Drumbeat: September 30, 2009

New oil model could 'burden' Petrobras

Brazilian energy giant Petrobras could find its position as sole operator of the country's recently discovered oil discoveries a "burden," the president of the Brazilian Petroleum Institute (IBP) said today.

IBP President Joao Carlos De Luca said that recent proposed changes to the country's oil laws may be unconstitutional and that Brazil needs the help of private industry to develop the offshore oil patch.

"I don't think the new regulatory model will be good for Petrobras because there's a sense of burden and the company will be obligated to operate less-profitable fields," De Luca said.

Warren Buffett weighs in on Bernanke, Obama, China and oil

The Oracle looks past oil. Is Buffett a peak oil believer? "We're using something on the order of 85 million barrels a day and it's going to be difficult, in my view, to get that up much," he said. "We'll use less eventually -- it is a finite resource -- so the real question is how well we anticipate that situation." If we're not ready, look for oil prices to spike. Buffett suggests embracing electric vehicles as a way to ween ourselves off fossil fuels.

Iran's Leverage Sinks With Oil Demand

(CBS/AP) Renewed tensions between Iran and the West are doing little to push oil prices higher, a stark shift from previous years that could strengthen efforts to impose tougher sanctions on Tehran.

Threats of new trade bans or a military strike against the Islamic republic over its nuclear program helped drive crude prices to a record near $150 a barrel last summer, as traders grew concerned that Tehran could disrupt crude shipments in and out of the Persian Gulf.

The economic downturn has changed that dynamic.

Saudi king's university slammed for coed classes

Saudi officials have envisaged the university as a key part of the kingdom's plans to transform itself into a global scientific hub — its latest efforts to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

Al-Watan, which is owned by members of the royal family, accused al-Shethri of trying to undermine Abdullah's reforms and suggested such criticism breeds terrorism.

"This is what al-Qaida awaits as a pretext and justification" for its actions, the paper's editor-in-chief, Jamal Kashukshi, said in an editorial.

Food giants hop ‘buy local' bandwagon

First there was The 100 Mile Diet, then the New Oxford American Dictionary declared locavore “word of the year,” and dozens of new farmers' markets opened across Canada with annual sales topping $1-billion. Now the big food corporations are taking note.

The companies that dominate the food industry, from potato-chip makers to national supermarket chains, are trying to tap into the “buy local” zeitgeist with marketing efforts aimed at capturing this audience. Some foodies are crying foul, calling the big-box version of local nothing more than green-washing. Others are more hopeful and are asking what role these companies can have in a local food system.

Energy guru says green needn’t be grim

If someone told you America's long-term energy needs could be met without oil or nuclear power, would you think he was crazy? The craziest thing about Amory Lovins is that he says the financial numbers prove it.

"We feel very comfortable that we're likely to have an important and coherent story about the profitable journey beyond fossil fuels, to stuff that works better and costs less than the present arrangements," Lovins, co-founder of the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute, said in an interview.

The institute's story will get a full airing this week at "Reinventing Fire," a two-day symposium in San Francisco focusing on energy efficiency, renewable energy and the prospects for creating an economy that has no need for fossil fuels. The event is one of the year's highlights for Lovins' institute, a "think-and-do tank" that advises corporate and government clients on energy issues.

Global Food Security Plans Too Narrow - Analyst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global plans to reduce hunger by boosting food production are too narrowly focussed on farming without considering how to slow population growth or halt climate change, long-time environmental analyst Lester Brown said on Tuesday.

The Obama administration and leaders of other wealthy nations have promised to spend more money and coordinate efforts to reduce the chronic hunger that plagues more than 1 billion people in the world.

But the initiatives fail to recognise the need to stabilise climate and population, said Brown, who has been writing about how to fix the planet for more than 30 years.

Alternative Energy Projects Stumble on a Need for Water

Here is an inconvenient truth about renewable energy: It can sometimes demand a huge amount of water. Many of the proposed solutions to the nation’s energy problems, from certain types of solar farms to biofuel refineries to cleaner coal plants, could consume billions of gallons of water every year.

“When push comes to shove, water could become the real throttle on renewable energy,” said Michael E. Webber, an assistant professor at the University of Texas in Austin who studies the relationship between energy and water.

Conflicts over water could shape the future of many energy technologies. The most water-efficient renewable technologies are not necessarily the most economical, but water shortages could give them a competitive edge.

China launches 10-MW on-grid solar power project

BEIJING (Reuters) - China launched on Wednesday the country's biggest on-grid solar power project with electricity capacity of 10 megawatts in Shizuishan of Ningxia, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The project, run by the China Energy Conservation Investment Corp, was only the first phase of a total 50-MW project, Xinhua said.

Scientists Find Successful Way To Reduce Bat Deaths At Wind Turbines

ScienceDaily — Scientists at the University of Calgary have found a way to reduce bat deaths from wind turbines by up to 60 percent without significantly reducing the energy generated from the wind farm. The research, recently published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, demonstrates that slowing turbine blades to near motionless in low-wind periods significantly reduces bat mortality.

An iPhone gets Zipcar drivers on their way

SAN FRANCISCO — The iPhone can do many things. Now it can even lock and unlock a car and start the engine.

Cambridge, Mass.-based car-sharing service Zipcar this week launched an app that lets you locate and reserve one of its vehicles, unlock it using the iPhone's touch-screen and drive it off the lot.

With $350M Infusion, Tesla Adds Minivans, Crossovers, and Fleet Vans to Line of EVs

Tesla Motors--they made that cute all-electric Roadster no one actually owns--wants you to know the money they received from the government is NOT the same money that bailed out Detroit, but rather a loan from the DOE to accelerate the production of fuel-efficient vehicles. So what are they doing with $350 million of your money? Well it’s actually pretty exciting; according to a blog post on Tesla’s Web site, an all-electric minivan, a crossover, and a utility fleet van will join the Model S family sedan on Tesla’s sales floor in the not-too-distant future.

Resolving Iran Oil-Price Risk

As I noted last fall, lower oil prices have created a window for a set of actions--truly crippling sanctions, a naval blockade, or air attack on the facilities in question--that would have been unthinkable when oil was marching steadily toward $100/bbl and beyond. That window will begin to close once the global economy resumes growing rapidly enough to erode the healthy cushion of spare global oil production capacity that now stands at 5.5 million barrels per day--a buffer that would also erode from the other direction if new oil projects fail to keep up with oil's intrinsic decline rates. In other words, if the situation isn't resolved one way or another within the next year or so, the strategy of containment of a nuclear-armed Iran in a new kind of Cold War could become the only viable option left to us.

Over a Barrel: Why Iran Sanctions Won't Work

Going into Thursday's high-stakes negotiations with Iran, President Obama will soon see for himself the corner into which the Islamic Republic has thrust his predecessors.

Iran has the world over a barrel, literally. The country's vast oil reserves will undermine Obama administration efforts to increase U.N. sanctions, and Iran knows it.

Venezuela, Vietnam to Start Producing Orinoco Oil by 2011

Venezuela and Vietnam's state-run oil companies have begun talks aimed at agreeing on a plan to start producing oil together in Venezuela's Orinoco region by early 2011.

"It is expected that within 18 months the crude oil production process will begin," said Eulogio Del Pino, director of exploration and production at Venezuela's state energy firm Petroleos de Venezuela, or PdVSA.

Activists block 2nd Canada oil sands operation

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Environmental activists said on Wednesday they canoed into Suncor Energy Inc's Alberta oil sands operation, blocking equipment in a second protest action in as many weeks aimed at disrupting crude production.

Greenpeace said 23 of its activists entered Canada's second-largest oil sands operation, stopping conveyor belts that carry bitumen from the mine to an upgrading plant that processes the tar-like crude into light oil.

China's economic numbers don't add up

Consider some of these econo-nuggets: New brokerage accounts are soaring, with more brokerage accounts in China than there are members of the Communist Party. Chinese car sales passed the U.S. in the first half of 2009. Beijing alone sees 1,200 new cars a day on the roads. Lending is also doing an up-and-to-the-right hockey-stick -- new lending by Chinese banks has tripled in the last year. And the country's GDP is forecast to rise a whopping 9 percent in the current year, and 10 percent the year after.

Under the surface, however, things are even stranger. For example, despite the tripling in Chinese bank loans, government data shows non-performing loans declining. While that's possible, I suppose, it would be highly unusual for more lending to be safer than less.

Similarly, despite a big uptick in manufacturing, usage of gasoline has declined almost 8 percent in the last year. The two indicators had moved together until December of last year, but now they don't. How do you run an economy without gas? Cold fusion? And then there is how Chinese industrial activity has risen this year, but electrical usage in China has declined. How does that work?

Africa Pressures China's Oil Deals

LONDON -- China's search for large stakes in some of Nigeria's richest oil blocks comes against a backdrop of problems in other African countries where the Asian giant has oil operations.

U.S. July oil demand lowest in 13 years: Govt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Tuesday revised down U.S. oil demand in July to 4 percent below year-ago levels as the struggling economy sent petroleum consumption to the lowest level for the month in 13 years.

Oil demand in July was 133,000 barrels per day (bpd) less than the Energy Information Administration previously estimated at a revised 18.771 million bpd, the lowest since 1996. That's down 786,000 bpd from a year earlier when demand was 19.557 million bpd.

The EIA report appears to contradict other recent government data that suggest the U.S. economy is on the road to recovery.

Brazil’s Pre-Salt May Hold 25-100 Billion Barrels

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s so-called pre-salt oil region may hold between 25 billion and 100 billion barrels of oil, the country’s cabinet chief said.

“The reserves are significant,” Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff said today in a speech in Brasilia, adding that the government doesn’t yet have a final estimate.

Brazil's Energy Dilemma

In a tricky balancing act, Brazil aims to enable both sides of the energy industry to develop harmoniously.

All gas, no vodka, for Putin in Yamal

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's call for Western-assisted development of Yamal gas reserves for export as liquefied natural gas (LNG) holds potential global ramifications. Top managers of no fewer than 10 leading international companies attended a session with Putin in Salekhard on Yamal.

The peninsula in northern Russia and surrounding area is said officially to hold some 70% of Russia's total known gas reserves. With limited and selective reporting on the event in Russia (while Western media barely noticed it) and seemingly inflated - as well as mutually inconsistent - reserve estimates by various Russian officials, a preliminary assessment of the proposal's implications can only be fragmentary at this point. Yet a number of its implications already stand out.

Musings: Recent Oil Discoveries Gaining Media Attention

The article did make note of the fact that 20 billion barrels of new oil reserves still pales by comparison to the fields the industry discovered in the 1970s -- Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, Ecofisk in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea and Cantarell offshore Mexico. The chart above showing the history of oil discoveries since 1930 and highlighting some of the more famous fields discovered in history shows clearly that even a 20-billion barrel discovery year will do little to alter the challenge the industry faces in growing oil output to meet rising global oil demand. This chart argues oil prices need to go higher.

Analysis: Iran's oil shortfall

Iran’s new Oil Minister Masoud Mir-Kazemi has spelled out the dire situation facing Islamic Republic’s energy sector, revealing a gas shortfall of 200mmcm/d is likely during the peak season, together with a multi-billion dollar project finance deficit.

IHS Global Insight Middle East energy analyst Samuel Ciszuk gives his expert opinion on what this means for Iran’s energy sector.

Gas Producers, Users Mull Long-Term Deals Amid Output Boom

A shift in the U.S. natural gas market could be approaching as producers consider cutting price volatility by inking long-term contracts with power generators and other big consumers.

Exxon Mobil says no damage at Aceh plant from Indonesia quake

JAKARTA (Reuters) - There were no reports of quake-related damage at Exxon Mobil's Arun LNG plant in Indonesia's Aceh on Wednesday.

Former Gov. George Allen speaks at town hall meeting

Former Virginia Gov. George Allen told a group of 50 students and community members in Jepson Hall Tuesday night that the United States could be the Saudi Arabia of coal and that Virginia could be a leader in breaking America’s dependency on foreign oil.

“You’ll hear from these pompous elites, that Americans are addicted to oil,” Allen said. “Americans are not addicted to oil. Americans are addicted to freedom – the freedom and independence to move where and when we want – and I believe that Americans can keep that independence.”

What Makes Europe Greener than the U.S.?

It was late and raining this summer when I approached the information desk at Stockholm's Arlanda airport to inquire about how best to get into the city center. "The fastest is the train, but there are also busses," the guide said.

"Are there taxis?" I inquired, trying hard to forget the reminders on the Arlanda website that trains are "the most environmentally friendly" form of transport, referring to taxis as "alternative transportation" for those "unable to take public transport."

"Yes, I guess you could take one," he said, dripping with disdain as he peered over the edge of the counter at my single piece of luggage.

I slunk into the cab, paid about $60 and spent the 45-minute ride feeling as guilty as if I'd built a coal-fired plant in my back yard. (Note: the cabs at Arlanda are hybrids.) Two days later, although my flight left at 7 a.m., I took the Arlanda Express. It cost half as much and took 15 minutes to the terminal.

Jeff Rubin: Toronto le bon

My own personal journey into a smaller, more local world this summer was to rediscover my city by biking through its ravines and watersheds. Along with my old friend and fishing buddy, Harvey Bradley, we set out to explore the headwaters of Toronto's major rivers. But what started out as a geographic voyage of discovery ended as a historical voyage that casts my city's past in a new light.

Monbiot - Stop blaming the poor. It's the wally yachters who are burning the planet

Population growth is not a problem - it's among those who consume the least. So why isn't anyone targeting the very rich?

Increased import-dependence, de-industrialisation diminish Nigeria's celebration at 49

THAT the world's eighth largest oil producer has a pitiable industrial sector speaks volumes on quality of Nigeria's leaders, especially since the era of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), when phenomenal de-industrialisation crept into the nation's economic set-up. The statistics are indeed appalling.

China likely to make breakthrough in tapping gas hydrates

China will likely make a breakthrough in developing gas hydrates, which have been recently discovered on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, according to an expert in geological prospecting.

The hydrate, which is also known as combustible ice, is a solid matter formed by water and natural gas under high-pressure and low-temperature conditions. It is considered the new energy with the largest deposit in the world.

Zhang Hongtao, chief engineer of China's Ministry of Land and Resources, said that the discovery of gas hydrates is comparable to the discovery of the Daqing Oilfield 50 years ago.

Deutsche Welle: Kyrgyzstan lacks gas, electricity third year in row

Kyrgyzstan starts rotating blackouts from October 1. Therewith Uzbekistan imposed limits and could fully cut off gas supply to the country due to indebtedness, radio Deutsche Welle says.

