Coal and Treasuries

This is a guest post by Gregor Macdonald. Gregor's blog is

It was the best of times for the developing world, and the worst of times for the developed world. In the developing world, they built savings. In the developed world, they groaned and sagged under the weight of debt. In a world where the credit of developed nations had always been believed, the serial monetizations and bailouts set loose an emerging incredulity–driving developing nations into gold, commodity currencies, and land. In the aftermath of the financial crisis the developing world, measured at about 4.5 billion people, lumbered forth with its insatiable demand for energy. Mostly coal.

In the developed world? They replaced their lost demand, lost credit, and the loss of cheap energy the best they knew how: with paper.

OECD demand growth for oil faltered years ago, as far back as 2004 when oil went above the “unthinkable” price of 40 dollars a barrel. In the developing world, the escalating price of oil did not as much delay, as divert, energy demand to the powergrid. To an extent that’s hard to measure, but certainly evidenced by power generation buildout and growth in electrified transport, the rising price of oil sent a confirmatory signal to the Non-OECD: stay on your coal trajectory. Of course, overall demand for all types of energy in the developing world took off ten years ago. Indeed, in 2008 for the first time ever, energy demand in the Non-OECD eclipsed by a hair all energy demand in the OECD. Roughly speaking, we can think of the OECD as the oil users, and the Non-OECD as the coal users. Gaze upon the chart below:

When the developing world faced higher oil prices, it guided its development toward power generation. But when the developed world, already married to an oil based infrastructure, faced higher oil prices it guided its development towards growth in credit. The United States is the number 2 user of coal, behind China, at 565 mtoe per year. And Germany is the number 7 user of coal at 85 mtoe per year. But coal demand growth in the OECD is largely halted by infrastructure. Most of the power generation additions in the OECD the past 30 years have been natural gas fired. Take a look at the growth of coal demand over the past 20 years, meanwhile, back in the developing world.

While the United States has little room for growth in coal demand, it does indeed have room to reduce coal demand as the depression rolls onward. It should not have been a surprise to anyone following the latest failed recovery in the housing market, the continued crash in the commercial real estate market, and the predictable fall-offs in auto production (since cash for clunkers) that US electricity demand is going nowhere. Thus, when CSX Railroad announced last week that shipments of coal to US utilities would not be strong this year, it was confirmatory to the macro trend. Although natural gas is “more expensive” on a per unit basis, it generally takes a much bigger spread to get utilities to actually favor coal over natural gas as the latter can be burnt with lower regulatory costs.

The expansion of the FED’s balance sheet and the explosion in government debt issuance, therefore, may have eased the pain of the US industrial and consumer collapse–but they’ve done nothing to revive real demand. And the coming tail-off in electricity use even from low levels is yet another sign that the 2009 stimulus package as well did not come back to Washington in the form of higher industrial activity–and higher tax receipts. Indeed, tax receipts on both the state and federal level are awful and this accounts for recent declarations from Illinois, New York, and California that they are essentially broke. In all that empty commercial real estate across the country, where no shoppers roam, and no sales tax is recorded, the thermostats are turned down, and the lights are turned off.

Meanwhile, there is every indication that the FED is going to have to extend its quantitative easing as the supply of Treasuries continues to ramp higher, while US savings and international capital flows are simply not enough to supply the necessary bid, in US Treasuries. Moreover, it’s likely that a great deal of last year’s bid in US Treasuries was simply the FED’s monetization of the mortgage-backed securities market (MBS) coming back in the form of Treasury demand. The FED in a program of ongoing duration started purchasing 1.3 trillion of MBS starting last year, with the intent to continue through the end of March 2010. Should they not extend the MBS purchase program, I would expect Treasury prices to fall. Foreigners have already been avoiding the longer end of the bond curve, or simply reducing Treasury purchases overall. (See: Debt Burden Now Rests More on US Shoulders.)

Additionally, there is the problem of duration, in that Treasury has been funding a large portion of US deficit spending with shorter duration bonds. That means a larger number of bonds mature in shorter timeframes. Thus, in 2010, the US not only has to float a large new supply of Treasuries but it has to find buyers for its maturing supply of Treasuries. (See: The $700 Billion U.S. Funding Hole; Desperately Seeking A Very Indiscriminate Treasury Buyer.)

Surprisingly, or perhaps perversely, 2010 sees an accelerated continuation of the 10 year trend in developing world coal demand and developed world credit growth. For all of its reflationary firepower, the OECD has at best eased the acute phase of deflation while sparking strong inflation in the Non-OECD. Here in the developed world we continue to see asset price deflation in real estate, though notably, our purchasing power has started to fall in the aggregate in both the US and in Britain. (In China, inflation threatens to rage.)

The problem for the OECD is that energy demand in the Non OECD does not translate well to demand growth for US Treasuries or UK Gilts. Coal prices are strong however because US utilities may not require more coal but pan-Asian utilities continue to build capacity, and the trajectory higher continues.

In January 2009 I asserted that the 27 year bull market in US Treasuries had ended in the blow off panic spike (in prices) just that December. I maintain that view now. And, while Washington may at times entertain thoughts of choosing a deflationary pathway out of the crisis–call it a liquidationist urge, if you will–the voices that beckon to inflate our way out of the crisis will always win out in the end.

The developing world is clear-eyed enough to know that it cannot depend on developed world demand to keep its factories running. This is why a lot of direct trade occurs now within the Non-OECD that is designed to both trigger domestic demand and also facilitate resource-for-resource deals which lock up supply.

It is in the developed world however that the lack of sobriety has reached epidemic levels, as we keep trying to replace both energy inputs and production-–with credit. When the growth in private credit could no longer carry the weight and failed, we embarked on a mad dash to do the same with sovereign credit. If the OECD and especially the United States were building new power generation or electrified transport with this credit, we could at least expect to get some return on the investment. But alas, we are hellbent still in trying to revive consumer demand. Thus, for all the growth in government debt, we are doing nothing more than pouring water on concrete.

From my first week here I have been saying that the govt would try to print it's way out of our troubles and that unless we are very lucky we will have a runaway inflation.If the current plans in Washington work,insofar as there are any for the long term, as I see it, we can kiss our savings good bye-they will be inflated out of existence along with our debts.

It's probably too late now to bite the bullet, do the right thing, and drive the big banks straight over to bankruptcy court, lock up the scumbags promoted out of them into positions of great power, and let as many of the chips as possible fall where they belong-on the shoulders of the bank stockholders. Class, can we all say "Chicago style politics" in unison?

The cure would have been wrenching but the course of the disease might have been interrupted.As things stand now it may be terminal.

I don't think the people in Washington (either party or both working together) have the cojones to deal with the problem-the short term solution, the printing press, can always be made to work for a few more months , until...well we don't know actually just how long , do we?

But at some point, things will TIP OVER into a new and very chaotic state wherein inflation and interest rates go crazy as people see the end coming up fast.

Have you added to your bugout bag this week?I'm spending all my spare cash as I get it on permanent improvements aimed at a self sufficient low energy lifestyle.

There is not a snowballs chance on a hot stove of money in a savings account keeping up with the rise in consumer prices from here on out.Buy an extra pair or two of boots and coveralls while your money is still good.

If you can't afford to buy gold, buy 12 gauge shotgun shells, they will keep properly stored for thirty years at least.

It is starting to get the feel of Weimar Germany. All that is missing is goons marching around the streets in brown uniforms and roughing up the scapegoats of choice. I fear that might not be too far away.

The necessary changes will be made, but not by the lot in charge now. There will have to be a leadership change in order to get the changes needed from the leadership. I very much doubt that we'll like the new order one bit, whatever form it ends up taking.

All that is missing is goons marching around the streets in brown uniforms and roughing up the scapegoats of choice. I fear that might not be too far away.

We do have those tea bag people, and a Corn Pone Hitler could emerge to get them clubbing and shooting their fellow Merkins.

Not that a little populism in not a good thing, as I think it is, but we need some political literacy.

There it is again. Always bitching and blaming the south and conseratives. ":Corn Pone Hilter".

Why don't you dweebs get some frigging new material? How about the scum in New York city. Or Chicago where this trash got started? Huh?

How about just shutting you mouth and trying to be civil? No? Then YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

TOD is also going downhill with this twitter trash if anyone is noticing.

Comparing citizens who see things a bit different to Nazis!!!!
And Hilter.

You jerks make me sick. The last dipstick was about cheering Sherman and burning the south.

Please get a real life, please for you old one is threadbare.
I welcome you to come to my part of the south. Step into a local hangout and spew your venom and see what kind of reaction you get. Then you can write ABOUT THAT!.

Is there no longer any moderation here? Appears to be very very one sided. Liberal vs Conserative and the conseratives get the short end.

Or more lately Nazis vs Americans who live in the south. Or who got to gatherings to speak their mind about the countries issues. Called Tea Baggers. The new threat apparently, which the Islamic Extremists continue to spill innocent blood and get free passes.

Airdale-when did TOD start allowing this trashtalk?

BTW this is a KEY POST and NOT a DB. On the first you try to stick to the subject matter. Or that used to be the idea.

I did state that populism is a good thing, and said nothing about the South. I am just pointing out the historical record when one is able to scapegoat and make simple relationships to complex problems, and the violence that has arisen.
I apologize If you took it another way.
This is almost alway the historical case during hard economic times and complex changing conditions, as the post presents.

FWIW, airdale, I did not point a finger at anyone, nor did I have anyone in particular in mind. I was just noting the absence, so far, of an organized movement to replace the existing regime with a more authoritarian one, and fearing that it won't stay that way long. When it comes, I have no idea from which region or group of people it will come from.

I understand where you guys (WNC, Trekker) are coming from but I tend to sympathize with Airdale.

The forum is overwhelmingly liberal and it does get sort of tiresome to see one's values and culture denigrated at almost every turn- Airdale is just going on the offense occasionally as that is the best defense in a lot of cases.

Witness the triumph of political correctness and the paralysis of the command structure of the mighty US ARMY in the face of an off his rocker idiot psychiatrist.Witness your grandmother with your wife and baby getting searched to get on an airplane.

People on the right are subject to being muzzled by a defacto liberal conspiracy that seeks to keep right wing viewpoints out of print and off the airwaves if possible and if that fails , to reduce by ridicule.

Let's not forget acorns, from which mighty oaks are known to grow.;)

Witness the triumph of political correctness and the paralysis of the command structure of the mighty US ARMY in the face of an off his rocker idiot psychiatrist. Witness your grandmother with your wife and baby getting searched to get on an airplane.

Oldfarmermac, you're the right stuff. Ditto for Airdale. And playing the Hitler card is really the pits.

And don't forget mac that when the PO SHTF society will still have the oil patch to blame for all the problems. Tea baggers, liberals, Dem, Repubs, Girl Scouts, etc: we'll be targeted by all of them. Then add the factor that many of us are in Texas and you compound the natural inferiority complex the rest of the nation has against the Lone Star state and it will get ugly. Fortunately we are very use to it. I know some of my cohorts who might actually inflame those sentiments intentionally when the time comes. Sorta like flinging that red cape in front of the bull. Just a little sportin' fun ya know.

Rockman rocks !

If it weren't so hot and dry in most parts I might move to Texas myself if contemplating a move.

Legend has it that a Texan wound up here in the hills once and his host got tired of the everything bigger in Texas conversation.So he put a smallish snapping turtle in his guests bed and the Texan always added after that "cepting the bed bugs".

Mac I hesitate to jump in here, but I must disagree with much of what you just said not to mention what Airdale said. I just do not believe that the evidence shows it to be true.

I have spent a significant amount of my life overseas working for the USG in situations that required me to be knowledgeable of the local political and cultural environment. My experience in both OECD and non-OECD countries was substantial. The knowledge and experience of those years leads me to an alternate view to that expressed by you and Airdale.

The US is not a predominately liberal country. It is easily the most conservative country of the developed world. By world standards even middle of the road US Democarats are conservatives. Your average Republican (of which I am one - but maybe not average I guess) is a fairly extreme political animal by world standards and your extreme right Repub is a pretty scary person by those same standards. I am fully aware that most people just naturally assume that their views are main stream and middle of the road. I do not consider main stream Republican view points middle of the road at all. Conservativism is not really under any meaningful attack in the US and there is almost no chance that real liberal ideology has any chance of taking hold with a majority of the populace. Just look at Obama who, by any non-partisan metric, is anything but a real liberal. He has fully jumped on the conservative bandwagon of bailing out Wallstreet and is proceeding down the exact same path as his predecessor was before he left office. Just wait till the bailout of the commerical real estate investors gets rolling.

And as long as I am picking on conservatives today, check out what the other name that anarchists are called in much of the world (I will save you looking it up on Wiki - Libertarians). My son the historian tells me that the titles anarchist and libertarian are really interchangable and that if I was to properly catagorize myself that I am a mixture of collectivist-anarchist and capitalist-anarchist (seems sort of self-contradictory to me). Sort of like Ron Paul I guess.

Another item (not addressed above) that gets huge traction in the US that makes absolutely no sense to me is the idea that religion in the US is under some kind of attack. Propaganda pure and simple. The US is extraordinarily religious. Far more than any other other major country and any of the developed world. It is much more religious now that it was when I was a teenager. Of all the countries I am familiar with you have to look at places like Iran to find countries where religion plays such a large part in how the country is governed and how its laws are applied. In practice a great many of my Republican colleagues only support freedom when the positions taken are in agreement with their own. All others they oppose.

I do not perceive TOD to be at all a liberal blog. Anything but. It is actually pretty non-denominational in that science is the main driver of its content.

Real liberalism can only thrive (IMHO) in an affluent society. And affluence is going away quickly in this world. I believe that the world will become much more conservative and "old fashioned" over the next generation. Most the the things we talk about here at TOD that we believe will com to pass in the future are oriented towards conservative positions and practices. Most of us believe that the world is going to be a harder, harsher and more spartan place down the road. That is not a situation in which liberal ideology will thrive.

BTW: What could be more conservative of a security approach than searching your grandmother, daughters and babies at the airport? Hardly a liberal approach.

Well enough soapbox crap. Back to work on the greenhouse. All in the name of a good discussion now, not meant to provoke any anger.


Hi Wyoming,

Actually I agree with a great deal of what you have to say but at the moment duty calls and I gotta run.Maybe tonight I can get back to this and explain my points a little more clearly.Nuance is everything in such a discussion and my opening broadside is all sledge hammer and fat paint brush w/o a doubt.

delete d0uble post


I agree with many of your posts, but I'm afraid Wyoming has the stronger position here. Yes, it's true that the dominant world view here trends liberal by American standards, which is to be expected of any literate group rich in people from a science and engineering background. Nonetheless, the U.S. as a whole is far, far to the right of every other industrialized nation (barring perhaps Australia). This very real right-wing bias tends to color the perceptions of many genuine conservatives --even well informed ones such as yourself or airdale.

