Drumbeat: January 24, 2010

Oregon gas terminals' futures hang on global supplies

Five years after energy developers started sniffing around Oregon as a likely spot to build an import terminal for liquefied natural gas, the air has come flooding out of the gas market like a whoopee cushion, making such proposals sound economically reckless.

With a worldwide recession in full swing, there's LNG to be had. More cargoes are expected to land this year in the U.S. -- the industry's market of last resort -- even though demand is low and gas prices have cratered.

Yet existing U.S. LNG import terminals are operating at a fraction of their capacity. New terminals, including one in Mexico's Baja California, are sitting virtually idle. And the forecast for U.S. gas production and reserves is robust, thanks to new drilling techniques that allow producers to tap unconventional reserves.

The new market realities raise questions about the viability of the three LNG terminals proposed in Oregon. Analysts are skeptical there will be enough supply in the Pacific Basin to assure a regular flow to the Northwest, or that gas prices will be consistently high enough to make it attractive to land cargoes here. They're not sure who would finance a billion dollar terminal in Oregon, or spend hundreds of millions more on a pipeline.

Thousands protest in Venezuela

Thousands of protesters have turned out in Venezuela, both in support of Hugo Chavez, the president, and against him, signaling a heated political climate ahead of the 2010 elections.

Venezuelan state oil firm's debt jumps 42 percent

CARACAS — State-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) saw its debt jump 42 percent in 2009, compared to a year earlier, climbing to 21.4 billion dollars, according to official figures.

Saudi shunned domestic borrowing in 2009 to encourage bank lending

Saudi Arabia shunned domestic borrowing and resorted to its massive overseas assets to finance its fiscal deficit during 2009 to encourage bank lending to the private sector, a key bank in the kingdom said yesterday.

A decline in the foreign assets of the world's oil powerhouse through 2009 following a steady rise in the previous seven years indicated the government withdrew from those funds to shore up the budget deficit and slightly cut its domestic debt, the Saudi American Bank Group (Samba) said in a study.

Saudi sees deadlock in climate talks

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia does not expect any global climate change pact soon because current proposals lack fair burden-sharing and would hit oil exporters unfairly, the country’s top climate negotiator said on Sunday.

“There was no real agreement in Copenhagen and I don’t foresee any agreement in the near term,” Mohammed al-Sabban told AFP, referring to December’s summit in the Danish capital.

Climate talks bigger threat to Saudi than oil rivals

RIYADH (Reuters) - United Nations climate talks are a bigger threat to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia than increased oil supplies from rival producers, its lead climate negotiator said on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia's economy depends on oil exports so stands to be one of the biggest losers in any pact that curbs oil demand by penalizing carbon emissions.

Conservation as a Matter of Managing People

People are hard-wired to be fearful of large carnivores. What’s more, it’s hard for the poor to see the economic advantage of rewilding. Humans don’t like conservationists telling them what they can and can’t do with the land that surrounds them. As one conservationist counterintuitively points out to Ms. Fraser: “Conservation is about managing people. It’s not about managing wildlife.”

Course creator's socioeconomic ideas gain momentum

SONORA - Chris Martenson started out by earning a Ph.D. in neurotoxicology.

Then he got an MBA in finance and became a vice president first at Pfizer and then at Science Application International Corp.

Yet seven years ago, he sold his five-bedroom waterfront house in Mystic, Conn., and two years later quit his high-paying corporate job. He now lives in a small rental house in rural western Massachusetts, home schools his children, raises a garden, cans food and brews his own beer.

He's also the increasingly famous creator of The Crash Course, an online video class that has popularized such concepts as peak oil, the limits of economic growth and the possibility that America's economy and society are beginning a dramatic transformation.

Oil Production: Post-Peak Mexico

Each year brings fresh updates to the body of peak oil research but I thought the recent An Explanation of Oil Peaking, R.W. Bentley, University of Reading 2009 was particularly good reading. Bentley does such a good job of explaining in direct terms a simple model for peak oil, without excluding any of the attendant complexity. (This would be a very good introduction for someone new to the subject).

I especially liked his articulation of how the total production arc for, say a country or a region, is a sequence composed of the largest fields eventually giving way to many smaller fields. That description made me think of the post-peak production profile of the United States, with its long-life extension at levels well below the 1971 peak. And, it also brought to mind Mexico.

Ammonia-energy Plan In Works In Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) ― Maine has been heavily involved in generating power from wind, and now Gov. John Baldacci is drawing attention to a plan to create ammonia as a green energy source.

Baldacci mentioned the Rockland-based Ocean Energy Institute's work during his State of the State speech Thursday. While most of the attention has gone to Maine's wind power projects, Baldacci said OEI founder Matt Simmons is working on an innovative approach to create a new energy source "almost literally out of thin air."

Gasoline Falls on Lower Demand, Concern Over Obama Bank Limits

(Bloomberg) -- Gasoline slid to a one-month low as demand fell to the lowest in almost six years and as U.S. stocks dropped on concern that President Barack Obama’s proposal to limit risk-taking at banks would slow the economic recovery.

U.S. gasoline demand last week was the weakest since January 2004, according to the Energy Department. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index fell 1.9 percent at 3:21 p.m. in New York percent, and had erased its 2010 gains in three days of losses.

Iran budgets for $60 price for crude oil

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran planned next year's budget based on an oil price of $60 per barrel, nearly double the price from the last year, the official news agency reported on Sunday, indicating rising optimism over energy prices.

Last year, the parliament approved a budget based on $37.5 per barrel for the fiscal year ending in March, reflecting the steep drop in prices that severly impacted the economy. About 80 percent of Iran's foreign revenue comes from oil exports.

