Drumbeat: October 5, 2009

Peak Oil: The End Of the Oil Age is Near, Deutsche Bank Says

Here’s an intriguing thought: Global oil supplies are indeed set to peak within a few years, and no, that is not bullish for oil. Quite the contrary—it will spell the end of the “oil age.”

That’s the take from Deutsche Bank’s new report, “The Peak Oil Market.” In a nutshell: The oil industry chronically under invests in finding new supplies, exemplified both by Big Oil’s recent love of share buybacks and under-investment by big oil-producing nations. That spells a looming supply crunch.

...The big driver? The coming-of-age of electric and hybrid vehicles, which promise massive fuel-economy gains for short-hop commuting but which so far have not been economic.

Deutsche Bank expects the electric car to become a truly “disruptive technology” which takes off around the world, sending demand for gasoline into an “inexorable and accelerating decline.”

Don't Fill Up on ConocoPhillips

Sankey's note takes a new spin on "peak oil," a term used to describe the point of maximum production, after which extraction rates decline. Sankey, however, sees oil demand reaching a climax in 2016, followed by a drastic fall-off in use of oil, first in the U.S., then globally.

"The end is nigh for the age of oil," writes Sankey, who likens our time to the rapid decline in whale oil in the 1860s, after kerosene was developed as a more desirable "disruptive technology" for lighting lamps.

Betting on Commodities, Especially Crude Oil

In 2008, prices of oil, natural gas, gold, silver, copper, corn, wheat, and most other commodities reached multi-year, and in some cases multi-decade, highs. They’ve fallen sharply since then, but commodities aren’t going out of business. Another peak is coming, and it will be far higher, especially for oil.

The Climate Agenda

Today, The Washington Post launches The Climate Agenda, a special report that invites readers to explore Washington Post climate change news and tools and debate global climate change policy with a panel of environmental leaders.

Top court rejects U.S. govt's oil royalty appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court rejected on Monday an Interior Department appeal of a ruling that the government says will likely cost it at least $19 billion in lost oil royalties from energy companies.

The justices declined to review a ruling by a U.S. appeals court that Anadarko Petroleum Corp (APC.N) did not have to pay about $350 million in royalties for drilling on federal leases in the Gulf of Mexico issued between 1996 and 2000.

ANALYSIS - UAE could spur regional nuclear power rush

DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates' huge nuclear power programme could trigger a race among Gulf Arab states for limited atomic energy resources to meet surging electricity demand and free up more oil for export.

US consumers to pay lower winter natgas bills - AGA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. consumers are expected to pay lower natural gas bills this winter compared with last year due to above-normal gas supplies and cheaper energy prices, the American Gas Association said on Monday.

"Plentiful domestic natural gas supplies and lower wellhead prices will drive bills down this winter and provide relief for natural gas customers struggling in a trouble economy," the AGA said in its annual winter outlook.

Nigeria assuming $50 oil price for 2010 budget

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Nigeria is currently basing its budget plans for 2010 on an oil price assumption of $50 a barrel although the figure could be raised higher if energy prices remain resilient, Finance Minister Mansur Muhtar said on Monday.

"For 2010 in the medium-term framework ... we have adopted a very conservative estimate of $50 per barrel," Muhtar told reporters in Istanbul.

Nigeria militants fight amnesty

Hours after an amnesty for Nigeria's oil militants expired, the original group that began the unrest has gone to court, arguing the move is illegal.

The 60-day amnesty offered cash and training for fighters who disarmed.

TransAlta: The greening of a coal giant

Once TransAlta absorbs the Canadian Hydro assets - 21 hydro, wind and biomass plants in four provinces - the combined company will generate 22 per cent of its power portfolio from renewable sources.

TransAlta already has a number of renewable power projects in its portfolio, generating about 15 per cent of its total power output.

Capital gains

Certain ‘traditional’ forms of social capital, such as church-going, Women’s Institutes, party membership and trade union memberships, have almost universally declined. But while in the US and the UK this seems to have been associated with a trend towards privatisation and disengagement, in other countries it was associated with the rise of ‘solidaristic individualism’, to use a phrase coined by Swedish sociologist Bo Rothstein.

In essence, we Anglo-Saxons have spent the past few decades using our growing personal wealth to escape from the inconvenience of other people. To use an everyday example, we buy several TVs so that even our own children don’t have to negotiate with each other about what to watch. We use our wealth to ensure that we can do what we want, when we want to. In contrast, our Scandinavian neighbours seem to have used their wealth to see more of one another – to go out with friends, to join more reading groups and so on.

Jeremy Leggett Interview—Culture Problem in the Oil Industry?

I think there’s a cultural problem in the oil industry at the top tables. There is just simply a social silence. It’s what the anthropologists studying the financial crunch have called a social silence that was erected around the bonus system. They discouraged, institutionally in individual conversations right through to institutional behavior, any discuss of the risk of these financial issues. In the same way, the leadership in the oil industry really frowns, in most cases, on any sensible discussion about peak oil. Former colleagues in BP tell me that it’s almost like an act of treason to talk about peak oil in that company. And so I think that’s a real issue.

Black Market Shows Iran Can Adapt to Sanctions

WASHINGTON — President Obama has vowed to keep the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program after last week’s meeting in Geneva, and his advisers said the United States was intensively recruiting other nations to join in a harsher economic embargo against Tehran should diplomacy fail.

But as the focus on sanctions intensifies, a review of the United States’ experiences in enforcing its own longstanding restrictions on trade with Iran suggests it would be difficult to truly quarantine the Iranian economy.

Dark world of declining oil supplies expected by peak oil community

A recently conducted survey of members of the global ‘Peak Oil Community’ has revealed wide-ranging negative expectations for the world in the twenty first century but also optimism on an individual basis. ‘The Global Peak Oil Survey 2009’, carried out by the UK focused peak oil group Powerswitch, consisted of 150 questions on the most controversial areas of discussion around peak oil.

The findings show a view of the world drastically affected by declining global supplies of oil, expected to occur from 2007 to 2013. The effects of peak oil suggested will be wide ranging, with increases in crime, war and nationalism, and decreases in urban working, health and global population levels. A strong concern about climate change exists but the view is that peak oil will have much more of an impact on society over the next twenty five years.

Frozen in the future?

The city's mayor this week painted an apocalyptic vision for a community quickly running out of energy supplies to heat and light homes. It was bleak and a little scary. But even scarier is that after talking to dozens of people familiar with the natural gas pipeline system feeding the city and the region's main electrical powerplants, one can easily get the idea that Mayor Dan Sullivan might actually have understated the danger.

U.K. Refinery, Power-Station Workers Reject Employer Proposals

(Bloomberg) -- Workers at seven U.K. oil refineries and power stations, including the Sellafield nuclear complex and a facility on BP Plc’s Forties pipeline, have rejected a pay offer and are seeking to reopen talks with employers.

The majority of union members polled voted against the proposal, the GMB and Unite labor unions said in e-mailed statements today. The measure included a pay increase and the creation of a national register of unemployed workers, which would be used to fill vacancies.

Turkey to invest $450 mln in oil exploration in Black Sea

ANKARA (Xinhua) -- Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Monday that Turkey would make an investment of around 450 million U.S. dollars in oil exploration in the Black Sea, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.

Yildiz said a giant offshore oil platform will set off from Norway this month and is expected to arrive in Turkey's northern coast in mid-December.

Flurry of oil patch deals expected

The blockbuster transactions that dominated Canada's oil patch this year are expected to trigger a cascade of other deals in the coming months, industry experts and bankers say.

Coal India May Complete Mine Acquisition This Year

(Bloomberg) -- Coal India Ltd., the nation’s monopoly producer of the fuel, said it expects to complete a mine acquisition in the year ending March 31, and has hired Royal Bank of Canada to carry out due diligence on a deposit in Australia.

The state-owned company is seeking mines in the U.S., Australia, South Africa and Indonesia and as many as 52 companies want to be its partners, Chairman Partha S. Bhattacharyya told reporters in New Delhi today.

Atomic power safety questions still unanswered

Ten years after a nuclear accident killed two plant workers and shattered the "safety myth" surrounding atomic power generation, Japan still has much work to do in improving responses to cases of radiation exposure.

Experts and officials say the number of doctors and facilities that can provide emergency care is still insufficient, while more has to be done to prevent and respond to radiation emergencies.

Kurt Cobb: National parks and the idea of conservation in the fossil fuel age

The age in which the national parks were established was an age in which people could be made to believe that saving a few wild areas would in no way hamper the continued material progress of humankind. There have always been those who wanted to exploit the ready riches which lie in such landscapes. But today in the face of escalating energy prices, it has been all too easy for the American Petroleum Institute to succeed at convincing the American public and the Congress that the United States must open as much area as possible to oil drilling.

As the fossil fuel age winds down, will the public be so amenable to setting aside additional landscapes, keeping them out-of-bounds to extractive industries? Will it even be willing to defend the national parks we already have? I wonder.

Emissions from tar sands seriously underestimated

Greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands operations are being significantly under-reported according to new research by Global Forest Watch Canada.

The report, 'Bitumen and Biocarbon', says oil companies and governments are not accounting for emissions from deforestation. It says that when boreal forest is destroyed for tar sands development, significant amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted.

Oil May Pass $100 on ‘Loose’ Policy, Merrill Says

(Bloomberg) -- Oil may jump above $100 next year as emerging market demand rises and “loose” monetary policy weakens the U.S. dollar, Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit said.

The global economy will grow 4.2 percent next year and spare global oil production capacity is 5 percent of current demand, Merrill analysts led by Francisco Blanch said in the bank’s Global Energy Weekly. There are “upside risks” to Merrill’s $82 a barrel forecast for the fourth quarter of 2010, according to the report.

“Without firm policy action to reduce global oil demand or an unexpected expansion in supplies, a continuation of extremely loose monetary policy in OECD economies next year could ultimately bring about another spike in oil prices well above $100 a barrel as we approach 2011,” the report said.

Total mulls dismantling of Dunkirk refinery-report

PARIS (Reuters) - Total's 160,000 barrels-per-day Dunkirk refinery, which temporarily stopped in mid-September due to poor fuel demand, is likely to be dismantled, a French weekly said on Monday. Total declined to comment on the press report from the economical and political newsletter, La lettre de l'Expansion, which did not identify sources.

The French major said at the start of the month a lack of fuel demand had forced the temporary closure of the Dunkirk refinery whithout specifying the duration.

China's apparent oil consumption down in 1st 7 months, but at slower pace

BEIJING (Xinhua) -- China's apparent oil consumption in the first seven months this year was down by 0.6 percent year on year, but at slower pace, according to the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Association (CPCIA).

The apparent oil consumption represents net imports and output, and could be taken as an index for the real oil consumption excluding inventory.

Black Sea could compete with Russia as EU gas supplier

EUOBSERVER / BUCHAREST – The geopolitics of pipelines between Russia and Europe could change dramatically if non-conventional oil and gas reserves in the Black Sea area were to be tapped, energy experts at a high-level conference said last week.

"The Black Sea resources are very big and could even replace gas supply from Russia," Dinu Patriciu, a Romanian oil man and investor who has already bought up large chunks of the country's maritime plateau, said at the "Black Sea energy and economic forum" in Bucharest on Friday (2 October).

Enbridge Energy to sell non-core assets

TORONTO (Reuters) - U.S. pipeline operator Enbridge Energy Partners LP (EEP.N) said on Monday it planned to sell some natural gas assets outside of Texas, resulting in a $65 million impairment charge.

The U.S.-based arm of Enbridge Inc, Canada's largest pipeline operator, said the proceeds from the sale would be used to fund expansion projects.

Woodside strikes initial deal on LNG hub

Woodside Petroleum has signed a preliminary agreement with the government of Western Australia for the development of a liquefied natural gas processing precinct at James Price Point in the state's north-west.

The government said today that the agreement will accelerate key studies and planning into the project and will see Woodside appointed as the foundation commercial proponent for the precinct.

Gazprom May Resume Turkmen Gas Import

MOSCOW—Gazprom is likely to resume gas purchases from Turkmenistan that were halted in April after a pipeline blast this month or next month, VTB Capital investment bank said after a meeting with Gazprom's management.

Supplies from Turkmenistan, Gazprom's main source of natural gas in Central Asia, were suspended in April after an explosion at the pipeline, which connects Russia and the former Soviet satellite.

Commodity Swaps Would Be Regulated by U.S. Under Frank’s Plan

(Bloomberg) -- Legislation aimed at tightening oversight of the $592 trillion derivatives market would give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission new authority to police over-the-counter commodity swaps as well as derivatives traded on foreign exchanges.

The commission would get the power sought by Chairman Gary Gensler to regulate bilateral swaps in commodities such as wheat and natural gas, and may impose position limits on speculation that takes place outside of regulated exchanges, according to a 187-page draft measure released Oct. 2 by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank.

Open Interest Surge Signals Peak as Traders See Slump

(Bloomberg) -- Investors are snapping up commodities at the fastest pace in 18 months just as stockpiles of raw materials rise and shipping rates plunge, signaling that prices may be poised to fall.

Open interest, or contracts yet to be closed, liquidated or delivered, rose 6.6 percent in the third quarter for the 20 most-traded U.S. commodities, exchange data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s the steepest gain since the first three months of 2008, just before the credit-market freeze sent prices plunging from records.

Natural Gas Futures May Rally Toward $5: Technical Analysis

(Bloomberg) -- Natural gas is poised to rally toward $5 per million British thermal units based on a jump in the 10- day moving average in the past week, according to a technical analysis by Mike Fitzpatrick, vice president of energy with MF Global in New York City.

“The chart gives a very bullish look with the 10-day moving average now over the 40- and 200-day, a very strong signal,” he said in a note to clients on Oct. 2. “There is also an active buy signal, which kicked in two weeks ago.”

Chevron Kazakh venture boosts output

Kazakhstan's largest oil producer, the Chevron-led venture Tengizchevroil, will produce 22.5 million tonnes of oil this year, up from 17.3 million tonnes in 2008, a senior Kazakh official said today.

Heating aid could fall short of needs

Record numbers of low-income people and senior citizens who can't afford to heat their homes are applying for help, say some local agencies that distribute aid and struggle with the recession's fallout.

"The overwhelming need we have (for heating aid) far surpasses any of our resources," says Dave Dexheimer of Douglass Community Services in Hannibal, Mo., which is getting 25% more calls than a year ago. It has $60,000 in state heating funds, down from $100,000 last year.

Savings from a drop in some fuel prices "is being canceled out by increasing numbers of families who are losing their jobs," says Mark Wolfe of the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association.

Negligence factor in Russian power plant accident

MOSCOW — Russia's top industrial safety oversight official said Saturday that negligence was a major factor in a devastating accident at the country's biggest hydroelectric power plant, and hinted that high-level officials could face trial over the disaster that killed 75 workers.

Outlining a report on the causes of the Aug. 17 accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant in southern Siberia, Rostekhnadzor director Nikolai Kutin described it in chilling detail. Part of an overstrained turbine unit weighing 1,500 tons snapped off its restraining bolts and sailed 14 meters (45 feet) into the air, he said, unleashing flooding, short circuits and wreckage that crippled the plant and doomed dozens of workers in seconds.