Gas supply to Osh, Jalalabad and Batken regions of Kyrgyzstan has been fully suspended, while supply to the north, including Bishkek, have been reduced by 30 percent. The reason is $18 million debt to Uzbekistan. Tashkent could shut off the gas valve in case if Kyrgyzstan does not pay off the debt up to October 1.

Engineering giants follow the money to green power

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A green power building spree is on the way, and much of it will be brought to you by the same people who built the nuclear and coal-fired power plants that keep the lights on now.

What might strike casual observers or radical greens as odd can be explained by good business sense; with few other power plants in the works, big U.S. engineering and construction companies have heartily embraced renewable energy projects.

Study: More biofuel corn would hurt water

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they have determined growing more corn to produce biofuels would contaminate water sources.

Purdue University researchers said their study of Indiana water sources found those near fields that practice continuous-corn rotations had higher levels of nitrogen, fungicides and phosphorous than corn-soybean rotations.

Waste-to-fuel venture struggles for finance

AN Australian entrepreneur behind a $1 billion venture turning waste plastics into diesel says the export deal may collapse because the Rudd government won't provide financial assistance.

Is Garbage The Solution To Tackling Climate Change?

ScienceDaily — Converting the rubbish that fills the world’s landfills into biofuel may be the answer to both the growing energy crisis and to tackling carbon emissions, claim scientists in Singapore and Switzerland. New research published in Global Change Biology: Bioenergy, reveals how replacing gasoline with biofuel from processed waste could cut global carbon emissions by 80%.

China plans to encourage local use of solar cells

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will consider measures to support domestic consumption of solar cells made from local polysilicon materials, while taking international demand into consideration, the government said on late Tuesday.

Two meter sea level rise unstoppable - experts

OXFORD, England (Reuters) - A rise of at least two meters in the world's sea levels is now almost unstoppable, experts told a climate conference at Oxford University on Tuesday.

"The crux of the sea level issue is that it starts very slowly but once it gets going it is practically unstoppable," said Stefan Rahmstorf, a scientist at Germany's Potsdam Institute and a widely recognized sea level expert.

"There is no way I can see to stop this rise, even if we have gone to zero emissions."

Farmed Out: How Will Climate Change Impact World Food Supplies?

The people of East Africa once again face a devastating drought this year: Crops wither and fail from Kenya to Ethiopia, livestock drop dead and famine spreads. Although, historically, such droughts are not uncommon in this region, their frequency seems to have increased in recent years, raising prices for staple foods, such as maize.

This scenario may simply be a taste of a world undergoing climate change in the mid–21st century, according to a new report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a Washington, D.C.–based organization seeking an end to hunger and poverty through appropriate local, national and international agricultural policies. By IFPRI's estimate, 25 million more children will be malnourished in 2050 due to the impact of climate change on global agriculture.

Chinese oil demand fueling Iranian defiance

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Don't look for Iran to throw up the white flag anytime soon.

The Obama administration is scrambling to tighten trade sanctions against Iran after the disclosure last week that Tehran was hiding a heavily fortified facility that many believe is designed to make material for nuclear weapons.

But the kind of sanctions that would really hit Iran's economy - sanctions against its energy industry - are thought to be off the table because China and other nations are too reliant on Iran's oil.

China, U.S. risk rifts in Middle East: former Chinese envoy

China faced growing risks to energy security as it increasingly relied on imported oil, especially from the volatile Middle East, where Beijing's sway had been limited, Sun said.

"The U.S. has always sought to control the faucet of global oil supplies. There is cooperation between China and the U.S., but there is also struggle, and the U.S. has always seen us as a potential foe," he wrote in the September issue of "Asia & Africa Review," which reached subscribers this week.

"Bilateral quarrels and clashes are unavoidable. We cannot lower vigilance against hostility in the Middle East over energy interests and security," Sun wrote in the Chinese-language journal, which is published by the State Council Development Research Center, a prominent state think tank.

CIC Buys Stake in Kazakh Gas Company for $939 Million

(Bloomberg) -- China’s sovereign wealth fund bought a stake in the London-traded unit of Kazakhstan’s state-run energy company, taking its spending on resources to at least $3.69 billion this month.

Statoil Chief Plays Up Arctic Record in Bid for Yamal Gas Role

(Bloomberg) -- StatoilHydro ASA, Norway’s largest oil and natural gas producer, plans to trumpet its experience in developing and running Arctic projects in a bid to be picked by Russia as a partner on the Yamal peninsula in northern Siberia.

“This is one of the areas where we can have a competitive advantage,” Helge Lund, StatoilHydro’s chief executive officer, said in an interview outside Oslo. “One thing is to talk about an Arctic development and another thing is to actually do it. We’ve done it, primarily on the Snohvit field, and we learned a lot, both positive and negative.”

National Oil Companies need to prepare for continued price volatility, warns Marsh

MarshMarshLoading..., the world's leading insurance broker and risk adviser, today warned that the National Oil Companies need to prepare for ongoing price volatility as the global economy emerges from recession. With their long planning cycles, NOCs face significant business risks from short to medium term oil price fluctuations.

Off with their blinkered heads

It's pretty much a good thing that the queen has retained little to no policy-shaping influence in the UK, since both the LSE's and the environmentalists' recommendations boil down to being not much more than to look out for humans acting like humans. It doesn't matter much because whenever the actual financial crisis ends, Britain will still almost certainly not be in such a powerful position in the world financial system that its rules will carry much influence beyond its borders.

Secret Iran Plant Gives U.S. Leverage in Geneva Talks

(Bloomberg) -- Iran enters the first talks in more than a year on its nuclear ambitions facing world powers more unified in their demand for limits after the disclosure of a covert uranium enrichment plant.

Nippon Oil, Kyocera Shares Rise in Tokyo on Home Fuel Cells

(Bloomberg) -- Nippon Oil Corp., Japan’s largest refiner, and Kyocera Corp. rose in Tokyo trading on a report that they will start selling fuel cells to Japanese households.

Kyocera, a solar-cell maker, rose as much as 2.3 percent to 8,500 yen while Nippon Oil climbed as much as 1.6 percent to 508 yen and was the fifth-biggest mover on the MSCI AC Asia Pacific Energy Index.

Gevo Inc. Fits Ethanol Plant To Make Biobutanol

Biobutanol carries a higher energy conent than ethanol. Standard automobiles and small engines can run on biobutanol blended into gasoline at any ratio.

Back to Basics

What would compel a 25-year-old university graduate from St. Mary's Ontario to move to Meaford and convince a local land owner to allow him to pitch a tent on his property to live in, and then plant a three-quarter acre organic garden?

As Jarret Boyd explains it, he wanted to experience living a life that has been largely forgotten in our society. A life that is not beholden to artificially created material needs, rather it is framed by a simple premise of low impact, sustainable living that meets the basic needs of human survival.

Driven by a philosophy that shifting back to a focus on local economies will be crucial in dealing with major global issues such as peak oil, and repairing our damaged environment, Boyd has set about proving to himself, and anyone else who might be interested, that it is possible to have a fulfilling life while shunning the trappings of modern commercialism.

Solar Power, Collapse Movie Gets it Wrong

The Toronto Film Festival winner, Collapse, is a big hit, for all the wrong reasons.

It documents the collapse of major economies, specifically America, with the advent of Peak Oil. What is particularly objectionable to me is Ruppert’s view, that alternative energy is a pervasive (and elusive) myth that will lead us into a false sense of security.

Author claims sexual harassment fine means nothing

A recent state order fining author, conspiracy theorist and former Los Angeles cop Michael C. Ruppert more than $125,000 for sexually harassing a former employee is all bark and no bite.

"I don't owe a penny," Ruppert said. "This judgment is solely against my corporation, and I spent $4,000 proving in court that it no longer exists."

EPA gives Congress a heads-up on toxic chemicals

SAN FRANCISCO — The Obama administration is announcing new principles to guide Congress in updating the 33-year-old law that governs how the Environmental Protection Agency controls toxic chemicals, saying the current law is inadequate to protect against risks.

Utility agrees to terms removing Klamath dams

MEDFORD, Ore. — The utility that owns four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River has agreed to terms for their removal, a key milestone in efforts to restore what was once the third biggest salmon run on the West Coast and end decades of battles over scarce water.

Everglades to get water relief from $81 mln bridge

MIAMI (Reuters) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded an $81 million contract to a Florida company to build a road bridge that will help restore fresh water flows in Everglades National Park, nourishing its ecosystem.

Beginning in November 2009, Kiewit Southern Company of Sunrise, Fla. will remove one mile of the Tamiami Trail road that crosses the park -- environmentalists view the section as a harmful barrier to natural water flows to the northeastern Everglades -- and replace it with the bridge.

Senate climate bill would speed emissions reductions

WASHINGTON — Senate legislation designed to slow global warming would reduce greenhouse gas emissions more rapidly than competing legislation passed by the House of Representatives, according to a draft bill obtained by USA TODAY.

The Senate bill, scheduled to be introduced today, requires a 20% decrease in 2020 in the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. The House bill passed in June requires a 17% cut in 2020.

Report: Climate change means more hungry children

JOHANNESBURG — Scientists fear climate change will mean 25 million more hungry children over the next four decades, with subsistence farmers in Africa and Asia particularly hard hit by global warming, according to a report issued Wednesday.

The authoritative International Food Policy Research Institute said even without climate change, 113 million children under 5 years old will be malnourished in 2050 worldwide. With climate change, the figure would be 20 percent more.

Many support $100 billion a year on climate change

UNITED NATIONS – Many world leaders have expressed support for a proposal that would earmark $100 billion a year for the next decade for concrete actions to curb greenhouse gases and help countries cope with the impact of climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

UN: climate change impact on agriculture dire

ROME — A U.N. agency warns that the climate change will badly affect agriculture and hit developing nations hardest, leading to unreliable food production and higher prices.

Why scaling up alternative energy sources won't work
And why we are probably screwed by our own blindness

Is there hope? What do you think of the strategies and scenarios described by David MacKay in his book Sustainable Energy - Without The Hot Air? (the book is available free in pdf or html format here).

I read the book quickly one night 2 months ago.

What I recall is that after showing the limiting factors of most energy technologies, he then proceeded to offer us this 'hope' for uranium.

The oceans’ uranium, if completely extracted and used in once-through reactors, corresponds to a total energy of
4.5 billion tons per planet
162 tons uranium per GW-year
= 28 million GW-years per planet.

How fast could uranium be extracted from the oceans? The oceans circulate slowly: half of the water is in the Pacific Ocean, and deep Pacific waters circulate to the surface on the great ocean conveyor only every 1600 years. Let’s imagine that 10% of the uranium is extracted over such a 1600-year period. That’s an extraction rate of 280 000 tons per year. In once-through reactors, this would deliver power at a rate of
2.8 millionGW-years / 1600 years = 1750GW,

10% recover of uranium from ocean water? Yes, MacKay offered some Japanese demonstration project to show that some part of the technology required exists, but color me highly skeptical that we can recover that much diffused uranium from the oceans.

Like I said, that's just a first impression - not an analysis.

I know Ugo Bardi doesn't think there is much hope for extracting minerals of any kind (including uranium) from sea water. This is a link to his post from about a year ago:

Mining the Oceans: Can We Extract Minerals from Seawater?

There was an extended debate about U from sea water a year or three ago on the Yahoo Energy Resources forum. It might be worth a look.


But they do work. It just depends on your expectations.

'Are they enough?' Enough for what?

'Some people want them to keep BAU going..' So what? Those people are wrong. But renewables can at least start by keeping pipes from freezing, even if they're not making the house all nice and toasty right away. Solar Heating works, Solar PV works, a wide range of Windmills can do useful work, produce electricity, pump water, pump air, grind grain, mix paint, inflate toy balloons..

Why make it sound like they are useless, just because they aren't 'Easy and Cheap Silver Bullets' that will let a spoiled and lazy culture saturated in hydrocarbons continue to slumber?

It isn't about keeping the pipes from freezing. It's about feeding 6.8 billion people. So-called "renewables," or "alt energy" sources, aren't up to the task, not even in aggregate. Not even close. It isn't that they don't "work," it's that they are far too little and too late to avert starvation on a scale never seen before. And they all come replete with unintended consequences: destruction of lotic & riparian ecosystems and generation of CH4 from anaerobic decomposition in sediments on the part of hydro-. Avian & chiropteran mortality on the part of wind. Lethal radioactivity on the part of fission. Etc. Alts just don't stack up when it comes to providing sufficient "clean" energy to keep humanity fed.

DD, we discussed Chiropteran mortality due to wind turbines the other day and while I may be willing to concede that the jury may still be out on that one, It is quite well established that domestic cats do far more damage to birds than wind turbines. Just to be clear I'm not here to defend BAU or wind turbines in particular, just to say that a lot of what you say has merit but you have this rather unflattering habit of undermining yourself when you make arguments based on half truths.

Is there a list of "talking points" blog-bonded TOD posters memorize? There must be! It's absolutely de rigueur that cats be brought up whenever avian & chiropteran mortality due to wind turbines is mentioned. As if a greater wrong somehow rationalizes a lesser wrong.

For the umpteenth time let me reiterate: Felis sylvestris, the Afro-Asiatic wildcat, does indeed extract a horrific mortality on birds, bats, native rodents and other small prey. Feral cats should be shot or trapped and anyone subsidizing a cat that runs loose should be heavily fined. This said, avian and chiropteran populations, already stressed by habitat loss, disease and predation, do not need or deserve another significant, and growing, source of mortality imposed upon them in the form of wind turbines. Birds and bats are far more important than is the piddly squat amount of electromotive power provided by wind. Seed dispersal, pollination services, insect control.., etc., etc., are far more important than is people being able to power the electric gewgaws they think they need. Anyone concerned with ecosystem health and stemming the decimation of biodiversity opposes wind energy and cats running loose.

What sort of "electric gewgaw" is there which might keep the birds and/or bats away from the wind turbines? BTW, I am all for shooting feral cats, even though they do a good job of killing rats and mice. My neighbor has two cats that run loose and they are ALWAYS out hunting at night, sometimes more than 1/2 mile from "home"...

E. Swanson

Of course many snakes take care of rats and mice, and will rarely harm birds or people -- but they're not as furry as cats and don't purr, so suburbanites kill them on sight.

We used to have a 5' black snake that basked along the bricks of my boyhood home. One day a neighbor proudly announced he'd killed a monster snake. After that the neighborhood had little copper heads and rattleshakes instead, and more rats too.