Uganda Plans to Discuss Tullow Oil, Eni ‘Controversy’

(Bloomberg) -- Uganda’s government said it will meet to discuss the “controversy” between Eni SpA and Tullow Oil Plc over assets in the East African nation.

Coast Guard: Oil spill in Texas waterway contained

PORT ARTHUR, Texas – The Coast Guard said a crude oil spill in a southeast Texas port had been contained to a two-mile area and was not believed to have hurt any local wildlife.

It was unclear exactly how much oil spilled into the water when an 800-foot tanker collided with a towing vessel pushing two barges near Port Arthur on Saturday, but the Coast Guard said it could be as much as 450,000 gallons. The Coast Guard said the crash left a 15-by-8-foot hole in the tanker and damaged one of its oil tanks, resulting in the spill.

RBS May Delay Sempra Sale after U.S. Trading Plans, Times Says

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc may be forced to delay the sale of its stake in Sempra Commodities, as U.S. plans to curb proprietary trading would reduce Sempra’s revenues, the London-based Times reported.

Nexen not ready to expand oil sands project yet

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Nexen Inc's chief executive said on Friday his company won't rush into an expansion to double the size of its C$6.1 billion ($5.8 billion) Alberta oil sands project, saying he needs a longer record of production and confidence in the economy.

Crown in row over energy supply

Utility companies hoping to build eight vital gas storage projects for UK supplies have written to MPs urging them to stop the Crown Estate from tripling fees for leasing suitable land off the British coast.

Arctic resources up for grabs; are U.S. hands tied?

The United States is the world's leading maritime power but has tied its hands in the ability to act the part.

Having the longest coastline and largest exclusive economic zone in the world, with jurisdiction over fisheries and mineral resources, we have potentially more to gain than any other nation by joining the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Peak oil puts rail resurgence on track

During the recent heated debate over the use of that 88-acre piece of land east of Eagle, I noted that there is still an intact railroad track running through this valley.

While it is at best marginally maintained, at least east of the American Gypsum plant, which uses rail service regularly in shipping its product west, this track may soon be the valley's most important transportation resource.

Panel faces tough road to highway improvements

As it stands, the message is: Arkansas can’t make its road-building ends meet with some $900 million in annual revenue from state and federal motor fuel taxes. State Highway Director Dan Flowers says the state needs $200 million a year more just to maintain its highways at current levels.

To supplement road funds, the highway committee is endorsing three options — shifting $425 million a year from state general revenues; indexing fuel taxes based on the annual Construction Cost Index increase, which is a general measure of inflation associated with construction commodities; and levying an excise tax on the wholesale price of motor fuel.

Leaders stress development at Mardi Gras

Today, event leaders host an economic-development luncheon. This year the speaker is Matt Simmons, chief executive officer of Simmons and Co. of Houston, an investment-banking firm for energy companies. A panel discussion is scheduled featuring energy company CEOs.

BP’s green vehicle offer getting little mileage

BP has offered to convert 25 to 30 Clear Creek school district school buses to run on natural gas, but it’s up to the federal government whether the district can participate in the settlement deal.

Going Green: How energy efficiency aids bottom line

"It's a perfect storm," Miller said. "A tough economy is forcing people to conserve energy. Add to that the groundswell from the stimulus package, state stimulus money, the quagmire over oil and climate change, and everybody sees the benefits of going green."

Diane Farsetta: Dump nuke provisions in Clean Energy Jobs Act

Would a truly “clean energy” source produce “one of the nation’s most hazardous substances”? Of course not.

So why include provisions on nuclear reactors in the state’s Clean Energy Jobs Act, recently introduced in the Legislature? Nuclear reactors generate high-level radioactive waste, which is “one of the nation’s most hazardous substances,” according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Storm brews over glacier blunder

A MISTAKE about the timing of melting glaciers has snowballed into an unprecedented assault on the credibility of climate science, after revelations that an author of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report knew that one passage was wrong but included it anyway.

Emerging nations meet in India over climate change

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Environment ministers from Brazil, South Africa, India and China met in New Delhi on Sunday to agree a common position for future talks after the Copenhagen climate change summit, officials said.

The four emerging economies -- a key bloc within troubled negotiations on how to tackle global warming -- lobbied successfully at the Copenhagen meeting in December against binding emissions caps.

The Case for a Climate Bill

The conventional wisdom is that the chances of Congress passing a bill that puts both a cap and a price on greenhouse gases are somewhere between terrible and nil. President Obama can start to prove the conventional wisdom wrong by making a full-throated case for a climate bill in his State of the Union speech this week.

Re: Glacier-gate

Yet another meathead spasm grasping at straws. Denialists lie every single time they open their agenda-driven mouths yet some irrelevant technical detail in some UN report (i.e. not in the peer reviewed literature) is supposedly enough to kill off climate science.

The media clearly has nothing more important to report on. When am I going to see a headline about the two Danish researchers who fudged the solar variability data to get a better regression fit in their "the Sun explains climate change" load of tripe. Denialism is pure politics and should be treated as such.

The problem is the media is either pressing the denialists agenda or the one honest journalist that's left needs to get themselves an education.

This comic is about internet polls but has something to say about scientific facts that is quite pertinent to this discussion. The only valid discussion about any scientific topic is that which takes place in peer reviewed scientific journals. Neither the public nor the media have anything useful to contribute and should either just STFU and listen very carefully and humbly to the accepted consensus of the experts in a particular field or go back to school and get an appropriate degree and submit their paper for review. I'm tired of listening to the balanced views of complete morons!

