Drumbeat: January 8, 2010

Exxon’s 40% Failure Rate, Hungarian Flop, Lead to XTO Takeover

(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. seeks more than added reserves with its takeover of XTO Energy Inc. The biggest U.S. oil company also intends to prevent a repeat of exploration flops such as a Hungarian well that struck more water than gas.

Last month’s agreement to buy Fort Worth, Texas-based XTO for $30 billion, Exxon’s largest takeover since its 1999 purchase of Mobil Corp., provides growth potential to a company that’s failing on four in 10 exploration wells, analysts say. Those setbacks culminated in the Nov. 2 abandonment of a $75 million effort to crack open a natural-gas field in Hungary.

Arrest in B.C. pipeline bombings

RCMP have arrested one man and are conducting a massive search of a rural Alberta farm in connection to a series of bombings of B.C. gas pipelines.

Insp. Tim Shields says a man in his 50s or 60s was taken into custody around 8 a.m. this morning on the farm about 25 kilometres east of the B.C.-Alberta boundary.

Prius No. 1 in Japan Sales as Green Interest Grows

The Toyota Prius is so sought after in Japan it is the first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle to top annual sales, with buyers willing to wait six months for deliveries of the curvaceous "green" car

...Its success underlines the shift among consumers to embrace green auto technology that appears to go beyond a simple moneysaving response to the ups and downs of gasoline prices.

'Tea-party' protesters in Scottsdale target emission rules

"We stopped debating the science of climate change many years ago," Edison spokesman Jim Owen said. "The science issue is fundamentally settled. Let's get engaged in the solution."

Protesters said the utilities should use their vast financial resources to fight "the lies" that scientists spread about global warming, not embrace new regulations.

When money doesn't talk: review of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink

Pink contends that, provided employees receive a baseline level of compensation, three other factors matter more than moola: a sense of autonomy, of mastery over one's labor, and of serving a purpose larger than oneself.

One case in point: the results-only work environment at Best Buy's Richfield, Minn., corporate offices. Beginning in 2008, salaried workers there were allowed to shape their work day, putting in only as many hours as they felt necessary to get their jobs done. Productivity increased by 35% and turnover fell sharply, according to The Harvard Business Review.

Hmmm. There may be something in all this -- but the executives at Goldman Sachs aren't exactly busting a gut to adjust. Like others on Wall Street, the banking giant, which is expected to earn $6 per share in the fourth quarter, argues that fat bonuses are crucial to making its numbers.

Responds Pink, in a now common refrain: That's precisely the attitude that led to the recent financial meltdown, as traders and mortgage brokers focused on short-term rewards that encouraged "cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior."

Drill, baby, drill' could not be reality because of cost, obstacles

A letter to the editor complained that but for the obstructions of liberals, we could produce all the domestic oil we need. Meanwhile, the Lehigh and Northampton county executives are breathing down the neck of the Lehigh Valley International Airport director about the sharp falloff in air traffic. And in the background, we hear the constant whine of the Route 22 Coalition about PennDOT's modest plans.

In all three cases, the complainers believe the fallacy that crude oil is there for the asking. Probably, you believe it too.

What's the reality?

EPA Gives Shell Preliminary Approval to Drill in Chukchi Sea

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave preliminary approval to Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) to drill exploratory wells off the coast of Alaska, the company said Thursday, one of the last remaining hurdles facing the company's plans to begin drilling this summer.

Russia-Belarus oil talks to continue

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- High-level officials from Belarus were flying to Moscow on Friday to salvage an accord with Russia on oil duties a day after the talks were broken off, heightening diplomatic tensions.

Gas demand hits record on Thursday

LONDON (Reuters) – Gas demand hit an all-time high on Thursday, shattering the old record set in January 2003, but supplies were still comfortable amid Arctic weather despite a Norwegian gas supply glitch, National Grid said on Friday.

Fears for elderly as heating fuel runs out

HOUSEHOLDERS across the Inverness area face running out of heating fuel as snow and ice-covered roads stop deliveries getting through.

Inverness MP Danny Alexander said if the situation persisted there may be a need to look at drawing up emergency plans to deal with the situation.

Fuel scarcity: Nigeria government admits supply shortage

LAGOS—FOLLOWING the perennial scarcity of petroleum products that is currently rocking the nation and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, incessant claims of having enough products to saturate the market, the Federal Government has finally succumbed to pressure and announced that there was a supply shortage of about 53 percent in the system.

This is coming on the heels of the release of N32 billion out of the N72 billion owed marketers by the Federal Government for products importation.

India: Power, fertiliser ministries oppose OilMin move to raise price of gas

The ministries of power and fertiliser — the two sectors that are key consumers of natural gas — have opposed petroleum ministry’s move to hike administered price of gas with a shift to market pricing after three years.

Shattered Dubai dream echoes across Mideast: Laid off workers leave ‘in tears’; remittances dry up, cutting funds to region

As Arabs like Tamimi return to their impoverished homelands, they hit the reality that has long dominated the Middle East — chronic underemployment, low salaries and few prospects.

Arab economies like Egypt's and Jordan's — like much of the developing world — have grown in recent years, helped by a boom in global trade and reforms that loosened government controls on business.

Yet the growth has not yet been enough to wipe out the poverty endemic in many Arab countries or conquer high levels of unemployment. Thus the need for workers to still go elsewhere for work.

Foreign workers who once counted on Dubai as a source of jobs have found few other alternatives. Other Gulf sheikdoms with more oil and gas — like Qatar or the Emirates capital Abu Dhabi — have continued hiring.

New Mexico utility reaches agreement with groups over renewable energy plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Public Service Co. of New Mexico and environmental and energy groups have reached an agreement the utility says could lead to nearly 80 megawatts more of solar power — enough for 26,000 homes.

The agreement will be the basis for a renewable energy plan PNM will file with the state Public Regulation Commission by Jan. 25.

Monsanto hopes the grass will be greener with new crop of products

The two biggest new products, which have just been launched, are Roundup Ready 2 Yield soya beans — a second-generation version of Monsanto’s herbicide-tolerant soya beans, which the company expects to be planted on between 8 million and 10 million acres this year. The other is SmartStax, a line of herbicide-tolerant and pest-resistant corn, which is expected to be planted on more than 4 million acres.

The two are part of a pipeline of 11 products offering farmers better yields and weed and pest control, as well as nutritional benefits. Others include SDA Omega-3 soya beans, aimed at the consumer nutrition market, and Vistive Gold, which can produce reduced-fat soya bean oil.

Author and Lecturer James Howard Kunstler Joins ZOOM'D Leadership on the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network

James Howard Kunstler, author of such books as The Long Emergency and World Made by Hand, writer about environmental and economic issues for the New York Times Sunday Magazine and Op-Ed page, and seasoned lecturer, joins host John Schmidt on VoiceAmerica's ZOOM'D Leadership on Monday, January 11 at 2 PM Eastern/11 AM Pacific to discuss the challenges posed by the coming permanent oil crisis, climate change, and other currently converging dilemmas.

Monbiot: This is About More Than Just Climate Change - It's a War Over Decency & Sheer Bloody Selfishness (Video)

As George says, once we manage to get on climate change, if we manage to do that (not assured...), right behind it is peak oil, peak water, peak phosphates, biodiversity losses, all sorts of other environmental problems of frankly just as great magnitude. Ultimately it's about recognizing that economic growth, as measured by ever-increasing ecological throughput and consumption of natural resources, cannot go on indefinitely on a finite planet.

Barbara Fister thinks back on a year of hashtag-worthy highlights

Dennis Baron has written about the risks we run as information access becomes a valuable commodity. As libraries and higher education in general absorb the shock of the financial crisis, it’s easy to lose sight of what Richard Heinberg calls “the awesome duty of librarians” to preserve our culture. However, given that the majority of our shrinking budgets is already going toward renting temporary access to the stuff our own scholars create and hand over to corporations, could it be too late?

The Religious Left’s Prophecies of Doom – by Mark D. Tooley

In their accompanying “foundation document,” the bishops warn that the “earth is heating up at an accelerating rate” after “several thousand years of a stable climate.” Ostensibly reassuringly, “Learned scientists and experts monitor the changes that impact our very survival” and “are clarifying the measures we must take immediately to save our forests, oceans, air, human and animal ecosystems.”

...There is also “the energy crisis as oil reserves run out within two or three decades; the climate crisis as increasing greenhouse gases threaten to scorch the earth and desertification erodes productive land, polar ice melts, fire seasons lengthen, and coastal floods and severe storms increase in number; the bio-diversity crisis as at least one-fifth of all plant and animal species face extinction by 2050.”

Christian prelates more attuned to reality, and more prone to thanksgiving, might note that recent decades have in fact rescued hundreds of millions from millennia of poverty in China, India and elsewhere, that average lifespans are increasing almost everywhere, and that world food production is at record highs. Oil reserves have been perpetually and inaccurately forecast for depletion for the last century, until new discoveries always overthrow this expectation. And neither climate change, nor species extinction, are modern phenomenons.

Canada's Oil Sands Industry Weighs New Technology

Greenhouse-gas emissions from Canada's oil sands industry are growing even faster than the flow of crude to the U.S., but experts say the only technology able to cut emissions directly is too costly.

Canada's government wants keep a step ahead of regulations that could penalize high emission rates by promoting and funding carbon capture and storage technology as a way to expand the oil sands while also cutting emissions. But experts say oil sands CCS projects are far too expensive, and money would be better spent cutting emissions from other sectors of Canada's economy, such as from coal-fired electric generation and through more efficient transportation.

Why ‘peak oil’ collision provides opportunity for bold invention

ONE day, oil production will begin declining. The world’s drivers and transport operators and airlines, not to mention fertiliser, plastics and pharmaceutical manufacturers, will file their usual orders — only to be met by suppliers saying: “Um, sorry, we can only meet part of that order.”

Imagine the panic. Imagine the shock to markets. And imagine if that moment were to come not in 2130, or even 2030, but in 2013?

The economic uncertainty would eclipse the current recession, the potential for global conflict would shoot upwards, and some predict that we’d face the dark prospect of global oil apartheid, where rich countries might corner supplies — and poor countries would be left lurching, their very survival as states possibly at risk.

For years, those who have raised the spectre of “peak oil” have been derided as cranks and alarmists. But their ranks now include some remarkably conventional figures, and the statistics they use have the most respectable origins.

U.K.’s National Grid Forecasts Record Gas Demand for Today

(Bloomberg) -- National Grid Plc, manager of the U.K.’s natural-gas network, forecast record gas demand of 460.1 million cubic meters a day, compared with a seasonal norm of 342.8 million.

Kuwait Sets February Official Price at Five Month Low

(Bloomberg) -- Kuwait Petroleum Corp. cut its February official selling price for crude oil sold to Asia under long-term contracts to the lowest level in five months after declining processing profits reduced demand.

Russia-Belarus oil talks collapse

(AP:MINSK, Belarus) A delegation from Belarus has left Moscow without reaching agreement with Russia in a dispute on oil duties, though officials on both sides played down the significance of the breakdown on Friday.

Orlen, Chemiczne of Poland Warned of Possible Gas Cut

(Bloomberg) -- PKN Orlen SA, Poland’s largest oil refiner, and Zaklady Chemiczne Police SA, the country’s second- largest fertilizer manufacturer, have been warned that their gas supply may be reduced.

