Drumbeat: December 17, 2009

Natural gas surges on record supply drop

NEW YORK — Natural gas prices jumped Thursday after the government reported that supplies fell by the largest amount ever for this time of year as frigid weather chilled parts of the Midwest and Northeast.

A wintry mix of rain and snow kept heaters cranked on high, consuming large stores of natural gas in some of the country's largest markets like Chicago.

Still, the amount of gas in storage remains 14 percent above the five-year average for this time of year.

OPEC Aims for Oil Above $70 a Barrel, Venezuela Says

(Bloomberg) -- OPEC aims for oil above $70 a barrel, Venezuelan Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said five days ahead of a meeting of the group in Luanda, Angola.

“It’s a fair price that allows investments to be maintained to keep supply and demand satisfied,” Rodriguez, a former president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, said today in an interview in Caracas.

Petrobras Cleared of Wrongdoing by Brazilian Senate

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Brazil’s state-controlled oil producer, was cleared of wrongdoing by a Senate committee investigating fraud allegations.

The Senate panel approved its final report in a vote today. The report recommended that Petrobras, as the Rio de Janeiro- based company is known, change some cost calculations and sponsorship practices.

Jordan Cover LNG terminal wins federal approval

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday approved plans for a proposed Coos Bay liquefied natural gas terminal.

The End of the Oil Age is Coming

Chuck Taylor has held senior management positions with Nabisco Brands, Ryder System Inc., Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad, Mercer Management Consultants, Tri Valley Growers, American National Can, ServiceCraft Logistics, and Norbridge Inc., and recently founded an organization called Awake! He founded Awake! out of concern the supply chain profession is not informed about the critical changes facing it with the end of cheap oil. One goal is to raise awareness so supply chain professionals will understand the stakes and take an active role in shaping energy policy.

John Michael Greer - The Political Ecology of Collapse, Part Two: Weishaupt's Fallacy

The systems movement, to coin a label for the heterogeneous group of thinkers and policy wonks that made systems theory its banner, had ambitions no less audacious than the neoconservatives, though aimed in a completely different direction. Their dream was world systems management. Such leading figures in the movement as Jay Forrester of MIT and Aurelio Peccei of the Club of Rome agreed that humanity's impact on the planet had become so great that methods devised for engineering and corporate management – in which, not coincidentally, they were expert – had to be put to work to manage the entire world.

The study that led to the 1973 publication of The Limits to Growth was one product of this movement. Sponsored by Peccei's Club of Rome and carried out by a team led by one of Forrester's former Ph.D. students, it applied systems theory to the task of making sense of the future, and succeeded remarkably well. As Graham Turner's study "A Comparison Of The Limits to Growth With Thirty Years of Reality" (CSIRO, 2008) points out, the original study's baseline "Standard Run" scenario matches the observed reality of the last three and a half decades far more exactly than rival scenarios.

It's not often remembered, though, that the Club of Rome followed up The Limits to Growth with a series of further studies, all basically arguing that the problems outlined in the original study could be solved by planetary management on the part of a systems-savvy elite. The same notions can be found in dozens of similar books from the same era – indeed, it's hard to think of a systems thinker with any public presence in the 1970s who didn't publish at least one book proposing some kind of worldwide systems management as the only alternative to a very messy future.

Iran slams U.S. as 'oil-addicted warmonger' at Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed the United States on Thursday as an oil-addicted warmonger and insisted all the world's nations should have access to "clean and renewable energy sources" including nuclear power.

"For about a century, oil has constitued the basic and strategic componenents of U.S. security foreign policy, the same role it played for the previous empires," Mr. Ahmadinejad said at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen.

"During this period, oil-rich regions of the world became the theatres of wars and military adventurism that led to foreign domination on their energy resources."

China welcomes U.S. climate cash offer

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - China said on Thursday a U.S. pledge to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate funds was a "good step," and signaled Beijing was seeking compromise with Washington on its demand for checks on Chinese emissions curbs.

Danish Students Say Design Drives Sustainable Behavior

COPENHAGEN — As negotiators gather in Copenhagen to mull the future of the planet, a Danish design school is mounting the argument that, as it relates to reducing the environmental impact of consumption, function follows form.

...“What drives people is their desire, and we don’t believe in telling people what to do or not to do,” said Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen, the school’s chancellor, during a tour of the exhibition. “But if we can talk to their heart, and present some beautiful and well designed products we can get a lot further when it comes to changing consumer habits in favor of the environment.”

He Delivers Christmas Trees for Rent

TORRANCE, Calif. — It is a nibble weird that a guy who describes his relationship to Christmas as “hostile” runs around greater Los Angeles in a floppy red Santa hat and answers his iPhone, “Merry Christmas, this is Scotty Claus!”

But bummed as false merriment and gift obligations render him, Scott Martin — landscape architect and tree hugger in a literal sense — was unnerved by the sight of post-Christmas trees lying about like so much discarded sausage casing.

What people really ought to do, he reasoned, was rent a Christmas tree, and return it, alive, to the nursery after the season.

Foes Unite to Support Bill on Old-Growth Forests

Calling a truce in a long and bitter battle, timber executives and environmentalists united Wednesday in supporting legislation to codify and expand current protections for old-growth forests on federal land in eastern Oregon.

Weather Device Also Tracks Greenhouse Gas

A satellite instrument designed to improve weather forecasts has provided a wealth of data on the flow of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, scientists said Tuesday.

The data also verified a mechanism in which rising temperatures increase the rate of ocean evaporation, and the increased water vapor, also a potent greenhouse gas, raises the earth’s temperatures further.

Unplugging from the world's power lines

London, England (CNN) -- You won't hear much about it in the vast conference halls of the Copenhagen climate change summit, but living "off-grid" -- beyond the water and power lines that intersect much of the modern world -- could hold a solution to some of the planet's worst environmental woes.

Initially adopted by hippies and environmental mavericks, the pioneering lifestyle has grown to attract thousands of devotees who choose to live completely independently of the local utilities power grid and instead generate their own electricity and water.

Some begin their off-grid quest out of environmental concerns and some see it as an antidote to rocketing energy prices and fears of economic collapse. Others simply want to be independent.

Oil, gas co's to hike new project spending-survey

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global spending on oil and gas exploration and production will rise 11 percent to $439 billion in 2010, reversing a drop in spending in 2009 as energy prices climb, according to a survey conducted by analysts at Barclays Capital.

The increase shown by the survey of 387 oil and gas producers follows the drop in spending of 15 percent in 2009 from the previous year, when oil prices reached a record high.

The Barclays' analysts said spending in the United States is expected to rise by 12 percent to $79 billion, while Canadian budgets will rise by 23 percent to $23 billion.

Outside North America, spending is expected to rise 10 percent to $337 billion, largely driven by national oil companies, the analysts said.

Fire halves Suncor's oil sands upgrader output

TORONTO (Reuters) - Suncor Energy Inc said on Thursday output at its oil sands upgrader located north of Fort McMurray, Alberta will be cut in half after a brief fire in one of the two units on Tuesday.

The company said that it expects output to be reduced by about 120,000 to 150,000 barrels per day during the two to four weeks it takes to repair the unit, Upgrader 2.

Economist warns homeowners of bubble trouble

The author of “Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization” told Reuters that long-dormant inflation rates will soon pick up, thanks to energy prices, leaving central banks little option but to start tightening.

“This is an inflationary world, not a deflationary world, and today’s interest rates are a total head fake,” he said.

‘Generation Limits’: An Open Letter to Teenagers

Note from the author: As a peak-oil/climate-aware high school Chemistry teacher, every day is a balance between (1) imparting the daily Chemistry lesson in an effective and entertaining manner, (2) telling the kids the hard, scary truth about our civilization’s predicament without crushing their hopes and dreams for a livable future, and (3) offering some ideas about what we could do to help the situation.

Overall, my part-gloomy/part-hopeful message has mixed success with the kids. Some of them couldn’t care less. Some of them don’t want to hear it at all. But some of them respond with a sincere concern. And this sincere concern sometimes even blossoms into constructive thought and concrete action to address our predicament. So I think I’m having at least some net positive effect. Maybe.

IHS Examines Investment Perspective In Future Of Energy

“It’s now the morning after for the energy world,” comment Daniel Yergin, chairman, IHS CERA. “The economic black cloud of the Great Recession has begun to lift and now it is possible to begin to identify the changes to the energy landscape. CERAWeek 2010 will provide participants with the perspectives to understand what may be ahead in the new energy future.”

Brittany and Paca power cut warning

HOMES in Brittany and Paca are facing power cuts for the next few days as the electricity supply network struggles to cope with increased demand in the cold weather.

EDF’s distribution arm, RTE, is advising people in the two regions – which produce very little electricity of their own – to cut down their usage around the peak time of 19.00 to prevent the system falling over.

The Philippines: DOE urges public use of CFL to save energy

The DOE official said Negros Oriental and other parts of the Visayas are experiencing power supply shortage may be due to an economic growth as this corresponds demand of power, "the power demand can be deferred if we can help avoid increase of power use."

Thus, DOE urges power consumers to change their incandescent bulbs (IBs) to CFL as the latter is more energy efficient which means one pays less for monthly electric bills and save the environment.

Universal approach towards waste issue

This week the International Atomic Energy Agency held a workshop on the safety and licensing of radioactive waste disposal in Cape Town. More than 90 international experts participated in the one-day event, which looked towards the harmonization of international safety standards for radioactive waste disposal.

Although the technical solutions for waste disposal exist, what is missing is a uniform, international approach to this issue at a normative level. In particular, as a number of countries are moving towards the licensing of geological disposal facilities, the potential benefit of having an internationally harmonized approach to the safety demonstration and licensing process is clearly emerging.

Chevron Focuses on Deepwater Amid Scramble for Onshore Gas

Chevron Corp. is giving priority to developing hydrocarbon resources in the depths of the sea, while Exxon Mobil Corp. and other oil giants scramble for onshore natural gas assets.

Ukraine's gas bill set to rise

The price of Russian gas for Ukraine is likely to reach $300 to $310 per 1000 cubic metres in the first quarter of next year, up from this quarter's price of $208 per Mcm, the Russian gas giant Gazprom's Ukrainian unit said.

TNK-BP's Future Chief Plans to Increase Output

TNK-BP plans to keep expanding oil output even as the rest of the industry stagnates, thanks to a fat portfolio of new fields, said Maxim Barsky, who will run the venture.

Green building comes of age

Green building is finally coming of age. Building sustainable, energy-efficient homes became a fad during the 1970s energy crisis, bolstered by tax incentives for solar energy and growing environmental awareness. But its popularity faded as oil prices dropped, tax breaks were rolled back, and an economy of excess kicked in during the booming ’90s. Green became just a color to many in the culture.

But due to concerns about possible climate change, the recent spikes in oil prices, and a set of new tax incentives, green building has undergone a resurgence in the past two years.

Stimulus Phase 2: Infrastructure and jobs

Top White House advisers said Wednesday that most of the economic stimulus spent so far has helped prop up the states, paying for food stamps, Medicaid and filling budget gaps that kept police officers, firefighters and teachers employed.

In 2010, most of the remaining recovery spending will be funneled into projects that build roads, lay high speed rail, install broadband in rural areas and fund research at health institutions.

Roll up, roll up to see the Irish perpetual motion machine!

Remember that zany Irish company Steorn, who claimed to have built a working perpetual motion machine that could produce clean, free energy out of a few magnets and some plastic discs? Well, they're back again. Undeterred by the fact that their own hand-picked jury of scientific judges unanimously agreed that the technology didn't work, Steorn has put its Orbo perpetual motion machine out for public display, and set up web feeds through which you can watch the thing in motion. But the demonstration has failed to impress critics, and for good reasons.

ON STAGE: A capsule look at area theater productions

JAN. 9

BIG SLIDE: James Howard Kunstler's three-act apocalyptic vision of early 21st century America will be presented in a staged reading by actors from the Greater Rochester Repertory Companies Inc. Kunstler, a graduate of Brockport State College, is scheduled to be in attendance at the performance, where he will introduce the play and answer questions after the reading. Set in the autumn of an unspecified near-future, three generations of the Freeman family have taken refuge at an Adirondack "great camp" after some kind of severe national political maelstrom, that may involve a coup d'etat in the white House and the uprising of local militias. The one-time only reading is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at MuCCC, 142 Atlantic Ave., Rochester. Admission is "pay what you can"; for more information, go to www.muccc.org.