While the direct causes were essentially technical, he said, bad decisions, misuse and neglect stretching years back set the stage for a catastrophe that could probably have been avoided.

German solar panel makers in trouble: federation

FRANKFURT — German solar energy firms are in a bind, the head of a federation said in a report due out on Monday amid concern that the new German government will abandon the sector.

"German solar energy companies are earning almost no money because demand has collapsed" with the economic crisis, Joerg Sutter told the magazine Wirtschaftswoche.

Emirates leader signs law to develop nuclear power

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The president of the energy-hungry United Arab Emirates has signed a law regulating the development of a civilian nuclear program, clearing the way for construction of a nuclear power plant with help from the United States.

Washington has promoted its plan to help the Emirates' develop peaceful nuclear power as a model of the kind of cooperation it would like to achieve with Iran, which the U.S. and its allies suspect is using a civilian program as a cover to develop an atomic weapons capability.

'Crash Course' provides lessons on economy, beyond

Martenson uses the economy as a lens to view the world; he explains exponential money, a bursting credit bubble, demographics and a national failure to save in a way laypeople can easily understand. He goes on to explain how our economy, energy systems and environment interact, and how they will impact the future.

His main message is that the next 20 years are going to be completely unlike the past 20 years. The predicament we find ourselves in is the result of an unsustainable, debt-ridden, exponentially growth-based economy bumping up against the realities of peak oil, shrinking natural resources, and an already degraded and stressed environment. As a result of his research, Martenson believes it will be a time of massive change that might overwhelm our society's ability to adapt.

Global warming has us on thin ice

If global warming is occurring then sea-surface temperature should also be increasing, hurricane frequency should be on the rise, and polar sea ice should be melting.

Figures show that the trends for all three processes seem to be consistent for at least the short term.

Why Climate Change Legislation Is Turning Corporate America Green

What's the "green" driving some high-profile corporations to break with the country's largest business lobbyist over climate change? Hint: It's not the environmental kind.

British public refuse to fly less to reduce their carbon footprint

The extent of the public's refusal to fly less often has been revealed by research that suggests attempts to slash greenhouse gas emissions from aviation will struggle to get off the ground.

Fewer than one in five people are trying to reduce the number of flights they take for environmental reasons, warns the study from Loughborough University. The findings come after the aviation industry vowed to halve emissions by 2050 and the government's climate advisers called for a deal at UN climate talks in Copenhagen to cap emissions from flying.

The Carbon Effect

What happens when using the Internet is no longer free?

Raising the cost of Internet service has been threatened for years, largely because some of the fiber backbone carriers want more money for all the data and high-bandwidth video traffic moving over their lines. But given the distributed nature of Internet infrastructure and rampant competition among phone and cable companies, that scenario now appears less likely to unfold than ever before. Competition continues to drive down prices for access, which means the only way providers can get higher monthly fees is by boosting the speed of that access.

What is new, however, is the idea of taxing the infrastructure used to store, send and retrieve data over the Internet, and it seems to be gaining ground. Environmentalists and policy makers see carbon taxation as an effective way to cut carbon emissions and reduce the effects of global warming. Bills have been introduced in Europe and the United States, and more are likely to surface as climatic changes continue. Even China reportedly is considering a carbon tax bill.

16 arrested in Canada Greenpeace protest

MONTREAL — Authorities arrested 16 people Sunday after Greenpeace activists scaled three smoke stacks at a Shell operation in their latest action protesting the exploitation of Canada's vast oil sands.

Activists from Canada, France, Australia and Brazil occupied part of an upgrader machine Shell is building at its Scotford site in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta to convert oil sands into fuel, the group said in a statement.

Europe bids to tax personal fuel consumption

GOTHENBURG (AFP) – A Europe-wide tax on personal or household fuel consumption was proposed on Friday as EU finance ministers met to discuss who should pay what in the fight against global warming.

Detailed European Commission plans will be put before member states next year but an outline proposal was raised by the EU's taxation and customs union commissioner Laszlo Kovacs at the Gothenburg gathering.

UN warns of 70 percent desertification by 2025

BUENOS AIRES — Drought could parch close to 70 percent of the planet's soil by 2025 unless countries implement policies to slow desertification, a senior United Nations official has warned.

"If we cannot find a solution to this problem... in 2025, close to 70 percent could be affected," Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, said Friday.

The high stakes of melting Himalayan glaciers

(CNN) -- The glaciers in the Himalayas are receding quicker than those in other parts of the world and could disappear altogether by 2035 according to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The result of this deglaciation could be conflict as Himalayan glacial runoff has an essential role in the economies, agriculture and even religions of the regions countries.

I don’t agree with this guy, but I forward for your info:

“Chris Edwards is an economist at the Cato Institute. He argues extending benefits can actually prolong unemployment. ...”

Chris Edwards: "It seems to me, by increasing the unemployment benefits, you're reducing people's incentive to maybe take a lower-pay job or maybe to take the tough decision to move."


Ignorant -- I suppose it's a numbers question: how many folks fall into such categories. One anecdote: my friend's son was laid off from his electrician gig in Vegas. Back home now he draws about $600/month less then if he took a local gig. And he keeps his application for work back in Vega active by not picking up a gig here. $600/month is not insignificant but then was it worth working at 110 degrees plus on a job site compared to sitting in front of the TV with a cold one?

The number of folks falling into such slots may be insignificant...don't know. But the logic to stay unemployed thanks to bebefits is undeniable in some circumstances.

To me the solution is simple: don't pay people to do nothing; pay them to do SOMETHING.

There is not city in the nation that doesn't have areas that need to be cleared, cleaned-up, or improved. There is no town that doesn't have streets that need to have trash picked up along streets. There is no volunteer org that couldn't use more help in making calls or distributing products.

There are few businesses today that haven't overloaded their remaining workers, and couldn't use some help.

Instead of kicking out checks, why not having matching rates for various businesses, with the match rate indexed to unemployment? Say, 50% match for unskilled jobs, 25% for skilled, and 100% for volunteer orgs and city work crews. Welfare should be for the ill and infirm, not the able bodied.

Give a few hours per week of automatic time-off for the 100%-subsidized people to interview at other jobs. Keep standard unemployment for 8 weeks to enable those who are newly unemployed to sort out their best options and find a normal job if they can.

I've heard the arguments that kicking out checks is cheap and efficient, but it doesn't match human nature well. Real work maintains dignity of the worker and provides value to society.

IMHO, what the US needs is a new Civilian Conservation Corps, which would in effect become the "employer of last resort", and would soak up a lot of the more hopeless long-term unemployed. There are a lot of useful tasks to which they could be put to work, especially including energy conservation retrofits on public buildings and low-income housing. If we are going to throw money at the unemployment problem, this seems to me to be a much more effective use of the funds.

B-b-b-b-but we should all be rushing out to volunteer our time away for free!!!

Obama and a bunch of NFL millionaires even made a TV ad that told me so!

/sarcanol off

I might be influenced by Obama's plea if he hadn't spent trillions in tax money to bailout Wall St. and provide obscene bonuses. Making the plea with a bunch of performance-drug loaded criminals that get paid millions by the NFL, America's Most Socialist institution, made me tune out completely.

Obama... spent trillions in tax money to bailout Wall St. and provide obscene bonuses.

Um, George W. Bush committed the US government to that course.

Short memory?

Um, George W. Bush committed the US government to that course.

True, and Obama has done *nothing* to reverse that course since he's been in office. No perp walks for crooked Wall Street CEOs, no bailout claw-backs, no mortgage cram-downs, no real reforms aimed at banskters --just hot air and no substance. In fact, he simply replaced one set of ex-Goldman Sachs executives running the Treasury Dept with another set.

Status quo you can believe in! (and I voted for the bum)

The "elected" government is nothing more than a meat puppet show run by the banking/corporate oligarchy.
They either accept this role and the benefits or they are coerced and if all else fails they are assassinated.

I am well aware of GWBs complicity in our current mess, but the ad did not feature him.

The point that I was trying to make is that Obama's plea rings awfully hollow after the obscene amounts of money he lavished on Wall St.

His plea is rendered even more hollow by the fact the ad also includes millionaires who work for the NFL, the most socialist institution in America, and contribute very little to society other than providing a useful means of social control to society's owners.

The only message I'm taking from this is ad that Wall St. and NFL millionaires are worth every red cent, but we little people should be falling all over ourselves to give our time away when our betters ask us to.

Perhaps you haven't noticed that in the U.S., unemployment payments are a form of insurance. That's paid for by the employer thru a tax contribution for each worker. The states administer the program. Here's one description.

E. Swanson

For the basic 26 weeks or so, yes. For all the Fed extensions, no. Nor for those who are rolling off the rolls, or those who are transitioning to SS.

Even as insurance, it doesn't not equal productivity, though, nor a living wage in many cases.

I believe the extensions are coming out of the trillion dollar stimulus bill. Or so brags Obama.

True story -

I was just over at a friends house (million dollar mansion), and one of his friends came over with some caviar he just bought with an EBT card. They were laughing about it. Your tax dollars hard at work.

For those not based in the US an 'EBT card' is what...?


They used to call it "Food Stamps". It's basically a government funded program to provide people with free food. I believe the stats in the US are 1 in 9 are now getting food credits.

Yea, I'm sure this story represents the common experience.

Welfare queens dressed in furs and driving brand new Cadillacs as well...

Way to shrug off the millions of folks who are poor...feel better now?

It may not be common, but it is all too common. I used to listen to a friend's extended family talk about the places to trade out food stamps for 50c on the dollar, and where to buy gov't cheese that "fell off the truck" before it got schools. Corruption and fraud is definitely endemic. Which is why I think a better system is needed....but I guess what we have makes as much sense as mailing $B to bankers if the goal is quantitative easing. Makes more sense, actually.

If one 'Rolls off the rolls' then one is leaving the unemployment rolls and not getting unemployment insurance. One can only 'roll into social security' if one is eligible (i.e. at least 62 1/2 for partial benefits, or disabled or a widow/widower under specified circumstances.

Yup, and that will happen to 1M people before Christmas, which is one reason I think the recession is far from over. Another million or more will subtract themselves from the workforce too -- not necessarily to head to soup lines, but in any case they won't be working anymore. Some will indeed head to SS.

".....i.e. at least 62 1/2 for partial benefits....)

that minimum is age 62.


I agree Elizabeth, and I also think the "time off" allows people to be a little choosy, permitting wages to not decrease as much as they might, and working conditions to not deteriorate as much as they might. Desperate people who have to get a job in 8 weeks or be assigned to something may well cause the job market to drop down a notch in terms of quality.

Also, from my vantage point seeing unemployed people in clinic, I can tell you that it is sometimes the most "vulnerable" - just a little depressed, or less go-getter, or the folks with a difficult situation at home (illness, perhaps) - who end up unemployed first (in general terms, I know there are random exceptions). No doubt a caring society would provide some additional support.

On the other hand, I can see where we might tie "extended" unemployment benefits to work assignments, because after all, the insurance aspect of it does not account for extending the deal (would we not have to increase the contributions/premiums if we did?).

The strongest argument to rework part of the unemployment benefit program is that "we" (here on TOD) understand that this is not a temporary situation, and we cannot expect to reasonably "roll back" unemployment anytime soon, so these stopgap measures extending benefits will run themselves into the ground in the absence of a robust "recovery" in the economy.

Ideally, the time off would allow people to do constructive things like grow gardens, fix the house, insulate, get to know the neighbors better... all things IMO in some ways more valuable than the wages. The part time wage helps keep one's head above water in the still necessary money economy.

Yes. A lot of the "convenience" we pay for is because we have so much less time. For people who have more time than money, it makes sense to grow their own food, cook from scratch, sew their own clothing, etc. Those may also turn out to be very useful skills if the global supply lines are cut.

During the Great Depression, Congress tried to pass a law mandating a shorter work week, in order to share what work there was. FDR vetoed it, calling it "socialism." But Kellogg did it anyway, and people loved it. They loved it so much that many people worked that schedule until they died or retired, despite Kellogg's offering them big raises to go back to a normal schedule.

I cut my hours by 20% two years ago. Saved the company money and gave me something far more valuable - time to be with my family and to prepare. We are now balancing income and expenditure, but we still have significant savings and habitually keep the bills down. We have also inherited some money will probably inherit more in the coming years. I just don't know what money will be worth by then...

Even more than they have been strip mining the countryside, industry has been strip mining families and communities.

I'd like to believe that the people who stayed on the reduced schedule realized the wisdom of the following maxim:

"Life's too short to give it all away to someone else!"


Perhaps you haven't noticed that in the U.S., unemployment payments are a form of insurance. That's paid for by the employer thru a tax contribution for each worker. The states administer the program.

One of the things that the DOL site doesn't make clear is that participation by states is not mandatory. At the present time all states do have conforming programs, mostly because the state taxes needed to run the programs are significantly lower than the federal taxes that would be levied if the feds did it. Here in Colorado, eliminating the state program would roughly triple the UI taxes collected from businesses.

Right now there are 6 unemployed people for every job opening. Eliminating unemployment benefits might motivate one of those six to take the open job, but what are the other 5 going to do with no job and no income? My guess is they are not going to curl up in a corner and starve quietly.

There is also the fact that 16.3% of US income is from government transfer payments (unemployment, social security, medicare, food stamps, etc). Consumer spending is around 70% of the economy, and that is high velocity money (as those people spend the money pretty much as soon as they get it). Without that money, I think you could knock about 15% off US GDP, and whether we were in a new Great Depression wouldn't be a topic of debate.

Living on the boundary of a low-income neighborhood, I witness that the people growing vegetable gardens are working middle-class folks, who like me, live on the boundary. The folks on food stamps do not have vegetable gardens, instead many smoke crack and drink beer as much as possible. Government assistance has it's place, but it should be short-term. If I was collecting unemployment for a year, I would be traveling the country with a backpack. If I was collecting unemployment for two months, I would find try to find a job.

I've always been of the mind that unemployment benefit is provided for the well being of the middle and upper classes not the poor. As someone above said, if you take 3 million unemployed (as in the UK) and tell them that you won't feed them or house them are they supposed to shrug their shoulders and go and get a job? What if there aren't any jobs - and there aren't at the moment. So instead the middle/upper class subsidize the civility of the poor through taxation so that the poor don't start causing trouble.

Rather than throwing people on the scrap heap when the economy can't keep them employed it would be a better idea to repatriate the jobs we have lost to other countries. Like I have been saying for eons now, globalisation and 'free markets' make the rich richer but at the expense of the poor - and poorly educated in particular. The theory was that all the hum-drum jobs were supposed to have been shipped off to the orient and we in the west would all get nice new shiny jobs in 'hi-tech' or pharma. Well a few things were brushed under the carpet:

1) it doesn't take so many people to invent a new microchip or pill than to build cars, smelt iron ore or work in textile mills or agriculture. These hi-tech industries simply could not never soak up the unemployed.