The problem is the media is either pressing the denialists agenda or the one honest journalist that's left needs to get themselves an education

It is my opinion that mainstream public news shows are entertainment, to feed advertising. With this understanding, it is seems to make sense why news stories are selected and spun the way they are.

I do not think mainstream media will ever change. Since they probably will never change is why places like theoildrum and calculatedriskblog will continue to exist and thrive.

Neither the public nor the media have anything useful to contribute and should either just STFU and listen very carefully and humbly to the accepted consensus of the experts in a particular field or go back to school and get an appropriate degree and submit their paper for review.

I agree, and find it extremely aggravating when any kind of ordinary person with an opinion on global warming is given a platform to espouse their ignorant position on the subject.

Inhofe out of Oklahoma at one point said he didn't think there was any such thing as global warming because the weather in his neighborhood had not changed during his lifetime. Never has a more stupid comment ever been made, yet it was covered by the media as a response to the idea of global warming!

Discussions and debates on global warming should only take place between climate scientists, excluding the ones being paid by corporations like Exxon.

In one light I can say I agree but in another I don't.

Policy and discussion are two different things in these issues.

My brother and I can can discuss and debate global warming all we like. We can even include 400 of our closest and furtherest friends in the discussion and debate. But the outcome of our gathering, should not be taken as a defacto method for understanding the issue in the global community. If we are not sharing datasets and collection methods and elsewhich, we are just laymen having a friendly chat.

What is being done in Media and at the policy levels today is people are seeing these groups, or people talk about their opinions and acting as if the opinions are factual data points.

The only way to really get a handle on how our climate works, is to collect as many data points as possible, everywhere we can get them.

Our world, is a system that is highly complex, things that have happened in the Sun's lifetime have set in motion events that we are still feeling. The Moon Earth system has been going on for a long time.

I am trying to say that AGW is not happening, or that there will never be another ice age, or that there will be another ice age. I understand the complex system that the world is a part of, and climate is something that we all have to live with.

We change our world on a daily basis, it would be silly for us to think we have not changed the pattern flow of the system, even on a local level, let alone on a global scale.

So you should say, you can discuss it all you want, debate it too. But you can not be called upon to be a part of the policy setting, because you are not the people collecting the dataset or the people whose knowledge of said dataset is working to understand it.

If I look over the shoulder of a person making a computer model and notice he did not carry the - sign into the next step, I should point it out to him. Even if I have no clue what his formula is all about.


MSM has long given up on reporting.

But I think this was a "Himalayan" blunder - even though it was an obscure part of IPCC. We are talking about devastating hundreds of millions of people in a couple of decades .... and Indian governement apparently repeatedly complained about it.

The set of graphs in the first link really show evidence of lots of the trends we talk about here.

All the graphs run from 2005 to now. The Lumber graph echoes the housing crash, the Motor Vehicles graph echoes the auto manufacturing slowdown discussed the other day.

The Coal graph was pretty surprising in it's steep fall. Are we really using that much less electricity?

Natural gas (in 50+% efficient combined cycle turbines) is cheaper than coal in some regions (Texas for example) and better at load following.

In a utility scheduling decision, one considers many factors, including heat rate (efficiency) warm-up costs, transmission losses (closer to load is better), maintenance/hr of operation, spinning reserve potential, sulfur taxes, etc.

In most of these factors, NG beats coal.

Also, wind is cutting into loads in Texas. NG is a better partner than coal for wind (see above decisions).

Best Hopes for Less coal,


Wind+CCGT=dynamite combination

And good for Climate Change.


Climate Change: Which way? Warmer or colder? Good: Increasing or decreasing?

This is one of the problems of explaining climate change: the use of loose language. When the media went from 'climate warming' to 'climate change' they left the door open to all sorts of misunderstandings.

I am quite sure what Alan meant was: "Reduced CO2 will reduce global warming". Or would we say, "Reduced CO2 will help global cooling." This is especially bad if your pipes froze last night at -15F.

I do not believe anyone here can use 'global' and 'cooling' in the same sentence without getting piled on.

That your pipes froze last night has NOTHING to do with Global Warming or Climate Change.

They would have frozen at -16 C or likely -14C.

What happened is the periodic change in atmospheric pressure that pulled the arctic cold air unusually far south. It was relatively balmy in Iceland as you froze. The global average is warming up though, decade by decade.

Ah, the stupid arguments of deniers,


BTW, one serious risk of Climate Change is as the rest of the world heats up, Western Europe will freeze because the ocean currents that warm the EU will weaken. Ireland, Iceland and the UK are most vulnerable to this. The currents are reported to be weakening, although still within historic ranges.

I agree with you Alan but this is also where some of the AGW advocates give the deniers ammo. When they start pointing to some extreme event they connect to AGW they set themselves up for the deniers to use similar but apparently contradictory extreme events. Like you I believe in the long term consequences of AGW. But I've seen no evidence that AGW has caused the drought in Vz as some claim. Maybe it's true...maybe not. But if they play the climate extreme angle it's going to get thrown back into their faces every time an cold extreme shows up. It's good to remember it won't be the scientists who make the policies. It will be the politicians. And they bend with a public that can't began to debate the issue on factual terms IMHO. It's going to be a sound bite war as ussual. Those cold extremes have occurred for thousands of years. Just like the hot/wet/dry/snowy/etc extremes.

This is a straw man, Rock. The deniers are the fools constantly pointing to weather. What you do see from scientists are attempts to see the fingerprint of warming where they can to better understand where we are.

I cannot recall seeing any climate scientist of any weight saying that this or that single event was definitely caused by climate change. I see plenty of examples of them talking about the *influence* of climate change, particularly in terms of trends.

