Drumbeat: October 16, 2009

The Non-Tragedy of the Commons

The 2009 Nobel Prize for economics is a useful reminder of how easy it is for scientists to go wrong, especially when their mistake jibes with popular beliefs or political agendas.

Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University shared the prize for her research into the management of “commons,” which has been a buzzword among ecologists since Garrett Hardin’s 1968 article Science, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” His fable about a common pasture that is ruined by overgrazing became one of the most-quoted articles ever published by that journal, and it served as a fundamental rationale for the expansion of national and international regulation of the environment. His fable was a useful illustration of a genuine public-policy problem — how do you manage a resource that doesn’t belong to anyone? — but there were a couple of big problems with the essay and its application.

The sustainable economics of Elinor Ostrom

It was not by chance that Elinor Ostrom was awarded this year's Nobel prize in economics.

Global warming, along with the preservation of the quality of our environment, has become the most pressing issue facing the human race.

The presentation of this year's Nobel prize in economics to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver E. Williamson--in particular Ostrom's dedicated researches in the inter-relationship between mankind and our ecological system, thus ensuring the sustainability of our water, forest, fishery and other shared resources--should serve as a loud and clear alarm to mankind, who have now come face to face with ecological disasters of unprecedented proportions.

An Isolated Village Finds the Energy to Keep Going

Its 200 residents have no guns, no police force, no cars, no mayor, no church, no priest, no cellphones, no television, no Internet. No one who lives in Gaviotas has a job title.

But Gaviotas does have an array of innovations intended to make human life feasible in one of the most challenging ecosystems, from small inventions like a solar kettle for sterilizing water to large ones like a 19,800-acre reforestation project whose tropical pines produce resin for biofuel and a canopy under which native plant species flourish.

The Truth About Energy

After oscillating within a trading range for several weeks, the price of crude oil has recently broken out to a new recovery high. Now, you will recall that we have been firm believers of ‘Peak Oil’ since 2003 and we were expecting this bullish resolution.

Look. Sceptics can say what they want; it does not change the fact that our world is struggling to maintain daily flow-rates. Whether you agree with us or not, the energy reality is that the supply of conventional crude oil is very close to its peak and no other fuel source can fix the problem.

Russia's Gazprom accelerates Sakhalin-3 project

MURMANSK, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's Gazprom, plans to start production at the Sakhalin-3 project's Kirinsky field in 2011 or 2012, two years earlier than planned, as it seeks to fill its pipeline to the Pacific port Vladivostok.

"It had been planned that development of Kirinsky will start in 2014. We think to begin production there at the end of 2011 or at the beginning of 2012," the head of Gazprom's subsidiary that oversees offshore projects, Alexander Mandel, told reporters on Friday.

Embattled Pakistan faces its worst-case scenario

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The worst-case scenario facing Pakistan -- prolonged insecurity with militants launching bloody attacks on the key pillars of the state -- is no longer just a risk for markets and Western policymakers to fret over.

It is already here.

California Utility Taps Arizona Solar Project

Pacific Gas & Electric, the big California utility, asked regulators on Thursday to approve the purchase of electricity from an Arizona solar power plant, only days after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have limited utilities’ ability to tap out-of-state projects to meet renewable energy mandates.

U.K. wild seed bank hits 10 percent target

LONDON - Britain's seed bank, the only one in the world aiming to collect all of the planet's wild plant species, has reached its goal of banking 10 percent by 2010.

The Millennium Seed Bank Project, run by Kew Gardens — one of the oldest botanical gardens — held a ceremony to officially deposit the 24,200th species on Thursday, a pink, wild banana from China.

Solar Living, Without Compromising on Lifestyle

“The idea is to prove to people that solar works, and you don’t have to give up your lifestyle to use it,” said Richard King, director of the biennial competition for the Energy Department, which gives $100,000 to each team to get the projects started. The event is also meant to get the students to think about solving energy problems in affordable ways — all the projects have to be geared to a specific market, from low to high income.

Congress Approves Funding for Hydrogen Cars

The hydrogen car may have legions of fervent fans, but Energy Secretary Steven Chu is not apparently among them. Earlier this year, the Nobel prize-winning scientist essentially zeroed government funding for the clean vehicles and came close to mocking their potential, saying the technology needs four "miracles" before it can become widely adopted.

"Saints only need three," he cracked in a magazine interview.

But the hydrogen car is back. On Thursday, the Senate agreed to restore nearly all the money for hydrogen car research that the administration had proposed to cut.

Everything Under the Sun

Energy Secretary Steven Chu argues that incentives for private-sector innovators are key to achieving breakthroughs in energy efficiency.

Hybrid Cars May Include Fake Vroom for Safety

The notion that battery E.V.’s and plug-in hybrids might be too quiet has gained backing in Congress, among federal regulators and on the Internet. The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, introduced early this year, would require a federal safety standard to protect pedestrians from ultra-quiet cars.

Karen Aldana, a spokeswoman for traffic safety agency, which is also working on the issue, said, “We’re looking at data on noise and E.V. safety, but manufacturers are starting to address it voluntarily.”

U.S. Rejects Nuclear Plant Over Design of Key Piece

WASHINGTON — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday that it had rejected a design by Westinghouse for a new reactor because a key component might not withstand events like earthquakes and tornadoes.

The rejection raises the possibility of delays in building 14 planned reactors in the United States, including two twin-reactor projects in Georgia and South Carolina that are leading the pack. Westinghouse, which is owned by Toshiba, promised to conduct tests as quickly as possible to try to satisfy the agency staff that the design was sound.

Even Rabbit Droppings Count in Nuclear Cleanup

WASHINGTON — Anything that hops, burrows, buzzes, crawls or grazes near a nuclear weapons plant may be capable of setting off a Geiger counter. And at the Hanford nuclear reservation, one of the dirtiest of them all, its droppings alone might be enough to trigger alarms.

A government contractor at Hanford, in south-central Washington State, just spent a week mapping radioactive rabbit feces with detectors mounted on a helicopter flying 50 feet over the desert scrub. An onboard computer used GPS technology to record each location so workers could return later to scoop up the droppings for disposal as low-level radioactive waste.

Shifting Demographics Set to Affect Global Markets

Forces of change seem to come in one of two varieties: bumps and grinds.

Bumps are generally eventa contained in the short term that produce profound effects. Think about 9/11 or an earthquake. Grinds are slow, almost imperceptible events which produce significant change over longer time periods. Think climate change or the peak oil story.

Demographic changes are often thought to be a grind factor for obvious reasons. However, with the ebbing of the financial and economic crisis, countries will contemplate fiscal reform and the dramatic shifts in demographic influence will likely shape policy in powerful ways and may be experienced as both a bump and a grind.

E.P.A. Vows Better Effort on Water

The Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday that it would overhaul enforcement of the Clean Water Act, as lawmakers sharply criticized the agency’s decade-long lapses in punishing polluters.

A perfect storm's brewing to cool petroleum demand

TOKYO (MarketWatch) -- A perfect storm of influences is having a lasting effect on the world's petroleum markets and there's nothing on the horizon to sway its path.

With high oil and fuel prices, a weak global economy and worldwide government and consumer efforts to increase conservation and efficiency, some analysts doubt a return to the peak energy consumption levels seen just a few years ago.

"Bad economies breed efficiency," said James Williams, an economist at WTRG Economics. Consumers are forced to cut down on costs, including energy consumption, and in doing that, "they may find a more permanent solution for their energy needs."

So "when the economy in the U.S. recovers, we will not return to 2007 consumption levels for several years and perhaps never," he said.

Bill McKibben: Organizing The Biggest Day Of Action The World Has Ever Seen

Even two years ago, I was in complete despair about our chances of fighting climate change. But something's changed. It's not the science, which has gotten steadily worse. It's the first signs that the planet's immune system--conscious citizens ready to make a difference--is finally kicking in. Bloggers, in this metaphor, are key antibodies--they recognize threats, and rally people to take the steps needed. So this year's Blogger Action Day is, in a sense, a test: is the planet now wired together in a way that will let it act swiftly, nimbly, decisively against the great trouble we've ever faced?

In particular, we at 350.org need your help spreading the word about what's quickly turned into the biggest day of global action on climate ever--and perhaps the most geographically widespread day of political action the planet has ever seen. On October 24--a week from Saturday--citizens will hold thousands of rallies and events and demonstrations in almost 170 nations to demand that our leaders take tougher action heading to Copenhagen.

Petrobras Surges to World’s Fifth-Largest Company on Oil Rally

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-controlled oil producer, surpassed China Mobile Ltd. and China Construction Bank Corp. this week to become the world’s fifth-largest company by market value.

Petrobras’s market capitalization rose to 353.9 billion reais ($208 billion) as the company’s preferred shares gained 2.7 percent since Oct. 9 and common shares added 3.5 percent. That compares with $203.8 billion at China Mobile, the world’s biggest phone company, and $203.1 billion at China Construction Bank, the nation’s second-largest lender, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Mexico hopes for deep water oil production in 2014

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's state oil company hopes to start deep-water oil production in the Gulf of Mexico by 2014.

Petroleos Mexicanos official Gustavo Hernandez says the company has found crude oil and gas in some of the 11 wells drilled in deep Gulf waters. He says the company, known as Pemex, hopes to start gas production in 2013.

Saudi fuel oil exports for Oct highest in 5 years

SINGAPORE: Saudi Arabia’s fuel oil exports — at least 925,000 tonnes so far — have hit the highest level for the October month in five years, due to refinery outages and as peak summer demand tapered off.

The stream of cargoes from Saudi Aramco’s refineries at Ras Tanura, Rabigh, Jubail and its joint-venture plant with ExxonMobil in Yanbu could continue into the first quarter, as electricity needs ease with the approach of winter, traders said yesterday.

Sinopec "seeks communications" with Iraq on oil talks

BEIJING/LONDON (Reuters) - China's Sinopec Group is trying to communicate with Baghdad as its qualification to participate in Iraq's second round of bidding for major oil deals is in question, a company official and media reported.

A top Iraqi official said early this month that Iraq has barred the Chinese state oil firm from new oil talks over its purchase of Swiss firm Addax (AXC.TO) that is active in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

2009: A Chinese Energy Acquisition Odyssey

The recent news that China, through one of its state-owned enterprises, is a likely bidder for 23 oil blocks in Nigeria, for up to a staggering US$ 30 Billion, and another, separate $5 billion deal in Uganda, certainly caught the eye of the international community.

However, while the intricacies of these potential deals are interesting in their own right, their significance is that they are only part of a much larger story. While this may seem like a short-term flurry of deal making, it is simply the continuance of feverish activities by the Chinese to secure oil & gas over the past few years, and most notably, in the year-to-date 2009.

Canadian Oil Sands May Consider Bigger Syncrude Stake, CEO Says

(Bloomberg) -- Canadian Oil Sands Trust would consider increasing its stake in Syncrude Canada Ltd., the world’s largest oil-sands producer, if its partners in the venture want to sell, Chief Executive Officer Marcel Coutu said.

Mexico utility shutdown no herald of broad reforms

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Felipe Calderon's bold move to shut down a money-losing state electricity company is more likely a one-off event than the start of a big shake-up of the country's bloated public sector.

Cordon Blues?

Envy the lucky travelers of London. As you may know, in 2003 the city imposed a congestion toll of £5 (later raised to £8) on all vehicles entering the central district. In 2007, Transport for London, a government agency, did a cost-benefit analysis of the impacts (find the full report here).

...This adds up to £331 million in savings. Please note that even the driving public (who, after all, pay the tolls) come out slightly better than if the tolls did not exist.

Even if the considerable benefits to bus riders are ignored, and even if all the revenue were tossed onto a giant bonfire (or, even worse, sent off to the EU to subsidize French farmers), auto travelers win out or, at the very least, are no worse off.

