Drumbeat: September 19, 2009

Small used cars aren't big sellers as gas stays cheap

Despite all the talk about small cars, many used car buyers are thinking big again.

Used small cars are taking the biggest hits on value in the resale market, Kelley Blue Book says. Even the once-hot, tiny Smart ForTwo is suffering, KBB says.

"It's part of a larger trend that's been happening all year," says Alec Gutierrez, a senior market analyst for KBB. "Some of the weakest segments are subcompact, compact and hybrids."

Africa: Emerging From the Crisis of Capitalism Or Emerging From Capitalism in Crisis?

The principle of infinite accumulation, which defines capitalism as synonymous with exponential growth, and the latter, like cancer, results in death. John Stuart Mill, who understood this, imagined that a 'stationary state' would put an end to this irrational process. John Maynard Keynes shared this optimism of the Reason. But neither was equipped to understand how the necessary overcoming of capitalism could come about. Karl Marx, in giving its full place to the new class struggle, could, on the contrary, imagine overturning the power of the capitalist class, which is currently concentrated in the hands of the oligarchy.

Oil Billionaire Touts Energy Alternatives

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A Texas billionaire oil tycoon who spent $60 million promoting a plan to wean the nation off foreign oil spoke at Indiana University Friday about advances in wind power and natural gas.

T. Boone Pickens, 81, has written a book, made numerous media appearances and gone on tour to support his plan, 6News' Jennifer Carmack reported.

"It's not my problem. I can make it to the finish line … and my standard of living's not going to change, but for you and the generations to come, you better get it fixed," Pickens said.

Huge corn crop helps ethanol industry argue its case

PRIMGHAR, IOWA — Last year, with corn prices at record levels and Americans' grocery bills climbing, the ethanol industry struggled to explain how using corn for fuel was a good long-term answer for reducing U.S. dependence on oil.

This year, however, the industry is getting some help making its case, thanks to a near-record U.S. corn crop that has bolstered claims that the country has enough corn to satisfy both its food and fuel needs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this month that it expects the domestic corn crop to rise to 12.954 billion bushels, up 7 percent from a year earlier and the second-biggest in history.

Nuclear No-Contest

Before the 1950s, the future confronting the human race was bleak. With the global population increasing and becoming more dependent on energy-dense technologies to sustain its food supplies and rising living standards, there seemed no escape from the catastrophe that would come eventually when the coal and the oil ran out. But few worried unduly. It was only after an escape from the nightmare presented itself with the harnessing of nuclear processes and the prospect of unlimited energy that people began to worry. People can be very strange.

Disputed Solar Energy Project in California Desert Is Dropped

A proposed solar energy project in the California desert that caused intense friction between environmentalists and the developers of renewable energy has been shelved.

BrightSource Energy Inc. had planned a 5,130-acre solar power farm in a remote part of the Mojave Desert, on land previously intended for conservation. The company, based in Oakland, Calif., said Thursday that it was instead seeking an alternative site for the project.

On Wood Road: Couple continues 'solar' lifestyle

For Joe and Rose Mato, “going green” is not a new philosophy — they’ve lived a low-consumption, energy-efficient lifestyle for some time, and their home on Wood Road is a testament to it.

“I built this home for what I needed,” Mr. Mato said. “I built it in stages, added things as I got the money to do so.”

Hacking the Sky

Since the scale of the climate crisis became clear, the strategy for fixing this glitch has focused on remediation. To maintain the atmosphere’s equilibrium, we need to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. Our chief goal should be to return the climate to something approximating the pre-industrial status quo.

But what if such a return isn’t possible? What if the planet has gone permanently haywire? As the effects of climate change become obvious and global leaders remain unable to halt emissions, a growing number of scientists say we need to begin researching what’s called “geo-engineering” – ways to artificially reduce global temperatures and/or manipulate plants or the oceans to absorb huge amounts of CO2. Having unintentionally warmed the planet, we may have little choice but to intentionally cool it back down.

Following Trash and Recyclables on Their Journey

Where does all the trash go?

Karin Landsberg, 42, a self-described “eco-geek” in Seattle, was so curious that she invited researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology into her home last month to fish 12 items out of her garbage and recycling bins — a can of beans, a compact fluorescent light bulb — and tag them with small electronic tracking devices.

Oil sands need positive spin

Alberta and Canada have an image problem and it's called the oil sands. Non-government organizations such as Greenpeace and others have made these gigantic open-pit mining operations their current whipping boy. And by deploying hyperbole or inaccuracies, these organizations are winning the public relations game in the United States where the lion's share of this oil is destined.

"The world has changed. You have a big problem and it is going to get worse unless you get your story out there," said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, the world's largest independent public relations firm, to a gathering of oil and government officials at Alberta's Global Business Forum in Banff this week. "Once the facts are understood, there's acceptance of the need for oil sands oil."

How much in subsidies do fossil fuels get anyway?

At least some members of the Obama Administration plan to call for an end to fossil fuel subsidies as part of next week's G20 economic leaders summit, citing positive impacts ranging from improved energy security to combating climate change. But how much does the U.S. government pay? Well, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Law Institute released today, roughly $72 billion between 2002 and 2008.

How case against BP traders went wrong

When federal investigators alleged in 2006 that a group of BP propane traders tried to manipulate that market, it seemed like a strong case.

There was the clear spike in propane prices at the time of the alleged manipulation in 2004.

There were the taped phone conversations between some of the traders discussing the scheme, including one in which a trader notes how “… we could control the market at will.”

One trader even pleaded guilty. BP entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the government and paid $303 million in fines, including $53 million to reimburse customer losses.

But on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller threw the indictments out, saying the law used in the indictments didn't prohibit BP's transactions.

Alberta workers flee angry Maritimers

CALGARY - Dozens of Alberta workers are being flown back from New Brunswick today after being swarmed by protesters from the local workforce, who claim the westerners stole their jobs.

A number of tradespeople from the Alberta-based contractor Integral Energy Service Ltd. were flown to Saint John 10 days ago after being hired by the engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to help complete the Canaport Liquefied Natural Gas plant, belonging to Irving Oil.

Libya to buy Canadian oil producer Verenex

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verenex Energy Inc, a Canadian oil producer focused on Libya, said on Friday it had entered into an agreement to be bought by a Libyan sovereign wealth fund, after the collapse of a deal reached with China.