2) it may not be politically correct to say it but not everyone is bright enough to work in hi-tech etc. The very nature of the work in more intellectual rather than muscular. And it really doesn't matter how good the schooling system is either. Some people just can't do mathematics and computer science.

3) The rest of the world is not going to sit there content in doing the drudge work - believe it or not the Indians and Chinese are quite capable of doing the hi-tech etc jobs too.

So millions of workers have been made redundant over the last decades, millions more have joined the workforce and now the only jobs are in the 'service sector' which are all poorly paid and more importantly do not have the same satisfaction as working in a heavy industry. So now the western consumer has less money with which to buy the imported goods which they would have made a generation ago.

The single most destructive ideology ever to spread its tentacles around the globe has been globalization and its bed pall the free-market. And to any one who thinks we are better off now than before the world embraced this cancer just ask, are we really? How many adults in the household does it take now to pay the bills? How much CO2 is there in the atmosphere? How full are the landfill sites with our rubbish? How much 'progress' has been made exactly?

There are more billionaires than before globalization, which is the only relevant metric to those running the show.

As someone above said, if you take 3 million unemployed (as in the UK) and tell them that you won't feed them or house them are they supposed to shrug their shoulders and go and get a job? What if there aren't any jobs - and there aren't at the moment. So instead the middle/upper class subsidize the civility of the poor through taxation so that the poor don't start causing trouble.

And if the poor start causing trouble, we have lasers...

Air Force, Boeing test laser weapon

A plane at Kirtland Air Force base has been blasting some targets at White Sands Missile range without bullets or bombs. Instead, the plane employs a laser as its weapon of choice...

"This milestone demonstrates that directed energy weapon systems will transform the battlespace and save lives by giving war fighters a speed-of-light, ultra-precision engagement capability that will dramatically reduce collateral damage," said Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems.

The Air Force said the laser's precision could be especially helpful in urban environments where military targets are often surrounded by noncombatants.

Your Boeing article is a prime example of life imitating art, in this case the 25 year old film "Real Genius".

Here's a screenshot for those uninitiated with "Real Genius"

Kunstler would like to get his hands on one of these...

Is there an asymmetric laser program capable of eliminating belligerence, violence, and false doctrine?

new laser weapon ...save lives??? ...dramatically reduce collateral damage???

gag a maggot!!!

You can't both collect unemployment and travel -- at least in Oregon, every week, as you submit your claim, you have to state whether or not you actively looked for work and whether you were out of the area for more than 3 days. If you were, no benefits for you.

In Virginia years ago the local rules were that you had to apply for work at three places-that sure didn't take long once you had apps on file at three places that weren't hiring and checked back every week.I have no idea what the rules are now, but back then you could get in a fairly decent trip-you could leave on Monday after hitting your three stops and be gone until "Friday of next week" in the afternoon.

And some guys just put down thier search locations after a few trips knowing that who ever answered the phone would cover for them if any one ever asked.

What would you do if you were the receptionist at a business where a couple of dozen guys stop to ask for a job every day?Your boss wouldn't like it if you were gone off to fraud hearings half the time-so if anybody asks you say sure hes in and out of here looking for work.Is there a rule that I'm supposed to write it down each time?

And how pray tell can the state of Oregon know if you are at home or not?

Personally I wouldn't lie about going camping but if I did I would let my wife or girl friend sign the hotel or campground registers, buy gas with credit cards , etc.;)

There are lots of men and some women around who have learned to game the unemployment system rather well-you start by finding suitable seasonal work-such as with a small paving company-and you spend your winters reading ,hunting, loafing, or working on your house or non commercial farm.

Or you run some sort of word of mouth cash business such as interior painting (you've got all summer to line up jobs for later)or find an employer who wants to pay cash under the table-there are always some around if you are street wise and known as a reliable person who can keep his or her mouth shut.

We have all heard the old phrase "consider the source" If the subject was peak oil and the source was Michael Lynch or CERA, we would know what to expect. Likewise, concerning the economy, we know exactly what to expect from the Cato Institute. "Cut off all unemployment benefits and those deadbeats will have an incentive to get back to work".

Really, what else would you have expected from the Cato Institute?

Ron P.

Cato's solution to our transportation problems is to vastly increase the number of roads in the US (seriously, that is their proposal).

Cato's solution to our transportation problems is to vastly increase the number of roads in the US (seriously, that is their proposal).

LOL! Says it all really. A bit like advocates in the UK wanting to expand Heathrow. Never mind that air travel is going to be all but reserved for the very wealthy in the next 20 years.... let's build a new runway at Heathrow because the other runways can't cope! Sometimes one has to wonder about the intellect of these people. At least the British Conservative party are against it and in favour of a high speed rail link instead.

IMO peak roads are a year or two away and peak road maintenance is in the review mirror.

I think you're right about being past peak road maintenance. The roads in our area reached a point where they all needed repaving, but instead of that they now just repave the most damaged sections. As you drive along you see a patchwork quilt style repaved job that helps, but it certainly is a different look than I remember. Also, one must wonder if that technique will work. Won't the old sections between the paved sections now start to disintegrate and when they return to repave them, won't the overall expenditure be greater than simply having repaved all of it in the first place?

This is how I think the Interstate system will most likely end - not through some deliberate, agonizing decision, but just gradually by default.

Things will take longer and longer, and the roads will deteriorate more and more, before they get put on increasingly underfunded maintenance programs. More and more stretches of highway will see lanes blocked off for longer and longer times. Some stretches will be torn up, and then just left that way for months or years until they can get back to it and finish the job. Meanwhile, longer and longer stretches of highway will be down to single lane, crawling along at reduced speeds.

There will be more and more overpasses and bridges that will have to just be shut down awaiting repairs, each necessitating closure of entire stretches of highway and rerouting traffic around long detours. It will take longer and longer to get each of these repaired. Eventually, some will never get repaired. That stretch of highway will never be officially "abandonded", it will just be permanently too far down on the priority list to ever get repaired.

It will eventually get to the point where intact stretches of multi-lane highway running at "official normal" speed limits will become the exception rather than the rule. A little while longer and the exceptions will become only memories.

Somewhere along this time line, a tipping point is reached, and long-haul freight haulage by truck ceases to be worth doing. At that point, almost everything that is still being hauled long distances moves by rail or barge, or it doesn't move at all any more.

What will eventually become of the highways? They actually would make pretty good places to set up PV panels or wind farms. Or, they may just be left to become deteriorating ruins of another ancient empire.

I think there will still be maintained roads at least for the rest of my life. These are increasingly going to have to just be city streets and the older national, state, and county roads that mostly pre-date the Interstate system. These are roads that access homes and businesses, and are more needed than the Interstate roads are. We can live without the Interstates - we used to, after all. Things really do break down pretty much completely even if the secondary roads become impassable.

Hello WNC Observer,

Good post! I suggest SpiderWebRiding, as usual. Let the rich maintain the Full Cost of the roads that they seek to personally easy-motor on. We need to encourage the poor to cooperate together to build cheap webs, plus Alan's standard gauge ideas.

The poor will be happy to snow shovel a narrow gauge, 2,3-foot wide path for their mobility needs. They will be happy to easily maintain tracks with no heavy equipment required.

Force the rich to get out to hand-shovel the twenty-foot wide roads in winter for their mobility needs. Let the rich fill the potholes that they create. Let the rich pay for the heavy equipment to maintain their postPeak lifestyle. Just one winter of non-plowed roads will make even the rich want to join the web:


Two great links to stoke TOD imagination:


Additional thoughts:

Consider the DB toplink where the author claims personal electric vehicles will be very disruptive tech--SpiderWebRiding is just that much More disruptive as a person only needs to smoothly pedal on smooth rails, but 0.6 HP is certainly a nice kicker to ease the upslopes, as explained in prior postings.

A quick reversion, or is recursion a better word, to this ancient method, will be the ultimate in Thermo/Gene disruption:


Think WEB, or China and other countries are going to beat us by a huge strategic advantage:


You don't need rails to run your wheelbarrow on as long as you've got a donkey to pull it ... backwards!


Nice description!

I see things playing out that way too. A few days ago I was trying to describe our multi-factorial catabolic collapse to my sister-in-law. I put it like this:

Some day, forty years or so from now, we'll be sitting around reminiscing and someone will say, "hey, we haven't had the electricity on for six months now. I remember when we used to have electricity every day. But that was a long time ago. Maybe the shortages aren't 'temporary' like they've been telling us."

The psychological phenomenon of "creeping normalcy" (unconscious adjustment to slow change) will take care of the transition for us.

Yeah, they don't get it... They are even anti-rail...

High-Speed Rail: The Wrong Road for America

In the face of high energy prices and concerns about global warming, environmentalists and planners offer high-speed rail as an environmentally friendly alternative to driving and air travel. California, Florida, the Midwest, and other parts of the country are actively considering specific high-speed rail plans.

Close scrutiny of these plans reveals that they do not live up to the hype. As attractive as 110-to 220-mile-per-hour trains might sound, even the most optimistic forecasts predict they will take few cars off the road. At best, they will replace for profit private commuter airlines with heavily subsidized public rail systems that are likely to require continued subsidies far into the future...

In short, high-speed rail proposals are high cost, high-risk megaprojects that promise little or no congestion relief, energy savings, or other environmental benefits. Taxpayers and politicians should be wary of any transportation projects that cannot be paid for out of user fees.

Ok, even if this only replaces airlines it will use less fuel to transport folks by rail than airplane, and certianly less than by SUV (Graph here.)

Certainly the rail network in the UK should be studied as an example. In the 90s the (Tory) government privatised the entire netowrk: the rail infrastructure was owned by one company and then licenses for the operators were sold. The 'free market' approach completely failed. It was an absolute disaster and several years later the rail network was re-nationalised, leaving the train companies in private hands. One thing is certain: trying to make a profit from rail is nigh on impossible. It is hideously expensive and there is only so much the passenger is prepared to pay. Even with petrol prices above £1 per litre a 70 mile journey is still way more expensive than going by car. And the mathematical limit to the number of passengers on any one route at any one moment means that the whole operation has to be subsidized.

Much as I would love to live in a utopia with cheap, clean and frequent trains taking over from the cars it simply won't happen. That is not to say that trains aren't/can't be good value and provide a good service but they will never take anything but a fraction of the cars of the roads. The trick is to get people to travel less.... re-localize. And don't even try to move feight onto trains. The cargo still needs to get off the train and do the last few miles by road.

However, all the above is negated if we assume our utopia has a much smaller population, not a growing one like we have currently.

Much as I usually agree with your stances on things, I'll have to question this one. To accurately compute the actual, real cost of rail passenger transport versus car would be deviously difficult - and I say deviously because the current subsidy structures would give me opportunity to prove either case inasmuch as statistical proof goes unchallenged these days.

However, your pound a litre analogy completely disregards depreciation, maintenance, insurance, repairs and whatever subsidies to the road and car manufacturing systems that are more or less under the radar. The fuel cost has always been but a fraction of the total cost of car ownership and road expenditures.

If you do the whole analysis, you might find trains are cheap, clean and frequent. By your analysis maybe we should be eliminating subways too. Oh yeah, parking.

And British rail is not the only example we should be studying; after all, the Brits managed to squander their car industry through mismanagement, so if they can't make a rail system work, it's possibly endemic.

HAcland,I agree with most of your post however your comment on freight rail is certainly not applicable to nations like the US, Canada and Australia where freight haulage is often over hundreds or thousands of kilometres.This is where electrified long distance rail is the most effective in reducing fuel use and highway maintainance costs.

I'm with you 100% on most things, HAcland -- in fact I copied your comments on the pernicious effects of globalisation above into a quote for an esssay I'm writing -- but I think you're a bit muddled here:

The cargo still needs to get off the train and do the last few miles by road.

So what? Follow that reasoning, and all goods transport would be by fork-hoist. That would minimise transfers: straight from the end of the conveyor belt to the hypermarket shelf.

Goods transfer onto and off rail was poor in the past - a source of delay. The same applied to ships. In shipping, containerisation won over transporting goods by plane. In surface transport, trucks won over improving the rail system - aided by much political lobbying and, of course, subsidies in the name of "employment" and "growth". So transfer onto and off rail is still poor. It doesn't have to be, though.

An automated system of mini-containerised rail and electric delivery trucks appeals to me much more than the present system, and I can't see that it would be materially slower than the thermodynamically obscene system we have now. But the truck system is well entrenched, so it'll be impossible to replace it until trucking becomes infeasible for other reasons.

The stories of the UK and NZ rail networks merely demonstrate yet again that monopolies and private enterprise do not mix - or rather that the monopolists knew that they could avoid maintenance, cut services and run the system into the ground, because they could hand the resulting mess back to the taxpayer and run away scot free. So that's what they did, and we get to pay the bill for the "pound of cure" rather than the "ounce of prevention".

Well said.

The graph of incentive to work must be interesting.

At no income or low income the incentive to work declines as income is increased. At high income the incentive to work increases since that is the justification for large bonuses for bankers and such as well as high incomes in general.

If follows then that in between no/low income and high income there is a middle income group with flat incomes who have no incentive at all. It appears that the incentive to work graph is U shaped. And since most people are in the middle income level, they are indifferent to work because of stagnant incomes.

Might explain what is wrong with the economy or the economist.


The claim that unemployment insurance keeps people from applying for jobs is an old conservative line against "socialism". The trouble is, when there are 4 or 5 people applying for each job, that means there will be 3 or 4 who aren't going to get a job. When I was looking for work years ago, what little feedback I got suggested there were 15 or 20 people applying for each job which I tried to fit into. With statistics like that, it would seem to be a waste of time to even apply until the economy improves. As for the unemployed not taking lower paying jobs, well, there aren't lots of those these days either. The data indicates that teenage unemployment is higher than that for older folks, so when the older folks take the lower paying jobs, like flipping burgers, they are shutting the younger kids out of the market.

The business interests would dearly love to see unemployment insurance cut, since people would become desperate for any income and work for survival wages, as in China. Business people don't like the minimum wage either for the same reason. Keeping the wages of workers as low as possible and keeping them moving from job to job is good for individual businesses, since this keeps profits up. The trouble is, the workers are also consumers and the less the consumer has to spend, the less business can sell to them. In today's U.S. economy, the consumer makes up some 70% of GDP spending, so when the consumer is hurting, the result is a big problem. And, it costs money to move, so the workers that do so aren't going to have money to spend beyond food, rent and a car for quite a while. If the recession is just a temporary downturn, it would seem at first glance to be better to stay put until things pick up. But this time, it really is different and many of the layoffs appear to be permanent...

E. Swanson

I think we can all agree that a largely consumer-based consumption and service economy is an unsustainable one, so making a move back to one based on productivity makes some sense, right?

IMHO, having people employed is always a plus -- having millions of people idle isn't a recipe for success. The trick is to have enough jobs for everyone but an incentive for most to strive a bit harder to get a better one. You can't have a "living wage" for every job and expect people to work any harder than in a communist system or a bureaucracy -- guaranteed pay equals guaranteed sloth, for at least a modest fraction of the workers.

Nor does every teen or even every adult require a "living wage" with benefits and dependability -- many are making spending money or working part-time during school or picking up side work for a few bucks while the kids are at school, and they don't want jobs that require heavy commitments and dedication.