Bill McKibben: Only the numbers count – and they add up to hell on earth

Climate Interactive's software speaks numbers, not spin – which is where the true understanding of the Copenhagen summit lies

Why Britain faces a bleak future of food shortages

Britain faces a 'perfect storm' of water shortage and lack of food, says the government's chief scientist, and climate change and crop and animal diseases will add to future woes. Science is now striving to find solutions.

Iran defiant in face of new US gasoline sanctions

New US sanctions on international companies that sell gasoline to Iran would raise Tehran’s energy bill but won’t devastate the Iranian economy, say financial analysts in the Islamic Republic.

Iranian government officials were defiant Wednesday, saying that the country has many suppliers.

“If any refiners or trading houses for any reason can not supply us gasoline... we will refer to our long list of suppliers and find others – as we have always done – and work with them. There is nothing to stop us from going from one region to another to obtain gasoline,” says Hojatollah Ghanimifard, the National Iranian Oil Company’s deputy director for investment affairs, in a phone interview from Tehran.

Sinopec Group May Increase 2009 Crude Imports by 8%

(Bloomberg) -- China Petrochemical Corp., the nation’s biggest oil refiner known as Sinopec Group, may boost its crude-oil imports by 8 percent this year as the economic recovery increased energy demand.

The Beijing-based parent company of Hong Kong-listed China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. will likely purchase 138 million metric tons, or about 2.8 million barrels a day, of crude from outside China in 2009, Sinopec Group said in a statement posted on its in-house newsletter today. That accounts for 71 percent of the nation’s estimated total imports of 195 million tons.

China’s November Crude Oil Stockpiles May Have Fallen, OGP Says

(Bloomberg) -- China’s crude stockpiles at the end of November are forecast to have fallen 1.3 percent from a month earlier, according to China Oil, Gas & Petrochemicals.

Crude oil inventories may have dropped to 37.5 million metric tons at the end of last month from about 38 million tons at the end of October as crude runs outpaced apparent consumption, according to the fortnightly newsletter dated Dec. 15 published by the official Xinhua News Agency, without saying where it got the information.

China Trumps Gazprom

Up until last spring, Gazprom had pursued a policy of importing all available gas from Central Asia at almost any price based on the wishful assessments of trends in European and U.S. demand and in the valuation of its main product. The collapse of oil prices in late 2008 took Gazprom completely by surprise. Then it was hit by two more surprises: a sharp drop in demand on the European market in the first quarter of 2009 and an even deeper contraction of the U.S. market, which has become saturated with domestic shale gas.

Gazprom was slow to respond to these challenges, and it still has no answers sticking to the doubtful axiom that “the era of cheap hydrocarbons is over.” But one fact is indisputable: After Gazprom agreed in July 2008 to import gas from Central Asia based on high European prices, every cubic meter of gas that it imported from the region was a net loss on the company’s books. As the international economic crisis gained steam and global demand for energy resources dropped dramatically, Gazprom could no longer afford to buy gas at these high prices. But it was unthinkable to raise this issue with Kazakhstan, and political relations with Uzbekistan were too delicate to back out of the gas deal. Therefore, it was Turkmenistan by default that had to take the blow alone. The explosion on the pipeline near the Turkmen-Uzbek border in April inflicted little material damage, but it was used as a pretext to put a complete stop to all Turkmen gas imports. The flow was restored in November after Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s visit to Moscow, but Russia bluntly refused to honor the “take-or-pay” provision in the contract.

Canada Inflation Quickens to 1% on Gas, Fastest in Eight Months

(Bloomberg) -- Canadian consumer prices rose at a 1 percent annual pace in November, the fastest in eight months, as a slump in gasoline costs linked to the global recession ended.

Retail gasoline prices increased 14 percent from a year earlier compared with October’s annual decline of 13 percent, Statistics Canada said today in Ottawa. Housing was the only major component of eight to decline in November. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected overall inflation to gain 0.8 percent, based on the median of 22 forecasts.

Conventional gas players overlooked

CALGARY - Exxon Mobil Corp. further amplified the excitement around unconventional natural gas producers this week, with a US$41-billion takeover of XTO Energy Inc. that runs counter to the company's character. But perhaps investors should look where Exxon did not -at the unfashionable conventional players.

China, India Demand May Boost Thermal Coal Price, JPMorgan Says

(Bloomberg) -- Demand for thermal coal from China and India may boost prices of the fuel to $80 a metric ton next year amid reduced supplies and lower inventories, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said in a report.

Prices of coal burnt at power stations may rise to $85 a ton in 2011 from $70 this year, JP Morgan said in a report today. China and India may import a combined 63.9 million tons of thermal coal next year and 56.4 million tons in 2011, it said. Power-station coal prices at Newcastle port, a benchmark for Asia, fell 0.7 percent to $79.90 a metric ton in the week ended Dec. 11, according to the globalCOAL NEWC Index.

“Supply will be tight in the next two years,” Stevanus Juanda, a Jakarta-based analyst for JP Morgan, said in the report. “In the second half of 2009, we have observed sizable imports of coal by China, due to the closure of mines in the Shanxi region and rise in electricity generation.”

Iraq Is Wild Card in World Oil Supply

Ten years ago, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson was hinting at a potential release of oil from the country's strategic reserves to cool prices, then at the heady level of $25 a barrel. As 2009 draws to a close, many regard Friday's price of $69.87 as a buy.

Surging demand from countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China trashed prevailing wisdom. The BRIC nations accounted for 61% of demand growth over the past decade, according to the International Energy Agency.

As important, however, was a squeeze on supply. The Energy Policy Research Foundation has estimated disruption caused by factors like war and resource nationalism lowered potential global output by between 2.5 million and 4.5 million barrels per day in the second half of this decade. That is a lot when you consider OPEC's buffer of spare capacity fell below two million barrels per day by mid-2008, when oil prices peaked.

Japan Drilling Soars in Tokyo Debut on Growth Outlook

Murata said prospects for the offshore drilling market have improved after an oil glut in the 1980s and 1990s made production uneconomical. Companies declined to invest in rigs, leading to an aging stock that is only now being replaced, he said. Large capital investment in rigs means contractors will have to raise fees to cover the outlays, benefiting the industry as a whole, Murata said.

John Wood Expects Engineering Margins to Stay Under Pressure

(Bloomberg) -- John Wood Group Plc, the U.K.’s largest oilfield-services provider, expects profit margins in its engineering business to remain under pressure early next year and demand to pick up in the second half of 2010.

Oil sands pushing for regulatory relief

Alberta's export-oriented oil industry is urging Ottawa to provide the same kind of relief from tough climate-change regulations that the politically powerful U.S. coal industry is expected to receive from Washington, a move that would put greater onus for emissions cuts on Canadian consumers and other industries.

And while Ottawa insists no decision has been made, Environment Minister Jim Prentice suggested this week that energy-intensive export-oriented industries may need protection under a federal climate-change plan and refused to rule out extending such benefits to the oil-sands producers.

Biden tells Obama that 40 million U.S. homes will have smart meters by 2015

A new report by Vice President Biden, which President Obama mentioned briefly in an appearance Tuesday, projects that the number of U.S. homes with smart meters will jump from about 8 million now to 40 million by 2015.

In a memo to Obama, entitled "Progress Report: The Transformation to a Clean Energy Economy," Biden says the Recovery Act will help fund the installation of smart meters in 18 million homes. As of January, he says 8 million homes had such meters, which track energy usage by month, week and even hour.

Southern Said to Be Positioned for U.S. Nuclear Loan Guarantee

(Bloomberg) -- Southern Co. is positioned to win preliminary approval for a federal loan guarantee to build a nuclear plant, as the U.S. government tries to boost an industry stalled for decades, said two people familiar with the process.

Israel: Hundreds of companies stuck with solar power systems they can't use

About 200 companies that ordered solar-power systems to generate their own electricity are stuck with systems that the Israel Electric Corporation won't connect to the national grid.

Yesterday the IEC finished a preliminary estimate and concluded that out of the 35-megawatt quota of generation capacity allocated to the business and agricultural sectors, 43 have been used. Yes, it's overshot the quota, the utility suspects. So any more companies waiting for their systems to be connected to the national grid will just have to wait for the government to decide on its next policy move.

Company Plans To Pull Solar Energy From Orbit

The Solaren Corporation wants to produce solar power in space. The location's got a lot going for it: there's sunshine 24/7 and the real estate is free.

But the challenges are huge. How do you get all the components in space and connect them once they're there? Scientists have spent decades trying to figure that out.

That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal.

The spectre at the climate change feast

Today the TaxPayers' Alliance is releasing a new report which sets out the huge and excessive burden that green taxes impose on families and business across the UK.

At the moment, 14 percent of domestic bill costs are the result of climate change policies. Increasing the price of energy hits the poor and elderly hardest - which, in turn, increases poverty and benefit dependency. At the same time, 21 percent of industrial electricity bills are the result of climate change policies. If we want to make our economy less dependent on financial services, driving up a major part of many manufacturing firms' costs isn't the way to do it.

Medvedev Signs Climate Doctrine as Copenhagen Prospects Fade

(Bloomberg) -- Russia President Dmitry Medvedev signed a climate change doctrine for the world’s largest supplier of oil and gas, even as prospects for a political agreement at a climate summit in Copenhagen fade.

“We realize that signing a global agreement in Copenhagen is virtually impossible,” Arkady Dvorkovich, the president’s top economic adviser, told reporters in Moscow today. “But we need a road map for the coming months so that we can reach an agreement.”

Clinton arrives in Copenhagen to stake US claim in deal of the century

With Hillary Clinton's sudden appearance at the Copenhagen summit at its moment of crisis – and the prospect of billions in cash – America today lays claim to the role of lead broker in what could be the deal of the century.

Clinton's intervention, on a day that began with the Danish hosts of the talks saying they had given up hope of a deal, allows the US to claim a role in helping to unite countries that were turning on each other.

Oil spikes, wiping out a week of price declines

NEW YORK - Oil prices rose sharply Wednesday, wiping out a week's worth of declines after the government said supplies of oil and petroleum products dropped much more than expected.

Six reasons why Earth won't cope for long

4. Peak oil: This month, the International Energy Agency formally predicted global peak oil by 2020. Today, the world burns the equivalent of 82 million barrels of oil every day. Projected growth in energy demand will see this rise to almost 100 million barrels within a decade, but by then, output from the oilfields currently in production will have plummeted to barely a third of that. A massive energy gap is looming, and with discoveries having peaked in the mid-1960s, we are approaching the bottom of the cheap oil barrel. Non-conventional oil, renewables and nuclear will be nowhere near capable of bridging this energy gap in time. The oil shocks of the coming decade will be intense.

Chevron lands Chubu gas deal, Gorgon sale near end

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Chevron Corp said on Wednesday it closed a deal with Japan's Chubu Electric Power Co for about a fifth of the U.S. oil major's share of natural gas from the massive Gorgon project in Australia.

The Chubu deal includes a 0.417 percent equity stake and 1.44 million metric tons per year of liquefied natural gas from a $40 billion-plus project that will initially produce 15 million tonnes annually.

Paraguay-Brazil Energy Treaty Going Nowhere Fast

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) -- It's been nearly five months since the presidents of Brazil and Paraguay agreed on a breakthrough deal to triple Paraguay's income from the world's second-largest hydroelectric dam, but the money won't be flowing anytime soon.

U.S. Oil Production Is Now Up

Mid-Continent shale may have as much as 500 billion barrels of oil (admittedly a wildly optimistic estimate but if so think Saudi Arabia). While it is true that much of this oil may not ever be recoverable, increasing prices and the aforementioned technology is rapidly improving the odds.

Nigeria Orders 12 Fuel Cargoes to Cover Shortfall

(Bloomberg) -- Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., the state-owned oil company known as NNPC, ordered 12 additional cargoes of oil products to deal with a shortfall.

The company is importing the fuel after 15 retailers didn’t use licenses given them “some months back” to import oil products, the state-owned company said in an e-mailed statement, without specifying the cargo types, sizes or expected arrival.

