Drumbeat: September 21, 2009

The New Homesteaders: Off-the-Grid and Self-Reliant

You may have heard about them: Off-the-gridders living in radical opposition to modern amenities by growing their own food and cutting themselves off from the rest of society. Not so. Sure, more people are choosing to cut their dependence on the power grid, the grocery story and fuel pump. But these new homesteaders are hardly radicals—they are simply DIYers who, for a variety of reasons, revel in self-reliance. This is their story.

...The specters of financial crisis, climate change, uncertain energy reserves and a fragile food supply loom large for the new generation of survivalists—and though I don’t share their apocalyptic mind-set, I find myself relating to the urge to run for cover. In April, the top-selling action and adventure book on Amazon.com was Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse, a work described to me by its author, James Wesley Rawles, as a “survival manual dressed as fiction.” Its plot appeals to those on the political right, who fear a too-powerful government—and the anarchy to come in the wake of its inevitable collapse. Leftie off-the-gridders gravitate more to the “grow-local” approach championed by author Michael Pollan. “We’re using up the world’s resources more quickly than you could imagine,” says Ruby Blume of the Institute of Urban Homesteading. “I think we need to be prepared.”

Lately, homesteaders of all political stripes have settled upon a common concern: globalization. The shock waves of any crisis—for instance, the subprime meltdown—now spread far, fast and wide. Many doubt that major institutions can be counted upon to save the day. “You’re on your own, your job is at risk, and a lot of the commodities you rely upon are vulnerable to disruption,” says John Robb, author of Brave New War, which describes how terrorists could exploit global systems. To my ear, such statements straddle the line between reasonable advice and hyperventilated threat. One day you’re sipping a frappuccino. The next you’re using a pitchfork to fend off rioting mobs. But even if I don’t fully agree with the dystopian diagnosis, I like Robb’s proposed cure: “You’re going to have to start doing more for yourself.” The beauty of the DIY solution is that the exact problem doesn’t matter; greater self-sufficiency makes sense to survivalists and eco-utopians alike.

Greens Not Happy About EPA Guidelines

New fuel-economy rules proposed by the federal Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency are the first major move by the U.S. toward cracking down on greenhouse-gas emissions. The proposed program includes miles-per-gallon requirements and national emissions standards under the EPA's greenhouse-gas-emissions guidelines for model years from 2012 to 2016.

You'd think that environmental groups would be overjoyed.

Hardly. What has them worried are all the pro-industry rule tweaks and what they see as slanted calculations. "Automakers lobbied hard to include loopholes in the Administration's proposal," says Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign at the Center for Auto Safety.

Toyota falling behind rivals in the race to go electric

TOKYO — Despite Toyota's image as the world's greenest automaker, the company that brought us the Prius — totem of the environmentally conscious — has fallen behind in the race for the all-electric car.

Firms Start to See Climate Change as Barrier to Profit

As the real-world impacts of climate change begin to materialize and regulation of greenhouse gases appears more likely, corporate America has begun to grapple with a challenging question: How do you quantify the risks associated with climate change?

The answer depends on one's perspective. But companies are beginning to show increased willingness to disclose the extent to which they're contributing to global warming and what they're doing to keep it from harming their business.

"If we don't move now, it just becomes more expensive, more complicated and a bigger risk," said Brad Figel, director of government affairs at Nike, at a Capitol Hill briefing last week sponsored by Oxfam America.

Sentance warns of oil price shock

The oil price will stay high for the next decade and could be the cause of the next "big global shock" in the worldwide economy, according to Andrew Sentance, one of nine economists at the Bank of England charged with keeping a lid on inflation.

Bracing for a time of tumult

It was all Sturm und Drang at the Friday morning presentations at the Global Business Forum.

Participants were jolted awake by the comments made by author and journalist Gwynne Dyer, whose grim message was that the world is heating much faster than scientists anticipated. Without strong and swift action aimed at reversing the trend, said Dyer, the world faces an apocalyptic future of famine, unpredictable weather patterns and drought. And these were just a few of the highlights.

Fair carbon means no carbon for rich countries

WHAT might a truly fair and effective solution to climate change look like? One answer to that question has just been released and it makes for disturbing reading. For one thing, the scale and speed of emissions cuts required by developed nations is far greater than the commitments governments are currently willing to make.

2009 Green Rankings

Our exclusive environmental ranking of America's 500 largest corporations.

Randy Udall: Can Shale Gas Save the Planet?

In late August the Vancouver Sun ran an article on the bullish prospects for Canadian shale gas. The piece began this way: “What energy crisis? Despite what you may be hearing about a global peak in oil production, waning reserves, and $100-plus oil prices, North America is suddenly awash in fossil fuel.”

The most arresting quote came from Mike Graham of EnCana, a Canadian company that holds dominant positions in British Columbia’s Montney and Horn River plays. “Natural gas will displace coal. It will displace oil. There is no reason North America shouldn’t be energy self-sufficient if we can displace a lot of the oil with natural gas.”

Are we all of a sudden “awash in fossil fuel?” On the road to “energy self-sufficiency?”

Medvedev bears gifts and a growl

MOSCOW - Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev, who makes a state visit to Switzerland on Monday, has presented two bear cubs to the capital Bern, along with a growl that if any harm comes to Victor Vekselberg, a Russian oil and aluminum oligarch, all the Russian money that goes into, or is at present sitting in, Switzerland may vanish.

China’s August Fuel Sales Rise to Highest This Year on Recovery

(Bloomberg) -- China’s domestic oil-product sales rose to the highest this year as the economic recovery spurred demand, the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Association said in a report.

Fuel sales in August increased 3.2 percent to 18.78 million metric tons from a year earlier and 8.1 percent from July, the association said in the monthly report sent to Bloomberg News on Sept. 19.

Iran eyes launch of gas deal with Switzerland: official

TEHRAN (Xinhua) -- Managing director of National Iranian Gas Export Company expressed hope on Monday that the gas deal between Iran and Switzerland would be implemented within the next few months, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

"The agreement to sell natural gas to Switzerland is among the most important deals... It has been finalized and there only remained some pricing differences which will be resolved within the next few days," Seyed Reza Kassaeizadeh was quoted as saying.

Libya Wealth Fund to Buy Verenex in Cash Deal

Canada-based oil producer Verenex Energy said it has agreed to be sold to the Libyan Investment Authority for about 314.1 million Canadian dollars ($293.7 million) in cash, after a better deal with a Chinese firm fell through.

Norway to consider increasing 2020 CO2 cuts

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway will consider cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by more than a planned 30 percent by 2020 if it helps a U.N. climate deal due in Copenhagen in December, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.

Norway, the world's number five oil exporter, has already adopted a goal of cutting its emissions by 30 percent by 2020, partly by using its vast oil wealth to buy carbon emissions quotas on international markets.

Audit Finds Waste in 'Green' Projects

The four drafty buildings had been fixtures of the Energy Department complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for more than half a century. They burned energy like 1950s sedans.

The buildings seemed like perfect candidates for a federal conservation retrofit program that relies on private contractors that receive a percentage of the money they save. A deal was struck in 2001. The contractors reworked lighting and heating systems, among other things, and began collecting payments.

The project was counted among the department's "green" successes -- until auditors discovered that the buildings had been torn down several years ago, and the government had paid $850,000 for energy savings at facilities that no longer existed.

Obama Allows Sen. McConnell to Appoint Foxes to Guard Chicken Coops

President Barack Obama’s willingness to follow the tradition of allowing the Senate GOP leader to appoint members to two oversight boards has government watchdogs upset. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has chosen former aide and energy lobbyist Scott O’Malia to sit on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and Michael V. Hayden, who headed the National Security Agency under President George W. Bush, to the Public Interest Declassification Board. In both cases, the appointees’ previous work has raised concerns because they contradict the missions of their new oversight bodies.

Seeking the Smart Money

Utilities have been flooding the U.S. Department of Energy with applications for a piece of the $4.5 billion set aside in the federal stimulus package for smart-meter and demand-response projects.

Smart-grid companies provide technologies like meters, software, networking infrastructure and voltage regulators to help customers consume energy more efficiently. Demand-response companies provide technologies and services designed to reduce or shut off energy use during times of peak demand, relieving pressure on the grid.

UK: Worry over energy cuts

CONSERVATIVE Parliamentary candidate David Mowat has warmed homes and businesses across town that they could be facing power cuts.

For the first time since the three-day week of the 1970s, consumers will be told to prepare for blackouts, since the supply of electricity will fail to meet demand at peak times he argued.

Three Gorges Power Plant among world's top ten renewable energy projects

As the world's largest hydropower station, the Three Gorges Power Plant has been chosen by internationally-renowned science magazine Scientific American as one of "the world's top ten renewable energy projects," reporters learned from China Three Gorges Project Corporation.

Kunstler: Original Sin

Suburbia was engineered as the antidote to the Kramden's apartment: country-living-for-everybody. The evacuation of the cities to the new outlands proceeded as relentlessly as the landings at Normandy. It wasn't until the program was well underway that the self-destructive essence of it became obvious -- that every new housing subdivision killed the original rural character of the land, with the result that suburban life quickly became a cartoon of country living in a cartoon of a country house in a cartoon of the country. With additional layer-on-layer of, first, the shopping in the form of highway strips, then malls, along with the office "parks," these places elaborated themselves into a kind of cancer-of-the-landscape, a chronic and expensive condition that Americans had no choice but to live with, because of the monumental investments they had already made in it. The discontents it produced lent it to psychological depression and dark humor, just as chronic illness does. But we were stuck with it.

Don’t despair — get out there and do something

Yes, we’ve entered the Anthropocene Era, an epoch in which human activity is overpowering the natural world. This is what Bill McKibben means by "the end of nature." And let’s be clear, too, that there’s no going back. The world you grew up in is gone forever. We are already feeling the impact of climate change, which has such momentum that if we stopped greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, the changes would continue for decades.

But, Turner says, that doesn’t justify surrender. The environmental battle needs to be intensified, possibly using startling new weapons like "geoengineering," the deliberate alteration of the planet to counteract the changes we’ve already set in motion. Or nanotechnology. Perhaps we need a philosophy of "social-ecological resilience," accepting change as "the natural state of being on Earth" and targeting our conservation efforts on the life forms with the best chance of survival. But this is a time for action, not for despair.

Study reveals that Europe must change perspectives towards food security

A new report by leading food and sustainability scientists calls for Europe to take a new approach on food security, prioritizing health and sustainability in research and using a holistic view when making policy. The report has been jointly chaired by Peter Raspor, professor of food science and technology at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and Rudy Rabbinge, professor of sustainable development and systems innovation at Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

Carolyn Baker - Disaster: the gift that keeps on giving, or finding paradise in hell

Solnit notes that horrible disasters have shaped the lives of some people who have become luminaries of healing and social change. One notable example is Dorothy Day who was eight years old when the San Francisco earthquake struck, and the most profound memory she took from the disaster was that "While the crisis lasted, people loved each other." The impact of that love shaped Day's life and work as she devoted herself entirely to organizing people to meet the needs of the poor and to create a more just and magnanimous society.

How can lower-carbon behaviour be mainstreamed?

Changing the public's use of energy at home and on the move is critical for reducing the UK's overall contribution to climate change. However, beyond the environmentally inclined, there is a very substantial group of people who are doing very little in response to climate change communications and policies. ippr’s Consumer Power research has investigated why this has been the case and how lower-carbon behaviour can be stimulated among a key segment of this group.

