Drumbeat: September 3, 2009

Jeremy Leggett: Oil still has us over a barrel

The spate of recent giant oilfield discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico, Iran, Uganda and Brazil is welcome. A cohesive society will depend on plentiful supplies of oil for years to come, no matter how quickly we can mobilise low-carbon electricity stored in batteries and other climate-friendly fuels of the future. But concerns that we face a premature descent of global oil production over the next decade are unchanged.

The full list of reasons to worry was summarised by the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security (ITPOES) in its report last year. Three key concerns on that list are the rapid rate at which existing oilfields are depleting, the length of time it takes to bring the increasingly rare finds of new giant oilfields on stream, and the inadequate levels of investment made by the oil industry – as a whole – in recent years.

The Peak Oil Crisis: As Summer Ends

The price of oil at the moment is an enigma. After falling from nearly $150 a barrel, which nearly throttled the world economy last summer, to circa $30 a barrel last December, prices have crept back to where they are now flirting with $75 a barrel. World consumption is down by about 3 million barrels a day (b/d), but this drop seems to be mostly in OECD nations where industrial activity has undergone a major decline. The developing nations such as China and India seem to be maintaining or even increasing their oil consumption.

This situation has left forecasts of future oil prices all over the map, with some predicting declines to last winter's levels and others foreseeing spikes. While a price drop would help the US economy, a spike to $100 a barrel and beyond would be disastrous.

2012: Will it be the end of the world as we know it?

The reduction of global oil stocks is, of course a reality, with the world's economies consuming - financial collapses excepted - ever-increasing amounts of the black gold. But peak oil theory centres around supply and demand and postulates that, at some point, demand will outstrip supply. When is this likely to happen? Some believe that it already has while others think that it is likely to happen some time between now and 2020. A number of doomer sites link peak oil with the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012. Demand for oil outstripping supply would have huge consequences around the world given that most economies are powered by oil, agriculture is completely dependent upon it for fertilisers and pesticides and the plastics industry is based on oil extraction. A collapse in social order following a peak in oil production is, therefore, something to be taken seriously.

UNC professor makes progress on new peak oil class

I checked in today with UNC physics professor Gerald Cecil, who I interviewed last year for a series of stories I wrote on the peak oil concept. Cecil and professors from four other departments are moving forward with the scheduling of a Spring 2010 freshman seminar course called "Energy and Environmental Crises."

Up to 125 students can enroll in the 100-level course, which will explain to students the background, causes and possible implications of peak oil and climate change. The last portion of the class will focus on what students can do through future careers and lifestyles to address these issues, Cecil said.

Chevron says Nigeria onshore oil operations normal

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. energy company Chevron said its Nigerian onshore oil operations, which had previously suffered disruptions, were functioning as normal on Thursday.

Venezuela's oil policy: A sticky proposition

IN A world in which oil is scarcer, the 272 billion barrels of heavy crude that Venezuela reckons are contained in the oil sands of its Orinoco basin ought to seem like a more attractive proposition to multinationals and state oil firms alike. Yet three times this year Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state oil company, has postponed bidding for seven blocks in the Orinoco which officials think would yield 1m barrels per day of synthetic oil. The reason: the terms on offer are even stiffer than those being contemplated by Brazil’s government, and the uncertainty is even greater.

ANALYSIS - No guarantee of success for Iraq's next oil auction

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A chance to develop some of the world's last remaining untapped oil reserves. A crack at giant fields with low extraction costs. In theory too good for oil majors to resist when Iraq holds a second oil auction this year?

If an initial bidding round in June, from which most oil executives walked out empty-handed and shaking their heads at Iraq's stiff contract terms, is any guide, it may well not be.


CRITICS of the exploitation of Canada’s tar sands watched gleefully this year as the collapse in the oil price did what their opposition could not: dent the oil industry’s enthusiasm for this mixture of sand and bitumen, which generates a lot of pollution when it is extracted and “upgraded” into oil. A year after crude markets began their slump, however, there are green shoots appearing in the ravaged muskeg soil. On August 31st PetroChina, a state-owned Chinese oil firm, agreed to pay C$1.9 billion ($1.7 billion) for a majority stake in two tar-sands projects.

The fluorescent light bulb boogeyman

Experts say the super efficient bulbs - soon to dominate store shelves - are plenty safe. But skeptics remain.

Drought Withers Iraqi Farms, Food Supplies

Iraq has one of the largest oil reserves in the world, but it's running out of another valuable commodity: water.

Iraq's ancient name, Mesopotamia, means the land between two rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates, which flow into Iraq from Turkey and Syria. But water is now so limited for agriculture that Iraq imports 80 percent of the food Iraqis eat.

During the holy month of Ramadan, traditional foods that typically come from Iraqi farms are getting harder to find.

Has runaway Arctic warming already begun?

Runaway warming of the Arctic threatens to spread climate havoc across the globe in the coming decades, according to a new study by the environment group WWF. But has the process already begun? Climate scientists meeting at the World Climate Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, where the report was launched today, are in two minds.

Clean Coal in China Said to Face ‘Staggering’ Costs

(Bloomberg) -- Western governments pushing China to use clean-coal technology may need to lower their expectations for the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases.

Costs will total as much as $400 billion over 30 years to install systems to capture carbon dioxide from power plant smokestacks in China and bury it underground, said Richard Morse, a Stanford University research associate and author of a study on the technology. China has little incentive to invest because it will raise power prices and it’s unclear if wealthier nations will pick up the bill, Morse said in an interview.

Sweet dreams are made of geoengineering

LONDON (Reuters) - Farming plankton, sending solar panels into orbit, remodeling hydrogen -- for the latest wave of entrepreneurs suggesting easier ways out of climate change, it's all in a day's pitching.

Beyond grabbing headlines, such notions are attracting serious scientific attention and venture funding from investors who at least until the collapse of Lehman Brothers lent credibility to high-risk investment propositions.

John Michael Greer: The dawn of scarcity industrialism

This was the announcement a few days back that the world derivative market has now reached a total paper value in excess of one quadrillion dollars. The conventional wisdom has it that such sums are beyond the capacity of the human mind to grasp, and in this case, the conventional wisdom may well be right. (If you have the sort of fashionable lifestyle that costs you $2000 a day, for example, and you started spending it when multicellular life first evolved on Earth, you wouldn’t yet have spent one quadrillion dollars.) Still, it’s important to grapple with such figures if only to grasp the fantastic absurdities that have created them.

In thinking about this particular version of the unthinkable, two things should be obvious. The first is that there isn’t a quadrillion dollars worth of nonfinancial goods and services anywhere on our planet. The second, which derives necessarily from the first, is that those derivatives aren’t actually worth a quadrillion dollars in any meaningful sense, since it’s impossible to cash them in for anything other than more financial paper.

Monbiot: We're pumping out CO2 to the point of no return. It's time to alter course: Join me in taking the 10:10 pledge – it's the best shot we've got left

Until a few months ago, government targets for cutting greenhouse gases at least had the virtue of being wrong. They were the wrong targets, by the wrong dates, and they bore no relationship to the stated aim of preventing more than 2C of global warming. But they used a methodology that even their sternest critics (myself included) believed could be improved until it delivered the right results: the cuts just needed to be raised and accelerated.

Three papers released earlier this year changed all that. The first, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February, showed that the climate change we cause today will be "largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop". About 40% of the carbon dioxide produced by humans this century will remain in the atmosphere until at least the year 3000. Moreover, thanks to the peculiar ways in which the oceans absorb heat from the atmosphere, global average temperatures are likely to "remain approximately constant … until the end of the millennium despite zero further emissions"

BP Will Postpone Restarting Badami Oil Field

Don't look for BP to restart production from its troublesome Badami oil field anytime soon. BP told the state that it will submit an application to suspend operations and production at Badami for another year, until Aug. 31, 2010, according to Petroleum News. The state previously had approved suspension through August of this year.

BP also disclosed in the report that idling Badami -- BP shut down the field in the fall of 2007 -- hasn't worked as hoped to revive reservoir pressure. Badami is the easternmost field to produce oil on the North Slope. BP put Badami on stream in August 1998 with hopes of making 30,000 barrels a day.

Brazil Group Says Plan Unfair to Petrobras Minorities

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s plan to increase the capital of Petroleo Brasileiro SA is unfair to minority shareholders because they will have to pay for new shares in cash, the head of the Brazilian association of investors said.

“Minority shareholders will have to participate with cash, while the government will use a future asset, with uncertain price and uncertain results,” Edison Garcia, superintendent of the association known as Amec, said today from Sao Paulo. “There is uncertainty and consequently a risk.”

Nexen makes ‘substantial' North Sea find

Nexen Inc. NXY-T said on Thursday it has made a “substantial” discovery of additional energy resources in the U.K. North Sea in the Golden Eagle area.

The Calgary-based oil and gas company said it estimates Golden Eagle contains the equivalent of between 150 million and 275 million barrels of oil, classified as recoverable contingent resource.

Energy policy tank on empty

Sen. Isakson was in town Tuesday and took time to meet with The Albany Herald Editorial Board. Asked about national energy policy, Isakson said, "It's impossible with the health care debate to get anybody to talk about anything else."

He noted that America has already had two golden opportunities to tackle the issue. The first was in the 1970s when energy prices escalated. The second was last summer and early fall. In both cases, the furor to do something positive died down when the crisis at hand did.

"The next time prices spiral," Isakson said, "it's strike three and we're out."

California green energy plan

California is taking a more aggressive stance on deriving more power from renewable resources. The current energy contracts and rolling blackouts are not enough to relieve the state from the energy crisis. Renewable power advocates have been pressuring Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers to deliver a new plan—to require one-third of California’s energy to come from renewable resources by 2010.

Currently the mandate is at 20 percent, making this goal a 13 percent leap in just over 10 years. The objective is to stabilize the supply and cost of the energy market as well as establishing a cleaner industry utilizing solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable sources. Also, the state wants to prevent a repeat of the 2000-01 energy crisis.

Ontario to close four coal units

Ontario Power Generation will close four coal-burning power generating units next year.

OPG will close two of eight coal-burning units at its Nanticoke station near Simcoe and two of four units at its Lambton plant near Sarnia by October, 2010.

Someday, motorists may be taxed by the mile

Mica said the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon is simply not bringing in sufficient revenues to repair the nation’s highways and bridges. The cash shortage became so acute last year, he noted, the Congress had to add $8 billion from general revenues to the Highway Transportation Trust Fund.