The Clash Over Clean Power: Utility chiefs are juggling the conflicting goals of green energy and low rates—and self-interest reigns

Power companies used to have one simple task: providing inexpensive, reliable electricity to light up cities, power factories, and keep the economy humming. No longer. The once-stodgy utility industry is now in history's crosshairs. As the largest contributor to the emissions that cause climate change, it's being asked to spearhead a radical transformation to a cleaner, greener energy economy. This shift was a major topic at the G-20 meeting in September. And at the end of the month, the Senate introduced a bill to require reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, following up on a landmark bill the House of Representatives passed in June mandating an 83% reduction by 2050. If Congress doesn't act, the Environmental Protection Agency will. Either way, the electricity sector would be radically reshaped. "It will force a technological revolution," says James E. Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, a utility headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.

The challenges for the nation's 3,273 utilities are huge. "Inaction on climate is not an option," says John W. Rowe, CEO of Chicago-based Exelon. "But we'll throw away billions of dollars if we screw up." A company could go out on a limb with a $10 billion nuclear plant, only to see demand plunge because of efficiency measures, or be undercut by cheap natural-gas-fueled electricity thanks to new gas field discoveries.

Oil Drops After Touching Yearly High of More Than $78 a Barrel

(Bloomberg) -- Oil fell for the first time in seven days on speculation that crude’s surge to a yearly high above $78 a barrel in New York is unsustainable.

Oil is headed for its biggest weekly gain in almost two months after the Department of Energy said U.S. inventories of motor fuel fell by 5.23 million barrels last week, almost five times the decline analysts forecast and the biggest drop in a year. The main rebel group in Nigeria said it resumed “hostilities” on oil facilities after a cease-fire lapsed.

Crude oil for November delivery traded for $77.14 a barrel, 44 cents lower in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 12:17 p.m. London time. Earlier it climbed to $78.17 barrel, the highest intraday price since Oct. 15, 2008.

Analysts Are Split on Direction of Oil Prices, Survey Shows

(Bloomberg) -- Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News were split over whether crude oil prices will rise or fall next week amid above-average inventories and prices that are the highest in a year.

Twelve of 31 analysts, or 39 percent, said futures will drop through Oct. 23. Another 12 respondents predicted that oil will rise. Seven said futures will be little changed. Last week, 38 percent of analysts said prices would fall.

“The bulls are saying it doesn’t matter about current supplies, that demand is going to go up,” said Phil Flynn, vice president of research at PFGBest in Chicago. “Bears are saying that we have a glut of supplies and these prices are unsustainable.”

PetroChina to ‘Rapidly’ Increase Gas Output by 2015

(Bloomberg) -- PetroChina Co., the world’s second- biggest company by value, plans to “rapidly” increase natural gas production to help meet energy demand in the fastest-growing major economy.

Gas output may match that of crude by “about 2015,” while gains in oil production will be marginal, Vice President Li Hualin said in an interview in Beijing on Oct. 14. PetroChina produced gas equivalent to 170 million barrels of oil between January and June, compared with crude output of 418 million barrels, data provided by the state-controlled company show.

Brazil’s Tupi Is Producing 20,000 Barrels a Day, Diario Reports

(Bloomberg) -- The Tupi field offshore Brazil is producing about 20,000 barrels a day, Diario Economico reported, citing Guilherme Estrella, director of exploration and production at Brazilian state-controlled oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Natural Gas Changes the Energy Map

Vast amounts of the clean-burning fossil fuel have been discovered in shale deposits, setting off a gas rush. But how it will affect our energy use is still uncertain.

Energy board orders shut-in production for 158 wells near Fort McMurray, Alta.

The move will affect about 33 million cubic feet per day of production, with the wells licensed to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Paramount Energy Trust and EnCana Corp. The ERCB, after an interim hearing, concluded that these wells "may present a significant risk to future in situ bitumen recovery."

Nigeria rebels says 'oil war' has restarted

LAGOS (AFP) – The rebel group that has brought chaos to Nigeria's oil producing region on Friday ended a 90-day ceasefire and warned the oil industry and military to brace for attacks.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has waged a three-year campaign demanding a bigger share of the oil wealth for the local population, severely cutting daily production. But the government says many of its fighters have laid down their arms in a recent amnesty.

ANALYSIS - Iraq's oil power grows, but firms eye election

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iraq has taken a step closer to becoming a giant on the global oil stage, but political manoeuvrings either side of elections in January may yet stall plans to nearly triple oil output.

Baghdad is near to signing off on deals to pump millions more barrels per day from the world's third-largest reserves, potentially vaulting it to third from eleventh position in the league of top oil producers.

But for foreign oil firms, politics threaten the legitimacy of contracts and are a big investment risk. Disputes have already hindered attempts to attract the billions of dollars needed to overhaul an industry run down by years of sanctions and war.

U.S. Congress oks sanctions on Iran's fuel suppliers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved legislation to punish foreign oil companies that export gasoline to Iran, marking the first time both chambers of Congress have cleared the same bill imposing economic sanctions on Iran to protest its nuclear program.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the same measure earlier this month to ban companies that sell Iran gasoline from also delivering crude oil to the U.S. emergency petroleum stockpile. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.

$400 per gallon gas to drive debate over cost of war in Afghanistan

The Pentagon pays an average of $400 to put a gallon of fuel into a combat vehicle or aircraft in Afghanistan.

The statistic is likely to play into the escalating debate in Congress over the cost of a war that entered its ninth year last week.

Mexico City traffic halted by power workers' march

Traffic in Mexico's historic center district was halted on Thursday by thousands of protesters marching against the closing of the country's money-losing power utility of Central Light and Power (LFC).

The city government had earlier warned the drivers off the center district to avoid possible long delays caused by the march of sacked power workers. The march is expected to enter the city's Constitution Square, known as the Zocalo, at around 6.30 pm. Local time. (0030 GMT Friday)

Halliburton’s Third-Quarter Profit Declines to $262 Million

(Bloomberg) -- Halliburton Co., the world’s second- largest oilfield-services provider, said third-quarter profit dropped 61 percent after crude prices declined.

Net income fell to $262 million, or 29 cents a share, from $672 million, or 74 cents, in the third quarter of 2008, Houston-based Halliburton said today in a Business Wire statement.

Canada Consumer Prices Fall for Fourth Straight Month

(Bloomberg) -- Canada’s consumer prices fell for the fourth straight month in September, the longest stretch since 1953, on lower energy prices.

The consumer price index fell 0.9 percent in September from a year earlier, following August’s 0.8 percent decline and matching July’s 0.9 percent drop that was the biggest in more than half a century, Statistics Canada said today in Ottawa.

Canadian manufacturers need to adapt to par dollar

Rubin, author of the book on peak oil, Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller, expects the Canadian dollar will be a premium currency against the greenback for the "foreseeable future," largely because he sees Canada becoming an increasingly important supplier of oil to the United States over the next five years.

As global recovery sparks a rise in oil demand it will, once again, lead to triple-digit crude prices, he said. This will drive up the Canadian dollar beyond where it sits now.

Obama Pledges Climate Push After Health Care; Senate Timing in Flux

President Obama gave a nod yesterday to a budding bipartisan Senate effort on energy and climate legislation during a New Orleans town hall meeting where he also pledged to push for the bill's passage once Congress finishes its work on health care.

"What I think we need to do is increase our domestic energy production," Obama said in response to a question about environmental policy from an audience member. "I'm in favor of finding environmentally sound ways to tap our oil and our natural gas."

Navy Going Green

U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says the Navy will go "green" in the next few years. Mabus appeared at the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Symposium Lecture Series Friday at the Jackson State University Student Center, where he surprised Myrlie Evers-Williams, the wife of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, with the announcement that he was naming a 700-foot naval supply ship in her husband's honor.

Mabus also spoke eagerly about the Navy's growing resolve to create more fuel-efficient ships and aircraft, and its adoption of energy-saving policies and the use of fuel from renewable sources. "I think my chances (of arranging green mandates for the Navy) are pretty high," Mabus told a group of reporters. "... It's a strategic war-fighting thing. And the big advantage we have is that we build our ships, and we control our bases, and as we move into new energy technologies, we can design them into our ships and our aircraft."

Highway expansion goes green

SANTA CRUZ -- In a county known for its environmental savvy, transportation leaders are moving forward with plans to rate new road and infrastructure projects based on how well they help protect Earth.

Members of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission on Thursday unanimously approved early plans to join a pilot project with a fledgling Portland, Ore., group that would examine the green credentials of the possible construction of Highway 1 carpool lanes.

Florida May Ban Paper, Plastic Bags

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. -- Florida could soon become the first state in the nation to ban disposable paper and plastic bags, a move that would benefit the environment but could cost residents money, Miami television station WPLG reported.

Eliminating disposable bags would benefit the environment and reduce oil consumption because plastic bags are made from petroleum products. People in Florida use more than 5 billion disposable paper and plastic bags each year.

Transition Towns - coming to a neighbourhood near you

Climate change, acid rain, the ozone layer, over-fishing, polluted rivers… the list of environmental problems can seem daunting – and then when solutions appear, it seems there’s another problem just waiting to pop up behind it!

What seems to be needed is a concerted effort to reform the foundations of our cities and towns into more sustainable entities that work in harmony with our planet: Fortunately, this is just what several grassroots environmental movements are trying to do. Between the Transition Towns, the Sustainable Neighborhoods, and Agenda 21, cities all over the world (and all over Belgium!) are taking concrete steps to become more sustainable and to cut off environmental problems before they even start.

But Not For Long (book review)

A selective plot summary of Wildgen’s second novel reads like propaganda from a peak-oil doomsayer. Sinister events pile up over three days in Madison, Wis. Local gas stations are mysteriously short on gas. A prolonged blackout hits. Honeybees have vanished. Eventually people start to break out their bikes and forage for mushrooms, and the ominous mood gives way to hope. By all rights this should be preachy, terrible fiction. But the tone is so far from didactic, and the characters are so skillfully developed, that it succeeds. The third-person narrative dwells equally on the three members of a housing co-op: Hal, a vegetarian who works at a hunger-relief nonprofit; Karin, an athletic writer for a trade magazine about cheese; and the weary Greta, who has moved to the co-op to escape her alcoholic husband.

USDA’s Vilsack Pushing EPA to Raise Ethanol ‘Blend Wall’ to 15%

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to raise the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline as the deadline for a decision nears.

Science indicates that a higher “blend wall” is safe for automobile engines, Vilsack said yesterday in an interview at a conference on global hunger in Des Moines, Iowa. Increasing production of ethanol, made from corn in the U.S., would also meet national goals of energy independence and aid the industry as it attempts to expand.

Predicting the 2020 EV Market: Consider the Wild Cards

How many battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and just plain hybrids will sell in 2020? I can make only educated guesses, which is also the case for Lux Research, which just released its latest report, “Unplugging the Hype Around Electric Vehicles.” In that study, it predicts the size of the market based on different oil-price scenarios. Roughly, the higher the oil price, the more EVs will be sold. If oil reaches $200 a barrel by 2020, for instance, Lux thinks that light plug-in hybrids will be the best-selling EVs in the U.S., with a million units sold annually. “At lower oil prices, plug-in hybrids and battery electrics languish.”

Even a million EV cars and trucks is not a lot when you consider that the entire auto market today is around 10 million (down from 16 million annually). That’s a dent, but not a huge one.

Gates calls biotech seeds critical to fighting hunger

Poor farmers will need access to genetically engineered seeds if they are to raise enough food as the planet gets warmer and more crowded, says Bill Gates, the Microsoft Corp. chairman who is pouring part of his fortune into alleviating global poverty.

Gates used the keynote address Thursday at the annual World Food Prize symposium to make his first major speech on agriculture. He said food production must be boosted globally without harming the soil and water, but he challenged environmentalists to drop their resistance to high-yield, high-tech agriculture. Some of them are "instantly hostile to any emphasis on productivity," ignoring the threat to future crop yields posed by global warming, he said.

