Drumbeat: February 12, 2010

National Review: National Security Goes Green

The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review report gives unprecedented attention to the issue of climate change. Previous QDR reports did not identify climate change, global warming, or other environmental issues as major concerns for U.S. security. The 2010 QDR, by contrast, dedicates three of its 105 pages (plus executive summary) to the issue, highlighting it (along with energy) in a section dedicated to its impact on the "future security environment."

All in all, the report mentions "climate change" 19 times. China is mentioned only eleven times, Iran five times, Russia four times, and North Korea three times. It seems that the Obama administration views climate change as a major national-security concern. The QDR sees the potential consequences of global warming — retreating glaciers, extreme weather, rising sea levels and temperatures, food security and water scarcity, disease — as potential contributors to instability and conflict.

This approach leads to recommendations that limit the flexibility of the military by, for example, limiting its options regarding the use of energy. While the QDR asserts that such steps will not undermine the military’s ability to perform its missions, it is likely they will. This is like telling the fire department to cut down on hydrant use in order to conserve water.

Medvedev backs tighter oil controls, no action yet

OMSK, Russia (Reuters) - President Dmitry Medvedev lent support to the idea of tightening state control over oil and refined products exports but stopped short on Friday of adopting proposals that would have effectively restored the Soviet-era monopoly.

"I support (Deputy Prime Minister) Igor Ivanovich Sechin on issues of supply control," Medvedev said at a meeting on energy with top government officials and oil executives of the world's largest energy producer.

More Hot Air on Peak Oil

We've been having that debate for years already, and the consensus is that Peak Oil will occur sometime between 5 years and 50 years from now. When it comes, we will not see a steep drop off in oil supply but a so-called "undulating plateau" with oil companies responding to rising prices by finding new and novel ways to wring more oil out of the ground. Likewise motorists and corporations will respond to rising prices by buying smaller cars and exploring alternatives, like powering cars with ammonia or turning coal into liquid fuel. Recall how quickly we all formed carpools and abandoned our SUVs during 2008's price spike.

For Venture Capital, Efficiency Is in Vogue

Venture capital investments in cleantech companies plunged by 50 percent to $2.6 billion last year as investors put their money in energy efficiency projects instead, according to a report released this week by Ernst & Young.

Investors shifted their money from capital intensive solar and biofuel companies into firms that use technology to reduce or monitor energy use, the Ernst & Young report found, because the funding requirements are lower and the returns are often faster.

Sowing the seeds of change

There's an exciting new movement sweeping the globe that focuses on local sustainability in response to peak oil and climate change.

One goal of this movement is to grow and buy more food locally. This simple, logical concept aims to improve food quality, reduce exposure to pesticides and genetically modified crops, and save resources.

With Masdar Institute, Abu Dhabi Seeks Reputation as Clean-Tech Research Hub

As the United Arab Emirates looks to diversify its oil- and gas-dominated economy, the royal family is hoping that its Masdar Institute of Science and Technology will lead the way — and it is aggressively recruiting students and researchers toward that end.

Oregon to Reduce Clean Energy Incentives

Oregon’s House of Representatives Wednesday passed a bill that will rein in a business energy tax credit that was designed to help strengthen the city’s renewable energy industry.

The Oregonian newspaper pointed out in a series of articles that the program had several problems, including being so popular that it put funding for other programs in jeopardy.

Family values

What is almost universal, however, is the public, socially integrated nature of the family. No matter how weird its form, the family is almost everywhere an economic and politic unit. As Cristopher Lasch pointed out, the idea of the family being a private place removed from the economic world is a fairly recent innovation. It appeared in Victorian England, among the upper class, and slowly spread outward and downward during the last two centuries until it became the norm at least in the developed world.

It is no coincidence that this idea appeared in the cradle of the industrial revolution. In the preindustrial world, families could hardly afford to keep one of their members idle. It was only after colonization, and then industrialization has created enough surplus that families were progressively removed from the economic sphere.

Will Obama Destroy Any Hope of U.S. Energy Independence?

The U.S. consumes nearly three times the amount of oil that it produces domestically on a daily basis. How can this statistic get any worse, you might ask?

Imagine in 2010 the Obama administration persuades Congress to pass a budget that results in a reduction of domestic oil production by 10% - 20%, making the supply/demand imbalance even more lopsided. Foreign oil companies will gain a distinct advantage over American domestic operators as an unintended consequence of these proposals.

Sound farfetched? It’s closer to reality than you may think… If it comes to pass, it will likely be the biggest structural change in the U.S. domestic oil and gas industry in decades and have far-reaching implications for investors and for the entire country.

Cold-weather states lose heating aid to South

The South was the beneficiary last month when the Obama administration released $490 million in emergency heating funds, using a formula that took into account colder-than-normal temperatures and, for the first time, unemployment levels. Both factors favored the South, so Sun Belt states reaped the biggest gains.

Compared to last year, Maine saw a drop in emergency aid of 81 percent, followed by Vermont's 80 percent and New Hampshire's 78 percent. Alaska's was down 62 percent, Minnesota 28 percent.

By contrast, emergency funding more than tripled for Florida and Georgia, and more than doubled in North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas, according to the Northeast-Midwest Senate Coalition. Even Puerto Rico picked up $540,000 under the formula.

Total Spearheads Remote UK North Sea Frontier

Total SA said Friday it will go ahead with the development of two gas fields in a remote area of the U.K. North Sea that is the country's last big untapped hydrocarbon basin.

The French company's decision is a major boost for the flagging U.K. oil industry and a notable success for recent changes to the North Sea tax regime.

The Oil Kingdom Goes Green

Saudi Arabia is the world’s richest oil producer — the desert kingdom pumps out nearly 10 million barrels a day of crude. So when Saudi Arabia turns to the sun to solve its energy problems, you should sit up and take notice.

Cold realities of the wind farms that won't work when it snows

When the country ground to a halt during weeks of sub-zero temperatures, wind farms across the country came out in sympathy and their blades refused to budge.

The problem seems to be that the cold weather was accompanied by high pressure and a distinct lack of wind and meant at a time when even the most frugal were turning up the thermostat, one of the country's most controversial energy supplies all but dried up.

Ethanol Opinions From the NY Times? Have You Ever Eaten Iowa Feed Corn? Yuk!

Brazil and other countries will continue to clear virgin land and move the land into production regardless of a biofuels strategy in the United States. Contrary to the indirect land use argument, the USA is still idling productive land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Slowly, the USA is moving back to fence row to fence row production similar to the early 1970's. Farmers, Agribusiness and taxpayers will all benefit from our agricultural capacity moving towards 100% of use.

Tracking U.S. farmers’ supply of nitrogen fertilizer

We burn through more of it per capita than any other country; and our appetite for it can only be sated with massive imports.

No, not oil—I’m talking about nitrogen fertilizer. With only 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. consumes nearly 12 percent of the globe’s annual synthetic nitrogen fertilizer production. And we’re producing less and less of it at home—meaning that, as with petroleum, we’re increasingly dependent on other nations for this key crop nutrient.

Vancouver goes for the green and more

Most of us will never experience the thrill of Olympic victory. Our decrepit old computers and TVs, on the other hand, might make it to the podium as glittering gold medals — thanks to an innovation from this year's winter Olympics.

The 2010 games will boast the first medals in Olympic history to contain metal recovered from end-of-life electronics that would otherwise go to the landfill.

Kremlin eyes oil export control

Russia's top energy official, Deputy Premier Igor Sechin, wants the state to take full control of the country's exports of oil and refined products, a system which would resemble the oil export monopoly in place during the Soviet era.

A document obtained by Reuters showed Sechin held a meeting in early January with energy and transport ministers, officials from the state security agency the FSB - formerly known as the KGB - as well as customs officials to discuss new export regulations.

Also: Russia seeks greater control over oil shipments via rail, road

Falklands oil prospects raise Argentina-Britain tensions

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – British oil drilling operations around the Falkland Islands are whipping up new tensions with Argentina almost 30 years after the two countries went to war over the South Atlantic archipelago.

The former foes locked horns again Thursday after Buenos Aires blocked a shipment of pipes it said was bound for the Falklands: the scene of a brief but bloody conflict in 1982 that Britain won but Argentina has not forgotten.

Crude Falls After China Seeks to Cool Expansion, Dollar Gains

(Bloomberg) -- Oil fell in New York for the first day in five after China, the world’s second-largest oil consumer, sought to cool its economic expansion.

The People’s Bank of China ordered banks to set aside more deposits as reserves for the second time in a month, boosting the dollar and sending futures below $74 a barrel. A weekly Energy Department report today may show U.S. crude and gasoline supplies rose last week, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

“The latest move is another attempt to cool down rampant growth,” said Neil Atkinson, director of energy research at Datamonitor in London. “The outlook for oil demand growth for China has been getting pared back, and I think they’ll be lucky to see much more than 300,000 barrels a day growth this year.”

China January Power Use Gains 40% as Economy Recovers

(Bloomberg) -- China’s January electricity consumption jumped 40.1 percent from a year earlier as an economic recovery in the world’s second-biggest power producer spurred demand from factories.

