Drumbeat: February 4, 2010

Beyond the black stuff: Big Oil is being forced rethink its future (Economist)

In the long term, however, the firms’ success depends on sustaining reserves. The big western oil companies are trying to expand through acquisitions and investment, but the opportunities do so are becoming scarcer. The firms are spending where they can. Exxon Mobil, the biggest listed oil company, says that exploration and capital spending hit $27.1 billion in 2009, 4% higher than in 2008. The company expects to spend $25 billion to $30 billion annually to the same end over the next five years. BP intends to spend some $20 billion this year on investment in new projects and drilling, roughly the same level as last year.

But there are limits to what money can buy.

Carbon markets after Copenhagen: Don't hold your breath (Economist)

To encourage more profound changes in energy generation, such as the development of new types of nuclear-power stations or of coal plants that store away their carbon, the carbon price would have to be a great deal higher and have a pretty firm floor. As it is, current prices may be making industrialists more aware of their carbon footprints, but they are not having a huge effect on the world at large.

The biggest effect that carbon markets have had on emissions so far, according to Kristian Tangen of Point Carbon, has been on investment in developing countries. The Kyoto protocol, a 1997 agreement on emissions, set up a “clean development mechanism” (CDM) by which reductions in greenhouse gases in developing countries could generate a carbon credit that can be traded alongside the EUA.

Farewell to the moon

It is a strange moment when you see an once cutting edge technology die. Of course, the common wisdom of our age – the so-called myth of progress – claims it cannot happen. Technologies may be made obsolete, they can turn out to be impasses, but it is unthinkable for a whole avenue of progress to simply close down. That is exactly what has happened, however, when President Obama cancelled the Constellation Program, and that tells a lot about the fate of technology in a energy poor future. . .

This pattern is likely to repeat itself as the decline in net energy available to our society makes keeping an advanced technology more and more difficult. There won't be any technological cliff, no abrupt return to the Middle-Ages. Technologies will just lose momentum as the resources needed to advance them become scarcer and scarcer. They will become more and more restricted socially and geographically even as they become more and more advanced until they are reserved to a tiny elite. They then will fade out of public perception. Manufacturing will cease, for lack of a market, even though the technology itself will continue to be used, as it is the case today for the shuttle.

China or the U.S.: which will be the last nation standing? (Richard Heinberg)

Silly me. Here I had thought that world leaders would want to keep their nations from collapsing. They must be working hard to prevent currency collapse, financial system collapse, food system collapse, social collapse, environmental collapse, and the onset of general, overwhelming misery—right? But no, that's not what the evidence suggests. Increasingly I am forced to conclude that the object of the game that world leaders are actually playing is not to avoid collapse; it's simply to postpone it a while so as to be the last nation to go down, so yours can have the chance to pick the others' carcasses before it meets the same fate.

I know, that sounds unbearably cynical. And in fact it may not accurately describe the conscious attitudes of leaders of some smaller nations. But for the U.S. and China, arguably the countries most likely to lead the way for the rest of the world, actions speak louder than words.

Peak Oil Supply vs Peak Oil Demand: 2020 vs 2010 (Paul Kedrosky)

We have two instructively conflicting views out today on peak oil supply vs peak oil demand. The estimable folks at TOD peg 2010 as peak supply, with perhaps 89mbpd; while BP’s Tony Hayward gave an interview to BBC Radio 4 today suggesting that peak demand would hit first, by 2020 at around 100mbpd.

Check them both:

* Peak oil demand by 2020 at 100mbpd (BBC)
* Peak oil supply in 2010 at 89mbpd (TOD)

The peak oil crisis: revisiting the electric car (Tom Whipple)

Although the current crop of hybrids certainly runs some of the time on electric motors, the future of electric vehicles are those that plug into the grid and get all, or at least much, of their energy from this source. There is no question that electric vehicles are intrinsically superior to the current combustion engines that have dominated personal transport for the last century. They don't use any, or not as much, petroleum-based fuels. They use energy much more efficiently. They have no emissions. Their performance is as good or better than the internal combustion car, and they are much simpler to maintain. Most places in the developed world already have robust or at least an adequate electrical distribution system for the beginning of the electric age. The last 100 feet to the car, however, will be an expensive-to-overcome problem for many.

Endgame by John Michael Greer

What this means, if I’m right, is that we may have just moved into the endgame of America’s losing battle with the consequences of its own history. For many years now, people in the peak oil scene – and the wider community of those concerned about the future, to be sure – have had, or thought they had, the luxury of ample time to make plans and take action. Every so often books would be written and speeches made claiming that something had to be done right away, while there was still time, but most people took that as the rhetorical flourish it usually was, and went on with their lives in the confident expectation that the crisis was still a long ways off.

We may no longer have that option. If I read the signs correctly, America has finally reached the point where its economy is so deep into overshoot that catabolic collapse is beginning in earnest. If so, a great many of the things most of us in this country have treated as permanent fixtures are likely to go away over the years immediately before us, as the United States transforms itself into a Third World country. The changes involved won’t be sudden, and it seems unlikely that most of them will get much play in the domestic mass media; a decade from now, let’s say, when half the American workforce has no steady work, decaying suburbs have mutated into squalid shantytowns, and domestic insurgencies flare across the south and the mountain West, those who still have access to cable television will no doubt be able to watch talking heads explain how we’re all better off than we were in 2000.

“There is no return to self-sustaining growth” (James K. Galbraith interview)

I have read a fair amount on Peak Oil and I do think that the argument in its favor is qualitatively different from, and more serious than, earlier alarmist warnings about the supply of oil. The peak oil proposition relates to supplies of conventional oil, and it relates to the idea that there is a normal (bell) curve associated with discovery and production over time. That strikes me as a plausible hypothesis, and as one that back in 1956, successfully predicted he peak in conventional oil production in the United States in 1970. So it’s been around for a long time. So, I do think that it’s a proposition which needs to be taken seriously. As to your characterization of the actions and motives of large and powerful interests, I don’t have a theory on that.

The Myth of Self Reliance

Claiming self sufficiency in almost anything insults and ignores the mountain of shoulders we all stand on. US permaculturists are a pretty politically correct crew, and it became obvious to some of us that “self sufficient” was not just impossible, but was a slap in the face to all those whose sweat provides for us, and was another perpetuation of the cowboy ethic that puts the individual at the center of the universe. So the term morphed into “self reliance,” to show that we know we are interdependent, but are choosing to be less reliant on others. At its best, self reliance means developing skills to provide for basic needs, so we can stop supporting unethical and destructive industries. But I see much less need for self-reliant people who can do everything themselves, and much more need for self-reliant communities, where not everyone knows how to weave or farm, but there is clothing and food for all.

There is still a deep prejudice in permaculture, as websites and emails show, that doing it all ourselves, and on our own land, is the most noble path. And insofar as our skills make us less dependent on corporate monopolies, developing the abilities that we think of as self-reliant is worth doing. However, the more we limit our lives to what we can do ourselves, the fewer our opportunities are.

Climate change email scandal shames the university and requires resignations (George Monbiot)

This is a tough time for climate science. The Guardian's new revelations about the hacked emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia might help to explain the university's utter failure to confront its critics. They could also explain why the head of the unit, Phil Jones, blocked freedom of information requests and proposed that material subject to those requests be deleted. He has been spared a criminal investigation only because the time limit for prosecutions has expired.

The emails I read gave me the impression that Phil Jones had something to hide. Now we know what it might have been. The Guardian has discovered that Jones appears to have suppressed data that undermines a paper he published in Nature in 1990. The paper claimed that Chinese weather stations show that local heating caused by urbanisation has very little effect on the temperature record. It now seems that much of the data they used is worthless and the documents required to validate it do not exist.

UN Climate Chief Contends Framework by Global Body Still Best Way Forward

U.N. climate chief de Boer says, despite what he termed several "perceived errors" brought to light in IPCC documents, the basic facts remain the same, still compelling the world to act.

China Edges U.S. in 2009 Wind Installations

At 13,000 megawatts of new wind energy installed, China led all nations in adding wind turbines in 2009, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

The U.S. installed 9,922 MW worth, followed by Spain at 2,459 MW, Germany at 1,917 MW and India at 1,271 MW.

Kulongoski, Oregon lawmakers seek to scale back energy tax credits

Big wind energy projects no longer need state incentives, Gov. Ted Kulongoski said today, as lawmakers explored a plan to rein in the soaring costs of Oregon's tax breaks for green energy.

At a meeting with newspaper editors from across the state, Kulongoski said the $11 million in state tax credits routinely given to 10 megawatt-plus wind farms has "run its course."

Calif. turbines frozen in Minn. wind

Like a lot of California transplants, 11 newcomers to Minnesota are having a hard time adjusting to our winters.

The refurbished, 115-foot towers had operated on a California wind farm, where they didn't have to worry about cold hydraulic fluid turning to gel and oil lubricants getting too sluggish.

Long delays, poor responses from Westinghouse, Areva:UK regulator

The UK nuclear regulator said Thursday that it is experiencing "longdelays" and "poor quality" responses from Westinghouse and Areva in the safety reviews of their reactor designs, the AP1000 and EPR, respectively.