When your average American "liberal" (or by world standards, "centrist") hears a right-wing rant about the supposed "War on Christmas" or the "War on Family Values", he has to shake his head and wonder what bizarro-world alternate universe the pundits claiming such "attacks" are living in. Because in this one, Americans trend strongly conservative and it is *liberal* ideals that are most under attack. Which network consistently gets higher ratings --Fox News or MSNBC? Who dominates prime-time AM talk radio --Conservatives or liberals? Which peridocals have higher circulation --Mother Jones & The Nation or the WSJ & National Review? Who sells more books --Al Franken or Glenn Beck? About the *only* medium that liberals might have a slight edge is in documentaries, thanks (or no thanks?) to Michael Moore, but even that may be changing (witness Acorn undercover "pimp" guy).

I freely admit that I myself have bashed my "crazy corn pone" relatives from the South (though some of them live here in California, reputed hotbed of liberalism). And truth be told, they really are ignorant, intolerant, homophobic, willfully misinformed and ideologically rigid fundamentalist right-wingers. This isn't an insult, it's just the way I see it, based on their (pretty whacked out) beliefs. You are free to disagree of course.

I would just like to point out that I hold many positions that may be considered by some to be left wing, but I happen to really enjoy corn pone ;-)

Well said Harm. I'd like to add that if you look at the inability of the Democratic party to get "liberal" legislation through the congress you will see that even the that party is pretty conservative by most standards. That is one of the reasons why even the centrist programs of the Obama administration have such a tough time. So add it up: the press is largely conservative, the congress is largely conservative, the courts are largely conservative, all of it mirroring the generally conservative public in the U.S.

I simply find it incredible to hear whining by the right about liberal bias anywhere in the country. It is a fact free opinion.

Nonetheless, the U.S. as a whole is far, far to the right of every other industrialized nation (barring perhaps Australia).

Wrong. About Oz that is, the U.S. is on the right all by itself.

Australia's right wing Liberal party is in reality pretty central, roughly in line with US Democratic party maybe. We have no major parties close the the Republican viewpoint (factions within the Liberal party may be sympathetic to those extremes).

Currently the Labour party is in power, a moderately left-wing / democratic socialist party.

Ditto to that!

Australia used to pride itself on its egalitarian nature summed up in the term of everyone having a"Fair Go". We have our own right wing nut jobs of course but even they would hard pressed to dismantle Medicare or our social security system on idological grounds. The strong impression we get here from the US debate on health care is that of foaming at the mouth becasue of some dastardly socialist plot to provide health care for all your citizens. What's wrong with you people? For a country that invests so much spiritual energy in the Christian faith, it is astounding that you don't know how to practice it at a community or national level.

Wow, ok. Well, I'm sorry about the comment about Oz being as conservative as the U.S. Looks like you Aussies are way more progressive than we are.

What could be more conservative of a security approach than searching your grandmother, daughters and babies at the airport? Hardly a liberal approach.

But maybe an approach necessitated by the liberal approach of allowing crackpots who want to blow up planes to run around loose on the grounds that it would not be "fair" to put them away in the lockup where they belong.

'Scuse me, PaulS, but tell me exactly what liberals are arguing that we let dangerous terrorists "run around loose" and kill people? Not even the ACLU is arguing that position. A straw man if there ever was one.

The crackpots wouldn't want to blow up the planes if the military wasn't busy invading and occupying their countries. Those poor libs, funding a military that gets as much money as the entire rest of the world's militaries combined.

That is exactly right. The US wonders why Iran wants nukes. Just look at the map - they are surrounded - by the US! Iran hasn't invaded another country for 300 years. How many has the US invaded? How many has it invaded illegally in the last 10 years? How many countries is the US de-facto occupying right now? Is this liberal nonsense? It doesn't matter how you rationalise it, it is just cold logic. People hate the US with good reason. It also explains the crackpots. Where is US isolationism, just when you want it? Come on guys, lets have it back!

The other thing that got me in this post was coal usage. We are screwed. World coal usage up by 50% in less than 10 years and non-OECD has doubled in the same period. And the trends show no signs of change. On top of that quality and therefore CO2 is getting worse. We are screwed. Enjoy your life now.

Thanks for the balanced and (IMO) accurate observations, Wyoming. I come from a liberal and progressive bend, but I also realize that PO renders the historical dichotomy of liberal and conservative as irrelevant. Luckily, I am Boy Scout!

I do get disheartened at the polarization of politial debate in this country, but I think it goes to the definition of politics as being the means by which wealth and resources are allocated or shared within a country. As long as the US had real wealth, then real social progress for the lower classes and previously disadvantaged minorities was doable. Once the true wealth prosperity ends and allocation becomes a zero-sum game, then liberal ideas of social progress, workers' rights, and equality get less popular support - despite growing numbers of people whose standard of living has been reduced.

Henry Kissinger noted (I paraphrase), that the fights within academia are so vicious because the stakes are so low. I see this as one of the untold drivers of the erosion in our current political discourse - as the pie shrinks, the rancor increases. Political debate erodes into a clash of world views driven by emotion and fear rather than reason and hope. This false dichotomy is supported by media and challenged by few. Meanwhile, the powerful assert themselves to assure greater concentration of the remaining wealth.

It's also wise to worry about the future and the rise of demagogues who demonize and scapegoat enemies both domestic and foreign. As a southerner by birth and upbringing, I took umbrage with Kunstler's view of southern redneck culture - but also have to admit there's truth to the stereotype (my family, case in point!) The unfortunate reality is that there's ignorant rednecks everywhere in this country who will be vulnerable to demagogic leaders with "simple answers" to our problems.

PO renders the historical dichotomy of liberal and conservative as irrelevant.

I'm glad someone else thinks so. I get my fill of politics at work, and I have to bite my tongue most of the time for all the antique and useless ideologies that get applied to todays problems, or not even applied at all but rather just trotted out to run through their paces. 90% of it is completely beside any useful point today. The more politics I hear, the more it just sound like Pope's Big-enders vs Small-enders, while the real world burns.

The banter here has enough of it to keep things going, but still little enough that the discussions are generally informative and intelligent.

I have spent a significant amount of my life overseas ... The knowledge and experience of those years leads me to an alternate view to that expressed by you and Airdale.

The US is not a predominately liberal country. It is easily the most conservative country of the developed world.

Wyoming has summed up how I and I'd say many outside the US would see this discussion. Noone outside the US really gives a toss about this North vs South stuff, the US is seen by most of the world as a very conservative, but relatively homogenous country. Divides across race and religion maybe, but not north and south.

This forum address issues being faced by the world as a whole, not only the US. I'd respectfully suggest we keep the forum more focussed on the issues at hand, energy and oil. Of course politics comes into the equation, but I think there's little value in personally attacking someone because of their politcal beliefs. And anyway, at the end of the day, Oil doesn't care about such divides as north vs south, or left vs right.

OFM (and all):
I'm afraid I opened a real can of worms here. I was simply confiding my fear for the direction the US is headed, and people really misinterpreted it. I was NOT labeling anyone "Nazi". I was just pointing out that there are some frightening paralells with the governmental dysfunction and socio-economic pathologies of Weimar Germany and the contemporary US. Weimar ended very badly, and I fear the same for the US.

For the record, I don't feel that I belong in either the "liberal" or "conservative" camp. I think for myself, and find that I can't pass enough litmus tests on either side to be welcome inside of their tents. I have my sympathies with Greens to some extent, and with Paleoconservatives to some extent, and with mainstream Centrists to some extent, and there are some things where I am really off the chart completely. That's one of the reasons (with profound disgust toward both major parties being the main one) why I am a registered independent.


No you didn't open a can of worms. This was a good discussion. All good discussions are hard and folks have to lay it all out in front of everyone. It is when we avoid such discussions that we make no progress at all. We need to challenge each other and to question. One of the great problems with this medium is that one loses the non-verbal information that is part of face to face communication. That loss causes a host of extra misunderstandings beyond just the regular ones. All is well.


WNC,and Everybody else:

Nobody hurt my feelings and I'm sorry if you WNC in particular thought your comments offended me-far from it, you are one of my favorites in terms of providing nuanced viewpoints often overlooked by others.

The comments in general in this thread are honest and well supported although in a some cases phrased in such a way as to harden attitudes rather than reach out and make allies.Not good!

Those with good memories who read this forum regularly will know that I am somewhat of a paleocon populist myself and that I support many liberal initiatives ranging from single payer medicine to tough clean air and water laws and that I also support civil rights, equal rights for women, gay rights(except i think it is altogether reasonable to reserve the term "marriage " for a male female relationship and use a term such as civil union for all others but with the same legal status.

But I also support a little common sense in terms of what we do, and why.Now as a true conservative, rather than a republican, which is not at all the same thing,I take up certain cudgels occasionally to try to keep a little balance and get the readership to examine all that old worn out conservative bath water a little more closely before they throw it out-there is an occasional baby in it.

If I had been president in Reagen's time, knowing what I know now, we would have gone flatout on alternative energy.

We would not be broke now.

Management that runs industries into the dirt would be on unemployment and thier stockholders would be BUSTED before one dime was spent on a bailout.

We would not be fighting in the middle east but we would have a ready to go military to look after things on the home front.

But NOW were are ALREADY in the game and we have no choice but to play it out as the cards fall.

Sometime klater when this off topic discussion will not further disrupt the discussion of this article, maybe tomorrow night , or the next night, after the readership has moved on but comments are still open, I will reply to given points raised by those who disagree with me point by point.

Now as a true conservative, rather than a republican, which is not at all the same thing

I think this is a critical distinction and one that rarely gets ANY mention in the corporate press. I would also that that a classical "liberal" is also definitely NOT the same thing as a modern day Democrat. [disclaimer: registered Libertarian, though I diverge from my party on some key issues, including banking/industry regulation, immigration and social programs]

One other fact that has long been buried in this country (deliberately by the TPTB in my opinion) is that classical liberalism is whole lot closer to classical or "libertarian" conservatism than most people would like to admit: affinity for fiscal conservatism, limited government, noninterventionist foreign policy, maximum personal freedom.

Unfortunately, Americans have let politicians and demogogues on the left and right define what the terms "conservative" and "liberal" mean for us, mostly along Culture War lines, which is to say hot-button social issues, such as abortion or gay "marriage". Americans tend to subconsciously associate "conservative" with "manly", "patriotic" or "godly", while the term "liberal" mentally invokes "hippie", "Marxist", or "bleeding heart". I'm not saying that's accurate, it's just the way the average American's brain works.

Basically, if you meet most (though not all) of these criteria, then you are generally considered a "conservative" in the U.S.:

--very religious
--a Creationist/Biblical literalist
--suspicious of or hostile to science
--pro gun rights
--pro war/military
--anti regulation for banks and corporations
--anti gay
--pro white/racist
--anti birth control/abortion rights
--anti social programs
--anti illegal immigration
--anti affirmative action
--anti union

Again, each one of these does not necessarily apply to ALL "conservatives". For instance, I do not believe that all conservatives are white racists. However, most of those types tend to strongly self identify as "conservatives".

If you meet most (though not necessarily all) of these criteria, then you are generally considered a "liberal" in the U.S.:

--nonreligious or mildly religious
--accept theory of Evolution as true
--anti gun rights
--anti war/military (except for actual "defense")
--pro regulation for banks and corporations
--pro gay rights
--pro civil liberties for non-whites
--pro birth control/abortion rights
--pro social programs
--pro illegal immigration
--pro affirmative action
--pro union

Again, each one of these does not necessarily apply to ALL "liberals".


You have done us all a great service with this wonderful comment -I could not have done as well even if I had worked at it all week.
( But I was working on something along the same general lines.)

We are nearly all of us here at the OIL DRUM like thinkers in more ways than not.It is sometimes said in respect to Great Britian and the US that we are two countries seperated by a common language.

It is also said that todays conservatives are yesterdays liberals, and nothing could be more true in many respects.

My own personal value system is generally quite compatible with classical liberalism, and indeed my opposition to modern liberalism in regard to certain issues is based on what I consider to be a common sense (informed by some not inconsiderable considerable knowledge of history and science) picture of reality, political , environmental, economic , or ethical.

My opinion of modern conservatives is actually about as low as my opinion of modern liberals , and would be , except for one key issue-the size of the govt.

If we could spend a week fishing and drinking beer I believe we would find that in terms of what we believe we would be in agreement far more often than not, even though we may have arrived at our conclusions by different routes.

In respect to religion for instance, I am often as frustrated as you are in dealing with stupidity and ignorance-but I simply believe that there is no way to change the status quo except thru a long drawn out process of education which will take a couple of generations at least.

In the meantime I think we need to look at the issue from both sides ans recognize WHY religion is so strong a force and work with religious people rather than condemning them.Religion works-for them, and works well.

We don't condemn people who do things differently for different reasons in other countries here for the most part-Female infanticide drew very few or no condemnatory remarks when it was mentioned in an article acouple of days back as a historical practice in India.

I haven't otten around to commenting on it until now, but I have been watching the fundamentalist mindset of my family slowly dissolve over the last two generations and I doubt very much if my nieces and nephews will ever take thier kids to Church on a regular basis.Otoh , if someone criticizes thier (fading out) religion , they get huffy in a hurry.

But even now they are suffering from some rather tough problems with cognitive dissonance-they know how big the world is, and they have seen a dinosaur skeleton ,and a real live whale too.The story of the ark or jonah doesn't sit well with such knowledge, and the practical mind gradually sort of shoves the Ark and Jonah into the background, there to be forgotten.

They have talked to people-husbands and wives deployed overseas - on the other side of the world on the phone,and discussed one of them seeing the sun set as the other watches it rise.It's hard to take the four corners of the Earth literally after that.

So gradually they change thier own minds about such things-the farmers see new crops that did not exist previousluy brought in to existence, and the housefly become resistant to ddt-evolution in action.

So a little at a time like a glacier they move towards science and away from religion-SO LONG AS NOBODY insults thier current beliefs.Humans don't take well to being told they are in the wrong or seriously misinformed.Attack those beliefs and you are indirectly calling a man as well as his Momma and Daddy nasty names.He will hate your guts, and automatically oppose anything you support.He might even get up enough steam to run for the local school board or county board of supervisors.Ignore him and his kind will wither on the vine in a couple more generations.

So we both support education , and lots of it.You will get your wish to a large extent in respect to religion in American life once we are better educated as a whole.But don't be suprised if the average joe and jane coalesce into new social groups around new ism's and itie's of some sort-nationalism,populism,communism, fascism, concieveably even radical environmentalism.