In the end, the productivity of the nation divided by the population equals the net consumption per capita -- if we want everybody to be able to have more, we need to get everybody to help produce more. Paying people to do nothing doesn't help -- it can't possibly do anything positive.

I think what we need is:

- Welfare for the infirm
- Low minimum wage for entry-level and piecemeal work (we pretty much have this now with waitress wages and minimum wage, but if deflation kicks in these may be too high)
- Living wage for full-time work -- enough for basic survival of a family of four at most.
- Market wages for everything else

Those who are capable and motivated will tend to quickly move up the ranks and climb the market ladder like always. Those who are slothful will dither at the bottom but be prodded by basic survival needs. The safety-net aspect should satisfy the social-minded, and the market incentives should satisfy the free-market advocates.

Surely there is some such compromise system that could satisfy most of us?

You proposal has not enough market and not enough socialism for my taste. Why should we choose between one and the other?

The biggest problem as I see it is that any discussion around employment naturally assumes a specialized consumer led economy. Let's face it, in the the US after WW2 the country was heavily dependent on consumerism - but people were consuming their neighbour's productivity and it worked fine. The money recycled within the country. Now it is patently odvious that it does not.

Looking back to the pre-industrial age in Britain, before people were forced off the land into the cities, no one was unemployed! In fact the term would have been non-sensical. Everyone in the household and vilage got out of their beds at first light and busted a gut until sun-down. Their produce was primarily consumed within the community. Sure, there was an artisan base and an engneering sector but these were almost entirely financed (patronized) by the landowners. Science and astronomy were the pursuits of the gentry, not the peasants.

Through out history and until the end of the world there will always be the poor who have to get up and sweat to earn a living and the uber-rich and powerful (who don't necessarily have to be unkind and uncharitable - the Cadbury family in the UK were very rich and very philanthropic but they did own half of Birmingham). The only way that a society can sustain a middle class, and therefore offer a modicum of social mobility is through consumerism. The middle class have to consume the products of the workers and in turn provide services to fellow middle-classers. Ex consumption and there is no middle class. The real issue is how do you take a large middle class and fold it back into the working class without mass riots. I don't reckon you can.

Well, we are going to find out soon enough.

Read some economic history.

Read some economic history

? I am fairly well versed in economic history! what's your point?

This whole discussion has a LOT of unproven economic hand-waving / prejudice and not much based on provable fact or hypotheses.

This whole discussion has a LOT of unproven economic hand-waving / prejudice and not much based on provable fact or hypotheses.

That's economics for you! Economics is an opinion at best, certainly not a science. And it usually helps to disclose one's own financial position in these discussions as opinion are always formed through personal experience. I am not blessed with over-flowing bank accounts and have to work harder and harder just to stand still. Someone with a million or two in the bank has choices and doesn't care what the price of milk or bread is.

What can absolutely not be in doubt is that the middle class - on both sides of the pond - are being squashed out of existence, while the rich are getting dramatically richer even while the worst recession/depression rages around us mortals. Capital is everything in capitalism. If you have some, and have a brain you can usually accumulate more. If you have none then the only way is to get in debt. Saving, other than short term saving, is impossible. Certainly saving enough capital to make a difference and give you a leg up the ladder.

EDIT: by the way, it is impossible to divorce economics from politics. The number of times I have read some 'economist' babble on about basis-points and interest rates and then jump to conclusions about growth and wealth amazes me. Politics and economics are two sides of the same coin and people - politicos - ignore this fact at their peril.

They ignore the connection between economics and politics because they are ignorant of history.
Political economy.........Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx...etc etc.

I've just begun reading "Capital as Power - A Study of Order and Creorder
By Jonathan Nitzan, Shimshon Bichler"

Conventional theories of capitalism are mired in a deep crisis: after centuries of debate, they are still unable to tell us what capital is. Liberals and Marxists both think of capital as an ‘economic’ entity that they count in universal units of ‘utils’ or ‘abstract labour’, respectively. But these units are totally fictitious. Nobody has ever been able to observe or measure them, and for a good reason: they don’t exist.

-- if we want everybody to be able to have more, we need to get everybody to help produce more.

But we don't "want everybody to be able to have more." People, in general, have too much as it is: too much to eat, too much cheap "stuff" cluttering up their lives, too many machines spewing carbon pollution. We want people on average to have less, to live lower impact lifestyles. We want people to only produce more of what's necessary: food, primarily, and the means of growing food. When something's produced energy is used, wastes are generated, entropy is advanced quicker. Hence, we only want production of necessities. No right minded individual cares about moving "up the ranks" or in "climbing the market ladder." That's hubristic ape thinking that has no place in an overpopulated, energy constrained world. Activity & striving have their costs. More of what you call "sloth" is in order, not less.

An overall standard of living, long-term, should be much more about capturing energy and preserving capital in the form of durable goods with modest waste and much less about consuming short-term goods with massive waste. Perhaps a better figure of merit is not in measuring what we consume, but minimizing what we throw away?

On the more animalistic side, I do believe that however destructive it is, people will strive to climb a ladder and some will pull down those above when necessary. What is optimal behavior and what will happen are two different things, IMHO -- and people are competitive. Sitting idly may be less harmful than some occupations, but doing something constructive is the more healthy pastime.

If people are essentially doing nothing but consuming calories, why should they exist at all?

If people are essentially doing nothing but consuming calories, why should they exist at all?

That's a damned good point. The world would have been a better place without Homo Sapiens, IMO...

"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move." - Douglas Adams

Perhaps a better figure of merit is not in measuring what we consume, but minimizing what we throw away?

I like that. My family and I "throw away" little. Anything that will rot is composted. Anything that will burn and not produce toxic fumes while burning, is burned for winter heat. Glass and some plastics are recycled, if not reused first. The only things "thrown away" (sent to the landfill) are mixed packaging materials that can't be composted, burnt or easily recycled. These materials shouldn't be produced in the first place and we try not to purchase things packaged in them, but sometimes still do. Hence, by paying the same fee for trash collection other people pay, while "under"utilizing the service relative to most people, we subsidize other peoples' wastefulness. I wish we could opt out of municipal trash collection & disposal altogether but the city charges the fee whether the service is used or not.

I do believe that however destructive it is, people will strive to climb a ladder and some will pull down those above when necessary.

Yeah, I suppose that apes will be apes.

Sitting idly may be less harmful than some occupations, but doing something constructive is the more healthy pastime.

Often the least harmful option is to do nothing. I agree that people should engage in constructive activity but much of the activity open to them in the job market is destructive rather than constructive. Better that people remain idle than engage in destructive activity. Devising destructive activity just to keep people occupied is counterproductive. There's not much to be done in regards to growing food in winter. The cold dark months are ideal for "sloth" & inactivity.

If people are essentially doing nothing but consuming calories, why should they exist at all?

Why indeed? We exist because our parents had sex and nothing has killed us yet. As far as I can tell, that's all there is to it.

My family and I "throw away" little.

"There is no 'away' to throw to." -- Garrett Hardin

I defined "away" as to the landfill.

"There is no 'away' to throw to." -- Garrett Hardin

I wonder how 'Murkans will react when there is no 'away' to flush to? Either insufficient water or sewage breakdown will be sufficient.

How will they feel if the rich neighbors, up on the hills, generously continue to lavishly flush 'away' until it starts backflowing into houses, yards, and streets [see Zimbabwe for details]? Water flows uphill to money, so unbelievable amounts of crap will continue to flow downhill postPeak, but it will just not flow to where most people think it should go..

As another TODer sarcastically said much earlier: "It just feels So Righteous, just So Damn Good to flush my crap away, so some poor bastard can enjoy its Full Glory from soup to nuts."

So get a composting toilet and a gun.
Bullets shoot up hill as well as water flows up hill and in the circumstance you describe they both will find the money.

In fact "sloth" could be the way to support the development of more "social capital", more art, music, civilization capital.

As a society, especially in the US, we have this nasty tendency to judge everything by a generic "productivity" standard.

When it comes to work, the main problem I see with assigning people work who have no choice but to starve, is to somehow make it meaningful, reasonably well-suited, and consistent with basic human dignity. I think this is why you find so many homeless people insisting they would rather live under a bridge than go to work under the conditions available to them.

Those are both quintessentially part of the human value, but also a luxury in terms of surviving.

Unfortunately, nobody ever said the world was fair, and it's going to become less fair. Liberal arts degrees cost just as much as an engineering degree, but the pay is a lot less for most!

Most of us don't work for "meaning" -- we work to pay for our house and raise our kids. Meaningful activities and arts are what most people do in the time they can afford to preserve.

That has not been true historically, though.

People in foraging societies work three hours a day, maybe less, in order to provide food, shelter, and clothing for themselves.

There really was no point in working harder, because there was no way to store wealth. You could hunt more meat or dig up more tubers...but any more than you could eat would just rot.

Hawaii was a horticultural society, much more complex, with a hereditary aristocracy and the inequality that goes with it. But they, too, didn't really have any way of storing wealth. Their staples were taro and sweet potatoes, which don't keep long in tropical conditions. The result was a society where people worked until the job was done, and saw no reason to work any more after that. This drove missionaries and employers crazy. The missionaries got especially upset at how lazy the women were. Since it was the men's job to produce and prepare all food items, the women spent a lot of time sitting around. Some workplaces have experimented with the "ukapau" system. ("Work fast and be done.") Rather than having regular shifts, people are allowed to leave as soon as they finish the work assigned for the day.

It has also occurred to me that it is so much easier to "share" wealth when it occurs mostly in the form of food. And I am sure "ukapau" also results in working smarter, doing something today that will save you a ton of work tomorrow.

One of the eskimo groups had a saying to the effect of, "The best place to store your extra food is in your neighbor's belly."

Some workplaces have experimented with the "ukapau" system. ("Work fast and be done.") Rather than having regular shifts, people are allowed to leave as soon as they finish the work assigned for the day.

Oahu trash collection, before the one-man air-conditioned automated trucks and color-coded bins they have now, turned out to be a sought-after job when they did this. The trash crews would race through a whole day's work between 6 and 8am and then hit the beaches. The effective hourly rate was very high, but the job got done.

That worked well for me as a kid in northern Ontario too, also working on a garbage truck. Fee for output jobs = fast work.

Some workplaces have experimented with the "ukapau" system. ("Work fast and be done.") Rather than having regular shifts, people are allowed to leave as soon as they finish the work assigned for the day.

I would love that kind of system to be implemented at my workplace. I've measured productivity rates for everyone on my team, and I'm 40% faster than the best of them (and over 300% faster than the worst...). I could go home after half a shift, and still get paid the full amount! :D
Even better, all the 'fuzzies' (we call them that due to their we-all-look-the-same-so-we-can-be-different hairstyles) would be working for 18 hours to get their work done. Justice! :D

what is your proposal for a living wage for a family of four?

There is already a number the gov't uses for poverty -- $22, 050.

For a "real" estimate it's a lot harder, and people have noodled on how to do just that for a long time. Here's a quote from 1938: "One which illustrates with particular clarity the social processes underlying the income elasticity of the poverty line was written in 1938 by Daugherty: "A standard budget worked out in the [1890's], for example, would have no place for electric appliances, automobiles, spinach, radios, and many other things which found a place on the 1938 comfort model. The budget of 1950 will undoubtedly make the present one look as antiquated as the hobble skirt." "

It's the same thing now, though Gallup has a "income to get by" question in their yearly polls. The best answer is about $60K for a nationwide average, though today that can easily mean two incomes.

Interestingly there have been times where the median income is less than some estimates of subsistence, even in America. And of course a true number varies by area.

In part that's why I think some employment incentives (fractional match funds to employers) to get employment to a target rate (say, the nominal 4-5% target we hear about) would make some sense. In areas with low unemployment little assistance is needed, as the market has worked out wages. In high unemployment areas all the boats could probably use some raising.

The data indicates that teenage unemployment is higher than that for older folks, so when the older folks take the lower paying jobs, like flipping burgers, they are shutting the younger kids out of the market.

Now we have gone from the lowliest jobs being burger flippers, to the job of standing on the street corner waving a sign advertising those burgers. What's the next job down the ladder?

Hello ET,

That is what is so confusing to me, especially with USA teenage unemployment rates so drastically high, not to mention growing parent unemployment.

When I was a kid, I considered my weekly allowance [in exchange for household duties] to be woefully insufficient. So I had a daily newspaper route on the very first day I was old enough to qualify, which was my eleventh birthday [continued daily until I was sixteen]. I also knocked on my neighbors' doors asking for work such as washing cars, raking leaves, mowing lawns, cleaning pools, etc. I also picked up any glass pop-bottles I could find, as back then they were worth deposit-money.

Yet, you don't see kids doing that at all today. Obviously, unemployed parents can't pay allowance, and many an employed single parent doesn't have sufficient disposable income to pay an allowance either. You would think that once school is let out for the day: all kinds of kids would be out door-knocking asking for work, but they are not. Yet, these kids seem to have plenty of money for Ipods, cellphones, computers, video-games, clothes, movies, etc.

Are parents and grandparents supporting these kids' lavish lifestyles? How? I am still confused. I have never had a cellphone or Ipod because I consider them a waste of time and money. I don't even buy music because a radio with free music is good enough for me.

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

The kids are posting ads on Craiglist, not knocking on doors. ;-)

The kids I know do work for neighbors...but they generally don't knock on doors. They get jobs through the neighborhood grapevine. Babysitting, cleaning the pool, housesitting, petsitting, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, etc.

Ipods get dissed a lot as an example of modern excess, and maybe they are, if recorded music itself is an unforgivable luxury when others are stricken by drought and starvation, but when I compare my ipod and pair of powered studio monitors to the gigantic stack of components, huge speakers, and many milk crates full of albums that I had 25 years ago, it all seems quite efficient and frugal by comparison, and when I buy new music, I don't have to drive anywhere, find shelf space for anything, or throw anything on the rubbish heap. Efficient. Frugal.

Assistant sign-holder? Water boy/girl for all the sign-holders?

Assistant Chief pencil sharpener technician for the committee deciding what color to paint the deck chairs on the Titanic before rearranging said chairs.

My grandfather (who never was given the chance at an education) used to threaten his kids with the job of stamp-licker at the post office. He would say to them: "Did you notice that guy at the post office standing with his tongue hanging out? This is the job you will be getting if you don't do your homework.".

That job is gone too, what with the self-stick stamps...

No wonder you're Paranoid:->

The current economic crisis is the result of the cheap money / easy credit policy that was the response to job losses, particularly in manufacturing, due to globalization. At the same time the developed countries populations were ageing (health care and social security expenses) and oil prices went parabolic.

The current depression did not end globalization, just as productivity improvements did not slow down during the 1930’s depression as agricultural mechanization and electrification continued to displace farm and factory workers.

The current situation will evolve into massive currency devaluations for developed countries, which will reduce globalization caused labor pressures; however, the resulting surge in oil prices (>$500/bbl) will destroy the transportation and discretionary spending sectors.

Kind of like entropy applied to global economics.
From the starting point of a very steep gradient.