The HSE had previously raised a "Regulatory Issue," the highest of three levels of concern, on the EPR's instrumentation and control system. That remains unresolved.

In its newest report, HSE said it was "likely to raise" an RI over the safety qualification of the shield building on the AP1000, the outer structure Westinghouse says is designed to contain any radioactive releases after an accident.

Gas Sites Spur Air Fears

The city of Fort Worth, Texas, one of the biggest beneficiaries in the natural-gas boom, is questioning its largely supportive stand of the industry after a study found high levels of hazardous chemicals in the air near production sites.

On Tuesday, Fort Worth's mayor said the city would follow up on the state-sponsored study with its own air-quality tests and could consider rewriting rules that allow drilling in residential neighborhoods.

Administration moves on corn and coal

Administration officials also announced a revamped strategy to put the nation on track to meet the congressional mandate of 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022, in hopes of fixing a government effort that officials admit has fallen short in its attempts to wean cars and trucks away from fossil fuels and move toward ethanol, biodiesel and other crop-based fuels. The nation currently produces about 12 billion gallons of biofuel, mostly corn ethanol, and the federal government projects the country will not meet the 2022 goal.

And Obama issued a presidential memorandum to speed the development of technologies that capture and store the carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants, with a goal of bringing five to 10 commercial-scale projects on line by 2016.

EPA biofuels guidelines could spur production of ethanol from corn

The nation's farmers got a big boost Wednesday when the Obama administration issued new biofuels guidelines that could open the way for large increases in the production of corn-based ethanol.

The Environmental Protection Agency said new data showed that, even after taking into account increased fertilizer and land use, corn-based ethanol can yield significant climate benefits by displacing conventional gasoline or diesel fuel.

The new renewable-fuel standard issued by the EPA drew criticism from some environmentalists as well as oil industry representatives, who accused the Obama administration of catering to farm interests.

Iraqi Officials Lament Failure To Refine More Oil

Iraqi officials say several factors have resulted in the country needing to import some 60 percent of its refined oil despite having huge reserves, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

Ali Hassan Ballu, chairman of the parliament's Oil and Gas Committee, told RFE/RL on February 2 that a huge increase in demand from Iraqi consumers along with outdated refineries, a lack of investment, and insurgent attacks on oil resources have forced Iraq to import a majority of its oil by-products.

Russian markets have recovered with the oil price

Since the middle of 2008 the Russian market has tracked the oil price; the rule of thumb that the Russian RTS Index is the oil price times 20 has been the somewhat uninspiring reality. Given that both price earnings (PE) multiples and index earnings are highly oil-price dependent, there were good reasons for this link in a world where oil prices and markets were volatile. But greater oil price stability should encourage investors to look afresh at Russian markets as a high-growth, low-debt story, linked to the Asian boom. Provided oil stays near current levels, we expect the RTS index to end the year at 2,000, up over 30 per cent from today and still 20 per cent below its peak.

Concrete coverups and others at nuclear construction site

“It is incredible what that crazy [supervisor] kept talking about. It was impossible to work with him, but he was responsible for building the reactor”, says Polish builder Zbignew Mulczynski, describing his foreman hired by the French construction company Bouygues.

Olkiluoto 3, Finland’s fifth commercial nuclear reactor, is in its sixth year of construction. The facility, which is being built under the supervision of the French company Areva, was supposed to have been churning out electricity for Finns already in 2009. Now cautious estimates are for a startup in late 2012, and even that might prove to be too optimistic.

Oil Hovers Below $77 Amid Sluggish US Crude Demand

Benchmark crude for March delivery was down 3 cents at $76.95 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 25 cents to settle at $76.98 on Wednesday.

Crude has traded in the $70s since touching $84 last month as investors wait for signs of a demand rebound before bidding prices higher. Demand for distillates, such as diesel fuel used for shipping, has remained subdued in the U.S. and Europe.

Norway joins energy grid

The Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Terje Riis-Johansen, has signed a political declaration on strengthening the regional cooperation on development of an offshore energy grid in the North Sea region. This means that Norway, although not a member of the EU, now forms the cooperation on an electricity grid in the North Sea together with Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and the UK.

Dubai Discovers New Oil Field Amid Debt Woes

Dubai announced Thursday the discovery of a new offshore oil field in the Persian Gulf that could boost its economy at a time when the United Arab Emirates' second-largest sheikhdom is struggling with a multibillion-dollar debt pile.

"I can confirm that oil has been discovered and expect production to start within a year," Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman of government-owned Dubai Petroleum Establishment, or DPE, told Zawya Dow Jones, confirming local media reports earlier Thursday that a new offshore oil field had been discovered in the emirate.

Sheik Ahmed, who is also chief executive of Emirates Airline, declined to comment on the size of the find.

Shell Cuts Deeper As Profit Drops On Refining Loss

Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) Thursday promised further cost cuts and job losses after it posted a 28.7% fall in adjusted profit for the fourth quarter, as lower oil and gas production and a big loss in refining offset higher crude oil prices.

Chief Executive Peter Voser said Shell's refining and marketing division is enduring the toughest times he has seen in his 25 years at the company.

"We are not assuming that there will be a quick recovery, and the outlook for 2010 is uncertain," Voser said.

Tesla's Roadster Sport saves the electric car

How often do police take your picture just because they like your car? Not very often, presumably. In which case, try driving the latest electric sportscar from Tesla Motors, the Roadster Sport.

Being the first British newspaper journalist behind the wheel of this £87,000 superstar new model – one that has been Anglicised with a right-hand drive – is a strange experience. Driving it around London, people literally stop, stare, gawp and nudge their friends and children.

Alaskan Natural Gas line realities

When Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico asked if Alaska gas can be competitive, Persily said yes -- provided there's soon a project approved and under way. If markets know Alaska gas is coming, we should be able to sell it. And demand is expected to keep rising, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Conoco's Alaska profits drop

Conoco Phillips' profits from its Alaska oil production dropped last year but stood out as the biggest single contributor to the company's global oil production income, according to new financial statements.

Honolulu rail plan gets $55M in Federal Transit Authority budget

The Federal Transit Administration gave Honolulu a $55 million vote of confidence yesterday in the city's planned commuter rail line from East Kapolei to Ala Moana.

The support helps build momentum for the rail project just days after Gov. Linda Lingle raised concerns about whether the city could afford the estimated $5.35 billion price tag.

City officials have been hoping the FTA will contribute $1.55 billion toward building the line, and yesterday FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said they can count on it. The FTA plans to sign an agreement before October 2011 to provide the money, Rogoff said.

CNPC projects crude import rise

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) expects China's crude oil imports to increase 9.1% from a year earlier to 212 million tonnes in 2010, or 4.24 million barrels per day (bpd), a company report showed.

Victoria confirms Cooper shut ins

Australia’s Victoria Petroleum has confirmed that the Growler, Snatcher and Mirage oil fields on the northern Cooper basin in South Australia have been shut in as heavy rains have made the roads in the area impassable.

Boston Harbour cleared for Yemen LNG

The United States will receive its first shipment of liquefied natural gas from Yemen this month over the objections of Massachusetts officials who have said the vessels may be targets for terrorists.

40 billion RUB for shelf exploration

Russia will spend about 40 billion RUB on exploration works at the country’s ocean shelf by year 2020, Minister of Natural Resources Yuri Trutnev said. In 2009, shelf exploration dropped following the financial crisis.

Total forced to invoke force majeure after swordfish attack on oil pipelineJoin our fan community today.

Swordfish punctured part of an oil loading pipe in Angola, causing a three-day delay to tanker shipments of Girassol crude, traders said yesterday. French oil company Total SA, which operates the crude stream, declared force majeure on shipments, but lifted it on Monday. In general, force majeure frees an operator from supply obligations due to extraordinary circumstances. "It was caused because of swordfish. Now the swordfish have passed, so the force majeure has been lifted," said one trader, who buys the crude on a regular basis.

Indian Petrol, LPG may cost more

New Delhi: Consumers will almost certainly have to pay more for fuel from next week as all pieces fell into place on Tuesday for raising prices of cooking gas and liquid petro-fuels.

The committee on petrol pricing, headed by former Planning Commission member Kirit Parikh, made out a strong case for removing subsidies on petrol and diesel and reducing them for cooking gas and kerosene.

The recommendations include imposition of an additional excise duty of Rs80,000 per diesel car to recover higher subsidy provided to the fuel.

India to face gas crisis if Iran, Turkmenistan gas pipeline is scrapped

New Delhi: India could face ``an acute shortage’’ of natural gas if proposed pipeline from Iran and Turkmenistan are scrapped due to deteriorating relations with Pakistan, according to an Assocham study. As political tension with Pakistan heightens, disrupting gas pipeline talks, clean energy option for Indian economy can become all the more challenging with demand and supply gap widening at 5.7 per cent. Energy hungry India needed Iran- Pakistan- India and Turkmenistan- Afghanistan- Pakistan-India pipelines as indigenous production target of 42.28 billion cubic meter for current fiscal was likely to be missed, Assocham claimed. “Scrapping two proposed international gas pipelines involving Pakistan could aggravate already grim gas supplies.