All that said, we certainly do see the fingerprint of warming in virtually all areas of climate AND weather. Stronger storms, more extreme events, animal's ranges changing. Etc. What is hard to say is that THAT animal right there on that rock moved an average of 12 yards north last season because of climate changes.

But to say that scientists should not be talking about the fingerprint of climate change because some people fail to bother to educate themselves so they can understand pretty simple English is bull.

That huge slushie up north? Climate Change. All of it? Nah. Some is variability. But most of it? Yes. You don't lose well over 80% of ice mass in the Arctic Ocean due to a weather blip.

And if that info doesn't freak you out, you are pretty much brain dead as pertains to climate and the dangers we face. It's not alarmism. It's not being unmindful. It's being honest.

Let those that choose to lie do so. They are no longer worth involving in the conversation.


What I said Alan was that loose language is an opening for deniers. Of course you are right. Re-read what I said without your shorts in a knot!

Now add in recaptured methane from sewer gas, landfill, agricultural production and forestry byprodust as a back for distributed generation gas turbine plants...oh man, now we are getting somewhere...:-)


Venezuelan "Heavy Oil"/Asphalt

I found a good discussion and analysis of this resource.


Two kinds of methods have been used for producing the oil in the Heavy Oil Belt- methods that employ steam and those that employ diluents.

Steam can be used in the Steam Stimulation (Huff and Puff) methods or by Steam Flooding. In the Steam Stimulation method, steam is injected into the reservoir for a period of several weeks. The well is then allowed to flow back and then pumped. Several cycles of Steam Stimulation are carried out until the volume of oil that is recovered relative to the volume of steam that is injected is not cost effective. This method enables rapid recovery of oil at the outset but generally limits the oil recovered to 15%, and therefore, is not a very good method for total recovery of oil from a field, but it has been widely used in the past in Venezuela.

In Steam Flooding, steam is injected continuously into injection wells and produced continuously at production wells some distance away. Steam Flooding is generally carried out in "patterns"; ... A variation of the steam flooding technique is the SAGD (Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage) method in which steam is injected through horizontal wells. Parallel producing wells are placed below the injection wells. Both kinds of wells are placed near the bottom ob the reservoir. Steam raises from the injection wells, making the oil above it more mobile. Gravity assists in draining the oil and condensate through the production wells.
[see TOD article today]

The current projects in the Heavy Oil Belt use a different method for producing oil. They make use of the fact that even though the oil is heavy, it is still mobile in the reservoir because of the existing temperatures there. Oil is produced by employing down hole pumps to pump the oil to the surface where it is diluted with a very light oil and then piped to an upgrader located on the Venezuelan coast. At the upgrader the heavy oil is upgraded to lighter oil and the diluent is returned to the wellhead and recycled.


The fact that it is much warmer in Argentina than Northern Canada makes a big difference in the techniques one can use--the material is much softer in warm weather. IIRC, the method used in Argentina doesn't get nearly as big a percentage of the heavy oil out, but is a lot cheaper.

Argentinian heavy oil?? Don't cry for me Venezuela!!

Knowing readers here follow Ag situations closely, I think you may be interested in this article which I wrote and I'd like to know if readers here have any additional insights on the subject. The subject is regarding recent articles circulating the web which are suggesting the food/grain supply is very low and there will be shortages this year. But, I've come to a different conclusion.

Because I had been noticing a discrepancy between the recent USDA total grain production reports and what Jim Rogers and other investment people were saying on TV, I did some digging and wrote a Seeking Alpha article a few days ago which was very popular and even drew a response from Jim Rogers, only his third response ever on Seeking Alpha. The title was "Jim Rogers, The World is not Short of Grain". (Rogers had been on CNBC recently saying that global grain stocks are extremely low.)

I am suspicious that one element to this story is that the agriculture commodity bulls need to promote this scarcity falsehood to prop up their own investments. They bet wrong a year ago because they did not foresee the deflationary picture and its effect upon Ag commodities.

To reinforce what I wrote, I received an email from a fellow blogger friend who wrote this:

I saw the SA article - it was great! It seems like I have the same conversation once a week with someone online about grain stocks, etc. The de Carbonnell article on 'Food Armageddon' was absolute, sensationalistic crap with no redeeming value whatsoever........I concede that we could have a global crop failure this year, and the Sun could go supernova too. But de Carbonnell offered no applicable data to make his case. And rather than debate the accuracy of U.S. Government stats (it's a given they can be pretty poor), I merely point to Ag Futures prices. They're not doing much - end of story. I used to work on the CBT floor. The private forecasters are big business. Their surveys are extremely thorough. If there were shortages looming, they would know and prices would be rising. Accumulating futures positions in Ags will move the market as they're relatively small.....The Rogers trade is a demand growth story - 75 million (and growing) net new mouths to feed per year. But as you point out, a deflating environment will reduce demand for the number one consumer of grain - livestock.