The potential for wind-power to replace fossil fuels is there:


But is it do-able? Some say that wind & solar can replace only 20% 0f current energy usage ... but this guy (Lester Brown "Could Climate Change Topple Modern Civilization?") seems to indicate that the number is probably higher:
(From NPR’s Talk of the Nation’s Science Friday OCT 02, 2009 Broadcast)
(Also has a segment on wind farms and bats).

So who’s right?

20% or more?

Ignorant -- It may just be a matter of semantics. "Can" the alts replace a high percentage of FF? Of course they can...just build more. But is there the "potential" to do so? Sounds like two different questions with opposite answers: 1)are alts capable of doing the job and 2)will they be utilized to do so. In other words, will the public/economy stand for such a huge expense for the sake of climate? My instincts tell me no.

"...stand for such a huge expense for the sake of climate?"

It's not just the climate, but is it likely that we'll do it to avoid the full effects of Peak Oil?

Unfortunately that's not my bet. I see the American public going with using our economic/military strength to take from the weaker. Don't need to spend all that money on those fancy alts when we can just continue exporting democracy around the world. In return for some of their oil, of course.

But what about the very long term? After ALL fossil fuels are gone? Aren't any US citizens discussing that?

I have to wonder. The Obama administration is beating the war drum again, and chanting "Iran - Centrifuges - Terrorism - Iran - Centrifuges - Terrorism ....". I guess those Iranians will be happier once they get their oil liberated. Also, if you have a bunch of angry 20-somethings that are realizing that they have been lied to for 20+ years about essentially everything, the best way to solve that problem is to impose a draft and send them to go fight communism er... fight the taliban and find Osama er... find weapons of mass destruction no WMDs? find Saddam ummm.... Help set up a democracy YES! That's it! save us from those evil Iranians and their nukes.

As far as what Joe6pack thinks about the merits of invading some other country and giving them some McDemocracy in exchange for some oil vs. developing renewables? Who knows. Maybe they should just give Lockheed-Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, General Electric and Haliburton some nice wind farm contracts in North America?

Between the Israeli leak (a list of Russian physicists and engineers in Iran) and the US leak (Iran is close to being ready to build a bomb, per the IAEA), the ante has officially been upped. For the Israelis to tip their hand means they know what they needed to know, and they see two ways out: Russia either sells out Iran (for what in return?) and Iran is forced to open up their nuke programs and face sanctions, or Israel/US will take action soon.

Obama is seen as being overwhelmed with issues at home plus Afghanistan, and Russia has been flexing muscles for years, so it's not clear why they would change positions unless the Russians in Iran were not there with official support. Unless the missile-shield capitulation in Poland was a bribe to get Russia to flip on Iran, Obama looks as though he's being backed into a corner. Everybody (Russia, China, EU, etc.) is more or less on Iran's side, but we know absolutely that Israel will not let Iran go nuclear.

So, I surmise the reason that Afghanistan isn't getting troups and Iraq is being wound down is that there is worry of a bigger fight coming. With 60% of public support already in place, and an economic re-collapse in the offing, SOMETHING is going to happen to Iraq pretty soon.

I think I hear wings. Hmmm...sounds like a swan?

Hi I have been trying to keep up to date on the Iran/nuke scaremongering and may have missed IAEA statment. But when have the IAEA said Iran is or will soon be capable of building a Bomb.
Iran have definatly said they will no longer hold Dollars as foregin currency reserves and will not be taking Dollars for their Oil.
The last country to do that was Sadam !
Anyway it is not ilegal to have nuclear weapons, ask Israel.The US soon lost intrest and stoped thretening North Korea when they announced they had the Bomb. Not that I am advocating Iran go Nuclear. I think they should play the US/Israel along untill the Dollar Implodes.

[...]SOMETHING is going to happen to Iraq pretty soon.

Did you mean to say Iran?

My nephew thinks the current US wars are being utilized to "veteranize" its military forces... in preparation for things to come. It's a sobering prospect.

No lengould. IMO 99.9% of Americans don't give a damn about life more than 40 or 50 years out.

I'm 31, and I'm looking at the next 40 +- 10 years of life as not being pretty for me... And yes, unfortunately as long as my kids are OK beyond that, it is the timeframe I think out to. Probably selfish, but I am being brutally honest.

As someone the exact same age, I concur!

Part of me really wonders if I'm going to linger so long in this world where the living envy the dead.

If that long. Some behavioral economics work in "hyper discounting" suggests that people in general have trouble planning more than 10-15 years ahead. Speculation is that this is an evolutionary development, since until the very recent past, that was pretty much the typical adult life expectancy. Similarly, planning "for my children" appears to be a relatively recent development, again because the odds were low on any particular child surviving.

Anecdotally, a couple of acquaintances that do financial planning tell me that they have enormous difficulty getting people to take retirement planning seriously until they reach about 45-50 in age.

Some behavioral economics work in "hyper discounting" suggests that people in general have trouble planning more than 10-15 years ahead.

Even discounting the evolutionary rationale behind this, it is hard to criticize Americans for being this way. How can anyone realistically "plan" 10-15 years out when there are so many go**amned variables to deal with that we have no control over?

--Will there still be some semblance rule-of-law when I retire (or should I spend all my savings right now before it is confiscated from me)?
--Will the Congress and the Fed inflate my savings/investments to near-zero, in order to pay for unfunded Wall Street bailouts, Medicare, S.S. and other liabilites they cannot pay any other way?
--Will I get sick when I have no health insurance and be forced to liquidate all my hard-earned savings to pay medical costs (vs. spending it all right now while I and my family can enjoy it, and then go on the dole)?

When you look at it this way, a spendthrift lifestyle does not seem so reckless after all.

Yup. that's what empires do.

I agree.

I live in a poor neighborhood. When gasoline hit four dollars a gallon in the U.S., there were bicycles everywhere, and not a stitch of Spandex in sight - people simply could not afford to pay for discretionary gas use. And discretionary took on new meaning. More broadly around the city and state, a very large number were trying sell off their big a$$ trucks. Of course when fuel prices and other things recessed, this trend declined as well. People around me blamed price gouging by greedy oil companies, or if they were a little brighter, commodities speculation for the high fuel prices. Few blamed a peaking supply. I'm surrounded by the "stand aside you communist environmentalist wackos and let us drill" crowd. They think there is plenty of oil in U.S. territories.

I think all of this will change radically when permanent petroleum scarcity is no longer deniable even inside the media fueled hologram of the collective U.S. unconscious.

When it sinks in that the petroleum era is terminal, and disruption and discomfort begin to set in, things will change quickly. First off, discretionary fuel consumption will plummet, and non-discretionary use will consolidate. This will be price driven of course. Guzzlers will be parked. Bikes will be dusted off. Buses and trains, for those lucky enough to have them available, will be full.

Next, will come the conscious and deliberate quest for efficiency. Efficiency will become chic. We haven't ever really made a serious effort towards efficiency, and when we do, enormous gains will be made. We know how to build a net zero house. We know how to build a passive house. Whatever home construction market that survives will offer no other models; no one will want anything else. Popular support for energy development will shift strictly to renewables, regardless of politics. It will be a matter of "fool my once" perspective, as people will no longer believe in the mantra of "centuries of oil, coal, uranium, tar sands, oil shale, whales, and liposuctionol left - nothing to worry about - keep shopping!". If it isn't a permanent solution to the cacophony of crisis pounding us down, we won't be willing, or able, to fund it.

The Greater Recession may solve the climate problem.

Eventually the Interstate Highway System will rot, as others have described, but they will make handy right of ways for the ascendant Roads to Rails movement. Cities will be connected by rail, as they should have been in the first place, and urban and suburban trips will be made using human and electric powered vehicles, and transit. Our cities will become civil once again as people stumble from their cars and blink in greeting at one another as they pass on now calmed and quiet human centric streets. Slowly the memory of raised fingers and launched F-bombs in the solipsistic ejaculations of autotoxic culture will fade, and community will re-emerge.

Of course none of this will happen if we conquer fusion, or any other form of unlimited energy. If we do that, there really is no hope for the current biosphere, if any still exists now.

A couple core beliefs:

1. No one can predict the future.
2. Armed gangs will not go hungry.

We live in interesting times.

I agree completely Lynford. Which is why me and my posse is always packin'.

Like D.D., I tend to get pretty wound up in dismay over the impact of humans on the biosphere, but sometimes I can zen out with the thought that just because humans are aware of our impact on the planet, to whatever degree we are, doesn't mean we are responsible for it. Nature wrought us. Nature reaps us. Maybe it is just my anthropocentric view, but the current extinction event seems much more interesting than a bolide impact, or volcanism. As far as the ecology is concerned, it's sixes eh?

And I get to watch it all in H.D. What are the odds?

Maybe next time it will be the Bonobos that get the brain trust and the story will play out a little better.

Still predicting futures here. Hard habit to break.

What will be the global effects of sucking a large amount of energy out of weather systems? While I freely admit that I don't know (though I suspect the effects will not be good), I'm quite certain the people advocating wind power on a large scale don't know either.

Good Point!

On the contrary it is quite easy to calculate the percentage of global wind energy that any given expansion of wind turbines would catch. It is tiny, and dwarfed by the increase in wind energy expected from global climate change.

I don't have exact figures to hand - but I have them at home.

yes, it's tiny and makes a lot of sense, particularly when the alternatives spew CO2.

however, I'm not sure a warming planet will have higher average winds. Since the warming will be disproportionately larger at higher latitudes, that may make for a lower large-scale temp difference, and the temp difference is what drives winds.

'course I may be wrong, just slipping back into high school science-teacher mode.

Yes, my understanding (such as it is) is "more variable", not necessarily different on average.

So instead of 10 days of 20 mph wind, it'll be eight days of flat calm and two of 100 mph wind. ;-)

Hmmm, interesting. How does this square with the rapid polar temperature rises that are reducing the overall equatorial/polar temperature gradient significantly? I've not heard anyone suggest that there will be an overall increase in wind energy available for productive use globally; rather, there is an expectation of more extreme weather events with cataclysmically high winds, but that's like offering a man suffering from thirst the chance to strap a firehose to his mouth and turn it on -- not exactly useful.

Do you have any links for your suggestion about increased available wind energy?

This surface temperature gradient reduction undermining baroclinicity is an example of reversing cause and effect. The tropics are getting hotter relative to middle latitudes and there is no chance that the middle latitudes are going to dominate the tropics as a heat reservoir. So, the subtropical jets are not getting weaker and are in fact getting stronger especially on the subtropical flanks of the tropopause since the stratosphere is cooling. Warming temperatures at the poles (which will always remain cooler than the tropics) simply have no bearing on the evolution of the subtropical jets, which are around 30 degrees from the equator. The additional heat in the tropics is increasing the intensity of baroclinic eddies as one would expect in order to have more poleward heat flux. This additional poleward heat flux will reduce the mid to high latitude temperature gradient at the surface. Note that the subtropical jets are associated with the Hadley circulation and are distinct from the middle latitude jets, which are eddy driven.

You don't even need numbers to see how miniscule the captured wind energy is to the whole.
Just think of the tiny cross section of the atmosphere that is interfacing with the turbines.
it is a very small fraction of 1%.

I participated in Lester Brown's hour long call in which he touted his new book and his ideas.

He has lots of good intentions, but to me, his plans were way too optimistic to be in any way doable. He talks not only of a huge ramp up of wind turbines, but also a huge ramp up of electric cars. He talks about reducing global warming gasses by 80% by 2020.

As I see it, in order to integrate a huge amount of wind into the grid, we would have to both add a lot of electrical storage and a lot of electrical transmission. Perhaps this could be done if it were the country's only priority, but I can't see it happening.

Whether or not the investment would really be worthwhile depends on a person's view of how long wind turbines would last. In my view, wind turbines are "Fossil fuel extenders". If fossil fuels decline, as I see it, we will not be able to keep up the whole system that wind turbines are part of (including natural gas generation, paved roads, and repairs of wind turbines), and in a few years, wind turbines will become as worthless as any other infrastructure that is part of a system that cannot be maintained.

Lester Brown thinks differently. In his words, if we install wind turbines, we will be investing in something that "Lasts as long as the world itself. All we have to do is replace worn parts." But as I see it, replacing worn parts and keeping wind turbines in good repair requires specific materials and precision tolerances. Otherwise, vibration will shake the turbines apart, because of the high speed at which they operate. We can't just have someone make a part from, say, a recycled automobile trunk, and stick it in and have it work. Also, if we don't have transmission lines in good repair, or adequate natural gas backup, wind turbines become much less useful.

FWIW, if I were installing wind turbines, I would be configuring them to produce nitrogen fertilizer, so that if the grid were not available, the wind turbines would have a use apart from having to be hooked to a grid that may not last.

I'm just now listening to Lester in the NPR piece. I agree he is an eternal optimist. But he took an early stand on saving the civilization we have now (by substitution of alternatives for fossil fuels) and he probably is committed to the thesis.

I stand by my blog of a few days ago Why scaling up alternative energy sources won't work. The financial and political barriers, and the fact that building out the turbines and infrastructure required has to be based on fossil fuel-based energy vs. the grasp of the citizenry of the scale of the problem will very likely prohibit any plan to save our current life style in the US, or what is desired in China/India.


Lester Brown is flat out lying but he doesn't care. He's a eco-fanatic on the GW (and ethanol) and wants the clock to run out on fossil fuels.
But he will leave us screwed because there's no preparation for peak oil.

This is where TOD could do some good (by fact checking this clown, Lester Brown) but doesn't.

OMG, Forget about the damn fertilizer!

I appreciate your viewpoint, but I disagree with your conclusions.

Wind turbines do not operate at particularly high speeds. Certainly significantly less than the speeds of components inside an ICE, electric train motors, or industrial cooling fans, and they go for quite some time with little maintainence. Maintainence of the turbines would not be a big deal if we planned ahead: paved roads are not strictly necessary because we can build multi-ton ATVs. Diesel to fuel them is also not required if we use Ammonia Fuel Cells, Ammonia-fueled ICE's, Battery-electric, or even external combustion (chop down some trees on your way, feed them into the boiler) operation. High speeds are also not required (since the loss of a handful of turbines at one time is not a catastrophe) and so the energy requirements for component transport is significantly lower. Many components could be made or assembled locally if 'lowest cost' wasn't an issue.

I'd rig the wind farms to switch from producing electricity to producing something like Ammonia during times of excess generation, though, agreed.

UN warns of 70 percent desertification by 2025

Seriously? That has got be a joke, right? Up from currently 41%?

If that comes true then human kind is extict! Taken together with the ocean acidification report yesterday and there is no way we could feed 7+ billion people. Am I missing something here? This can't be correct.

Why are comments like this just nonchalantly reported when they contain such dire consequences for the planet if true?

I ask again: am I missing something? This would surely be a game changer for the human race and they reckon it could be just 15 years away?

Wikipedia says currently 33% and that desert = 10 inches or less per year rainfall.

I agree, that sounds a bit overwhelming..a more than doubling in 15 years. But maybe some lands will just go from 15 inches a year to 10 inches. What really matters to food security is arable land and available irrigation, I would think.