Here's hoping we learn who our real friends are.

i'm a friend of snakes and try to harm them as little as possible but they do prey on birds-partcularly ground nesting birds.We lost three broods of chicks over the last few weeks to one very large blacksnake-when they scatter in the dark on a rainy night it's all over for them-without thier momma they can't make it thru a wet night.

I finally caught him (her?) and released him a mile or so away where there are rats and mice but no chickens.

Flashing lights and the like have no effect in keeping birds & bats away from turbine blades since natural selection has not equipped these animals with any recognition that they represent danger. There are turbine designs that exclude flying vertebrates but these are less "efficient" than conventional designs and are therefore not the preferred choice. One hopeful bit of insight has been that bats seldom forage when the wind is strong and energy production from wind is greatest. Bats are killed more often by slowly turning blades. So one recourse is to stop the blades altogether when the wind is weak. This results in ~15% reduction in output and therefore probably won't be a widely adopted practice even tho it would save the lives of many bats.

DD - What hope is there for reform when the only legal entities in our society is a "person" or "property"?

I've been watching Ken Burns' National Parks Americas' Best Idea. The most enlightening part of the series is the conflict between two opposing points of view Preservation vs conservation as personified between the collaboration and then the bitter conflict between John Muir and Gifford Pinchet.

Their friendship ended late in the summer of 1897 when Pinchot released a statement to a Seattle newspaper supporting sheep grazing in forest reserves. Muir confronted Pinchot and demanded an explanation. When Pinchot reiterated his position Muir told him: "I don't want any thing more to do with you." This philosophical divide soon expanded and split the conservation movement into two camps: the preservationists, led by Muir; and Pinchot's camp, who co-opted the term "conservation"

Looking at North America a century later it looks as though the conservationists may have won the day. But it doesn't have to always be that way. There is now a movement to extend rights to ecosystems:

The name of this Ordinance shall be “The Rights of Nature Ordinance.”

(1) Governments are created to secure and protect inalienable and fundamental rights;

(2) People and their communities are trustees of nature, and communities of nature and ecosystems form part of the natural trust;

(3) It is well-settled law that trustees are required to protect and preserve the trust,

(4) As trustees, people and communities are obligated to protect and preserve natural communities and ecosystems;

(5) Natural communities and ecosystems are currently being destroyed, degraded, and weakened by corporations and other business entities;

Best hopes for the rights of bats and all natural systems.


"Trustee" is a decent term, but I've long used the term "steward" as well. "Guardian" might be a better role still, but we're a long way from there.

The trouble is that for cases where there is the opportunity for sustainable use, you still end up with private profits from common resources, and for any use which isn't sustainable there is no real argument for using a common resource at all (other than perhaps a very temporary crutch).

And since all the money flows through private hands to gov't coffers, and influence goes the other way, the notion of owning and consuming all resources will likely persist, and that of stewardship will struggle.

Haiti is bare. Easter Island too. How likely is it that the Earth itself can end otherwise?

I have been watching some of the segments on PBS about the establishment of State (Yosemite) and the National Parks.


Not surprisingly that there was major conflict between private exploitation and public - nee government (maybe we call it) management. Of course we know most recently that under Bush US government management did not preclude attempts at private exploitation. Yes, Bush was not the only one nor will he be the last.

I think this is more a series of battles within an ongoing war whose outcome can be in doubt at any given time.

Perhaps it might be possible to use lights ATTRACT bats to an area removed from the immediate nieghborhood of wind turbines.

I have often watched bats forage near lights and lights attract many flying insects.

Sacrificing enough electricity to run the lights should not be much of a problem.

Has it been tried?

Give Birds a Break. Lock Up the Cat.

Experts disagree sharply these days over how to manage our multitudes of stray and feral cats, with some saying off to the pound, others preaching a policy of catch, neuter and release, and everybody wishing there were other options to click. Yet when it comes to pet policy, and the question of whether it’s O.K. to let your beloved Cleo, Zydeco or Cocoa wander at will and have their Hobbesian fun, the authorities on both sides of the alley emphatically say, No. There are enough full-time strays; don’t add in your chipper. It is not fair to the songbirds and other animals that domestic cats kill by the billions each year. New research shows that neighborhoods like mine are particularly treacherous, Bermuda Triangles for baby birds.

Hmmm....nice fur...made of meat....many are easier to catch than squirrels. Surely there is a solution hiding here somewhere?

My cats are captive in the apartment. They get their hunting fun by killing the mosquitoes, moths, flies and cockroaches that are bountifull in my tropial location. It is interesting that the only thing that is too wary and too fast for them is the gecko.

They also have the added benefit of being my furry babies. I spoil them and fuss over them enough that delaying and reducing my total number of human offspring doesn't seem so much of a sacrifice.

..the only thing that is too wary and too fast for them is the gecko.

The feral cats around here seem to have no trouble catching Cnemidophorus lizards.

We have a spayed female cat that was born in the bosque to a feral momma cat. Actually, the momma cat had belonged to the neighbors across the road until they got two bulldogs & the pregnant cat decided that it was time to go it on her own. The tiny kitten showed up in our pantry and I at first thot it was a little raccoon cub. It was wild as one. She hasn't been outside the house since, except for one night recently when she managed to push the window screen out & escape. She was sure ready to come back inside the next morning! Guess the night was pretty scary outdoors. Just goes to show: Be careful what you wish for, kitty, you just might get it..

You'll love these photos
el Matagatos: candidate of the Spanish Conservatives [ PP ] attacked by Amnistía Animal for hunting and killing cats.
El Matagatos




The only thing that tempers my admiration for El Matagatos is that I'm sure he'll gladly hunt and kill any other animal.

Pretty wild stat-from 500000 to a million roaming the Big Island-fairly good place to be a feral cat

These cats better stay away from FL http://www.physorg.com/news172743431.html

Wonderful. As if Burmese pythons & red-tailed boas in the Everglades weren't bad enuf, now there's African rock pythons there too. In 2001 a Zambian woman gave birth alongside a road and a rock python ate the baby before she even saw whether it was a girl or boy.

IMO they are exaggerating for a headline-alligators are by far the most dangerous wild animal in FL and will remain so as they are the teacher's pet for some reason.

You think an alligator's more dangerous than an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake?

The problem with introduced exotic species such as pythons isn't that they're necessarily dangerous, but that they seriously interfere with biotic community & food chain structure. Personally, I think pythons are cool and wouldn't mind seeing them except for the damage they inflict on ecosystem structure & function where they don't belong.

Since you have Darwin in your handle, what is the theory on why creatures such as the Burmese python, which thrive and are perfectly suited for the Everglades, never evolved naturally in Florida? Everything is there for them, from climate to food supply.

..what is the theory on why creatures such as the Burmese python, which thrive and are perfectly suited for the Everglades, never evolved naturally in Florida?

Their ancestors lived in a different part of the world.

DD says:

Their ancestors lived in a different part of the world.

That's true but it is not the whole story, individual species do not evolve in isolation.
The entire local ecosystem develops with myriad interacting feedback loops involving all kinds of environmental interactions as well. One very notable thing about the current burgeoning population of Burmese pythons in the everglades is a definite paucity of suitable predators to keep them in check. When a top predator is suddenly introduced into an environment that has not had time to evolve natural checks and balances on its population it can easily throw the entire locally evolved ecosystem completely out of balance. And even this is still a very simplistic explanation of the problem.

i have doubts that the python survives the next ice age in florida.

Let me state the obvious: the Everglades weren't the Everglades before. They would have been high land during any and all ice ages, for example, whereas the tropics have always been relatively warm and wet, at least in comparison to the rest of the planet. Also, previous interglacials haven't tended to be as stable as this one has been since the Younger Dryas. My guess is pythons wouldn't survive in Florida during another ice age.


It looks like your local cat will sort out that issue, but on closer inspection it seems to be the other way around. The new cat is the winner. Probably due to Climate Change, Peak Oil or as a result of Obamas Rescue Packages ;-)

Not that you can take any comfort from it, but there is at least one listener who finds your voice reassuring in the babble of denial predominating here.

Is there a list of "talking points" blog-bonded TOD posters memorize? There must be!

Of course! Didn't you get the memo? There's a quiz tomorrow and it will be on the final certification exam. Lighten up DD, your heart is in the right place but you just need to tighten up your arguments you make it too easy to shoot you down sometimes. Not to mention make it tempting to push your buttons ;-)

Not to mention inserting gratuitous references to XKCD 556.

ROFL! Sancho, bring me sword...

Ahhh, you're just hoping.

The pipes that would be freezing here in the northeast are being warmed to a large degree by #2 Heating Oil, and so a million or so hot air or hot water panels on our rooftops would reduce the burning of oil, coal and gas by a terrific amount. Would the airquality improvement be helpful to the flying species? You could even build some nice bat-houses into many of these rooftop structures.. why not, if you're already up there?

I don't propose a solution to feeding 7billion humans. I'm fairly sure we'll be looking at a few massive food/disease disasters in coming years, but unlike you, I don't really expect the extinction of the species overall, and for those who do manage to persist after your predictions and mine are humorous memories, I think that a good use of glass, copper and silicon will be that of harvesting sunshine.

"They ALL come replete with unintended consequences.." Objection: Hyperbolic. But that's the way you like it, isn't it? You love the extremes.. but the compromises and middleground is where we will find the paths we are obliged to take.

I guess I can see then, why 'do nothing' is the solution you personally are left with.. even if the unintended consequences of that choice might be as bad or worse.. it leaves you with at least a hint of plausible deniability.


I have to say I completely agree with you:

Take the profit motive out of the equation and by directive make the necessary investments to get this working before we run out of fossil fuel energy resources completely. I realize this raises all kinds of issues (aside from the fact that libertarians and republicans will go ape shit).

Especially when what we currently call democracy is the framework within which we might attempt to accomplish such a profoundly daunting task. Go ahead, go ape shit folks! We don't have anything that even remotely approaches democracy now. Certainly not one that is of the people, for the people and by the people. Corporations, (may every evil curse befall them) have more legal rights than the people, those rights should all be taken away, especially their rights to usurp the commons based on the false premise that they are earning profits for their share holders. They are so stupid and blind that they don't understand that they are sawing off the very limb they are sitting on. They are bankrupting the planet, the people and in the final analysis, themselves. That's not a good way to run anything.

Re David MacKay's book, I have read it and find it to be a great resource for doing quick order of magnitude calculations when trying to understand if something I'm reading about alternative energy in the MSM is based on reality or just plain fantasy.

Just to add some flames to that there fire, here's an interesting concept I saw on Cnet yesterday:

Solar installer rents rooftops to make megawatts

The combined output of Recurrent's installations in Spain, which are set to go online in 2010, is enough to power well over 1,000 homes. By contrast, a centralized solar plant would be built with enough capacity to power hundreds of thousands of homes.

Still, the model can be expanded, Recurrent Energy CEO Arno Harris said in a statement.

"We have over 500 MW of distributed-scale projects in development across North America and Europe, and what this project successfully demonstrates is the sizable role commercial and industrial rooftops can play in large-scale solar deployment," Harris said.

Looking at the picture that accompanies ths story got me thinking. Just how many thousands of square meters (feet for the very few countries that still haven't adopted the metric system) are available on commercial and industrial rooftops in areas less than 50 degrees north or south of the equator? How much electricity could those rooftops generate and how feasible is it to cover a reasonable fraction of them with PV panels?

My way of thinking suggest that as we slide down the downslope every little bit is going to count. Before I get accused of being a cornocopian, I'd like to suggest that there are many areas where there are some very basic things that depend on electricty. Take piped water, sewage treatment plants and piped gas, for example. It's hard enough for those of us who are peak oil aware to imagine doing without all these basics, much less Joe Sixpack and all the rest of the sheeple hooked on videogames, facebook/twitter, blackberrys/texting and (un)reality television.

Let me preempt darwinsdog here and say sure I think there's bound to be a die-off at some point and I'm leaning towards well within my lifetime. Question is, will I be among the survivors and will it be worth it in the end?

Alan from the islands

Let me preempt darwinsdog here and say sure I think there's bound to be a die-off at some point and I'm leaning towards well within my lifetime. Question is, will I be among the survivors and will it be worth it in the end?

If you are reading this then for now you are still one of the survivors. The die off has been happening for a while, it doesn't take an enormous amount of effort to find documented evidence of it around the world. And it is sure to get worse.

Regarding your point about the rooftops, my brother has been renting rooftops in Germany with a small group of investors for a few years now. They are actually making a minuscule profit. I'm currently working with a company that designs and installs residential and commercial PV systems so I get to see a lot of roofs and have seen a few projects come to fruition. I'm personally convinced that this could be a major path toward solving a large part of our electricity needs. Granted I do have a personal interest :-)

San Francisco Approves Major Solar Project

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has approved a plan to build what would be one of the largest solar photovoltaic arrays in California. With five megawatts of capability spread over 25,000 panels, it will, if completed, also be among the largest municipal solar projects in the United States.

...(it) would produce roughly the amount of energy used by 1,000 households.

FMagyar - Politically it looks good to green-light these larger projects, but power for 1,000 homes (25 panels per home?) is a drop in the ocean. In San Diego there are thousands of acres of strip malls, business parks and warehouses without a solar panel in sight. If CA is leading the nation for sustainability I'm not encouraged.


In San Diego there are thousands of acres of strip malls, business parks and warehouses without a solar panel in sight.

Exactly! There is untapped potential there at least in terms of already utilized surface area exposed to the sun. These buildings are already connected to the existing power grid, no need to build extensive high voltage cables from distant deserts which are probably better left in their natural states.

If CA is leading the nation for sustainability I'm not encouraged.

To be honest neither am I and it may all be just a drop in the ocean but you have to start somewhere and if it were up to me rooftops is where I'd start and that's what I've decided to do in my little corner of the world.

In my opinion the biggest advantage of PV solar is the self contained nature of it.
If it becomes the common method of generating electricity there is no need for a grid.
This is a huge improvement in efficiency and robustness for the society in general but of course then the people can be controlled in one less way by the psychopaths that run things.
I know I am cynical maybe even paranoid.

Which is why we offer the options of PV panels that are grid tied only, grid tied with battery backup and battery only systems. If you want to go completely off grid there is nothing stopping you.

Seriously though, there are plenty of reasons to have self replenishing grids, I don't see the average off grid home system being powerful enough to run industrial machines for heavy industry for example. Then again maybe we don't need that kind of industry to begin with.