Power use reached 353.1 billion kilowatt-hours last month, 2.7 percent higher than in December, the Beijing-based National Energy Administration said on its Web site today. Consumption by secondary industries, which includes manufacturing and construction, grew 46 percent to 262.4 billion kilowatt-hours.

Jeremy Leggett - The Next Crisis: Peak Oil

This is a loud blast of the whistle from a fairly broad group of companies. Neither are we alone on this side of the “premature peak oil” debate. The CEOs of oil companies Total and Petrobras are on record as saying the world will never produce more than 89 million barrels a day. The IEA has warned of an oil supply shock within five years and on Thursday raised its oil demand forecast for 2010 to 86.5 million barrels a day.

But the taskforce companies find themselves on the minority side of a polarized debate. Those on the other side--led by BP, ExxonMobil and others - offer a much more comforting narrative: forty years of supply at least, and no chance of global oil supply dropping before demand does. Theirs is the view that is favored in most governments, and in boardrooms, often implicitly. I know of no company that views premature peak oil as a serious risk issue.

Peak oil theory could become a stark reality

“Within five years we think peak oil is going to affect every aspect of our daily lives,” warned Philip Dilley, chairman of engineer Arup, yesterday.

We are set for shortages and rising prices. And just to cheer you up, gas is probably going the same way too.

It all sounds familiar. The concept of “peak oil”, the stresses caused when oil production stops increasing, has been kicking around since the 1950s.

It hasn’t happened yet and, to many, the theory is becoming a little tiresome.

But the membership of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, whose report Dilley was introducing, suggests these concerns are reaching the mainstream and business is getting anxious.

Richard Branson Gives Peak Oil Street Cred

Peak oil has long suffered from a credibility problem. The food-hoarding, live-off-the grid survivalists scared the general public away from the legitimate debate surrounding the world’s oil supply with all of their conspiracy theories and worries about mutant urban cannibals. But Richard Branson, the well-coiffed billionaire and founder of Virgin Group has managed the impossible: turn what the mainstream considers an “extreme” view into something much more palatable, without losing the urgency.

Exxon, Chevron ‘Land Grab’ for Europe Shale Gas, JPMorgan Says

(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. and explorers including Chevron Corp. are securing land in Europe to exploit shale gas, a hard-to-extract deposit that could reduce global demand for liquefied natural gas, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said.

...“A land-grab has occurred in Europe over the last two years with majors such as Exxon, Conoco, Chevron and Statoil ASA all participating, not willing to miss out as they did in the U.S.,” said Mark Greenwood, a Sydney-based analyst with JPMorgan. “While it’s still early days for European and Chinese shale gas plays, its potential is yet another threat for the LNG supply-demand balance.”

The International Energy Agency said in November the world may have an “acute glut” of gas in the next few years because production of so-called unconventional fuel, which includes shale gas, is set to rise 71 percent between 2007 and 2030.

Natural Gas Transportation - Why Not?

When I first started advocating natural gas transportation, the supply question was not so easily answered. However, when I looked at Alaskan and lower-48 natural gas reserves, low cost LNG supplies from a diverse number of sources, and the huge natural gas reserves being discovered worldwide, it looked as though supply would be adequate at least 30-40 years. It certainly seemed a more secure bet than a worldwide oil supply which will have trouble keeping pace with worldwide demand.

Since that time everyone is now quite aware of the shale plays which have been a complete game changer in the energy arena. It is now clear the US has enough domestic natural gas to supply home heating and industrial consumption as well as to replace all dirty coal electrical generation and power half the US car and truck fleet - all of this, for at least 100 years.

Turkmens Seek Foreign Bids for Caspian Fields to Expand Market

(Bloomberg) -- Turkmenistan, holder of the world’s fourth-largest gas reserves, is seeking bids from foreign producers to develop untapped Caspian Sea deposits as Europe, Russia and China compete for supplies.

Gazprom Cleared to Build $10 Billion Baltic Pipeline

(Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom, the world’s largest natural-gas producer, won its last permit to build a $10 billion pipeline to Germany, its first direct link to western Europe.

Iraq sets up new oil player

Iraq has launched a fourth state oil company, with the new outfit - the Midland Oil Company - overseeing development of fields in the country's central belt.

Mend awaits talk invitation

Nigeria's main militant group will wait to be invited by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to resume peace talks and its ceasefire in the oil-producing Niger Delta remains suspended, it said on today.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) dismissed claims by another militant faction to have blown up key pieces of oil infrastructure this week but said small attacks by disgruntled communities and oil thieves continued.

Shell says no reports of attack on Nigeria ops

LAGOS (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell said on Friday it had no report of an attack on its operations in Nigeria's restive Niger Delta following a claim by a militant group to have blown up one of its manifolds.

Nigeria acting pres approves oil savings disbursal

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria's acting president has approved the disbursal of $2 billion from windfall oil savings to the country's 36 states and government agencies, Minister of State for Finance Remi Babalola said on Friday.

Canada Will Use Robot Subs to Map Arctic Sea Floor, Boost Territorial Claims

Two robot submarines will plunge into the Arctic next month in an effort to help Canada stake a claim to a large swath of potentially mineral-rich seafloor in the polar region.

New study links drilling to Indonesia mud volcano

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A team of scientists said in a report on Friday that they had found the strongest evidence yet linking a devastating mud volcano in Indonesia to drilling at a gas exploration well by local energy firm PT Lapindo Brantas.

Rap Moguls Go From Lil’ Wayne to Oil, Keep It Real With Tattoo

(Bloomberg) -- An oil well tattooed on the shaved head of Bryan “Birdman” Williams and a Web site for a company called Bronald Oil & Gas LLC indicate that two men known for their gushers in rap music are getting into the energy business.

Williams and his brother Ronald “Slim” Williams founded Cash Money Records, the music label behind such artists as Lil’ Wayne. Their foray into energy with Bronald, a name that blends Bryan and Ronald, prompted Houston investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. to quip that this may be a sign of the end of an oil-market rally.

“Doctors and dentists investing in oil wells was sign of top in 1980s,” the bank said last week in a note to clients. “Rappers the sign this cycle?”

Shell Employee List Leaked to Environmental Groups

Royal Dutch Shell PLC says a database containing business contact details for many of its employees and contractors has been leaked to several environmental groups.

Shell spokesman Wendel Broere confirms the database with 176,000 entries sent to Greenpeace and others is authentic, though the information it contains is not particularly sensitive.

The database was sent from anonymous e-mail addresses with a note claiming authorship by employees who want the company to right alleged wrongs in Nigeria, where Shell is the largest foreign oil producer.

Questions About Biofuels’ Environmental Costs Could Alter Europe’s Policies

BRUSSELS — A top European farm official has suggested that yet-to-be-released studies by the European Commission could be used to “kill” heavily promoted and subsidized biofuels by focusing on their total environmental impact.

...The industry has already been dogged by contentions that the main justification for policies supporting biofuels — that they are greener than fossil-based products — is unsound. Many environmental advocates claim that a large number of fuels grown from crops do not merit public subsidies or production incentives.

Norway to build worlds biggest wind turbine

Norway will spend Nkr137 million ($23 million) to build what it says will be the world's biggest wind turbine with rotors 145 metres in diameter and producing 10 megawatts of electricity, green energy incubator Enova said today.

Gas Prices Are Up…But Small-Car And Hybrid Interest Down?

A continued rise in fuel prices means that people migrate to smaller vehicles and those that get higher fuel economy. Right?

Well that's what common sense might lead us to think, but the Fuel Price Impact Survey from the Tustin, California-based market-research firm AutoPacific shows otherwise.

The firm reports that interest in small cars and hybrids is, surprisingly, fading as pump prices continue to rise. When motorists were asked what they would replace their current vehicle with, just 12 percent in the latest January 2010 survey said that they'd consider a small car (like the 2010 Honda Fit, the very diminutive 2010 Smart Fortwo, or the highly anticipated 2011 Ford Fiesta); that's down significantly from 16 percent in June 2009 and 24 percent in January 2009.

Georgia GOP leaders strike transportation deal

ATLANTA — Georgians voting in the 2012 presidential primary will be able to decide whether to increase the sales tax by one penny to pay for transportation projects, under a deal announced Thursday by Gov. Sonny Perdue and legislative leaders.

Under the plan — which must still be approved by the Legislature — regions that approve the tax increase would have money to spend on local road and infrastructure projects. Others could reject the increase and would not see any additional funding.

On Broadway: Traffic-free zones a 'hit'

NEW YORK — No more tail lights among the bright lights of Broadway: New York will keep the Great White Way closed to cars in Times Square.

In May, the city turned two stretches of Broadway into pedestrian plazas in an attempt to lessen traffic jams and ease sidewalk crowding. Eight months later, traffic has improved far less than predicted, but fewer pedestrians have been injured and not as many people are walking in the street, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.

"The reviews are in and it's clear we've got ourselves a Broadway hit," Bloomberg said.

New investments in agriculture likely to fail without sharp focus on small-scale 'mixed' farmers

NAIROBI — A new paper published today in Science warns that billions of dollars promised to fund programs to boost small-scale agriculture in developing countries are unlikely to succeed in feeding the world's increasing populations. This is due not only to increasing populations and changing environments, but also to little "intellectual commitment" to the ubiquitous small-scale "mixed" farmers who raise both crops and animals and are the source of much of today's food supplies and economic development.