Their figure is for areas affected by drought, not deserts.

But you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.
Bob Dylan

Living without oil, possible. Living without water, not so much.
Think of the bright side there will be a lot fewer people using up limited resources.
Enjoy your remaining 15 years ;-) [/sarcanol off]

While I don't doubt there are serious issues with droughts around the world I'd still like to see some of the actual data and not some possibly quote mined blurb. I've learned not to trust any journalist's interpretation of reality.

BTW there is no doubt that humankind will go extinct, what remains to be seen is when and if our individual deaths will just be what happens to all life at the end of its normal cycle or if we are indeed going to be part of a mass extinction and die off. We certainly are living in interesting times.

Bob Dylan wrote many great songs. Eve of Destruction is not one of them.

I would not dismiss the report as a joke. You are probably missing the data. The UN generally doesn't engage in comedy though some will surely argue the point. I briefly scanned a couple of articles that said little. I did go to the source and haven't yet found the official press release. Still looking.

That said, it is really hard for those of us in wet temperate zones to relate with real drought. Hey Atlanta, remember 2007? Did anybody have to pack up their bindle sticks and move? I'm going to keep poking around here for clarification:


There's no data about the future. Rapid climate change means extrapolations from the past have little predictive power. So yeah, skepticism is definitely called for. They're trying to predict precipitation even though no one can predict temperature. Maybe they have a Nobel coming...

Hi HFat,

There seems to be a lot of data about desertification available and though I'm just looking at summaries it seems like poor land use and climate changes already happening are the culprets of current issues.

In yesterday's DrumBeat I posted an article regarding the Met Office report. We may see a catastrophic rise in global temperature of up to 4°c within 50 years, certain areas of North America may rise by 10°c.

Climate change can change weather patterns, no rain = desertification. Here in Bourgogne you can count the number of days with rain during the last 2 to 3 months on one hand. Today, October 5th, it was 25°c. Rain was forecast for today, but nothing fell. I've no doubt widespread desertification could occur very quickly with weather disruption caused by climate change. Just look at the areas of the world affected by draught this year; Argentina, Australia, East Africa, South Africa, China, North America, India to name but a few.

These are large countries. India, for example, has parts suffering serious flooding as I type.

My local town has had 7 1/2 inches of rain in the last nine months. That puts it at borderline desert, but the grass is still green.

(The forecast is for heavy rain at last! in the next 24 hours).

I do expect serious effects from climate change, but we have seen very little yet.

A counterintuitive aspect of increasing desertification is increased severity of floods. The vegetation is no longer there to slow down the passage of water, so runoff peaks are higher.

UN warns of 70 percent desertification by 2025

Seriously? That has got be a joke, right? Up from currently 41%?

Only 70%? That number seems rather optimistic to me:

A child's treasury of global drought news

Great info, but obviously very worrisome and tragic news--Thxs for your Peak Outreach efforts. Some wicked this way comes...but most 'Murkans are still trapped in obsolete belief systems.

If that comes true then human kind is extict! Taken together with the ocean acidification report yesterday and there is no way we could feed 7+ billion people. Am I missing something here? This can't be correct.

Of course it can't be correct. Humankind is immortal. We will never go extinct. When we've used up this planet it's our manifest destiny to "boldly go" forth & populate the galaxy. There's probably plenty of wet space rocks orbiting yellow stars out there for us to exploit. We will figure out the technological difficulties. Always have, always will. Limits are for transcending. After all, we're made in God's image and can do no wrong.

You misunderstand. It isn't that your viewpoint is wrong, it is simply irrelevant.

Today, I live.

No, my viewpoint, as expressed in the post, is wrong, as well as being irrelevant. Sorry you misunderstand sarcasm.

I suspect that R4ndom referred to your expressed view of imminent extinction - and in a sense that is irrelevant. You may be right, but at 46 I will not live long enough to find out. If it turns out you were correct about a near term extinction, then I will have toiled my life in vain, never even knowing what happened. That's a pretty good definition of the human existence. So it is not that your ideas are necessarily wrong, just that they are not useful. And I say that as someone who appreciates your writing.

What can be more relevant & useful than possessing an outlook grounded in the biophysical reality of our time & situation? I often see the expression "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" referred to here on TOD. To my mind, that's about all this talk of building wind farms & electrified rail & making "preps" amounts to. Refraining from futile if not downright counterproductive frenetic activity appears "not useful" to those frightened by their prospects, and the prospects of their kids, I suppose. When confronted with the prospect of catastrophe I suppose that it's human nature to want to "do something" about the situation, even though there's nothing that can be done about it and attempting to do something about it is only apt to make the situation worse. Apparently, acting "as if" something can be done about it is more "relevant" and "useful" than is accepting the truth. What amazes me is how deep the denial goes. The PO cognoscenti have "worked through" the denial they see in others regarding resource depletion issues, yet still have quite a ways to go when it comes to population, agro-ecosystem, biogeochemical cycling dynamics breakdown, climate change, mass extinction, etc., issues. Pointing out these limits of acceptance by mocking technocopian idealism, or by other means, is eminently worthwhile, if you ask me.

I was indeed responding to the obvious sarcasm in your post.

We can only prepare for the things that we can prepare for. There is no way to prepare for imminent human extinction any more than there is a way to prepare for your own death.

Therefore extensive contemplation of the subject serves no purpose.

Unless your purpose is to depress others, and convince them that there is nothing that should be done.

After all, why should I care how many birds my cats kill if we're not going to be around to enjoy the birds in a few short years?

I was indeed responding to the obvious sarcasm in your post.

Yes, I recognize that now and apologize for having missed your intent initially.

Unless your purpose is to.. convince them that there is nothing that should be done.

Part of my purpose is indeed to convince people that nothing can be done and hence nothing should be attempted lest a bad situation be made worse via futile & counterproductive efforts.

..why should I care how many birds my cats kill if we're not going to be around to enjoy the birds..

Because it isn't about you. Those birds are integral components of ecosystems the functionality of which is vital to all biotic components including humans. Furthermore, those birds have intrinsic value in and of themselves, regardless of any "utility" function they may serve as components of ecosystems.

For someone who invokes Darwin in his handle you miss this one so horribly:

As humans the birds only have utility as far as they help us survive. They might disagree with this assessment, but they only get to vote by trying to avoid being eaten.

If I have to eat the last living eagle (or the last living cat) to survive I will do so. Raw if necessary.

Yes, it is selfish.

No, I have no inclination to overcome that selfishness.

In the more temperate times we currently have I have the luxury of planning and trying to set things up so it doesn't come to that. I'm not very good at it, but I do the little bits that I can reach and try to reach a bit further.

Odd that you write "There is no way to prepare for imminent human extinction any more than there is a way to prepare for your own death."

My wife and I put together and taught a class at our UU church that we called "Preparing for Departure." The participants (including us) examined a lot of issues surrounding likely death scenarios that people in the US might expect to encounter. We helped the participants plan and prepare for the following:

1) Sudden accidental death while young and previously healthy (archtypes: falling off the roof while reroofing, auto wreck or skiing accident, etc.)

2) Relatively rapid death following brief illness (involving hospitalization or medical response but not so long as to involve long-term care)

3) Death following chronic illness (protracted diseases like cancer and AIDS that typically leave functioning intact for some lengthy period when the sufferer will have significant long-term care and medical needs.

4) Death following long periods of debilitation with high care needs (such as a long period of living on a ventilator after a car wreck, later stages of ALS, some stroke victims, etc.)

5) Death of frailty -- you just get old and eventually wear out. Ideally this is the "go to sleep and just not wake up one day" (but of course people tending towards this outcome can find themselves switching to another track quickly -- the fatal fall on ice or the sudden stroke of a 90 year old, etc.)

These scenarios all place different burdens on the survivors and offer the victim more or less (or no) opportunity to make preparations, but there are definitely things that can be done before one has a departure track known.

While teaching the class, I kept wanting to bring more discussion in about peak oil and its implications, as this is something that keeps me up nights (my wife works in the long-term care system for old people and the disabled young); pretty much there's a whole huge sector of society that is making massive plans for providing elder care that depend on abundant cheap energy (not to mention climate stability). Still, there are things that can be done to prepare one's self and loved ones for a journey towards any of those departures.

Nice point, but what do you do to get yourself ready for the morning after you die?

By definition all the preparations one makes when facing personal mortality are to take care of the people left behind.

If things get so bad that we are facing extinction then individual and small group survival instincts will take over in small pockets all over the world. People will forget the finer goals of preservation, if they ever knew them to begin with.

The fact is there are few people that care about other species as deeply as they care about other humans, and barring plague on a scale never before seen the survivors at each stage will do whatever is within their power to remain survivors.

That's how we got this far, whether it is good or right, and if we go out it will be clawing and biting the whole way.

You write as if it is a given that clawing and biting are small group survival strategies, although anthropology suggests that cooperation and sharing are at least as prevalent and maybe more successful ones.

Again, my wordsmithing pales next to Yeats.

In plainer language then:
Individuals and groups aren't going to just lay down and die. They are going to do everything within their ability to survive.

There will, of course, be a full spectrum of strategies tried.

But in the end, in the resource-limited collapse scenario that Darwinsdog likes to noise about, we will eat everything we can reach before we die out as a species.

I hope you can now see why I do not buy into his theory, apart from considering it unlikely. It is in conflict with many of his other statements by my evaluation, and really not at all useful.

A possible alternative is being "raptured" before the crisis breaks in a personal way.
Many are no doubt counting on a rapture.

Me too - and I hope they leave soon.

Sarah Palin beleives in the rapture... Er, wait, where did she and her husband go? Heard they were unemployed... Or gone or something.

I believe the seven million dollar advance for her upcoming book is part of the story ... and now for the rest of the story. You're going to cry and yell and stomp and swear the source is not ligit. It's kinda like Liberace's brother cried all the way to the bank that people called his brother a queer. Liberace might have been before your time ... anyway here is the link.


Nouriel Roubini list a litany of reasons why the recovery will be U shaped instead of a V. The CNBC guy says it looks more like Roubini is describing an L rather than a U.

Roubini's Outlook Video

Nouriel Roubini, chairman of RGEMonitor.com, said the markets moved too far, too soon, too fast. He shares his outlook with CNBC.

Ron P.

Looks 'ellish to me , too. With maybe a drooping lower lip as well.

IOW, a replay of the Great Depression. There was a (partial) recovery in 1931 before the real depression set in.

New rare-earths find in Greenland, good news for NdFeB supply presumeably, although time will tell I'm sure:

Greenland challenge to Chinese over rare earth metals


Hello Crobar,

Let's hope that this will be the most enviro-conscious mining ever done, else we may indeed make it mostly Rare Earth for very few of us to stand on.

I can picture the top execs saying, "Let's spread the dark ore residue very thinly atop the Greenland ice-sheet. This way we get maximum free-melt to power the hydro-generation so we can leverage personal profits to the maximum. We don't care how many people [or species that go extinct] that will be ultimately forced to move in-land due to rapidly rising sea-levels--this migration will create huge markets for products requiring Rare Earth minerals."

Malawian boy uses wind to power hope, electrify village

Kamkwamba was kicked out of school when he couldn't pay $80 in school fees, and he spent his days at the library, where a book with photographs of windmills caught his eye.

"I thought, this thing exists in this book, it means someone else managed to build this machine," he said.

Armed with the book, the then-14-year-old taught himself to build windmills. He scoured through junkyards for items, including bicycle parts, plastic pipes, tractor fans and car batteries. For the tower, he collected wood from blue-gum trees.

"Everyone laughed at me when I told them I was building a windmill. They thought I was crazy," he said. "Then I started telling them I was just playing with the parts. That sounded more normal."

There's a book about him. I recently ordered it, but haven't had a chance to read it yet.

I read the story and thought it was a good example to underscore the issues of wants vs needs and why I think the argument that some sort of technological civilization is possible with renewable energy is a valid one.

How many emperors of ancient times had windmills that produced light?

I don't think we are going back to whale oil. Though hogging of resources by the maintaining of BAU crowd will probably be frowned upon by those less fortunate.

Limits to growth

Oh and let's not forget that only a very small percentage of the US population actually controls those resources. We could start by putting all of them on a nice reservation with barbed wire around it for their own protection.

All the technological civilizations that existed before us were based on renewable energy. And some were quite complex.

I haven't read the book yet - just got it this weekend - but it sounds like he's reliant on spare parts from industrial civilization. I think such recycling will become quite common, but can it go on forever?

Windmills are fairly low-tech, and have been used in the past to pump water. Wire is difficult to make in a low-energy world, because it takes a lot of energy to create. It's possible, though; wire was made thousands of years ago, often for use in jewelry. The light bulb is probably the trickiest. Like wire, glass takes a lot of energy to make. (Which is why the Bible equates its value with rubies and gold.) Never mind the filament and the rest.

Generating electricity in a low-tech manner with industrial civilization's refuse is not a problem, but what good is the electricity without devices to use it? Manufacturing an energy-sucking incandescent bulb is complicated enough, never mind a fluorescent tube or a LED.

With no offense intended, please define "technological" as you are using it here. And was the technology in those societies broadly available to the population, or was it restricted to a small group of elites?

You're right about glass and energy; some historians believe that the adoption of glass windows by the upper class in England (the top few percent in terms of wealth), and the resulting demand for charcoal used in its production, was a significant contributor to deforestation of the island.

Note to self: invent a solar glass kiln.

I meant technology in the usual dictionary sense of the word. The Minoans had flush toilets and a primitive printing press. Romans are still renowned for their engineering.

And was the technology in those societies broadly available to the population, or was it restricted to a small group of elites?

Hard to say. Probably only the elite got to dine in Nero's rotating dining room, but everyone benefited from the clean water delivered by Roman aquaducts.

In any case, it's not like our technology is broadly available...especially if you consider the entire world as part of our global supply chain.

Interesting perspective.

Rome's civil engineers got a lot of mileage out of inventing good concrete. However, there is certainly room to question whether Roman technology was sustainable: deforestation was a problem, along with flooding and harbor silting from increased runoff and erosion. Arguably, much of the ongoing military expansion of the Empire was necessary to expand food production, including various unsustainable farming practices, in order to support the population of the inner Empire. The city's population peaked at about a million people. Estimates are that 500,000 of those were slaves that provided the brute muscle power necessary to keep things running.

I'll bet a small beer that 75% of today's world population would define "technological society" -- your original phrase -- to include at least electricity and a bunch of the things that run off of it.

Well, that's kind of my point. I think the complex civilizations that existed in the past are sort of a "ceiling" for what we might hope for on a solar budget. If they were not sustainable, it doesn't matter...they're still a ceiling.

I don't know about that.

The electric motor and generator were invented in the 1820's and the knowledge of how to make one, while not universal, is quite widespread.
The equivalent steam engine to that first electric motor was recorded by the ancient Greeks, and the first somewhat practical steam engine was invented in 1689, almost a century and a half before the first practical electric motor.

There is no material requirement for an electric motor/generator beyond those necessary for the steam engine. It is purely a matter of knowing how to put the pieces together.

This means that we have (at minimum) one significant and durable edge over the ancient Romans for running on solar and kinetic inputs.