Anyways there are more than one way to skin a cat...I'll bet the average person can't tell the difference between cat and rabbit stew either, for all you cat lovers posting above ;-)
Plus they make nice little furry slippers.

So when a cat disappears around your neighborhood I guess it isn't coyotes!!??
What do you use for seasonings? I know bad form on my part.

Don't bother with the seasonings, hungry will do. In Argentina Chivito de techo, rooftop kid, is back in the menu, as it was in Europe during and after the war. You can tell cat stew from rabbit stew because the ribs of cats are much more rounded.

Recipe? Same as any good meat stew.

We have Burmese pythons, so I can always blame those.

For the record there are a few feral cats around here but the grackles and jays do a pretty good job of sounding the alert when they show up.

The other day I was tying down my kayak to the roof rack and I tossed the strap over the top and when I tried to pull it back I literally had caught a cat because it had tried to claw at the strap and it's claws went through the strap and it couldn't get them out. Oh joy, try removing hissing feral cat hanging from your kayak strap while cat loving female neighbor looks on. Luckily I had a tarp to throw over it and was able to safely remove it without causing much harm. To myself, of course ;-)

Well, if you drive through Laytonville, CA (about 180 miles north of SF) you'll see one real estate office with about 10kW of panels and just around the corner you'll see a new 36kW system on the local health center and just a little further down the road you'll even see a little rack at the high school.

And, because so many people are off the grid in the hills, you'll find dozens of systems including my 3.6kW one. The cities might not be doing much but the boondocks are.


The cities might not be doing much but the boondocks are.

I'm trying to change that at least where I live :-)

No photos yet of the clinic's PV, but this links to their solar hot water and to the realty office.

The PV at LHS is a PG&E demo project. Same size as my set-up.

Exactly! There is untapped potential there at least in terms of already utilized surface area exposed to the sun.

But then where are we going to raise all the food?


Use Your Roof! Project

Looks like you can do a lot with roofs. Good story!

Just how many thousands of square meters (feet for the very few countries that still haven't adopted the metric system) are available on commercial and industrial rooftops in areas less than 50 degrees north or south of the equator?

More than enough. I did the sums a while ago on another forum, and came to the conclusion that utilising less than 50% of residential rooftops, Australia could provide all the power residential property currently uses. Storage is an issue, but there's way around that, and Industrial uses would still need additional capacity, but it's not an insurmountable problem. It's just not as cheap as digging 60myo dead plants out of the ground and burning them.

Relax, CO2 is Good for You! - WTF??
... They have invested $1 million into two new organizations, one to lobby, one to educate the public. How lucky we are that these fearless oil and coal industry executives are leading this charge for truth.

Take a deep breath :-)

Forgive the sarcasm. �If we didn't laugh, we'd cry. �Once again, dirty energy industry veterans, who have made millions working for the industries that are undermining the health of the planet, are using their copious funds to "set the record straight" on global warming, this time with an eye to defeating the cap and trade legislation that is coming before Congress in the Waxman Markey bill.

She actually seems to be one of the good gals.

Let’s get the BALLE rolling

I PROBABLY shouldn’t have bought the Durabrand 18-volt cordless drill at Walmart. But it seemed well built, and it was a small fraction of the cost of comparable name-brand drills. So I bought it.


But I also know that what we’re doing now isn’t sustainable, and things that can’t be sustained are (by definition) destined to collapse. Today, it’s hard for local businesses to compete with huge corporations that can produce goods in China, flood us with advertising, "roll back prices" and undercut local artisans. But those corporations evolved in a fantasy world of cheap oil and cavalier disregard of the true costs of resource depletion and environmental decline. Ultimately, they will have to pay those costs, and at that point the advantage will shift to local businesses that have been doing it right all along.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/NovaScotian/1144654.html


Of course you can pop open the case to determine the cell size, and just order new cells off the Internet (if you can find cells with tabs tacked on, else then you'll need a capacitive discharge welder). Or maybe the techs at Batteries Plus could do it for you?

But those cells you need will all be made in China. Back to square one!

Really the problem isn't the products that are made in China, or the components which are made in China, or the tools that reside in China, or that the skills reside in China...it's all the above.

As a friend is fond of saying, "If I had some eggs I'd have ham and eggs for breakfast, if I had some ham."

The mighty US reminds me of The Mighty Hercules, off SNL:

Guard: Bring in Hercules!

[ Hercules is brought in. He is old and flabby ]

King Laetes: So, Hercules, once again, we meet. By the gods! Look at you! You really have let yourself go!
Hercules: Is it that noticeable, Laetes?

King Laetes: Is it noticeable?! I hardly recognized you!

Helena: Well, I think he looks fine.

King Laetes: Silence! So.. the Mighty Hercules! I don't mean to be cruel, but you have really gone downhill!

Hercules: I have not exercised much since the last Olympics. And I've learned, to my sorrow, that if you stop exercising, the muscle turns to fat.


Hi Paleocon,

Really the problem isn't the products that are made in China, or the components which are made in China, or the tools that reside in China, or that the skills reside in China...it's all the above.

That pretty much sums it up. No matter what we buy or where we buy it, there's a good chance it, or its internal components, arrived by container ship.


The problem is not what is made in China, rather what is NOT made locally. As global trade breaks down we will begin to see just how little of value we actually produce.

And container ships from China have two strikes against them -- (1) the merchant path is long and dependent on energy, credit, and political stability, and (2) the resulting price is dependent on a clearly unsustainable strong dollar and weak yen.

There is much system risk built into the system for delivering many products, even our necessities.

Europe now buys more from China than the US. One current plus for Europe is that it (or at least Germany) has something that China wants: high quality industrial machinery for making things. Problem is, once the tools make in onshore, the technology and know-how for making them follow all too soon. Ask GM or VW.

A couple of days ago, in a pinch, I bought $5 sunglasses (made in you know where) at a hopelessly large Wal-Mart in a small town. They broke later that day. I guess $5 is the going rate for a few hours of eye protection.

You're lucky you got them onto your face without breaking them. For a while there, I thought it was that my kids were too rough.

The return policy at Target is, if you opened the package it's too late. They make a few exceptions, but basically, I'm amazed at the number of toys that actually do break as you open the package.

I'm basically a conservative freemarketer at heart but sometimes the market just doesn't work.

I propose one more federal agency to go with all the rest-the DURABILITY AGENCY. It would force sellers to warrant everything they sell for various lengths of time money back on the spot-long enough to get the real junk off the market.

I don't know if I'm serious or not but the idea definitely needs consideration.

I know a half a dozen people who are not well off who have paid serious money(2000 bucks plus) for Chinese scooters that broke down in a month or two and can't be repaired for lack of parts.
And it's not just the fly by nights selling this junk.-Some major chain stores are selling it too.

An eight hundred dollar gasoline engine powered garden sprayer was for sale locally last week for a hundred dollars asking price-it needed a five dollar part (not available)and was obviously almost brand new.So the store dumpstered it and the trash man salvaged it.

There is one of these farm and country stores in small farm town around here.


I know a half a dozen people who are not well off who have paid serious money(2000 bucks plus) for Chinese scooters that broke down in a month or two and can't be repaired for lack of parts.

I have two friends one has a classic Italian automobile restoration shop and the other is a machinist with some really nifty old lathes and stuff that he has restored, he is also a master welder and has branched out into making steel alloys in a coal burning forge that he made himself. There isn't a metal part imaginable that these two guys can not restore or make from scratch if necessary. I know that folk like this are not easily found but they do exist. BTW since I have a few unconventional restoration skills up my sleeve as well, I'll sometimes help them out and if I need something they won't even charge me except maybe for cost of materials.

Are you saying nobody where you are has the skills to make stuff or fix stuff just because there are no off the shelf parts?

Just curious do you know what broke on those scooters?

You know how some of this stuff is made. Maybe you can fabricate a part, but when the whole shebang is tacked-together and comes from undergauged or poor materials to start with, that it's just not worth putting a new part in to begin with.

Look at all the Fiberboard, osb and mdf Furniture out there. It's just junky through and through. A true waste of materials, energy and consumers' hard earned cash.

Scooters shouldn't be too hard to make.. but I've got the remains of one of those cheap imports.. the castings are all pot-metal, the circuitboard in the controller was sloppily soldered and jammed into a pi$$-poor plastic housing, the commutators and coils in the motor were all fried and shorted.

I'll try to use the frame, chain and the wheels for a powered bike-trailer, but very little else from it has much salvage value, even with my very broad standards of acceptance.



Electrical stuff mainly but also various mechanical parts from carburetors to bearings.

The electrical items are the hardest to fix as you cannot just make a new little black magic box.

These machines probably COULD be repaired but the kinds of skills you mention are not cheaply purchased and there arenot enough of thse machines around to salvage parts.

I once tried to fix a couple of them and wound up googling chinese scooter manufacturers-there are hundreds, and they apparently buy up components helter skelter as they need them on the assembly line-it's a miracle the scooters run at all.

Bottom line-In a day or so a machinist /welder could modify a lawn mower carburetor to fit the scooter maybe-if theres room for it.Then you have to modify the air cleaner ,and the fuel lines, and the throttle cables-just chasing down the odds and ends of parts will kill you fast.

I strongly reccomend that anyone wishing to purchase new two wheel transportation buy from a dealer with a big showroom and a shop with at least two mechanics in back.Around here that means
made in Japan.

We do fix lots of stuff locally-I have converted the old generator system on our orchard sprayer to a modern alternatorsalvaged from a car by fabricating the brackets and rewiring the rest of the engine and made an adapter that attaches a later model carburetor to the engine in place of the one no longer available but on the sprayer there is plenty of working room and the machine is worth the investment.

If you fix one of these very shiny scooters it will just break again in a few days.

you guys must get some UK laws, we can take items back that are not fit for purpose

if opening the packet breaks it then we get our money back

certainly helps drive up quality!


I have a question. I know globally we consume ballpark 85 million barrels a day. But to enable that level of production/consumption there has to be an awful lot of refined product moving through the system (MOL) and tankers floating to refineries. So what is a reasonable guess of the total amount of liquid fuel (crude + refined product) sitting above ground at any given moment.

What I ultimately want to know is if we ran a society on ammonia, what would the impact on the nitrogen cycle be.

On what part of the cycle? Given that the atmosphere is 80% nitrogen, there certainly will be no effect on that end.

There was a very thought-provoking post on TOD some time ago related to ammonia production using wind turbines. There seems to be little downside other than costs associated with building the equipment and handling the ammonia.

Perhaps onetime poster SacredCowTipper could come back and give an update on the "Stranded Wind" project, but the last I read from him is that he was on the East coast peddling wood pellet stoves or something like that.

Onetime poster SacredCowTipper still maintains the bi-annual publication of the National Renewable Ammonia Architecture, he has a policy paper coming out via the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs, and is not attending the Ammonia Fuel Network conference in mid October due to a work conflict.

We (Nb41 & myself) have a patent in the works in the wind driven ammonia area but overall we've found it to be a much harder hill to climb than we thought back in early 2008. There will be an update here between now and the end of the year, but not until the AFN conference is done and the IIRA policy paper goes out.

I, for one, am interested in the solid state ammonia approach, and have been following the Stranded Wind initiative as it moves slowly along.

Is there any chance of getting funding, near-term, for the pilot plant?

Is there an opportunity to make much smaller, say farm-scale, ammonia systems where local wind or solar might be available?

"It has been argued that full disclosure of details of funding facilities like TALF and PDCF that enabled massive bailouts of Wall Street would damage the financial position of those firms and destabilize the economy. In other words, if the American people knew how rotten the books were at those banks and how terribly they messed up, they would never willingly invest in them, and they would fail. Failure is not an option for friends of the Fed. Therefore, the funds must be stolen from the people in the dark of night. This is not how a free country works. This is not how free markets work. That is crony corporatism and instead of being a force for economic stabilization, it totally undermines it."

Ron Paul at http://www.house.gov/htbin/blog_inc?BLOG,tx14_paul,blog,999,All,Item%20n...

Jon Stewart said it best with his latest rant about the pirate capitalists at GS, "babies first they're the softest."

Somebody in my extended family recently purchased a foreclosed McMansion in a zombie subdivision.

CNN Video: Zombie subdivisions left naked

"Not Angry. More... a sadness... of what could have been."

I think it's beautiful. Just look at the woodland that is always just out of shot or not focussed on. You could improve the area by bulldozing those Dachas-on-steroids and spreading topsoil over the bitumen though.

Off topic: Breaking: heavy earthquake, 7.6 to 7.9, traps thousands under ruble in Padang, Sumatra, Indonesia

It's natural disaster week in the Pacific. Tsunamis in Samoa, earthquakes in Indonesia, and a typhoon that's killed hundreds in the Philippines.

Big Quakes Weaken Faults on Other Side of Earth

Massive earthquakes on one side of the globe can weaken faults half a world away, scientists announced today.

A group of seismologists studying the massive 2004 earthquake that triggered killer tsunamis throughout the Indian Ocean found that the quake had weakened at least a portion of California's famed San Andreas Fault.

The finding, detailed in the Oct. 1 issue of the journal Nature, suggests Earth's largest earthquakes can weaken fault zones worldwide and trigger periods of increased global seismic activity.

This is what happens when one receives a concussion, or when a bolide strikes the Earth. The shock wave travels thru head or planet, to do damage at the antipode. Blow to the forehead causes concussion of the occipital lobe. Bolide strike causes a basaltic outpouring on the other side of the globe. Ron ("Darwinian") would not agree but to my mind, it's clear that the Chicxulub strike in what's now Mexican waters resulted in the crust cracking in what's now India (Deccan Traps). Remember that India was an Island south of the equator at the end-Cretaceous. Likewise, the likely water ice bolide that hit the Ocean Planet at the end-Permian caused the extensive Siberian Traps. This view of end-Cretaceous & end-Permian events is admittedly controversial but to my mind is most parsimonious and while the evidence for these scenarios isn't overwhelmingly convincing, neither is evidence of any contrary conclusion.

The postulated end-Permian bolide does not exist, nor does any evidence for it (ask LuAnn Becker what happened to her career when she tried to fabricate it). There is no crater at the site that would have been antipodal to the Siberian Traps 252.5 Ma, and no other geophysical evidence of impact anywhere at P/T boundary sites.

For K/T, I suppose it's plausible. But IIRC, this assumption was tested in the 90s and it was shown that the antipode to Chicxulub was 1,000+ miles from India. Also, if you ask someone like Jay Melosh (who knows more about impact craters than anyone alive) if this scenario is even possible, he doesn't think so.

