Drumbeat: December 13, 2009

Geothermal Project in California Is Shut Down

The company in charge of a California project to extract vast amounts of renewable energy from deep, hot bedrock has removed its drill rig and informed federal officials that the government project will be abandoned.

The project by the company, AltaRock Energy, was the Obama administration’s first major test of geothermal energy as a significant alternative to fossil fuels and the project was being financed with federal Department of Energy money at a site about 100 miles north of San Francisco called the Geysers.

But on Friday, the Energy Department said that AltaRock had given notice this week that “it will not be continuing work at the Geysers” as part of the agency’s geothermal development program.

The project’s apparent collapse comes a day after Swiss government officials permanently shut down a similar project in Basel, because of the damaging earthquakes it produced in 2006 and 2007. Taken together, the two setbacks could change the direction of the Obama administration’s geothermal program, which had raised hopes that the earth’s bedrock could be quickly tapped as a clean and almost limitless energy source.

UAE, Oman seen unlikely to rejoin Gulf union

DUBAI (Reuters) - Gulf Arab oil exporters will move closer to a unified currency when their rulers meet on Monday in Kuwait, which promised to seek the return of the United Arab Emirates and Oman to the monetary union plan.

The UAE, the second-largest Arab economy, dealt a serious blow to the union by pulling out in May in protest at the decision to locate any joint central bank in Saudi Arabia.

FACTBOX - What next for the Gulf Arab monetary union?

(Reuters) - Kuwait will try to persuade the United Arab Emirates and Oman to rejoin a planned Gulf Arab monetary union when rulers from the world's top oil producing region meet this week, but chances seem slim.

The four countries, which are still going on with the project are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

Following are a few facts on what to expect next:

GCC inflation to see sharp fall in 2009

Waning domestic demand will ally with falling commodity and property prices to depress inflation in the UAE and other Gulf oil heavyweights to one of its lowest levels this year after climbing to its highest annual rate in 2008.

Iraqis sceptical about glittering promise of oil

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's leaders expect a flood of petrodollars from oil deals to lift the country out of poverty after years of conflict and corruption but few Iraqis are convinced.

Natural gas needs a boost

India's hydrocarbon vision statement envisages the share of natural gas to be 20 per cent by 2025.

Demand for natural gas in India is primarily driven by the power and fertiliser sectors, which account for almost two-third of the national gas consumption. Given that fertilisers are heavily subsidised, it makes sense to use cheaper gas feedstock in place of naphtha to reduce the subsidy burden. Gas-based power plants are quicker to build and incur lesser initial capex and are better suited to meet peak power demand. Shortage of gas supply has led to some fertiliser and power plants functioning below capacity, remaining idle, or operating at higher costs due to expensive feedstock.

Brazil's river of death

The once free-flowing Manaquiri River, which runs through the state of Amazonas in northwest Brazil, is in the fight of its life against a spell of dry weather - and it appears to be losing the battle.

Thousands of dead fish are rotting on the river banks and hundreds more float on its surface, turning the area into a toxic cesspool.

Vultures circle overhead, picking away at the rotting carcasses. Even an alligator - one of the fiercest reptiles of the Amazon - floats belly up in the river.

Local fishermen say it has not rained in more than 25 days, leaving the large surrounding rivers in recession. This has in turn choked off the tributaries that provide fresh water to the Manaquiri.

Rising waters threaten Louisiana (video)

The southern coast of Louisiana in the United States is among the fastest disappearing areas in the world.

Rising waters have led to the state losing a land mass equivalent to 30 football fields every day.

And as the communities disappear, more and more people are leaving the region.

Hills of despair

Speak to any villager in the hills and their grievances about the climate, rainfall, lack of fuel wood, soaring temperatures — resonate, valley after valley. Interestingly, research and science confirms every bit of apprehension and fear that these people ally. Conservation International estimates that no more than 23 percent of original vegetation remains; the Western Ghats have the highest population density for a biodiversity hotspot — 260 people/km2. With an ecological history of over three millennia of forest utilisation in terms of systematised logging, agriculture, harvesting of non-timber forest produce, spice trade, crop plantations, development projects, the Western Ghats have backboned local economy, water, electricity and other needs for 50 million people — stakeholders in the region.

US forests can soak up 50 year-equivalent of CO2 emissions

(IANS) Forests and soils in the US could soak up additional quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) and mitigate climate change, says a new estimate.

The 48 US states can potentially store an additional three to seven billion tonnes of carbon, if farmlands were converted into forests. This is equivalent to two to four years of its current CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Arab Activism Gets Going in Copenhagen

“Activism in the Arab world is very low,” Tayara, who manages an eco-village outside Beirut says. “While some Arabs are active, when it comes to defying politics, defying power, the leaders - it’s totally out of the question for many Arabs.”

In Copenhagen, Tayara has been wearing a black shirt with bright lettering in white, red and gold, which spells out “Arabs against oil,” on the back and “You can’t drink oil on the front.”

It’s a message which he says is intended to shatter stereotypes about Arabs.

Thousands of churches ring their bells 350 times for climate justice in Copenhagen

This December 11-13, tens of thousands of people of all faiths will join the “World Wants a Real Deal” weekend of action with 350.org and its partners at the World Council of Churches and the TckTckTck campaign.

Going solar at cut-rate cost

The Dickinsons are getting a 23 percent discount on solar panel installation arranged by One Block Off the Grid, an Internet-driven group that in a year has become the nation's largest solar-buying collective. In its short organizing campaign in Los Angeles, the firm has already assisted 102 clients.

"They were able to negotiate a much better price than anything I found on my own," Dickinson said.

China Challenging the United States for World Wind Leadership

Leadership of the global wind market is about to change hands. The United States—the birthplace of the modern wind industry—has held the top spot in new installations since 2005, growing at 50 percent a year and adding a record 8,540 megawatts of wind generating capacity in 2008. But if the credit-crunched U.S. industry adds only 8,000 megawatts in 2009, as anticipated, China’s new installations of some 10,000 megawatts will make it the world leader in annual additions. Having doubled its installed capacity in each of the last five years, this relative newcomer is now poised to dominate the wind energy industry for years to come.

Mexico's drug cartels siphon liquid gold: Bold theft of $1 billion in oil, resold in U.S., has dealt a major blow to the treasury

MALTRATA, MEXICO -- Drug traffickers employing high-tech drills, miles of rubber hose and a fleet of stolen tanker trucks have siphoned more than $1 billion worth of oil from Mexico's pipelines over the past two years, in a vast and audacious conspiracy that is bleeding the national treasury, according to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials and the state-run oil company.

Using sophisticated smuggling networks, the traffickers have transported a portion of the pilfered petroleum across the border to sell to U.S. companies, some of which knew that it was stolen, according to court documents and interviews with American officials involved in an expanding investigation of oil services firms in Texas.

The widespread theft of Mexico's most vital national resource by criminal organizations represents a costly new front in President Felipe Calderón's war against the drug cartels, and it shows how the traffickers are rapidly evolving from traditional narcotics smuggling to activities as diverse as oil theft, transport and sales.

Retrofitted Vehicles Offer Window Into Mexico’s Cartels

As of January 2009, the Mexican government reported that it had seized 14,441 vehicles nationwide, on top of huge quantities of drugs, money and guns. The fact that the army keeps these vehicles on its bases instead of in an impound lot is telling, too. Drug gangs have sometimes carried out armed assaults to try to get the vehicles back, perhaps because so much money has been spent retrofitting them.

In a twist on that, men suspected of being traffickers attacked a car lot in Tijuana recently in what the authorities described as an effort to intimidate the police. The assailants used gasoline to burn 28 trucks at a Mazda dealership that were in the process of being purchased for use as police transport vehicles. Six of them were destroyed.

Iraq hails oil auction but risky sites shunned

BAGHDAD - Iraq's oil minister began counting the money Saturday even before the first wells were drilled, dubbing the country's second postwar oil auction a triumph even as international oil companies largely snubbed the most violent regions in the Middle East's last major oil bonanza.

Kuwait Favors No Quota Change at Next OPEC Meeting

(Bloomberg) -- Kuwait favors no change to OPEC’s oil production quotas at the group’s next meeting and isn’t concerned about oil prices falling below $70.

“No, no, so what?” Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmed Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah told reporters today in Kuwait City, when asked if the emirate was worried about oil prices below $70.

“The price of the dollar, the supply situation,” are pushing prices down, the minister said. “Things will rectify in no time” and oil will rise again to an ideal price of between $70 and $80, Sheikh Ahmed said.

Cyclone Forms off Australia; PTTEP Evacuates Workers

(Bloomberg) -- PTT Exploration & Production Pcl’s has begun evacuating workers from a well head platform off northwestern Australia as the region’s oil and gas operations brace for the first tropical cyclone of the season.

Kuwait Has ‘Other Investor’ to Replace Shell in China Refinery

(Bloomberg) -- Kuwait’s government said it has “another investor” for its $9 billion project to build an oil refinery in China if Royal Dutch Shell Plc backs out.

“We have not yet received anything official” from Shell on whether its pulling out of the Chinese project, Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmed Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah told reporters in Kuwait City today. “On the other hand, there is another investor,” he said, adding that there are “definitely” alternatives.

Best Of The Podcasts: Puplava Interview's Mangen On Oil

I've got to give a lot of credit to Jim Puplava, one of the peak-oil, energy permabulls.

The energy segment in this week's news hour (click here or here, beginning 34 minutes in for about 10 minutes) features an interview with a genuine oil expert who discusses the current inventory situation (which is pretty dismal for crude oil and its products [gasoline, diesel, distallates]). He said that in terms of days of use, that crude oil is in the 99th percentile. This means that historically 99 percent of the time there has been less crude oil inventory that there is currently. It means that demand in the USA has fallen hard (there was one data point that indicated it was down 20% year over year for at least one week recently). Pretty darn bearish for oil.

I give Puplava a lot of credit for having a guy on whose short term call is so much the opposite of Puplava's long time outlook. Gives Puplava a lot of credibility, in my view.

No relief

While the most recent EIA figures showed a stout decline in production in September, Barclays Capital suggests it didn't represent a new trend of accelerating production decreases.

Analysts have also raised concerns about the costs, efficiency, reserves and environmental impact of shale plays and whether they will be sustainable. "I don't think the reserves will ever prove up enough to make them viable in the long term," says Matt Simmons, founder of energy investment bank Simmons & Co. International.

All of which may lead to more pain, which could result in some dealmaking. As Scott Baxter, head of energy investment banking at Houlihan, Lokey, Howard & Zukin Inc., said at an industry conference not too long ago, "Over the next 12 to 18 months, we're going to see more distressed assets."

Oman's economy grew 1-2 pct in 2009 - Econ Min

DUBAI (Reuters) - Oman's economy was expected to grow by a sluggish 1-2 percent this year after being hit by lower oil prices in the second quarter, the country's economy minister Ahmad Mekki said in remarks published on Sunday.

The global economic crisis slashed income for Gulf Arab oil producing nations, sending the region's key economies into downturn this year.

Arroyo orders another probe on 'overpriced' oil

MANILA - President Arroyo has ordered Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes to check the alleged "overpricing" of petroleum products of some oil companies.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Satuday the President has ordered Reyes to "act as appropriately as possible" on the reported continued overpricing of some oil companies.

China to Set Up State Energy Committee, Economic Observer Says

Bloomberg) -- China will set up a national energy committee headed by a vice premier or a state councilor, the Beijing-based Economic Observer reported, citing unidentified officials.

Iran Says It ‘Explicitly’ Accepts Uranium Swap Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Iran says it has accepted a proposal to swap most of its stock of enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods to power its research reactor, an approach that the U.S. says doesn’t meet the requirements of a United Nations plan.

Michigan legislature considers diesel tax hike to help Department of Transportation budget

KALAMAZOO — When gas prices rose into uncharted territory four years ago, motorists responded.

“When the cost for a gallon of gas shot up to $4 or so, people really started changing their behaviors on the road and their attitudes about driving,” said Nick Schirripa, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Southwest Region.

“We’ve seen more cars in our carpool lots, people driving slower speeds on the highways and more people buying electric-hybrid and more fuel-efficient cars,” he said.

The unintended consequences of that trend is that a major piece of Michigan’s road-funding pie has been eaten away at.

Motorists filling up their fuel tanks less means less gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. Michigan collects 19 cents per gallon of gasoline sold and 15 cents per gallon of diesel fuel.

New fuel misers to hit the road

Gasoline prices are no longer $3 or higher, but the economy remains sluggish. Never fear: A fresh batch of peppy economy cars is heading to showrooms in the near future. Here are four all-new offerings that made their debut this month at the Los Angeles International Auto Show.

Energy records broken as Snohomish County shivers

EVERETT — If you were getting out of bed, turning up your heat and getting into a hot shower about 8 a.m. Thursday, you were far from the only one.

That’s the moment when the Snohomish County PUD recorded one of the highest electricity usage spikes in its history, spokesman Neil Neroutsos said.

Poinsettias grown in cooler greenhouses save money

Growing the perfect poinsettia has always been tricky. There’s a narrow window to get plants to the ideal size, shape and color in time for the Christmas season. In recent years, high fuel costs — for heating greenhouses and shipping plants — have also made the work more expensive.

With that in mind, researchers like those at UNH have been experimenting with “cold finish” techniques that would allow growers to drop the temperatures in their greenhouses and save on heating costs.

Though cooler temperatures slow plant growth and can require earlier planting, growers who cut back a few degrees late in the season still could save 20 to 40 percent on energy costs, depending on their location, said Roberto Lopez, an assistant professor and floriculture extension specialist at Purdue University in Indiana.

Nuclear Site Finds Money Can Bring Headaches

Earlier this year, the nuclear site won one of the biggest pots of stimulus money, $1.6 billion, to accelerate its cleanup of radioactive waste left behind after decades of producing materials for the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. But the pressure to spend the money quickly and effectively has led to a series of bitter disputes among officials that burst into public view this fall after the tensions reached critical mass.

At the heart of the dispute is the question of whether officials in Washington or at the site can do a better job managing the cleanup. The tensions have spurred a wide-ranging investigation by the Department of Energy’s inspector general and a host of bitter accusations, including one that led to an inquiry into whether one stimulus official had really threatened another by saying she wanted to shoot him.

Serving Two Masters

Call it the Sophie's Choice of globalization: make middle-class consumers out of the global poor and they create new business, but they deplete resources and damage the environment. Move to conserve resources and protect the planet, and you condemn hundreds of millions of people to life as second-class citizens.