The Libyan Investment Authority has agreed to pay C$7.09 a share for all of Verenex's outstanding shares, the company said. The offer is well below China National Petroleum Corp's C$10-a-share deal.

Petrobras Freezes Overseas Investment. Full Steam Ahead in Brazil Waters!

Brazil's state-controlled oil and gas multinational Petrobras will freeze overseas investments as the company concentrates on its primary role to develop recently discovered offshore oil reserves, CEO Jose Sergio Gabrielli said this Thursday, September 17.

Driving us crazy

It has become increasingly fashionable to question the Kiwi love affair with the car.

The sandal brigade has long been fond of dissing the petrolheads among us (though they really should shoe themselves in more suitable footwear whenever they crank up their Raleigh Twenties.)

Automakers including Tesla try to energize electric-car business

FRANKFURT — The race is on among the world's auto companies to make electric cars go farther on a single charge, bring the price down to compete with gas-powered vehicles, and give drivers more places to recharge them than just the family garage.

Electric is the big buzz at the 63rd Frankfurt Auto Show this week, and nearly every major automaker has at least one on display. Renault introduced no fewer than four electric models, while San Carlos-based Tesla, the only company producing and selling purely electric cars, handed over the keys to its 700th all-electric vehicle, a blue Roadster Sport, to a German buyer at the show.

Detroit swap: Auto plants for fashion showrooms

DETROIT (CNNMoney.com) -- Detroit's auto industry trained generations of workers in design and manufacturing. As that business fades and its jobs disappear, city planners are hoping to redeploy the city's creative minds and craftsmen toward a new and growing field: fashion.

A drought of ideas is putting water in peril

Unlike peak oil, peak water doesn’t refer to the global reserves – there’s plenty of fresh water in the world. The problem is that there isn’t enough water in the places where people live. This threatens civilisation not only in the affected areas, but for everyone. If one of these regions finds crop yield declining and water becoming short, then the economy and social stability will implode. The consequences of that will be felt as much in rainy Glasgow as in Delhi.

The food and commodities grown and made in arid regions will not keep coming when the water runs out – the meat and cotton and fruit and wine in our shops will become precious items. Further, a waterless society is an uncivilised one. Not only will we have less stuff to buy, but we’ll live in a world where chaos becomes commonplace. When the water runs out, the world will come to our border and ask to be let in – there is no army that could hold back so many desperate people.

Drought fuels sales of artificial grass

"Lake Elsinore is our newest yard and that's outselling all of our other locations because the drought is worse there," Mattox said. "The homes just have dead grass. It's one house after another."

Artificial grass sales have also been boosted by stricter water policies from both cities and water agencies, according to Mattox.

"The cities are saying, `OK, you can only water two to three days a week,' but the water company is saying you can only water two days a week," he said. "And the city of Los Angeles has a rebate program where the water company will pay individuals a dollar per square foot when they put in artificial grass. This is a big thing and we're only touching the tip of it now."

Maori Party laughing all the way to the bank

It is hard to credit that just weeks back, the Maori Party issued a minority report taking issue with the outcome of the parliamentary select committee reviewing New Zealand's emissions trading regime.

In essence, the party continued to oppose the introduction of an emissions trading scheme and "would do so more strongly" if a replacement scheme was to be less effective and more inequitable than Labour's existing scheme.

The Maori Party was unconvinced the market was the best mechanism to set a carbon price: "The continued rise in oil costs from pending peak oil production and global shortages of fresh water alert us to the fact that the world's economy is not so much in a temporary recession as in a state of major change, and that the current mode of living in developed countries is simply not sustainable into the future."

Familiar Issues Vex Climate Pact

The key questions that have dominated the talks from the beginning remain unresolved: What level of emissions cuts are both industrialized and major developing countries willing to embrace? What sort of financing will developed countries provide to help vulnerable nations adapt to climate change and to help emerging economies embark on a more environmentally sustainable growth trajectory?

'The Age of Stupid': a wakeup call on climate

PARIS (AFP) – Could we, the human race, really miss an ever-narrowing chance to save the planet from the ravages of global warming? "The Age of Stupid," which will be screened in hundreds of venues around the world next week, contemplates this grim scenario with the open aim of galvanising a collective effort to prevent it.

Re: 'The Age of Stupid': a wakeup call on climate

This movie sounds a bit like Idiocracy without oil.

Those of us who have seen Idiocracy may have missed the fact that there appears to be lots of energy still flowing around the city as the idiots proliferate...

E. Swanson

Yet something similar to Gatorade comes out of the drinking fountains.

Brawndo - it's got electrolytes. It's what plants crave, dude.

Friday night failures:

Bank failure toll reaches 94

Regulators close subsidiaries of Irwin Financial Corporation in Kentucky and Indiana at a cost of $850 million to the FDIC.

Also interesting...this morning, on the Clark Howard show, Clark dealt with a woman whose credit union wanted to opt out of federal insurance. They said the premiums were rising, they couldn't afford them, and they wanted to get private insurance instead.

Clark didn't like the idea. At all.

Here's an interesting statistic: UrbanSurvival » Blog Archive » Where are the Comedy Writers?

3,711. That’s the number of bank branches that have failed since IndyMac in May 2008. This week, while the failure of two banks may not seem like much, it’s still 27 branches of additional capacity that have been turned over as the weeding out/concentration of power continues in the banking revolution that’s underway in America.

What difference does it make whether you get insurance from FDIC or AIG?

"Oil sands needs a positive spin"

Of course. The real problem isn't the destruction of the environment, but the lack of good public relations. It's a variant of "toxic sludge is good for you" and "High fructose corn syrup makes for a heatlhy diet."

Pete Deer

Who cares about native Canadians dying from rare cancers. As long as the "Independent Republic of Alberta" gets its grubby fingers on some oil profits. Maybe one of those Alberta clowns can drink a glass of the sludge in the tailings ponds, like another clown in the US promised to do with PCBs (I forget the PBS show I saw this on years ago). Everything is subjective and relative when you don't want to admit responsibility.

Another way to prop up BAU from the geniuses in the finance sectors:


For most people, their homes are their largest single investment. Finding a way to hedge that investment makes sense. Falling prices are accentuated in illiquid markets such as residential property. Having some protection against price falls should reduce concerns over paper losses.

