year for example will probably default as early as next year.

Sure they can keep borrowing super cheap but this does nothing to prevent defaults.

Horizontal wells are fine for a moment but they do accelerate reservoir depletion. They typically perform quite well for a few years but then they tend to drop off quickly. Once water floods them they're done (as opposed to vertical wells where you may have a chance to plug off the watered-out zone). All of these techniques just recover a finite reservoir faster (similar to in-fill drilling). The more efficient we are the faster we deplete.

Peak Oil - Supply data doesn’t lie

After the epic crash last year, the price of oil is stabilising and it should rise exponentially over the following years. Over the past year, global consumption has stayed weak, however once the economy recovers, crude oil should resume its secular bull-market.



Someone want to work out the EROEI of this project?!

the economics are not too promising either: "“These expenses need to be lowered to a hundredth of current estimates,” Yoshida said by phone from Tokyo. "

But besides energy and capital investment, the're gonna microwave the generated electricity back to earth.

It's too bad Japan doesn't have an ocean current nearby to tap into... I mean, with their high tech society one would think that they can possibly tap into this...

Oh, wait...


I'd guess that this would be a touch easier to tap into than solar/microwave.

UK plans new electrified rail

In Scotland, a link between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

In England & Wales, two historic lines. One west from London to the southern coast of Wales (well past Cardiff) and the other from Liverpool to Manchester,

1.1 billion pounds

pdf warning

From the report "Electric trains are over 35% cheaper to operate than diesels".

Best Hopes for More,


How about the news linked by xeroid above? How will this affect trains? "In all, experts say, the decommissioning of power stations will see 37 per cent of the UK's generation capacity disappear by 2015" from the Daily Mail link.

Yup. you got it in one. We are stuffed here in Britain! and we had an indiotic government wonk (Alan johnson - who want to be the labour leader) say that he doesn't lose sleep worrying about the population increasing to 70 million in ten years! Pray tell, if we have enough trouble keeping the lights on with 61 million and before we set about electrifying our transport network, how the frig are we going to cope with 70 million people???


And, given the recent debacle over the lockerbie bomber, it appears that Mr Obama is fairly hacked off with us. Not surprising really, can't blame the fella. However he and the US state department haven't seen nothing yet!! Wait until we have to import 75% of our gas, which heats 50% of homes and will power 55% of our electricity from that nice Mr Putin. When we are bent over in the submissive posture we will not do anything to upset the Russians. So the US state dept can forget about asking for our vote at the UN in ten years time.

Pray tell, if we have enough trouble keeping the lights on with 61 million and before we set about electrifying our transport network, how the frig are we going to cope with 70 million people???

I remember an article from almost 10 years ago in a Dutch newspaper what has to be done if only 10% of the people who drive a car take the train to work. Then they have to double the length of the train platforms in a lot of places. There are of course other possiblities, but we are talking here about only 10% of the cardrivers taking the train. People who think that solutions are easy with less fuel have to think a bit about all this massive transport. Taking the (electric)bike to work is possible, but in this case
a lot of people have to look for a home closer to work. Then there will be a shortage of houses in some cities. If oil-exports go down slowly it could be done, but what if oil-exports drop rapidly ? Chaos.

Telecommuting, anyone?

Online schools and universities?

No... chaos is more likely. Especially in good old Blighty. It's not as if it's an industrialised country, like South Korea.

I just realised why we have been issued with so many free low energy light bulbs which don't actually save much energy because we need heat at the same time as light in the UK. For us the heat of incandescent light bulbs isn't waste, it has to be provided somehow at our lattitude - but they do save electricty if we use them. If we can import the lamps now on credit from somewhere else like China using their energy instead of ours so much the better - I wonder if we will actually end up paying for them?

We won't sit in the dark maybe, but it looks like we'll be a bit chilly as we huddle around the low energy lamps. I sure hope climate change doesn't switch off the gulf stream!

That heat is waste for at least half the year unless you live at the poles, no?

I think the point is that in Britain it's bloody dark a lot at the same time of year that it's bloody cold.

That heat is waste for at least half the year unless you live at the poles, no?

You don't have to live at the poles - at the moment in the UK we have more light than dark, no heating is required, I am hardly using electric light either - just a very few watt hours for a couple of hours in the evening - there is actually little waste heat from my lights for around six months of the year.

In another six weeks or so it will 12 hours dark and 12 hours light everywhere in the world, at that point in the UK our clocks change to maximise the use of daylight hours - we need artificial light in the mornings and from late afternoons. Typically we need extra heat when it is dark from the beginning of October through to the end of March - for these months there is no so called waste heat from the lighting, less space heating (but more electricty) is required with incandescent lamps.

There is however a large amount of upfront waste energy making new low energy lights and destroying perfectly good incandescent lamps.

The UK looks to have a big problem looming - outsourcing the bulk of it's primary energy with nothing to pay for it and a massive requied investment in new generating capacity - we don't appear to be able to supply all our present electrical needs in the medium term let alone extra things like EVs, heat pumps and the like that are proposed as 'solutions'.

You've got things a bit mixed up. No one is destroying existing incandescent lamps. The extra embedded energy in a CFL is recovered in about 1 year of its operation relative to the equivalent incandescent for average usage.