But it doesn't have to be that way, says C.K. Prahalad, a professor of corporate strategy at the University of Michigan's business school. He's the creator of something like a Grand Unification Theory of Globalization: that environmentalism, development and profitmaking are not only compatible but also interdependent. Stop arguing about whether globalization is good or bad. Learn to make something good out of it.

Resisting An Underlying Moral Vacuum

The second largest source of greenhouse gases is thought to be transportation. For that reason alone, the creation of markets for cheap cars becomes a major issue relative to ecological concerns aside from the fact that any sizeable increase in personal vehicles on the road will cause post-peak oil to arrive all the more quickly if it hasn't already.

U.S. bears oilsands burden, ex-PM says

COPENHAGEN–The United States should shoulder some of the "burden" for Canadian greenhouse gas emissions as the chief recipient of energy from Alberta's oilsands, former prime minister Paul Martin says.

English town's climate lessons

As the discussions at the Copenhagen climate summit continue, life will go on as normal in one small English town, but delegates may be wise to spare a thought for Totnes.

It is an example of how one community is thinking ahead and altering its behavior in preparation for the changes that climate change might bring.

How Global Warming Could Change the Winemaking Map

Many Bordeaux winemakers are declaring 2009 the best vintage in 60 years, but Yvon Minvielle of Château Lagarette isn't celebrating. Like many vintners across France, Minvielle is feeling uneasy after another unusually warm summer and early grape harvest. "They say everything is going great in Bordeaux, but take a closer look," he says. Heat-stressed vines ripened at unequal rates this year, and only skillful picking spread over a full month allowed Minvielle to gather a mature crop.

Such seasonal headaches are becoming more commonplace in France, and many vintners are placing the blame on global warming. In the past 30 years, harvest dates have moved up an average of 16 days because of unusually warm growing seasons. Grapes are reaching their sugar ripeness before their aromas fully develop, alcohol levels are soaring and acid levels are dropping — forcing some winemakers to resort to chemistry in their cellars to produce a quaffable cuvée.

Down and dirty: farm soil will offset emissions in Australia's carbon cut scheme

The premise is that simple changes in how we manage agricultural land - reducing tillage and fertiliser use or improving fire management - help return carbon to the soil. It is hard to put a dollar value on the bonanza but the numbers are enough, some say, to make Australia carbon neutral for the next three or four decades - all without having to impose a nasty tax, set up a complicated emissions trading scheme or clean up a single polluting pipe.

EU May Decide 2020 CO2 Target in ‘Last Hours’ of Climate Talks

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union, the world’s biggest trade bloc, probably won’t decide on its carbon-dioxide target for 2020 until the “last hours” of climate talks in Copenhagen to elicit deeper cuts from other nations.

“We can’t sell out our 30 percent target as a cheap offer,” Andreas Carlgren, Sweden’s environment minister, said today at a press conference in the Danish capital. Sweden holds the rotating EU presidency. The bloc is considering tightening its target to 30 percent below 1990 levels from 20 percent as long as the U.S. and China agree to do more to reduce their emissions, he said.

Developing nations 'let off hook on climate change'

Industrial countries criticised a draft climate pact yesterday for not making stronger demands on major developing countries as environment ministers arrived in Copenhagen to ramp up the level of talks.

Initial reaction to the text underscored the split between wealthy countries and countries still struggling to overcome poverty and catch up with the modern world.

Thousands March in Copenhagen, Calling for Action

COPENHAGEN — Waving a panoply of signs warning that the planet is in peril and that powerful nations should take note, tens of thousands of demonstrators from around the globe took to the streets here on Saturday for the largest protest planned in two weeks of talks on a global strategy to combat climate change.

The police and organizers estimated that 60,000 to 100,000 participants joined a long march from Christiansborg Slotsplads, or Castle Square, southward to the Bella Center, the sprawling and heavily fortified convention center where delegates and observers from nearly 200 nations are gathered to seek a consensus.

Rockman gave us a nice primer on Natural Gas Liquids yesterday. IEA says that NGLs will provide a large portion of future oil supplies.

From what Rockman wrote, I gathered that NGLs are expensive to produce and unpredictable. Maybe I got it wrong, but that's what I got.

My question of the day is this: "Is is realistic that NGLs will provide the lifeline that IEA is predicting? Is it even remotely possible?"

I have to shake my head every time I look at that chart, especially that wedge labeled "Crude oil - fields yet to be developed". "Yet to be developed" means proven reserves but not drilled yet. It means most of those 264 billion barrels of "proven reseres in Saudi Arabia". It includes the rest of over 1 trillion barrels of proven reserves that OPEC claims. Those reserves are largely mythical just like that light blue wedge in the above chart.

What are OPEC's proven oil reserves? (According to OPEC.)

At the end of 2008, OPEC had proven oil reserves of 1,027,383 million barrels of crude oil, representing 79.3 per cent of the world total of 1,295,085 million barrels.

I know it sounds absurd but I think OPEC's true reserves are about the same as non-OPEC reserves, perhaps a little less. Were it not so then OPEC would have, long ago, been producing way more oil than non-OPEC. Right now OPEC produces 42 percent of the world's crude oil production.

According to Hubbert's theory, the more oil you have to produce the more oil you do produce. But if OPEC, with almost 80 percent of the world's reserves, is producing only 42 percent of the world's oil, then Hubbert was simply wrong. And it looks even more absurd if you flip it over. If non-OPEC nations, with only 20 percent of the world's oil reserves, produces 58 percent of the world's oil, then something is wrong with Hubbert's theory.

Ron P.

Yes, you would think that your production would be roughly proportional to the amount of real reserves that you have on your territory, as well as how difficult it is to extract those reserves. So either OPEC is greatly exagerating their reserves, or their oil is much easier to extract.

Actually Frugal it's even worse then you offer. This is a generalization but it has a long and rock solid history behind it: once a field has passed, let's say, 50% depletion rate, it's flow rate tends to be rather LOW compared to it's remaining reserves. Conversely, initial high flow rates from a well/field doesn't necessarily mean big ultimate reserves. That might seem comforting at first: OPEC may have more reserves then their production rates might imply. But it's a double edged sword: it also means that such rates are not sustainable from those proven reserves. If there had been cost effective methods to increase those rates it would have been done by now IMHO. Like rust, depletion never stops even at lower production rates. I don't spend much time focused on how much proven reserves OPEC may have. It's the delivery rate that counts IMHO. And as others have pointed out, at times when they had very good economic reason to surge production they didn't.

ROCKMAN, I have to admit that as long as I have been following this issue, I am completely lost by that last statement,
"And as others have pointed out, at times when they had very good economic reason to surge production they didn't."

When has it ever paid OPEC to surge production? The pattern is always the same, they surge, the price crashes. In the 1980's OPEC essentially helped us break Russia, and oil was as cheap as water.

Just recently, OPEC turned the tap up to try help "stabilize prices" and oil went into the $40 range during the economic slowdown.

I am more and more convinced with each passing year, as I argued in the only article TOD ever accepted from me to post on The Drum, that OPEC shows absolutely no concern about declining supply, but they are almost hysterical about the problem of declining demand. Since I first wrote this in 2007, OPEC fear has been correctly placed:


Prices went down because demand went down not because OPEC turned on the tap -- they didn't have a tap to turn which became obvious when oil prices broke 70 in summer of 2007 and there was no response other than OPEC saying that the price was too high and they couldn't find any buyers. No oil just words.

Right. And, for six or eight months they promised to raise production; during which time the added about 500 wells, and production remained flat. They just do not have the reserves they claim. And, right about now they are breathing a sigh of relief as worldwide demand has slackened enough that their inability to impact supply as producer of last resort is not being challenged.

Typically when prices jump operators will do all they can to sell as much oil as possible. Last year it would have greatly benefited OPEC to have dumped enough oil on the market to keep prices down. Prices spike = recession hits = consumtion drops like a rock = oil prices drop like a rock. Not a good path for anyone.

Roger, last summer when prices were sky high, every nation on earth was producing every possible barrel they could possibly produce. There was a surge in new wells by both OPEC and non-OPEC. Still OPEC, if production from their new member Angola was removed, OPEC still produced less than they did in 2005. But with the new fields in Angola on line, July 2008 production barely exceeded May of 2005.

Non-OPEC production peaked in December of 2003 and has never exceeded that monthly production in the six years since.

Yes, OPEC fears a drop in demand. But they know now, and they knew last summer, that nothing kills demand like extremely high prices. They wanted prices lower last summer but they just could not produce enough oil to drive prices lower. Of course now they have spare capacity of approximately 2 million barrels per day. But that spare capacity is dropping as their giant fields are being depleted. It is my estimation that their spare capacity will be down to zero by late 2011 or early 2012. That is unless, of course, that the recession gets even worse and demand drops even further.

Ron P.

I keep saying that $3 a gallon gas is harder to afford now, than $5 a gallon gas was a few years ago.

I'm not sure they actually have spare capacity. Unpublished data comming soon and it does not include 2009.

My best guess as too 2008-2009 keeps reinforcing itself.

1.) Economy hits the wall ( oil prices spike )
2.) A number of large financial trades of various sorts are close to collapsing including perhaps a large failure to deliver on oil i.e across several markets including oil, derivatives etc etc a lot of big failures where imminent.

3.) Lehman, Bear Sterns where surgically excised in a attempt to partially deflate the system and avert a domino collapse.

4.) System collapsed anyway.

5.) Hurricanes interrupted product supply to a good bit of the US.

6.) This lead to a financial meltdown in oil futures and a build in oil that could not be processed because of the refinery damage that was dumped on the spot market along with a massive dump of various futures positions. As the price spiraled downward because of the short term glut in real oil it fed the finanical dump of oil contracts.

7.) Smart traders probably just recently on the wrong side of a lot of oil trades bought huge quantities of oil and too futures positions. The former larger losers became huge winners and the winners where taken out.
Its not hard to guess the names in this.

8.) This forms what I call a oil bank that works similar to a real bank using futures contracts and selling oil. This bank also front runs its customers and hoards oil acting as a middle man. This oil bank probably holds 100-150 million barrels of oil the exact amount is unknown but more then enough to effect the worlds oil markets esp with financial leverage.

9.) This was done with the full involvement of the US government probably financed with TARP monies. In exchange this newly formed US Oil Reserve is responsible for stabilizing prices. Effectively a carbon copy of the creation of the Federal Reserve.

10.) To date at least this new Oil bank has done a good job of managing oil prices by juggling its stored oil. However its slowly drained its oil storage levels and periodically has to resupply itself. How it does this is of course not known but a periodic attack on oil prices followed by a new burst of storage makes sense. This may or may not show as real contango in the futures contracts but as far as I can tell this group wants to see at least a 30 dollar contango develop before it purchases in volume.
So lets say oil prices hit 60 with the strong pressure down now this means they expect to easily sell at 90 in the short term.

This moves to today. Obviously the arrangement favors the US and by keeping US prices low it puts a damper on world prices. However at the end of the day its nothing but a rationing/price control scheme and as time goes one shortages eventually develop. It can't prevent them and by keeping prices generally low it slow the rate that demand changes.

Now of course having at least one crude producer on board esp since they where unable to control prices before helps. The new swing producer is not Saudi Arabia but a more effect armada of tankers filled and waiting to be dispatched to control prices. Given demand is seasonal and swings up in down this allows producers to pump at a steady rate and levels out the demand swings between the seasons.

So finally what real spare capacity still exists in the system is created today only from the seasonal swings in demand. The oil bank leverages this via storage to store oil when demand is naturally low and release it when its higher.

There might be a very this layer of real if short term spare capacity left in the system beyond this but one has to think its reserved for real emergencies.

This does not of course prevent prices from rising steadily over time and indeed they have but as long as it works it prevents a sharp spike in prices and consumers get a chance to adjust to living with fairly steadily increasing gasoline prices.

Of course for all intents and purposes this is a sort of inverted bubble eventually of course other non favored countries demand for oil becomes problematic and they can and will purchase more and more oil on the sport market at first pressuring prices but eventually as oil becomes ever shorter in supply finally igniting another spike.

Its not even close to a long term solution and although the US market is large the world is a big place as areas eventually face shortages the oil bank unravels.

Of course when it finally collapses and we have and old fashioned bank run in this case the bank makes huge amounts of money unlike a credit bank. Even then it can and probably will play a few more hands of surging sales and buying forward production until it thinks the potential for further economic collapse is to high.

Consumers of course are effectively getting a perfect con they see the wild swing in prices and expect even if we do see a spike that prices will again collapse in the near future so demand this time around is resistant to change.
The oil bank itself can probably introduce enough volatility that it reinforces this view. By periodically forcing prices down it increases the belief that they are not being set by fundamentals.

However the market always tells the truth and a fairly steady pattern of ever higher lows result from such actions. A fingerprint is left.

Also of course technical analysis plays a big role and this is not to be dismissed since you also see various technical approach get their trend lines blown esp over the short term despite the rather obvious longer term pattern thats building. This helps force prices down over the short term but the problem is it tends to reset the technical approaches to new trends by effectively clearing the slate and artificially creating a new market cycle.

Volatility is huge but rewarding for people that can position themselves quickly and are willing to play the trends as they come.

A similar but less volatile game is probably being played across most of the worlds markets with the increasing short term volatility seen as and acceptable result to avert major moves. Of course as the markets become more volatile they become easier to move in certain directions as more participants enter or leave depending on how they are playing the trends. Volume increases follow the market makers. A vast herd of lemmings forms.

Will it all fall apart sure but this time around enormous sums of money will be made in the process esp given the worlds markets are effectively controlled today and "collapse" is a much better orchestrated event designed to enrich the conductors of the last symphony of western civilization.

Well, perhaps they can now assume that Allah is indeed with them, because lo and behold, OPEC got just what they needed to happen and the price dropped...even though the consensus seems to be here that neither OPEC nor non-OPEC sources were able to produce more oil...so there would apparently be an oil shortage, unless you assume that demand dropped a considerable amount...a still contentious point here on TOD.

Again, I admit it I am lost...:-( and once more we seem to have a phantom crisis (except in a few purely logistical situations such as broken pipelines or weatehr disturbances or in some cases obvious war situations, has there yet been a real case of a customer being deprived of oil anywhere in the world?)

Let's leave that discussion aside for the moment because I can't make heads or tails out of it, and make a dream assumption that the producers could and would just say okay fine, let's pour another couple of million barrels of oil per day on the market...

(a)where would we put all the extra oil? You guys in the industry help me out, is there anywhere to store the stuff?

(b) Where would it be refined? With refineries aging and some now beginning to shut down, could we actually refine a large influx of new oil?