Here are links:
The Seeking Alpha Article: Jim Rogers, The World is not Short of Grain (with 32 comments including the response from Rogers calling me a Luddite)
My Agricultural news this week: Financial News Express Agricultural Economic News Jan. 22

Financial News Express (Blogging about the financial crisis and Ag Economics)

Kapla, thanks for the post. I found the Rogers interview and he did paint a bleak picture of future grain stocks. Agricultural Commodity Prices To Go 'Through the Roof' I also checked on World Grain Consumption and Stocks, 1960-2009 and found that the world has 77 days of consumtion left. I really don't think that is anything to cheer about. True, it is higher than the last five years but well below the average for the 1990s which averaged 105 days of supply. In the data below consumption and stocks are in million metric tons. The 10 year average is not from the chart but can be done simply by typing in the formula for the data.
Excel file: www.earth-policy.org/datacenter/xls/book_pb4_ch2_2.xls

                      Days of  10 year
   Consumption Stocks  Cons.   Average
1982	1,475	389	96	77
1983	1,501	348	85	80
1984	1,549	428	101	84
1985	1,553	518	122	89
1986	1,601	572	130	94
1987	1,640	528	117	98
1988	1,620	450	101	100
1989	1,677	441	96	101
1990	1,706	495	106	104
1991	1,713	485	103	106
1992	1,737	521	109	107
1993	1,739	483	101	109
1994	1,762	479	99	109
1995	1,739	437	92	106
1996	1,809	486	98	102
1997	1,821	540	108	101
1998	1,835	580	115	103
1999	1,856	585	115	105
2000	1,860	565	111	105
2001	1,905	535	102	105
2002	1,910	440	84	103
2003	1,935	354	67	99
2004	1,990	402	74	97
2005	2,020	387	70	94
2006	2,044	341	61	91
2007	2,095	362	63	86
2008	2,138	443	76	82
2009	2,166	455	77	78

As I said, looking at the long term prospects, especially in the light of peak oil, peak water and peak fertilizer, we have absolutely nothing to cheer about.

Ron P.

Two or three failed monsoons (coupled perhaps with severe drought in Australia) and the numbers will shrink.

Just-in-Time food is an uncomfortable concept.

Best Hopes for Less Beef production#,


Eating less grain fed beef is the best consumer (i.e. all of us) response to alter the food chain for more human food. Most corn fields can grow soybeans or wheat (a price driven choice) so reducing demand on one end affects the mix on the other next planting season. Chicken & catfish (from memory) uses less than half the corn/lb as beef, with pork in between.

Wild caught seafood even less. And veggies are good for you !

A quarter of the US grains go into making Ethonol.


ps : Oops ... just saw this linked below.

While I am a vegan and fully support living more lightly on the land, I fear that Jevon's paradox applies to the way we eat. The population will just expand to take up the additional food supplies.

Still think we will not prevent dieoff as long as we cannot control our births. The demographic transition will come too late and will just help fry the planet.

While I have no hope, I try to keep an open mind. I hope for hope.

Please remember grain is an abstraction just like energy and metal. It is not adequately defined to make any deductions from the Earth Policy Institute data shown.

I have no confidence in Lester Brown and his self appointed Earth Policy Institute and this attempt at grain analysis shows why. Things that are different can not be compared, added, subtracted, etc.. If they are anyway the result is nonsense and at the very least tells us less truth than if we examined each form of grain individually.

The data in the chart does not clarify. It only obfuscates.

Grain is being reified in this data set. Can't do that! It is fallacious and is the same thing that is often done with energy as in EROEI when different forms of energy are compared, added etc..

Grain is an abstraction and can not be treated as concrete. It exists only has a concept. It has no defined characteristics, utility or price. Each form of grain is unique with unique characteristics such as yield, utility and price.

If you don't believe it, try getting a quote from your local grain elevator for grain. They will laugh at you. Try delivering a mixture of corn and soybeans to the elevator. They will throw you out.

Adding different forms as is done in this grain data set tells us nothing about the grain situation since grains are so different from each other.

For example corn is probably one of the largest components of grain inventories. But corn is for the most part not even human food. It is mostly used as animal feed. Yet it is lumped in with rice, wheat and soybeans.

Corn consumption could increase or decrease dramatically due to increases/decreases of hog, chicken or cattle feeding without much affect of the human food supply or of course it could be used for ethanol.

People can easily substitute wheat or rice for corn in many cases. The chart data shows that a drop in grain inventories began at about the time ethanol production was ramping up and this is fallaciously used as an argument against ethanol by implying that corn is mostly human food like wheat or rice. It is not.

Treating an abstraction as concrete (the reification fallacy) does not tell us more about what is going on than inventory analysis of each form of grain. It only obfuscates. Adding things that are different is wrong.

All grain can be eaten by humans. All grain can be eaten by animals. You can make ethanof from any grain. But most important of all a farmer can grow the grain that he thinks will make him the most money. And that is why you must classify grain as grain. After all, what else would you call it.

Of course corn consumption could change dramatically. People buy the grain they can afford. If corn is too high because it is used to make ethanol then people will buy and consume what they can afford.

Lester Brown gets his data from the USDA and other government agencies around the world. His data is as reliable as anyone's. If anyone's data is reliable then Lester's data is reliable.

As far as ethanol goes, read my post below and also read the article at the link.

Ron P.

So X, how is the topsoil? Are you adding or subtracting to its health and microorganisms (I mean without the Haber Process and inorganic phosphorous).
And those aquifers? Are they still healthy?
Or, are we discounting the future?
Do we see where this is heading?
How about the ethnic cleansing of the environment (getting ride of useless species)?
And what about that Dead Zone in the GOM?
Grains are evil.

hightrekker, Doncha know? Those are all abstractions ;-)

Please remember grain is an abstraction just like energy and metal. It is not adequately defined to make any deductions from the Earth Policy Institute data shown.

Your blather is really getting old.

You don't even know what an abstraction is!

"Grain" is a concrete term, but a general one. It's not abstract.

"Love," "Idealism," "Mercy," those words are abstractions.

"Energy" is not just concrete--it's the most concrete thing in our universe.

Kalpa, I would just like to make another point:

U.S. Feeds One Quarter Of Its Grain To Cars While Hunger Is On The Rise

The amount of grain needed to fill the tank of an SUV with ethanol just once can feed one person for an entire year. The average income of the owners of the world's 940 million automobiles is at least ten times larger than that of the world's 2 billion hungriest people. In the competition between cars and hungry people for the world's harvest, the car is destined to win.