To compound the unforeseen side effect of the improved mileage of the newer vehicles, Mica predicted the decline in fuel-tax collections will accelerate because of the sour economy and the drive to alternative fuels.

Thus, he concluded, another means of raising the revenue necessary for roads linking the nation will be required. That new possibility may be devices that let Uncle Sam know how many miles a car or truck travels each year.

Kenya: Power rationing to end in October

The first week of October marks the end of the ongoing power rationing.

But the bad news is, consumers will have to foot higher bills since more money will be required to fuel the emergency thermoelectric plants being installed.

...The energy crisis was caused by the persistent drought in the country that resulted in the closure of Masinga dam in July, the country's main water reservoir.

The country that largely relies on hydroelectric plants for 90% of its power generation has continued to record low rainfall, but the government has been faulted for poor planning and bureaucracy which have made private investment almost impossible.

The promise and limits of local food

EATING LOCAL is all the rage. As someone who dropped out to become a community farmer in the 1970s, and still farms, I am delighted. As someone who later dropped back into academia to become an environmental historian, I have my doubts about how much we can grow in New England. Watching some of my best students head down the same path, I feel I owe their parents an explanation.

Sugar rush for hyperactive Brics

All splendid news for Brazilian sugar plantation owners, you might think. But whereas India has had a shortage of rainfall, Brazil's cane crops have been waterlogged by heavier-than-expected downpours.

Sugar-cane needs dry weather to ripen in order to maximise its sucrose content, but northern Sao Paulo state, one of the key areas of cultivation, has had its heaviest August rainfall in 60 years.

That means more customers chasing less of the sweet stuff - and those customers include not only people with a sweet tooth, but also the majority of Brazil's motorists.

Russia Offers 49% Stake in Kaliningrad Nuclear Power Project to European Neighbors

GALWAY, IRELAND – Researched by Industrial Info Resources (Sugar Land, Texas)–In a recent development, Russia has expressed interest in offering up to a 49% stake in the proposed 2,300-megawatt (MW) nuclear power project in Neman, Kaliningrad, to neighboring European countries. The option to buy a stake in the project has been proposed to Poland, Lithuania and Germany, which are expected to receive power from the facility.

Rest stops get 'green' facelifts

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — Heading south on Florida's Turnpike, one of the last pit stops near the end of the road is here at Milepost 65. Much like the seven other gas-and-food rest areas on the 312-mile toll road, the Pompano Service Plaza was built in the 1950s, got a makeover in the '80s and now looks like it badly needs a facelift.

It will be getting that and more when four of the eight service plazas on the turnpike are torn down and rebuilt and others remodeled.

The real stunner: They will be "green" and built to strict environmental standards.

Mazda giving green twist to rotary engine

Mazda, the small Japanese affiliate of Ford Motor Co., is betting it has a unique weapon in its own powertrain arsenal, the Wankel, or rotary engine. Small, simple and lightweight, it was once seen as a promising substitute for the piston engine, but never lived up to its initial expectations.

But now Mazda believes the Wankel could move from a niche to mainstream source of power, and one that could be brought to market sooner and at a significantly lower cost than the fuel cell vehicles and battery cars on which other manufacturers are showering their attention —and billions in research dollars.

U.N. Reports on Developing Nations’ Energy Needs

UNITED NATIONS — It will cost between $500 billion and $600 billion every year for the next 10 years to allow developing nations to grow using renewable energy resources, instead of relying on dirty fuels that worsen global warming, according to a United Nations report released Tuesday.

That astronomical estimate, far higher than any previously suggested by the United Nations, comes at a time when developed and developing nations are still deeply divided over who bears the responsibility for shouldering the expense of deploying cleaner energy resources, much less what the actual amount might be.

The issue of who will foot the bill remains one of the significant hurdles to reaching a global agreement on combating climate change by December in Copenhagen. Much of the focus in the talks has also been on significant emissions cuts.

Spain's Solar-Power Collapse Dims Subsidy Model

Spain's hopes of becoming a world leader in solar power have collapsed since the Spanish government slammed the brakes on generous subsidies.

The sudden change has rippled across the global solar industry, in a warning of the problems that government-supported renewable-energy programs can encounter.

Dutch move into fast lane with 'bicycle highways'

The Hague – The Netherlands plans to invest EUR 25 million to build more bicycle highways and increase bicycle usage among commuters, announced the ministry of traffic and waterways Monday.

The plan is part of a government initiative to promote bicycle use, especially among those who commute to work everyday by car.

Street talk: Timing the turnaround

While not nearly as bullish as during the Jeff Rubin days, CIBC World Markets remains optimistic on the long-term prospects for oil.

..."We are really draining the bottom of the barrel," says CIBC senior economist Peter Buchanan. "The least costly oil has largely been produced, so the resources being tapped now are more expensive."

Threadneedle to Expand Fund Size as Commodities Rally

(Bloomberg) -- Threadneedle Asset Management Ltd. is seeking to increase its commodity fund to as much as $1 billion in the next two years as the global economic recovery drives a rally in oil, sugar and metals.

Saudi, Kuwait extend deadline for oilfield work

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - A joint venture between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait has extended the bidding deadline by over two months for a contract to expand water facilities at the al-Khafji oilfield, the company said.

Khafji, which is in the Neutral Zone between the two countries, has oil capacity of around 550,000 bpd.

Aramco, Dow eye $4 billion savings on petchem JV: paper

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco and Dow Chemical expect to save around $4 billion on their joint petrochemical complex as slowing economic activity cuts project costs, the al-Hayat newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The estimated cost of the plant was at least $20 billion before reduction, al-Hayat said. The fall was due the global economic situation, the newspaper reported sources as saying.

The project at the Saudi energy hub of Ras Tanura is two years behind the initial schedule.

Saudi Aramco close to awarding US$6.9 bil. of Gas contracts at Shaybah and Manifa oilfields

Aramco is said to be still torn between two scenarios for the Manifa development: constructing greenfield onshore facilities for the production of 750 mmcf/d of sales gas and 1,700 t/d of sulphur; or upgrading and expanding existing gas treatment facilities in the region. Gas from the Arabiya gas field, discovered last year, will be included in the planned Manifa gas project feedstock. At the larger Shaybah project, the NGL programme calls for the installation of a NGL recovery facility, debottlenecking of existing gas-oil separation plants (GOSPs) and the installation of NGL handling facilities at the Berri gas plant, downstream from the recovery plant, Dow Jones reports.

CPC to Plant Crops for Biodiesel in Indonesia, Daily Reports

(Bloomberg) -- CPC Corp. and Induk Kud signed an initial agreement for the Taiwanese oil refiner to plant crops for biodiesel in Indonesia, the Economic Daily News reported yesterday, citing an unidentified CPC official.

One Man’s Trash ...

In 1997 Mr. Phillips mortgaged his house to start his construction company, Phoenix Commotion. “Look at kids playing with blocks,” he said. “I think it’s in everyone’s DNA to want to be a builder.” Moreover, he said, he was disturbed by the irony of landfills choked with building materials and yet a lack of affordable housing.

To him, almost anything discarded and durable is potential building material. Standing in one of his houses and pointing to a colorful, zigzag-patterned ceiling he made out of thousands of picture frame corners, Mr. Phillips said, “A frame shop was getting rid of old samples, and I was there waiting.”

Icecap photo shows 'mother nature in tears'

Marine photographer and environmental lecturer Michael Nolan captured the pictures while on an annual voyage to observe the largest icecap in Norway Austfonna on July 16.

He said the image looked just like mother nature in tears, "as if she was crying about our inability to reduce global warming".

BP’s ‘Giant’ Oil Discovery May Revive Exploration in U.S. Gulf

(Bloomberg) -- BP Plc’s latest Gulf of Mexico discovery, the biggest U.S. oil find in three years, may spur an exploration revival in a region thought by some industry executives to be played out after output slumped.

...The announcement brings new attention to a region where offshore exploration was pioneered more than six decades ago when the former Kerr-McGee Corp. drilled the world’s first commercial oil well out of sight of land. It struck crude in October 1947, Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates Inc., wrote in “The Prize,” his book on the industry’s history.

The region has lost favor among some producers. Exxon Mobil Corp., the biggest U.S. oil company, hasn’t emphasized Gulf of Mexico exploration because most discoveries haven’t been large enough to justify the expense, Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson told reporters in March 2008.

BP taps vast pool of crude in deepest oil well

It's an expensive process. A production platform costs more than $1 billion to build. Drilling a deep-water well can add another $100 million, and if crude is located, it could cost another $50 million to bring the oil to the surface.

"And when they finally get down there, it's very hot," said Leta Smith, a director with Cambridge Energy Research Associates' Global Oil Supply Group.

"It could be upwards of 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The pressures can be the most challenging aspect of it. These rocks are over-pressured, which means you need to have a lot of special equipment."

For an ambitious project like Tiber to pay off, experts say crude must cost at least $70 to $75 per barrel, though lower prices have never slowed the industry. When crude prices fell below $20 per barrel in the late 1990s, exploration and Thunder Horse never slowed.

BP Pushes Back Exploration Boundaries With Gulf of Mexico Find

Bloomberg) -- BP Plc’s “giant” oil discovery beneath the Gulf of Mexico shows the lengths producers are having to go to replace dwindling reserves because many of the world’s largest fields remain off-limits.

Restricted access to deposits in the Middle East, Russia and Venezuela and advances in technology have spurred a shift toward harder-to-access reserves that would once have been unreachable. BP has pushed back the frontiers of exploration in North America in the past. It discovered Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay field, still the biggest oil field in the U.S., in 1969.

Oil still years away at BP Gulf of Mexico find

HOUSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - A big new oil find by BP may spur excitement about the Gulf of Mexico's deepwater potential, but technical challenges mean that it could be years before any oil is brought to the surface.

BP described its Tiber discovery as "giant," which according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration is a find of 500 million barrels or more.

But the field is located in 4,132 feet (1,259 meters) of water in the Gulf of Mexico, 250 miles (400 km) southeast of Houston, and commercial production could be delayed for a decade.

City gushes over BP’s find in Gulf of Mexico

Sadly, the discovery of new oil wells is no longer accompanied by the black stuff spurting high into the air. Apparently, a fountain of oil happens these days only if something has gone horribly wrong.

BP’s Tiber discovery in the Gulf of Mexico was an altogether more sober affair. But there will be quiet satisfaction in the BP boardroom and for chief executive Tony Hayward, for whom this is by far the biggest find since he took over two years ago.