(c) Most importantly, what would it do to the price? Just today, with the world supposedly on the front of the coming economic recovery, crude oil again dropped back into the $60 dollar per barrel price range...not a bad price given that a full blown collapse in production has supposedly been underway since when (?), 2005?

When the new Porsche Cayman came into production, I really looked at buying one back in 2006, but under the belief that we are on the cusp of catastrophe (I turned out to be somewhat right on the economic side), I couldn't in my own mind be sure I could get fuel for it...damm I would have already been driving it for three years...(and the way I would drive a car like that, it would be ragged out by now)! :-)


(a)where would we put all the extra oil? You guys in the industry help me out, is there anywhere to store the stuff?

Well reported oil inventories where much higher in the first part of 2009 on land with reports of a significant quantity offshore.

If we go along with this being true then we have proven plenty of storage capacity if you want to store oil.

And this does not include offshore storage. Regardless of whatever the real level is if we assume worldwide that oil stocks have fallen in a similar fashion then we should be able to store at least 100 million more barrels right now.

Taking into account floating storage and current tanker rates its pretty much any number you want.

If I'm right and the price drop was a localized event and all the data I have confirm that it was a one time sharp drop in consumption right in the middle of the financial crisis plus Hurricanes then its effects will and from price movement are wearing off and we will go back to having to deal with high oil prices.

Thats not to say that there has not been a significant effort to moderate oil prices my claims are effectively a Manhattan Project like effort that included almost collapsing the world economy as a side effect. The Banking intervention is almost a side show if not a smoke screen. Regardless of how they did it it looks like even Citi will repay its TARP funds. That by no means suggests that banking is sound however given the other problem at the time was high oil prices it suggests that oil was perhaps a lot bigger problem then people think.

Its of course all interrelated so its not A or B but its interesting that people don't have a problem with the massive intervention that happened in our Banking system yet when one suggests that oil is at its current price because of a similar and in fact related intervention its considered absurd.

I'd argue that if someone even mentioned what really happened with the banks say a few years ago they would have been laughed off the board by many.

If your not ready to seriously question whats going on now then I doubt you ever will. Everything I have points repeatedly to a one shot build of anywhere form 100-200 million barrels of oil in storage for the entire world and production continued through the sharp drop in economic activity from the credit crisis and hurricanes.

This is more than enough with some thought to readily explain price movements over the last year esp given the financial crisis. If true however its something that comes to a end.

Just keep watching oil prices over the next several months things are starting to get very very interesting.

Even using last year as and example our price low was around this time and the price doubled by the end of the year. Perhaps our new low might be 60 then using last year as a model we would see 120 by the end of the year.

I have another really simple model that conjectures that the price of oil doubles everytime reported US storage fall by 50%.

We are basically at 70 now and above the five year range. Using that simple rule of thumb if we fell to the middle of the range then it would be 140.
At the bottom it would be 280.

This suggests that the market although going along with the game has effectively priced in 300 dollar a barrel oil if the US fails to remain well supplied. Last time when we went from near the top of the five year range to the bottom prices at least doubled given that the world is more depleted now and excess consumption has dropped from the economic crises the claim the market has priced in effectively 300 if we run low on oil again is not a bad one its quite reasonable.

Whats important is not the past its the future. If we did indeed get a one shot reprieve then by all accounts this extra oil has been used for the most part and we are now into the final or perhaps well past where its important depending on how you do it. Starting back a few months and going forward say 2-3 month i.e over the last three months plus about three in the future if we really are past that point then three months from now we can look back and see the transition back to strained oil supplies and high prices.

If however its not a one shot deal and OPEC is really controlling prices then they will be able to modulate prices and three months from now we will still be in this price band but now its supported increasingly from OPEC production not draining of stored oil. Within six months from now if we are still in the 70-80 dollar price band then its absolutely certain that the world has plenty of oil but most of the production is OPEC and they can support and defend a price band of their choosing.

On the economic front its fairly obvious that we will slip in and out of recession at best for several more years. Everyone agrees that unemployment won't start falling several more months and even once it starts we have a long long road afterwards before we ever get back close to where we where so demand simply is not going to change much for years.

The main point is that whatever the truth is it will be forced to become clearer over the next several months. OPEC will increasingly be forced to up production to maintain the status quo as stored oil must be replaced but recently pumped oil.

In my opinion the market has plainly stated that if OPEC does not come through then oil is going to 300. If so then late 2008-2009 will simply be and aberration brought on by a series of events some planned others not but all worked to create and anomaly. Although we have the whale oil data what we don't have are the series of historical events to go with the radical price fluctuation. Its unfortunate that we don't have the related historical record as I suspect that just like now a series of events worked to briefly collapse the market price.


If you look at the paper you will note that both whale bone and whale oil when through two spike before the prices settled. In the case of both substitution and other alternatives where viable so the move away from these products might be different from oil or it might be the same.

However the key point is we note that two price spikes occurred before a long term trend was established.

It seems very reasonable we will see the same thing. In our case the first spike in oil prices took out our growth economy and the second would be causing problems simply having a oil based economy period.

After that it depends on the viability of alternatives.

One can guess that the reasons underlying the spike in whale oil and bone prices where similar the first spike collapsed what ever demand was easily collapsed and the second took out more inelastic demand until alternatives where sought. Only then did substitution start playing a role in the price.

Using this brief interval between two spike if thats whats going to happen to make a lot of forward predictions simply is not useful. Understanding how it might have happened is interesting but even thats not all that useful.

What matters of course if if this two spike situation is real then what happens as we start up the second spike ? We no longer have excess demand thats easy to cut and we also don't have readily viable alternatives.

In the case of whale oil and bone it seems plenty of deep pocket demand remained to purchase effectively all of the product despite high prices so given that one could argue that there is robust demand for oil across a broad price range barring economic collapse. If oil somehow could go to 500-1000 a barrel and the economy still function then there is demand for 500-1000 dollar a barrel oil. The chances of the economy continuing to function at that price is the problem not demand. Plenty of people have enough money that they could pay 20 dollars or more a gallon for gasoline. They might put it in a very fuel efficient car but if you assume a plugin hybrid getting say 70-100 mpg then even 20 a gallon is not impossible at a fairly low wage range. I'd say assuming the plugin hybrid and a salary of say 60k a year and better perhaps at least one other person carpooling then 20 is well within the range of many many people. If you carpooled with four people in such a car then its not much more expensive than today. Inconvenient but not terribly expensive 25-30-40 does not really change the equation all that much as you hit 40 a gallon and beyond at that point even this scenario finally breaks down.

Depending on how the price of gasoline varies with oil price its only as you approach 1000 or so a barrel that the situation seriously breaks down.


Assuming its probably close to a ratio of 40 at that time then you would get
1000/40.0 = 25 a gallon.

Also obviously if oil was that expensive then the entire barrel would be used to make the most valuable products nothing would be wasted and extensive refining including effectively CTL like processes would make sense.

At a high enough prices we could almost double our gasoline and distillate production from a barrel of oil esp we include more extensive use of NG in the process. It won't be cheap but then oil at that price is not cheap.

Just to finish whats important now is not your view point but to recognize that it makes sense that whatever is really happening will become clearer over the next several months. Right now instead of people blasting people lets just talk about scenarios and see if they become clear in this period. I quite comfortable in saying that the party line of OPEC controlling prices vs a double spike are equally valid at the moment and which one is true will become obvious over the next several months as OPEC is increasingly forced to put up or shut up.

memmel and Ron P. too, thank you all for the interesting and well reasoned responses, this is why I come here, you guys are so much better able to math this situation out than I am....now I have to do some digesting of the numbers! The detailed responses by you guys must have taken some time, so they are greatly apprecieted...now I just have to assume as a temporary solution that world demand really has taken a hit, perhaps more than even I had assumed...

The question hanging out there now will be how much demand increases as the economy supposedly recovers (?) A full fast recover would drive price back up pretty fast (?), developing nation demand increases vs. OECD nations (?) and the biggie, can OPEC hold the production high enough...or are we really near the break point?

The upcoming 2 years could be interesting, and I am attempting to hold NO idea as foregone conclusions...but the last 2 years have been fascinating, so we're getting used to that...thanks again for the well developed imput and info....:-)


For me at least discussions like this are best deferred until after I make my paper public hopefully of course on the oil drum.

However I don't think economic recovery is our problem its now much closer to economic survival. Right now overall I'd argue with all the intervention we have stopped contracting however I see no reason why we can't have very high oil prices and a steadily contracting economy.

Obviously this is a very different argument and its based on unpublished data thus and explanation will have to wait however again even without it its one possibility that should be included.

Underlying of course is the relentless population growth regardless of economic conditions if oil production is not increasing rapidly your always dealing with divvying up the energy pie amongst more people. The price that results is of course dependent on other factors but day in and day out you are assured more and more people will want oil. How much they can really pay is a different issue but basic demand grows steadily with population.

Not only is population growth not and esoteric problem I'm convinced its the fundamental problem relative economic moves on top are like the tip of the iceberg you see floating at sea. In some cases certainly you can obviously get short term price drops but underneath is this huge mass of people striving for the best life they can live.

let's pour another couple of million barrels of oil per day on the market...

(a)where would we put all the extra oil? You guys in the industry help me out, is there anywhere to store the stuff?

Come on Roger, you know better than that. Where do you think they put it last summer? Where do you think they put it in 2005? If they dumped 2 million barrels back on the market, not suddenly but over a period of several months as would normally be expected, then the price would drop and demand would increase taking up all that extra oil.

From 2003 to 2004 world production increased by 3 million barrels per day. However the price still increased in 2004. The world economy was booming and demand was high. OPEC, which had cut production in 2002 opened the taps and ramped up as fast as they could. They produced every barrel they could until late 2008 when the bottom fell out of the market because of the recession. If they had kept production high then the price would have fallen to around $25 dollars a barrel and we would likely had a recovery by now. Hell, the price may have fallen to 1999 levels but you can rest assured that if the oil had been produced it would have been consumed.

OPEC is keeping oil off the market, about 2 million barrels per day, in order to keep the price high and for no other reason. The world will consume what the world produces.

Ron P.

OPEC is keeping oil off the market, about 2 million barrels per day, in order to keep the price high and for no other reason. The world will consume what the world produces.

This is something I'm trying to figure out. I'll try and keep it short.

The basic conclusion I've come to is that world demand varies seasonly this is well known with lows in spring and in the fall. During these two natural low periods if you pumped oil flat out then you would be able to build inventory.

If you think about it is very similar to how we manage Natural Gas with overall production capacity below the seasonal demand in Winter requiring large amounts of storage to offset the lack of capacity.

This plus a build from the sharp slow down during the height of the crisis seems to be about all I can come up with.

This suggests that OPEC is is actually pumping flat out now with no seasonal variation. If you look back we started a lot of oil in 2005 its just demand eventually pulled this storage down.

Now on the demand side gasoline demand seems flat to rising from VMT data I'll not post it. I'm desperatly trying to keep this short.

Distillate demand seems down by about 12% this is backed by numerous secondary indicators inter-modal traffic reports etc. However if you read a lot of the drop is actually coal and other bulk items not often shipped to their final destination via truck. So even this 12% is questionable. To make live easy go with 10%. This has a breakout of 61% of energy for gasoline and 21% diesel.


So for oil it would be .21*.12 = 0.025 or 2.5% change.

Assuming we use 20 mbpd then we get a whopping 500kbd change.
And use oil usage goes up by about 2.5% annually historically before now.

The 2mbd is simply a trick someone assumed the 12% drop in commercial usage could be simply multiplied into our overall however thats not the case.

Its really hard to say. The rest of the world does not use large amounts of distillates shipping imported crap from china across a continent so in the case extrapolating to a global drop is difficult. Bottom line is 2mbd is really optimistic and lower numbers start to get close to natural seasonal demand variation and simple variation.

This is assuming supply is constant. However just using the export land model one would find export capacity continued to fall. If oil production is declining and we are post peak which it seems we are then export would be simply falling faster.

Any surplus would be steadily consumed and we would see steadily longer term rising oil prices which happens to be whats happening. It takes time but its relentless and if there was spare capacity its quickly being eroded.

And hopefully this is a short post but you can fairly easily put time limits on the situation with a few educated guesses. Don't forget population increase is relentless so your always also dividing a smaller pie amongst more people.

The bottom line is this is a situation that simply is not long term stable and given how reported storage levels have changed despite questions about the magnitude of actual storage level in 3-4 months the situation will be clearer by 6 months from now it will be obvious.

I don't think OPEC is going to do anything except talk because they can't I think anyone waiting for OPEC to keep oil prices bounded will be greeted as they increase over 100 with a new story about how some other factor is influencing oil prices and OPEC can do nothing about it. Of course this means the true believers will simply go along with the new story but perhaps this time around more people will begin to question the situation.

As far as prices go stuffing Cushing full of oil to influence WTI prices will only work so long. And as you can see from KSA's actions all it does is threaten to make the NYMEX market irrelevant. Overall the world is not yet desperate for oil obviously or the spot price would explode. As long as outright shortages are not happening forcing purchase of oil then without this pressure the market price can be suppressed. However once its no longer possible to keep the spot price in check then things probably will unravel rapidly.

And last but not least even with my approach we still manage to get more oil in storage from two sources a buildup during the sharp drop and and and expansion of storage to take advantage of seasonal variation along with some decline in demand but not at the level claimed. This is sufficient to explain our current prices you simply don't need OPEC cutting 2mbd to get where we are now.

This of course means OPEC functions as a perfect cartel since the result is they pretty much pump at capacity day in and day out. Small wonder OPEC has done such a great job of meeting its quotas. This is something even OPEC can agree to do. The fact we have seen no real sign of OPEC cheating despite the rising oil prices suggests I'm probably close to the truth. This of course leaves whatever real spare capacity exists basically solely in KSA which has yet to respond despite or last price spike.

Nothing has really changed outside of attempts to grow the economy against a falling oil supply have finally blown up. It resulted in a short term pressure reduction but thats about it. Now falling oil supply is driving up prices against a global economy which is simply trying to limp along. Demand elasticity has to be much lower this time around.

If I'm right then about a year from now everyone would know thats what happened and it will be considered obvious not the ramblings of some deranged poster. Just as the unthinkable bailouts of the banks are now common knowledge.
Whats funny is given everything thats happened to day it seems the best answer is to consider the minimum amount of oil needed to get a certain price effect.
The answer is only 100-200 million barrels so 1-2 days supply of oil is all thats needed to cause everything we have seen.

So either OPEC is greatly exagerating their reserves, or their oil is much easier to extract.

