Drumbeat: December 10, 2009

The peak-oil debate: 2020 vision - The IEA puts a date on peak oil production

FATIH BIROL, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA), believes that if no big new discoveries are made, “the output of conventional oil will peak in 2020 if oil demand grows on a business-as-usual basis.” Coming from the band of geologists and former oil-industry hands who believe that the world is facing an imminent shortage of oil, this would be unremarkable. But coming from the IEA, the source of closely watched annual predictions about world energy markets, it is a new and striking claim.

Despite repeated downward revisions in recent years in its forecasts of global oil supply in 2030, the IEA has not until now committed itself to a firm prediction for when oil supplies might cease to grow. Its latest energy outlook, released last month, says only that conventional oil (as opposed to hard-to-extract sources like Canada’s tar sands) is “projected to reach a plateau sometime before” 2030.

Mr Birol’s willingness to acknowledge that conventional supplies may peak in a decade’s time points to a subtle shift in policymakers’ attitude towards the “peak oil” debate. This debate is not about whether the supply of oil, a finite resource, could some day stop growing. Rather, it hinges on the timing of an end to increases in global oil production, and on what happens next. The most pessimistic peak-oil proponents think that global oil supply has peaked or is about to do so. Given projections of demand increasing well into the future, they fear economic disaster.

Bad timing

It seems the evil empire will keep chugging along, despite my wishes to the contrary. How long is anybody’s guess. And, despite my record of bad guessing, I’ll toss out some more guesses here.

When forecasting light’s out in the empire by the end of this year, I clearly put too much stock in the International Energy Agency’s forecast of a 9.1% annual decline in crude oil availability. The IEA is notorious for lying, but they’ve always lied in the other direction. Under pressure from imperialists such as Barack Obomber, they routinely claim there’s plenty of oil available. So when they forecast a 9.1% annual decline, beginning in 2009, they suckered me. As most energy-literate folks are aware, there is no way demand could fall at a pace approaching 9% without a complete collapse of the industrial economy. So far, year-over-year decline has been about 3%, and the Great Depression 2.0 is destroying demand even faster than world supply is falling. If we believed in the “laws” of supply and demand, oil should be priced at about ten bucks a barrel. If, on the other hand, we believed in pricing oil at what it does for us, oil should be priced at about a thousand bucks a barrel.

FACTBOX - China's investments in Central Asian energy

(Reuters) - Chinese leader Hu Jintao will visit Central Asia to launch a new gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, a new milestone in China's quest for control over the region's abundant energy resources.

Beijing has stepped up its presence in ex-Soviet Central Asia within the last few years by handing out billions of dollars in loans, snapping up energy assets and building an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan.

Below is the list of recent Chinese investments in Central Asia's energy sector.

Turkmenistan's plight: Burning sands and pipe-dreams

It has the world’s fourth-largest gas deposits and its proud and poor population is ruled by one of the most oppressive and corrupt regimes in the world. A few kilometres south of the gas crater people sleep in yurts and drink rainwater. Scrawny children run about half-naked. Turkmenistan sells billions of dollars worth of gas each year. Yet the average income of its 5m people is under $300 a month.

Solar power coming to a store near you

NEW YORK - Solar technology is going where it has never gone before: onto the shelves at retail stores where do-it-yourselfers can now plunk a panel into a shopping cart and bring it home to install.

Lowe's has begun stocking solar panels at its California stores and plans to roll them out across the country next year.

Asia Can Help Lead Climate-Change Fight

The region's scientists and researchers have the expertise to help the world eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels in 20 years.

Fewer travelers seen taking flight over holidays

WASHINGTON - Air travel over the holidays will fall 2.5 percent from last year, a trade group for the nation's major carriers predicted Thursday.

The Air Transport Association of America said it expects 41 million passengers to fly on U.S. airlines over a 21-day period from Dec. 17 through Jan. 6.

John Michael Greer: The Human Ecology of Collapse, Part One: Failure is the Only Option

The old legend of the Holy Grail has a plot twist that’s oddly relevant to the predicament of industrial civilization. A knight who went searching for the Grail, so the story has it, if he was brave and pure, would sooner or later reach an isolated castle in the midst of the desolate Waste Land. There the Grail could be found and the Waste Land made green again, but only if the knight asked the right question. Failing that, he would wake the next morning in a deserted castle, which would vanish behind him as soon as he left, and it might take years of searching to find the castle again.

As we approach the twilight of the age of cheap energy, we’re arguably in a similar situation. It seems to me that a great deal of the confusion that grips the peak oil scene, and even more of the blind commitment to catastrophically misguided policies that reigns outside peak-aware circles, comes from a failure to ask the right questions. A great many people aware of the limits to fossil fuels, for example, have assumed that the question that needs answering is how to sustain a modern industrial society on alternative energy.

Energy Deflation Cometh: Plentiful Shale Gas, LNG, Ethanol, Nuclear, Geothermal

Consumers rejoice. Investors beware. Environmentalists lament.

Fossil fuel prices are just about to nose dive. Massive new supplies of energy are coming on stream worldwide. Shale gas has flipped the United States from gas importer to gas surplus. Liquid natural gas (LNG) supplies from Qatar, Algeria and Russia are flooding European and Asian markets. Ethanol production in the US is outstripping demands.

Huge new oil fields in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Ghana will cause an intermediate-term surge in crude oil production. Iraq alone will be producing 5 million more barrels of oil per day within just five years; Brazil will become an oil exporting nation.

Pemex Cantarell Oil Output to Drop Least in 5 Years

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleos Mexicanos, the state oil producer, said output at its Cantarell field will fall by about 5.2 percent next year, the slowest drop in five years.

Production at Cantarell will fall to about 550,000 barrels a day next year from an average 579,990 barrels through the first 10 months of this year, Jesus Puente Trevino, adviser to Chief Executive Officer Juan Jose Suarez Coppel, said in an interview in Houston today.

The company’s natural-gas production will drop to 6.2 billion cubic feet a day in 2010, he said. That represents a 12 percent drop from the average 7.05 billion cubic feet a day this year through October, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Pemex sets goals for next year

State-run Pemex has set its production goal of 2.5 million barrels per day for next year, down from 2.7 million bpd this year, said an advisor to the company.

China struggles to fuel its nuclear energy boom

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is driving ahead with an ambitious programme to expand its atomic energy capacity over the next decade, raising questions about its ability to find the uranium it will need, at home or abroad.

Kenya: Raila blames oil players for energy crisis

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has blamed rich merchants of petroleum products and lack of political will among leaders for the failure by the world to develop alternative sources of energy, especially bio-fuels.

New hope for coal future as new mining method announced

A NEW method of mining coal which could open the door to a billion-pound boost for the region looks set to be pioneered off the North East coast.

A firm has been given permission to investigate using underground gasification to harness energy from coal without removing it from the ground.

We can't afford to ignore our coal resources

AS world leaders gather in Copenhagen for the climate change summit, the UK delegation should remember this: Britain is facing an energy crisis of untold proportions.

Sasha and Barack Debate the Merits of Peak Oil Preparation

Industrial civilization is rapidly running out of net fossil-fuel energy -- and alternative energy sources won’t be able to make up the difference. As we begin the slide down the steep backside of our civilization’s net energy curve, lower standards of living are in everybody’s future. Obama knows this, but is unable to say it publicly. But if we don’t start making some basic preparations for our non-optional, lower-energy future right now, we’ll likely end up with a much lower standard of living than if we did prepare. The basic, precautionary, low-energy backup-systems we need – food, water, transportation, manufacturing – are straightforward and relatively cheap…but they will take awhile to develop fully. We need to start preparing right now, at all levels: individual, community, regional, and national. -- Heck, even an intelligent child could do a better job planning for energy descent than we're doing now! Sasha in 2012!

Analyst Sees Stable Oil Prices for 20 Years, More SUVs and Big Cars Ahead

Americans may not be moving to small cars, hybrids and battery electrics quite as fast as environmentalists have hoped, says the forecaster CSM Worldwide.

As the climate talks get underway in Denmark, all eyes are focused on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA says cars and trucks are more than 23 percent of U.S. climate emissions, so that’s a major focus. But to get Americans out of big gas guzzlers, CSM says, fuel prices would have to rise significantly (as they did last year, to $4 a gallon).

“But we don’t expect to see $140 a barrel oil again for another 20 years,” said George Augustaitis, CSM market analyst for North American vehicle sales. He said that when the price reaches $110 to $120, it becomes economical to start drilling again, and to invest in alternative sources such as oil shale and tar sands.

Soon oil prices will soar again

Many National Post readers are committed to the free-market system. They'll be surprised then, to learn then that oil and gas is subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of $250-billion a year worldwide.

Doug Koplow, an expert who studies oil and gas subsidies, points out that financial support comes in many forms: consumption subsidies, tax breaks, loans and loan guarantees, required purchase of particular energy commodities, funding research and development, and reducing risk by government assuming liability or providing insurance.

Oil Rebounds From 2-Month Low on Speculation Drop Was Too Fast

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil rose, rebounding from a two month-low near $70 a barrel on speculation that this week’s decline took place too rapidly.

Oil had lost almost 10 percent in six days as a stronger dollar dampened investor appetite for commodities to hedge against inflation and climbing U.S. fuel inventories undermined confidence demand is recovering. Gasoline stockpiles jumped 2.25 million barrels last week, the Energy Department said yesterday.

“The low $70s is definitely seen as a buying region for a lot of investors,” Ben Westmore, a minerals and energy economist at National Australia Bank Ltd. in Melbourne, said by telephone. “If you’ve got any faith in the medium-term demand outlook, then it’s probably not a bad time to buy.”

Inflation Returns to China

BEIJING – China is moving out of deflation after nearly a year of falling consumer prices, a turnaround driven in part by the government's success in changing long-criticized policies that kept costs for oil, water and electricity artificially low.

China major fuel stocks up 5.3 pct in Nov - source

BEIJING (Reuters) - Combined stocks of gasoline, diesel and kerosene held by China's top two oil companies rose by 5.3 percent in November from October as domestic sales dropped 2.6 percent, an industry official with knowledge of the data told Reuters on Thursday.

Saudi boosts crude supply to some Asia buyers

TOKYO/SINGAPORE - Saudi Arabia is restoring full term crude supplies to at least two Asian buyers for January and keeping contracted volumes to six others, as the top oil exporter prepares for domestic refinery maintenance this month, industry sources said on Thursday.

The two Asian customers will receive their full contracted volumes in January after supplies were cut by 5 to 7 percent for December, industry sources at the term customers said.

Turkmen-China gas pipeline nearly operational

BEIJING – A natural gas pipeline linking Turkmenistan and China is nearly operational and President Hu Jintao will attend an inauguration ceremony during a visit to the central Asian nation this weekend, a senior Chinese diplomat said Thursday.

The 1,833-kilometer (1,139-mile) Turkmenistan-China pipeline cuts through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan into China's far western Xinjiang region.

It will eventually be able to bring 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually from gas-rich Turkmenistan, undercutting Russia's near-lock on gas supplies in that former Soviet region.

Obama taps ex-Palin aide to oversee natgas project

Alaska (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated Larry Persily, a veteran Alaska policy maker and former aide to former Governor Sarah Palin, to oversee plans for a massive, long-desired Alaska natural gas pipeline.

ANALYSIS - Now or never for Big Oil in Iraq

"For the companies involved, this is it," said Alex Munton, analyst at consultancy Wood Mackenzie. "Rounds 1 and 2 to a large extent covers all of Iraq's biggest fields. There is no round three."

Firms that failed to win contracts in the first round were likely to push hardest. Among the empty-handed so far are U.S. major Chevron and France's Total. The two have paired up and Total has said it would bid for Majnoon, one of the supergiant fields on offer.

U-Ming Marine to Add 20 Ships to Fleet in Five Years, Hsu Says

(Bloomberg) -- U-Ming Marine Transport Corp., the bulk shipping unit of Taiwan’s Far Eastern Group, plans to add at least 20 ships in the next five years as it expands into the crude carrier business, Chairman Douglas Hsu said.

“We are one of the partners to upgrade the second-generation double-hull oil tankers” for CPC Corp., Hsu, 67, said in an interview at his Taipei office yesterday. U-Ming also plans to buy at least 10 dry bulk carriers to boost its own fleet, he said.

BP Says Australian Oil Refinery Unaffected By Strike

(Bloomberg) -- BP Plc, which operates two refineries in Australia, said its Bulwer Island plant in Queensland state is running normally as maintenance workers strike after rejecting a new labor contract.

“Operations at the refinery are not affected,” Jamie Jardine, Melbourne-based spokesman for BP, said by phone today. Workers continue to reject an agreement and have chosen to take industrial action, he said.

Exxon’s New Jersey Franchisees Sue Over Fuel Prices, Rent

(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp., the biggest U.S. oil company, was sued by operators of more than 100 of its New Jersey gas stations claiming they are being forced to overpay for wholesale gasoline and rent.

J-Power May Buy U.S. Coal to Cut Reliance on Australia

(Bloomberg) -- J-Power, Japan’s biggest coal importer, bought 60,000 metric tons of the fuel from Alaska and is evaluating reviving purchases from the U.S. after a six-year gap to reduce dependence on supplies from Australia.

Electric Power Development Co., as J-Power is officially known, is considering a supply contract with an Alaskan producer after the trial, Executive Vice President Yoshihiko Sakanashi said. “Alaskan coal could increasingly be coming into Japan as long as it has price competitiveness.”

Foreign Policy: The World Bank Is Banking On Coal

With the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen getting under way this week, the pressure's on for world leaders to come up with some sort of climate agreement. Despite the appearance of a unified plea for action, however, not everyone is playing ball. And one of the shirkers is especially surprising: Even as governments are weighing tough choices to bring down emissions and cope with rising temperatures, the World Bank is financing — and plans to continue financing — coal projects to the detriment of renewable energy. In effect, the World Bank is sending the message that coal is not just an acceptable fuel, but also a resource that should be developed with international funding. It's a betrayal of everything the World Bank's member countries are supposed to be working for.

Natural gas returning to favor, according to survey, whitepaper

Green is gone and gas is good, according to early word trickling out of Deloitte LLP’s oil and gas conference in The Woodlands on Wednesday.

A survey of 200 oil and gas professionals conducted in early November and released this week shows that most industry insiders expect climate change legislation to pass within two years, furthering the United States’ entry into a golden age for natural gas.

Clean old energy, new energy both needed - analyst

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Policymakers should promote clean uses of old forms of energy as well as new pollution-free forms of energy to advance the world toward a low-carbon future, an analyst said Wednesday.

Oil, gas and coal have to be part of the solution because solar and wind power cannot solve the problem alone, consultant Joe Stanislaw said in a paper issued at the 2009 Deloitte Oil & Gas Conference and in remarks at a news conference.

Rare Earth Interview with Analyst John Kaiser

Here’s a brief backgrounder on why the fundamentals for rare earths are what they are today: red hot. Every good story has an ample source of tension. The rare earths story abounds with the stuff.

To wit: Gasoline is quickly becoming passe. Within a few decades, most new vehicles will not be run directly from greenhouse gas emitting substances like petroleum-based fuels but rather a combination of fuel and electricity or something else entirely. There are simply too many reasons why this is so: Peak oil, global warming and oil-fueled wars being the three most obvious causes of triple digit oil costs.

GE Wins $1.4 Billion Turbine Order for Biggest Wind Farm So Far

(Bloomberg) -- General Electric Co. won a $1.4 billion contract to supply turbines and services for an Oregon wind farm that would be bigger than any completed so far and supply a tenth of Southern California Edison’s renewable energy.

GE, whose equipment generates one-third of the world’s electricity, will supply 338 of its 2.5-megawatt turbines to Caithness Energy LLC to be installed in 2011 and 2012 and will hold a 10-year service contract, the companies said in a statement. About 400 people will be needed during construction of the wind farm and 35 to run the plant, GE said.

UN Rejection of China’s Windfarms Is ‘Unfair,’ Xinhua Reports

(Bloomberg) -- The United Nations emissions regulator’s decision to reject certification to some windfarms in China is “unfair,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a government official.

The development of Clean Development Mechanism projects in specific areas was confronted by “unprecedented difficulties and barriers, part of which are caused by the irrational, non- transparent and unfair decisions” of the system’s executive board, Li Gao, an official with the Chinese delegation at the Copenhagen climate change conference, was quoted as saying.