Kuwait Tests Investor Confidence

After Dubai's debt debacle, will Kuwait become the next Gulf state to come under greater international scrutiny? The wealthy state, owner of 10% of the world's oil, is not about to run out of money. But a growing political crisis, exemplified by parliament's demand this week that the state bail out its indebted citizens by buying up $23 billion of consumer loans, is driving away foreign investment, damaging the country's economic prospects.

Reliance Raises Offer to Acquire Lyondell, WSJ Says

(Bloomberg) -- Reliance Industries Ltd. increased its offer to buy a stake in LyondellBasell Industries AF, valuing the bankrupt chemicals maker at $13.5 billion compared with $12 billion in a November bid, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

Basics of Marcellus Shale drilling detailed

Thousands of feet underground, a formation of shale packed with natural gas has property owners seeing dollar signs.

And while the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation holds much promise for profits for both gas companies and property owners, how much gas wells will produce and for how long remains to be seen.

Coal shortages curb India's Dec power output - govt

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Coal shortages curbed growth in India's overall power generation to an annual 5.45 percent in December, the Central Electricity Authority said in a report.

Generation would have grown 6.5 percent had enough coal been available at plants of NTPC Ltd, the regulator said, adding India produced nearly 63.42 billion kilowatt hours last month, up from 60.14 billion kilowatt hours a year ago.

China Boosts Coal Supply on Snow Forecast in Beijing

(Bloomberg) -- China’s northern province of Shanxi, the nation’s largest coal production area, is increasing output of the fuel to meet rising demand after snowstorms cut off supplies to inland power plants.

Coal output has been ramped up in Shanxi since the start of December, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Hou Wenjin, an official with the local coal bureau. Inventories of coal at power plants have fallen as rail-cars carrying coal failed to arrive on time at destinations, putting output of energy-intensive commodities such as steel and aluminum at risk of stoppage.

RWE, Vattenfall Employees on Call to Keep Germany Lit

(Bloomberg) -- RWE AG and Vattenfall AB have workers on standby for extra shifts to keep German power lines operating as Europe’s largest energy consumer faces its biggest snowstorm in decades. Canals used for oil and coal shipments were closed.

Sudan could plunge into new war: aid agencies

KHARTOUM (AFP) – Sudan, Africa's largest country blessed with oil reserves, could descend into a new war unless the world community takes action to salvage a peace accord that ended one of the continent's longest conflicts five years ago, aid groups have warned.

Middle East: Atomic agitation

Just over a month ago, a group of veteran US and Israeli diplomats met at Harvard to play out scenarios for one of the most momentous issues facing the world this year – Iran’s nuclear programme.

In the simulation, as in real life, the stakes were high. If Iran comes within reach of a nuclear weapon – as Washington and its allies fear – the power map of the Middle East will alter, the rules that have held back atomic proliferation for decades may be damaged beyond repair and the US and Israel will see a bitter foe empowered as never before. Not least, US President Barack Obama will also have failed on a key foreign policy objective.

The result of the Harvard simulation was not promising for the White House. Tehran emerged the victor, ending 2010 closer to the bomb, with a western push for sanctions backfiring, and Russia and China talking to Iran behind their partners’ backs.

Tougher smog standards: New EPA proposal would lower limit to 60-70 parts per billion

Chicago and other urban areas across the U.S. would need to clamp down harder on air pollution under tough smog limits proposed Thursday by the Obama administration, which scrapped a George W. Bush-era rule that ignored the latest scientific advice.

US scientists demand government ban on mountaintop mining

Mountaintop mining should be banned for causing vast and permanent destruction to US environment and exposing its people to serious health consequences such as birth defects, a new study says today.

An article in the journal Science, by a team of 12 ecologists, hydrologists, and engineers, provides the most comprehensive analysis so far of the damage done by the controversial mining practice.

All sustainable transportation subsidies shouldn't be created equal, experts say

"Subsidies for alternative fuel vehicles, such as PHEVs, are needed in order to move our transportation sector away from petroleum and towards more sustainable technologies and fuels," said Winebrake, who also co-directs the RIT Laboratory for Environmental Computing and Decision Making. "However, blanket subsidies such as those currently in place, are clearly sub-optimal. The administration needs to target its subsidies in areas that maximize social benefit."

Skerlos and Winebrake explain that PHEVs can make the biggest environmental and energy bang for the buck in specific locations. Areas that use low-carbon fuels for electricity production, such as renewable fuels, nuclear power, or natural gas, make more sense than areas that generate electricity from coal.

Second are areas where people drive more, so that the PHEVs displace a greater amount of petroleum.

GM makes battery for Volt

General Motors made its first mass-produced electric car battery as it gears up to sell the new Chevrolet Volt to the public this year.

The lithium-ion battery was made at GM's Brownstown Battery Pack Assembly Plant in Michigan that will produce the batteries for the Volt assembly line in Detroit. Regular production at both facilities is expected to begin in the fourth quarter.

Will Google Energy Power Its Data Centers?

Google isn’t saying how it will use any green energy it generates or purchases, but the company’s vast, power-hungry data center network could be the primary beneficiary. Google has shown an intense focus on energy efficiency in the design and operation of its data centers, and has also invested in renewable energy, primarily through its Google.org non-profit arm.

RWE, Centrica Win U.K. Wind Permits in Biggest Offshore Program

(Bloomberg) -- RWE AG, Statoil ASA and Centrica Plc won licenses in Britain’s $120 billion offshore wind program, the world’s biggest, as the nation plans deep-water turbines to meet emission targets and help avert an energy shortfall.

The Future of Phosphorous

I spent a couple of days this week at Arizona State University, a hotbed of science involving emerging technologies and sustainability. Among the scientists I met was James Elser, a biologist who runs the School of Life Sciences. We chatted about space and the origins of life for a while, and then he handed me a two-page white paper that addresses his current obsession: phosphorous. We’re wasting it and need to figure out soon how to recycle it, lest famine or worse ensues, he said. Phosphorous, Elser told me, “is the biggest problem you’ve never heard of.”

Can the aviation industry ever be green?

Cutting emissions on the scale required to meet carbon targets means big changes in either how, or how much, we fly. Roger East sees an industry in need of radical innovation and asks, can it go fast – and far – enough?

Green Strategy

Economists at the green end of the spectrum often remind us GDP is not a very good measure of economic welfare if damage is being done to the environment. In the first place, people will suffer various forms of distress. The recent floods in the west and south of Ireland were a dramatic example of this.

In the second place, the environmental damage may well reduce the prospects for economic growth in the future. Flooding, for example, could damage the fertility of the soil. The exhaustion of non-renewable energy – peak oil – is probably the most dramatic way in which future growth will be compromised. Statisticians are working on how to adjust conventional measures of GDP to allow for environmental damage and overuse of natural resources, but such adjustments are not yet much in evidence.

The global financial crisis and the relevance of Marx: A review of Chris Harman’s Zombie Capitalism

The early years of the 21st century began with the delusion that capitalism had reached a new level of almost permanent stability. Only a few years later, however, the credit crunch of 2007 and the subsequent crash of 2008 exposed the reality of global instability. These events were triggered by so-called ‘innovation’ in the financial sector, which Harman deals with in the chapter on “Financialisation and the Bubbles that Burst.”

In the final part of the book, he looks at the “new limits of capital” which activists are increasingly forcing onto the agenda of mainstream politics: peak oil, global food shortages, and climate change.

India Will Meet Its Copenhagen Climate Commitment, Ramesh Says

(Bloomberg) -- India will include its proposal to limit greenhouse gases through 2020 in the Copenhagen climate- change agreement, meeting a pledge made last month, the environment minister said.

The fourth-biggest polluter from burning fossil fuels will submit its plan to be part of the international declaration and can carry it out without needing funds from richer nations, Jairam Ramesh said in an interview in New Delhi.

Half Of Money Managers Ignore Climate Risks: Survey

WASHINGTON - Nearly half of global money managers are making investment decisions without factoring in risks or opportunities associated with climate change, according to a survey released on Wednesday by a coalition of environmentalists and investors.

A related report recommended that money managers and institutional investors do climate risk assessments on all investments and encourage the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to encourage full disclosure of climate risks.

'Climate change resistant crops' move nearer after gene breakthrough

Crops resistant to climate change have come a step closer after British scientists discovered the key gene which allows plants to react to temperatures around them.

Doubt global warming? The planet won't tell a lie

One doesn't need to measure thousands of temperatures to find conclusive evidence that the planet is warming. The earth does the averaging for us. Many physical and biological characteristics show that the earth is warming and has been for decades.

Climate change: A civil rights issue for blacks

Climate change is more than an environmental issue. It is a human rights and economic justice issue. Why? Because though climate change impacts all of us, different nations, and different communities within nations, experience the effects of climate change in varying ways, some worse than others.

Platts has the following to say about UK power supply:

UK power demand at two year high, margins remain comfortable

Total electricity demand in the UK outurned at 59.3 GW on Thursday,
January 7 the highest level for over two years yet the generating system remained fairly comfortable with a number of peak generating units not in operation, National Grid data showed.
. . .
Despite demand being higher than forecast levels, a number of peakload generating units were not being utilized all day Thursday including all three oil-fired generating plants totaling 4.3 GW.

Increasing UK gas prices relative to coal have meant that generators have shifted feedstocks to some degree with coal accounting for 45% of UK power generation in the past 24 hours, compared with 37% for Natural Gas.

Regarding the cold winter for the Eastern US and Europe,Jeff Masters has this very interesting fact to share:

The temperature in Narsarsuaq, Greenland at 10am EST today was 46°F, far warmer than most of Florida.

Culprit is, according to Jeff, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

Gee thanks, that makes me feel warmer. Wednesday ice stayed in my birdbath through the day, that hasn't happened here in Turnbull Florida in a long time. But I do remember it freezing solid in the 70's.
Store shelves empty of space heaters.

Store shelves empty of space heaters

And to top it off they are predicting snow for tomorrow morning.

Wow, you're kitty corner to Cape Canaveral. "Shuttle launch delayed due to blizzard conditions." You can't, pardon the pun, nip over there and snag some LOX to build a bonfire with?

19 latitude degrees north of you in Western Oregon it's merely damp. WTF? Glad we have the rest of the continent in the way to stave off all that chill.

There was a storm which blasted in from the North Atlantic over the Labrador Sea the past few days. The barametfic pressure was rather low, 986 hPa (29.12 in) at the time the temperature was highest, 6 AM this morning. That storm likely brought a bunch of warm air along with it. I happened to watch the storm on NOAA satellite photographs, which was quite impressive. You will notice that the previous record for Narsarsuaq, Greenland on 7 Jan was 50F in 1997 and the record for 8 January was 48 F, also in 1997. Remember what happened to global temperatures in 1998?

E. Swanson

'North Atlantic Oscilation (NAO)
Saturday, 7 February, 2009 11:50 AM
Eureka, perhaps: there was a freak ice not growing event in part of the N.Atlantic arctic at the end of January, which they are saying is indicative of a strong NAO, one known effect is snowy UK and the end of a consistent 'samey' winters plus unusual rains as far south as Cyprus are also typical of a strong NAO.
NAO becoming more variable this century perhaps due to the North Atlantic drift going south - pun.