Bedout, in the Indian Ocean northwest of Australia, was suggested as the end-Permian impact crater, later on structures of that age in Antarctica were identified. I'd be surprised if any impact crater that old had survived. On continental plates it could have been obliterated by erosion and on sea floor plates subducted by now. A water ice bolide wouldn't leave any Ir signature.

The crust would rupture at a weak spot near the antipode, not necessarily exactly at the antipode. 1K miles is quite close, given the distances involved.

Heh. Good old Bedout. Y'know, my adviser [a renowned P/T expert] just laughed at me when I proposed this very scenario some five years ago. For one thing, it is very likely that Bedout is not an impact feature at all. It looks more like basalt than a melt breccia and there's no ejecta at all anywhere, even in nearby boundary sites (this should be there whether or not the impactor was enriched in iridium--and incidentally, even comets have plenty of Ir too, although it is more likely to escape into space upon impact instead of being deposited). The dating placing it near the boundary is also flawed. It's not close to antipodal to the Siberian Traps, either.

The feature in Antarctica is intriguing, and close to the antipode. But it's not even confirmed to be an impact crater either, and the dating constraints are laughable. All there really is is data from the GRACE satellite showing a concentration of mass in Wilkes Land. Some have suggested out of hand that it's an impact crater, but I'm looking at the data right now and could just as easily argue that it doesn't look anything like a ringed impact basin. The best part, though, is that the 400 million years worth of error on the date covers most of the age of animals. That some have interpreted this huge range (500-100 Ma) as "this is obviously ~252.5 million years old and the long-sought P/T killer!" merely tells me that some are prone to jump straight to wild conclusions from ambiguous data, rather more like a journalist than a scientist.

Somehow, the P/T research community ain't buying it.

I'd be surprised if any impact crater that old had survived.

There are actually dozens. Even some from the Proterozoic. Vredefort Dome in South Africa is 2 billion years old. Sudbury in Canada just a little younger. Suavjärvi in Russia is an estimated 2.4 billion years old. Yarrabubba in Western Australia. Keurusselkä in Finland. Santa Fe in the US. And all the younger ones.

The crust would rupture at a weak spot near the antipode, not necessarily exactly at the antipode. 1K miles is quite close, given the distances involved.

I can't speak authoratitively about this; I'm a biologist by training. This may well be the case. But I find it a bit damning that the world's acknowledged expert on impact craters doesn't think that it's possible to induce major flood basalt episodes this way. I can't help but wonder if anyone has tried to model this process.

I just found another interesting link after posting this. Impacts can be found even in Archean(!) rocks, albeit no longer recognizable as a structure on the surface like you see at Vredefort.


I'm not sure if the .PDF of the whole article is freely available or if it's due to my institutional login, but if anyone wants this paper and can't access it, I can email it.

This discussion is an example of "ring of truth" nonsense that also afflicts the AGW "debate". Bolides can and do cause seismic waves that can shift continental rock, but they cannot *advect* mantle material on the other size of the planet. The origin of the traps is mantle convection. On rare occasions you get plumes that penetrate the 670 km phase transition boundary and break to the surface. The scale of these plumes is vast: they are triggered at the core-mantle boundary (9000 K temperature) and are thousands of kilometers deep, the plume head is well over a thousand kilometers in diameter.

An interesting aside: there was work in the past on explaining the breakup of the supercontinents and the model-backed theory was that roughly every 500 million years you have a convective breakdown of the 670 km boundary. There is a build up of cold mantle rock above 670 km and a build up of hot mantle rock below, which is convectively unstable. To model mantle convection you can treat the inertial terms in the Navier-Stokes equations as negligible since the dynamics evolves over tens of millions of years. On these timescales rock behaves like a fluid.

Yes, basaltic outpouring occurs over mantle plumes but it isn't far fetched to postulate that the massive scale of the Deccan & Siberan traps are the result of the crust cracking over the plume due to concentration of shock waves from a large bolide impact at or near the antipode.

Two of the greatest basaltic outpourings occurred at the time of two of the greatest mass extinction episodes of the Phanerozoic. There is little doubt that these outpourings contributed to the extinction event. But we also know that a bolide impact occurred at the Cretaceous/Paleocene boundary and certain (weak) evidence exists that an impact may have occurred at the Permian/Triassic boundary too. A plausible scenario can be envisioned whereby shock waves from an impact crack the crust at or near the antipode, causing or allowing basaltic outpouring. The direct effect of the impact combined with the prolonged effect of volcanism on a massive scale results in mass extinction. The evidence for such a scenario is admittedly circumstantial but to my mind is the most parsimonious provisional hypothesis to account for these two extinction events. I am certainly open to evidence that would refute or weaken this hypothesis.

If this model is correct, though, does it not beg an explanation as to why other large impacts did not similarly produce massive flood basalt provinces at the antipode?

I suppose you could argue that the impactor has to be at least on the order of 10km; Chicxulub is one of the largest known impact craters. Vredefort and Sudbury are both larger, but they are so old that locating the antipode with precision would be difficult, and there isn't a huge amount of Proterozoic rock left at the surface anyway. On the other hand, it's tough to hide millions of cubic kilometers of basalt unless it ends up under the ocean.

I know of at least one book that considers this possibility (Koeberl and Martinez-Ruiz, Impact Markers in the Stratigraphic Record) but will not have time to read it this academic quarter. Perhaps someone who knows more about the geology and physics can enlighten us further.

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending September 25, 2009

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.6 million barrels per day during the week ending September 25, 142 thousand barrels per day below the previous week's average. Refineries operated at 84.6 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased last week, averaging 9.1 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production decreased last week, averaging 3.9 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 9.5 million barrels per day last week, down 261 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 9.3 million barrels per day, 616 thousand barrels per day above the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 851 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 150 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 2.8 million barrels from the previous week. At 338.4 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.6 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories increased while blending components inventories decreased last week. Distillate fuel inventories increased by 0.3 million barrels, and are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 0.8 million barrels last week and are above the upper limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 4.6 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

Total inventories up 4.6m barrels. Oil up $2 / barrel



It's rational if you consider the pending attack on Iran by "you know who".....

A significant drop in Cushing stocks was reported again this week.

Brazil’s Pre-Salt May Hold 25-100 Billion Barrels

Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s so-called pre-salt oil region may hold between 25 billion and 100 billion barrels of oil, the country’s cabinet chief said.

Brazil is starting to sound more and more like Saudi Arabia. Not a month goes by without a new, higher reserve estimate from some government official.

Contrast this with the subdued report of a dry hole drilled in the Santos Basin by Exxon-Mobil this July.

Santos Dry Hole Highlights Risks of Brazil Offshore Oil

We remember the article from less than a month ago (Sept. 6).

Lula says not in Brazil's interest to join OPEC

Brazil has no interest in joining the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) because it does not aspire to become a crude oil exporter, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Sunday.

So maybe the huge reserves are not really so huge, or even if they are, they will be developed very slowly.

An excellent point Gail. From my limited knowledge of DW BZ the high reserve potential may be vaild to a degree. But as most here now understand it isn't so much a question of how much oil they'll produce but how fast. The BZ DW is really at the cutting edge of production technology. But that also translates as a very expensive and slowly developing edge. I don't thnk we have enough hard data to offer a reliable model but matching that slow development phase with an aggressive ELM model might yield relatively low (even non-existant?) export capability. This would certainly be the very sad punchline for all those cornucopians out there waiting for BZ to save the rest of the world.

And one of these years, Brazil may even become a net oil exporter.

And just where do you suppose THEY will import FROM Westexas?;)

I am under the impression from studying your work that by the time they're in trouble domestically that importing oil is going to be like importing precious metals -possible perhaps but only in very small quantities.

I suppose you are actually just poking a little fun at the cornucopians ?

They are actually pretty close to becoming a net oil exporter, but given their rapid increase in consumption in recent years, I suspect that any increase in net exports, when and if they become a net exporter, will be pretty slow.

I have commented several times on a Bloomberg story a few weeks ago about Brazil taking market share away from OPEC (pretty neat trick for a net oil importer).

"....may hold between 25 billion and 100 billion barrels of oil,....."

careful of the term hold.

the rock may continue to hold 80% to 100% of the 25 - 100 gb forever. i take "hold" to mean oil in place and not 25 -100 gb of recoverable oil (reserves), although there is reference to reserves in the article.

that term reserves is idiomatic, by use, misuse, abuse and ignorance of the meaning of the term.

These climate experts would gain some credibility if once in a while they hit on a non-intuitive prediction (like this years non-hurricane season).

Hurricanes are weather, several years of hurricanes are climate, we all know you can't predict the weather more than a few days ahead.

And where is the track record that shows we can successfully predict climate a decade or more ahead?

None, I didn't say it can be could predicted, weather is chaotic and so is the climatic system - IMO there are many feedbacks that we don't know about.

I'm sure changing CO2 changes climate - but whether it's for the better or worse for me in the UK, nobody can say.

People say that climate is changing faster than the models predict - that tells me the models are crap!

People say the strangest things.
But you and the above poster could check for yourselves the publications of the late 70s and see if the predictions that can be inferred from them have come to pass. 30 years seems like a long enough time span that one can really talk about climate.

But the models have been improved considerably since those early projections made 30 years ago. Looking back even 20 years ago, the models would appear childish by the latest standards. The main reason is that the models have always pushed the limits of computing power and computing power has been doubling every few years or so. That has allowed the resolution of the models to be improved as well and the resolution limits the accuracy of the projection. Ocean models require higher resolution than the atmospheric models and 30 years back, there were no models which dynamically coupled the ocean to the atmosphere. There is still a long way to go to achieve sufficient accuracy to represent some of the sub-grid processes.

E. Swanson

While the deniers don't worry about credibility. Just volume and repetition.

Jokuhl: I am not personally that into the climate change debate, but my experience has been like this: I saw the Gore movie and thought the whole thing was clear cut. Then I hear many experts don't agree but I figure they are just paid for-so I still am a believer on this one like yourself and most others. Then I hear Gore made over 100 million teaming up with Wall Street scammers to ride this baby and I see him real defensive about it in interviews. Hm. Then I see they want to run billions through GS under the guise of saving the planet. I am not a denier, but it is real hard being a believer after all that has transpired unless you take the ostrich route and really commit to it.

The stop believing. If you're interested, the facts and the science are available for your perusal. Otherwise, feel free to stop positing about this climate business and to carry on with your life. Beliefs are more appropriate when discussing other topics such as morals and such.
Yes Gore is a contemptible human being. So what? Just stop watching his movies. Problem solved.

I have looked at climate history and I conclude that the past is no guide to the future since there are so many variables. But, I believe the precautionary principle is the right one as there are always unintended consequences to one's actions.

'..there are always unintended consequences to one's actions..'

AND one's INACTIONS. Don't forget that part..

..or is the out that the consequenses of your inactions are somehow inconsequential?


You paid for this data. Use it.

Ambitious sociopaths will take advantage of any situation and turn it into something for them. Does that mean anything about whether climate change, or peak oil, are real?

Good point. Obviously that is the most likely scenario. However, it does imply that government actions to address climate change will not be effective and quite possibly are not intended to be effective.

Exactly. The same tired, debunked drivel is trotted out endlessly. These people can't and won't grasp the science and just spout their political opinions.

Just to add some scientific content: the radiative transfer effect of CO2 on temperature is not chaotic and is monotonic. All the chaos is in the fluid dynamics. But, this chaos is not uncharacterizable mystery and there are actual mechanisms involved. Increasing the temperature in the tropics changes the intensity of the subtropical jets and hence the energetics of the baroclinic eddies that spawn off them and produce the mid-latitude storm tracks (snow in Saudi Arabia, heat waves over Baffin Island, etc.) The recent Arctic melt is partly attributable to warm currents entering the Arctic basin at levels not seen for over 15 million years (based on sediment analysis). You can't fob off the warming oceans as "noise".

The MSM whores for Exxon and other economic interests when they give so much coverage to basically a bunch of kooks (e.g. the German high school teacher who brazenly doctors temperature graphs and is treated as climate expert).

Regarding the Chinese growth-doesn't add up story up top, I agree.

3 years ago Chinese debt creation was something like 4% of GDP, in 2007 it was 8%. In 2008 it was 15% - this year it is on pace to be fully 33% of GDP. They are creating virtual debt as they go along, all the while as real resources get consumed. I am re-reading Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, written in 1926 by Frederick Soddy and will write a summary if I have time. Beginning of end (of exponential growth system) was 1913 creation of Fed, middle of end was 1971 departure of gold standard, and end of end was 2005 oil peak. What comes next is uncertain, but growth model is over, and has been over for some time if one backs out debt and increase in energy expenditures.

In his 1926 book Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt: The Solution of the Economic Paradox (a book that presaged the market crash of 1929) Soddy pointed out the fundamental difference between real wealth – buildings, machinery, oil, pigs – and virtual wealth, in the form of money and debt.

Soddy wrote that real wealth was subject to the inescapable entropy law of thermodynamics and would rot, rust, or wear out with age, while money and debt – as accounting devices invented by humans – were subject only to the laws of mathematics.

Rather than decaying, virtual wealth, in the form of debt, compounding at the rate of interest, actually grows without bounds.

Soddy used concrete examples to demonstrate what he considered this flaw in money economics in his book such as this.

A farmer who raises pigs faces biophysical limits on how many pigs he can take to market. But if that pig farmer took on debt – a promise to repay at a future date – he would in effect be issuing a claim or lien on his future production of pigs. If he borrowed the equivalent value of 100 pigs, he could represent the loan on his balance sheet as “-100 pigs.”

While debt as the farmer’s accounting entry is negative, negative pigs do not really exist. If the farmer should suffer a series of lean years and be unable to pay the interest, he might soon owe more pigs than could be raised on his farm. After a year, with interest looming, he’d show “-110 pigs”; in 5 years, “-161”; in 40 (assuming a patient bank), “-4526.” When the bank finally came to call on the pig farmer to collect repayment of its loan, it could well find that most of the virtual wealth that had grown so appealingly on its books had to be written off as a loss

I would argue that oil is more important than pigs.

Negative oil has exactly the same value as negative pigs, though.

The thing about negative pigs is that they always have such a pessimistic outlook on life. If they only went to see a shrink they might be cured and become positive ham.

A lot of numbers on a lot of reports don't seem to add up lately.

Nate, do you have a source for the debt creation as a fraction of Chinese GDP figures you refer to? Would be interested in reading more. Thanks!

not in one place no.