China's Wind Power Plans Turn On Coal

Nature is unpredictable: Sometimes there is no wind; other times, it's so strong the turbines have to be shut down. Because China's transmission power grid can't cope with the intermittent nature of wind, the government is adding back-up coal-fired power plants along with wind power to level out those peaks and troughs.

In Jiuquan, new coal-fired power plants with 13.6 million kilowatts of installed capacity — the same amount of energy generated by Chile in 2009 — will be added by 2020. The need to add baseload coal-fired power plants has the effect of reducing the clean benefits of wind power.

Taiwan chip giant TSMC to enter solar energy

TAIPEI (AFP) – Chip giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is planning its first foray into solar energy with an investment in the island's largest producer of solar cells, a spokesman said Thursday.

World Bank musters $5.5 billion for solar projects

WASHINGTON — The World Bank announced Wednesday 5.5 billion dollars would be invested in solar energy projects in five countries of the Middle East and North Africa in a bid to combat climate change.

U.S. military sees surge to solar power

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The United States is calling out the military to help it win the global war for clean energy, building solar farms at bases and funding research.

U.S. military leaders hope the surge will help secure energy security at home and abroad, but the strategy could also boost the solar industry and soothe critics who fear the United States is lagging China and other nations in clean technology.

First fuel cell boat cruises Amsterdam's canals

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Emitting only water vapour and gliding silently through Amsterdam's centuries-old canals, a canal boat -- a popular tourist attraction -- powered by fuel cells made its debut cruise on Wednesday.

The "Nemo H2," which can carry about 87 people, is the first of its kind designed specifically to run on a fuel cell engine, in which hydrogen and oxygen are mixed to create electricity and water, without producing air-polluting gases.

Energy efficiency technologies offer major savings

WASHINGTON -- Energy efficiency technologies that exist today or that are likely to be developed in the near future could save considerable money as well as energy, says a new report from the National Research Council. Fully adopting these technologies could lower projected U.S. energy use 17 percent to 20 percent by 2020, and 25 percent to 31 percent by 2030.

Achieving full deployment of these efficiency technologies will depend in part on pressures driving adoption, such as high energy prices or public policies designed to increase energy efficiency. Nearly 70 percent of electricity consumption in the United States occurs in buildings. The energy savings from attaining full deployment of cost-effective, energy-efficient technologies in buildings alone could eliminate the need to add new electricity generation capacity through 2030, the report says. New power generation facilities would be needed only to address imbalances in regional energy supplies, replace obsolete facilities, or to introduce more environmentally friendly sources of electricity.

Peak Oil Coffee Table

“Since the human race is soon going to see the end of the ‘oil age’ as we know it, and it is not going to take long, it would only be fitting to produce an iconic and sickly reminder of those times to pass,” explains the artist of his design. “The table takes its basic form from the trunk of a mahogany tree which has been rendered with the glossy black plastic surface, a synthetic tomb stone if you like.”

Soros Seeks $100 Billion in IMF Funds for Green Plan

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire George Soros asked the richest nations to use $100 billion of foreign-exchange reserves to finance emissions-reducing projects in poor countries.

The reserves, from the International Monetary Fund, would go into a green fund to “jump start” investments in rain forests, agriculture and land use that would lower carbon- dioxide emissions, the financier said today at climate negotiations involving more than 190 nations in Copenhagen.

Increasing resilience of poorest people first

The most vulnerable people in Africa, Asia and Latin America are hardest hit by climate change. Therefore they need to be the first to increase their resilience to global warming. Not by imposing measures from above, but by supporting communities to reflect on their problems and act themselves. This sounds logical, but turns out to be rather innovative.

"Solutions are only sustainable if you support pastoralists in Ethiopia or small farmers in Bangladesh to analyse their disaster risk and the possible solutions", says Marije Broekhuijsen of Cordaid. "As an NGO we can contribute by adding knowledge, contacts and resources, but the responsibility of taking action lies within the communities."

UK Met Office warns carbon emissions must peak by 2020

Even if emissions peaked in 2020, there would be a 50% chance of temperatures rising by more than 2C, the target adopted by the G8 at its July summit.

Meeting the lower target of 1.5C favoured by some developing countries is virtually impossible, the UKMO says.

Emissions 'higher than reported'

Emissions of some greenhouse gases are substantially higher than companies and countries report, say scientists.

The gases in question are much more powerful warming agents than CO2, but make a small contribution to climate change as concentrations are low.

From the article linked above:

Analyst Sees Stable Oil Prices for 20 Years, More SUVs and Big Cars Ahead

“One thing that people need to remember is that we’re still a nation of people who like big cars,” said Augustaitis, a Ford F150 driver himself. “We like the big Fords, the Dodge RAMs, and not everybody is going to go out and buy mini cars. A large number of Americans also need trucks for jobs or personal recreation.”

At the risk of running afoul of Leanan's most excellent mediation of the Drumbeat's comments.

Would it be okay, for just this once, if we could say that anyone who holds such a view at this point, should just be summarily executed for crimes against humanity. And that anyone who sees nothing wrong with such a view is an absolute F'n moron!

/rant off

I don't think we can expect everyone to act in an enlightened fashion all the time. But we can create a regulatory structure in which they bear the price of their actions. If anyone deserves punishment it should be the people who passed the laws and policies that subsidize this sort of behavior.

The Americans pay Hundreds of Billions a year supporting military that enables supply of oil as a result they enjoy cheap happy motoring in gas hogs.

The Europeans pay Hundreds of Billions a year in taxes that have forced them to conserve and drive smaller more efficient cars, as a result the public coffers are filled and we get 'social services' like free medicare.

I think the military expenditure and the taxes will stay until the system breaks...


Well, yes, maybe, but ... be very careful what you wish for or gloat about. Europe has been freeloading off the system you seem to condemn since the early 20th century and in its absence would by now have become no more than an impoverished badly-run subsidiary of Russia. Should the "break" you seem to wish for come too soon, too little oil, natural gas, and the like may remain available to fuel even "efficient" cars and other major and still-dependent parts of the European economy.

Oh, yes, Gods bless America for being the World policeman.

The old Russian bogeyman again, amazing how despite the fact they spend less than a tenth of the USA on military they are an empire poised to take over the world. But then again the US military industrial complex needs to project them as a viable opponent in order to keep overseas bases everywhere and creaming off huge amounts of money when it could be better used elsewhere.

and we get 'social services' like free medicare.

So, with PO and all, as the oil flows decrease to a trickle, doesn't that pretty much cut off your 'free' medicare and the like?

Not meant as a support of the wars in Pakghaniraq. Just a comment that, perhaps, Europeans have used the industrial age's fuel choice as a rather regressive tax to support other items. Where is funding for the wonderful [and it is! I've used it] mass transit/Eurail network? And, of course universal medical coverage?

Our problems, you see, are all linked.

Equating the words 'need' and 'recreation' in the last sentence quoted was particularly...tragicomical.

Yes, towing a big trailer to haul a boat, snowmobiles, ATVs, etc. is considered a need in North America. You burn large amounts of fossil fuel coming and going as well as during the recreational activity. What would people do with their precious time if that stuff wasn't available?

What would people do with their precious time if that stuff wasn't available?

Read some books..? To become smarter, or better said - less stoopid? Work in their garden and plant some edible stuff?
I see plenty of opportunities there. :P

I'm always reminded of my brother when he was small. He went through a phase when no dinner you put in front of him was the right one.
Yesterday he liked macaroni & cheese. Today he liked meatballs. If you put macaroni in front of him, he'd bang the table with his spoon - "I don't *want* macaroni, I *want* meatballs" (whine).
When are people going to grow up ?

I envy you. Mom never let us have meatballs and whine.

We could have watered-down wine. It was pretty awful...

About twice a year, she did let us have matzo balls and whine; 4 glasses.Those were good days.

Why *wouldn't* one whine about having to eat matzo balls? Indeed! 4 glasses at least to get all those matzos down! No other way *to* make that a good day!


Would it be okay, for just this once, if we could say that anyone who holds such a view at this point, should just be summarily executed for crimes against humanity ?


And, another vote, "Yes!"

The idea that we'll have low, stable oil prices for the next 20 years is just about the most idiotic thing I've heard. But, that small businesses and little sole proprietorships basically run on the back of the light truck; F-150, Econoline van, etc. is a simple fact of life. The worst failing of the newer hybrid and electric technologies is that they, so far, have completely neglected this very important sector of the vehicle market.

They're trying...... just not very hard.


Of course there are many ways to gain

...until part of that obscene overload breaks loose and kills someone, which may or may not be OK in Honduras but is still frowned on in many other places...

hi PaulS
The point is not to overload the atmosphere and expense account with ceaseless discretionary driving of an oversized fleet.

Much of what we 'need' for business is really obscene.

In China I saw a construction outfit for drilling big holes (like 12in.) in concrete which was carried on a bicycle. This had all the gear HD 220v drill, pump, pusher motor, huge diamond bits and all the HD eletrcial cable. Actually there were 4 of them all outfitted the same. 'Independently targetable'

Looking at them it was hard not to imagine 4 crew cab V10 ultility boxed PUs getting 10mpg each as being the absolute minimum 'requirement' over here. Maybe this is part of the reason the US 'needs' 10 times as much fuel for the same GDP just to go deeeper in debt than many other places.

Depends on what is considered "low." Seems like $70 per barrel is now considered the low price for oil.

How much of the fleet consists of vehicles that are actually used in a utilitarian fashion like that? I've never seen any solid numbers.

This CSM analyst seems to believe spare capacity still existed a year ago; the gain in supply was just a passing artifact, they've concluded it was the market responding to the high prices, as opposed to just what you get with enough big projects coming online, not the beginning of a secular trend of flush supply.

You are correct about small businesses operating out of light trucks and vans. This is true even in counties with smaller and fewer vehicles. The plumber just shows up in a three wheeled micro truck instead of an F-150. I don't have an answer for it.

I found "10 acres enough", written about starting a farm in 1865 in New Jersey, just fascinating in this regard. He had manure delivered from the stables of New York City, transported by horse cart, then ferry, then horse cart to his farm. Anything large or heavy was delivered or picked up by horse cart. My take away is that there is always some background haulage in the system, no matter the technology level.

In any third-world economy, the kind we're becoming, there's always lots of work in being a porter or a carter. Just the right kind of work for unskilled people like me. I'll mutter about RF power transistors and antenna designs I cook up in my head while I trot between the shafts or pedal.

There might be poetic justice one day, Fred, if you can stand to wait for it.

I'll paraphrase it with an old Maine snippet..

Gerald is walking up the old dirt government road after some heavy rains, and he comes across Gerald Cotiaux, sitting quietly in his pickup, which is Axle-deep in the mud. "You stuck, Ger?" he asks.

"Nope." replies Gerald, "Now if I tried to MOVE, I'd be stuck.."

EDIT; Maybe that was too obscure.. but remember in 'Trading Places', when Eddie Murphy says "The best way to hurt a rich person is to make them poor." ahh, I can't help it, I'm just being octagonal today.. but they'll get what they get, and we're still burning 80mbd that ain't ever coming back.


EDIT; Maybe that was too obscure.. but remember in 'Trading Places', when Eddie Murphy says "The best way to hurt a rich person is to make them poor." ahh, I can't help it, I'm just being octagonal today..

Octogonal? Heh, not to worry I often get blank stares from folks when I get a bit too icosahedronic ;-)

You cannot haul 5-6000 pounds of cows(grass fed I might add) to the market behind a Mini Cooper or a Volt. There will be a need for some trucks to get the food to market, it's just a given. John

How did cows get to market before trucks existed?

They walked.

How did cows get to market before trucks existed?

Ever hear of 'cowboys?' That is how. And, many towns had what were called, "Drover Laws," providing for going through them. Chicago still had such a law not long ago. Not sure if it has ever been repealed.

Problem: the market is a long way away. Cowboys are not easy to come by. Maybe some other source of meat? Like, say, rabbit? It takes less than 1/3 the grain to raise to market, and I would gainsay it is a bit easier to transport.

Also, can be raised in your backyard, in the 'burbs, if that is where you abide.

RabbitBoy herding free range rabbits through town.

I guess drover laws would then be called critter laws.

I'd suggest herding rabbits is right up there if not worse than herding cats.

God I could do a full blown spoof off of the rabbit herders based on old cowboy flicks.

Hmm we can't have them riding horses to macho hmm ... CAMELS !!!!

Thats right rabbit herders naturally ride camels thats obvious. And of course they use cats to help herd the rabbits.

Stay tuned gentle readers for the next episode of the Rabbit Herders.

Wouldn't they need to ride kangaroos?

Fantastic of course to US centric in my vision Kangaroos !

Sorry its hard to type picturing the Duke on a Kangaroo :)

How about the rabbit herders riding Kangaroo's and the mean indigenous people worried about the rabbit herds destroying the land riding camel's and no guns so they have to where armor like Knights and joust in battle :)

Ok enough I need to get a job :)

While trying to picture Duke on a Kangaroo, hearding rabbits with the help of cats, I remembered, and the visualized, an old TV commercial from, maybe the 70's or 80's, of cats being hearded. ROTFL!

TOD has more fun with serious subjects... Wow! Unbelievable!

an old TV commercial ... of cats being hearded.


Wow, I was just trying to stimulate some "out of the box" thinking, but DANG!

We went from "Cows can ONLY get to market via truck" (bluestem's implicit assertion) to rabbits being herded through the city by rabbitboys on camelback! lol!

As I deal with the promotion/encouragement of alternatives to single-occupant vehicle use, I constantly get the excuse "I am a(fill in the blank with a job title/position), I have to drive my car," to which I am forced to reply "Oh silly me, I forgot, (job title/position) did not exist before the automobile existed."*

So far I can definitely tell you all that, based on what I have learned in the field, schools and banks did not exist before the automobile...

* I actually respond a bit less facetiously, since I would like to keep my job, but this is what I am THINKING at the time...

We went from "Cows can ONLY get to market via truck" (bluestem's implicit assertion) to rabbits being herded through the city by rabbitboys on camelback! lol!

No no the rabbitboys now ride kangaroos its the indigenous protectors of nature now riding camels :)

Seriously however this is in a sense why local economies can do well if they have enough resources people are infinitely ingenious. Technology today is so wedded to our energy systems that people can't even understand the concept of low energy tech.

I'd not call it high tech or low tech simply different technology refined under a different set of constraints. Today of course science has progressed significantly so we are not constrained by our lack of understanding of the basics.

Given the worlds population today its difficult to believe that in general everyone will be ok however its fairly easy given the above to believe that localities which are not to out of line with the regional carrying capacity can certainly innovate and develop new approaches that are literally beyond our comprehension. We can't conceive of what people will do simply because its practically impossible to guess the constraints they will be under when they solve problems and what they will think of. Generalizations simply fail and cannot be predictive not that we do a good job in the first place.

The problem of course is pretty much no matter what you do it seems that the gulf between those that have something and those that have nothing will grow immensely even as change happen. This massive disparity even if its one region having a decent harvest while another sees crop failure is going to be a huge huge problem.

We shall see ...

Actually, people mostly just didn't eat much beef. A steak was truly a luxury food, something the rich went to one of the better restaurants to get. What little beef non-rich households got was usually tougher cuts that went into stews and soups. It wasn't so much the cattle drives, but rather the railroads that the cowboys drove the cattle to, that really started making beef something more affordable and commonplace.

If you were from an ordinary non-rich family, the meat you ate was mostly pork or ham, or chicken, or seafood if you lived on the coast. If you were poor, you ate bread and potatoes and beans.

This old normal is very likely going to become the new normal.

Not all the farmland in the world resembles Iowa cornfields. Some land is just not farmable with the crop production methods that most TOD readers are familiar with and just because somebody can grow a garden doesn't mean they know squat about agriculture. Cattle will always have a place in agriculture, they are an efficient means of utilizing land that is unsuitable for grain crops. Those who suggest that rabbits or sheep or goats can replace the beef cow must be from another planet. Or worse, Europe.

Or worse, Europe.

So what's wrong with Europe?