The next step is to tie derivatives more tightly to the interests of individual homeowners. MacroShares is already mulling a product tied to specific locations, rather than national house-price movements...Lenders could end up wrapping these derivatives into mortgage contracts as a form of home-equity insurance.

Just what we need in this country...more insurance...to add to the costs of buying a house and renting it from the mortgage holder(s).

Maybe the government will make us take out this insurance by taking it right out of our paychecks...just like the Senator Baucus 'Health Care Reform' bill, which would just take a nice chunk out of your paycheck and mainline it to the insurance companies, and fine your half of that amount if you don't play along.

Not amazingly, the nine comments in the Economist on-line for this article were mostly very supportive.

We used to make goods in this country..then we switched from making tangible things to making pieces of paper called contracts.

Home = Investment? 'The Market' will insulate you from the effects of market? I wonder what Clark would say about this...he seems like a nice guy, but he seems firmly in the BAU camp.

Having some protection against price falls should reduce concerns over paper losses.

Who is going to take the other side of that trade?

Who will now that the consensus is that real estate price can go nowhere but down.

After all, if prices go up, there is no need for insurance.

Think about all the other aspects of modern life that could be hedged; a futures contract for employment. Superbowl insurance for the Detroit Lions.

Anyone who buys gas @ the pump can sell gas on the NYMEX. It's when things go bad that the markets shrink, there are no fools to take the other sides of trades. Even when Detroit wins the Superbowl.

Might be a fun mental exercise to imagine what American society could do to change BAU with one concept: Multi-generational house ownership.

The number of mortages would decrease significantly. The younger generations would then benefit by the 'pay it forward-ness'.

I can only imagine it would provide more stability, because without mortages, more of a family's income could go to the basic necessities.

Isn't that what we already have?

Tax laws are set up to encourage it. In fact, many Americans do live in family homes and pay no mortgage or rent.

But the US population is increasing. And many people want a bigger and better house than mom and dad had. That's what's driving growth.

i was all set to read about t boone pickens multi trillion cubic feet of gas "reserves" and all he said was: "i dont have a headache"

Global warming is simply a politically feasible way of discussing peak oil. Peak oil is not marketable like climate change because it doesn't have an emotional upbeat marketing message like "going green" and products cannot be sold/industries cannot be built around the concept of peak oil. It would be politically dicey in our current environment to latch on to peak oil so instead climate change is a better path for a discussion about burning less hydrocarbons.

Sustainable development is also an oxymoron and telling Americans that their standard of living needs to be lowered each year to match energy supplies is unthinkable. The distractions and noise in the coming years surrounding our energy crisis will be so loud that peak oil will continue to be a concept reserved for those in academia and the financial/scientific community while politicians and the public find the "solution" and/or enemy of the hour.

Many in the sustainability groups around the country are moving to the "Transition Town" model, which acknowledges the peak energy, limited water resources and local foods issues among other things. To not take on these issues since they will not solve all of our problems - and, they won't - does not mean we shouldn't try. Inertia works both ways. I have no way of researching cause and effect, but I would guess that folks who made the early switch to CFL's are more willing to make other changes. Every journey starts with the first step, but one step doesn't make a journey.

The hardest pollution / CC input to deal with has been vehicle emissions in the form of CO2. That is unlikely to change, but would become easier with electric vehicles. Hybrids alone will not change enough of the emissions to be more than a drop in the bucket, but they will likely still have a niche for over the road travel. Local foods, and other goods for that matter, can make a big difference in transportation, but I can't get much in the way of fresh produce in NE Oklahoma in the winter, so I try to stock the freezer and settle for frozen or (home) canned fruits and vegetables over the winter.

Chuck Gross, President, Oklahoma Sustainability Network


I have kicked around this idea (with a few friends )that climate change is a palatable code word(-/not quite the right word,huh?-somebody will have the correct word) for peak oil and it does have some merit.

But tptb are not going to be able to keep peak oil off the front page for very much longer.

If the ELM is correct(I'm a believer) and the economy just hangs on supplies will begin falling in three years at most according to the views of the guys on this site who follow the oil markets closely.

I don't think the public will buy the speculator argument again-especially if the dems hold onto the federal govt.

But otoh,who ever went broke underestimating the public?

I was at a meeting last week in which I asked the 15 or so present - all greenies, etc., mind you - if they thought there were resource limits ahead. Two raised their hands. When I tried to talk economics in terms of growth/profit all comments were in support of BAU, just green. They would not consider for a moment a no-growth paradigm.

While it's fun to speculate and seek reasons why people do crazy things like ignore peak, there is little or no merit to the idea greens are using CC as a way to sneak peak past everyone.

Peak Oil is an equal opportunity thing: all sides are equally ignorant or dismissive.


Thanks for the link "How much subsidies do fossil fuels get anyway", up top.

I don't think the article is including all the subsidies such as the wars for oil security and the effect of removing oil from the market to supply the Strategic Oil Reserve for example.

I've been harping on oil subsidies off and on for some time and I'm glad the Obama Administration and a few others are paying attention to the problem. All the focus in most energy discussions is on ethanol subsidies. They exist because of the oil subsidies. It is unreasonable to think an alternative fuel can compete with highly subsidized oil without subsidies of its own.

The tragedy of oil subsidies is that it makes oil cheaper than it should be. And cheap oil encourages use of a depleting resource the effect of which is to reach the resource's end quicker than would otherwise be the case. Not so with the ethanol subsidies since ethanol is renewable.

Oil subsidies are hastening the arrival of the Post Peak Oil decline and will make the decline faster than without subsidies. All the while the cheap prices discourage alternatives unless they are also subsidized.

The subsidies for oil make no sense and are counter productive. They should be eliminated in all their forms. Then let's eliminate ethanol subsidies too and let the market rule.


Mostly, I agree, with one exception. The subsidies for ethanol research should not be eliminated. Development of the methodology to produce ethanol from a variety of plant sources should be encouraged to minimize the impact on global food and water. Just as grass fed beef is possible on land not suitable for use for crops, there may be much potential for using grasses and other materials for the feedstock for ethanol, probably requiring a major value in the byproducts (as exists for corn based ethanol production) to be feasible. Not a viable example yet, but switchgrass, as a monoculture, is accepted as a crop for grazing by cattle, and the mature crop is better suited to ethanol production, per the Noble Foundation research out of Ardmore, Oklahoma.