Frugal, if OPEC is not exagerating their reserves, their oil is certainly more difficult to extract, otherwise what ROCKMAN wrote:

at times when they had very good economic reason to surge production they didn't.

wouldn't be so.

The actions of KSA nowadays point in the direction of overstated reserves and more difficult to extract oil ahead.

That IEA chart is especially grim considering that the bright pink [is that fuscia?] is imaginary, as well as the light blue. Not that there will be no production from existing reserves, or newly discovered fields. It is simply a problem extracting from super deep sources, and all the more so when they have not been discovered, and are merely hoped for.

Now, having said that, it is probably true that newer techniques will allow the 'first fruits' of those new fields to be exploited more quickly. And, having done that, the back end of the curve is much sharper as well... you can't fool Mother Nature!

I thought that Natural Gas Liquids were propane and butane? Not something that is commonly used for transportation fuel...

But maybe a refinery uses them to increase gasoline production, I don't know.

So do increasing NGL's actually help the transportation fuel picture?

So do increasing NGL's actually help the transportation fuel picture?

No, but the EIA said "future oil supplies" not "future transportation fuel". It also helps delay the non-OPEC peak by about six years. Non-OPEC peak crude + condensate was in 2004 but if you count NGLs, ethanol, palm oil and other biodiesel, it will likely be 2010 before non-OPEC peaks. Now you know why I have been bitching for years about counting bottled gas and agricultural products as oil as far as the peak is concerned.

Ron P.

it will likely be 2010 before non-OPEC peaks.

We could start counting electricity for trains, if we are lucky it could hold the peak back for a while.

Are you being sarcastic? I do hope so. It it is not always obvious.

Yes I am but just a little bit there are a lot of different ways to count: crude oil, crude oil ... condensate, crude oil ... NGL, crude oil ... tar sand, crude oil ... bio fuel.

If we are counting all liquids, yes. If crude and condensate, no. Crude oil and condensate are the core measure. NGLs, tar sands and biofuels contribute, but have low EROEI and should be included at a discount. Electricity is a not an energy source.

Excellent point Ron. We should expect more word games from "them" as we slide down the depletion curve IMHO.

NGLs are liquids produced by wet gas wells and are combined with tar to make gasoline at refineries. Natural gas is also used as a source of hydrogen for turning heavy oil into gasoline. Since oil is becoming increasingly heavy, natural gas will become more important for liquid fuel production.

Thanks Majorian, that's part of what I was wondering about.

So perhaps there is a bit of double-dipping in considering the final useful energy of the pieces shown on the graph? Since BOTH heavy oil/tar sand and the NGL's are counted in the graph - but they really need to be combined to make a useful transportation fuel - do those two sections of the graph combine at the refinery to result in less useful fuel in the end than is shown?

It seems like this is sort of the declining EROI issue. We put more inputs in, but what do we really get back out?

NGLs are liquids produced by wet gas wells and are combined with tar to make gasoline at refineries.

Does someone know if this is a considerable amount ?

Since oil is becoming increasingly heavy, natural gas will become more important for liquid fuel production.

What about the lack of refineries that can handle heavy oil ? Are new ones built or old refineries converted ?

Han -- If you're asking about NGL yields from various NG resevoirs the range is wide: a few barrels per million cf to 500+ bbl per million cf. If it's the ratio of NGL's to heavy oils in the refin process I don't have a clue.

The Chinese have been contracting/buying a lot of heavy crude over the last few years. Haven't seen anything about their tying up NGL's. Maybe no one has been paying attention.

If you're asking about NGL yields from various NG resevoirs the range is wide: a few barrels per million cf to 500+ bbl per million cf. If it's the ratio of NGL's to heavy oils in the refin process I don't have a clue.

ROCKMAN, I meant the amount of gasoline produced that way (NGL + tar), which according to Rapier's comment doesn't even exist.

I got off on the wrong track, ROCK.

NGL = ethane plus LPG.
One LPG is natural gasoline(isopentane), which is used as a dilutent for heavy oil or to denature ethanol. Of course you can burn it in your car also.

Refineries do require natural gas(1% in the US) for hydrogen in hydrocracking heavy oil which is where most gasoline comes from.

I would guess most olefins come from the vacuum distillation of gas oil( light refinery gas).
These are cracked and hydrogenated to produce the premium in premium gasoline(alkylation).

Gasoline is not octane but a mixture that is supposed to 'burn like iso-octane'--octane rating(e.g. 20% of gasoline is benezene, has olefins, etc.).

You can make 'polymer gasoline' from NGLs which was typical before 1950 but since then NGL olefins and parafins are used to make plastics because olefins can come from gas oil and hydrogen from NG. In the old days, these were a product of the coal tar business and China has lots of coal.

It's confusing because we can confuse liquid fuels and oil production.
NGL is an important part of oil production but not as important for liquid fuels.

Yes indeed maj...can be quit confusing to me. Thanks for sorting it out. Probably damn near impossible but can you get any handle on the volumes involved in the process? Even if you can I'm not sure how to relate it to the limited production info out there.

NGLs are liquids produced by wet gas wells and are combined with tar to make gasoline at refineries.

Tar? Do go on. I am very interested to hear about this blend that I have never heard of.

Condensate natural gas liquids are used as blend for heavy oil and bitumen and refinery feedstock. Natural gasoline is also used as a denaturing agent for ethanol.

Right, but blending with bitumen to make the oil flow and get it into the refinery is a far cry from mixing NGLs with tar and making gasoline. That tar has to go through a lot of refinery processing before it becomes gasoline blending components. Various fractions get distilled, cracked, reformed, alkylated, and coked - and then you have blending components that don't resemble what you fed into the refinery.


What % of summer blend and winter blend gasoline can come from NGLs ?

And what % of NGLs are useful feedstocks for gasoline (ethane not so much :-)

Is it economic to take two butanes and make one octane (plus H2) from it ?

Thanks for more info,



The only usable fraction for direct blending is from butane (and the amount of butane in NGLs is generally very small). In the summer, this is limited to about 2%; in the winter about 10%.

Other components can end up in an alkylation unit. Butane can be converted to isobutane and fed in, propane can be cracked to propylene and fed in. Alkylates are very desirable gasoline blendstocks.

However, when I was growing up my dad ran his pickup off of propane. CNG vehicles are available. I am certain that cars can be built/modified to run directly off of NGLs (provided the composition is standardized).

As a younger man, I lusted after the Morgan Plus 8, available only with propane from 1974 till 1992 in the USA.

Propane is quite doable (IF we have enough of it) and it is interesting to think about a standard mix of LPGs.

Best Hopes for fleets,


Kingfish -- Not necessarily more expensive per se. Depends what you're comparing it to. Those reservoirs are often deep and thus not cheap to drill. But compared to $150 million for a single Deep Water well they are a bargain. As far as being a "lifeline" I doubt anyone can offer a credible answer today. In addition to the OPEC countries not releasing data you add the inabiity to predict what will be found before it's found. But an increasing demand for LNG will allow more NGL's to come to market. It's the magnitude I can offer.

But I'm sure these facts won't keep certain parties from offering cornucopian estimates. That's why I put my little essay out: a heads up and a warning.

The BBC radio show (and podcast) "More or Less" this week discusses energy efficient light bulbs. Not surprisingly they find that the claims for energy efficient lightbulbs are often exaggerated by the manufacturers and that usage patterns and manufacturing processes can impact the savings.

It is worth a listen. http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/moreorless/

The light bulb thing is an interesing problem...I live for now in a very small apartment and changed down to the more efficient bulbs amd put fewer of them in the fixtures...now my heat runs more! I was surprised that the lights when on were actually providing a considerable amount of winter heat! Of course, in the summer, that was a pain in the ass, but it just goes to show how tricky these calculations can be!


We are contemplating a gas-fired tankless water heater (the existing one is now 10 years old, and I don't want to wait for it to fail). I suspect that we will have some of the same issues - the heat losses for the old one are in part heating the house right now.

we use something like 12 therms/mo in the summer for water heating. some of that heat has to be removed from the house via a/c.

The light bulb thing is also being used as a counter argument against environmentalists. Yes it's true, a light bulb lowers the need for heat from your heating system. You can consider a lightbulb to be a electric heating device with a clearly visible on/off indicator.

Unfortunately an electric heating device (i.e. resistor) is not very efficient, it will have a COP of 1, whereas a heatpump can have a COP of 4 (perhaps even higher). This means that a lightbulb will get only one kWh of heat using one kWh of electricity, whereas a heatpump will deliver 5 kWh heat using 1 kWh electricity.

Comparing a resistor electric heating device with an efficient gas condensor boiler you will see that gas is much cheaper because (fossil powered) electric powerstations are very inefficient.

So will a lightbulb require less heat from your heating system: Yes. Will it lower your energy bill using e.g. 20 lightbulbs to warm your livingroom: NO! It increases your energy bill when compared to using a gas condensor heating system.

Drug money saved banks in global crisis, claims UN advisor

Drugs money worth billions of dollars kept the financial system afloat at the height of the global crisis, the United Nations' drugs and crime tsar has told the Observer.

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were "the only liquid investment capital" available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result.

I wonder whether peak oil also means peak mind-altering drugs. All this drug money is inherently as worthless as derivatives. As for the drugs themselves, I assume we could live without them.

Mind altering drugs currently on the black market are cheap to produce, but marked up enormously because of the inherent risks in marketing substances that are illegal and whose legal status is strictly enforced by the current "War on Drugs." The legal penalties also encourage more refined, easier to smuggle and more powerful versions of drugs. Maybe what will peak as oil peaks is the super-refined versions of the substances found in coca leaves, opium poppies and cough medicine. Post peak it'll be back to milder homegrown versions, along with homemade hard cider and dandelion wine...

Surely you jest. How long have people been chewing qat?

Refined narcotics that require complicated chemistry and various solvents probably won't last. But things that people can grow themselves are much more likely to persist.

Qat is generally used locally in the countrues where it grows, although I seem to remember seeing something about it being shipped to British communites with a lot of recent immigrants who are glad to buy thier old standby instead of beer.Apparently there is not yet a suitable ordinance on the books banning it or maybe they just don't want to bother as it doesn't seem to be a serious problem.

And my info is probably past its sell by date too.

The expensive stuff is smuggled because it is indeed very profitable.

But illicit drugs at retail are quite reasonably priced, all things considered, and generally easy to find.

I guess that goes to prove that while the stuffed shirt type of bau conservative is wrong about a lot of things , his faith in the market is often justified.War on drugs or not, it's cheaper to get high on dope than just about anything else you can do until you get hooked and start wanting more and more if you are doing the habit forming stuff too often.

A joint that will keep you stoned all day costs less than enough beer to stay high all day.

Ask any old hippie , or your own kids, just how far ten bucks will go in terms of an extraordinarily interesting evening on drugs staying at home or hanging out with friends as opposed to how much it costs to go out even for fast food burgers and a movie.

The expensive stuff is smuggled because it is indeed very profitable.

But illicit drugs at retail are quite reasonably priced, all things considered, and generally easy to find.

That could double as a description of the "sweet spot" price the Saudis are looking for -- oil cheap enough for every momentary fix that the addict needs, expensive enough for the smugglers to keep the cash flowing in suitable amounts to support their glamorous lifestyle?

The people who chew qat generally grow their own. In the future, hemp for clothing and paper will be in demand. Guess where the leaves will go?

The leaves will be mulched or failing that burned or fed to cows who might just be a little more contented and even dumber than before.

But the female flower.......THAT is the interesing part.

No, qat is grown in Africa. As it is not widely known it can be legally imported to many countries, despite the very addictive and destructive characteristics. For illustration genocide in Sudan is committed under influence of this drug.

The hemp grown for industrial and wind brake purposes is also entirely different from the one suitable to smoke. The industrial variant has such low content of THC you will need to smoke an acre at once to feel something. You have propably died of smokepoisoning before that.

And last, if you have the right variety to smoke, don't smoke the leaves; will give you a terrible headache. You smoke the flowers.

The hemp grown for industrial and wind brake purposes is also entirely different from the one suitable to smoke. The industrial variant has such low content of THC you will need to smoke an acre at once to feel something. You have propably died of smokepoisoning before that.

Yet, it's illegal in the dear old War on Drugs of America.

Catherine Austin Fitts talks about this with her 'big red button' talk, her web page that sports a picture of Grasso and FARC and Mike Ruppert used to mention it back when FTW was updated.

when the mex gov sells the oil legally their elite criminal ruling class steals all the money. so mex citizens realize no benefit from it. the poor person in mex heads north. however, the uhmerican elite criminal class are stealing all of the u.s money but we aint got nowhere to go! boo-hoo! and just like the mex citizen we aint realizing no benefit from trillions of dollars given to banksters. need proof?
bernancke sez soc sec needs to be looked at. it's all part of our reduced consumption, except for bernancke, et al. PRAISE BE TO ZARDOZ!

Humans need to have a maximum of two children per woman per lifetime.


I love the folks I know who shake their heads over folks like the Duggars,when these folks often have 4 kids themselves. I would love to tell them 'Congratulations, brain surgeons, you busted your limit by 100%'.

I applaud the folks who are wise and self-aware and non-selfish enough to have either 2, 1, or no children. The guy below was on a good roll except for to points: 1) Earth may have been an Eden with < 2 billion (maybe <1 billion people, not 3 or 4 Billion) and 2) his last sentence...he didn't get the irony that if we did have a population collapse down to sustainable levels, this attitude would have people over-procreating to 're-populate the Earth'.

I am fifty and I have lost at least three women I loved because I did not want children (It is a deal-breaker to a lot of women). And the reason I chose not to have children is because I try to live by the adage "Do onto thers as you would want done onto you." Here is the deal, the Earth could be an Eden at 3 to 4 billion, and it is in bad shape at today's 6.7 billion, and it will be a living Hell at 9 to 10 billion. I do not want a child of mine living in that Hell! If a good plague came along, and I was a survivor then maybe I would want a child because then they might have a chance at a good life.


The idea not to have children because they will grow up in a terrible collapsing world is a very good idea. I would advise my grandchildren not to have children but they never listen to me about anything so why bother? I already have three great-grandchildren.

However, having said that, the folks who have two, one or no children because they think they are helping solve the world's overpopulation problem are really fooling themselves. Just subtract two from seven billion and get an idea of just how much you are helping.

If you are a very intelligent person and decide to have no children you are helping...helping dumb down the population. You can rest assured that those with IQs that average around 85 or 90 are not limiting their offspring voluntarily.