Gas Flows Again To Russia, While Discontent Simmers

Natural gas may be flowing again from Turkmenistan to Russia, but the two countries' pricing dispute is not over, analysts are predicting.

Turkmen gas exports to Russia resumed January 9 after a nearly nine-month hiatus, due to a pricing dispute. Under the Turkmen-Russian settlement, the Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom will only buy 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas annually compared to 50 bcm in previous years, and will pay in the region of USD 250 per thousand cubic meters (tcm), Russian news sources reported.

Investment Dollars Flow to Green Energy Start-Ups

In the third quarter of 2009, clean energy received 19% of venture capital investment in the U.S., second only to biotechnology, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

"There are multiple drivers," said Neil S. Suslak, managing partner of Braemar Energy Ventures. Among them: a desire to cut greenhouse gas emissions, upgrade aging power systems and find domestic sources of energy.

Chavez turns to Cubans for help with energy crisis

President Hugo Chavez has turned to his friends in Cuba for help in tackling Venezuela's energy crisis, drawing criticism Wednesday from opponents who say that the communist-led island is notorious for its own electricity woes.

The socialist leader announced that Cuban Vice President Ramiro Valdes had arrived on Tuesday to head a Cuban team advising Venezuela on its efforts to reduce energy consumption.

Obama pulls plug on Yucca

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the Obama administration will seek to immediately suspend licensing for the Yucca Mountain repository and within 30 days withdraw completely the bid to build a nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

The actions, coupled with a new White House budget that essentially zeroes out federal support for the site, means the end could be near on more than two decades of debate over storing radioactive spent nuclear fuel a few hours drive from Las Vegas.

Ofgem: energy bills will be 'unaffordable' unless £200bn spent, watchdog warns

Families face "unaffordable" energy bills and power cuts unless radical action is taken to improve the crumbling state of Britain's power stations and pipelines, a report has warned.

The dire state of Britain's energy market has been laid bare in an alarming report by Ofgem, the industry regulator.

The country is too reliant on ageing coal-fired power stations, does not have enough nuclear power stations to fill the gap, is only able to store enough gas to cover a few days' supply and is forced to pump or ship in gas from around the world during cold snaps.

Energy regulator warns of power blackouts and renationalisation

Britain’s energy regulator yesterday warned of power blackouts and spiralling consumer prices and raised the prospect of partial renationalisation of the industry.

In a damning report, Ofgem says Britain’s power industry is in a dire state and in desperate need of investment. The regulator raised the prospect of direct government intervention that would wind back the clock on 20 years of deregulation.

British Gas to cut bills by 9% for 7.5m homes

Britain’s largest domestic energy supplier is expected to announce plans today to reduce its gas prices by about 9 per cent from February 19.

The cut, which will extend to about 7.5 million households on British Gas’s standard tariff, follows steep falls in the wholesale price of gas since 2008 and is the first of its kind by one of the UK’s “big six” energy suppliers since 2007. It could open the floodgates to reductions from rivals E.ON, EDF, ScottishPower, Scottish and Southern Energy and RWE npower.

Crude Falls on Weak U.S. Demand

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed demand falling 2% from a year earlier in the four weeks ended Jan. 29. Demand has yet to bounce back from year-ago levels, despite months of slow improvement in economic conditions and now with some of the worst weeks of last year's recession as a basis for comparison.

Obama pushes energy plan that GOP may support

Looking for a political and policy victory, President Barack Obama on Wednesday pushed energy proposals designed to attract allies and opponents alike, calling for increased ethanol production and new technology to limit pollution from the use of coal.

In his meeting with the governors, Obama also announced a new task force to study ways to increase the use of coal in meeting the nation's energy needs without increasing the pollution that contributes to global warming.

New Tumult Roils a Battered Sudan

A key issue between the rival sides is oil, most of which is produced in the south. Sudan is heavily dependent on oil revenue. Under the peace pact, the two sides share the oil revenue from the southern fields, but that deal has to be renegotiated next year when the agreement expires. . .

The conflict, coupled with a drought, has worsened the humanitarian crisis in southern Sudan. This year 4.3 million people—about half the region's population—are in need of food aid, up from one million last year, according to the United Nations.

U.K. Eyes Energy Reforms as Regulator Warns on Future Supply

The U.K.'s deregulated energy market, the most liberalized in Europe, should be reined in so the country can attract the billions of pounds in investment necessary to ensure an adequate power supply and meet tough climate-change targets, the country's energy regulator said Wednesday.

A new report from Ofgem, which regulates the gas and electricity market in England, Scotland and Wales, portends what could be a significant shift in U.K. energy policy. It said the country's energy-deregulation policy has delivered choice and price competition to consumers, but hasn't provided enough incentive for new investments. Utilities operating in the U.K. need to invest £200 billion ($320 billion) over the next 10 to 15 years to replace retiring nuclear and coal power plants with new and costly low-carbon generation, the regulator said.

Unemployment Weekly Claims Report: All Non-seasonally adjusted data as supplied by BLS. The numbers are 4 week running Avg’s as calculated on xl spread sheet.

4 Wk Avg Non-seasonally adjusted initial claims Jan 9th thru Jan 30th


4 Wk Avg Non-seasonally adjusted continuing claims Jan 2nd thru Jan 23rd


4 Wk Avg Non-seasonally adjusted extended claims Dec 26th thru Jan 16th


4 Wk Avg Non-seasonally adjusted total claims (All) Dec 26th thru Jan 16th


Leanan will be away for a few days, and a few of the rest of us are trying to cover for her (sort of, anyhow). Many thanks to Dave Summers (Heading Out) for his help with this project.

I apologize for some of the formatting not looking right on some of the entries above. The HTML code "looks right" but doesn't seem to work right.

There appears to be some extra characters on these posts, such as an ["] at the end.

Here's a couple of corrected links:

Boston Harbour cleared for Yemen LNG

Total forced to invoke force majeure after swordfish attack on oil pipeline

E. Swanson

Here's another

Tesla's Roadster Sport saves the electric car

Alan from the islands

I think I finally got them fixed. On all three, the code seems to work with no quote marks. When I put them in, I get the problems.

Iraqi Officials Lament Failure To Refine More Oil (uptop)

. . . a huge increase in demand from Iraqi consumers

The debate over Iraq reserves is an ongoing example of the virtually complete failure to focus on what really counts--net oil exports. Based on 2003-2009 EIA consumption data, for Iraq to simply maintain their 2009 net export level (which was down slightly from the 2008 rate, based on preliminary EIA data), Iraq has to increase their production at 2.2%/year.

Here's a closeup look at recent Iraqi fuel use and refinery output from the JODI Databrowser:

Please ignore the spike in stocks at the end of 2008. (The JODI dataset still has some apparent glitches.)

In the last year, Iraqi refineries have been unable to meet growing internal demand for Total Products (LPG, Gasoline, Kerosene, Diesel, Residual Fuels). Iraq has had to import increasing amounts of refined products to meet demand -- now at 150% of what it was 3 years ago. From the article mentioned above:

Iraq is estimated to hold the world's third-largest proven oil reserves but shortages of diesel, kerosene, and gasoline are common.

Perhaps they are importing diesel from the US:

Wouldn't that be ironic.

We go to war to secure energy supplies; wreck Iraq's infrastructure so much that little oil comes out; bankrupt our own economy in the process and end up sending our now excess diesel over to them to run generators because the electrical grid is down.

Probably not what Cheney had in mind!

-- Jon

But all worth it.....!!!!!!

Repeat after me...300bb in Iraq...300bb in Iraq...300bb in Iraq

Unca Sam...he's killing all our kids...and emptying out our Treasury...and WHY???

I'll tell ya....300bb in Iraq...300bb in Iraq...3oobb in Iraq

It's there...

It's there...

The Big Boyz knowz...

It's there...

In other news, we also have methane hydrates...

And don't listen to that screwed up French guy who seems to be the only one who talks about methane hydrates and hates 'em....

Listen to Kenny Deffeyes....read his book...it's all there

Methane hydrates...the bridge to economical algae fuel

Then the biggie....FUSION !!!!!

The future will be...MAGNIFICENT!!!!!!!!!

The Micron - 45 kph (27 mph) electric micro-car

Two seater (1 front + 1 rear), carbon fiber, etc. It would actually be practical in my neighborhood with an optional trailer.



But will it end up in a canal? How does one secure it against Amsterdam-style car tippers?

Don't move to Holland.

Thats a great looking little vehicle, Alan.
I want one with Pedals.

I'll keep Paul from getting snark juice all over it by not telling him where I've parked. I mean really, Paul, what do people with Motorcyles, Scooters, Bicycles and Strollers do? Just rely on the Law and a bit of Luck and Sensibility to protect them? Madness!

A very large number of these running the back roads of South Florida....


I think you are forced to buy one when you move to Wellington.

My solar powered EZ-GO golf cart is primarily for power (~7000 watts of battery) but I would not feel bad about its 10 mile range for 90% of our driving but alas, it is not street legal here. Mine is a 1995 36Volt model with new 200amp batteries.