It will always be "us" and "them" after one fashion or another.

Thanks, mac. Very eloquently put, and I completely get where you're coming from. I agree that some radical environmentalist groups (ELF or PETA-type) can constitute --to some extent-- a surrogate "liberal" religion. Some actually take it all the way and actually join a New Age religion: Goddess worship, Druids, etc. Spiritualism *is* part of our nature (at least for most folks). I prefer a more individualistic and less groupthink oriented approach to seeking Cosmic Truth myself, but I'm weird that way.

Hi Mac,

work with religious people rather than condemning them

I have never "condemned" a religious person - in fact, I love my wife very much and she is quite religious. However, I think of TOD as a forum where we (usually, hopefully) move beyond the usual superficial aspects of personal interactions and try to analyze how something like PO has come about and what systemic changes might be useful - or not.

It seems to me that a discussion of religion as force in our culture is fair game. I think it is useful to talk about its impact on how we got here and what rational people might advocate going forward. I don't think it is useful to bash folks here who have a POV about religion. I don't believe I have ever made a personal comment about anyone who expressed religious beliefs - if any one of my comments sounded like that, I apologize as that was not my intent.

Attack those beliefs and you are indirectly calling a man as well as his Momma and Daddy nasty names.He will hate your guts, and automatically oppose anything you support.

I grew up in a very religious community/family. I moved to a different environment and had my beliefs challenged by people who I now greatly admire. I agree that it is not wise to attempt a discussion with most religious people unless they make it clear that they are open to this. However, I have assumed that TOD folks don't need this kind of kid-glove treatment.

I think religion is a very powerful force in our culture that needs to be challenged in just such a forum as TOD. It seems odd to me that we can discuss the impact of government, corporations, and political movements but religion is always a touchy subject.

And then there's me. . .

--Personal spirituality and ethics are very important to me, but institutional religion could go away tomorrow for all I care.
--Yes, evolution is true, but nothing that happens is a surprise to God, and the Bible nevertheless has profound truths if interpreted correctly (which is often non-literally).
--Value science, but don't put it on a pedistal and worship it; as Kuhn demonstrated, paradigms do change, science doesn't have everything nailed down just yet.
--OK with guns, but think some people might be over-obsessing about them just a bit.
--Appreciate our people in uniform, but am very much anti-imperialist, anti-interventionist, and think we should pull back and just concentrate on defense.
--Love small businesses, hate big corporations; tightly regulate the big guys, leave the small fry alone as much as possible.
--"Judge not that ye be not judged"; "Live and let live". Beyond that, I really don't care what consenting adults do in private, nor do I wish to know, nor do I feel obliged to approve or disapprove.
--Support civil/human rights for all people; I do get a bit nervous when the definition of "rights" starts getting too expansive, and I do think there also needs to be some responsibilities to go along with those rights.
--Favor keeping the government's nose out of people's personal business. Abortion is a tragedy, we as a community need to do a better job of rallying around pregnant women to give them better choices. Yes, population is an issue, but it is the responsibility of the people doing the populating.
--I hate big government, too, and prefer that most social programs be small scale and local, and in the not-for-profit sector if possible.
--We should treat the foreigners in our midst with respect, but every nation has a right and a duty to control its borders.
--All people need to be treated equally without regard to race, but centuries of slavery and discrimination are a historic fact and cannot just be ignored. Something has to be done to rectify the lingering disadvantages that burden African-Americans. I'm not sure if affirmative action is the best option, I'd be open to alternatives.
--My sympathies are with the working guys, but I have my doubts as to whether unions really serve them all that well in the long run; mostly, unions seem to end up just killing jobs. When it comes to mistreatment, ALL workers need to be protected, not just union members, and that's a government responsibility.

So which hole do you place my peg in? I'm not sure that one exists, yet here I am. I usually tell people that I'm too conservative for most liberals, and too liberal for most conservatives.

Hi Harm,

Very good comment. Certainly, I would lean towards the liberal definition (of course, I could nuance each item - e.g. immigration should not increase population and no illegal immigration should be allowed). However, I really dislike most of these labels as it highlights our division and shows how difficult it will be to agree on workable solutions going forward. But, unfortunately I think your categories are pretty good.

Your comment got me to thinking how each of these criterion help/hinder the ability of the US to implement effective policies regarding PO/GW/etc. Understanding evolution is necessary to understand where FF came from. Military consumes huge amounts of FF. Unions have a side effect of making it hard to change direction -> autos to trains.

I keep wondering what policy changes (government and other organizations) would really help the most to mitigate our coming problems - of course, I have a list of suggestions :-)

I think the only people that are "pro illegal immigration" (as opposed to pro illegal immigrants once they are here, i.e. access to health care & education) are the conservative business owners that benefit from their cheap labor.


I'm with Mac and Airdale on this too -- I swallow hard at least a dozen posts per day where there is some liberal spewage with no obvious purpose other than perhaps to say "ditto" in another lingo.

I'm just looking forward to the day that the liberals are as upset with Democratic as the conservatives are with Republicans. Funny how there is no money for the space program but there is for a new generation of nukes, isn't it?

I think most people on this site allow political discourse to spill into the discussions because they want to discuss their political views. If you choose to take it personally (i'm not saying you do, please don't misinterpret what I'm saying), that is what it is.

I don't see many of the posters on TOD as being on a certain political stripe. Some people who post here certainly have strong political views (some liberal, some conservative), and don't hesitate to express them.

Personally, I'd like to second what Wyoming posted. I grew up in Oklahoma, which is VERY culturally conservative. I would go so far as to say that a majority of the population there would have no problem with a (Christian( theocratic government either in OK or the whole US. My point is that, from a global perspective, OK is more like Iran than, say, Denmark. The US as a whole is a culturally conservative country.

Of course, culture and politics are different animals, so we should probably make a distinction between the two. As GWB showed, and Obama is demostrating, fiscal conservative (which I favor over the printing press) is dead in this country. Exporting coal instead of T-bills will (probably) happen when the other central banks figure out that we are never going to be able to pay off our debt.

All and Wyoming

Sorry to be late to a discussion that I would normally ignore - But as an enraged Rockefeller Republican in Wyoming - pretty centrist - let me demonstrate what I consider to be Fascism .. as in county government here...

The Laramie County (Wyoming) Commissioners and Planning Office plan to be involved in every move we make on our own property. They plan to enter our properties without any kind of notice to inspect any part of the property that they desire. It looks like they are fronting for law enforcement and any other agencies that are prevented by law from entering private property on witch hunts. Probable cause is out the window.

Here are some excerpts from their newest operational draft:
Title 1 Administration
1-1-104 violations and penalties
No structure or land shall hereafter be constructed, located, extended, converted, used, developed or altered without full compliance of the terms of these regulations....

1-1-106 Right of Entry
The Planning and Development Director and agents are authorized to enter upon any property or premises, excluding a dwelling unit, at any reasonable time, for the purpose of inspecting properties or performing other duties as described in this regulation.

This draft document is available at:

Big Brother does not appear to be a progressive or liberal....


I'm sure that's just run-of-the-mill totalitarianism, something all government is disposed to. Fascism is a political economy. It's a third way between socialism and capitalism. "Corporatisim" Mussolini called it, involving a merger of business and government interests to the end of providing full employment and capital returns for investors.

The Laramie County Planing Office (LAMPLAN maybe) non-withstanding I don't thing totalitarianism is a threat in America, it just isn't in the national character like it is in Germany, or Italy, we pride ourselves on rugged individualism too much. Fascism, however, is fully entrenched.

Totalatarianism is a threat that s always there, always lurking in the background, alive and well in the hearts of penny ante county administrators , cops, teachers, generals,preachers and just about every single human with a lust for power.

Think of it like the killer flu, or cholera, or bubonic plague.Any of these diseases can and will return someday when the conditions are right. In the aftermath of a major war and a consequent breakdown of the industrial infrastructure that supports us, namely food distribution,the provision of fresh water, and the removal of sewage,we may well die of contagious diseases faster than anything else, even starvation.

There is no more fertile ground, in my humble opinion, for the explosive growth of totalitarianism , than an all encompassing and suffocating government.But corporate domination of business and society , again in my opinion, runs a close second, and even though I rank this second, at the present time, I think it is the greater danger here in the US for the moment.

Stepping WAY BACK from the problem and looking at it as a biologist might, our society has become overly simplified, it's now too centralized, too dependent on a few overarching social programs/policies (this fact is seldom recognized by anyone except the occasional liberterian)as well as a few dominant but unfortunately unsustainable technologies ( a fact recognized by but a very small portion of the citizenry , such as followers of this forum).

This dangerous dependence on what might be viewed as a grossly oversimplified "human centric" ecosystem is potentially just as dangerous as monoculture industrial farming.

We are not standardized on Windows because it is better than Linux or Mac/Apple systems but because simply because Windows overwhelmingly dominates and it's too much trouble to change in the face of the vast inertia of public acceptance and familiarity.

We are not settled upon the payroll/employer model of health insurance because it's a good one but because during the WWII era, it was developed as away to avoid wage and price controls by employers, and has grown over the years into a monster to big to kill, one that has extracted substantial tribute from even it's enemies.

The two worst possible enemies -the medical establishment and the insurance ememies-are as a band of brothers when it comes to fighting change, as each sees itself as utterly dependent upon the status quo for it's cushy cash flow and therefore the prosperity of it's constituent companies and members/employees.This is actually true as far as the medical insurance indusrty itself is concerned;single pay would pretty much wipe it out.

The doctors would fare better, but thier incomes would most definitely shrink as well.

As it stands I am more afraid of big govt than big biz,but only a little."Freedom" in well populated societies is not a natural and expected normality but a rare and precious abnormality, dependent upon the fortunate convergence of several things-prosperity, education, historical memory, abundant resources,etc.

If it is once lost it may never make an appearance again, or it may be lost for a thousand years.

The price of it is eternal vigilance.

As I see the greater issue or picture, liberals of the modern stripe are willing to entrust the well being and future of thier children to the govt as willingly as my fundamentalist family is to entrust themselves and thier future to thier God.

I find this liberal tendency to be both touching and alarming in the extreme.

As we "rose" from the common ancestor we share with the chimps, we coalesced around THE alpha male and his coterie of hangers on, one of whom always becomes his Brutus.Eventually the alpha morphed into a chieftan,then a king, as societies grew larger.Eventually the alpha morphed into a god figure, and kings and chieftans learned how to exploit this situation as divine representatives.

We still gotta have our alphas, and the simpler ones of us are satisfied with athletes and movie stars.The amount of space our leading, most sophisticated, newspapers devote to junk such as high fashion for the females and football for the males is an utterly convincing demonstration, for those willing to see, of our underlying animal culture.

More sophisticated folks who understand (all to often just enough to be dangerous) the rudiments of the sciences must still have thier alphas-if god won't do, then the next logical transformation is that god becomes govt in all too many cases.

I'm painting fast with a very broad brush of course, and anthropologists can tear my arguments up like chickens tear up a worm but I think maybe the typical visitor here will get my drift.

The liberals have far less reason to be upset with the D's than the "conservatives" (define please) are with the R's (GWB and R's in power screwed about EVERYTHING up).

Second, manned space flight is a waste of resources. We have **FAR** more important issues than prestige/circus projects.

When the right wingers play to the scientifically illiterate ( man as cause of climate change is a hoax, creationist science, drill baby drill, opposition to sex ed, belief that homosexuality is a choice, etc) then they open themselves up to well justified ridicule.

Tell me please where we can hear progressive policies being championed on AM radio so I can tune in when Rush and his ilk is on every frequency.

Hi Thomas, You have a 24 hour a day fm stereo coverage of a lot more territory -virtually the whole country-in NPR.Better organized, better coordinated, better financed.

I have my car radio set to three different NPR stations that are audible at various places I drive.I can't get any talk radio at all most days, and then only during daylight hours.-not that I listen to it except for amusement occasionally.Too much tuned to the lowest common denoinator for my taste.

I sure would like to see NPR be a little more balanced-as yo huffier liberals like to point out, we ARE a conservative country, but we conservatives sure do get short shrift on "our" public radio.Not anything on it anywhere that can be seriously described as conservative so far as I can see.Oh, there might be a few token minutes of conservative programming, like the token front office black employee of a times gone by but if so it's easy to miss.

But I listen to it anyway, for lack of anything better.

Now as far as liberal talk radio is concerned, to the best of my knowledge it has not succeeded and does not exist because it has been unable to attract a PAYING audience.

It was pointed out that when William Buckley passed, that he got nothing but praise from NPR for several days (despite some earlier questionable writings about civil rights, etc.). But when Howard Zinn died, NPR found a "right wing crank to spit on his grave".

Some of the bias may be just perception.


Ha! NPR. We call them Fox Lite, or Nice Polite Republicans. They have become unlistenable. They have on these right wingers, which is fine, but in the old days they would actually challenge their bullshit, now they just let the stupid slide and move on to the next question. Pointless exercise listening to that and certainly pointless to support it. Toss in the Wapo and NYtimes editoral pages going full frothing neo-neocon with every new hire and letting go the few decent rational voices and really, there is zero liberal mass media. Zero. It's laughable when the right complains about the "liberal media". What the heck, did MSNBC add a typo into a GOP strategy fax that morning or something when they put it on the ticker? Did they fail to put a D next to some Republican caught on his skipping to south america with a hooker that morning as required?? Because from where I sit, that's about where things are.

Yes, working your audience into an ignorant fear spiral clearly pays. In depth policy dissection with calm intelligent people does not sell drastically overpriced gold coins which seems to be what keeps half of the right talk shows in business these days.

I like the Stephanie Miller Show.

airdale, don't pack it in.

If we need to use more coal for essentials, then so be it. Hopefully, carbon capture will negate additions to GW. However, I have a real problem if the world uses more coal to be just like us, which is nuts. I have a problem with coal driving the industry of mindless consumerism. The simple truth is that there are too many people consuming too many goods, and we are all part of the too many and part of the problem, myself, included.

Perhaps it will take some major cities flooding out or another Katrina where there isn't supposed to be one, (God forbid), to stir us into action on fossil fuels. Perhaps.

Our situation is degrading pretty fast and it will take a long time to change habits, patterns, and expectations. BC is a huge exporter of coal. The jobs are well paid, and the mine locations are in a beautiful part of the Province full of fine fishing, hunting, skiing, etc. Our forest industry is in big trouble. It may never come back. Commercial fishing is on its' last legs. Gas revenues are shrinking. Farming shrinks all the time and without the Agricultural Land Reserve (against the law to carve up farm land in BC), we wouldn't have any food industry, whatsoever. Our Province is in debt, big time. Mining, including coal mining, is one of our few bright spots. The drop in tourism lets us know we can't eat the scenery. Our schools and hospitals are very thankful the world burns our coal. Right now, we need it and are thankful we have something to sell to others.