And remember the competitive exclusion principle: if fertility varies in a population that is offered options in fertility, then as the generations succeed one another, the pronatalist elements in the population will, in time, displace the ones who conscientiously limit their fertility. You will have failed to internalize population control. (And unfortunately, some of the more competitive individuals may start thinking about violent alternatives. That means that you will get genocide secondarily.)
- Garrett Hardin, The Ostrich Factor

Ron P.

Your central point, that individual action is not enough for this (or any) global issue. But as usual, Hardin is reductionist here. Many children of large families grow up to be thoughtful and reflective enough not to have any or many kids. The decision to have lots of kids is not primarily genetic (in humans, at least).

The moral argument here is essentially, "If I don't do it, somebody else will." Not one that is generally considered to be at the higher end of moral reasoning.

So both ends of the perspective are oversimplifications, but both should be considered.

And of course, population is only one part of the equation, the other being consumption--and this is the one most important for those of us on this forum.

But as usual, Hardin is reductionist here.

And that is to dismiss the concept as being oversimplified, hinting that it the idea is very complex so Hardin's words should be dismissed as irrelevant. No, Hardin is exactly right and the concept is not oversimplified because it is so blatantly simple. Those who have more offspring will, eventually, replace those who have fewer offspring. While it is true that nothing could be simpler than that, it is also true that nothing could be more obvious.

There is another reason people have historically had as many children as possible. Steven LeBlanc explains it below. It is really in our genes and to try to limit population by voluntary measures is an exercise in futility.

The group with the larger population always has an advantage in any competition over resources, whatever those resources may be. Over the course of human history, one side rarely has better weapons or tactics for any length of time, and most such warfare between smaller societies is attritional. With equal skills and weapons, each side would be expected to kill an equal number of its opponents. Over time, the larger group will finally overwhelm the smaller one. This advantage of size is well recognized by humans all over the world, and they go to great lengths to keep their numbers comparable to their potential enemies. This is observed anthropologically by the universal desire to have many allies, and the common tactic of smaller groups inviting other societies to join them, even in times of food stress.
Steven LeBlanc, “Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage” page 73-74.

Ron P.

Note that I specifically did NOT "dismiss" Hardin, just suggested that it is not the whole picture, though an important corrective to the usual simplicities of the usual arguments. His models are useful, but as with all models, only up to a point. The map is not the territory, but a map can be very useful for specific purposes.

It seems to me that Darwinian thinks TODers need to breed more TODers.

Don't be daft Ghung. The point is that any movement or concept that depends, for its success, upon people "voluntarily" behaving in a manner that is contrary to their genetic tendencies is doomed to failure. Not just a failure but compliance would be so small as to render it totally irrelevant. I am reminded of the "VHEMPT", The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Yeah right, the only ones going extinct in that case would the those who volunteer to do so. Wonder how many that would be?

Ron P.

Yes exactly consumption is a key factor! People in the US consume about 100 times the energy per capita then someone in Africa or Bangladesh lets say. While people in the US consume 32 times what the average African or Bangladeshi or Afghani does. So keeping that in mind, the effective population of the US is close to 9-10 billion (300 Million x 32) effectively.

The richer a country becomes the more materials and energy per capita it needs. The US uses 240,000 calories of fossil fuels daily to feed each citizen 3,000 calories. The system is an epic fail in terms of longevity, though no doubt the peak has been spectacular in terms of development, lifestyles etc.

The problem with this argument is the exponential function. So a USian consumes as much as 100 Bangladeshis. However the population of bangladesh has increased 3 fold in 38 years. All other things being equal the population will rise 3 fold again in the next 38 years, and in 140 years, the descendants of that one USian is being out consumed by the descendants of that one bangladeshi.

The rich need to consume less AND the poor need to procreate less.

"All other things being equal the population will rise 3 fold again in the next 38 years, and in 140 years, the descendants of that one USian is being out consumed by the descendants of that one bangladeshi."

Of course, all things are NOT equal. Bangladesh is bumping up against its limits as we speak. With sea level rise and other problems with GW, the population will be forced to contract, probably by not-so-pleasant means.

Surrounded on all sides by a hostile India, they will have no place to go. They import precious little per capita. So their tragedy will be/is locally huge but globally negligible.

Our impact, on the other hand is and will be huge and global.

"The rich need to consume less AND the poor need to procreate less."

We can certainly agree on this, the latter primarily for their own sake, the former for everyone's sake.

(It wouldn't be a bad idea for developed countries to reduce their populations even faster than some already are. In general, those advocating reduced reproduction by the poor should first go to their friends, relatives, neighbors...in their developed countries and ask them to abstain from unprotected heterosexual intercourse or get snipped, and to greatly restrict their ff-powered travel, their meat eating, and their overall consumption in general. Once they have done that, if they are still alive, and assuming they have taken these measures themselves, only then should they have the temerity to tell those who have not benefited much from the orgy of ff use and who will be the hardest hit by its down sides to be careful where they put their peckers.)

Well Bangladesh was India until they couldn't get along so who is hostile?

I imagine they will do the same as all other countries with expanding poor populations - come and live with me in the UK. Somewhow I suspect their personal fossil fuel use may rise when they feel 'sleet' [frozen rain] like I have outside the house.

Great idea about less kids. My wife and I have zero - and yourself??

No country anywhere is going to accept hundreds of millions of refugees. Certainly not England. It will have enough trouble keep the souls and bodies together of their current outsize population as we slide down the other side.

We had one child in our late thirties, raised vegetarian. I do fear for her future, though. If all couples put off procreation till their late thirties and then had only one child, we would be able to rapidly and immediately reduce the population without going quite as far as these guys: www.vhemt.org

One point not mentioned (for obvious reasons) is that the folks who are intelligent and/or educated about the problem are the ones who might best add to the gene pool. Ruppert and others of the doomer/dieoff mind set think population must necessarily undergo a major decline after Peak Oil. Once it starts, I see no reason to think the dieback would be random.

OK, I know the Bell Curve and eugenics are verboten topics in PC conversations, but, if it is realistic to contemplate dieback, why not also contemplate a process in which the dieback results in some measure of improvement in the human species? That's the sort of effort the agriculturist have been doing for centuries with non-human species. In one sense, there already is such a process, called education, in that the best and brightest tend to go to better colleges, where they can match up with similarly brainy mates.

I just happened to look at the breeding of dogs which was undertaken more than 100 years ago such that certain traits were selectively chosen to produce a "breed". If the human species is to survive as a dominate species, one would think that Social Darwinism might be a necessary option.

No, I'm not hung up on race (meaning skin color which is not necessarily a bad "trait"). Should the judges try to select for people with greatest strength and athletic prowess, which I think happens to some degree now (Tiger Woods, for example)? Or, should they blindly assume that intelligence is a function of the size of the brain within one's skull? The term "high brow", meaning "smart" has been in use for quite a while. Is that why so many people present "head shots" on resumes? The problem with such thinking is, who could be trusted to do the judging? Would it all be done by computer tests, such as the SAT?

I would lose out on the hat size test, even though I did well on IQ tests, SAT's and GRE's and made the Deans List in college...

E. Swanson

You know, evolution doesn't care about IQ. I believe if you killed off the top 90% IQ population, the human species would survive, no problem. I also have a feeling that the bottom line traits required for survival are not particularly measurable by "IQ", which is an index developed for a certain literate industrial context.

One thing that I notice here and on all the quasi-related blogs that I frequent is the conflation of human species survival with a particular civilization survival. There are coming up on 7 billion humans in the world. Even in the worst case doomer scenario, some will tough it out, have kids, etc. They may or not be particularly "bright" according to our lights. E.g., they may be particularly aggressive. Physically powerful. Particularly ornery. Add some "street smarts", and you have warlords. That seems to be the default position.

We would (well, some of us would) prefer to have a genteel civilized existence, but evolution, biology, the species, simply doesn't give a flying fig.

As a rather high IQ individual (based on goofy abstract tests), I feel strongly that IQ is overrated as a correlate to the success of the human species as such.

I'm also rated highly on goofy tests and I have the same opinion.

Several years ago, I was in a Vietnamese restaurant run by a Cambodian, talking with the guy about stuff. He said that during the Vietnam War, he took refuge 'way up in the mountains, and was found by some people he called the "Deka". These people were universally kind. They were kind to him, and kind to each other. They helped him no questions asked, and he saw that they were the same to each other.

In our modern world, under our modern measures, the "Deka" would surely come up short. They'd probably not score well on even the most culture-neutral IQ tests. They're surely short, swarthy, with pug noses. Their ideas of fun are probably very simple, stuff like singing and cat's cradle and simple, non-marketable stuff.

Just from the little I heard from him about them, I'd just as soon the rest of us die out and the Deka just keep on going.

Similar story for the "Yards". Unfortunately war has a way crushing such "uncivilized" civilities.

These were probably one of the tribes of what the French called the Montagnards, or mountain-dwellers, or, the fellow I was talking to may have been originally a 'yard himself, and these were the people living way up in THEIR hinterlands.

Those cultures survived centuries of warfare. It's just that the modern, high tech warfare put them in the line of fire. As the oil runs out and high tech warfare becomes impossible to wage, then those isolated groups that live close to the land will become the survivors, I think.

There are people living way back in the woods around here that still speak with an Old English accent. That's because the roads were so poor that "civilization" was kept out. Back in my mother's youth, less than 100 years ago, the normal Saturday routine involved a day long trip to the county seat via horse drawn buggy. Other parts of the world still live that way. Without oil, I expect that the roads will slowly vanish and the old ways will return, baring some major revision in projected energy supplies.

E. Swanson

"I also have a feeling that the bottom line traits required for survival are not particularly measurable by "IQ", which is an index developed for a certain literate industrial context."

Good point. Coming at it from the other direction, most of those who devised our current, insane, geo-cidal industrial society had very high IQ's and good college educations. It is just too smug and easy to blame the world's problems on those "not like us" or "other" whether in terms of genes, culture, gender, IQ, class...

(And of course it is also seductively easy to romanticize the same.)

As far as humans extinction, yes, there are many resilient folks out there, but no human culture has ever faced the levels of CO2 currently in the atmosphere--higher than any time in at least 15 million years and rising steadily--and the inevitable consequences thereof. Humans have not had to try to survive a great mass extinction event, the last one having been 50 some millions of years ago.

It is a special kind of species hubris to think that we will somehow be immune from the mass extinction now going on. I am not certain enough about the future to confidently predict it. Mass extinctions tend to have the affect of advantaging certain simple, single-cell creatures--bacteria and algae. Some of these will almost certainly survive almost anything thrown at them.

For the rest of us, there is no certainty of survival.

No certainty of survival, douhboi, indeed.

But H. sap. is a really ornery critter, and whatever happens to "civilization', it's hard to imagine something taking H. s. out altother. Again, I'm drawing a distinction between the species and any particular "civilization".

As global warming moves mosquitoes and malaria north having one gene for sickle cell might well trump other qualities of various humans in the US.

My vote for the most likely to succeed is any hunter-gatherer tribe not killed by the time the crash is full blown and any peasant farmer that lives well distant from cities.

What matters for those folks is not the genes but the skills.

To prove your point, all you would have to do is prove that the human population has gotten dumber since birth control became available.

Well, people do seem to be getting dumber. Here we have a guy going around with a petition to "increase inflation to 100%" and trying to get people to sign it:


Come to think of it, I suppose people who are deep underwater on their mortgages might actually think this to be a good plan.

Whether or not birth control has anything to do with it, I don't know..

However, having said that, the folks who have two, one or no children because they think they are helping solve the world's overpopulation problem are really fooling themselves. Just subtract two from seven billion and get an idea of just how much you are helping.

If you are a very intelligent person and decide to have no children you are helping...helping dumb down the population. You can rest assured that those with IQs that average around 85 or 90 are not limiting their offspring voluntarily.

Absolute true. It's the core issue. And this is what is happening (dysgenic tendecies) at least in developed countries - there are more than enough indicators which show this clear. This will lead to the inevitable collapse in the long run - not PO!


And the 1 - 2 billion are sustainalble is the last rubbish! It's all a question of technology and the usage of it. There are limits on somethings (like the space of the universe) - but with enough technology (i'm talking for example about kybernetics and the usage of black holes) whe are able to support 10^100 "individuals" and even more (they may not be biological humans - but that is not relevant).

The other element besides number of children is the age when the parents have the children. When kids born relatively late in the productive life of the parents, the space between the generations is extended. Over time, you end up with a fraction of the people who would otherwise occupy the planet over time even with the same number of kids per couple.

Policies need to encourage fewer births per couple as well as later births. Both trends are on the rise, but policies like education of women, women's full control of their own reproductive life, and other incentives and disincentives could greatly accelerate the trend.

It is obviously in the interest of industry (cheaper labor) and many governments (more taxpayers and soldiers) and religions to encourage larger populations, so these policies are not likely to become widespread within the time frame needed. Crash looks inevitable to me at this point because of these entrenched, powerful interests.

The assumption that women will make decisions in the interests of the planet is a good example of where evolution leads us. Men [and women] fall for that sort of rot.

'honey, I just didn't know what week it was..we will have to buy a bigger car'

Pregnancy is difficult and dangerous for women. Caring for a newborn is exhausting beyond measure. Worldwide, when women have access to birth control and some measure of control over their lives, they do not choose endless pregnancies. If, worldwide, women only got pregnant when they wanted to, we would see population stabilize and then slowly reduce, as is happening right now in Europe.

If we (the developed world) invested modest amounts of money into microfinance and basic health care for women and offered free sterilization and birth control, we could address the issue of population effectively without any coercion being necessary. We have the knowledge, we have effective tools, we just don't have the will.

If, worldwide, women only got pregnant when they wanted to, we would see population stabilize

I think that that's wishful thinking when it comes to some cultures, and in some areas; here's a link to an article in The Washington Post that gives another side of the story. The sisters who are the focus of this article certainly got pregnant when they wanted to, but it doesn't sound like they were thinking about the long-term consequences of their decisions. Hard to say how this kind of thinking by teenage girls can be changed in the short term.

It can be, as is shown by the differing teen pregnancy rates among different cultures...heck, even different neighborhoods.

In the US, the problem is often that young girls see no other future. They don't want to marry their children's fathers (usually recognizing that he's not good marriage material). But being a mother is the only way they can get respect in their communities. Some kids can look forward to going to college, embarking on a professional career, etc. as their passage to adulthood. The ones that can't do that are likely to look for the respect that a good mother gets.

If you have two kids, one of each gender, a welfare mom can get a 3-br apartment. A girl can manage that by 19 quite easily. How long was it before most college-educated kids had a 3-br domicile?