Radical new directions needed in food production to deal with climate change

Yields from some of the most important crops begin to decline sharply when average temperatures exceed about 30 degrees Celsius, or 86 Fahrenheit. Projections are that by the end of this century much of the tropics and subtropics will regularly see growing season temperatures above that level, hotter than the hottest summers now on record.

An international panel of scientists writing in the Feb. 12 edition of the journal Science is urging world leaders to dramatically alter their notions about sustainable agriculture to prevent a major starvation catastrophe by the end of this century among the more than 3 billion people who live relatively close to the equator.

Specifically they urge world leaders to "get beyond popular biases against the use of agricultural biotechnology," particularly crops genetically modified to produce greater yields in harsher conditions, and to base the regulations of such crops on the best available science.

"You're looking at a 20 percent to 30 percent decline in production yields in the next 50 years for major crops between the latitudes of southern California or southern Europe to South Africa," said David Battisti, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor.

Mexico Proposes Two Additional Climate Change Meetings in 2010

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico, which will host the United Nations’ main annual climate change meeting in November and December, proposed two further negotiating sessions to prepare for the talks.

A week-long session should be held in mid-April, with another set of discussions in September or October, Mexico’s delegation said in a letter posted today on the Web site of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, which organizes the global effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change: Study shows 'shocking' results for South Dakota waterfowl

"We thought it couldn't be right, what the data was showing," said Carter Johnson, professor of wetland ecology at SDSU and a researcher involved in the study, "Prairie Wetland Landscape in a Changing Climate."

"It was shocking," Johnson said. "These are all projections, of course. But the insurance is gone from the system."

Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapse Possibly Triggered by Ocean Waves, Scripps-led Study Finds

Depicting a cause-and-effect scenario that spans thousands of miles, a scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and his collaborators discovered that ocean waves originating along the Pacific coasts of North and South America impact Antarctic ice shelves and could play a role in their catastrophic collapse.

Arizona Quits Western Cap-and-Trade Program

Citing financial worries, the State of Arizona has backed out of a broad regional effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the West through a cap-and-trade system.

In an executive order issued last week, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, said a cap-and-trade system — which would impose mandatory caps on emissions and allow pollution credits to be traded among companies — would cripple Arizona’s economy.

"Recovery" is not exact going along according to plan. The WSJ reports:

Euro-Zone Economy Stumbles

Economic growth in the euro zone slowed in the final quarter of 2009, as only one of the currency area's four largest economies expanded.

Combined gross domestic product in the 16 countries that use the euro rose by a weaker-than-expected 0.1% in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter, and was down 2.1% on a year-to-year basis, the European Union's statistics agency Eurostat said Friday. In the third quarter, GDP rose by 0.4%.

The slowdown, and the fact that Italy and Spain both contracted, suggests that the recovery of the world's second largest economic area may already have run out of steam after receiving a temporary boost from global restocking.

Re: EU shale gas land rush up top. Just some observations regarding positions put forward. The most obvious: "The International Energy Agency said in November the world may have an “acute glut” of gas in the next few years because production of so-called unconventional fuel, which includes shale gas, is set to rise 71 percent between 2007 and 2030." Not very logical IMHO. Simply put if SG development in the EU generates a glut one wouldn't expect such an expensive extraction method expanding. We just witnessed what happened in the US SG play when the price support diminished: a drastric drop in drilling activity. Granted some US SG plays, like the Marcellus, still appear viable. But many others aren't. When NG prices dropped below $6/mcf Devon released 14 of the 18 rigs it had drilling in the E Texas SG plays. And they were willing to pay a $40 million cancellation penalty to do so. Devon was one of the major SG players and should understand the economics as well as anyone. Perhaps there's an expectation that EU SG will offer much better economics but given there has been no significant level of testing such hope seems unfounded at this time IMHO.

The statement that EU SG development might threaten the prospects for LNG exports also strikes me as odd. One of Devon's motivations for scaling back their SG development was the concern that LNG imports would continue to hurt the domestic SG economics. Major LNG export facilities have already been constructed. Tens of billions of $ of capex have already been spent on LNG facilities. As long as the operational costs for compressing the NG allows a profit even at reduced prices these countries can continue their deliveries even if the overall rate of return is minimal. The numbers vary but most estimate an ability of LNG to reach the US market profitably at less then $5/mcf. Given the EU is even closer to some of the larger LNG exporters would seem to offer the same potential for suppression of SG development. OTOH, the EU continues to suffer uncertainty over Russian NG imports. OTOOH the Russians may also have the option to drop their NG pricing for a short period to inflict potentially fatal wounds to companies that may have invested a few billion $'s in EU SG development and are forced to sell their NG for less they it cost them to develop. Which is exactly what some US companies were forced to do when price supports fell here.

I'm coming to the conclusion that NG is unlike oil, but similar to other commodities in that the supply is still large, but all the high quality (high EROEI) reserves will be extracted first, leading to a continuous balance between supply and demand. As long as EROEI is above one, and other sources of energy are not cheaper, the world will have as much NG as it is prepared to pay for. There will not be a sudden NG energy shock.

Oil, on the other hand, is so discontinuously distributed through the earth's crust, that we are still exploiting the last of the high EROEI (cheap) oil, as the supply of expensive (low EROEI) oil is smaller, not larger than the cheap stuff, we are seeing rising costs of extraction and an absolute physical limit on the rate it can be extracted at about the same time. This produces both a economic shock (where consumers spend so much money on buying the oil that the balance between rich and poor is lost) and energy shock, where the total energy available no longer meets the ever growing demand.

These two shocks become confused in the minds of economists, who can only envision economic shock. However, it is the energy shock that will destroy industrial society.

where consumers spend so much money on buying the oil that the balance between rich and poor is lost

balance ?

I mean that when the supply falls short of demand, the oil exporting countries make such huge profits that they have trouble recycling them back into the global economy before the oil importing countries go bankrupt. In classical economics, more oil would be extracted at a higher price, and balance would be returned. With peak supply, the cost of new oil field developments explode, but the bulk of the oil supply still comes from the old, cheap supergiants. However much profit the exporters make, they cannot convert this into new supply fast enough. The absolute shortage can only result in demand destruction. Since alternative sources of energy are not available (or rather the infrastructure to exploit theses sources in transport) you end up with a decline in total energy consumption in importing nations, otherwise known as economic and financial collapse.

China orders retreat from risky assets

A Communist Party directive leaked to the Chinese-language edition of the Asia Times said dollar reserves should be limited to US Treasuries or agency mortgage debt such as Freddie Mac that enjoys Washington's implicit backing.

BNP Paribas said the move has major implications for global risk assets. "The message from Beijing is that we don't like this environment," said Hans Redeker, the bank's currency chief.
The exact break-down of China's holdings are a state secret but it is understood that SAFE bought large amounts of corporate debt as well as municipal and state bonds during the boom years of 2006 and 2007. Any move to liquidate holding of California debt at this crucial juncture could have serious implications.

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending February 5, 2010

Seems to be a rush job this week. There's no summary, just tables.

Oil Declines After Report Shows Increase in Crude Inventories

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil futures fell after a U.S. government report showed a bigger-than-forecast increase in inventories.

Supplies climbed 2.42 million barrels to 331.4 million in the week ended Feb. 5, the Energy Department said today in a weekly report. Inventories were forecast to increase by 1.6 million barrels, according to the median of analyst estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.

And probably based on even more estimated data than usual I'd guess.

This is what Ghosn of Nissan told BBC the other day. So without using Peak Oil - he is acknowledging it. Ofcourse it is easier for Ghosn since they are going all in on electric cars.


"I think the trends we're seeing are all pointing in the same direction," he says.

"Oil is a challenge, both price and availability.

"Regulations about environments are going to get tougher and tougher.

"I think the new generation is much more demanding about respect for the environment than we have ever imagined."

Setting up the enviros to take even more of the heat as the crisis ratchets up...

Just what numerous TOD commentors predicted would happen.

"All that regulation is cutting into our ability to reach the vast reserves of oil available to us in (fill in the name of your favorite protected place currently off limits to drilling)."

Nice scapegoating...

Hi Catskill,

Despite my Neanderthal political rantings, I am somewhat of an enviro myself.

I do hear where you are coming from , and appreciate your reasoning and the implications thereof, but sometimes such statements are no more nor no less than the simple and unvarnished truth.

If you insist on reacting to a sober and reasonable statement of an obvious truth in such a confrontational way, you may win points with your own choir, for you are preaching to them.

There is a vast and potentially undecided public out there , and it is going to make it's mind up in part by deciding that Ghoson sounds reasonable , but that you don't.

Hey Mac -

You're right I did overreact a bit in response to Ghoson statements.

I just find it annoying that he would choose the regulation / environmentalism angle - at least in the comments posted that is what he singled out.

I don't remember who made the statement on TOD many moons ago but it has since really stuck with me - the fact is that blaming environmentalists for much of anything is beyond ridiculous - aside from a few small skirmishes on local levels there have been no victories for the overall enviro movement in the "war" since Clean Air & Water back in the 1970's. Yet for more and more of the world's problems they are being placed front and center as part of the problem - despite now having "lost" by most any significant metric any of the causes they have fought for.