And, for backyard farmers in the city, Rabbits make a bit more sense than cattle. On a third to half acre lot, you can build rabbit hutches, raise rabbits and have meat. It takes far less grain than either chickens or cattle, or for that matter who knows anything that can be raised as easily or cheaply? Moreover, rabbit tastes really good, and is an excellent food source. Much better for you than your beef from cattle. Don't know the comparisons to chicken, but I suspect that rabbit is no fattier, and may be better. But, that is something I need to check out.

Other than that, cattle are land killers. In some locations they are okay, I guess, if they are left to graze on the grasses. Having said that, I would add that in the US, the introduction of beef cattle destroyed the land, and helped with the conditions that created the dust bowl. They cut the grasses off too short to survive. Buffalo eat from farther up the plant, leaving sufficient there to regrow. The Buff then move on, eating as they go, and depositing natural fertilizer. The grasses are helped, the Buff do not trample down the earth like cattle do, either.

I guess you could say I am not a fan of big steaks, McD's and the like. I am really surprised that rabbit is not more popular. Maybe it is just the image of rabbit-boys, and Duke on a Kangaroo?


Marlboro Man eats steak.

Seriously though food advertising is insipid and extends far beyond kids cereal's.
Steak is food for the rich if your rich you eat steak.
The American and Australian barbeque's are associated with our respective cattle raising cultures. Argentina and Brazil have similar concepts. Brazilian is at least more varied.

On the grain side plenty of grains and legumes better sorted for certain climates are not used simply for cultural reasons. The extends beyond the US but given the large variation in climate in the US and all the work done to get a small number of the possible food crops to grow in certain areas its a shame.

The intertwining of our show of wealth/oil based culture and food runs very very deep.

This is Herbert Hoovers full campaign message.


A chicken in every pot. A car in every garage. — 1928 Republican presidential campaign slogan of Herbert Hoover.


Note he did not say steak ( That was to extravagant )

No offence meant. Europeans are good people, maybe a little naive in their views of agriculture in North America but I suppose that can't be helped. IMHO I doubt that city dwellers can produce the millions of tons of protein required to replace what the existing cattle herds produce just with backyard rabbit cages. It is just a way of offering an unrealistic alternative that has 0% chance of working but 100% chance of making people feel better about their prospects in the future.

I understand... and I understand the futility of believing that this would 'solve' everything. Thing is that, at least they could do that much. The real benefit would not be raising all of their food... it would just give them some variety, and help a bit overall. Cattle, though, at least from my point of view, become impossible.

I am actually living in Texas now, where cattle are king. IMO this will be dust bowl/desert - no cattle left - when TSHTF from AGW, and food will become a serious problem. The cost of fuel to grow and transport it will go so high that the local Kroger/Tom Thumb type market will be out of most people's budget. If those things even survive. If there is a water source, the locals learn about composting and they keep the yard fenced off [some big IFs, I'd say], then raising rabbits and a few veggies will help some. Maybe not enough, but some.

This is why I share the sad vision of die-off. Not 100%, at least not right away. That would depend on worldwide reaction to the economic chaos. If nukes start flying, and this is the fear many have, all bets are off. But planet Earth can only support about 1 Billion sustainable, and the die-off will undoubtedly overshoot on the way down, so figure something over 5.5 Billion net decrease. That is major.

So... Economic chaos, Nuclear Winter, AGW heat? What's a doomer to do?

I agree on the "die off" scenario but I feel that the humble beef cow has been grossly slandered. I live in Alberta; (about twice the size of Texas), and up here we know a thing or two about cattle as well. I raised a herd of beef cows on some steep glacial thrust moraine hills in central Alberta and I can say from experience that the grazing beef cow was the only means to farm in my area of the province. Societal collapse won't happen from "peak gold" or even "peak prius" bu it will when agriculture collapses in the near future. Whether by legislation or rationing there will end up being production declines and when it reaches a tipping point then human nature will do the rest. Not everybody can farm but the survivors will.

"Not everybody can farm but the survivors will..." have to!

I do agree that they will do it the best way possible. I am not acquainted with the specifics of Alberta... were there buffalo there in the past? If so, has anyone tried to reintroduce them lately?

Not to be combative about beef cattle. They do have their place. It is just that with native grasses and native animals, it seems to me the balance would be better?

And, of course, I happen to prefer buffalo to beef... it is much leaner, and tastier! We can buy commercial buffalo in several markets here.

Besides, it is easier picturing John W riding a moose and drawing down on a buff than on kangarooback, isn't it?

There were bison all over the province in the past and there still is. We have free ranging herds in Wood Buffalo National Park in the north end of the province and many private herds throughout the rest of the province.
A beef cow does roughly the same job as a bison but does require some additional feeding during the winter months. My cows grazed the same grasses that the bison grazed, following the old bison trails. On the hilltops you can see the old tee-pee rings of stones from the summer hunting camps of the Plains Cree and Blackfoot tribes.
Bison is tasty, but until you taste an Alberta Rib eye steak from a grass fattened steer, you really don't have any basis for a comparison. :-} I pity the poor souls whose only experience with a steak has been eating one that comes from a corn fed steer in an industrialized feedlot in Texas. IMO you might as well be eating an old boot insole. :-\

Head smashed in buffalo jump.


Thats a sign I passed once on a motorcycle and had no choice but to turn back and make sure I read it right :)

There are a few (mayhap many) finer points about raising cattle. This is some of my experience and what I have absorbed.

First cattle eating grass too short.
Well if they are penned in a smallish field , then yes. But the good farmer does not do that. He practices 'rotational grazing. Several fields like in 'paddocked'..and one central water point, gates to move them about. Thus one field is nicely utilized, then the next and so on til back to the first.

Food: Beside beef you get milk. Hence butter also. Both good for homesteading cooking. Also in the future the cowhides will be more and more valuable.

Other points: Horses eat the pasture lower than cattle but moving them around with each other lessens the parasite load. Each has different parasites.

Cattle droppings are great manure. IF,IF you will run a harrow over the field to break the cow pies up and let the sun destroy the parasite eggs.

Cattle do not actually need to be 'fed'. You can 'stockpile' some pasture to serve as winter grazing. A bit of hay for areas more to the north. In fact a lot more. But they can survive winters quite easily.

There are a lot of good reasons to combine cows/cattle on a homestead. Yet for a meat supply hogs are much better since its hard to keep beef once slaughtered with modern appliances like freezers.

Cattle will IMO not destroy pastures if managed properly. However they will destroy woodlands.
Gully them, browse the new growth, and in general in a not mature woodlands do it no good at all. And in a mature woodlands there is little for them to eat. Yet they do need some shade trees out in the fields to escape heat.

There is far far more to raising cattle or for food and fiber.
We have to think of all the needed products on a homestead. IMO cattle in many areas work well. In other areas not so well.

I would myself just like a few head of milk cows. Like Red Poll. Good milkers and good beef. Can be used as oxen and were some time back. Gentle and easy to handle.

We never ate beef in my youth. Always pork and chicken and wild game yet we raised about 12 cows. Sometimes borrowed a bull to keep inbreeding down.

Not to disagree with opinions above. Just my views on it.

And btw buffalo are a very good idea, if one can keep them contained.


Well said.
But anybody that has worked with buffalo has made a huge commitment in expensive fencing, very expensive handling pens and squeezes. The govt. mandates yearly blood work on every animal to screen for disease so each animal has to be handled at least once a year and buffalo will try to kill the handlers every chance they get! Buffalo raising is not for the weekend gardening crowd! ;-]

Also rabbits eat willow bark, poplar bark and birch shoots - other than the birch, those are two very fast growing and plentiful plants around where I live. Completely in-edible to humans yet can be made into tasty rabbit.

Kind of like the way beef cattle turn completely in-edible grass into protein until we got greedy and started feeding them corn and antibiotics.

We have lots of problems and we have lots of solutions.

Dairy cattle are an efficient means of using marginal land, much more so than beef cattle. That's why it is cows and not steers that the Swiss herd into the high alpine meadows each spring. I suspect that sheep are a lot more efficient than are beef cattle, in that land that cannot support cattle will support sheep. Plus, you get wool out of the deal. We eat surprisingly little lamb here in the US, especially compared to someplace like the UK. I suspect that will have to change in the future. I suspect that bison are also more efficient grazers than beef cattle on marginal land.

Sorry... sheep are not a good answer in the US. They cut off grass even closer to the ground than cattle, and destroy the cropland. This is why the battles happened between sheepherders and cattlement in the West. At least part of it [the other part was a combination of water use and fencing. Sheep need fences, cattle did not, and the ranchers wanted open range for their stock. That way they could graze their livestock for free. Fences restricted the cattle, and you know the rest [picture the Duke, riding a Kangaroo].

Well, I gotta reply to all this chatter about cattle, rabbits, etc. because my hard working spouse has spent the last few days cutting up the 4 deer we shot last week.

Question. In places like this ( hills around Ohio river), deer are all over the place, lots and lots dead on the road after doing in somebody's finder/headlight. so why do so few people eat them the way we do? After all, real cheap meat. Easy to get. I just stick my shotgun out the gun slot in my shop, ask wife which one of that particular herd she likes best. Bang. One more deer to dress.

(Gun nuts will know the shotgun is that in name only- has a rifled barrel and shoots a smaller bullet wrapped in a sabot- actually a fairly accurate low velocity rifle.)

Takes no effort to grow deer, no effort to get 'em. Modest effort to cut up and store. Meat all year, Good too.

Now of course I know full well that if everybody started eating deer like we do, they would vanish in no time- the deer, I mean. But then, given all the talk about expensive meat, I wonder why. Squeamish? Lazy? Can't shoot?

Which suggests to me (and to you) a solution to that most weighty problem of all-population. Deer and People-- are even slower, and far more plentiful than deer. And I hear they aren't all that bad ----..

I know people who live off deer. You cannot legally shoot that much deer, but they get their hunter friends to help out, and freeze the meat for the rest of the year. Their kids were raised on it, and don't care for beef at all.

However, people who are not used to venison will probably find it gamy.

There are also hunters' groups that help the hungry by butchering their kills and donating them to soup kitchens and food pantries.

For those who for some reason are repelled by deer meat, deer sausage can be quite tastey, and frequently is cut with beef, or some other 'lesser quality' meat. Horse, anyone?

We have converted the countryside in to a giant buffet for deer while at the same time nearly eliminating thier predators, excepting the coyotes which are getting common in lots of places they were not formerly found.

The southeast is INFESTED , OVERRUN, with deer.Cars and hunters don't take out nearly enough of them.

In spite of heavy local hunting pressure and a major investment on our part in repellents and wire cages it looks as if they will destroy our orchards.

When we finally got all the little trees caged and thought we could relax for a while a dxxxxx buck ripped all the bark off of a dozen mature but young peach trees in less than a week.

That one dxxxxx deer has cost us well over a thousand dollars already.It will probably be back and cost us another thousand. The thing that is so infuriating about this is that there are thousands of acres of saplings and brushy undergrowth all around-it seems like a planned insult
when you lose fruit trees this way.

But Mother Nature will sooner or later take care of the problem for us.Chronic wasting disease, or something equally nasty, will thin the deer out if we don't.

Anyone who truly cares about nature and wildlife and owns land with a large deer population will make arrangements with a responsible hunter to help prevent the deer population from entering severe overshoot, which is already a reality in many localities.

Other side of the pond but trying to help you out:-) just finished a beautiful venison stew made from saddle cut the best joint.
Best cooked slow to bring out the flavour.

I have barely survived the outrage of the spouse mentioned above when she found out I had made a jest "which might be interpreted as your suggesting cannibalism". I defended unsuccessfully that in the context of the chatter about herding rabbits etc etc, this would get the proper reception as the feeble joke it was. She would have none of this, and, being unstrung somewhat from too much unsupported deer cutting up, went off to her lady's singing group, leaving me bruised and bleeding around the ego.

Let that be a lesson to all us oafish hillbilly gun nuts. But maybe it's the answer to puzzle of so few deer eaters.

I'm with your wife. Can we cut back on the cannibalism jokes? (Unless they're really funny, of course. ;-)

wimbi: Your problem is that you are not nearly as good a satirist as Jonathan Swift.

OK, OK, OK, OK...jeez.

I suspect that bison are also more efficient grazers than beef cattle on marginal land.

I suspect I prefer bison and elk to beef :)

Personally I'd much rather see wild/game like meats but that they become a delicacy and something special. My wifes Chinese and I've grown accustomed to meat being more a flavoring and source of protein than a main course. Now when I do eat a steak American style it just about kills my digestive system. I won't elaborate :)

And no its not pure veggie approach but Asian food is in general very balanced with purer vegetarianism very easy to do if you wish. Hard core Buddhists are vegetarian however pragmatically meat is still in general part of the diet.

Your talking dishes that evolved literally over thousands of years so there are reasons. And of course you have pure vegetarian Indian dishes and culture just as deep. Along of course with meat dishes now associated with Moslem's but I'd have to guess the meat based Indian dishes are much older than that.

In any case the dishes and proportions from these much older or better consistent cultures probably represent a good sustainable compromise as they proceed the modern culture by thousands of years.

I'm sure Africa has similar examples I'm just not familiar with the rich variety in African dishes. The little bit I do know suggests they probably have the greatest variation.

I of course like the flavor of meat just don't do large bloody chunks often. And I'd argue that way to many very old cultures have developed a balance and one very amendable to not eating meat if its something you don't want to do.

But certainly there seems to be a sustainable balance and just as certain modern western diets are not even close. I'm not sure what the "balanced" western diet was its become so distorted.

I suggest to anyone here to try the Trader Joe's bison burgers, they're gamey ol' things and I got to really like them. I had some "good" bison later and it was actually rather disappointing.

Actually nice fresh meat of whatever provenance is sure to be good, with the 'oppossible exception of 'opossum. They stink.


These dogs were bred to hurd stock hundreds
of km/miles to market, they became unemployed with the RR
Then became popular law enforcement
dogs, many killed or eaten during the world wars
resulting in shallow breedstock. Frank Phillips
of Phillips Petroleum was a breeder of American type.
Simply Amazing dogs. They will try to hurd anything that moves,
SUV's included.

It proved cheaper to let coal transport those cows as far as it could, and Chicago's rail hub is where the biggest part of them went for a good little while. Refrigerator cars shipped the parts and pieces far and wide from there quickly. Anyone know what per capita beef consumption was in the US say in 1910? The ol' timers always told me a man 'ud starve to death jus' eatin' rabbit so I ainn't gonna chance it ?- )

At what price per gallon do you switch to something else?

What are the something elses' do you have to choose from?

One of the new "things" I heard about is liquid ammonia being produced from excess wind turbine electrical generation via eletrolysis and combining the resultant hydrogen with nitrogen. Don't know what the exhaust components are but the range is about 2/3 that of gasoline on a per unit of volume.

I've heard of that before. Frankly, it stinks. Really! But not a bad idea for all of that. Depending, of course, on exhaust gasses. Anyone know the products of combustion there?

The exhasust gases will not be much of a problem-as the are molecular nitrogen and water except for a small amount of nitrous oxides that are amenable to being cleaned up easily by existing automotive pollution controls.

The problem is that we aren't going to manufacture even a couple of percent of the amount of ammonia needed to replace diesel and gasoline with wind power within the forseeable future.

And whatever ammonia is available will be far more valuable as a fertilizer feedstock than as a motor fuel.

This is not to saty that SOME ammonia might not be used to power really essential equipment such as farm machinery.

In the old days they drove the cows to market. No truck needed.

Where I live in the UK we still have the old drovers roads with animal proof hedges that were used to walk sheep, cattle, geese and pigs up to 100 miles to be finally slaughtered in London. Some of the beasts were fitted with leather shoes to save injuring their feet.

Actually cows didn't used to shop much - now they just go to Walmart.

Don't laugh. Stranger things have happened:

Forget meat. Become vegetarian.

I think that's only "more sustainable" in our fossil-fueled industrial food system.

Historically, meat and dairy have been the way people get through the lean time of the year (winter or the dry season). Most of the ways we preserve food now weren't possible before the industrial revolution. Freezing and canning take a lot of energy. Glass and metal used to be for rich people only, before the industrial revolution.

So what do with surplus food, if you can't preserve it? Feed it to animals. The animals would be slaughtered in the fall, so you didn't have to feed them through the winter.

We don't need to eat as much meat as we do. Traditionally, people consumed eggs, blood, milk, and cheese more than meat. You ate the hen once her egg-producing days were past. But I think consuming some animal protein is probably not only desirable, but necessary in many parts of the world. At least, once the days of the 1500 mile Caesar salad are past.