Mass transfer to EV or PHEV will be a problem but heat pumps are not - if they are being used to substitute for gas central heating. They extract about 3 times the heat energy from the environment for each unit of electric energy consumed - so each KWh of electricity converts to 4KWh of useful heat. Assuming that the electricity is from a gas powered station running at more than 25% efficiency than there is still a net saving of natural gas.

I us CFL lights throughout my house. I have even got my parents converted to them - they were using 200W of incandescents in one room but couldn't see to read. I put in 70W of CFL and they can see far better.

No one is destroying existing incandescent lamps.

I agree - but the whole point of the very expensive excercise is that we do stop using them, and quick! Most of the energy put into the free CFLs isn't being saved because most aren't being used!

You seem to think the millions of free CFLs we have been issued with are a sensible plug in replacement? I think most people would disagree with you - my opinion is the reason people can't see adequately with them is because they are a very poor design - the light doesn't come out in the same direction as incandescents, they meet the criteria of using less electricty and minimum cost to produce, but do not match usable light. I would guess most are not being used, cheap and low cost are not the same thing.

Well designed CFLs do exist but they will take years and years to recoup their enormous cost when compared to the electricty they might save - I equate that high cost with energy invested in the product so IMO the energy payback time is many times what you say, to me useful CFLs appear to be a wasteful dead-end because the experts advising the Government don't see the big picture - maybe they are using CFLs to look at it? :-)

Also, like EVs, the trouble is heat pumps need electricty - currently we use a lot of gas directly in homes to do the same job, therefore we need a lot more more electricty generation, the exact opposite of what is predicted to happen.

How will the UK pay for imported primary energy imports? ... tens of thousands of imported windmills? ... new nuclear power stations? ... batteries for EVs? ... if you can't answer those basic questions then all talk of heat pumps, EVs, CFLs etc is completely useless. Hope is not likely to be a sensible option.

We have nothing but cfl lamps in our house and when nieghbors who swear you "can't see" with them come to visit they don't notice.They can see just fine.Buy a reputable brand nane and they are world class bargains,and over the last couple of years the color has been improved so much you won't notice either.

xeroid, I live in Scotland and I personally prefer not to use my lights as heaters. I've managed to get through the summer fine with low energy bulbs (I didn't choose them, they were already in the flat I rent) and yet still haven't had to turn on the heating so far.

Also, as gas central heating is considerably cheaper than electric heating I don't think I'll be switching over to incandecents in the winter either thanks.

I've managed to get through the summer fine with low energy bulbs

Exactly my point, we don't use much lighting in the summer months (my experience of Scotland is at least 16 hours daylight mid-summer)and there is no waste heat from any form of lighting in the winter at the point of use.

The free CFLs are attempting to save a small amount of energy on domestic lighting, but domestic lighting is only a very small part of the ~112 kWh primary energy each UK citizen uses on average every day - just like banning the use of plastic bags to save oil, it is a 'drop in the ocean', samall gestures have a small effect.

Because fossil fuel in the UK is rapidly declining and we likely can't afford to import enough to meet any shortfall you will need an alternative to gas central heating, IMO the future is electric, but likely much less available/affordable than now and it will have to power everything.

As an experiment see if you can live a normal life with 80% less oil, gas, coal and electricty usage - this is what may be looming in the next 10 years or so - 80% less of the average domestic usage (ignoring Government use on your behalf) of ~65kWh is ~15kWh primary energy per day.

Average US maybe half the year but here in the mountains of western Maine the waste heat is useful for most of the year. We did get almost two weeks of summer heat this summer. Even so we heat with wood not light bulbs.

A resistive heater has a COP (coefficient of performance) of 1.

Your waste heat has a slightly higher COP.

A heat pump has a much higher COP.

So incandescents are not the best (or worst) choice for heating.

We are stuffed here in Britain! and we had an indiotic government wonk (Alan johnson - who want to be the labour leader) say that he doesn't lose sleep worrying about the population increasing to 70 million in ten years!

No, that's our problem, because we have the Duggars...

Duggar family expecting 19th child

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of Tonitown, Ark. are expecting another baby in the spring.

That will make 19 children for the Duggars, who also have a grandchild on the way. Oldest son Joshua, 21 and his wife Anna, 21, are expecting a girl next month.

"We are so thrilled," says Michelle, 42, who was shocked to learn she was pregnant, though her daughters had noticed she was eating more pickles than usual.

"We just couldn't believe it is happening." Jim Bob, 44, agrees: "This never gets old. We are so grateful for each child."

I dont worry about large families. The major problems is bad upbringing leading to all kinds of social problems and impossibe demands on the schools to fill the role of mother or a father.

The Duggars live about 10 miles from me. They home school their kids, or send to a private baptist school. They are very conservative, evangelical christians.

Thank God for designing so many gay people (and quite a few un-gay persons) who have no interest in breeding. The Lord works in wondrous ways.

The sisters of gay men, on average, have sufficiently more children than do the sisters of straight men, to offset the decreased fecundity of their brothers. Presumably, the same genetic contribution to homosexual orientation in men promotes maternity in their sisters. So, the more gay fellows there are, the more their sisters increase the overall birth rate.

Oh for Gods sake! Where on earth did you dig that one up?

The Gay Almanac of course. ;-)

Oh for Gods sake! Where on earth did you dig that one up?