I get rather tired of ignorant people claiming that enviros are obstructing this or that project - they don't know what the hell they're talking about - how did the blocking of the clear cut forests work out or mountaintop removal mining - despite clear as day, severe environmental impacts. If the money and potential payout is there then the politics fall in line and enviro concerns fall by the wayside. I've never seen it any other way.

And as for the undecided public - they will only truly make up their mind when, blindsided by Mother Nature, they along with all the rest of the talking heads proclaim for one last time "who could have seen this coming ?"... If I have the courage I might (if I haven't already been counted among the victims) say something like "well, you know the environmentalists have been saying all along - if we keep screwing things up...etc etc etc." Probably a good chance that would be the last thing I'd say too :)


Catskill , Unfortunately you are making a lot of sense, and I must agree with you-not a hell of a lot of progess is being made.

The larger part of the public by far is oblivious to the real problems-but still there are a lot of educated young people who have actually HEARD that they should think for themselves, and reasoned discourse will win some of them over.

And thre is another way of lliking at this-If Ghoson is telling the literal truth, and as I see it , he is-then he is ADMITTING IN PUBLIC that in the long run , the enviros will win, are in fact on the VERGE of winning.

Many a battle that has been given up for lost has been won at the last minute by an army of fresh friendly troops showing up in the nick of time.

The old geezers (my generation)are dying off fast, and a generation of youngsters who have been indoctrinated to some extent at least into the environmental ethic in the schools and over the internet are taking our place.

Futhermore the women of this new world are far more interested in a world informed by the feminine vision than ever berfore, and they are going to OWN certain key professions, including law and medicine, in addition to the traditional profession of education.

I will venture a guess that a lot more change is comimg than almost anyone can guess, and that ours will not be a male dominated society in twenty more years, assuming it doesn't collapse.

I have not publicized it here but my personal estimate is that conventional political conservatism , the current republican flavor, is a dead man walking, and that the retirement of the boomers will put it in it's grave.

They will vote thier wallets-and far more of them are empty than stuffed, and handouts will be in much greater demand that low taxes among ths group, especially since most of them are retired and not paying a lot of taxes even if they are well to do.

Simple demographics and the coming hard times are more than sufficient, combined with the rising women's tide, to flip this country over to a socialist orientation within the next two decades.

Of course this process will be gradual , and most of us won't realize it's happening.But the ratchet only works in one direction-govt financed health care expansion faied last try , true , but drug coverage went not that far back, and it will STAY IN.

The congress critters will cut some deal or another before 2012, and another small chunk of socialized medicine will pop into permanent existence.

Of course this entire scenario is based on a continuation of bau, with bau morphing as I have described it, as opposed to a hard crash.

I have not publicized it here but my personal estimate is that conventional political conservatism , the current republican flavor, is a dead man walking, and that the retirement of the boomers will put it in it's grave.

I have to disagree with you, mac. I think those of us born in the 1950s - while there is a percentage of evil-doers among us - were in fact the last generation to seriously discuss, and maybe understand, the big issues, including feminism, environmentalism, population issues, limits to growth, the tragedy of rampant consumerism ... and much more.

I know we have been the luckiest, most pampered, most indulged generation to exist - we were/are lucky and lots of people got their politics from nothing more profound than Woodstock and Burning Man, but still, from my experience the couple of cohorts that have come through since are much more conservative in general. There is no apparent sense of rebellion or changing the world at all - at least we had a sniff of it. It's not accidental that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher pulled out all stops to snuff it all out - effectively permanently it seems.

HI Cargill,

Some days I think you are right, and all my conservative buddies believe you are right.

But on days when my "step back far enough to see the forest " mindset is predominant, I see it as I posted it.

Certainly although most of the regulars here detest your vsion of the present and likely future reality,I personally believe they are trying to throw out the baby which IS America, along with the bathwater.

There is a lot of truth is your argument, any way you look at it.

But we never see the big changes on world view coming, they always sneak up on us.


You are targeting the wrong guy this time. From what I've seen Ghosn is actually quite environmental friendly (may be because it suits his company now).

You would think "conserve" part of conservatives should cover more than just their bank balance. But apparently thats all they care about - which explains their aggressively pro-pollution stance. Weak kneed democrats don't help in anyway either.

Is this from Ghosn interview - I don't remember that quote.

"the new generation is much more demanding about respect for the environment"-----young people in Japan have stoppped buying cars.
There is no willpower to own a car.

My husband and I are in our 40s but we own no car for environmental and economic reasons.

The United States is the largest exporter of wheat to the world. China is the largest importer of wheat. China imported large quantities of soybeans as it does not have enough farmland to feed its people. India is nearly self-sufficient in wheat this year, but was a top two importer of soybeans. Japan was a top two importer of wheat. The United States is the largest exporter of both corn and soybeans. Brazil was the second leading exporter of corn and soybeans.

rainey -- A good reminder of the various symbiotic relationships between the US and China. Only time will tell how this aspect plays out in a harsher PO world but it does seem to offer some support of my MADOR concept: Mutually Assured Division Of Resources. I can see the possibility of China and the US functioning more as partners then competitors for energy resources. We see almost daily reminders of China's efforts to tie up future energy supplies. As you point out the US also has an equally vital commodity for China. It's easy for me to see this relationship growing even stronger at the disadvantage of many countries including some who currently see themselves as "allies" of the US. It may not be relevent that the EU or any other region has the funds to buy US ag supplies if the Chinese can trade in kind with their oil supplies. A friend in need is a friend indeed. But our list of friends might grow a good bit shorter in the not too distant future.

Don't forget about KSA. People always say that KSA has us by the short-and-curlies, but they need to eat. As I recall, they can grow enough food for about 1 million people, but have a population of about 22 million. Ain't symbiosis grand?

And not only that - we need fossil fuels to feed ourselves and anyone else. Ain't symbiosis grand?

China does not have control of the world's oil supplies.

The top ten non-government owned corporations worldwide from the Fortune Global 500 list (2009):

Royal Dutch Shell
Wal Mart
Total S.A.
ING Group

How many oil and gas integrated companies are in the list? What one corporation is based in China?


rainsong -- there is but one de facto oil company in China. And it's the Chinese gov't. And they have absolute control over the various Chinese companies including Sinopec (China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation). And other than an occasional press release noting another oil/NG acquistion they never release their reserve base numbers. Now that doeswn't mean they deserve a spot on your list. Maybe they are near the top or maybe way down low. I can't offer a guess.

But there is a huge difference in the companies on your list (excluding Sinopec, of course) and the Chinese controlled companies: all those other international corporation would sell oil to the US if we can pay the price. None of the oil/NG resources acquired by the Chinese companies will be sold to the US or any other buyer. The Chinese gov't isn't spending 100's of billions of $'s (and they are our former $'s) to help secure our energy future. For specifics you might research Chinese and Venazuelan trade deals. China has been steadily acquireing future heavy oil production from Hugo on a long term basis. Heavy crude US refineries had taken for granted would be theirs when they wanted it. While you're at it you might also want to dig for the press releases noting how China has been tying up some of that Deep Water sweet crude down in Brazil.

Again, I can't offer a scale on how significant a volume the Chinese gov't has secured. But I can tell you exactly how much foreign oil/NG the US gov't has directly secured for our future needs = zero.

Don't forget China loaned money to the Brazilian govt. that controls Petrobras in exchange for the right to buy oil. A Chinese 40% savings rate is a feat of self-denial. It might be duplicated in any nation. Practicing diligene and increasing savings; see: The Way to Wealth -- Benjamin Franklin. Franklin made a fortune lending and buying assets. He did not have to take on debt. His proverbs are yet in print 200 years later and free online.

The United States is connected to the Athabaskan tar sands exports via pipelines. The United States is also owner of the Federal offshore GOM deep, Arctic Ocean interests etc. Through strategic alliances the United States has access to energy markets.

So true rainsong. I also wonder when supplies start getting seriously tight we might have another critical strategic alliance that allows us access few others will have: China. I don't know if China will end up with a huge supply base beyond their own needs. But if they do I can see a certain logic of China allowing shipment of the excess to the US. Needless to say they own quit a bit of US "equity" which they need to protect. France or England defaulting on gov't debt would hurt China to some degree. But compare that pain to the US not meeting some of its obligation on the $2 trillion (?) we owe them. They just might consider the US too big to fail.

China has stated a desire to be less dependent on the dollar and has taken steps to prove it. About half the federal debt is owned by Americans. When a country could not pay its debts due to spending deficits becoming a larger part of its current GDP, they had to borrow more or devalue their currency. Increasing government deficits relative to GDP is like a Ponzi scheme. One of the worse case scenarios is Zimbabwe. I read a letter from a mining operator who was leaving Zimbabwe even though the country has resources. There is hyperinflation on a level that is difficult to imagine. There have been chronic to severe electric power outages in Zimbabwe. The government seized private holdings of White citizens to create Black empowerment projects. People there cannot trust the system.