Nigeria, which vies with Angola to be Africa’s top oil producer, depends on imports to meet about 80 percent of daily domestic use of about 32 million liters of gasoline, diesel and kerosene. Output from four state-run refineries with combined capacity of 445,000 barrels of crude a day has been cut as militant attacks disrupted pipeline supplies from the Niger Delta oil region, according to the Petroleum Ministry.

Road projects in Macomb and St. Clair counties shelved

In news that should be surprising to no one, the state has been forced to postpone a long list of road projects due to continued declines in state gas tax revenues and now the state's inability to match federal dollars.

The Need for Green Engineering

Like putting a name to a face, as an engineer, I like to put real numbers on these challenges. So here are some sobering numbers. World energy consumption is around 11,294,500,000 tons of oil equivalents (TOE) and the UK share of that in 2008 was 212,000,000 TOE according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Some sources calculate that world has used 1006 billion barrels of oil and that there is a little less than this left in the ground. In other words, we have passed “peak oil”. Whilst these figures are fiercely debated, there is no doubt that most of the easily accessible oil has been used and future reserves will be more difficult to access, they are deeper or in more challenging environments. The UK target for energy generation from renewable sources is 15% by 2020, with an interim target of 10% in 2010. In 2008, the proportion was just 2.3%.

Energy demand is only going to increase. World population continues to increase, and more of the world aspires to a western-style, energy hungry lifestyle. But when we are faced with this stark future, why aren’t we adopting solutions more quickly. One reason could be the “endowment effect”. As a rule of thumb a new technology needs to be twice as good, 10%-20% improvements will not persuade most people to change.

India: Govt offers $81 mln subsidy for wind power

MUMBAI (Reuters) – The government will offer 3.8 billion rupees ($81 million) in incentives to wind power projects that feed into the national grid, a move analysts believe will attract large companies.

The country ranked fourth in the world after Germany, Spain and the United States in grid-connected wind projects, with 9,587 megawatt (MW) of capacity in November 2008 that fed over 54 billion units of electricity to the grid, official data showed.

India’s Nuclear Power Plans $6.5 Billion Borrowing for Reactors

(Bloomberg) -- Nuclear Power Corp. of India, the nation’s monopoly atomic generator, plans to borrow as much as $6.5 billion to fund six new reactors as the second fastest- growing major economy grapples with power shortages.

The state-run company will raise about 140 billion rupees ($3 billion) from loans and bonds to build four 700-megawatt plants, Chairman Shreyans Kumar Jain said in a phone interview from Mumbai today. It will also seek about $3.5 billion in loans for two 1,000-megawatt reactors it’s developing in Kudankulam with Russia’s Rosatom Corp., he said.

Small engine shift signals big changes for buyers

It's time to think small. Small engines, that is. As tough as it may be for some U.S. consumers to accept, the world's automakers -- including those selling cars in the United States -- are switching their emphasis to smaller, more efficient engines.

As we move into 2010, this means car buyers will find distinct changes in the nature and selection of engines being offered in showrooms.

Given the long lead times involved in the development of new powertrains, this shift in focus dates back even before the gas price crisis that slammed the U.S. market in 2008.

Tesla Motors Opens South Florida Store

DANIA BEACH, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Tesla Motors, the only automaker producing highway-capable EVs will open its doors in Dania Beach on Thursday and offer test drives of the world’s leading electric vehicle throughout the weekend.

“South Florida is a strong market and strategic base for Tesla,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “The region is establishing itself as an environmental champion from solar street lights to promoting the advancement and adoption of electric vehicles.”

Volvo to trial methane-diesel in trucks

In an effort to reduce fuel consumption and its environmental impact, Volvo Trucks will begin testing heavy duty diesel trucks fuelled by a combination of methane gas and diesel in 2010.

The testing will take place in the UK and Sweden and will start with a mixture of up to 70 per cent methane gas. The remainder will be a bio-mix diesel – fossil diesel mixed with diesel produced from renewable raw materials. The company hopes to run on up to 80-90 per cent methane gas once the technology has been refined and tested.

Permaculture guru leads the way

For Robyn, a sustainable lifestyle wasn’t a choice she made later in life, it was something she grew up with.

“My folks were very resourceful people. They grew up during the Depression on dairy farms here on the North Coast... We had a standard quarter-acre backyard (in Inverell) but it was full of vegie gardens and fruit trees and chickens and ducks and a few hives of bees and a milking goat that we used to tether to mow the neighbours’ lawns. Before we got town water we had a 2000-gallon tank we had to survive on. Water was seriously rationed; half a cup for brushing your teeth. So having a high degree of self reliance was something I grew up with and thought was normal,” she said. “When I finished schooling I spent a few years in Sydney and then went travelling, and that was my real education. What I found particularly fascinating was village culture and the different ways people farmed... I lived for three-and-a-half years in Bavaria not far from Munich. The last of the old traditional farmers were still there farming in their old ways with the rotational crops. The only change was that horses had been replaced with tractors. The only thing they were importing onto their farms was the diesel for their tractors. Their animals provided all the nutrients for the crops.”

Oil on canvas

Whether seen on the walls of the Corcoran Gallery in Washington or in the accompanying book published by Steidl, the photographs in Oil bring the viewer face to face with huge and troubling questions. How can we go on producing on this scale? How can we go on consuming like this? Aren’t we at the point where we say, OK, enough is enough? Is it sustainable, the level of luxury and lavishness to which we have become accustomed? In short, how many more of these high-concept, high-value Edward Burtynsky productions can we take?

Climate Wizard makes large databases of climate information visual, accessible

A Web tool that generates color maps of projected temperature and precipitation changes using 16 of the world's most prominent climate-change models is being used to consider such things as habitat shifts that will affect endangered species, places around the world where crops could be at risk because of drought and temperatures that could cripple fruit and nut production in California's Great Central Valley.

Climate Wizard, a tool meant for scientists and non-scientists alike, is being demonstrated by The Nature Conservancy in Copenhagen, Denmark, in conjunction with the climate summit underway there. It also is the subject of a presentation Tuesday, Dec. 15, at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco and a paper just released online by the Public Library of Science's PLoS ONE with Evan Girvetz as lead presenter and lead author. Girvetz worked on Climate Wizard during postdoctoral work at the University of Washington's School of Forest Resources and just accepted a job with The Nature Conservancy.

U.S. Dairy Industry Plans 25% GHG Emissions Cut by 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy are working together to help the U.S. dairy industry reach its goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 percent over the next decade. One part of the strategy is to turn methane gas from livestock manure into electricity.

GOP's global warming rumble: Sarah Palin v. Arnold Schwarzenegger

San Francisco – The Sarah Palin-Arnold Schwarzenegger clash over climate change pits two Republican stalwarts in a tiff that brings to the fore the divisions within the GOP on environmental policy and global warming.

Spy agencies keep an eye on changing political climate

Australia's spy agencies are giving top priority to the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen to give Prime Minister Kevin Rudd a critical negotiating advantage.

Intelligence and diplomatic sources have told The Canberra Times that Australia's spy agencies, especially the top-secret Defence Signals Directorate, collected and channelled intelligence on the negotiating positions of other countries before the global climate change talks.

Loopholes in climate deal could render it useless

WWF's headline statistic is that industrialised nations may walk away from Copenhagen having signed up to a promise to cut their emissions by as much as 20 per cent from 1990 levels, when in truth they have written themselves a cheque to increase emissions by 5 to 10 per cent.

Unless the loopholes are fixed, says Stephan Singer, global energy policy director for WWF, Copenhagen could become a polluter's charter.

Most throw cold water on China warming theory

But some historical meteorologists suggest that China has prospered during periods when temperatures are higher than normal and that climate change may not be a bad thing after all.

Scientists warn of 30ft rise in sea level due to 2C of global warming

GLOBAL warming of only 2C could lead to sea-level rises that would submerge the Netherlands and Bangladesh, a report in the journal Nature has warned. Scientists at Princeton and Harvard universities in the United States carried out a new analysis of the geological record of the Earth's sea level.

Their research revealed that the polar ice sheets are vulnerable to large-scale melting, even under moderate global warming scenarios. According to the analysis, an additional 2C of global warming could commit the planet to 20ft to 30ft (about six to nine metres) of sea-level rises over the long term.

Coastal areas where hundreds of millions of people live would be inundated, the US scientists warned.

GLOBAL warming of only 2C could lead to sea-level rises that would submerge the Netherlands and Bangladesh

and New Orleans. Sorry Alan! I hear the fishing's gonna be great on Bourbon St. in 50 Years.

Except that there won't be any fish...

We'll always have the bottom feeders.

A Fish Oil Story

For the last decade, one company, Omega Protein of Houston, has been catching 90 percent of the nation’s menhaden. The perniciousness of menhaden removals has been widely enough recognized that 13 of the 15 Atlantic states have banned Omega Protein’s boats from their waters. But the company’s toehold in North Carolina and Virginia (where it has its largest processing plant), and its continued right to fish in federal waters, means a half-billion menhaden are still taken from the ecosystem every year.

For fish guys like me, this egregious privatization of what is essentially a public resource is shocking. But even if you are not interested in fish, there is an important reason for concern about menhaden’s decline.

Quite simply, menhaden keep the water clean. The muddy brown color of the Long Island Sound and the growing dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay are the direct result of inadequate water filtration — a job that was once carried out by menhaden. An adult menhaden can rid four to six gallons of water of algae in a minute. Imagine then the water-cleaning capacity of the half-billion menhaden we “reduce” into oil every year.

And remember - this business was part of the George Bush portfolio.

To close the circle - can anyone find a quote from GHWB mentioning the change in algae level in the water at his Maine properties?

Not only New Orleans.

Here's a more US-oriented article:

Unless global warming is curbed or expensive measures are taken to hold back rising water, the projected sea level rise could submerge about one-third of Florida, southern Manhattan, much of Bangladesh and almost all the Netherlands, for example, researchers said.

Manhattan won't flood. We'll just keep bailing Wall St. out.

Yeah, but I guess that means all of Newark's commercial real estate will be under water...

FMagyar -

True, but it also means that it will be much easier to float a loan.

Beware the loan shark.

FMagyar -

I certainly will.

Also keep in mind that this will also greatly increase liquidity.

Even in a sinking economy!

Did you say that on porpoise or just for the halibut?

OK, enough of this floundering around, just clam up tight as an oyster...

I hate to pour cold water on this conversation, but I think you're all wet.

I figured somebody'd carp about it.

Don't worry about the bankers "you know what" floats.

Fat cats float. They don't like it, but they float.

Is there any way to get this rising sea level up to about 1100 feet. I would like to have beach front property:). It would surely reduce my taxes do to the fact that the California State, and Santa Cruz County governments would be about 1000 feet under water. We live almost off grid now, but the county government mandated a utility hookup when we built our new home.

They don't even mention eastern NC, which is an area of particular concern to me. A 30ft increase in sea level won't eliminate the Outer Banks, they'll just shift to the west a few miles - as will the coastline on the west side of the sounds. I don't think anyone in our state government has given any thought at all about this.

WNC, check out my link below to determine what locations submerge at what level of sea level rise. Most the outer banks pretty much disappear at half to level mentioned.

Keep in mind that 30 feet is what they are predicting for a two degree rise, a temp increase many now considered almost impossible to stay below or stop at. A bit over 30 feet and all your coastal cities are under water.

The Outer Banks wouldn't dissapear, just move. They used to be a lot farther east when sea levels were lower. That's just how those ribbons of sand work.

As you well know, WNC, here in western NC, needed road projects have been put off for decades because the State has to keep rebuilding roads and bridges on the coast every few years due to hurricanes. Seems the east is already sinking into the sea.

There are also other things to consider. Even if a city doesn't flood, there are other things that help keep that city viable. Mostly transportation routes and airports. East Coast airports that would be underwater would be: Portland, Logan, LaGuardia, JFK, Newark, Philadelphia, and Reagan. I'm not counting Florida, because by losing their interstates, the whole state is lost. Major sections of I-95 through Philadelphia, North Jersey, NYC Metro, Connecticut, and Providence are also underwater.

This says nothing of ports themselves. Sure boats can reach them, but if the receiving infrastructure is underwater . . . .

There's other infrastructure to think of. Sanitary sewers, and municipal water needs to be rethought. Sewage treatment plants aren't built on top of hills.

Is a city that's still mostly dry, but is hard to move most anything still viable?