The central theme of living is reproduction. There have been various strategies for success. Reproduce prolifically hoping that statistically one/some of your progeny will be well adapted and survive or have fewer and concentrate on their survival and success. The competition on this planet for the last several billions of years has been to maintain a long chain of reproductive successes, not garner the most pleasure or create a great anthill without a mass of future progeny occupying it. The only dynamic order that can escape the ravages of time is life. All of the other order, including all human creations will be dust in short order. Too bad we’re destroying life’s incubator.

The right question to ask is one you cannot ask. You cannot ask your unborn child if they want to be born. What an awesome decision to bring a human to life. We cannot know what kind of life they will have. At this point in my life I can't think of any good reason to bring a human into being. Of course evolution doesn't want us to think that way so most people cannot think those thoughts - I didn't when I chose to have children. Evolution not only gives us strong urges to have sex but also strong urges to have children. I remember after birth control freed women up to enter the work force, have a career. Then all of a sudden a bunch of career women starting saying "my biological clock is ticking" and suddenly they MUST have a child before it is too late.

We have parts of our brain that make decisions and mostly our conscious brain just invents reasons to justify those decisions. Some just have kids without thinking much about it, but those who do talk about giving a child a good life. Since they cannot assure that if that is what they want to do they should go find a child who has a bad life, adopt it and at least try to give it a better life. But for most the imperatives of our genes get us to bring children of our own line into the world, not knowing what kind of life they will have.

We think that death is bad and we avoid it as long as we can. But every time we birth a child we create a being that in the end must die. The act of giving birth in fact dooms that newly born baby to death. Best not to say such things around a new mother who will refuse to look that far into the potential future of her newborn. It is a truth that would not be well received.

Roger, copy all. Due to the inability of the vast majority of H. Sapiens to think long-term and collectively, and the inability to overcome their reptilian brain instincts, humanity and the Earth are doomed to zoom to population booms/busts/booms/busts...or maybe we just zoom to 10B+ and slowly increase from that level ever on, with no bust/dieoff, with the World being one big scene from Soylent Green.

Meanwhile, let's tune in to the boob tube and watch some re-runs of 'John and Kate Plus Eight', 'Eight is Enough', or 'The Brady Bunch'. or 'Cheaper by the Dozen'. The celebration of inappropriately large numbers of offspring is firmly ingrained in our society.

The more proactively Darwinian approach is to coerce OTHER people into not having kids, not to stop having them yourself. Kinda like cap and trade -- you go first, so I can go last.

Kinda like cap and trade

Hmm, there might be something for everybody in a cap and trade scheme for population control. We set an upper limit on the number of babies allowed per year in the population as a whole and you have to buy credits. The free marketeers would like it since it would give rise to a nice new market opportunity (trading in baby credit derivatives anyone?). The Malthusians would like it since it acknowledges the need for population limits. The pro-reproduction people would like it (this may be a stretch), since it shows us how valuable our babies really are. The eugenics crowd might even like it since they only seem to mind the poor having babies.


Here's a scheme for "tradable birth rights"?

Each woman would be credited with 1.5 such "rights" in the form of guaranteed access to payment for birthing, food and education provided by the government for each "right", extending to age 18. If a woman wanted to have more than one child, she could buy one of those 1/2 "rights" which another woman didn't want to use in an open market for such "rights". If she wanted a third 3 child, she would need to purchase 2 of those 1/2 "rights" if she wanted those benefits from society. Adoptions would not be counted against the tradable rights, as the birth mother would have been libel for the "rights" units. Thus, each birth beyond the first would cost more money. The "free market" guys should love this one. It's the market approach, isn't it?

Note that Herman Daly proposed a scheme of "Birth Licenses" back in 1991.

E. Swanson

But the crux of the issue is dealing with those who procreate without permits.

I tend to agree that a permitting system would be nearly useless.

With the scheme I suggested, there's no "permit" involved. It's just that the mother becomes responsible for the excess costs to society for the extra children. In the US (and perhaps other developed nations as well), the State(s) provide a considerable support for children, such as schooling. I would increase that level of support for the first child to include the cost of health care, including the cost of pregnancy and delivery. After the first one, each additional child would cost the parents more, since the support from the State would no longer be provided free.

Of course, there would be those who would want to pump out as many kids as possible, but stopping that sort of anti-social activity, short of forced sterilization, would be next to impossible. I would hope that education and peer pressure would exert a strong influence on younger women, who now may think that having a kid is no big deal.

The ultimate goal would be to change the mind set of the public such that the idea of having many children is viewed as a big negative. One way to achieve this change in perception would be to essentially halt immigration, which represents about half of total US population growth. That alone would send a powerful message that the US is now FULL of people and that the days of "importing" more people to fill those empty spaces in flyover land are FINISHED.

E. Swanson

China has a supposedly effective way with enforcing their one-child rule. Since you can't very easily financially penalize a poor person for having more then one kid they do the next best thing. Many aspects of Chinese life require "permits": to rent a place to live, to take a job, to move to another city, etc. Break the rule and no permit. I'm not sure how extensive the "permit" process rules Chinese life but given communist rule it could be deep.

"Hmm, there might be something for everybody in a cap and trade scheme for population control."

Something like this has already been modestly proposed:


Ye Olde Modeste Proposal by Mssr. J. Swift??

a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled ...

Amazing he never got skewered for that one back in the 18th century.

We need a better name for it than "Cap and Trade" though. How about "Snack and Trade," or "Cap and Filet?"

-G, with apologies for juvenile humor.

I like how he keeps deferring to his "American friend" because of his expertise on the issue. He also presents himself as taking the reasonable middle ground, since he does not endorse the position of another friend that adolescents also be served up hot, but mostly because his American friend assures him that the meat of older children is rather tough.

Swift was the one doing the skewering of his colleagues with this withering satire.

Kinda like cap and trade

OT but every time I hear or see the words "cap and trade", the wonderful Hungarian expression "Faszkalap" comes to mind.

From the words "Fasz", slang for penis and "Kalap", hat or cap...

The expression is used to refer to someone who is an obnoxious asshat.

End of Hungarian class for today.

Best Of The Podcasts: Puplava Interview's Mangen On Oil (linked uptop)

He (Dennis Mangen) said that in terms of days of use, that crude oil is in the 99th percentile. This means that historically 99 percent of the time there has been less crude oil inventory that there is currently. It means that demand in the USA has fallen hard (there was one data point that indicated it was down 20% year over year for at least one week recently). Pretty darn bearish for oil. . .

I was thinking about reentering with oil back down into the 60s, but I think I'll just stand aside as long as the inventory is building.

I'm sure that Dennis was misquoted here. He must have been talking about recent five year or ten year numbers. Here is the EIA crude oil Days of Supply chart going back to 1982:

The following years refer to early December data points:

2009 was 336 mb, and only four of the 18 data points from 1992 forward were at 336 or higher. However, the industry basically went to a just in time inventory system in the early nineties.

From 1982 to 1991, only one data point was below 336 mb, all of the other nine data points were higher than 336 mb, and due to the lower crude oil inputs in this time frame, in terms of Days of Supply, the US had significantly more supply in the Eighties, as shown in the above chart.

Returning back to the 1992 to 2009 data, the average early December value in this time frame was 314 mb. Using 270 mb as the Minimum Operating Level (MOL), on average the industry in early December maintained about 3.1 Days of Supply in excess of MOL over this 18 year time period. For simplicity purposes, I am using 14 mb as the refinery input (note that the above EIA chart uses actual refinery inputs in the relevant time frames).

So the current crude oil inventory level is 4.7 Days of Supply in excess of MOL, or 38 hours of supply above the average for the past 18 years (for the first week of December).

Incidentally, in regard to the blogger's comments about crude inventories rising--since hitting a very high level of 375 mb in early May, 2009, usable US commercial crude oil inventories, which are crude inventories less 270 mb, have fallen by 37%, from 105 mb to 66 mb.

It's great to see the NoD of oil inventory is going back up -- but the probability of disruption of oil supply lasting a month goes up with time. I guess we can look at "risk" (NoD x probability) and see if we really are that much better of.

An economic diversion.

Been reading how Woody Brock analyses both oil price (incl. future risks) and expected inflation (price type, not the money quantity type).

He is Peak Oil (easy oil) aware, but probably necessarily fluent in geology/recovery issues. As such, apply salt where required.

I can recommend the following for everyone interested in trying to understand oil price and inflation, esp. related to so called money printing (sic).

The Truth about Energy Prices and Volatility - The Role of Four Structural Changes (Woody Brock)

Inflation/Deflation Debate - The Truth via a "Socratic Debate,"
November 2009 (duration: 40 min.)


After having read a gazillion of half-assed, politically slanted (leftist this/capitalist-pig that) and over-simplified models and trying to reconcile them with incongruent data from the field, I have not found anything approximating satisfactory explanation.

Brock's ideas are to my humble mind one of the best I've come across: wide ranging, systemic, and yet not overly complex trying to over-fit too many variables.

Then again, if you believe in terminal no-stopping decline starting (2008-2012ish), then this material probably serves you of no use for your time horizon. And I don't mean that in a disparaging way, you could be right, I don't know. My crystal ball is still broken, so I have to proceed with multiple hypothesis myself.

P.S. Brock was one of the economists who saw credit/leverage/mortgage meltdown risk years in advance, FWIW.

For all: Another example of how overreaching, even when your proposition is true, hurts your efforts.

The above article pointing out the dislocation of X number of folks in S. La. as a result of "rising waters" is obviously meant to highlight sea level changes due to global warming. Beside having dealt with Gulf Coast geology for almost 40 years I also grew up in New Orleans. The coast line of La. has been subject to being over run by the seas for more then 30 milion years. It's called subsidence. I've drilled rocks over 3 miles down that were once in 5" of water. In other words, the equivalent of a "relative" sea level rise of many miles and not just centemeters.

When sea level rises across the globe more land will be inundated in S. La then would have happened from continued subsidence alone. But to use it as a poster child for AGW just gives the denilists a weapon to use agaisnt the argument. Better to use Florida IMHO: it sits on a rather stable carbonate platform.

It might make some sense if the appropriate caveats are used. You can use souther louisiana as an example of an area with effect SLR similar to what the rest of the world will soon experience. That is the appropriate way to use it.

Excellent point EOS. But they still may run into a problem with time frames. They might talk to some 60 yo coonass who can point to his birth home that now has 10 inches of sea water in his old bedroom. But then folks wold think: "Hell. He had 60 years to move. Not like he was in any danger of drowning. And his grandkids never lived in that house so they aren't missing anything. In fact, they enjoy fishing around it today".

And that's an argument I've been surprised hasn't been coming from the semi-denilist: "Even if sea level rises folks will have enough time to adjust". Not that simple, of course. But it wouldn't be the easiest point to counter IMHO.

Hell. He had 60 years to move. Not like he was in any danger of drowning. And his grandkids never lived in that house so they aren't missing anything. In fact, they enjoy fishing around it today".

Only thats not the way it goes down. They build the levy a bit higher... and hang on. Then someday a big storm, say a 25year storm that will happen about once every twentyfive years comes along and overtops the levy, and you get an event like New Orleans. So the year on year risk of a catstrophic event creeps up a little every year, but people don't get the message until the big one hits.

EOS -- That cajun had his house flooded three times in the last 50 years. That's life in the bayous. Didn't matter whether the last storm was due to AGW or not. But the key I focused on was subsidence. As I said, using S. La. as an argument for the dangers of AGW is a loosing proposition. And that isn't to say AGW isn't real but IMHO it's critical to not give the denilists any edge in the debate. Hurricanes will wipe out portions of S. La and the sea level will rise due to subsidence even if AGW exists or not.

Rockman...please start your own thread rather than replying to someone else's comment and hijacking their thread. Use the "post a comment" link, rather than hitting "reply" - unless, of course, you actually are replying to someone else's comment.

Sorry Leanan...didn't think I did that but maybe I wasn't paying attention.

According to zFacts.com, the Federal debt is presently $12.206 trillion growing at $4 billion a day. The increase in the Federal debt limit next week to $13.9 trillion is required because a delay would stop the Government from spending since it is over the $12.1 trillion debt ceiling now. The $1.1 trillion spending bill to be passed today only guarentees a further increse at the end of 2010.
FED bailouts (residual losses) , Freddie and Fanny losses and debts need to be added, to the Federal debt. If added the effective Federal debt could be as high as $20 trillion. The debt to GDP ratio in the real world, not the mickey mouse Washington spin, would put the US ratio higher than Greece. Those trillions of derivitives based on real estate going up are lossers and whoever paid face value is in the hole. Just because the Federal Govenment doesn't want to disclose or admit what it did, does not mean it doesn't count IMO.

Are the GOV breaking the law right now? I thought the current debt limit is 12.1T and they are pretty much passed that.
The Democrats want to put the ceiling up to 13.9T so that they don't have to re-visit the number before the next presidential election. What the point of having the ceiling if they kept raising it up whenever they felt like it.
Of course, like you mentioned --- not accounting a bunch of other hidden money that the FED & Treas used to back-stop FHA/FNM/FRE and many other banks & industries. If things start to unwind further and most of us here do believe in limit to growth -- this whole pile of craps are going to hit us when we least can afford.

Are the GOV breaking the law right now?

Almost certainly not. As they get close, there are several accounting maneuvers that can be used to, IIRC, juggle a couple hundred billion dollars worth of stuff around so that they don't actually cross the limit. Again IIRC, such juggling carried the last Bush administration for several weeks.

A few years ago when I was still in business, I had to go up to Lower Lake, California, to deliver some test equipment. I stayed overnight in Middletown, and looked around for touristy things to do. There wasn't much, so I ended up going to about their only attraction, but a real gem, the free tour of the CalPine geothermal plant. It was cool! The temperatures and pressures they deal with, and the sulfur coming out of the process like a mass of tofu into a Dumpster-like container, are not to be missed. They ended up having to inject wastewater back down into the ground to keep the steam up, it's just fascinating. I don't know if they ever ran this thing at a profit, I also don't know if they're still even in business. That's a very geothermally active area, for some people the ditch along the road is a hot tub that's always on, and there's even a town called Guyserville.

fleam -- An odd thing about that story of failed Fed subsidized efforts at the Geysers Geothermal Recovery project: no mention of the fact that my former company was drilling and generating electricity there over 30 years ago. Met one of our geologist out there once. All I can remember was his telling me how difficult the driling was.

Don't know how their economics worked out but I wouln't be sureprised if it was a total failure. And it might have been the company and not the idea that failed. These are the same folks who spent $550 million in the U.S. to develop $40 million of oil/NG during the late 70's boom.

It looks like they were trying Enhanced Geothermal, which looks cool in this DOE animation.


Apparently you have to drill down 6 kilometers/ 4 miles.


