Drumbeat: January 1, 2010

Gal Luft: Water Crisis, Energy Crisis, Vicious Cycle

Reading Steven Solomon's excellent new book "Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization" I was reminded again of the connection between the water challenge and the field to which I dedicated my life -- energy security.

It is widely accepted that water shortage can -- and most probably will -- lead to military conflict, mass migration, food shortages and a host of other security challenges. What is less appreciated is the connection between water and energy and how intertwined are the energy challenge and the water challenge we are facing today globally.

Water is essential to the production of energy of all forms. In the aging oil wells of Saudi Arabia more water is pumped in to increase reservoir pressure than the amount of oil that is actually being pumped out. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 2 to 2.5 gallons of water are used to produce each gallon of gasoline from conventional crude and more than 6 gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of gasoline from oil shale. Alternative fuels are also water intensive. The voice of the U.S. ethanol industry, the Renewable Fuels Association, estimates that 3.45 gallons of water are used per gallon of corn ethanol produced. Electric generation is no less water intensive. Ninety percent of all power plants in the U.S. are thermoelectric, requiring billions of gallons to cool the steam used to drive their turbines.

Energy crisis may cripple country by 15th

ISLAMABAD: The country may plunge into the worst imaginable energy crisis as virtually all refineries are teetering on the verge of financial default and may close down operations by Jan 15.

All the oil refineries of the country, currently working on a negative gross revenue margin, and with their borrowing limits already exhausted, are likely to shut down within the next two weeks following their expected default to retire the existing L/Cs to import crude oil. The shutdown would mean no oil supplies for thermal power generation plants and the picture turns outright dark.

This harrowing scenario of the looming crisis was given to The News by a senior functionary of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Pakistan - CNG sector on the verge of collapse: speakers

LAHORE - The CNG sector, once launched as environment-friendly fuel with billions of rupees, is now on the verge of collapse due to the wrong and short-term planning of the policymakers.

Plan to operate 800,000 tube wells on solar energy

LAHORE - In order to overcome the power crisis, the Punjab government has decided to operate tube-wells through solar energy with the cooperation of a German company.

How to solve Nigeria’s energy crisis - Experts

As the Federal Government fails yet again in its promise to provide Nigerians with 6000 megawatts of electricity, experts have declared that gas remains the best way to resolve Nigeria’s power problem.

Vietnam Opens Up Oil Sector To More Firms

The Vietnamese Government has thrown open the petroleum sector to more categories of businesses, relaxing restrictions that prevented all but a few firms from operating in the sector.

All’s well that ends in oil wells. The Saudis are bullish on the future of oil.

Cap and trade talk, green energy expansion, new, unconventional oil and gas reserve exploration, and economic recession notwithstanding, Saudi Aramco is confident that the future will entail a growing demand for the Kingdom’s massive oil reserves.

President and CEO Khalid Al-Falih made it clear in a recent statement that the rapidly growing economies of Asia (led by China and India) formed the basis for the International Energy Agency’s forecast that world energy demand will increase by 40% by 2030, or about 1.5% per year. And the Kingdom’s crude oil reserves will remain the largest single fuel in that energy mix.

Oil To Lift Gulf States In 2010, Debt Remains Concern

Arab Gulf states may get a boost from higher oil prices in 2010 but the region's real-estate and banking sectors still face head winds.

"We are going to see an improvement in macro-economic conditions, mainly due to higher oil prices, which will trickle down to corporate activity," said Faisal Hassan, head of research at Global Investment House.

The Oh Decade: California's electricity crisis stung – but made us stronger

When I was on then-Gov. Gray Davis' staff, I remember being informed that California might experience "rolling blackouts" because our available electricity supply could be outstripped by the demands of a hot summer. This was so foreign a concept that we couldn't see the threat as real. Undeveloped countries had rolling blackouts, not major U.S. cities, and certainly not California. Electricity was universally available, reliable and cheap. It was just there when we flipped a switch.

The full force of the crisis hit like an uppercut to the jaw because at the time no one knew about Enron's market games or why major power plants were suddenly in need of "unplanned maintenance" right when summer demand began to skyrocket. Literally overnight, California became a Third World country rationing electricity and struggling to keep the lights on.

The Path Not Taken

Historian Kevin Mattson just wrote a book about the famous speech by President Jimmy Carter given on July 15, 1979, "the speech that should have changed the country." It was a time of yet another gasoline crisis, a time of high interest rates and of raging inflation, in an atmosphere of uncertainty about where the country was going, or needed to be going. Many of things Carter said at the time ring true today, and other things remind us of opportunities missed, and yet to be taken up.

Why Ecological Revolution?

It is now universally recognized within science that humanity is confronting the prospect — if we do not soon change course — of a planetary ecological collapse. Not only is the global ecological crisis becoming more and more severe, with the time in which to address it fast running out, but the dominant environmental strategies are also forms of denial, demonstrably doomed to fail, judging by their own limited objectives. This tragic failure, I will argue, can be attributed to the refusal of the powers that be to address the roots of the ecological problem in capitalist production and the resulting necessity of ecological and social revolution.

Federal agencies may have to consider climate before they act: The Obama administration may issue an order that would expand the National Environmental Policy Act's scope to prevent global warming. The move could open up new avenues to challenge projects.

Reporting from Washington - The White House is poised to order all federal agencies to evaluate any major actions they take, such as building highways or logging national forests, to determine how they would contribute to and be affected by climate change, a step long sought by environmentalists.

Environmentalists say the move would provide new incentives for the government to minimize the heat-trapping gas emissions scientists blame for global warming. Republicans have opposed it as potentially inhibiting economic growth.

No Need to Worry

Peak Oil Refuses to Rise to the Occasion

You don't have to be a global-warming alarmist to wonder just when the world's oil reserves are finally going to dry up and drive the price of oil through the roof, thereby ushering in a glorious age of energy created by hamsters on exercise wheels or some other renewable source. Conservatives who are into energy independence (such as former Gov. Sarah Palin) are also rooting for "peak oil," the moment at which oil reserves go into irreversible decline, as it means that increasing domestic production will become politically possible.

The funny thing is, peak oil has been predicted with regularity for decades now and something always gets in the way: new reserves are discovered, prices collapse due to economic slowdowns, new technologies extract more fuel from less supply. Look for a new peak-oil panic the moment the world economy unambiguously recovers and demand rises. And after gas prices climb up to $4 a gallon before dropping again to $2.50.

Movers and shakers look toward the future

I think the high price of oil that we saw in 2007 and 2008 may return by the end of 10 years. We will continue to see a significant shift toward hybrid or electric powered vehicles, and renewable energy -- wind and solar -- not just because of global warming, but because we're past peak oil in the U.S., and generally not discovering reserves as fast as we're consuming it. We will be in the middle of that transformation 10 years from now.

PetroChina steps up global trading drive

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia will quit a long-held lease for 5 million barrels of Caribbean oil storage near the key US market and PetroChina is poised to move in, industry sources said, a potential major shift in global oil trade dynamics.

Coming just weeks after Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi revealed the world's top oil exporter accepted an offer for free storage in Japan, the news underscored the growing importance of China and Asia versus the United States, where the government says oil demand has already peaked and supply competition from nearby Brazil and Canada is expanding.

It also highlights the increasingly global reach of the Chinese oil company, which could use the facilities as a staging point for a growing slate of South American oil deals or as trading leverage in the US market, which still effectively sets the global price of oil.

Russia imposes customs tariff on oil supplied to Belarus

RUSSIA will impose customs tariffs on oil supplied to Belarus, Russia's government said early today as Minsk denounced "unprecedented pressure" on its delegation due to hold talks in Moscow, the Interfax news agency reported.

Gazprom, Turkey Agree on Pricing, Volumes for 2010 Gas Supplies

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom and Boru Hatlari ile Petrol Tasima AS, the Turkish natural-gas distributor known as Botas, agreed on pricing and volumes for Turkey’s gas imports from Russia next year, Gazprom said.

“In particular, the sides agreed on the ‘take-or-pay’ terms of the contract and on pricing, which is based on a basket of oil-product prices,” Moscow-based Gazprom said today in an e-mailed statement, without specifying volumes or tariffs.

Venezuela in oil production deal with Italy's ENI

CARACAS—Venezuela's state oil company has announced a deal with the Italian company Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi for producing and refining crude from an exploration project in the eastern strip of the Orincoco basin.

Toyota's hybrid Prius faces US probe over brakes

DETROIT, Michigan — Toyota is facing a potential safety issue with its highest profile vehicle, the Prius, the latest in a plague of quality problems that forced it to recall four million vehicles in 2009.

A growing number of owners allege that the brakes on the third-generation, 2010 Toyota Prius can malfunction unexpectedly, with at least 20 complaints filed so far with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Five economic reasons why 2010 will be greener: Economics, rather than politics, will be the main driver of the fight against global warming in 2010.

In 2009, the global recession had a greater impact than all the diplomatic efforts that ended in the Copenhagen flop: energy production hadn't declined on such a scale since 1981, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Here are five economic reasons for the world to become slightly greener in the coming year (just a few of them could be wishful thinking...)

First, high oil prices. Pricier crude encourages investments in alternative energy sources. Crude oil has been trading in a fairly narrow - and reassuringly expensive - range of $64 to $80 a barrel since June. It is not likely to fall below that level.

Hawaii's future depends on developing sustainable industries, not relying on tourism and military

Q: Why do you think Hawaii's economy could get that bad?

A: Our major economic bases at this time are tourism and U.S. military spending and both of those are very fragile and not very good, if you are interested in local sustainability. Over the years I have been using the phrase "the unholy trinity plus one" to describe in a metaphorical sense the concerns I have about Hawaii. These factors need to be studied as one, thought of as being integrated, rather than as separate issues. They must be dealt with together.

Q: What are they?

A: One is peak oil, or the end of oil, or the energy transformation that must come. It's suggesting, in effect, an end to oil before a comparable energy source comes online. And that certainly will affect tourism and everything else in Hawaii. Our food is shipped in. We use oil to generate our electricity. No other state is as dependent on oil as we are.

Pioneers aim for cleaner, greener lives in suburbia

SYDNEY residents concerned about peak oil and government inaction on climate change are taking matters into their own hands, forming groups to turn their suburbs into low-carbon ''transition towns''.

The movement, which began in the town of Totnes, in Devon, is called Transition Towns and aims to reduce reliance on global sources of energy and food.

The Sydney umbrella organisation is now adapting the strategy - which evolved in British rural areas - to the needs of a large Australian city.