By the way, we live on a river where the tide influences the flow, big time. A 16 foot tide with a fall freshet brings the water to within 8 feet of my feet. It might not be as worrisome as the Maldives or Holland, but it's scary. How are we supposed to make a living if not selling our coal and energy? It is all we have!

Our family focus has been to get rid of debt, and we started that years ago, mainly because neither my wife and I can stand owing money. I wish our Govt. was as conscientious.

Paulo: I am a Canadian living in Ontario and I am disgusted how BC handles its environment. In European magazines there are full page pictures on how your forest industry devastates the environment. The text to the pictures call for a boycott on BC products.

You write: "Mining, including coal mining, is one of our few bright spots ....and the mine locations are in a beautiful part of the Province full of fine fishing, hunting, skiing, etc." I only can hope that you meant it in a cynical way.

I am a Canadian living in Ontario and I am disgusted how BC handles its environment.

Might want to look closer to home. Large stretches of northern Ontario are stripped bare, too - I grew up there and watched it happen. It's just more visible out in BC when it's done on a mountainside instead of up on the shield where hardly anyone goes.

Wood Pellets in BC are shipped to EUROPE so they can reduce Europe's carbon footprint. People in glass houses....

Ontario has proposed a feed-in tariff for photovoltaic, I guess following Germany. They don't offer it for micro-hydro. Why not offer it for anything not fossil fuel? But no....

Hi Ngass,

No, not cynical at all. I spent many years flying in Ontario and of course, BC. In Ontario they cut pulpwood with the logs loaded on trucks sideways they are so small. They trained for moon landings in Sudbury. However, Ontario is a beautiful province and I have spent hundreds of hours catching walleye and pike in that province. One cannot castigate an entire Province by the sins of a few in the long ago past.

There is a lot of misinformation about clearcuts. I live on a river whose valley has been logged twice. Clearcuts. The trees in my yard are 100-150 feet tall, diameter between 2 and three feet. They used to float the trees down the river in the old railroad days. Bad stuff. Last year Fisheries estimated 20,000 coho spawners in the river, with thousands of chinook, some 60 lbs +. The steelhead are the largest on the Island. This is a healthy second growth valley which most think has never been logged.

As a long time resident and one connected to the forest industry through transportation, I can tell you that the problem is not one of planting new trees, but of thinning what has been planted or has come up from natural regen. I have seen small islands stripped bare, and within 5 years the trees are so thick (without even one planted by hand) spacers have to go in and thin.

Bad logging in the past? you bet. Sustainable and okay for the environment, yes if done right. Most loggers log because they love working in the woods and love their job. They don't want to destroy the world anymore than anyone else. In many cases, they have been demonized by city folk, people who visit with their kayaks on volvos and wish for a different view. We live here, they don't.

Mining is/can be bad when the ore is exposed to the elements. Our rainwater, right off the open Pacific, is about 6.5, slightly acidic. The rain and sunlight, and other erosion forces, tend to leach out the exposed minerals, and alas, can flow for hundreds of miles into watersheds. It takes just a few ppm of copper to kill a river, render it sterile to aquatic life. Mt Washington copper ruined the Tsolum River, Britannia Beach, worked on Howe Sound, and on and on. However, nowadays mining companies are forced to put a percentage of profits into an environmental fund in order to make sure the environment is not devastated by their activities. If they go broke, the funds remain and people are contracted to reclaim the tailing sites and restore what is necessary. This also applies to coal mines, gravel mines, any mineral name it.

There is a pretty sound environmental process for mining and logging. As for green energy projects it is not so clearcut (excuse the pun). Plutonic Power, an American company, is sole bent on taming (destroying)some fairly significant rivers and watersheds. It breaks my heart to contemplate it, because we have enough power in BC with a little conservation in place. It is for export to the US market. It is kind of on hold for a year or two, but who knows?

The elephant in the room is the smelter at Trail. They have dumped ash/clinkers in the Columbia for years and it flows south. Lawsuits are a comin.


airdale, don't pack it in.

Airdale has often made the threat, goes away for a while, then comes back.

So long as he sticks to 'its dry here' or 'the crops suck this year' or 'been 3 months and power is still not back' then no one has much to say.

But look over the posting past - he got upset when he said something one day and no one paid attention yet the same item was responded to when posted days later by someone else.

Paulo - Carbon capture is BS, pure and simple. Technically it may be possible, practically it is already in use for Enhanced Recovery in ageing (and not so ageing) oil fields. In real life Carbon capture, for the sake of burying CO2 will never amount to much. Maybe a pilot plant or two, but no more; and the reasons are twofold:

1. The volumes are just to big. From memory from one of Heinbergs recent articles: If just 60% of CO2 from Coal Fired electricity generation was captured and liquified in the US, it would equal the total volume of gasoline consumption in the US. That is too much. Way too much. It also illustrates neatly the massive energy density of oil.

2. Carbon capture costs 30% of the energy produced from the coal. That means the whole industry, the mines, transport, coal fired electrical generation etc. must expand by 50% to capture 100% of the CO2. That isn't going to happen.

As with all things to do with energy, timing and scale are against it. And they are against it big time.

Airdale writes:

Or more lately Nazis vs Americans who live in the south. Or who got to gatherings to speak their mind about the country's issues. Called Tea Baggers. The new threat apparently, while the Islamic Extremists continue to spill innocent blood and get free passes.

Airdale, you are not alone. Some of the commenters here have no sense of proportion. Keep it coming.

I wasn't aware that all those "liberal" (meaning slighty left of Dick Cheney I guess) politicians were advocating that Islamic Extremist terrorists should all get "free passes". I guess I should have paid more attention to the State of the Union address. Did Obama nominate OBL for Defense Secretary?

[Disclaimer - I am neither Republican nor Democrat]

airdale -

I did not read the previous comments as a direct insult to southerners or conservatives in general.

Having said that, I will now be less generous. In the previous last several decades the South and parts of the West have become hotbeds for an ideology that could be described as an unholy blend of right-wing ultra-conservatism and fundamentalist Christianity. It is a potentially toxic mix. So if the US does wind up with a 'corn-pone' Hitler, I would strongly suspect that such a person would more likely originate from someplace like Dallas rather than Boston or San Francisco. Or maybe not. One thing though is certain: that person would be a populist ideologue with a definite anti-intellectual bent. And one who blames everybody else in the world for America's troubles.

Something else to consider is that the US military has a very strong presence in the Southern states, and is heavily populated by Southerners. While there are good historic reasons for this (rural poverty being one, and pork-barrel politics being the other), it is a factor that could come into play. Reminder: John F. Kennedy wasn't assassinated in Greenwich, Connecticut, and Martin Luther King was assassinated in Winetka, Illinois.

But, in the end it doesn't really matter what part of the country such a person comes from. What matters is that the political and economic climate in the US is becoming increasingly fertile for such a person to rise to power. And given how much the ultra-right loves Sarah Palin, maybe what we will wind up with is a 'corn-pone Evita' rather than a 'corn-pone Hitler.'

God have mercy on us!

Joule writes:

In the previous last several decades the South and parts of the West have become hotbeds for an ideology that could be described as an unholy blend of right-wing ultra-conservatism and fundamentalist Christianity.

English translation:

The bastards vote for Republicans and reach for the vomit bucket when they hear the term 'gay marriage'.

Why is it that the Coporate Party (Republicans) and Corporate Party-Lite (Democrats) are always our only two choices? You get your "choice" of Coke or Diet Coke. Sorry, son, no iced tea, lemonade, root beer or water. And every political argument always devolves into "go team" back and forth between these two (bad) choices. I guess tribalism is human nature.

Carolus Obscurus -

Say what? Charles ...... are you being purposely obscure?

This whole thing is more than Democrat versus Republican (an artificial rivalry if there ever was one), and hardly about gay marriage for that matter. It is about who is really running this country and what they have in store for us all.

There is an element in this country that unquestionably believes: i) Americans are God's chosen people (after the Jews, of course), ii) energy concerns are a commie/liberal plot, iii) global warming concerns are a commie/liberal plot, iv) gays are doomed to eternal damnation, v) anyone who gets or provides an abortion is doomed to eternal damnation, vi) it is God's will that the US dominate the globe, vii) it is God's will that Israel drive out all the moslems from the Holy Land, viii) it is God's will that the US destroy the Islamic world, and ix) US corporations are benevolent instruments for generating wealth and should not be in the least held accountable for their actions.

Arguably, this general mentality appears to be most prevalent in the 'Red States' and appears to be most virulent in those regions that are farthest away from the Sodom and Gomorrahs of the East and West Coasts.

We are headed for a fascist police state, and the ultra-conservative fundamentalist Christians are the one who will welcome it with open arms .... provided that their ruler say the right things and push the right buttons. It worked in 1930s Germany; it can work here.

It worked in 1930s Germany; it can work here.

Cept then they didn't have nukes ready to use and well developed biological weapons like the party THIS time can have.

We all gonna get to live in interesting times.


Thank you for your reply. You write about an 'element in this country' which believes all the absurdities you mention. I don't doubt that these people exist. But what percentage are they? You are talking about the guys who are so far on the right tail of the political bell curve that they fall off the page.

Now, I am an eco-libertarian anti-socialist paleoconservative immigration-hostile Georgescu-Roegenist and I see things also from another perspective: the predominance in the US of the affirmative action maniacs, globalists who would open your borders to all comers, mad feminists who believe that women are 'just as good' in armed combat as males etc. etc-- the whole caboosh of totalitarians who would criminalise and incarcerate every citizen who speaks his mind about gender or racial issues, and so forth.

It must be hard for you guys to choose, when you've such a selection of lunatics pontificating from such a variety of soapboxes.

Myself, I'd stick to Ron Paul, for want of something better.

When did South Carolina stop being an east coast state? Is it somehow squeezed between Oklahoma and Kansas but those "liberal" map makers have us all fooled?
What state did Rick Santori come from? That liberal east coast state of Pennsylvania?
Who would have guessed that extremely liberal states Like Mass and Maine would have voted in Repubs to represent them in the Senate.
And what state gave us those bleeding liberal presidents Nixon and Reagan? It couldn't have been California. The state that voted in an immigrant from socialist Austria as governor.
What state gave us Jimmy Carter? That hotbed of liberal ideology known as Georgia. It is an east coast state for those who can't read a map. Just like Florida which elected Jeb Bush as governor.
The question I would ask is not why we only have a Dem or Repub to vote for but why is it we only have millionaires or those who kiss millionaire butts as our choices to vote for?

joule -- I wouldn't argue too strongly against any of the points you offer. But it doesn't hurt to remember the statistics either: More American body bags and civilian casualties have arisen from the orders given by two Democrat presidents in the last 50 years then by all the Repub presidents combined. Not going to offer any interpretation of that data. But that is the body count.

From my view of history radicalism seems to come from all side of the political spectrum


All true but there are always other interesting bits of info along those lines.

For instance. It is quite easy to demonstrate that since 1900 far more Democrats have died in the service of their country than Republicans. So at least those Democratic presidents were largely using up members of their own party. (hmm... come to think of it that may not have been the best tactic)

Kind of puts the ranting of how Democrates don't support the troops and are not patriotic in a different perspective.

BTW: some 35 years ago when I worked in the oil patch those Texans always seemed a little confused about a few things. For instance the Cowboys play in Laramie not Dallas, Texan's are Southerners not Westerners like folks in Wyoming, and why is it that every fall when the first little cool breeze from Canada breaks over the Rockies they high tail it and head south.


All true WY. I may not have been clear enough if folks thought I was putting the R's ahead of the D's. I view the party leaders as pretty much the same critter.

I spent a winter drilling some wells just south of Gillette. Coldest I had ever been: wind chill hit -51 and we had a unheated port-o-potty. Needless to say I learned how to pee out of the trailer door (if the wind was blowing in the right direction). But, having grown up in S. La it was worth it to be able to sit back and watch the sun set over the Big Horn Mnts.


I would be the first to agree. FDR was secretly quite enthused about the prospects of WWII, as he saw it as a means for the US and it's ally, the Soviet Union (the FDR administration was packed with pinkos if not outright commies) to dominate the world and finally put the last nail in the coffin of the British Empire and Imperial Japan.

Then you have LBJ, of which the less said the better. Vietnam did not have to be, but in 1964 LBJ was running for re-election against a staunch conservative, Barry Goldwater, and did not want to come across as soft on the commies. Hence, the Tonkin Gulf deception.

No, neither party has a monopoly on using war to advance its political agenda. And I think we are going to see it used again in the same way ..... perhaps big time.

FDR was secretly quite enthused about the prospects of WWII, as he saw it as a means for the US and it's ally, the Soviet Union (the FDR administration was packed with pinkos if not outright commies) to dominate the world and finally put the last nail in the coffin of the British Empire and Imperial Japan.

That's a nice piece of revisionist history. A lot of the US right-wingers at that point in time thought that Hitler was a great guy and had a lot of good ideas about the treatment of minority groups. I think FDR was more realistic about the Nazi motives and what ultimately they were going to do.

It came as a great shock to the right wingers when Hitler declared war on the US. Even after the U-boats started sinking ships in full view of crowds on the US coast they still thought it must be some kind of mistake. Some of them still don't believe it and think the US declared war on Germany rather than vice-versa.

In the six months after Hitler declared war, German U-boats sank about 400 ships off the coast of the US before the US Navy woke up to the fact that they were in a real war. Their big problem was that they refused to take any advice from the British Navy, which had been sinking U-boats for nearly three years and had gotten very good at it. Eisenhower wrote in his diary that it would shorten the war considerably if someone would just shoot Admiral King, commander of the Navy. (Not a nice thing to say about a fellow officer at all.)

As it turned out, the British had been right about Hitler all along. He really was trying to conquer the world, and really did think he could beat the US, which he felt could not fight because Americans were a "mongrel race". He also thought he could beat Russia because Slavs were an inferior breed.