Paper Mac,a few days ago The Automatic Earth had a link to a Pivot report on the Chinese economy.It made interesting reading.It should still be available in the TAE archive.


“So, tell me what this socialism thing is, Bert,” said Harry. Bert explained that it was all about sharing with each other and helping each other out. “Let me see if I understand this. Are you saying that, if you had two farms, you’d give me one?” “Sure, said Bert. “If you had two pickup trucks, would you give me one?” “Sure.” “If you had two pigs, would you give me one?” Bert suddenly got red in the face and began looking at his shoes. “That’s pretty low, Harry,” he said. “You know I’ve got two pigs!”

That's using extreme examples to discredit a logical idea. No-one in a "socialist (by US definition)" country like Canada expects someone to share their farmland or vehicles. Socialism here is about a decent social safety net for those caught by random events, eg. major illness. Universal single-payer full medical coverage, even if the occasional facelift, breast augmentation or hip transplant needs to be delayed some. Socialism here is about a reasonably equitable sharing of the tax burden required to provide eg. a decent education to ALL children equally. Its about maintaining rational regulation on banks so they don't go jumping off cliffs and sucking up the entire nation's wealth just to keep the economy running. It's about decent employment insurance to bridge reasonable adjustments in the employment markets. Its about time the us american voter caught a clue and started reading through the propaganda.

The trouble is, ultimately you are talking about confiscatory, redistributive rates of taxation. I always think it is helpful to keep in mind that taxation always carries with it the explicit threat that armed people with weapons will eventually show up at your front door if you don't pay. Is that threat of force ever justified? I think that some times it is - for example, if the entire country is threatened with being invaded and occupied, and everybody will lose everything if the country isn't defended. Does the entire "socialist" basket of goods and services justify the threat of violent enforcement of taxation? I'm not so sure. Some may think so, but that is not self-evident to me. I don't know where the line should be drawn, where the threat of violent enforcement of taxation ceases to be justifiable. However, I do think that it needs to be thought through in these explicit terms.

The trouble is, ultimately you are talking about confiscatory, redistributive rates of taxation.

First, you've confused "confiscatory" with "redistributive". Every tax is confiscatory. Redistributive taxation at a low level is simply cheaper than the taxation required to support the alternative, which is extreme levels of police and prisons. Not to mention the (apparently for you non-)obvious humanitarian imperative to do some service for those less fortunate when you have the means. And charity is not an alternative. Charity is designed to do more for the giver than for the receiver (strips away dignity). Basic rights to provide an equal opportunity start for each child should be built into systems as a core principle, a right of the child as it were. To do less is to implement a system of inherited privilege, the fight against which was a key element of the founding of the US in the first place, eg. escape from aristocracy.

I disagree - most charity is nameless on the giving side, and may or not be personal on the getting side. The human contact, to know that somebody cares for you as a person not just as a number in the gov't system, is valuable as well. Charity IS a human imperative, and a Christian one, but confiscation is still theft under any guise. What right does the gov't have to decide who deserves how much of the fruit of my labor?

I don't see that dignity is a right either, though it is of course a goal. Taking from the public dole SHOULD chafe a bit. And all to often equal opportunity tries to morph into equal outcome, and safety nets turn into entitlements. I've got a lawn that's worth $20 to have mowed -- if my son can't do it I'll do it myself. If any of the guys with the signs by the streetcorner asked, I'd let them do it too, but they don't, and they won't. Why should somebody get my $20 while I still have to mow my lawn myself?

I'd like to understand how Canada, or other publicly-funded healthcare and welfare services, manage to control the vast graft and institutionalized behaviors that plague existing American programs.

Inherited privilege may be negative, but wanting the best for your children is not. If public healthcare and welfare works as well as public education and resource management, I want none of it. And I'd like to keep my money to do with as I please, thank you, rather than what the corporatocracy dictates.

I believe the role of gov't is to protect my rights, not to limit them or infringe upon them, and that includes my ability to accumulate wealth. I'd be content if they'd work on regulating corporations and how to survive on sales taxes and usage fees instead of income taxes...and if they'd first stop borrowing and prioritize the money they have. It's hard to confer an moral high ground to a Gov't that largely exists through borrowing.

We're in a similar position: I don't see that property is a right. Yet that state does.

But I'm not wondering how come the state has the gall to disagree with me. I can see that it's got more, better armed goons than me. I guess you haven't been intimidated lately.

And, for the record, I'm not wondering how other countries deal with imaginary problems either.

I've never been intimated by anybody much, though a lawyer or two and the IRS come closest. Mostly all the people with guns I know I call either friends, or "officer, sir", and they give me no grief.

I do think property is a privilege to acquire and a right to own -- hence I dislike property taxes most of all.

If you've ever owned rental property you'll know the difference between those who own and those who rent, and how they feel about property care in general. I'm sure there are good renters (I was one, once upon a time), but they are not the norm, at least not at the low-end where I can manage to acquire property.

If you think those problems are imaginary, you're choosing not to observe. Even Obama says that 30% of Medicaid is waste and graft, and yet his solution is to build a new, bigger program before fixing the one we have.

I'm not an idealist or completely against public programs, but I do want to understand why they won't fail like the passed attempts. Just like the economy, the solution can't be simply to tax more, spend more, and borrow more -- endemic problems should be addressed, not papered over.

As a matter of fact I own rental property, I don't mind paying taxes on it and I respect renters. The cops don't like this attitude of mine obviously. They work for the other kind of landlord.
I have also lived in rented dwellings and I can't say I've noticed any difference in property care between owners and renters.

I wouldn't trust your commander-in-chief just because he's black. If 30% of Medicaid is indeed "waste and graft", how much of the medical system in general falls in that category? A good bit more I would guess... unless your definition of "waste and graft" happens to include "government program" of course.
There are some things that government does better than others but, generally speaking, good public programs tend to require good governance.
Increasing taxes will indeed not improve governance. Not that the Feds need to tax or borrow: the dollar is theirs.

How much of private insurers' revenue goes to waste and graft I wonder?

Or to put it another way, what percentage of their revenue goes to extra, needless paperwork, needless advertising for copycat look-alike drugs which don't produce better outcomes than those which already exist but DO have more deleterious side effects; and what percentage of their revenues goes to multi-hundred-million dollar CEO salaries?

And...how much Medicare 'waste and graft' is perpetrated with the full consent and cooperation of the hospitals and doctors? Are they considered part of the government in your world view?

Bottom line: The U.S. is alone amongst peer industrialized countries in having a health care system that leaves millions uncovered and which screws many of the covered with rescission policies, unconscionable rate increases, and ever-more-egregious co-pays?

In short, why are we too stupid and greedy to replicate the unquestioned success stories in Canada, UK, France, Denmark, etc?

O yea...that's it...the GREED part.

What right does the gov't have to decide who deserves how much of the fruit of my labor?

Something along the lines of "no taxation without representation" comes to mind.

I'd like to understand how Canada, or other publicly-funded healthcare and welfare services, manage to control the vast graft and institutionalized behaviors that plague existing American programs.

Maybe you could ask them.

If public healthcare and welfare works as well as public education and resource management, I want none of it. And I'd like to keep my money to do with as I please, thank you, rather than what the corporatocracy dictates.

Just because your country is a walking disaster zone with an ever-expanding wasteline and an aversion to 'new' ideas, doesn't mean an idea doesn't have merit. Countries around the world have successfully implemented 'Socialist' Healthcare programs, and have similar outcomes to the US system, as significantly reduced cost.

US families are at breaking point as it is, and without a safety net of socialised healthcare, if they get seriously injured, they're stuffed. US 'Healthcare' providers aren't interested in making you healthy anyway: they're out to make a profit, which means running any number of meaningless and useless tests on you, each of which costs money, just in case you've got something seriously wrong with you that needs expensive treatment. And I can't imagine how emotionally draining it is to work for a US 'healthcare' provider and have to send bills to victims of violent rapes for their ambulance trip to hospital (for example).

The US is the best of everything, and the worst of everything. The constant, irrational fear of 'socialism', as if it's going to morph from Socialised Healthcare into roving deathsquads feeding children into Soylent Green factories, is one of the worst (not to mention the conflation of Socialism and Communism).

The US is the best of everything, and the worst of everything. The constant, irrational fear of 'socialism', as if it's going to morph from Socialised Healthcare into roving deathsquads feeding children into Soylent Green factories, is one of the worst (not to mention the conflation of Socialism and Communism).

I think of it as our ID & ID problem. Not only is it our IDeology. But following that ideology to its logical conclusion is our IDentity. Which effectively makes it anti-American (USAers thinking the entire American continent is thiers I guess) to suggest otherwise. And as we've seen, even proposals for modest levels of regulation or taxation are labeled as "socialism". It might be wearing off just a bit. They called Obama a socialist a zillion times before the election, but he still won....


Look, most yanks opine in favor of better, socialized when polled. They have done so for years.

You've got a media problem as well as a trusting problem. Stop believing what you're told and you'll have solved the second problem.

I think Canada style socialism has a lot of merit.

As a somewhat gross generalization I would say that people in the US seem to have no issues with "welfare" in general. Its only welfare for the under 65 of little or modest wealth that is highly scorned.

Unless it is horrendously blatant theft, acquiring great wealth is envied regardless of how it is done.

The US is a "socialist" state but only for the very rich who are able to subvert the public purse to their advantage. The more cynical part of me thinks that the rest support this in hopes that they may one day become one of the chosen few.

I should have been ready for that reaction to the 'S' word. Whew..

It wasn't meant as a screed against Socialism.. just a comment on how hard it is to share, even by people who really kind of WANT to share.

.. and cause I guess I just like Pig stories.


The US is a "socialist" state but only for the very rich who are able to subvert the public purse to their advantage. The more cynical part of me thinks that the rest support this in hopes that they may one day become one of the chosen few.

I think that statement contains a lot of truth. The problem is both our politics, and our media are beholden to the monied interests. So "socialism" for the upper .1% percent will never be labed as such, but any break whatsoever for the lower 90% will be. And enough of the sheeple are mired in ideological thinking, that simply by controlling the useage of labels, the political outcome can be assured. But, of course, as your last sentence implies, the pipe dream of personally joining the fat cats, makes it all seem fine.

Bert suddenly got red in the face and began looking at his shoes. “That’s pretty low, Harry,” he said. “You know I’ve got two pigs!”

Bert response should have been, but of course and you can help me with something of equal value.

Socialism, contrary to what most of those ideologically opposed to the concept would like to imply, is not about handing out free ham sandwiches to the lazy manipulative neighbor. It's about community working together for the benefit of the group, unlike say societies such as American Capitalism which gives obscenely massive free lunches to its super wealthy elites.

So tell me again, who are the real evil socialists of the world?

Is this the same Soddy who discovered isotopes?

Have I missed the final installment of the CERN physicist's article about nuclear fission? He was due to talk anbout breeder reactors...

he is still working on it...(the article not the breeders)

Don't try this at home kids :-)

Tale of the Radioactive Boy Scout

Now 17, David hit on the idea of building a model breeder reactor, a nuclear reactor that not only generates electricity, but also produces new fuel. His model would use the actual radioactive elements and produce real reactions. His blueprint was a schematic in one of his father's textbooks.

Ignoring safety, David mixed his radium and americium with beryllium and aluminum, all of which he wrapped in aluminum foil, forming a makeshift reactor core. He surrounded this radioactive ball with a blanket of small foil-wrapped cubes of thorium ash and uranium powder, tenuously held together with duct tape.

"It was radioactive as heck," David says, "far greater than at the time of assembly." Then he began to realize that he could be putting himself and others in danger.

When David's Geiger counter began picking up radiation five doors from his mom's house, he decided that he had "too much radioactive stuff in one place" and began to disassemble the reactor. He hid some of the material in his mother's house, left some in the shed, and packed most of the rest into the trunk of his Pontiac.

...At the shed, radiological experts found an aluminum pie pan, a Pyrex cup, a milk crate and other materials strewn about, contaminated at up to 1000 times the normal levels of background radiation. Because some of this could be moved around by wind and rain, conditions at the site, according to an EPA memo, "present an imminent endangerment to public health."

After the moon-suited workers dismantled the shed, they loaded the remains into 39 sealed barrels that were trucked to the Great Salt Lake Desert. There, the remains of David's experiments were entombed with other radioactive debris.

Jezz! Stupid Kid,nah, maybe a little harsh ? Anyways, are they selling all these various "seasonings" over at Wall Mart ? I believe the Glow family had them all.

The roughest chemical stunt I've seen close-up was - Sodium(Natrium) in Water - the lump was big enough to blow holes in the classrooms roof though. Hurrah- ehh duck !

I have essentially given up trying to convince people my beliefs might become reality shortly -I.e. some form of major Supply induced Oil-Crunch in the first half of the next decade that will make the Credit Crunch look like a picnic...

Instead -and within the confines of The System as it will remain for a while longer- I intend to 'hedge' against my beliefs becoming a reality in such a way that if it does happen as predicted I will have sufficient resources that it will have far less impact on me.

A sort of "Peak Oil Apocolypse Insurance" if you will...

This is relatively easy and cheap to do currently as the vast majority of people do not believe and if they did these assets I am lining my portfolio with would already have the future (Belief=TRUE) price factored in and be worthless as a hedge...

...and if my beliefs turn out to be false then I will be enjoying life in "BAU Wonderland" with the rest of you as predicted by the non-believers. Simples.


Nick, how are your pesto plants coming along? What was it again? Sonic growth therapy? And those tomatoes looked good. I wish I had a place to grow tomatoes. Probably make chutney out of them.

Freshly harvested, the Pesto was really good fun to make with the Kids of some friends rolling on the pasta machine...

AeroGarden Pesto in the background: inspecting low-power growleds in foreground.

-We had the Tagliateli/Pesto with some fresh tomatoes from the balcony Hydroponic plant.


AeroGarden Pesto in the background: inspecting low-power growleds in foreground.

Way cool! What kind of growleds are those? Do you have the spectral analysis specs on it perchance?

He's just watching his TV WAYYY too close!

I have a similar view, which I view as a variant of Pascal's Wager, only applied to personal economics and lifestyle. Such an approach can be laid out as a simple quadrant of predictions versus reality.

If I prepare for a crash, and the economy crashes, I'm optimally prepared.

If I prepare for a crash, and there is no near-term crash, I may suffer some opportunity cost, but I'll be living self-sufficiently in a grand economic situation continuing on toward an inevitable eventual crash.

If I don't prepare for a crash, and there is no crash, I will likely be richer and more consumptive. This might seem nice, but it's making the inevitable future crash worse, and I'd be playing a significantly negative role personally.