The storms in southern France / Spain

Emailed the above to several friends, seem the met office wasn't up to drawing the same conclusions.
Clever old me :¬)

And yet National Grid fiddled the demand figures yesterday. Peak demand was 59.3 GW yesterday at 5pm, yet instead of recording this the forecast peak was updated to 58.6GW expected at 7pm and this change was made at 5:30pm after that had already been exceeded by .7 GW . That .7GW looks to me as if it might have been just enough to force National Grid to have declared "Insufficient System Margin"

Here's the display. Notice the times.

National Grid was also paying 22p/KW hour to buy electricty at peak time yesterday. That's $0.35/KWh for those in the US. In other words they were virtually paying people to pedal bikes attached to generators to meet demand.

As for Gas, National Grid currently forecasts demand for today at 464 mcm (even with many customers already cut off) which exceeds the current GBA trigger by 3 mcm. I am not sure why that has not automatically triggred another GBA. I do notice though that forecast supply into the system today exceeds both figures so perhaps they are about to up the GBA. If not then another alert may be issued shortly.

For those who are not familiar with what US whole electricity costs average (to compare to the 35 cents per kWh shown above, EIA links to a NERC spreadsheet showing the following average US wholesale electricity prices per kWh:

2002 3.56 cents
2003 3.99 cents
2004 3.89 cents
2005 5.01 cents
2006 5.30 cents
2007 5.72 cents

So we are talking about a price about 6 times the 2007 average US price.

And it was even worse today. Peak "Buy" price was 24p/KWh or 38 cents/KWh

Here's the chart


Hi Undertow,

During the summer of 2002 when Ontario was critically short of electricity, the Province was paying as much as $2.00 per kWh for imported power.


That sounds like someone was holding Ontario hostage...

Renewables are looking better every day.

Try getting them to produce precisely when you need them to. How much electricity are Britain's wind turbines providing now, when Britain needs it?

I'd guess quite a bit with the way the wind has been howling during the cold snap.

I'd guess quite a bit with the way the wind has been howling during the cold snap.

Then you guess very wrong. As I write this all of Britain's windfarms are producing 57MW out of a nameplate capacity of 1588 MW. Should pick up over the next few days though but long periods with almost no wind in the region of the UK are common in winter.

If the wind is howling then its possible the turbines are not spinning so they don't spin themselves to death.

Gail, I'll borrow from Leanan's post below:

Sharp increases in the price of food mean that food production methods that may not be economical under current conditions could well pass the breakeven point and begin turning a profit.

Substitute "energy" for "food" and you'll get my point.

Efficient ways to store electricity at scale would make this a moot point, but for now if we create renewables that can compete with non-renewables when viable, it could reduce average costs over time. That's how I do it.

Just 'cos it's profitable doesn't mean it's adequate.

Thousands of people starve every day already.

Substitute "energy" for "food" and you'll get my point.

Peak anything is caused by affordability for the consumer.

In a market with sudden changes in demand, little instant supply variability (good short term response within the margins of a couple of power plants worth of power though), and basically 0 storage capability (pumped storage doesn't quite count here as it can't be released any quicker than any other powerplant -- pumped storage is more like a quick response powerplant which gets to choose when to buy its fuel), volatility is expected.

A little while ago in Australia i noticed a negative electricity price for a few mins (the primary interconnect between Queensland and NSW fell over while we were selling a significant amount of electricity to them).

Not too many other markets have potential variability between 10000% and -200% in price while maintaining the same same approximate weekly mean price.

quite volatile demand + little supply elasticity == volatile prices

My brother was quite proud of himself for negotiating a negative electricity price for a gas plant he was managing.

The utility needed a base load for their power plants (they couldn't just shut them down at night and restart them in the morning), but the big bargaining chip was that the contract included a clause saying that if one of their main power plants tripped, he would fire up his rows and rows of 30,000 horsepower gas turbine generators and dump electricity back into the grid to cover the shortfall.

The gas plant could easily run on its own power, but who's going to do that when you get a negative price from the utility?

For the utility, paying someone to use their electricity was cheaper than having to deal with the whole grid go black on them. I think they once had a major power plant fail while California was having a crisis, and it cost them $5.00 per kWh to outbid California for power. (You can imagine what they thought of that in California.)

The gas plant, on the other hand, could let the customers run on the gas already in the pipelines for a few days while they pumped power into the grid.

From WSJ (you may have to search on Title to get)

Fed Plan to Stop Buying Mortgages Feeds Recovery Worries

The Federal Reserve's pledge to stop buying mortgages by the end of March is sparking fears among home builders, mortgage investors and even some Fed officials that mortgage rates could rise and knock the fragile housing recovery off course. . .

When such a big investor stops buying, "that could lead to material increases in [interest] rates across the board," said Ronald Temple, portfolio manager at Lazard Asset Management. He sees mortgage rates rising by a percentage point when the Fed stops buying. A withdrawal of government support, combined with high unemployment and rising mortgage foreclosures, could push home prices down 20%, he said.

The Fed now holds $909 billion of mortgage-backed securities. In the past year it has purchased 73% of the mortgages that government-backed Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae have turned into securities. Purchases by the Treasury pushed total government purchases above $1 trillion. The Fed says it plans to top off its purchases at $1.25 trillion by the end of March, but must decide in the months ahead whether the economy is strong enough to stick with that plan.

So, government = us.

The government owns close to $1T of mortgage backed securities.

Therefore, we own $1T worth of mortgage backed securities.

Call it a wash. Let's go shopping! :-)

Is this voodoo economics? 0_o

By George, damac, I think you've got the spirit of the thing!

This morning's jobs report was disappointing.

They were expecting a 35,000 loss, though some were hoping for an actual gain:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A two-year string of job losses appears to be near an end, if it hasn't ended already.

When the government releases its jobs report for December on Friday morning, some believe it will show an increase in hiring. That would be the first rise in payrolls in two years, although the consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com is for another loss of 35,000 jobs.

The reality:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Employers once again slashed a substantial number jobs off their payrolls in December, according to the latest labor report from the government Friday. But there was a small glimmer of hope as well.

The payroll number for November was revised to a net gain of 4,000 jobs. That's the first increase in jobs in nearly two years. The government had previously indicated that 11,000 jobs were lost in November.

Still, the government reported a loss of 85,000 jobs in December -- much worse than expected. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected no net gain or loss in payrolls in December.

Reported on CNBC this morning: 661,000 left the work force in December. Also they stated that Real Unemployment Rate is 17.3 percent. That number counts those no longer looking for work.

Ron P.

Are there any data sources showing trends in Real unemployment going back through history?

The BLS data on Unemployment can retrieve U6 back to 1994. That's a start.

Economy sheds more jobs than expected

WASHINGTON - Lack of confidence in the economic recovery led employers to shed a more-than-expected 85,000 jobs in December even as the unemployment rate held at 10 percent. The rate would have been higher if more people had been looking for work instead of leaving the labor force because they can't find jobs.

The sharp drop in the work force — 661,000 fewer people — showed that more of the jobless are giving up on their search for work. Once people stop looking for jobs, they are no longer counted among the unemployed.

When discouraged workers and part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs are included, the so-called "underemployment" rate in December rose to 17.3 percent, from 17.2 percent in October. That's just below a revised figure of 17.4 percent in October, the highest on records dating from 1994.

Do the 85,000 jobs lost account for seasonal hiring due to the holidays - if the net was minus 85,000 despite seasonal hiring then that would make these numbers look even worse...

Or maybe the majority of seasonal hiring occurs earlier than December ?

I think the numbers are all seasonally adjusted. But who knows how accurate that is.

Yes, those were seasonally adjusted. How accurate that is depends upon the extrapolation of past seasonal changes.

It is certainly looking like the most likely scenario is a "jobless recovery", by which macro metrics, such as GDP or the stock market show some improvements, but real pain in the street (like unemployment) remains stubbornly bad. This has been the pattern for recent recessions. Of course the current one is far deeper than those.

I don't get it... How can there be a "jobless" recovery?

How can the GDP be growing while fewer and fewer people are employed? I'm really kind of naive and don't know much about ecomomics and such... but if GDP is growing while fewer people are employed, then where is the "growth" coming from?

As I understand it... GDBP is a sum of sorts, if employment related terms in the sum are not growing (even shrinking) something else must be. I'd really be interested in hearing some kind of explanation as to what that something else is. So I can make up my mind whether

a) the GDBP number is inflated and just "smoke and mirrors" and doesn't really reflect how the ecomomy is really doing.


b) the rich are getting *much* richer while the poor are getting poorer. The ecomomy is growing but only the "elite" are reaping the benefits.


c) some other explanation I haven't thought of.


d) I'm completely missing the point somehow.

Somebody please enlighten me :-)

You didn't miss the point. These are government numbers.

Yes, you can produce a lot of smoke and a lot of mirrors without employing too many people to do it.

I don't get it... How can there be a "jobless" recovery?

How can the GDP be growing while fewer and fewer people are employed?

I think those are very good questions. I'm not an economist but I'll hazard some guesses.
If productivity is increasing (output per employed person), than GDP would increase even if you held employment constant. Also hours worked can increase (or decrease) without changing the number of people employed. My guess is that early in the recovery businesses are not confident enough to hire, but are willing to work the employees they have harder. It is much easier to cut back someones hours (especially if they are on overtime) then to have to fire someone. So the low risk approach is to avoid hiring until you are sure you need the extra employee.

Also (I think) that employment covers wages, but not profits of businesses. So if business picks up, it doesn't necessarily mean higher wages are paid out, the change could be absorbed by profits. This would be positive news for the stock market, but bad news for working stiffs.

I'll guess the apparrant GDP increase is because The Money Fairy came in the form of stimulus.

And there's the marked increase in financial transactions as the markets's rise (or fall for that matter)--churning the pot creates the impression something is happening.

Do I finally get counted? Great!! It's about time...

E. Swanson

+1. Been one of the "shadow underemployed" for a while now. The only time I get counted is at tax time. I wonder if the census is going to take a count of underemployed and those who have given up?

Times are tough, even for the educated.

Kumar G. Navile, 33, of Charlotte, N.C., has applied to 500 jobs across the country since he lost his job as an engineer a year ago. Each month, he finds himself about $600 short in his monthly expenses after the $1,680 he earns in unemployment benefits. He pays the difference from a savings account, but expects that money to dry up in the next two months.

Will all those engineers brought in under H1B visas decide it's time to go back to the homeland? During my job search time, I found several positions listed thru the unemployment office which were just intended to provide jobs for folks who wanted permanent residency status. The job listings were so detailed that the only person who could qualify was the person already working in the position. At the same time, there were said to be some 15 or 20 people applying for each opening...

E. Swanson

Will all those engineers brought in under H1B visas decide it's time to go back to the homeland?

Not bloody likely. Tech companies (expecially one well known outfit that got sued in a government antitrust lawsuit) know they can work H1-Bs to death, force them to work unpaid overtime, etc. and just threaten to pull their visas if the poor sods comnplain about it. And they're considerably cheaper than hiring domestic tech workers, even before you factor in all the "free" overtime. More likely we'll see massive lobbying efforts at bringing in even *more* H1-Bs, not fewer.

Maybe in the short term, but things do not stay the same. When you are damn lucky to have a job at all you are in no position to make demands. The assumption that H1Bs are considerably cheaper may not hold up long. Beyond that, the job base is shrinking too.