Neither the US nor the USSR was particularly friendly toward each other, and it was just an accident of history that they ended up on the same side. It was an illustration of the old principle that "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Rocky -- A little ironic humor to go along with your post. If you're familiar with the US Army 10th Mountain Division (now stationed in NY) you know that they were originally formed at a small town of the Texas Coast during WWII. The reason: we didn't want to base them in a mountain region for fear the Germans would catch on. After the war ended it was discovered that the farm next to the unit's base was owned by a German sympathizer who reported regularly back to the German command. Also, one of my professors grew up in the Texas Hill Country during the war. Lots of German immigrants settled there during the previous 100 years. He vividly recalls late night bonfire parties held by his neighbors that include singing of the old fatherland songs as well as German flags being proudly displayed. He and his fellow country boys were looked down upon by the pure German stock. I think he said the German folks called him a "shanty". Apparently the implication was "white trash". And how strong do those old country ties hang in there. My wife's aunt (70+ yo) still speaks English with a strong German accent. And it was her grandmother who was the original immigrant back in the late 1800's.

Generally I tend to agree with you in respect to the environmental issuses and in respect to our current defacto empire and oil wars, etc.

But your lib bias is showing pretty bad in this comment-although your points are technically defensible -barely-they are arranged in such a way as to put conservatives in the worst possible light.

If you want to know something about WWII, Hitler, and the British I suggest you start with The Rise and Fall of the Third Riech.

Hitler had the Brits fooled.Churchhill only came to power late in the game, about the middle of the second quarter , so to speak.

He had a small number of the lass intelligent American public fooled.

He had damn few military people fooled, although a few of them were in positions of influence.

The American navy was kept out of the fighting as long as possible in order to KEEP US out of the war.That was the prez's decision.

I don't know of a single person anywhere, excepting possibly a few skinheads someplace,who thiks we attacked Germany without provacation.They were after all allied with the Japanese militarily.

Your understanding of these things lacks depth and nuance to say the least-unless perhaps scoring points is your goal.

Now I could just as easily compose a long rant about the stupidity and gullibity of the left liberal; establishment and thier infatuation with soviet communism-and do a much better job too.

For instance THIER leading lights were many of them superbly educated tenured professors with very little to do really, ecpect pursue research and teach one or maybe two very small classes.
Now it may be that ignorant high school redneck dropuout conservatives are due a little slack for the very reasons mentioned in this sentence-but the editors and staff of the NYT and the tenured professors don't have that excuse available .

It took until the mid nineties for them to sort of fade away.No amount of evidence, from the closed borders to the gulag to the writings of those who risked thier lives to escape, ever made any impression on the majority of them.

As some famous conservative once said, he would much rather be governed by the first five hunderd people in the Boston phone book than the faculty of Harvard University.

But the truth is that most intellectuals DID see thru communism, even though they very often failed to condemn it for certain partisan reasons.The left is still thought of as a bunch of day dreaming idiots by many right wingers as a result of the stupidity of the few.

Ditto the right today, in the view of the left.Pat Robertson and El Rushbo are popular people on the right but actually most of us with a modicum of brains wish both of them would suffer some misfortune such that they would simply vanish.No conservative of any stature hs anointed them as our spokesman-they were crowned as such by thier worst enemies-thier bread and butter-the liberal establishment press.

But your lib bias is showing pretty bad in this comment-although your points are technically defensible -barely-they are arranged in such a way as to put conservatives in the worst possible light.

I am not actually a liberal, but I am a Canadian. In terms of the relative political spectrums, I suppose a center-right Canadian conservative might be considered equivalent to a left-liberal American, although in this part of Canada - Alberta - calling someone a "liberal" is considered fighting words. Other Canadians consider us to be "rednecks", but we're a kinder, gentler breed of redneck than the American variety.

I have a somewhat different perspective on WWII because Canada declared war on Germany in 1939, two years ahead of the US. My father repaired tanks in England and my uncle Bill flew two tours of duty as a bomber pilot over German territory. My wife's mother lost her first husband, her father and her brother in WWII. Her father flew in the RAF from 1939 to the end of the war and won the Distinguished Flying Cross. All of them tended to be somewhat sarcastic about the US late entry into the war.

Hitler had the Brits fooled.Churchhill only came to power late in the game, about the middle of the second quarter , so to speak.

Well Chamberlain, although he had no doubts that Hitler was a nasty piece of work, was fooled into believing that he would be satisfied with conquering Czechoslovakia, which England had no treaty with. However, after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, he realized he was wrong, declared war, and brought Churchill into the cabinet. Churchill replace him as prime minister in 1940.

He had a small number of the lass intelligent American public fooled.

The "small number of less intelligent" Americans included Henry Ford, James Mooney of General Motors, the Rockefellers, Prescott Bush (George Bush's ancestor), movie star Errol Flynn and numerous other members of the establishment. Most of them were involved in sales to the German military. After the US entered the war, a lot of this got whitewashed out of the public record.

The English also had their Nazi sympathizers. One of them was former King Edward VIII, then Duke of Windsor, who they shuffled off to be governor of the Bahamas to get him out of the public eye.

The American navy was kept out of the fighting as long as possible in order to KEEP US out of the war.That was the prez's decision.

Keeping out of the fighting until after the enemy sank 400 ships off the American coast and shut down all intercoastal shipping was a rather late start. This isn't generally well known in the US, but it was the biggest US naval disaster ever, and the US Navy just stayed in port and let it happen. I watched a documentary on it recently - It was a pretty damning indictment of Naval incompetence and just plain cowardice.

I don't know of a single person anywhere, excepting possibly a few skinheads someplace,who thiks we attacked Germany without provacation.They were after all allied with the Japanese militarily.

I was thinking of Pat Buchanan when I wrote that. Here's a link to his viewpoint: Did Hitler Want War? He also has a book out called Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World I'm sure that some of the people who read his stuff also believe what he says.

in the view of the left.Pat Robertson and El Rushbo are popular people on the right but actually most of us with a modicum of brains wish both of them would suffer some misfortune such that they would simply vanish.

Well, read Buchanan's stuff and tell me if he is another right-winger you wish would just vanish.

Rockman much as I respect your oil patch expertise I think your "50 year" data point is wrong. If you go back to the beginning of the Vietnam war, that's about 50 years, 59,408 American soldiers have died under Repub administrations and 44,446 under Democrats.

Data through 2008 and not counting Vietnam deaths before 1960 or those MIAs whose status was changed after 1975

Perhaps jj, I'll let you check the math for me. Didn't most of the 60,000 Viet deaths occur under the Kennedy/Johnson admins? Wasn't it a Republican that ended the war after two Democrat presidents and Congresses escalated the war? But don't misunderstand: this isn't a R vs. D debate.

But my point didn't have anything to do with the actual body count. The point is that both political parties are equally ready to fill more body bags if it suits their political agenda. I know I should just stick on the technoside of the chats but I get frustrated with how many folks buy into the artificial battles promoted by the two-party system. IMHO as long as people keep swallowing the Kool-aid and think issues should always be decided on a "us vs. them" basis I see little chance of truely effective solutions being generated.

I believe Sir, you have no stones to throw in the name calling department, what with your 'city people suck' posts.

Liberal vs Conserative and the conseratives get the short end.

Errr, if you can show "conservatives" actually being "Conservative", then you'd have something. But Alan Stang is dead, so you can't trot him out to show 'a conservative' now can you?

Is there no longer any moderation here?

Its rare I ask for someone's posts and treads to go away - but just you you I'll do that with your post today.

Airdale wrote:

Islamic Extremists continue to spill innocent blood and get free passes.

In the last few decades, Islamic extremists killed thousands of people. In the same period, America killed 4,000,000+ Vietnamese and 1,000,000+ Iraqis, among others. Clinton's Secretary of State said on "60 Minutes" that killing 500,000 Iraqi children was "worth it." Who is getting the free pass?

Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.

--60 Minutes (5/12/96)

You can Google for Russian, German, and Al Qaeda war propaganda translated into English, like I have. You'll never find anything as ghoulish. They never advocate killing hundreds of thousands of American children.

There will probably be no response to this message, because killing hundreds of thousands of children is not controversial.

I'm not really sure what "Corn Pone" is or how it relates to the south and or conservatives. Perhaps someone could enlighten me? I thought that the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) was the tea baggers being refferred to but is that also my incorrect interpretation?

Wether or not tea-baggers and the TEA movement is the same thing, it's certainly a nice little historical analogy to adopt a symbol of the revolution, which is then culturally difficult to attack. Easy to see this developing into a nationalist movement that someone like Sarah Palin (but not Sarah Palin) seizing and building into a truly violent nationalist revolutionary gang of thugs. If the economic situation gets out of hand like it did in the Weimar Republic, you have the perfect circumstances for this to happen. Today it's about high taxes, tomorrow illegal immigrants, the day after that a "final solution", and after that its those evil foreigners who have cuased all our misery.

Airdales rant seems to be a reflection of his frustration that conservatism is now associated with right wing reactioanaries that are anything but conservative.


Corn pone is otherwise known as corn bread. I don't know where you hail from, so I'll say that corn bread in an unleavened bread made of ground maize popular throughout America but associated with the South.

Now, 'corn pone Hitler' is somewhat more complicated, it's a reference to the idea of a 'corn pone opinion' and I'll refer you to the essay by Mark Twain where he elaborates further:

my sincere thanks for the link. My day has been enlightened by Mr Twain.I trust that Mr Airdale can avail himself of the time to read it.

No -Airdale very correctly reads the two words side by side "cornpone Hitler" as a slur on the south of the same sort as dago, wop, spic, kike, Jew money grubber......I try not to commit the n word to print, being an Irishman whose ancestors were hardly trearted any better than slaves sometimes.I never use those other words anymore except to make the point that they should not be used except in discussing history.

Perhaps it was not intended at way of course but nevertheless that is the way it reads to anyone from this part of the world tired of hearing about how his values and culture are inferior.

I am a huge Twain fan myself.

I do not consider him a racist but one of the greatest and most perceptive writers of all time.

Nevertheless I can understand quite well why most black folks never read him , and why many of them would burn his books if they could.

Twain in my case was my first window into understanding racism and the fact that black people are for all intents and purposes exactly like white people except for darker skin and under the same circumstances act exactly like white people except they seem maybe to be a little less uptight and anal among my acquaintances.

If anybody wants to know what Twain really thought about religionshould read his anti religious work , which is extensive.About racism, Puddn head Wilson-there is to my knowledge no more devestating condemnation of white superiority/racism or better description of a black mother's humanity and loving nature in all of the worlds literature.

Great doomer rant!
The end is nigh, repent, repent!

I came back up to reply to this first, and best, post of this whole line. From time to time here on TOD, I see plaintive questions on why there are so few women posting here?
This whole thread answers that question!

The first post above starts out with some insightful and practical observations, and a few that could be put into operation, such as improving our bug-out bags.
Within a few posts however, everybody is arguing about Hitler,the Confederacy, Republicans and Democrats, and even Texas and how big it is. C'mon, guys, I'm from Alaska, and Texas is a medium sized state with tiny fish.

All this arguing is getting us exactly nowhere. When you folks start leading by example, doing something, and not just bragging or complaining, maybe the womenfolk will take you seriously.
Even just staying on track with the above article would be a relief!

Smack, smack, smack!

You go, girl!!!

haha. Thanks.

Seraphima- I think you are mistaken about the female participation thing although I have no explanation for their shortage around here. You should take a look at LATOC (Life After the Oil Crash) forum. At least half the people over there are women. The slightly heated discussion above is like a Victorian tea party compared to the acid mud slinging contests they get into at LATOC.

Probably one of the biggest surprises coming, something that nobody except myself to my knowledge is including in their future scenarios and forecasts, is that the US will be forced to EXPORT a substantial amount of its coal.

The time will come when foreigners will no longer be interested in accepting our paper instruments in payment for their goods; they will only be interested in exchanges of real goods for real goods. The US will have no choice but to start paying for its imports of oil and other essential goods (forget about most of the junk on WalMart's shelves) with whatever goods it can export. It will be a pretty short list: maybe some weapons and aircraft, some heavy machinery, some software and a few high-tech devices, a few motion pictures and recordings, some timber and agricultural produce. . . and coal.

So much for that hundreds of years of supply in the ground!


I totally agree but it had not occured to me (blind spots!) that this subject is not being taken into account by other pundits.If there were a Hall of Fame for people who notice such things first you should definitely get in easily.

Coal exports are old hat to me as I used to once upom a time live almost on the banks of the James River and watch the long coal trains heading to Norfork on a daily basis when the fish were biting.Those trains don't run much anymore, as the high grade Eastern coal they hauled is about gone.

Up until a year ago , all of our prime locally cut hardwood logs were being loaded on trucks and hauled there too , for shipment to East where they became flooring and furniture for the newly rich "over there" in Asia.

We are already deep into a reversal of the old colonial roles and have been able to disguise that fact only by essentially printing money for decades now.

As an afterthought or ps to my first post, I am not predicting a runaway inflation as I hope the inflation which is coming can be controlled at say a paltry ten or fifteen percent while we learn how to live a low energy lifestyle.

But that's only what I hope!

You should see the Roberts Bank Superport in action, loading ships with Canadian coal heading to Asia. It's just south of Vancouver, a few miles north of the US border.

The trains are completely automated (no engineers). They move the trains by remote control through an automatic unloader. It grabs each coal car, flips it upside down, dumps the coal into a hopper, flips it back upright, and moves on to the next car.

Unlike your Eastern US coal trains, there are getting to be more and more coal trains heading west. There is a lot of coal being mined in British Columbia, and most of it is going to Asia.

Interesting proposition Observer. But I wonder if it's physically possible to do so. Don't follow the coal transport story but last I heard we were close to our limit to move coal internally. Moving that much more to export facilities might not be an option even if the motivation is sufficient.

Oh If it becomes necessary I suppose the Chinese or the Indians can figure out a way to finance a railroad or two, and I expect the Chinese still have good up to date drawings for coal fired locomotives.

If things ger really out of hand, they can just ship the rails and shovels and ten thousand out of work peasant farmers over here and build the realroads themselves.It isn't as if such work or the environment would be new to them.;)

This speculation brings up an interesting point.

Does anybody here know of any new coal fired ships being built or on the drawing boards?

Some years ago I saw a lot of stuff about running turbines on pulverized coal.II rc, at least a few experimental engines were built.

There is also a possibility that a practical diesel engine suitable for use in large stationary applications or maybe on ships can be built to run on pulverized coal made into a water or diesel slurry.

mac -- Your comment immediately produced a vision: a group of red neck "coolie" slaving away laying rail through the mountains as the Chinese bosses looked on. Karma come full circle I suppose. From what I understand it's the lack of rail that's the problem. I recall one of the RR companies battling with local towns out west with the expansion of the line to allow more WY coal to be shipped east.

One thing, Rock. We'll be the "coolies" this time.

Those were my "red neck" coolies Ghung. Sad part is that with our unemployment levels perhaps hanging on a long time there might be more applicants than coolie slots.