I should acknowledge that virtually all of my income is from oil and gas production and I have opposed the elimination of certain "subsidies", but think a fair restructuring of the tax code is necessary. An example of what would not be fair and is not a subsidy is to force capitalization of all drilling and development costs, even in the case of dry holes. Cereal companies, fo instance, are able to write off product development, advertising and promotion expenses whether their product is successful or not. To differentiate between the cereal industry and the oil and gas industry, there has to be some equality of treatment. Most other industries are treated just like the cereal industry, by the way - including the ethanol industry.

I've been harping on oil subsidies off and on for some time and I'm glad the Obama Administration and a few others are paying attention to the problem.

While I am all for eliminating things that would appear to be true subsidies, our friend X gets very confused about "subsidy" for the oil industry and "subsidy" for the ethanol industry. Let's take the $72 billion mentioned in the article at face value, ignoring that the article mentions that some of these subsidies are for things like carbon sequestration research. Over that time period, the U.S. consumed just over 7 billion barrels - almost 300 billion gallons - of petroleum each year. Over that time period, that oil subsidy amounts to 3 cents a gallon. Thus, the oil industry doesn't exist because of any subsidy as is the case with the ethanol industry. And over that same time period, oil companies paid out almost 10 times that subsidy in the form of taxes.

So tell me again about how ethanol is a better deal for the taxpayer. Look, I can understand how a corn farmer would attempt to justify his subsidy, but you just say the same thing over and over - even though it has all been thoroughly refuted. The fact is that the ethanol subsidy encourages overproduction of corn (not the easiest crop on the environment), and it results in overconsumption of natural gas used to make the operation run. So not only is the ethanol subsidy a bad deal for taxpayers, it is also a stealth natural gas subsidy.

Correct me if I am wrong but oil companies typically lease land from the US government and the oil companies are one of the most profitable businesses that exist. How can they make such gross profits on land owned by the taxpayers? By contrast, how profitable is farming, farming land that they actually had to pay for? The oil companies are far more subsidized than the farms. Why do you think the MMS gets cocaine and hookers from the oil companies?

How can they make such gross profits on land owned by the taxpayers?

You are mixing up several items. First, most profits from oil companies come from overseas operations. Thus, their profits aren't because they are leasing land from the government. Second, they pay royalties on the oil taken from that land, and they have to pay for the leases whether they find oil or not.

Finally, the leases are sold based on competitive bidding. If it is really as lucrative as you suggest, you would expect that the bidding would attract anyone interested in making a quick buck. FYI, a lease sale last year brought $700 millon dollars into the federal treasury, and that is merely for the right to look for oil and gas. If they find it, they pay more in royalties:


By contrast, how profitable is farming, farming land that they actually had to pay for? The oil companies are far more subsidized than the farms.

Negative. First, let me make it clear that I am not fundamentally opposed to farm subsidies if that's what it takes to keep domestic food production in business. But farm subsidies do amount to more than $20 billion a year, far more than the number cited for the oil industry above. Finally, don't overlook taxes paid in.

Why do you think the MMS gets cocaine and hookers from the oil companies?

Are you aware of ADM's history?


No industry is immune to scandal. But in the spirit of your comment above, I would suggest that we tar all of agriculture with the ADM scandal brush. I am sure they all engage in price-fixing. Thus all ag subsidies should be eliminated.

I am not real familiar with offshore, but am vary familiar with how it works in the permian basin. If you want to drill for oil, you negotiate with the owners of the mineral rights on the land you are interested. A standard deal will consist of an upfront payment for the right to drill, plus an annual fee to extend the rights if no drilling has occurred. Also negotiated is the royalty...usually between 1/8 and 1/4 of all oil produced, free and clear of any capital or operating costs. Someone correct me if I am wrong...but I believe offshore federal works similar to this. Oil companies bid for the right to drill...paid to the taxpayer regardless if a drop of oil is ever produced. Then if oil is discovered, the company drops a couple of $billion drilling wells, building platforms and pipelines, taking 100% of the risk. Then when the lease starts producing, the federal government (taxpayers) get 1/6 of the oil off the top, plus 35% of any profit.... not too bad of a deal for the taxpayers.... since without the oil company, there would have been nothing. When oil prices spike, like they did last year, of course they can make a ton of money. When it tanks like it did after the spike, you can lose your ass in a heartbeat if your timing is bad. Drilling for oil, especially offshore is a huge financial risk... take away the chance of huge profits, and most of that oil will never be tapped. I suppose many here would disagree, but I think that would be a bad thing.... steepening the decline in the other side. Regardless, I never can understand why people make the oil companies out to be the bad guys... For the most part, they are just a crew of geologists, engineers, and field personel trying to make an honest living providing a valuable product to the market.... which is a lot more than I can say for most industries...banking, retail, auto, real estate.......
You're welcome!!!

Oil companies make a ton of money every year -- not just when the price spikes. I thank them for creating an unsustainable way of life. I thank them for hiring the scientists that the tobacco industry was using so they can continue to ignore external and future costs of their business. The list of things I thank oil companies for goes on and on.

If you want to put the war in Iraq on oil's tab, $72 Billion is low by at least an order of magnitude.

Re: 'Oil Sands Need Positive Spin'

Indeed they do! A thing like 25 square miles of unlined tailings ponds smack dab in the middle of the wilderness and containing all manner of soluble organic compounds is pretty hard to put a positive spin on. This sucker's going to need a LOT of turd polish just to make it look even halfway presentable.

Yet they are making some progress on the PR front. Just look at that recent expense-paid junket up to Alberta for a group of journalists, media people, and bloggers, including none other than our own Gail the Actuary. It got them some generally favorable reviews and was no doubt well worth the time and money. They're learning well from their American cousins, as the API has been a master of this sort of thing for decades.

As we get more and more desperate to lay our hand on any form of reduced carbon we can find, environmental concerns will be all but forgotten, and people who raise them will increasingly be marginalized as a bunch of long-haired, sandle-wearing, granola-munching, commie whackos. Drill baby, drill! Dig baby, dig! Burn baby, burn!