3 wheels ... pedals ... and electric assist ... to be legal

Michigan continues turning paved roads to gravel

The County Road Association of Michigan said Tuesday that 35 miles were returned to gravel in 2009. Thirty-eight counties have combined to pulverize about 100 miles of pavement and lay down gravel in the past few years.

The main reason is because counties lack money to reconstruct or repave deteriorating roads.

A few communities in other states including Pennsylvania, Indiana and Vermont also have reverted a few miles to gravel.

Michigan road construction groups are seeking higher fuel taxes to generate more money for road and bridge repairs. The proposals have run into opposition from groups opposed to tax increases.


My boondocks county dirt and gravel road is rapidly turning back to dirt/mud along with huge swales/washboards this winter. Normally the county would have been adding gravel to the worst places but not this year. They are broke. I'm concerned that one of these years the county will simply abandon roads like mine.


I was Just up in Del Norte on the Smith, and things are being ignored there also.
Tainter may be right.

I haven't read Tainter but Leanan posted a comment that he defined collapse (doomer viewpoint) to be a severe reduction of complexity and population. Lately, I have noticed a new trend by a couple of posters to declare that they are declinists as opposed to doomers. What is the difference? Is there some kind of timescale associated with Tainter's collapse?

Both doomers and declinists (if there is a difference) have to agree in a loss of paved roads. How can decline not turn into collapse in a global economy based on growth?

Doomers believe that catastrophic collapse is highly probable, if not inevitable. Catastrophic collapse usually features a massive die-off, sooner or later.

Declinists, speaking for myself, acknowledge that catastrophic collapse, is POSSIBLE, just not absolutely CERTAIN. We are more inclined to think that something between protracted economic decline and catabolic collapse is the more likely outcome, at least for the next several decades and perhaps for much of the century - i.e., through and beyond our lifetimes. What we see is chronic breakdown, protracted economic recession, and things generally getting worse and worse. Some of us see some possibility - although maybe just a long shot at best - of eventually leveling off at something sustainable. I personally am doubful if any sort of sustainable US economy can be achieved at any level higher than 25% of present per capita GDP, and it quite possibly might have to be lower than that. I think that a lot of us are at least hopeful that our society and economy can muddle itself through some sort of curve that takes us from the present level down to that lower sustainable level over the course of this century. It may prove to be a vain hope, and some sort of tipping point or black swan might push things over into rapid catastrophic collapse, but people need to hope, and this is about as best of a future as I dare hope for.

Hey: No problem, I just got the straight scoop on CNBC. The economy is like corn popping. First there is a pop here and there, now and then and then suddenly it all seems to start popping. Every thing will be fine, we can put 15 million jobs back on payroll by the 4th of July and every one will be able to buy a home again for 5 times more than they can afford.

First, EB posted a new Greer essay today. It is by far his most pessimistic to date. It almost sounds like he's abandoning catabolic collapse. Anyway...

I used the analogy of minimum operating levels (MOL) for pipelines and society a week or so ago. The question is, "Does society have a MOL?" In other words, can society just sort of drift to a lower level where everyone lives at a lower standard of living or is there a point where it no longer functions even though some parts are still there?

The reason I'm a doomer is that I believe that there is a MOL and that once it is reached society will simply stop functioning. Further, continuing the MOL analogy, although the oil might dribble out for a while, a realistic flow stops almost immediately. In the case of society, we are at the dribbling stage but for practical purposes the collapse has begun.

Support systems are being abandoned left and right from Section 8's to Medicade. In my area low cost clinics are closing or close to closing because they are losing funding. There are millions of people who are unemployed but who will be losing their benefits shortly. The list goes on and on.

From my perspective, the only question is timing. How long do we have? Based upon my gleanings, I believe we have, at most, 5 years. People should be taking action today. I've posted about my thoughts on this many times so I'm not going to go through them again.


I found the essay by Richard Heinberg http://www.energybulletin.net/node/51425
To be exceedingly pessimistic as well.

Maybe its just seasonal affective disorder? Where did I put my happy pills?

Oh and here is some more good news:


You do mean your vitamin D pills, don't you? ;-D

Alan from the islands

Yes, of course ;-)

I keep saying that the 21st century is going to be one long exercise in giving up things. That is what you have to do when you live in an economy/society that is in decline.

As if to underline that point:


. . .compared to past examples, the losses clobbering state funding these days are off the scale, and a great many programs that have been fixtures of American public life for as long as most of us have been living are facing the chopping block.

and Perrotin

It is a strange moment when you see an once cutting edge technology die. Of course, the common wisdom of our age – the so-called myth of progress – claims it cannot happen. Technologies may be made obsolete, they can turn out to be impasses, but it is unthinkable for a whole avenue of progress to simply close down. That is exactly what has happened, however, when President Obama cancelled the Constellation Program, and that tells a lot about the fate of technology in a energy poor future.
This pattern is likely to repeat itself as the decline in net energy available to our society makes keeping an advanced technology more and more difficult. There won't be any technological cliff, no abrupt return to the Middle-Ages. Technologies will just lose momentum as the resources needed to advance them become scarcer and scarcer. They will become more and more restricted socially and geographically even as they become more and more advanced until they are reserved to a tiny elite. They then will fade out of public perception. Manufacturing will cease, for lack of a market, even though the technology itself will continue to be used, as it is the case today for the shuttle.

How many things does a society/economy have to give up before it hits some tipping point or your MOL and goes into catastrophic collapse? I don't know. Maybe we'll find out. I suspect that declining societies can muddle along and cope with the continual giving up of things for a lot longer than some people might think.

Manned space flight has always been very conservative. You don't want to loft something into orbit which has not been extensively tested. This is especially true for any man-rated system, since a failure would be very difficult to deal with. While there was some technological benefit form the space program, I think putting people in orbit isn't likely to have been the driving force. The whole notion of going to Mars and back always seemed like pure fiction to me, but talking about was good political PR for Bush. For example, during the months required to make the transit to Mars and back, there's the good possibility that the astronauts would receive a lethal dose of radiation. Besides, much of that space technology tends to be optimized for operations outside the atmosphere and thus much too expensive for ground use.

E. Swanson

I think that the abandonment of the next manned moon mission is not such a big deal and very wise regardless of the financial aspects.

Exploration by robots is much cheaper and probably just as effective.

I guess I always considered (at least since the late seventies), that all our plans for a return to the moon were pipe dreams. Without the spacerace driving national pride, no-one wants to spend the money it takes for it. So I regard the official cancellation as just the formal end of the pipedream.

IIRC, there is also some concern that the moon's regolith would be a severe problem. See: Wired
The next mission to the moon should be a rover. Then let's see if it can run for 6 years, like Spirit did on Mars.

In retrospect it is now evident that we were damn lucky to pull it off without more astronaut casualties. We haven't been so lucky lately, and probably will be even less lucky should we be foolhardy enough to try it again.

Spend giga-billions we don't have and can't afford to crash land astronauts on the moon and kill them. Yep, that sounds about like 21st century USA.

Exploration by robots is much cheaper and probably just as effective.

Yes, but the US is not going to be able to afford those, either - not for much longer. It won't be long before we will be really struggling just to keep a minimal fleet of weather & earth sensing, communications, intel, and GPS sats in the sky.

I think the international financial system is the critical one. If it breaks, and we can't figure out a way of fixing it, we have major problems.

In material quantity, I could agree with <25% GDP/capita. But shifts to increased quality and non-material GDP could keep it well above 25%.

Superb quality shoes (a weakness of mine) cost 5x (or more) as much as WalMart made in China shoes, but they use little more material. My cobbler charges quite a bit for a minimal amount of material and skilled labor to repair them (not worth it with WalMart shoes).

Likewise quality furniture, housing (pre-WW II quality), etc.

Music, art, software, movies all require minimal materials and add substantially to GDP. Likewise my Apple Mac Mini.

More exercise, better nutrition and less smoking & drugs could lead to reduced GDP (less medical) but increased quantity and quality of life.

I would argue that a sustainable GDP could lead to a higher quality of life even at lower GDP #s.

Best Hopes for a Better Quality of Life post-Peak Oil,


My dad used to get out his little 8N and clear up wash-boards on our last mile or two of gravel (maybe 20 homes served). Once or twice a year the county came in with a big grader to do a bit more thorough job. New gravel was a rare luxury, often paid for by passing the hat.

Then during an election year the county finally paved it with some cost-sharing, and retopped it a few elections later. Of course no sub-layer prep was done, so the road degrades quickly. Now the potholes are going unpatched for longer periods, and though the county will patch or repave for the cost of materials nobody has the cash to pay. The road is actually less drivable and much less self-maintainable now than when it was gravel.

I've been on some dirt/mud roads that I don't think a small car could handle, but really our gravel road was never that bad. Honestly, I'd rather live on a gravel-road like that than in the curbs-and-sewers subdivision I've got now.

I imagine over-expanded city perimeters and zealous building restrictions will run head-on into the declining city maintenance budgets. City residents aren't going to like it when their HOAs get the bill to resurface their neighborhood, but I bet that's where we're headed.