I don't tend to spend much time wonder "where things are going". But I do wonder if we're not looking at world vision as it appeared to nations at the beginning of the 20th century. So many metrics to consider. Take the military: in the 1930's the U.S. was a third rate military force by almost any measure: low manpower, limited and outdated arms. Granted 70 years have passed and the situation has changed significantly. Obvious WWII was a huge motivation for change. Makes me wonder if PO might provide a similar push for a change in the global power structure.

I recall one of the RR companies battling with local towns out west with the expansion of the line to allow more WY coal to be shipped east.

People get upset at the sheer number of coal trains running through their town. When a railroad talks about quadruple-tracking its rail line and running 100-car trains bumper to bumper on it 24/7, it does frighten the townsfolk.

oldfarmermac -

If I recall correctly, when Otto Diesel was first developing his diesel engine, he originally intended it to run on pulverized coal. So it can be done. However, one must keep in mind that the modern diesel engine is a whole other animal in comparison to the very early ones.

The use of coal in a internal combustion engine is problematic for a number of reason. Three that come to mind are i) abrasion, ii) material handling problems, and iii) air emissions.

Coal, of course, is a solid and no matter how fine you pulverize it, there will be some amount of abrasion, particularly since coal has a considerable ash content. (Turbines are particularly susceptible to abrasion, and even fine water droplets in the steam can damage the blades of a steam turbine.)

Also, it is not always easy to keep a pulverized material from clumping into larger particles. And maintaining a narrowly range of solids concentration in an injectable slurry is not the easiest thing to do either. These are all practical rather than theoretical considerations, but ones which pose chronic problems.

The air emissions from a diesel running on coal will be at least as bad as that from a coal-fired steam turbine power plant. Sulfur dioxide and particulate emissions would probably be comparable, but the diesel will probably have more oxides of nitrogen due to the very high-temperature cyclical combustion process.

Keep in mind that I am not dismissing the idea out of hand: I'm just pointing out that there are many good reasons why we don't use diesels and gas turbines run on pulverized coal. In a pinch, they may eventually come into use, just like those wood-powered gasifier cars used in Europe during WW II. However, I have very serious doubts that something like a Mercedes diesel is going to give 100,000+ trouble-free miles if run on pulverized coal.

FWIW, the civil engineers here at UD are planning to run the world's freighters on hydrogen. While this doesn't mean that the US WONT export its coal, the conventional wisdom among the 'thinkers' here is towards more techno-solutions.
I'm not sure what my point is, maybe just to comment on how off everyone's radar PO is. I've met only four other people who take PO seriously. One is a college dropout (for now) an airline pilot (he's not planning on making it a career) an energy and enviro policy guy (who advocates moving to Chile) and an education policy think tanker. Of those people, only the airline pilot takes PO seriously (I joked that he'd be a zeppelin pilot if he stayed in the airline industry).
I guess what I'm getting at is that moving back to coal fired transport may happen, but it won't be planned.

Diesel's first demonstration engine ran on peanut oil.

Yes such apps would be high cost ,high maintainence but large stationary engines are paradoxically much easier and faster to rebuild tham small car engines as they are modular and very easy of access.Nothing in the way to work around, thoroughly standardized design, etc.

So there seems to be a possibility they may eventually be built if liquid fuels are in short enough supply.

The extra maintainence would be offset by the value of having the liquid fuel saved available for smaller mobile apps.

Yes such apps would be high cost ,high maintainence but large stationary engines are paradoxically much easier and faster to rebuild tham small car engines as they are modular and very easy of access.Nothing in the way to work around, thoroughly standardized design, etc.

So there seems to be a possibility they may eventually be built if liquid fuels are in short enough supply.

The extra maintainence would be offset by the value of having the liquid fuel saved available for smaller mobile apps.

It seems that Prof. Diesel realized early on that coal wasn't a good idea:

1898: Rudolf Diesel was granted patent #608845 for an "internal combustion engine" later known as the Diesel engine. Diesel demonstrated his engine at the Exhibition Fair in Paris, France in 1898. This engine stood as an example of Diesel's vision of an engine fueled by vegetable oil. In 1912 he stated: "The diesel engine can be fed with vegetable oils and would help considerably in the development of agriculture of the countries which use it" and that "The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in course of time as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time."

Quite the visionary, Herr Diesel!


Given all the fuss these days about the need to find alternatives to fossil fuels, it's worth noting that inventor Rudolf Diesel originally envisioned his engine running on vegetable oil. When he apparently committed suicide by jumping overboard on a crossing of the English Channel in 1913, at least one conspiracy theory surfaced suggesting that he was bumped off by nervous oil investors.

Funny how what seemed laughable then sounds entirely plausible now. Interesting, too, that following Diesel's death, the engine was re-engineered to run using only petroleum-based fuel.

If it becomes necessary I suppose the Chinese or the Indians can figure out a way to finance a railroad or two, and I expect the Chinese still have good up to date drawings for coal fired locomotives.

Both the Indians and Chinese are electrifying their railroads. The Chinese have a particularly aggressive railroad electrification program underway, and the Indians are playing catch-up.

Burning coal in a power plant is the efficient way to use it to power a railroad. There are a large number of inefficiencies in coal-burning locomotives that make them uneconomic in a modern railroad. The Chinese railroad system is very modern, and the Indians are doing their best to catch up.

Good points, well taken , about electrifying rail.

But a colonial power might not see it that way-coal is cheap here, pollution doesn't bother China much, and the locomotives might be a lot cheaper than the investment in electrical upgrades in a colony-they have to consider the possibility of getting kicked out .Otoh if they feel like they are in for the long run, being good managers they probably would electrify OUR railroads for THIER benefit.

I hate to be TOO cynical but it appears our business leadership is not able to see past the next annual report anymore.;)

I suspect that specific projects to increase that export transportation infrastructure are among the very few things that the Chinese and others might be interested in investing in here. Just like in any colony, if there are any railroads at all, there will be one linking the mining district to the seaport.

Speaking of transportation infrasturcture,has anybody seriously considered the effect of the boomer generation giving up ther cars and moving into the nursing homes or with thier kids?

This may have the effect of flooding the used car market with tens of millions of fairly late model relatively low mileage cars over the next decade..Whether this would improve the fleet average fuel economy is unclear to me.

It would reduce the sale of new cars for sure but it might also result in the scrapping of older cars quicker than usual as less well off drivers could more easily trade up to a later model.My guess is that it would incresae the fleet average economy as most of the boomers cars are less than ten years old and quite a few of them are midsize or compacts.

Not just cars, but also houses. It shouldn't really have been much surprise that the housing bubble would pop just about the time that the first boomers hit retirement age. Those who say that housing prices still have a long way to fall are right - this is just getting started. It also shouldn't be any surprise that the automobile business is going downhill.

I don't see bright prospects for the stock market, either, even if PO were to be delayed for a couple of decades. All of those IRAs and 401Ks are starting to be reinvested in annuities and fixed income securities, and this will be continuing for the next two decades.

WNC Observer writes:

The time will come when foreigners will no longer be interested in accepting our paper instruments in payment for their goods; they will only be interested in exchanges of real goods for real goods...

Now you're making sense again. Can't you just lay off the jackboot metaphors? They lower the tone of the website and drive out intelligent contributors from the paleoconservative faction. The Nazi smear should really be verboten.

CO -- "Paleoconservative faction". As a geologist how can I not love that term. Mucho thanks. I can envision a future where bands of liberals search for the legendary graveyard of the conservatives. Recall that old Tarzan movie (and the search for the legendary elephant's graveyard): a liberal wounds one of the last surviving conservatives. BTW, once most of the cons are gone the liberal are free to expose their true love of firearms. The poor wounded con struggles to reach the graveyard before succumbing to its wound. Once there the libs discover the treasures: Rolex's laying on the ground everywhere. Row after row of shiny Mercedes. Piles of stock certificates hundreds of feet tall.

Now even if you're one of my lib cousins you had to smile at that tale.


Actually, on my side of the pond (Europe) the term 'paleoconservative' is virtually unknown - three hits in the online Guardian, none in the online Daily Telegraph, for example. When used at all, it is normally followed by 'Pat Buchanan'.

The best paleocon website I've discovered so far is Taki's Mag:

Peak oil is not their forte, though.

CO -- I had not heard it on this side either. But I don't hang around political web site very much. Too much of a technonerd I suppose.


Thanks for the comment, but I'm afraid people here really did misunderstand where I was coming from on the other comment I made. I was not smearing anyone, I'm just genuinely fearful about the direction the US is headed. It isn't a matter of Nazis, version 2.0 - history doesn't repeat that way. Nevertheless, history does tell us that nations don't tend to have dysfunctional governments like ours and multiple, neglected economic and social pathologies like ours, and do very well long-term.

Liberalism and the culture of excess it spawned from will not survive, the average person will have much more important things to tend to. You are not going to convince people that outsourcing was beneficial if we are sitting at Depression level unemployment, you are not going to convince people that we need mass immigration to benefit our "economy" when the only jobs hiring are for debt-collection services, nor will anyone be concerned with "alternative" lifestyles when they are struggling to feed their family.

Nazism was a one time deal, it won't be Nazism, it will be something different. In the Depression, Social Security came about to silence people like Huey Long. What can governments do similar to that in a world of declining finite resources? Social programs work - they just require an ever growing population on a finite planet and no birth control for women.

Come now,Floridian,social programs do not require growth at any cost.It is quite possible to have an efficient social welfare system with a stable or declining population.There are many European nations who are good examples.

One necessity is a progressive tax system coupled with a determination to eliminate wasteful outlays.In the case of the USA this is going to require a major shift in the citizen/government/corporate interaction and way of thinking.


Hate to tell you this, but the most enthusiastic supporters of outsourcing have always been conservatives --just hang out at the editorial pages of the WSJ if you don't believe me. Immigration tends to favor liberals, but not by as much as you think. Most Republican politicians are very much in favor of "don't ask don't tell", as their wealthy benefactors *want* unlimited illegal immigration to suppress wages and keep unions at bay. The few that speak up against it (Lou Dobbs, Tom Tancredo) quickly get marginalized as fringe "crazies" by their own party. Remember when GWB tried to get Amnesty Part II passed? Luckily enough independents and sane people from his own party shot it down.

My definition of conservative is a Patrick Buchanan type, not neoconservatives who are only interested in short term profits at the cost of long term prosperity. Bush is a neocon and I did not like him, he did a bad job. Obama appears to be doing a worse job, however.

It will be *VERY* hard to even equal GWB's record. Almost impossible in fact.

So far, Obama is doing dramatically better than GWB, although not good enough for the coming "problems".


By this fellow's definition, it sounds to me as if we are already in a fascist state:

Like most political documents - the 2nd Constitution of the United States (remember folks the 1st one failed and left us with the phrase "not worth a continental") talked a good game - but it took years for women to get the vote and slavery to be ended.

So while there is talk of a good game - the real game on the ground isn't looking all that good.
George Orwell
What is Fascism?

hey Floridian,

They won't need new social programs, just new TVs, ipods, vid games, and of course, the war on drugs tends to keep the poor down and in their place.

If people stopped being entertained and started to dream and develop some expectations, then the match gets struck. Until then, we can all watch Survivor and lose brain cells.

Nazism was a one time deal, it won't be Nazism, it will be something different.

A one time deal?

Hardly. In the 1930s there were major fascist parties in every nation in Europe. Most people didn't believe in democracy as a form of government--it was just dirty politics and nonsense.
That also sums up the feelings of many people today.
Fascists believed in the nation-state and didn't disguise their disgust for democracy.
Communists believed in world revolution.
Democracies emerged out of authoritarian nation-states
often by open revolution.
I have no doubt that under Peak Oil democracy will be judged a failure once more--look at Russia and China today.
And IMO, the pendelum is swinging toward the fascists
at least in the US.

Nazism and the whole "blame the Jews" was a one time deal, totalitarianism will not die. Take a look at the BNP. When I said Nazism is dead, I mean they won't be burning synagogues this time. Democracy could very well die. But who knows, perhaps BAU will magically continue and the world will happily support 8 Billion and growing people come 2050.

Nazism and the whole "blame the Jews" was a one time deal,

Nazi as an ism is dead - bad PR tied to the name. As a brand it won't fly. Look at Libertarian National Socialist Green Party - its going no where.

As for "blame the Jews" - whenever one group clusters under religion ... of course they are gonna catch flack. Nations formed under religion like Zoroastrianism catch flack - so why not when its some other religion?

I'd argue that immigrants and to some extent minorities will be the new "jews" of the future.

You will see a huge backlash against immigration in general and on top of that racial or ethnic riots.
Finally on top of this you will have a return to religous tensions. Probably slanted more towards Christian vs Moslem's. However across the entire spectrum. On top of this I'd also argue you will see increasing class warfare between the wealthy and the poor here is where some wealth/jewish problems kick in.
In short all of the old problems all back in spades. I think the fact its a sort of everything bad type situation is what will actually drive the move to a military like government as they "restore" order.

Eventually this will get slanted to whatever the most powerful group is in the country in the US this is old white males and they will increasingly restore order by attacks on the targeted groups. Immigrants thence racial/poor. In other words the act of restoring order becomes systematic state sponsored aggression against these groups.

The paradox is of course at first it starts as a defense of these groups but quickly tilts the otherway once democracy is lost.
I'm guessing you eventually get some popular leader that blames the immigrants etc for causing all the problems and thats when things really head south eventually of course falling all the way back to old style racism.

This should occur world wide with whatever group is intrinsically powerful in a particular region or country eventually resorting to increasingly barbaric attacks on the "outsiders".

Of course as the situation deteriorates these same people will be desperately trying to immigrate to escape on regime or another and thus becoming the universally despised "immigrants". So you get a vicious cycle where attacks on immigrants and minorities fuels desperate immigration leading to more attacks. People are driven out with literally no place to go. Of course plenty of civil war etc as militants rise up in these sorts of situations.

If you look at the ME you see this already starting with Shia/Sunni and other intolerances of minorities. Of course manufactured countries such as Iraq will explode. India etc etc.

Can't you just lay off the jackboot metaphors?

I'm partial to:

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.

so I'd vote for that, mkay?


I wonder if we will reach a point where energy production will be nationalized to prevent such exports of coal - or encourage exploration for less that stellar ERoEI oil and gas sources private finance won't touch anymore. Maybe, just to keep the lid on. I guess by that point it might be worthwhile to ask if national gov will be able to pull off something like that.

It isn't a question of anyone wanting to export coal, I'm suggesting that we'll have no choice but to export some coal. It will either be that, or we'll have to make do with no imports at all of oil, rare earth minerals, etc. Coal is one of the very few things we have that will be in demand overseas and that we can exchange for things we need.