Your anti-corporation bias is getting the better of you, given that most of the major oil supplies and much of other resources are controlled by state-owned companies.

For the US, oil corporations are our very best friends, until we don't need imported oil anymore.

They are also not very good friends, as they'll sell their oil to the highest bidder, which won't always be the US.

When your best friends are not very good friends, it's time for some introspection.

I'll always be your friend Paleo. "As long as you got the money honey...I got the time." I suppose that dates me some.

As they say, we've established your profession. Now it's down to dickering on price.

So true Paleo. But if this country doesn't get its conservation act in order quickly we oil producers are going to dicker it into an early economic grave. Old old rule applies: better to be the dicker then the dickee. I don't take pride in taking advantage of our country's collective stupidity but they don't give us much choice. They set up the supply/demand dynamics...not the oil patch.

We also need fertilizer to keep up our grain production. If we start losing on the grain production, I am not sure what goes--ethanol production, feeding of animals, or exports. It seems like we would need to keep up exports.

With our debt (on every level) spinning out of control, it seems to me that it is only a matter of time before Saudis, Chinese, and others start buying up vast tracts of farm land in the US. We will all soon be serfs to foreign masters (as opposed to the domestic/international corps many of us are already debt slaves to).

A real back to the land movement, indeed.

(Or perhaps I'm just feeling particularly paranoid today?)

Maybe it is good that we will likely not have air travel for too long. It seems like that will cut back on the amount of overseas control that is possible.

others start buying up vast tracts of farm land in the US. .... We will all soon be serfs to foreign masters

If one goes to the darker places of the internet - one can find claims that this has already happened. How the national parks are already pledged. Darker places still speak of the concept of odious debt and reputation of agreements others had made on behalf of "the people".

we need fossil fuels to feed ourselves and anyone else.

To keep the food industry alive in the U.S. the coming decades, they don't need to import oil. The problem here is not the amount of oil available. Expensive oil, rising amount of people not able to buy food and catastrophic events could become the problems.

Bobby Butler - [listen] Cheaper Crude Or No More Food (MP3) http://blogfiles.wfmu.org/KF/2006/05/oil/Bobby_Butler_-_Cheaper_Crude_Or...
A song of economic retribution written by Brent Burns in 1979, this song was supposedly the only song ever played on the Paul Harvey show, selling hundreds of thousands of copies within a few days. Today, the specter of $1.50 per gallon of gas seems so... quaint.

Link up top: Will Obama Destroy Any Hope of U.S. Energy Independence?

If the US is not energy independent in 5 years then it will all be Obama's fault. Damn that Obama!

It is all about tax breaks for the oil companies. It is all about the oil depletion allowance tax write off. We have had it for decades. Actually it has been in place for almost a century.

Texas oil millionaires also fought hard to maintain its tax concessions. The most important of these was the oil depletion allowance. It was first introduced in 1913 and allowed producers to use the depletion allowed to deduct just 5 per cent of their income and the deduction was limited to the original cost of their property. However, in 1926 the depletion allowance was increased to 27.5 per cent.
Oil Depletion Allowance

It was put in place when the U.S. was energy independent. Over the years those huge tax breaks for the oil companies did not prevent us from having to import over 60 percent of the oil we consumed. But now, if left in place, the oil depletion allowance is supposed to make us energy independent. But that damn Obama, he is about to screw everything up and stop us from becoming energy independent, that no good s.o.b!

Ron P.

Some valid points Ron. OTOH, reducing the development of future US oil/NG reserves increases our dependency on imported energy. Obviously leaving the current tax structure in place won't make us energy independent either. But who specifically has claimed such an absurd opinion? From a purely personal standpoint I support President Obama's move 110%. Anything that limits my competitors to bring more oil/NG to the US market only enriches me, my partners and owner. Damn...maybe I should consider joining the Democrat party. They are about to do more for my wallet then any Republican has in decades. What little bit of capex is left in the oil patch will shrink even more under the new provisions. Wouldn't you be less likely to invest in ther industry if you lost some of the tax advantages? Very fortunate for us that we don't need no stinking investor capex...we have our own.

And I know it hard to tell sometimes with me but I'm not being sarcastic. I really mean it. The American people have earned the position they find themselves in today. Using up vast quantities of Mother Earth's resources without regard for the future let alone the rest of the planet's population. I don't feel particularly sorry either for someone who knowingly gets drunk and then kills themselves while driving home. I do feel very sorry for the innocents he might take with him though.

OTOH, reducing the development of future US oil/NG reserves increases our dependency on imported energy.

In the short run. It could mean increasing our dependency on imported energy in the future because it clearly implies a policy of using up our stuff first. One could argue that, bad as it obviously is, it would be a better policy to buy "their" stuff first as long as "they" are still willing and able to sell it to us at reasonable prices (he said, with an obvious nod in the direction of westexas). Only if we reduce our dependency on fossil fuels before "the future" gets here is the policy of "our stuff first" arguably better than "their stuff first," IMHO.

Good point Coyle. Hubbard called our current policy the "Drain America First" policy. He also stated: "Were we a rational society, a virtue of which we have rarely been accused, we would husband our oil and gas resources."

I think he had a point, use theirs first, save ours for when times really get tough. However the Oil Depletion Allowance encourages us to "Drain America First"!

Ron P.

I am not convinced that there is a real option in the "use now-use later" argument; most of the oil would seem to be use it now, or it is gone. For example, if we stop using the stripper wells, I would presume this option will be essentially gone. It seems like restarting them later would be too expensive. I know when I visited Kern River, we were told they could never turn off their little wells for several months or more and restart, because the amount of sand that would settle and have to be dug out would make restarting very expensive.

For most kinds of drilling, pipelines are likely to be an issue. A new source of oil, say from ANWR, is not likely to have enough oil to fill up current long-distance pipelines by itself. It will have to piggyback on the some other production, help keep the pipeline operational longer. Once there is too little oil, the pipeline won't work, no matter how much oil is in the ground. Building a new smaller pipeline might work, but that is likely to be expensive and time-consuming--and make the project totally non-economic.

There are also issues with refineries, trained people, and drilling equipment. Limits to growth suggest that the limiting resource is likely to be capital. Even if the oil is out there, the is a significant chance we will not be able to put together the capital needed to make the whole project work. Capital availability is not great now. It is likely to be even lower in the future.

They need 300,000 barrels a day to keep the pipeline flowing.

For Texas wells, they have to be permitted to be temporarily abandoned if they are inactive for more that 60 days. The procedure is simple and I have some which have been on and off TA'd. The cost of cleaning out wells prior to restart simply depends on the time, formations, etc. of each particular well.

I hope that some of the GOM wells offshore which are SI/TA'd can be restarted, and they seem to be capable of such. There are still some significant wells which have not been restarted since Katrina/Rita and the related damage from those storms. Some are in process, from what I have read, and recall some recently being restarted as well. ]

The fact of the matter is that if we have a well drilled and capable of production, if we own it, we produce it. If not, we try to get someone else to, or plug it, or see what we think we might be able to do with it in the future.

Making a decision to import now and produce later, that is something which would have to be decided on a much larger scale - MMS withholding leases, for instance.

Also, the need to maintain infrastructure can be related to a N Texas gathering system, Service Pipeline, last operated by Koch and shut in with no option to buy any part of it by any operator. Koch decided to abandon the whole thing, and many leases were lost because it was not possible to build roads capable of access by oil transports which can carry as much as 185 BBLs at a time and no bobtail operators around the Cooke and Montague county areas. A microcosm, for sure, but real enough to cost us some amount of future oil production.

They may sequester industrial carbon dioxide in old oil fields. There is pipeline from a natural underground carbon dioxide deposit to the Permian Basin and they have been recovering oil with CO2 miiscible injections for a long time now. It is the last stage after water flood. I read a Denbury presentation about a field that had been CO2 flooded by a major oil company. Denbury leased it and using technology got more oil out of it by a more efficient methadology. There are rusting immobile pumpjacks in West Texas. I think they had to pour cement down the well bores.

P -- I can't find fault with your argument. But unfortunately I think we're long past that point in time. Had we taken that attitude decades ago, along with serious conservation, we might be in a much better place today. But we didn't. We need today the reduction of our trade imbalance as well as the jobs and tax revenue the energy extraction industries provide. The taxing authorities receive tens of billions of $'s in taxes from oil/NG production. I mentioned the other day the drill barge I'm sitting on right now in S. La. It's a huge prospect if it works as well as I think it might. If we make such a discover the state of La. will recieve about $200 million in severence tax alone. How many states would love such a windfall today? A big potential but it would be just one field discovery. Ask the state if they would rather delay this revenue stream for 15 or 20 years. As them if they would mind another 20,000 unemployed if there's a tax induced downturn in the oil patch. How would the state feel about losing the 10's of millions of $'s they collect in oil patch corporate taxes. I mentioned it elsewhere that the oil/NG industry is grossly under investing today due to a lack of capex. Oil/NG prices are more than sufficient to encourage much more drilling then we see today. Decreasing the economic value of such investments isn't likely to reverse that situation. You can't expect to lock the oil patch up in a box and expect it to preform well when it's decide to uncrate it. Hard to envision the US auto industry becoming a leader in alt vehicle if the gov't added significantly to their tax burden. Gonna see a rebirth of the US steel industry if they are targeted for increased taxation?