Climate change exposes sharp divides in US industry

Washington - US companies are struggling to speak with one voice both on the threat posed by global warming and how to deal with climate change. With the US Congress locked in a testy battle over the necessity and cost of curbing the emissions blamed for global warming, the issue has exposed similar rifts within the US business community.

FACTBOX - What is holding up progress in climate talks?

REUTERS - U.N. climate talks on expanding the fight against global warming have largely stalled, making the outcome of a major climate summit in Copenhagen in December uncertain.

With less than 60 days to the Copenhagen meeting, negotiators face serious differences in finding a way to get the United States and large developing nations to sign up to a deal that leads to big reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Following are efforts to expand or replace the Kyoto Protocol climate pact.

US must help poor nations deal with climate change: experts

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Experts and aid groups called Thursday for the United States to help poor countries deal with the effects of global warming, as Congress considers key climate change legislation.

Testifying before a Senate panel, humanitarian organizations called for US aid to help countries with "adaptation solutions" in response to the effects of climate change.

Mixed emotions on:
Gates calls biotech seeds critical to fighting hunger

These snips from the article lessened some of my immediate negative reaction to the headline:

Less than 5 percent of the grant money has been earmarked for biotechnology projects, but they include an effort in Kenya to engineer varieties of corn that will be more resistant to drought.


Gates emphasized that his foundation is trying to address the needs of poor, smallholder farmers and working with their governments and other local institutions.

He said it also is important to avoid the environmental degradation linked with the Green Revolution in the 1960s, when increased use of fertilizer and pesticides helped boost crop production in Asia.

The next green revolution "must be guided by smallholder farmers, adapted to local circumstances and sustainable for the economy and the environment," he said.

I understand these region's need for crops that can handle the drought conditions, but am still leary of the idea of replacing naturally selected crops in these areas of subsistence farming with genetically modified crops...

I understand these region's need for crops that can handle the drought conditions, but am still leary of the idea of replacing naturally selected crops in these areas of subsistence farming with genetically modified crops...

For better or for worse humans have been genetically modifying plants by selecting for specific useful characteristics since the dawn of agriculture. Once Gregor Mendel figured out the laws of inheritance it just opened up the game a bit more. Now that we know how to do it the at molecular level by using recombinant DNA technology it has suddenly become the latest boogey man?

Genetic engineering is just a technology and a tool, how we wield it is up to us.

Best hopes for a scientifically educated populace. Not holding my breath!

Magyar, you know what a big fan I am of yours. But I must question your implication that traditional breeding is essentially equivalent to modern GMO.

Traditional breeding cannot splice salmon DNA into tomato genes. The new technologies are not simple extensions of traditional methods. They are radical departures, and it is not only scientifically uneducated people who have legitimate concerns about them. Wes Jackson, for example, is not exactly scientifically uneducated.

As others express below, a central concern is the control most of these products take away from farmers and place in the hands of the largest international corporations.

Best hopes for a politically and economically naive populace. Not holding by breath!

Traditional breeding cannot splice salmon DNA into tomato genes. The new technologies are not simple extensions of traditional methods. They are radical departures, and it is not only scientifically uneducated people who have legitimate concerns about them. Wes Jackson, for example, is not exactly scientifically uneducated.

Notice how we've gone from "naturally selected" in the original comment to "traditional breeding" in the above comment. Traditional, human-selected "breeding" is by definition un-natural.

AND genes DO migrate between species IN NATURE. It's called later or horizontal gene transfer.

It is also a fallacy to refer to a stretch of nucleotide bases as "salmon" DNA or "tomato" genes, and then to offer a blanket prohibition against "splicing" salmon-ness into tomato-ness, as if this were some abomination. There are no inner essences to species. The DNA building blocks are the SAME across organisms. This is the beautiful discovery of Darwin's successors.

It's like taking paving brick and saying you can't build a chimney out of it because it's a "radical departure."

I applaud the fact that corporations are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try to keep feeding a species that can't stop breeding even though it knows it should stop breeding. Feed we must do.

Ultimately, though, I'm a doomer and believe it's a fool's errand to try to stretch human load beyond its carrying capacity indefinitely.

Swine Flu seems to be a case of natural gene transfer.


As well as the rise of eukaryotes, which includes us all.

I can't find anything in the literature saying that the nucleus was a result of gene transfer.

Any references... I'm curious.

The nucleus is not the only feature that distingiushes the eukaryotic cell from that of prokaryotes. I suspect she is inadvertantly referring to endosymbiosis rather than lateral gene transfer.

Other than mitochondria, which changed everything. ATP, etc made us large beings possible.
A very unlikely event.

And when they have been tested for generations to show they are safe, I'm all for the genetic modifications.

And when the genes that are shown to be safe don't cross into other plants - you can go and plant 'em. Because *I* don't need Monsanto and the force of law claiming ownership over "my seeds".

And when they have been tested for generations to show they are safe, I'm all for the genetic modifications.

What, every single genetic alteration, tested for generations, for "safety"? You know that is scientifically impossible, just as you can't show that every single "traditional" breeding method is "safe." But I'm sure that won't stop you from assuming that every "genetic modification" is unsafe.

Because *I* don't need Monsanto and the force of law claiming ownership over "my seeds".

This is an entirely different issue and one I hope Monsanto loses.

If I "genetically modify" a dog to come up with my own special dog, and that dog gets loose and breeds with my neighbor's dog, I can't hold my neighbor liable for the offspring.

Until Monsanto is able to control the fate of "their" corn's pollen (i.e. the wind), they can go take a hike.

It's all well and good to call it 'entirely different', but when ALL these traits are carried in the same DNA strand, and 'ownership control' is the driver that finances this work, then it's a lot harder to pretend it's separate, besides in rhetorical hypotheses..

No Bucks, no 'Neuvo-Buckwheat'..

genetic alteration, tested for generations, for "safety"? You know that is scientifically impossible,

And yet, this has been done to our food supply to date.

But I'm sure that won't stop you from assuming that every "genetic modification" is unsafe.

Why not allow the food to be labeled and let the market decide?

I dispute your assertion that our food supply has been tested for safety in any way beyond the superficial "Does this make people sick outright?"

In fact, I can point to gluten, dairy, and tomato allergies as proof to the contrary. Wheat, milk, tomatoes, soybeans, nuts, and shellfish regularly make people sick, sometimes killing them outright, without any assistance from genetic modification.

I know several people (myself included) who get migraines after ingesting Aspartame, also perfectly legal.

So I call bull on your claim.

I might be somewhat more open to it if it were rational, wise, ethical beings doing the genetic tinkering. However, it is human beings, and that thought terrifies me. Our track record for messing up things that we touch beyond our worst imagination gives no assurance whatsoever.

It's like taking paving brick and saying you can't build a chimney out of it because it's a "radical departure."

Interesting analogy.


But I must question your implication that traditional breeding is essentially equivalent to modern GMO.

dohboi, thanks for the vote of confidence! However I did not want to imply that traditional breeding was equivalent to modern GMO. What I was trying to say was that humans have been influencing plant and livestock evolution, for a very long time.

We now posses a new arrow in our quiver. BTW I am strongly opposed to centralized control of this tool in the hands of corporations, that's a whole nother can of genetically modified worms.

All I am saying is that we do have this knowledge now. How we use it is up to us. We can't and won't be able to put this gene (sorry for the bad puns) back in the bottle. There are, IMHO plenty of legitimate uses for genetically modified organisms.

I know that many people disagree.

If the scientific arguments against the use of this technology are persuasive in the sense that it is clearly shown to be harmful then I will join those who wish to end its use. I have not as yet been persuaded that this is the case. Are there dangers and circumstances where it shouldn't be used, very probably. Do I think it should never be used under any circumstance?
I'm not yet prepared to say so.

Thanks for your thoughtful (as always) response.

"If the scientific arguments against the use of this technology are persuasive in the sense that it is clearly shown to be harmful then I will join those who wish to end its use."

We are unlikely to know what the possible harms are before they have already happened on a wide scale and are out of our control.

Many people now see that building factories that create harmful chemicals that cannot be broken down by natural processes is a bad idea. But when we come to such a conclusion, we can potentially shut down all such factories.

If we create self-replicating species that end up by plan or accident creating such poisons or otherwise compromising life systems, and those get out into nature, we have no such easy way of shutting down all those "factories." In short the possibilities for enormously negative unintended consequences seem particularly and horrifically probable. I know that genetic engineers have thought about these things, but they are not ultimately in control. Greedy corporations are. And they have a long record of making decisions based on short-term profit over long-term general well being.

It is true that the "gene" is out of the bottle (and I am a big fan of bad puns, just ask my eye-rolling family--and I love Anne O. Dyne's name for the same reason even if I can't fully agree with her), but that does not leave me very enthusiastic about the prospects for this very powerful technology in the hands of our not-very-wise homo"sapiens" and of our even-less-wise super-personal corporations.

Best wishes for a very uncertain future (even without GMO's),


All I am saying is that we do have this knowledge now.

Humans have the knowledge to split the atom and harness that power.

How's that application of that knowledge working out? How's it working out for Pakistan? Iran? How's that working at Three Mile Island? Chynerobyl?

"All I am saying is that we do have this knowledge now".

Yes Eric. But do we have the wisdom?

Both conventional breeding and laboratory based genetic engineering constrict the genetic diversity of the parent plants to specialize the offspring plants to a specific set of growing conditions/plant characteristics.

"Now that we know how to do it the at molecular level..." I have an issue with this statement. We only create a batch of genetic soup and stick it into a bunch of plant cells. We don't "design" any specific characteristics, rather these genetically "recombined" plants are then put into very specific laboratory environments in the hopes that these plant offspring can tolerante these laboratory torture chambers, thrive, and then can be sold for profit. It's a crap shot, not anything that was specifically designed by carefully manipulation of a specific genetic sequence.

I don't think we even truely understand how this recombination affects the synergistic function of the plant... let alone how the plant interacts with its environment.

P.S. If these plants tolerate higher levels of toxins (i.e., pesticides) do these pesticides then end up in the plant? (As a pest, I need to know).

By coincidence, two blight resistant American Chestnuts are being developed.

One is the result of over 50 years of breeding, creating a 15/16ths American chestnut (plus additional backcrosses) with Chinese chestnut resistance.

The other splices DNA from wheat# into the chestnut genome.

Different approaches and (IMVHO) they should be combined. Introduced trees should either have both sources of resistance or be planted close to one another to allow for interbreeding.

In 1910 a forest of mature chestnuts, growing on mountaintops (i.e. poor soil) could produce as much "grain" /acre as a first class wheat field. And much more sustainably.

Best Hopes for the American Chestnut,


# A look at the wheat genome shows a bizarre collection of genetic manipulation, all done "naturally".

new Hybrid Pecan/Hickories.

Yes, the loss of the American Chestnut in Southern Appalachia especially was an eco-catastrophe of an magnitude that is seldom realized and appreciated. The mountains and all that live amongst them ache for their return.

" I have an issue with this statement. We only create a batch of genetic soup and stick it into a bunch of plant cells. We don't "design" any specific characteristics, rather these genetically "recombined" plants are then put into very specific laboratory environments in the hopes that these plant offspring can tolerante these laboratory torture chambers, thrive, and then can be sold for profit. It's a crap shot, not anything that was specifically designed by carefully manipulation of a specific genetic sequence."

I don't know who "we" refers to, but this is nonsense. I make transgenic animals for a living and many of my colleagues are plant biologists who work on drought and salt resistances. Their work is absolutely directed at rationally altering specific components of specific metabolic processes in these plants. The idea that directed genetic engineering (as opposed to, say, mutant screening) is a "crap shoot" is absurd.

We don't "design" any specific characteristics, rather these genetically "recombined" plants are then put into very specific laboratory environments in the hopes that these plant offspring can tolerante these laboratory torture chambers

PM, the writer you cite apparently believes plants have a central nervous system.

Wow, how did I miss that! Thanks for the laugh.