I saw a review of a serious scientific study that claimed just that. And it makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective. Homesexual behavior would be expected to be selected out by evolution. But if the sane gene(s) hurt fertility in one sex, but help the fertility of the other, the selective effects may cancel out. As long as these genes are not on the sex chromosomes (X,Y), and have a similar effect for both sexes (i.e. bias ones interest/attractiveness towards say male partners), then that conjecture makes perfect sense.

Sure-sisters of gay guys can't use birth control-the scientists won't allow it.

No form of birth control other than abstinence is 100% effective.

If they are less willing to abstain, there you go.

Are you Nancy Reagan?

No. Are you?

I have members of my extended family that were conceived through every birth control technique that exists short of sterilization, and even many sterilization techniques aren't 100% (the human body has amazing healing capabilities).

I should perhaps have said "temporary birth control" for clarity, but otherwise my statement stands. Unless you have a logical challenge to it that I am unaware of?

Unfortunately, homosexuality isn't an issue of behavior. Please be informed that it is a naturally ocurring condition that's been exacerbated by massive amounts of chemical pollution. Do please become a non-ignorant person on this subject by reading Our Stolen Future to learn how natural biological processes produce feminized males and masculinized females and just what sort of chemicals increase this natural incidence.

That is a plausible theory but I am still waiting for the scientifical theories to settle down. I am quite sure that actual knowledge about how genetics and the fetal development environment and perhaps also early childhood environment sets up the basic sexual preferences in our brains will give quite an interesting moral debate. And it will probably also be very good for our culture to get that self knowledge, I am realy hoping for good breakthrus and verifications.

Well, I've yet to see any links to the serious studies being mentioned here. I know our chemical dosing of the biosphere has had many sexual and reproductive effects, but I would really have to be convinced that this should be conflated with homosexuality itself, which appears in other animal populations besides our own.

I am happy enough to conclude for now that since Leviticus was so hard on homosexuals some 2000 years ago, that we've had homosexuality for easily that long, and that there have been people who have been unwilling to accept it for just as long. (Not to impugn present company, but there are anti-gay groups who make a concerted effort to present Homosexuality as a disease, not simply an expected variable in our behavior.

We all start out as females.

Guys who have a hard time dealing with this need to comtemplate thier milk glands and the seam on the bottom of thier penis-the scar left by the closing of thier feminine plumbing/reproductive systems in utero.

The endocrine system is so complicated it can make your head swim just to look at partial charts of all the glands,secretions and pathways-and these charts are probably are not more than eighty percent complete at best anyway.

Even a very small perturbation of the many hormones can lead to serious consequences,such as bodily deformity,and it is well established that there are many chemicals capable of causing such perturbations,some of them being common pollutants.

Apparently homosexaulity is a natural and normal consequence of some minor changes of the average proportions of some of the hormones during fetal development,and while homosexuality may reduce the reproductive fitness of a given male,it does not apparently reduce the reproductive fitness of his family overall and is therefore not a liability to his own personal set of selfish genes.

The bottom line is that homosexuals are born and not created by thier environment,although some men may be more likely to acknowledge thier true inclinations if reared in more homosexual tolerant environments.

At least this is the way I interpret the literature.One guy is born with curly hair,another a roman nose,a third guy is a homosexual.Luck of the draw in the genetic lottery and the uterine environment.

jokuhl--All the "serious studies" I needed to cite are contained in the one source I referenced, Our Stolen Future, which also has its own website updating the book and providing many links to additional studies and news items.

A guesstimate would be that approximately 2.5 billion humans, or 37.5%, i.e. 75% of all male humans, have zero interest in breeding. That might be on the low side.

I know dozens of conservative evangelical Christians and the largest family in the lot in recent times -the last two decades- has only four children.Most have only one or two ,occasionally there are three kids.

Evangelicals are just as likely to use birth control as modern day Catholics or more so BUT SOMEBODY HAS TO TELL THEM about sex and babies.

May be the Duggans wouldn't be so suprised if somebody would explain the birds and the bees to'em;)

I have yet to meet a redneck Baptist who prays over his kids RATHER than take them to a doctor,although most do both.And although I live in the backwoods I have yet to meet any snake handlers or holy rollers but I have seen a couple of possibly hysterical old ladies "speak in tongues".

As i understand it the population of the US is increasing due to immigration and the children of Immigrants. The native population is at replacement level, the Duggers not withstanding. The same is true here. Re that comment about Alan Johnson he is a former postman should have stuck to it. Anything above delivering letters is beyond his mental capacity, and yet he aspires to lead the country. Frightening.

"This never gets old. We are so grateful for each child".

France uses 2.3% of their electricity for transportation.

Since high speeds consume disproportionate amounts of electricity, the new 90 mph electric trains in the UK should not over stress the grid.

Just add a minute to the rotating blackouts.


There is already one electrified rail link between Edinburgh and Glasgow that was electrified in the 1980's. The Edinburgh - Bathgate - Airdrie - Glasgow line is also being upgraded to twin track and electrified at present and due for completion by the end of 2010. The recent announcement is the electrification of the main commuter line between Edinburgh and Glasgow by 2016.

The commuter line will link to the electric trams being installed in Edinburgh. The image shows the tram work on Princes Street on the right and, on the left at the bottom of the picture, you can see the main rail line out of Edinburgh to the west.