Retro: Y2K and Peak Oil

Initially Y2K was the obsession of a handful of terrified (and sometimes terrifying) technologists, who seemed baffled by talk of "end of the century" parties, angry at the lack of concern demonstrated by those who should know better, and convinced that the problem was far worse than was generally acknowlegded. By the last couple of years of the decade, however, the question of what would happen come January 1, 2000 seemed to be a debate between "we're hosed" and "we're so hosed that the living will envy the dead." I expect a similar arc for peak oil -- as the idea moves out of the niche blogs and discussion boards and into the cultural mainstream, driven by relatively popular writers such as James Howard Kunstler, the level of anxiety around what will happen when oil production peaks (or, as some would have it, when the powers that be admit that oil production has already peaked) will skyrocket.

Eco Family Produces Nearly Zero Waste

The Strauss family, who come from Longhope, Gloucestershire managed to get through all of 2009 filling only one garbage can. The family found a variety of ways to reduce the amount of rubbish they were throwing away to literally only a handful or so a week. They grow much of their own food, do their own composting, and only buy food from local vendors, which makes extra packaging unnecessary. Studies have shown that a large percentage of the trash that gets put in landfills comes from some type of packaging. The Strauss’ managed to cut theirs down by doing things like bringing their own reusable packaging to the butcher.

'Carousel' frauds plague European carbon trading markets

It is not the only oddity to emerge from the Danish Carbon Registry. All the expected big players are on the list – utilities, oil and heavy industry – the only sectors obliged by law to own permits to cover emissions.

Quite a few investment banks are also signed up, on behalf of industry or trading to make a profit.

But outnumbering these familiar names, hundreds of UK companies selling anything from hair loss treatments to electronics have mysteriously registered to buy and sell carbon permits in the Scandinavian nation – mostly in the last 18 months.

Power bidders left in dark over carbon-cost risk

UNCERTAINTY over Australia's emissions trading scheme is threatening to drive down the sale price of the NSW power assets, as bidders struggle to assess the risks of investing in the electricity industry.

Carbon pricing is 'starting point'

PUTTING a price on carbon is the "essential starting point"' in dealing with climate change, according to Australia's top economists. Asked as part of The Age Economic Survey what is the best way of tackling climate change, almost all respondents agreed that carbon must be priced so that there is an incentive for people to stop emitting greenhouse gases.

Is that CO 2 coming from my laptop?

Environmentalists argue the Web's infrastructure burns energy that produces greenhouse gases, but others say the impact is small.

Exelon's Carbon Advantage

Exelon's John Rowe has been planning for expensive carbon for a decade. Now it's time to push for the payoff.

Vietnam - Climate change support needed to ensure food security: PM

Vietnam, the world second largest rice exporter, needs greater international help to deal with climate change to ensure global food security, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has told the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit.

When sea levels rise a further 0.75 to 1 meter, Vietnam’s river basins and coastal forests will be 19-38 percent under water, which will have direct and severe impacts on livelihood and food security for Vietnam as well as the world, Dung said on Wednesday.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Leanan and thank you for the gift of the Drumbeat every single day. I look forward to it every morning.

Yes, Happy New Year, Leanan. Thanks for all you do!

ditto. Thanks Leanan. Splendid job as always.

Likewise !

Happy new year, Leanan and thanks so much. Your ability to find the relevant news and commentary in a dynamic world is uncanny. The Drumbeat is our daily bread.

Many, many thanks to Leanan from Seattle! Happy New Year!

Leanan is simply the best!

Just got back from there and Portland (and, luckily, Bend-i.e. we were lucky to make it back from there at all). Wonderful place, great market, good transit, and again, many thanks to Leanan and Happy New Year to all.

A Happy and Prosperous New Year Leanan. Any forecasts for 2010? :)


Great work, and a huge amount of work too. I appreciate the work you do for the site.


Thanks Leanan, and the entire staff.

Thanks to all who work to put out this site.

Thanks to the staff and community who contributes their time to make this probably the most valuable site on the Net (at least to me :-).

Happy New Year and many thanks to you Leanan and the rest of the staff too!
TOD is the best site on the net!

Yes, thanks Leanan and all at TOD. I couldn't do for one day what you guys do day after day all year, year after year.

Thanks Leanan, Gail, Nate, et. al. for culling through all of the headlines for us and bringing us a daily dose of energy information. Your work is much appreciated. I am sure there will be some interesting new stories again this new year. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Drummers.

Re: Is that CO 2 coming from my laptop? up top:

Here again is an article that ignores the big picture. The amount of carbon emitted by computer usage has to take into account the amount of carbon emissions foregone also.

I doubt that there are any net carbon emissions if the savings of the internet are taken into account. Here are a few examples just off the top of my head:

1. Savings in carbon emissions due to the reduction/elimination of paper in communications and record keeping. This happens in businesses everywhere, but the reduction and hopefully the eventual elimination of magazines and newspapers has got to be reducing carbon emissions.

2. Fuel savings when paper does not have to be transported around the country by mail or private carrier has to be subtracted from computer emissions output.

3. The on going reduction in mail volume has to be saving emissions as routes are combined, eliminated or delivery/pickup frequency is reduced.

4. The advent of cloud music and other forms of cloud computing where the data is stored centrally and disks are eliminated resulting in savings of the carbon emissions associated with their production and distribution.

5. The savings in emissions when shopping is done on line instead of driving around from store to store has got to result in less emissions.

I could go on and on. The article ignores the positive contribution of computers. No evaluation of computer usage emissions is complete without taking into account the emission savings that come with computer and internet usage.

Happy New Year!

Please do not go on and on.

What I see from computers in medicine is an avalanche of paper. And whole new industries like manufacturers of shredding machines and even a "service" that brings a giant truck-based shredder to the office to keep up with the relentless paper storm.

Computers have allowed for "just-in-time" inventory control -- meaning smaller, more frequent shipments of goods, with vastly increased packaging.

Internet purchases require some form of delivery -- UPS, etc. -- that Leanan has fairly convincingly demonstrated to be far less efficient than shopping brick and mortar stores.

Email is rapidly destroying the planet -- turning us all into zombies hooked to our various electronic tethers.

Computers are fun, but we will be a happier species when they are gone.

NeverLNG, you bring out some of the reasons why computers aren't all their advocates portray them as.

But the real error in logic is focussing on any one element or sector of the economy and saying that it is "better than" or "worse than" any other. That kind of comparison ignores the macro-trend, which is the rapacious nature of an ever-expanding population.

It's really just idle talk to praise (or blame) any particular sector of the economy while it is essentially riding on a runaway train. The folks at the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy I think convincingly demonstrate that as the human footprint expands, it crowds out all other species and necessarily depletes resources. They've even written a book about it:

Americans have been conditioned to appreciate, cheer, and serve economic growth. Brian Czech argues that, while economic growth was a good thing for much of American history, somewhere along the way it turned bad, depleting resources, polluting the environment, and threatening posterity. Yet growth remains a top priority of the public and polity. In this revolutionary manifesto, Czech knocks economic growth off the pedestal of American ideology. Seeking nothing less than a fundamental change in public opinion, Czech makes a bold plea for castigating society's biggest spenders and sets the stage for the "steady state revolution."

The publisher is American so really it should read "Humans have been conditioned to appreciate, cheer, etc." And we actually need to shrink the economy to get back within ecological limits, not just convert to a steady state one.


I am wondering if we will see new inexpensive delivery options where the package will be delivered to some sort of a regional storefront of some sort instead of being delivered directly to the home. When I was a kid we had a small Sears storefront in our little town - you could go in (or even phone in) an order, and it would arrive there in a couple of days.

The thing that this doesn't help with is all of the boxes and packaging material that are required to ship stuff like this - esp for something like misc UPS shipments. But if we look back at the catalog sales and storefront model (like we had with Sears), there is the potential for reduction of packaging material..

When I was a kid we had a small Sears storefront in our little town - you could go in (or even phone in) an order, and it would arrive there in a couple of days.

The Sears store just down the road from me still does much the same thing. If it isn't in stock, they will order it for you (online to their central database), or better still you can order it yourself on the internet and have it delivered to the store. I say "better still" because the local store is so thinly staffed your chances of getting them on the phone are slim, and you have a long wait in line if you go in person.

You save paying for delivery this way, provided it isn't too big or heavy for you to pick it up.

I sincerely doubt that overall we'll be a happier species when computers are gone. Firstly I tend to think that happiness levels tend to stay the same regardless of income (except when you're so poor you can't afford adequate food, shelter, etc.) But if the sentiment is turned into "more socially engaged" I still think it's unlikely to be true if it should it turn out that computers are non-viable for energy reasons. This is basically because people choose the most exhilhrating/compelling experiences currently available, whether that was the engrossing computer games and social networks, gin drinking excesses of England in the 1800s, the upsurge in drug use and casual sex in nineties Russia-during-collapse (because that's all the people had), the roaring twenties in america, and surely many more examples. Heck, gambling is at best an activity which passes the time without losing too much money and at worst turns people into zombies who use the people around them, and that was going on at the very least as far back as the first century AD.

Personally I consider computers to be human-trait multipliers, and to the extent human traits are the cause of problems for humans maybe computers cause more harm than good.

I am a bookkeeper NeverLNG. You are right about an avalanche of paper. The amount of paper used for bookkeeping probably quadrupled with the demise of green bar and the advent of computer accounting. Besides it allows people to keep books who really don't understand double entry accounting. And spreadsheets with bad formulas can look like they are giving you correct answers when they are not - I could go on and on.

It's been that way in engineering, too. For all the talk of a "paperless office," so far, computers have only increased the amount of paper used. In the old days, it took so long to draft a plansheet that if there was a mistake, it would be corrected by erasing it, painting over it, or simply crossing it out and writing in the correction. It may have looked sloppy, but it took weeks to draw everything, and no one was going to do it all over. Now, it being so easy to print another copy, the plansheet is reprinted to correct the smallest mistake. An avalanche of paper, indeed.

Yes, we use much more paper than is needed due to people's aversion to making a small correction on plans via pen (which was actually criticized by a local city at one point), the people who insist on redlining everything instead of correcting them 'on screen', and redlining them on full size plans instead of 1/2 size sets or zoomed in plans, and of course those who feel the need to print every single e-mail they receive.

Little different for plan sheets when we had pen plotters, much less drew them by hand. I never remember redoing a hand drawing on mylar or vellum.

The pitfalls of technology. Marvin Harris claimed that the average American woman spends as much time doing laundry as her great-great grandmother did. Though we have washing machines and dryers that make doing laundry much more convenient, that very convenience means we do it more often. Instead of wearing the same clothes all week, we expect clean clothes every day.

Harris claimed the only technology that really benefited mankind in the long term was birth control.