Plenty of Oil—Just Drill Deeper

You can tune out all the scare talk about Peak Oil for a while—probably a long while. Peak Oil is the theory, on the verge of becoming conventional wisdom, that the world's petroleum supply is topping out and will not be able to meet global demand soaring along with the economies of China and India. But a successful test in a mammoth field deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico, announced on Sept. 5 by Chevron, Devon Energy, and Norway's Statoil, should help put that scary scenario on hold for decades.
(This article is actually from 2006. For some reason it was picked up as new. Perhaps because it sounds almost exactly like the articles about BP's finds.)

OPEC to Keep Production Quota Steady a Third Time, Survey Shows

(Bloomberg) -- OPEC will probably leave production quotas unchanged for a third time when it meets in Vienna next week, while urging members to complete record supply cuts announced in late 2008, a Bloomberg survey showed.

Oil has gained 54 percent this year, last month reaching the $75 level identified by Saudi King Abdullah as satisfactory for consumers and producers. The rebound in prices may have weakened the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ determination to drain excess inventories from the market.

Oil sands output to double by 2013: report

Output from Canada's oil sands will double and profits in the oil business will triple by 2013 as rising crude prices kick-start mega-projects delayed by the economic downturn, the Conference Board of Canada said yesterday.

First Nations' oilsands fight hits court

A debate over when aboriginal groups should be consulted during the development of oilsands sites hit an Alberta court this week, with the province arguing the time to object to specific oilsands leases had passed. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation filed a court challenge last year, questioning leases granted to Shell Canada and other oil companies on lands that are part of their traditional territory, without consultation.

Iran Oil Minister Nominee to Aim for Gasoline Self-Sufficiency

(Bloomberg) -- Iranian Oil Minister-designate Masoud Mir-Kazemi said the Persian Gulf country should aim for “self-sufficiency” in gasoline production.

Mir-Kazemi made the remark during his confirmation hearing before parliament earlier today, according to a posting on parliament Web site today.

Local content may slow Brazil oil push: Petrobras

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The pace of bidding rounds in Brazil's offshore subsalt fields will depend heavily on local industry's capacity to provide goods and services required by local content rules, state-run Petrobras said on Wednesday.

Brazil has instated heavy local content rules for production of equipment such as oil platforms to ensure the development of the deep-sea reserves provides jobs and economic growth while fortifying domestic industry.

Iraq Oil Exports Fell to 2 Million Barrels a Day in August

(Bloomberg) -- Iraq, holder of the world’s third- largest crude reserves, exported less oil last month as domestic use of the fuel rose, the state-run marketing company said.

Shell shock at Ormen Lange

Norway’s Ormen Lange gas field could be as much as one-quarter smaller than previously expected.

US Senate asked to probe Lockerbie 'oil deal'

A veteran United States senator has asked Congress to investigate whether negotiations for a lucrative Libyan oil contract played a role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

The call from Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, will add to the pressure on Gordon Brown, who has been accused of damaging - or even killing off - the transatlantic "special relationship" by backing the release of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi.

Recession slows wind energy development across Europe

The global financial crisis will hit Europe's wind power industry harder in 2010 than it did in 2009 unless measures are taken to rapidly increase liquidity in the financial markets, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has warned.

New research carried out by the industry group shows that the European market for wind turbines will remain steady during 2009, with growth of about one per cent over 2008. The impact of the financial crisis will be felt more in 2010, says EWEA, due to the reluctance of banks to provide project finance.

Nuclear decline set to continue, says report

Nuclear will continue to decline according to a new report. At this point there is no obvious sign that the international nuclear industry could turn the decline into a promising future, it says.

...“With extremely long lead times of 10 years and more, it will be practically impossible to maintain, let alone increase the number of operating nuclear power plants over the next 20 years,” the report says.

Alternative energy in many flavors

Now, the debate is not whether or not alternative energies are needed but which is the best and why the others don't make the grade. I've heard these debates amongst people on the street, on web blogs, and newspapers.

What strikes me as flawed is the conclusion that we are seeking the one new energy that will save us from ourselves. This idea of making one fuel our main energy source is the very root of dependence that got us in this mess in the first place.

"Mono-alternative energy" is just as dangerous as the monoculture that has depleted our soils as single crop agriculture is a detriment to our ecosystem and food sources.

Measuring economic growth from outer space

GDP growth is poorly measured for many countries (Johnson, Larson, Papageorgiou, and Subramanian, 2009) and rarely measured for cities at all. The Penn World Tables rank countries by the quality of their GDP and price data, with grades A-D. Almost all sub-Saharan African countries get a grade of C or D, to be interpreted roughly as a 30% or 40% margin of error (Deaton and Heston, 2008). Given the low quality of GDP measures for countries and the almost total absence of GDP measures for sub-national units such as cities, we propose a readily available proxy: satellite data on lights at night. The best use of lights data is to examine growth in GDP rather than GDP levels, so that cross-country differences in how lights spatially and culturally reflect consumption are differenced out.

The power of one to make a change

Talking about thought-provoking reading, if you get an opportunity try to get a copy of Beyond peak oil: Will our cities collapse? by Peter Newman. He has written extensively on city sustainability and this paper appeared in the Journal of Urban Technology, Volume 14, Number 2, published by Routledge.

Newman points out that "nearly all cities have participated in a global economy which has been built around the availability of cheap oil" and poses the question as to how cities will manage in the age of reduced oil availability. He provides various scenarios including collapse, "some cities might easily collapse, most would be able to adapt"; the ruralised city, urban population disperses and creates a more sustainable semi-rural lifestyle, "not a likely scenario"; the divided city, wealthy move back to city centres which offer electric transit and short walkable destinations, suburbs increasingly house the poor; and the resilient sustainable solar city, quality electric transport links city to suburbs and everywhere has genuine walkability.

Whither Energy Prices?

You may not have heard about "Peak Oil". You may not have read the book "Cool it", which argues that the global warming theory is blown out of proportion. But almost everyone is aware of the prices we pay for our gasoline, electricity and heating fuel. Price is "the Great Communicator," and in the case of energy it is very effective.

Like it or not, the trend in energy prices is up.

Call For Stronger Leadership To Cope With Climate Change

Wellington NZPA - An environmental think-tank says New Zealand needs stronger leadership to cope with the impacts of climate change and peak oil.

Sustainable Aotearoa New Zealand (Sanz) says most of the present political and business leaders will not be up to managing the change.

China stresses prevention of heavy metal pollution

Anger is growing in China over public safety scandals in which children have been the main victims. The ruling Communist Party is worried mass protests will threaten the country's social stability and challenge its grip on power.

China's rapid economic growth has caused serious environmental problems. For decades, many companies dumped poisons into rivers and the ground, counting on the acquiescence of local governments unwilling to damage their economic lifelines.

U.S., Canada near agreement to control pollutants from ships

WASHINGTON — The five-story-tall engines on oceangoing vessels burn some of the dirtiest oil — bottom-of-the-barrel bunker — and churn out a substantial amount of the air pollution in American port cities, coastal communities along shipping lanes and places hundreds of miles inland.

Now the United States and Canada are nearing an international agreement to clean up the emissions of ships traveling within 200 nautical miles of shore. Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency calculate that pollution controls will save the lives of 8,300 people each year and help more than 3 million avoid respiratory problems.

Albania to Zimbabwe: the climate change risk list

PARIS (AFP) – Africa and much of south Asia face extreme risk from climate change but top carbon polluters will be relatively shielded from its ravages, according a ranking of 166 nations obtained by AFP Wednesday.

Somalia, Haiti and Afghanistan top the Climate Change Vulnerability Index, calculated from dozens of variables measuring the capacity of a country to cope with the consequences of global warming.

French science yacht to map climate change

PARIS (AFP) – The schooner Tara is to set sail on a three-year scientific voyage on the trail of naturalist Charles Darwin to map the effects of climate change on the marine organisms from which all life evolved.

The 150,000 kilometre (81,000 nautical mile) journey will take the French boat into all of the the world's oceans and from the ice caps to the tropics, following and also expanding on Darwin's 1831-1836 trip on board the Beagle.

"No Impact Man" charts U.S. couple's climate fight

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Colin Beavan so despaired at a lack of political action on climate change that he decided to see what difference he could make by living for a year with as little impact on the environment as possible.

World heading for climate 'abyss': UN chief

GENEVA (AFP) – The world is accelerating towards a climate catastrophe, UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned on Thursday, urging rapid progress in talks to cut emissions and tackle global warming.

"Our foot is stuck on the accelerator and we are heading towards an abyss," the UN Secretary General said in a speech to the World Climate Conference.

Comment posted in response to "Plenty of Oil Just Drill Deeper" (which itself deserves a 'TOD Clueless Award);

"Nickname: Dodge
Review: Well, well. Seems oil isn't just dinasaurs and flowers decayed into a goo we can use for energy after all. The earth is huge, and it is capable of creating incredible volumes of energy bearing liquids simply by merging pressure, chemistry, and environment. Sounds like a renewable resource to me, and I do believe that it will be found to be one, in fact, the best and most productive renewable we have. Oil wells worldwide have indicated that they are filling from the bottom up, which is an indicator that bolsters this philosophy. How many massive pools of oil exist worldwide? No one knows, but we have only drilled a very small fraction of the total area of the planet, and if the philosopy turns out to be true, well, there will be so much oil around, maintaining the price above $15 a barrel could be a challenge. "

-Where to start?


Agreed, Nick -
The nickname, "Dodge," rings apropo for this topic.

I guess some supernatural entity will simply stick a straw in, at some point, and re-inflate the planet with more 'renewable goo' to keep the Earth from collapsing like an eggshell with yoke blown out.

Where to start, indeed.

Since the wells are filling back up with oil from the bottom, we could just go back and reenter the old ones and start producing them again. We will have to stay away from the East Texas Field since it must be an anomaly - it is not filling back up with oil despite all efforts to squeeze every last drop out of it. But there I go again, being pessimestic. I do apologize for the negativity.

I do apologize for the negativity.

I think negativity is actually *WAY* underrated

Here's another gem of a comment on Jay Hancock's Blog post titled 'Peak oil' theory takes another hit

I did believe in Peak oil, until I thought about the fact it doesn't take into account all the surface of the ocean floor. The peak is way off.

Now I believe peak oil is pushed by oil companies to inflate the price of oil.

Then again the guy probably also used to *BELIEVE* that the planet is an oblate spheroid and has since looked out his window and now is 100% convinced that the earth is flat.