There's an intereting passage in Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" regarding the value of milk, butter and cheese. He says milk can only be stored for a few days, butter a week or so and cheese for a year. Some insightful pre- and post-refrigeration wisdom.

Also I've seen recently some mention of the value of hams. Apparently they are dried and salted, not cooked. Yet another way to store food sans refrigeration.

And before the days of pressure canning.

Take the butter, make ghee of it, then pressure can it.

Put your butter in a spring house. Or in a bucket and lower in the cistern. Or dig a hole in the ground. Anything to lower the temperature. Springhouse is best.

We drank all our milk except what we saved for making butter out of and then drank the left over 'butter milk' as well. None was wasted.

Cured hams? Yes I have kept them for up to a year. Cured bacon as well. Got some right now.

Best if in a cool spot and insect free. That is GOOD smoked cured hams preserved with salt. The salt is not that obvious once you get a taste for the cured meat.

No not cooked but for Christmas you can boil a salt cured ham in water (mixed with molasses) and then glaze it in the oven. The old timers done it in a 5 gal lard can til it came to a boil, covered and wrapped in quilts and set in a bed(for insulation)...called 'cooking your ham in a bed'. Take it out after 16-24 hours. Put in a roaster pan. Throw out the water. Add some new water and molasses and let slow cook. Glaze it then. Save the pan drippings.


Rather few people NEED trucks or SUVs for their jobs.

Absolutely NO ONE 'needs' trucks or SUVs for personal recreation.

The author makes the common mistake of describing 'wants' as 'needs'.

You don't see a lot of work trucks in Europe certainly nothing like what we have in the US. Most seem to use these micro trucks. I'm sure someone from Europe can send a picture. Next up is a very sensible Van ( stuff is not stolen). Then it seems to go right to small diesel delivery like trucks of some sort.

Given they do everything we do for construction etc I can't see how we need what we claim.
Thats not to say they don't have larger commercial trucks but they are obviously for work. I'd suggest our tax laws are probably to blame for everyone needing a "truck".

In the UK our tax laws ensure that contruction workers, delivery men etc mostly use 'white vans' (often diesel powered), in the US the tax laws ensure they drive 'light trucks'.

If you ever have to drive in the UK beware 'white van man'!

A lot of the smaller contractors I've spoken to at work actually are buying up used minivans and using them - they are cheap and more fuel efficient than a truck and most will fit a 4x8 of plywood in the back, laid flat. They can also carry quite a bit of weight, usually in the area of 700-1000 pounds including passengers.

I am over here in Copenhagen/Malmo enjoying the "real time" experience of the climate talks. But what strikes me is the incredible infrastructure for transportation and the seamless linkages between the various modes. The temperature has been in the 30's and 40's F and no one is deterred from riding their bikes, walking, dining outdoors. I wish every American could see what true mobility and freedom really is.

Did you see poor old Monckton get overrun by 'crazed Hitler Youth' shouting for Green Jobs?


Too bad there seems to be a significant minority of people here in the US that think public transit is some kind of commie plot to force us to travel where and when 'they' want us to.

Here in FL the state legislature just finally passed a commuter rail system for Orlando after years of trying. We had better systems and better routes proposed in the past, but a cheep-o system that uses existing tracks was finally approved this week after 2 years of trying.

Better late than never I suppose. Apparently we're the largest city in the US with some type of mass transit system.

"...force us to travel where and when 'they' want us to"

Bingo! Except for trips within Manhattan (and a handful of other places), that's an excellent practical description. Never on Sunday or a holiday, probably uselessly inadequate on Saturday, and marginal or nonexistent in the evening. IOW, those reliant on it are allowed no life, as it serves nothing except the commute to a weekday day-shift job - and then only if both one's home and the job happen to be in the "right" location, something not guaranteed in today's economy.

Exactly which transit systems 'never run on Sunday'? Most run a reduced schedule, but I don't think I've ever seen one that didn't run at all.

What planet do you live on? For example, on this planet we find:

With 27 weekly routes, operating between 5:30am and 12:00 midnight Monday through Friday and from 6:30 am through 6:30 pm on Saturday , WSTA makes over 2 million passenger trips...

Like I said, never on Sunday. They have added limited evening service, but coverage is very very skeletal, serving only a select few, and only on weekdays.

Exactly, Paul. Cause what you're really saying is that if we invested in these local Public Transit efforts as we need to, then they WOULD have service throughout the week and into the night, giving people an option they just don't have now, so they keep driving, which perpetuates the problem.. a problem that not only costs us in having to own too many vehicles, but also leaves us vulnerable and without any decent backup transport options when those cars are suddenly hard to get filled up.

You're commenting about people Ordering others to ride bikes in Europe, egads!, while here in the US those hundreds upon hundreds of midsized cities and suburbs, people are essentially being Ordered to drive cars, because the alternatives have been designed out of the communities.

You want to be free to make some choices? I'm not sure you do.

In case you didn't notice, I was referring to fixed route (rail) transit. Not the bus system in Winston-Salem.

Not sure what your point is. Get rid of all transit?

No I didn't notice, simply because although you did mention the Orlando commuter rail, you went on to discuss "some type of transit" - which last time I checked certainly also includes buses, streetcars, and ferries, and certainly includes the bus system in Winston-Salem and countless others with similarly limited service.

My point was that most transit systems in the USA - outside Manhattan, in the places where most Americans actually live - border on uselessness. Despite your intended sarcasm they will indeed be experienced as "...forcing us to travel where and when 'they' want us to", inasmuch as one cannot reach any other places or travel at any other times.

Even if you consider just rail systems (which serve only a very small proportion of Americans) travel is typically limited to one axis (along the line) only. Few places in the USA have comprehensive rail systems; the usual handful of suspects - Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn; the small area around the Chicago Loop; San Francisco proper - comes to mind. In other places you go by rail only where and when 'they' want, or, far more likely, you go nowhere at all.

It seems to follow that for transit to be experienced widely as anything other than "some kind of commie plot" to imprison people, it would have to be vastly improved along something like Alanfrombigeasy's line of installing a tram system in every city over 100,000 (IIRC) population. Given the state of the economy and the questionableness of seeing a robust "recovery" anytime soon, a vast expenditure of that sort seems like a pipe dream. (I could be wrong, but IMNSHO it would be very unwise to hold one's breath.)

Until some such nirvana arrives, most transit (ferries aside) in its present state seems like useless urban jewelry for mayors to show off at "conferences", a quasi-infinite money-sink that nearly all would miss about as much as a toothache if it simply vanished tomorrow morning. So maybe it's a question of either spending big bucks that the societal "we" may no longer have to make it useful, or else moving on and tilting at some other windmill.

the Chicago "L" trains actually have a several long radient arms extended out, to as far as O'hare to the northwest and generally going around 7-10 miles in every other direction from the relatively small loop (except of course east). If you aren't a few blocks from the "L" you have to transfer to the bus and that slows the trip to a crawl.


Of course the state of the economy is where it is in great part because mass transit and planned growth that would allow for decent mass transit was spurned by all. It may be too late to fix that now, but something is gonna give and I've a strong feeling it is this car based economy. I rode the 'hell' train enough to know how much fun it could be, but it sure beat walking if I wanted to go more than a mile or two. Really bringing rail (light and heavy) back into the the mix in a big way might be the smartest thing we could do in the next decade, which of course most likely means we won't do it.

Edited to replace the image with a link. That's too big to hot-link (in file size and image size).

In defense of the "L", there's been a lot of maintenance and trackwork done lately to improve speeds and "slow zones". There's a renewed maintenance program to clean up dirty railcars and stations, and make customer service more "service".

CTA now has a "Bus Tracker" that shows you where your bus is anywhere along the route, so you can plan ahead, and not wait 20 minutes at a stop.


Granted, funding is still in crisis, and there's talk, once again, of reducing service and/or raising fares. But I'd still rather take CTA, wherever possible, than struggle with traffic and parking. At least I can work while I ride.

While the "L" may not be as efficient as the London "Tube" or the Paris "Metro", it beats driving. The only issue I have is it is not "baggage-friendly". While you can take bikes on the train, or on the front of a bus, service times are restricted. And if you have a shopping cart, while you could get that on a bus via the hydraulic system where they lower the front step, there's really no room on board.
At peak times, strollers and othr wheeled carts are really a nuisance.

We've given a lot of thought to moving people, but not much thought to moving small loads e.g. a typical person's weekly groceries.

No one is saying you MUST RIDE TRANSIT. Ride a bike. Walk. Drive if you can afford it. Personally I can walk or ride anywhere I want. You didn't answer my question-what is your point? Get rid of all transit?

In many small towns, such as the W-S bus system you describe, it is exactly as you describe-a system to enable low income people to get to work. So you consider this some kind of modern day slavery? Should we just cut them off? What is better, some transit or none at all?

And-look on the internet-we've had bus service in Orlando for many years. It seems quite obvious that I was referring to rail transit. Again, can you name a single rail system that doesn't run on the weekend?

You forgot Washington DC. I do not have the latest stats, but more people take transit (overwhelming % rail or bus + rail with some Park & Ride) than drive alone to work in DC. And the farebox + ads almost pays for operating costs on DC Metro.

Nothing in 1970 in DC but a poor bus service.

Some addendums. Line #2 increases ridership (and the utility) of Line #1. Line #3 increases the ridership on Lines #1 & #2 (and their utility). Line #4 ...

A decade or two after Urban Rail is built, in a good majority of cases (I can cite a few exceptions) development has concentrated along the rail line, which increases it's utility.

Miami's Metrorail (an elevated Rapid Rail, subways are also Rapid Rail) had some utility from downtown to the south (@ 2 miles from coast) but almost none north-west through areas burned in 1980s riots. In 1990, considered "not worth building" even by many transit advocates.

However, Miami dedicated a half cent sales tax to expansion. Plans for a 97 mile system that puts the vast majority within 3 miles of a station (bicycle range in Miami) and a substantial % within a half mile. A 47 mile system now in advanced planning with the rest "These plans have been put into indefinite hold as crucial federal funding for such projects has been revoked for the time being".

Just the announcement started a flurry of mid-rise and high rise building near the existing stations.

Step 1 was a one mile, one station expansion tacked onto the NorthWest to a Park & Ride on a west side freeway. Step 2 goes to the Miami Airport (and Amtrak & Tri-Rail station) Step 3 goes North to within a few hundred yards of the Broward County/Ft. Lauderdale line (and by several sports venues), Step 4 goes west from the airport. Steps 2 & 3 are under construction today. Ridership is up substantially with only one new station in service (65,000/day per google).

Separately, the commuter rail line Tri-Rail went from single track to double track and expanded service, longer hours and dramatically increased on-time performance. Ridership went from 2.2 million to 4.3 million/year (up and is likely to increase more; 23% 2008 vs. 2007). Given the cost elasticity of rail, Tri-Rail should operate without a subsidy around 6.5 million (memory). Tri-Rail feeds about 5,000 riders/day into Metrorail from Broward County.

One moral is that bare minumum "starter lines" are not as useful as systems. More if I have time.

Best Hopes for Urban Rail,


I get the feeling that you never had to ride mass transit much. There were times that I had to because that was my only option. I miss it a lot, now that it isn't an option.

as it serves nothing except the commute to a weekday day-shift job - and then only if both one's home and the job happen to be in the "right" location, something not guaranteed in today's economy.

There are perhaps a couple of billion people on this planet that would disagree. You can start in NYC.

"You can start in NYC."

Bingo! Especially if you don't live on Staten Island or in outer Queens. But the USA is not NYC except for the little bit that is, and there's no chance of everybody piling into NYC anytime soon, or anytime ever.

I repeat what I said elsewhere about running from 6:30 to 8:30 in the morning and 4:00 to 6:00 in the early evening, weekdays only. That's not at all unusual out in the hinterlands. Even in NYC, trains that go beyond the city proper may stop running after the PM rush hour (or have one and only one late-evening departure if your're lucky) - and it can take a very long time to get anywhere on a Sunday.

I don't think that's true any more. The Metro-North trains run until midnight or later to upstate NY and CT.

And since gas prices spiked...holy guacamole. Even on weekends, there are trains every hour. I was really surprised, since it used to be every two hours. I asked about it, and they said demand rose sharply with gas prices (not to mention bridge tolls and parking). People found out how affordable and pleasant it is to take the train into the city, and the once-empty trains run pretty full all weekend.

It probably won't save you money if you have a large family, but a single person is definitely better off taking the train.

In my city, everyone loves to complain about the public transit, but for $2.00 or $55/month, it really will take you anywhere you want to go over forty-nine square miles. Yes, the frequency backs off on the weekends and evenings, which is annoying and sometimes means I walk the half-mile up hill home rather than wait twenty minutes for the bus. Yes, the buses could be cleaner, and yes, the bureaucracy running the system can at times be stunningly incompetent. But by and large it works, plus half of the entire system is electrified with the electricity provided by hydroelectric. Having a functioning (if imperfect) public transit system is an enormous economic asset to my city and will be even more so in the future. One can argue whether any city will be ultimately sustainable at current population levels, but over the course of this next decade, I expect the economic viability of any community will depend on a high ratio of economic output produced per fossil fuel unit consumed. Communities that don't need much energy to keep warm, to keep cool, or transport themselves around will be at an advantage.

I drive about half of all the trips I make each week, mostly because I shuttle kids around singly or in carpools. (Once my youngest gets to high school, I expect that percentage to drop.) I wish my city had good enough bicycle infrastructure that my children could safely bicycle places on their own, but it does not. My sixteen-year-old does have a monthly bus pass ($15) that she uses frequently. I bike 30% of my trips, walk 10% and take public transit 10%. If I had to go car-free tomorrow, I could get around and have quite a nice life, though the kid transport thing would not be without effort. My husband bikes to work. He finds it quicker than driving or public transit and also cheaper than both. One of the reasons we chose to live here is exactly because getting together with friends or going interesting places doesn't require hours in the car.

This makes me wonder - at the COP6 Hague Conference in 2000, the delegates themselves famously scorned the bicycles that, by implication, they were there to order other people to use. So, are any conference delegates, apart from maybe the Dutch, Danish, or Belgian ones, actually practicing what they preach in this respect, even if only for show, even if only for the two weeks?

I persist in thinking that conference delegates often come across as hypocritical blowhards undeserving of respect, with that behavior helping a bit to ensure that in the USA at least, it seems like they're indeed not getting a lot of respect. I realize that ordinary Danes use bicycles extensively - though I hesitate to speculate whether that's voluntary in any meaningful sense or simply oppressively coerced by harsh taxation - but that contrast, if remains a contrast, is part of the problem.

For politicians its a tricky balancing act: in the UK opposition leader David Cameron came in for claims of hypocrisy when he cycled to work, only for it to be revealed that his official car was following him carrying his official papers, which given they might include top secret government documents MIGHT be just about justifiable as a security measure, as well as a change of clothes and other personal items.

I'd be much more impressed by a politician who just walked/cycled to the shops at the weekend than one who engages in such farcical actions.

"...a politician who just walked/cycled to the shops at the weekend...

Well, yes. Are there any such in the UK? Or in Europe outside of Denmark or The Netherlands?

I've heard reports that Joe Lieberman and his wife will travel about on foot on the Sabbath rather than drive. Less to do with energy than religion, I understand.

Interesting. I was still wondering about Europe, though, in view of the abundance of pious declarations emanating from there.

Ken Livingston, when he was Mayor of London, used to ride the tube all the time. I know, I saw him.

The present Mayor of London rides a bike. The Lord Mayor of the City of London sometimes goes by horse and carriage, as does the Queen.

"True mobility" can work well in places with wall-to-wall people, such as The Netherlands, coastal Japan, or parts of Denmark. But in my experience, it tends to fail rather badly should one ever wish even temporary escape from the confines of the city. Except for very selected localities, it may never serve the USA, Canada, Australia, and other less-populated places, very effectively.

Plus, in the USA anyway, there seems for the most part to be no work ethic in public-transportation organizations, with service normally shoddy and unreliable. While this may seem rather ironic in view of preaching about American work ethic versus Eurosclerosis, a perception of public transportation as being welfare for losers may be a factor. (I can't find a link but I recall a story from Queens or Staten Island NY about bus route expansion being opposed on the grounds it would bring crime and riff-raff to the neighborhood.)