Where did you get the quote about H1Bs ? Didn't spot it in the NYT article linked above.

BTW, H1B visa holders
- Have to leave the country immidiately after losing a job (say in a couple of weeks in practice)
- Needless to say, they don't get any social security (umemployment benefits) even though they pay social security taxes

ps : Once the H1B holder gets "EAD" or "green card" they can stay and look for jobs and get unemployment benefits like the rest of us (citizens)

Here's my experience as an engineer in the Private Sector (all hail the free market!!)

they can work H1-Bs to death

Ditto for US citizens.

force them to work unpaid overtime

Ditto for US citizens.

just threaten to pull their visas if the poor sods complain about it.

Substitute "fire or layoff" for "pull their visas" and it's ditto for US citizens.

Who knew that intelligence, a facility with numbers, and an expensive technical degree would amount to being just another wage slave.

The employers always have the advantage. That is why people who hate unions are either 1) employer shills or employers or 2) morons.

The job listings were so detailed that the only person who could qualify was the person already working in the position.

I think that is a common, and frustrating experience. When a corporation knows who they want to hire for a specific job, they may still be required by law to advertise the position -as if those applying off the street have a chance at the position, but in reality they are just wasting their time and effort as the result is predetermined.

Will all those engineers brought in under H1B visas decide it's time to go back to the homeland?

I think on an individual basis that is becoming more likely. The attractiveness of the US versus the rest of the world is declining. We did have a couple of Chinese nationals quit and go back, as they felt the pay differentials had vanished. Also in some ways the H1B people are exploited. They pay unemployment insurance, but if they lose their jobs instead of being able to collect, they are deported. My Indian friend (who just got his green card), is working in the US primarily because of the difference in starting salaries. Apparently in India engineers start at very low pay, but get average raises of at least 18% per year. So they can benefit by spending the first decade of their career in the US, avoiding the low pay internship phase altogether.

The U-6 number (currently over 17%) includes a number of things such as discouraged workers and part-time workers who want full-time work. The biggest component of the difference between U-6 and U-3 (the "headline" unemployment figure) is the part-time workers. Someone who lost their job and is now working 20 hours/week at minimum wage is counted as a part-time worker. So is someone who has been cut from 40 hours/week to 36 hours/week and retained all of their benefits.

While it is true that U-3 understates unemployment in a recession like this one, it is also true that U-6 probably overstates things relative to how the typical person would define "unemployed". U-4, which is U-3 plus discouraged workers, is now 10.5%. U-5, which adds in marginally attached workers, is now 11.4%.

If you want a really high number, you could add in underemployment -- the guy with a PhD in Medieval French Literature flipping burgers for 40 hours/week. There's no official statistic for it, but U-6 plus underemployment is estimated to be around 25%.

I think we could dispense with U3 and all the rest of the U's.

If we simply published the number of folks receiving:

a) unemployment checks
b) extended unemployment checks
c) emergency unemployment checks

on current period vs. prior period vs. prior year... we'd know where we stand.

These figures exist and they are always are current.

My hope is the MSM will start to do this soon. The public is getting tired of green shoots and outright lies.

Come on... how does non-farm employment fall in December? The pinnacle period for shop-a-rama unless something is very seriously wrong?

If we simply published the number of folks receiving:

a) unemployment checks
b) extended unemployment checks
c) emergency unemployment checks

That would be valid if and only if all unemployed people got unemployment checks. I only wish that were true. Also you ought to count someone working half time as half of an unemployed person -not a whole one. Also underemployed should probably counted as some fraction of an unemployed person.

Because of these and other limitations, statistics on insured unemployment cannot be used as a count of total unemployment in the United States. Indeed, during 2008, only 36 percent of the total unemployed received UI benefits. The weekly data on UI claims do have important uses, however, and provide a timely indicator on labor market conditions. ... - Official numbers and text from the BLS. Scroll down to the very bottom of the page:


Labor force participation by age:


Goods producing vs. Gvmt. employment:


food stamps:


Average work week in hours (counted as full time by the BLS, dig into their site) about now, 32 or 33 hrs a week.

Shadow stats unemployment, U6 - SGS alternate:


Conclusion: unemployment in the US is extremely high. More than 20%; it all depends on what/how you count (people, working hours, age categories, etc.) Roughly one quarter of the working age population who wants/needs/would like to work/is qualified to work, is not working, or working only very part time for very little money.

Sir, all US government unemployment numbers are deliberately understated. The methods by which they make these changes to raw data are documented in each year's final BLS report in various appendices. This has been done over multiple administrations by both parties in order to curry positive public opinion.

As I noted yesterday, Emergency Unemployment Compensation has swollen rapidly but is not reported by the MSM as they are not trained to look for that. In fact, EUC did not even exist prior to 2008 and many journalists are unaware of it. Steve Liesman, for instance, was taken to task by another CNBC reporter when he made it clear that he didn't even know what EUC was. Later he publicly backpedaled on that and tried to spin his on-air statements but it was pretty obvious he did not know at that time what EUC was or how it was exploding. In the intervening year since EUC was enabled by the federal government it has swollen from zero to now over 5 million people. And in November, just 2 months ago, it was less than 4 million so the December growth alone was over 1 million. Even as Unemployment compensation claims begin to stabilize, it is not due to people finding work. Instead people are falling off the back end onto Extended Unemployment and then falling off the back end of that onto Emergency Unemployment.

Additionally, as poster Darwinian notes, the BLS has been deliberate shrinking the total size of the labor pool. This is occurring even though there is no real documented shrinkage in the pool. In fact, even Ben Bernanke admitted before Congress that the United States has to add over 100,000 jobs per month just to stay even with the increasing labor pool due to population increase. Even though it is fairly slow, the US population is growing at about 1% per year or just over 3 million people. And that brings 1.2-1.5 million new workers into the workforce per year. Since Baby Boomers are not yet retiring in large numbers, the overall labor force should be increasing, yet it is being deliberately downsized in order to avoid counting people as unemployed. Since the recession began, over 3 million people have been shoved out of the workforce into limbo. If you add those alone back into the existing numbers, then U-3 is over 12% and U-6 is nearly 20%.

The unemployment situation is not good and does not appear to be improving.

Do you have a source where historical numbers are given, especially for Emergency Unemployment recipients?

Also, I understand Emergency Unemployment Insurance was scheduled to stop December 31, but now has been extended to February 28. Isn't this just kicking the can down the road for two months. It seems like there would be a huge problem if the 5 million people are suddenly without any source of income.

We'll see if EUC is considered too big to fail.

No disagreement from me. What I really prefer to look at is the employment-to-population ratio. Mark Thoma posted a current chart of the data from 1948 today:

There are all sorts of ways to interpret this chart, none of them good. The simplest is to note that this recession has seen an unprecedented decrease in the fraction of the population that is working. We're back to levels last seen in the early 1980s. Absent the 100,000 jobs/month needed to keep up with population growth, we may soon be back to the 1970s.

Yes, but I believe that in the early '70s per capita income was peaking (i.e. it was not necessary to have both adults in a family working) - so perhaps a more useful graph would be per household income or somesuch.

Absent the 100,000 jobs/month needed to keep up with population growth, we may soon be back to the 1970s.

And the same number is worse now. In the seventies not that many women were working (or expected to). Now most families need two breadwinners to make ends meet, so if one loses their job the families finances are shot.

For me, the key figure is the total labor force--all the people desiring full- or partime employment. This includes several million handicapped people, elderly who must work to make ends meet, college students needing to work while going to school, and teens needing to help keep the family out of poverty, which goes beyond the BLS 16-65 age span. With this considered, the current labor force is about 210 Million, with overall US population standing at just under 308 Million. Shadowstats and other labor-economists agree on this number, which gives us about 22% un-and underemployed, or 46.2 Million people. When FDR gave his "One-Third of a Nation Ill-Clothed, Ill-Housed and Ill-Fed" speech in 1937 the population was 130 Million, with 1/3 being 43.3 Million. So the number of folks hurting is now greater and still growing than at the height of the Great Depression.

When the weather warms and no new jobs come while old ones continue to go offshore, there's going to be a very large mass of very disgruntled people, quite a few of whom will go on a rampage as has happened already. Our Asphalt Wonderland friend is probably preparing himself for machette moshpit time.

The ILO unemployment standard should be used. It is routinely provided for other countries and even quoted in the US media for said countries. The current unemployment in the US by this standard is like you say starting to look more an more like depression level.

They really are grasping at straws. For this particular statistic, 4,000 is essentially indistinguishable from background noise.

Leanan -

You must be slipping, as you haven't yet heard the good news: the recession ended in June! At least according to the chief economist of the DuPont Co., in speaking at a Rotary Club luncheon at the hotel du Pont in Wilmington.

He further went on to say that the recovery is well underway. He said, "Things are moving up again, and I think it's time people realized that and started to prepare for it."

Happy days are here again.....!

Are we talking about the same economy? The same planet?

I continue to be fascinated by the amazing power of mutually reinforced delusional thinking, which seems to manifest itself very strongly in the military and big business.

I happen to be reading David Halberstam's book on the Korean War, 'The Coldest Winter'. During the early months of the war, when the South Koreans and the US were only fighting the North Koreans, it was an article of faith with General MacArthur and his staff of yes-men that the Chinese would not and could not enter the fray and were nothing to worry about. As a result, hard intelligence reports of Chinese troops actually seen on Korean soil, include that provided bycaptured Chinese soldiers who told of multiple divisions poised to strike, were completely discredited and ignored, even after it became abundantly obvious to our troops on the ground that something was up. As a result of this elective myopia, the massive Chinese incursion in December, 1950 came as a total shock to MacArthur's high command comfortable ensconced in Tokyo. Our retreat south, taking place in sub-zero temperatures, cost many lives and became one of worst routes in US military history. MacArthur and his staff never admitted they f*#ked up, and not until Truman canned him did we get some realistic leadership, mainly in the person of General Ridgeway, a hard-ass practical soldier's soldier.

I think the DuPont economist needs to start looking at his company's reality. My GF works for DuPont (at the experimental station, joule) and a hiring freeze has been in place at the company for a while now.

damac -

As you probably already know, at one time, a job at the DuPont Experimental Station was almost like that of a tenured academic .... secured for life. sadly, times have certainly changed.

This is all about promoting the party line. These corporate economists must know that things have turned to shite, but it is not in their best personal interest to publicly espouse anything but a cheery positive attitude. Just like MacArthur in the Korean War.

It matters for naught: reality will eventually have its way.

FWIW, the UKs BBC radio 4 programme "More or less" (weekly program about actually thinking about issues in terms of statistics rather than retoric) has just had a segment with Dr Bartlett covering exponential growth. (It will probably be put on "Listen Again" by the end of the day.)

(Of course that this isn't "the BBC" finding exponential growth, just one show's writing staff.)

Climate change: A civil rights issue for blacks

Climate change is more than an environmental issue. It is a human rights and economic justice issue. Why? Because though climate change impacts all of us, different nations, and different communities within nations, experience the effects of climate change in varying ways, some worse than others.

Interesting subject. One would think that climate change would be an equal oportunity disaster, but it's clear that it isn't. The economy not-with-standing, climate change will surely give many already living on the edge a push over the cliff. What's the EROEI of resentment and blame?