Eh. I still think it looks cool.
They should have tried it in Nevada where they don't have as many earthquakes.


maj -- Their EG method is nothing new. Been tried at least 30 years ago. Not my area but two general types of thermal recovery projects: inject surface water into the rocks for the heat gain and produced natural hot water(steam) from the rocks. The problem with the EG method is simple: OTOH such a well is very expensive to drill. But even more important is that's it's basicly a heat transfer cycle: extract the heat from the rocks and they cool off. Cooled rocks don't have heat left to tarnsfer. The heat flow through rocks is much too slow to replenish the rocks around the well in a meaningful time frame. I'm sure some of our smarter folks can throw some numerical values.

They should have tried it in Nevada where they don't have as many earthquakes.

Actually, it is pre-existing stresses in the rocks that matter. They can be present in areas where earthquakes are very rare. I doubt that any major earthquakes will be set off, by small local ones. These things probably got to be located far enough from where small local quakes will cause damage.

I'd say it's all negative EROEI and I'd say it's also the same for nuclear, count it all up and you'll see a tremendous amount of oil energy goes into a nuke plant for everything, and a bit of power comes out.

Might well be fleam. Lot's of "solutions" look interesting at first. And then some ass who knows a lot about that a particular situation throws out realistic numbers and ruins it for all of us. Don't you just hate those folks?

Personally, I still think we might prevent PO by capturing all those sheep farts in New Zealand. As yet no one has taken the time to do the math to prove me wrong. So there!!!

Great link rat...thanks. The history didn't mention the company I worked for (Natomas). Probably because they weren't any better at managing the Geysers then they were at the oil/NG biz. It's a far different method then the EG mentioned in the article. Probably a large magma chamber close to the surface and abundant ground water for steam production. I' not sure if I've ever heard of anyone succeeding with dry rock geothermal.

I have read a bit on GTE, and from what I have seen the problems come in what it does to the water, direct loss, and so forth. There would have to be some other way to extract the heat and bring it up to use in a truly closed system hydro thermal dynamic. IMO that technology is not here yet...

does anyone know anything to the contrary?

That's the place all right! The tour is a blast if you're a geek.

I'm curious to learn how often forum members replace their PCs and laptops and whether the "refresh rate" has increased, decreased or remained about the same. And is four or five year old hardware still "good enough" to meet your needs?

I ask this because I'm in the process of gathering up a lot of "stuff" that's been tucked away in closets and I'm somewhat taken back by the volume of electronic waste I've generated over the years. I've tried not to replace anything that still works, e.g., my desktop which I retired yesterday is seven years old and the one prior to that is five. Whatever I have that does work will be donated to charity (assuming anyone still wants a 400 MHz Pentium II with 128 MB of RAM) and the rest will head off to a computer recycler for proper disposal.

Rather than by new, as has been my past practice, I bought a four year old ThinkPad and docking station from a local computer reseller. A few months ago, I picked up another ThinkPad on ebay at an exceptionally good price. Both will likely provide several more years of good service and by going this route I can avoid adding additional waste to the landfill.

One other benefit... in normal day-to-day operation, the T42 draws about 25-watts at full screen brightness and the R60e roughly 20-watts. My desktop averaged 57-watts at idle and upwards of 100-watts under heavier loads. When you add in the monitor, the combined load was generally in the range of 100-watts. As a rough guess, retiring the desktop will reduce our electricity needs by 300 or more kWh a year.


I just replaced my desktop, which was 8 years old.

Hi Frugal,

I was hoping to squeeze a few more years out of my Dell Dimension 8250. It's equipped with a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 -- no speed demon by any means, but nothing I run now is CPU intensive. The hard drive is 30 GB which is small by today's standards, but perfectly adequate for my needs (still have oodles of free space available). The killer for me is the memory; it has 512 MB of Rambus RDRAM. This memory is relatively expensive and difficult to source and for what I would pay to bump that up to 2 Gigs I bought a good quality used ThinkPad with 3 Gigs of RAM.

After seven years of fairly heavy use I figured it could very well be nearing the end of its nominal life and I didn't want to invest a lot of dollars upgrading the memory when something could fail at anytime (had it been standard DRAM we wouldn't be having this conversation).


Although my wife has a three year old Dell, I'm still using my 10 year old Compaq laptop with Windows 98. On startup it says I haven't updated my virus program for 108 months.

I can't update anything (who supports Windows 98 any more) but it works for me. However, forget about things like video.

Being cheap, I'll probably use it until it either won't work at all or dies. As a back-up I still have my XT clone in the garage with the giant 20 Meg hard drive (and it still is amazing what could be done with what is now a laughable amount of disc space).


I'm still running Win 98 on my usual machine. I tried to upgrade to Win 2000 a couple of years back, only to learn that the upgrade wiped out most of my old programs. I still like Word Perfect 8, with it's clean, fast interface. I don't need MS Word to tell me what I should be writing. I'm using my "new" machine with Win 2000 at the moment, while defraging the HD on the Win 98 machine. Both are hooked to a DSL modem and Win 98SE WILL display video...

Up in the attic, I still have 2 Compaq 286 portables. You might remember the suitcase sized boxes with the little green CRT's. Just for hysterical purposes, since the hard drives were pulled. Then, there's the old yellow character mono CRT and the Amdek high res BW monitor I used for a project 20 years back. I really liked the Sun 21 inch CRT sitting on my desk, but it's become flaky, so now it sits behind an LCD, which is already outdated as it has the CRT aspect ratio, not the latest HDTV 1028 whatever.

They call it "Progress"...

E. Swanson

There are some great Linux/Unix/BSD ports out there, and personally I'm on a first-version Mac Cube lent to me, that does what it needs to do.

Back when I was in business, I was getting a new Mac every couple of years.

When (if) I get my cash flow back up to a level where it's possible, I may look at getting a newer used mac, an iBook would be nice because they're portable, low power consumption, and the keyboards are NICE even if they get full of gunk and ants, you can type like lightning on 'em.

In reality, it'll probably come down to using this while the System crashes, and relating to people more in real life, anyone remember that? Incidentally that's why I took my blog down, it's a big waste of time for me and for the readers.


I've also got an old Micron PC purchased from the US gov surplus for $48 plus shipping. There is a Government website which auctions all sorts of military surplus, the biggest problem I ran into was the shipping. I added a used HD and fixed the bad fan and it works fine. I've loaded Corel Linux on it to see what that's like. I just downloaded Firefox for Linux to add to the mix. I may hook that one to my DSL router for more fun and games. You can find various flavors of Linux for a few bucks on eBay and I suspect that a Linux system would not need as much speed compared to a Windows based resource hog.

BTW, I may have purchased some used equipment from you a few years back. By chance, did you sell surplus electronics on eBay?

E. Swanson

Yeah I probably sold you some stuff.

I probably sold you stuff, the artist who put that ugly egg sculpture in "egg park" in palo alto stuff, the BTK killer stuff, a lot of people stuff. I had well over 10,000 sales in fact I think it was closer to 20,000 since my feedback was about 8k and I had a lot of repeat buyers.

All gone now.

The come-down in life has been amazing. I mean, right now, Wire-Nuts are high-tech for me.

I hope what you bought from me worked out for you, it ALWAYS put a smile on my face to know a customer was happy, as cutthroat as EvilBay was/is.

Hi BD,

I've used every version of WordPerfect beginning with 3.0 for the DEC Rainbow. Having been dragged kicking and screaming into Word and Excel I've just now finished rebuilding the last of my Quattro Pro spreadsheets (most of the formulae were trashed in the process). I feel like I've betrayed a lifelong friend.


My last "real" job used WordPerfect and Excel. The staff there used to be WordPerfect and Quattro, but some version of Quattro several years back came out with serious bugs (AIUI, some formulas simply produced obviously wrong results) and they switched to Excel. At some point during my three legislative sessions there, I heard everyone on the staff, including the most mild-mannered, cursing at some aspect of WordPerfect that was broken.

Some of the draft statutes that we prepared included tables with a couple thousand rows; I remember on more than one occasion leaving the building and walking around the block at 10:30 in the evening because I had to add a row in the middle of the table, and knew that WordPerfect was going to trash at least several dozen formulas that I would have to find and repair. It took some mental preparation before hitting the "insert row" button.

WordPerfect would have been dropped long ago, except that the entire document management database system for the legislature is based on it, and there are several million pages of material that would have to be accurately converted.

The "old geek" part of me found it enormously frustrating to deal with such issues, since they were all "solved problems" with the UNIX document management tools back in the early 1980s.

WordPerfect really lost it when they sold out to the Canadians... they started in Provo, UT, and for years were the best and most stable platform out there. I guess it was Novel who bought them? Anyhow, I had to quit WP, and went to Word. Then I got a laptop that has Vista and I hate it! Now I am being asked to pay money to replace a junk OS... so out of spite I have installed Open Office Suite, and am running that. It has a few quirks, sure, and I love the idea of not paying Microsoft for it! I won't replace Vista, even though it is a crap program. One of these days I will probably switch to Mac.

One of the reasons I decided not to buy a new computer is that I didn't want to give Microsoft any more money. The two second hand computers I purchased both came with licenced copies of Windows XP Pro and Office 2007, so this is my way of giving the nice folks in Redmond the finger.

I developed a lot of custom forms processing and document management applications in PerfectScript over the years and the guys and gals in Provo (and Orem) were really very kind to me. My experience working with the Corel Professional Services group? Best not to convey my feelings publicly.


Post-Katrina I bought a Mac Mini, $599 plus cost of more memery (2 Mb I installed myself). Lowest power consumption of any full function computer then, lower now. Laptop components in a better cooled small box (roughly 15 cm x 15 cm x 5 cm).

I use corded keyboard & mouse (with UPS plugged into surge protector plus whole house surge protection). Just recently upgraded monitor to Sony Bravia 22" (45 watts I believe) that I also use as a TV when I need to watch (Geaux Saints !).

Found old copy of Office for Mac at thrift store.

I am thinking of buying refurbished new Mac Mini for two reasons. I NEED my computer and cannot afford to wait for replacement and I could use (less annoying) 4 Mb of memory for running Windows with Mac OS X (some few programs require Windows).

Best Hopes for Apple Quality,


Hi Alan,

That's why I have two laptops as well -- I can't afford a hardware issue bringing my work to a screeching halt and waiting one or more days for the problem to be resolved. I synchronize the data between the two each evening and once a week create a backup that's stored off-site.

The T42's internal screen is SXGA+ (1400 x 1050) which is generally large enough for what I do. However, I have an LCD monitor that's 1920 x 1200 and when working with wide format spreadsheets or two page layouts I'll switch over to that. I've set the screen brightness to "0" which is admittedly dim but still adequate. The power consumption at this lowest setting is 20-watts (at "20", it's 30-watts). So, altogether -- laptop, external monitor and DSL modem -- we're looking at about 45-watts.


I'll second the Mac Mini, I'm very fond of mine. It's the one piece of hardware Apple sells that doesn't seem to have less expensive competition. Dell's new Zino is similar in philosophy, somewhat larger in size (about 20x20x8 cm) and AFAICT, there's no choice but to pay the Microsoft tax. But by the time you configure a Zino to match the Mini, there's not that much difference in price. And I'm willing to pay Apple a bit more because I can walk into any of the Apple Stores and get advice from someone who knows the system well.

Office for Mac is problematic for me. The newest version doesn't include Visual Basic in any of the apps, which can be a problem particularly for certain Excel things. The Office for Mac team at MS has committed to restoring VBA in the next "major release" of Office for Mac, which will probably be in 2012. If I recall their announcement correctly, that VBA will provide "at least as much functionality as Office for Mac 2004"; no commitment to a full implementation of the language/libraries. Unfortunately, the Windows-version of Excel has become the "common computational platform" for too many groups.

Sun's VirtualBox is free and runs fine on the Mini. I have two VB virtual machines set up that I can run when needed, one for Windows and one for Linux. As Alan says, there are some programs that require Windows. And while OSX is UNIX-like (a modified Berkeley compatibility layer over Mach), there are enough differences that even with source code porting some UNIX/Linux programs can be painful.

WordPerfect really lost it when they sold out to ...

Actually, Bill Gates killed WordPerfect when he came out with his Office Suite bundle.
That killed two birds with one stone: IBM's OS/2 and WP.
Neither was able to bounce back fast enough.

The formatting of WordPerfect documents is stream based and many of the problems can be tied to "poor housekeeping"; that is to say, not cleaning out old unwanted codes. Not to suggest there weren't any bugs, but Word has had its share of problems in this respect too. I've worked with thousand page documents in WordPerfect that would bring Word to its knees.

BTW, before editing very large tables, first turn off the auto recalculation function (Table-Calculate-Off); when done, turn it back on. If you do this, there's no degradation in performance whatsoever.


Yep. I spent hours cleaning out old codes ("reveal codes" is not only your friend, it's a necessity). Codes in tables are a whole 'nother set of problems, since they can be attached to any of the text in a cell, the cell itself, the row, the column, or the entire table. Always interesting to delete a code buried in a table and watch the entire document from that point on change font and size.

We never enabled auto recalculation. Still had cases in big tables where inserting a new blank row in the middle of a table caused WordPerfect to mangle formulas in places as far as a couple hundred rows away. A typical case was that a formula that summed over a range that included the new row -- say, +SUM(A37:A231) -- would have the relevant row number mangled. For this example, inserting one new row in the middle of that range might result in the formula being changed to something like +SUM(A37:A2345). There was no consistent pattern (at least that I could discern) to which formulas got trashed or the wrong values that were substituted.

One of my dream apps is a spreadsheet like front end tied to a real database to do all the calculations. Its a bit amazing that one of the most sensible apps which is a good easy to use spread sheet like front end running against a remote db does not exist.

One of the problems is of course the cost of updating the display and shipping all the data back and forth so it has its problems but still this is manageable with the right protocol and user interface. A spreadsheet like interface is a natural for disabling blocks temporarily that are waiting for update and can be grayed out. VNC for spreadsheets.

Anyway its always been a problem I've had some interest in as we have easy ways to provide a tremendous amount of computing power yet we don't use it.

Perhaps the desire to be able to work offline despite the performance problems still overrides the work needed to do it a better way.

I've never encountered any issues with table math before, so I'll see if I can reproduce what you described on my system (WP8-SP3); I appreciate the opportunity to explore this with you in greater detail.