25 square miles of tailings ponds is smaller than the total size of the urban parks of the City of Edmonton. The oil sands cover an area nearly the size of Florida. Does that put it in perspective?

And let's keep in mind that it's called oil sands because it's oil-saturated sand. It outcrops on the surface and the rivers run through the middle of it. You can see the oil continuously running out of the banks and into the river. It's been doing this for millions of years.

It's the world's biggest oil spill, and it's all natural. The tailings are actually less toxic than the original sands, because a lot of the toxic oil has been removed and cleverly disposed of by selling it to Americans, who destroy it by burning it in their cars.

In addition to the 100% natural organic oil running into the Athabasca River, there are natural sources of arsenic and mercury in the riverbed - somewhere, nobody really knows where. The natives downstream should really find a better source of water.

RockymtnGuy -

Your argument that the tailings ponds are a small percentage of the total land in question and therefore not a problem is not terribly persuasive.

The Love Canal hazardous waste site was a small percentage of the land area of western New York; the Hanford radioactive waste site is a small percentage of the land area of Washington State; and the massive Rocky Mountain Arsenal hazardous waste site is a small percentage of the land area of Colorado. By your logic, none of the above should be a problem. It is the inherent nature of toxic waste sites that they are relatively small but concentrated. The cleanup bill for the above is now well over several billion dollars.

Furthermore, you cannot make a direct comparison between the very slow leaching of organics from exposed outcropping with the pollutant loading from much more rapid migration from a liquid phase in an unlined tailings pond that has some significant hydraulic head pushing it out. I would be very curious to know how this artificial organic loading compares with the 'natural' organic loading from the outcroppings. Do you know whether there are any ground water monitoring wells around the periphery of the tailings pond and what the results have been?

Anyway, I seriously doubt that those tailings pond are ever going to be properly capped and secured, as it would probably cost over a billion dollars to do it correctly.

re: "I would be very curious to know how this artificial organic loading compares with the 'natural' organic loading from the outcroppings"

It's a lot less. Remember that what they are doing is mining the oil sands and removing the oil from the sand. It's kind of a laundry operation on a vast scale. What is left is relatively clean sand with traces of oil in it.

The reason for the tailings ponds is that some of the sand is very fine, and takes years to settle out from the water. The alternatives are to microfilter it, or to centrifuge it. It's cheaper to put it into a pond and let gravity take its course.

Re: "I seriously doubt that those tailings pond are ever going to be properly capped and secured, as it would probably cost over a billion dollars to do it correctly."

Oh, they're going to spend way over a billion dollars to do it. But at the end of it, you will be able to sit at a nice picnic table with your kids and watch the buffalo graze on the reclaimed tailings ponds. I'm not kidding.

Interesting Response - A Commentary

I was out picking apples and thinking about the total lack of response to an offer to come and visit my place that I posted on the Campfire Meet-up thread. It's not like it was a pig in a poke since my Campfire essay, A Trip to Todd's, pretty much indicated what is here.

I've done several open houses for locals over the past years so I wasn't looking for fame. But, this was the first time I was opening up for people outside the area, total strangers. I really felt it would be of serious value to people. But, no one emailed me and I'm now closing the offer.

What I find interesting is that this would have been an opportunity to actually see much of what people only talk about in actual practice. It would also have been an opportunity to pick my brain about what I've been doing for the last 30+ years with food production, alternative energy, house design, etc.

It makes me wonder how serious people really are about the future.

It could have been fun.


I remember that thread and
I know I could have learned a lot on a field trip like that.
But, I'm in CO. You're in CA.
Letters away, a 1000 miles apart. :-)
Maybe you can hook up with a community college near you.

I can tell you that I was out this am cutting firewood in the forest for the very first time.
Baby steps toward self-sufficiency.

Hi Ron,

Well, I'd have been glad to have you! On the CC front, it's 60 miles away and not really into my sort of thing. And, I'm really not into fame and fortune.

I've got this year's firewood done and part of next year's. I'll start to cut again once it rains so I can burn my existing brush piles, one of which is about 7'x20'x60' - we did a lot of clearing for fire protection this spring and summer. I don't usually have a ton of slash from branches to burn since I cut the stuff 1" and up for firewood for our cook stove. But, right now I don't have a place for anything.


Didn't see your invitation, but will be traveling up the the South Fork of the Eel when the steehead show up, to practice that existential exercise of trying to catch a winter run steelhead on a fly.
I would love to stop in, if it fits into your world.
I'm moving to a more challenging gardening situation, and any wisdom would help.

Hi Pal,

You know you're always welcome...sorry you weren't able to stop by when you were at the Hog Farm. Email me with your phone number when you are coming up and I'll give you explicit directions (if I didn't give you them to you the last time we corresponded).


PS - you can stay over if that fits into your day.

Thanks Todd---

Hi Todd,

Thanks for writing and for your offer, which I was happy to see.

I didn't respond because I only had a few minutes to quickly skim TOD, (and that's been true for a while).

I've thought for a long time that your place would be a wonderful place for people to see, and learn from -

I know people I'd like to send your way. It's just a matter of seeing them and letting them know.

It would be great if you can keep your offer open, and perhaps post it again, or from time to time.


I'm always glad to have visitors. There are times of the year when this is either a waste of time (like when we get a major rain storm and get 6" of rain in a few days). We also get snowed in now and then for a week or more.

My suggestion is to keep my email on file and I'll let you know how things are going when/if you contact me.


Hi, Todd. I had missed that thread, too. Please don't make the lack of response mean people aren't interested, I think the people of TOD are (literally) all over the world. I went to visit souperman (Jeff) in Corvallis and we had a wonderful time.

Where are you in CA?


FWIW, 3 1/2 hours north of the GG Bridge off of 101. I gave Jason directions a long time ago. I'm in the town north of Willits. I guess if he tossed them out then you will be out of luck.



Count me among those who didn't see your invite, would love to come, but live on the other side of the country (Asheville). I have, though, actually "toured" some houses in this area that have been either converted or scratch built with passive solar and one in particular the owner himself drew the plans for and threw in all of the bells and whistles...3.2 kW PV array, LARGE battery bank, 3000 gallon stainless steel tank from a dairy farm in it's own hyper insulated room to hold hot water generated by 6 large solar thermal panels and a couple of loops of pipe that he'd build into his fireplace, radiant floor heating, an attached greenhouse with heaps of thermal mass, and in the summer he had set up pipes that ran underground for a few hundred feet that would pull in outside air and cool it. It was total overkill (he even had propane backup for electricity and hot water but had never in 8 years used it except to test it and see if it worked), but what really got me - it was the middle of winter when I visited but inside, because of the attached greenhouse structure with all of the plants, it smelled like spring.