Did anyone watch "Earth 2100" on history Channel last night? Not bad for MSM. Writen from the perspective of a girl born in 2009, it's like a diary of her life through the end of the century. Commentaries by Diamond, Heinberg and others. The part about millions of people moving across the Southern U.S. border to escape climate change was prophetic, IMO.

There's some discussion in yesterday's DrumBeat.

It was actually a rerun of a show that originally aired on ABC last June, so there may have been some discussion then.

I think you can still watch it online at the ABC web site (though they may limit it to US viewers only).

Yup, the talking financial heads at CNNmoney are grasping for remnants of straw (fka green shoots):

Perhaps the most encouraging news from December was a 46,5000 net increase in temporary help jobs. Temporary employment is typically seen as a leading indicator of job growth because employers will add part-time workers before they're willing to hire permanent employees.

Never mind that temp. employment in December typically represents a christmas consumer blip...

Do we know how many temporary jobs there are in other years in December, just so we can compare like for like?

Nice spin by the ministry of propoganda

Temporary help jobs are equally as likely to be a cheaper alternative (i.e. no benefits) to the full time permanent staff these companies used to have... just look at the stock prices of a bunch of these companies through 2009 - it has been widely acknowledged (even on CNBC by certain analysts) that much of the phantom "profit" turned into higher stock valuation has nothing to do with better sales or increased production but is due to the fact that they were able to squeeze yet more blood from the proverbial stone (and make it sound all scientific - let's call it "productivity"). Easiest way to do this is replace one $50+/hr position with three $10/hr temps or just cut positions outright. I'd say these weren't hires on the upside heading toward recovery - more likely continuing on the downslope toward the more serious part of the "double - dip"

And as people on TOD and elsewhere continue to point out - there is nothing "typical" about this recession so relying on the previous evidence of temp employment leading to hiring for permanent employees is precarious at best - as they say "past performance is no indicator of future success..."


Denninger is still comparing it to the Great Depression.

We have never seen a crash and rebound in US stock market history like what we have just experienced, except once. That "once" was 1929/1930. What followed next was a grueling grind - not a crash, but a grind that never ended, and in which the market lost more than 80% of it's value. Those who argue "the bigger the dive the bigger the bounce" forget that the only true comparison against what we have just seen was in fact the prelude to a grinding 90%+ overall decline.

And he describes the jobs report as a whole bottle of Round-up dumped on last month's green shoot.

I don't recall ever seeing Seeking Alpha, Energy & Capital and Denninger all agreeing like they have for the past few weeks. Today, Seeking Alpha post notes likelihood that China recovery is a fake, and they are the next bubble to burst! Claims India and Pak are already gone.

All of them note that the numbers being published by Government sources are all jacked up; no one seems to trust MSM or their government today.

Does anyone know why the oil prices just broke through $83? That was supposed to be the resistance level to watch. Just wondering.

Who knows what the real reason is, but the talking heads are reporting that it's because of the bad employment report.

Yes, the first reaction was unemployment = bad economy = less demand for energy. But then they thought about what that would mean for the dollar. The dollar weakened, so oil prices went up.

"""""Does anyone know why the oil prices just broke through $83? """""

Yes. I do.
It's because we're running out of oil.

Waaaait a minute. Just because the US is in the dumper, China is off to the races again, ~10% growth. But, that's part of it. I'm sure some of the price increase is futures speculation. We have also had a very cold late fall/early winter in the Northeast. Could the rise in prices be in part due to increased demand in heating oil?

Changing gears, jobless numbers are made up of unemployment claims. Having an unemployment spike before a jobs recovery is quite common, and in some ways, expected. People that not actively looking for jobs are not officially considered unemployed. When they get hope that the market is improving, they begin looking for work, and thus are counted again. Hence, the spike. I wouldn't place too much faith in one, or even a couple of months in employment data. The view is too myopic. If unemployment goes up, then falls, the economy has been improving the whole time. If it keeps rising, then . . .

OPEC exports, after leveling off for some months now, are now on the verge of a new decline.

Those that have been watching US imports carefully, and have not been distracted by the 'high' inventories (that may be more of an attempt to accumulate physical oil off the futures exchange than anything else), would have realized that US oil imports have gone into a steep contra-seasonal decline the last few months.

Ironically as oil prices continue to advance, deflationists (Mish, Denninger, etc.), get top billing frequently and more well known and popular here at TOD.

I removed the quote, because there was no link, and there was no way to know if it was from behind a paywall or what.

Ironically as oil prices continue to advance, deflationists (Mish, Denninger, etc.), get top billing frequently and more well known and popular here at TOD.

Are you really surprised at that? This was the original home of Stoneleigh and Ilargi of "The Automatic Earth." Their record has been pretty good, so there's a tendency to trust their view of the economy.

It is an excerpt and I provided a link - dowjones.com - the source of the news.

Not sure what is wrong about that since excerpts are taken from many things behind paywalls constantly here.

Next time, post a direct link to the article.

Generally, excerpts are allowed if people can get around the paywall somehow (via Google, say). If there's no way access the material without paying, I'd rather you didn't quote directly from it. Paraphrase it instead.

Hospitals in the US are also the first ones to have their ng use curtailed. Also, read a couple of articles that reported a couple of states (PA, AL) are rescinding the driving limit on the number of hours heating oil/propane can be delivered -- watch out for sleepy deliveries of propane (ouch!). In the USA, I don't think the cold snap will last long enough to cause major problems.

CU asks local businesses to curtail gas use(Missouri)

CU spokesman Joel Alexander said 29 businesses got the request Thursday to throttle back their use of natural gas.

One of the first to comply was St. John's Hospital, which switched at 7 a.m. to backup supplies of diesel fuel to heat its facilities.

While we have a large burried tank, I keep a smaller 120 gal bottle for backup. If I ever have to go looking for propane, it's the largest cylinder you can legally transport yourself. I tell people who rely on propane to keep a 20 gal cylinder full for backup. You can stretch one of those out for a long time with careful usage.

Contrarian Investor Sees Economic Crash in China

SHANGHAI — James S. Chanos built one of the largest fortunes on Wall Street by foreseeing the collapse of Enron and other highflying companies whose stories were too good to be true.

Now Mr. Chanos, a wealthy hedge fund investor, is working to bust the myth of the biggest conglomerate of all: China Inc.

As most of the world bets on China to help lift the global economy out of recession, Mr. Chanos is warning that China’s hyperstimulated economy is headed for a crash, rather than the sustained boom that most economists predict. Its surging real estate sector, buoyed by a flood of speculative capital, looks like “Dubai times 1,000 — or worse,” he frets. He even suspects that Beijing is cooking its books, faking, among other things, its eye-popping growth rates of more than 8 percent.

When one gets beyond the "last great industrial power" of runaway capitalism, the dire situation of China becomes apparent. The place is not remotely survivable. The last time my brother was there the shy was green during his whole trip.
Talk about overshoot, China is the poster child. I think Pakistan and India will come crashing down first, with the former well on its way.

China is an amazing country. But what I found most striking about it was how lived-in it seemed. Many areas are still lush and beautiful, but the impact of man was everywhere. Graffiti that was hundreds of years old in caves and on cliffs. The ruins of palaces and pagodas on steep mountaintops that seemed impossible to get to. Everywhere you looked, no matter how inaccessible or wild it seemed - people had tried to live there, build there, farm there. Sometimes thousands of years ago.

The Three Gorges Dam project is perhaps history's greatest example of mitigating one type of environmental/cultural disaster with another:


It's telling that humans will go to this extent (flooding their finest cultural heritage, causing an environmental catastrophy in it's own right) for the sake of progress, flood mitigation, and energy. I wonder how much their awareness of climate change resulted in their decision to create this monstrosity?

"I wonder how much their awareness of climate change resulted in their decision to create this monstrosity?"

Not at all. My brother wrote a dissertation on this project when it was still in the planning stages. Opposition to it sparked the first serious environmental movement among the educated in the country.

On Leanan's point about how long the country has been domesticated by humans--I once saw a map charting the prehuman biological environments of the earth, and there was a big blank spot over much of eastern China, since it has been so intensively farmed for so long that no clear traces of the original biology exist. This gives the lie to the romantic idea that Chinese are more in touch with nature (though I am a great admirer of ancient philosophies such as Taoism.)

Yes, but if you're looking for the landau-roofed, crushed velvet, Brougham of overshoot, one need only to spend a few days in Las Vegas. Sober.

I think Pakistan and India will come crashing down first, with the former well on its way.

Because ? I'd say BS.

ps : India will have major problems as climate change gulps up Himalayan glaciers & Mansoon. But thats a couple of decades away ...

I think he's referring to the fact that both countries are way overpopulated.

Pakistan is suffering a serious energy crisis. They can't run their refineries because they owe money, and people aren't willing to sell on credit any more.

I am afraid that problem (of not being able to buy oil because of debt problems) is going to become more widespread. For now, it is countries at the bottom of economic "pile", but it is easy to imagine the problem expanding to others. Or can the IMF bail everyone out?

If pakistan is unable to secure crude oil, the central government could collapse quickly. I can't image the pakistani government surviving a one-year shortage of gasoline.

My guess is that they will be bailed out by someone. The rest of the world will see it as a small price to pay to keep a nuclear-armed country from descending into chaos.

Pakistan crashing down ... Because ? I'd say BS.

Now I doubt any of the POSTERS here have actual knowledge - but I'd not call BS and I'd be willing to make a claim that the political system will go a-crashing and that the US of A will get blamed.

And, realistically - is there a single nation state that it's government isn't close to being considered illegitimate by many in said nation?

If Peter Schiff is right about the US, and Chanos is right about China, where does the world stand? A recovery without the jobs and without the recovery. I've thought for a while the economic problems of late have been only the start of something much worse, and the circumstantial evidence still points in that direction.

*panic mode on*

Look How Quickly Schizophrenic Markets Lost Faith In The Euro System

Using the market's view above, here's how the European dominoes could collapse -- first Greece, then Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Portugal.

Us little PIIGS, eh? Don't sell the hide of the Black Bull before the bullfight is over: see this!
New Ferrovial To Emerge in December

Spain's newly restructured Ferrovial S.A., will make its Madrid stock market debut on December 6 with a share value set at Euro 8 (US$12), valuing the infrastructure group at Euro 6 billion (US$9 billion). New Ferrovial is the outcome of a complex merger with its 68%-owned toll roads developer Cintra, Concesionaria de Infraestructuras de Transporte

Spanish firms, world leaders in investment on infrastructure
Ferrovial-Cintra is the world's leader with 77 billion dollars in investments. Abertis, ACS, OHL, Global Vía y Sacyr are Spanish firms among the firsts eleven in investments, between 1985 and 2009. Hochtief, Germany, is participated 29,9% by the Spanish ACS.
Ferrovial bought seven airports (Heathrow) in the UK, also a highway in Indiana, also highways in Texas, Canada(407-ETR, Toronto) and Greece.
ACS, in third position with investments of 35 billion dollars in Canada, Chile and France.
Taken from abc.es
(sorry, in Spanish only, but not the most difficult language in the world. I took the figures from them, any mistake is not my fault. I say that because Spanish journalists often make mistakes with numbers, specially as we use a dot to separate thousands, where you use a comma.)