You do realise it's not a binary decision?: you can try and structure your life (where and when you shop, etc) to work reasonably well with public transport and then hire a personal vehicle for those occasions when you really need it. (Incidentally, that's my biggest gripe with the "but I NEED an SUV brigade": I don't have a problem with people driving kayaks out to white water kayak if that's what they enjoy, but with the "so I'll buy and drive a huge gas guzzler all the time, even though I only go kayaking a dozen weekends a year rather than hire an SUV just when I actually need the power" viewpoint.)

Unfortunately, it seems modern values make people dislike hiring goods others have used, whether it's books, powertools, vehicles, etc. (I think the few who know think I'm weird for belonging to a book library.)

"hire a personal vehicle for those occasions when you really need it"

You just changed the subject to occasional use; I meant to discuss having a life.

Since we rent personal vehicles - even if they are bicycles - in the USA, I'll guess you're in the UK, where many localities are crammed wall-to-wall and ground-to-sky with people, a condition which facilitates transit mightily. So I emphasize, in the USA, typically, the bus (or even moreso the train) does not run in the evening or on weekends. It's useful only for the commute and only to a day job. This is often true even in the relatively crowded environs of New York City. Indeed, a common schedule provides for service from roughly 6:30 to 8:30 in the morning and 4:00 to 6:00 in the early evening on weekdays only.

Constantly "hiring" a car on the spot - in order to have any life other than that of a hermit - would be ridiculously and ruinously expensive. (Plus, the "hire" place is usually hard to reach without a car - Catch-22.) That is why all but a very few Americans maintain access to cars - and since far fewer of us have company-provided cars as in the UK, we must either own them or lease them on contract.

Perhaps car-sharing facilities will eventually fix this, or at least ameliorate it, but that mostly remains to be seen, as the tendency is for everyone to want the cars at about the same times, which either ruins the economics of "sharing", or else ruins the notion that you can rely on having the car when you need it, pushing you back to owning/leasing. Or perhaps the apparent wishes of some doomers will eventually come true and nearly all will once again become hermits with no life, as was essentially true for most in former times.

If public transport is indeed as completely restricted to just a few hours a day in the US, then you've got a point.

However, I'm sceptical about your claim that you can't "have a life" unless you've permanantly got access to a high power SUV, basically because I think people tend to overestimate how much time they spend socialising in out of the way places. Whilst I'd like to believe that I'm be out and about town every night of the week, the reality is that I'm out on average two nights a week. The other five nights I'm in ironing shirts, doing some urban gardening, watching DVDs, cleaning house (although too infrequently for anyone with two Y chromosomes :) ), reading, etc. I think most people over thirty who aren't "dedicated party animals" would fall into this sort of category.

The point about hiring isn't so nuch that it dramatically reduces the number of vehicles as much as that they're only used when they're needed rather than the siutation where it's constantly sitting on your driveway so you're tempted to use it for each and every task.

I think that for the US, the model we are going to have to move toward is downsizing the vehicle one owns and drives on a regular basis to something like an NEV (for those that are not situated such that they can just go entirely to bicycles*), with a proliferation of car rental places located in every town and neighborhood so that one can get to them without much trouble and rent a more hefty car for travel to places not served by public transport. The initial expansion of public transport in the US that is needed and will have to come will initially have to mostly just be buses - larger buses for intra- and inter-city routes, and smaller shuttle buses for shorter local routes. It will take us many, many years to build up a rail-based system. On paper, it should be possible to do it more quickly, but the reality is that it won't happen; we just don't have the type of government that can make the possible a reality.

All of the above applies to the next few decades; what things will be like a century or more from now may be a totally different ball game altogether.

*And no, EVERYBODY can't use bicycles to go everywhere, all the time. It is easy for a fit 20-something to think so, but for the aged and infirm it simply isn't going to work, even on level ground and good weather and short distances. Add in the topography and weather, and it is clear that bicycles are not going to become the one and only transport mode. They will and should become much more common. But the immediate next step will be for people to downsize and shift to short-range EVs.

I am 48 and live up a fairly monster hill in San Francisco. I have an electric bike. I don't mind riding it in a light mist, though I prefer to avoid downpours. I'm happy to ride it to destinations five or six miles away and back, and I'm especially happy when it means I don't have to pay for parking. I always feel better, physically and mentally, after riding my bike than after driving my car. An electric bike evens out the terrain, so to speak, both topographically and age-wise. The Chinese bought 9 million cars last year and 23 million electric bikes.

I know someone very well who is 81 and rides a bicycle---not an electric one---far...maybe 6, 7, 8 km. No problem.

The trick? This person has bever owned a car or driven one. He has always used his feet to get around and he always will.

So he is perfectly fit.

Owning a car in the first place is the horrible mistake when it comes to the body and fitness. Stay out of them and use your feet and legs to get around and then you will save money and save on doctor`s bills too!!

It is harder to do this in the US than in many other countries but I believe it`s a valid message anywhere.

Yes, there are cases like that. Then there are cases like my parents: she totally disabled and a total invalid with multiple major health problems, he now legally blind with AMD. Neither of them are going to either be driving or bicycling anywhere on their own. There are many, many elderly people like this, not yet in bad enough condition for the nursing home (not that they could afford it, anyway). Our society is set up on the assumption that "everyone" can drive themselves everywhere, and very little provision is made for people like them.

"the reality is that I'm out on average two nights a week"

Exactly. And the idea that one will go to a car rental place and rent a car each week for those two nights is utterly laughable and would be fiendishly and obscenely costly.

For the rest, please see WNC's comment above.

[Edit: oh, and I don't recall mentioning anything about whether the car had to be a high powered SUV, though some people will indeed want one of those.]

I think we're partly differing in if we're talking about whether it is CURRENTLY viable OR whether it COULD BE viable. I'm sure that, partiuclarly given that car rental is currently viewed as a holiday activity and hence price insensitive, the charges are CURRENTLY rather high in both the UK and US. Given the UK's level of taxes and associated costs it's unclear to me whether it qualifies as "obscenely" more expensive in the UK rather than just "noticeably" more expensive. This story suggests that it's starting to become viable in the UK, and that it COULD BE viable in the US in the future given appropriate price and incentive signals:


Or perhaps the apparent wishes of some doomers will eventually come true and nearly all will once again become hermits with no life, as was essentially true for most in former times. (PaulS)

Wishing for something and acknowledging it openly are two very different things. Reality doesn't care if someone wants or needs their own car. To para-phrase Kunstler, reality is just gonna beat the crap out of anyone who refuses to acknowledge it. I can't tell if Paul is transitioning from denial to anger, but he sure seems to be doing a lot of bargaining. Maybe he's caught in a feedback loop.

Ah, the joys of amateur psychology...

The real factor that pushes people to get the SUV is that it is perceived as a luxury product. We live in a very shallow society where such symbols of wealth are very important to some people. But if you ask people, the explanations that you get for their behavior are all completely different. It could be safety, or horsepower, or they might need it to tow something, or maybe handling on icy roads (in places where the roads are rarely icy).

We have a friend who got some SUV some years back. We were talking to her, and her excuse was that she needed the thing because once a year she goes on a trip with friends and it is nice to have the extra space. For that trip once a year. But knowing her, I also know that she is very attuned to symbols of status and wealth, and my guess is that this is a much larger factor in this than she would have cared to admit.

Let me give you another example - we know someone who got a new car recently, and initially he was insisting that he get a Lexus or something else of that class. Not an SUV, but he felt the need to have that luxury vehicle. Eventually he relented and got some normal sedan of some sort, but it still had the appearance of a luxury sedan. But ultimately the car he got still only gets ~22 mpg.

Years ago, I used to get used Volvo cars and then drive them to about 200K miles. About 6 years ago, I switched when I got a used VW in order to get one of those high-mpg diesels. And it felt a little weird at first - it wasn't as plush as the old Volvo even though the VW was a lot newer. But not having to buy fuel very often has other advantages..

Maintaining status can have a very high cost - especially if the world is changing around us. Some people will readily give these things up when they see others also giving them up - others will be dragged kicking and screaming into the new reality.

Another tough problem comes from deciding NOT to have a car even if you can afford it.

We live in a place where you don`t need a car. It is not the USA!!

But everyone (especially middle-aged with families) has at least one car. A few families do not have even one car and we greet each other with special fervor.

But how about others in our families? Are they delighted at our thriftiness or our commitment to GAIA?

No, they are not! Mother-in-law (who has never driven a car and doesn`t own one) never fails to make nasty comments about how wonderful it would be if we got a car....how modern and convenient and necessary they are. How backward I am because I don`t drive.

Mother (who doesn`t like cars and lives in USA and has one) is grumpy and taciturn----"you guys deserve a medal, huh!" is her attitude.

Father (who likes to save money) is quite envious of us I think. Prefers not to discuss topic at all. Gets mad at the topic of peak oil too. "Things wren`t supposed to work out this way!"

Stress all around!!!!!!

Hardly wall-to-wall people here. Just traveled from Malmo to Stockholm via high speed train, checking email and reading TOD all the way. 4.5 hours to go 400+ miles. Train was full. BTW, population of Sweden is 9 million and is 9% larger in size than California. If they can do it here, we can do it in California. The operative word is "we." Let's stop finding excuses and be the change we want to see in others. Every one of us oil drummers can find something, large or small, that we can contribute to this effort.

And that train wasn't even all that fast, really. But it still beats most of what we have here.

I keep hearing that passenger trains wouldn't work in the US because of the low population density. Russia and the Skandinavian countries all have successful passenger rail systems, and yet all have lower population densities than the US. The real reason there's no viable passenger rail system in the US is cultural, not population density.

And because we tore it up - it's good to remember that we used to have one, and it was the primary mode of transportation.

Rail was the primary mode for passenger traffic before WW II. After WW II, the rapid rise of commercial aviation offered much shorter travel times, thus the passengers abandoned our rail system. What was left was the freight system, which still exists, connecting many industrial locations.

There is a basic conflict between the slower freight rail and the faster passenger rail traffic. The result has been a near demise in passenger rail, since the long distance travelers moved to the airlines. Cheap oil made that transition possible and as Peak Oil kicks in, it's likely that that path will be reversed. That said, as the cheap fossil fuels are exhausted, long distance travel is likely to become much more expensive for all and thus undertaken less frequently.

E. Swanson

Far beyond that - there was once a trolley line that ran very near my home - the same is true at the place I work, and the home I used to live in. All of these are gone now, but 75yeras ago one could walk a mile or two and get on a trolley. Starting from that short walk, once on that system one could travel across the continent, transition to a similar local line and likely get within a mile or so of most any other place.

The nearest streetcar line is now 3 blocks away from me.

In the 1920s, I had one in front of the house, one two blocks away, the survivor (St. Charles) was three blocks, two five blocks distance, one eight blocks away ...

Best Hopes for improved density of streetcars (New Orleans had 222 miles and 666 streetcars, plus 100 electric buses).


If they can do it here, we can do it in California.

They have the great advantage of a population of 9 million in a slightly larger country. I don't doubt that California could "do it" if the population was 9 million. But we are well into overshoot and have designed living arrangements that don't lend themselves to Swedish style solutions. For example, the high speed train from SF to LA, if it is ever built, which I doubt, will be overwhelmed immediately given the size of the population centers at either end.

The transit system in Vancouver is excellent (Canada) and is as good as anywhere in Europe in Sydney (Australia). Things used to work just fine in North America as there are abandoned train stations for people all across the country. Kenora Ontario, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Victoria Beach Manitoba, all over Canada actually. Some empty, some turned into pubs or offices. All of them were abandoned because of changes in policy and heavily subsidized fuels for cars. (Highways are public but railways are not, etc etc etc. external costs)

Train travel used to work fine in North America and will again - out of necessity.


I'm glad you are able to enjoy this aspect of Copenhagen.

I was in Copenhagen a month ago working with a colleague. As a life long bike commuter it was a truly marvelous experience biking in traffic where bicycles were essentially on a par with cars. To get a virtual feel for what it's like and to understand the commitment to biking on the part of local government I would recommend starting with episode 1 of a five part YouTube series on biking in Copenhagen.

-- Jon

Just skimmed it for now, but as usual the line about helmets "not fitting in" bemuses me in view of the vast thickets of stifling regulations already in place owing to standard "precautionary" European hypercautiousness. What gives with that? How is it that Europeans expend vast resources fleeing shadows, but not that particular shadow? We've touched on this before but I was left with the puzzle unsolved.

The helmet issue may have something to do with the awareness of drivers. It is my understanding that a driver involved in an accident involving a cyclist receives a harsh punishment regardless of who's fault it was. Indeed, all the drivers I saw were extremely cautious around bikes.

Here in the US most bicycle/pedestrian fatalities that don't involve alcohol result in a temporary suspension of the driver's license if anything.

If you want to murder someone in the US and get off easy just run them over with your car.

-- Jon

My experience of the USA is the cities are laid out on grids of wide roads, BAU use of these roads is not a viable option in the medium term IMO, there has to be change - if you use smaller cars and use more public transport there is plenty of space for safe bike lanes. An example in Europe is Barcelona Spain, except for the small medieval traffic free area the city is based on a grid of one way streets with separate bus and bike lanes.

You don't even need to own a bike, bikes can be hired from racks sited all over the city as needed.


That's all true and it's part of the puzzle ... but ... you can easily get tramlined - and a fair bit of the European hypercautiousness is to do with trying to protect foolish people from themselves (hence the near-ban on ladders in some places), so I'm still wondering a little...

IMO all the safety legislation that has come in recently is only sensible if you have abundant sources of cheap energy - if you can't afford the energy like in India say, then laws will be ignored - even if you can afford the energy laws are routinely ignored, have you ever driven in KSA?

Laws are only useful when the vast majority abide by them - on our high speed motorways a large proportion of cars are speeding, too many to stop without automated speed cameras.

Yes, drivers are much more aware and cautious of both cyclists and pedestrians. All you have to do is approach an intersection and they stop to let you cross. Most bike lanes are physically separated and the turns are very well thought out so that the cyclists have the right of way and cars yield before turning right. I had a tour with a local who explained much about the planning that went into it.

We are working on "Complete Streets" programs here in several Michigan communities to promote more biking and other healthy lifestyle activities.

We may have had a high of 40 degrees F yesterday and I was out riding my motorcycle around a bit, it's actually even nice on a bicycle because riding one warms you up and you don't go as fast.

"Solutions are only sustainable if you support pastoralists in Ethiopia or small farmers in Bangladesh to analyse their disaster risk and the possible solutions", says Marije Broekhuijsen of Cordaid. "As an NGO we can contribute by adding knowledge, contacts and resources, but the responsibility of taking action lies within the communities."

Indeed, the meek shall inherit the earth (what's left of it).

It seems that Greer answered my critique of the lack of discussion about a constant-growth economy in his (excellent) post up top.

Nobody, but nobody, is willing to deal with the harsh reality of what a carbon-neutral society would have to be like. This is what makes the blame game so popular, and it also provides the impetus behind meaningless gestures of the sort that are on the table at Copenhagen. It’s a common piece of rhetoric these days to say that “failure is not an option,” but this sort of feckless thoughtstopper misses the point as totally as any human utterance possibly could. Failure is always an option; when trying to prevent it will lead to highly unpleasant personal consequences, without actually having the least chance of preventing it, a strong case can be made that the most viable option for anyone in a leadership position is to enjoy the party while it lasts, and hope you can duck the blame when it all comes crashing down.

While I agree with almost all of his article (and look forward to the next part), I feel that it does not address the (potential) ramifications that the more people talk about this issue (a society/economy not based on constant growth, or, as he terms it, a carbon-neutral society), the more acceptable it becomes to try to address it. But, perhaps I am just being overly optimistic about this. Perhaps, embarrassingly so.

In some ways, the discussion of climate change was in a similar position prior to Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Before that public airing of the issue, it could have been said that "Nobody, but nobody, is willing to deal with the harsh reality of" the effects of climate change. However, it is important to point out that the two issues (carbon-neutral society and climate change) are different by orders of magnitude (a carbon-neutral society being the larger/more difficult of the two).

Regardless, it's nice to see it being discussed. I've always valued Greer's ruminations, since they often come at the problem from a distinctly different perspective (the one less traveled by).