I'd say leary puts it very mildly for me.

Unless I hear that there are attempts to create improved crops that don't also conveniently leave these farmers beholden to a seed monopoly by the seed-sellers. THAT, and not 'hunger or drought' is the driving force behind GM crops, and creates a dead-end economic structure around agriculture. It's just another form of extraction beyond the carrying capacity of the soils and the people who work them.

Yes. One could argue if GM seeds are safe or not. One could argue if GM seeds have better harvests, or not.

http://www.organicconsumers.org/patent/iraq111704.cfm ("New Iraq Patent Law Will Make Traditional Farmers Seed Saving Illegal") and http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/CCC/Nairobi/Biofuels.html ("NGOs warn Africa on the dangers of biofuels and genetic engineering in the fight against Climate Change")

People should at all times have the right of self-determination.

There might be a silver lining in the very fact that these seeds were designed not to allow self-replication, in that they are intrinsically one generation away from extinction all the time.

They've been inbred with Darwinian 'unfitness'..

Any discussion of engineered crops needs to be broken down into component parts to make good sense and allow rational thinking.

Inso far as safety is concerned,I do believe the risks are real but probably no greater than many other risks we run on a daily basis without a serious thought-we allow all sorts of invasive organisms to move from place to place for no better reason that the edification of persons not satisfied with dogs and cats as pets or local established varieties of flowers and other ornamentals in thier landscapes.I offer the chesnut blight, the Japanese beetle, and the boa constrictors currently living in he Everglades as examples-not to mention the deliberate in troductions such as the rabbits in Australia.

Such invasions continue unchecked for the most part.

We are like the Old Man and the sea he fished-we can only take our chances and fight to a draw from day to day.We CANNOT win-nature doesn't work that way.

Now nearly every body who is a regular here seems to be more or less liberal in thier leanings but quite a few have no problems insisting that we just allow a fast dieoff to take place-a breath takingly hard core position that leaves me laighing my axx off whenever the same people get all wound up protesting various CRUEL HARDHEARTED UN FEELING SELFISH RIDICULOUS ,etc,policies pushed by right wing politicians-generally with the connivance of some left wingers I might add.(Seldom or never during my lifetime has either party had the power to really do as it pleased without cutting some deals with the other.)

Let me tell you-dxxx few of you will feel the same way when the reality of what you're talking about lets you have it upside the head with a good sized rock or piece of pipe-little children starving by the tens of millions, thier Mommas-in your nieghborhood- trying to sell thier bodies for food for her kids and thier Daddies on the prowl with that rock and piece of pipe looking for that same food.

About 98 percent of you who do not believe in guns and self defense will be seeking out people who might have an extra gun and a few rounds of ammo and offering your family jewelry in exchange.You better be prepared to trade a lot of jewelry for a very cheap gun and very few bullets.

We need the engineered crops-and we need to figure out a way to stop people from having more than two children too-this can't possibly be as bad or as hard as letting people starve by the tens of millions unnecessarily.
We need to make sure the major govts have plans in place to reserve enough oil and steel and other vital inputs to keep the big farms up and running for a copuple of generations at least.

There is no ultimate safety-I contend hat doing everything we can to lower birth rates and raise food production is by far the most prudenr path we can pursue-fully acknowledgeing that it may already be too late but not CERTAINLY too late.

A wholehearted and serious effort to feed the world might very well stave off WWIII.

We need to seperate the tool and it's use from the discussion of its ownership.My personal idea is that genetic patents should be limited to a very short time frame if issued at all and that the research should be conducted mostly or entirely at public expense.

Here in the US we have a wonderful land grant university system that took care of the vast majority of our agricultural research need for a long time and did a great job.

I believe it is time this system should be overhauled and vastly expanded and a similar system put in place for genetically related medical research-if discoveries are patented and a ton of money made as a result, it should be so organized that most of the profits are plowed back into the system.

Of course the likelihood of reforms such as these actually being implemented is close to zero.

We need the engineered crops-and we need to figure out a way to stop people from having more than two children too-this can't possibly be as bad or as hard as letting people starve by the tens of millions unnecessarily.
We need to make sure the major govts have plans in place to reserve enough oil and steel and other vital inputs to keep the big farms up and running for a copuple of generations at least.

You're trying to talk sense to APES.

I'm now fifty, and I give up.

And, look--I'm expecting die-off, but that's not the same as just "allowing" it to happen.

It's going to happen, and there's not a g-d thing I--or anyone else--can do about it.

Just let it happen after I'm dead.

"You're trying to talk sense to APES."

Well if that ain't the pot calling the kettle black..

There are lots of things we can be doing.. I can't promise they'll save our sorry primate posteriors, but for my part, I'm not likely to drolly shrug my shoulders at a business model that is introducing genetic material that is designed to shortchange its reproductive ability, all in the name of monopoly. Maybe there is no mechanism in there to confer this planned obsolescence onto other similar species, but since its design is basically perverting one of the most fundamental aspects of life, I am happy to toss the genes and the business plan into the same garbage can, thanks very much.

Anne O.

If it weren't already in use I might well have selected "Darwinian" as my own handle.I'm AFRAID you are correct about the dieoff-

But my ape brain is so constructed that I am impelled to try to save my fellow apes if I can.You see the message of brotherhood with the rest of humanity was drilled deeply into my soul when I was just a sprout as the result of going to Sunday school with the ignorant fundamentalists who are the butt of so many jokes and rants.

This lesson has beem reinforced by serious consideration of liberal politics( I was pretty much of a hippie when columbian gold (the metallic stuff too!) was only thirty five dollars and acid was cheaper than beer and the girls were sayiny yes to the guys who were saying no) and the study of history.There is no reason-other than ignorance and the us/ them divide-why we can't be happy , fulfilled and prosperous-albeit at a much lower population level , for sure, and without the profligate use of non renewables.

The thing that I find so amusing is that after all my liberal buddies (and the educational establishment, the environmental establishment, etc.) have spent the last forty or fifty years convincing me that I'm the insensitive redneck(my bark is worse than my bite of course) who needs to show some compassion for his less fortunate fellows-now these same people (in lots of cases) are telling me to just kindly step aside and let people die of starvation, civil war,exposure, and disease by the tens of millions.

Sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction.

But I do understand how you feel:)

You're a pleasure to have as company at this site, and I hope I haven't been guilty of the kind of bashing that you rightly disdain.

'Strange' is right. I'm visiting a friend in LA this weekend, sitting in a Raw Vegan Cafe' (typo was Cage) in Venice CA, having enjoyed a $5.50 Chai Latte' and spent the lunch hour on the old Fox stages, where I felt palpably relieved to walk through the 'NYC Street' sets, since they felt so much more 'real and right' than the rest of this very odd city. And true to this agro thread, I'm working on a story about a Military robot that becomes a farmer.. (I don't think he'll be able to modify seeds, but he will probably be very accurate when planting them..)

It's a good thing I have a high tolerance for strange. Probably why I like TOD, too!


(for what it's worth, everyone in here seems relaxed and good-natured, happy to say hello and chat. Doesn't always play out like that in chilly New England.. tho' I'll go as easy as I can on the stereotypes.. just taking in my immediate reality is enough for today.)

Hi Mac,

I think we share a common idea: technology (especially stuff developed after 1900) could truly help humans have a long term, sustainable, plantet friendly, even comfortable, lifestyle if we could just get humans to reduce their numbers. Say, 2B by the end of the century.

The question is: how do we achieve this reduction by means other than the tradional ones - starvation, war, disease, rapid climate change, etc. The answer is obvious: provide education and assistance for family planning aimed at one or two children along with harsh penalties for those who don't go along with the plan.

So, why is this plan totally impossible? Why is it that the 4 horsemen will most likely be the means of human population reduction? I suspect that our inability to accept the family planning approach is rooted in our collective delusions. Delusions that make it almost impossible for us to make firm decisions based upon facts and techniques such as the scientific method. "Faith" in the existence of a man in the sky uges us to create more "souls". Faith that the king (corporations & govenments) will protect us (now from terrorism instead of the Vikings). Faith that our economy can only function with "growth". A belief that humans are special beings (created in the image and likeness of god) that are separate and distinct from the "beasts" on the planet - the only ones with "souls". The dick cheney notion that Americans deserve an "energy intensive lifestyle".

These delusions (and many more) are the driving factors in how Americans formulate their worldview - not a rational analysis of the evidence. Even the Chinese, "those godless communists", cannot dispel most of the delusions as they persue growth and consummerism.

When is the last time you read about a congress person promoting a bill advocating a one child policy?

The biggest risk with engineered crops is that we are replacing multiple small stands of different varieties of crop , and multiple kinds of produce, with very large, monoculture plantings of the same crop.

If you have a bout of bad weather, and a farmer is growing several varieties, as well as several kinds of crops, your chances are good that you may lose a lot, but not everthing.

Why is it so bad that the corn and soybean farmers in Illinois and Iowa are struggling to bring in their already GMO, large, monoculture plantings? Because they have all their eggs (so to speak) in one basket.

If we turn the whole world into GMO monoculture plantings, essentially, we put the entire food system at risk from single bad weather events.

Since the weather is already wierdly variable, it makes far more sense to me to be trying to *increase* diversity, and, thereby, *resilience*, rather than trying to implement one generalized, engineered (laboratory) solution, that may, or may not work in real world conditions.

From Chicago, where we are having a hailstorm this morning, and an October which is the third coldest on record, after experiencing an unusually wet spring, 90-degree temperatures in May, and not much of a summer at all. Microburst thunderstorms, which dump a lot of water in a very short time, in a very localized area, are becoming more frequent - I know, because of the number of times I have to bail out my basement.

Where's the "Design-A-Crop" for that ?

Wonderful idea, what's the rate of return of this "robustness" you speak of?

Return can't be estimated without including a measure of risk. The period we are entering in terms of climate variability creates a very high risk scenario, imho. If financial rules apply, one could estimate high-risk, high return.
Unfortunately, we aren't dealing with money by itself. We're looking at survival scenarios.
All the crop planning that has been done in the last 10,000 years has relied on the fact that the climate has been pretty stable. Sure, there have been warmer periods and cooler periods, dust bowls, floods, natural disasters, diseases. But those events were localized, and nothing like the changes coming down the pike at us.
It's time farmers of all stripes start to dig deep into the well of skills they possess to find the "art" of growing food again, instead of treating food like a business, with throughput and ROI.
The idea that we can mass-produce food in the same way we mass-produce computers, and "program" plants to behave the way we want as if they were software, isn't rational in an environment which promises to be unstable.

Yes, we are looking at survival.

Unfortunately, if the farmers are going to survive themselves until the time when this diversity is needed it can't be more than a hobby for them.

Truly a sad state of affairs, no?

Who is this 'we' who need engineered crops?

Why do you think that repeating the same mistakes that brought us this far on the road to catastrophe will
somehow magically save us from the consequences of those very same mistakes?

More control, more food production, more technology.. those are precisely the things that got us into
trouble. The sooner we end the cycle and pay the consequences, the sooner anything like recovery or
even simply relief from imminent destruction could ever happen. Not that the consequences will be pleasant
for most involved.. but they only get worse the longer people fool themselves into thinking that repeating
those same old mistakes again will get them out of trouble.

WRT GMO's, When I read about Klebsiella-Planticola, I just about crapped my pants, and it's been a very long time since that has happened.
This cute little man-made organism was just about unleashed on our world.
It has the potential for destroying all terrestrial plant life.
Monsanto is pure evil AFAIC.

Friends don't let plants drive drunk....

The Gates worldview is rooted in his past.

1) Child of Lawyers
2) Built the business on contracts/IP law
2a) His use of contracts/IP law is what stopped the Apple clone market
3) Has seen 'technology' 'fix' many 'problems'

So of course he's a supporter of GMOed things. They are a 'tech fix' AND are 'protected by law' - thus allowing profit.