I'm not counting Florida, because by losing their interstates, the whole state is lost. Major sections of I-95 through Philadelphia, North Jersey, NYC Metro, Connecticut, and Providence are also underwater.

I must have angered the gods with my puns about being underwater. Last night I went to a Christmas party at the Solar engineering company I work with. Note: I live in the Sunshine State and this is the dry season...

On the way home I was caught the some really nasty weather on I-95, we are talking zero visibility and a complete blackout along most of the stretch that I had to drive through. This is what I had to deal with once I got off the interstate. The video was taken a few hundred feet from where I live.


Note: this video was taken last during last week's storm and last night's storm was much much worse.
Most ironically we are under a water restriction order because our drinking water comes from a drought stricken area of central Florida.

We are expecting more heavy rains today. Good thing I have a kayak too, I'll probably be using it later today to get around the neighborhood.

Summer rains can get pretty heavy. The St. Johns overflowed more than once while I lived there, but in November? Not exactly typical.


Leanan, it was a stroke of genius to place the sea level rise article right after the article about people who think global warming will be good for China.

Apparently, the consider it a good thing to put their largest city, Shanghai, deep under water. Long before the 30 foot level rise, Shanghai, literally "on the sea," will become Xiahai, "Below the sea."


Beijing will be sea side, but Tianjin will also be submerged along with most of the other coastline cities, especially in the north.

"Europe will become as cold as Siberia. Much arable land will disappear and the continent will no longer be fit for human habitation," a Chinese blogger who writes under the name Feitie Zhiyi suggested in a posting last week. "China should emit more CO2 and make the world warmer! This will only do good to China and bring nothing bad.

"As for the Europeans, it's better to freeze all of them to death!"

Now that's the spirit! We need more utterly insane people like that, and their infectious enthusiasm!

There have always been a certain number of sociopaths in the human population some of them have managed to wrest control and have found themselves ruling countries. Unfortunately their number will increase proportionally with the increase of the general population thereby increasing the chances the one of them will be in a position to do some real damage.

May people like Feitie Zhiyi live in interesting times...hopefully at the bottom of some dungeon somewhere.

Since the sea level has risen 360 ft/120 meters in the past 20,000 years there is little chance cutting carbon emmissions will succeed in changing the warming trend. Climate change efforts will probably succeed in raising electric rates and might increase poverty.

I think people need to look closely at the ice core data and see how quickly temps and CO2 typically falls after peak. Temps indicate we actually were in a cooling trend until about 1850.

Check 'em out.


Energy savings to come with cloud music:


CD's may go the way of vinyl disks and cassette tapes. Instant access to the jukebox in the sky will save oil.

My current favorite is songza, but if the others get better I'm willing to switch. It's big advantages are it's free and simple. But it's selection is limited to YouTube.

That's good enough for me for now. Love it.

It's worth noting the linked article makes no comment about energy issues. Without a breakdown of the energy used in manufacture and shipping of physical CDs vs the energy required to spin up a CD (and the energy required for network streaming), it's difficult to tell where the big energy costs lie and hence how the alternatives stack up, and how things change if you rip CDs to hard disk or MP3 player memory. If anyone actually knows about these issues I'd be interested to know.

(I've got a slightly vested interest as I primarily use Linux so I've got no truck with steaming services which depend on plugins that are only provided for Windows, so I'd like to hope that ripping CDs to hard disk that's being used by the PC anyway isn't too environmentally unfriendly.)

I love this author.

Some stocking stuffer ideas for young people to stir their curiosity.


Seconded. Great author!
I have "Another Fine Math You've Got Me Into" and "Does God Play Dice?"

The stuff this guy writes is perfect to get young people thinking properly.
It is also very good for the non-math educated adult and even people with math degrees such as myself and probably a lot of other readers on this site.

"There is only one god the universe and science is his profit and mathematics is his language."

porge 17 Dec 2009


never was a good speller.
I speak math tho.

Propane inventories in the USA are below the average. Propane is a by-product of oil refining and natural gas processing. Any decrease in refinery capacity will cause a decrease in the supply capacity. Any decrease in ng processing will cause a decrease in supply also. News articles last year had examples of folks switching from heating oil to propane because it was cheaper. Propane prices for the winter were forecast to be 14% less by the EIA a couple of months ago but that are 1 penny above last year prices already. The EIA sucks, no surprise there.

Does anybody know the supply breakdown b/w ng processing and oil refining? I cannot find the answer and for some reason the EIA website is mostly unreachable the last couple of days.

EDIT1: I can now access the Energy Disinformation Agency website. It was a Firefox glitch in their code, probably don't think to test their website. If I am reading the numbers right, it looks to be about a 50/50 split from oil refining and ng processing.

EDIT2: More disjointed tidbits. Canada produces over 85% of their propane from ng. They export 15% of propane production to the USA. The USA unconventional ng typically is more dry, meaning it doesn't have enough NGLs, like propane, to make it economically viable to extract propane. Also, learned that if ng prices are high enough, ng processers leave the NGLs in the marketed ng.

From May 2009: Natural Gas Processors Respond To Rapid Growth In Shale Gas Production

It also appears, he says, that more gas treatment plants are being built because many unconventional gas wells yield fewer natural gas liquids. This leads Tobin to conclude that the gas-treating market is growing faster than the processing segment.

It looks to me like the future of propane is not too rosy.

“If any refiners or trading houses for any reason can not supply us gasoline... we will refer to our long list of suppliers and find others – as we have always done – and work with them. There is nothing to stop us from going from one region to another to obtain gasoline,” says Hojatollah Ghanimifard, the National Iranian Oil Company’s deputy director for investment affairs, in a phone interview from Tehran.

Perhaps Mr Ghanimifard should read Herman Daly's resignation speech from The World Bank, linked up top by Nate. He obviously still has much to learn about sustainability...

The World Bank should use the occasion of its fiftieth birthday to reflect deeply on the words of John Maynard Keynes: "I sympathize therefore, with those who would minimize rather than those who would maximize, economic entanglement between nations. Ideas, knowledge, art, hospitality, travel-these are the things which should of their nature be international. But let good be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible; and, above all, let finance be primarily national."

I would suggest that your refineries be national as well.

I know. Good luck with that!

Recession hits Rust Belt’s steel towns hard

One of the vets here recently brought in a young female Iraq vet who'd been living under a bridge in Warren. Cmdr. Jack Hilles fed her hot meals for two weeks, and another vet helped her find work at an injection molding plant.

"We even found her some clothes," says Hilles, anger in his voice. "She didn't have any goddamn civilian clothes."

They are everywhere in this Ohio — under bridges, in basements, at the vast Eastwood Mall complex that sprawls between Warren and Youngstown with a dented vitality.

Didn't you know?
Humans are a commodity...........Marx was right about capitalism the problem is he was also wrong about communism.
I think that maybe Nate is correct and we are closer to the breaking point than I thought.
But people are going to have to organize and be led.

All the models I've seen to date on here and ones I have tried to cobble together myself have Iraq at max 4mbd in the future. However, the recent projections of 12+mbd being possible in the next few years are potentially game-changing wrt the timing of peak oil. Certainly an extra 10mbd would make up for a lot of depletion elsewhere and could even make the IEA prediction of 2020 for peak conventional realistic (not much else could).

Obviously political stability would need to be maintained but it has to be a possibility short-medium term. Given that backdrop and a fair wind elsewhere, the known fields/reserves and involvement of FOC's make the numbers pretty realistic. Even if they are a stretch the potential looks far greater than previously assumed.

Have to say these recent projections have taken me somewhat by surprise! Won't make much difference in the grand scale of things but could influence prices and investment decisions for a died-in-the-wool capitalist like myself (with green leanings of course ;-))


Re: Israel: Hundreds of companies stuck with solar power systems they can't use

So they can't connect to the grid and sell their excess power to the utility company, boo hoo hoo!
Hey send me all your useless panels I'm pretty sure I can resell them to people who want to be off grid. This story makes me angry for more reasons than I can count.

Me too, FM.

The good news is, like Copenhagen, it's making them (the PV owners) mad, too, and they can see clearly where the fault lies. As the rubs get harder, the culprits and faulty assumptions are at least easier to identify through the noise.

Three days from Solar Minimum and my silly little Solar Hot Air box was blowing 98.8 degree air (midday peak) into the house, working from about 9am to 3pm. Clear and 20s in Maine. Now if I could only afford the time and effort to get four or five more of them up there.. brr, is it cold!


Pretty cold here tonight too - and I have to go out to barn and see if I can repair the magneto on the Gravely. Looks like snow for the weekend and I may need the snow blade. All of those projects that you didn't get around to when it was warm and light always come back to bite you in the end, and you end up in the dark and cold turning bolts with fingers you can no longer feel. Sigh.

Ain't that the truth! It had been a fairly mellow Autumn here in central NH, USA, until in short order we had 3 snowfalls totalling over a foot. And this morning it was zero degrees F. Just keeping the livestock supplied with water in the liquid state, and collecting the eggs before they freeze, is a PITA.

I've lived in cold country most all of my life, and for some reason, I'm always suckered in by late Fall warm weather, and caught by surprise.

Oh well, April is only 4 months away...

Max Keiser is somewhat of a showman and this distracts from his otherwise excellent "Keiser Reports". However I found this one to be very good, especially the second half. Here he interviews economist Steve Keen, one of the twelve economists worldwide who predicted the 2008 economic collapse. Or so this video claims.

the hazards of wealth concentration

If you have an economy with a certain stock of money turning over at a particular speed that's the level of output it can support. and if you then have a transfer of wealth from those who have to spend it very rapidly, like workers who turn their money over basically 26 times a year, and it goes into the hands of the bill gates' of the world ... then they spend far more slowly than that, turning over their accounts once every ten years, you actually slow down the rate at which money is turning over and [lower] the level of output it can actually support.

Ron P.

So if we can just concentrate all the wealth into the hands of say... 1000 people then everything will slow way down.

Resource consumption and environmental degradation will come to a standstill.

I think we have the SILVER BULLIT!!!

As long as I am one of the 1000.

We'll get there eventually. I think I remember reading that shortly before the fall of the western empire something like 3000 families owned all of the land in western Europe.

"Six reasons why Earth won't cope for long"

I particularly like the John Muir quote at the end of the article :-

'The 19th century naturalist John Muir famously wrote that “when one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world”.'

Calculated Risk has a great article discussing some investment banks "walking away" from mortgage obligations while other investment banks talk about forcing people to pay what they owe, if they can afford it. As CR notes, the Morgan Stanley case presents a problem for the bankers.

Does Morgan Stanley "Walking Away" from CRE Contribute to Strategic Defaults?

Note that Morgan Stanley is current on the loan and is not in foreclosure. They are simply "walking away" because the buildings are worth less than the amount owe. . .

This is what I wrote in 2007:

"One of the greatest fears for lenders (and investors in mortgage backed securities) is that it will become socially acceptable for upside down middle class Americans to walk away from their homes."

Debtor's Dilemma: Pay the Mortgage or Walk Away
In Down RealEstate Market, Homeowners Are Deciding to Abandon Their Loan Obligations Even if They Can Afford the Payments

Banks warn they may get tough with strategic defaulters by pursuing legal claims on a borrower's other assets. "We will try to reduce people's payments if they have a hardship," says Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. "But we have a financial responsibility to get people to pay what they owe if they can afford it."

Just when you thought your opinion of bankers couldn't get any lower. . .

If I were in that position I would take all money money as cash and bury it so that none of my "assets" could be frozen or seized by the usurers.

The laws vary from state to state regarding how aggressive lenders can be in pursuing borrowers for deficiencies, but at this point, I don't see how the bankers can argue that borrowers have a moral obligation to repay their loans, when investment banks like Morgan Stanley are choosing to "walk away."

As law professor Brent White noted in the WSJ article, given the way that banks are treating their credit card customers, why shouldn't the banks to expect their customers to play hardball with their mortgages:

Brent White, an associate law professor at the University of Arizona who has written about this issue, says homeowners should make the decision on whether to keep paying based on their own interests, "unclouded by unnecessary guilt or shame." He says borrowers can take a cue from lenders that "ruthlessly seek to maximize profits or minimize losses irrespective of concerns of morality or social responsibility."