Soap Box Derby hopes green image sprouts a sponsorship

The Soap Box Derby, an American icon clinging to nostalgia in a digital age, has hit a financial pothole that threatens the winner's-circle dreams of kid cart racers coast-to-coast.

Desperate for a title sponsor after two years without one, the 75-year-old youth racing program is on a mission to reinvent itself as something it's always been but never thought to promote: green.

Russian oil exports called unsustainable

Russia can't sustain the rise in oil exports that saw it surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's top exporter for the first time in the post-Soviet period, according to OAO Rosneft, the country's biggest oil producer.

The trend of increasing oil exports isn't sustainable as the domestic market becomes more attractive for Russian oil producers and tax breaks for exports are lifted, Peter O'Brien, Rosneft's vice president for finance and investment, told reporters Sunday near Moscow.

Oil Options Hit Highs as Verleger Predicts 44% Plunge

(Bloomberg) -- Oil traders are paying more than ever in the options market to protect against a plunge in crude prices.

The gap between prices of options betting on a decline and those that would profit from a rise in oil widened to a record 10 percentage points, according to five years of data compiled by Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch. Crude stockpiles in the U.S. are 14 percent larger than a year ago and OPEC is pumping 600,000 barrels a day more than the world needs, according to the International Energy Agency.

N.Y. Natural Gas Set to Decline Below $3: Technical Analysis

(Bloomberg) -- Natural gas futures, which jumped 28 percent last week, may revisit seven-year lows after surging into an “overbought” area of resistance between $3.58 and $3.87 per million British thermal units, according to a technical analysis by Barclays Capital.

Gas tumbled 82 percent from a high of $13.694 per million Btu in July 2008 to touch $2.409 on Sept. 4. Gas then surged 57 percent through Sept. 18. The futures have entered a resistance zone and the downtrend is likely to resume, MacNeil Curry, a New York-based analyst at Barclays, said in an interview.

Aruba Premier Expects Agreement With PetroChina Soon, ANP Says

(Bloomberg) -- Aruban Prime Minister Nelson Oduber expects to be able to agree soon with PetroChina Co. about the sale of a Valero Energy Corp. refinery on the island, Dutch news agency ANP reported, citing the politician.

The refinery is placed “well in the market” given the $16 billion oil exploration agreement between China and Venezuela earlier this month, the Dutch-language agency cited Oduber as saying in a report dated Sept. 20. Talks are under way, he said, according to ANP. Aruba is in the southern Caribbean Sea, north of Venezuela.

EarthTalk: using rainwater and goats

For most of us, the rain that falls on our roof runs off into the ground or the sewer system. But if you’re motivated to save a little water and re-distribute it on your lawns or plants—or even use it for laundry, dishes or other interior needs—collecting rainwater from your gutters’ downspouts is a no-brainer.

If it’s allowed in your state, that is. Utah and parts of Washington State have antiquated but nonetheless tough laws banning anyone but owners of water rights from collecting rainwater flowing off privately owned rooftops. Such laws are rarely enforced, however, and one in Colorado was recently overturned.

Guerilla gardening better choice

The use of subversive tactics to change notions of land ownership may not seem like something that would have a reason to catch on in this country.

Why would anyone care when any kind of food imaginable can be obtained in one trip to the grocery store?

However, guerilla gardening is taking hold in many industrialized nations to demonstrate exactly why we should care about the land and be involved with how it is used.

Brighton seeks to become UK food capital

A drive to turn Brighton and Hove into the food growing capital of the UK was launched today.

The Harvest Brighton and Hove initiative aims to show why urban agriculture should be taken seriously by decision-makers and supported by planning policy.

It wants to encourage food growing on allotments, gardens, parks, vacant land, balconies, rooftops, around public buildings and on housing estates.

The scheme aims to tackle the challenge of maintaining a sustainable and secure food supply in the face of climate change, peak oil and other global uncertainties.

Fans take to bicycles to hear tunes

A little pedal power gave the third annual Can Change Festival a little extra push Saturday, as hundreds of people visited the waterfront for the environmental festival.

While the festival boasted an increase in attendance, more displays and vendors and workshops, musical guests Mr. Something Something performed a bicycle-powered concert.

The group has been using their audience's energy and bicycles to power their amps and microphones for the past year as they have travelled across Canada playing unconventional venues.

Once Slave to Luxury, Japan Catches Thrift Bug

In the 1970s and ’80s, and even as the economy limped through the ’90s, a wide group of consumers spent generously on Louis Vuitton bags and Hermès scarves — even at the expense of holidays, travel and, sometimes, meals and rent.

Now, the Japanese luxury market, worth $15 billion to $20 billion, has been among the hardest hit by the global economic crisis, according to a report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Retail analysts, economists and consumers all say that the change could be a permanent one. A new generation of Japanese fashionistas does not even aspire to luxury brands; they are happy to mix and match treasures found in a flurry of secondhand clothing stores that have sprung up across Japan.

East German auto 'icon' might return as EV

FRANKFURT - A vastly updated version of the boxy, smoky Trabant compact made in communist East Germany could be in production by 2012 as an electric powered green machine — but only if the company finds the right investor.

Electric bikes start to gain traction

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Ever wondered what it would be like to have Lance Armstrong pedal your bike for you? Well now you can find out, sort of.

About 15 companies are now offering bicycles with an electric power option -- as opposed to a purely engine-powered moped -- for around $1,000 to $4,000 -- and they are catching on with some green-thinking commuters.

Beans might give you and your car gas

A Lehigh Valley, Pa., environmentalist is pushing ahead with plans to power vehicles not with gasoline or diesel, but with the moldy bread, banana peels and rotten meats that would otherwise be dumped in area trash heaps.

Microbiologist Rex D'Agostino wants to build a pilot plant that would transform food waste into natural gas to power specially suited vehicles.

If he's successful, officials believe, the plant would be the first of its kind on the East Coast.

For car makers, it's suddenly all about electric

A visitor to the Frankfurt Auto Show, the biggest event of its kind, might think all is well in the car world.

Outside the vast exhibition halls, auto makers may be firing tens of thousands of workers and losing billions. But inside, the cars gleam like polished gemstones, exhibitors swill champagne and executives and engineers burble enthusiastically about the dawn of a new era: The electric car is here.

China Submits New-Energy Plan to Cabinet Before Copenhagen Meet

(Bloomberg) -- China submitted a plan to develop alternative forms of energy such as wind and nuclear to the Cabinet for approval and may announce the proposal before the Copenhagen climate talks, said a government researcher.

The New-Energy Development Plan is pending final approval from the State Council, Zhou Fengqi, an adviser to the energy research institute at the National Development and Reform Commission, said in a telephone interview today. The plan will include some revised “bigger and bolder” goals to develop new types of energy, Zhou said.

China hydropower to near double by 2020: state media

BEIJING (AFP) – China's hydropower capacity is expected to nearly double to 300,000 megawatts by 2020, state media said, as the nation powers ahead with the development of renewable energy sources.

Water resources minister Chen Lei, who was quoted by the official Xinhua news agency as giving the target, also said hydropower would play a more important role in China's strategy for energy security in the future.

China May Raise Hydro-Power Price in Near Future, Journal Says

(Bloomberg) -- The Chinese government may increase hydro-electric power prices in the “near future,” the China Securities Journal reported, citing Zhang Guobao, the head of the National Energy Administration.

Economy, policies energizing Canada's wind sector

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's wind power companies are getting a lift from rising oil prices, a healthier economy and energy-friendly government policies, even as tight capital markets continue to curb the recovery of the fledgling sector.

College students protest coal use on campuses

COLUMBIA, Mo. – College students nationwide are urging their schools to stop using coal produced at campus power plants or purchased from private utilities in favor of cleaner energy sources ranging from wood chips to geothermal power.

World's River Deltas Sinking Due To Human Activity, Says New Study

ScienceDaily — A new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder indicates most of the world's low-lying river deltas are sinking from human activity, making them increasingly vulnerable to flooding from rivers and ocean storms and putting tens of millions of people at risk.

While the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report concluded many river deltas are at risk from sea level rise, the new study indicates other human factors are causing deltas to sink significantly. The researchers concluded the sinking of deltas from Asia and India to the Americas is exacerbated by the upstream trapping of sediments by reservoirs and dams, man-made channels and levees that whisk sediment into the oceans beyond coastal floodplains, and the accelerated compacting of floodplain sediment caused by the extraction of groundwater and natural gas.

World Needs Carbon Limit of 35 Billion Tons By 2030, Stern Says

(Bloomberg) -- The world needs to limit its greenhouse gas emissions to 35 billion tons by 2030 to avoid temperature increases of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), said Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank.

Emissions will need to be cut to 20 billion tons in 2050 from about 50 billion tons today, Stern, who’s chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, said today in an e-mailed statement.

Australia's Copenhagen warning, aims at compromise

CANBERRA (AFP) – Australia on Monday said crunch climate change talks in December would fail if a "one size fits all" approach was adopted, instead suggesting a compromise deal aimed at developing nations.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said that under the scheme, developing countries would agree to binding goals in areas such as deforestation or renewable energy, rather than signing up to economy-wide emissions targets.

US ties, climate change focus of Hatoyama's debut

TOKYO – Just five days in office, Japan's prime minister left Monday for his debut on the world stage, where he is to meet with the leaders of the U.S., China and Russia and promote his ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gases in a speech at the U.N.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was scheduled to hold talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao after arriving in New York late Monday, then attend a climate summit at the U.N. starting Tuesday.

Is Lieberman at it again?

Sen. Joe Lieberman alienated a lot of Democrats last year when he campaigned for John McCain and dismissed Barack Obama as a “talker” rather than a leader.

He may be on the verge of doing it again.

In an effort to resuscitate some version of the House climate change bill in the Senate, the Connecticut independent is trying to get Republicans and moderate Democrats on board by adding money for coal power and nuclear plants — changes that would infuriate many of the bill’s liberal supporters.

Climate-Talks Deadlock May Ease as Obama, Hu Offer Views at UN

(Bloomberg) -- China and the U.S., the biggest producers of greenhouse gases, may propose new steps to fight global warming this week as they remain at odds over who should pay for a low-carbon world.

Blair touts 10 million jobs from climate action

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he hopes to break the "deadlock" in global climate talks with evidence that 10 million jobs could be created by 2020, if developing nations agree to big cuts in greenhouse gases.

Blair, heading up a climate initiative, released a report that also shows a global climate agreement could increase the world's GDP by 0.8 percent by 2020, as compared with the projected gross domestic product with no climate action.

China Emerges as the Yin and the Yang of the Global Warming Problem

BEIJING -- Staring up at the dazzling, $32 million screen of light-emitting diodes suspended above one of this city's luxury shopping malls, it's hard to see China as a struggling "developing" country.

Sitting on a stone ledge with 34-year-old Wai Shen Ching hundreds of miles away in the remote village of Bai Bulou, it's hard to see China as anything else.

Residents of this Hebei Province grassland community have no running water. Lately, devastated by drought, the village has had little water at all. Men in straw hats and blue Mao jackets smoke the days away because, they say, farming has come to a standstill.

"There's no water, and there's no way to get water," Ching says, tugging at his gray-and-white camouflage t-shirt as two women in the distance leasd a herd of cows into a rocky pasture. "I don't think we have a future. I think it will be the same if you come back here in 10 years."