Except voluntary birth control is already reversing human evolution...

I don't think so. Birth control has always been something humans do. The only difference is how we do it.

Actually in the past population was controlled more by disease and in the farther past by predation (as all other life is). Now with human predators mostly wiped out and medicine preventing many early deaths by disease humans have had to be more aggressive about birth control. We are left to control our own numbers which we have done rather poorly. But we have also changed how selection acts on humans. Thus it is likely we have affected evolution by changing the selection criteria.

I wonder if birth control was in fact good for the human race. I had always thought it was, but without modern birth control perhaps human numbers would have reached un-sustainability early enough that civilization would have crashed before so much carbon was pumped into the air. Perhaps without modern birth control our complex global society would have collapsed before throwing the climate into the present state - which may doom us and other species. I don't know, just a thought. But I know we keep changing the way things are in this world in ever larger ways and we really have no grasp of the consequences.

Considering our constitutions and long histories on this planet, it makes most sense to encourage others to use birth control while maximizing our own reproduction and energy/nutrition utilization. I'm pretty sure that's the way Goldman Sachs would do it. Those that limit their reproduction will find their characteristics watered-down in future generations, especially if those that limit their own offspring contribute to the survival of those that have maximized reproduction. For instance, those couples that have one child, contribute their excess energy to support through government programs, the offspring of those less inhibited in their reproduction.

That seems to make sense Dopamine, yet the fact is that the rich and powerful (all first worlders) are by and large limiting their reproduction (even top of the pyramid such as Bush and Obama each just have 2 girls) while the peasants are having more than 2 by and large. But given that civilization leads to hierarchy with more at the bottom than at the top that fact serves to make sure that the base of the pyramid is large enough to support the top in luxury. Remember too that Bush either chose to limit his family or didn't like sex with his wife. And he worked to disable much of the birth control programs here in the US and overseas.

The rich and famous also limit outcrossing, chosing members of their own class. In the case of Russian royalty where that inbreeding was even more confined it resulted in children with hemophilia - some say that that led indirectly to the fall of the czars due to the rise of Rasputin who got powerful because he could help the Czars son.

It seems that the poor operate on biological imperatives more than the rich.

Some may argue that the meek shall inherit the earth and that riches are consumed through entropic forces while life endures through its own imperative. In other words, nothing has the staying power of an organism hell bent on reproductive success. The riches shall be lost and burned by the next generation of coke snorting, Las Vegas cavorting, self-absorbed fool whose main objective in life is self adulation.

There is a reason why the most powerful potentates in history had harems and weren't using condoms.

But survival strategies are a personal matter and if having one or two children is mandated by society then the equal distribution of wealth that helps ensure survival should also be mandated.

If the wealthy should use their cunning and avarice without regard, then too those that choose should use their profligacy without regard.

Dopamine it does make sense that the powerful potentates historically had harems and passed their genes on multiple times more than the less powerful. So why do the rich and powerful not do that now? Perhaps they are having lots of sex outside of marriage and passing on genes that way. I think the most powerful reproductive urge in humans is met just by the desire for sex. Secondary is the desire to have offspring. Thus fulfilling the sex urge with birth control meets most of the brain program instilled desires and the desire for offspring is more easily overcome by other forces.

BTW it might interest you that the Rothschild family because of terms set up by the senior Rothschild married mostly cousins at least for a while. Apparently the line was apparently mostly free of genetic defects it did not have the consequences that the European monarchs had. Or so I read in I think it was Discover magazine some years ago. I think it was not genes he wanted to maximize but the desire to keep the wealth in the family which is of course somewhat of the same thing - the genes thing is mostly a hidden program, the wealth in the family meme assists that program.

This is what I can currently find on it. "From its late eighteenth century beginnings until the early twentieth century, the House of Rothschild was the greatest of the European banks. Its success was due not only to the financial skills of the partners but also to their innovative strategies in the sphere of kinship and marriage. The structure of the bank was dependent on the family's unique rules of succession and marriage. It was organised into five branches, each in a different country, originally directed by one of the five sons of the founder, Mayer Amschel. The branches were linked by ties of fraternity, reinforced by repeated endogamous marriages. These marriages were normally contracted between the children of partners. Given the rule, established by Mayer Amschel, that only the founder's sons and, later, their sons and sons sons could become partners, the most common pattern was for a man to marry his father's brother's daughter._http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=9206D7A04069EFA9EE1F2BC4D7533CDB.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=88519

"Remember too that Bush either chose to limit his family or didn't like sex with his wife"

Where is your logic in saying that?

I can have sex everytime I want it with my wife and still not have have any more kids than the two I have, because of other factors not the amount of sex I have. And I can plan to have 2 kids and never have any, even though I have all the sex both of us want.

Just because I have only 2 kids, can not lead you to make that statement about me.

Sorry I'll call your statement mean spirited like it sounds.

Our population numbers are the results of a lot of things coming together at the same period of time.


Actually in the past population was controlled more by disease and in the farther past by predation (as all other life is). Now with human predators mostly wiped out and medicine preventing many early deaths by disease humans have had to be more aggressive about birth control.

Disagree. Birth control was a major issue long before modern medicine. It involved things like late marriage, only allowing marriage if you had enough land to support a family, abandoning babies that could not be supported, alternative sex practices, banning sex without marriage, and birth spacing by methods such as breast-feeding for as long as five years and societal bans on sex after childbirth for as long as five years.

Leanan, I am aware of all those practices, but I am also aware that childhood death by disease is now far less that it once was. While I don't have the figures to indicate which took more children at any point in time, I do know that very few families in first world countries now have children die from disease but that in the past (not even very far past) it was common for every family to have several chidren have died young. Most of the practices you list involve restraint. While restraint may have been socially mandated that does not mean it is successful. Restraint is still socially mandated by right wing Christians, and yet I have read that they have more out of wedlock pregnancies than kids who learn about birth control.

As far a predation I am of course looking farther back than you address. I know that hunter-gatherers use some of the means you mention, but there were far more lions, tigers, bears around - do you think that hunter-gatherers did not loose children (and adults) to large predators?

Per wiki "During ancient times and the Middle Ages, the child mortality rate was about 200 deaths per 1,000 live births and the under-5 mortality rate was about 300 deaths per 1,000 live births["
"The child mortality rate or under-5 mortality rate is the number of children who die by the age of five, per thousand live births. In 2007, the world average was 68 (6.8%)In 2006, the average in developing countries was 79 (down from 103 in 1990), whereas the average in industrialized countries was 6 (down from 10 in 1990)."

Clearly going from 300 deaths per 1000 to 6 deaths per 1000 is siginificant and cannot be ignored despite the fact that some people in the middle ages were encouraged to use sexual restraint to limit births. I doubt that those proscriptions filtered down much to the lower classes.

I don't think we know what what child mortality rates were in ancient times. They were high once we starting farming, but in our foraging days, disease was probably not much of an issue. It's high population densities that make disease a problem, and that only started with agriculture. And hunter-gatherers today don't seem to lose many children to animal predators.

Moreover...child mortality often is birth control. The orphanages of Dickens' day were officially sanctioned child-killing organizations. Over 90% of children who entered them did not live to age 16. Then there were the "baby farmers," and the suspiciously high number of babies who were "accidentally" killed by their mothers rolling over on them in bed.

One thing that shows up in the demographics of populations under stress is a skewed sex ratio - a lot more boys than girls. Some of this is female infanticide, but most of it develops over the early years of childhood. Are people intentionally killing their daughters? No. They are just favoring their sons. If there's not enough food, clothing, or medicine to go around, the boys get it, the girls don't. If it was random, we would expect childhood mortality to afflict both sexes equally, or even males more, since they are biologically more vulnerable. But it's not random. We've been helping evolution along for a very long time.

I don't think we know what what child mortality rates were in ancient times.

I believe that anthropologists are able to gain knowledge of child and adult mortality and causes farther back than we have records of memes and laws about birth control. Certainly by the time anyone was recording laws about who could marry when, they were also recording births and deaths, both legally and in family bibles.

Moreover...child mortality often is birth control.

I agree. My point is that child mortality by infanticide, neglect, as well as disease is a different selector than modern birth control. First modern agriculture and modern medicine eliminated a lot of the selection by famine and disease and then modern birth control gave us selection largely by numbers (people in the first world tend to pick a number of children to have and expect to have them all survive to adulthood regardless of natural disease resistance). Of course now that abortion is legal and prenatal testing can be done at an early stage of pregnancy some of the selection against genetically malformed children is returning. (I am not maintaining any "good" or "bad" regarding my comments just observing.)

As far as predation on hunter-gatherers, I haven't read anything on that currently but man eating lions, tigers, bears etc are generally hunted down by civilized humans so they may have less danger than in the past. But I used predation as a sort of shorthand for natural causes other than disease. This would be hunting accidents, poisonous snakes and insects as well as lions, tigers and bears. However fear of predators continued into the middle ages etc as the tales of wolves in the Brothers Grimm would attest, along with the fear of the deep woods.


I don't think those are major factors. Even if what you say is correct, the first world is a relatively small part of the world. Everyone outside Africa could be killed off, and most of human genetic diversity would still be preserved. That's why Africa is assumed to be the cradle of mankind.

Judging from modern hunter-gatherers, people who die young usually die of violence. Not hunting accidents or wolf attacks though, but of conflict with other people. Some things never change.

I suspect that in a world collapsed the peasant farmers and few remaining hunter-gatherers of the world will make it if anyone does. After all it is well known that Americans get Montezuma's revenge when drinking untreated water while those who drink it all the time fare better. I would presume there has been a selection for resistance or accommodation to the parasites that fell first world humans. Without modern medicine we with the fussy guts will not do well. There may return a selective advantage for sickle cell as the world warms and the mosquitoes move north. The main crux of my point is that via modern medicine and the subsequent need for modern birth control to offset the lack of culling by disease we have changed our evolution. We no longer let disease cull first world humans thus non-resistant humans are as likely to survive as resistant ones. We don't cull for good eyesight either although I am sure hunter-gatherer tribes were so culled. Etc.

Some say that hunter-gatherers are more violent but I think if you add in warfare it is likely that as many humans die at other human hands now as then. But you are right, the predator at the top is left with mostly its own species to turn on.

The main crux of my point is that via modern medicine and the subsequent need for modern birth control to offset the lack of culling by disease we have changed our evolution.

And I don't think that's true. Untreated water is a problem caused by population density. It's a problem of "civilization."

I don't know that hunter-gatherers are more violent. It may simply be that they die of other causes less often. Their low population density means disease is usually not a problem. And their healthy diet means they don't die of heart disease or cancer like we so often do.

Amen, neon.