I think there's actually a lot of discussion about our constant-growth economy. It's a big topic among peak oilers. Some people argue that economic growth can go on without using more natural resources (the "we all get rich doing each other's laundry" argument), and some argue we can keep growing by becoming more efficient. But I think most peak oilers, and many mainstream environmentalists, understand the Kenneth Boulding is right:"Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist."

It's also a topic that comes up at liberal sites like DailyKos from time to time. Constant growth is what makes inequality bearable. We tell ourselves that people on the bottom will one day reach the top, or at least the middle. Lefties who see through the ponzi scheme are often quite perturbed by the implications.

Several years ago, there was an interesting post at dKos, proposing an alternate, zero-growth economy. Not gonna happen, of course, but it was interesting. One of its features was that your money vanished when you died. No leaving it to your kids. When you're dead, it's gone.

Oh, I agree that there is discussion about our constant-growth economy. It's just that it is not widely discussed. The uninformed public doesn't hear about it, and, until they do, not much will really happen (as Greer lays out convincingly). I've been trying to think of a movie (fiction) that addresses this issue and haven't been able to think of any - which is surprising to me. Those that have addressed these global issues always end up with the happy ending of BAU.

I'm with you on Kenneth Boulding.

Your point on "Constant growth is what makes inequality bearable. We tell ourselves that people on the bottom will one day reach the top, or at least the middle." is very insightful (and ties in nicely with Nate Hagens' update today).

I wish I had an alternative to the constant-growth economy, but I do not. It would certainly feel better to have something to advocate for. In the absence of an alternative, the only thing I can advocate for is more discussion of the problem by more people. I'd like it if we, as a species, could take these long-term problems seriously. Yet, Greer and Hagens clearly point out the problems with this.

Alas, my inner pessimist rules the day. We humans cannot see very far into the future. Or, perhaps, it's just that we really don't want to.

Trying to discuss this with the uninformed public (or even supposedly reasonably informed peak oilers) generally produces severe cognitive dissonance. Most people just can't wrap their minds around the concept. You get arguments like, "We'll all write software or sell insurance. You can make good money doing that, without using a lot of resources."

At PeakOil.com, I got into a discussion about how usury (charging interest on a loan) requires economic growth. People just could not conceive of a world where you only borrowed money if you were in desperate straits, because it was so difficult to pay it back. One guy said that even if we reverted to a feudal society, eventually, the peasants would want air-conditioning or new windows, and would borrow money from the lord of the manor to pay for them. (!)

(Hmmm. Come to think of it, this idea might be more accessible than it was, in the wake of the credit crisis.)

I've been trying to think of a movie (fiction) that addresses this issue and haven't been able to think of any - which is surprising to me.

What comes to mind for me is Lois Lowry's The Giver. It's a Newbery-winning children's book. She meant it as a dystopia, but I think it does a pretty good job of showing what would be required to maintain a high-tech society without growth.

I do not doubt the severe cognitive dissonance that you describe, as I have experienced similar things in my own attempted discussions.

If we acknowledge that this severe cognitive dissonance is an insurmountable obstacle in discussing these issues with the public, then it leaves one in the position of trying to "test the waters" when attempting to bring up this subject with a person or group. If the "test" does not produce too severe a version of the cognitive dissonance, then one proceeds. I think this might describe how many on TOD approach discussions of these issues.

However, the more important point (I think) is that this ensures an uncontrolled collapse - "uncontrolled" in that humans will not mitigate or plan for the collapse in any large or meaningful ways.

Perhaps, this is what will transpire. I certainly have found myself being reluctant to continue conversations in the face of such severe cognitive dissonance. Further, Diamond clearly explains that previous societies were unable to plan for any future collapse.

Yet, this leads me to believe that Diamond has his own cognitive dissonance (optimism?) on this subject, since he seems to have a belief (based on his op-ed) that we will succeed in planning for our collapse in ways that all the other collapsed societies that he discusses did not. The cognitive dissonance comes in where there is an unspoken belief that we can't really talk about it publicly, but somehow we'll figure out what to do anyway. I find that the reactive mind is not very good at making long-term plans, though.

Regarding your anecdote about peasants and lords: very funny and a good example of how deep the "rabbit hole" of cognitive dissonance goes.

Regarding The Giver: thanks. I've added it to my reading list. It looks interesting.

However, the more important point (I think) is that this ensures an uncontrolled collapse - "uncontrolled" in that humans will not mitigate or plan for the collapse in any large or meaningful ways.

For not only have they not prepared as a society, they have un-prepared themselves mentally and emotionally. Discretionary distraction is our way of life. This, I think, compounds the effects.

The British didn't panic when the bombs started falling, because they expected it for years. Not only do many not expect collapse, many have been in denial so long and emphatically their denial is cemented firmly in their psyche. I fear the backlash from cognitive dissonance the most. That's when they start killing the messengers.

These are good points. Chance favors the prepared mind, as Mr. Pasteur once said.

I am (stubbornly) coming to the realization that talking about these issues with the public is not viable.

Yeah. See my post below about the old "leaf lady" yelling at the rock.

One guy said that even if we reverted to a feudal society, eventually, the peasants would want air-conditioning or new windows, and would borrow money from the lord of the manor to pay for them. (!)

OK, if that sounds too weird, how about the basic house structure itself? It is well documented that that is exactly what happened in various times and places: A well to do peasant would borrow money from the landowner to build a house, and make payments that could go on for two generations. The payments were possible because good land, well managed, generated a surplus even after all the diddly taxes and fees were paid.

The payments were possible because good land, well managed, generated a surplus even after all the diddly taxes and fees were paid.

Or, put another way, the peasant was able to exploit the natural capital built up in the soil and climate by milennia of forest growth, at a rate greater than the rate he was exploited.

Be that as it may, if we are discussing the possible shape of a hypothetical "steady-state" society, comparisons with historical feudal societies are misplaced.

It's a myth that these societies were static. In fact, they grew in size and changed their technologies and institutions, resulting in ever-greater exploitation of the natural world.

I do think that the natural end-point of capitalism (in a finite world) is some kind of feudalism. "Natural" here means "in the absence of major disruptions that do away with the infrastructure of laws and beliefs". The odds are against us getting there, though.

Back on topic, the examples of "steady-state" systems that spring to mind are climax forests and savannahs. I haven't thought about the parallels enough, yet, to say what lessons there are. Perhaps someone else here has.

Part of the problem is confusion and lack of distinction between GROWTH and IMPROVEMENT. It is quite possible to have a zero-growth, sustainable economy, and yet for there to be some improvements in something or other from time to time. Presumably people won't stop thinking, and every now and then someone will come up with an idea for doing something better than it has been done. This doesn't mean growth; you would still have the same number of people, the same amount of land, and the same throughput of renewable resources through the economy. Things would just be a little bit different, and perceived to be a little bit better.

Assuming any necessary inputs (energy, time, food, space, land, etc.) are offset by reductions elsewhere, then an improvement would be sustainable. This is because an improvement implies the use of resources to develop or produce that improvement.

However, in a zero-growth sustainable economy, any improvements would need to be highly tested and analyzed to ensure that they do not increase any necessary inputs, or to ensure that the correct amount of reductions elsewhere.

The only possible zero-growth sustainable economy is one that is highly controlled, if I understand things correctly. As such, any changes would need to be exhaustively analyzed and checked before allowing them to be implemented (not to mention researched or developed).

The only possible zero-growth sustainable economy is one that is highly controlled, if I understand things correctly. As such, any changes would need to be exhaustively analyzed and checked before allowing them to be implemented (not to mention researched or developed).

This is just the sort of possibility that gets the right totally worked up. The thought that someone -especially a government someone might have a veto over something he might want to do is completely intolerable to them. This seems to be the real motivating force behind climate change denial -or denial of any sort of limits to growth. I kinda doubt the USA will be able to make such cahnges -or even to admit that the limits exist.

This is just the sort of possibility that gets the right totally worked up. The thought that someone -especially a government someone might have a veto over something he might want to do is completely intolerable to them.

Unless, of course, they are doing the vetoing. Which is most likely how it will end up.

I am inclined to think that a more acceptable model would be something small scale and local, like a New England town meeting or a native American tribal council. It would not be so much a matter of "the government" controlling things and deciding what could and could not be done, but rather a community coming to a consensus as to what types of technologies they will adopt and what type of lifestyle they want to live. Some right wingers would still be uncomfortable with that, but maybe some closet-authoritarian state socialists would be also.

It need not necessarilly just be one local community deciding everything for that community; there could be overlapping local sovereignties for distinct things. For example, you could have a local electric utility run as a co-op, the service area of which covers several different communities. The co-op members all have a say on how the electric utility is run, and that includes whether or not to adopt proposed improvements.

I would be quite comfortable living in such a society. I would not be nearly so comfortable living in a society where some remote authoritarian bureaucracy highly controls everything, making sure that everything that anyone wants to do is "exhaustively analyzed and checked before allowing them to be implemented (not to mention researched or developed)".

It's a good example of a more sustainable society, but it would not be a zero-growth, sustainable society. I understand that you would find a smaller, tribal authoritarian structure to be preferable to a larger, governmental authoritarian structure.

However, if the decisions are only made locally, but the negative effects are spread out over a larger area, then any decision is not sustainable, since the negative effects are passed on to other local areas.

How would such a society determine if an improvement was sustainable or not, if they did not exhaustively analyze such an improvement?

One advantage of devolving down to small-scale local sovereignties is that there is room for experimentation, as the stakes become a lot lower. One community can try something, and if it works well for them then others can adopt it. On the other hand, if something is a failure, the others are warned off. Yes, those who live in communities that try something that fails might end up worse off. Too bad, but no one would be holding a gun to their heads requiring them to take the risk.

We are going to have to accept the reality that "sustainability" is no guarantee that there will never, ever be any losers. Life itself holds out no such guarantees, and if "sustainability" means anything at all, it has to mean bringing us back to something closer to the natural order of things.

I'm not trying to argue that there won't be losers. I'm just pointing out that small-scale local sovereignties have inherent difficulties in determining how sustainable they are, since negative effects can go "down stream" to other small-scale local sovereignties. And, "down stream" problems are not a concern when your "closed system" is just your local sovereignty. In many ways, it is the same problem we face today - but with "nations" substituted for "small-scale local sovereignties".

But, I agree there are advantages to small-scale local sovereignties (as you point out) - this was the norm for human culture (society?) for many millions of years.

Lots of film fiction has dealt with what authors' thought is the likely path our constant growth economy is leading us down. I go back so the 1973 flick 'Soylent Green' is the main one that comes to mind.

Yes, most certainly there have been a number of dystopian films and books.

I was referring to movies (and fiction) that deal with what a zero-growth, static, sustainable society would look like. The dystopian fiction shows that our constant-growth economy is unsustainable (as you note with Soylent Green). But, I haven't really seen many (any?) attempts in fiction to detail what a zero-growth, static, sustainable society would look like - without an attempt at a happy ending pointing us back towards our current constant-growth society.

I haven't read The Giver that Leanan noted, but the synopsis seems ultimately to paint the zero-growth society in the book as being inferior to our constant-growth society (a reaction against the authoritarian nature of the society). So, even in that case, it would appear that the zero-growth society is a non-starter. However, these thoughts are only based on the synopsis, and I'll need to read the book before I can really make such a determination.

The only work of fiction that comes to mind is Callenbach's Ecotopia.

Thanks for the suggestion. I've added it to my reading list.

One of its features was that your money vanished when you died. No leaving it to your kids. When you're dead, it's gone.

Do you happen to recall what they did with accumulated capital? For example, a farmer who has improved the land: fences, buildings, equipment, wells, and so forth. Or a blacksmith who owns the small plot of land and the building that contains a forge, bellows, and a huge range of long-lived specialized tools. In both cases, the value of the whole thing is much greater than the sum of the values of the individual components.

I don't remember, and I can't find the link any more.

But my guess is that it goes to the people - that is, the government - where someone else can buy it.

There actually are some economists who are interested in no-growth economies. We've discussed them here from time to time, and you'll find some interesting stuff if you Google it.

One of its features was that your money vanished when you died. No leaving it to your kids. When you're dead, it's gone.

I doubt that would be a workable formula. My inclination is to think that a zero-growth sustainable economy needs to operate with a rigidly fixed money supply. Any change at all to the money supply - either inflating it or deflating it (as the above proposal would do) - would result in distortions and misallocations in the economy, and thus inefficiency. A zero-growth sustainable economy is one that must be efficient and cannot afford a lot of waste.

The really difficult question is: How much inequality is enough or too much for a zero-growth sustainable economy? I'm not sure that near absolute equality is either inevitable or necessary in such an economy, but I am pretty sure that there are some upper limits to the degree of inequality that such an economy can sustain. Also, just because such an economy can sustain a certain level of inequality is not the same thing as saying that it is performing optimally at that level. My gut-level hunch is that both too much leveling and too much inequality are sub-optimal, that a zero-growth sustainable economy would perform best if there was enough, but just enough, inequality to provide sufficient incentives to spur people on to levels of productivity consistent with the efficient operation of the economy.

I doubt that would be a workable formula. My inclination is to think that a zero-growth sustainable economy needs to operate with a rigidly fixed money supply. Any change at all to the money supply - either inflating it or deflating it (as the above proposal would do) - would result in distortions and misallocations in the economy, and thus inefficiency.

Hmmm. This flys in the face in the Keynesian need to change the volume of money to counteract the business cycle. Even without growth, there will still be external shocks, such as say a major volanic eruption, or a fifty year drought which will seed recessions. Then "animal spirits", another name for the mood swinging towards savings and away from consumption can tank the economy. The keynesians wish to increase the supply of money when the velocity of money decreases (i.e. when people hang onto a dollar longer than usual), as GDP equals money supply times the velocity of money. So in order to avoid the boom-bust phenomena you gotta be willing and able to expand and contract the money supply the keep the overall level of the economy on an even keel. At least in conception this doesn't seem too different from the growth trend model that is used today, only that rather then trying to stay close to trend, the goal is to stay close to even. Of course you still need to discipline that is lacking today, spend&borrow during the downturns needs to be balanced by frugaility and savings during the upswings. In the growing economy, it is easier to avoid (or at least defer) the effects of lack of discipline.

Au contraire, it would be the fixed quantity of money which would exert a powerful countercyclical force to dampen the swings up and down. If you want to bring Keynes into the picture, the Keynsian contribution would be a policy to keep government budgets balanced through the economic cycle, thus allowing them to run deficits during downturns, and requiring them to accumulate surpluses durring recoveries.

The fundamental economic principle which should guide all fiscal and monetary policy is to "keep an even keel". Since the government is inevitably such a big player in the economy, keeping it stable is essential to keeping the entire economy stable.

One problem with improving efficiency is that one guy's inefficiency is another guy's livelihood. I'm no expert but I suspect low-growth societies in the past generally resist innovation & change.....too disruptive. The displaced & redundant don't take it well.

We tend to look at more 'stagnant' societies as rather boneheaded in their resistance to change. Frightening thought, but maybe they knew something we'll relearn.

Can a zero growth world tolerate innovation?

Just a thought.

-Henry R.

One problem with improving efficiency is that one guy's inefficiency is another guy's livelihood.

That is what they say in healthcare too.

But sometimes, I guess, the savings are so large you can throw a bone or two at the losers.

But zero-growth would raise the bar on what innovation could be considered worthy.

"Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist."

I believe that TPTB know this too ..

Throw in a periodic recession/depression to 'reset the clock'
to a new lower base and viola .. continued exponential growth
until we hit the next wall .. I feel that most of our economic
crises are 'manufactured' to some extent to facilitate a
resumption of exponential growth post crisis ..


Triff ..

It seems Greer is at the same place that I've been for years. I'm not sure how I got there, though. Perhaps it's that I had the opportunity to travel, eyes open, mouth shut, and had a need to see the big picture.

A close friend has castigated me for not being more activist, for not using my abilities to speak out more. He has invited me to Washington to protest issues like the World Bank, IMF, Climate Change, the wars, etc. I told him that I just let those who are angrier, younger or more organized do the shouting. But what it really is, is that these protests are better conducted by those whose world view still incorporates the hope of youth, the need to correct wrongs, and a belief in meaningful wholesale change.