Carbon emissions fall with global downturn: report

LONDON (AFP) – Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen thanks to the global downturn, handing the world a chance to move away from high-carbon growth, a report said Monday, citing an International Energy Agency study.

The unpublished IEA study found carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels had dropped significantly this year -- further than in any year in the past four decades.

Falling industrial output is largely responsible for the plunge in emissions, but other factors also played a role, including shelving plans for new coal-fired power stations because of falling demand and lack of financing.


Slightly off topic but just shows how absurd the western economic system is. The Bank of England, in its official quarterly report is warning the British people - sorry, consumers - that a continued economic slump will be all our fault. Our central bank is actively telling us not to save.

Did I fall down a rabbit hole? Is this reality?

I give up.

I sounds like Kindergarden politics; you know, "It's your fault! I did it, but it's your fault that I did it."

Somebody was asleep at the wheel... now they have to find someone to take the blame.

Yes, it is reality. It's things like this that expose the unsustainability of our economic system. We need more people, buying more stuff, every year, year after year, or it all collapses.

The Bank of England fears a liquidity trap. Bernanke fears the same for the US. The reason is explained in that article posted about Japan's consumption above. For all the fears of inflation, deflation is worse. A deflationary spiral can be very difficult to get out of.

But if consumers save in stead of spend, won't that enable more investment?

But if consumers save in stead of spend, won't that enable more investment?

Nahhh... that was sooooo last century dude. This is the 21st century magical economy! The rich globalize everything, get the poor and shrinking middle-class to buy their crap made for slave wages overseas. This makes the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and therefore the masses can't get on in life by accumulating capital and savings which might challenge the rich.

It stinks.

No. There's already plenty of money for that. But nobody wants to lend it, and no one who is credit-worthy wants to borrow.

Funny you should mention that Leanan! I've just contacted my bank and they tell me that I have been 'pre-approved' a loan for £2,000 and that I can have the money - sorry, digital fiat promises - in my account in three hours.

Yeah! Baby! Boom times are a coming back! Hoorahhh! Recession! Ha! That is for the Americans! I'm RICH! Rich I tell you! Think I'll take the loan and go and buy some Chinese-made crap from the electronics shop down the road. Yeahhh! Screw the trade deficit. I'm a wealthy westerner!

£2,000 PRE-APPROVED POUNDS STERLING COMING MY WAY! Ain't quantative easing great! The BoE prints up £175 billion in a few short months, Barclays Bank sells some UK Treasuries to the BoE - at an inflated price - for this new fiat money. Barclays then tell their phone clerks that when Mr Acland (that's me) phone's up for no other reason to check the balance on my account they are to tell me I have been PRE-APPROVED for a £2,000 loan... so I then say "WOW! Free Money! Yeah baby! Load me up!" with out even asking what the interest rate is (it happens to be 13.9% apr) and then go down the road to Curry's and buy a new flat screen TV, return via the pub were I welcome back the good old times and before I have finished my second pint Curry's have placed a new order with Wang's TV Factory in China to replace the one I just bought and a good slug of the £699.99 has been forwarded to Mr Wang's account... so now the UK's trade deficit is even larger... the currency is weaker, and there are still over one million youngsters between the ages of 16-24 years old with out a future because Mr Smith's TV factory in Birmingham closed years ago and is now 'luxury apartments' (most of which are £25,000 in negative equity)... So in order to pay these youngsters enough social security so that they don't get completely out of control and join the BNP, the government asks the Barclays Bank (et al) to buy some more government bonds on the assumption that the banks can then off-load them to the BoE in exchange for more funny money. Meanwhile Mr Wang's children study hard at school and end up being qualified in advanced electronics while Mr Smith's kids are so poorly educated that not even the army will take them lest they don't know which end of the rifle to point at the Afghanis..

Seriously. Sense of humour failure today. The bit about the bank pre-approving me £2,000 is true. I am not going to take it though. Don't need Mr Wang's TV. But do need a stiff drink so will be going to the pub tonight.

What a screwed up world...

"Labour was the first price, the original purchase - money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased." - Adam Smith

My bank routinely sends me offers to lend me cash. The offers are always for amounts almost exactly the same as my current account balance.

They are offering to lend me the exact same money I have already lent to them, but at a far higher rate of interest.

I have never borrowed a penny off that bank in 29 years. You would think that they would have noticed by now....

Why do you think this is related to quantitative easing? I've been getting these things for at about ten years, despite having been on relatively little money until recently (I just spent even less than the amount I earned giving me a good credit records.) I suspect that Barclays staff only care about getting their "extra services sold" bonus, and the bonus-setters only care about the next quarters results. The depressing thing, if anything, is that the kind of co-ordinated activity you're (humorously) postulating is incredibly, extremely unlikely to happen.

That effect seems to be overrated:

2 Nobel Economists Confirm that Credit is NOT Created Out of Excess Reserves (Washington's Blog)

Also, people are likely not saving so much as they're paying down debt. As Denninger pointed out here, government doesn't differentiate between actual savings and debt repayment - their formula is simply "income less spending = savings rate." I guess that goes for UK too.

All in all, it seems to me more investment is unlikely.

Hey, that's nothing!

G. Mankiw has publicly speculated about negative savings rates and punishing cash hoarding under the mattress.

How's that for "forcing people to spend"?

By that standard BoE is fairly lenient.

On the positive side - work with me on this - we now seem to have some power. Be frugal. Spend on needs not wants. And address needs in other ways that does not require as much spending. No more credit/debt.

All that sounds a lot like what many have said here about getting and being prepared.

Give 'em hell consumer/voter/people.


ptoemmes, really, if you kept up with the comments on previous DBs, you would know that HAcland's lifestyle is so ascetic as to single-handedly nudge up the British unemployment rate by probably a half percentage point.

I am so jealous I just started a month of no spending. I hope to use the time I save to stock the local Goodwill store with the stuff choking my life.

Seriously, I agree that we all need to vote with our feet - I wish someone could think this through, but I'm thinking if we could stop buying crap from China, subsidize our neighbors (buy all your Christmas presents from crafty neighbors!), agree to reducing our hours and/or pay at work (instead of having some people fully employed and some fully unemployed), and each grow a little food, we might help the economy slow down before it crashes.

Paranoid: I get the feeling the current trend against consumerism is missing the elephant in the room. As an example, what would be the current market value of your principal residence? I ask because I know quite a few people starting the "minimalist" trip and most still have a very high minimum value set on their acceptable principal residence, because of schools and just generally where they prefer to live (many lower value neighbourhoods in the USA resemble dangerous third world areas). As the residence is by far the largest expenditure and the guv is pulling out all the stops to keep its value inflated, the lowering of other expenses might not really be addressing the situation IMO.

Interesting thought. By objective standards, my mortgage payment is substantial. However, given our wealth, it constitutes 20% of our monthly budget after taxes. So from a point of view of saving vs. spending, we could come out ahead a fair bit. Plus, there is the small matter of the homeowner's line of credit we should, really, pay back.

But in the climate change scheme of things, the house is done built, with whatever the drain was on natural resources already gone. In that regard, the only constructive thing we could do is share it - not a trivial possibility, given that we do have homeless and overcrowded people in our society.

On the other hand, the "stuff" each of us five buys for entertainment purposes (Pokemon cards, Lego Star Wars sets, books, DVDs, yarn and fabric for me (when I already have plenty)), the electronics we could buy (newfangled TV, Wii, Playstation, more iPhones, whatever...), the sports equipment we would love (skateboards, a better mountain bike), etc, etc... make up a substantial portion of what we spend. Honestly, I am losing the battle of trying to teach my kids that "stuff" is not what you need for mood management.

Our other large expenditure is vacations - a tough negotiation when one's wage-earner is not in any way feeling the downturn in the economy/upturn in global temperatures.

In my scenario of slowing down the economy, at first we might only need to address discretionary spending, especially on items that brainwash us (media), are very energy-intensive (I read plasma TV screens were energy hogs, relatively), rob us of time we might spend with other humans, or growing our food, or enjoying nature around us. The price of homes will adjust, if you believe Meredith Whitney, in spite of the government's efforts.

Plus, I know supposedly people are strapped for cash trying to pay the mortgage or the rent, but somehow, someone is buying a gazillion things we just didn't NEED a generation ago. I can't really pick up my whole family and move, at this point - but I can stop buying what we don't need, and buy what I need from local sources, to a surprising extent - barter, even! Maybe eventually the government will have to give up on funding wars.

According to Elizabeth Warren, people aren't spending any more than their parents did.

While it's true we're buying products that didn't exist then, we are also not buying products we used to buy back then, and we're paying less money for a lot of the things we do buy.

Yes, good point. I watched Elizabeth Warren's lecture, and it is clear that people spend less money on food and clothes, and more on housing.

Still, my point is that things could be improved (for the environment), if we paid local people more to produce the things we need (food, clothes, a minimum of furniture), and spent less on something else clogging our lives.

I may be skewed by the fact that I personally am in a higher income bracket now than I grew up in. The other weird factor is inflation. A $100 toy just simply was not anything I considered reasonable when I was 10 years old! I also did not expect an iPod when I was 7, but maybe that's because not even the Walkman had been invented yet. My mother was in yet a lower still income bracket, and the stories of her brothers playing with a pretend soccer ball made from socks (which had to be sewed back together after each game) make my head spin very uncomfortably.

So when we say that 70% of the economy depends on the consumer going out to shop, and that the trade deficit with China is a threat, and that we need to stop using oil to ship ourselves and our stuff around - then what is there we can do?

I think the only way we can still all keep shopping, buying more than our parents did (I believe), even though we spend the same or less (as you say), is by having most of what we buy cost less than it used to in 1970, which is accomplished by externalizing true costs. Which, seems to me, helps wreck the planet.

Paranoid: Thanks for the thoughtful and well reasoned reply. I guess what I was getting at is that even if Americans attempt to cut back and save on discretionary consumption, a long term housing value decline has the potential to really pummel their balance sheets. IMO even after the housing collapse, housing is still marketed as an investment, and this is still a popular belief.

Isn't it? Maybe you can't flip them risk free (it was never riskfree.. there have been real estate declines before... just ask the Japanese). But you have to live SOMEWHERE. A house is something you own. If nothing else, it's in investment in not throwing away money on rent.

BrianT, I actually agree. It is crazy-making but inevitable that people will change everything but their living arrangements, especially if they are homeowners and the market is down. For every house on the market, there is apparently another 3 or 4 waiting in the wings for house prices to go UP.

I read a long time ago that a house was NEVER to be considered an investment, along with carefully thought out analysis of why you come ahead renting (provided you don't waste the money you would have put on a downpayment, and stick to a rent just below what your mortgage would have been). Then my San Francisco landlord jacked up the rent from $1200 to $2200 just for remodeling (barely) the kitchen, and it seemed that owning was the only reasonable way to go.

However, you have to stay in your house an awfully long time to stop "renting" the house you bought from the bank. And now given the "interest only" mortgages... I tell you! You're just trading one type of headache (insecurity, dependence on landlord) for another (foreclosure, bankruptcy).


Your remark cncerning the fully employed versus the umemployed is one that needs some serious discussion.

When I lok around and see all the people who are locked into full employment for one reason or another I see something unsustainable and very unfair.