If I don't prepare for a crash, and there is a crash, I'm completely hosed. Not only am I foolish, but tragically so, as I'm not only suffering but also among those most to blame.

In this case the Gambler's Wager is a compounding one, as you get to play again every year, or really, continuously. Most of us are going "double or nothing" at every turn, with a very good chance of indeed ending up with nothing.

If I don't prepare for a crash, and there is a crash, I'm completely hosed.

When population crashes we're all hosed, "prepared" or not. Hence, no point in making preparations.

Over my dead body, but I suppose that's your point.

That is my strategy also - however I'm under no illusions, my great, great, great, grandfather put me on this 'train' not knowing where it was going, it is going faster and faster, it's too late to jump off, there's no way back since the track behind is damaged as we pass over it and it's going to hit the cliff I can see up ahead, probably in my son's lifetime. I just hope the 'pile of cushions' I've made will save me. Enjoy the ride, you might be 'fit enough' to survive.

Vancouver: The most depressing place in the world

Ever been to Vancouver? Spectacularly beautiful place. Miles of waterfront, almost all of which is not only visible but accessible to the public; breathtaking and meticulously maintained parks; an efficient, affordable, and city-blanketing (above and below ground) public transit system; a magnificent, (fairly) new public library right in the heart of a sparkling downtown; clean streets; an enlightened program to shelter the city’s homeless; urban planning that places more and more emphasis on walkways and bike paths; an energetic, ethnically diverse population; health care for all its citizens (they’re Canadian, after all); young, progressive, can-do mayor Gregor Robertson.

Why so depressing? A matter of perspective actually. San Diego is jealous of Vancouver. Why? San Diego looks at Vancouver for what San Diego could have been. Instead of being a city of hope, San Diego with it's rock-ribbed religious faith in free-market capitalism, has morphed one of the most beautiful places in the world into a lego-blocks, helter-skelter of unbridled development. "What a dump!"


Actually, what you've said about San Diego could pretty much be said for the entire USA - with the singular exception of our National Parks.

Must be a different Vancouver than the one I live in. Where I have to step over 3 or 4 homeless people to get from the packed train to my office. Where thousands of welfare recipients buy and sell illegal drugs openly in the (not at all clean) streets, just a few blocks from the business district. Where the transit system is perpetually out of money due to over-spending on mega-projects like elevated rail.

Not on the scale of US cities, perhaps, but hardly idyllic.

I think Canada has generally been built very well. Now that I've lived in the U.S. for ten years I have a good feel for how the people of each country handle societal issues differently.

From a conversation analysis standpoint, the conversation for "independence and freedom" here has morphed into "I want to do whatever I want" and then in the unsaid is "and I don't care if I step on others' toes."

The story about former Gov. Allen makes my point:
"Americans are addicted to freedom – the freedom and independence to move where and when we want."

Since conversations in the network determine outcomes, it's not at all surprising that the U.S. has turned out as it has considering that one of the founding conversations was related to independence and freedom.

On the other hand, Canada never had that conversation for independence from Britain until relatively recently. There was space for collaborative conversations to fill the network instead, like "how do we handle this together?"

To see the outcome of a country, study its founding conversations. It's not foolproof (because events both shape conversations as well as are caused by conversations), but it does tell you a lot.

Or as I have heard it said, the US is premised on "the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", while Canada is premised on "peace, order and good government".

"the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"

Call me a raving Bolshevik but I don't get this "freedom" thing. If you look at the downtown waterfront in San Diego it is owned lock stock and barrel by those with enough money to purchase "freedom". Where are the bay walks free of the intrusion of Walt Disneyworld trying to sell you a t-shirt or a Slurpee? What happened to democracy? If I choose not to spend my life in the pursuit of wealth is it right that I should be locked out of prime areas by the oligarchs? I guess that would make me an undesirable...a slacker. Interesting that the land of the "free" chooses to have the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Don't they have a deprogramming clinic to cure Americans from years of corporate propaganda and indoctrination?


"Don't they have a deprogramming clinic to cure Americans from years of corporate propaganda and indoctrination?"

Something better than deprogramming for a reality check. What about post peak dieoff? All the rest is just noise.

Ideologies and religions

Ideologies and religions are systems of thought that shape and decide the way persons and groups of persons think and act.
Ideologies and religions don’t necessarily first and foremost respect conditions for description, and hereby logical relations and facts, but are also often the expression of subjective opinions, social conventions and habitual conceptions. Because subjective opinions, social conventions and habitual conceptions are not necessarily in compliance with conditions for description, religious and ideological assertions are often a mixture of right assertions and wrong assertions.
This is a fundamental problem that is shared by for example ideologies like representative democracy, anarchism, neo-liberalism, communism, capitalism, nazism, and religions like christianity, hinduism, judaism, islam, etc.
Experience tells us that religions and ideologies usually don’t first and foremost aim to respect conditions for description and hereby the logical relation between persons and persons’ rights.
Persons might have personal reasons to believe in ideologies or religions, but ideologies and religions that don’t first and foremost aim to respect persons’ rights, should never be used as the basis of political action, because the fundamental purpose of politics is to protect the rights of persons.
Instead of using ideologies and religions as the basis of political action, persons ought to use conditions for description as the basis of politics and thereby first and foremost try to respect persons’ rights.

FMagyar - Let me get this right. "...the fundamental purpose of politics is to protect the rights of persons." Therefore since a corporation is legally a person, political action groups that influence Congress and the administration of the U.S. Govt. are entitled to be protected as much as any other citizen even though they're not actually citizens. Is that right?

I get it. Monsanto is just a struggling Mom and Pop, ADM does care about the obesity epidemic in America, EXXON Mobil stays awake nights worrying about global warming and species extinction. When the President and members of Congress wear US flag pins in their lapels it is to remind them of who they work for...America, leader of the free world.

What my actual experience is there are a lot of good honest people in America. I don't believe however that a lot of those people are Wall Street Investment Bankers, Corporate CEO's or Congressman and Cabinet level appointees. I will allow for exceptions but that's about it. It's all a show: "A Travesty of a Mockery of a Sham". I think most Americans don't see that they're being played for suckers by a bunch of lowly grifters.


I thought the fundamental purpose of politics is to re-elect politicians?

FMagyar - Let me get this right. "...the fundamental purpose of politics is to protect the rights of persons." Therefore since a corporation is legally a person, political action groups that influence Congress and the administration of the U.S. Govt. are entitled to be protected as much as any other citizen even though they're not actually citizens. Is that right?

If you think that's what it means then all I can say is you didn't understand it. Corporations may indeed be afforded legal rights under our current *ISMS* However if you truly believe that a corporation is a person and deserves rights I would say that you have lost all touch with reality. What is expressed in the excerpt is the exact antithesis of what you are saying.

Though I think the rest of what you say implies that you do get it at the gut level which is that:

I think most Americans don't see that they're being played for suckers by a bunch of lowly grifters.

Check the link and read the whole thing, it might become clearer. I think we are on the same page.

First the candy, then the bullets. Good news, meet bad news. How do you parse and spit and swallow?

Is there a correlation? Is there some bizarre juncture where those same two opposing ideas -- longer lifespan and worse overall health -- meet and slap each other in the face and move on, pretending the other doesn't really exist? Would it not be simply terrific to someday read the exact same headline, in reverse? "Life spans shortening, everyone healthier, happier than any time in past 100 years."

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/09/30/notes093009....

Oil went down 5% on one day last week. Today is nearly 6% up. Can anyone remember volatility like this? Is there an index of oil price volatility somewhere?

If oil prices average about $70 for the rest of the year, the average annual price would be about $60, which would be higher than all previous annual prices before 2006, and which would by pretty interesting in light of the economic contraction. I suspect that we are beginning to transition from voluntary + involuntary reductions in net oil exports this year to mostly involuntary reductions in net oil exports next year.

In updating our net export slides, I continue to be amazed at the extent to which the US was effectively outbid for oil supplies in recent years--by countries like Kenya (which was contrary to what I expected to see). It doesn't bode well for future years for the US, as, IMO, we see an accelerating rate of decline in net oil exports. If we got our high consumption butts kicked by Kenya, who are we going to outbid?


I 've never been to Kenya and haven't even googled Kenyan an news but it would seem pterrtty obvious that whatever oil they use is used for something important,such as farming,infrastructure maintainence and construction,police,maybe generating a little electricity.

I will be able to pay twenty dollars a gallon for fuel to farm if necessary without it running my total costs up very much because fuel is a very small input in relation to my sales.

But joy riding in my truck is another thing altogether.There is zero revenue to offset the expense.

I really wonder just how much less oil we can use before it really starts to hurt-another ten percent reduction would not be hard for me or most of the folks I know.

I've looked at my driving and budget and I can see a path clear through $20 per gallon, but I think the real pain comes not in the price of gas alone, but the increased cost of everything else that leverages oil or gas, and the trade-offs those costs entail. I'm not worried about buying $20 gas to get to work, but in having work to get to.

OFM right again! Kenya is a major supplier of food to developed countries. So while most of the population is dirt poor food is grown and exported so that we can have cheap out of season vegatables.

"Outbid" is at best a confusing and unclear word. In this case, I suspect the intention is to infer a negative connotation without actually proving any analysis. I wish you would actually explain what you mean.

Did Kenyan demand rise faster than US demand? Or did they pay more for the same oil?

Edit: I have just looked up outbid, which means pretty universally to pay more for then someone else. So is this what you mean?

In updating our net export slides, I continue to be amazed at the extent to which the US effectively paid less for oil supplies in recent years--than countries like Kenya (which was contrary to what I expected to see). It doesn't bode well for future years for the US, as, IMO, we see an accelerating rate of decline in net oil exports. If we got our high consumption butts kicked by Kenya, who are we going to pay more than?

Outbid implies a bidding process in which the product goes to whoever is willing to pay the most.

If you want 1000 barrels of oil but are only willing/able to pay $50/barrel for it, and I only want 500 barrels but I'm willing to pay up to $70 for it, I'll get 500 barrels at $51/barrel (if I bid smart), and you only get 500 barrels of the 1000 you wanted.

Of course, in the bidding process, you probably end up paying $70/barrel for ~700 barrels and I end up with the rest at the same price.

Yes. That is in the fact the definition of outbid, as I noted above. But it doesn't do much to answer my questions.

Anyone who bought oil effectively outbid someone else for it. So in this case what is the meaning of the claim that Kenya outbid the US?

Did Kenyan demand rise faster than US demand? Or did they pay more for the same oil?

So, once again: In what way does statement "US was effectively outbid for oil supplies in recent years--by countries like Kenya" mean? And why is this significant?

Evidently the implication is that an amount of oil equal to past consumption is earmarked for the US of A somehow and that it would be a great catastrophe if its inhabitants had to make do with any less.

In response to oil prices rising at about 20% per year from 1998 to 2008, US consumption in 2008 was back to the same level as 1999--19.5 mbpd--which was down from our consumption rate in the years immediately preceding 2008. In effect, because of rising prices, the US was forced to reduce its consumption.

This was not the case in many developing countries in the 1998 to 2008 time frame, including Kenya.

My point is that many developing countries appear to have a competitive advantage over developed countries like the US as importing countries bid against each other for declining net oil exports.

The US still imports a lot more than Kenya. The US is outbidding Kenya, not the other way around.

It's certainly true that the US is still the world's largest oil consumer and net oil importer, but the consumption patterns are interesting (and Kenya is not an isolated example).

So, which of the two following countries showed flat to declining consumption in recent years, in response to rising oil prices, and which country showed increasing consumption, in response to rising oil prices?

US Total LIquids Consumption (EIA):

Kenya Total Liquids Consumption (EIA):

Two key points: It appears that developing countries have a competitive advantage over developed countries like the US and regardless of the status energy subsidies in exporting countries, it would appear that developing exporting countries have an inherent competitive advantage over countries like the US.

I am sure you would find exactly the same thing if you were to plot demand growth in all OECD versus non-OECD countries. So, while Kenya is not an "isolated example", neither is the US.

However, I am not at all clear on why this means countries with lower demand growth are being "outbid" or why the connotation is negative.

If the US, and other developed countries, are experiencing demand contraction, isn't this great news?

Of course in reality the causes are quite complex. But calling it outbidding confuses the issue rather than clarifying it.

I don't think it is at all clear how the two points you make are logical conclusions of the evidence that you present. Again, there are dozens of reasons why developing countries have higher oil demand growth than developed countries such as higher economic growth (from low base effect), step increases in car ownership, outsourcing of energy intensive manufacturing, etc, etc.

Reducing the ratio of energy demand to GDP growth would seem to me to be an advantage in an energy constrained world, not a disadvantage.

I have no metric but my impression is that this volatility is nothing out of the ordinary. Recall we are at the end of the quarter. Sometimes there are amusing explanations which surface afterwards such this June 30th's rogue trader.

"Sometimes there are amusing explanations which surface afterwards such this June 30th's rogue trader."

Are you refering to the "Ultimate Maverick", the "I can see Russia from my house", one and only "Going Rogue"....Sara Palin?

She's my Hero.....She knows whats good for America.

I hope you're kidding. She's dumb as dirt. The title of of her book proves it. Why would a Republican whose party symbol is the elephant choose Going Rogue? A rogue elephant is a mad elephant that destroys everything and is out of control.

Perhaps she is telling us she is crazy and out of control or the Republican party is. Democrats like me have suspected that for some time. But I never dreamt that she would come right out and announce it in her book title.

Reports indicate all the other Rogue Elephants can't wait to buy her book. If they do, she will be dumb and rich. And in America rich equals smart, so she's cured. Next stop the White House.

I think we're going to be seeing more and more of this. A clinic that served people regardless of immigration status or ability to pay is closing due to financial problems. Now the patients who have been getting kidney dialysis from the clinic are being forced to find another way to get treatment.

Some tried to sue the clinic and force it to stay open, but that didn't work. The clinic offered to pay to send patients back to Mexico, and some accepted that offer. But others see returning to their home countries as a death sentence. They either have to move to another state that provides care, or use emergency rooms...for thrice-weekly dialysis.

Send them to Canada? I hear that thrice- weekly dialysis is free there.

It's not really free. They force everyone to buy insurance...from the government. If you can't afford it, they don't want you.

Leanan, what do you mean "force everyone to buy insurance?" Is that new? When I lived there I paid taxes and that's it. There was no separate charge or line item on my tax form since the health care system came out of the general budget.