Most don't realize that Microsoft is a law firm, that writes software on the side.

Law, finance, and PR/advertising/"image management" is the main line of business for most major US companies these days; producing actual goods or services for sale is a sideline for just about all of them. That is a very, very big part of the problem with the US economy.

The president of the US chamber of commerce yesterday on CNBC "the call" with bill Griffeth said no less than three time they are not doubting the science on climate change but they want a seat at the climate table that's a 180 from just two months ago.Maybe someone could post the link if interested.

Darned. I was hoping for one of those "Scopes Monkey Trials" to take place. It might turn out to be a "Denialist Monkey Trial" which could result in the denialist losing out as their claims were shown to be false. If the "trial" were to turn out that way, all the publicity would undermine the denialist efforts to blind the public regarding the problem.

E. Swanson

This whole notion of a "trial" is just a delay tactic to ensure that nothing gets done. By the time all the motions were filed, the legal arguments put forth, the legions of witnesses heard, the deliberations held, a judgement could be years, or even decades, down the road. Meanwhile, meaningful action would be effectively on-hold, awaiting the outcome.

Exactly what the denialists are after - more foot-dragging, in the guise of "making sure we have all the data".

And even if there was a judgement in favor of climate change being real, a pretty obvious conclusion, then there would be the appeals, and the civil suits and the discussions of awards and liability...

How long have the folks in Prince William Sound waited for restitution from the ExxonValdez spill, even though the evidence was undeniable? Many of them have died waiting.

See this link on "Analysis Paralysis".

Yeah, there is that problem, along with the use of "Lawyer's Science", where each side presents only cherry picked data which supports their side of the "debate". This is just what the denialist have been doing for about 15 years. The public has no way of assessing the weight of the arguments and any event which counters the appearance of general warming is shouted about thru the conservative media to re-enforce the perception in the public's mind that there is no AGW. Shrub 43's administration added to the lack of understanding by authoring a series of reports on different issues thru the Climate Change Science Program. They wasted another 8 years, with the most important questions pushed to the end of the line of reports.

It's all part of The Plan. Keep on milking the Earth for all it can produce, maximizing profits today and pushing the costs onto future generations and other nations.

E. Swanson

You only have to look at how long the tobacco companies were denying that smoking causes cancer...and the same players are at work in the AGW discussion - same paid "experts", same PR firms, same despicable tactics...it's nauseating.

. "Shrub 43's administration added to the lack of understanding "

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released a copy of a long-suppressed report by officials in the George W. Bush administration concluding that, based on the science, the government should begin regulating greenhouse-gas emissions because global warming posed serious risks to the country.

Like anything 'bad' will happen from GW...

Arctic ice to vanish in summer, report says

Story Highlights

  • New report says Arctic sea ice will largely disappear in summer within a decade
  • Survey captured latest data on ice thickness in Northern part of Beaufort Sea
  • Measurements show the ice-floes surveyed were on average 1.8 meters thick
  • Scientists warn that Arctic ice melt is likely to set off "powerful climate feedbacks"

    ...Martin Sommerkorn from the WWF International Arctic Program believes that the changes in sea-ice cover in the region are likely to increase global temperatures further.

    "Such a loss of Arctic sea ice has recently been assessed to set in motion powerful climate feedbacks which will have an impact far beyond the Arctic itself," Sommerkorn said.

    "Arctic sea ice holds a central position in our Earth's climate system. Take it out of the equation and we are left with a dramatically warmer world," he added.

  • A similar story was posted yesterday.

    I exchanged e-mails with Dr. Wadhams yesterday. He thinks that there's evidence which points to a weakening of the THC in the Nordic Seas. This is in addition to the loss of sea-ice in the near future, as mentioned in the story.

    E. Swanson

    Not to mention the methane... crikey...


    Are-you Swanson, the climatologist who wrote a paper about GW variability due to ocean transport variation?

    Sorry for the delay in answering.

    Could be that work was by Kyle Swanson, published in 2009. His co-author was Anastasios Tsonis...


    E. Swanson

    The significance of Global Warming was understood (and suppressed) at least as far back as 1979.
    ”JASON Technical Report JSR-78-07 The Long Term Impact of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide on Climate"


    Yes. I was aware of a "potential problem" in the early 1980s.


    I read a quote a while back from someone who I think was an environmental activist but I can't seem to find who said it (I believe it was a woman) - she said (paraphrasing as accurately as I can from memory):

    If we don't address climate change based on the ridiculous amounts of data we've collected on the subject, "humans run the risk of being a species that will go down in history as having studied the minute details of their own extinction."

    spring_tides that's what your post reminded me of, all the foot dragging and requests for ever more data (data that I seriously doubt the denialist ever take more than a passing glance at)...


    The sentiment is clear enough but the reasoning leaves something to be desired.;)

    Obama doesn't need a climate bill he has the authority to enact and enforce tougher emission standards under the clean air act which a few yrs ago the Supreme Court ruled that CO2 is a pollutant.The Chamber wants to be at the table along with business.

    There was a satirical programme in the UK about politics called "Yes, Minister". Here's a quote about Britain wanting to join the european union more fully and that seems appropriate.

    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last 500 years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now when it's worked so well?

    James Hacker: That's all ancient history, surely.

    Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn't work. Now that we're inside we can make a complete pig's breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased, it's just like old times.

    James Hacker: But if that's true, why is the foreign office pushing for higher membership?

    Sir Humphrey Appleby: I'd have thought that was obvious. The more members an organization has, the more arguments it can stir up. The more futile and impotent it becomes.

    I do remember that episode, it was priceless.

    Another historical plank of British policy, at least for 300 years, is to send in the troops to support commercial interests in other countries. The Americans have done the same for 200 years. It is hard to see how huge commercial interests in other countries can work without this. How will China react to threats to nationalize its undertakings in different countries? China traditionally has no interest in foreign adventures, and one would hate to see that change.

    That may well be true, but I was more concentrating on the "We had to break the whole thing up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn't work." from the point of view of formerly "extremely sceptical" organisations joining climate change groups.

    Bank of America: $2.2 billion loss
    Nation's biggest bank is hit by bad loans. Outgoing CEO Ken Lewis calls credit costs 'our major financial challenge going forward.'

    Embattled lender Bank of America had its latest setback Friday, suffering a steep loss as increasing numbers of Americans are defaulting on their credit cards and mortgages.

    The nation's biggest bank, which lost $2.2 billion in the third quarter, was also hit with a number of costs associated with the government's move to rescue the firm over the past year.

    The Charlotte, N.C.-based lender said it paid $1.2 billion in dividends to its preferred shareholders, most of which went to the government. The company agreed to make quarterly payments in exchange for getting $45 billion in bailout money.

    But, don't worry- Goldman Sachs is doing just fine...

    Goldman Sachs: Your tax dollars, their big bonuses
    Goldman Sachs is having a banner year, and is getting a big boost from government programs.

    The New York-based investment firm turned another eye-popping profit Thursday, earning $3.2 billion in the third quarter, as revenue from trading rose fourfold from a year ago.

    As Wall Street firms typically do, Goldman set almost half that sum aside to compensate its workers. Through the first nine months of 2009, the firm socked away $16.7 billion, enough to pay the average Goldmanite $526,814.

    The bonus pool is on pace to hit $21 billion for 2009, which would match the record bonus payout of 2007.

    Goldman said it won't decide the size of the bonus pool till year-end. In any case, the payments will be substantial -- and will come just one year after huge sums of taxpayer dollars were funneled to financial institutions.

    Bailout dollars hard at work...?

    Wall St. Is Winning: Elizabeth Warren "Speechless" About Record Bonuses


    And to top off the bailout thread: Got Debt?

    U.S. deficit biggest since 1945

    The Obama administration on Friday said the government ran a $1.42 trillion deficit in fiscal year 2009.

    That made it the worst year on record since World War II, according to data from the Treasury and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

    Tax receipts for the year fell 16.6%, while spending soared 18.2% compared to fiscal year 2008. The causes: rising unemployment, the economic slowdown and the extraordinary measures taken by lawmakers to stem the economic meltdown that hit in fall 2008.

    China's largest oilfield in terms of production is Daqing. The field reached peak production of one million barrels a day. According to the EIA the field produced 800,000 barrels a day in 2008. That is about a 4% annual decline from 2007 reported production.

    Meanwhile in Bohai Bay there was a 2.2 billion barrel field 2007 discovery. Another wildcat discovery of less than one hundred feet of net pay was made in Bohai Bay during August.

    The Bohai Bay 2007 discovery was reported to flow 500 tons a day, about 3500 barrels a day.

    Can someone get me up to speed (Leanan)? I have been busy trying to keep my day job.

    I see that there is no consensus on inflation vs. deflation.
    The stock market is up; oil is up; but the dollar, jobs, and home ownership is down (a lot).

    I guess the maximum possible oil production will soon drop, even if our current consumption doesn't need all of it (at the moment).

    So, when is the next phase of this train wreck? Next year? Longer?
    My feeling is that if the economy ever strengthens to the point of adding jobs, oil price will knock us back down within six months.

    This is just my take.

    At the moment we have a slightly deflationary situation. As westexas has said many times, expect further deflation in auto and house prices, increased inflation in energy and food prices. Anyway, this deflation will continue as long as all the insolvent financial institutions do not have to open the books on their assest(losses).

    Once these instutitions finally fail, and they will, we will transcent into a (hyper-)inflation spiral.

    Very difficult to put a timeline on it. It's like we know for sure oilprices will be going through the roof. But when? Hard to say. But for me and you, we should asume it's not going to get much better either way. Forget about adding jobs. How relevant is that going to be anyway, with population still growing and all the jobs thath have been shed the last year or so?. So opt out totally or go ELP big time.

    OPEC was supposed to have cut oil production by 4 million barrels last year. Iraq has about as much extra capacity it might be capable of developing within a decade. Russian production is up to 10 million barrels a day and has surpassed Saudi production. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have oil fields that have not been tapped. New technology has opened oil shale plays in the Bakken and Three Forks strata in the U.S. In the past two years there were perhaps 20 billion barrels probable added in the Santos Basin presalt and the area is yet largely unexlored. Oman production had been dropping but turned around same as Egypt and Columbia. U.S. oil production is up YOY.

    The North Sea oil production has been dropping rapidly. Mexican oil production is in a tailspin. Mexico announced a new deepwater oil discovery this month. They made two recent deepwater oil discoveries and one deepwater gas discovery. Their deepwater is mainly unexplored. It is not the last gasp for oil, more likely climate change concerns might make it illegal to burn oil products as a threat to economic security.

    It appears to me that as crude oil prices go up, the vix for oil goes down. Anyone have any comments on what a higher price and a lower vix is telling us?

    One analyst on CNBC this week said this is typical, lower vix when oil is higher.

    A few comments above about AG.

    So I just wanted to say in passing this:

    Right now agriculture in looking at a very bad scenario.
    The weather is taking a huge toll on crops just about everywhere. Illinois,Iowa, and all the rest.

    Here in Ky farmers are scrambling to find enough equipment to allow them to harvest the mostly unfinished and very very late crops in their fields. The windows of opportunity are closing rapidly.

    Right here my buddy has been traveling the country for the last week trying to find a used combine. With the number of possible field days left he knows he will not be able to harvest all the acres planted.
    The same situation exists in other states.

    Too little time, November may be good or could be very bad. The saying is "you can't count on November"...

    We have had rain almost continually for much of Sept and all of Oct. Corn is starting to fall over.Frost is blackening the beans elsewhere. Diseases are breaking out.
    The moisture is extremely high still, 25-30 percent and higher. Leave a auger wagon of beans overnite and it starts to rot due to moisture.

    As the crops yields diminish the prices will rise. If a farmer has forward contracted his crops at a usual price and the prices skyrocket then he MUST fill his contracts by buying on the open market if his crops are insufficient to fill his contracts. This could spell diaster financially.