There have been a few govt layoffs but the mailman,the teacher, the soldier,and the floor sweeper on the payroll there are not sharing the pain.

In many cases the same applies in the business world,but not nearly to the same extent.

The mail carriers relative position has been much improved by the current crisis.

Using him as an example we could cut back deliveries and lower his salary or make the routes smaller and hire more carriers at lower salaries.

Either course of action would be more equitable than the status quo.

There have been a few govt layoffs but the mailman,the teacher, the soldier,and the floor sweeper on the payroll there are not sharing the pain.

I don't think that's true. There have been layoffs, even in the post office, which is usually immune from layoffs. Hawaii teachers are agreeing to about 20 unpaid furlough days, and a lot of other states have already imposed furloughs on teachers. New Hampshire state workers have agreed to 19 unpaid furlough days, including 12 days when the state offices are shut down entirely (that includes the floor sweepers). Soldiers are also being "laid off" - that is, they are being released when before they would have been allowed to stay, even offered bonuses for doing so.

He is at least partially correct-by the nature of the Ponzi scheme known as deficit financing, today's USA government employees at all levels are both higher paid and more numerous than they will be in the future. The taxpayers of the future will suffer service cuts in part because the government employees of 2009 have wage and pension entitlements that cannot be funded sustainably (long term).

But all of that is true of people working for the private sector, too.

The whole pensions thing is a disaster waiting to happen. Government pension, private pension, social security, 401(k) - none of it is sustainable. If anything, state government pensions are in better shape than most - if the comptroller managed to keep the rest of the government from raiding the pension fund, anyway.

Good point-there might be a tipping point when younger Americans realize they are getting screwed over big time by the older generation because of the Ponzi scheme.

I think we're going to reach a point where everything thinks they're getting screwed over by everyone else. The natural result of too many people, not enough resources.

Look at it from the senior's POV. They see it as their money, that they paid into the system, and that they deserve to get back. The "lockbox" was raided in order to pay for things that benefited the younger folk, too - schools, roads, police, WIC, student loans, housing, etc.

And then there's the corporate pensions. Those are the real scam. Corporations knowingly underfunded their pension funds, knowing the government would bail them out if necessary. (Yes, we taxpapers - old and young - are on the hook if a corporate pension fund goes belly-up.)

And then there's the corporate pensions. Those are the real scam. Corporations knowingly underfunded their pension funds, knowing the government would bail them out if necessary. (Yes, we taxpapers - old and young - are on the hook if a corporate pension fund goes belly-up.)

Thats a bit to conspiratory a tone for my tastes. Yes, funds were underfunded, but not by choice of individual corporate managers, but because the accounting standards laid down rules. Rules which assumed a long term rate of return on investment which was realistic looking backwards, but unachievable in the resource constrained future. And sure funds when they go belly up go into the pension benefit guarantee fund, which will need tax money to make up the losses, but the PBGC only guarantees payouts up to a rather low accrual rate per year. I'm in one such fund that will almost certainly end up in the PBGC, and if I understand the rules correctly, I'll get about a quarter of the benefit promised.

I think a lot of the fat in government benefits and pensions are the result of the relative strength of unions. Unions in industry have been virtually wiped out by the "offshoring" of most union jobs. That has had the effect of both reducing the number of industrial (and commercial)employees with union negotiating strength and reducing the negotiating strength of unions.

In the public sector, however, there is no such distortion. In fact, when I was much younger there were no unions for government employees. Generally government employess accepted lower wages for security and generous benefit packages. Maybe someone can remind me how unions got into government employment and when that happened. The government has no negotiating power with unions. The money at stake simply doesn't belong to the negotiators on that side. They are only motivated to keep the services functioning. Ronnie Raygun was the only government executive I know who broke a union (Air controllers).

Yes-because of the ability to borrow and print, the federal guv will suck the life out of state and local governments (there is only one taxpayer).

I agree. The labor movement targeted public employees, probably because their jobs could not be off-shored. (Well, it has been tried, but the taxpayers - not the workers - pitched a fit.)

I think it's still true that government employees get lower wages for more security and more generous benefit packages. If you're laid off by the government, you don't get a severance package, for example. And when times are good, governments struggle to fill positions, because nobody wants to work for government wages. When the economy is bad, people rush to apply for government positions, but leave again when the economy improves.

In any case, there aren't that many government workers. Something like 4% of Americans work for federal, state, and local governments, including the military and the post office. It's just not that big a deal, despite the partisan political types who love to harp on this issue.

In any case, there aren't that many government workers. Something like 4% of Americans work for federal, state, and local governments, including the military and the post office. It's just not that big a deal, despite the partisan political types who love to harp on this issue.

Is this counting the contractors to the Fed Gov? There are a hell of a lot of employees who do "federal work" but aren't technically federal employees.

True, but they are private sector workers. They generally don't belong to unions, and they don't get those government pensions and health benefits. And their jobs aren't secure. They're as easy to fire as a burger-flipper at McDonald's.

And they are generally better-paid than government workers, leading to the never-ending debates on whether "privatization" actually saves any money.

The thing is, right now in the USA you are either getting paid by the taxpayer, directly or indirectly, or you are paying. The funds available to pay for all this direct and indirect expense simply don't exist, so they are being borrowed. Any government entity that has trouble borrowing more money is in collapse mode for this reason-on a macro level, the whole thing is a Madoff scheme.

Actually, I would say we are all both paying and being paid.

No conspiracy required, any more than a "conspiracy" was required to create the current mortgage mess. Just people and organizations trying to maximize profits.

Instead of saying a few I should have said relatively few,in relation to the rest of the economy.

There is a lot of difference between losing a month and losing a career.

There are people losing a career. People are being laid off.

And there are people being furloughed in the private sector.

It's a new trend, and it's something that should be encouraged, IMO. Everyone working less is better than some people being massively overworked, while others are unemployed.

But I have a feeling as things get worse, the furloughs will morph into layoffs...for both government and private sector workers. From the organization's point of view, furloughs make sense if you are expecting things to get better. They enable you to hang onto workers who are already trained and know your business. But if it becomes clear that things aren't getting better, then layoffs make more economic sense.

OTOH...the federal government can print money. Maybe we'll all end up working for the feds.

I have friends who are convinced that we will all indeed wind up as employees ,wards, or prisoners of the feds; that the process is a sort of natural phenomenom,given current codditions and human nature;and that it will take some sort of revolution to stop it.

As they see it the "deal" is that everyone trades thier freedom for security eventually because the ratchet of government works only in one direction-any minor loss of govt power in any given sphere is more than compensated by gains elsewhere.

Personally I believe that this is actually possible but I think it is rather unlikely to come to pass if for no other reason that the government itself would probably collapse first.

This scenario does not rule out the possibility that a new central govtarising from the ashes might not become as powerful as the old communist govts such as that of the USSR in the thirties thru the eighties of the last century.

You are correct as usual;I was careless and shoulh have expressed myself better.Wages and salaries will have to come down across the board if growth cannot be restored or else all the people who have lost thier livelihoods will become welfare cases.

In my estimation,I would rather -if I had a job- give up some hours and wages to provide more jobs all around than put the jobless on welfare,which is demeaning and turns the recipients into sheep sometimes and radicals other times.

It seems to me that one of the major reasons that employers in the US want to maximize hours worked and minimize number of employees is the cost of health care insurance. If this was not a issue I would think that everyone cutting back hours would be more of a option. If a company felt like their taxes were paying for your health care whether or not you work for them they might be more likely to hire more people working less hours.

"Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered the replacement of the US dollar by the euro in the country's foreign exchange accounts. "


I'm not certain of the reliability of the source, nor if this has any important implications if true.

I'm not certain of the reliability of the source, nor if this has any important implications if true

Well the link doesn't work, but I wouldn't put it passed I'm a dinner jacket. Go on Obama! This can be your first opportunity to sling off a few missiles! You know you want to.. go on, Bush did!

..but seriously, the dollar is looking more and more vulnerable. HSBC has just said that the dollar is becoming a basket case and that it will fade from prominence soon:


What with the sheer amount of oil the US has to import - by exporting dollars - the chances of the US military being asked to bring even more 'democracy' to far flung shores is increasing. Can you imagine the pain the US will experience (and us) when the dollar crashes... sober thoughts. The omens are not good. Major war on the way in the next decade.

Link works fine for me.

"Major war on the way next decade". Don't be too sure it will take that long.

Kunstler's got a good point this morning: there's basically very little left of the US economy. The idiots running it gave (sold) most of it away.

Just look at the typical P/E ratio of US stocks.

What is the connection between this:

Kunstler's got a good point this morning: there's basically very little left of the US economy. The idiots running it gave (sold) most of it away.

and this:

Just look at the typical P/E ratio of US stocks.


Stock prices are up, earnings are down. This means that in the immediate short term those prices are unsupported by anything but faith that earnings will rise.

I seem to recall reading that P/E's are running several times higher than normal, with a large amount of the earnings based on "cost savings" (firings) rather than top line revenue.

That is serious bad news if it holds for any length of time.

Partially true. But you still don't provide any reason why the second statement supports the first.

PE ratios are up all over the world (although not at a "level several times higher than normal") not just in the US, so the link to a hollowing out of the US economy seems spurious. This is based on expectations (not faith) that earnings will increase, so the ratios would look more normal if longer term earnings forecasts were taken into account.

It does seem that much of current profitability does come from cutting costs, not growing revenues, which may not be sustainable. But again, this is a global phenomena and does not provide any support for the initial statement.

The connection is what the economy is in the first place.

If someone believes that the economy is just about money, then earnings are earnings, no matter the source.

But since earnings are down, and revenues are down even more, what is supporting the increase in stock prices?

If the answer is "faith", "hope", or "nothing at all" then you have an economy that is largely money floating around in thin air looking for a place to land: a hollow economy.

Until there is support (P/E ratios in line with historic norms) it looks a lot like a bubble to me.

I'm not claiming that the current market recovery is not a bubble and don't have any significant disagreement with the points you are making. However, that doesn't seem to be the issue brought up in the comment. My original question was what the first statement had to do with the second. You haven't addressed it in any way.

All of the issues you have brought up apply equally to all global markets. How could that possibly be evidence that the "there's basically very little left of the US economy. The idiots running it gave (sold) most of it away." ?

I'm just the guy who pointed out a connection between a hollow economy and P/E ratios for you.

The widespread sale of manufacturing resources to foreign companies and outsourcing of manufacturing is one of the mechanisms that set up the current situation.

Ignorant's original statement was quite accurate, though incomplete.

There are several primary factors that lead to the current situation: free movement of money across national boundaries, restricted movement of labor, differential labor and environmental laws, cheap and fast transport of goods.

Unregulated finance and high degrees of leverage have served nicely to put a glossy veneer over the top of the situation resulting from those primary factors.

The entire current situation is and has been entirely predictable from those basic factors, the only part that has ever been at serious issue is how long people will put up with it before one or more of those factors is changed.

Reuters confirms:

Iran shifts to euro from dlr in calculating fund value

"Iran has replaced the U.S. dollar with the euro in calculating the value of its Oil Stabilisation Fund (OSF), Iranian media reported on Monday."

This was in the offing already.

I found this bit hilarious:

The decision on calculating the OSF is the latest in a series of efforts by Iran, which is diplomatically hostile to the United States, to reduce the role of the dollar in its economy.