Hi Substrate,

My house isn't that fancy but it was pretty hot stuff 25 years ago -and still exceeds most codes today. My house was the last house I designed and built and it was a budget deal. Plus, lots of stuff wasn't available then.

Greenhouses aren't worth too much in my mountainous area. In the summer they are too hot and don't provide much heat in the winter due to heat loss, clouds and snow. I settled for about 30% direct daytime passive solar heating. What I have is a lot of south facing glass for winter and a wisteria covered overhead to keep out the summer sun. FWIW, the house is 82' long and, essentially, one room deep - 2,400 SF.

I wasn't hot about "pipes" in the wood heater so I used a 1/4" welded plate heat exchanger. This acts as a preheater for the HWH. In the summer the solar collectors do the job.

For AC, I just run the AC on the PV system during the day. 90% of the time the evening house temperature is low enough at that point so I don't need added AC in the evening since I have lots of insulation.

There was so much more I would have liked to have done but bucks got in the way. I admire anyone who pulls it together!


I would love to see your place but I couldn't afford the cross country trip even if I could get away.

I expect I could pick up a bunch of good ideas from you -face to face works so much better than written communication.

It's kind of depressing to think how few we might actually be-I keep a close eye out for clues as to the home turf of people who post and I don't think there are more than a dozen within a days driver of my home.

Of course there may be hundreds who lurk only.


2 hours South of SF. I would be honored to have the opportunity for a visit. The heartfelt offer is truly appreciated. Missed the thread that it was mentioned within.

I generally stick to the coast... but I know there's a few windy roads that connect through. If I have a chance to head North of Marin I'll send an email, and try to bring some coastal bounty to share.


nuke no contest-with what, depleted uranium? no one wants the spent fuel rods stored or processed anywhere near them. so what do we do with atomic "ash"? it's all sitting next to reactors in cooling ponds. uranium is a poisonous compound many times toxic than lead. and plutonium? a few hundred micrograms guarantees cancer. google it. dont take my word for it. atomic energy has to be 100% accident free. and design and placement has to be 100% fool proof. even TOD has spoken before of the hidden costs. that includes FF inputs to build and decommission the whole sheebanng. the monies spent on iraq and afghaistan wars could put solar PV on every available roof top in the usa many times over. there is a graph in the memory hole showing as much. might even have premired on TOD. question reality. BAU means we are all doomed! self fulfilling prophesy. "it's all good", as the curmudgeon of armgeddon sez. "i help crash industrial civilization", bumper sticker on every GS employee's car (or life style). sure, i'm jealous. aint you?

atomic energy has to be 100% accident free. and design and placement has to be 100% fool proof.

We don't require 100% safety (if such a thing existed) of our existing energy infrastructure that we know kills people every day, why should Nuclear (which has killed a fraction of the number coal-fired energy has, for example) be lumbered with such a requirement?

i concur that BAU is going to do us all in. but the paradigm does not allow alternatives. case in point. if i walk into a store with a u.s. mint $5 gold piece, what am i to walk out with? $5 worth of merchandise or $250 worth of merchandise? we wont know what gold will buy until after collapse. any gold i buy is a reserve currency. sort of like my house. assessed at 350k 4 years ago (and payed taxes on) but "worth" only 250k in today's market. and my labor? 9 months ago it was worth $19.50 an hour and today it is negoitated down to $15, $14, $13, ....$9 or less an hour. six applicants for EVERY job opening. is that BAU? i guess so. trillions to the banksters and zilch for everyone else. uh-merika is on the down slope of more than just oil recovery. the life style adjustment for the masses has already begun. DOOM IS EVERYWHERE! but let us all blog it to death. venting on the internet or venting on the streets. the revolution doesnt have to be televised. we will all be living it. "it's all good, as someone famous once sed.

Hello TODers,

Plugged-In Age Feeds a Hunger for Electricity

..Americans now have about 25 consumer electronic products in every household, compared with just three in 1980.

Worldwide, consumer electronics now represent 15 percent of household power demand, and that is expected to triple over the next two decades, according to the International Energy Agency, making it more difficult to tackle the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.

To satisfy the demand from gadgets will require building the equivalent of 560 coal-fired power plants, or 230 nuclear plants, according to the agency.
Will parents take away the videogames and big screen tvs? So they can still afford to plug in their batt-bikes so Mom & Dad can still get to postPeak part-time work?

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

Only 25?
Afew years ago I counted the appliances in my daughters bedroom. There were 13 (monitor, tower, printer, scanner, speakers, hair iron, blow dryer, cassette, tv etc). The cassettes now gone and the monitor etc has been replaced by a laptop. New appliances include Ipod and DVD.
I seriously doubt only 3 appliances back in 1980; most homes had at least 2 TVs and a VCR plus the kitchen and haircare appliances. Today our house has 4 computers and 5 TVs for 5 people (and we still fight over the remotes). Easily 50 appliances. Appliances now so cheap (DVD player $35 Vs $800 for a VCR in 1980 and that $800 was over a fortnights wage then whilst $35 now is 90 minutes of overtime).

"Consumer electronics" doesn't include things like kitchen appliances. It's entertainment and communication stuff, like iPods, digital cameras, camcorders, computers, game systems, GPS, DVD players, etc.

I think it's possible there were only three per household in 1980. While VCRs, game systems, and computers were available then, not everyone had them.

I would like to see subsidies eliminated to all those high powered brain trust universities.

LOS ANGELES — California’s unemployment rate in August hit its highest point in nearly 70 years, starkly underscoring how the nation’s incipient economic recovery continues to elude millions of Americans looking for work...
Is Cascadia ready? Obvious Hint: they are not going to migrate to Death Valley. Duh! Just a few giant riots and the migration begins. Will the coming wealth and brain drain be like Zimbabwe, Haiti, etc?

California definitely has to get back in touch with the real world again (if they ever were in touch with reality). It is beginning to meet the criteria for a "failed state".