Scotland has a relatively low population of 5.1 million and one of the best renewable wind and marine (wave and tidal) potentials in the world alongside considerable established hydro power. On a per capita basis, Scotland is in the world top 3 as far as installed wind generating capacity is concerned and currently generates over 20% of its' electricity from renewables with targets of 31% by 2011 and 50% by 2020.

Scotland has the potential to become a significant exporter of renewable electricity according to a recent report.

The rest of the UK is another story.

Your report is from the UK private corporation Network Rail which is underwritten by the UK government. I guess there is some contraversy about it in the UK as such and I would imagine the company engages in PR as all government contractors do.


BTW, I've taken diesel and electric mass transit and they both aren't very reliable in my experience(breakdowns fairly regular).

It might be good time to look at the failure of the US electrical railway system in the 1920s when most all rail was electric(coal steam engines in cities was nasty).

A Federal Electric Railway Commission produced a report in 1920 called Analysis of the Electric Railway Problem. This report was made just as autos began to be mass produced so it would seem that electric rail was having problems before cars were everywhere.



They concluded that they couldn't be operated profitably (they were 'over-capitalized'--too much rail given the number of riders) so the only thing to do would be to nationalize them all and ban jitneys (autos used to ferry commuters around)
from the streets.

I believe that electric rail will be too expensive to implement and help very few people. We'd be better off reducing transport use entirely and using car pooling type solutions.


"They aren't very reliable.."

Of course, your experience may not have exposed you to whether the failures were endemic to electric and diesel transport, to mass transit in general, or to the way those cities and other levels of Govt were managing these assets. You need to offer some more details before issuing such broadsides..

I took the trains in NYC for 20 years, and while there were SOME holdups due to traffic, routing, aging infrastructure, faulty doors etc.. those are hardworking and reliable systems.

Electric Transit is underbuilt in a great many communities, and instituting it would allow MANY people to stop relying on cars, tire alignments, reregistration, insurance, oil changes, parking meters, toll-bridges, traffic jams .. Of course, it would also reveal how many other people live in places that are utterly impractical, and they will see how helpful others find it to be near a train for any number of reasons..

I said "they aren't very reliable in my experience", which you characterize as a broadside(rolls eyes).

Networkrail was touting the reliability of electric over diesel which doesn't necessarily translate into real world reliable.

I've commuted and I've taken mass transport(for +20 years) and the car was far more reliable(and cheaper) than rail, subway or bus though on balance FAR less nerve-wracking than by car.
But I would agree that mass transit is necessary in densely overpopulated areas.

Personally I think that in those urban settings the TransMilenio is the way to go and run the buses on CNG on expressways. The cost is tiny $6M/mile comparable to a road versus +$50M/mile for rail.


Of course, it would also reveal how many other people live in places that are utterly impractical, and they will see how helpful others find it to be near a train for any number of reasons.

That shows how elitist rail can be. The rich would accumulate property close to mass transit that everyone pays taxes for. The property increases in value and the poor are shunted off away from the high class areas.

'Well, you know those poor idiots, living in utterly impractical
places!' Far-fetched? That's how fortunes were made when trolley systems were introduced--politicians would buy up property where they knew the rail was going to be.


I support the 'spine & limbs' renovation and buildout of Alan Drake's standard gauge RR & TOD 100%, but I am hoping that people will come to the additional conclusion that narrow gauge SpiderWebRiding for local 'ribcages' will be postPeak required too. IMO, it can be a useful counterbalance to the rich politicians buying the land adjacent to standard gauge urban transit depots as the Web's radius can help equalize land values:


I think it is impressive that two-thirds of a horse can move 3 people easily. :)

Go to Queens or the Bronx sometime.. it's the 1,2,3,4,5,6 A,C,E , B,Q,N,R and Path that makes it possible for working class people in the countless outer burroughs to have access to workplaces throughout the whole city region.

If we had two our three lines reaching north and west from portland, they would penetrate many communities and tie together richer and poorer areas, as they do in NYC. People from the Top to the Bottom sit inches from each other.. they hold the door for each other, make sure kids get out with their parents. It's not utopia, but it's a lot more humane than a traffic jam.

Elitist. Please. I think the folks who are stuck in their Plush Pickups and disdain the thought of sitting with 'all the other freaks' are engaged in an elitism of fear.

When I lived in the Big Apple I would often get that look of a deer caught in the headlights from my less urban friends and relatives when I told them we would be going somewhere by subway. They would often suggest we take a cab, I would take perverse pleasure in responding with something along the lines of "Ya wanna get there today!?"

Though after a week or so they would be taking the trains all over town by themselves...

"The rich would accumulate property close to mass transit that everyone pays taxes for..."

I remember conversations about this with Californians back in the days of the oil shortages and the demise of the Shah. One takeaway was that there was no shortage of Angelenos to dance deliriously on the grave of the Pacific Electric (aka Red Cars) when it went under. Perhaps even more than any real-estate price-gouging issue, there was the simple and strongly, even bitterly, resented fact that the Pacific Electric had dictated where people could and could not live, simply (and unavoidably) by running its lines to some places but not others. The region wasn't anything like as crowded as it is now, and the coming of the freeways was widely seen as liberation.