So protecting your economy from the money printing effects of another is 'hostility'? Gimmeabreak :)

Good for Iran Sam. If my owner is correct the Euro will be taking a beating in the near future. He could be wrong of course. But, then again, he's made billions in this arena. Time will tell as they say.

Iran has been accepting Euros for some time. Their customers are mainly European
and Japanese. Iran also accepts Yen, I believe. (American refiners are forbidden to buy 'Iranian' oil)

What I'd like to know if US refiners are supplying Iran w/ gasoline - discretely, of course.

Oil exporters accept any currency that they and the buyer agree to settle in, either cash or in kind. The dollar price of oil is merely a measuring stick.

It's just like at an international airport, where you might see a soda that is priced at $2, but the seller will accept Yen, Euro, etc. at a set rate. The key point is that you have to measure in one currency and translate into others or you have inconsistent prices that provide arbitrage opportunities to buyers who can convert currency at low rates (which is just about every significant oil buyer).

Iran is somewhat unique as one of the consequences of their mutual hostilities with the US is that they perceive a unique risk to them in holding dollars that does not apply to normal transactions.

I don't think the US is an exporter of gasoline. In fact Europe often exports their excess gasoline production to the US. I would expect that Iran has historically sourced much of its refined products from Europe, although massive new capacity in India must change the equation somewhat.

You have an owner?

Yes Jack...I have an owner, thank goodness. These days in the oil patch it's very comforting to be "owned" as I watch many of my cohorts becoming orphans. I've been doing this for 34 years and this is the first time I've worked for an individual owner. The $'s come out of his family's accounts. It does lead to a different mindset compared to spending the capital of a group of faceless shareholders. I've always "rode for the brand" as they say in Texas but it is another matter when you're sitting across the table from a guy as you explain why your recommendation lost his family $5 million.

I love dealing with Brookville Equipment, owned by Dalph McNeil


Their Co-generation locomotives are quite interesting. Three 750 hp diesel that turn on & off as needed by the load, and with an electrical bus for optional operation off trolley wire.

When Dalph makes a commitment, it is by the owner, President and CEO.

Best Hopes for Brookville,


from "College students protest coal use on campuses" in the Drumbeat:

Being in Columbia MO where this article originated, I have mixed emotions on the topic.

One the one hand, I'd like to see coal use minimized as soon as possible for reasons ranging from climate change to ending mountain-top removal.

But on the other hand, campus power plants are probably some of the most efficient since the excess heat is used to steam heat the campus buildings and provide hot tap water.

The little campus power plant here is also used by the Engineering Department for experiments on things like generation efficiency, alternate fuels (wood, tires, maybe more), and I think on scrubbing systems.

And having the big smokestack on the edge of campus brings a realization to all those students each year that electricity is not a magic thing that comes from wall outlets - that it involves fire and smoke and dirty coal, and therefore should be used wisely and sparingly.

Higher education is a luxury and should be done away with.

Higher education is a luxury and should be done away with.

Most students are just jumped up plebs who think they can be the equal of the elites if they get an education.

Higher education should only be for the children of the rich. The working class should know their place.

Higher education should be reserved for those who can most use it. That might mean the best and brightest or the most motivated to do the hard work. A college education other than that at the level of a community college would be wasted on the rest, who would likely sit on their laurels as drones in "the system". If "the system" continues to contract, there won't be enough places for drones and one doesn't need a 4 year college education to work with one's hands...

E. Swanson

When the University of California asks for money, they often mention one or another cutting edge science project that might currently be threatened. But they never talk about how many graduates and non-graduates they are turning out in relatively useless fields such as ethnic and womens' studies.

Interesting what people choose to exemplify as 'useless' fields.. did you mean to say 'easy, cliche'd targets?'

Speaks volumes-
unless you were meaning to pop in a sarcanol tag, that is.

'Poetry!? Laddie reckins himself to be a poet! "Money, get back jack, keep your hands offa my stack.." '

Let us not forget that Sharon Astyk was a lit major. I think she's still working on her PhD thesis in literature. Seems like she's putting it to decent use.

It's just unimaginable to me that anybody who fretted and fussed over these silly 'Humanities' was even able to spread butter with a knife. But then I was shocked to hear one of my Math teachers in high school discussing History with the English department.

(I was personally in NYU's 'Spreading butter with a knife' Independent study program.. but I always suspected that the degree title was actually some kind of metaphor anyhow..) /sarc

Useless to who? I didn't get an MFA to get a job. I got it for other reasons.

Check your own degrees... a lot of the general population would call Forestry Management pretty useless. And many TODers would argue that economic/business majors have grown up to be a far greater drain on the world than humanities students. Maybe your experience blinds your perspective?

I get my kicks from books and pickin'-and-grinnin' and riding bikes; not SUVs and golf courses and having the newest i-Thing... what's worse on the world?

Luxury? do away with?

There is something to be said about having a well educated populace. Higher education does not have to be career driven. As make work government programs go higher education is sure better that military make work.

Now burying yourself in debt to study a subject that you are not at all interested in to get a job that will not exist is a lousy way to start your life.

well said Greg!
El. production is obviously a paradox - we like the juice but not the smoke that makes the juice.

All the benefits you mention can be accomplished with other means, no?

Students are very valuable to jump-start societal shifts. Personally, I would cheer them on.

RE: Carbon emissions fall with global downturn: report

At first blush, seems like there is a disconnect -- we have a fall in consumption of fossil fuels and an increase in the level of C02. For now, maybe it has just slowed the increase in emissions. If anything, this leads me to have a even more doomerish perspective on how successful we will be at reducing the levels of ghgs.

Trends in Carbon Dioxide

Carbon emissions fall with global downturn

Huh????? There is no meaningful downturn in that data.

Probably has something to do with this?


I just noticed - the amount of coal available for export is very small relative to the total amount, so that bodes well for all us importers once world coal peaks ELM wise - need Westexas to tell me how many years to zero available! :-(

xeroid - there is no problem. The world is not currently importing any coal from other planets. Mars has enough coal to last us a thousand years.

The article was referring to a report by the IEA which states the global emissions will fall this year -- 2009.

RE: Carbon emissions fall with global downturn: report

At first blush, seems like there is a disconnect -- we have a fall in consumption of fossil fuels and an increase in the level of C02.

No disconnect. The level has to do with how much carbon we've burned in the last couple of hundred years. We're just adding to that total a bit slower than we were a couple of years ago. We'd have to cut back many times more than the puny current recession induced pause, for the levels to start dropping.

I remember reading earlier in the year that the fires in Australia released huge amounts of CO2. The fires we've had this year may very well offset any reduction from lower emissions.

And with a higher number of more intense fires burning these days it may be hard to reduce the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Probably not something the 350 guys (and gals) are considering in their campaigns?


[Australian] ...fires in 2003, which ravaged the capital Canberra, and in 2006-07 released about 550 million tonnes of CO2.

Five minutes ago I sent off a long white paper (25 pages) to an important reader. It took me six weeks of concentrated effort to write, and I thought it was worth doing.

This is a direct result of my TOD article "Multiple Birds - One Silver BB".


I figure that there is a 2% or 3% chance of a significant/dramatic change in US transportation and carbon footprint will result from this.

Best Hopes ! :-)


All I can say is good luck.

You go Alan! I hope you get so busy consulting topdogs on electrified RR & TOD that you rarely have time for TOD. I will be happy to read future MSM reports of buildouts jumpstarted by your efforts.

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

Maybe :-)


Best hopes indeed! :)

Some good comment by James Lovelock.


I thought this admission was interesting:

Geoengineering implies that we have an ailing planet that needs a cure. But our ignorance of the Earth system is great; we know little more than an early 19th-century physician knew about the body. Geoengineering is like trying to cure pneumonia by immersing the patient in a bath of icy water; the fever would be cured but not the disease.


He is very candid. Sceptics would sieze on this statement for all your usual reasons. It does however implicate the IPCC a certain amount arrogance given that they are "+~95% certain" of AGW theory etc....


GHG effects are 100% certain, not "+~95%". For proof simply compare average surface temperatures of earth and moon. Identical insolation, earth about 37 degC warmer. Most of that warmer surface is due to GHG's in earth's atmosphere. Mankind IS adding significant amounts of GHG's to earth's atmosphere, eg. there is no debate that atmospheric CO2 levels measured at Mauna Loa have risen from about 280 ppmv to 380 ppmv since the beginning of the industrial revolution. What is parhaps "-~5%" uncertain is the precise effects of significantly increasing GHG levels beyond present levels. Computer models predict exactly what would be logically expected.

LOL, Lengould there is a bit more to the models and AWG theory than C02. That is not Lovelocks point and none of the theory you just regurgetated is question by any but the most staunch deniers! The point Lovelock is making is that 1.We don't understand the system as a whole and 2. Applying inputs to an unknown system state & dynamic is a recipe for disater. If you understand sytem dynamics and control theory you will know what we are talking about.


On this topic I liked Leanan's excerpt from the guy Turner above:

But, Turner says, that doesn’t justify surrender. The environmental battle needs to be intensified ... targeting our conservation efforts on the life forms with the best chance of survival. But this is a time for action, not for despair.

Targeting the life forms that have the best chance of survival! If I have things right, that's bacteria, algae, some one-celled animals, and some fungi.

I thought I was pessimistic... Geoengineering the world to make it safe for bacteria. LOL!

While geoengineering is tempting, it would only encourage us to be even more profligate in the use of fossil fuels and would enable us to destroy even more portions of the planet and its inhabitants at a faster rate. Geoengineering won't change the fact that we live on a finite planet with finite resources, not to mention a delicate ecosystem which provides sustenance for thousands of species that are rapidly being endgangered and extinguished.

Short of billions of people being removed from this planet by aliens, there really is not any hope that we will remedy climate change in a way that does not cause some other disasters.

Mr. Lovelock is becoming the ultimate tease. He writes glib books (The Revenge of Gaia) warning us of the serious threat that climate change presents and in the next breath he says we're unqualified to solve our fate. Gee Mr. Lovelock should we leave it to Gaia, Tom Malthus or chance?

We have, as yet, no comprehensive Earth system science; in such ignorance I cannot help feeling that attempts by us to regulate the Earth's climate and chemistry would condemn humanity to a Kafkaesque fate from which there may be no escape.

What the hell is a Kafkaesque fate? You mean we'll all die penniless suffering from TB tapping on our typewriters in obscurity during extremely difficult times? It must be easy for Lovelock to be the "wise one" since he's already figured out that he'll be gone long before the shit hits the fan.

BTW keep your wind-turbines out of his neighborhood. He doesn't want his view compromised.



I find your snide comments about James Lovelock highly offensive.

Apart from his extensive contributions to practical scientific knowledge, Dr Lovelock has produced some extremely valuable insights into the probable future of the planet and mankind.

Once you have contributed one tenth as much, you might possibly be in a position to start to comment on the validity of his projections. Until that time I would suggest that pull your head in!!!

Sorry, when you write books saying what you think is best for the world, you open up yourself to critisism about those ideas.

I read "Revenge of Gaia" and found the hypothesis interesting. I could not, however reconcile with his fanatical anti-wind power stance. For someone supposedly that concerned with climate and the future of earth to exhibit that much NIMBYism is unacceptable to me.

Can Shale Gas Save the Planet?

Shale gas is an "add-on" to our energy consumption, not a replacement of anything--just like coal was to wood and oil was to coal. "Save" the planet? No! Just more BAU.