I grew up on the north side of Atlanta and used to walk home from school through a large park. There was an old woman they called "The Leaf Lady" because she spent her days collecting leaves in an old paper shopping bag. Special leaves, I deduced. She also spent a lot of time standing in front of a huge rock in the park, shouting at it at the top of her lungs, sometimes for hours. Maybe it was this old woman's way of showing me the futility of life, the utter futility of trying to change the future once one sees things clearly. Perhaps I decided then, as an 8 year-old, that I would never become like her.

My circle of change has become small. Maybe I'll just go change my oil, while I still can.

she spent her days collecting leaves in an old paper shopping bag. Special leaves, I deduced.

Perhaps they were for her worms or compost pile? Its why I collect leaves. None are special per say. Honey Locust leaves are unwanted, so that makes 'em special I guess.

She also spent a lot of time standing in front of a huge rock in the park, shouting at it at the top of her lungs, sometimes for hours.

What did she discuss with the rock?

There was a time this woman would have held "special status" among Native Americn tribes. If her leaves had any purpose (other than just to have) my best guess is insulation. She wasn't discussing, she was commanding. It is likely she had Tourrettes syndrome 'cause I learned alot of new words from her.

You can also collect old fallen leaves and feed them to rabbits if there isn`t any grass handy to feed them. I do this all the time in the fall. Much cheaper than buying rabbit food or giving them barley or another grain.

What would a carbon-neutral/sustainable/zero-growth economy look like?

We can't know for certain, and there may actually be a range of possibilities. However, I think it is useful to go back to the last point where we were operating without the "benefit" of any significant quantities of fossil fuels (other than a little bit of pitch collected from oil seeps or the occasional chunk of "sea coal" that washed up on shore). As the first steam engine was built by Newcomen in 1705, and this was what made coal mining on any substantial scale feasible, we can thus identify the preceeding 17th century as the last point where we were essentially operating a carbon-neutral, sustainable economy. It wasn't a strictly zero-growth economy at that point, in part because Europe was still rebounding from the plague, and in part because the Americas had recently been discovered, adding lots of new space to the game board. Were it not for those things, the 17th century economy would have been very close to zero-growth.

The first thing to note is that while there were still quite a few places around the globe where hunter-gatherer tribes lived, there were in fact functioning civilizations operating across vast swaths of territory. There was considerable trade and communication between civilized areas via wind-powered ship. Wind, along with water and especially the biofuel of wood, constituted the renewable energy resources that powered this economy, and there was a considerable investment in sometimes ingenious infrastructure developed to tap into these renewable energy sources. Of course, energy in the form of the conversion of agriculturally-produced carbohydrate calories into work by human and animal muscles was probably the predominant energy throughput. There were manufactures of a wide variety of artifacts, made from wood, metal, and other resources. There was a considerable built environment, some of it of quite outstanding artistic and engineering excellence. Universities to promote scholarship were proliferating, as were the publishing of books, libraries to house them, and the literacy levels of people to read them. The arts were flourishing, and the scientific method had been developed and was starting to bear fruit.

Some people living then thought that it was a pretty good time to be alive.

There were downsides, of course. If you were a slave or a peasant, life wasn't very good at all. Disease still ran rampant through human populations. If you were a woman, you bore children until it killed you, which it usually did. Wars ravaged the countryside and terrorized populations. Famine was a constant fear.

Now, I am not saying that we can, or will, or should go back again. Things will not be in the future as they were then. Nevertheless, it seems to me that retaining some level of technological civilization should be compatable with a zero-growth, sustainable economy. Some will point out, of course, that population is a key factor, and of course they are right. I don't think that a global population of ~7 billion or more is sustainable in any case. I am not certain what number is the right number, but I suspect that as humankind is forced by events into sustainability (there being no other options in the long term), the human population will find itself forced toward whatever level is sustainable, one way or another; ditto with populations for each nation and each locality. Those population levels might end up being lower than they might have been with better forsight and prudent action now, but that is just the price that will have to be paid for failing to be prudent.

As the first steam engine was built by Newcomen in 1705, and this was what made coal mining on any substantial scale feasible, we can thus identify the preceeding 17th century as the last point where we were essentially operating a carbon-neutral, sustainable economy.

Strongly disagree. The economy was growing then. It was via expansion (colonization) rather than fossil fuels, but it was growing. New resources were pouring into Europe from the New World. The world population increased as well, as new foods from other parts of the world allowed populations to rise above their historical Malthusian limits.

I think a better example of a carbon-neutral zero-growth economy is Edo, Japan. They lived on a solar budget, burning wood - but no faster than nature could replace it. The population was stable. Everything was recycled. People even fought over "night soil."

Strongly disagree. The economy was growing then. It was via expansion (colonization) rather than fossil fuels, but it was growing.

And even without fossil fuel inputs, there was a gradual increase in scientific and technical knowledge. And even of public infrastructure, such as roads, canals, irrigation systems etc. I see the fossil fuels as the real tragedy. Without them we would have slowly developed what we today call renewables, and could have transitioned into the sustainable carbon neutral economy without even knowing that that is what it is. But because of the fossil fuels we are almost certainly in severe overshoot now, and contemplating the needed changes is too much for most.

I don't agree with this, either. I don't think we'd have developed much in the way of renewables. Not enough to support a really high-tech society, anyway.

I think if we hadn't found fossil fuels, we'd have collapsed sooner, that's all. And the result would not necessarily be a sustainable society (at least judging from history).

As Tainter points out, we would have collapsed long ago if not for conflict with other societies. It's an arms race of sorts, and no one can disarm, even though everyone would be better off if we did.

As Tainter points out, we would have collapsed long ago if not for conflict with other societies. It's an arms race of sorts, and no one can disarm, even though everyone would be better off if we did.

I think this is an insightful truth about how paralyzed we are when confronted with these global issues. It seems that we will only be able to change if everyone agrees that we should change, and the chances of everyone agreeing is remote (to put it mildly). Our very natures encourage us to take advantage of any opportunities, despite large frontal lobes.

Agreed. I can't see reps from the G10 or OECD standing up in front of a meeting of world leaders: "OK! We have used up all of the world's resources and screwed up the climate in the process, so here's our plan..........
Kind of like Copenhagen, huh?

I don't agree with this, either. I don't think we'd have developed much in the way of renewables. Not enough to support a really high-tech society, anyway.

I don't see how you can say that, Leanan. The development of the sailing ship reached amazing levels of sophistication. They still capture our imagination to this day. The Dutch became extremely proficient and innovative in windmill technology, and this technology was on the verge of spreading around the civilized world, had not coal-fired steam power supplanted it. Water wheels were being built just about everywhere that had water flowing downhill, and a great deal of ingenuity was going into applying that power to a growing range of machines. If fossil fuels had never arrived on the scene, there is no reason to think that this explosion of inventiveness would have stopped.

Furthermore, many of our key technologies would probably still have been invented even without fossil fuels. I see no reason to doubt that Faraday would have discovered the basic principles of electromagnetism, leading to the unfolding of most of our electrical and electronic technology. Einstein would probably have still discovered the photoelectric effect, so we might still even have had PV panels. Diesel still would have invented his engine, even with only vegetable oil available to power it. Maybe Daimler would have still invented his engine, or something like it, fueled with ethanol. So we might have still even had motor vehicles around, though likely very much fewer of them. Maybe the Wrights would have been able to get an ethanol-fueled engine powerful enough to get their Flyer airborne, so we might still have even had some airplanes overhead; again, very likely much fewer of them as well, and likely not as big or as fast as what they have become today.

It would be a different world today if FFs had never existed, but we would still have a lot of the scientific knowledge and technology that we have today. The pattern of human habitation and the structure of daily life would certainly be very, very different, though.

Those advances would likely have come much more slowly, as a society without the energy surplus from FF can support much few people who are not participating directly in food production.

True. Yet they would still have figured out that using whatever precious little surplus they can produce to support scientists, engineers and inventors would have been more worthwhile than using it to support useless, idle, recessive-gene-concentrating royals and nobles.

True, the Western economy was growing, but only due to the one-time, not-to-be-repeated historical accident which was the 'discovery" of the Americas. Absent that, it would truly have been subjected to Malthusian constraints. We should be able to intuit things enough to imagine what the 17th century would have looked like absent America. Things would have been a little different then, but only a little. The main thing that would be different, I suspect, is that more people would have died off due to one cause or another. Probably the wars would have been more severe (though the Thirty Years War was brutal enough), the Great Plague of London would have been more severe and widespread, there would have been more deaths from famine, etc.

Newcomen built his steam engine because the coal mines were flooding. The coal mines were flooding because they needed more than just the little bit of coal that was easily accessible close to the surface. They needed that coal because they had over-harvested and depleted the forests. If the coal had not been there, and if the Americas had not been there, then what would they have had to do? Sooner or later, they would have had to learn how to manage forests for maximum sustainable yield. In the meantime, they would have overshot and degraded their carrying capacity, further leading to die-off.

What if they knew then what we know now, though? They would have known how to manage forests for maximum sustainable yield, they would have known that overshoot and die-off are forseeable problems that can and should be prevented, and they would know enough about human physiology and reproduction and pharmacology to know that human populations can be limited and how to do it. Whether or not they would have the willingness to use such knowledge, who knows? Our track record here and now hasn't been that good, yet, but then again we are not really quite up against the wall, yet.

Also, a study this past year found that the human imprint on the carbon cycle goes back thousands of years. So, sustainable on what time frame?


I'm not so sure about the 17th century being a zero-growth, sustainable society. Deforestation, population growth, pollution of the environment, and the consumption of the low-hanging resources probably made it unsustainable. As Leanan also notes, colonization played an important role.

See my comments above. They certainly were not quite there, due mainly to the discovery of the Americas giving them an "out" from what would otherwise be the nasty consequences of deforestation, overpopulation, etc. I am saying that absent the Americas, and absent FFs, they would have had to self-correct sooner or later, one way or another - much as humankind had been doing for thousands and thousands of years.

Some would claim that Western Civilization would have just collapsed into dust, but I'm not so sure that they were that far gone by the 17th century. Absent the Americas and FFs, I suspect that there would have been another big die-off like there was in the 14th century (which didn't wipe out civilization, either), then they would have picked themselves up and moved on.

My point is that, imperfect as the example is, the 17th century is the last point where we can go back and see a civilization operating without FFs. Even though we need to try to guess what it would have been like absent the Americas, I think that we can still make a good guess, and what we see can be useful in guiding our own thinking. Even their mistakes (forests not managed sustainably, no population limitation) are useful to study.

I agree that the 17th century is probably the most recent example of a high-level civilization prior to the use of large quantities of FFs. And, without FFs, it would not have collapsed to dust - there will always be survivors (barring an event that wipes out 99% of life). I imagine that there will be survivors of our collapse (barring a mass extinction event).

I was only addressing your claim that 17th century Europe was (nearly) zero-growth and (nearly) sustainable. I don't think it was, and you seem not to think it was (with your references to die-offs).

No the 17th C was not a perfect example of sustainability. I do think that they were within spitting distance of it, though - far closer than we are today. It is not very difficult to imagine the changes that would have had to happen to bring them into a sustainability mode. It is very difficult to see how we will get from here to there.

see a civilization operating without FFs

Switzerland during WW II was close. Close enough that one could see how a transition could be made.

No coal mines, no oil wells. 11 months oil stockpiled (military got priority, then medical, police and little for farmers). Some coal stockpiled and, unlike oil, they did import a little coal from Germany.

Eliminate the military threat, give them more time to prepare and they could have been non-FF by 1950 IMHO.

Best Hopes for seeing the possible,


Here is a url to download news from the Climate Summit in Copenhagen.


And say, here's something different:

Weird Spiral Lights Over Norway

Looked like a faked photo, but not so. Apparently it was a russian missile. Interesting effect.

I'm not sure about that image, but here are 3 linked private videos of the incidence, from various places.Scroll down

This is some sort of ion phenomenon and not some Russian missile. I recommend people look for videos of actual rockets and missiles disintegrating and compare. Aside from the spiral trajectory there is no similarity (where's the turbulence?). Russia does not launch any of its missiles over Norway; the target range is in Kamchatka, which is in the opposite direction.

I guess people in NATO land are so conditioned by decades of cold war (and recent) propaganda that they stop thinking as soon as the word Russian is invoked.

Here is a YouTube video that is very similar to the Norway incident:


This looks like a charged plasma in a magnetic field. The light emitted shows rapid diffusion of the "gas" and not turbulent mixing as there is no variation in the hue aside from the very shallow and slow spiraling (totally unlike missile trajectory spirals). The color is all wrong too, pure white and blue. The Norway event shown at the above link also exhibits the highly diffusive and shallow (in the plane perpendicular to the trajectory) characteristics.

Ok...I'll bite. What generated the ion phenomenon?

(I note how the method of generation isn't expounded upon)

The still photos really looked bizarre. Seeing a moving video, it didn't seem so mysterious.

From link above.

TOKYO/SINGAPORE - Saudi Arabia is restoring full term crude supplies to at least two Asian buyers for January and keeping contracted volumes to six others, as the top oil exporter prepares for domestic refinery maintenance this month, industry sources said on Thursday.

Now why would Saudi Arabia not deliver contracted volumes at all times? Especially now that they appear to have some spare capacity. Is it because they don't have enough of certain grades of crude?

No. It's what they've always done. When OPEC decides to cut production, this is how it's done. The producers tell the buyers their allotments have been cut.

From Energy Deflation Cometh: Plentiful Shale Gas, LNG, Ethanol, Nuclear, Geothermal, up top:

To get a sense of where the future energy price equilibrium will be, consider that natural gas is selling for $5.09 MMBtu at the Henry Hub in Oklahoma. This compares with a global price for natural gas of about $13.00 MMBtu, according to the Energy Information Administration, Department of Energy. $13.00 per MMBtu only makes sense as an energy equivalent of crude oil which currently sells for $76.00 per barrel (the energy content of a barrel of crude oil is estimated at 5.8 MMBtu; 76 divided by 5.8 = $13.10).

This article and the quote above are the type of nonsense which I love to rail against whenever I get the chance. In the quoted paragraph the author compares the Henry Hub natural gas price with the global natural gas price for the same quantity. Can't do that!

Natural gas can not be easily transported around the world like oil. Therefore the price reflects the conditions in the market in which it is "stranded". Even though the BTU's are the same and the product is the same, the two kinds of natural gas are different due to availability. If the Henry Hub gas were in a different global location it would probably sell for more. Comparing the two prices tells us nothing about where the price of crude oil is going.

Then the author goes on to say that the higher global natural gas price only makes sense as the energy equivalent of crude oil. Is not the Henry Hub natural gas also the energy equivalent of crude oil also?

The energy equivalent argument is nonsense as I have complained many times. The energy in natural gas is not equivalent to the energy in oil even if the BTU's are the same. The two have mostly separate uses. Natural gas is used primarily for heating and oil is used primarily for transport. The prices are different. Naural gas can be stranded while oil is more easily shipped around the world. The utility of natural gas and oil are different. Equal BTU's of each are not equivalent. I do not care how many analysts repeat this nonsense.

Vehicles running on gasoline or diesel are not easily converted to natural gas. And homes set up to burn natural gas can not easily be switched to burning heating oil.

The rest of his thesis is equally full of nonsense. Different forms of energy are different even if the BTU's of each are equal. Too postulate that because there is a surplus of one form means that all forms will deflate in price is rediculous. And lumping all the forms together in the energy abstract tells us nothing about the likelihood of price deflation/inflation of one of the concrete forms.

Energy analysis is plagued with this kind of nonsense. Each form of energy is unique. Energy is an abstraction like grain or metal. There is no such thing as generic energy just as there is no such thing as generic grain or generic metal. Each concrete form is unique and as such has a unique price that reflects its characteristics and market situation.

Treating the abstract as concrete is called the reification fallacy.

Nice post, X. I like to think of this as caloric content in food. Since all food consists of calories, it must follow that if grass is cheap, then caviar is cheap... if the price of bananas goes down, then eucalyptus leaves have to go down, and bamboo.

Of course, different animals eat diffent food. So, the price of hay in Iowa has little impact on the price of papayas in the Pacific rim.

Wiki says this:

Reification (fallacy), fallacy of treating an abstraction as if it were a real thing

Again, thanks.


Great comments. Another point is if you did want to compare natural gas to oil(in transportation terms...this would be LNG)you have to freeze it where it takes about a third of the energy content of the natural gas to liquify. This doesn't even take into account of getting the natural gas to a LNG facility.