Stupid people! Can't tell petroleum from liquid cacao when they see it.

Or maybe they're smelling/sniffing coca.

Alohakako (I think).

"Over? Over? Nothing's OVER til I say it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"


"Forget it man, he's rolling.."

".. and it's not over now!"

-Animal House

In other words.. sometimes you have to leave people to their fantasies. That apple was pretty ripe, though. Thanks for posting it.

Alternative Fuel in Many Flavors, up top, is another fantasy.

The "flavors" are limited by the size of the problem and the limits of the resources available. Liquid fuel for transport, the in place infrastructure of vehicles and the massive production/distribution infrastructure supporting them based on liquid fossil fuel are the main problems. Such a system can not be replaced by a hodgepodge of piecemeal make do fuel in many flavors.

The guy is totally disconnected from reality IMO:

"Ethanol depletes corn crops and food staples, which is why diversifying with other fuels such as biodiesel (preferably derived from used cooking oils from our many restaurants) is another source of fuel worth pursuing."

Where does he think biodiesel comes from? That used cooking oil is usually soybean or corn oil. Or it could be animal fat most likely from pork fed with corn. It all comes from the land.

And corn crops can not be depleted. Depletion is reserved for nonrenewable resources. Corn is renewable. The soil may be depleted somewhat over time, but land can not be destroyed or used up. The space will always be there so long as the earth remains.

In any case, the idea we can have bizarre flavors of alternative fuel is itself bizarre. Scale and universality are required for an alternative fuel. That means there can not be many flavors of them and they must be based on a much larger resource than used cooking oil.


one word.. 'Dustbowl'

We've used our soils on extended credit.. who knows when they'll suddenly come due?

Maybe the early payments are being charged by the deadzone in the Gulf, so farmers aren't seeing those notices directly.. but the chain isn't all that long, and word will come around eventually. Is that our problem, or our kids?

I like the commentor's description of the origin of oil as not being just from "dinasaurs and flowers"

"Dinasaurs" is pretty hilarious on its own - now throw in some flowers and it becomes one big Mesozoic acid trip...

(were there flowers in the Mesozoic ?)

(were there flowers in the Mesozoic ?)

Angiosperms evolved in the late Jurassic but weren't widespread until about the middle Cretaceous. So, yeah, there were flowering plants in the Mesozoic but only in the latter part.


Good reply. Yeah, "dinasaurs", gotta love that one too. I'll bet that that commentor also thinks that oil which has been produced from, for example, Pennsylvanian-aged rock and was derived from the thermal maturation of, for example, Devonian black shales, is also made up of dinosaur and flower goo. LOL

When did dinosaurs roam the Earth?

My wife worked for Williams Field Services, a natgas company, as a data analyst until poor health and an auto accident made her give up the job. One day a couple years ago she came home and said that the guys at work were saying that oil & gas came from dead dinosaurs. She asked me if that was true. All I could do was roll my eyes. You'd think that people who worked in the industry would have a clue.

Notice that WikiAnswers that you linked to lists ichthyosaurs amongst Triassic dinosaurs. Ichthyosaurs weren't even archosaurs, let alone dinosaurs.

Notice that WikiAnswers that you linked to lists ichthyosaurs amongst Triassic dinosaurs. Ichthyosaurs weren't even archosaurs, let alone dinosaurs.

Right you are. I guess that's another example of how the whole Wiki way of uploading info to the web has its limitations, i.e., the lack of rigorous editorial review of "articles", which then allows mis-information like the ichthyosaur mistake to get into the Wiki database.

Maybe I should go scan my paleontology and biostratigraphy textbooks, turn them into .pdf files, upload them to TOD, and then sit back and wait for them to be read by, oh, 3 or 4 billion people, post an online quiz, hand out A+'s to everyone, and -poof- it's the end of common misunderstandings (such as those encountered by your wife) about how petroleum forms.

Seriously though, for online paleo resources, this isn't a bad start: Links to Fossil Exhibits

I suspect that the linkage of dinosaurs with oil in the popular imagination goes back to the old Sinclair Oil Logo, which featured what was then known as a Brontosaurus. It went beyond just signage - they sponsored dinosaur exhibits, sold plastic dinosaur toys (I think I even had one), etc.

Evolution of the [Sinclair] Company Symbol

the old Sinclair Oil Logo, which featured what was then known as a Brontosaurus. It went beyond just signage - they sponsored dinosaur exhibits, sold plastic dinosaur toys

I belonged to a swim team as a kid, had a blow up floating version as our mascot.

For an ambitious project like Tiber to pay off, experts say crude must cost at least $70 to $75 per barrel, though lower prices have never slowed the industry. When crude prices fell below $20 per barrel in the late 1990s, exploration and Thunder Horse never slowed.

Thunderhorse may not have slowed, but exploration certainly did. After really good business in the early and mid 1990s, my very small exploration consulting company saw all its contracts cancelled in 1999, and I spent much of 2001 and 2002 working in Mexico as a subcontractor for a Pemex contractor. In 2003 we did a project for BP under terms which pushed all of the risk onto the contractor: we ended up doing nearly a year's work for no income. I think that was the year my net income was under $1000 (working full time). Work gradually increased in subsequent years, and in 2007 and 2008 we did really well. Now we are back down to revenue levels such that my income is less than it was in 1988.

I seriously doubt that Tiber will work at $70 a barrel. I'd guess at least $100, on the basis of my experience with deep and hot wells, and knowing how much it costs to operate in deep water. Even then, it might not work: so much of the cost of a project like this is in energy: fuel for ships, drills, and helicopters; energy input into the steel used for the platforms, for the pipelines, and for the casing and tubing (each of these wells will have up to five miles of casing and five miles of tubing in it).

There is also a problem finding people with the skills and experience needed to build the equipment and to install it. So little such work has been done in the last twenty years that the skilled workers left are all approaching retirement. I have a close relative who started his career as an engineer designing well completion equipment. In the 1980s he was laid off three or four times in five years, and took a job outside the oil industry. Last year he accepted a position with a major oilfield engineering company, with a very substantial salary increase (over what he was getting in a general industry position) and is now back in the oilfield. But by the time Tiber is in production, he will be well over seventy. And most of the engineers he is working with are older. While many engineers may be able to work into their seventies, the same is probably not true of the field workers: drillers, divers, seamen, helicopter pilots, etc.

I would not be surprised if this discovery is never developed.

The issue that has caused me the largest 'aha' in last few years is that of increasing social inequality, which will have a huge impact on future energy and resource extraction. Though the hydrocarbon resource is there, the cheapest stuff is all but gone, and we are living off the fumes of energy/non-energy inputs spent in last 40 years (infrastructure). The wealth accumulation in this country has been virtually all in the top 20% over last 20 years, and majority in last 10%. Here is an excellent short article on how the savings rate increase of late is an illusion, and entirely due to the savings of the richest 1% of americans offsetting the spending of the lower 99%. The average american, let alone other developing countries, can't afford the $100 oil needed to procure the marginal barrel in the future. In order to afford $100 oil, we need to have a huge source of $10 oil!

As such, I think we can no longer use the same rules as before when looking at energy resources - we've never borrowed so much from other classes, other countries, the future, etc. and we can't borrow any more - so add social equity to the growing list of constraints on scaling new energy resources. It is my belief that we hit social limits to growth before we ever get a chance to hit hard resource limits. Energy gain has afford democracy and freedom for billions. Without high energy gain, I expect these to reverse too - how people can see Tiber as any kind of good long term news is beyond me

The wealth accumulation in this country has been virtually all in the top 20% over last 20 years, and majority in last 10%. Here is an excellent short article on how the savings rate increase of late is an illusion, and entirely due to the savings of the richest 1% of americans offsetting the spending of the lower 99%. The average american, let alone other developing countries, can't afford the $100 oil needed to procure the marginal barrel in the future. In order to afford $100 oil, we need to have a huge source of $10 oil!

It's not just the wealth: these wealthy individuals also pay almost all of the taxes. Now when it comes to developing the marginal barrel at $100 per barrel, we have another problem: the people who do the heavy lifting for this work -- living for weeks at a time on a platform or drilling rig hundreds of miles offshore, travelling back and forth in helicopters with a quite startling accident rate -- mostly get paid enough to put them in the top 5%, or at least the top 10%. With taxation threatened to take more and more of this income, and the threat of inflation and/or market collapse to take away any savings, how many are going to be interested in doing this? It doesn't even have the attraction of adventure and seeing the world that exploration used to have. All you see is the sea, and there's no adventure until the helicopter crashes or the well blows out, and then you're probably dead.

...then why did you work for a year for "a NET income of $1000"? I don't understand this, you where basically a slave to petroleum -keeping the rich in the lifestyle that they 'deserve'...


Where do you get the information that the wealthy pay all the taxes?
That is complete propaganda.
The middle class pays it through payroll withholdings and the wealthy hide theirs in various ways including off-shore.

I heard it explained once by a financial advisor that he always starts off with his wealthy clients by asking them how much tax they want to pay. When they inevitably say "zero", he tells them that they don't want to do that. He would have to go through such contortions with their financial situation to achieve zero taxes that it really wouldn't be worth it to the client. Instead, he asks them to just pick what they consider a reasonable level of taxes, and he'll show them how they can achieve that.

This, I suspect, very much rings true. Yeah, they all pay some taxes. But it isn't anywhere close to being what they could theoretically have to pay.

The only really reliable way for the government to collect taxes is through payroll withholdings.
The entire system is a cruel corrupt joke when it comes to the real money makers.

Except a lot of people on all parts of the scale have no payroll. Contractors, investors, business owners -- all make money without a payroll, and if lucky, without even a 1099 or K-1.

your right and they are always the targets of audits to keep them scared sh#tless.
I was in several of those positions and knew people in the same that got audited.
guilty before proven innocent.

The pressure must be kept on the little guy to pay taxes. They don't have the high dollar accountants and tax lawyers.

And to be clear. I am not just guessing I know this from first hand experience.

My understanding of the rich and thier tax bills is that they usually are able to shelter about as much of thier income as they want to but actually opt ot pay taxes on anywhere for maybe fifty to a grand on up to a few times that so that they have this much money free of all ordinary business record keeping regulations.

This is probably true. Think about some of the toys you might want if you were rich enough to afford them,such as a mistress in a nice apartment or an attractive young gardener of maybe just some cocaine or a poker money.