Corporations have the rights of actual humans, and their only obligation is to maximize their profit for shareholders. At this point that has been modified such that maximizing the income of top executives is also acceptable, but regardless their behavior follows a simple maximum short term profit motive - that is all that counts.

Therefore why should actual humans feel any other obligation when dealing with corporations? Simply do what maximizes your return (or minimizes your loss).

I expect that laws will be changed such that no one can get out of their debt obligations.

This is why the most important PM is lead.

The Rawles program is pretty good, beans, bullets, band-aids, prepare to share at least 10% with the less fortunate, and don't just amass stuff, but work on networking and skills, get out to the range, check out Front Sight or the Appleseed program, get physically "phit" lol, and oh yeah, DO NOT FEED THE BEAST.

"....why shouldn't the banks to expect their customers to play hardball with their mortgages:"

I find it interesting how people feel a moral obligation to pay when the mega bankers have so royally screwed our economy. The continued level of deceit by banks is amazing. Never before have I felt so strongly that they will treat you just as poorly as they can getaway with period.

People will argue that consumers have also been a fault. This is true up to a point. Banks have gambled that the new bankruptcy laws would protect them. The have loaned out money to people they KNEW should not have qualified. The whole thing blew up and they are screaming. Any group of bankers "to big to fail" needs to be disbanded so they cannot blackmail the economy.
This is BS how they are handling this. Bankers who have such disregard about whether they get paid back or to made so many risky loans deserve to fail or MUST BE DISBANDED. This is critical.

This whole "marked to fantasy" loan valuations are the only reason it isn't worse- more bank failures, and they damn well know it. What is the driver of job creation going to be? Nothing stands out to me. This idea that the government can "borrow" money to give to people to spend because the won't borrow to spend on their own is insanity. All this stimulus is borrowing from the future. Making today a little better at the expense of making tomorrows problem bigger.

We think these people are adults? I do not. This is nuts. It will change because it can't stay this way and letting these people run our financial system is not a good idea.

You know, all these types of situations are going to do is cause people to go underground to a cash economy outside of the criminal banking system. So I guess it might be some sort of a natural process.

Many already are. I know a couple that considers it their patriotic duty to pay as few taxes as possible, never pay interest, barter for goods and services, etc. They consider the wars and our financial systems immoral and unconstitutional. They have made this way of life an artform and live very well. She got audited last year because she paid cash for a Prius. She was able to show that she had been saving for years, accounted for every penny. They neither pay nor earn interest. They consider credit legal slavery. They decided early on not to play the game the way the PTB say they have to.

Been forced into it, but I'm getting to like it!

Make too little to tax, not hard in these times! Grow, barter, make, etc all you can, buy what you need to.

Living this way is indeed a patriotic duty if you believe in a free society, it's an old and outmoded idea so most can't be expected to.

All the things I'd like to achieve are possible on a very low income, I mean I'd like a Harley Sportster but a recent once can be bought for $4k and that's a year's income, I may end up eventually bartering for one. I'd like to build a house/workshop out of 2 shipping containers on a cement slab, that's about 2 years' income, it's do-able.

I'd like some craft or street-act that I can be fairly sure of making some money anytime, just about anywhere. Little "awareness" ribbons don't quite cut it, but coming up with the ideal hustle for me doesn't take a lot of money, just experimentation and developing techniques/skills.

I think if you asked most yuppies what they really want in life it'd be to know woodcraft because they loved Scouts, or have lots of time to sail 'cos they loved sailing with their Dad, or to master the guitar or violin or something. It's amazing how, once the goal is clarified, the goal can almost always be accomplished with very little money.

I'm sure you've read Hoffmans's classic "Steal This Book":


In the book, Hoffman referred to the American Empire as the "Pig Empire", saying that it was not immoral to steal from the "Pig Empire"; in fact, Hoffman wrote, it was immoral not to do so.

This is going to sound very cliche but, I actually made a couple of treks around the country in the 70's, once with my thumb and on freight trains, later in a '66 Microbus (21 window, 6 volt) with Abbie's book as my tour manual. Worked pretty well.

Don't trust anyone over 79!

As the book ages, the specific details of the various techniques and advice Hoffman gives have become largely obsolete for technological or regulatory reasons, but the book iconically reflects the yippie zeitgeist.

I have a feeling that some of Abbie's techniques will come back into vogue. Some have remained useful over time.

I've heard of that book, never had a chance to read it.

But who cares about what some fat old hippies say, I'm sorry but their version of subversion is probably like eating salad without croutons or taking a 2nd serving at the salad bar. Or eating an Entemann's Low-Fat instead of No-Fat "donut" lol.

Hoffman would tell you to go to the all-you-can-eat bar, line all of your pockets with plastic bags, and carry away all you can (croutons included). He hated banks and oil companies because he felt they were stealing from our future. He even included a chapter on how to steal his book because he detested the corporate control of publishing and marketing in this country:

The book advocates rebelling against authority in all forms, governmental and corporate........The book sold for $1.95 when it first came out. By the end of 1972, a copy of the book was selling for $10. Today a good copy of an early edition sells for between $75 and $100.........

He couldn't get it published until he finally assumed all legal liability for the book's content. An old Yippie, yes. A visionary? Much of what he was ranting against has indeed come true.

I think both they and the borrowers should live up to the terms of the contract. If it's no-recourse, then screw the bank. It's just a business arrangement, the banks don't believe in morality, so why should borrowers. If they wrote a non-recourse loan then they implicitly accepted the risk of a drop in house prices.

Maybe the banks should have actually moved forward with the hundreds of thousands of pending modifications; all those modified loans are recourse (one of the best reasons for not taking one).

Schlumberger Worldwide Rig Count

World drilling rig count has been trending up since May. It hit a peak of 5,011 rigs in October of 2008, just after crude oil prices peaked in July of 2008. Then after the price collapsed, so did the rig count, dropping to 3,327 in May of 2009 after the price had bottomed out a couple of months earlier. Rig count seems to lag crude oil prices by two or three months.

November rig count was 3,646, up 126 in the last month.

34.5 percent of all rigs are in the U.S. Over the last two years the average percentage of world oil rigs that are in the U.S. has been 39.5 percent. However the lions share of rigs in the U.S. are drilling for natural gas while the opposite is true in the rest of the world. I would suppose that Russia also has a high percentage of rigs drilling for gas, but not quite as high as the percentage in the U.S. Russia uses and exports, via pipeline, a lot of natural gas.

The number of rigs operating in Russia in November was 295, down 28 percent from 411 rigs in October of 2008. Russian rig count has been bucking the trend. It has drifted down, not up since May.

Ron P.

Re. The off-grid article up top...

The off-grid people in the UK may be using PV and wind generators but it's sure different on my rural county road in the US. We are the last people on the grid for the next 15 miles or so. The vast, vast majority of people up the road rely on generators (gas, propane, diesel) for juice and propane for everything else. I find it fascinating that we have the biggest PV system and are on the grid.

Finally, NO ONE is out there getting firewood by hand. People would freeze without chainsaws.


Fuel for a chainsaw would be one of the last uses I would give up. Seriously, it's one of the best demonstrations of how much energy is in gasoline - I can cut up a lot of wood with very very little fuel. I use more fuel hauling it, but if I use our 12hp 1cyl Wheelhorse it's not all that much, especially compared to what I would use driving some big SUV to work*. Just on a WAG I'd bet the fuel used driving a 4000lb vehicle back and forth to work for a week would be far more than I use to cut and haul wood for a year.

* Just to be clear, I've been driving a 1500cc car for 10 years.

And I've been driving a 32cc chainsaw for years. Got it free from a junk pile.
All of our firewood comes from standing and fallen deadwood on our property. Unlike my neighbors and nearby family, I don't clean up the forest except to gather fuel.
Does anyone know if a chainsaw can run on ethanol? Add the right amount of oil to moonshine and it may run ok.

You better look into that because other than maybe not being able to dissolve the oil (with oil injection may not be a problem) I am sure you will have to increase jet sizes.
Also there might be a corrosion problem with pure ethanol because of water solubility.
But I had the same thoughts since anyone can set-up a still.
I think you are onto something for real though.
You could heat the still with wood and probably get enough ethanol to run small engines and maybe even a small tractor.

hi Porge,

I used to play around with small gasoline engines for the fun of it, being an old gearhead and once in a while full time mechanic.

I was able to make a small Briggs run just fine on denatured drugstore alcohol by enlargeing the fuel jet openings a bit with a very small drill, and the guys who build drag engines for cars basically do the same thing -just enlarge the openings.

I guess if you are REALLY CAREFUL and have excellent eyesight you could do a chainsaw carburetor.

But they are all position carburetors and depend on synthetic rubber diaphragms rather than floats to regulate the fuel flow and my guess is that they would not last an hour in contact with two hundred proof.

you could take care of the corrosion problem easily enough by runn ing the saw bone dry with the choke after each use.

What can you grow to ferment?
Ethanol would probably be better than methanol (wood alcohol) because methanol is very corrosive.

Perhaps Robert Rapier can comment one day I'll try and get him talking on the subject but butanol is a much better substitute for gasoline and has all kinds of nice properties. However I don't know a simple way to make it.

I do know that small diesels exist for model airplanes so ...


These seem to use fuel with ether which is probably possible to make at home via distillation over concentrated sulfuric acid.

In general ethanol + some reaction seems to be better than ethanol itself.

I've got no idea about how hydroscopic mixes of ethanol say a higher chain alcohol would be for example.

Butanol seems to be the almost perfect fuel if you can make it.

They are both very corrosive and attack rubber as well.

I've thought about that - I expect you could make it work but I bet it would play hell with the fuel system and the aluminum in the case. You'd probably have to drain it and clean it each time - kind of a pain with a 2-stroke where the fuel is going through the whole engine internals. Maybe the 2-stroke oil would help to protect it. I'd probably rather disassemble my saw each time than use a whipsaw.

I've seen a reference to using straight bio-diesel. No idea if it works - as I opted for electric chain saws.

Sorghum is grown a lot around here. Corn too, and a still is really easy to construct (there's a classic on display up in town). Better yet, I'll grow the crops and take 'em down the road to a guy I know.

I've often wondered what would be high value crops and related products if TSHTF. Alcohol, of course, for it has many uses. I expect Pot will be as popular as ever. We have Gensing growing wild, and other medicinals. Opium poppies would be in high demand, I expect, for things other than rec use. Tobacco was a top money crop 'round here until a few years ago. It may be better to grow high-value stuff and trade for food. Growing fuel will be important.

Question: I have a drum full of used motor oil (for recycling). Better to keep it? What uses would it have?

burn it for heat.

there used to be re-refined (probably more like re-filtered) motor oil that came in a glass bottle with a brass top that served as a funnel, that was in the '60's.


IIRC - Airdale once mentioned that he had been a dealer/repairer of stihl chainsaws - he may have the info you are after.


Thanks Al!

Airdale? We (I) want to know if there's a way to run a chainsaw on moonshine (Ethanol).


Never tried it. But when I was discussing and making some lengthy theads on chainsaws, some one opined that alcohol had the propensity to quickly 'wash' the oil off two stroke cylinder walls.

If he was correct then I would suppose using a large amount of alcohol/ethanol/moonshine would not be a good idea.

The purpose of the mix is to coat and lub the cyl walls, of course.

Four strokes have an oil pan and splashes oil on the walls. Harleys use a dry sump but inject lots of oil everywhere.

Perhaps one could take an older , almost junked out, chainsaw and try it. I would not want to try it on one of my good ones.

I use a Stihl 50:1 mixture for all my saws. The lubing qualities of the fuel mix is very important. If you mix it too weak then you usually will seize up the saw when you start working it hard.

In fact leaning out the carb too much is just asking for a seizure.

Chainsaws are rather finicky. When maintained well they can last a long time. Treat them badly and they die on you. The crankcase pressure via the back stroke of the piston is ported to the carb in order to drive the fuel pump inside the carb. Very important for good starting.

A very good chainsaw can be started with just two or three pulls , IF its in good shape. If not you might wear out your arm before it starts. This means you need to work it over. Usually bad diaphragms in the carb or a failing fuel pickup.


I have found the carb diaphragm getting brittle to be the number one problem.
It only costs less than 10 bucks for a carb kit and it is easy to replace.
I have had an Old Homelite since 1990 the model with only 2 piston rings and have had no big problems other than carb rebuild and torn primer bulb and fuel lines etc.
Just have to maintain them.