    Then if he has need of large infusions of cash via loans, it may be hard to obtain said loans.

    Much of the used combines have been shipped to China. Leaving little to pick over at the dealers. What is there is in pretty bad shape.

    A guy just cannot harvest 4 thousand acres of crops with all the above conditions and you can't count on neighbors for they are all in the same boat and running scared shitless.

    Of course Mother Nature could oblige. Could but could not. This once again is "Climate Change in Action"...Snows up north. Standing water in many fields. Illinois which I have been thru quite a bit recently has almost NO crops harvested as yet.

    Four combines hit the river bottoms last Sunday when we had one brief day of sunshine. They are still sitting there. When your header is dealing with mud you just can't cut beans. What the river didn't take last week is still standing , for now.

    Folks you cannot eat OIL, nor Plastic nor windmills nor PV panels. You must eat what comes out of the ground. Thats the way it is.

    Its fine to discuss those topics ad infitium but life revolves around food after all. I know there are very few here who understand about Big Ag. There are a few who went to some Ag colleges years and years ago.

    Times have changed. That knowledge is basically useless in todays farm world. Welding the crank on a 40's era Red Belly Ford is not going to do a damn thing about feeding millions of people.

    Discussions here on the topic of agriculture leave me shaking my head and muttering to myself.

    I am just reporting what I am seeing. Thought it worth posting though I mostly eschew such these days. A few might take heed..but again....

    Airdale-take it for what its worth, go visit some ag websites, I will not be replying...gone to check some farm equipment and back to silent running.....

    I always appreciate your primary reporting on what is happening real time on the ground, and your wisdom about the situation---

    Airdale is always in the money-as far as the world eating , it's mainly big ag or starvation, no doubt, except for the areas that are still doing subsistence farming..

    Repairing old machinery can buy some time -lots of time-on the local community and personal level and some time to make a forced transition to some more sustainable system-I maintain that we can keep up the current system when tshtf for a good while by rationing.

    THe various organizations that are busy promoting self sufficiency will enable some of thier more skillfull and dedicated members to provide for themselves but it's niave to think that we can transition to some sort of local food production system without going thru some sort of crisis that will be infinitely worse than anything we've ever seen before in this country-I have posted a scenario concerning moving the population of New York City to the delta country down south and putting the people in tents and passing out hoes to try to get people to see the reality of the problem.

    I guess after the food riots start in this country we will adopt a policy of maintaining strategic reserves of staples such as wheat , soybeans, rice, and corn.

    There is very little good farm machinery of the sort and size useful for serious farming available locally second hand-the guy who runs the place I usually buy parts says he is now wholesaleing all his trade ins and that the used equipment is headed overseas.

    But as far as the guys with three thousand or four thousand acres go-they're in the world's biggest crap game, they know it, and they should have done the same thing we little guys do-hold onto some of thier older equipment-a ten year old car or truck or tractor or combine will get you to work or haul a load of corn to town or pull a baler or harvest a thousand acres with about ninety percent of the efficiency and reliability of a brand new machine at well under half the cost, most likely a quarter of the cost is more like it.

    The way you make money farming is to hope like hell that you bring in a good crop once in a while when everybody else loses his own crop -it all averages out over a decade or two from one part of the country to another.

    Nearly every orchardist in my part of the country lost eighty percent or more of his crop this year to late frost -we didn't even get enough peaches for our own table and our apple crop didn't cover the expendables -fuel , fertilizer pesticides-we necessarily used to maintain the health of the trees.

    Better luck next year-it's the name of the farming game.

    As far as climate change is concerned, personally I'm ready to believe it's beginning to show up in uncommonly variable weather.But the floods and droughts could still be the result of random variation according to most websites that I read.

    If anyone reading this is interested in moving to the country and trying for self sufficiency,I suggest the hill country rather than the plains.Mountians offer substantial shelter from excessive winds, floods never rise far enough above creek bottoms to wipe out sensibly situated houses and barns, gravity will deliver water from a stream or spring located up hill,and your water source is much less likely to become polluted if it arises only a few miles up stream in thinly populated rough steep land.

    If you settle on property that has a good sized stream on it now you will probably never be without water even if there is substantial climate change if you stay out of the dry southwest.

    If average rainfall declines by half here in the south east we can still make it except for the big cities maybe, and if it increases by half, we'll still be ok.

    If the rain falls off by half in the areas that only average in the twenty to thirty inch per year range, survival itself is very questionable except perhaps as nomads.That's not a chance I would take as a believer in climate change.

    Just random some thoughts as I'm mostly inside looking after an invalid these days.

    Good to hear from you Airdale

    Then there is this in CA.

    "Water uncertainty frustrates Calif. agriculture officials, farmers as planting plans begin"


    "The lack of water in the state's reservoirs, coupled with the environmental collapse of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where water from the state's wet north is pumped south to irrigate fields, has restricted the amount of water some of the state's most prolific farmers receive to as little as 10 percent of normal."

    USDA-NASS keeps weekly tabs on weather and crop progress:
    Most recent report here:

    As Airdale points out, fields are running behind schedule while the weather seems to be running ahead of schedule (see Pennsylvania snow records).

    Yes, thanks for keeping us grounded, airdale.

    Up in the Red River Valley, harvest of the main crop, sugar beets, has come to a complete standstill.


    here in midwest the weather has been the strangest i ever remember. not that dramatically so but we've hardly had a dry spell- all summer, & as airdale says wet, wet, wet fall. yet even though we had all this soaking type rain my pond didn't fill completely as it requires a 'washer'- we've had 3 or 4/yr. the last few yrs.
    edit add; maybe the soakers are filling underground aquifers.

    this past spring wheat around here was in trouble due to wet conditions; & now the corn, & soybeans.

    my garden corn- for cornmeal-did ok- i harvested some, hope the rest drys out ok; but it is falling over, so i'll have to get it in wet or dry.
    sweet potatoes- vines at least- are growing up out of the garden- leaves largest i've seen; but an oldtimer told me the good wet yr. he remembers with large sweet potatoes- they rotted badly. we'll see.

    as i said;oddest spring/summer/fall weather i remember.

    here in midwest the weather has been the strangest i ever remember. not that dramatically so but we've hardly had a dry spell- all summer, & as airdale says wet, wet, wet fall.

    My contacts in Northern Wisconsin have been complaining about dryness. So I guess it depends upon what part of the "midwest" you are in.

    Here in Cali, we just got done with the remnants of typhoon Melor. It was about a once a decade soaker -and our normal wet season is only just beginning. Being in a serious drought situation, it is nice to at least be beginning the wet season with such an event.

    Is that norcal rain season? Cause here in Socal, the rainy season starts in late november-early december. And we did get :some: rain from that one. So its unusually early.


    Good to hear from you. This year the honey harvest was very poor, and also the apple crop. Now I hear we are likely to see our first frost this weekend, within range of average for our area but of no help to anyone.

    At least we are getting some rain again. I remember last year we were all worried about drought. Seems like it is always one extreme or the other.

    Thanks Airdale:

    Here in the high desert out of Reno, we had a day of good rain a couple days ago which almost tied the record of 1.41".

    This is just a single South Texas thunderstorm but for here it is the first measurable moisture since March or April. It frosted early last week and we cleaned up the garden except for a few root plants we left in the ground.

    There is no big AG here and just a few fields of irrigated alfalfa for cattle and horse feed and of course that was all OK.

    "When the first white explorers arrived here there were about 3000 indians in a 40 miles radius of Reno." Now there are about 400,000 people of all sorts. When all the people go to California after TSHTF, this country will be sustainable for about 3000 of us again.

    You need to blow the dams on the Truckee, and get those big cutthroats running out of Pyramid Lake, the largest cutthroats in the world.
    They would be a salmon like resource, and many tons were shipped to San Francisco before the river was dammed, and the fishery destroyed. The current fishery is rubber trout, raised in hatcheries.
    Derby Dam first.

    Hi Trekker

    Yep, still good if you don't gamble. Two for one food at most casinos.

    A couple days ago, Lake Tahoe went below the natural rim which happens every few years. So the Truckee River would be starting to dry up starting at Tahoe and ending at Pyramid Lake. They will have to turn some reservoir water loose to keep the water high enough for fish survival. All the lakes around here are very low right now.

    How to catch those big trout? Drop a grenade over the side and in a little while, lots of trout and other fish. After TSHTF and most everyone leaves here, there will be plenty. A gill net placed in the Truckee for a night will get more fish than a family can dry for the winter. The pre-whiteguy Indians were pretty good and sustained for thousands of years but the neo-Indians will have a lot more knowledge how to hunt and fish but probably less dancing and less wisdom. FUBAR is still human.

    Hightrekker, many of the dams (upstream from Reno) are sluices(?) to divert part of the river into hydroelectric generators. There are 3 or 4 of them, and together they put out about 8MW of electric. This is almost enough to power our local TMWA system, and in an emergency that would hopefully be enough to keep the water running from our faucets. Similarly, the geothermal plant south of town (Ormat) pumps out enough electric to supply Reno 24/7 with electric, tho' now it is sold elsewhere. So Reno has the potential to keep things running when tshtf, but who knows....
    Lynford, according to the paper, the last storm filled Tahoe to the rim. Don't know how long that will last.

    I lived in Reno for a while (needed to finish a thesis, and Mammoth Lakes was one long party)--
    I actually liked Reno, and if you don't gamble (which I don't), is quite a reasonable place to live.
    A friend was getting his PhD in chem, and he let me stay until I finished.

    Reno, so close to hell you can see sparks
    I've caught some of those lunkers out of Pyramid. Great fun. You fish off ladders

    "Reno, so close to hell you can see sparks"

    Bravo ... Good one. I'll use it to good effect tomorrow morning. :-)

    Some thoughts on China.

    The Chinese are no fools. And they are a people with a history of taking the long view of things. So when they're snapping up resources all over the world, it's easy to see where they think the world is heading: for major resource shortages. And they want to secure their own supply now (while their dollars still have some value).

    So far so obvious.

    But what I've been wondering is this.

    When Australia, and Canada, and Nigeria and Uganda and all the other places who are happily selling their resources to the Chinese at the moment realise "hey, actually we need those resources ourselves", what's going to stop them just taking it all back? Like the Egyptian and Venezuelan governments (among others) did with the big oil majors' assets in the not-too-distant past.

    I find it hard to believe that China hasn't thought this through, so either it thinks the medium-term gain is worth it (strip the assets out as quick as possible and then who cares if it all gets nationalised again), or they have a plan in place to retain control of these assets if any upstart nation is foolhardy enough to try and wrest back control of their own resources.

    Let's take a hypothetical example. Suppose in (say) 2025 the world is in resource crisis; there's just not enough to go around, prices are through the roof, economies are crumbling. Australia decides to shut the doors and keep it's own resources for itself. They nationalise all the mines and China is a big loser. China doesn't like it. China invades Australia.

    Who's going to argue about it? Australia can't stop them (sorry guys but just look at the size of the Chinese army), the West can't afford a war against a nuclear superpower halfway round the world, and anyway the Chinese are only protecting their legitimate rights of ownership (they'll say).

    I see the current trend of Chinese resource imperialism as a potential cause of the first resource wars...

    Or am I missing something?

    By 2025 the cost of transporting occupational troop will be through the roof.

    But seriously, when things get that bad, no currently conventional thinking will solve those problems. Under such a scenario Things will be bad all over. At some point it may not be worth the transportation costs to worry about long-distance resources.

    At some point it may not be worth the transportation costs to worry about long-distance resources.

    Hence the fact China is going all out NOW to snap up resources, so they can bring them back to the motherland before PO.

    Everyone's war machines run, nay, thrive on oil.

    As the oil supply diminishes, so will the war machines.

    Even assuming the war machines would claim most of the remaining oil, your scenario ignores history: The notional invading Chinese army would likely find its invading and occupying troops fatally bogged down in an insurgency pacification situation.