One of several reasons that I like my 1982 M-B 240D. It was designed for 3rd World roads (Mercedes has a good market share there). Fairly high off the ground and good suspension travel. Nothing delicate underneath.


Take a good look at the Model T - there is a reason why cars like that were designed to look the way they do: it was precisely so that they could manage roads like the one you describe. Most low-slung modern cars would be hopeless on such roads.

I've thought the same of the little old Toyota 4x4's -- go anywhere at about 20mpg. I keep waiting for a hybrid little truck with a plug-in option....and a real 4x4 low range.

Prepare to maintain the road yourself. The fossil fuel subsidy is pernicious. I know you are too far from town, and your neighbors are unlikely to chip in. Dang. Tough nut to crack, eh?

Cold Camel

Yes, I am sorry to say that some our Michigan leaders think the road to success is paved by keeping fuel taxes low.

The guest host on CNBC this morning had a pretty succinct summary of the dilemma facing most OECD countries (regarding exploding government debt)--In virtually ever advanced country, currencies will be inflated, or promises will be broken, or some combination thereof.

He, James Chanos, had some very interesting things to say about China. They are building high rises in cities that already have a 15 to 20 percent vacancy rate. And those are the government's numbers. The real vacancy rate is likely higher. There is almost 70 billion square feet of high rise construction right now. That includes commercial, residential and light manufacturing. There is 30 billion commercial office space under construction. To put that in prespective that is a five by five space for every man, woman and child in China. Their banking system is loaded with bad debts.

Chanos' Parting Shots

I think China will be just like Dubai except multiplied, in size, thousands of times.

Ron P.

An interesting metric would be--instead of ratio of total public & private debt to GDP--the ratio of total public & private debt in oil importing countries to remaining post-2005 Global CNOE (Cumulative Net Oil Exports). Debt is increasing, while the volume of post-2005 CNOE is shrinking; it's just a question of how rapid the depletion rate is.

Debt that will never be repaid b/c your CNOE is not there to support economic activity.

Could be compared to the walls of a canyon growing narrower and higher while the current in the stream picks up making the walls go by faster. Oil avalability/affordability on one side and burgeoning debt on the other.

Here is Chanos on January 25th comparing China to Dubai times a thousand!

Chanos Not Calling for China's Impending Crash

Seeking Alpha picked it up and stated, as the title of the piece implies, that Chanos is not calling for the impending crash of China. But it sure looks like his outlook for China is not too rosey. I think he is expecting a huge real estate bust in China but is not sure what this will imply for the rest of the country.

Ron P.

What will happen will be similar to what happened in this country, but worse. If real estate prices plunge, those that have been able to purchase will see a good bit of their value wiped out. Building activity will either stop or come to a crawl, and lots of people lose their jobs. Confidence, and GDP fall.
This will have a knock on effect for the rest of the world. Commodity prices will fall. Oil, lumber, copper, steel - prices go down.
The really interesting part is that the Chinese government has backed itself into a corner. With bad working conditions, pollution, forced evictions for new projects, a LOT of people are very angry with the government. The only reason there isn't civil unrest is because growth is strong and (most) people are making money. No wonder the government is trying to keep the miracle going any way they can. Its very survival depends upon it.

A thought just hit me. I heard, yesterday on TV, that 27 percent of all job losses in the US were in the construction industry. When all that overbuilding in China stops, and it must, then all those construction workers being laid off will be enough to tip China into a deep recession. Then all those others laid off as a result of that recession could very well be enough to cause total collapse.

Ron P.

The real estate prices in China were higher compared to income than several years ago. It is a bubble. There have been reports that Chinese accounting did not include write downs for depreciation and that some assets were being carried on the books for more than what they are worth.

I read of another European manufacturer shutting down and moving operations to China as they have lower wage workers, few environmental restrictions, and cheap electricity. Moves to a less carbon intensive Europe have caused concern in steel, auto, and other manufacturing industries.

European Iron and Steel Industries Complain about Carbon Reductions

The swan song of Supply- side economics or Reaganomics. Every country is pushing Keynesian stimulus. Finance regulation is coming back out of the closet. Can real energy conservation be far behind?

China's resource costs are lower because its cheap labor force allows it a 'special advantage' over the labor forces of developed countries. Since China pays less for wages, the country as a whole can pay more for fuel, out- bidding countries with expensive labor.

China IS different from the US and Eurozone. China has a command economy, it wants its citizens to spend and spend some more. It subsidizes car sales and the construction of office buildings as it did factories ten years ago. Since Chinese exports are shrinking - its overseas customers are going broke - the Chinese themselves have to take up the slack. This requires more money in peoples' pockets. Contradiction alert! Adding more money into pockets dissolves the advantage of low Chinese pay! It also adds to unemployment in China. Adding more cash is inflationary. The loans aren't by themselves, but they provide an incentive for citizens to 'turn out' their savings, which are aggregated wages. This means China is experiencing inflation.

?Inflation is playing into the game as well. The 23 percentage point difference between nominal GDP and growth in the money supply M2 last year has stored up a great deal of inflation for the future. The money is temporarily trapped in property and shows up as property inflation, but it is working into inflation through rising distribution costs.

Money supply cannot grow faster than GDP forever. A prolonged gap between the two usually suggests an asset bubble, i.e. excess money supply is piling up in an asset market. But sustained asset inflation inevitably leads to consumer price inflation, either through the wealth effect on consumption or a cost push on the production side.

China nevertheless requires the growth for social and political reasons and will do whatever it can to continue it.

Inflation is just another form of default.

Reaganomics promised no more argyle sweaters, solar panels, 55mph speed limits or 68 degree thermostats. It's alway painful when cherished ideas are shown by experience to be moronic ... alongside the iconic figures that promoted them. Kissing off Reagan is like cutting off Santa Claus' beard!

Of course, the stupid humans will never change. Turning this crisis around would require simple conservation. Living within our energy means would be the first step to living within our finance means as well. Never happen ...

I generally look toward England to provide an example for what the US will face before long, as they seem to share a similar but worse situation in most respects.

I was surprised and heartened to see they're taking control of their bankers. Maybe before long we'll do the same?


Here we acquiesce when the bankers say "but we have existing contracts signed 30 minutes before your new law". There they say, "Your situation and contract law are not my problem. Work it out, or lose your operating license."

What's it take to get regulators who actually regulate?

Re: EPA biofuels guidelines could spur production of ethanol from corn, up top.

Still left up in the air is whether states can write and enforce their own rules that "exceed"/ignore Federal standards.

California's ARB is a law unto itself and I do not see where this changes that. CARB actions affect the whole country since California is a big market and there are several states that take Californication seriously.

It seems to be a typical Obamian compromise that is unloved by all.

David Strahan writing in the Telegraph.

How long before the lights go out?

after a 30-year boom, UK output finally peaked in 2000 and started to fall – slumping more than a third by 2008. In 2004 Britain became a net importer for the first time, and National Grid expects we will have to import three-quarters of our gas by 2015

It's interesting to see the '100's of years worth of coal' meme in the comments.
Maybe they should look at some of David's other writings.

Great Coal Hole

Whenever I hear the "100's of years worth of (some resource)" I think the best response is:

That's good because we'll need 100's of years worth of the stuff to exploit that 100's of years worth of the stuff

And it's likely to take 100 years to mine/pump it all...

"Running to Stand Still" - U2 (The Joshua Tree)

And so she woke up
Woke up from where she was
Lying still
Said I gotta do something
About where we're going

Step on a steam train
Step out of the driving rain, maybe
Run from the darkness in the night
Singing Ha, Ah La La La De Day
Ah La La La De Day
Ah La La De Day

Sweet the sin
Bitter taste in my mouth
I see seven towers
But I only see one way out

You got to cry without weeping
Talk without speaking
Scream without raising your voice

You know I took the poison
From the poison stream
Then I floated out of here
Singing...Ha La La La De Day
Ha La La La De Day
Ha La La De Day

She runs through the streets
With her eyes painted red
Under black belly of cloud in the rain
In through a doorway she brings me
White gold and pearls stolen from the sea
She is raging
She is raging
And the storm blows up in her eyes
She will...

Suffer the needle chill
She is running to stand


Agreed there is very little British coal left that is economic to mine using traditional methods (deep mine or surface stripping).

However, in situ coal gasification could produce quite a bit of indigenous energy if they can get the technology working. A lot of our coal is in thin seams under the North Sea. It might go some way to offsetting our collapse of North Sea natural gas supply, but since that will be effectively gone in 5 years, and coal gas can only be used in power stations (it has the wrong energy density and is too toxic for domestic supply), it is at best a long shot. It's impact on the climate is probably no worse than oil.

I don't see it taking off fast enough to prevent total economic collapse in this country.

If the plans to build several tens of GW of offshore wind come to pass there could be potential for offshore gas or coal gasification power stations making use of stranded gas and coal reserves in the North Sea and sharing the electrical infrastructure with the wind farms. It's not likely to be cheap and staffing could be interesting!

A few of these CCGT / Coal / Biomass steam cycle / district heating plants to replace the coal plants coming offline might be pretty helpful.

Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report:

Working gas in storage was 2,406 Bcf as of Friday, January 29, 2010, according to EIA estimates. This represents a net decline of 115 Bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 199 Bcf higher than last year at this time and 150 Bcf above the 5-year average of 2,256 Bcf. In the East Region, stocks were 15 Bcf above the 5-year average following net withdrawals of 83 Bcf. Stocks in the Producing Region were 76 Bcf above the 5-year average of 720 Bcf after a net withdrawal of 11 Bcf. Stocks in the West Region were 58 Bcf above the 5-year average after a net drawdown of 21 Bcf. At 2,406 Bcf, total working gas is within the 5-year historical range.

Thanks. The graph shows supply not to be dropping as rapidly--storage amount moving back up to top of range.

In the UK, long range storage has been falling at the maximum rate that the pipes will allow for a few weeks now, just as in 2008/9. The UK problem is not (yet) the amount of gas in storage, but the inadequate rate of it's supply at peak demand.


Aren't there supposed to be multiple storage areas, all feeding in? If I remember correctly, a couple of them got emptied early on, leaving only the long range storage you show.

It's mostly only long range storage being tapped at the moment, mid and short range storage is stuck at about 7.5 days supply and 2 days supply respectively if used in an emergency at max rate. But so little is being used, at current rates of consumption both will last >100 days, I guess some extra expensive gas imports (from somewhere like Russia?) or coal instead of gas are being used.

Yes there are several small/medium sized storage sites and two of them dropped below 2 days supply and were removed from the assummed supply capacity. Warmer weather (relatively speaking) has meant that short and medium range storage isn't being called on to a great extent.

However there's possibly more extremely cold weather coming next week - remains to be seen though as the forecast models have had a lot of uncertainty recently. The US GFS (Global Forecast System) model has been flip-flopping almost every 6 hour run recently but is currently going for very cold for the UK starting early next week.

GM January 2010 auto sales in China were up 97% YOY:

Chinese auto sales expected to grow at double digit rates this year (2010):

Chinese oil imports expected to rise 10% in 2010. Chinese oil production fell slightly in 2009:

European Union unemployment nearly 10%. The youth are more badly effected with nearly 21% unemployment:

Carbon reductions threaten oil and natural gas production as these are carbon intensive fuels. Natural gas (methane) is 60 percent carbon by weight. Carbon taxes threaten jobs. Biofuels production has been shown to be carbon intensive. Carbon capture projects at electic power plants may cause home and factory utility bills to skyrocket.

2 stories in the drumbeat about clean, safe, too cheap to meter nuclear power that make it sound like its a failing idea. Huh.

Who will be the defenders and calling the stories wrong?

The 'mainstream' Dow Jones Co. mentions:

6. Peak Oil and the Population Bomb. China and India each need 500 new cities. The United Nations estimates world population exploding 50% from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050: Three billion more humans demanding more automobiles, exhausting more resources to feed their version of the gas-guzzling "America Dream."

FYI: Buy early!

Seed shortage in 2010?

Will there be a shortage of vegetable seeds for gardeners in 2010?

It is possible, says Barbara Melera, owner of the oldest seed house in the country, D. Landreth Seeds, formerly of Baltimore and now of New Freedom, Pa

But, she said, "In 2009, we had the worst growing season in 50 years." Rain and disease destroyed crops and with them, the seeds for next year's garden.

"Onion sets. And a cucumber seed shortage," she predicted. "We are being told that the cucumber harvest was catastrophic, attacked late in the season by woolly mildew. There was fruit, but no viable seeds inside.

"We are being told that many, many varieties simply won't be available."

...Word of possible shortages must be leaking out, Melera said, because retailers are telling her they had their best December in years

Wet Summer, More Demand Could Create Seed Shortage

...poor growing season last year and increased orders from Europe could make it difficult for home gardeners to get seeds for the most popular cucumber variety and some vegetables this spring. Farmers, who usually grow different varieties than home gardeners, aren't likely to be affected.

Seeds for what's known as open-pollinated cucumbers seem to be most scarce, but carrots, snap peas and onions also could be in short supply.

"I suspect there will be some seeds you just won't be able to buy if you wait too long on it," said Bill Hart, the wholesale manager in charge of seed purchasing at Chas. C. Hart Seed Company in Wethersfield, Conn. "The sugar snap peas we're not able to get at all, and other companies that have it will sell out pretty quickly."

The problem is primarily due to soggy weather last year that resulted in a disappointing seed crop. European seed growers also had a bad year, leading to a big increase in orders for American seeds.

More people growing own food, seed firms say

Last year, W. Atlee Burpee & Co. had to tap its reserves of onion seeds to serve the demand from home gardeners.

"Onions are not what you would expect to be a high-volume vegetable, but the craze last year was so unprecedented that even the onion — your basic yellow bulb onion — was being sold," Burpee head George Ball said.

If Burpee's near-seed shortage is any indicator, edible gardening is going strong — and the trend is expected to mushroom this year as even more people jump on the grow-your-own-food bandwagon.

Driving the trend is a number of factors, experts say, including the influence of the locavore movement (which encourages the consumption of locally grown foods), the economic downturn (which in turn has people thinking about saving money by growing their own food) and an influx of generations X and Y embracing the idea of self-sufficiency

And hope for a good season this year.

I do my garden planning over Thanksgiving and have most of my seed orders placed by late Dec or early Jan. I do this in part especially to avoid shortages per the above articles.

just heard on Democracy Now, 84% of news today is generated by either corporate or government entities

Swordfish have hit Angolan crude oil loadings before, including Plutonio last year, traders said.

Okay, I know I'm not an engineer but ...

Yeah, I saw the excerpt and said "wait, was this a militant group known as Swordfish, or an actual, you know, swordfish." Good grief.

Yeah, I was wondering about that too. Are loading pipes of that sort made of tinfoil? Can one of our experts weigh in? Rockman? Westexas? Somebody?

PaulS -

This is something Godzilla would do, but a mere swordfish???

Maybe part of the loading line was a big rubber hose. Still ......

Maybe these particular swordfish have evolved a hacksaw blade in place of their "sword."

I had a similiar reaction as tejanojim when I first glanced over the excerpt of the article. I thought "Swordfish" must be an organization, kinda like "Spectre" in the James Bond films...

This is a link to a video of the swordfish.

The problem seems now to have been solved.

Sword fish are no joke. Re: hoses, when I worked for Petrobras out in the Campos basin as a diver we did maintenance on large rubberized floating fuel hoses, so it's not impossible.


That is a Marlin, not a swordfish.

Paul -- thanks to Gail's video it makes sense. Not too familiar with this type of facility but those are essentially big valves. You can see some hoses close to the fish's bill. These are probably hydraulic control lines used to funtion the valves. Mess them up and you've lost control of the flow. I'm sure there are backup system but they don't always work.

Yep, looks like the hydraulics on a BOP. The video explains it all, no more mystery.

they hate our freedom, preemption may be necessary.

please don't give them any ideas...


Another sign spoken of in the aboriginal prophecies of old:

"When the squid seek shallow waters, know that the time of dying has begun.
When the swordfish slash the arteries of the world, the time of cleansing has come."

OK I made this up, but it sounds plausible ;)

On a related note, ants are becoming quite militant where I live. Is there a Gaian revolt in progress?

As if the swordfish attack wasn't strange enough, we get at the very top of the column the prediction of a death of a whole technology ("Farewell To The Moon") simply because the U.S. have let their bankers rob the culture blind. Sniffle, sniffle, cry, we can't go because we don't have the "resources"...sniffle.

What resources have proven to be in such short supply, in a world that has Dubai building the great giant penis-scraper to the sky, and the U.S. spending more on pizza and dog and cat medical plans than most nations can afford to spend on healthcare for their children? Give me a break. Simply because the "advanced" nations are corrupt incompetent tulip bulb mania idiots means very little concerning the longer path of the future.

The American myth endures: If we decide to exit the race, the race is over.


I have to go study the Lyrics to Dark Side again.. I'm starting to suspect that we can't get TO the moon because we're already there!

That story did make me think about this slogan that 'Technology doesn't replace Energy', in terms of the practical requirements of a present-day moon-trip, where we would be able to save vast amounts of payload and the resulting fuel needed, because of the compounded gains made with electronic miniturization, robotics and telemetry, communications and video, etc..

To whit, NASA's spunky little Solar EV's, Spirit and Opportunity are almost SIX years old!! .. but were only expected to last 90 days or so.. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/index.cfm?id=882

Spirit is stuck right now, as Mars Winter approaches.. so we'll see.. but there has been a lot of surplus info fed to us from this project, not only about Mars, but about the equipment that we sent there.


Let me think. 1960, or thereabouts, JFK says lets go to the moon. Nine years later we're on the moon. Cool. I purchased a calculator in 1970, made by the Monroe Company. It was just slightly smaller than a shoe box, but, had all of the functions and even carried a decimal point. Cool.

Thirty eight years later GWB says lets go to the moon again. But, it ought to take until 2025 to get the stuff together. Cool.

I think it was either the Swedes or the Danes who recently found their "moon rock" presented to their national museum was in fact a piece of petrified wood, probably from somewhere in Arizona.