It truly is a shame we've squandered our resources. But as I see it now we need to develop what we have just to allow us to stay afloat. And if we really focus and combine what we have left with serious conservation efforts and support of the alts, maybe, just maybe, we might avoid some of the worse PO futures some folks envision. But we are the country of the people and the people will get what they want. Which is exactly why we're in the situation we are today. I meant what I said: any gov't action that cripples the oil/NG industry will enrich me beyond my wildest fantasy. I could enjoy that prospect more if I weren't sitting across the room from a 45 yo dad of 3 kids earning his first paycheck in 4 months. And he's one of the lucky ones.

"But we are the country of the people and the people will get what they want."

It's really sad to see that people can actually read and write and still continue to spout nonsense like this. It just goes to show that indoctrination is not a function of illiteracy.

It is widely claimed that the United States has the best education system in the world. If this is true, it obviously is reserved for the relatively few members of domestic and foreign elites who can afford it, and for the occasional star selected from among the unwashed hordes. For the masses, there is the systematic stripping of critical thinking capacity.

I don't fault you morally for your stand, Rockman. Your 'use-it-up-now' economics are simply the most probable result of an indoctrination that is totalitarian in scope. You can take solace in the comfortable feeling of belonging to a very large group.

When Tom and Huck did their fence painting, did you feel that some of the painters were slighted, or that the bidding process was unfair?

In my reading of Rockman's many posts, I gather that he personally will profit from the system because it's the sensible thing for him to do, not that he thinks the system is optimal or "fair".

Yes, and your point is...?

Point is that some people would focus on the individual contract, which was acceptable to all parties at the time of signing. Each apparently got what they need to self-justify the work to be done. It's "contract fair".

Others look at it from a perspective of wage equality, and it seems "working-wage unfair".

Some would say the painting industry should be wage-regulated. Some might say the painters should unionize. A few would point out that the fence-owner should have taken competitive bids for the entire fence.

I think how you view this simple situation, and how you'd "fix it", says a lot about a person's perspective.

It is widely claimed that the United States has the best education system in the world.

Really?? I mean, seriously? I have never heard anybody claim anything of the sort. But perhaps it's true in the US, a country I have never visited.

I have never heard that claim, either.

Emphasis on "system", and with an emphasis on the top end. In last year's QS ranking of universities globally, 13 of the top 20 and 6 of the top 10 were in the US (the other four top-10 schools were in the UK). The US is very, very good at educating its top students. Further down the scale, not so much.

Thanks. I did mean to write "higher" education system, meaning post-secondary. The pathetic state of much of the school system in the US is well known.

I recently saw a report that Yale is in the midst of cutbacks. It will be interesting to see if this is an outlier or the beginning of a trend.

The education system is only one factor in the effort to maintain a state of manufactured consent in what is passed off as a democracy.

Toil - I agree with you about the unfair bias in this country for higher education. Sometimes I wonder about that because a lot of the prof's I talk with are grossly underpaid. Why do they work so hard and put up with that amount of grating BS? A mystery to me. I guess they figure once they get tenure that they have to hang around for the retirement...update on that: In the state of CA all of the state university retirement fund (grouped with all state employees) took massive losses to equity in the recent downturn. It was an amazing disappearing act...abracadabra...now you see it now you don't.


Why do they work so hard and put up with that amount of grating BS? A mystery to me.

A lot of people who studied with me like the areas they work in - they are passionate about it. Passionate enough to work for 80 hrs a day for a tenth of what they may get in private sector. They all went into univs, got their phds and work for univs.

The USA post-secondary system is definitely the best in the world. Its so good that even things like Hillsdale can't bring it down.

I think what professors make can be quite variable. The company I work for has several professors who work part time on contract. One I am seeing a whole lot more of since the mandatory (California) furloughs began. Those with knowledge in in demand fields can do quite well. But I suspect if you are teaching/researching middle ages basket weaving, you are out of luck.


Nice quote from Samuelson interview.

You know what happiness is: 'Having a little more money than your colleagues.' And that's not so tough in academic life.

As you say, once they reach a certain level, professors may have a variety of income streams in addition to what the school pays them: consulting gigs, lead-researcher pay from research grants, textbook royalties, outside lectures and writing, etc. The "dues" to get there can be high; I seem to know a large number whose marriages didn't survive the five years or so leading up to the first tenure hearing.

I worry about one thing in particular in American higher ed: the long-term trend to a two-tiered faculty. More and more classes are taught by "paid by the class" short-term and part-time instructors. Yes, this is a rational policy for administrators, particularly at public schools, in response to erratic support from legislatures. I wonder, though, how many students we lose from science and engineering because the entry-level classes are all taught by overworked people worrying about how to make ends meet more than about sharing a passion for the field.

I think you misread me some toil. But that's OK....many don't catch my sarcasm. Usually my fault.

Are you saying it nonsense to believe our country will continue down our well established foolish path because that's what the majority of our "best educated" folks in the world will demand? You obviously have a much better opinion of our society then I. Of course, I benefit finacially from this foolishness. Not my doing though...just in the right place at the right time. I decided to become a geologist because I like rocked. Didn't know anything about the oil biz. And, IMHO, most of our folks will get what they deserve for their greedy consumption of global resources. The only thing that really does bother me greatly is the mounting stack of body bags as a result of "spreading democracy". BTW...that was that sarcasm thing again.

I was just reacting to the idea that the US is a country of the people and the people will get what they want. If that was meant sarcastically, I'm with you.

As far as I can make out, 'the people' are used to bolster the power of one faction or another of the ruling elites.

Sometimes I feel that this is the best that can be hoped for in this era of nation states. I'm in one of those despairing moods today.

As for 'best educated folks', there are many worthy of our ear. Many of these have Doctorates from leading universities. But one of the best educated men I ever knew was my father who had to leave school in his early teens to support his mother and younger siblings. Throughout his long life, he vigorously nurtured the capacity for learning and for critical thinking which is demonstrably characteristic of our species, but which is most often systemically denied oxygen, in my view as effectively under regimes committed to consumerism as those committed to the glorification of some people or state or whatever.

As for the other matter of finding and obtaining the remaining undiscovered hydrocarbons now rather than later, I think you are on the wrong path from the point of view of the health of our economy. It is a matter of opportunity cost, or to put it in another way, a matter of the best use of available capital.

The smartest thing to do now, in my opinion, is to aggressively search out and develop the huge resource of negawatts that surrounds us. This is the way to limit the decline in the amount of energy available for the enjoyment of life per unit of energy used to obtain energy. It is the decline in energy profit that in my view is the tectonic force that has caused the poorly constructed financial system to crumble. Developing negawatts, using less energy more efficiently. is the way to make economic space for a longer term effort to convert to more immediate forms of solar energy. Finding and exploiting negawatts is the job intensive path. Pricing people out of cars and into self propelled and rail and other transit forms is one example of the necessary effort. What is important is to maintain the mobility of labour and goods. What is not important is to maintain the auto addiction. Then there are buildings, many of which should simply be recycled or trashed as the case may be, but of which there are a huge number worthy of and in need of significant and labour intense renovation. And on it goes.

Developing energy resources, which will maintain a higher flow of available energy, but which will lower the ratio mentioned above, sometimes thought of as EROI, will continue to undermine the economy and ensure that a 'recovery' will never come.

So, yes, I do believe that what your company is doing is likely economically harmful, though much, much less so, that the destructive effort in northern Alberta's tar pits.

I was just reacting to the idea that the US is a country of the people and the people will get what they want.

I'd say this is quite accurate. There isn't some grand conspiracy to prevent people from thinking critically. Nobody forces anyone to watch Glenn Beck instead of Colbert or listen to Rush. They do it out of choice - so we get the health"care" we now have.

toil -- We're pretty much on the same page. But you lose me with "I do believe that what your company is doing is likely economically harmful". So if my company and all the others stopped developing and producing oil/NG then our economy would be better off? I don't think you're saying that so I must be missing something.

BTW our EROI will be fantastic. Much better then you see with the rest of the industry. We are only drilling high success probability/high return projects. Just a WAG but probably 3 or 4 times better than older fields. We don't bother with production acquisition, shale gas or EOR. We only go for what the oil patch calls "low hanging fruit".

Well, we're damned if we do, and damned if we don't, so what we're debating is what is the least bad way to be damned.

And if we really focus and combine what we have left with serious conservation efforts and support of the alts, maybe, just maybe, we might avoid some of the worse PO futures some folks envision. But we are the country of the people and the people will get what they want. Which is exactly why we're in the situation we are today.

And exactly why, I think, our present predicament is just going to keep getting worse. The people are not suddenly going to stand up and say, "Hello, we're the people, and we have a problem. We are addicted to oil." Even after the most oleaginous president of all time said it on their behalf, they are not going to do that until long after it's way too late (as you point out, it's already too late).

I could enjoy that prospect more if I weren't sitting across the room from a 45 yo dad of 3 kids earning his first paycheck in 4 months.

The dilemma is whether we should concern ourselves more with the present of the dad, or with the future of his three kids. What kind of paychecks will they be able to earn?