    Conquest may be easy...control is most definitely not.

    Besides, who says that by ~2025 Australia doesn't posses nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them? The folks there are certainly smart enough to figure out how to build them. Who knows how many countries may be nuke armed by then? This will either keep invasions and widespread war at bay through deterrence and fear of nuclear fires, ...or there will be numerous nuclear exchanges.

    Even without nukes, it would be easy to envision Australian air-independent propulsion submarines and combat aircraft equipped with anti-ship missiles sinking the notional invading Chines armada. Witness how militarily unimpressive Argentina just about repelled Her Majesty's Fleet during the battle for the Faulkand Islands/Islas Malvinas. And recall that the U.S. gave the U.K. considerable help with military intelligence. Those Argentine A-4 Skyhawk and Mirage pilots had huge cahones...if they would have popped up right before pickling and achieved proper delivery parameters for their iron bombs to fuze correctly the outcome would have been much worse for the Brits.

    I still remember the Brits' military band playing Don't Cry for Me, Argentina' on TV after their victory. Way to rub some imperialist salt in the Argentine's wounded egos...especially after their nuke attack sub HMS Conqueror sent the Argentine ship General Belgrano to Davy Jones' locker with a loss of some 300+ hands.

    Maybe if the oil really gets scarce nations can invade each other with sail-powered ships.

    Everyone's war machines run, nay, thrive on oil.

    As the oil supply diminishes, so will the war machines.

    The quote of Helen maybe "the face that launched a thousand ships", but I'll think you'll find it was Bronze Age engineering and a large number of people. And no oil.


    I agree with your point. They didn't need oil.

    However, I think it will be much easier to repel sail-ship-borne invaders with machine guns and modern cannon.

    And it is a longer sail requiring considerably more water and food provisions from China to Australia compared to from Sparta to Troy.

    Its quite easy to lob some chemical or biological weapons over as well. No defence if there is nobody left alive.

    Modern warfare is all about speed; acting so fast you get inside the opponent's OODA loop. The thing that's been forgotten is that's not the only way to wage and win war.

    Not least you can win economically...

    Well I hope no-one tries to muscle in on Australia, because the free world owes a hell of a lot in IOUs for the blood spilled by Ozzies saving our sorry asses in past wars.

    they did depend on another resource they were depleting: wood. Greece used to be covered in magnificent
    forests, but they were largely cut down during the bronze age. Susequent regrowth (and repeated cycles of
    regrowth and deforestation) have never really gotten back to the extent or health of forest there was before
    the bronze age. Soil retention/quality and ground hydrology are affected sometimes for thousand of years.

    Lack of (affordable) wood was one of the major ingredients in the collapse of the whole bronze-age world. Local sources in the near east were being noticeably depleted by the 18th and 17th centuries bc, and by the 13th century even greece and asia minor were runing low on quality timber. They sailed further and further
    abroad to get wood- into the black sea, up the danube, up the adriatic, to sicily and italy,
    in ships 30 or 40 feet long powered by wind when you were lucky and by men rowing oars when the wind or current was against you. There is a distance beyond which it does not make a bit of difference how much wood
    there is, it is simply not profitable at any cost to bring it back to the near east to sell. And as they
    started pushing into those limits, the cost of wood in the near east, especially wood big enough and good
    enough for serious construction or shipbuilding, simply became prohibitive. The economies of the BA were
    more tightly integrated by networks of long-distance trade than any subsequent iron-age civilizations would be perhaps until after the renaissance. Wood for ships got to the point where most people couldnt afford
    the ships anymore, and trade started to decline. Below some marginal level, the societies based on and
    dependingon that trade for economic and political order started to unravel. Within a couple of generations
    everywhere in the near east and the greek world the same story: cities sacked and burned without evidence of outside invasion, manufacture ofmuch of anything comes to an almost complete stop, population
    drops in some places by half or so, urban population drops tremendously.. in a word, collapse.
    the famous trojan war was indeed fought over control over a vital shipping route, towards the end of
    this period. Quite possibly remembered so well in song and legend because it was in a way the last
    hurrah for the bronze age civilizations of southern greece. Within a few generations they were sitting
    around their campfires in the slowly deteriorating houses of their grandfathers telling those stories
    with the evidence of former glory sitting all around them.

    Peak Wood was probably around the middle of the 12th century bc in the eastern mediterranean, and about the 19th or 18th century bc in mesopotamia. In the 18th century bc the first forest conservation law was written in babylonia. didn't do them much good.

    nice post. history similarly repeats.

    hmmm, I'm not completely sold on your hypothesis, I think you are overstating your case somewhat. When Themistocles went before the Athenians and persuaded them to invest their windfall mining profits in building a fleet of 200 triremes, it was a question of apportioning the money...presumably Macedon had ample supplies of timber.
    And given the history of continuous warfare inherent in the nature of the Greek city/state depopulation of urban areas is not difficult to understand.
    I'm with Herodotus on the causes of the Trojan War, it was the result of a long series of wife-stealing raids, brigandage, essentially irrational. Herodotus is more of a "clash of civilizations" kind of guy as far as ultimate causes go, I don't think he went in for the Marxist analysis.
    Also...what of the Phoenicians? If Bronze age deforestation was as advanced as you claim, how were they able to sustain their formidable maritime presence clear up to the Peloponnesian War?

    Everyone's war machines run, nay, thrive on oil.


    The report says that part of the reason it costs so much to keep US forces in Afghanistan, is because the government is paying $400 per gallon of fuel.

    I'm presently waiting on the edge of my seat for the TeaBaggers to gin up protests against this egregious waste of our money, pursing a fool's errand to 'fix' some 14th century country half-way around the World...

    What, nothing on Fox, CNN, or anything yet?

    Anything the MIC does gets carte blanche from a significant portion of our populace.

    You don't believe this nonsense for even one second. The Dems have total control of the political system-they are ramping up the war machine with glee-somehow this is the fault of FOX.

    I don't disagree with your premise for one second that the Democrat political machine (not necessarily the majority of the Democrat-voting rank and file) are almost as much in thrall to the MIC as the Republicans...I am just wondering out loud where the legions of 'Joe Six-Pack' (J.S.P.) tea-baggers are to protest the fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA) in the military? As I said before, it is because:

    1) Faux Noise has not issued the clarion call to their J.S.P. zombies in concert with the 'neocon' astroturf front organizations because

    2)In the neocon world's eye, the MIC can do no wrong and gets a free pass on everything...absolutely zero oversight or questioning.

    And by the by, thank reason for Al Franken pushing his bill through to deny funding to military contractors who make their employees use company internal arbitration to address sexual harassment and outright rape (invariably women employees). And to Hades with the 30 Republican Senators who voted against this bill. They all have a broken moral compass and deserve no respect.

    Clearly more comedians are needed to improve the Senate. Jesters can speak truth to power. Franken has my respect too by this.

    The only nexus of tea bag/war spending is outta control is the followers of (Ron) Paul.

    Given the treatment of Paul by Faux Knews - no way they'll back his message.

    Go look up Chalmers Johnson as to why the 'war machine' won't be shutting down soon. Both parties are soaking in the money of the military-industrial-congressional complex.

    How about Triremes to use all the unemployed.

    For one, Australia is across the water and China has no navy to speak of -- certainly not one that could support a massive invasion (or defend the transport of booty back home).

    GreenIan -

    The thing you might be missing is that when it comes to foreign policy, the Chinese are quite subtle and nowhere nearly as ham-fisted as the US. They are also firm believers in asymmetric warfare. As such, I tend to doubt they would engage in a direct all-out military conflict with the US. (That is unless the US starts it and/or the entire world falls into sudden and total chaos, in which case all bets are off.)

    I think it far more likely that a US/China conflict would take the form of protracted proxy wars, with each side supporting opposing waring factions in oil rich regions but without getting their own hand too dirty. Vietnam serves as a good example of how draining a long-term proxy war can be on a major power. Ditto regarding the Russian debacle in Afghanistan.

    As the US is already committed (or more accurately, tied down) in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also shows strong indications of getting increasingly sucked into the troubles in Pakistan, not to mention a possible military confrontation with Iran should Israel attack it's uranium enrichment facilities, China is not lacking multiple pressure points in which to put a big hurt on the US. Picture dealing with three or four Vietnams at once!

    However, I think before we get to that point, what we might see is a splitting up of the oil rich regions into de facto spheres of influence, e.g., 'China, you can take all the oil you want out of Iran and Kazakhstan, as long as we can take all the oil we want out of Saudi Arabia and Iraq: is it a deal?' Such long-term bilateral arrangements would essentially do away with much of the open global oil market as we know it, as a good chunk of the oil production will already have been spoken for.

    Of course, even the above would be a highly unstable situation that could always degenerate into some sort of military conflict. So, even if there isn't a direct military confrontation between the US and China, no doubt there are some very dangerous times ahead for all of us.

    GreenIan -

    The thing you might be missing is that when it comes to foreign policy, the Chinese are quite subtle and nowhere nearly as ham-fisted as the US. They are also firm believers in asymmetric warfare. As such, I tend to doubt they would engage in a direct all-out military conflict with the US. (That is unless the US starts it and/or the entire world falls into sudden and total chaos, in which case all bets are off.)

    I think it far more likely that a US/China conflict would take the form of protracted proxy wars, with each side supporting opposing waring factions in oil rich regions but without getting their own hand too dirty. Vietnam serves as a good example of how draining a long-term proxy war can be on a major power. Ditto regarding the Russian debacle in Afghanistan.

    As the US is already committed (or more accurately, tied down) in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also shows strong indications of getting increasingly sucked into the troubles in Pakistan, not to mention a possible military confrontation with Iran should Israel attack it's uranium enrichment facilities, China is not lacking multiple pressure points in which to put a big hurt on the US. Picture dealing with three or four Vietnams at once!

    However, I think before we get to that point, what we might see is a splitting up of the oil rich regions into de facto spheres of influence, e.g., 'China, you can take all the oil you want out of Iran and Kazakhstan, as long as we can take all the oil we want out of Saudi Arabia and Iraq: is it a deal?' Such long-term bilateral arrangements would essentially do away with much of the open global oil market as we know it, as a good chunk of the oil production will already have been spoken for.

    Of course, even the above would be a highly unstable situation that could always degenerate into some sort of military conflict. So, even if there isn't a direct military confrontation between the US and China, no doubt there are some very dangerous times ahead for all of us.

    One very important factor that is almost always overlooked in these geopolitical discussions is that the USA, unlike China, has extremely powerful interests whose goals do not necessarily align with the nation as a whole. This is one of the hallmarks of a "third world" nation-not that the USA is one, but that it now shares one of the major characteristics with these nations. Does anyone actually think that there would be a conflict between the USA and China over resources if the funnelling of necessary resources to the Chinese economy and away from the USA economy could be structured to the benefit of the top 1% of the US population? Look at the UK-London has gained financial power over the years even as the nation as a whole slides into the abyss. The UK and the USA are very different nations from China or Japan in that the most powerful wield far more power domestically than the government itself.

    BrianT -

    Yes, that is a quite valid point. The real rulers of the US are not just confined to the people down in Washington.

    I am implicitly assuming that while all these global machinations are taking place, the US government will continue to beggar its subjects (as opposed to citizens, for that's what we are becoming) for the benefit of the ruling top <1% consisting largely of the financial and political class and all various consultants, foundations, and miscellaneous organizations who do their laundry.

    To the question of how China plans to enforce its aquisitions of global resources, I think it's pretty clear they are grooming the U.S. military as their muscle.

    China already holds the U.S. economy by the throat. A sudden sell-off of T-bills and other dollar holdings would hurt China short term, but would devastate the U.S. currency and economy more or less permanently. That gives China unlimited power over U.S. politics as well.

    We shall see over the coming months and years how China wants the U.S. to spend its remaining shekels. Even more than domestic considerations, this might explain why there is always plenty of money for the U.S. military but not for social programs -- the Chinese don't care whether we have healtcare, as long as we kill and die to protect (their) capital.