I don't work for these fellows (I wish I did!) but these stories about the euro and specially against Spain and Zapatero, who's now president of something in the EU and suffers the envious attacks of The Economist and other extreme right wing gutter press from Britain is enough to irritate a saint.
We've stand guard in worse trenches!

Since China's fairly recent adoption of economic capitalistic policies, with the populace becoming increasingly addicted to consumer goods, cars and credit, and their currency situation, I have long considered that China could be developing into a mega house of cards. Maybe the new pardigm is "as goes China, so goes the world".

Jim Rogers has a different opinion. From Leanan's link above:

“I find it interesting that people who couldn’t spell China 10 years ago are now experts on China,” said Jim Rogers, who co-founded the Quantum Fund with George Soros and now lives in Singapore. “China is not in a bubble.”

Jim Rogers is seldom wrong about foreign markets. He lives in Singapore and has his ear to Asian markets. However Chanos has had an uncanny record of predicting bubbles and has a recore of being right far more than not. Could it be thet Rogers is too close to the forest and cannot see it for the trees?

Ron P.

There are implications for oil prices and oil demand if Rogers is right. He has a good track record too:

Really bad sign: The DetN thinks it will get worse. They quoted Rao Da, general secretary of the China Passenger Car Association, who said that auto sales in 2010 could grow by another 20 percent so long as China’s economic recovery continues and oil prices stay stable. “People there are getting richer and can afford cars. Younger people can work for two or three years and with the help of their parents can buy a car,” Rao said. “Being able to afford a car in China is not so difficult any more. People with an average salary can afford to buy a car.”

If Rao’s prognosis of 20 percent growth pans out in 2010, then Chinese will buy more than 16m cars this year. When and where did we hear that number last time?


Jim Rogers has also seemed preoccupied with hyperinflation and a crashing US dollar and dismissive of the massive debt overhang in the developed nations. Clearance of such a large debt overhang can only occur one of two ways - pay it down or default. When debts become too large, the typical result historically has been to default. Thus the odds still remain high, despite government intervention, that the current debt overhang will ultimately default.

If a default occurs, debt will be worth next to nothing but cash should gain in value, at least once again compared to historical situations that were similar. Cash gaining in value would indicate increasing strength of the dollar.

Now admittedly every economic turning point has its own unique issues and conditions and it may not play out in the same manner as prior similar economic crises, but the likelihood is that it will. Given this likelihood, I think that Mr. Rogers is quite premature with his calls on hyperinflation. Further, I think he also has bought into the Chinese market a bit too heavily without considering that the Chinese market is not a free market and therefore the numbers coming from it are, at the very least, managed and at the very worst, staged. Ordos, China's "empty city" is an example of some of the falsity of Chinese GDP. The highways in Hunan province are another example of false GDP, having been built, then torn down and then rebuilt at least twice and perhaps three times, just to inflate GDP numbers.

Last year I travelled around China quite a bit, and one thing I found striking was the number of newly built motorways, complete with massive bridges, that led nowhere.

Darwinian,Singapore is not China.Rogers has enough intelligence not to live in China but that does not make him intelligent enough to draw some fundamental conclusions about Chinese prospects.As previous commenters have said,China is a mega disaster just waiting to happen.The sooner the better,IMO

Here is a a CNBC article about James Chanos with an embedded 11 minute video on the market in general, including his opinions about China. His opinions on China begin at 4:35 into the video.

HALFTIME REPORT - Jim Chanos: China is a Bubble Waiting to Burst

China: Powering the Global Economy, or the Next Bubble to Burst?

Chanos points out a stark irony that investors who decry government involvement in US companies are bullish on the Chinese markets, despite the fact that the country's government can "fine tune" the economy to their liking. He is also skeptical of the country's GDP numbers, calling them "massively inflated by under-depreciating a very, very, very shaky capital asset base."

Ron P.

Chanos seems to agree with my point made above that "Chinas boom will go bust in a big way". It's just a matter of when.

It looks fairly obvious to me that the US and China and to a much smaller degree many other Countries to the degree they can, are battling it out to see who can keep from collapsing the longest. This is the only explanation I can see for all the obfuscation, fraud, theft, manipulation, stimulation, and everything else.

Winner takes all?

The stories about economic Potemkin villages like the South China Mall have convinced me that you don't need to delve too deeply to know that something's really rotten in this state. More detailed evidence from the likes of Chanos will merely serve to assess the degree to which the bubble will burst.

There was nothing else to do, because the South China Mall, which opened with great fanfare in 2005, is not just the world’s largest. With fewer than a dozen stores scattered through a space designed to house 1,500, it is also the world’s emptiest – a dusty, decrepit complex of buildings marked by peeling paint, dead light bulbs, and dismembered mannequins.

“They set out to be the biggest, and hoped that being the biggest would be the attracting factor,” says David Hand, a retail analyst at Jones Lang LaSalle in Beijing, who has followed the project. “It hasn’t delivered.”

Plenty more where that came from. Theoretically heartening is the fact that it was published June '08. Maybe all that stimulation has induced shopping? Apparently not, here's an update from 2 days ago: An Eerie Video Tour of the World’s Largest, Deadest Shopping Mall | Science & Technology News

There’s still a sad little skeleton crew rolling around the premises in golf carts and a few businesses—mostly food chains, it seems—are up and runnng, but of the 1500 rentable spaces spread out over 7 million square feet, about 99% sit empty.

China potentially keeling over should be a part of any demand forecast. We could treat it like an extreme weather anomaly in climate modeling.

I'm not sure if I have read or seen anything as visceral and dispiriting as that POV video tour of the South China Mall. How could anyone have any optimism after watching it? That closing shot is priceless:

Large Chain Business Interpretation of Quality of Life

I call for early happy hour. Who's buying?

Very eerie, sort of autumnal. I'm with you wisco - happy hour starts now.

Americans turn Williamsburg, Va. mall into virtual training center for the Empire:


Now if only civil wars could be settled by an outside army, we might be on to something. But I suspect that delusions in virtual realty are just as false as delusions about realty itself.

Good post KLR. I saw a video on Youtube (sorry no link) that showed an empty subdivision in China. A massive residential townhouse complex that is completely empty. Not one house from what I could see was occupied. Yet, the chinese person talking about the development was smiling and claiming the properties were continuing to increase in value. What? Obviosly this guy had bought the party line.

Also, last year China increased the number of cars by 50%! Yet, increases in oil consumption do not match such an increase. So the conjecture by some is they built the cars to keep people employed and the economy humming, then dismantled the cars to reuse the materials.

Then there's the city that is empty. They showed a chinese guy say, "Well, we'd love to live here but we can't afford it." A whole city, yet completely empty!

I know these are industrious people, but really this is going too far. If you add this type of crazed construction to the Dubai situation, one must wonder where all this is headed.

"Well, we'd love to live here but we can't afford it." A whole city, yet completely empty!

Funny, I recall a neat trick to deal with such a problem I learned years ago in marketing. What was it... oh, right --LOWER THE G**DAMNED PRICE. Worked for me tons of times.

I see China is following the Califiornia model of supporting unsupportable property values: let the vast majority sit vacant and not-for-sale as "shadow inventory", while a tiny % get listed at absurd asking prices far above what any area resident could possibly afford. And then get the government to underwrite the (sure to be defaulted on) purchase money loans. Lather-rinse-repeat.

Their version of stone heads. Similar to Vegas and Dubai I guess.

Chanos, in the video linked above, called China "Dubai times 1000, at least."

Winner takes all, or last loser loses least?

Anyone see this Vanguard episode on China called "outsourcing unemployment?"

Warning: this video sadly not available in the UK :(

I suggest another explanation.

When faced with a crashing system, what does any rational oligarch do? The captains of industry and of the state are no wiser, no cleverer, nor any better spirited than any of the middle management below them. They get to the top of the pile, survey the catastrophe that is obvious from that height, and buy themselves a 150 square mile ranch on top of the world's largest remaining safe aquifer in Paraguay. Or something like that.

This Mornings BLS release of employment and unemployment are pure BS.
By their own data released today: Dec. vs Nov.

Civilian noninstitutional population increased by 181,000
Civilian labor force decreased by 661,000
Employed decreased by 589,000
Unemployed decreased by 73,000

Add 3 zeroes:
If civilian labor force decreased from 153,720 to 153,059
And unemployment decreased from 15,340 to 15,267
That of course shows unemployment was maintained at 10%
Then we must have had about 600 thousand folks that were happy to leave their jobs.


Rising gas prices could be a drag on economic recovery

The crudest explanation is that the price of gas is following the price of oil upward. Oil, like all commodities, has been rising, pushed higher by increased demand and a weak U.S. dollar.

The global economy has been improving for six months, and more activity means more demand for oil, driving up prices. At the same time, the value of the dollar has fallen relative to other currencies. As the dollar weakens, it becomes less attractive to hold, so investors are increasingly dumping the currency and moving into oil, gold and stocks. That, in turn, has helped fuel a strong recovery in commodity prices and the recent stock market surges.

If you want to see something depressing, read the comments. Lots of right-wing trolls trying to blame Obama, but there are others blaming the usual suspects - OPEC, the oil companies, and all the others.

Some of the more recent comments seem almost "TODish":

Given that the American people and its representatives are utterly unwilling to take the necessary steps to reduce our reliance on hydrocarbon-based fuel, price increases are the only way this country will be forced to move in the direction of a smart energy future.

In fact, these increasing prices should make the majority of Americans happy. After all, aren't the same people who are against government energy efficiency mandates and support of emerging alternative energy sources also the same people who hold a religious belief in "free markets"?

I would think that these "free market" disciples would feel vindicated by the price increases and convinced that the U.S. is on the right track in matters of energy policy.

It is, however, amazing how many people refuse to believe that crude is getting inherently more expensive. The last thing they'll admit is that PO people may be right.

From article above: The future of phosphorous

One comment on that article is:

The best online source of information about this issue is at http://phosphorusfutures.net/. There is also an excellent article by Dr David Vaccari that appeared this past year. Phosphorus: A Looming Crisis; June 2009; Scientific American Magazine. by Dr David Vaccari J Elser

Phosphorusfutures.net has a good article about Peak Phosphorus in comparison with Peak oil, where can be read:

While the Hubbert peak has been hotly contested since it’s conception almost 60 years ago, it is increasingly gaining traction as the price of oil shoots well beyond US$100/barrel. In November 2007 the then International Energy Agency Chief Economist stated in a noteworthy interview: “if we don’t do anything very quickly, and in a bold manner, our energy system’s wheels may fall off – within the next seven years” (Financial Times, 2007).

I don't remember ever having read something so drastical from IEA. Regarding oilproduction the bold thing is planned in Iraq.

Not sure that Peak Phosphorus is a worry just yet. Who has the knowledge about P? Does it recycle through the foodchain in some way? I seem to recall it is a primary component of bat dung... what about other natural sources? Does burning it destroy it in some way? Can an element be destroyed, other than through some sort of fusion? Does it become a harmful air polutant? I know about its impact on water, that it should be limited to prevent algae blooms and the like. Right now my skeptical hackles are up on this topic.

Zaphod, Phosphorus is a limited resource and it is the most difficult of the major nutrients to replace. Our pathetic state of recycling means that most of what is mined, processed, delivered to the farmer and used to grow food, ends up in the ocean where it is not reasonably accessible. Major sources are Canada, Florida, Morroco, Russia, Jordon, Syria, South Africa etc. Like oil real accurate statistics are difficult, but the end result is inevitable, and it is the most likely nutrient to eventually create food shortages. Don't know when, but the PO issue is related as the extraction is energy intensive and gets more so every year.