As you likely already know, when documents are edited by multiple users and these users have different printer drivers, font sets, style sheets and various other default settings, all of this information is stored within the document container. This can result in serious file bloat, sluggish operation and, occasionally, peculiar behaviour. The first thing I do when I receive a file from a third party is open a new document window, insert a hard page break, insert the source file into the new document, delete the temporary page break and save the new file to disk -- I've seen file sizes cut by more than half. Also, if these files are edited in Word at any point along the way and resaved in WordPerfect format, you can have a real mess on your hands.


Hi Todd,

I bought a ThinkPad 770Z in March of 1999 and for basic internet use and simple word processing it would still do the trick. Windows 98, 366 MHz Pentium II processor, 128 MB of RAM, 14 GB hard disk and, IMHO, one of the nicest keyboards ever built. Although laughable by today's standards, I'd still be tapping away at that keyboard if the main board hadn't died.

Twenty-five years ago I had to have the latest and greatest and didn't think twice about the consequences. Today, I like to think of myself as a little wiser.


It is a hard one. Different components last differing amounts of time, really, but as long as the machine is doing what you need it to, there probably isn't an absolute need to replace the thing just because it is old.

Hard drives are one of the more failure-prone components, but even then they can last for years and replacements are generally still compatible with the older machines (the new ones are probably quite a bit larger than the old ones however).

It is of course possible to open up a computer or a laptop - laptops are trickier, but it isn't impossible (I had to swap out a keyboard on my old thinkpad once). In the old days, we used to build our machines from components that we bought at the local PC shop, and to an extent many components are still replaceable in this manner. LCD displays go bad from time to time, but I have been able to find replacements online. Again the trick is to figure out which screws to remove to get the thing apart.

Laptops can start to fail in weird ways if they overheat, and as they get older the problem gets worse. You can help avoid this by using compressed air to blow the dust out of the thing from time to time (there should be vents and a fan on the sides/back/bottom somewhere - blow the air in there). In extreme cases, you may have to open up the case to clean the thing. I have an officemate who unbeknownst to him had his cat sleep on top of his laptop when he wasn't around. Probably because the thing was warm, I guess. But the upshot was that the internals were clogged pretty badly with cat hair, and they had to open it up to clean it out.

The major component that I have failures with for a laptop are the batteries. Eventually they lose the ability to hold a charge, and you have to get a new one. If you leave the laptop on a charger all the time, it makes the problem a little worse. But if you never take the laptop off the charger, it won't matter whether the battery is any good or not.

Regarding the memory issue, I guess the one comment I have is that something like Ubuntu Linux runs in a *lot* less memory that any flavor of Windows. No need for anti-virus programs, which is actually an important consideration. Older machines won't support newer versions of Windows, and thus you no can longer get security updates, and are more vulnerable to viruses.

I recently picked up an HP mini - it was a reconditioned unit, and I got it for 199$. I put Ubuntu on it, and we are using it as a portable notebook/laptop that we take with us when we go out of town. A lot lighter than the full-sized laptops we both have for work, and it only draws about 20 watts.

I think you're right. Portability isn't a huge requirement for me, but the ability eject the laptop from its docking station, throw it on the backseat and head off to a meeting knowing everything I need is right there is a nice plus. The built-in battery also eliminates the need for an external UPS and presumably helps protect the unit from the vulgarities of our power system. Now that the performance and price gap has all but disappeared, I don't expect to buy another desktop again.

On Friday, I ordered this external keyboard:


I can't function without a TrackPoint and this eliminates the need for a separate mouse that takes your hands away from where they belong and there's no f'n touch pad to send the cursor flying off in all directions whenever your palm inadvertently grazes it. For $68.00 CDN, it's too good to pass up.


I never use anti-virus programs. The first thing I do when I get a new computer is remove the pre-installed anti-virus software. More trouble than it's worth.

I don't recommend that everyone do this. If you share your computer with kids, or clueless parents, or a spouse who loves looking for pr0n in the Internets, you probably need protection. But I'm the only one using my computer. I have it set so I can see the file extensions, and I don't open executable attachments. I use Firefox with NoScript. I have Zone Alarm and WinPatrol installed. But no anti-virus software. And I've never had a problem.

One more I forgot. Cooling fans oftentimes fail, and when they do you don't really notice because the machine keeps functioning, at least for a while. But it just runs hotter and hotter as dust accumulates, and the heat eventually can cause component failures or flakey behavior.

A PC can have several. There might be one large one on the case itself, and then there might be a smaller one attached directly to the heat sink on the CPU.

Sometimes the fan just needs a drop of oil in the right spot - other times bearings are sealed and you have to pitch it and get another.

Cooling fans are generally pretty cheap and easy to replace - esp for a desktop.

Unless you get a Dell, in which case it will tell you every time you turn on the computer that the fan needs replacing. The only way to shut it off is to replace the fan with another Dell fan (a different brand will work, but won't shut off the warning message). The replacement fans are cheap, but it's a pain because the shipping costs more than the fan.

It's not like the denizens of this place need to upgrade hardware all the time to play the latest-greatest 3d games. They are all still playing Doom.

I have been through 4 laptops since 1992. All but the first, a 386 running DOS only, were linuxed at one point or another. No needless automated upgrades that force you to buy a new machine without Windows around. I hope my current T61 Thinkpad (running Slackware 12.1) lasts for at least a decade. I just bought a backup hard drive to keep for a rainy day, since they seem to be the weak link as far as parts that wear out quickest.


I am keeping my computers longer these days. I used to upgrade every four years, then it went to every five years. I recently bought a new desktop; it replaces a computer that is six years old.

To be honest, I would probably have upgraded sooner, except I hate Vista. I was waiting for Windows 7. However, my feeling is that computers really do last longer these days, at least as far as obsolescence goes. I can run most new software without a problem on my old computer (the exceptions being certain games and 3d graphics programs). You couldn't run new software on a six-year-old computer back in the '90s.

I replaced the computer because I do use some of that software, and because I've heard (and it's been my experience) that electronics tend to fail at seven years.

As for what to do with my old computer...I'm still transferring files off it. But when I'm done, I'll probably donate it.

Hi Leanan,

That's my sense as well. Moving from an 8080 processor to a 286 or a 286 to 486 was a big step up on the performance curve but any PC built in the last five and perhaps even the last ten years can easily handle basic e-mail and internet and run standard business applications provided that it has sufficient memory. I don't play computer games unless that "cat bowling" thing from a few years back counts, do CAD or work with high end video. As noted above, if there were an inexpensive way to bump up the memory on my desktop it would be still be doing its thing until it died.


I was able to get by with "handmedowns" given to me by friends until 3 years ago. It meant frequent HD crashes and parts swapping. Finally needed to upgrade to something that would handle photos and videos, so I found a high end refurbished at walmart online for about the same price as a new bestseller. I expect it to last 10 years. Agree antivirus is more trouble than it's worth. Still using an old 18" CRT monitor, which I think has a better picture than LCD's.

Good for watching videos like this:

STS-129 launch video highlights as compiled by the SE&I imagery team here at JSC from all of the ground, air, ET and SRB assets.

Listen close, and you can hear the explosive bolts detonating at liftoff.

One of my other strong interests is in computer security (much like our buddy Stuart Staniford). You would be amazed at how ingenious the guys pushing malware are these days.

It isn't just games, porn, or attachments from people you don't know - that's old school. Things like pdf files or flash videos can be infected with malware, for example, and some flavors of malware target web servers and then try to infect any downloads. And the malware oftentimes uses several techniques to get past defenses - it might utilize one particular vulnerability to sort of bootstrap one bit of malware on the machine, and once it is in, it will invite all of its friends in for a party.

Or it could be that you are on a wifi network and the guy sitting next to you is infected with something that is trying to probe your machine for vulnerabilities. If you aren't current with respect to updates from Microsoft, you can get infected. Newer versions of windows use a firewall to help block this crap, but if you have this turned off you can be screwed.

Or you might be sharing a flash drive with a client in order to copy a document over. One annoyance of Windows is how it is promiscuous WRT whenever you insert media - it is more than happy to try and autorun from that media, and that's a common method these days for malware to get copied around. It is possible to disable autorun in windows, but Microsoft doesn't make it easy.

Experienced users can oftentimes avoid infections for years, but all it takes is one slipup and you have hassles galore.

Yeah, AV is a pain. If you don't like having to deal with it, then I would suggest that you run something like Mac or Linux. There just isn't much malware out there which targets those platforms. Windows seems to be *slowly* getting better, but it still has a long ways to go.

There is a columnist for the Washington Post who now recommends that people not use Windows for online banking any more. Mac or Linux is better, or you can use a boot CD.


There are businesses that have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of malware that is used to steal the passwords to their online bank accounts. Yes, it is really that bad out there.

Yeah, if you're bringing home thumb drives (or floppies, back in the day) or sharing a network (wired or wireless), you do need to be careful. But I don't do any of that. (And I have autorun disabled, just because I find it freakin' annoying.) Using Firefox and WinPatrol blocks a lot of the drive-by download stuff.

Experienced users can oftentimes avoid infections for years, but all it takes is one slipup and you have hassles galore.

True, but it's not like anti-virus software is the answer there. Often, it's new threats, not yet included in anti-virus packages, that cause the big headaches.

That's why they sell subscriptions - to keep the AV definitions uptodate, and the tools auto-update on a regular basis. Yeah, on the one hand AV software is essentially a band-aid. I guess my feeling is that if you don't want to be bothered with this stuff, get a Mac or run Linux.

There are infected PDF files out there:


and I am willing to bet that lots of folks at TOD read pdf files in one form or another on a very regular basis. But how often do you check for and apply updates to the Adobe reader?

That's why they sell subscriptions - to keep the AV definitions uptodate, and the tools auto-update on a regular basis.

Yeah, but the update comes too late. After it's a problem, then they issue the update. Antivirus programs are useless against things like this, for example. At least so far.

I guess my feeling is that if you don't want to be bothered with this stuff, get a Mac or run Linux.

Not possible for me.

And not necessary. I do have some security software installed. Just not anti-virus software. Just not worth it for me. Might be different for someone else.

I am willing to bet that lots of folks at TOD read pdf files in one form or another on a very regular basis. But how often do you check for and apply updates to the Adobe reader?

I have that set to auto-update, just for convenience's sake. If you have even a slightly outdated version, you can't even read a lot of PDFs, so you have to update.

From the very first article:

[the Obama geothermal development project] which had raised hopes that the earth’s bedrock could be quickly tapped as a clean and almost limitless energy source.

Whose hopes exactly were raised for yet another quick, "clean and almost limitless energy source?" WTF?

Wow, the oil age certainly has spoiled many people (none here of course) as far as expecting VAST returns on every little "alternative energy" project. How many times will our cornucopian MSM overhype every marginal idea out there for what to do for energy post-PO? How long will this reaction persist as we surf the downward slope of energy depletion?

Nobody, well almost nobody, buys claims like that about used cars, or about investment opportunities (OK, Bernard Madoff and the housing bubble, but still the first people through those mills were getting good returns on flipping houses and stealing from other of Madoff's victims). It continually astounds me how few people get the basic laws of physics -- you don't EVER get something for nothing.

end rant

you don't EVER get something for nothing.

Except for fossil fuels and the original biosphere, which has now degraded.

Yeah, and that one time only windfall is now treated as the baseline scenario...

The push for 350: Contradictions and carbon levels

The last time the Earth had 350 ppm of carbon dioxide in the air was a generation ago, in the fall of 1989. This year CO2 pushed over the 390 level. When scientists started measuring carbon dioxide in 1958 it was 315.


IANS) Forests and soils in the US could soak up additional quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) and mitigate climate change, says a new estimate.

The 48 US states can potentially store an additional three to seven billion tonnes of carbon, if farmlands were converted into forests. This is equivalent to two to four years of its current CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Nice choice - burn or starve. As someone said on another discussion "this is why there are so many doomists"

Need to have more year round photosynthesis.

evergreen trees and shrubs ... cover crops after harvests .. roof top , parking lot, highway greenery ...

plus reduce the burning of fossil fuels

Hey! Can we eat trees? Fillet of Pine Plank with a nice Maple Salad?

And, I am not a doomist. Realist, yes. Same results, different discussion.

You can pretty much eat an elm tree.

We used to have elm trees on every street. They arched across, meeting in the middle, like a lengthy cathedral. Beautiful, until Dutcy ELm Disease wiped them out.

Elm trees are very good at a few things.

(1) Arching across. Really!
(2) Making seed clusters that are yummy at all stages of maturity
(3) Dropping sugar all over my motorcycle - sweetest ride in town!

In 1938 National Geographic had a Fall picture of Fayetteville, Arkansas titled: "The most beautiful main street in America". More than 2 miles of Oak and Maple canopy making a tunnel over the 2 lane road. In the name of progress in 1953 all those trees were cut down to build a 4 lane road.

'Pave Paradise, put up a parking lot.' Joni Mitchell

A friend I e-mailed this to pointed out that due to starvation dieoff they reduce CO2 even further than they claim.

I think I am a realist, I am often dubbed a doomist. All futures are doom for humans since we are mortal. Some are earlier doom for humans but result in more preservation of species including the human one. One gets labeled a doomist whenever their vision of the future scares people out of their wits. But how scared people are doesn't change reality.

From ScienceDaily.com, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091210162222.htm

The item does not detail the technology, and claims it will produce butanol from atmospheric CO2, using sunlight as its energy source.

Nice touch. It reduces atmospheric CO2 AND replace gasoline... of course, if you burn it in an ICE, it turns back into CO2, but at least it is neutral - in theory.

Worth watching for. My fear: it will take far too long to develope, or far too long to create significant butanol.

It is iso-butanol anyway, which is a completely different animal. In the butanol process, you end up with normal butanol, which is what you want, and iso-butanol, which has less value. So you try to shift production to the normal variety. (I was a butanol engineer for seven years).

There is less data on using iso-butanol as fuel, but the bugs can produce higher titers. Funny thing was that I had a guy recently tell me adamantly that there were bugs producing 10% titers of butanol. I told him that this wasn't possible, as butanol phases out of water at under 8%. You can't produce a 10% titer (maybe at a really high temperature it might be possible, but I doubt it).

Edit: Looking at the story again, I see that this is James Liao doing this work. He taught my mass transfer class when he was at Texas A&M. He had a reputation among graduate students as being incredibly demanding of his students. One of his students told me that he often ended up working in the lab 60 hours a week (on top of taking classes!)

OMG...Robert is an Aggie. Explains much.

As is Westexas !

I, on the other hand, attended the best engineering school in Texas (hint, it is close to the State Capital).

Best Hopes for Tolerance for the less fortunate,


And think how screwed up I must be Alan: B.S. from Un. of New Orleans...grad school Texas A&M. Yep... a bit of culture shock going from the Quarter to College Station.