In jampacked New York where I grew up it was more complicated. The freeways there were the brainchild of Robert Moses. He apparently encountered resistance even in the early days, but ultimately many of his roads were built. Towards the end of his career, there was a fuss when he apparently saw to it that the Verrazano-Narrows bridge was structurally unsuited to trains. Cities were for traffic; trains belonged in the past. Nonetheless, while all the "els" were torn down, the "subway" survived nearly intact, if for no other reason than sheer lack of places to park cars. (N.B.: there was never any doubt on the odd question of which overhead train lines were "els", now defunct, and which were instead "subways", some of which remain.)

Then there is Chicago, somewhere in between. I've been told the el lines were generally cut off at the new roads. Be that as it may, a considerable vestige of the original rail system survives, but on nothing like the scale of the original, or the scale of New York.

Maybe the real lesson here is that this country is too diverse (in a genuine sense, not the politically-correct but anthropologically suspect racial sense) for a Soviet-style (or Moses-style) one-size-fits-all top-down approach - much as something of the sort may be sought after by compulsive planners. This may imply in turn that many who wait for the Feds to swoop in and do it all for them - whatever "it" is in their locale - are likely to be disappointed. Expect deadlock: there won't be consensus on one approach, but the Feds can't tailor what they do to local needs for fear of being lambasted as "unfair" and de-funded.

Perhaps, but so far light rail here in Minneapolis, MN has been hugely popular and all the stations are being expanded to accommodate longer trains.

New electric trains also have regenerative braking that greatly increases their efficiency, so comparisons with 90-year-old technology may not be apt here.

Ultimately the point is rather moot, since a full build out of electrified light rail throughout the country is just no in the cards IMHO.

light rail here in Minneapolis, MN has been hugely popular

Light rail in Calgary has over ten times the ridership of the Minneapolis system, and gets all of its power from wind generators. However, it's unusually windy in Southern Alberta.

The popularity of light rail mostly results from a decision made some decades ago not to build downtown freeways. If everybody tried to drive to work, they'd never make it by quitting time. However, the LRT system has the capacity of a 16-lane freeway without the associated air pollution and noise.

The interesting thing about it is that Calgary has the headquarters of most of the oil companies in Canada. Using wind-powered trains to get to work frees up more oil to sell the U.S.

I routinely use streetcars built in 1923 & 1924 (oldest fleet in the world, just back to 24 hour operations after Katrina). I have been delayed by cars running in front of them and causing accidents (or knocking down a pole), but never a mechanical breakdown in service in 15 years. (One time track maintenance caused an "unscheduled interruption of service", with 24 hour service they work around the streetcars and about once a year we get buses on a Sunday :-(.

France is in the midst of building 1,500 km of new tram lines in a decade; every town of 100,000 gets at least one tram line (my favorite Mulhouse, pop. 110,900, gets three new tram lines).

But, of course, they are French, take every August off and have French bureaucrats in charge.

Best Hopes for New Tram Lines,


How do these "Optimists" - who recently made anti-PO claims in the paper - make a living?

I mean, they're obviously not good financial advisors as their price predictions have been way off... even though they write articles that make them sound as if they're giving investment advice.

So, how do they make a living?.. or, if they can't, who pays their salaries?.. or, do they even follow their own "investment" advice?

Hi Ig, if you are referring to Mike Lynch, recently of the NYT op-ed:

from the description for Michael Lynch, President and Director of Global Petroleum Service,
Strategic Energy & Economic Research Inc. (SEER)

His resume includes: PAST PROJECTS
*Developed the long-term oil market forecast for the Gas Research Institute
*Provided assistance in scenario planning for several large oil corporations
*Analyzed the economics of N. American natural gas supply for a multi-client study
*Advised the Secretary-General of OPEC on long-term oil prices
*Analyzed world natural gas supply for a 3-volume multi-sponsor study

To me this answers the question, "who benefits most from Peak Oil denial?"
Regards, Jeff

So there's money to be made by denying peak oil but not the inverse. I have trouble understanding why this would be the case. If I was the CEO of a mega oil company or the Secretary-General of OPEC, I would want to know the truth. I would not hire someone to prove something that I already believe in.

Hi Frugal, You do strike me as someone who wants to know the truth. :)
Let me 'splain it best I can.

First you have to read what the hack says about Peaksters and alternatives to oil.
Lynches' best line was at the end of his recent op-ed:
"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".
It is as if his agenda is keeping up demand for his clients products while knocking down demand for their competitors.
Even if he is half right (e.g."harebrained renewable energy schemes")half the time, his cornucopian take is better for business and share prices than if he is saying "nobody will be able to afford this stuff in a few years."
He is also famous for his low price forecasts. I'm guessing he lends some credibility to the cornucopian view of the world and P.O. is a dangerous idea that needs to be countered.
I'm guessing.


IMO your "trouble understanding" starts with your flawed assumption of management behaviour and information sharing. Generally speaking,important information is not widely shared-if it was, it would lose its value. If you want to know what a CEO knows on any subject, you cannot use their statements as evidence in any way-actions are a more useful guide.

So you hire a guy like Lynch to write a report or a piece in the New York Times for propaganda purposes only, not for any useful information about probable future oil prices or production rates. The CEO already knows about peak oil but want's to squeeze out as much profit for the corporation, or more likely for himself, before the company folds due to high extraction costs of the remaining oil.