In Ontario you just show up (and sometimes wait). It almost seems that the insurance lobby has convinced Americans that insurance companies are a necessary component of a healthcare system, which is quite an achievement.

I consider insurance a major part of the problem, especially the dearth of major-medical-only options, which is what real "insurance" should be.

We don't have greeat dental insurance (well, some, but not for orthodontics), and there are various solutions instantly available in the market. One dentist takes monthly payments (like mine did when I was a kid). Another has an associated zero-interest credit company.

Our local hospital will take payments too.

Seems like a much smaller insurance industry would be a great start for healthcare reform.

As it was explained to me...you have to pay a monthly premium. It's low compared to what US residents pay, but you do pay. For most Canadians, their employer pays the premium. The government pays for indigents.

However, if you want to immigrate to Canada, you have to prove you can support yourself, and you have to pay for private health insurance for a few months.

Hi Leanan,

There are no employer fees/payroll taxes or personal premiums paid for MSI coverage in Nova Scotia.


I guess it depends in which province you're in. I was interested in British Columbia, and there is a premium there.

Yes, you do have to prove you can support yourself (and pass the immigration point system). But Ontario doesn't collect a fee and you're right BC does impose a $54 fee:

Health care in Canada is delivered through a publicly-funded health care system, which is mostly free at the point of use and has most services provided by private entities.[1] It is guided by the provisions of the Canada Health Act.[2]

The government assures the quality of care through federal standards. The government does not participate in day-to-day care or collect any information on an individual's health which remain confidential to the patient and the doctor.

Canada's regionally based Medicare systems are cost effective partly because of their administrative simplicity. For instance there is no need for client based billing and recompense systems. Private insurance is only a minimal part of the overall health care system and thus competitive practices such as advertising and other forms of self promotion, lobbying activities are kept to a minimum thus maximizing the percentage of revenues going directly towards patient care.

In general, costs are paid through funding from income taxes though three provinces also impose a fixed monthly premium (e.g.,$54/month in British Columbia[10]) which may be waived or reduced for those on low incomes. There are no deductibles on basic health care and co-pays are extremely low or non-existent (supplemental insurance such as Fair Pharmacare may have deductibles, depending on income).


I always received excellent care and my father was very well taken care of when got in a car accident. Believe me, there is no way I'm giving up my Canadian citizenship.

$54 is for a single person. There's also a rate for couples. I think the top rate is for families, and is still less than $200/month - a bargain by US standards.

There's also a three-month lag before you're covered by the national insurance; you have to buy private insurance to bridge the gap (if you're moving to Canada).

Probably wouldn't qualify with the points system in place.

Hmmm...what will the care picture look like once the ERs shut down? Cost shifting can only go so far, before eventually somebody has to decide how much care can be given for free, and who gets it.

Let's see, how many docs do I know that would see me or my child for free if necessary?

Let's see, how many docs do I know that would see me or my child for free if necessary?

Not many....yet. But I suspect that will change out of the disruption that is about to occur. Britain made the NHS after their experience with WWII.

I expect the complete breakdown of the for-profit system here will wake quite a few people up to the fact that a single-payer health system is far less expensive than what just vanished. If I recall correctly, Canada provides coverage for everyone with 7% of its GDP, the U.S. does not cover everyone and spends 13% of its GDP and gets worse results for those who are covered. The conversation "I must be free to do xxx" is again running the show here in the form of "I must be free to select my medical plan" or "I must not have the government in the way of me and my doctor."

But, as I said, there is nothing quite like a good crisis to dislodge the current thinking that the system now is "working." It is, in my view, "not collapsed yet."

The funniest thing about the USA healthcare system is it is so corrupt that it is far cheaper to fly patients out of the country for treatment (various countries including Mexico). The B/S free trade argument is pushed by almost all politicians but somehow if it cuts into financial or insurance profits it is the talk of the devil.

Australia, land of the socialists.
A relative just found out she had a heart problem. It required a triple bypass.
Within a week she was in hospital had the operation and was out.
How much did it cost? including followup care - nothing
If she had no private insurance it cost nothing.
With private insurance she got to use the TV in her room for free and just gave the insurance checks to the hospital as they came in.

I love reading about USA healthcare. makes me glad not to be there.


Americans will consistently vote against their own interests. Why? I don't know. I do know that all they have to do is trot out some hysterical propaganda and everyone's eyes glaze over.

Example: Last week I was at my local pub having a beer watching the football game and somebody mentioned how much a particular player was getting paid and everybody shook their head in agreement that it was obscene. Then one fella says: "Do you know that guys paying 55% of that in tax." "So what" I said,"are you worried that he won't be able to pay for his private airplane with the other five million?" His reply: "I don't want to live in a socialist country...is what I think." (I don't drink and drive but I'm Irish and beer and politics are fair game) I challenge him: "Can you give me an accurate definition of what a socialist is? I have a hard time believing that you thought that up all by your lonesome. Is that what your fearless leader Rush Limbaugh spoon-fed you on the radio?" Answer: "I listen to Rush Limbaugh so what?" Ditto-heads. Too lazy to even think for themselves.


George Allen said;
“You’ll hear from these pompous elites, that Americans are addicted to oil,” Allen said. “Americans are not addicted to oil. Americans are addicted to freedom – the freedom and independence to move where and when we want – and I believe that Americans can keep that independence.”

So Bush, also a Republican as is Allen, is a 'pompous elite'? Allen represents the false-patriot cornucopian who believes that consumption = happiness, and the freedom from addictions is a threat to fossil fuel company profits. So who pays his salary now?

Unfortunately republicans have been really busy giving conservatives a bad name for a long time.

But the man couldn't even attract a hundred people so I guess his days as a politician are numbered.

Good thing for the Republicans and conservatives that they have Sara Palin to carry their water...and Liz Cheney too!

Why don't they just run Rush or Savage for President?

One thing's for certain: The base would love it, love it, want more of it!

The other 80% of the country: not so much.

Put up some Republicans who don't fear-monger and race-bait and I will listen to their views, and might even vote for one.

Then again, Ronald Raygun seemed OK at first, and look what he did to the U.S....30 years squandered by the illusion of 'The shining city on the hill' and 'Morning for America again'.

Home Appliances Are Starting to Wise Up

Whirlpool Corp. plans to produce 1 million "smart" clothes dryers by the end of 2011, a step toward the company's goal of making all of its appliances smart grid-compatible in six years.

The company's Smart Energy dryers will respond to peak-energy prices by lowering power consumption, saving money for homeowners and easing stress on the electric grid, Whirlpool said as it announced the initiative yesterday. For people who pay variable prices for electricity, the dryers could save an average of $20 to $40 a year, the company said.


DOE is hoping smart appliances will help the United States move away from fossil fuels that are responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions. Deploying 1 million smart dryers would offset the need for 10 coal-fired, 500-megawatt power plants, Whirlpool said.

See: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/09/29/29greenwire-home-appliances-are-...


I don't think I get this at all. If the dryer can dry the clothes with less power consumption, why not do it all the time? Oh...wait a minute...it probably dries the clothes more slowly, so less power is drawn but for a longer time. That's why the claimed savings are so trivial, and the real savings might be zero (yup, it's gonna take about the same number of joules to evaporate the water no matter what) or even slightly negative (if it takes so long that extra energy is spent to tumble the clothes to little effect.)

And if the power consumption were dropped enough to make it take several hours to dry the clothes, which is what it might take to push a significant part of the process outside the peak, people would rebel - the point is to dry the clothes, not to mildew them. So after all the technical complication, the number of joules consumed is about the same, and the time at which they are consumed is about the same, so the overall power draw is also about the same (except maybe in the highly improbable event that everyone starts their dryer at precisely the same time.)

OK, now I get it. The idea is nothing to do with saving energy or reducing the number of power plants. Instead, as with nearly all proposals of this nature, it's everything to do with further expanding the reach and pettifogging control exerted by bloated, overbearing, power-mad Big Brother...

Now I suspect the "smart dryer" thingy is just like the "smart AC" thingy attached to my AC unit. It doesn't save the owner anything, but it allows the power company/grid operator to shut the thing off to avoid problem with peak demand. Now, if you can get the electric company to give you a price beark, for allowing them to "demand manage" your use in this manner, it might be worth it to have it.

Hi Paul,

As I understand it, during periods of severe grid stress, these appliances might respond by cycling their heating elements on and off for a period ranging from a few seconds to perhaps several minutes. Drying time could be extended somewhat, but that's not a given as these elements are routinely turned on and off by the dryer's own internal thermostat, which means some or all of this lost ground could be made up further on in the cycle. It might also communicate with other appliances in your household, so that its elements and those of your oven and water heater can be sequenced intelligently. Or you may be given the option to have it automatically slip into a lower heat/extended dry mode in response to utility price signals, effectively trading off a longer drying time for a lower operating cost.


Well, you could call it load shaving, I guess. If it lets you control the priorities (dry clothes first vs. hot water vs. minimal cost) then perhaps it adds value. Some commercial/industrial usage can be load balanced too, and industry usually prioritizes cost over convenience.

What concerns me more about smart grid is that depending on high tech components - networking, microcontrollers, etc - doesn't make the products or services more reliable. Industrial load shaving today is done with a phone call from the power company. As long as the phones work, all is well. Once the human is out of the loop, all kinds of things can happen.

I personally experienced the results of a "high tech" meltdown - a catastrophic failure of a so-called high efficiency washer - that destroyed itself due to the inability of the engineers to plan for various situations that could occur during operation. Sure, it saved water (a fixed priority, and not a concern of ours) but for all the extra cost, what it mainly provided was a lot more parts that could fail.

For less than the cost of replacement parts, we bought a new low-tech, non-HE washer with a mechanical controller, figuring it would last longer than any of the HE models. Our first washer lived 20 years. We were told the new one might make it to 12 years. The HE model lasted two. It was pretty discouraging.

I don't particularly mind being an early adopter, understanding the occasional failure will occur, but I've seen this trend across all consumer products. I'm concerned that to get smart grid technology you first have to accept a fair percentage of your new appliances will be low quality consumer crap.

Part of the problem, beyond planned obsolescence, is unplanned defects caused by an unreasonable expectation of new models.

The computer industry started it -- this year's model makes the machine you bought last year obsolete, and this Fall's Windows release will finish it off!

Now cell-phone models have new releases every year. Not only are releases so fast that sometimes poor features don't get fixed, but sometimes working features get changed so they no longer work as well. Rate of change exceeds rate of progress.

Computer-aided design makes it so easy to tweak components that changes which would once have been overruled are integrated, with all sorts of trickle-down effects. Net result - parts which fit only one or two model years and which cannot be stocked anywhere. If you instead carefully fix only defects and strive to maximize commonality, reliability goes up and those parts which do tend to fail can be locally stocked.

I think a major post-peak business will be card-level repair of modules which were never meant to be repaired, and design of robust replacement parts for appliances. Of course this works for otherwise robust appliances with a weak-link here or there. Nothing will save much of the total crap out there which is all ready to fail from the day of purchase.

The next Windows will run on a computer you bought last year.
In fact, it will probably run on a computer you bought 8 years ago if you upgrade its RAM. Such a RAM upgrade should set you back about 25$. It won't run on an 8-year old Mac though. The usual disclaimers blah blah...

If you instead carefully fix only defects and strive to maximize commonality, reliability goes up and those parts which do tend to fail can be locally stocked.

I'd love to see that happen, and I think I understand why it doesn't. I have one client who has a long term vision and has carefully built up a business over 35 years. He needs a product that is highly reliable, and sees the value in designing things to last. It's a real challenge to find parts that will be around for more than 2-3 years; even entire computer architectures might not last more than 5 years. How do you maintain anything? By buying a huge stock of components?

But the real rub is satisfying sales, marketing, and finance's constant demand for new features. It is hard to lay down an architecture that will survive with such a moving target, so most of the time we endure incompatible changes as the design evolves.

Most of what I've designed can be maintained, somewhat, in the field. But the high volume designs are different, relying on custom chips (standard cores integrated with some custom logic or interfaces) and high density packaging like ball-grid arrays and other SMT technology that is very hard to repair. I fear there will be no way to repair much of this, and very little raw material to recycle. On top of this, the lead-free RoHS directive virtually guarantees premature failure due to tin whiskers between pins.

So I agree, post-release replacement at the board level, with newly designed, maintainable circuitry, might be the way we go.

As we end the third quarter tonight, Zfacts.com notes that the Federal debt totals $11,884,000,000,000 or $11.884 trillion. Wonder what the fourth quarter of 2009 will bring- $13 trillion?

I wouldn't worry too much about that monstrous debt. It will simply never ever be paid off in real dollars. The coming great default/printing event will of course mean that the US and many other countries will have to learn to live within their means, probably not a bad thing.

Frugal -- I suppose it depends on how you define "paid off". We are paying the debt off daily. Last time I saw the number the US gov't was writing a $500 million check ever day. That's $500 million of our tax dollars we send to DC on a constant basis. $500 million we're not spending on health care, alternatives, education, etc. Just like someone paying the minimum on their credit card bill. Maybe they'll default one day on that debt but until then they are shifting a significant chunk of their income to that debt and not spending it on more productive efforts. Not sure where the balance is exactly today but as a simple example if you pay me $1000 of interest over time on a $100 debt I probably won't loose a lot of sleep worrying about you not paying off the original $100. And neither does Visa or Master Card. And maybe not China either. The interest payments China receives for financing our debt is paid in US dollars. And it's these dollars they are using to secure future oil reserves and agricultural resources around the globe. If some years down the road we stiff China on some or all of that debt they might not loose too much sleep either. By that point they may have converted many times that original debt into commodities critical to our economy.

That sums it up. It is amazing how the public has been convinced that these debts are of little importance. It should be interesting the next time China decides to buy a major US company-I think it is past the point of the USA pulling rank.

You are confused. Your intuitive understanding of the issues isn't helping because the US government isn't a household.
China would get better interest rates lending to other countries and it would also get a better return by lending in other currencies. The Chinese government isn't a credit card company. The interest rate the US government is paying is very low. That's not surprising because that interest rate happens to be a policy of the US government.

Re;With $350M Infusion, Tesla Adds Minivans, Crossovers, and Fleet Vans to Line of EVs

With $350M Infusion, Tesla Adds Minivans, Crossovers, and Fleet Vans to Line of EVs
Tesla Motors--they made that cute all-electric Roadster no one actually owns--wants you to know the money they received from the government is NOT the same money that bailed out Detroit, but rather a loan from the DOE to accelerate the production of fuel-efficient vehicles.

500 Roadsters delivered so far.