    Green -- I've commented on your proposition before so I'll have to keep it short. Foreign govt's don't have the immunity they once had when it comes to breaking contracts. The world courts have huge leverage today in such matters. The nationalization headlines often loom big. The multi-billion $ settlements later are seldom announced publicly. It might take 15 or 20 years but the people of Vz will likely pay a dear price for Hugo's actions at a time when they can least afford it.

    But what's the leverage? Countries are tied at the hip to the global banking system: IMF, etc. Most big international deals flow through the bankers. Bankers really don't like to lose money. No country can survive, at least not for long, when they are shut out of the system. My wife's daughter is a lawyer working in this world. She's told me specifics I can't repeat. A tease, I know, but unavoidable.

    Not missing much GrenIan, I'm here in Oz and the Chinese will control this country before 2025 . Most people see them as a "white night" that have given us a huge market and prevented a recession. They are a big source of our migrants and are major investors in not just mining but property as well. When I catch the bus each morning I pass by Haymarket (our Chinatown) and the property market in nearby areas is now dominated by Chinese investments. The 3 ATMs near my bus stop are all HSBC and that is in Townhall. Many shop signs are predominantly in Chinese script. Even our PM is a Mandarin speaker and our envionmental minister is half Chinese.(No I'm not being racist as I like the Chinese, I just don't trust their government or the sh!t we could be in when their requests turn to demands, the don't need to threaten us militarily as they will control us economically. Most Chinese here don't like their government but when China does demand their loyalty in a few years many will comply as they have relatives back there).

    Re: The Truth About Energy, up top:

    Oil refiners and oil bears raise white flags.

    That's what he gets for watching Fox and not reading TOD.

    It was interesting that he was so willing to offer the precaution that 'All' the so-called renewables were NetEnergy negative, naming both Ethanol and Solar Panels.. it's where I felt he dumped his credibility, since it's clearly shown that Solar PV is energy positive, while the numbers on Ethanol might still prove to be 'somewhat or slightly positive'..

    I don't claim these two will 'Save us'.. but this critical degree to which they can yield a positive net is simply the degree to which they can help us, and hence the degree to which they should be promoted.

    It was at least good that he chose to sound an alarm. The details will need to get ironed out, but the message is in the right direction anyways..


    Marc Rich on his dealings with Oil.

    Leave the car at home, save energy, save the planet-tell the missus you need to get some exercise, blow off some steam http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/091016/koddities/eu_germany_green_bro...

    Concerning the possibility of global warfare directed and supplied from afar...it seems that some in the military don't get the whole 'Peak Everything' concept...or maybe they do, and this is their plan for dealing with it...

    This is what they mean when they talk about 'The Long War':


    This is certainly a long-term employment plan for the MIC.

    This is pretty alarming, and pursuing such folly will ensure our downfall as a nation.

    Edit: Jeff, is this the way of our future?

    It seems the MIC is doing a full-court press for the "Long War" this week.

    New York Times: Stanley McChrystal's Long War


    Good news, Fusion power generation is only ~ 20 years away (Still!)...but scientists get to play with some really cool lasers on the journey:


    The National Ignition Facility (NIF) has REALLY PO'd people in certain other parts of DOE...I'd rather see the money spent of NIF than on the other things the PO'd people want to spend DOE's money on though. But the even better outcome would be to spend that DOE money on large-scale PV implementation. Not nearly as sexy as petawatt-class laser toys though...

    Finding all these new natural gas supplies is great. NG is much cleaner and more versatile than coal.


    Too bad we don't have the brains to capitalize on this bounty and mandate/subsidize huge conservation measures (95%-efficient NG furnaces retrofits for all structures, a comprehensive insulation program for all structures, increased energy efficiency for appliances, and more efficient lighting technology).

    This way our newly found NG bounty could last much longer and give us more time to transition ( level population growth, including restricting immigration).

    Can't pay for this we say? B.S.; just shut down one of our two major wars and pay for all the subsidized conservation measures that way. We say that conservation will lower the price of NG and kill off the new plays? Easy: Robustly tax NG to the consumers and use the proceeds to subsidize the price to producers AND help pay for more efficiency gains.

    Sound like Socialism? get over the ideology and do what logic dictates.

    'NG is much cleaner and more versatile than coal'. Yes, but see yesterday's Drumbeat post 'Curbing emissions by sealing gas leaks'. Conservative estimates of NG leaks - 3 trillion cu ft per year = warming power of half the coal plants in the US (because methane has 25 x warming power of CO2). And with gas use increasing to replace coal, the problem gets worse, unless leaks are fixed.

    Great point Nick. I did not read that post on yesterday's DB.

    There truly is no free lunch.

    Perhaps the government could train some of the folks needing employment to find and fix some of these leaks.

    Why the government? because the gas companies likely treat most of these leaks as costs of doing business/externalities.

    If the government doing it doesn't make sense, then the government (of the people, by the people, for the people) could fine the gas infrastructure companies and thus incentivize them to hire and train more folks to find and fix these leaks. This way a truer cost accounting of NG could be realized...consumers should pay for the externalities/pollution on top of what they have been paying for the gas all along...this extra cost to the consumers would also incentivize them to be more efficient and consume less.

    No free lunch...

    "...because the gas companies likely treat most of these leaks as costs of doing business/externalities."

    I dunno about that. A few years ago the gas company invaded my back yard looking for leaks. They had been working their way from house to house. They found a tiny one and so they shut my meter off and padlocked it until I could get a plumber to fix the leak and then have it retested.

    (Since my only gas appliance was the water heater I told them to take the meter away and I then changed out the WH to electric. Saved a little money by doing that since the cost of hot water was transferred to my electric bill but not the base charge. Now I am all electric.)

    I don't know how much of their concern was financial (waste of product) and how much was a safety/liability issue, but they were certainly concerned to find and rectify any tiny leak.

    Does anyone have any info/reviews on the movie : Houston, We Have a Problem?

    I heard this movie mentioned on a radio talk show and have so far found only sketchy info on the Intertubes:



    "The experience of Great Britain in the late 1980s provides a sobering example. The country was adjacent to an enormous, underdeveloped resource of natural gas in the North Sea. At the time, the Conservative government headed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was fighting with the coal miners, and natural gas looked like an economically and politically attractive fuel. So government and industry pushed forward with what became known as the "dash for gas,"...."

    makes ray-gun's union busting look benign.

    I didn't see this discussed here, maybe I missed it earlier in the week.

    Suspended animation with hydrogen sulfide.


    So how about we put large proportions of the population to sleep in warehouses, and employ a few to be awake and brush the ants off them?

    It'd be an interesting way to deal with food shortages - hibernation. Perhaps fairly low-tech.

    Gee, we could pay people to hibernate. Then they could wake up and spend their money, being in real-time mode for maybe 3 months each year and in hibernation for 9 months. It'd cut carbon emissions, reduce the need for food, and potentially prevent a massive human dieoff.

    I'm noting this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it certainly would give humans more options - and potentially resilience - if the ability to hibernate for long periods was a simple option. During a disease pandemic, you could simply hibernate enough people to halt the disease progress.

    Maybe I'll start an initiative to practicalize it... it'd be fun if nothing else. I never managed to put anything more complex than a goldfish into suspended animation when I was a kid.

    Mark is one of my collaborators (although I'm sure all his cancer-focused colleagues regard my work as the least critical or interesting going on in his lab). Widespread human clinical applications are still decades off, but it might eventually be possible...

    Say, click on my user name and drop me an email if you're so inclined, I'd like to ask a couple questions offlist. Thanks.

    I knew the pension plans were screwed but I didn't think it was my own fault. According to the Globe and Mail, WE are responsible for the pension debacle.


    These Weeds Aren’t Made for Whacking
    by Olga Bonfiglio
    on the EnergyBulletin.net is nice reading.

    In the editor's note at the beginning of RR's article over at Energy Tribune he says:

    Rapier shows that the entire argument for corn ethanol -- that it reduces oil imports -- is nothing more than hyperbole. Here at Energy Tribune, we have opposed the corn ethanol scam for years and for a variety of reasons. And while all of Rapier's points are exactly on point, we'll add one more: Congress has mandated that US industry burn food to make motor fuel at a time when there's a growing global shortage of food and no shortage of motor fuel. The corn ethanol scam is not an energy program. It is a farm subsidy program.

    Firstly there are many arguments for ethanol and reducing imports is only one of them. Others are rural development, reducing corn surpluses, and a bargaining point with OPEC. To suppose that oil imports would decline if we abandoned ethanol is rediculous. They would increase.

    Secondly ethanol does not burn food it consumes animal feed and I call bullshit on this rhetorical slight of hand. There are large surpluses of wheat which really is human food for the most part. Wheat is not breaking out to new highs like crude. If there is no shortage of motor fuel then why is the price of crude breaking out to new recovery highs?

    As for ethanol being a farm subsidy program. Well, duh. If not for ethanol corn prices would be much lower and subsidies for corn would be higher. Oil subsidies continue that are much larger than ethanol subsidies and no one seems to care.

    And calling the ethanol program a scam is childish. I can call wars for oil security, the oil depletion allowance and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve all scams that benefit oil but it adds nothing to the argument. It is childish name calling and convinces no one.

    I dunno, I think breaking up the mega-sized food processors would do better.

    What's needed is competition on the buyer's side, too small a market means that it is too easy for buyer's side collusion to keep prices down without any obvious coordination.

    That might even allow prices to rise sufficiently for a sub-1000 acre farm to be profitable.

    Is anyone watching the real-world graphs of oil price next to these interesting discussions?

    We seem to have hit a new record.

    To mention the article above about (paraphrased) 'the market is not sure which way to jump' - looks like it has decided.

    Oil hit 78.70 today. Only 1.30 from 80, which would be 4% of GDP, the historical level that has caused recessions. However, in this latest economic collapse has there been an adjustment to higher energy costs, so that we are now capable of handling 5%? And if so what would that adjustment have been?


    Weird. 'Recession causing' oil prices. We are already (still?) in a recession. What adjustment indeed.

    I gotta say-it is time to start cheering for the bad guys-at least they have a plan-the good guys have a school marm out there who is "astonished" at reality-I wonder who this kid will be taking orders from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/16/adam-storch-sec-hires-exg_n_323...

    One of many amusing comments on this one: Storch, who worked since 2004 in a unit at Goldman Sachs that reviewed contracts and transactions for signs of FRAUD..."

    Do you think he overlooked anything?

    Hello TODers,

    Although it may be too early to tell if this viewer #'s rise will be sustained, at the moment, TOD unique visitors have taken a jump upward:


    If crude can breach $80/bbl, then I expected an even larger jump in visitor numbers...and so on if crude hits $100, then $110, and so on to maybe $147? Or More? I guess we will see what the economy can handle for this next go round of the Price Vise.

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

    I don't the current jump is related to oil prices. Looks like it's correlated with the ASPO conference. That resulted in a ton of peak oil articles, and a jump in Google searches for peak oil.

    Um, what price-vice? Petrol is now cheaper here in Sydney Australia than it was 6 months ago. The price problem is only in US dollar terms and thats because your currency has declined 30-40% over that 6 months. Just maybe the oil price rise is a mirror of the US dollar decline. We are now expecting the AU dollar to be better than parity with the US dollar in a few months. So even at $100 a barrel our petrol will be cheaper than when oil was $35.
    If the slide in the US dollar becomes self sustaining(getting more likely) then $500 oil will be cheap for us.

    You are exactly correct and the price rise seen in all dollar denominated assets and commodities is a result of the dollar declining.
    Just about the entire US stock market rally included.
    The only thing keeping the dollar from completely collapsing is the US military superiority.
    Nothing short of the US discovering or creating a free energy source or method will stop the inevitable re-equalizing of the global economy and financial system.

    It's going to be interesting to see the peak this winter:

    (deleted post)