I think one of you guys ought to build a moon ship in your garage. Given the progress of technology these past 39 years it should be not much more than a weekend project, along the lines of building a soap box racer. Most of what is needed could probably be salvaged from discarded cell phones, you know, the nice ones.

Best from the Fremont where the balmy desert breezes waft through the Sage and Rabbit Brush

I think it was either the Swedes or the Danes who recently found their "moon rock" presented to their national museum was in fact a piece of petrified wood, probably from somewhere in Arizona.

Dutch, I believe.

First rate Snark, Fremont!

I'm not suggesting the space program is easy.. but I am proposing that the energy requirements HAVE been helped with improved technologies. Why not put a couple Mars-type rovers onto the moon for research before or instead of a manned mission? Maybe a couple of remote vehicles at a selected site could do a bunch of site-prep that would make a manned trip more feasible, and preempt some of the energy costs of doing business down there under the overhead of the Life-support systems that follow the warm-blooded visitors everywhere.

Maybe what GWB was missing was the CCCP. They were effective motivators, I'm told.

Or the most useful thing would be a radio telescope arrey on the dark side of the moon...always turned away from the noisy earth, it could peer deeper into the universe than we could have only dreamed of a few years ago...the whole thing could be shipped up there in kit folding form and automatically fold out and operate with no humans present and bounce the radio signal off a sattelite and back to earth, romotely operationg with no humans present. Oh the things we could learn....:-)


But isn't that side of the moon where the aliens have their base? ;-)


. . .things we COULD HAVE learned. Past tense. Too late now, can't afford it. Too bad.

You mean something like Burt Rutan's Space Ship One? And it runs on...

SpaceShipOne, set to be the first nongovernmental crewed vehicle to reach space, uses a combination of rubber and nitrous oxide — also known as laughing gas


His SpaceShip Two is pretty cool too ;-)

Yeah, but it always seemed like a useless stunt to me. The difference in energy requirement between reaching 100KM and reaching low earth orbit is roughly a factor of twenty. And if you don't reach orbit, you only stay in space for a couple of minutes, not enough time to do anything useful. His creations are only usable as tools for fleecing rich tourists.

Pressure on earth’s forests picking up fast (click bolded link for free download):

ABSTRACT: "Forests have long been a hinterland: remote, “backward” areas largely controlled by external, often urban, actors and seen to be of little use to national development or the world except as a supply of low-valued natural resources. 2009 marks the beginning of the end of this era: Forest lands are booming in value for the production of food, fuel, fiber and now carbon. New global satellite and communications technology allow the world to peer into, assess the value of, and potentially control forests from anywhere in the world. More than ever, forests are bargaining chips in global climate negotiations and markets. This unprecedented exposure and pressure, and risk to local people and their forests, is being met by unprecedented levels of local organization and political influence, providing nations and the world at large tremendous opportunity to right historic wrongs, advance rural development and save forests. But the chaos in Copenhagen at COP15 laid bare the looming crises that the world will face if the longer-term trends of ignored rights, hunger, and climate change remain inadequately addressed in 2010. While the era of the hinterland is ending, the future of forest areas is not yet clear. There will be unparalleled national and global attention and investment in forests in 2010—but who will drive the agenda and who will make the decisions? Will forest areas remain controlled from beyond? On whose terms will the hinterland be integrated into global markets and politics? This report takes stock of the current status of forest rights and tenure globally, assesses the key issues and trends of 2009, and identifies key questions and challenges that we will face in 2010."

I think Gail is a bit mistaken here. There has been a controversy within NASA ever since Constellation was born. From its onset it was always going to be bleeding other, arguably more practical and productive, programs. Obama's decision realigns NASA's priorities to supporting the ISS and unmanned exploration. The NASA budget was actually increased by $6 billion which is an increase in real dollars. The problem with Constellation is that it would most likely turn into a massive financial liability that far outsripped its projected costs.

Don't get me wrong. Generally (longview) I am a huge proponent of the manned exploration of space. For All Mankind is my favorite movie. But at this time it just does not make sense to me. The ROI on it compared to our other options in space seems awfully puny. I think Obama made the correct decision this time around almost regardless of our economic situation.

All I did was quite someone else. I don't think I expressed any opinions.

ooops... my apologies

"Don't get me wrong. Generally (longview) I am a huge proponent of the manned exploration of space."

Lets do it in 2020. That is far enough in the future to deny any association with the idea.

IMHO people will be exploring in their bare feet on the Olduval for rabbit tracks before they are again exploring the moon. But then again, I'm a doomer, (realist), whatever. We will live in interesting times ... like tomorrow's stock market if the 10K stops are hit.

Might notice Gold down $44 and Siver down over a dollar. Come on baby, keep going down so I can buy some more.

Subject to late trades which might just fiddle it back above 10,000 the Dow closed below the magic number at 9999.69 at the bell.

It looks like it ultimately settled a bit above, at 10002.18, a three month low.

Apparently at least part of the problem is renewed fears of European government defaults:

Fears Rise of Euro Government Default

Financial markets swooned Thursday amid rising fears of a government debt default in Europe, highlighting the seriousness of the challenges facing the euro currency as fiscally challenged countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain dig themselves out of debt.

After a brief respite early this week, the cost of insuring against default the debt of euro-zone members with large budget deficits jumped late Wednesday and rattled investors more broadly on Thursday.

Blue-chip stock indexes in Spain and Portugal slumped nearly 6% and 5%, respectively, while an index of Europe's 600 biggest companies dropped 2.7%. The euro sank more than 1% against the U.S. dollar to an eight-month low of $1.3727 and lost 3% of its value against the Japanese yen.

It sounds like the countries borrowed too much, and can't pay it back.

Today the Congress raised the US Federal Debt limit to $14.3 trillion. The present GDP of the US is around $14.3 trillion. As the present US Federal Debt is $12.44 trillion according to zFacts,com, the deficit going forward of $1.56 trillion would by itself put the Federal Debt to GDP ratio at 100% by years end. However we must consider Fanny and Freddie debt and losses plus FHA losses plus all of the bailout losses on the books.
If we are honestly accounting the Federal Debt, it is already over the 100% to GDP ratio IMO. We also have for years had a negative current account of $400-800 billion a year. The US also has forecasted $1 trillion federal deficits out 10 years.
The US is living in the proverbial "glass house" and should not throw stones at anybody including China or Europe. This is also a Country that has borrowed too much and does not have the will and maybe the ability to pay it back IMO.

Most OECD governments are speeding toward the cliff. Some are just closer than others.

In the United States, state and city governments seem to be even closer to the edge than the federal government. Last year, the government bailed them out. If it stops at all, or even if it doesn't increase, some are going to go over the edge.

Yes to all and maybe ,just maybe, this reality is beginning to penetrate the euphoric cloud surrounding the markets since the sub prime (PO) 6660 bottom. Most of the 'recovery' has of course been reallocation of liability from private hands into government balance sheets. And a few items may signal the string is quickly played out.

Today CDS rate on Greek default went straight through 522 basis points on a 1 year (cost over $500,000 to protect 10 mil worth of Athens bucks for 1 yr) A story floated out late, yet to be confirmed, that there is 40 billion euros worth of shadow debt on the book for Greece that will pretty well wipe out wht they just managed to finance last week.

Yesterday Portugal tried to float 500 million in loans and could not get buyers for 200 million of them. So a treasury auction failed. That's significant.

Do these amounts matter? Well maybe not in the grand scheme of things unless one takes into account what you are pointing out. The elephants in the room are essentially in the same condition.

"What is so good about the dollar today? There are more flys hovering around their little cowpies than by our little cowpies" , Rick Santelli CNBC. I would only add that ours is one humongous pile of Elephant DoDo that nobody wants to shovel.

The whole picture along with plummeting revenues, unemployment duration, current accounts, is beginning to unravel. Tomorrow we may learn (what we already know) that there were maybe 1 million more jobs lost March-April '08-'09 than previously told and that's gonna mean we have to get another big stim-pack going but then there is this little problem you have neatly outlined which is infecting the economies of the world at present.

If this were a computer crash maybe we could reload the system from the other partition on the hard drive. Guess not, so roll them presses, and let the elephant chips fall where they may.

Good point.

Also the amount of Euros outstanding in their money base has been about the same since last July. However since about the same time the Federal Reserve has printed up about a $1 trillion more dollars.

Therefore any one who claims the dollar has more 'value', or less risk, now surely isn't looking at the facts. Granted in the short run, huge amounts of speculative foreign exchange positioning can and does affect currency prices.

Next in Line for a Bailout: Social Security?

Don't look now. But even as the bank bailout is winding down, another huge bailout is starting, this time for the Social Security system.

A report from the Congressional Budget Office shows that for the first time in 25 years, Social Security is taking in less in taxes than it is spending on benefits.

I have run into a fair number of people who say, "I got laid off from work, but I'm 62 (or 63 or 64), so I'm just going to start collecting Social Security now." This is the beginning edge of the baby boomer coming up--there are going to be a bunch of them. And the kids entering the workforce are earning minimum wage on part-time jobs, so aren't paying in all that much.