Those primer bulbs tend to have a short life. When the supply goes then will go the chainsaws,if they use a carb with a primer.

For that reason I do not have any primer bulbs on my saws. Brush cutter? Yes. But not on saws.

Brittleness in diaphragm. This is normal over time. The one that drives the fuel pump can get hardened and not function too well.

Best to lay in a supply of kits while you can.

For fuel lines I replace them with Tygon tubing if possible. Never fails, and transparent to a large degree. The fuel tank filter and tubing is also prone to failure. Gets clogged or wears out. Another service item.

I stay away from Homelites and Poulans. The very very old Homelites had a good rep. The 90s and up are basically trash. IMO.

Poulan likewise.

I like a Stihl back before they last model change. 034s were my favorite. 028s I have. 024 not too bad. Lower model numbers are not too good.

You can orderw carb diaphragm kits online. Most dealers no longer stock them.


there are electric chain saws than can be run off of solar batteries ...

here is what I use .. 48 volt DC pack in vehicle to 120ac saw similar to Pete Seiger


get a good one (Husqvarna) not one of the cheap ones ...


Excellent - thanks for that. I cut most of my wood in my driveway or in my yard and I have an old homelite my dad bought in 1974. It burns 40:1 not 50:1 and yesterday I fought with it in the -35 degree cold and never did get it running. I was tormented about the thought of buying a new stihl - which I was about to do. Or get that old junker serviced.

I think that little electric Husqvarna might just be the puppy for me.

I've been thinking about an electric for a while now too - it would be fine for final cut up, but since I have to have something for the woods that gets first priority. Also, I don't like to move big logs, as I find I get more injuries moving them than in any other part of the process, and if I have to move really big stuff then I must use the big tractor which uses more fuel. So on the whole I'm not sure hauling big pieces to where I can get at them with an electric would save any fuel.

I've been using that electric Husqvarna chain saw for a few years. It's great! I live in a city and collect wood around the neighborhhod from downed limbs and trimmings from the utility crews.

Nice part about an electric saw in the city is that it does not annoy the neighbors, and there is always a plug in reach of the extension cord.

Another nice part is that it is happy to use leftover vegetable oil as chain/bar oil. I just freeze the oil leftover from the occasional deep frying and thaw it out before I'm ready to use it in the chainsaw. (so it does not get rancid) The reason for this is to not pollute my soil with bar oil as I tend to cart home long pieces and cut them up at my leisure.

Electric.All well and good but not so good when you go to the woods.

Always take two chainsaws if working large wood. You will usually bind one of them and need the other to free it...or learn to use a good plastic wedge...but still you can bind them when they spit the wedge out.

Also in felling a tree I use a steel wedge. Not a good time to bind a saw.

With a good steel wedge I can make a partial cut and drive a wedge behind it and thus force the tree to lean as desired. If the tree comes back on you? Bad deal. Purpose of the wedge. Maybe two on a large tree.


No one is getting firewood by hand out here either. If one believes in an less-oil future then having a back up plan should be a high priority. Why not a woodgas engine turning or pushing a saw.

Question about all the supposed Iraqi production coming on line:

Are the suggested quantities and the timeline reasonable? If so it seems that it could push back a production peak by a couple of years, no?


A couple of years? You mean until 2010? ;-) Nah, Iraq is still raging with war; no drilling rigs presently operate there. If and when peace breaks out, fat chance, then it will still be many years before very much oil comes on line. At any rate those projections are based on the theory that those vast reserves claimed by Iraq are real. They most certainly are not.

Iraq, with an aggressive drilling campaign, can increase production by perhaps one or even two million barrels per day. But there is no way that those dreamland projections of 8 to 12 million barrels per day are pure fantasy.

Ron P.

Darwinian, I find your certainty with Iraq somewhat puzzling - what are you referencing?

FOC's have bid for a number of existing fields and have the capability to take oil production up to over 8mbd from these fields - really no great accomplishment given production levels that were achieved elsewhere and from smaller fields (think Alaska, N Sea, even US lower 48) when production was maximised.


Whether or not Iraq's wilder claims of 12-15mbd are well founded it seems reasonable to believe 8-10mbd is possible if the political climate continues to stabilise - the big unknown I agree.

If FOC's do manage to up production within a few years to the levels they are claiming possible (and remember their profits depend on it!) then IMO it definitely will affect the shape of the global curve possibly pushing the peak back 5-10 years. Look at the models and how long it is currently projected for production to fall back by 10mbd.

It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and assume all OPEC statements are lies or exagerations but there is still an awful lot of untapped oil in Iraq from which very significant production could be forced given modern techniques and minimal disruption.

Best to keep an open mind on this one?


these contracts seem to have a bid amount $/barrel and a "target" rate built in. i wonder if there is a penalty for not reaching these targets ? i sort of doubt it. surely there is a force majeure clause built in.


it seems like the bidders are encouraged to tell the iraqi's what they want to hear. my gut tells me that the projections are overstated.

Hi elwoodelmore

No I don't think targets are built into the contracts. More likely the IOC's will want maximum production and this will be reigned in by OPEC quotas.

Couple more articles about Iraq here which show just how much uncertainty there is around future production;



The truth may lie somewhere in the middle?


In the absence of perfect information it is better to watch what they do and not what they say.
The US spent almost a trillion dollars securing Iraq and the producers of the world are clambering to get a piece of the Iraqi Oil Fields.
Add to that the fact that Iraq has been virtually untapped since 1991 and a little imagination that Cheney and Bush 1 restricted their output to save the oil in the ground for now.
Clinton didn't bother to enforce any of the weapons inspections all through the 1990s so the US could keep the restrictions on and of course Iraq couldn't develop the fields on their own so they were stuck.
Seems like there is enough evidence to conclude that there is a bunch of oil under Iraq.
The only unknown is how fast they can ramp production.
But if Iraq is like the rest of the middle east it is easy to get oil and maybe they can ramp it up faster than many think.

I would love to see a dedicated post on this topic.

Whether or not Iraq's wilder claims of 12-15mbd are well founded it seems reasonable to believe 8-10mbd is possible if the political climate continues to stabilise - the big unknown I agree.

If FOC's do manage to up production within a few years to the levels they are claiming possible (and remember their profits depend on it!) then IMO it definitely will affect the shape of the global curve possibly pushing the peak back 5-10 years.

TW, Iraq producing 9 mbd instead of 3 mbd would lenghten the plateau oilproduction by about 2 years. This because world production goes down about 3 mbd per year from declining fields.

Hi Han

Yes but some of this depletion will be compensated for by new development projects coming online elsewhere, especially in the short term. So not all of the Iraq new production will be required to maintain plateau. As ever there is too much uncertainty to really quantify this but I would expect considerably more than 2 years extension given fractional dependence on incremental Iraqi production.

As I type this I'm learning that Iran have apparently entered Iraqi territory near an oil well so maybe further discussion is moot for the time being!


Yes but some of this depletion will be compensated for by new development projects coming online elsewhere, especially in the short term. So not all of the Iraq new production will be required to maintain plateau.

TW, of course depletion is compensated by a lot of other projects, otherwise worldproduction would have gone down many years ago. But the writing here is about the difference (9-3 mbd) that 6 mbd of Iraq can make. Well, that is 2 years or less of world depletion in oilproduction. Would that extra 6 mbd come on stream within a year, then oilproduction could reach about 90 mbd. If it happens in a timescale of 6 years, then one can consider this as adding yearly 1 mbd. Not impressive and probably not preventing oilproduction going down from 2012-2015 on.

But that's the point, oil production is not projected to fall by 3mbd (or at least not by many people) once you factor in new projects. Let's say that it falls by a steady 1mbd over the next 6 years. That would mean Iraq could make up the shortfall, and thus extend the plateau, by ramping up production by 1mbd per year for the next 6 years - i.e. until they reach the theoretical 9mbd. If net decline is >1mbd then obviously plateau extension will be shorter. Conversely if decline <1mbd plateau can be extended for longer.

n'est pas?


But that's the point, oil production is not projected to fall by 3mbd (or at least not by many people) once you factor in new projects.

Exactly TW, because of new projects oil production doesn't fall with 3-4 mbd per year. If Iraq can increase production with 1 mbd every year the coming years it helps significantly in trying to not going down.

RE: That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy

Head slapping moment. We can simply extract uranium from our drinking water!
perchlorate, manganese....

/sarconol off / personal water filter on

TORONTO (Reuters) - Suncor Energy Inc said on Thursday output at its oil sands upgrader located north of Fort McMurray, Alberta will be cut in half after a brief fire in one of the two units on Tuesday.

This is one of a couple real biters in the oilsands (or tarsands) development. I worked up there for 10 years and I have not taken the time to phone anyone to ask exactly what happened but here is a guess; ruptured furnace or air to process cooler tube. The mineral extraction process leaves fine sand mostly silica and this moves at pretty high velocity through furnace tubes. Think of a really hot lapping compound. Sand, oil, and heat. Wear is a big problem to the whole process right up to the cokers. There are regular inspections and a tonne of preventative maintenance - but things sneak by once in a while.

Regarding the story up top and the "new life" given the shale gas plays by the ExxonMobil acquisition of XTO here's a few pertinent points:

Currently all the companies who know more about the economics of developing shale gas than anyone else have shut down most of their drilling operations. That should end the debate a to whether the bulk of the SG plays are viable at today's prices.

SG leases have a rather short shelf life. Usually 1 to 5 years. Most of the XTO leases were taken 2+ years ago and thus most will expire in less than 3 years if undrilled. And in some cases a large "rental fee" has to be paid on the anniversary of the original lease so just hanging on to a lease can get expensive. Given the fact that the most experienced SG players have shut down drilling I doubt we'll see XOM moving a lot of rigs into the plays anytime soon. Thus most of the XTO SG leases will expire undrilled IMHO.

XTO has been a "acquisition machine" for most of its history. Buy producing fields (and entire companies) and do some good work enhancing production as best as possible. In essence, they are a cash flow machine. This is what XOM bought. And it doesn't matter whether that cash flow is coming from a SG well or any other well. It's just cash flow on the books. Except, of course, that SG cash flow has a rather short life itself given the high decline rates. Stock analyists stated that XOM paid a 25% premium for XTO. Yes...over the near term. But XOM also bought XTO at a 35% discount from what XTO was worth at the end of 2008. That high XTO stock value dropped 50% by mid '09. The XOM offer amounted to a bail out for those folks.

XOM also had another big financial incentive. XTO had $10 billion in debt that XOM picked up on the deal. Might not seem an advantage at first. But consider the last time I saw the number XOM had more than $35 billion in cash reserve. There is probably a good spread between what XOM is earning on their cash accounts and what the interest is on that debt. XOM could write a $10 billion check and perhaps save many 100's of million in interest payments. Just have to watch and see if they take that route.

It just tickles me to hear the smart Wall Street folks pitching the SG plays again. A big resource player breaks its financial back, falls 50% in value, choking on $10 billion of debt as they watch their cash flow shrink as NG prices fall and stay there. I don't how much XTO was hurt by their SG plays but it obviously didn't help them. And then a company with no serious effort in the SG plays pops up and buys out the cripple. And this is read a good sign for the future of the SG plays. And some people still wonder how Americans loss trillion of $'s in the market crash. Maybe they were all listening to the same Wall Street experts touting the SG plays today.

Respectfully disagree on almost all counts Rockman.

Point 1: Regarding the gas rigs that have shut down, the Baker Hughes rig count data clearly show that it is the vertical conventional rigs that have almost disappeared, while the horizontal shale rig count is down much less. The figures show about a 60 percent drop in vertical rigs versus about a 26 fall in shale rigs (and the decline in conventional vertical rigs is off a much larger base.) XTO itself has 47 rigs working -- most of them on shale and unconventional plays. Exxon may slow down their drilling program and let some leases expire, but I doubt it will be the virtual shutdown you assume.

Point 2: You say XTO stock has dropped 50% from its high at the end of 2008 to now. That's just plain wrong. XTO stock closed at 35.27 on Dec. 31, 2008. Today it's at 46 and change. The all-time high for the stock appears to be on June 23, 2008 at 73.40, but that was a one-day peak. A 50% drop from there would be 36.80, but Exxon is paying over 50. And remember, the stock that Exxon is using to make this purchase was mostly bought in by Exxon at much higher prices than the current $68 over the last several years. So they paid dearly, in cash, for the currency they are using to make this acquisition.