Good article!! I may be overly cynical but I think we're going to ride this "train" to the bitter end. As the article states, spending way too much money/time trying to get the mess going again. In my neck of the woods (northern Minnesota) I encounter few, if any, people who even think about it at all. Local paper consistently prints editorials simply following the normal partisan blah-blah. So be it!! For me it's been CYA for some time.

I'm beginning to equate cynic with realist and I agree. It astounds me how many people I have contact with simply don't have the capacity to imagine a default of their lifestyle or their ability to maintain it. They are totally invested in their world view. In the end, it is this hubris that will be America's achilles heel. To them, history always applies to another time, another place.

Hi zeke,

I was born in a small town near Duluth - spent lots of time Boundary Waters. I suspect we think a bit different than most folks.

China, India, South Africa, and Indonesia have extensive coal reserves. Generally they cannot afford expensive regulations or to retrofit older coal burning units. In the United States there is interest in green systems, yet no one in my area has any sort of solar collector on their roofs, nor is there more than a minority interest in subcompact cars and electric bicycles. Many so called environmentalists cannot afford a switch to green energy as evidenced by the lack of solar water heater units on roof tops, even though use of solar water heaters might result in a good return on investment over the long term. The average American household credit card debt is about $3240. One in five Americans is not fully employed.

I divided wrong. The avg. credit card debt in America is closer to $8329.

And one more sad stat I heard on the radio this morning: Congress raised the debt limit. The new cap equates to a $45,000 debt for every man, women and child living today. And given we only make the minimum interest payment on this debt it makes the credit card debt look minor.

Good for the Chinese though: last time I saw the numbers they were receiving interest payments from us that more than paid for all the energy imports. No wonder they can afford to run around the globe buying oil in the ground.

I don't think we are making the minimum interest payment . If anything, we are on our BAU path of destruction and sold the future of our children so we can enjoy the flow oil passing through our veins.

3.8 Trillion of dollars to spend for the next budget -- with 1.6T added to our debt. We are fast accelerating to the edge of the cliff.

For a family of five, $225,000 worth of federal debt. This is not including state and local debt. This is not including underwater mortgages, credit card debt, college loans, car loans, and insurance payments. I do not believe they have added in the amount they borrowed from the social security fund as government debt either. The retirement fund surpluses were theirs to be had.

With rising taxes, and rising payments of interest it is like being a government sharecropper. The government gets paid if you earn anything on this federal plantation, and you get what ever is left after the government takes all it can and spends so fast it needs even more.

If I recall right, if you wished to factor in future entitlements to the debt load, that multiplies it by 5 or so. Which makes it about $200,000 in federal debt for each individual, or an even million for a family of five. More personal debt on top of that, of course.

That's one hole I know I'm not going to help the gov's dig out of. The timing depends on a lot of things, but devaluation, Weimar style, is absolutely inevitable.

I don't think that we in the US have noticed how big a part of non-OPEC economic growth coal is responsible for. The idea that they will slow down their coal use, because we think it would be good for the environment, is more than a little likely to fall on deaf ears.

The reason for the lack of US growth in coal use is mostly a matter of not adding more coal fired electric capacity, as Gregor points out. This is a graph I have used before, showing the change in US electrical generating capacity. The growth in capacity has been mostly in natural gas. Wind is a tiny line near the top of the graph.

Great point Gail. I also recall a similar chart for the 70's and 80's which showed the expansion of coal-fired e generation ramping up much quicker than all other sources combined. Not surprising to see the growth slow in the 90's as other energy sources became more economical. No less of a surprise seeing the growth start rising again as we entered the 21st century. If you buy the premise that we have passed/are at/are close to PO then it seems incredulous that anyone would believe that coal will not become a bigger component of the energy mix regardless of any consensus on AGW.

i think what happened with natural gas was that the new generation capacity was very cheap, and people thought the fuel itself would be cheap ($2/mcf, or so). But when they got a lot of this generation built, they discovered natural gas was more expensive, so natural gas plants have been used less than developers might have hoped--mostly for "peaking". There are parts of the country where it is used quite a bit (California, New York, Florida, Texas), and these states have tended to have high electricity prices. This may be better this year, with natural gas prices down.

This link shows a map of 2007 retail electricity prices. The low prices are in the heavily coal-fired midwestern areas.

I wouldn't leave air quality out of the picture. I don't personally recall the playing field in the 80's well, except that nuclear had fallen out of favor, but in the 90's NG was the clean and cheap fuel of choice for electric generation. Most of the rise in NG comes in the 00's, but the planning and building of new plants can take years. I don't think that coal was even considered most places, as air quality was still a big issue and the technology to burn coal cleanly hadn't really come of age; even now nobody wants a coal plant in their backyard cheap or not (or that's the consensus on the west coast, at least).

I don't think that we in the US have noticed how big a part of non-OPEC economic growth coal is responsible for. The idea that they will slow down their coal use, because we think it would be good for the environment, is more than a little likely to fall on deaf ears.

Spot on, Gail. It takes a graph like this to show the futility of all this wishful thinking about alternative energy sources as the key to the post-carbon future.

I get a different message from the same graph. I note how rapidly NG production of electricity ramped up in the early 2000's more than doubling in just a few years.

Right now wind is doubling every two years or so (fifty percent increase last year). It only takes ten years at that rate to go from two percent to 32%.

Per capita use of energy has also been going down, and this is where we need to see real progress, especially if we can also reduce the 'capita' part.

dohboi -- I wish I could be as optimistic about wind. Really do. But NG utilization typically follows the price curve. If there were some reason to expect wind farms to drop 50% or so in costs in the next few years we might see a comparable growth as we saw with NG. But not likely. IMHO the best chance for significant wind power growth would be a sustained high price period for other energy sources or an artificial increase by new taxes on those other energy sources. Thus the investors would have confidence in the long term profit potential. Unfortunately I don't think we can count on either.

I agree that any such rate of growth depends on a number of factors falling into place, none of which is certain or even very likely. I am not generally optimistic about this or anything much else. But I did want to point out that these things are not completely outside the realm of possibility.

A hefty carbon tax could go a good way in this direction.

As I stated above, though, the primary thing we should be working on is reducing our collective demand. All sorts of possibilities arise with reductions of energy use by to a fourth of current use or more. Again, not at all likely, but not completely impossible, perhaps.

Hi Rockman,

I keep wondering if the new found "abundance" of NG is real or not? It seems that most of this abundance is due to improved technology (fracking) and yet I keep hearing that this technolgy might just hasten the depletion of a well. We also read about new NG finds in shallow Gulf water, but I wonder if this also is the super cheap supply being claimed?

If the hype is flawed we could easily see $10 in a couple of years - or am I missing something?

IMHO, the #1 take-away is that serious reductions through energy efficiency and conservation have got to be in our future. Renewables will eventually HAVE to be everything on the chart, because the non-renewables will inevitably deplete away. We are not going to be able to ramp those up to anything close to today's 800+ Gw, though.

Amazingly people are not aware of actual alternative ideas in regard to non market economic systems. M. King Hubbert alerted the world to the concept of science or chaos in what the Price system has to deliver up in the early 1930's

Man-hours and distribution, made the factors of these ideas clear

In the mean time biophysical economics or 'thermodynamic economics' using ideas of ... net energy analysis and industrial ecology has made it that much more clear that a 'money/debt' economy not only is a dead end, it is a desultory end for the culture of science and the human race.

A science based society using thermoeconomics is so very different than the current antique


I find it amazing that (like myself) your heroes apparently include both M. King Hubbert and Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen -- and yet you advocate support for a group of nutters who believe that civilised society is possible without the institution of money. Some of the stuff the technocrats write truly belongs to the Unabomber end of the spectrum. They sound like autists -- incapable of understanding what makes ordinary people tick. And they're totally inconsistent. Example:

Technocracy Inc. has estimated that every adult citizen in the Technate would have a material and cultural standard of living equivalent to what would equal many times today's average income. This includes housing, foods, clothes, health care, education, recreation, travel, etc., all of one's individual choosing. Individual life styles differ even though certain basic essentials are common to everyone.

Sweet suffering Walmart. And this from followers of the guy who put peak oil on the map.

You are an uninformed person Carolus.
Group of nutters? Hubbert was co-founder of the group in question 'Tech. Inc' and helped formulate the idea of a science based social design (technate). It is based on the concepts of sustainability and thermoeconomics. He advocated this idea up till his death.
TechCa in your link above is not a real Technocracy site, it is a dumbed down shadow site.
It is not connected to actual information on the subject.
If you want an education of what it is, look into things like this
The basis of energy economics is from Hubbert (energy accounting)... the guy that wrote the Technocracy Study Course.
You are obviously gullible as to knowing anything 'actual' on the subject and able to believe what ever pops up on the internet? Sad. Wikipedia-itus. Many suffer from that.
Where do you think Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen got his ideas from?
There are no 'followers' in this material and your associating it with fringe is not appropriate... but you have an ax to grind apparently in your mind.
Funny how people follow information from their nose to things they already think they know and chase their tails that way with the same disinformation ... over and over.

group of nutters who believe that civilised society is possible without the institution of money.

Doesn't the Bible say, "Money is the root of all evils"?

NO! Look again:
New International Version (©1984)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

New Living Translation (©2007)
For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

English Standard Version (©2001)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Money is a problem now for a lot of reasons. We are at the point were it is no longer needed, but as a social control mechanism this antique method is still used.

An energy accounting system gets rid of it. It would also allow for creative use of science instead of using the Price System dictum of a profit at any cost... and all things either being done or not being done according to whether a profit can be made or not.

Political system invented religious system originally in Sumer. That is contract society and class caste society. It worked when humans were flat lined with their 1/20th. of a horsepower energy limit of physical labor. 33 watts of power a human can make, or a little more when peddling a bike up a hill. Energy conversion and technology have eliminated purchasing power now with engineering and robotics. Reward and punishment using 'debt tokens' is pointless as purchasing power ala Adam Smith throwback to low energy conversion days is history.

So, money and politics and belief systems fail... because technology destroys the Price System. It really is that simple.

Green jobs? A joke. The idea is to eliminate jobs, and make 'consuming' a right of citizenship within a given resource base. Creative jobs would not be connected to 'banking', 'insurance', 'politics', etc. - Those occupations contribute nothing except pointless social control now, and have no connection with actual sustainability issues.
Even the religious people figured out long ago that eventually this type of a system either changes into something creative and 'cool', or no doubt the special interest groups go to war to control the antique social system... not a conspiracy though. Just uninformed people going about their 'business'.

Most of the powers that be are just as ignorant of this dynamic as anyone. Even what you would think of as a science site like this one seems unaware of the dynamic of society now and the history of our system.
There is no conspiracy. Just an antique social system that collapses not because of energy issues but because of a social system that is dysfunctional. That which ceases to function ceases to exist.
We could creatively convert to other energy systems that could be renewable. Thermopolymerization uses 'whatever' carbon... and makes oil... but it is crazy to burn oil in 2010. We could use it to make carbon fiber electric vehicles though... Crash test approaches with this debt based system that is glaringly uncreative for this time and place.

I don’t think we will see hyperinflation. I believe the bozos will fight inflation on the backs of the unemployed. As long as the bondholders see inflation low to zero, all is well. I believe the unemployment figures will sky rocket until the electorate throws the bums out.

ido -- I've been waiting to see inflation (hyper and otherwise) to kick in. But you may have a good point. I tend to pay attention to the more mundane but easily observed indicators. The one metric I keep noticing is the DEFLATION in the price of pizzas in the Houston area. Lower prices, bigger pies, unlimited toppings. And Houston has had one the healthier economies in the country.

Maybe pizza prices are not a good measure. OTOH maybe they are the best metric at the grass roots level.

Soon enough you will see a lot of pizza joints close unless thet were making sky high profits to begin-which might have been possible in Houston.

Then prices will go up again.If restaurant rents fall a long way the price of pizza may settle at a new low for awhile.

But all that paper will eventually work it's way thru the entire economy, possibly excepting real estate which may take a lot longer than everything else.

But I don't doubt that every possible effort will be made to offload as much of the sacrifice on the backs of the working poor as can be managed.

The best job you could have in the bau world right now is that of some govt clerk in a main office someplace, high enough to get a good salary but low enough to avoid political firings of program managers.

delete double post.

I don't see either demand-pull or supply-push domestic price inflation in the works. However, I do see the US money supply ballooning, and I do see the purchasing power of the US dollar declining substantially when it comes to buying imports. That, in turn, means that prices of things like oil and its derivatives and products will increase as the increased cost of imports are passed through to the consumer. However, consumers will have to compensate by either buying less oil-dervied products, or buying less of something else (which reduces demand, and thus prices, for those items). In the aggregate, therefore, no domestic price inflation - but very big changes in prices of specific categories of goods, up or down.

There was also this story a few days ago. The EPA is looking at updating in 1971 standards on SO2
The death of US coal

The existing standards, set in 1971, specify a 24-hour “primary standard” for SO2 emissions at 140 parts per billion, and an annual average standard at 30 ppb, and a “secondary standard” for three-hour periods at 500ppb. The EPA is proposing new one-hour standards of 50 - 100

"The cost of retrofitting coal-fired plants with SO2 scrubbers works out at about $300 per kilowatt of capacity, or over $100m for a 350MW plant. This is so expensive that for older plants nearing the end of their lives anyway, retirement may be a better option"

The governments of China and India are not likely to throw away good coal burning power plants, they cannot afford it. They are not likely to retrofit in the near future. There are yet US coal plants building sulfur scrubbing capacity to avoid the sulfur taxes. Many nations did not sign Kyoto and Copenhagen is not binding. Obama may have stated he got China to agree to Copenhagen as the Chinese diplomat was trying to get to the airport, but that is not the story China told after he returned to China. If 5% of the world can use 25% of the world's energy, how can you stop China and India about 30% of the world's population from increasing worldwide coal consumption even if the governments of America and Europe can afford to rebuild their electric grids with government deficit spending? Green lobbies have stopped dam construction, stopped nuclear construction, blocked oil and gas drilling, and praised green energy. I would dare to state not many green lawyers have PV cells on their roofs even though they earn six figure incomes.

Not true. China has been shutting down a large number of old, dirty coal plants. But most of these are oooold, and polluting like we can't imagine in the US. Makes sense to shut them down when pollution has become a huge problem internally and for their image worldwide, combined with periodic coal shortages China has faced. Why have the inefficient "clunker" plants run at low efficiency when the efficient ones are facing shortages? Plus at least some of Chinese plants have been advance, including IGCC and ultra-supercritical plants.