According to a chart at the above link the number of undernourished people increased by 100 million people in 2009, from about 930 million in 2008 to 1,030 million in 2009. Now some may wonder why, if the world is awash in grain, how could the undernourished increase by 10 percent in just one year to over one billion people? What's going on?

Well the answer is quite simple my friends. Those undernourished folks simply have no money to buy that grain. The problem is abject poverty, not the production of grain. People must buy food. And if they have no money to buy food then they go hungry. And if no one gives them a handout, they die. It is that simple.

How many times have you heard that old saw: We don't have a food production problem, we have a food distribution problem. Well, that is bull crap. We have a people problem. There is plenty of food and a great distribution system for those who can afford to buy it. The problem is too many people with too little money.

Now I am not blaming the problem on ethanol or SUVs as this article does. The problem lise much deeper. The world has simply produced more people than it can provide jobs for or feed. We are deep, deep into overshoot. That is the problem, the problem that no one either in the media or in the government will admit.

Ron P.

Hey, Mr. Darwin Guy, there's no problemo!

There aren't ANY LIMITs to GROWTH!! The Church will just bring out the Loaves and Fishes and everyone will be fed!
[sarcanol off]

I do hope that lots of Churchites will go to Haiti and learn first hand the effects of over population...

E. Swanson

black dog, you are missing a point of the miracle of lobes, the lobes are not physical food but spiritual, its about teaching divided among those who are hungry for it, thats why the first to "eat" are disciples and then a multitude, disciples are the one who bring the "baskets filled with pieces of lobes and fishes" to the people. in other words disciples are the one who share the word of Jesus.
i think its not dissimilar to what is being done on this site, for we have a lobe of limits to growth and desperately trying to find a hungry ones to gave them their share.

As a Christian, I understand all to well the reasons for the hungry people of the world. The poor you will always have with you, as Jesus says, but that is taken out of context to what he said just after that. Anyway the point is, Christians that I know, understand the plight of the hungry, and malnourished of the world.

It is nothing to do with spirit food, but real food that goes in the tummy.

We have been chasing the greed of others and the need to keep people poor for someone elses gain.

If I could I would have everyone fed and sheltered, and reduce population til sustainablity were possible.

I can Only Pray that things will get better, and do what I can to help those that I can.


was it god himself or his alledged son jesus that alledgedly said: "go forth and multiply" ?

Check your e.mail, we can talk about it there.


Well Charles and elwoodemore this particular drumbeat by the Right to Lifers and the Christians continues to prove how disingenuous bible believers are about their bible. God says Man has Dominion over the Earth so it is Man's responsibility to ensure that all of God's creatures be fruitful and multiply.



Please also note that the lord said to Be Fruitful and Multiply. Christians get the Multiply part easy but encouraging the Bearing of Fruit - Not so much.

Thanks for your links and comments. I still point to the email from the "insider" I received to confirm the actual numbers which only those insiders who are best at it, probably know. Evidently they are not so worried right now. The 25% of corn goes to ethanol article was included in my blog posts this week, also, and I have watched the biofuels situation closely for a long time. When I used to comment here on TOD a number of years ago, it was often on the subject of biofuels (in a negative way). I, too, worry a lot about how PO and the economic crisis will play out in Ag, that's why I cover it. It was actually out of character for me to write a more "positive" article like this Seeking Alpha one, yet grain production numbers for '09 were very strong nearly everywhere (with the exception of rice). There is much more in the article if anyone is inclined to read it.

One of my problems with Ag bulls is that they assume that because population is increasing prices have to go up. With that I disagree, as explained in my articles and it has to do with deflation vs. inflation and the macro economic picture. Consuming food comes down to being able to afford food, the economic health of the individual, and the economic health of the respective nation in addition to humanitarian food distribution programs. Production does not ensure reimbursement to adequately cover input costs nor does it guarantee that every mouth gets fed.

There are a couple of reasons for a large amount of slack in the system, however. 1) biofuels 2) vegetarianism. So, eventually those 25% corn acres of overproduction (++) which now go towards ethanol can be converted to wheat or soy or real food. As a financially strapped world becomes more vegetarian, that, too, offers slack.

If the US economy is headed where I think it is - we are becoming a very slow growth, less affluent nation due to our debt burden and we are in danger of some degree of default if we don't get appropriate political response in dealing with this crisis, then, I don't think that biofuel funding is a guarantee with our now populist spirited nation. The government is and will be picking winners and losers. Right now the ethanol interests are suing California because they want that "lost market" due to their legislation. We've barely seen the beginning of program cuts and tax changes. After this Massachusetts election everything has become less predictable.

Ag policy price supports will ensure production, if at all possible, even if inputs skyrocket. But, policy may become policy that supports more "essential" production and become far less wasteful than encouraging the vast overproduction we have today. Thankfully, U.S. farm producer's financial positions are much more solid than they were in the '80s farm crisis due to much less leverage on their land. And since Saudi and the middle East need our commodity production, we should have some bartering ability with them for some time. With all of its failings, industrial Ag is very efficient, overall, and the US has both some of the best and most abundant farmland in the world while it also produces some of its own fuel.

But on a global level, I'm very concerned. I'm reading Rogoff and Reinhart's book "This Time is Different" and besides these larger nations who have taken on too much debt, there are many smaller nations who will be even worse off. How food will be produced and distributed during these crises which will likely happen this decade, has yet to be known.

Agricultural commodity production is similar to oil production. If you can't afford to produce it, then it will not be produced. In addition to PO and the economy, it comes down to population. I'm a huge Al Bartlett fan.