I attended a regional planning conference Friday, planning to be the "Skunk at the picnic" as Biden put it recently. In my case, I was pointing out resource constraints in small group meetings in which I participated. Actually, my message was really not that controversial to most of the groups.

The mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth spoke at the end of the conference. Mayor Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth was particularly impressive. He said that the only solution for transportation in the Dallas/Fort Worth area was rail. He said that "Business as usual is dead," and he insisted that the audience repeat after him that "Business as usual is dead," until he was satisfied with the response.

Maybe the fact tha your mayor is closer to the oil business than most mayors explains his foresight.

I suppose most mayors are just now approaching the first easy grade of the oil learning curve.It'll get steep pretty fast though.

"Shale gas is an "add-on" to our energy consumption, not a replacement of anything ...."

To some extent this not correct WRT coal. Power generating companies have used nat. gas in lieu of coal. Railroad carload coal traffic is down 8% and some utilities like Ameren - UE here in St. Louis have stated that the low nat. gas prices have caused them to run more gas plants and curtail output from local coal fired plants. This trend will be short lived as gas prices rise due to lower supplies. The lack of drilling for nat. gas (rig count down about half from a year ago) and fast depletion of wells for shale gas mean lower supplies are very likely in two or three years. Imported LNG could make up for some of this potential shortage, but not at today's current price of $3.25/ million BTU.

You can check out the EIA data yourself, but worldwide, coal production continues to grow. US production has generally trended upward, but relatively flat this decade. I also consider renewables to be "add-ons." Basically, whatever fossil fuels you don't use, someone else will. Physical limits are the only things that will curb our appetites.

Debbie - You're correct that natural gas is no replacement for our current energy infrastructure. I offer the premise that their is no such replacement. However America has a market economy. If we charge the true cost of electricity generation from burning coal for instance: CO2 sequestration and responsible disposal of coal ash; it is actually the more expensive option than NG or renewables for that matter.

If the problem is cheap fossil fuels wouldn't the cure be expensive fossil fuels?


If the problem is cheap fossil fuels wouldn't the cure be expensive fossil fuels?

Expensive relative to what? Humans will consume all the fossil fuels available by the technology at hand. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding himself (IMO).

We will use it all, but above a certain price point it ceases to be treated as a fuel (at least for common use).

When we stop referring to them as fossil fuels because the term no longer fits, then the price is probably just about right.


Governments have spent billions of euros to make loans easier to secure.

The central bank's study found that a net 33% of small and medium sized businesses said getting access to loans from banks had got harder over the previous six months. When asked to look ahead over the next six months, more respondents said it would get harder to secure loans than said it would get easier.

One of the main reasons why governments have ploughed so much money into their economies is to encourage banks to start lending again.

They recognise that economies cannot recover fully until businesses, and individuals, can start borrowing the amounts of money needed to buy goods and stimulate demand

I'm sorry. I'm having a really hard time today. I have never been more certain of anything in my life than the fact that we are all going to hell in a depression handcart. This is the start of collapse.

1. There is good evidence that when oil is above $80/bbl for any protracted period the economy is not able to grow and dips into recession (see http://www.aspousa.org/index.php/2009/09/the-first-peak-oil-recession-in...)

2. The CEO of Total is interviewed on the BBC today stating that there will be a supply shortage before 2015 because of under investment. He says that a price of over $100/bbl is essential to get investment going and that even then it will only keep pace with current demand.

3. Central banks (as highlighted above) are nervous that we consumers are not buying anything

4. The article quoted in this post says that recovery is not possible "until businesses, and individuals, can start borrowing the amounts of money needed to buy goods and stimulate demand"

This is such a load of nonsense. The only way recovery could ever be possible is if personal and business balance sheets are improved through debt write offs and then real hard savings are allowed to accumulate in order to make real investment in business where immediate cash-flow is unnecessary so the investment can mature at its own pace. This is not possible with bank loans as the very next month cash needs to pulled out of the nascent business.

So given all this how exactly are we supposed to get back to normal? A load of BS.

How come I can work this out but the idiot politicos can't?

Hacland: Would you agree that the consistent and popular message that politicians and business leaders are well meaning, basically honest "idiots" is in itself a form of popular idiocy? Denninger seems to be the only guy willing to point out the emperors are more dishonest than stupid. I guess they are so stupid they keep falling down into big piles of cash (usually yours).

Yes. There is no doubt that some are just plain dishonest. Some are actually fraudulent (if you have followed the MPs expenses scandal in the UK you will understand this).

But most are more subtly dishonest: they will tell you anything to secure re-election thus pushing back any longer term planning. Case in point is the fact that here in the UK by 2015 60% of our entire electricity will be generated from imported gas. So we will be totally at the mercy of the Russians, the Libyans and others. Great long term policy!

Some are actually fraudulent

You're just jealous of my duck house. :-)

"here in the UK by 2015 60% of our entire electricity will be generated from imported gas. So we will be totally at the mercy of the Russians, the Libyans and others. Great long term policy!"

Better than coal if you look at the CO2e figures. What's your answer? Nuclear? Seriously its pretty hard to even find a UK long term energy policy short of telling 2/3rds of the country to go somewhere else (and no I don't plan on volunteering personally).

Saying that, if the CO2e emissions worry you, the UK's CO2e output will fall figuratively overnight, as petrol cost increases simply price commuters and freight out of existence. Oh sorry I nearly forgot - the 'electric cars' powered from thin-air will save us... ;-)

I digress - many politicians are probably ignorant - how else could Milliband stand up and say the 'energy gap' will be filled by renewables? Look at the BIS DUKES figures - ~115 wind farms producing on average ~17MW per farm - utterly useless. Not even close to the 45GW average we used last year!

Wind farms: 4.3% of total; what's so bad about that? And with an annual 40% growth rate, wind could match that 45GW in 10 years!

Perpetual growth? Nice idea.

The 115 farms (not turbines - farms) took 17 years to build to provide the <2GW so far.

At 2W/m2 the land area required equates to 4.5x10e10W/2 = 2.3x10e10 m2 or 23,000 km2. Really? In the UK? I don't think so. Or another view 20 x 115 means 2300 farms of on average 10-12 turbines per farm.

This does not scale.

For a more considered opinion than my back-of-envelope calculations try here:

It's not impossible. 23000 km2 is 30% of the land area of Scotland, even if we exclude England, Wales & offshore. And wind turbines - just like the windpumps and windmills of a bygone area - are compatible with agriculture, albeit not with forestry or airports. 100% wind reliance is not an appropriate target though, because even up here the wind occasionally dies. If we take 50% as the maximum reasonable target, your calculated area comes down to 11500 km2. And possibly much less, if we cherry-pick the windiest locations.

Unfortunately, at the moment our planning process prioritises locations based on lowest NIMBY count rather than windiest. For a particularly absurd example, see this map:
http://www.highland.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/EE171B27-12FB-4D20-A17C-DCF441FA... The best area in the UK for renewable energy, but the planners have vetoed development almost everywhere!

Once the blackouts start, NIMBYs will be less in evidence and planning strategies will hopefully change, but that can take a long time. So practically speaking, I agree the UK has no chance of generating a serious percentage of energy from wind by 2015.

Norwegian gas production is still increasing, and the UK is their nearest large market, so gas-fired electricity makes short-term sense, up to 2015. Technically it's the low-CAPEX solution. Politically, 2015 is at least 2 general elections away: Milliband knows he will probably be gone by summer 2010, never mind 2015...

Fortunately, wind generators go up quite quickly compared to a lot of other alternatives.

recovery is not possible "until businesses, and individuals, can start borrowing the amounts of money needed to buy goods and stimulate demand"

Am I the only one old enough to remember when well-run businesses didn't borrow money at all, ever?

Probably-in those days businesses were operated to last-today, growth is favored over profitability because top management gets paid based on the size of the business (and how much they can goose the stock)- actual profitability is often of little concern, which is why so many fail without taxpayer cash. PS: now Obama wants to bail out the newspapers, saying the "blogosphere" is a problem.

now Obama wants to bail out the newspapers, saying the "blogosphere" is a problem.

Briant, please, a link, a link for that !

This link was over at LATOC today (from The Hill):

Obama open to newspaper bailout bill

Newspapers are really hurting. Many of them want to start charging for content before the end of this year.

Of course, they've been trying to do this since the Internet started, but haven't managed it yet.

Clay Shirky has some fascinating thoughts on this. He thinks the Internet is as momentous as the invention of the printing press, and will cause similar disruption and chaos. If he's right, nothing Obama does will save newspapers.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, I paid for the NY Times online.

So did I, but they sent me a partial refund when they went back to the free model. I too think newspapers are important sources of certain kinds of news, and certainly valuable as news consolidators. I'm referring to the few good newspapers. The typical local newspaper is a waste of trees/electrons.

About 90% of the content of the local corporate newspaper here is cut-and-paste articles from the Associated Press or Reuters.

Expect more and more of that. Small papers just can't fund their own journalism any more. Sports coverage is being really hard-hit. Papers that used to have beat writers to cover the local teams can no longer afford it. Press boxes that used to be crowded with dozens of reporters now have only a handful. It's the same with the other sections of the paper.

So what do they do, when they fire their reporters to save money? Run wire services articles.

Sports is all they have left, especially the local broadcast news. It's about 1/3 weather, 1/3 sports highlights, and the rest is a mostly reporting on killings from across the country and they might throw in something local - usually about a fair or some event that's already happened - "Hey, guess what you missed!"

The next casualty of the internet after newspapers will be broadcast and then cable television. I no longer have access to television and do not miss it. I occasionally watch a little of it at my sister's place.

She has satellite TV with local stations on it. It is pathetic compared to the internet. Sometimes commercials are run 5 or 6 in a row. The programming content is superficial and can not be accessed at random. News is restricted to whatever the station decides is important and access to news is limited to when it runs. Same thing goes for the awful Weather Channel.

Why anyone puts up with it is beyond me. In her case she does not use computers so maybe that is why television survives. But those who do not use computers are a dwindling lot and television will follow them into oblivion IMO.

As for Obama, he is an internet geek second and a politician first. He said he would "look at" subsidies for newspapers. I will look at almost anything but that does not mean I approve of it and that goes for most of us including the president. But if there are votes in it somewhere he may "look at" it favorably. Perhaps if a key health care reform opponent can be persuaded to change his/her mind by a newspaper subsidy, it could happen.

But in the end the internet will rule. It is indeed the greatest communication invention since the printing press.

I'm in telecom, and there has long been a saying that over time services switch technologies -- those that were wireless become wired, and those that were wired go to wireless (think TV, phones, radio). I think the truth is more general, in that the real services are very basic -- news, education, entertainment -- but technology evolves, and each service does along with it.

The problem with newspapers, and to an extent the broadcast news, is that they somehow believe that people "need" the newspapers, rather than the information it conveys. Newspapers don't own news events, and that's their Achilles Heel.

For mail delivery we've got (and/or had) everything from the pony express to mail jeeps to FedEx trucks to steamships to airlines, and one can still argue that snail-mail has its place, yet e-mail is 10x the volume today. The USPS isn't suffering much from FedEx and UPS, but from electronic delivery.

The other funny thing is that 30 years ago we'd pay zilch for TV and radio, maybe a buck for a month's worth of mail, and a few dollars for a newspaper. Now the Internet is "free" yet we pay $20 per month at least to get it, and $100 more for TV and cell-phones, and $1 each for songs on an Ipod. The seductive aspect of e-mail and Internet news is we can have it NOW, and in the end that's what justifies the expense. In the end we're just stimulus junkies.