I second that on engineering. Computers have made my QC checks a lot harder, too. With all the printouts, who knows what copy is the right one? It used to be you'd have your report or inked mylar, you'd check it, mark it up, fix it, and send it. Now I have "Track Changes" copies that never get printed, that have to be filed carefully in a directory so they aren't lost, that have to be named and managed so we know which one is which ... computers have made revisions of reports and drawings much easier, but have made version management a complex nightmare.

And managers (who are younger than me!) but got promoted out of doing the real work before this hit, can't seem to grasp that all our older procedures of redlining drawings don't work any more.

There is software out there that does version control on documents - in similar ways that computer source code is oftentimes is checked into something like CVS or SubVersion.

For all the talk of a "paperless office," so far, computers have only increased the amount of paper used.

IMO the paperless office is about as likely as the paperless toilet.

I think paperless toilets are much more likely than paperless offices. Heck, paperless toilets are common in many countries. Paperless offices, not so much.

Hmmm. I didn't think our operation was that different then many offices. Thanks to the computer I don't even have a file cabinet. I've got 100's of project reports on my hard drive. We don't even receive drilling proposals in hard copy. All digital. In the old days the fax machine would be humming all morning followed by the copy machines crunching out multiple sets to distribute to dozens of folks. I have 100's of daily drilling reports from our wells on the hard drive and not a single paper copy since we started 5 months ago. All our contract negotiations are done on digital copies ("red line" documents). Eventually the final contract (perhaps after dozens of digital revisions) is printed so signatures can be affixed. They'll go into a file cabinet but are also scanned and stored digitally...might never pull the paper copy out.

Seismic data represents a huge amount of data. A single project might be represented by a thousand 3' X 6' sheets of paper. But these aren't printed. They stay digital on the workstation. And the interpretations are done digitally and then usually presented that way. Eventually a very small percentage of the work product might be printed but more often then not it's presented digital from a projector via a laptop. In the last 5 months I've pulled up 100's of production histories on wells and have yet to print one copy. So much easier to copy numbers from a spreadsheet then entering by hand. Next week I'll be heading to a barge rig in S La to drill a wildcat. I'll be hauling several hundred documents critical to the drilling program. And not one paper copy...all on 4 gig flash drive in my shirt pocket. Daily we'll generate about 80 reports of the rig with maybe a half dozen being printed (safety sign up sheets, etc). Many won't even be emailed out. We have a commercial server where the reports will be stored and then accessed by those that need the info.

It's difficult to imagine our industry is that unique out there. Granted it may be impossible for some businesses to escape the paper chase. But there has to be more out there then has been presented on TOD that have gained the same efficiency we have. It's no exaggeration to say that the average geologist/engineer has at least doubled his work output thanks to computers. In the case of geophysicists and their seismic analysis they've probably seen no less then a 500% increase in efficiency.

So who else besides us are saving all those trees?

I agree, Rockman. I (and my staff) have been automating a large title company for the last 15 years and we have made great strides in eliminating paper. Our title commitments are delivered with the supporting recorded and other documents referred to by link instead of delivering paper as we used to do. Sometimes the supporting documents in paper form were a foot tall! Not anymore. Our industry also used to be completely addicted to faxing but that also is done less everyday.

On the other side of things, the government seems to keep adding requirements for new documents for each transaction. It does seem like the more we can do, the more we will do.

Seismic data represents a huge amount of data. A single project might be represented by a thousand 3' X 6' sheets of paper. But these aren't printed. They stay digital on the workstation. And the interpretations are done digitally and then usually presented that way. Eventually a very small percentage of the work product might be printed but more often then not it's presented digital from a projector via a laptop. In the last 5 months I've pulled up 100's of production histories on wells and have yet to print one copy.

Interesting comment and one I can relate to on so many levels.

A few years back I worked for a company that marketed high end scientific imaging and graphics software with GIS and Seismic data analysis capability to the scientific community at large and among our customers were both the large and small companies involved in petroleum prospecting. We're talking From Shell Oil to three or four people family operations, independent landsmen, freelancing petroleum engineers and the occasional geologist ;-)

Almost all the data was collected stored and analyzed digitally, only upon very rare occasion someone would need to create a large printout from a plotter usually for the sole purpose of impressing some layperson in a suit. None of this work could be done without computers. Paper just doesn't cut it when you're dealing with this kind of data volume.

Interestingly my girlfriend who is an IT professional and now works for a large hospital in corporate finance has been working on implementing proprietary software to make the hospital system paperless.

The medical diagnostic side of the equation is well on the way to becoming paperless.

Ironically, the financial, legal and HR side of system is where the paper really piles up, mostly due to paper trails required by outmoded and completely unnecessary bureaucratic and legal processes.
This BTW is the side run by MBAs, lawyers, financial analysts and the HR specialists.

My girlfriend is also responsible for developing the training curriculum to bring these "OFFICE" people kicking and screaming into the digital age. The resistance she encounters is very strong.

Part of the reason is the sheer inertia of a system where things have been done with a required paper trail the other is a deep fear of losing control over information and having to share power. In her hospital in particular there is a group at the top who are old school lawyers and power brokers and they just plain don't like change and occasionally deliberately sabotage the work of those that are doing there best to implement it and bring in a new paradigm. Many of these people are complete digital Luddites.

For the record I myself no longer use a printer, upon very rare occasion I digitally send files to Kinko's and have them print for me. I do this less and less on paper. I do print reams of data but it is mostly to digital files.

I don't know if it is possible to sustain the systems needed to keep up a complex civilization that will allow us to have access to digital data processing and storage long term but I am 110% convinced that any system that still relies on a paper trail is completely unnecessary and probably not cost effective.

FM -- Interesting that you mention the medical field. My owner (a super computer oriented type thanks to his stock/commodity trading company...does 300-400 million trades/day)is a big supporter on the local medical community (given ten's of millions). On the board of one of the biggest med research hospitals. His latest project involved turning his 12 PhD "quants" loose on their computer systems. One big plan is to tract all their cancer patients on line for life.

Even though this is a world class cancer research center they are somewhat behind the curve he says. I wonder if that's due in part to the power sharing aspect you mentioned. And yes, sometimes I do feel like a captive of my Blackberry. By my side 24/7/365. But it is nice sending out 1 email instead of making 6 phone calls.

His latest project involved turning his 12 PhD "quants" loose on their computer systems. One big plan is to tract all their cancer patients on line for life.

That could well end up being the start of a Scifi CSI plot line to find the culprits as the "quants" end up in the morgue one after another ;-)

I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the hospital board room when they discuss how well the implementation is going.

Seriously though, anyone who works in a fully digital environment understands that the advantages far outweigh the possible detractions. Unfortunately, as all who come to this site often, very well know, paradigm change is not an easy thing.

FM -- The morgue line was cute. But then I got to thinking about some of the folks who have been taking shots at the pharm. industry for pushing treatments vs. cures. Just treat a patient and you have a customer till they die. Cure one and you've lost future sales. Don't know much about that debate. But a couple of weeks ago my owner told me the group thinks they may have found an actual cure for a major childhood disease. I know you were joking but we've all seen the same movies with the reseacher whose brakes "accidentally fail" on the way to that big news conference. Maybe I don't want to stand next to my owner's car whenever he starts it up in the future.

Well...Happy New Year anyway!

After some 35 years of working in the digital printing industry (I bet you can't guess who I worked for?) I would say that a lot of the printing is 'junk' mail - my post box backs up this theory.

I was a Cartographer for 5 years. The biggest paper use was people printing e.mails to take home, or using the copy machine for their own use.

All the maps that were made, or changed were done as data sets, Hard copies were only made when our QC levels hit No mistakes found levels after several fact checking events.

If you plan correctly you can save paper. What gets us into trouble is assuming that just because we have a computer things will change on their own. They won't, you have to be active in the way your office, industry, firm, business, home, etc uses both paper and the computers you have to use.

Digital copy and paper copy both are useful mediums, but you have to make the rules in how you are going to utilize them.

It all boils down to how we use the tools we have at hand, and how we think about what we are doing in terms of sustainability. There are so many varibles to the whole issue that taking the time to sort out the reasons things happen the way they do can help you plan a better outcome for the future.

One place where paper has been limited that you might recognize is paper checks. How many of you still use paper checks, and when did you stop using them? Long time ago I used to be a courier, one of the things I carried a lot were canceled checks from the Local office of the Federal Reserve back to the banks. Then over about a year those pounds of paper just sort of dried up.

I still have a check book, but I only write 3 a month, not 20 a week. Some people don't even have paper checks at home, use a plastic card.


Email is rapidly destroying the planet -- turning us all into zombies hooked to our various electronic tethers.

So when will you stop posting here?

Well, not until the Internet goes away. I'm a zombie, too.

When in Rome....

What? The world didn't end yet and we have to get through another year ;-)

Can't wait for the Chinese New Year though! 2010 is the year of the Tiger...Hole in one maybe?

Happy New Year to all, big thanks to Gail and the rest of the staff.

BTW did people see this Wind turbine + 9000 LED's

Its lots of fun! I enjoy reading all of the great comments from readers.

My impression is that Oil Drum readership is doing very well. You can go back two years with Alexa, and compare The Oil Drum to other sites. Our readership is not as high as when oil was $147 barrel, but it is not too much lower.

Sitemeter, linked below, gives 30 day and 12 month and statistics.

Wow, Gail, comparing the number of posters per the number of viewers could give a regular contributor "stage fright". I better watch my spelling more.

Oh....Again, Happy New Year! Thanks for all that you guys do. It means a lot!

Now, if all those visitors would just kick in ten bucks each....

It seems like the biggest issue facing governments of all sizes is debt problems and reduced tax revenue. Additional stimulus will only make the debt problems worse. Local governments are affected as well as national governments.

If the world economy were growing rapidly (as one would expect if world oil supply were growing rapidly), one would not expect this kind of situation. Tax revenues would be growing and debt problems would be much more manageable.

It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out this year. It is hard to see how things will get very much better with oil supply no longer on a long-term growth trend, but it is easy to imagine ways the situation could get worse.

European Commision Warns: Eight Countries Charging Off A Sovereign Debt Cliff In 2010"

The European Commission (EC) itself has warned that the finances of half of the Eurozone's sixteen economies are at risk of becoming 'unsustainable', essentially bankrupt. As shown in the Wall Street Journal graphic below, Spain, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Greece are all teetering on the brink.

Today's WSJ article suggests Japan isn't in a whole lot better shape.

Bond Investors Bet on Japan's Day of Reckoning

Some hedge funds are starting to wager on painful times ahead for Japan, the world's second-largest economy.