I was appalled that, in the same article, he asserted that oil prices would come down because of the soon-to-be-massive output:

Huge new oil fields in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Ghana will cause an intermediate-term surge in crude oil production. Iraq alone will be producing 5 million more barrels of oil per day within just five years; Brazil will become an oil exporting nation.

How do morons like this get a public hearing?

Cars in US use a lot more fuel than the same models in Europe
My daughter in Europe just leased a Toyota Auris. This car appears to be almost identical to the Toyota Matrix sold in the US. However, the Matrix, with a standard 1.8 liter engine and five speed manual transmission, gets mileage of 26-32. The Auris has a 1.3 liter motor with a 6 speed manual, and gets 33-48 mpg. The Auris also comes in diesel, which gets 45-62 if I have the conversions right. Well the diesel can't pass our smog regulations, but the 1.3 liter/six speed combo ought to be saleable in the US. It looks like the manufacturers still think we are so addicted to power that we would not buy an engine that gets 50% better highway mileage. They may be right. Gasoline pices in the United States now are about a third of what Europeans pay. For most of us, it isn't painful enough yet to fill up.
The Toyota Yaris has an identical nameplate in Europe and the US, but the smallest engine in the US is a 1.5 liter that gets 29 city, 36 highway. The European version comes with a three cylinder, one liter engine that gets 40 city, 54 highway.

Of course, Toyota also makes two smaller models, the Aygo and the iQ, which get even better mileage but couldn't meet US safety standards. Crash test standards are probably a sacred cow, but we really need to give buyers some flexibility to buy a fuel efficient car at a reasonable price.

I've never understood the US mileage ratings. I drive a 2005 matrix with the 1.8 and a 5-speed and I have never gotten less than 32 mpg even in total city driving. Most I have gotten is about 38. I probably don't thrash it as hard as some would though.

You probably do geeky hypermiling stuff, like planning ahead so you don't need to use the brakes much. And, I would bet when you gotta sit and wait a half hour for the kids to get outta school, that you turn the bloody motor off.

I try not to harp on this BUT .....

Before I was just the kind of nearly-homeless, destitute, useless eater no one here would like to see show up in person around lunchtime.... '

I had a business and a Prius and all that. And, when I got the Prius, being used to riding a bicycle, I drove it very smoothly and looked/planned ahead and got about 60 miles per gallon. Then as I went through my routine, I noticed over time the mileage was falling. I finally got a bit ticked, it was in the 40s. I decided it had to be one of two things. The CAR or ME. So, I'd see if I could isolate the problem. I started looking and planning ahead, and went back to my bicycle riding mindset. I never jammed up traffic, I just tried to "flow" more. And I was able to keep it at 62MPG for all the rest of the time I had it.

No hypermiling tricks, I never bothered to study up on it or learn any of them, I just stopped driving like a typical American driver. I didn't stick out like a sore thumb either, after all a bicycle rider in traffic has to be very well attuned to the flow and going with it.

I've offered a number of times since to go with someone in their Prius and show 'em, but so far, after bitching up a storm about the poor mileage, no one's taken me up on the offer.

I am putting together a story on the Top 10 Energy Stories of 2010. Suggestions for stories that should make that list? In my mind the one at or near the top has been the resurgence in oil prices since January. After that, there are a few stories that I think go in the Top 10, like the enormous amount of money devoted to energy in the stimulus package, the plunge in oil demand/imports, the commissioning of various alternative energy projects, Climategate, and the passage of Markey-Waxman.

What other significant stories happened this year that deserve a spot in the Top 10?

not sure ClimateGate counts. 5 years from now it will be be a blip but Fatih Birol saying conventional oil will peak in 2020 will be part of the we told you all along meme.

I don't see how climategate qualifies as a top 10 energy story, although it certainly has been in the news lately. Perhaps it is difficult to find good energy stories in a year that has been dominated by the economy and climate.

Either way, you would be grievously remiss not to put at the top of the list the IEA report with it's historical (albeit tentative) admission that there might, just MIGHT, be a near term peak in global oil production. Four new Saudi Arabia's just to offset declines from established fields?!? Holy Asian Carp! Who could have predicted that?!?



Hi, Jer!

Climategate is propelled to the top by the owners of the MSM. They desparately want BAU, and denying AGW and PO is part of their articles of faith in their 'new age' religion of Industrial Progress.

I'd say MSM likes "scandals". That is what is good for business.

Yep. Distractions, that is. Keeps the audience's eyes off the ball; let's 'em keep the shell game going a bit longer.

The scandal de jour is, of course, Tiger Woods.

I can't forget this one -Gabriel Calzada Alvarez- a professor at King Juan Carlos University in Madrid says

.... for every green job that's created with government funding, 2.2 regular jobs are lost and that only one in 10 green jobs wind up being permanent.

The PDF-report here :
Study of the effects on employment of public aid to renewable energy sources

and from this link :
Breaking Down Spain’s Green Jobs Spending
Number of Jobs Displaced in Economy per Green Job Created = Value of Government subsidies per new green job/National average value of new capital per new job
Does this formula hold water ?

--- are these findings universal ? TOP 10 ? IMHO yes.

Suggestion 2 : The story about the IEA renegade that relieved his consciousness over at the Guardian, regarding ongoing over-reporting of reserves, etcetera

Cantarell decline.

Petrobras $10B deal with China.

The current recession is oil related; oil over $80 a barrel (in real terms) is linked to recession.

See material by James Hamilton; Jeff Rubin; Dave Murphy and others.

Employment Projections: 2008-2018 Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (EST) Thursday, December 10, 2009 USDL-09-1503


Same thing in PDF format


Look at Non seasonal adjusted claims for both initial claims and continuing claims
up +204,703, +591,085 Not looking good compared to the sesonal ajusted data.


If Joe Sixpack looked at these figures, without having the BAU spin on them that the MSM provides, he would crap his pants. And, the next round of this Great Depression would begin. Maybe it will anyhow... not a prediction, but a feeling based on general news items, comments I hear on the street, and moods around me. Much like last year, maybe worse since the moods are more resigned to it this time. I think, though, that people want to wait 'til after the Holidays.


Mhhh..NO ONE seems to be posting anything about the holiday retail shopping so far.

I believe it will be a bloodbath and so many are quiet and afraid to start something or paranoid about it.

I have googled the net and can find no commentary anywhere on how its shaping up.


The last thing we heard was on black Friday... the crowds were okay, but they were not buying. I noticed it that day myself. Many people walking around near the stores, but no one had any bags of Chinese Toys [basically what we buy in America these days].

The end of the Christmas season will most likely be announced with the ringing of the bell that brings down the economy. Sort of like the literal Wall Street bell that celebraties ring to close the market, but this one is hypothetical, and closes Business As Usual, and will be rung by the American Consumer, just before he files Chapter 7.

There have been a lot of reports since then. Denninger has posted a lot on this.

Basically, the moderately upbeat news from Black Friday has gotten worse and worse for retailers, as more data comes in.

Could it be that the initial 'news' about Black Friday was [gasp] spin? No! Tell me it isn't true!

Should have done this first; here is what Denninger said on the 9th.

Black Friday sucked rocks though a hose for "big ticket" consumer electronics dealers with double-digit price declines in all categories of consumer electronics save one, and with total revenue at the cash register for Black Friday was down 1.2% from the dismal, near-collapse numbers put up in 2008.


Keep in mind... "...down from near collapse," he said. That would be, what, nearer collapse? Or, Collapse!?

I wandered near a shopping center twice this week, once to buy some trousers (on sale) and once to pick up a friend in the parking lot. Both trips were in the middle of the work day when I usually expect very light traffic. I sure won't go near another shopping center until after Xmas. The place was mobbed.

The only real data point, other than the crowds, that struck me was that Best Buy had aisles full of flat screen TVs but I don't know if they were expecting to sell them or disappointe because they hadn't sold. (I was only in there killing time waiting for my wife).

Did anyone notice? The EUC # Extended unemployment claims, EUC weekly claims include first, second, and third tier activity (>26 weeks), are up +327,729. add that to +591,085 continuing claims (<27 weeks) increase and you have greater than 900,000 more unemployment checks to issue for the week!

Evidently Wall Street did not read that report.

U.S. Stocks Advance After Economic Data Points to Recovery
Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks rose for a second day as reductions in jobless claims and the trade deficit boosted confidence that an economic expansion is increasing.

Denial? Cognative dissonance? Alternate reality? What?

Somewhere on the order of 100,000 maybe 200,000 or more, Californians have not gotten their UI check for a month now. The official excuse is the computer system can't handle that many checks or some nonsense.

I bet the official excuse is pure BS and I bet it's a bigger number of people. And I bet this and all the people out here losing their food stamps will spark something. They're trying to save money but Arnold and his flunkies are still getting their big bags of money while the poor are getting hungrier and angrier out here.

(I got Food Stamps for one month then discovered I'd have to fight 'em every month and decided it's not worth the battle. The basic rule is once you get them they end them right off, and you go around and around in this cycle re-applying and spending many days trying to re-apply. This is just the kind of thing that causes a lot of hatred and desire for revenge.)

Max Keiser's warning of the difficulties faced in the Middle East with debt servicing as they face peak oil in the next ten to fifteen years. "Max Keiser on Dubai, Peak Oil and second phase of Global Debt Crisis" http://maxkeiser.com

Roger Ebert has been telling everyone they must see Collapse.

His very positive review is here.

It opens here tomorrow for a 1-week run. The showtimes are awful however. 5pm and 9:15pm. The weekend is partly booked with other stuff, so I don't know if we are going to get a chance to see it - I might have to wait for the DVD.

The Onion, the only source I trust for movie reviews, gave it an "A".

Maria Bartiromo interviews Jim Rogers:


Maria's response to Jim, when he only half-kiddingly told her that she needed to get into agriculture (literally as in learn to drive a tractor) reminded me of the response that I got a few years ago when I suggested to a graduating high school student that she study something related to agriculture (she looked at me like I had suddenly grown a second head). Said student now has a degree, from a well regarded private university, in ethnic studies, and is unemployed.

Not a good day at TOD... I have had a few laughs, but the overall takeaway today has been sad. Mostly from trends, and facts. Facts mostly. They seem to have a way of not caring what I want.

The "Bad Timing" post, above, leads us to The Energy Bulletin, which in turn leads us to the site for "Nature Bats Last." http://guymcpherson.com/

Then, at the end of the day Leanan convinces me that I have to view Collapse! I have been dreading that movie for a long time. Now, what choice do I have? A must see... that's what she says.


Hey, I was just reporting what Roger Ebert said. I haven't actually seen it yet myself.

Would you like a review? If it is available on demand I will view it this evening.

You can respond at my email.

No reason to be sad. Nothing much has actually happened to make today any different from yesterday - other than your recognition of things. I've always liked Greer's point that many people who lived through what we, in hindsight, would think of a some of the biggest upheavals never realized anything was happening. Go do some living for a bit, the empire can collapse without your attention for a few hours.

Thanks, Twilight. I will do that.

Actually, but for my grandkids, I wouldn't really care that much. Most of the people on this ball of dirt deserve pretty much what they have created. It is the young, who have not had a chance yet to participate in global destruction, that make it sad.

Ah, well. Gaia got along before h.sap got here. She'll adapt, as usual, and things will get wierder. There will just be some new viewers, that's all.

My youngest daughter just moved back in, with my 6 mo. old grandaughter (economy and pending divorce), so I know how you feel. Maybe later I'll teach her about history and what a funny species she was born to. And how to grow things and find firewood and shoot.......and how to be at peace with her future.

so I know how you feel.

More so than you think. My son moved in with 3 grandkids; my other son died and his wife and daughter moved in... now we have 4 generations and 10 people! Lots of human companionship, but watching things come apart with those 4 little ones having to come to grips with it... well, that's tough.

You have the right idea. Grow things, identify edible fungi nearby, find firewood, aim and shoot straight ... all good lessons. How to be at peace. Ah, now, that is something else entirely. Personally, I tend to rail at the idiocy I see too much. I suppose adapt and survive is okay, but I need to be doing something about it... at least while I see that something can be done.

How do you resolve conflicts and make joint decisions? Who gets to be "boss"? How do you maintain a 'space' and keep your sanity?

Its our job to rail and then explain things to our "charges". That's the only hope, and hope it is because things will come down to family and friends. Its serendipitous for us since I feel that it is a good time to gather our families around us. A good family can marshall (and require) a lot of resources (all that Waltons sh@t). I don't want a bunch of freaked out family members suddenly showing up if TSHTF. Its better to share what I've learned a little at a time, create a new reality based myth about what an exciting and pivotal time they live in, and that they have the responsibility to rise to the challenge. I'll try to help my kids figure out where they will fit in to the new paradigm. I'm still working on the plan, though.....As for grandkids: You can get a kid excited about anything, even a depression, if you go about it the right way.

My kids loved the ice storm that knocked out power. They still ask if I can shut off the breakers and pretent for an evening. Not a bad idea, really.

Sounds like a great drill to me. I remember the great ice storm in Atlanta in '72. Power was out for almost 2 weeks. My family was "outward bound", did a lot of camping and such. We, as a team, set up camp in the house. Our house had a massive granite fire place and we always were stocked with wood, so we broke out the camping gear and made a vacation out of the event. We were the envy of the neighbors because we were so well prepared. We even moved the freezer to the garage so the food wouldn't thaw. Events like these teach us that we are not helpless and that we can adapt. I feel that this is important for our children to know. Feeling helpless can be paralysing. The best thing we can do for our children now is to empower them with knowledge, skills and experience.

My lovely cornucopian wife of mine and I are going to see Collapse at the Lumeire in SF this Sat. night. Can't wait to see it and post a review on TOD.

Used to live in Concord. Wish I could join ya at the Lumeire! Enjoy!

I saw it last week in Berkeley. Ruppert was at the Saturday showing in person (missed that). It was interesting; very personal story. You end up no knowing what to think; the guy has obviously been through a lot. He seems like he's in bad shape, but hangin' in there. For TOD regulars, I don't think you'll take away any new information, but it's enlightening to see how one person who picked up on peak oil early on reacted to the whole situation--keeping in mind that Ruppert's experience is very unique compared to most people who comment on this blog. One gets the feeling that "Collapse" refers as much to the person as the society of which he is a part.

i stopped in "bullseye", a major department store today. i had to make a credit card payment. this was around 4pm. it was sparse. not empty not crowded. "the highway was jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive." i got a buddy who hasnt owned a car in 30 years. he told me much the same as posted above. trains only run every 15 minutes during rush hour. after that it's every hour or longer. and one must always know when the last train leaves. same for buses. i live in nj and often visit "the city". one must be at penn station or the port authority terminal for your last bus or youse walks home. popular last buses back to jersey are often 11pm. even NY waterway has a last ferry at 10:30pm. i dread being caught behind the bus from my town to NYC during morning commute. the driver maintains a steady 5-10 mph under the speed limit. i follow the bus for 15 miles then we part ways. never seen a bus from my town to place of employment. i hate driving to work. it is
like a PBS documentary called "jellyfish lake". the jelly fish commuted from the depths of a lake to the surface at evening then back at dawn much the same as commuters in the current paradigm do.
and in the same vast numbers. no options, only one game in town. no one talks of peak oil. nope, not a peep, never ever. teens predicted for overnight temps through saturday. then 40's and rain sunday.

trains only run every 15 minutes during rush hour. after that it's every hour or longer. and one must always know when the last train leaves. same for buses. i live in nj and often visit "the city".

Dallas TX - DART. Buses Morning and Evening rush hour only. Nothing Saturday or Sunday. Light rail... between 10 and 45 minutes between trains, closer together during rush. They stop about midnight. Not that good on weekends, but at least they do run... you can get to Fair Park now, also the zoo. It's better than it was, but no great shakes.

Used to love S.F. I could get about anywhere I wanted in The City in 10 minutes, using MUNI Fastpass and BART ticket. The buses ran at night too. 7 days a week. A bit crowded on BART during rush hour, but so what? It was like going on vacation.

Good mass transit makes a great city. Dallas sucks.

Until around 1948 or so, Dallas had about 200 miles of electrified streetcar lines. The McKinney Avenue system is all that is left.

Over this side of the pond my metro runs every two minutes in the rush hour, from 5am to midnight. We also have 24 hour buses.