The ultimate dilemma: An asteroid hurtles toward the Earth. Analysis reveals it consists mostly of phosphorus. Nudge it away, and condemn life on earth to eventual phosphorus starvation; or let it hit, and possibly wipe ourselves out?

Phosphorus shortage? You mean I won't be able to get strike anywhere matches any more?

Phosphorus is very dilute in water (average of 0.3 PPM if I remember well). It is concentrated by living beings: component of DNA/RNA, energy storage (ADP/ATP), protein through phosphorylation, bones (as calcium phosphate). Plants extract it. Animals get it from the food.

The ultimate fate of all that concentrated organic/mineral phosphorus is in sediments in lakes, seas and abyss, where decayed bodies fall and slowly accumulates. If it finished in a sea/lake, there is a possibility that due to tectonic, it is exposed again in the form of sedimentary rocks, rich in phosphorus. This is what is actually the main source of phosphorus mining (in the form of calcium phosphate or apatite).

If in the abyss, the bottom is always recycled, going under the continental crust where it melts...and part of the lava exits in the form of volcanoes. And this lava is of course enriched in phosphorus, although the concentration will of course be far lower, and it will be far less easily usable dues to bad solubility (silicate matrix). Under this form, it is used at least in indonesia where volcanic rocks is used as fertilizer.

So in other words, phosphorus has its cycle too, but it is done on geologic times! And when we will have finished to disperse all the concentrated phosphorus from sedimentary mines, we will have a problem... Options then will be back to less concentrated phosphorus: volcano lava, marine algae such as kelp, mud from rivers... And it will be good practice that phosphorus used in human feeding is completely recycled...

Where's Totoneila when you need him! He'd give you an earful, with chapter and verse!

Phosphorus, in forms useful for plants, is becoming a bottleneck.

Of course elemental P is neither created nor destroyed - it is either rendered chemically inaccessible, or entropically inaccessible (i.e., washes into the ocean).

Your skeptical hackles could be better employed elsewhere, because this is a problem that has been a long time coming, long foreseen by many. There is vast knowledge of P, how it cycles through the biogeochemical system, etc. Not a new field of knowledge.

Nothing cycles through our food chain. It goes on the land, pumps up some crops, is consumed, and crapped out and flushed, ultimately to the sea.

There just isn't that much bat guano, nor any other kind of guano. Google up "guano wars" if you want to know how prized guano was. Too bad bats are on the way out.

This is a real issue.

Thanks, sgage, and to the others as well. I will take some new knowledge with me henceforth... though I don't know if I really needed another converging crisis. Sigh...

"though I don't know if I really needed another converging crisis. Sigh..."

No kidding, huh? Sigh.

There is a common denominator... Seems to me the bottom line is too many billions of us... we ask an awful lot of our "ecosystem services". Water, air, fertility - all those "free" things. They're the most priceless things on Earth. Economists call them "externalities". Clueless.

I keep having these flash backs to reading Isaac Isamov, who repeatedly asked his readers, as to excessive population, "doesn't anybody notice. Doesn't anybody care?" All through the 70s and 80s, up until he passed away!

The answer seemed to be then, as now, not enough people notice or care. As a species we are criminally negligent!

Which brings me to my own mantra:

"Strange species, homo sapiens. Do you think they'll be missed?"

It is pretty amazing how population is just not admitted into the conversation. No, we need to genetically engineer crops to grow more food! (GM crops don't grow more food, they grow more revenue for Monsanto).

I don't know, do you think we'll be missed?

I've been looking at climateprogress and various other sites related to PO. Personally I have a hard time trusting sites like climateprogress when their affiliate sites like thinkprogress are all for mass immigration and amnesty. It's like they're cheering for 1.1 billion people in the U.S. come 2100. It seems the consensus among parts of this community is that many do not want the population control crowd and immigration restriction people jumping aboard because they're "racist" or evil "eugenicists". Maybe deep down they're afraid things really aren't sustainable, especially because they want "smart growth" when the world they live in is finite. Many of these people seem to have high hopes about plug-in hybrids and the like, essentially BAU forever and that world population will decrease due to magically declining birth rates as women in deeply religious countries become liberated. I don't see how the world will ever be carbon neutral, is there even enough minerals to make the wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal equipment, and biofuels to totally supplant fossil fuels or at least oil? I highly doubt it personally.

These are probably the same people that believe it is not population that causes problems but population pressure, but do they really think people move to the West to ride around in rickshaws? Can you really compare per capita energy usage of a European to that of a Kenyan? Is it bad that those who controlled their populations use more resources on a per capita basis? If Europeans suddenly were forced to have that same energy usage, there would be a revolt overnight, it simply isn't possibly.

We must face the facts, our present populations are unsustainable. Those of us who consume more are not going to reduce consumption to the point where we live like the rest of the world.

...we ask an awful lot of our "ecosystem services". Water, air, fertility - all those "free" things. They're the most priceless things on Earth. Economists call them "externalities". Clueless.

Just wanted to say this is one of the truest and most succinct things I've read in quite some time. My career can be summarized as keeping phosphorus out of water, and it's like spitting into the wind with the amount of resources available for the task.

How can the basis of life and civilization be just an "externality?"

Where's Totoneila when you need him! He'd give you an earful, with chapter and verse!

And that earful would include spider webs, wheelbarrows and earth marines.

crapped out

See my below (it seems) post.

Not sure that Peak Phosphorus is a worry just yet

Just yet? As in today? Naw. Tomorrow - not so much. But within your lifetime? Perhaps. The lifetime of grankids - yea it'll start to bite then.

Does it recycle through the foodchain in some way?

Not in the way the west does things. Most of the P comes out in the Pee. And while pee has P along with Nitrogen it also has NaCl. I've seen no good, "cheap" way to get the NaCl out however. Its been a subject of NASA research - and their answer is rather expensive osmotic pressure filters.

To get the P you'd have to dehydrate the pee to a mixed "slush". Then you expose that slush to a sand mixture to get the Na to react under heat into something not soluable and capture the outgassing P as (unfortunately) White Phosphorous. The book caveman chemistry talks about it as does the original discovers work.

We have published a couple of peak phosphorous article at The Oil Drum. One was in August 2007; another was in October 2008. It is not clear to me that the link adds anything new to the discussion.

I think there is another issue that I saw mentioned in a letter to the editor at Scientific American. I tried to get a guest post, but so far no luck. The letter to the editor said:

David A. Vaccari’s “Phosphorus: A Looming Crisis” usefully called attention to the critical role of phosphorus as a plant and crop nutrient and to possible future scarcities and constraints. But his focus on it as a fertilizer neglected its abundance in most soils. There is usually 10, 20, some- times even 30 times more phosphorus in the soil than the amount in “available” forms that plants can readily utilize. The large amount of unavailable phosphorus is continuously, though relatively slowly, converted into available forms through the activity of soil microorganisms, many of which are known as phosphobacteria.

Without these microorganisms, plants could not have been growing in the earth’s soils for more than 400 million years. Ironically, the use of inorganic fertilizers can suppress roots’ and microorganisms’ production of the phosphatase enzymes that are essential for making phosphorus available for plant use. This inhibition is similar to the way that adding inorganic nitrogen to the soil diminishes the production of nitrogenase by plants and microorganisms to sustain their fixation of atmospheric nitrogen, which becomes available for plant nutrition.

Heavy machinery also compacts the soil and degrades its structure, disturbing the balance of water and air in the soil that supports root growth and soil organisms; further, using mineral fertilizers as a substitute for restoration of soil organic matter diminishes the abundance and diversity of soil microorganism populations.

It is true that under a variety of conditions, applications of phosphorus fertilizer and rock phosphate in particular can be beneficial and cost-effective. But from a sustainable agriculture perspective, more attention should be paid to managing the soil biota along with crops so as to get the most benefit from the latter.

Norman T. Uphoff
Professor of Government and International Agriculture
Cornell University

Three cheers for terra preta!

The Decade of Climate Change and Peak Oil

In making your New Year’s resolutions, my recommendation is to remember the lessons of the oil shocks in 2008 and 1970s and work toward a long-term and sustained low-energy lifestyle. The decade of peak oil and climate change requires it.


A sobering review of a Dallas area CSA operation's experiences in 2009:


2009 was a disaster for us and many other farmers across the country. In our area, we & others had complete crop losses due to the excessive rain. We also know of at least one local CSA that went out of business due to the incredibly bad weather. In the NE part of the US, too much rain was also an issue as well as a large outbreak of late blight spread accidentally by big box stores to commercial growers.

If you are farming, you are at the mercy of the weather. We do plan ahead for problems, but this last year was overwhelming and there was really little that we could do. First we had a late freeze in April that killed crops normally okay to plant by then (tomatoes, peppers), followed by heavy rains in May (preventing replanting of tomatoes, peppers, direct seeding squash, rotting the Akin potato crop in the ground), followed by scorching heat that lasted all summer (algae bloom in the pond that clogged the drip lines, killing blueberry bushes), and then record heavy rains in September & October (disrupting fall planting of broccoli, cabbage, carrots, beets, etc, wiping out the Akin Fall bean crop).

2009 was a tough year for farming...no doubt about it. I started a small CSA with 12 people and quickly grew to 40 members. I farm about 13 acres in New York state (60 miles from NYC). I did lose all my tomato plants due to late blight and didn't have great yields of pumpkins and winter squash due to all the rain. Neighbor farmers who grow mostly onions had a very bad year -- the worst in 20 years (2008 was the best in 20 years). But I had a bumper crop of cucumbers, peppers, eggplant and sugar snap peas. Also, the potatoes, leeks, garlic, and greens (kale, beets, Swiss chard, broccoli raab) all did well. (I'm still picking popcorn and kale). That's one great thing about growing a wide variety of vegetables.

While it rained and rained and rained, I kept remembering the line in "The Real Dirt on Farmer John" movie about 1983 even with all the rain, he still produced enough produce for his CSA. And we did too! Of course, being really small and doing all the planting by hand makes is easier to get in and replant if necessary. And I also have a tendency to overplant everything. It's just about as easy to plant 400 plants as 200 and plant a 400 ft. row than a 200 ft. Cornell has a great "gleaners" program and will pick up any extra produce and distribute to homeless shelters and food pantries so nothing goes to waste.

We plan to have about 50 members for 2010 and I don't really want to get any bigger than that since I'm doing it just for fun. I've never worked so hard for such little money and enjoyed it so much. I can't wait for winter to end and get back out into the fields.

Careful Leeann

The demographics of regular buyers from CSA, Farmers Markets, Co-ops, etc. are well off middle class with steady income.

It's not good business to base your revenue on a customer who is a dying breed.

Sure EVENTUALLY you will be relevant but can you hold out until then?

We can not make the changes we know we should make until we change how money works.

FWIW...Greer thinks she's doing the right thing.