Again bowing in the direction of westexas, I fear that the day when the U.S. will achieve its vaunted "energy independence" will come all too soon, and it will come because our ability to import oil has been so severely curtailed that we have little choice but to make do with what we ourselves are still able to produce.

Rock. I'm completely unconvinced. Are we really talking about tax changes that are big enough to overwhelm the effects of increasing oil prices? I just don't think we'd do that. But whiners and Republicans will exaggerate in order to serve their own agenda. I don't know the numbers, so maybe I'm wrong. But I suspect if the taxes being proposed are so stiff, that they would really cut into future production, that a few letters to Salazar and Chu might be in order. I think these are reasonable men who will listen to a reasonable argument that is supported by data.

I agree with you EOS. From what I've heard I can't quantify if it will be a little pinch or a big slap. But the reality of a tax on any industry is to reduce its activity. This is all the more true of public companies. I'm sure 99% of the country would love to see ExxonMobil cough up an extra billion $'s in taxes. But you have to remember it only spends its net income in two ways: dividends to its shareholders (of whom a large percentage are union retirement funds) or on its capex budget. So take your pick: reduce the income of "average" Americans and/or reduce how much XOM reinvests in an effort to deliver more energy to the nation. There is no Mr. Exxon who will lose any money.

So the answer is simple: increased taxes will reduce energy supplies from a very little to a whole lot. Other than providing the gov't more money to p_ss away IMHO what's the advantage? But with the huge support system the gov't provides to so many folks and continued economic decline I'm not sure there will be an option to listen to reasonable men.

I mentioned it elsewhere that the oil/NG industry is grossly under investing today due to a lack of capex.

huh ? that seems to depend on your definition of "investing". i dont consider drilling mile long hz barnett wells on 80 ac spacing with other peoples money "investing".

Obviously leaving the current tax structure in place won't make us energy independent either. But who specifically has claimed such an absurd opinion?

Errr... perhaps you did not read the link where the author claims that if the oil depletion allowance is repealed it will prevent us from becoming energy independent. That definitely implies, to my way of thinking, that if it is left in place we have at least a chance to become energy independent and... the oil depletion allowance will play a large part in that endeavor.

Sorry Rockman but I just don't buy it. The oil companies have enjoyed this huge tax break for almost a century and during that time we have gone from energy independence to being highly dependent on imports. It didn't help much if you ask me.

And besides, I was not aware that there was such a thing as depletion in the oil patch. We are running into oil not out of oil. There is more and more of it every day. All those huge discoveries prove that oil depletion and peak oil are just a myth.

Seriously the current depletion allowance is 15%, if the Obama blaming article is correct. They are saying, out of one side or their mouth anyway, that their fields are being depleted at a rate of 15% per year. But not to worry, says the CEOs of Exxon and BP, there is plenty of oil to last for decades to come. But I ask how can that jive with a 15% depletion rate.

Ron P.

Ron -- I didn't say there weren't idiots out there with absurd positions. We make fun of them all the time. I just asked you to identify them. Thank you. LOL.

Let's keep it simple: name one industry that will expand if its taxes are increased. It's that simple: if one wants decreased oil/NG domestic production then tax it heavier and you get your desire. Works that way with every industry. The oil patch is no different. Charcterize the past anyway you want. But it won't change the future. 2 minus 1 is still 1. Doesn't matter what happened in the past. But I'm with you brother: cripple much of the oil patch...I'm more then ready to retire a rich old fart. Then I can sit on TOD all day and enjoy your company.

IMO, we should tax all forms of energy consumption, offset by abolishing the highly regressive Payroll (Social Security + Medicare) Tax, and use the energy tax to fund Social Security/Medicare.

WT for president (or maybe it would need to be "Dictator of the People" given our systems incapacity to do anything?)

Yes indeed WT. You know I'm a big proponent of consumption taxes. Have been aware of the advanatge for almost 30 years. Unfortunately I think we're way beyond the point where it would greatly change the outcome of the game at hand. Carter had it right. Too bad they didn't listen.

I agree with this line of thinking. Currently, US and Canada tax labour (through payroll and income taxes) and not energy. Result for the last 50 years has been that virtually all commerce has moved away from labour towards energy.

To make a 180 degree flip, and tax energy and NOT labour, well, that would create some interesting times, to say the least.

An easy (politically acceptable) starting point would be to tax imported energy (i.e. oil), combined with mandatory country of origin labelling for retail oil products, so consumers can play their part in encouraging domestic production. Gasoline is about the only product I can think of that you can buy, that is not labelled with it's place of origin.

To tax energy and not labour - I can't think of a better way to get American industry to have less machines and more workers, thus attacking, simultaneously, the two most pressing issues of the day.

If I lived in the US, I'd vote for that.

name one industry that will expand if its taxes are increased.

Tax collection and tax compliance.

Damn...maybe I should consider joining the Democrat party.

You mean Democratic Party.


There’s no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming. "Democrat Party" is a slur, or intended to be – a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but "Democrat Party" is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams "rat."[2]



Most of us have undoubtedly heard the old saying about being careful about what one wishes for, as he might get it.

We wished for it with a mighty passion, and we got it, in spades.

Now we pay the price.

Truly excellent article on Nitrogen in the mix today -- Tracking U.S. farmers’ supply of nitrogen fertilizer. Although I prefer the the author's title as it appears in the original article on Grist -- Our other addiction: the tricky geopolitics of nitrogen fertilizer. The article on Grist also has better graphics and an active comment thread.

This article is the third in an excellent series on Nitrogen at Grist:

  1. The dark side of nitrogen
  2. How our food system is destroying the nation’s most important fishery
  3. Our other addiction: the tricky geopolitics of nitrogen fertilizer

The author, Tom Philpott, works on Maverick Farms, a sustainable farm in the Blue Ridge mountains. His article brilliantly covers the production and recent economics of nitrogen fertilizer in the US and its association with natural gas production. It also covers the potential for geopolitical issues over nitrogen fertilizer. Overall, an excellent article for the TOD readership.

From the current article:

With only 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. consumes nearly 12 percent of the globe’s annual synthetic nitrogen fertilizer production. And we’re producing less and less of it at home—meaning that, as with petroleum, we’re increasingly dependent on other nations for this key crop nutrient.
Nitrogen fertilizer production is tied directly to natural gas, the energy source used in the United States to synthesize nitrogen-rich ammonia from thin air.
With natural gas prices high, the domestic industry has shrunk. Between 1999 and 2008, domestic nitrogen fertilizer production plunged nearly 40 percent, according to a USDA report [PDF]. But demand for nitrogen—the juice that keeps those big corn crops coming—rose steadily. To fill the gap, we now import more than half of the nitrogen we consume, compared to about 15 percent just a decade ago, the USDA report states.

Sounds a lot like other commodities where there are import import/export issues!

Let's review the data from the USGS DataSeries 140 in visualizations from the US Minerals Databrowser.

First off, how do we use Nitrogen (aka anhydrous ammonia)?

In 2003, the last year for which USGS provides usage data, fertilizers accounted for 82% of all nitrogen used in the US. Explosives are a distant second at 11%.

Here's a look at the US Production/Exports chart for data up to 2007:

The Green Revolution is clearly visible with the huge rise in nitrogen (read fertilizer) production and use. But it is the red part of the graph that grabs our attention. We've seen this type of peaking and increasing reliance on imports with some other resources -- can't remember which right now ;-)

Lastly, let's put US production in perspective by overlaying it on top of World production. We'll throw in price trends for free:

Anybody willing to bet that we'll return to 1970's style prices for nitrogen fertilizer in the next decade?

Happy Exploring!

-- Jon

John, thanks for this post on a very important topic, and the great US Minerals Databrowser graphs. It is abundantly clear that the current US food production is dependent not only on oil imports (diesel fuel production), but also nitrogen imports. A very sobering tale. How much food would the US be producing if it had to solely depend on its own natural resource base? How much would be available for export? I suppose in our increasingly resource-constrained (and highly populous) future, there might be some direct oil/nitrogen for food trading going on between nations (e.g. Saudi Arabia providing the former to the US so that it can get some of the latter from same). Makes for some interesting scenarios.


I think the 'import dependency' concern is a red herring. Trindidad and Tobago, and Canada, in particular, are the last places that will seek independence from the failing American Empire. Trindidad and Tobago will remember well the last successful US military operation which was in nearby Grenada.

A real and vitally important issue is synthetic fertilizer dependency. And this problem is closely tied to other issues of great importance like corporate control of the agricultural/food enterprise and the wasting of good land for industrial corn production. Industrial corn production, in turn, is the cornerstone of the manufactured meat enterprise and the packaged high fructose corn syrup enterprise, both of which are sapping the vitality of the American people and of all others who have adopted the ways of the Empire.

In the end the 'import dependency' meme is another disinformation tool meant to distract people from their potential as self-informing, politically engaged citizens.

I think the 'import dependency' concern is a red herring.