We don't need newspapers, but we need news...and a way to fund it.

One obvious way out of this is having the government pay for a news service. Yeah, it's a can of worms, but it seems to work in the UK. At least better than our "free market" news, which ends up being more entertainment than news.

Right now, Internet news is a parasite on traditional news. If newspapers, wire services, and TV news folded due to lack of revenue, there would be little or no content for the web news sites. Yes, some bloggers make money off their web sites...but very few, and they wouldn't make any if they had to pay to send reporters around the country or the nation. And who would do the in-depth reporting that takes months and results in Pulitzers but not necessarily a lot of revenue?

We don't need newspapers, but we need news..

I think you have this backwards. I don't need news as I don't much care what's going on in the world but I do need newspapers for starting fires, wrapping things up in, & for mulch. It's been years since I've subscribed to a newspaper; I scrounge them & swipe the little free papers from businesses. If I did pay for a newspaper it could be content free for all I cared. I would only want it for the paper.

Dean Baker has some ideas about how to restructure the payment for creative content, possibly including jounalism.

I don't think that would work for journalism, though it's an interesting idea for the arts. (Though I can just imagine the controversy that would erupt over how to choose which artists get funded.)

Journalism, IMO, requires money and organization way beyond what the average individual artist can get by on.

Am I the only one old enough to remember when well-run businesses didn't borrow money at all, ever?

I keep thinking about "layaway".
Remember when people would put things on layaway at a store? - When you finished paying for the item you would be able to pick it up.

I think that might just become common again in the not so distant.

- Ron L:

Well run businesses have always depended on debt for expansion and asset acquisition. Very few non-government entities in history have developed a refinery or investment of similar scale using pure cash.

If you remember when well run businesses didn't borrow any money, you must be over 1000 years old.

Hacland,The answer is so obvious most of us can't see it.

Common sense is not common-it's the refined product of common experience.

If you drop an average city dweller on a farm,he looks like an idiot to a four year old farm kid.

Fundamentalists and followers of astrology aren't STUPID.They 're just ignorant of the evidence to the effect that thier beliefs are unfounded and in the vast majority of cases they lack the ability to even understand the contrary arguments due to thier ignorance.

Most people,including a very large portion of college educated professionals ,are so ignorant of the basic sciences that they are as easily led by the ignorant as by the aware-meaning the sirt that hang out here.

As a matter of fact ,the ignorant have it really easy when it comes go getting into leadership positions-first,they have a more palatable message,and second-oh the irony of it all- they BELIEVE it.

Just because people are ignorant does not not mean they can't tell when someone is CONSCIOUSLY lieing.

Global Premiere - The Age of Stupid tonite. Over 700 theaters worldwide. Skip MNF and go see it.


Saw it in Ithaca, NY tonight. Decent crowd, seemed like mostly students and academics. Good movie, but I don't think it will move the mainstream. Stayed for the whole live event afterward, too. People were slipping out during this last part. At the end, there were maybe 10 of us left. Liked the school kid commercial in the Copenhagen venue.

It was a pretty good turnout in Boulder. I think the movie is not quite aimed at the mainstream. It will move a few people on the fence, and may give those of us already mobilized additional wind beneath our sails.

It feels to me (maybe "optimist" rather than "paranoid") that this climate change movement thing is gaining steam.

What was amazing was the overwhelming focus of Franny Armstrong, the films' director:

I was born in the ’70s as part of the MTV generation who were told by a squillion adverts that the point of our existence was to shop more. Daunting though the task ahead may be, I feel enormously inspired and quite relieved that it turns out that we have something important to do. The people who came before us didn’t know about climate change and the ones who come after will be powerless to stop it. So it’s down to us. Other generations came together to overturn slavery or end apartheid or win the vote for women. There is nothing intrinsically more useless about our generation and there is no doubt about what we have to do. The only question which remains is whether or not we give it a go.

To get funding ($550,000), get the film made, get a distributor and manage to have a release is one thing but to have a coordinated worldwide release...I can only shake my head in wonder.


I agree. Also, you could tell after the movie during the live section, that she was pretty close to "the edge."

Hopefully she will now be able to get some rest and recover from what has surely been a very draining period. I also was pretty impressed how she pressed Ed Millibrand too (again).

Pretty gutsy.

Best hopes for our 50/50 chance.

Rev Karl

Someone on this forum recently asked how well heat pumps work at colder temperatures and I coughed up my standard reply (yes, the same one we've all heard so many times before). However, nothing beats a second opinion and so...



Through Freecycle, I just inherited 3 heat exchangers from a defunct Geothermal setup that had been built in 1980, but the owner died, and his wife was never able to get it up and running.. it's sat there for 28 years, full of still waters.. hope I can make good use of the leftovers.


I watched the first segment-this guy is a good entertainer but he leaves something to be desired as a historian-a knowledge of his subject matter.

Perhaps one of the later segments deals with heat pumps?

He wasn't funny enough that I wanted to watch any more and between the lousy acoustics and his accent I had a hard time following his dialogue.

Sorry, I copied the wrong link; here is the correct one:


The author of this video claims that his unit operates down to -32C and that at -20C this 18,000 BTU/hr unit draws 1,152-watts and displaces a total 4,500-watts of baseboard resistance.


I was talking with a friend the other day, we discussed how a heat pump could use a passive solar system as its cold reservoir to improve its efficiency vs. using the air as the cool reservoir. In Halifax it would have to be a vaccum-tube type one, so fairly sophisticated, but they do work well in our climate apparently. A ground loop might be a better option, but this option does not involve installing a ground loop.

Hi LNC3,

I've always argued that high efficiency air source heat pumps offer better overall value -- simplified installation, much lower initial cost, generally more reliable and easier to service and acceptable performance in most any climate.

I paid just over $4,000.00 CDN ($3,700.00 US) for our two systems and our space heating costs are roughly $550.00 a year (~ 4,600 kWh @ $0.12 per kWh). I'm guessing a geothermal system might cost four to five times as much and lower our annual operating costs by no more than $100.00 to $150.00.

Our rolling twelve month usage as at July 26th is 13,257 kWh, with seasonal variation as follows:

N.B. Our consumption is up about 10 per cent y-o-y now that we heat our DHW electrically (previously oil).


You talked me into getting a ductless heat pump. In Cottage Grove OR it should be pretty efficient. We currently heat with wood but have baseboard resistance heaters which were intended to be the primary source of heat. Since my spouse and I are not getting any younger, we opted for a heat pump to fall back on when cutting and splitting 3 cords gets to onerous.

Congratulations, Eric. I'm sure you'll be very pleased with the performance of your new ductless system. If you haven't done so already, see what incentives/rebates may be available to you.

See: http://www.theheatpumpstore.com/programs.htm

See also: http://www.nwductless.com/


Hello Leanan,

Thxs for the DB link: "Fans take to bicycles to hear tunes". I proposed this [plus much more] many years ago as I am sure other Peakniks have too. I also sent lots of emails or posted website comments to many bands trying to get them to move towards this idea. Glad to see it happening, they ought to make it a law.

Now if we could get Google to search-homepage activate my idea of the 'I'm feeling Unlucky' button, and Tiger to plow golf courses, then we might be moving towards some degree of Optimal Overshoot Decline. As usual, my thxs to all that support Peak Outreach by emailing those who might become critical change agents for reshaping the Dieoff Bottleneck.

Hello TODers,

Most regular readers of my comments already know that I have dozens & dozens of postings on the importance of bats & guano & WNS, and how I have long believed that bat biologists should be getting extremely high pay and/or massive funding.

Sadly, I believe a lot more people are aware of pointless info versus the criticality of bats:

More than 1 million bats already have perished in what one expert described as the most precipitous decline in American wildlife in recorded history. Extinctions are likely if the white-nose disease continues to spread, and could lead to a population explosion of mosquitoes and other insect pests normally held in check by the winged predators.
I don't know how to better get the message out in a viral manner. Perhaps, some TOD brainstorming is required [I will start off]:

1.Hopefully, a screenwriter on TOD can conceive of a BATMAN movie where he somehow goes on a mission to protect bats so that the viewing audience gets dramatically alarmed at the movie's message.

2. Some kind of realistic horror-flick where people are driven crazy by flying insect bites and foodstuff decimation. Recall the Youtube video where the caribou lose up to two pints of blood per week even with their heavy fur coats. Potentially, humans could be drained to death from bugbites plus disease. People could also go violently insane, and every infant born could have wild birth defects from the massive overuse of pesticides, insecticides, and the daily drenching of their bodies with OFF! type repellents.

3. Fashion shows that specifically feature mosquito netting designs to reduce bugbites.

4. Victoria's Secret generally features models as sexy angels: maybe a future show could have them come out as sexy bats with white noses. Once all the fashions are displayed: the encore would be where all the models start writhing on stage as they simulate the final death throes of bats.

5. T-shirts for busty women that say: "Go Crazy for Tiny Bats, not my Big Boobs!"

6. ??? You TODers can surely be more creative than me as I am not the sharpest pencil in the box.

6. Bats are far more important than the measly amount of electricity generated by wind turbines. Advocacy for wind generation is incompatible with concern for the viability of bat populations.

And climate change threatens all wildlife populations, not just bats. So what would you suggest we do instead?

So what would you suggest we do instead?


Without what? Electricity? As in give it up completely? Good luck convincing people that this is what everyone should do.

DD: "Without."

Then should I suppose that we will not be seeing any more posts from you then, since electricity is needed for both your computer and the load of server farms which make the internet available to each of us?

I'm only online at work. My employer pays for the electricity & internet access. I gave up the internet at home a year ago last month.

Unfortunately, attrition via reduction in birth rate takes too long. Famine, war & communicable disease will play their roles, as they long have done..

Well, at least my kids won't have to deal with it (no kids).

Sgage- A few years ago I saw Les Knight, the founder of the Volunatary Human Extinction Movement, being interviewed by that pinhead Tucker Carlson. It was designed to have Tucker really rip him apart but after Knight wouldn't hit back Carlson finally ends up shutting up and letting him talk. couldn't find a link for it.

tough guy!


Saw this 30 second advertisement promoting condom use in Spanish (It has subtitles but you won't need em'). Couldn't stop laughing.


Hello TODers,

I just emailed Victoria's Secret at their 'Contact us' link:

Hello Victoria's Secret,

I was wondering if you could help virally spread very fast the so far 'Secret Message' on White Nose Syndrome and flying bat dieoff. I think it would offer your company an excellent PR-Victory and highly profitable marketing opportunity to show your ecologic concern to your vast audience. Please consider the ideas suggested in the link below:


Thank you.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?
Feel free to cut and paste the above for your submission to this company--Git'er done for Peak Outreach.

Note: after submittal, their screen says their company goal is to reply within 24 hours. I hope so many TODers forward their version of my message that I have to wait much longer than that for the reply. I will post the reply later if I receive permission from Vic's Secret to do so. Ideally, I would Prefer that they send an official company press notice to the TOD editors for publication.