China has been building one or two new coal burning power plants per week. Notwithstanding anything they may say about green alternatives, they have a huge need for more electricity, and coal is the cheap and easy way to produce it.

They are also trying to acquire sources of coal world-wide. Not as aggressively as they are buying up oil reserves, but they are out there looking for more coal.

What's with all the politics? I thought this discussion was about coal and treasuries. It shows the rabid venomous polarization in this country big time! Divide and rule, worked for Caesar and it still works for our modern day Oligarchs who control the propaganda machines. How are we going to bring people together when their political viewpoints are so obtuse?

Very good point, Bald Ski

mac -- you should ignore baldski: obviously he is a lib/con/dem/repub/redneck/yankee/gay/homophobic/Christian/Muslem/etc/etc.

Think I covered all the important bases. As soon as we chase those types away the sooner we can solve PO.

Thanks Rock-since I am well acquainted with you online I will take your word concerning baldski.

I don't recall his handle or any previous comments .

mac/baldski -- Sorry baldski...wasn't taking a shot at you. Just some sarcasm aimed at the extreme minded folks. That's why I listed all the groups that get slammed by one side of the fence or the other. I suppose arming me with sarcasm can sometimes be like giving a baby a loaded gun: you never know who'll I'll accidentally shit.

Well written, researched and thought out. But you don't describe the world we would live in as oil declines and coal usage continues to grow. Now that oil is no longer used to generate electricity, and rarely used for heat, coal and oil are not interchangable. CTL (CTG-GTL) is still a marginal player and not a game-changer.

I argue that oil is superior to coal in every way except for price. Oil consumption grew even though coal was cheaper. This is a sign that oil is more important to the economy than coal. People use oil, not because they want to, but because they have to. People use coal because they can save money by using it.

The fundamental problem is that as oil production declines it takes with it consumers that cannot switch to any non-liquid alternative. The consumer stops consuming. As consumers drop out because they cannot afford oil, they will stop using coal because they will be generating less income and coal is an expense. It's like the story (fable?) of the price of wheat dropping during the Irish Potatoe Famine.

Electricity is in short supply in the developing world, so they are building coal plants. (By the way, China is such a huge and rapidly growing consumer, you really ought to separate China from the developing world in your graphs.) But coal use is dependent upon an infrastructure based upon oil.

Take away the oil and you do not convert to coal, with any semblence of BAU remaining. Germany and South Africa were in terrible straits, as the outside world refused to let them use oil. They survived, but their domestic economies were in shambles. Also, at the time of the embargos, neither country had developed oil dependencies like the world has today. A small percentage of their GNP focused on CTL made a huge difference. The world would need to make massive investments for decades.

Could we do it? Maybe. Are we trending towards a CTL future? Not really. All that coal consumption in the developing countries is new consumption, not directed towards infrastructure. Relatively speaking, the Chinese are buying washing machines rather than building electric trains. And the autos they are buying sure don't run on electricity.

So when oil consumption plummits due to PO, the question is, will we see oil dependency increase, or decline? If we end up putting a higher percentage of our GNP into oil, which we will, then we are in big trouble, no matter what happens with coal. If people consume less coal to save money to buy oil as I predict, then we are in deep doodoo. The only saving scenario is if coal use displaces the oil decline, keeping the price of oil low. The historical record doesn't support that outcome.

I would argue that the coal 'bubble' is due to developing nations willingness to take on debt, or a way to spend excess funds. Build the plants, demand will come, and it does. But even if Asia is fiscally responsible, the world is not. With a collapse of world oil production and the world economy, China won't be isolated.

Bubbles must be blown up with something. Debt only works if there is something to buy, which comes from physical resources. Our economy depends upon oil, the only reason we use coal is because we don't have enough oil, not the other way around.

Now to pretend that the developing world is going to end up better than other places takes a bit of hubris, it's just that the guys in the back of the bus are rotating upwards as the front end hurtles off the cliff. There will be winners, on a relative scale, just as the guys in the back of the bus might land on a pile of squished up bodies which is softer than rocks. But the real deal is figuring out how to get out of the bus before the fall. I don't think anybody can do that. So I'm on top of the bus, with all the coolies, despirately sewing my blankets together. Stitching my blankets is far more important than watching the scenery.

My secondary point is that somebody will walk away from the crash (first point; try like crazy to make sure you are that somebody), but don't get distracted by what life is going to be like. Will we wander into a coal based future? I have no idea. In theory, maybe CTL or some other magic bullet will work by then. But if you don't survive the crash, it doesn't really matter, does it? So focus on #1. If you are too old or sick to survive, make sure you dedicate your time and energy helping those you love who might.

My third point is not to get distracted trying to slow the bus. There's a lynch mob grabbing at the steering wheel, and I think the bus was made by Toyota because the accelerator is stuck down. Yeah, somebody might toss the bus on its side, killing those of us on top of the bus, but everyone seems to agree that is not much of a solution.

Gregor, you've made a great post, but I think you're trying to grab the wheel. Why don't you join me up top and help me sew?

Cold Camel

Nice post !
A bit long :)

But this goes along with my argument that coal/ng etc are not oil substitutes nor are EV's etc.

If I'm right and your explaining it a different way than as oil declines they won't of course work as substitutes because drumroll they ain't.

Obviously at some point usage of coal and NG will begin to peak and decline as the oil declines regardless of how much we have left as they are as you layed out so well simply secondary energy sources. Their interaction with oil is only really at the level of oil fueled electricity generation and steam generation.

Other stuff like EV/NG powered cars and coal fired trains etc are simply side shows in the big picture with no ability to gain enough market share fast enough to replace falling oil supplies.

Using a financial picture what they do is allow us to leverage our dwindling oil supplies and they work exactly like leverage in the financial sense. When the oil supplies decline this leverage if you will blows out. Thus at some point as things get really tight coal/ng usage should collapse.

All of this seems true if NG/Coal are not substitutes but efficiency gains or simply leverage.
Thus one would expect a massive deleveraging to occur shortly after oil shortages become commonplace.

My guess is that economic chaos caused by oil shortages results in the ability of people to say buy electricity falling rapidly and the oil component of generating electricity will rise rapidly along with supply problems. So you have this situation that costs are going up yet your customer purchasing power is falling and your profit margins go red. Governments will I'm sure step in and take over the coal and ng businesses and try to run them at a loss but thats just a stop gap. Of course they will set electric rates low and waste tons of money etc and run deficits etc. In the end it still collapses.

Probably direct oil costs to utilities will be secondary to rising oil prices for consumers as the consumers are forced to decide between paying for oil or paying the electric bill. Obviously no gasoline and you don't go to work don't pay the electric bill and you have a few months or maybe weeks before your shut off. And of course strong political pressure will mount to not shut people off esp in winter bet it coal/NG/electricity.
This is probably the largest source of revenue drop for the utilities and it exposed their position as a leverage player not a substitute.

I read your posts and the words confuse me, but the sentiment is spot on. One of the reasons I'm so pessimistic is that your brain works so differently than mine but reaches the same conclusion. Keep posting, long posts fine.

Cold Camel

It seems to me the key issues are
1) oil supply and coal demand reducing in sync
2) coal peaking in China

We know recession reduces demand for coal fired electricity and coal use in cement manufacture. How low can can it go? When liquid fuels are down to 70 mbpd I don't see too many new skyscrapers or neon lights going up. There is little to suggest a boom in coal-to-liquids plugging the oil gap.

Some think China will peak in domestic coal production around 2015
Other countries like Australia cannot make up the shortfall. Therefore I think there will be an overall coal slowdown because of an oil induced recession and the biggest user experiencing local shortages.

I notice there is flood of tearful, hand-wringing debt
angst here but no real understanding of what the problem is.

So I will offer my critique.

On the left you have the normal economy, on the right you have the global economy.
In a normal economy you have debt-raised private capital, government subsidies and energy powerung the economy represented by a square.
In the global economy, capital moves unhindered to the developing world which buys low debt to get full access to OECD capital.
So the DW ends up getting huge injections of capital for next-to-nothing.
This is the result of laizze-faire governments and global markets(that giant sucking sound).
The solution is clear.
Stop the outflow of capital. Shutdown the bankers and bust the myth of free markets.
A US based economy will recover over time.
It may take a decade but we can heal if we can get rid of these vampires.

Now now've gotten off your meds again, haven't you? Just teasing. I wish I understood the big global financial picture as well as some here but, in the end, I'm a simple rock licker.

Assumming you're correct (not being able to understand more than the basics) how do you see making these changes? Or do you see it as a solution that TPTB will never allow.

Naah. Just clean living and PTL. (Just joshin' ya.)

I am serious.
US debt is a symptom, not a cause.
Perot's giant sucking sound was a whisper.
The developing world is a blackhole.

Look at the size of these f*%^ing banks.

If americans want to save this country, they had better take control back from TPTB. The GOP is delusional and the Dems are pussies.

Nationalize the banks temporarily.
Put a 50% tax on the flow of money out of the country.
Fair trade for our 'partners'--tarrifs for China goods-
I dare 'em to short the dollar and cut their own throats.
Minimum domestic content of 50%.
Breakup the banks(easy..TR did it).

ROCKMAN, with the present global arrangement we get weaker every year and they get stronger.

Obama was hoping Geithner/Bernanke would save capitalism. That was a mistake.
We need to save this country which is being killed off by the globalizers.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.--A. Einstein

maj -- It certainly does seem like we're heading down a path that's sure to get worse. As you point out: we're essentially doing much of the same that got us into trouble in the first place. But that's why I asked if you saw anyway practical way change might be affected. The combination of political and financial forces seem to be working against any real possibility of altering this destructive path. Normally some of your fixes would rub my libetarian nature the wrong way. But neither the political system nor the free market appear to capable of doing the job. And in some cases, making the situation worse.

The market is doing its job. Unfortunately that involves stripping down this country to the bone.
Libertarianism is a childish fairy tale like imagining that with enough effort you can drill oil out of granite. First you have to put aside childish thing and then work to change our corrupt system which takes guts.

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." First Corinthians 13:11.

Whatever happened to raw materials economics? I was taught that the only source of new wealth is the production of raw materials (agriculture, mining, timber, and fishing). The work done on said raw materials to process, store, deliver and consume adds the multiplier effect of 5. So whatever the price of the raw materials, multiply that by 5, and you have the true wealth of an economy. Since we tend to want more than that, we borrow money (fiat currency), hoping that we are clever or lucky enough to pay the loan back with interest.
The problem with that is that "stuff" happens, and we get in a bind. If we don't declare bankruptcy, and some judge declares some or all of the debt to be gone, the only way we can pay it back is with austerity. We pay less for what we buy, or don't buy at all, hoping to keep our current income high enough to pay off the debt and interest.
Nationally and globally, the net effect of paying interest is downward pressure on raw materials, thus pushing the raw materials producer to become more efficient (through technology, or putting downward pressure on the prices he pays for his inputs, or by raping the earth harder, usually all three). But that means lower raw materials prices being multiplied through the economy, thus pushing everything even lower.
We have gotten by because of cheap energy and technology, but just as a person on uppers eventually must come down, so must an economy that has been artificially stimulated with borrowed money. I have come to believe that borrowed money is to an economy what uppers are to the human body. Any of you Westerners old enough to see Jimi Hendrix live or on film have seen what uppers can do to enhance talent. He did things with the electric guitar that straight musicians could only dream of, but the uppers killed him.
I equate bankers with drug pushers. Some only sell caffeine, some push ordinary amphetamines, and some push crystal meth, but all borrowed money gives us a "lift" until it's payback time.
I know, and have worked for, some large farmers who meet themselves coming and going, hoping their bodies hold out long enough to cash in when prices are high, eating poorly because they can't take time to eat well, sleeping poorly because there just aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done. Is it this way in other TODer's worlds?
I have some cool ideas on fair trade, but this comment is long enough.

Some material I put together for a recent interview:

OECD Government Spending Versus Declining Net Oil Exports

Based on our (Foucher & Brown) mathematical modeling and based on recent case histories, in my opinion a plausible estimate is that global consumers may be depleting post-2005 global Cumulative Net Oil Exports (CNOE) at the rate of about 6%/year in the 2005 to 2015 time frame (which suggests that we may have already burned through around one-fifth of post-2005 CNOE), although the actual annual decline in the annual volume of net oil exports may only be on the order of about 1%/year or so (the post-peak net export depletion rate tends to be far greater than the annual net export decline rate).

As oil prices have increased in recent years, we have seen a clear pattern of increasing non-OECD oil consumption and declining OECD oil consumption. In the recent Barrons’ Roundtable discussion, Marc Faber noted that the total size of the developing non-OECD economies exceeds the total size of the developed OECD economies. Give the developing world’s rapid increase in oil consumption, this has obvious implications for OECD countries.

Based on our work, we are expecting to see a long term accelerating rate of decline in net oil exports, and based on recent trends, OECD countries can look forward to being forced to make do with a declining share of a declining total volume of net oil exports.

The logical course of action given such an outlook would be to implement measures to reduce overall consumption (with a crash electrified rail program), but the problem is that so much of OECD economies, and therefore OECD government revenues (especially in the US), are dependent on consumption spending, and in fact most government revenue projections assume a resumed increase in consumption.

It would probably be difficult, outside of some Scandinavian countries I suppose, to find examples of local, regional and national OECD countries that don’t have budget problems. Here in Texas for example, the City of Dallas and the State of Texas are both looking at severe budget crunches next year, and the only reason the Texas state budget is currently balanced is because of federal stimulus money. And of course, we all know about the federal budget problems.

So, we have numerous local, regional and national governments that are basically basing their budget forecasts on the assumption of a near infinite rate of increase in our consumption of a finite fossil fuel resource base--while I believe that the reality is that oil importing OECD countries can look forward to getting a declining share of a declining volume of global net oil exports, with oil importing non-OECD countries taking an increasing share of a declining volume of global net oil exports.

The 1930’s Case History & the Outlook for Oil Prices

It appears that oil demand in the Thirties only fell one year, in 1930, with global demand rising thereafter, and US oil prices rose at about 11%/year, from the summer of 1931 to the summer of 1937. Note that this price increase occurred despite rising global crude oil production.

I anticipate that the 2010 average annual oil price will exceed the average price of $62 we saw in 2009, with annual oil prices increasing after 2010, unless and until global net oil import demand once again falls below what I believe will be a declining supply of net oil exports.

Twenty potential problems. Scroll down to the Feb 2 item from Market Watch.

If the OECD and especially the United States were building new power generation or electrified transport with this credit, we could at least expect to get some return on the investment. But alas, we are hellbent still in trying to revive consumer demand. Thus, for all the growth in government debt, we are doing nothing more than pouring water on concrete.


Cool piece, thanks.