On the other hand, hiring a guy like Simmons would lead to strong conservation measures -- not good for profits.

I got it now.

Elites and their Ideology-spouting Minions

So you hire a guy like Lynch to ...

Not exactly.

Peak Oil is symptomatic of bigger picture issues in our society.

In regard to Lynch and his ilk, there are so-called Think Tanks

And then there are those who directly or indirectly support the Think Tanks through donations channeled via various money laundering organizations.

The reason why a person or company may support a given Think-Tanking organization may vary. Basically, the think tank is supportive of an ideology that the donor wants to promote --for what ever reason, good or bad.

Lots of money to be made from PO frugal. Besides appreciating PO one also needs the capital. My new boss made his fortune trading equities and commodities. He liquidated all the company's holding before the crash last year. Now we're a new O&G start up buying every good drillig deal (there's are tons of them out there with no buyers). Plan forward: spend around $300 million over the next 4 or 5 years, develop a lot of in ground reserves and then cash out the company on the next price spike. This isn't a difficult model to construct. Everyone in the oil patch with a lick of sense recognizes it. The big difference is that very few have the capital to "buy low...sell high."

Everyone here seems to think that these guys actually believe in PO denial....

1. Ideology does affect perception, so some are not lying.

2. Ideology affects perception primarily if one allows it to. I personally believe we always know when we are lying to ourselves, subconsciously, and that anyone who is at all reflective and looks at data objectively knows when they are lying their asses off.

3. I believe that virtually all of those people leading/funding denial fall into #2 above. The memo out of the GCC as revealed by the NYT is all the evidence one needs, though there is much more.

To sum up, most at the top are lying sacks of dung; most at the bottom are essentially brainwashed.


Re reinsurance, here's some interesting data from Munich Re:

Graph of the Day: Losses from Floods, Windstorms, and Earthquakes, 1980-2005

It's primarily a function of more people building more stuff in nature's way, and not so much of natural events intensifying in frequency or severity. Even if "floods" (I hate that term) have intensified in frequency or severity, this is a function of human activity (livestock grazing, deforestation) degrading watersheds. Even more it's a function of people stupidly having developed these degraded watersheds. If hurricanes have intensified it's because people have dumped high heat capacity gasses into the atmosphere resulting in warmed surface water over which hurricanes develop. People have no one or nothing to blame for these events and this destruction but themselves. We bring on our own demise via our own profligacy and stupidity.

I posted this Graph of Peak Cheapness a few days ago but have been thinking about it a little more over the weekend:

-I think this is a great graph to show to any Techno-Cornucopians, particularly since Tech people (myself included) are so used to Moores Law relentlessly decreasing prices

-Simply ask them if technology is getting so much better then why is it so much more expensive to deliver this stuff to market now than it was 10 years ago since so much 'progress' must have been made since then...

...then hit them with the awful truth that it is simply because we have already sucked the Earth dry of the cheap and easily accessible stuff and applying ever more 'technology' is actually going to make costs go up as we go forward. It will blow their tiny tech-minds! Boom! there goes mine!


Nick - can you expain this chart please. I cannae read it!


Right, I haven't a clue as to what the chart is about, the numbers are just too small to read. I can make out a few of them but not enough to figure out what it is all about.

Ron P.

If you goto www.stockcharts.com and enter $USD:$WTIC and set the timespan to 20 years with a landscape format you will get a similiar graph.
This is the US $ index divided by oil price and gives an indication of the relative 'cheapness' of oil over the past 20 years -higher peaks are cheaper.
The highest peak is back in 1999 when oil was around $10 a barrel. This was 'Peak Cheapness' (or indeed "Peak Affordability"...)


Instead of "Peak Cheapness", I think I would call it "Peak Affordability".

Post from a couple of days back Noutram referred to: Permalink.

Your instructions from that post on how to make your chart:

(Goto www.stockcharts.com and enter $USD:$WTIC -set timescale for 20 years, weekly, line)

What kind of correlation do you use to arrive at that - looks like direct 1:1 if I give it a good squint. I've messed about with this data a tad myself, as do many others - charting WTI vs. inverted dollar to show R2, or lack thereof for that matter; apparently gold and the S&P move more in lockstep with the $. I've tried using Dollar Index data from the Fed to make my own charts but I don't see the same results as I get searching for graphs with Google.

The red and blue lines are moving averages. Wasn't aware you could do so much with stockcharts.com as a free subscriber, but at the moment I'm trying to zoom out of that 20 year range, are you a paid subscriber, noutram?

What Public services will still be available is gonna be interesting over the next couple of years.

Strapped cities lay off workers, cancel projects

As sales and income taxes decline, 9 of 10 cities are forced to cut spending. Future looks grim with property taxes expected to drop in 2010 and 2011.

Future looks grim with property taxes expected to drop in 2010 and 2011.

I'd like nothing better than to see my property taxes drop over the next couple years. If that meant fewer pirates (traffic cops) on the streets, so much the better.

More likely it will have the opposite effect.

Yeah, falling revenues will likely lead to tax increases. My city has received some sort of Obama stimulus grant to hire five new cops. I'm really sorry that I voted for the guy.

Schools force teacher furloughs to trim budgets

ATLANTA - High school librarian Melissa Payne is starting her new school year with $1,000 less in her paycheck and three days that she'll be forced to stay home from her job.