I don't disagree that they may save money using their cash to pay off the XTO debt. But as far as how much XTO was "hurt" by getting involved in shale plays, let's just set the record straight. The cumulative return for XTO investors since the IPO of that stock is something like 23% annualized. It has been one of the best investments anyone could have made in a public company during this time period -- bar none. So I seriously doubt that the company's big move into shale gas assets "hurt" its investors -- save for those who bought at the peak last year.

Let's take it point by point Catman.

Point 1 -- There is no such thing as a horizontal drill rig. Same rigs used to drill hz wells are used to drill vert wells. The Baker rig count numbers reflects how wells are permitted. In Texas you don't have to permit a hz well as such. Many permits in Texas don't distinguish hz from vert. Thus the BH horizontal rig count is rather worthless. If you talk to the drilling contractors, as I do, you'll find out that hz drill has taken the biggest hit . In the first 6 weeks of 2009 Devon Energy (who I was on contract with at that time) went from 18 rigs in the SG play to 4. And paid $40 million in cancelation fees to do so. Perhaps Devon doesn't understand SG economics too well despite the 100's of millions of $'s they spent in the plays. Perhaps someone should drop them a line and correct them. As far as XOM carrying on XTO SG drilling program I've already heard from one driller that has already gotten the word to expect his rigs to be released as soon as XOM has complete control. You might want to check the rig numbers for the rest of the SG players like Chesapeake. It won't be easy to dig out (they don't like such advertisement) but you'll find they dropped much of their SG drilling program. I appreciate how difficult it is to track the rig count numbers for the SG. I have access to an extensive data base of all wells drilled and drilling in the Texas. I couldn't tell you how many hz wells are drilling today. Another small complication: not all hz wells are drilling SG. In three weeks I'll be drilling a hz for a conventional NG reservoir. Neither XOM or any of the other experienced SG companies are going to be throwing much money into the plays as long as NG prices stay below $5/mcf.

Also, another confusing factor that's makes it difficult for outsiders to understand the rig count numbers: I just pulled the drill permits in Texas for XTO. In Nov and DEc they filed for 53 drill permits for hz wells. The vast majority were for Barnett Shale hz oil wells. I see only a hand full in the counties with the SG plays. And to make it even more difficult there are other plays in those counties targeting reservoirs other then the SG reservoirs. Many carbonate/tight sand reservoirs in E Tx are drilled hz.

Point 2: Nothing to debate here. Pull up the chart. At the end of Aug 08 XTO closed at $74. Then the SG slide begin as drilling economics went into the toilet. By Dec 08 it had dropped to almost $30. My calculator says that's almost a 60% decline. Right before XOM announced the acquisition XTO was at $40. My calculator says that's about 45% less than at the SG hype peak.

XTO did do great from its investors for a time ...I was one of them. XTO didn't make that money by drilling SG. They made it by buying production as well as entire companies. They were one of the best at that game. Find companies that are hurting and buy them out at a big discount. Just like XOM just did to them. But the SG plays had nothing to do with it XTO success. They made their money long before the SG plays started to kick in big time. If you bought XTO at the height of the SG frenzy (as many folks who believed the SG fairy tale) and then held onto it thru the XOM trade you didn't make a 23% return. You lost 45%. That's the point I was making. The SG hype ran the market cap up of all the SG players. And then when NG prices dropped the hype exploded in their faces. Again, consider Devon, one of THE biggest SG players. When the SG hype exploded their stock dropped about 70%. What's up with them today since the SG plays crashed? They've just begun the third major layoff phase. They've announced the planned sale of all the Deep Water GOM and Brazil oil fields as well as all other international properties. They are also selling down their position in US onshore drilling projects. It shouldn't be a surprise to see Devon fall to another corporate take over like XTO.

You can continue your optimism over SG as you wish. But I watch the body count daily here in Houston as one SG player after another shrinks into the sunset. But let's not forget my original point. I never said you couldn't make money in the SG plays. My point was that it will take NG prices way beyond current levels to bring the plays back. How much NG is in the various SG plays is completely irrelevant IMHO. The only number that counts is how much can be drilled at any one NG price. Today that number is very low compared to the full hype numbers. At current prices most of the SG plays are dead and will stay dead. As there are sweet spots in every trend there will be some SG wells drilled. Even Devon, who acknowledges it had its financial back broken, will drill some more SG wells. But until NG rise significantly the hype is over. BTW: this would be a great time for folks to buy into NG drilling companies IMHO. Same old strategy: buy low...sell high. That's our current business plan.

This debate may not be worth the candle, Rockman, but for the record here are my comments.

The following quote is taken directly from the Dec. 17, 2009, Baker Hughes Rig Count blog:

The U.S. rig count bottomed the week of June 12th at 876 rigs, of which 685 or 78% were gas-directed, 183 or 21% were oil-directed and 8 rigs or 1% were geothermal. Fast forward to the week ending December 11th and we see 1,161 rigs running, 757 or 65% of which are gas-directed, 393 or 34% of which are oil-directed and 11 rigs, or 1% of which are geothermal. Of note is that this increase in activity has been isolated to a few key areas: As seen below, the increase in rigs targeting natural gas has been limited primarily to the Haynesville (La-Miss Salt Basins) and the Marcellus (Appalachian). The chart below shows natural gas rigs by trajectory. Focus on the shale plays has driven the horizontal rig count higher, while vertical wells (conventional activity) has continued to decline.

The accompanying chart shows vertical gas rigs dropping from about 800 to about 200 in the last year, while the horizontal rig count increases. So unless Baker Hughes actually doesn't understand where the rigs it is counting are drilling -- and unless every other analyst and media source that I have seen doesn't know what they are talking about -- then your position that it is the horizontal rigs drilling for unconventional (mostly shale) gas that are being laid down is simply wrong. Also, all of these numbers apply ONLY to gas rigs, so forget about confusing them with rigs drilling for oil. I could quote you ten other informed sources, but it obviously wouldn't make any difference to you.

Point 2: My comments about the price of XTO stock were directly related to your earlier comment, which was as follows:

Stock analyists stated that XOM paid a 25% premium for XTO. Yes...over the near term. But XOM also bought XTO at a 35% discount from what XTO was worth at the end of 2008. That high XTO stock value dropped 50% by mid '09.

Yes, XTO dropped nearly 60% from peak to trough, but so did lots of other stuff. There was a financial and credit crisis as you may remember. And that was not what you said, as anyone can clearly see. The point is that XOM did not get anything like the 45 or 50% discount you say they did. That would only be true, if Exxon's own stock was now at a peak and XTO's stock was at its trough. Rather, XOM is paying with stock that is also well down from its peak of $94 during a late 2008 and early 2009 and it is paying a price well more than $20 above the low you cite for XTO.

Point 3: Your view on natural gas prices seems already out of date. You state:

Neither XOM or any of the other experienced SG companies are going to be throwing much money into the plays as long as NG prices stay below $5/mcf.

Possibly true (although I doubt it), but more importantly not relevant. The Henry Hub NG spot price as I write is $5.65. The near month future is $5.74 and there is not a single future month where the price is less than $5. Most of the forward curve is above $6 and some months are above $8.

Point 4: You suggest I check the Chesapeake drilling rig information. I just did and here's what they say in their December investor presentation -- 110 operated rigs, of which 92% are active in their Big 4 shale plays and the granite washes. They also say:

“Shale haves” will have very low risk F&D costs <$2.00/mcfe for decades to come (and
decreasing over time as efficiencies increase and shale gas reservoir knowledge
improves) while “shale have-nots” will have F&D costs >$3.00/mcfe and increasing over
time as most drilling g will be increased-density, rate-acceleration wells in existing fields
rather than new discoveries

Point 5: You make the point that Devon is selling its GOM offshore and international oil assets. True. But where do they say they are going to reinvest the proceeds? Their press release states that the proceeds will be invested in "its high-return U.S. and Canadian onshore portfolio and to retire debt." What is Devon's high growth onshore portfolio? To me, that means mostly shale gas. Yet, you use the fact that they're selling their offshore oil and reinvesting in onshore unconventional gas as evidence that shale gas is uneconomic. That doesn't compute.

Most shale gas plays are nowhere near dead. In fact, they are the hottest part of the market right now, as evidenced by the continuing effort to gain more exposure to them by firms such as BP, Statoil, ExxonMobil, Chesapeake, Plains Petroleum, and yes, even Devon.

Whats interesting is the sharp draw in NG this week once demand finally kicked in.

I'm begining to suspect someone knows something important and took advantage of it. Its still early but we shall see.

One huge open issue was how long it would be before shale NG production declined after drilling slowed and next how sharp a drop it would be.

I now suspect given XOM's moves the answer to both questions is fast and faster.

However if I have to guess this time around the game will be played different most of the existing players will not rush to raise rig count but ride their declining production down for and overall profit and try and sell to another chump. The new chumps will be less well capitalized and have less ability to rapidly expand rig count etc.

Perhaps we see another boom bust perhaps not to early to tell. However I suspect that almost no price for NG is high enough to generate another drilling boom until the current players have profited and left the market.

Perhaps XOM will then engage in a more sedate drilling campaign buying up leases as they expire under good terms.

Hard to say for sure but if there is a sort of stable profitable point for UNG and shale then we should be much closer to it this time around.

It could very well prove to simply not exist at all at any sane price for NG.
Perhaps whatever price point that makes NG profitable is higher than we need to attract LNG imports and Shale will go back on the shelf until LNG prices rise. I've got no idea however what ever happens I tend to think the shale NG plays will be operated from here on out under very realistic profit outlooks.

I happen to think there is a sort of stable point for Shale that does result in significant and fairly steady development of the shale plays. But I don't know where that level is nor if it it will be reached until after the US is competitively bidding for LNG. I tend to think only after LNG is fully utilized and actively bid on by the US will shale really find its financial footing and stability.

IMHO having a vast store of marginally expensive energy is a good thing, long term. Perhaps then we can use that enery to help power the power-down phase, and soften the landing. The worst possible picture is all-cheap energy followed by very-expensive or unavailable energy. Any shift or cutback takes time to make it more survivable, and a transition source (even if it's transition to nothing) will help a lot.

Fascinating interview of Bennett Johnston and John Deutch by Daniel Yergin about what we have and haven't learned about energy policy from previous administrations. (Obama, take note.)

Oil Lessons Learned from the 1970s

-- Philip B. / Washington, DC

A good interview in spite of Yergin.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that we would be upgrading the lighting in three large commercial office malls. These units were built in the early 70s at a time when lighting loads were outrageously high. The example I provided was a private office, approximately 12x16, fitted with six 4-lamp F34T12 troffers. The lighting load density throughout the complex averaged between 4.5 and 5.5-watts per sq. ft.

Given the age and general condition of the existing hardware, I decided to replace these fixtures with new 3-lamp troffers fitted with 28-watt high performance T8 lamps driven by a low-output electronic ballast (0.77 BF). With that, the lighting load would drop to 2.0-watts per ft2, a 60 per cent reduction. Alan and I were debating whether we could get away with just two lamps, which would drop us to 1.35-watts. I was rather skeptical, but thought I'd give it a shot knowing that if the tenant was dissatisfied, we could simply pop in the third lamp. I didn't have my light meter with me this afternoon so I couldn't compare current and previous readings, but even with two lamps the place appears to be noticeably brighter!

So from 5.0-watts to 1.35-watts, we've cut the lighting load by almost 75 per cent and scored a couple hundred kW of demand savings beyond what I had initially projected, at basically zero cost.... and each kWh saved is another half-kilo of coal that won't be burned.

No more new coal-fired power plants !


LED lighting may have even more promise, Philips LumiLEDs is going balls-out.

Paul, you seem to be one the few on this blog with any type of good news or practical solutions to our predicament. It's like a breath of fresh air in a coal mine.

Hi Frugal,

I don't want to impose on those who have dial-up connections and I appreciate we're also somewhat OT, but I'd like to offer one more example.