They need to tear up the existing legislation, fire the current clown act, and bring in the outside experts. How about contracting it out to the University of Chicago Business School? It worked for Chile, it could work domestically.

The problem is, it didn't work for Chile.
Chile was the neocon unfettered econ experiment, dictatorship and all, to enforce the rules.
It failed, as did Argentina, another neo wet dream.

It failed, as did Argentina, another neo wet dream.

You can't say "it failed" until you define what the goal was. If the goal was a better life for the vast bulk of the population of those countries, as measured by the median income, then we can come to some sort of conclusion. If the (obviously not to be made public) goal, was to enrich/empower a small minority in those countries, you might come to a different conclusion.

I look at who is in power---
Not the neo's but a center left mildly socialist, with the country now back on track, even with some major environmental concerns.
The elite's looted the country during the neo years, but that is a given with right elites controlling the government and economy.
That is the stated goal, and a badge of honor among them.
Actually, it is the covert goal of "left" elites.

Try comparing Chile's economy to the neighboring countries, Bolivia and Argentina.

For that matter, try comparing Chile's public debt (5.2% of GDP) to that of the U.S. (60.8% of GDP), or current account balance (Chile: $7 billion surplus, US: $1,687 billion deficit). Which one is the failed neocon economic experiment?

Hmm, isn't the US one big Chicago school experiment right now? Seems like Austrian's have it closer to right?

Hello TODers,

I hope you are all following Dave Cohen's excellent ASPO texts. Here is his latest output:


I did not expect it to be published on ASPO, but I submitted for moderator-approval my obviously very controversial comment of my ten-year forecast of US BOE/C of [19 @ '19]:
By bob on September 18th, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Your comment is awaiting moderation

Hello Dave Cohen,

Your Quote: “Today’s article is the first of a two-part series in which I attempt to forecast general economic conditions that will affect the oil market over the next 10 years.”

Thxs, Great Writeup–looking forward to Part 2. As you discussed in the protracted Bearish Global Scenario: US Boomer vs Youngster demographic and economic trends, plus continued high US unemployment creating slack or decreasing demand for products and energy, seems to dovetail nicely with Richard Duncan’s Olduvai Gorge Re-Equalizing of Society. I am sure you are aware of this text, but for any Newbies reading here:


Since you are reasonably limiting yourself to US & China in this 2-Part ASPO posting series: I think it would be helpful if you could possibly update, then predictively extend BOE/C for both the US & China in Part 2. For Newbies: Here is the USA according to Duncan up to 2007, but obviously a lot has happened energy-wise since then to ratchet it downward:


My total WAG [Wild Ass Guess] is 52 BOE/C for the US in 2009 when the details finally come out in 2010, but I hope you can apply your mad skills to generate a more scientific WAG earlier.

Then, my purely mental WAG gets future worse by applying the IEA’s depletion rate and [TODer Westexas] Jeffrey Brown’s Export Land Model [ELM] cutting US supplies even more for the next ten years. Basically repeating the slope of the steep fall from 1979 to 1983 [see graph above again], but stretched for ten years instead of just four years.

So, now my really ‘Wild & Crazy’ USA WAG for 2019 is 19.0 BOE/C, assuming we don’t have dire Black Swans of rampant global trade protectionism leading to something militarily resembling WWIII, like a ICBM nuke or bioweapon gift exchange, making things much worse during the 10-year interim.

Sorry, no equations from me–>just going on my gut-feel. Lots of ‘what-ifs’ overlooked. Let’s track my [2019 @ 19 BOE/C] prediction as we move towards 2020, but I hope you and expert others will be proven to be much more accurate with your long-range predictive attempts.

My 10-year look-ahead prediction seems reasonable if Climate Change proposals slowly move forward at the upcoming [2009-2019] G20 conferences, plus something resembling the ASPO Oil Depletion Protocols eventually advances too [Matt Simmons' request for a global audit would be a great help]. IMO, even if global leaders started today on informing everyone on Peak Outreach and population control: there is a lot of pop. increase already baked in the cake for the next ten years.

My [19 @ '19] is lower than eyeballing 2019 in Duncan’s Fig 5 graphic…

roughly eyeballing about 25 BOE/C
…but I am wildly assuming that Duncan wants to gather much more recent info before issuing a more definitive forecast.

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

Obviously, there are probably many who think my [19 @ '19] is way too low; much too pessimistic. Thus, I will therefore attempt to buttress my WAG-case. Please examine with me Duncan's Fig. 1 again:


I call your attention first to the decline from 2000-2007 of 2.46 BOE/C. 2.46 BOE/C is 103 gallons/C decrease, so for a 'Murkan family of four this is 412 gallons, or 27.5 15-gal gastanks of fuel.

Yet, if one recalls this recent history, we went on an orgy of consumption during this 8-year period with SUVS, McMansions, tourism, new roads & highways, computers, video games, TVs, plus many new retail and commercial buildouts. All fueled by easy credit to embed us even deeper into a wasteful lifestyle, yet our BOE/C STILL DECREASED.

As explained by Duncan: We were essentially outbid by others by 2.46 BOE/C during this period. The slight uptick in 2007 was just the final blowout which probably extends until July '08 when the WTI hit $147, then I estimate US BOE/C goes downhill fast from there.

From Duncan's Conclusion Section: "The Olduvai Scenario (Fig. 5): The U.S. SL falls by 90% from 2008 to 2030."

Thus, I applied an immediate 10% whack to the 2007 BOE/C of 57.48 to get my initial WAG of 52 BOE/C for 2009. 52-19 is 33 divided by the remaining 9 years is only an average decrease of 3.67/year [154 gallons/year], which is just a little more than double the avg decrease rate of 1.78/year [74 gallons/year] of the earlier '79 to '83 decline period. Since pop. is growing faster now than back then, I figured a doubling would be adequate as supported by the info below in these links:

US pop from '79 to '83 increased 8,736,507 [source: US Census Bureau]
Thus, about 2.2 million/year during this downswing BOE/C period.

Population growth is due to two factors: fertility and immigration.

Fertility: The U.S. average fertility rate is currently 2.1335 births per woman, the U.S.’s highest fertility rate since 1971.
I expect this figure to go higher in the next ten years if Peak Outreach fails, we become more poor from our debt load, and we become more religious & uneducated. Recall the earlier weblink that concluded that the more religious and uneducated a state becomes--the higher the birthrate.