These investors, including some who made successful bets against risky mortgages and financial companies in recent years, anticipate trouble for Japan's financial system. Their concern: Government borrowing continues to climb while demand for the nation's debt could taper off.

A collapse of the Japanese government-bond market "is going to happen; it's a question of when," said Kyle Bass, head of Hayman Advisors LP, a Dallas hedge fund, who has placed wagers on that outcome.

A rubbish article, at least in respect to Spain and the Netherlands. Spain has a lower debt to GDP ratio than France or Germany ! And the Netherlands, with its very low unemployment and lower debt/GDP ratio than the big shots Germany and France simply doesn't deserve to be put in any warning about bankruptcy.

And how about Britain and the Pound?
It doesn't appear in that graph because it doesn't belong to the euro but its financial situation is worse, way worse than that of Spain or Greece.

"The Euro
The most underrated event was the stabilising influence of the euro in the global economy. Eurosceptics have forecast with remorseless inaccuracy that the euro would consign Europe to stagnation, and would fall apart under the pressures of an economic shock. Its great test was the near-collapse of the western banking system; the member states of the eurozone fared much less disastrously than, say, Iceland. Right-wing columnists have had to push back the date of the apocalypse.
Oliver Kamm, Times leader writer"

Happy New Year to All and a suggestion...

How about something like TOD:Bookshelf as another Oil Drum section?

Here's what I 'm thinking: Anyone who has tried to write an essay quickly recognizes that it is impossible to cover even a simple topic in a few thousand words. The idea would be to select a free book off the Internet and then discuss it a section at a time over, say, a month and then move onto another "book."

For example, I'm currently reading Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation by Charles Hugh Smith, 136 pages. http://www.oftwominds.com/Survival/SP-free.pdf This "book" cover many of the topics that come up in TOD:Campfire but in far greater detail and would probably lead to lots of discussion.

There are tons of books available.

What y'all think?


Maybe we can at least do an "open thread" post on the subject.

Thanks for the suggestion!

How about something like TOD:Bookshelf as another Oil Drum section?

I was just thinking about that yesterday as I summarized my favorite books for 2009:

My Favorite Books of 2009

I only made it through 13 books last year - my lowest total in years. But the ones I did read were pretty high quality. My five favorites:

1. Biofuels, Solar and Wind as Renewable Energy Systems: Benefits and Risks. Edited by David Pimentel, and yes I am probably biased on this one.

2. Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil by Peter Maass.

3. Oil 101 by Morgan Downey.

4. Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization by Jeff Rubin.

5. Oil on the Brain by Lisa Margonelli.

To be honest, they were all really good. Depending on what you are looking for, I could easily come up with a different ranking. For instance, if your desire is to learn as much as possible about the oil industry, I would put Morgan's book in the top slot.

I have read Peter Maass' work in the NYT Magazine and assigned it for students to read. He is a very talented writer. Thanks for reminding me about his book.

Rubin's was indeed the best I've read this year. Honorable mention goes to Carbon Shift edited by Thomas Homer-Dixon. Andrew Nikiforuk's book on the tar sands was also quite good, though it may have been 2008.

On the climate change issue, I'd have to say the best was What's the Worst that Could Happen? by Greg Craven, followed by Climate Cover-up by James Hoggan. I'm currently going through Mike Hulme's Why we Disagreee about Climate Change, which is quite worthwhile (Hulme is from the University of East Anglia, where the e-mails were hacked, by the way).

"Exelon's Carbon Advantage"

As an Exelon customer (via ComEd) I'll be interested to see where this goes.

We've had a couple of fairly steep power rate increases in the last 5 years, although, for what one gets, lights on 24x7x365, overall it's money well spent, comparatively, to things such as cable TV, at around 13 cents per Kwh.

Chicago is talking about smart meters :-

"ComEd wants to test Smart Meters"


I haven't seen a plan to install them yet. I did have a water meter installed 2 years ago, and saved a lot of money over the generic, property-frontage-based calculation for water & sewer.

With a number of wind-power installations being slated for the Illnois-St Louis corridor, since Exelon has mostly nuclear in its portfolio, it will be interesting to see how they plan to acquire wind energy resources for customers.

Edit :-

I just saw this press release dated 11/11/09 regarding smart meter testing in the Chicago area (not my neighborhood, unfortunately)


Hi ST,

One analysis of Nova Scotia Power's TOU rates suggests the potential cost savings could be in the order of 23 to 28 per cent for all loads and 7 to 8 percent for appliance loads only.

See: http://www.ibpsa.org/proceedings/BS2009/BS09_0123_128.pdf

Presently, NSP's TOU rates are restricted to homes equipped with ETS heating systems, which pretty much guarantees excellent results. If at some point this restriction is lifted, I will enrol immediately.


Happy new year to all drummers and many thanks to Leanan and staff for the Oil Drum. We spent new year's eve adding insulation over the kitchen. Now living room and kitchen have R66 over them and the other half have R22. Big insulating binge planned for tomorrow when the forecast is a balmy -16C instead of today's -30C (too cold in attic to be comfortable, bruises need rest too). Halifax, please what kind of wall insulation did you use in your renovating? Thanks

Hi Paleo,

Our walls are standard 2x4 construction and were originally fitted with R7 fiberglass insulation. We made the difficult decision to rip off the plaster and re-insulate. As a first step, we caulked the seams on the plank sheathing and around the studs. Next, we installed 0.6 inches of Styrofoam SM (R3) inside the wall cavity and caulked and sealed the joints; then 3.5 inches of fiberglass (R12); a 6 mil vapour barrier, carefully sealing any penetrations; and, lastly, 1.5 inches of Styrofoam on top of the studs (R7.5), sealed with Tuck tape. This cut heat loss by two-thirds, greatly reduced air infiltration and dramatically improved our comfort, especially on cold, windy days.

Note that some gaps were bigger than others. We think that might have been a bird's nest !


Oh dear - now that was alot of work. I'm thinking of yanking off the exterior stucco, adding 2 thicknesses of isocyanurate? foam board (whatever has the highest R value), house wrap and putting the stucco back. How long did that take you? You must have done nothing but work-work and home reno for a long time....


Ripping off the stucco sounds like a lot more work to me..

Plasterboard is generally pretty easy to work with once you get the hang of it. Yes, ripping down the old is going to be a messy job, but it isn't a hard one. Similarly putting up new plasterboard isn't all that hard either, but like a lot of things it is quite a bit easier once you have some experience with it.

If you go the interior route, you will have to remove interior moldings - if you are careful when you remove them you can reuse them when you finish up the job which would save you the trouble of buying new.

Taping, sanding, priming and painting aren't really that hard either. A bit time consuming, I guess, but nothing is for free..

Two guys who are young and athletic working together you do this by grabbing and going at it.

Everybody else -rent or buy a tool that is called by various names but is essentially a sheet rock jack that holds the sheets tight against the cieling for you while you get the first half dozen nails or screws into it.. Another tool known locally as a toe jack is very helpful in installing vertical sheets.Buy it.
Using the largest sheets you can handle really cuts down on the finishing time.

If you can manage it , it is always worth while to spend a few hours watching a pro work before you take on such jobs, especially if you are going to do a whole house-you will finish in less hours total, get a better looking job,and use less materials.

Hi Paleo,

We renovated floor by floor, over a span of three years, basically one floor per year. The alternative would have been to remove the cedar shakes, add exterior insulation and re-shingle, which would have been a far more complicated undertaking. I'm glad we did it, but have no appetite to do it again.


Spouse asks if you are for hire? ;^)
I'm worrying about vapour barriers now. An engineer at Natural Resources CANADA's energy efficiency website wrote to me that an interior coat of oil paint will serve as a vapour barrier (if outlets, baseboards etc are caulked tight). Can anyone comment on this?

thanks Paul

Hi Paleo,

Ed is happiest when he's tearing something apart and rebuilding it from scratch and to give the man full marks, there's nothing he can't do, be it framing, electrical, plumbing, cabinetry work, drywall, what have you. I, on the other hand, embrace wholeheartedly the principles that built this great country, namely peace, order, good government and a clean house.

I'm somewhat paranoid about mould and mildew, so we were careful not to compromise the new vapour barrier; I wouldn't rely on an oil base paint alone, but then our coastal environment is very different from your own. We installed a heat recovery ventilation system that serves all three floors and keep humidity levels on the low side, e.g., we run the dehumidifier virtually non stop nine months out of twelve.


As a builder I've read in trade journals that two coats of latex or oil will work as a vapor barrier, but I'm not convinced. I work a lot in 18th century houses, so it's more about blocking inflowing air. Then we worry about insulation!
Two other comments. I would strongly advise anyone sealing up walls with vapor barriers and especially the foam sandwich to install a whole house energy/heat recovery ventilation system (ERV/HRV), there is a serious issue of loss of interior air quality. Unfortunately they are expensive and the ductwork is a bear to install in an existing structure and of course there are two fans (70w@ for up to 1500sq ft) running constantly, although control units are available that will reduce that with cycling. Basically made the difference whether my partner with allergies could live in the house or not. The foam/fiberglass/foam sandwich scares me, I've ripped a lot of rot out from sealed exterior faces of walls in cold climates. You have to be absolutely clear where the envelope line is and what the material is on each side. Of course all that changes if you are in a climate with a cooling load, maybe that is a problem we will have in New England soon ;^).
My project for the winter is to pull up the 6" fiberglass thrown randomly in the attic, remove 190 years of mouse, rat, and racoon dung, along with corn cobs, newspaper, chestnut shells...and then start over with foil, aluminum tape and lots of fireblock spray foam, then blown in followed by the 6" fiberglass cuz it's there.[indent][/indent][indent][/indent]

Hi GF,

I don't honestly know if we did the right thing, but from what I've read and from what others have told me, provided two-thirds of the total R-value remains on the exterior side of the vapour barrier, condensation should not be an issue. We tried to ensure the vapour barrier would not be compromised, but that's not to say it wasn't nor that moisture couldn't migrate via the rim joist, for example.

To help improve our odds, we use exhaust fans when we cook and shower, installed a HVR (and, yes, it was a bear but made a little easier in that we could run the ducts to the second and third floors via a chase wall) and operate the dehumidifier day and night except for the three coldest months of the year. Whether all of this is enough to prevent moisture related problems is anybody's guess.


Good luck that sounds like real fun. ;^) Thanks for all the replies, Halifax especially. I figure we have a couple of years of just plugging various holes before we have to deal with the wall insulation problems. Aiming for 5% improvement in energy efficiency per year. The major complication is that Regina is built on glacial Lake Regina clay and the ground constantly shifts your house. Hard to keep things plugged. Walls are built to float and other weirdness.