We completed the retrofit of another school earlier today. A typical classroom had contained twenty-eight 4-lamp F34T12 fixtures for a total load of 4,480-watts. We cut the number of replacement lamps in half by abandoning the inner pair of tombstones (see insert) and re-lamped and re-ballasted with 28-watt T8s and a low-output electronic ballast. To further reduce cost, we used a 4-lamp ballast to drive two adjoining fixtures in a master/slave arrangement. Our new load is 1,204-watts, a savings of 3.3 kW per classroom. Light levels are somewhat lower, but we're still averaging between 750 and 1,000 lux (70 to 90 FC).

The hallways were illuminated by fixtures that consisted of three 1-lamp 4 ft. strips. Tin foil had been used to build a "box" to reflect light downward through the lens, but after some forty-five years of service, most of this tin foil had been damaged or given away, which meant almost all of this light was lost inside the plenum.

We replaced these "hand made" fixtures with new 2-lamp troffers that draw 43-watts each. This cut our hall load by just over 70 per cent. Even so, light levels increased two to three fold.

There are so many opportunities to save energy. I'm at my desk processing audits until 02h00 and 03h00 in the morning almost every night and I can't keep up. I wish I could do more.


Well here on the south coast of England we have just had five inches of snow in the last two hours and it is bollox cold. Had the gas boiler on all evening and I kid you not but I don't think it is producing as much heat as normal. I think them Ruskies have sold us a load of duff gas and kept all the high calory stuff for themselves.

The thing about England in the snow is that we can't cope. People in snowy parts of the US and Canada must laugh their socks off at us. We get half a foot of snow and the country grinds to a halt: schools close, public transport stops, there is never enough grit for the roads and the footie gets cancelled..

But on the bright side we get to build snow men and have frolicksome fun romping in the snow until our fingers fall off!

Here's praying we don't run outa gas. Then it wouldn't be so fun...

Ha come to Colorado Springs, Colorado, sometime when the first good snow comes in. I was living a mile or so from the Olympic Training Center when the snows started, and drove an old Mercedes 240D, I could not figure out what was going on in the intersection until I started a good honest spin - Oh! I thought, I know what this is! I turned into the skid and got 'er straightened out, was OK for a few blocks until I got to the hill leading to La Salle street. I never got there, could not make headway and realized it, so I went BACKwards and skidded across the little side street I aimed for, did a really cool sideways-in parking job, landed perfectly only was pointed the wrong way around but that was a mere technicality. In the process of this, I passed a cop car, also sliding around like a bar of soap, the cop looked at me, I looked at him, it was pretty funny. I must have looked like I knew what I was doing, and I did, compared to some people! I got out of the car, and walked home. Walking up the hill, I passed a lady having trouble with HER Mercedes, so I told her what I'd done with mine, and suggested she hang out at the Conoco (good coffee) until her husband can pick her up, or just get a room at one of the cheap hotels (she had to go to Denver or something). She didn't seem to believe me, starting from the part where I had a Mercedes too, so that was kinda a loss. I walked along, watching people get sideways and stuff, when they'd get a little stuck they'd get pissed off and get themselves stuck more. It was pretty comical.

I stopped bothering driving that winter and just walked to the center, and not too long after moving onto the center itself, sold my car anyway.

When it really snows in Colorado Springs, it was fun! People'd get out their cross country skis, and the teens would get out the snowmobiles, people'd go around in Army jackets and stuff because it's good warm stuff and the town looked like a mobilization was on. The drive-in burger stand became a snowmobile-in and would do a good business in frosty drinks as well as burgers. I discovered all kinds of interesting ways to fall on my ass on the ice, and discovered the sport of Snow-Put, which is like shot-put, only with a chunk of snow. The snow makes everything very quiet and clean, and not really cold at all, like the whole world is your living room.

Snow'n'ice'n'cars'n'roads don't get along all that well. Not as well as the commercials. Savvy drivers have "snow tires" and change their tires for winter and back again for summer. Certain cars just do better in snow, a friend's little front wheel drive thing did great, and it was white "like a little snowflake" too.

The big problem in the US is driving is considered a necessity. Everything's set up so you just about have to drive. A mountain bike with knobby tires may be great for the snow, but I didn't have one so I didn't get to try that. But I was within walking distance to everything I needed, and in that way was much luckier than most. A lot of jobs in Colorado Springs are far from the center of town and you just have to drive there. Things are just really spread out in the US, and public transportation just about nonexistent. There's a bus in Colorado Springs, but it only covers the central part of town and the two older outlying areas, and doesn't run on Sundays because in the US, all you're supposed to do on Sunday is walk to Church.

Bicycling is a very possible alternative, because once one's used to it, it's just not hard to do say 50 miles a day. The trouble is, it's dangerous due to the cars, and the long distances one needs to travel tend to put an emphasis on speed, and with speed comes injuries. Bicycles work great when you can just putt around. And a car can get just plain stuck in the snow, a bicycle, nope. You can always just walk it through a place that would trap a car.

You Brits are pretty lame compared to us in some ways but I'd not say handling snow is one of them. It just doesn't take much snow to bollix up any modern city.

So did everyone rush to the grocers to stock up on milk and bread? You always see that here in the States, at least south of the northernmost tier of states. My theory is that there is a psychological connection between what people want to eat and what it is doing outside. Snow = white food. Colorful autumn leaves = pumpkin, roast turkey, etc. Spring grass = tossed salad. Spring flowers = colored Easter Eggs. Hot July weather = BBQ.

Neat theory, huh?

We laugh about the milk and bread thing when it snows here in Pennsylvania too - it's really an interesting behavior.

a famous peak oiler, the curmudgeon of armageddon, whose blog is linked to from the oil conundrum, states over and over again that changing light bulbs isnt going to help. this same person, who is very famous also sez that driving more efficient cars isnt going to help. happy motoring is all over. but..."it's all good".

now about water quality...it seems japanese researchers say gubbermints should add lithium to the water supply to calm populations in stressful times.


hey, i dont make this stuff up, i just link to it.

i have a 3KW grid tied system. i was talked into it by a contractor. all contractors had the same story. at the time my state, nj, had a 40% rebate. but the waiting list was 3 years. only enough money for 300 systems per year. i think the rebates ended with the fed 30% rebate.

i didnt think i would have the money 3 years in the future so at the time so i went for it with my own money. as a scientific experiment to see if solar is feasible. well, not really. if i had waited the 3 years i would have been unemployed and would not have spent the $25,000 to put the system up. originally i wanted a battery system but the price would have doubled. so to have serious "juice" one need serious cash. in order to go green one must have lots of green.
all rebates and gubbermint handouts mandate a grid tied system. TPTB dont want citizens off grid. too many might become independent.

there is a very complicated energy credit system also. requires registering with a mandated middle man to sell your energy credits to the power company. i permanently removed my credits from the market as a protest. you see, i put up the $25,000 and i has to share it with a broker? who thought that up? gold man sacks? i think a board of public utilities should has regulated my energy credits to be paid directly to me from my utility. how ever, that would jepordize the "free market". although a utility can deal with millions of consumers it cant deal with a few thousand producers.
HAH-HAH! what a joke.

p.s. i would have to pay taxes on the money i get from selling my energy credits, another joke.

I wish I had the satellite solar cells I had, very neat little high-yield things, I got a bunch of 'em for something under $200, get more than that out of the irregular ones, wish I'd just kept the rest.

Off the grid is the way to go!

When I have my lab/workshop set up, I sure want it off the grid, since electricity is on a tiered billing system here, the under $20 worth of juice I normally use a month can concieveably cost something like $80 so I worry more about it than when I had my own apartment.

This means eventually I want a bunch of PV cells and a battery bank, and either an inverter or just run everything on 12V, there's a scad of 12V stuff out there, look at stuff for boats and for truckers and RV dwellers.

There was, I believe, a 2-part article in the US amateur radio magazine, QST, about a guy setting up an off the grid system where everything was 12V, he realized that by the time he'd set up the ultimate emergency radio station, he might as well have his whole house off the grid, so he did it.

There are plenty of 12 and 24 volt dc appliances that are now available.
A couple of panels with a charge controller plus batteries is very much in reach even on a very tight budget. You could even add a good sine inverter and run some AC tools or appliances.
I firmly believe that decentralized off grid electricity production is viable now.
There is plenty of information available for free on how to set all this up. If you need some advice on a specific issue drop me a line via my email in my profile.


Um, right now, for me, a gallon of milk is a big-ticket item.

I hear ya!

it's back to gravel me buckoze!
read it and weep, but...."it's all good!".
maybe this is part of uhmerikan reduction in consumption. after all
where is $100 billion to be found for uplifting other countries?
"Ever since the invention of the automobile, paved roads have meant progress. Now some cash-strapped towns and counties are finding progress too expensive, and they are tearing up battered roads and putting down gravel."

2 posts in the same day? wazzup up?

I've lived on a dirt road for the past 20 years. Not gravel - dirt. Gravel would be an upgrade!

It doesn't matter what the town or county thinks, because this is what we call in NH a Class 6 road, i.e., not town-maintained. We keep it graded, snow plowed, fix the culverts, etc.

Pretty rough going sometimes, but it keeps the riff-raff out.

[Edited to add: And yet, UPS and Fedex deliver up here! So it IS all good :-) ]

With all the talk of "risky currencies", I think a discussion of what will cause a currency to be risky is in order. and with that thought, do old theories have to be rethought? Certainly a pattern of deficit government debts have to be a consideration. So does the current and continuing trade account. The comparisons of economies is also relevant. There are undoubtedly other considerations, but on the foregoing issues, I would suggest that the US currency is the weaker and thus riskier currency of major countries in the world. The debt to GDP on an effective basis is beyond what MSM wants all to believe as are the future deficits. The trade and economy comparisons look weak for the US compared to the BRIC countries which are the new growth economies. If the economy cannot grow without massive stimulation or risks a double dip even with stimulation, then the world has perhaps changed and maybe the US currency is the new "risky currency"?

More of a question than an answer, but shouldn't interest rates adjust for level of risk? For example, the euro is already paying a higher interest rate, therefore some risks are priced in.

I look most closely at another metric - the amount of money in the monetary base, or otherwords money "printed' by the central banks, to determine relative value.

While Japan and the ECB have at times from 2002 to 2007 exceeded the US by growing their money base faster, the US has gotten well ahead of them in money base growth this last year. The ECB has very specifically stated that it intends to withdraw some of the extra Euros it created in the last year or so early on in 2010. It looks like that at a minimum, they will be reducing the money base somewhat - although maybe not as much as they talk about.

Since the US is still in the process of rapid money base expansion up until March 2010, we shall see very soon if the amount of money a country prints up means anything - or if the 'case for deflation' can even over-ride the massive input of new paper money into the US economy.

Keep in mind that the new US dollars do get released by the Fed into the economy - and whether or not we want to talk about how much they induce the multiplier effect or increase money velocity.

The year 2010 will be the year the price of risk will have to be paid somehow.

You also need to define risk, which in financial terms is something along the lines of deviation from expectations.

If you have obligations in dollars, then holding dollars is essentially risk free from a currency perspective. Say you own $100 and expect to get $100. It doesn't matter what happens to the direction of the currency, you are hedged.

If you have the same obligation, but expect payment in Euros, you have currency risk. You may do better, you may do worse. But it is risk.

Additionally, risk is not all there is to currency valuations at this point. As long as China needs to manage their exchange rate (or risk to export prices), they need to hold US dollars. I don't see this unwinding any time soon. In fact, I suspect that the US-China death grip is as tight now as it ever was, although that could change.

None of this is to say that the $ will do fine. it may well not. But to look at it on a simple relative risk basis overlooks many of the factors influencing currencies.

207 bcf drawdown of gas from storage in a week is more like a normal monthly drawdown. the one week data suggests that for this week, demand exceeded supply by nearly 30 bcfd with consumption of around 86 bcfd.

dry gas production has been in decline since about feb '09 according to monthly ng data.

It's been extremely cold here in Minnesota.

“So one may almost say that the theory of universal suffrage assumes that the Average Citizen is an active, instructed, intelligent ruler of his country. The facts contradict this assumption.”
—James Bryce (1909, 35)

This quote often pops up, does anyone have a reference for which James Bryce said this, and in what context?

From The Hindrances to Good Citizenship

Available online at the link given, from Google Books. Usage occurs on page 35.

Nice one, thanks.