While everybody has to decide for themselves, SS payments are much higher if delayed until normal. In addition, raises in SS do not, in recent years, keep up with inflation in food, energy, utilities, health care and other necessities. Most general population retirees live longer and need more income in later years and nursing home care is not, to my understanding, a SS benifit.
Most will have to get part time work anyway, so it might be better to rough it now, while able to work, rather than to be sorry when unable to do any work for pay.

Ha! I guess you haven't been paying attention. There won't be any Social Security. Better to get it now. A bird in the hand......

Ohh, chear up productivity increased by 6% last year! That means businesses could still find deadwood that they could throw overboard. Profits are up. What a great time to be an owner! So the bosses get fewer workers, and workers who are motivated by fear. Pretty good conditions for the oligarchs. As emperor Palpatine often said "everything is going according to plan". Soon we will have three clases: Oligarchs, servants/artisans, and peasants. I'd guess the breakdown would be roughly 1%, 9% and 90%. If you are smart, but don't have the capital to become an oligarch, you got a good chance at making the servant/artisan class.

This is not the attitude I find among small business owners I know, nor some of the larger ones. Instead, they take large personal pay cuts and strive to cut executive and sales pay disproportionately just to keep employees on the payroll.

Of course, some deadwood deserves to be cut, but usually after the first cost-cutting pass anybody after that was a valued, experienced employee, unless the business had severe issues before the hard times.

I do think the "upper middle" professional class is taking a beating but many will hopefully end up the "new, narrower middle-class", but heavily taxed as though they are "rich".

In the US, average salaries and wages are going to have to go down - way down. This was inevitable once we went whole hog with the globalization. Move to a global economy and global wages are going to revert to the global mean. That is good news for workers in low-wage countries like China, but it is very bad news for workers in high-wage countries like the US.

Since wages and salaries are "sticky" and we don't tend to do across-the-board percentage cuts, it tends to be a more messy and bumpy and uneven process of adjusting wages downward. A lot of it consists of people losing good-paying jobs and eventually having to settle for lower-paying jobs - or young people not being able to find the high-paying jobs they were counting upon in the first place, and having to settle for something a lot lower. It is going to be like this for a long, long time.

as fiscally challenged countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain dig themselves out of debt.

Hey! What is with Spain? I knew about Greece and Portugal, but Spain was supposed to be cool now... like our economy. Inflation ended, sale of bonds great... no problems. Recovery personified (nationified?). Now, all of a sudden, CNN and WSJ are saying they are in the tank again. What happened? Does anyone know for sure?

Also... the major investors are packing it in. What's going on now? Something is happening that I cannot find...

Or else, reality finally struck.

No. Not that.

realizing that the countries borrowed too much, so have we. Something else is going on. Inquiring minds want to know.


Hey Zap

Permit me a 'what if'. The EU had a standard debt to GDP ratio of 3%. I'm not sure of the charter or how it's supposed to be enforced. Anyway obviously there are a bunch of countries at least a couple of bus stops past that neighborhood. Yeah and the US is ...well pick your own metaphor.

Suppose ,like this story had today, somebody like Greece or Spain was not only in violation but did have 'shadow debt' in excess of the stated 10% or so they were showing. Now if other EU members were threatening to boot a nation (read, not bail out or honor support agreements) That could put a sovereign out on their own so to speak.

Now we have a contagion that could be unleashed on counterparties who have no ability to handle the impact of such large derivatives. As we saw from the subprime mess the CDS market is the nuclear exchange of the financial collapse. Which countries are too big to fail and which are small enough to cut free w/o taking a big chunk of the international financial fabric with them?

I'll admit to there being a fair amount of limb between me and the trunk on this one so I expect it to be sawn off pretty quickly.

Or else, reality finally struck.

Yeah, maybe it's no longer a "Bull Market"

As one driver put it in a complaint posted to NHTSA's pubic Web site, "When braking, if a pothole or bump in the road is hit, the car seemingly jerks forward/accelerates for a split second."

Toyota officials in Japan described the problem as a "disconnect" in the vehicle's complex anti-lock brake system (ABS) that causes less than a one-second lag. At 60 mph, though, a vehicle will have traveled nearly another 90 feet(!) before the brakes begin to take hold.


Lately I have not been able peruse the Drumbeat as often as in the past, yet during the times I have been able to, it strikes me as strange that I have not seen one link concerning the woes of Toyota.
Especially since so many here were certain of the wisdom and the intellectual fortitude(superiority?) they demonstrated by purchasing such.
Could it be that the "psychology of previous investment" hinders the recognition that despite our intellectual prowess, sound reasoning skills and fealty to scientific method, TODers can make mistakes or be taken in by slick advertising campaigns?

Especially since so many here were certain of the wisdom and the intellectual fortitude(superiority?) they demonstrated by purchasing such.

I don't own a Prius but the rational of transport that uses less fuel is still a good one. How that was done in the old days was small and lightweight. Complex things like ABS and airbags mean you have to sub in technology like batteries.

But hey, tell ya what. Come back in 10 years (assuming there is an internet) and lets see if the people concerned about fuel avability were right. Or perhaps the pro electrification in transport will be right.

I'm not so sure there is much behind these claims. This looks like a media feeding frenzy to me. Once claims get made public, then all kinds of people will come out of the woodwork making claims. Probably more a function of suggestion working on faulty memory then of deliberate fraud. Brakes of course can not do any good for a moment after you hit a bump/pothole, as the tire has to be in contact with the ground for any decelleration to ocurr. Now presumably, it is slow to respond. But real diagnosis requires actual engineering data, not media witchhunt.

Now the one thing that does happen with hybrids, is if you are coasting in electric only mode, and want to suddenly accelerate, there will be a lag, because the engine has to be restarted. Perhaps people are transferring that feeling to braking as well.

"Now the one thing that does happen with hybrids, is if you are coasting in electric only mode, and want to suddenly accelerate, there will be a lag, because the engine has to be restarted. Perhaps people are transferring that feeling to braking as well."

Absolutely wrong.
There is no time lag what-so-ever. The reason is because the power demand is immediately supplied by the electric motor. In the case of the Prius, this amounts to 295 lbs of torque which is instantly on demand. It is conventional vehicles with ICE only power which suffer time lags (like my old Ford Taurus which I actually had to compensate for when initiating a passing maneuver).

Pressing the accelerator pedal on a hybrid is literally the same as flipping a light switch.

be taken in by slick advertising campaigns?

The Prius never had a significant ad campaign (see SUVs, Hunners, big pick-ups for that).

So your premise is wrong, since there never was such a "slick ad campaign".

Furthermore, real world experience in the USA is that the Prius is the most fuel efficient car available (once old Honda Insight went away) for most people.

One small recall will make no difference to that reality, except that an astute TOD reader might find now a good time to buy a used Prius a couple of thousand $ cheaper.

Best Hopes for those wise enough to buy a Prius,


They use the same ad campaign that Apple pitches to sell their grossly overrated products.

Okay. What's going on here? Check out the oil prices for the past week. No. Check out the prices for 24 hours! Start at $77, down to $72, up to $76, now at abgout $73? Is that not a bit extreme?

Markets down 2.5 % to 3% today.

Watch tomorrow... between what we don't know happened with Spain, and what we don't know about that spooked the big money people, it could be interesting. The "fear" index up 24%? In a day? Somebody knows and isn't telling...

What was it that Red Buttons used to sing? "Strange things are happening?"


Obama Underwrites Offshore Drilling

Too bad it's not in U.S. waters.


Here's an update from Mongolia (Feb 5th):

According to a report by the Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Light Industry, the nationwide livestock loss has now reached 1,853,707 heads as of February 2.
The death toll is likely to reach up to 4 million by spring if conditions, which include temperatures as low as -50 Celsius (minus 58 Fahrenheit) continue, the Mongolian government says.

One third of the country’s population lead nomadic lives and depend entirely on livestock for a living. Their cattle, sheep, goats, horses and camels are the main household asset and are perishing from cold, exhaustion or starvation. Total economic losses so far are estimated at $62 million. Also, substantial numbers of wildlife are dying and migrating to neighboring Russia and China.

Fourteen of Mongolia’s 21 provinces are considered seriously affected. According to the FAO assessment mission, in eight provinces 21,000 herder families owning between 100 and 300 head of livestock have each lost more than 50 percent of their herds. Another problem is food insecurity. The affected families face increased levels of food and livelihood insecurity as their cash income rapidly declines and prices of fodder climb sharply, compared with last year.

Fodder, supplementary feed and veterinary care is urgently needed for weak and stressed animals until mid-April, with funding requirements of an estimated $6 million. If assistance is not provided soon, the mission warned, spreading poverty will lead to mass migration to the urban centers later this year.Heavy snowfall is forecasted in western parts of the western-most region on February 4, and in the entire western half of the country on the 5th, spreading to most of the country on the 6th and reaching the Gobi regions on the 7th, according to the National Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology. Snowstorms reaching up to 16-18 meters per second is predicted in the western half of the country on the 5th of February.


A dear friend of mine travelled to the far west of Mongolia (one of the worst affected areas) last week to look after her sick mother, who lives in a yurt. I've been trying to call her, but so far no luck. I'm getting really worried.