How was it that you decided to do this? By this I mean, did you get an audit or use an IR camera, or did you just know that this was the place where you needed to do work?

Did you consider the spray foam that I have seen used recently in recent home improvement programs?

I suppose someday we might need to do the same - fortunately we live in a townhouse, and the two big walls aren't important as they adjoin the neighbors. But I would probably want to get an IR camera or some such to see if this is truly the limiting factor for us or not. I wasn't present when the house was built, so I can only guess what is actually in between the walls. I am guessing 2x6 wall studs for exterior walls, which if true would give us more to work with.

One of our problems is the air stratification - the warm air works its way upstairs and leaves it cold downstairs. I have been tempted to install a barrier (wall/door of some sort) to try and limit this, but I have no idea how much this will really help. There are times (when moving furniture) that having more open stairs is quite helpful. And if we put in barriers, it is likely that some furniture we already have upstairs couldn't be brought down..

We did a cabin a few years back and had cellulose sprayed in the walls. The insulation is the same recycled paper that folks blow in their attics but it has a little more borax in it and something else. The machine mixes it with a little water and they spray it on the walls (like the expanding foam) and it sticks. As it dries, it hardens and they saw it flush to the studs with a big saw. It smelled kind of funny for a couple of weeks.


Above ground storey is very cold in winter, below ground and partially insulated basement is warm and comfortable and funky (much nicer). The house was built ~1954 and I have removed wall plates and know that the exterior stud space has only rotting old fiberglass batts. I know we gotta do something...haven't decided what. Actually alot of construction in Canada is based on cheap fossil fuels for central heat being always available. I had to add attic insulation to two houses that we were renting in Ontario, there really wasn't any which is pathetic. This fixer-upper is becoming more of a fixer-upper than we had realized, sigh.... Stucco less scary than dry wall personally. First finish attic, upgrade to triple pane windows from single paned, install wood stove for backup heat (at -40 C need backup and have fur kids so shelters are out in case of power outages) finish insulating last quarter of basement...This house is keeping ME fit.

5 above ground rooms, if we went the interior wall insulation route, it would take us a year per room...

Lots of good ideas to get into further trouble in Fine Homebuilding...
There are those moments of epiphany in DIY when you wonder Oh sh**t, have I finally bit off more than I can chew this time (hope spouse doesn't notice....)

There are companies that can inject foam into existing walls but it's not a DIY thing. One thing to consider about removing your interior walls is that you can install a vapor barrier. Upgrading your attic insulation (priority one) and windows, and making the house tighter will raise the rel. humidity and moisture level, so in cold climates, adding a good vapor to the inside is a must (see Paul's pics above). Spray foam adds R value and solves(usually) the moisture issue. If you seal the outside and have no moisture barrier inside you'll most likely end up with blocks of ice in your walls. Older homes didn't have this problem because they weren't very airtight.

One suggestion is to divide-and-conquer. Do one wall at a time. If you are changing windows, it's a good idea to do it at the same time you upgrade the insulation.

Hi Eric,

Shortly after we took possession, I called Scotia Fuels to ask how much we should budget for heating oil. I could hear the operator taping away at the keyboard as she opened the previous owner's account on screen and the next words from her lips were "oh dear". That was when I realized we had a problem. However, we wanted this house and to live in this neighbourhood, and so we were prepared to do whatever was needed to get the job done.

We considered spray foam and contacted two local firms, but neither was interested in our business. Also, we were living in the home at the time and renovating room by room, so it would have required multiple return trips. We quickly ruled it out as impractical.


One of my relatives had the same situation -- the hot air all ended upstairs and the downstairs stayed cold. The solution was simple: he hung a curtain midway up the stairwell where it met the living room wall. It made a dramatic difference, but it wouldn't work on a completely open stairwell.

In light of some of Memmel’s comments from yesterdays Drumbeat, people in a fiat Ponzi financial system can work as slaves without knowing it until it is far too late. We bank our labor in the form of pensions, 401K, and other fiat denominated instruments. We may have many years or decades of labor saved in these accounts. Additionally we pay our labor into various government programs through taxation like Social Security.

As the fiat Ponzi scheme collapses, as the dollar collapses, most of that banked labor will be stolen. Much has already been stolen and spent, sent through some corporate entity long ago. That you have spent a great part of your life working as a slave will not become apparent until rather suddenly. In other words, the government and Federal Reserve will repudiate 45 trillion worth of unfunded liabilities as private and public pensions also default. Your labor stored in other instruments like stocks and bonds can also be turned into slave hours in the blink of an eye.

It’s terrible to wake up and find you’ve been a slave most of your life, especially when all of that labor that was yours, was not yours after all and you will not be receiving any compensation.

Seems that a wise course, at this point, would be to convert your saved labor into real things before someone else steals them and makes you a de facto slave. Putting your wealth at risk in a zero growth or contracting economy seems foolish unless you can successfully play the next government sponsored bubble.

You can bet that the thieves of D.C. and Wall Street will be converting your past slave hours into real things for their future enjoyment.

Happy New Year and best wishes in escaping the slave masters for whom we toil.

Good analysis Dopamine--
I'm betting your analysis is correct, and have been for 30 years.
I could be wrong---

Except "real things" can be as easily stolen as "banked labor." Easier, even, since "real things" can be taken by ordinary thieves as well as by the government. Or by acts of nature: fire, flood, etc.

I still think knowledge and skills are the best investment.

Yes, yes, and yes.

How many millions have had the equity in their homes, and of course all the interest on their mortgage, taken from them with nothing to show for all they put into it? How many more millions will follow? Last I saw one in seven homeowners were in foreclosure or late on payments.

Even skills can be "taken" if technology changes or if your factory is off-shored and your skill is no longer relevant to your local economy--something which again has happened to many tens of millions over the last thirty years.

As I try to convince my grumbling students: memorize a beautiful poem and it will be your possession forever (or until your mind goes).

Even skills can be "taken" if technology changes or if your factory is off-shored and your skill is no longer relevant to your local economy--something which again has happened to many tens of millions over the last thirty years.

That's true. And more than off-shoring or technology changing, there's the possibility of the economy and society changing to the point where your degree is useless. For that reason, I would not go into debt to get a degree these days (though I did it in the past). And I would focus more on skills than credentials.

Trying to guess what the future will be like is probably pretty hopeless. Elsewhere in this thread, there's talk of books. One of my favorites is Stumbling on Happiness. It's about how awful we humans are at predicting the future. Even if it's something we've experienced before - buying a new car, say, or going through childbirth - we are lousy at predicting what it will be like to do it again. (Which is why advertisers have so much success in convincing us to buy things, even though most of us should know from experience that buying stuff doesn't make us happy or change our lives.)

So it's hard to say what skills will be useful in the future. Still...I think it's possible to hedge. If you get a degree as a veterinary technician, you'll probably have lots of work in BAU scenario, taking care of people's pets. If things get bad, you may end up caring for horses and cows instead of dogs and cats. If things get really, really bad, you may end up with human patients who can't afford the services of an MD.

Similarly, a lot of my friends and relatives are into crafty stuff. They sew, knit, quilt, spin, weave, make candles, soap, etc. Some raise small animals like rabbits and chickens for show. Some of them make some money selling their products at craft shows (or by selling extra animals as pets). Those are skills you can acquire without spending much money, and might be useful in a wide range of possible futures.

dohboi – With respect to your “skill…no longer relevant to your local economy” this strikes me as the greatest potential grief we’ll suffer as we slide farther down the PO slope. Re: Gail’s pie chart showing how higher energy costs are drawn from the disposable income wedge. TOD touched on this subject a while back. Afterwards, as I drove around town, I made a point of noting how many business served that discretionary wedge. Restuarants are an obvious portion. But I noted the majority of businesses fell into the non-critical category. Not necessarially as a group: we’ll always need some clothing, jewlery, appliance etc stores. But not as many as we now have. And, at the risk of sounding cruel, many of the folks employed in such eneterprises are functioning at the top of their skill levels. Folks often point out how much “fat” we have in our society that we can cut and reduce our energy consumption. But that fat puts a paycheck into the hands of millions…perhaps tens of millions. A while back someone offered the possibility of a permanent high unemployment. I woud think that any rapid reduction in energy consumption (voluntary or otherwise) would lead to such a state. Some envision a rapid switch to alts at such a time. But where would the capital come from if we’re also forced to deal with supporting all those unemployables? Add that to reduced tax revenues: fewer tax payers (both cmmercial and individuals). Even without a crash of the US $ or hyperinflation, as some predict, it’s difficult to envision our economy being able to handle such a confluence of factors. It strikes me as a potential problem without a solution. Just better and worse reactions.

I was talking with a friend today about energy decline and the usual retort that alternates could take up the slack was invoked. It was only when I pointed out that even if he had an electric car in the drive and his roof covered in PV panels tomorrow he couldn't do what he could do today. His life would still have to change to accommodate the fact he'd have less energy at his personal disposal. That much of his equipment, appliances and possibly even his house may well become unusable as a result.

It was only when he started to mentally walk through his new life that he began to realise how much change would actually be involved and how much of his wealth would vanish.

As you implied, 90% of the US economy is services and considerable energy savings could be gained by collapsing a significant portion of that economy. The downside being the throwing of tens of millions onto their own resources for survival without recourse to the shrivelled economy or Government. Only skills of personal usefulness as well as economically useful would really matter and are usually fairly basic in nature. Skills which are purely economic in nature and are useful only to the economy but not intrinsically to the individual would obviously be of little benefit if left to their own resources to survive.

Burgundy -- Your friend's willingness to reevaluate his situation may, unfortunately, be rare. Most of us tend to not want to consider life not falling into place as we have anticipated. Your comments also made me think of folks will real skills, say a carpenter, who may not have sufficient employment without an expanding economy allowing more construction. We're always going to need some carpenters but all of them? Todays I see hundreds of petroleum geologist/engineers facing under-employment or even complete unemployment. Granted no amount of domestic oil/NG drilling is going to change PO but it is an important industry and adds greatly to the tax and income base. And despite what some may say/think current oil/NG prices are quit adequate to encourage drilling. It's the lack of capex that's holding the industry back today...not economics. If a vital industrial component of the economy isn't coping well with the new conditions how will the discretionary components fare? Certainly true that our future should be much greener then it is today, but from where will the $'s come? Economics is not my thing but I get the sense that Peak Capital may be a bigger direct problem then PO(though not completely unrelated to PO).

I second that. Knowledge, and skills are key. And so is social capital -- relationships with people based on mutual trust and understanding built up by helping neighbors and friends, exchanging ideas, working and playing with them. Social capital can't be bought directly with money, but we can use our (remaining) cash to do things like acquire skills and knowledge that can help rebuild local networks of people helping people.