Awhile back, Stuart Staniford, Sharon Astyk, and John Michael Greer had a debate (via their blogs) on food and agriculture. Stuart thought the efficiency of modern agribusiness was so great it would continue for quite some time, even if other things had to be let go. Sharon was wanted to push for localization, whether or not it made economic sense. Greer thought the smart thing to do was to become a farmer near a city (rather than in the boonies). He likes to argue that whatever your plan is, is has to make economic sense now, even if in the long run it can't last. People with money may be a dying breed, but if your customers are people without money now, you can't afford to do it (unless you're independently wealthy). So he suggested becoming a farmer near a city, where your customers could be people who were willing to pay a premium for organic or local food.

Sharp increases in the price of food mean that food production methods that may not be economical under current conditions could well pass the breakeven point and begin turning a profit. To thrive in the economic climate of the near future, of course, such methods would have to meet certain requirements, but most of these can be anticipated easily enough.

These alternative farming projects would have to use minimal fossil fuel inputs, since fuel costs will likely be very high by past standards for much of the foreseeable future. They would need to focus on local distribution, since those same fuel costs will put long-distance transport out of reach. They would have to focus on intensive production from very small plots, since acreage large enough for industrial farming will likely increase in price. They would also benefit greatly by relying on human labor with hand tools, since the economic consequences of peak oil will likely send unemployment rates soaring while making capital hard to come by.

All of these criteria are met, as it happens, by the small organic farms and truck gardens that many relocalization theorists hold up as models for future agriculture. Already a growing presence, especially around West Coast cities, these agricultural alternatives have evolved their own distribution system, relying on farmers markets, co-op groceries, local restauranteurs and community-supported agriculture schemes to carry out an end run around food distribution systems geared toward corporate monopolies.

I think he's absolutely correct that whatever you do has to make economic sense now, and ideally, will continue to make sense, peak or not.

I'm pretty much with JMG, for another reason: Living on the outskirts of a town (preferable, to my way of thinking) or city, you've also got the option of holding down paid employment, or practicing some sort of trade or craft, which will enable you to bring in needed money some other way in addition to or instead of selling foodstuffs. While it is quite feasible to raise enough food to feed your household, it has always been VERY, VERY difficult to raise enough surplus above and beyond that to make a living DOING NOTHING EXCEPT RAISING FOOD. The simple truth is that most people who have been less than large scale plantation or factory farm operators have had to develop multiple streams of income to get by.

have had to develop multiple streams of income to get by.

In the bad old days you got money from your horse hair (building trade - plaster), your pig's hair (brushes - hair, tooth, scrub) your unsellable apples were made into hooch.....

Expenses were taxes, cloth, (insert short list much was local in nature)

These days you can't sell horse hair or pig's hair for most of what the past allowed for. And you have expenses that send the money FAR afield like satellite TV, oil/gas, not to mention that if you want to make apple cider from the apples you need a state blessed kitchen whereas in the past you just needed a jug to put it in.

Raising JUST food for FRN's seems to only work for the large or the high dollar specialist grower like the organic market.

Back 100 - 150 years ago, another thing they would do is go out and harvest ice in the winter, if they lived far enough north. My guess is that there were very, very few northern teenaged farm boys that were not out on the lakes in the wintertime working on the ice harvest, and probably quite a few adult farmers as well.
Most people today have no idea how huge the ice business used to be. All gone with the wind, now.

Thanks for your concern but I'm fine really. My business model, if you could even call it that, is to simply grow as many vegetables as I can without much help (illegal farmworkers) and to learn as much as possible about growing vegetables with as little outside input as possible. And by input I mean fertilizer, pesticides, diesel fuel, etc. not input by others who know a lot more about farming than I do.

Actually, I'd prefer to just give all the vegetables away. It's a lot more fun. The only reason I'm even doing the CSA is to involve my two sons and have a way for them to make some money and learn about running a "business." By farming, I'm also hedging my bets for being able to get diesel fuel in the future as I think farmers will get priority and to hedge against the possibility of a draft in case of a war as I think farming might possibly provide an exemption for my sons. Plus, I love fresh, organic vegetables.

Those were my reasons to even buy the land and begin farming after learning about Peak Oil in 2005. What I wasn't prepared for was how much I would love it. I had a large organic garden but I prefer growing on a larger scale. I find the whole process intensely fascinating and challenging. I love the wildness of it all. There's nothing certain about it and despite all the uncertainties it's always certain to be interesting.

I only wish I had started when I was younger. I was thinking that if I farmed until I'm 72, I will only get twenty more chances (seasons) to practice my craft. But then I stopped by a neighbor farmer and her 94-year-old father was on the roof of his barn fixing a gutter. So, that would give me another 42 years. Maybe by then I might consider myself an unrepentant farmer.

Some time back we had some hot discussions here about the amount of land one needs to be self sufficient in food.

I hope those people who posted links to miracle farms
( mostly unverified lab exercises really in my honest opinion) are paying attention to posts such as this one which focus on ral world results when the cards don't fall just right.

Remember-its frost freeze flood dought blight bug thieves groundhogs, high winds, deer , rabbits bears , thieves, grasshoppers, late spri ngs, early autumns, bad backs, bad seed, broken machinery, vets outrageous bills, wholesale prices ten percent of retail,and fifty other things to go wrong every single day.

It is not that you can't grow your own -it is that you need a large safety margin if you are counting on it.

Climate change will manifest its self most virulently in crop disruption.

And how often is this mentioned in all the blather around the CC debate??


There is going to be havoc with regards to agriculture.

I call it Global Weirding.

This guy is really freaking out.

Ha! He's like the Billy Mays of disaster. Tried to sell me a chainsaw.

WATCH LIVE: Obama talking about economy and energy.


Exxon's 40% failure rate

So Exxon has a 40% failure rate. I'm really not surprised. They're running out of places to explore, like the rest of the industry. For years, large oil companies have replaced reserves by buying up the competition, or have boosted their share price by buying their own shares.

It's not going to get any easier to find and develop oil resources, and Exxon is simply acknowledging that fact. I am surprised that anyone finds that newsworthy.

Yet, we continually hear from Yergin-Lynch, et al. that modern exploration methods are soooooo much more effective at finding resources than methods of the past. It goes without saying that if you are shooting at ever smaller targets, you'd better have better tools. This says that even with the best exploration tools at our disposal, we're still struggling to find and develop new resources.

But, as the first article on yesterday's Drum Beat claims, we have "Endless Oil", oh wait, we mean there's still a lot left, oh wait, we mean it's really low quality and hard to get out, oh wait, we mean we've already extracted about half... Whatever the case may be those people who are worried about PO are loonies who should take off their tinfoil hats.

Sheesh! I say fire the editors who sign off on that stuff as if it were saying anything to call into question the reality of peak oil. Don't they even read the tripe they let through as "journalism?"


Depends how you frame the question POT. Finding oil/NG has never been easier then it is today. And I'm referring to success rate. But the trick is the size and nature of your target. The reason XOM had such a relatively low success rate is that can they only drill for the really big prospects. Are such prospects are more conceptual then not. We are utilizing "the best exploration tools at our disposal". And we'll probably run a 60-80% success rate drilling in Gulf Coast TX and La. And much of our success will be finding NG/condensate reserves...not crude oil. But we're not trapped by our size like XOM. We can drill a $8 million well looking for $50 million target. XOM can't drill enough of those prospect to sustain themselves. They could drill 10 such wells successfully and it would show up way to the right of the decimal place on their bottom line. Right now we're buying ready-to-drill deals that took a number of years for the generators to map and lease. But the E&P industry is so short of capital there are few buyers. We just started a well in S La that has a legitimate target of 20 million barrels of condensate and 100 bcf of NG. Probability of success is around 50%. But it will cost us less than $3 million to find out if the $2 billion worth of reserves are there. Now if XOT could drill 40 or 50 such prospects/year then they might have something. But in my 34 years this is the best deal I've seen with this much return for the risked $'s. IOW, XOM has no chance of putting together such a string of prospects.

But they can do something we can't do: risk $200 million on a single Deep Water well. In fact, they have no choice but to drill such prospects. Huge payoff when it hits. But they don't hit that often. In the last two years I was involved in two DW dry holes at a cost of $148 million and $198 million. But I also watched the same company make a hit which might have $10-20 billion worth of reserves in it. But even when these big plays hit there aren't many more to drill. It REAlly is easier than it's ever been in my 34 years. The problem is that you can't find what isn't there no matter how good youR technology is. Certainly a number mega fields left to find. But not nearly as many left as we've already found IMHO.


An exodus of discouraged workers from the job market kept the U.S. unemployment rate from climbing above 10 percent in December, economists said.

Had the labor force not decreased by 661,000 last month, the jobless rate would have been 10.4 percent

The stock market ended higher for the week. Go figure.

So, I guess if you 'leave the job market' you are employed?

I guess with that rationale, if you abandon an oil well, it fills up again and is added to your proven reserves. Ah ha! That's how they do it!!!

Cute tease zap but your comment brought a thought to me like a slap upside the head: we keep talking about the inaccuracy of "unemployment numbers". But what about employment numbers? Ever company paying an employee has to submit that employees withholding tax to the gov't every month. Wouldn't seem like much of a task to count the number of submissions the gov't gets every month and then track that number. Granted it wouldn't track consultants and such who don't have with holding. Nor would it distinguish part time from full time (unless that's part of the submission). But given how all unemployed folks aren't counted in the gov't numbers it would seem to be a better indicator of employment.

One wonders to what extent these "discouraged workers" are just sitting home and doing nothing, and to what extent they have just been "discouraged" from working in the "formal economy", and instead have shifted to the "informal economy". I suspect that the latter is the case far more than is being admitted, and is almost certain to loom larger and larger over the next year.

Final Call for Entries - 2010 Newport Beach Film Festival

The 2010 Newport Beach Film Festival will screen over 350 feature length and short films. The 2010 NBFF will also host red carpet Opening and Closing Night Gala Celebrations, International Spotlight events, an Action Sports Film Series, an Environmental Film Series, a Family Film Series, a Collegiate Showcase, a Youth Film Showcase and a free Seminar Series. Come be a part of the 2010 Newport Beach Film Festival.

The FINAL deadline for film submissions to the 11th Annual Newport Beach Film Festival is JANUARY 25, 2010.

Submit your film at Newport Beach Film Festival . com

The Newport Beach Film Festival runs April 22-April 29, 2010!!

higher unem means less consumption. this is a good thing. folks in the usa consume too much. the 'invisible hand" is directing market forces in exactly the direction we here at the oil conundrum want. that is less consumption. when folks aint got no money they cant buy nuthin. that includes gaz-o-lean for frivolous trips, dumb imported trinkets, food, heat, health care. why we are looking at post peak oil! how come no one noticed? it has already happened. HOO-RAH! maybe gold man sacks is doing bog's work. today being friday, i fired up the "cat", the wood stove. and to celebrate i purchased a frozen pizza on the way home from the factory. i cooked it and ate it. mmmmm, yummy!
"it's all good".

p.s. to TPTB, steal this idea. mine the hydrocarbons on titan, the moon of saturn. we have the technology. it is feasible.

I seem to be in the wrong place, was looking for comments on peak oil. It appears that the internet is directing all of today's comments to theautomaticearth.blogspot.com .

Peak Oil gives me hope. Happy?

Member for
4 years 10 weeks

Methinks you know exactly what to expect at TOD and what to expect in a drumbeat.


California Requests Billions From U.S.

I'm wondering if Cal's financial woes will become the straw that draws down the effervescent Wall Street betters.