2009 = 295,306,000 middle series est. for both #'s
2019 = 320,231,000

2009 = 310,523,000 high series est. for both #'s
2019 = 353,204,000 [source: US Census Bureau for all #'s]
25 million more as we go postPeak for the middle est.
43 million more as we go postPeak for the higher est.

I am using the Avg of the above, which is a 34 million estimated increase for the next ten years. This should greatly help drag down the postPeak BOE/C. Again, compare the additional 2.2 million/year during the 79-83 downswing vs adding 3.4 million/year in the 09-19 downswing.

This 2000-'07 timeframe was the era of the giant SUV and many large engine ICE-cars. Gasoline was cheap, although rising in cost during this timeframe, but millions were manufactured and are still in use today.

In fact, large vehicles are still popular--see the link uptop in Leanan's DB on small cars being shunned. The new CAFE standards will not appreciably shrink the size of these vehicles in the next ten years, but if unaffordable or unattainable fuel becomes prevalent as expected per WT's ELM--this will certainly make the owners rapidly curtail their usage. Again, this helps drive down BOE/C because people will pour their wealth into their gastank as long as they can; they will resist jumping on a bicycle or walking.

Many immigrants, both legal & illegal, came into the US during this period. I would expect as Mexico's Cantarell goes belly up--we will see a flood to the North, especially if CA, AZ, NV, etc, start having major postPeak financial, social, and drought problems in the next ten years.

Okay, enough for now. Obviously, a lot of this is unscientifically derived, but it does seems reasonably plausible for a WAG. Hopefully, others with better statistical skills can see ways to generate even more accurate SWAG 10-year predictions than my [19 @ '19].

another factor is taken from this graphic from this link:

US has 6-12 years to exhaust proven reserves at current production rates.

ATTN Gail,

At the moment: we TODers are locked out from adding comments to your new keypost.

Just noticed what Toto pointed out. Also saw it when I wanted to respond to an earlier post several days ago, though shortly later that lockout was gone. Is there some time-lapse between the posting of a keypost and the ability to make comments?

Antoinetta III

I think there is a seven day timer on both posts in the queue and on key posts that are up. Once that is past, comments automatically cut off. If we don't turn off comments on key posts, we get a lot of spam in the occasional late posts.

It is not clear that there is any functionality in queue posts go into the "no comments" mode after seven days. What happens is the editor putting the post up needs to remember to turn comments back on. Since it is not something needed on all posts, we sometimes forget.

Sorry, my mistake. I fixed it. I needed to "Turn comments on" and I forgot to do that.

No Leader on Climate Change as Nations Prepare to Meet

While virtually all of the largest developed and developing nations have made domestic commitments toward creating more efficient, renewable sources of energy to cut emissions, none want to take the lead in fighting for significant international emissions reduction targets, lest they be accused at home of selling out future jobs and economic growth.

The negotiations for a new climate change agreement to be signed in Copenhagen in December are badly stalled. With the agreement running more than 200 pages — including what negotiators estimate are a couple of thousand brackets denoting points of differences — diplomats and negotiators fear that the document is too unwieldy to garner a consensus in the coming months.

My prediction: COP-15, December in Copenhagen, will emerge with a cobbled-together "agreement" for face-saving on the world stage, but it will have no teeth nor real commitments by its signatories. There will be no political progress in reducing emissions.

A whole lot of environmental activists are going to be terribly disappointed - Bill McKibben's "350" crowd are preparing optimistically for a big day of action on October 24th, soon to be burning hundreds of tons of fossil fuels to get to their appointed demonstrations, all around the world.

Dick Lawrence

Hello DickLawrence,

Thxs for the linky. Too bad the global leadership is not providing true leadership, thus auto-defaulting us more towards Jay Hanson's Thermo/Gene Collision.

It would have been so easy for Obama to say the goal is [19 @ '19], or some other easy to remember energy phrase that all in the USA could rally around. Such is life..

Re: Alberta workers flee angry Maritimers

The recent boom in the oil sands of Alberta solved the chronic unemployment problem in the Atlantic provinces and drove unemployment rates to the lowest levels seen in over a century - any worker without a job got on the next jet to Alberta and signed up for a six-figure salary welding pipe or something.

However, when Alberta workers go to New Brunswick to do a little contract work, now that things are a bit slow, it's considered taking jobs away from the locals that rightly should belong to them and them alone. Cause for protests and threats of violence.

The fact, not widely broadcast, is that provincial taxes only cover half the budget of the New Brunswick government. The other half comes from - guess where. It's a popular (in the East) Canadian concept called "Equalization", otherwise known as the "Robin Hood principle".

Some 2004 figures from Statistics Canada:

New Brunswick: Federal taxes: $4717 per capita; Expenditures, $8967 per capita.

Alberta: Federal taxes: $7927 per capita; Expenditures, $5133 per capita.

It is the sense of entitlement that is annoying. The attitude of "What's ours is ours, and what's yours is ours, too." Sure, Albertans make a lot of money, but when they send a lot of it to support their Eastern cousins, they'd like a little respect. And also the right to work there.

But state and federal investigators are confounded because chemical analysis shows the creek water at the treatment facility site contains extremely high total dissolved solids, or TDS, and chlorides -- properties found in wastewater from Marcellus Shale gas well drilling operations but not mine water. Total dissolved solids may include metals, salts and other elements.

Read more: http://postgazette.com/pg/09263/999458-113.stm#ixzz0RdRHIWWg

44 -- An interesting but sad commentary of the distinction between having regulations and enforcing regulations. Just shooting from the hip since all the facts aren't in but I've seen this before. Company A has toxic drilling wastes to dispose of by regulatory standards. Company B (a hauling/disposal company) charges (at a very attractive rate) Company A to get rid of the waste. Unfortunately the regulators don't audit/inspect Company B so they do a "midnight run" as we call it in Texas: stop next to a bridge, drop a hose over the side and open the valve. We watch such matters much more closely here now then in the bad old days. And truly accidental discharges can still happen. But if the Rangers catch you doing a midnight run here now you'll likely end up in the state pen. Regulations only work if they are enforced. From what I've seen of Fed/state enforcement in the east the environment will remain at risk.