I still think knowledge and skills are the best investment.

I agree.

I hope that all I read and learn here at TOD will help with my self-investment :)

"Knowledge is Power" -- Sir Francis Bacon

I agree that pension plans of all types are likely to be a disappointment to workers who depend on them.

I did not work in the pension field, but I got to see the high rates of return (based on infinite growth assumptions) pension actuaries assumed in their calculations. At one point, pension funds were assuming 9% (or more) annual return on a portfolio that contained a mixture of bonds and stocks. To get the desired result, (if high-rated bonds were clearly returning a whole lot less than 9%), portfolios would be heavily invested in the stock market. The future return on the stock market portion of the portfolio would be estimated to be high enough so the overall average return (including bonds) would be 9%. Some companies even assumed 10% average annual returns, for a mixed portfolio of stocks and high rated bonds.

Defined benefit pension plans sponsored by employers have become much less common in recent years, because employers have figured out that it really takes a lot more funding to make them work than what they had originally been told, because stock market appreciation is not as good as hoped for.

Government pension plans often have little funding behind them. The assumption is that there will be enough growth that future taxes will cover the cost.

Retirement, which is only about 120 years old and widely available for only about the last 60 years (in the West), is coming to a rapid end. We are moving back to the historical situation in which the average person works until their death, even if it is just helping taking care of the kids.

BTW, here is one scenario in which the economy doesn't even shrink (like what we're going to experience), it simply stays constant and unemployment skyrockets:

This graph is from the Peter Victor's presentation at The Population Institute's "Population Growth and Rising Consumption: What’s Sustainable?” event a few months back:

Heinberg's presentation will be familiar to most people on TOD. There might be something new in the other speakers' talks but only if one is new to the topic. Some people (like Peter Victor) are not yet up-to-date on oil, so he makes forecasts that have little relationship to reality (in my view).

The speakers were:
Dennis Meadows, author of Limits to Growth (1972) and Limits to Growth: the 30 Year Update (2002)
William Catton Jr., author of Overshoot: the Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change (1980) and Bottleneck: the Human Impasse (2009)
Laurie Mazur, Island Press, editor of A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice and the Environment Challenge (2009)
Peter Victor, York University, author of Managing without Growth (2008)
Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute, author of Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines (2007)
Robert Engelman, WorldWatch Institute, author of More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want (2008)

All videos available via iTunes (free; will launch iTunes and bring you directly to the videos):

Thanks Andre, a great resource. I met with some peak oil people in the city, and they were acquainted with your work.
I might be able to use some of this with the Transition Town movement.

I haven't had a chance to listen to all of the presentations, but Dennis Meadows' presentation is very good. He points out that technology (whether improved efficiency or renewables) is at best a temporary solution to declining fossil fuels, and that population growth will soon overtake any benefits gained through technology. He feels that population is key to any attempt to address the situation.

I'll never be on board with characterizing the financial system at large as a Ponzi scheme, which assumes malicious intent from inception. Throwing out terms like this makes us sound like cranks ranting about the Bilderbergers' or Rothschilds' dark machinations; also it's abusive of the strict meaning of these terms, much like, to point out one pet peeve of someone who throws the Ponzi=financial system equation around quite avidly, like describing inflation as an increase in prices.

I prefer the term "house of cards" to Ponzi scheme.

But wait, there aren't any jacks, kings, queens... in the banking system (though there are suits and jokers), so I guess that shows I'm just a paranoid conspiracist.


All comparisons fall short at some level. If it is not obvious to you that the point of the comparison with a Ponzi scheme is that it is not sustainable, then I guess you are welcome to your perception. Anyone who spends more than two minutes on this site should be able to distinguish most discussion from those of the conspiracists you mention.

A Ponzi scheme as a description of the entire financial system is a poor statement, true. However, since the repeal of Glass-Steagall, it's very apparent that the entire financial system has been rife with fraud and impossible leverage. Deutsche Bank is leveraged over 50 to 1. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Citigroup were all leveraged between 25 to 1 and 35 to 1. The number of "no doc" mortgages issued is highly indicative of fraud. The testimony before Congress admitting that entire financial organizations held seminars on how to submit and repeatedly resubmit a mortgage application with "tweaks" until it was finally approved is indicative of fraud. The $400 billion lost so far on Fannie and Freddie is indicative of fraud and that number is guaranteed to grow further.

The financial system today is highly corrupt because there are no serious penalties for the fraudulent actions taking place. Laws that lack teeth in their consequences are useless laws, like most of what Barney Frank has proposed as so-called reform for the financial system.

So while calling the current financial system a Ponzi scheme might be erroneous, it's at least an attempt to express the extreme level of distrust that extensive corruption has created. How do we begin to repair this? By re-establishing trust and that is going to require changes to laws and prosecution of the existing criminals. Otherwise the banking system is liable to remain paralyzed due to the general belief in banking corruption.

This it what I have been saying for five years on various web sites such as this and precious metal/monetary web sites.

The US dollar is subject to a sudden, and possibly catastrophic, drop in value at almost any time - although most likely if that happened it would be connected with some type of political or financial event.

Even if that does not happen, the ongoing loss of dollar purchasing power is proceeding faster than commonly realized. International exchange values or even the heavily edited consumer price index will not tell us completely how we are doing.

Essentially the standard of living is going down, and investment in some governmental accepted asset is the only chance of even a partial hedge against loss of savings.

I don’t particularly like to characterize things as Ponzi schemes, but essentially the value of the US dollar is derived by having the citizens of the world accept it at face value. There’s an obvious similarity there to a Ponzi scheme, except in the case of the dollar, the world at least was expecting to be getting something - a functioning world trade system - in return. So some of the participants are not defrauded. Perhaps the biggest fraud of all is that the people of the US believe that there dollars are actually worth something.

I think this is where a lot of the TOD folks are ignoring history. Everytime there is some type of political or financial event dollar value goes up. I think this has nothing to do with the value of the dollar - it has more to do with the clout of US in the world economy (backed up by a credible threat of force).

Local Wendy's - Chicken Sandwich thing, a frosty slightly smaller than a soda can, and a fries that has about 20 fries in it and is about the size of a large bar of soap - almost 7 dollars.

Prices are creeping rapidly.

It's remarkable how expensive things have gotten in just the last few years. Particularly smaller, less obvious items.

The cost of a coffee. The cost of a candy bar in a store. The cost of a box of frozen peas. A box of .45 ACP.

I'm always amazed when I see somebody in front of me at the checkout and they spend 60 or 70 bucks and they've got 16 things in their cart, all pre-packaged garbage. I've got the 20 pound sack of rice for 5 bucks.

When oil gets back over 100 for good, things are going to get ugly on the price front.

Bravo if the gov implements consideration of carbon impact. If only they had considered that when doling out the stimulus money. However, like NEPA, this may be another paper exercise

But how far would this policy go? How about considering energy when they back housing loans? We've got a lot of crappy housing stock out there that should be weatherized before resold or refinanced.

The list of projects that could be affected is endless.

And lots of employment opportunities with those projects, if they can be financed. I see the government needing to be ever more deeply involved in all levels of this, for good and bad.

"Chicago's coyote population thriving, to residents' dismay" - (off topic)

CHICAGO – John Ruberry enjoys his daily jog through Chicago's tree-filled park system. He doesn't like the half dozen coyotes he's had to run around in the past few years.

“Coyotes should be in the wild, not in the city,” says Ruberry, 44, who lives on Chicago's North Side and jogs along Lake Michigan. “It's a little scary to know there are so many.”


With around 2000 coyotes, and 2.9 million people, I'm rooting for the coyotes...just a thought for the day, 1/1/2010.

This is cool too (except the part where the hapless coyote is taken into custody) :-

"Coyote enters downtown sub shop"

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=2644954n (video warning)

“Coyotes should be in the wild, not in the city,”

The city is the "wild", at least to the coyotes. Coyotes go where the opportunities and resources are. It seems they're not too different from us.

BTW, the "should" word always sends up a red flag for me.

Jessica Simpson Distraught After Dog Taken By Coyote


Real ironic that the picture of Jessica on that links shows her wearing a *FUR* collar

It's the coyotes that are the real underdogs in this story and I too root for them.

The score board is still Humans, a gazzilion to the Coyotes, one or two.
It's laughable that a dozen or so Coyotes compared to the human population of Chicago should so upset Mr. Ruberry...Take a jog on the wild side.


It's hardly as if packs of coyotes deliberately hunt joggers...they mostly go out at night, and avoid people.

They control the population of Canadian Geese, and probably take rats too. That's a *good* thing.

PostScript: however, we could station a pack of them outside the CBOT, to help reduce the population of hedge fund managers....

Jessica Simpson is soo smart.She has a reward for anyone who could reunite her with her dog. Let's see, a coyote walks off with it and it hasn't been seen since. I would think there is only one way she could now be reunited with it but she would have to have faith and pay the ransom up front.

A coyote ate my Daisy!

Coyotes won't mess with an grown person but they snack on cats and small dogs.

Happy New Year, and thanks to Leanan and all the posters who keep the light of possibility shining for us doomers ;)....and a question...how does one post a picture?

Use plain ol' HTML to post an image. You have to link to an image posted elsewhere on the web. You can't upload it here.

<img src="URL of image">

For example, this code:

<img src="http://www.theoildrum.com/sites/all/themes/tod/main/logo.png">

Will look like this:

If you use Firefox, there are extensions (I like BBCodeXtra) that make it easy to post HTML code online.

Also, I ask that you take some care in posting images here in the DrumBeat. Posting large images slows down the page loading, and some people are still on dialup. Even small images can slow the page down if everyone does it, because so many different servers have to be called.

I don't have any hard limits on image sizes. An on-topic chart or graph to illustrate your point is welcome, even if it's bloody huge. Off-topic images posted just as decoration will probably be removed. Also, be aware that some sites block "hot linking." If you try to link to those images, they won't show, or may even show a rude image or message instead.

Off subject, but this to me is one of the big stories of 2009:

Russia To Set Minimum Price for Vodka:


When Russia starts setting minimum price for vodka, I know that nothing is sacred in our brave new world.

Time to start making one's own...
I have mead brewing at the moment....

I have it on very good authority that you can make more excellent hi test brandy than you can possibly drink fermenting your mash under the sink in a plastic bin and cooking it off in a four quart pressure cooker while you make dinner.

Be advised that this can get you locked up but if you are long on time and short on cash and really want a drink.....

Mac, can you send us a link! Good squeeze is always useful as a form of currency ;-)


I keep it legal - strictly fermentation ;) But noted...