...grain production numbers for '09 were very strong nearly everywhere (with the exception of rice).

"With the exception of rice".....the most consumed (human) food on the planet, kind of got my attention.

World ending rice stocks are projected at 90.7 million tons, down 1.75 million tons from 2008/09 according to the USDA. Yes, this year rice would be the main concern.

Thanks. Any numbers on how much rice is held over year to year? A major failure in an annual rice crop would be a disaster of biblical proportions.

You are inspiring me to write about rice this coming Friday (hopefully).

Here is a good article dated nov/09: Rice Trade Needed to Fill Supply Gaps

World rice carryover stocks were 90.7 MMT at the end of the 2008/09 marketing year, 20.8 percent of consumption and the highest carryover of the last five years. That number is misleading because 46.5 percent of the stocks are held by China and their recent export high was only 1.3 MMT in 2006/07, with 2009/10 exports projected also at 1.3 MMT. China could export more because USDA projects its carryover stocks at 44.8 MMT for 2009/10, up from 42.2 MMT at the end of 2008/09 and 37.6 MMT in 2007/08. They are expected to harvest a record 136 MMT crop, but may choose to not draw down stocks for one of its starch staples.

...How governments in rice importing and exporting countries respond to increased market demand will determine what happens in the markets. In late 2007 and early 2008 Vietnam and India imposed export restrictions when the Philippines entered the market for additional rice purchases. Now the Thai government has large stocks purchased to support prices that could be released for exports. The global rice market is learning how to respond to market supply and demand factors. Less government intervention in importing and exporting countries would be helpful, but that will take time. Government intervention in the rice market is the natural response when demand or market prices change more than “politically acceptable.” Politicians will slowly learn that more open trade is helpful in achieving adequate supplies at reasonable prices rather than manipulating trade to achieve short-term political outcomes.

This year, the excess in other grains is supposed to easily offset the decline in rice production.

Are you aware of the new genetic development this past year which should help with rice production? Flood-Resistant Rice Aids Farmers in South Asia

Some interesting comments by Marc Faber in the current issue of Barrons are shown below. His recommended stock picks last year were up, on average, about 75%. In the discussion, he noted that the size of the developing world economies exceeds the size of the developed world, and of course the developing world is growing rapidly.

Faber: I am surprised nobody mentioned India today. The world is changing. In the past 10 to 15 years there has been a huge shift in the balance of economic power. The Western world still regards itself as the dominant economic force, but auto sales and oil consumption, for instance, are larger today in emerging economies. India added over a hundred million mobile phones last year. It has a billion people, 70% of whom live in the countryside. I have been going to India since 1973, and not much changed until about 10 years ago. Today, because the economy has become much more market-oriented, you drive through the villages and people have businesses and shops.

The typical international portfolio manager has 60% or 70% of his clients' money in America and 30% or 40% overseas. Maybe 10% or 20% is in emerging markets. That doesn't mean he should sell all his U.S. and European holdings and buy emerging markets, because the U.S. now is relatively inexpensive compared to other markets. But we are living in a new world where emerging economies no longer are the poor cousins of rich countries, although their per capita income remains much lower.

Barrons: But this isn't a revelation. Emerging markets did spectacularly well last year.

Faber: Still, many people think of emerging economies as relatively small, when in fact, they are larger than the developed world. . . .

Barrons: What else do you like?

Faber: Agricultural commodities hardly moved last year. Wheat, inflation-adjusted, is at a 200-year low. You play it through purchases of wheat futures, or you buy farmland or potash companies.

There's a lot of oportunity, and with it, consumption increasing at a historically unprecedented scale.

Kappa, I did not respond to your post directly so you can still edit it. Your link did not work for me.


Thankyou, Alan. Fixed.

Re: 50% (+) Pay Cuts

Sam's Club lays off Dallas-Fort Worth workers as part of nationwide cuts

Raynetta Dennis, who worked at an Addison store, said there was no advance notice of the layoffs of workers who did product demos in stores and outside marketing people who called on business to solicit club memberships. "They laid off everybody on the demo teams and outside marketing," Dennis said. "That's 18 people in that store, and there are 28 local Sam’s Clubs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It's supposed to be nationwide."

She said the workers were told Crossmark would eventually take over in-store demos and that laid-off workers could apply to Crossmark for jobs that will pay $7.25 an hour. After more than 10 years with Sam’s, Dennis said she was making $16 an hour until Sunday morning.

According to a story on the Wall Street Journal web site (behind pay wall?):

Sam's Club to Shed 10,000 Jobs

E. Swanson

I suppose it's always nice to be #1 at something. John Edwards is the most unpopular person that Public Policy Polling has ever polled.

Rehabilitating John Edwards: Difficult but not Impossible*

There's unpopular, there's widely loathed, there's despised, and then there's John Edwards. Americans are a tolerant people, but they have a line, and evidently, when you cheat on your cancer-stricken wife, lie about it to everyone while running for president, and then decline to acknowledge fathering a love child for two years, you've crossed it. Given the towering stack of strikes against him, can Edwards resume any kind of public life? Short of curing his wife's cancer, is there anything he could do to get people to at least tolerate him?

According to a recent poll, the former presidential candidate is now historically disfavored. After taking the opinions of 678 North Carolina Voters, Public Policy Polling announced on Jan. 19 that with a 15% approval rate, Edwards was the most unpopular person it had ever polled — and this is from the state that gave us Jesse Helms.

*I disagree; it's impossible

China adding car capacity to make 21 million/year. With falling oil prices there should be no problem:


Thanks for the Arkansas article. Problem is we don't have the money in the state's coffers to give to them for building roads. Sales Taxes, and Income taxes were down this past year and they are already short for other things.