An accountant worth his oats would write off the apartment and the mistress as a business expense. And don't worry about hiding it from the wife. She already knows...and is way too busy shopping at Bloomingdales and getting her nails done to care.


My August 7th Kiplinger Tax Letter says, The top 1% of filers paid 40.4% of all federal income taxes. The highest 5% paid 60.6% of all taxes. AGI for to be in the highest 5% was 160,000. The top 10% (AGI of 113,00) paid 71.2% of the overall tax burden.

160k! That is the middle class.
I am talking about reaL MONEY MAKERS.

Multi millions a year.

It says to be in the top 1% your AGI needs to be $410,000.

You are confusing "Taxes" and "Federal Income Tax".


Let's carry it a step further. Not only will it be difficult to obtain energy but the vast majority of people will not be able to afford to increase their own energy efficiency to offset energy prices.
and energy availability.

I would go further and say that people will not take on debt (if they can get it) for major upgrades such as better windows and insulation (much less things like heat pumps) even if there is a rapid payback period. Instead what I see is a falling standard of living as people make do. And, this assumes society doesn't go to hell in the mean time.


Todd and Nate,

That's why I think those are the things to spend money on NOW. Not only are energy improvemnts a decent "investment -- they save money immediately and maybe more later when both energy and money get increasingly dear -- but they are "invisible" assets -- most won't impact your home taxes, and nobody will look at them and want to steal them.

As for me, my savings rate hasn't increased, though it could have. Instead, I'm spending some money on vacations to further-away places and putting the rest into the house. No debt on any of it, of course. I can see the difference on my bills already.

Here's hoping the crash goes slowly!

...people will not take on debt (if they can get it) for major upgrades such as better windows and insulation (much less things like heat pumps) even if there is a rapid payback period. Instead what I see is a falling standard of living as people make do.

Todd - You're singing my song. The U.S govt needs to get it's act together and start spending whatever resources we have left in a directed, prudent manner. Right now it appears as if it's a giant cruise ship that has spiked the rum with Ecstasy:

1. Bailouts for banks and insurance companies too big to fail
2. Nationalization of GM and Chrysler
3. Cash for Clunkers giving away several billion dollars of soon to be printed money.
4. A wild wild west anything goes stimulus program.
5. The Fed printing money out of thin air and behaving as if they know what they're doing.
6. Maintaining a million plus uniformed military with wars on two fronts, Pentagon spending projects as far as the eye can see.
7. Proposals of National Health without raising taxes or cutting any particular constituents profits.

If I hear another pundit tell me that the U.S. is the richest Nation on Earth I think I'll start drinking again.


Please don't forget to do a Peakoil Shoutout with each beverage at the half-glass level! I am trying my best to make this a new cultural norm.

..do a Peakoil Shoutout with each beverage at the half-glass level!

Sip the first half then chug the second half while you're at it.

If you're a real doomer you'd be chugging the whole thing ;-)

The U.S govt ... appears as if it's a giant cruise ship that has spiked the rum with Ecstasy

Wasn't there a news article last week about how 95 percent of the paper currency in Washington DC had traces of cocaine on it?

Things might be better if it were Ecstasy.

I thought you were being sarcastic and it was a punch line to a Marion Barry joke until I looked it up.
All I can say Is Holy Sh@t

It doesn't mean the bills were used to snort coke. Currency counting machines spread it over all the bills.

Just like those mail-sorting machines and the anthrax. The joys of modern technology.

most coke addicts carry a straw, a pocket mirror and an safety razor in a personalized kit. rolling bills is Bush League!


I am glad I am clueless about this stuff.
The transfer from bill to bill in the counting machines makes sense.

Nate - I think this is an extremely relevant point.

This is also why our friends at The Automatic Earth aren't so worried about Peak Oil. They have been saying for years (If I may paraphrase for them, thank you) that peak money and peak finance are much more important in the near term.

There's a hierarchy of various poops lined up in front of the proverbial fan. For most folks money to buy oil is a bigger issue than how much oil we'll have...

For most folks money to buy oil is a bigger issue than how much oil we'll have...

Literally, in the case of the poorest Indians and Indonesians who get most of their daily calories from palm oil, rapeseed oil, and the like.

Coming soon to an America near you.

To emphasize Nate's point: It is quite reasonable to see the economy as having two inputs: energy and (expertise-weighted) workers.

  • Before the industrial revolution energy was scarce and expensive and wages were driven to the floor.
  • Wherever the industrial revolution arrived then wages become expensive and energy costs are driven to the floor.

With energy prices now off the floor we can expect wages to be driven back down.
Democracy mostly followed the industrial revolution. Wealth disparity raises the probability that the wealthy will wish to, and be able to, make a grab for power. Of course then they'll squabble amongst themselves...

Here in the UK we have had a Labour (socialist) government for the last twelve years during which time the gap between richest and poorest has widened and i would suspect it probably applies to most developed countries. One of the reasons for this is that we are living in a digital age where the winners will take a much larger slice of the pie. For example, let's take our favourite software company Microsoft, its share of the operating systems market is over 93%


The cost of producing one more copy is cents.

Look at book sales, the 100 most successful authors probably outsell the next 1 million authors. Again books cost cents to make. I know that a couple of years ago, Katie Price (aka pneumatic celebrity model Jordan:-) outsold the entire Booker shortlist put together with her second novel.

i think the average pay for Government Sachs is USD 500k+, the GS total is probably more than that of the smallest 7,000 banks.

tonyw -

you are correct. The gap between rich and poor has widened massively. Also, the ability to move upwards has all but disappeared. Those that have capital are now in a position to gain in a manner and magnitude which would make Midas weep: witness the bankers, less than a year since the collapse started and they are already paying out bonuses. Those that have no access to capital can only get further and further into debt. The quantative easing has printed money out of thin air for the bankers and their mates, who can then pretend that their balance sheets are healthy and thus kid themselves that they are good at the jobs and pay bonuses and large salaries which they use to accumulate real wealth in the form of property, land etc. Meanwhile the rest of us have to pray to God that the bank won't pull our overdraft and will refinance our loan, but we CAN'T accumulate real wealth. Forget savings. If you have a family to support you need to earn a minimum of £40,000 just to stand still and that is with interest rates at rock bottom. Above £40K you can start to put down real savings/pension. Below £40K, no chance even if you live like a monk. And £40k used to be a really good salary only a decade ago! Never mind that the average UK income is somewhere around the £25k mark, and never mind that taxes will go up after the election.

We are just kidding ourselves if we think our country is in good shape. It isn't, but some people are getting richer, and richer, and richer... and all this under a Labour government!!!!!!!

The problem is the monetary based economic system.

Why would Brazil's sub-salt discoveries be any different than this one--in terms of ability to develop, cost, etc.?

Not knowing the details I'd suspect not so much different.

The main thing is that this one is coming after Brazil has started discovering the problems with exploiting their find, so the people covering the oil-patch for mainstream news are more skeptical of the impact of this one up front.

I think that the coverage I've read and heard has been much more conservative than the Jack or Brazil coverage was.

It is 'funny' how this 'gigantic' Mexican oilfield was brought in the economic news on CNN en Español yesterday. It would help the U.S. in becoming less dependent on oil-imports.

Glad to see the Export Land Model is alive and kickin' in Iraq. My guess would be that Iraq is still not producing at full potential but I would also posit that the Iraqis internal demand is yet to be satisfied.

There are two articles in the drumbeat today that deal with Canada's oil sands: Oil Sands Output to double By 2013 and First Nations Oilsands fight Hits Court.

Let's take a broad look at the Oil (Tar Sands is more accurate) Sands Experience.

Investment in the Tar Sands including pipelines and upgrades, now totals approximately $200 Billion. the Tar Sands boom has become the world's largest energy project, the world's largest construction project and the world's largest capital project. To date there has been no comprehensive assessment of the mega-project's environmental, economic or social impacts.
Andrew Nikiforuk Author of Tar Sands

Industry in the tar Sands uses as much water as a city of two million people. Ninety percent of this water ends up in toxic tailing ponds. The company line is they are going to fix it as efficiencies scale up. The dirty secret is the Tar Sands will destroy a forest the size of Florida, cripple biodiversity and make permanently toxic the world's 3rd largest hydrology.

Alberta, like a crude banana-republic of the 1950's, or more aptly a modern petrostate, has one of the least accountable governments in Canada.

Now looking at the second article detailing the grievances of The First Nations against the interests of Big Oil. From a handicappers perspective they are a long shot. I wouldn't bet on them. Greed trumps integrity every time.


Depends on how militant they're willing to get. Natives in Canada are known to resort to armed force on occasion. Many miles of highway to Fort McMurray could be taken out with a night of vigorous pickaxe work.

Many miles of highway to Fort McMurray could be taken out with a night of vigorous pickaxe work.

You've obviously never raised a callus in your life with a pickaxe if you believe that.

It would probably take every illegal they could hire but they might not have enough pickaxes.

Back of the envelope calculation on oil sands, using that quoted $200 billion:

$200 billion worth of capital was invested for production of 1.2 million barrels per day (per Gail's article #2 on oil sands).

So at $100 per barrel net of variable costs, 1670 days' or 4.6 years' production is needed to repay capital, let alone pay interest.

And capital costs can only go up, due to diminishing marginal returns a.k.a. picking the low-hanging fruit first. (Offset by re-use of above-ground capital, of course.)

Hmmm... I can't slice those numbers to make $70 per barrel fit at all.

Is Canada doing this as a tax write-off? ;-)

I do not see the problem with making this work. First off, some of that $200 billion is for capacity that hasn't come on line yet. Second, what's the expected length of time that the capital will last? If their yearly capital costs are 10% of the total then we are talking $20 billion per year for 1.2 million barrels per day or 438 million barrels per year. That works out to $45 per barrel for the capital costs.

These are very rough numbers of course. But suppose we upped it to $2 trillion and got 12 million barrels per day. Not sure that is possible given the water supply. But maybe with some long distance water pipeline it could be done. Well, we can afford $2 trillion. It is less than the cost of the Iraq war and less than the cost of the bank bail-out.

Not looking like a recovery to me:

Initial jobless claims slip

Back-to-school sales flunk

Denninger things we're utterly screwed, and there's still a lot more contraction to come.

Not every nation can export its way to economic recovery

The reassuring hints of a global rebound also are threatened by a bigger issue. The global economy is starting to resemble a football team made up of nothing but quarterbacks: Everyone wants to throw the ball, but no one wants to catch it. In economic terms, that means just about every major economy — the U.S., China, Germany and Japan — appears intent on exporting its way to renewed prosperity.