It's the same story across the country, where teachers — once among the groups exempted from furlough days — are being forced to take unpaid days off amid massive state budget cuts.

Univ. of Texas ends merit scholarship program

AUSTIN, Texas - The University of Texas at Austin is pulling out of the National Merit Scholarship Program to focus on needs-based financial assistance.

The university — second only to Harvard in the number of merit scholars enrolled — said budget pressures were causing it to end its participation in the merit-based program, which awards scholarships to top high school achievers.

I heard this on the radio while driving, so I don't remember who actually said it, but this piece said that the average college grad has a 19% chance of being hired after graduation.

Does anyone know how this "19%" is arrived at? (is it hired immediately after graduating?.. what are the chances after (say) 3 months?.. etc.).

Interesting side-note along these lines. Our local school district is suing the county assessor's office because they are reassessing houses at lower prices and therefore shrinking property tax collections, which in turn lowers money to the school district. Catch-22 for me...I have kids in public school and want to make sure they have a decent education, but surely don't mind paying lower property taxes.

Yikes. That's ugly.

Williams says that when he takes into consideration people who haven't looked for work in more than a year because they can't find jobs, the real unemployment rate today goes all the way up to 20.6 percent by his calculations. "It won't take much to get it to the worst since the Great Depression," he says.

Rhode Island wants to furlough their state workers 12 days before June. I know it's tough for people to take that kind of pay cut, but it's better than losing your job. I really think a shorter work week is the best solution. It's still going to hurt, but it won't be so bad if everyone's affected. The time off could be used for money-saving chores like cooking, sewing, gardening, and carpentry, to run a small side business, and/or do volunteer work. In short - to transition to the post-peak world.

Are you from RI?
I grew up in Westerly.

No, though I've been there on occasion.

I'm just keeping an eye on the various state budget situations. Rhode Island, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Hawaii, Arizona, etc. Some painful cuts this year, and it's likely going to be worse next year.

Some net export numbers I came up with while working on our update to the top five net oil exporter paper.

As of 2008, 17 current net oil exporters have shown one or more years of net export declines. The median net export decline rate is -5.5%/year, within a range from -1.46%/year (Equatorial Guinea) to -46.0%/year (Vietnam).

The median net export decline rate for four former net oil exporters would be between Indonesia and Egypt--about -28%/year.

Of course these are all calculated decline rates over the decline periods. Net export decline rates, on a year to year basis, tend to accelerate with time.

Hello WT,

Thxs for the constant ELM updates, but I sure hope you are not working your pardner Sam, the Data-Man, down to his bare fingernubs & little sleep! :)

Hi Westexas,
What fraction of total exports can be attributed to these 17 net exporters?

Probably about two-thirds, but I haven't had time to add them up yet.

I wanted to post a quick note of thanks to all the readers and contributors here. This site is one of the most consistently informative and has given me a lot of help with some analysis I have done for my own blog. I reference material here all the time, so I thought I'd share a series I did on oil depletion. The territory has been covered before (and in more detail) but hopefully it will spark some discussion for less-specialized people who come to my site. Here is the summary page.

Thanks again - this site should be required reading for everyone concerned with energy issues.

Hello TODers,

Regarding the Lynch reply in the DB toplink: IMO, he doesn't even give us a single empirical data bone to chew on; nothing for us to attempt to digest pro or con [probably resulting with us having an uncomfortable upchuck later]==>thus, I have nothing to say.

In the comment section of his blog, RBradley offered his paper [PDF Warning]:

Resourceship: An Austrian theory of mineral resources

[From 69, 7 of 28]:

“To explain the price of oil, we must discard all assumptions of a fixed stock and an inevitable long run price rise and rule out nothing a priori,” found Adelman. “Whether scarcity has been or is increasing is a question of fact” (Adelman, 1995, p. 22). Hotelling’s
analysis was not wrong given his assumptions; his assumptions did not hold in the real world. Adelman gave an example concerning the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties (OPEC):
Under competition, low-cost oil would be more quickly and intensively produced in the member countries of OPEC than in non-OPEC countries. . . . [Yet an] anomaly is seen within OPEC. The lower-cost oil is held back; the higher-cost oil is produced. Again it refutes the thesis that higher prices are due to expected still-higher prices acting via “Hotelling rent” (1993, p. xiv).
I don't know where Adelman got his 1993 and earlier data on OPEC low-cost & high-cost crude, and the volumes associated with this production, as I would think that would have been OPEC & Saudi State secrets [especially today with EOR, tarmat EXOR, and Red Sea E & P].
Simmons and ASPO would love to examine such proprietary data today.

Additionally, the highest cost crude, whether light/sweet or heavy/sour, will still be determined during the final phase of OPEC extraction, most likely during the 'scraping of the dregs' of tarmat exploitation, and if nodding horseheads can squeeze any additional amounts out later.

From my point of view: I see no evidence that OPEC low-cost crude was held back. Standard reservoir sweep technique dictates that peripheral areas are swept first, advancing progressively to the top of the anticline because, duh, oil floats on water.