It would have to be a rush job at this late date, but imagine the PR double-whammy for both ASPO & Victoria's Secret if the bat dieoff fashion show was held at their upcoming Denver Conference! ASPO could quadruple the price of admission.:)

"Hello Victoria's Secret,

I was wondering if you could help virally spread very fast the so far 'Secret Message' on White Nose Syndrome and flying bat dieoff. I think it would offer your company an excellent PR-Victory and highly profitable marketing opportunity to show your ecologic concern to your vast audience. Please consider the ideas suggested in the link below:


Thank you.

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


I am not the sharpest pencil in the box.

On the contrary...I think you are.


"The New Homesteaders: Off-the-Grid and.." reliant on the generator.

exactly ... what a bunch of crap

as for electricity ... start with turning it off at night ... and go to sleep

Powerful choices: transition to a biofuel economy in Australia

The Powerful Choices study uses a biophysical-economics model of the Australian economy to explore the capability of discrete low-carbon technologies to maintain economic growth, ensure energy security and reduce CO2 emissions out to 2051. The approach applies physical laws of thermodynamics and mass balance to established economic structures to ensure that financial dynamics are constrained by physical reality. Renewable electricity (bio-electricity, wind, solar thermal and solar photovoltaics) and advanced fossil electricity (high efficiency generators, carbon sequestration and storage, nuclear) are examined alone and in various combinations. Alternative transport fuel cycles are explored through renewable fuels (bio-methanol and bio-ethanol) and fossil-based oil replacements (compressed natural gas and shale oil).
A shorter summary of the report, co-authed with Andrew Campbell, is available here: Powerful Choices: the know-how for a shift to a biofuel economy in Australia

This pointer is not an endorsement. I think all "renewable" energy sources are environmentally bad (apart from "nuclear" which might be renewable for practical purposes, though it has its own non-environmental problems). For example: dams destroy deltas [all the silt ends up in the dam instead of in the delta -- which also proves that the dam is not as renewable as it claims].

Also: Searched for "oil" in the latest Chatham House think tank paper: "Towards a Post-Crisis Global Economy: Long-Term Growth Scenarios and the Impact on Exit Strategies" (http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/14863_pp0909growth.pdf). Got one hit: in the word "turmoil". Now that's a word we could make more use of.

Hello TODers,

I believe Peak Outreach is VERY important. Much better than patting ourselves on the back for preaching to the choir here on TOD, although that is ALSO required so we can continue to advance the discussion and bring TOD newbies quickly up to speed.

The ASPO Denver Conference is coming up soon. As I have done for years now: My thanks to those that telephoned, emailed, or snail-mailed movie star George Clooney to ask for his attendance as it would be a huge PR-boost for ASPO. Please also contact any other celebrity you feel has a chance of attending.

For those who haven't Peak Outreached to George yet, you still have time IMO. The info you need can be found in these links:


Git 'er done!

Dmitry has another good essay:

Hunger Insurance

I would like to sell you some hunger insurance. Are you insured against hunger? Perhaps you should be! Without this coverage, you may find it impossible to continue to afford feeding yourself and your family. With this coverage, not only will you be assured of continuing to get at least some food, but so will I. In fact, thanks to this plan, I will get to eat very, very well indeed...
Have you hugged your bag of NPKS today?

Hi folks,

I've been reading TOD for a little while now, both in order to wrap my head around the economic crisis and for glimpses of the future. I've noticed that many TOD commenters appear to be highly educated urbanites, and I think some of you are definitely in academia. I'm currently doing a PhD in molecular biology, and I'm very interested in what those of you involved in research/knowledge work see for yourselves in the next 10-15 years, in the context of the post-oil future.

Personally, I have become increasingly pessimistic about my lot- my background is pretty pure vertebrate molecular biology, and although I've done pretty well for myself thus far, I don't have a lot of well-developed skills outside of benchwork. In an ideal world, this wouldn't be a problem, since I enjoy my job and would happily continue working at the bench in whatever capacity indefinitely. As you all know, however, the funding environment is extremely tight, and I'm really starting to doubt that I'll be able to get a tenured position, or even an RA/tech pos'n, in my home country (Canada). Industry isn't in a much better situation, and my training is mostly pharmacology/neurobiology, neither of which I see being big growth industries in a post-oil world. I suppose if I was really pressed, I could raise some mice or zebrafish to eat, but that's about the extent of the real-world applicability of my skillset. On top of that, I live in a highrise apartment building in the downtown of a major city, which, while close to work, is a pretty terrible place to be in a crisis-type situation.

I was wondering if anyone else is in a similar position in their lives and what they're planning/thinking. I am sometimes seized by wild impulses to buy land in the woods and go do something like the "New Homesteaders" article in the OP, but I'm fairly certain that, lacking construction/farming skills, this is a terrible idea. On the other hand, taking a wait-and-see approach is nervewracking as hell. In any case, I appreciate any input others might have.

My advice would be to read a book such as "What color is your parachute?". It is not so useful to pigeonhole yourself as only being able to do bench research. You have developed your powers of observation and deduction and hopefully also the stick-to-itivness that is required to see a PhD thesis through. These will be useful in any world.

My question to you would be, what skills do you most enjoy using? Couch these in generic, not specific terms. Molecular biology may be gone, but the need to solve problems, some of them biological, will remain.

Oh, that, and getting yourself on the "need to have" side of the economy, not the "nice to have" side.

Hi Paper Mac,
I'm also a molecular biologist. I'm fairly pessimistic about the future or research in the field even if BAU manage to limp on for the next 10-15 years. There is a definite trends toward less founding, specially for basic research and a lot of the apply research are mostly hot air. Think that proponents of gene therapy prommissed to cure dozen of disease... twenty years ago...and they are still selling hope. Stem cell therapy is now on but will probably results in the same amount of success...after 50 billions dollars of spending you will have succeed to cure a few mice from a genetic disease you gave them.
Anyway research specially on mammalian system is extremely expensive, require huge amount of sophisticated equipments and high quality biological products that are imported from all over the world. Add all the -80 C freezer, incubators... It is unlikely that this type of research will survive in a significant scale (few military labs maybe) even a moderate transition to BAU-lite. The type and amount of researches you can do when you cannot fully rely on "basics" like pure water and clean glassware goes down a lot but you can still do thing...
I have worked a year in Thailand on Dengue virus (and cyano-bacteria and improving fungi for soy sauce production as side projects)in conditions that were far less good than US or Europe but still decent and you learn get by and make your own products when necessary (we use our lab-made Taq polymerase for students and some basic screening for example even though we also use commercial one).
Neuroscience is one of the few fields of the research that is doing well comparatively to others(imagine the rest) beside stem cell research, so you can certainly hang on to it for a while longer. There is a lot of fine practical talent you develop while doing research since it is also a manual job. Being able to do micro-dissection is a good practice for fixing some electronic equipment (under scope) and the analytic/problem solving skills are always going to be useful, even more than before.
Nobody know how things are going to unfold and how bad/fast peak oil is going to hit us, so it is difficult to recommend you a good strategy except than to diversify your skills even in the research world, (for example to orient your research skill toward farm animals)... which is somehow the opposite to the BAU research that push to more specialization. And also practice whatever useful skill you can think of, like growing your own food... it's far easier than neuroscience.
If the economy really collapse, you might be able to scavage quite a lot of good things out of your lab... think about all the fine chemicals and antibiotics, high quality research equipments that can be converted for practical usages. A friend from Russia did that after the collapse of soviet union...
Canada is probably not a to bad place to be to face peak oil and global warming, so you should try to stay in your home country and keep working on research but save any money you can to prepare a getaway. If you are really afraid that things are going to turn bad soon, you could consider getting a teaching position in a college of a smaller town such as to have the economic mean to transit toward a safer and more sustainable place.
I have tried unsuccesfully to obtain a research position in my home country (France) for three years and basically gave up on it even though it would be a reasonably good place to be when things turn bad (but not too dramatically bad). I'm still trying to get a research position but try to select locations based on how well they will fare when things turn bad. Right now I'm in discussion with colleagues in Scotland to move there...maybe it will happen.

These are all interesting points in thinking about an important predicament. I am out of it now, but spent a period post-retirement in consultancy putting in Labs and Regulatory changes to support plant disease control in ex-communist candidate countries for wider-EU. Justified it mainly in terms of getting useful employment and skill and CV development for excellent young people. Do not really believe in it now. For example, regulation of pesticides and control of potentially pest-contaminated seed-stocks is essential for farming in a world where both inputs and outputs are transported internationally, but the science and administrative structure can be hideously expensive compared with the farming base. (e.g. R&D and infrastructure cost per strawberry can be prohibitive!) Does not look 'sustainable'.
I still see, though, modern Labs, or versions of them, as providing essential and potentially very favorable 'cost-benefit' services.
1. Lower-cost 'marker' diagnostics for human (and agricultural) infections and conditions, especially where they reduce the cost of interventions and 'map' onto properly understood epidemiology, and encourage 'prevention'.
2. Quality control of lower-cost interventions, specifically production of seriously cheap 'generics', whether they be 'quality' drugs or pesticides. The use of 'generics' is widespread and competitive, whether using either the legal or (currently much riskier) illegal products.
3. Food storage and processing is dedicated to current marketing opportunities. Quality control of high nutritional value vegetables and fruit, that preserves those values in smaller-scale, but modular, production processing ("cottage industry"?) is a very neglected area of R&D, but tools to aid in that might 'scale', like the use of generics has scaled. (Some excellent work though has been done already, for example, on what makes Crucifers such good preventive value against a wide range of cancers and arterial disease.)

Molecular tools can sometimes help do the basic research and help provide very low unit-cost 'sustainable' mass-production tools for quality checks valuable in health care. More basic work is needed to give direction to efforts to optimize nutritional value of 'local' agricultural production and storage.
Good luck

Stick with molecular biology for as long as you enjoy it. Make lots of contacts. Collaborate. Write papers. Be willing to move. Be thrifty.

.. and maybe get into a 'practical' hobby, like gardening. or just a Social one..

I personally find a great sense of security in having connections to my community at as broad a spectrum as possible, either in economic/class diversity, or just across various types of work and lifestyle.. that is to say, perhaps volunteering of some sort would leave you with a rich array of connections throughout your hometown, which means a deeper range of people who can offer each other a variety of opportunities as 'conditions on the ground' change.


if you don't have a bicycle, find one, preferably a broken one. Figure out why it broke, get whatever tools you need, buy parts, fix it. You can fix a bicycle in your living room. Ride it around your neighborhood (or farther afield even if you have to bus it there) on trash pick-up day. Look for something broken thrown in the trash that is small enough to carry or drag home. Take it home and take it apart (get more tools) and figure out why it broke, fix it if is worth fixing. Ask a friend who owns a house if you could use a corner of the garage, if you could set up workbench in the corner. Get more tools. One day, riding your bike through suburbia, you will find a lawnmower in the trash, grab it. Drag it back to the garage, take the motor apart (get more tools), figure out what broke, get parts, fix it. OK, you get the idea, you learn a little about broken stuff, why they worked, why they broke, the importance of exercise/fitness, tools and skills/experience beyond your schooling and vocation, the importance of quality in design, materials, manufacture. You are a smart guy, as you ride around on your bike all kinds of new things will occur to you. Eventually you will have the confidence and ability to ... oh who knows. All we know is that the future will be interesting. But if TSHTF, somebody who can ride a bicycle all day is someone who can travel, and a person who knows how stuff works and can fix broken stuff will be an essential member of the community.

Thanks very much for all the input, everybody. I appreciate the time and effort you put into your comments! Take care, all of you.