"We can't all export our way out of this problem. Somebody's got to import, and nobody wants to play that role," says Michael Pettis, a professor at Peking University's Guanghua School of Management.

It is more like Germany, China, and Japan can't keep doing net exporting while the US does net import.

From the back to school article:

"The overall index was not good by any means, but it was still almost a full percentage point above expectations," noted Ken Perkins, analyst at Retail Metrics.

I love it! So let's see...

"The man was declared dead at the scene of the accident but doctors said that looking at the state the car was in they were surprised that both his legs weren't crushed, which was a full 50% above expectations. The dead man's family are therefore optimistic about the prospect of seeing seeing green shoots around his grave..."

It is all such BS..

And here's another one from a widely-distributed AP headline:

"New jobless claims dip less than expected..."

The energy needed to unravel and get to the bottom of the story represented by that headline is formidable; it feels like a mash-up between an English exam and some high school math word problem. Terrible, terrible journalism. I tried to find the author's email address but couldn't anywhere. If anyone finds it, please print it here so we can take him to task.

President Obama and his administration made a critical error after having won in November by refusing to stand up and take these scammers on face-to-face.

He decided to instead continue and even accelerate the scam!

Yesterday I'm watching the President advising Americans how to protect themselves from Swine-flu: "...cover your mouth and turn your head away when you sneeze..." WTF is that? Boy-Scout in Chief! At least when George Bush was President I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of hating his guts. Obama's a sincere man and is impossible to dislike. But I'm beginning to consider the possibility that he might be a nit-wit.

My apologies to Obama supporters. (I voted for him too)


Obama Drastically Scales Back Goals for America After Visiting Denny's (Onion video)

He's really an actor, above all else. We've elected an actor who has taken a LOT of speech communication and marketing courses. Maybe like a spokesperson? In any case, he's a pro. He's also a lawyer. Figure it out. He's selling a message, and like a sales message (take it from me, I'm a salesperson), to be successful that message doesn't need to have any relation to reality as long as it is well-presented and makes people 'feel' a certain way.

It isn't the first time America elected an actor. As a matter of fact the rest of your observation could have been spoken back in 1982 if you leave out lawyer.

Obama's a sincere man

Some say that Kermit is a sincere frog.

Well at least he's Green. The Frog I mean. ;-)


And its not easy being green.

Dutch move into fast lane with 'bicycle highways'


In my experience some parts of Europe are way ahead when it comes to bikes.

Worried about SUVs - no problem build a big bike.


The driver is standing in the middle, he is serving beer on tap to keep the 10 'peddalers' happy as he is the resident sober barman as well!

bicycling in Holland works because it is as flat as a pancake.

When I was in Amsterdam, one of my favourite pastimes was going down to the bar, ordering a beer and looking at all the fit young Dutch chicks peddling along.. Can't imagine doing the same on the south coast of England...it would be more like watching assorted tubs of lard waddling to their mondeos while screaming at their chav kids.... ughhh! And we used to be the land of Chaucer and Shakespeare, of Turner and Constable.

(Yep, ok. So I am a snob. But really, you have to have experienced the decay of modern British life to fully understand)

HAcland - I took a year sabbatical (aka bumming) in England and Ireland during the 70's living with various relatives. Very few people back then had cars so we would a) Walk/run b) Take the bus c) take a cab. 95% of the time we chose a) because we didn't want to waste beer money on transportation. We played soccer almost every day rain or shine. What was amazing was in a country with very little sunshine I managed to get a farmers' tan and I came home in the best shape of my life.


joe - seriously, come back and compare!

aaaah, a beercycle another great invention for the ethanol future.

If you liked that idea you'll love this one.


Brilliant invention! If I owned one: I would require all imbibers to do the Shoutout.

Like it or not, the trend in energy prices is up.

Nat gas, down another 7% today to $2.51, a fresh 7 year low...

there is something not quite right in the NG market at the moment. The volatility is epic. It can't be driven by fundamentals.

There is not much storage for NG. If production is up a smidge, or demand is down a little, there is suddenly a crisis because there is no place to store the NG and no one to sell it to, so one gets a price crash. If there is a small shortage, the reverse happens.

Strange--I can see 4 gasholders 2 miles from here, and they look quite large and relatively cheap to make (not that I've ever made one I admit). But who wants to invest is the question.
Last Tuesday I saw an absurd pair of front pages. The Telegraph led with the prospect of electricity cuts in uk within 8 years. The Daily Express had its headline as greedy energy companies refusing to lower their prices. And next day the Express was moaning about greedy oil companies charging too much.

No floor in sight for natural gas; prices plunge

NEW YORK - Natural gas prices tumbled again Thursday, hitting new seven-year lows after the government reported more supplies were put into storage as the entire country pares down on energy usage.

El Nino typically means warmer winter temperatures for the Northern part of the US. Residential utility prices for ng are on pace to fall 20% this winter already, now add in a mild winter. I wonder if drilling rigs will fall down below 650 by the spring.

Scroll down to the last few pages to see past relationships b/w El Nino and U.S. temperatures.

ENSO weekly update

Well, the ng current month futures contract had a low today of $2.50! Beat you by one cent, Nate.

$2.00 anyone?

This chart says it all:

We are quickly running out of storage and some wells will likely need to shut down. Industry use down. Cool summer and lower electricity demand. Gas producers are in a tough spot. That will make a tough spot for consumers the following winter.

But I agree with your larger point that the economy cannot stand high prices without cheap (high EROI) fuels to subsidize. I think oil will peak and decline for this reason. I don't believe an undulating plateau will be the result. Trying to bring $100+ oil on line will keep driving down demand. But that is just intuition talking.

I'm currently paying $7.65 per DT for my residential nat gas. I have the option to lock in at $6.19, but it has to be for a year. Should I take it, or will the drop in prices last long enough that I'm better off riding the monthly rates down?

The Dawn Of Scarcity Industrialism

...the world is in the midst of a transformation between the kind of society and economy familiar to us over the last century or so, which I’ve called “abundance industrialism,” and a new kind that may as well be called “scarcity industrialism.” Where abundance industrialism was defined by the ready availability of cheap abundant natural resources, especially but not only fossil fuels, scarcity industrialism will be defined by the scarcity of such resources.
John Michael Greer

Greer, the Grand Archdruid (an odd, esoteric moniker for such a versatile thinker), may be the best blogger on the internet. What Greer is pointing out is that Ethnocentrism is on the rise. This will lead ultimately to a 21st century world that looks more like the 19th century than the latter half of the 20th century. I guess this means that Dick Cheney and the neo-cons were right after all.


I love Greer. He really is an Archdruid, hence the name. Yes, he knows he's following a recently invented religion. I think it's intentional. He knows religion will be an important part of how we deal with scarce resources. And he's supporting one that he thinks will be helpful during the The Long Descent.

Someone - was is it Krugman? - pointed out that we've had a global economy before. It dissolved into two World Wars. He suggested it could happen again. (Anyone have that link?)

Not to Krugman, but he is right that free trade/fiat chaos started WWI (and WWII). Here is quote from 1944 book, The Great Transformation, by Karl Polyani:

"By the end of the seventies the free trade episode (1846-79) was at an end; the actual use of the gold standard by Germany marked the beginnings of an era of protectionism and colonial expansion. The symptoms of the dissolution of the existing forms of world economy -- colonial rivalry and competition for exotic markets -- became acute. The ability of haute finance to avert the spread of wars was diminishing rapidly. For another seven years peace dragged on but it was only a question of time before the dissolution of nineteenth century economic organization would bring the Hundred Years' Peace to a close."

"The breakdown of the international gold standard was the invisible link between the disintegration of world economy since the turn of the century and the transformation of a whole civilization in the thirties. Unless the vital importance of this factor is realized, it is not possible to see rightly either the mechanism which railroaded Europe to its doom, or the circumstances which accounted for the astounding fact that the forms and contents of a civilization should rest on so precarious foundations.

"The true nature of the international system under which we were living was not realized until it failed. Hardly anyone understood the political function of the international monetary system; the awful suddenness of the transformation thus took the world completely by surprise... To liberal economists the gold standard was purely an economic institution; they refused even to consider it as a part of a social mechanism. Thus it happened that the democratic countries were the last to realize the true nature of the catastrophe and the slowest to counter its effects. Not even when the cataclysm was already upon them did their leaders see that behind the collapse of the international system there stood a long development within the most advanced countries which made that system anachronistic; in other words, the failure of market economy itself still escaped them." [p. 20]

"The transformation came on even more abruptly than is usually realized. World War I and the postwar revolutions still formed part of the nineteenth century. The conflict of 1914-18 merely precipitated and immeasurably aggravated a crisis that it did not create. But the roots of the dilemma could not be discerned at the time. The dissolution of the system of world economy which had been in progress since 1900 was responsible for the political tension that exploded in
1914." [p. 21]

Heres another great quote from that book, p 98

"Man's economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships. He does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, his social assets. He values material goods only in so far as they serve this end. Neither the process of production nor that of distribution is linked to specific economic interests attached to the possession of goods; but every single step in that process is geared to a number of social interests which eventually ensure that the required step be taken. these interests will be very different in a small hunting or fishing community from those in a vast despotic society, but in either case the economic system will be run on noneconomic motives."

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, except cheap resources per capita available don't remain unspent underground as they did going into and out of those 2 wars.

Interesting. I found the Krugman article I was thinking about (yes, it was Krugman):

The Great Illusion

Writing in 1919, the great British economist John Maynard Keynes described the world economy as it was on the eve of World War I. “The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth ... he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world.”

And Keynes’s Londoner “regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement ... The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, and exclusion ... appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary course of social and economic life, the internationalization of which was nearly complete in practice.”

But then came three decades of war, revolution, political instability, depression and more war. By the end of World War II, the world was fragmented economically as well as politically. And it took a couple of generations to put it back together.

So, can things fall apart again? Yes, they can.

I'm thinking those here at TOD who are proponents of possible future "Oil Nationalism" should keep a close eye on the Chinese REE (Rare Earth) situation because it's starting to look like a dry-run for what may happen...

There are also shades of Export Land Model here too -the model is somewhat simplified; China currently has 95% of the production and is increasing its own use to such an extent that within the next 3 or 4 years they will be consuming all they produce. Of course a fraction of the 'high value' goods made from the stuff will be exported but that is their intent -to own high tech. and energy efficiency manufacturing (Windmills, CIGs, Hybrids, Batteries). I guess the big question would be Q. What happens when we can't afford their stuff anymore but we need it to survive?