There is no material requirement for an electric motor/generator beyond those necessary for the steam engine. It is purely a matter of knowing how to put the pieces together.

This is where I disagree.

It takes more than knowledge. It takes an environment that makes it practical to do such things.

But the environment to make the wires required for electric motors is nearly identical to the one needed to make the tubing, well fit pistons and high pressure vessels required for steam engines.

In fact, the base infrastructure requirement to make a decent steam engine is *greater* than what is needed to make a decent electric motor, and practical steam engines have been produced since the 17th Century. We just didn't understand electricity well enough to understand that we could make electric motors until the 19th century, and that cat is well and truly out of the bag now.

If you're asserting a pre-17th century level of infrastructure capability after a collapse, I'd say you need to support the assertion.

Oh and let's not forget that only a very small percentage of the US population actually controls those resources. We could start by putting all of them on a nice reservation with barbed wire around it for their own protection.

Didn't the Germans do that back in the 1940's when they wanted "Lebensraum" (Engish translation: 'living space')? And how did that work out...?

Gecko, methinks you may have missed the dripping sarcasm...

Even more pertinent to our current situation would be this graph (now, *there's* a 'hockey stick' for ya!):

Limits to growth

I read the story and thought it was a good example to underscore the issues of wants vs needs and why I think the argument that some sort of technological civilization is possible with renewable energy is a valid one.

Yes, a civilization that uses electricity but no fossil fuels is certainly possible. Technically. No argument there.

The tricky part is how to get there from here. I have yet to see a convincing reasoned argument that the transition is likely, or even a one-in-ten chance. I can't think of one myself, despite long weeks trying.

How many emperors of ancient times had windmills that produced light?

Uh, we don't have windmills that produce light, either. We have windmills that produce electricity. When you combine them with an elaborate materials-extraction and manufacturing apparatus that produces light bulbs and the myriad other parts of an electrical infrastructure, you can get light.

Bricolage built on the detritus of this infrastructure is not the basis of a civilization.

Uh, we don't have windmills that produce light, either. We have windmills that produce electricity. When you combine them with an elaborate materials-extraction and manufacturing apparatus that produces light bulbs and the myriad other parts of an electrical infrastructure, you can get light.

Noooo! are you serious? I thought we already had bioluminescent living breathing self reproducing windmills that could dance to music.

Bricolage built on the detritus of this infrastructure is not the basis of a civilization.

Why is it that some folk insist on incessantly repeating the F'n obvious.

Look I'm personally much more of a doomer, certainly a realist and I actually have an idea how difficult it is to make things that depend on scientific knowledge, technology, tools and infrastructure.
I also have actually done things like make my own metal alloys from ore and drawn wire by hand with simple tools based on rollers and gears and a hand winch so I know it ain't F'n impossible either. They used to do it in the Bronze Age for crying out loud! BTW I hand made my own bellows out of wood leather copper nails and a coping saw. This kind of knowledge is not suddenly going to be lost tomorrow.

If you want to make your tools out of stone and live in a cave, by all means, be my guest.

Oh and let's not forget that only a very small percentage of the US population actually controls those resources. We could start by putting all of them on a nice reservation with barbed wire around it for their own protection.

Couldn't agree more! Maybe you can arrange a nice little blockade.

The US needs to figure out how to become energy independent( except Canada and Mexico--we're all tied together) and reduce its GW emissions by 80% in 2050.

If I were a banker I believe I would try to maintain as low a profile as possible-there are a lot people out there who might just "snap" someday and tear loose with a machete or a baseball bat if they have sold thier guns for grocery money.

Ditto lawyers who specialize in certain lines of work such as collecting debts-if tshtf ,which it will if the economy keeps going downhill,we may degenerate into a third world country fast.

Diane interviewed the author of the book and the boy (now young man). A very interesting program. Here's the link.

Can We Grow More Food in 50 Years Than in All of History?

a leading Australian scientist .... the world will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than we have in the thousands of years since civilization began, and will have a tough time keeping up.


Wow. She has a way with words:

"It is hard for me to comprehend that in the next 50 years we will need to produce as much food as has been consumed over our entire human history," she said.

"That means in the working life of my children, more grain than ever produced since the Egyptians, more fish than eaten to date, more milk than from all the cows that have ever been milked on every frosty morning humankind has ever known."

Though of course, we won't have to produce as much if we all eat lower on the food chain.

Not that I expect people to do that voluntarily, of course. The rationing will be by price.

Not that I expect people to do that voluntarily, of course. The rationing will be by price.

Tax it then.

Commentary: A fat tax is a healthy idea

Story Highlights:

  • America's obesity epidemic costs the nation billions
  • Taxing unhealthy food is one way to combat spread of obesity
  • Government subsidies make unhealthy food more affordable
  • A study predicts 75 percent of Americans will be overweight by 2015
  • If I could draw a cartoon, I would summarize the DB comments today with an overweight drought-stricken American finding out there's no gasoline for him today - 2015 - there's also no job, and no recovery, no high fructose corn syrup, no bats, no bees, and, worse of all, no Oil Drum...

    And lasers mounted on airplanes to zap away the dissidents! Can't forget that!

    Warning: This comes close...it ain't pretty.


    I don't think there's any need. The price will rise naturally as food grows scarcer, while people's incomes drop. I suspect people are already eating lower in the food chain, because of the recession.

    I suspect people are already eating lower in the food chain, because of the recession.

    Strangely enough, I have upgraded to sirloin steak...but I only eat meat once a week. I used to eat about £10 worth of meat a week in total with meat on the menu almost each day. Now I have the best cut of steak available once a week and it still works out cheaper, and probably healthier too. It is also something to look fowrward to!

    Many people have noticed that beef here in the US has gotten much cheaper. The elite cuts once reserved for gourmet restaurants are now ending up in supermarkets, because not as many people are eating out. And the regular meat is insanely cheap, at least if you wait until it goes on sale.

    I think this is temporary, though. The market has yet to adjust to the drop off in demand.

    The beef business has always followed a boom-bust type cycle. Grain goes up, beef growers sell cheap in the fall so they don't have to over winter. Prices may go up in the spring.

    I just found a bargain of grass fed 'organic' beef at $1.75/lb butchered and wrapped if you buy a whole beef. Now I need a bigger freezer:-)

    Ten-four on the price doing the rationing, Leanan. In 1998/9, I came up with $8.00 beans. Not that the beans were $8 - that was the price of oil. I still fix them, and eat them. I do joke that $100 beans are cooked the same way, you just eat the steak and asparagus (home grown) and put the beans in the fridge for another day. ($12. beans had some pork or bacon added for flavor.) Complainers about high oil prices get little sympathy from me, as I got little from them. I did not set the price in either case.

    There were some stories a while back about how the price of beef was going to go down in the short run, and then rise a lot. I think it had something to do with cattle ranchers going out of business and having to get rid of their cows quickly, or something of that nature. I'll try to google it and see what I find.

    I haven't been paying attention to the price of beef, but if it's going down then I wonder if it's a sign that the above scenario is under way.

    IIRC food prices decline prior to a famine. Not sure whether the same applies to forthcoming shortages or not?

    A bit like car prices in the UK. I bought a 1 year old car 9 months ago at 55% of the price new. The cash for clunkers scheme has caused so many cars to be scrapped that my car has gone up a couple of thousand in value.

    I wasn't planning on selling my old car at that time, but it was obvious cars would never be cheaper in real terms again.

    Hi Leanan,
    "I suspect people are already eating lower in the food chain, because of the recession."

    for the last 25 years or so eating lower on the food chain (due to budget) meant happy meals and the middle of the super market (Ala Pollen). this will continue until the system breaks, and as an old back to the lander hippie horticulturist once told me "the house of cards seems to be well kicked". (In these parts to kick something is to brace it. as in a wall)

    ""The rationing will be by price.""

    Yes it will be by price for a little while. Until the patience of the empty handed/pockets run out.

    Then, as always, it will be rationed by violence.


    ""Incidents of violence against ration dealers have spread across West Bengal. On 4 October, a day after police opened fire on marauding mobs in Burdwan, attacks on ration dealers across Birbhum continued to gain in strength and intensity. The houses of two dealers were set on fire in Rampurhat and foodgrains were looted from at least four shops. Five policemen were injured in clashes in three places and around 15 villagers were placed under arrest. In Dakhalbati village of Rampurhat, 280 km from Calcutta, 300 villagers marched to Motiar Hossain's ration shop, which is also his home and demanded that foodgrains due to them for the past 11 months be handed over within the week. Hossain and his family managed to flee for their lives through the back door. The crowd broke into the shop, rolled out four kerosene barrels and set them ablaze.""

    The Indian government have been promising to throw open the doors to the grain reserves of 30mmt for weeks now (or is that months) to relieve shortages. But there seems to be a problem, some are suggesting that the much vaunted reserves don't exist or are unfit for human consumption. Marauding mobs may go national if that's true.

    I'm increasingly beginning to think India may be the tinder-box that sets the world alight.

    Worst drought, worse to come

    In March, a Purdue University found that climate change could influence monsoon dynamics and cause less summer precipitation, a delay in the start of monsoon season and longer breaks between rainy periods. The South Asian summer monsoon -- critical to agriculture in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan -- could be weakened and delayed due to rising temperatures, it said.

    The Indian government have been promising to throw open the doors to the grain reserves of 30mmt for weeks now (or is that months) to relieve shortages. But there seems to be a problem, some are suggesting that the much vaunted reserves don't exist or are unfit for human consumption. Marauding mobs may go national if that's true.

    God forbid anyone suggest that India institute a one child per couple policy, or otherwise promote birth control to its 1 billion+ citizens. Of course, to advancednano that would be "genocide".

    India had a population control policy in the 1970s. It went down in flames because corrupt officials steralized illiterate men without telling them what they were doing. There was, and to an extent still is, a culture of large families being a sign of being blessed by God(s). The government does try to pursuade the people to have fewer chidren, but it is still a patriarchal society and poor women have few options.

    The Indian government was the first in the world to promote family planning. Among educated Indians birth rates have collapsed drastically. A generation ago, educated Indians had 2 or 3 kids. Now 1 or 2 is very common. Today it is rare to find an educated Indian family with 3 kids. Unfortunately, female literary rate in India is very low and so the overall birth rate is somewhat high. The total fertility rate is 2.8 kids per woman.

    If everyone in the USA ate a vegetarian diet except for chickens and tilapia, then what would the required output for industrial farming look like? What if industrial farming was mostly restricted to growing staples, and most fruits and vegetables were produced locally?

    These are interesting questions, in my opinion. In his book Climate Wars Gwynne Dyer calls the excessive meat consumption in North America the "not-so-secret escape hatch for a food shortage", his point being that the US consumes far more basic staples than are needed because of meat consumption. This would also help with our healthcare issues too, right?

    If everyone in the USA ate a vegetarian diet except for chickens and tilapia..

    Yeah, we wouldn't want chickens & tilapia to have to eat a vegetarian diet. They wouldn't like that.

    If everyone in the USA ate a vegetarian diet except for chickens and tilapia, then what would the required output for industrial farming look like?

    It would slightly mitigate and/or delay the (near inevitable?) die-off coming from population overshoot, but... macro impact would still pale in comparison to the elephant in the room: global overpopulation.

    +75 million net new hungry mouths a year... and counting.

    Jevon's Paradox applied to food and human population would indicate:

    There is no moral action except birth control (or suicide). Otherwise, the more we consume the sooner people will starve en masse, and the less we consume the greater the number of people who will starve later.

    Paleocon's Conundrum

    Jevon's Paradox applied to food and human population would indicate:
    There is no moral action except birth control (or suicide). Otherwise, the more we consume the sooner people will starve en masse, and the less we consume the greater the number of people who will starve later.
    Paleocon's Conundrum

    Nicely put. Also sounds like a Morton's Fork

    What happened in the oil markets, it's knocking on $71?

    Did they see the TechTicker interview below ??

    Wow, check out the disconnect between Henry Hub spot natural gas ($2.32) and the futures price ($4.98). A natural gas trader I talked to Saturday said that the only storage left of any consequence was at Henry Hub. Maybe everyone is trying to send their gas there.

    My guess is that it's the good news on the economy. The stock market is up big, too.

    Gold is up more than the market. Quantitative easing at work?

    Oil jumps above $70 on stock markets' coat tails


    ... Y a w n ...

    The oil futures market is trading right in the middle of the same range it has been trading in all summer. (cf. Energy Futures Databrowser) The market reporters hyperventilate over the noise in the market when the only possible signal is a very weak contango that won't even cover modest inflation.

    If you're a day trader these kind of movements are important but they have absolutely no predictive value.

    -- Jon

    It does seem that since we hit an average spot price of $70 in June that prices have been pretty much locked in a trading range.

    Maybe gold is up due to the new threat to the U.S. dollar: The Demise of the Dollar, The Independent, October 6, 2009:

    In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

    The dollar just took another dive.

    Tin foil on -- It's almost like somebody dumps a bunch of dollars to drive up the market, triggering a short squeeze, and then it falls again. How does the dollar drop, gold rocket, and stocks rocket, all because of a minor bit of news? Is it possible that any group has enough assets to shake the tree that hard on purpose? -- tin foil off

    Yeah..........ever heard of the plunge protection team?

    CNBC VIDEO: Sankey Forecasts $175 Oil by 2016


    Starting at 01:30 He suggests that US demand for oil can be broken at about 7 1/2% of GDP, which is $175.

    I guess he didn't notice that oil at 4% of GDP tips the economy into recession.

    I've been getting a sense of a sort of wish-full thinking over at Yahoo Finance when it comes to the reporting of oil prices. I have noticed a trend these days for very quick reporting of reductions, with headlines like "Oil plunges on weak economic data (or high than expected inventories). I then pop over to TOD and see something like a square root sign so, yes the price dipped and went right back up again. The response to the up-tick in price seems to be a little delayed if at all. It's as if they are willing the price down.

    On the other hand if I notice an up-tick on the price ticker and head over to YF to see what their take is, I see zip or something like "Oil rises to above $6x on weak dollar (stock markets coat tails)". It's almost like the policy is report any price reductions immediately but don't report an increase unless you have to. Another way of looking at it would be to say the price might go back down when it goes up so let's wait it out but, when it goes down it couldn't possibly go back up so, report it right away. Has anybody else noticed this or is it a figment of my imagination?

    Alan from the islands

    Why You Should Still Be Worried about Peak Oil

    "The point of peak oil is not that the world is going to run out of oil, as many mistakenly believe. Rather, the concern is oil production is not going to be able to keep up with demand, especially if and as the global economy continues to grow. That will lead to sharply higher prices as demand for oil eclipses supply."

    At least some MSM is putting Peak Oil in the Headline

    I thought this was a great interview/short video ..he must visit TOD .....


    Peter Maass has been a peak oiler for a long time.

    Its interesting that Aaron Task mentions Ghawar in a sentence ... how many commentators have even heard of Ghawar. I like Aaron Task


    a follow up on the interview ...