The Ledge( local term for the guys in funny hats up at the Capital) are going to be budget talking soon or already are, (I'm behind in my local paper reading). We passed higher cigarette taxes to fund Trama centers.

We passed a state lottery to fund higher education.

But state revenue has been down more than last year. Even Little Rock's revenue has gone down. Though in North Little Rock north of the river, we have been doing a massive sidewalk building spree and have put in several miles of bike lanes near by.

We have funds for several additions to the River Trail System that goes in a loop From downtown to the western edge of both cities.

But funds for jobs and roads are not at levels high enough to keep them going.

Mike Beebe our newer Gov, will have to cut costs somewhere, maybe there is hope for poorer politicos.

I know a riverboat casino can be built to fund the roads..

Alive and well in North Little Rock, Levy (the old town center is 1.5 miles down the road from me). North Little Rock is a collection of about 5 little burgs combined into one. Rose City, Levy, Argenta (the oldest), Amboy, Park Hill, all kinda mashed together now.

We do have trolly lines running over the river down to the Clinton Library, But they are mostly for show. Central Arkansas Transit is a very good bus system, you can get just about everywhere in the area. With new extended hours, and Sunday service in NLR added just late last year. I can walk about 700 feet to the busstop across the main drag from my street, it is only 5 houses to the stop sign.

Here's for a riverboat casino for roads, built of course on the NLR side of the river.


Good evening Charles:

I was associated with Indian and riverboat casinos in a previous life. Both, percentage wise, take from the poor more than they return to the community. The lottery(s) is similar. Where Indian casinos are most active the public support for the poor greatly increases.

The only reason Nevada makes it work is that most gambling is from touists and then they go home for food stamps, etc. Thank you all very much for paying for my property taxes. But when it is a closed system like an Indian or Riverboat casino the effect is devistating to the public welfare.

Follow the money. If there are touists, it will work for that community. All up gambling is a money transfere from poor and middle classes (and a few stupid rich) to very smart rich. Typically every dollar gambled means 17% or more to the house. And the house thanks you very much as long as you have money.

A lottery for higher education, using the same argument is a hugh transfer of money from the poor to the wealthy.

Be careful what you wish for.

Sorry I should have added a snarkorus on the Gambling comments. I don't support them. If you have money enough to guess at getting something back from it, you are a rube waiting for the con man to come steal your money.

Games of chance are rigged to give the house the best cut. They let you win just enough to feed your, free money addiction, and reel you in like the stuck fish you are.

Again, I should have put a snark, on the post in those areas.

I only bet on a sure thing, that I will die some day, So pony up and give me my millions now, I just saw death walk in the door.



Saw a comment in a separate thread referring to "Leanan's charts" showing a continued need for engineers and geologists. Can you point me to these charts?


Sorry, I don't know what they're talking about.

Kelly -- I haven't seen that report either. In what time frame are they speaking? Today there are thousands of un and under employed geologist and petroleum engineers. Even when you see stats like the number of employees fired from Devon it's a gross understatement of the situation. I was on contract at Devon through the spring of '09 when I terminated my contract. Something in the order of 20 to 30% of the staff were consultants and in-house service company hands. Those offices were the first ones emptied but they don’t count as fired since they weren’t employees. Just a WAG but I would say there's a 10 to 20% surplus. Houston has over 6,000 petroleum geologists. Can't be sure but my cohorts (3 of us total) and I might have been the only ones hired in Houston in the last 8 months or so. The body count is even much higher in the service companies. Many don't understand how critical the service company hands are to operations. The last Deep Water Gulf of Mexico I worked on there were 140 souls onboard. Of that number only two were employees of the operator. Insufficient service hands and even ExxonMobil can’t drill a well.

Perhaps they were predicting a shortage 10 years down the road. Depending on activity at that time it might be so. The oil patch is very heavily on the 55+ yo side of the fence. The holes in our demographics can be traced back to slumps in the business. In the last 8 years or so I’ve only met one petroleum geologist under 45 yo. And she was sharp as well as having been an intern with the company while still in school. In the mid 80’s the petroleum engineering department at Texas A&M hired a profession sports recruiter to find folks to major in PE. A great deal: $18,000/yr, free tuition and housing. It worked to a degree. Otherwise they were faced with the possibility of shutting the department down. I almost signed up but caught a good 3-year gig instead.

A couple of days ago, I ran into an exploration geologist with 17 years experience as a clerk at a flag store. I wonder if he will go back.


Alan -- he might be working as a clerk with that plan in mind. When we busted in the mid 80' I drove a cab and delivered produce to restaurants. I could have looked for a more upscale job but I didn't want to change career tracks. So we'll do such jobs waiting for things to get better. I was lucky and stumbled into a 3 gig after a couple of years of being way underemployed. If he can hang on for 3 o4 years he might be a hot property with that experience level.

Didn't know Mish was peak oil aware:


"Peak Autos: America's Love Affair with the Automobile May Be Coming to an End"

"...Eventually, upon entering retirement homes, the cars will go altogether.

Let's also not forget about the effect of peak oil."

Good for him.

(If that link goes to his blog, I am referring to the 1/24/10 post about peak autos.)

Can someone please explain to me why the companies that were planning to build LNG import terminals in Oregon are deciding to put those plans on hold -- supposedly because of the impact of shale gas finds -- when according to A. Berman and others at TOD the shale gas finds are just an uneconomic ponzi scheme? If LNG imports can truly compete, why aren't all these all these import terminal projects moving forward? Could it be that the U.S. should actually be building LNG export terminals?