I don't think it's quite that simple.

As Greer points out, the Chinese are not limiting exports of products made with rare earth elements. Which suggests they want to be higher on the food chain - exporting products rather than raw materials. How much of "their own use" is for products that are exported?

Its rising very very fast -check out the car post below...

I think that number is misleading. The Chinese government has been offering subsidies to encourage people to buy cars, because of the bad economy.

I suspect the Chinese economy is a lot worse shape than is apparent from the "official" figures their government releases. They're almost as badly in debt as we are, when all the government loans are counted.

I think you are right, Leanan. The Chinese have been keeping their gdp figures up through a massive government stimulus, far larger as a percentage of the economy than what has been done in the U.S. This has been combined with a very aggressive expansion of credit.

The result has been a huge build in inventories and the oft repeated misallocation of consumer goods. The chinese consumer class simply isn't large enough nor able to spend enough to keep this growth going on their own. Nor is the growth all that impressive if you consider the inflation rate and population / consumer class growth. In essence, they have sought to make up for the disaster in the export sector by artificial (read, government sponsored) growth in infrastructure and inventory build.

Like most other nations, the Chinese have based their actions on the assumption that the current events are just a business cycle (albeit dramatic)that they just need to get through until things return to "the way they used to be." (TWTUTB as oppossed to BAU?)

From that perspective what they have been doing looks to be quite effective. But what if they are wrong? What if there is to getting back to TWTUTB?

There's a huge credit/debt bubble going on in China right now with the money piling into anything that looked like a good bet. There are vast amounts of empty property produced by speculators with the banks not wanting to own up to any write-down of the assets - similar to Japanese banks previously and Western banks today. Also have heard that state owned firms are ready to renege on financial deals that have gone against them, most of these are probably written by our very own banksters.

I trust the official Chinese statistics even less than ours but looking at exports they are down by 25%+ so they're not building up trade surpluses as before so tell me just how are they going to fund the US defecit??

Nick know you have been nursing a position in Lynas. Have you checked out another Aussie company Arafura (about 1/3 or the market cap of Lynas) if you have let me know what you think. I've been more focused on Lynas but have made a very small entry into Arafura. I guess the only way to get some Molycorp is to buy shares in Goldman(the squid)Sachs


I partially agree with Leann they are definitately going for the value added play but their purchase of 51% of Lynas indicates they also want to control this market segment. The fact that they are also increasing domestic consumption of the products that consume REE's also lends credence to your analogy of the ELM being correct with some subtle differences.

Tipping Points: What Wall Street and Nature Have in Common

The above article says nothing surprising with

In many man-made and natural systems, conditions reach a tipping point when a major transition occurs and the system shifts from one state to another.

but edges toward the surprising with

Now researchers say they can begin to predict these tipping points by searching for universal early warning signs.

"At first we were surprised that yes, actually critical transitions in the brain could have a fundamental similarity to critical transitions in financial markets or ecology," said lead researcher Marten Scheffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. "It's a radical idea but when you think about it, it makes sense. Whatever system it is, if it has a tipping point, the universal laws of behavior for dynamical systems apply."

Chaos Theory, as I understand it, actually posits that the states a system goes through can be predicted relatively well, but that predicting the order of them and/or the timing is pretty much impossible. This research might change that. I suspect knowing which state a system is tipping into might remain a tricky question, but that one is coming is still very valuable as it would allow the application of risk assessment strategies. While the assessments might be wrong at times, they would also be accurate at times. And, perhaps the warning signs would give some hint as to the nature of the tipping point.

This is potentially incredibly valuable new research. It bodes well for mitigation efforts - if not too little too late.

The researchers reviewed data from many different types of systems...

In each of these examples, the scientists found that tipping points occurred and conditions changed dramatically over a relatively short period of time.

"...tipping points are the exception," Scheffer told LiveScience. "...they usually imply radical change."

Warning signs

One of the common warning signs of an impending tipping point is when a system takes longer to recover to equilibrium after it is disturbed... if the system is approaching a tipping point, it tends to take longer to recover its balance.

Another universal warning sign is when fluctuations in the system slow down... Prior to major economic change, stock markets in different areas start to act similarly to each other.

While fluctuations take longer in these systems, they often are greater in magnitude.

"Close to a tipping point the system becomes more inert," Scheffer said. "If you displace it, there is less of a tendency to come to its own equilibrium value."

In the case of Climate Change, we definitely see everything going out of equilibrium and not coming back. The problem is that the time scales are so vast this metric is not very useful. Also, the fact that GCMs are calling for greater variability in the weather would seem to contradict this, or does it indicate that a rapid change is not in the offing near term? Then again, rainfall is expected to follow this pattern of less rain but greater amounts.

One wonders to what extent nested systems, such as one might consider climate, might either disguise and/or increase the magnitude of these signs. Or, is there a core set of elements that are key?

WRT the economy, we definitely see markets around the globe in greater and greater sync and the fluctuations have become so enormous as to render large short-term fluctuations ho-hum. I seem to remember changes in the market of 2 or 3 percent being considered huge changes prior to 1987, for example.

Making chaos predictable? Fascinating stuff.


When it comes to investing I have successfully relied on my own STM to signal impending Chaotic Tipping Point events like market sell-offs, etc.


[STM: Sphincter Twitch Muscle]

August auto sales in China are red hot. Can oil demand be far behind?


Here is one great quote from that piece -compare and contrast with the 'Doomerism' that currently pervades Western/American debt-ridden consumer society with one that has not yet climbed aboard the debt train yet:

"Bertel Schmitt :
September 3rd, 2009 at 12:57 pm


You need to disassociate yourself from the American way of buying a car. Most of the Chinese cars are paid by cash. Actually, the number of cash purchases is going UP. No, the Chinese didn’t take a home equity loan to buy a car. (I don’t even think such a beast exists.) Also, the real estate market did NOT go up in China, it is quite soft. The Shanghai index nosedived in August from 3400 to 2700. It’s been at 6000 in October 2007, and when I saw my maid trading stock between doing the dishes and wiping the floor, I told everybody to get out. A lot of people lost a lot of their money.

What is happening is that slowly but surely a moderately well to do (by Chine standards) middle class is evolving that has enough cash to pay for a small car. That middle class was shell-shocked last year, because it thought China would go to the toilet with the rest of the year. It did not. Now, consumer confidence is back with a vengeance.

Triple digit growth is unsustainable. What we see is pent-up demand, and comparisons between strong months in 2009 and very weak months in 2008. China will be back in its usual 20 to 30 percent growth range soon. And that will last for quite a while.

China has anywhere between 30 to 40 cars per thousand pop, whereas the USA has 800 cars per thousand. This country has a frightening amount of room to grow. This is no bubble. It’s just the beginning of a market that has five times the population of the USA. (The official 1.3b number is widely believed as lowballed.)"

-imagine what this is going to do to Oil prices...

-I think when these August Chinese car sales numbers come out there will be an OMG spike.


Another Refutation Of The Lynch "No Peak" Essay In The WSJ

This is from a email newsletter "The Green Chip Review" that focuses on alternative energy businesses and investments. I would have linked, rather than posting the entire thing, except this was an email -- not a website. (And he talks favorably about TOD...)

Sorry, you can't post that. E-mails should not be posted without permission. Chris Nelder is a member of TOD. If he wants to post his e-mail here, he can.

For whatever it's worth, this wasn't a paid subscription newsletter but rather the freebie that contains ads for their various paid subscription ones. [I wouldn't have posted a paid subscription mailing's contents.]

You still can't post it without permission. Just because someone posts something to an e-mail list or the web doesn't mean they've given up their rights to it.

Can you excerpt it?

Short excerpts are okay. You can also summarize what was said in your own words.

John Michael Greer: The dawn of scarcity industrialism

About China using their resources as a form of power, just as OPEC does the same with oil, I would suggest the US do the same with grains. We export huge amounts of grains, so why not use them in the same way China and OPEC is? Why is the US always so willing to play fair when others are not?

That reminds me of Bobby Butler's "Cheaper Crude Or No More Food" - a hit from a previous energy crisis. At the time, it wouldn't have worked. There were too many other food exporters. Might be different now.

Why is the US always so willing to play fair when others are not?

You're kidding, right? We're the ones who gave OPEC the idea in the first place.

The powerful always spin selling out the country as "playing fair". I guess it sounds better than "we are screwing you".

Why is the US always so willing to play fair when others are not?

You're kidding, right? The US economic elite wrote the rule book and wrote in a way to favor themselves. And one of those rules is that you don't matter to them.

Most of the Gulf states are acquiring additional carrying capacity via agrocolonialism (buying farmland in the developing countries). It would seem that they no longer have any faith in the global market to deliver food and have opted for security over faith. I suppose that cutting another US control wire in the process doesn't upset them much either.

Kissinger and Nixon talked about doing this in the 70s.

Has anyone noticed natural gas prices today? ASTOUNDING.


thats the problem with marginal unit pricing - feast or famine and sends entirely wrong signals for future policy - I wrote about this 5 or 6 times in last few years.

I suspect in addition to bearish fundamentals this has to do with the UNG CFTC/rules and/or a hedge fund unwind (e.g. Cerberus).

If there is any industrial demand at all for natty in next few years, prices are going to fly..
(by the way, the down 7.5% figures are only for front month - the strip is down, but far less)

With 40%+ first year decline rate, one can kind of guesstimate when the inflection will occur (based on flat industrial demand which of course is big assumption). Below is graphic from Barclays showing exploratory rig count.

Let's hope, that with natgas priced so low, that the Govt jumpstarts some kind of move to build my speculative "Federal Reserve Banks of I-NPKS", as it could greatly help keep natgas & I-fert companies financially viable, and help build 'real assets' near farmgates.

But I am not optimistic that this will happen. I think my Ft. Knox scenario is more likely [gold stacked outside as machine gun bunkers, seeds & I-NPKS inside], because TPTB think that greenbacks are better than real greenshoots. Such is life...