Many years ago I bought a book called The Moonshiner's Manual. It's just amazing how many ways you can kill yourself distilling alcohol. Lead solder, copper sulfates, cracked enamel in your mash cooker, etc. Just keep it really really clean and don't use a car radiator for a still and you'll probably be OK.

Me, I figured I'd get some lab glassware from a chemistry supply company.

Export land model applied to Vodka.

This might be the straw...

Cheers Leanan

Bad year for biofuel ends on a dour note

A federal tax credit that provided makers of biodiesel $1 for every gallon expired Friday. As a result, some U.S. producers say they will shut down without the government subsidy.

Still lots of fuel left for stunts ...


Happy new year to TOD ... the go to site.

Happy New Year for Leanan and all the Drummers !

The link about regarding refineries teetering on the edge of financial default in Pakistan is scary.

I think many of us have visions of high prices being the problem when there are oil shortages, but perhaps we should also be expecting the problem to present itself as bankruptcy instead. This can happen because the prices of oil is too high, relative to what purchasers can afford for the end-product (electricity or gasoline). Also, if companies have debt, and sales volume is down, the margin on products sold may not be enough to cover the debt.

If governments have plenty of money to bail out the companies that get into trouble, then things can work out fine. But now taxes are down, and governments are pressured in other directions as well. The situation in Pakistan is one to watch.

In light of the massive bombing in Pakistan today, it is not too early to begin speculating what noteworthy implcations chaos in Pakistan would have on world energy supplies.

I see the biggest problem here as destabilzation there leading to further destabilization in Iran and Afghanistan, but I say that only sitting comfortably in my arm chair never seeing much of the world outside the US besides southest Asia, Canada, and Mexico.

My guess is that Pakistan will be bailed out if necessary. By the IMF? By another country?

Pakistan is a basket case, that resource limitations and ideological restraints may bury even with all the money in the world thrown at it.

A basket case with nukes...

Pakistan sets prices of oil & NG products. I'd assume refineries and distributors are quasi govt entities.

So, essentially what is happening is that the govt has forced the companies to sell products below their cost with the obvious result of the company going bankrupt. Yet, in Pakistan nothing is ever what it seems to be on the surface.

Pakistan has a long history of brinkmanship to get US to give money to it. It has exploited Afghan invasion of USSR to the hilt - gettings hundreds of billions of $ from US and Saudi Arabia in aid (which promptly goes to the pvt accounts of the elite) in the last 30 years.

But I see that the current govt is probably the least capable of the last few years and likely has the least loyalty of the defense forces (govt is Sindhi dominated compared to the Punjabi dominated military).

I won't be surprised if this is a precursor to a military coup. What better to get the people on your side than to create a fuel emergency ?

ps : Oil marketing compaies are losing a lot of money in India too. The losses are finally made up by the goct.


There are probably a thousand reasons why this won't be sustainable long-term, but for us city bicyclists, this video of automated bicycle parking in Japan is totally cool:


I dream of secure bicycle parking. Sigh.

waaaay cool ;)

We don't have nearly enough cyclists that it's any kind of issue finding parking. The folks who brought us the new parking pay-boxes were kind enough (haha) to leave a few old coin-operated meters for parking bikes.

I think you'll eventually get it. As I understand it, London has so many cameras, very few people bother to even lock their bikes when they park them in public.

Energy crisis? Not a bad start to a new year (for a slightly hazey day). This is a screen shot of my RE monitoring system. Hope it makes PV a little less abstract for some of you.

PV output 01-01-10

12 years ago an engineer at my local power co told me that PV doesn't work in the real world. "Pipe dream" he called it. Put this in your pipe and smoke it, dude!

Li'l help here? How do I make an image smaller to fit screen?

It looks okay to me. It's clickable, at least, so those who can't see the entire thing can click on it to see the whole thing.

Probably the best way to deal with this is to host it at a place that offers thumbnails, such as ImageShack.us.

You can also resize the image so it's 500 pixels wide before you post it. That should fit the average screen.

Some people use HTML commands to resize images (width=), but I don't recommend that. Browsers are pretty bad at resizing images. They will look really, really bad if someone has a large monitor and the image is made bigger than it really is to fit. And if it's made smaller for a small monitor...you're forcing the person to download a big file, while getting only a small image in return. In general, images should be displayed at their "real" size. (Most web graphics have already been optimized for web viewing.)

Thanks Leanan. I'll size things down a little if I post more images. I have some shots of my PV trackers made from old satellite dish trackers some may be interested in. We gained about 35% production when I put them into service.

Open the image in an image editing s/w like Paint. Resize to 50% (I'd usually not post anything more than 600 pixels wide). Upload to whichever photo sharing site you prefer ...

Thanks. I resized down to 45% but it was a 10mp image. 30% may have been better. I usually just do a screen capture first but this software is installed on an 11 year old Toshiba. Don't want to push my luck, it's living on borrowed time, I suspect. This old laptop's been running 24/7 over 6 years. It does all of the data-logging for my PV, inverters, and two weather stations. Here's to steady state!

Nice! I'm pretty familiar with all of that.

Perhaps I can help with the sizing of the image as well.
Even basic image editing software should allow you to change resolution and physical image dimensions. If you are uploading to a service such as photobucket you can use their tools online to resize the image as well.

I'm guessing that your image is a screen shot what is your screen size and what is display resolution set to? The answer to that will allow you to calculate the resize percentage.
Then you can even use "Stretch / Skew" under the image menu in MS Paint which is part of Microsoft's accessories to resize you screenshot.
In the example below is reduced 75% you can see the result in the background The images are saved cut and pasted and the cropped to give what you see and it is up loaded to photobucket.


Never mind I just saw the other posts! :-)

The photobucket tip helps. Thanks!

I've begun to seriously doubt whether the free-market media is a reliable player. We now have three 24 hour news channels, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News in addition to the evening network news broadcasts and hundreds of local station news. However, if you ever try and obtain reliable information from television media it is "the vast wasteland" Murrow warned about over a half century ago. One broadcast that seems to be dependable is PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. They seem to tell the news accurately without histrionics. That being said the U.S government has so starved public television since the Reagan Era that PBS is in a perpetual cycle of fundraising and the quality and volume of programming is falling as a result.

The best example of the need for unconditional govt. support for public programming is The BBC. Here is a program from the BBC that would never have been produced in the U.S. for obvious reasons. The title for the first chapter was: "F**k You Buddy".

We now seem to live in a strange world where no one believes in the truth of the numbers coming from either industry or governments.

Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom is a BBC documentary series by English filmmaker Adam Curtis, well known for other documentaries including The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares.

Happy New Year to Drummers everywhere and a heartfelt thank-you to Leanan, Nate and Co. for keeping TOD going.


Joe, most people don't seem to understand how important this subject is. Truth and accuracy in media is an inconvenient truth to the PTB. I wonder when they will do to the internet what they have done to the MSM.

I heard yesterday that the Iranian govt. has found technologies to block public access to the internet as a means of social control.

The one power that they can't take away from individuals is the power to turn it off but the fact is most people barely read so without TV they are clueless. I have listened to many people say that they have disposed of their TV's. I thought about doing that but I still get a great deal of value from my TV and oftentimes from broadcast TV. I don't watch serials (even the better ones) but I have to admit that I am addicted to NFL Football. Tolerating the endless stream of commercials is a challenge as the inevitable wretching begins as I hear the same lame adds for the umpteenth time.

Sometimes I laugh at what persons from other countries must think of our television...for the most part during sports programs all you'll see are advertisements for big powerful trucks and erectile dysfunction medication.

I won't say it. ;-)


But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

From a 1961 speech by Newton Minow (not Edward R. Murrow), chair of the FCC. As with anyone who has ever expressed the slightest dismay at the general dumbing-down of things, he was labeled a snob and elitist for criticizing the taste of the masses that television BAU supposedly catered (and caters) to. Sherwood Schwartz, creator of Gilligan's Island, apparently named the S.S. Minnow after him, seeing him as the man who "ruined television." (As usual, good luck with any thought of improvement when dumbing-down has been taken up so shrilly by devotees of Political Correctness, on grounds of accommodating - i.e. pandering to and assuaging the egos of - the stupid and shiftless.)

Just to note that government support for the BBC isn't totally unconditional. There's friction and attempts to pressure the BBC from politicians (particularly with threats about renewal of it's charter right to a licence fee). What stops the government doing anything much beyond strong words is that a lot of people in the country really approve of the BBC's kind of output. (Not all people by any means.) Politicians are held in such low regard in the UK that the BBC will have to do something truly heinous for this base level of support to be lost.

That said, I think the reason the documentary needed a BBC type broadcaster may be different from what you might have been implying: the BBC can "get away with" a certain volume of programming that "has weight" but simply doesn't attract that many viewers. (Indeed, in a strange way it actually bolsters the BBCs position since it's an argument that no commercial broadcaster could have produced this.)

Water is essential to the production of energy of all forms.Water is essential to the production of energy of all forms.

And energy is essential to pump, process, move, purify almost all water. Well you can hold your mouth open in a rain :) More water is needed for tar sands and other non-conventional forms of energy, and more energy is needed for depleting water sources.

Oh and the glaciers are melting - when gone lots of farming will loose their annual source of irrigation, and hydroelectric plants on rivers fed by glaciers will be non-functional

I just wanted to thank the Oil Drum.

The past decade has been the formative one of my life... wife... kids... career... etc. I also became peak oil aware thanks to the oil drum and last year started a Transition Town initiative in my hometown.


2010 will be our first full year of existence and we have lots on our plate.

Thank You. Oil Drum. Without the information, and contributors here this positive change would have never happened!

Chris Alemany
Port Alberni, BC

I have also got active in Transition Towns.
Here is our very early stage blog:
We have had a few events, and community education attempts.

Happy New Year, all at TOD.

Very interesting stuff here today. Reading "No Need to Worry," I had to wonder: doesn't anyone at WSJ ever read anything? Why do they not understand that the forecast was always for 2000 to 2010 for peak oil... it did not happen until 2003 because it was not 2003 yet!

Now, because demand dropped after peak, and we are in the plateau region, they will say it has not peaked yet. Of course, if/when China begins to take delivery on all the contracts they have, we will see right away. At least IMO.

Wonder what their excuse will be then? How to justify BAU?

And so, thanks again to Leanan for all she has done to make TOD the information center it is. And to all who contribute! Thank you, one and all.

Much appreciation for the great work from staff and, equally, from the contributors who do so much to distill all the information in the TOD 'meatgrinder.'
Happy New Year, one and all

I hope the New year will bring more of these ..... just released