For example, if OPEC was really going after the high-cost 'hard fruit' first: KSA alone would have reversed their E & P process. They would first randomly punch tens of thousands of holes in the Rub A Khali and the Red Sea to get whatever is there out first, next the tarmats [onshore & offshore], then low permeability layers in the Zone-D, finally the easy oil working their way to the anticline top. Obviously, this make no sense from a geo-discovery context.

It also makes no commonsense. Even a bear is going to raid the honey from ground beehives first, then climb the tree to extract the honey from the last swarm near the top.

The main tilt to most of the Climate Change articles I read is that we don't know enough about what is happening because we can't get our models to fit the climate we see around us. So instead of further study let us start throwing things at the problem we see hoping one of them will fix the thing we fear.

What do we fear? Changing the Status Quo, 7 billion people all driving to work in an SUV living in a 4,000 sf house, Eating the fat of the land.

Look folks, we are not going to solve this problem unless we give up on the Status Quo.

Climate Change models aren't going to help us much. We have reached that point where the snow is heading downhill faster than we can run away from it.

Rant off.

Recent item on the Chevron lawsuit. I am uncertain whether this has been posted or discussed.

Regarding General Clark's notion to require Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on gasoline because he (apparently) thinks that will help gull even more suckers into supporting his ethanomaniac fantasies, I suggest that TODers and other sentient beings all should support this COOL idea . . . PROVIDED, however, that one other little labeling thing is applied to all forms of forms of energy sold for ultimate use, at point of sale:

Net energy output per unit of fossil energy invested.

Thus, Brazilian ethanol, should any be offered here, would identify the source country (Brazil) and the BTUs (net) per BTU of fossil energy invested in producing the ethanol and shipping it to the point of delivery.

But, so too would Iowa ethanol . . . (USA and a much lower or even a negative number).

Likewise, your electricity would come with a (kWh (net)/kWh fossil energy) label based on your utility's averages.

Your natural gas bill -- same.

No doubt General Clark, patriot that he is, and ex-CIA Woolsey, patriot that he is, would both want Americans to not only know the country where their energy originates, but also how much fossil energy was required to deliver each unit of energy to them.

It's a totally impractical idea, as amusing as it may be.

Much better to simply raise the tariff on imported FF. Invisible to the consumer, but it isn't the consumer that really decides where what they buy comes from these days, is it?

Interesting, David MacKay writes in the NYT that

"The peaks of oil and gas production are expected to be reached within the next 50 years, and coal production is likely to peak about the end of this century, if business continues as usual."

so, nothing to worry about (but not regarding the climate change)...

No, not nothing to worry about. Read the last paragraph of his piece, on page 2:

The effort required for a plan like that is very large, but imaginable. Countries that claim to be serious about creating an alternative energy future need to choose a plan, stop arguing and get building.

Also, bear in mind that he is a physicist and thinks in mathematical terms:

"Oil production will peak at time Tp from the present, where

           -4 years <= Tp < 50 years.

(with three standard deviations margin of error). Likewise for gas."

That comes out in a newspaper article as "within 50 years".


I have read his whole excellent book (www.withouthotair.com), and actually, I am translating it. I have also read the whole piece in NYT. But, if regular reader of NYT reads sentences like that, he might come to the conclusion, that peak oilers are total trolls... but who knows...?

Ok, David explained it to me - within next 50 years means also next year...

Or even right now. On the other hand if you say "within 50 years" most people hear "in 50 years", the rest is indistinct buzzing noises.


that was actually my point...

Ilargi at TAE has a few things to say about China. He nicely sums up many of the things that have been discussed at TOD recently:

In my view, those dollar reserves most of all mean power for Beijing. And not just the power of the threat of dumping them. Once that would happen, the power would disappear. How could that be good for China? It might be 10 or 20 years from now, in a greatly changed environment, perhaps, but not now. Seeing the foreign reserves lose some of their value along with the dollar has never been a major issue. There are so many commodities that China buys in the world markets that are denominated in US dollars they are laughing all the way to the bank on that one. All the more so since they still have the cash to buy what they want, something we can't say for every country these days.


It's generally thought that China needs its economy to grow at 8%, just to prevent widespread social unrest. Of course that's the number Beijing says in being achieved right now, but look at the export numbers. They’re down 20-30% or more. And there's no way you can grow your economy with numbers like that. Nor can you grow a domestic market for your products fast enough. And stimulus plans, as they do in the US, must eventually fail if they do nothing but shift money from one pocket in your pants to the other.


Talking about power politics, how about having 90%+ of the supply of some of the most needed resources in the world in your hands? You also have to love the fact that for us to look "green" (God, I despise that term), we need China to utterly destroy its environment. Whatever green is, smart it ain't.

That's really something to consider: if our green technology depends on people pillaging their environment half way across the world, can we really advocate its increasing use? A green economy is not what we should aspire to. A drastic powerdown is.

Lots of talk about bicycle commuting on TOD, but in Toronto it is fairly risky. Our former Attorney General just did a number on a bike courier (the charges are expectedly on the light side considering the influence of the accused) http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/689220

Regarding "The Bankruptcy of American - End of the Petrodollar System" above, the article is chock full of mistakes, beginning with the title. A few paragraphs down we encounter this gem:

Currently, the world consumes more than 80 billion barrels of oil per day.

Whoa! At that rate we will have consumed the world's oil endowment within a year!

On the whole it's a fairly good article, but the editorial quality at prophezine.com isn't quite what it should be...