Yeah if they have stayed vigilant and hedged out on the strip they have been able to survive. The real problem is that to many Natty gas producers seem to have the reasoning power of a tunnel vison impaired moron. My indicator when I see a steady parade of their CEO's on the tube crowing about increasing their production by 20% next qtr., year whatever I sell. (Unfortunately it was a very costly learning process.) I recently saw the CEO of Devon on with the same production message. Natural gas is selling at $3 an mcf and he is increasing production by double digits. HE also had ridden thru the downturn unhedged....HUH ! What a dumb donkey does he think he exists in a vacuum. They seem to have the self restraint of a nymphomaniac at nymphomaniac convention.
I realize the rig count has crashed and we have had a bit of a "perfect storm" with the economy, the weather, and a delay in utility switching but I somehow have the feeling that they are itching to stomp on the gas pedal as soon as the price goes back above $5 and its deja vu all over again.
These guys really seem to be unable to manage prosperity. I think the old 6:1 ratio of oil to natty is dead for a long time maybe forever unless something like the Pickens plan is implemented.

Discussed upthread.

Hello TODers,

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 35 million Americans received food stamps in June, up 22 percent from June 2008 and a new record as the country continued to grapple with the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The food stamp program, which helps cover the cost of groceries for one in nine Americans, has grown in step with the U.S. unemployment rate which stood at 9.4 percent in July...
Imagine if we didn't have the Food Stamp Program, but we had soup-kitchens instead [like in the 30s Depression]. My guess is that so many hungry people looking for food handouts would require that quite a few urban & suburban golf courses would have to be converted to provide sufficient square footage for these cooking and eating areas.

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

Disagree. Why would we need more square footage? The problem isn't lack of food, it's lack of money to buy food. If people can't afford to buy food, they sure can't afford to buy golf courses to grow food on. (Besides, you don't want to grow food on golf courses. Nasty chemicals.)

I'm reminded of that Boston Globe article, about what a Depression would like like these days. It wouldn't look like it did in the 1930s. Food and clothing are so cheap now. It's a small fraction of our income compared to what it was in the '30s.

A lot of the people on food stamps still have assets they could sell or spending they could cut back on...if they had to. Thanks to food stamps, they don't have to. Just because someone is on food stamps doesn't mean they'd starve without them.

Hello Leanan,

Thxs for the reply, but I think you missed my point of postPeak speculation on the sheer logistics of soup-kitchens for feeding 35 million 'Murkans.

IF/WHEN 35 [then 70, then 120?] million people had to rely on 3 hots/day from some location--they wouldn't go very far from the soup-pot. My guess is that Shruburbs & Obamavilles would quickly sprout up like the Hoovervilles of old. I have not done the research but my guess is that many of the '30s shacks where within a short distance of the soup-kitchens. Example: NYC's Central Park to wherever the NYC soup-kitchens were located.

IMO, we can expect great re-densification of our cities as things start to collapse. As 16,000 US golf courses gradually go belly-up: they won't need to be bought--the local govts will take them over, then let the homeless build shacks on them, while the rich start reinforcing their urban and suburban compounds.

If that happened in this day and age, it would probably get the soup kitchen closed.

The trend is away from big urban soup kitchens, and toward providing food where people live and work. Mobile food banks, distribution at schools, home delivery, etc. I think that's more likely than people camping on golf courses, which tend to be in the middle of nowhere anyway. Most of the hungry in the US are not homeless. They have jobs and homes.

You might be right, we will see. My Asphaltistan has a country club and golf course right in the middle of the urban downtown area:

Google: Phoenix Country Club. Encanto Park has a golf course too and it's right downtown.

221 golf courses inside my Megalopolis:


If a bunch of people start freezing to death in the Northern States & Canada, we could provide wintering areas for millions on these golf courses. I doubt if the Phx-rich would let them be squatters unless these Northern people brought their guns down south with them. Then our 'open carry tradition' could provide quite a bit of poor-people power to the land-use negotiations.

There used to be a large squatters' enclave out along the Salt River. Old school busses & tents & shacks galore. Had a "Live Free or Die" sign at the entrance. Don't know if it's still there. Cops may have ran everyone off. I bet there were hundreds living there, at least in winter, back in the early '80.

As for the AridZone's 'open carry trad,' as I mentioned yesterday, I used to wear a .38 revolver when bicycling around Phoenix/Tempe. Figured I'd be less likely to be ran down if driver thought I might shoot 'em if they hit me. Cowboys all had their six-shooters, bikers their .45s, and cops their 9mms. I didn't want to be the only one unarmed! :) I don't see so many people packin' heat these days when I'm down there visiting my kids. Did the law change?

Not that I am aware of:

Group armed with rifles seen among protesters at Barack Obama speech

A dozen people carrying guns, including at least two with assault rifles, have been spotted mingling among protesters outside a convention centre in Arizona where President Barack Obama was speaking..
Although, some people on LATOC posited that some of these people might be pre-arranged govt. 'agent provocateurs'. I have no idea.

Hello TODers,

For those unaware of our annual AZ winter influx: Quartzite, Arizona is a nothing town during the blazing heat, but it swells up to gigantic size during the winter:

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 3,354 people...

..Quartzsite is a popular RV camping area for winter visitors, and tourism is the major contributor to Quartzsite's economy. Nine major gem, mineral, and 15 general swap meet shows are very popular tourist attractions, attracting about 1.5 million people annually,[5] mostly in January and February.

Aerial photos are mind-boggling, picture the link below expanded many times:


I went to this about 7 years ago, you can walk for miles & miles among all the people camped in the desert.

Quartzsite is a popular RV camping area for winter visitors

RV living in this recession is becoming a way of life for a lot more people and it uses a lot less resources than a conventional home.

Example: Sixty gallons of water lasts three to four days or longer... toilets use about a pint of water to flush... solar panels recharge batteries... because the RV is smaller than a regular home, less electricity or propane is required to heat or cool it.

You don't have to spend a fortune on a Bluebird. You can get a good used 30' 5th wheel for less than $20K. I would recommend at least a Ford F-250 to tow it and the diesel model pulls it without raising a sweat even uphill. When you get where you're going, park, level up, unhook your vehicle and you're in business. Get a bike rack on the back and leave the truck in park.

See the world before you're dead!


No need for soup kitchens. The US government could contract with fast food places to provide food that is either on the menu or new selections chosen by the government. Then the government could hand out cards to use to slide thru a slot at the pay counter.

Really, heavy automation using existing infrastructure. We have big technological and infrastructure advantages they didn't have in the 1930s.

Re: The fluorescent light bulb boogeyman

In the current issue of Lighting Design + Application, Robert Clear, Francis Rubinstein and Jack Howells have written an article entitled "Dangerous Mercury in CFLs? One Big Fish Story". Their findings? In forty-five breakage scenarios as identified by the Maine Department of Environment, the median mercury dose from cleaning up a broken CFL is 0.068 micrograms. By comparison, the dose received from eating a single 6-ounce serving of Albacore tuna is 48 micrograms. So, it seems a single help'n of your tuna casserole dinner is more injurious to your health than cleaning up the remains of some SEVEN HUNDRED CFLs scattered all over your bedroom floor.


I don't eat tuna either

It is worth considering where the tuna get their mercury from.
Food chains and all that.
My understanding is that the burning of coal is the major historical source.
Mercury unfortunately is not sequestered in estuarine muds etc but if I remember correctly becomes gaseous compounds in the presence of anaerobic bacteria and spreads over the world's oceans.
Here in UK there is one company who specializes in retrieving Hg from fluorescent lights. Control of Hg wastes should be part of the very large roll-out of CFLs even if the Hg burden from other sources is much more significant?

Hi Phil,

A good number of folks, if you were to simply judge by the comments posted in response to newspaper articles on CFLs, consider these lamps a major environmental hazard when, in fact, incandescent lamps cause far more damage due to their higher power consumption -- safe to say four, five and perhaps ten times as much depending upon the utility's generation mix. Some major retailers such as Ikea and Home Depot allow you to drop-off your old CFLs for recycling, free of charge, and many municipalities have special waste handling facilities as well -- not a perfect solution by any means, but steadily improving.

The lamps we remove from service are sent to a recycling plant where the mercury is safely reclaimed for reuse and the glass and metals are likewise recovered (we pay $1.00 to $2.00 per lamp depending upon its length). It adds to our cost of doing business and whilst there is no legislative mandate requiring us to do this, we believe it's the right thing to do.


Last month, we were told to rustle-up an extra GWh of lighting savings between now and the end of the year, thus bringing our 2009 target to 7.2 GWh. "Mais Oui !", I replied, "sleep is highly overrated."

If we have any hope of making it, this client (and plenty more) will share the credit. In this one bay, there had been eighteen 400-watt HID fixtures drawing a total of 8,280-watts, including ballast losses. We replaced these HIDs with thirty 4-lamp T8 tandem industrials each drawing 108-watts. Net savings: 5,040-watts. (A 60 per cent reduction in load and the guys in the shop treat me like a national hero.)

No more coal-fired power plants !


You are a national hero, Paul. The nation just has to awaken to the fact.

Thanks for keeping us up to date on the best places to drill/mine for energy.

By the way, I'm currently in Grand Forks, BC and was very pleased to learn the other night that the local municipal recreation complex uses the waste heat from the skating rink to heat the nearby pool, except during the summer months when the rink is closed. During this period, the pool relies on solar water heating.

Thanks Toil. Well, I'm no Terry Fox, but anyone is welcome to include me in their Tim Horton's run.

The Grand Forks recreation complex sounds like a smart facility. We could be doing a lot more to reclaim waste heat; for example, commercial laundries consume large quantities of hot water and those that are air conditioned typically have high cooling loads, so why not have a single system do both?


Way to go Paul. Starting with what is quick and easy to do is where we need to get started.

I'm looking at that expansive roof. If I was your solar engineer I would be doing a massive solar tilt up installation and make your warehouse a solar producer with a net-energy agreement with your local utility. Imagine employees driving to work in electric cars and juicing up for free.

If those idiots in Congress could pull their heads out of their collective asses long enough to pass some decent legislation there would be massive incentives for commercial and residential solar installation. I'm no longer in the solar business but give one in your area a call and find out about current programs for commercial solar.

People need to get this perfectly clear. Building massive solar and wind utilities across the the continental U.S. is an extravagant waste of money. What it's about is keeping the profit in the hands of the few. Utilizing existing rooftops is a natural and it's relatively cheap. No new grids with long transmission lines, no new power plants no conversion of public and private land to abominable eyesores. Stop the boondoggles.

Power To The People!


Thanks, Joe. Our northern maritime environment makes PVs a bit of a challenge, but we're seeing some interest in solar hot water systems where the technical performance and economics are much stronger. But who knows? Ten years from now, we may very well find the ground has shifted. We certainly pay a high price for utility power, far in excess of that shown on our monthly statement, so anything we can do to help address that is welcome indeed.