    The Curse of Crude: More Oil, More Problems


    Peak Energy: Iraq’s oil and the future

    In 1968 the decision was made to hold Iraq’s oil reserve figures secret, but during his time Dr al-Chalabi worked to have them openly accounted. He asserted that during the years that he was responsible for Iraq’s reserve figures there was not a single time that Saddam Hussein had ordered him to report these in any way to suit a political purpose.

    Iraq Expected to Seek Increase in Its Oil Quota - The New York Times, September 5, 1989

    Iraq's announcement in July of a new oil reserve figure of 280 billion barrels - nearly triple the previous year's level and higher even than Saudi Arabia's - was a calculated move, people in the oil business said. 'More Politics Than Geology'

    ''It's a game that's being played, which is more politics than geology,'' one source said. ''It may be true that the oil is there, but it may not be economically feasible to produce it.''

    Dr al-Chalabi was "dismissed" from one of his many positions in the Iraqi oil industry in 1990, whether he was overseeing reserves estimates at the time isn't stated, so whether this figure was on the table during his tenure, or whether it was just, for instance, an over zealous bureracrat spouting off (e.g., Brazil last year) isn't known. He may even have been the anonymous source quoted in the NYT, for all we know.

    The Deutsche Bank report is interesting. We may go from "Who killed the electric car?" to "The electric car killed the oil rig!"

    The Deutsche Bank report is exactly the correct model, and all indications are that if "peak oil" does not occur within three years or so (I said by 2015 some years ago, but due to the unexpected fast technical developments in plug hybrid, battery and solar cell/thermal solar technology, I have shortened my horizon to 2012) it will occur, but play itself out as disruption in financial/technical circles and will not be "nation-threatening" in the way it would have been had it occurred earlier.

    The recent financial "collapse" probably gave us even more breathing space,with oil consumption dropping by way of logistical/lifestyle a good deal even before the disruptive technology hits.

    I heard someone here on TOD just the other day projecting a "rebound" of oil consumption to old highs as soon as the economy rebounds. I have to hope not, because all of my planning, investment, etc., is betting that will not happen. Just as many here are betting that oil production has already seen it's all time high, I am betting the other side of the coin...that oil consumption has seen it's all time high (of course, one side of the coin sort of brings with it the other side, doesn't it? :-). Oil will be used for decades into the future, probably well past the upcoming half century, but it will never again be the fuel that drives growth and innovation. By that definition, the oil age is over.


    Gasoline supplied is already showing a rebound, the early 80s recession precipitated a more severe downturn off a sharper peak. Another thing I notice charting percentage changes month-to-month is that they have been of far lower magnitude than in the past, particularly on the upside - and the data goes back to 1945. This suggests tightness in supply, unless for some reason spare capacity to supply is no longer needed.

    By no means do I think we've hit an all time high in US oil consumption, alternatives are simply not presenting themselves in great enough number to offset demand.

    If EV's become less expensive than gasoline powered vehicles, then a smooth conversion may occur as you envision. However, the Deutsche Bank report is unlikely to be correct. EV's are currently high priced and are slow to come to market. I suspect batteries will remain expensive and short lived causing EV's to be the expensive alternative except during oil price shocks. Few will buy these vehicles without the incentive of high priced gasoline or subsidies. If a free market remains, that is, consumers have a choice of which type of vehicle to purchase, the conversion will be lockstepped with the decline in crude oil exports. If the conversion is too quick, the price of gasoline will be low discouraging people from buying EV's. If the conversion is too slow, then the price of gasoline will be high encouraging people to convert. I expect volitility and the resulting economic carnage may be sufficient to minimize a conversion. Since the unemployed can not afford cars, they would be excluded from the conversion.

    EVs will never compete with ICTs on price or range, because nothing can compare with energy density of oil. We will be driving more EVs in future - because there will not be enough oil to go round. To even suggest otherwise is be unaware of the physics or to be deliberately disingenuous.

    Drudge headline:


    My first impression is that we have heard this before, but. . . on the other hand, it does seem to be when, not if, that it becomes difficult, in the absence of force, to trade dollars for oil.


    we'll see. begin of the end of the dollar if so.

    well, dang.
    Maybe I'll owe aangel an apology!

    From the folks who brought you the August 2003 blackout...

    FirstEnergy to distribute energy-efficient light bulbs to homes

    Beginning next Monday, contractors wearing green T-shirts and ball caps will begin distributing nearly 4 million compact fluorescent light bulbs door to door in FirstEnergy Corp.'s territory.


    The effort is part of a requirement for investor-owned utilities to comply with Ohio's new energy law to reduce energy usage by 22.2 percent by the end of 2025 and reduce peak demand by 7.75 percent by the end of 2018.

    See: http://www.ohio.com/news/break_news/63563322.html


    Making Meters Smarter, Home by Home
    California's PG&E is installing two-way meters in 5 million homes, but consumers aren't yet convinced it will save them money

    A sweeping overhaul is coming to the 157,000 miles of high-voltage electric transmission lines that crisscross the U.S., delivering energy to 130 million homes. But the changes are happening one laptop-sized machine at a time.

    These small computers, being installed in homes and businesses around the country, will essentially create a two-way line of communication between energy consumers and the utility providers that dispense power. Known as smart meters, they're designed to give users greater control over electricity bills while helping power companies better manage fluctuating electricity demand. But the verdict remains out on just how much they're helping end users trim bills.

    In the most ambitious deployment yet, California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG) has installed 3.6 million smart meters across its territory in the northern part of the state. PG&E is spending $2.2 billion to install a total of 5 million advanced digital electric meters from Silver Spring Networks in its operating territory, the northern and central part of the state, by 2012. Each day the company installs 12,000 to 15,000 meters.

    See: http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/oct2009/tc2009105_382032.htm


    "The result was a society where people worked until the job was done, and saw no reason to work any more after that."

    Kind of how I approach work at my job. Basically, once the work is finished and my duties are done I relax until the next assignment comes along.

    This might seem as though I'm a slacker but contrary, I put a lot of effort into my assignments and do a very thorough job and never get complaints.

    Where I work(a hospital somewhere in Canada) the nurses don't mind me sitting down once the work is done and they can find me for a new assignment.

    You don't have to kill yourself, working yourself to the bone unless you have to in my opinion.

    I use to do this and realize it was wearing me down and my employers were just taking advantage of this. I truly believe there is wisdom with this approach. Wish I did this years ago though.

    From the above article 'Peak Oil: The End Of the Oil Age is Near, Deutsche Bank Says'

    “We expect [electric propulsion] will reverse the dynamics of world oil demand, and spell the end of the oil age,” the bank writes.

    This is such a naive view into oil, which is used for so many other purposes, like plastics, paint, lubricants, fabrics, etc. as well as other forms of transportation, like trucks, trains, planes and ships. Passenger vehicles only makes up a portion of oil usage. This misconception arises due to the ignorant viewpoint that all that matters when it comes to oil is the price at the pump. No, oil is the life blood of the world economy, and we don't have the luxury of waiting until some predictive future date to experience peak oil because it's already come and gone somewhere between 05 & 08.

    From the Deutsche Bank article

    That will send oil to $175 a barrel by 2016—and will simultaneously put the final nail in oil’s coffin and send prices plummeting back to $70 by 2030...

    If this is correct then my worries are over -bring it on. Even $175 oil is peanuts and $70 sounds good to me. However I doubt this is even close. I think we will see oil go high and stay high for extended periods, its just too valuable a substance and I don't think that Demand Destroyed People (DDPs) are going to be rushing out to buy high $$$ shiny new Hybrids and Electrics any time soon.

    Perhaps the next Recession 2.0 'Cash For Clunkers' injection will be called "Cash For GreenTech"? My RareEarth stocks are itching for it...


    If I may enquire, what are your rare Earth stocks? Always looking for a good stock tip.

    I think you're wrong!

    If $175 is peanuts, what are we talking about $500/b? This is what Robert Hirsch is predicting for 2011 - 2013.


    Let's run some numbers. $500/b works out to around $25/gallon. If your car gets 25mpg that's $1/mile. If you keep your car for 100,000 miles that's $100,000 for fuel over the life of the car. Buy a hybrid that gets double the mileage, and you would save $50,000. Buy an EV that costs 5 cents a mile to recharge and you save $95,000.

    How much more do these cars cost?

    Mitsubishi imiev - $31,000 - 37,000
    Nissan LEAF - under 30,000
    Escape Hybrid - 31,500
    Escape Non-Hybrid - 20,500

    Most people finance new car purchases, so the gas savings would more than offset the increased equipment cost on a monthly basis.

    Also at $1/mile, a lot of people will just get out and walk, or ride a bike, or take the bus. The price will never get that high because it would kill off demand on the way up.

    "Frozen in the Future"

    I was struck by these lines from the article about the gas shortage plan :-

    ""I do not want, under my watch, for half the population of the state to not have heat and not have lights," Sullivan said at a press conference where the city unveiled a plan to ask citizens to render themselves uncomfortable to avoid the possibility of freezing to death.

    If gas supplies drop to a "caution" level, everyone in Anchorage is supposed to turn thermostats down to 65 degrees, dial the temperature in their heated garages down near freezing, put off doing the laundry and dishes, turn off as many lights as possible, and avoid the gas-burning range.

    And if gas supplies continue to drop to an "alert" level, city residents will be expected to live in 60-degree houses (do you know how uncomfortable a 60-degree house is?), shut down the water heater except for the pilot light, do all their cooking in a microwave, continue to avoid the laundry and dishes, and move into as few rooms of the house as possible while dialing back the heating in the unused rooms to as close to freezing as possible

    Whether citizens in Alaska's largest city will be willing to go along with this is anyone's guess"".

    I am in Chicago and have my daytime winter heat at 62 and nightime at 55....sure it means sweaters, socks, warm slippers, and warm bedclothes, but there's no shortage of those...sheesh...

    do you know how uncomfortable a 60-degree house is?

    At the start of each heating season I play a little game of "how low I can go?, just to see where the point of real temperature discomfort sets in. I find that I'm comfortable without heat until my interior ambient temperature is 40-45 degrees. Once it drops that low, I have to turn on the heat. To be comfortable at 55 degrees F., I simply put on a pair of Merino wool long underwear, jeans, a medium weight wool sweater, and a wool knit cap. To be comfortable at 50 degrees F. I switch to wool trousers also.

    The odd and organic construction history of my house has left me with a building whose various parts are brick faced adobe, concrete block, and ballon framed walls with a brick veneer. I've stripped out the inadequate forced air furnace, and am installing a radiant hydronic system driven with a 200,000 btu ultra-high efficiency gas water heater. Eventually I will couple it to solar thermal panels.

    The odd construction of my house has given me a chance to experience the pros and cons of large thermal mass i.e. solid masonry construction. I've learned that it is a fantastic asset in the summer (I need no air conditioning at all), but it becomes a liability in the winter, as (the masonry parts) are not insulated, and even if the ambient air temperature in the room is 70 degrees, the 45 degree thermal mass of the wall keeps you chilled like you are in a refrigerator.

    In one of my basement apartments I placed a new (4) concrete floor with radiant pex embedded. Interestingly, if I set the thermostat in that apartment so that the floor slab reaches a temperature of 70 degrees, it becomes quite comfortable even though the ambient air temperature is only 50 degrees (still no insulation yet).

    This spring I will wrap the entire exterior with EPS, and will have R-20 at the all masonry sections and about R-25 at the balloon framed ones. At this point the thermal mass should become an asset regardless of season.

    Another unexpected observation from my experiments: I stay more comfortable if I keep the house between 50 and 55 degrees and dress as I mentioned above than if I keep the house at 70 and wear just jeans and a t-shirt. It also makes the transitions between being inside the house and going outside much more painless. I roast in other peoples houses and buildings though, and have to shed.

    After my renovation is finished, I hope to start working through the cost/efficiency analysis of a passive solar home construction technique of 4" fiber reinforced concrete structural exterior walls wrapped w/ 8" of EPS then veneered on the exterior and plastered inside, per aesthetic preference. My preliminary calcs lead me to believe that this would be both inexpensive and efficient. When I get down to the nitty gritty of cost analysis, I'll examine both tilt up and cast in place methods for the concrete walls. I've been talking with a local builder who is interested in doing a possible proof of concept project.

    Anyway, my conclusion from all these little experiments is that the temperature comfort range is much broader than we are accustomed to, it just takes a little acclimatization, and seasonally appropriate clothing. For me, in this low humidity high desert, it is a fifty degree range.

    That's great! I like the "how low can I go" game. I try and hold out later and later each year before using the heat.
    I overwinter fruit trees and other food plants in the house, so that's my excuse for not going lower ;)
    For us here, damp can be an issue, but when it snows the air gets really dry. It's a balancing act.
    I have a 105-year old wood frame house which would probably benefit from more insulation. It's an expensive project I have been thinking about, but didn;t jump into yet, apart from basic weatherization.

    60 degrees F, that's... 15 degrees C. Pansies. I have a 7-bar electric oil-colum heater in my bedroom, and I turned it on a grand total of twice this year (southern hemisphere winter). Although born in the tropics, unless it's below 5 degrees C, I just put on heavy clothing and cold-be-gone booties.

    The FDIC now has $0 (or less) to insure deposits of $9,000,000,000,000 (or more).

    FRANKFURT — German solar energy firms are in a bind, the head of a federation said in a report due out on Monday amid concern that the new German government will abandon the sector.
    "German solar energy companies are earning almost no money because demand has collapsed" with the economic crisis, Joerg Sutter told the magazine Wirtschaftswoche.

    What does that tell you about the idea of renewable energy replacing fossil fuels, as the price of oil rises causes a deepening recession? It probably means that if the world economy is in recession then there will be a big reduction in the amount of solar and wind deployed.

    China still has economic growth, and is still adding renewable energy even after the oil price spike of 2008. The problem with the US and EU economies is the adoption of socialist anti-business policies. The US recession didn't start until the socialist Democrats took over Congress in 2006. Now with a socialist President, the US recession is getting worse.

    What was it like for you on Election night when Obama beat McCain?

    You mean when Obama gave his victory speech and finally admitted that he really wasn't going to be able to fix anything? Rather amusing lol. YES WE CAN'T!

    Yeah right - ha ha. Back to your earlier post where you were complimenting China for continuing to deploy solar and wind, you do realize they did that by way of a stimulus package. You know, when they pool the people's tax money to use for - oops, isn't that socialism? But isn't using the people's money for Defense also socialism? Oops, so you must be for socialism if you are for a National Defense, right?

    IMO, national defense and renewable energy incentives are legitimate functions of government. And are in accordance with the US Constitution. Socialism has to do with taking money away from one group and handing over to another. This does not "promote the general welfare", it makes it worse. As does the various anti-business policies the US government engages in, e.g. support of labor unions and the ban on offshore drilling. You won't see any economic growth with Obama/Pelosi/Reid, mark my words.

    It's interesting how a man can observe that the boat is moving with the flood and blame the oarsman.

    Good response r4ndom! Yes, isn't it amazing. But trying to get that concept through such a dense blockage of titanium ignorama is highly improbable.

    And are in accordance with the US Constitution.

    So as long as the Founding Fathers were socialists, it's ok by you. ;)