As do I. Much of the switch from domestic production to imports is not because the producers can't get natural gas (the primary input to ammonia production), but that places such as Trinidad & Tobago, with large amounts of stranded gas, can produce it more cheaply. China, the world's largest ammonia producer, uses coal as an input instead. It may be more expensive, but it certainly seems that the US is capable of meeting its own ammonia needs.

graywulffe --

A sobering tale, yes, but one with very actionable items at the individual level:

  1. buy organic food
  2. reduce your red meat consumption
  3. join a CSA
  4. grow your own food
  5. generate your own compost

Whether you adopt these at the 10% or 100% level you will be contributing to the solution rather than the problem.

-- Jon

How much food would the US be producing if it had to solely depend on its own natural resource base?

Listening to old timers - they talk about how they won the county fair with a double dug 1 acre bed of corn that got X bushels of corn. Then the fertilizer vendor came. And then 1 acre was yielding 2X or ever 3X.

What would be a more interesting question (to me anyway) - what level of Nitrogen could you get away with via folar feeding and keep the yield at what it is now?

What is the reason behind the high prices in the '70s? It appears that world/us production was increasing throughout the decade.


Thanks for your very nice graphs. I had noticed the nitrogen fertilizer article, too.

Someone downthread mentioned that we shouldn't be too worried if our imports come from Trinidad and Tobago. I think we have to remember that there are a lot of different reasons our imports from Trinidad and Tobago might stop. The first one that comes to mind is that we may not be able to pay for them, or Trinidad and Tobago won't accept our money for them because of balance of payment problems. Another possibility is that China will bid more than we can afford to pay for fertilizer exports.

At some point, Trinidad and Tobago will hit peak natural gas, but I would presume that is quite a ways off. But the country could run into problems before then, getting needed replacement parts for their refineries, if there is worldwide trade disruption caused by international debt problems.

Great points, Gail.

Also, if the US were to embark on meeting all its nitrogen needs domestically, the ease of switching to domestic NG for its nitrogen supply depends on what other demands for NG are required at the given time. If, for instance, there is a growing demand for NG for transportation fuel, due to declining oil supply, then relying solely on domestic production may not be as easy as it might seem (e.g. it could become quite costly). Over time, the demand sources for NG, as well as the supply volumes from various locations, are all moving targets.

Coal adds an additional twist to the nitrogen-availability equation. But, likely it would not be a low-cost route, either. Plus demand on coal for purposes other than fertilizer might also be expected to increase with diminishing oil availability over time.


Didn't see this posted up top, unless I missed it on my once-through:

China's high speed rail is spurring economic growth

It'd be nice if we could do the same here in the U.S.

Rather than take the Acela express rail from Washington, D.C. to Boston they would rather hop on a Jet Blue flight out of Dulles and be there in about an hour and a half after take off. It is only about 450 miles to Boston.

The average annual snowfall in Dallas is 2.5" Now they have recieved over a foot of snow, the most snow in a single day on record.

Fox News Report - Dallas All Time Snow Record

The snowstorm was expected to dump snow on areas that have not seen in a decade as it moved east.

And we are one of the 180,000 customers without electricity. The two of us, plus a Pug and Yorkie, plan to sleep by the fireplace tonight (maybe we can borrow another pet and make it a Three Dog Night). But at least we have shelter, with a heat source (see article below).

Excellent counter-point. And thanks for the link.


And as I've noted before, the Arctic is and has been in a relative heat wave, @ 20 degrees F above normal. Look here, and scroll down to third map for the anomaly. Been this way 'most all winter.

How did you get 20 degrees above normal in the north when the map shows 10 degrees above normal? It also shows a 10 degree below normal anomaly in the southern areas. I am not sure if I will make it through the summer. Every day people complain about the heat and it is not yet summer. The coldest temperature on the planet was recorded in 2005 in Antarctica (Wiki). They don't tell you that. They tell you it is hot like all the world is doomed. There were 72 inches of snow at Dulles Airport (about 30 miles from Capitol Hill)this winter with more snow on the way. I heard we got more snow than upstate New York.

"How did you get 20 degrees above normal in the north when the map shows 10 degrees above normal?"

He said 20F. Map has anomaly in C. 10C = 18F.

"It also shows a 10 degree below normal anomaly in the southern areas."

No it doesn't. It shows some -4 and -6, other than one tiny spot in Greenland.

Best hopes for map reading skills.

Rainsong...enough with the silly arguments over weather. The amount of snow in DC or one temperature in Antarctica aren't evidence for or against climate change.

The amount of snow in DC or one temperature in Antarctica aren't evidence for or against climate change.

Absolutely, but keep in mind that an increase in the frequency of record-breaking events might be evidence for climate change.

This morning I read an article about melting glaciers. I also read an article about the Eocene warming phase c. 30 mya. There were tropical forests in the Mid-Atlantic, trees growning in Antarctica, Greenland, North Slope etc. Somehow life survived. What caused the Ice Ages after the warming phases?


Some people have posted that global warming is responsible for the super-hurricanes, droughts, floods, tornados and other freak weather events. They stated global warming caused extinctions when it was more likely real estate development, draining swamps to grow crops, and other encroachments by human habitation. I think there was a theory the water problems in California were caused by global warming. There have been lawsuits about water rights there since the 1930's. I thought water problems were more likely due to population increases, more agriculture, golf course irrigation, and not building more water storage dams. There will always be cycles of drought in the world as long as the world is.

Rainsong, no one is saying life won't survive. Quit bringing up that strawman.

I agree with you Leanan to a degree. But I also see some AGW proponents doing some harm to the effort by injecting something of their own strawmen of sorts. I.E. There may well be some glacial decline due to AGW. But when folks visit the Coloumbia Ice Field in Alberta (a truly unique experience) and they see the markers showing where the glacier was in 1860 and where it had receeded to in 1890, etc, etc, to it's current position it's easy for the deniest to say: "look...that glaciar declined long before any AGW effects proving that it's BS about glacial melt being caused by man". If we try to attribute every catastophic event today to just AGW we'll be giving some ammo to the deniers. Granted it might be in a limited number of situations. But look at how the recent heavy snow falls are being used by the deniers. How much stronger will they push their argument the next time AGW proponents use some significant event as proof only to have a credible response from the scietific community show that it was actually a result of some unrelated cause. Most on TOD easily understand the difference. But public opinion will drive the issue IMHO...not the smarties around here. And if the proponents overshoot in their efforts the public won't sit there and listen to a logical explanation: they'll just sit back and swallow the easily digestable sound bite IMHO.

Those of us who have spent significant amounts of time walking on the Columbia Icefield and other icefields realize that it has been receding since about 1850. (Warning to novices: do not attempt walking on glaciers without crampons, an ice ax, ropes, a climbing harness, and a professional guide. I have all of this except the professional guide, and my wife can get me out of a crevasse if she has to.)

However, the glacial retreat has not been a consistent retreat. I can remember when it was advancing, and the experts were warning if it kept it up, it might bulldoze the highway out of existence. That was back when they were warning about global cooling rather than global warming.

People have to realize that 1850 marks the end of the Little Ice Age, and the glaciers were advancing prior to that time. They wiped out several villages in the European Alps, and the glaciers in the Canadian Rockies were doing similar things at similar times.

I don't like to hear people denying the occurrence of the Little Ice Age, or the Medieval Warm Period that preceded it. These events are clearly marked in the glacial record, as is the Holocene climatic optimum, when the glaciers in the Alps and Rockies may have disappeared completely.

Glaciers come and go (I've seen them appear and disappear), so don't think it's the end of the world if some of them vanish completely. And don't think they're all going to disappear if the world gets a bit warmer.

That was back when they were warning about global cooling rather than global warming.

As far as I can tell, the "they" mentioned here is the popular press. There was a single paper in 1971 (abstract) that speculated a sustained increase in atmospheric aerosols by a factor of four could result in an ice age. The CO2 sensitivity they used was a 2.5 deg K increase for a factor of 10 increase of CO2 which is obviously much too low. As far as I can tell the global cooling "movement" consists of that single article, and bunch of popular press releases.

No, "they" were worried about the effects of the Milankovitch cycle which, by the way, is a theory which has not been disproved. It is still out there, but the AGW people are enthusiastically ignoring it, as well as several other competing theories. The climate is much more complicated than many people realize, and none of the theories adequately model its behavior.

[Milankovitch] is still out there, but the AGW people are enthusiastically ignoring it...

Yes, climate scientists routinely ignore one of the central unifying theories of paleoclimate.

The climate is much more complicated than many people realize, and none of the theories adequately model its behavior.

Except those that do, in particular the late Barry Saltzman's brilliant theory:

Late Pleistocene Climatic Trajectory in the Phase Space of Global Ice, Ocean State, and CO2: Observations and Theory

We consider the evolution of three main slow-response variables describing the state of the climate system during the late Pleistocene (global ice mass, atmospheric carbon dioxide, and the ocean state) as measured, respectively, by the SPECMAP δ18O record, the Vostok CO2 record, and the North Atlantic sea surface temperature record at 50°N (core K708-1), which is coherent with other ocean state properties. Their coevolution is portrayed in the form of a trajectory in the phase space of the three variables and its projections on its three phase planes. The oscillatory nature and phase lags of the variables are clearly illustrated, suggesting a "physical process" scenario that can account for the observations. The basic element of this scenario is a free, near-100 kyr period, oscillation driven by internal instability, involving feedbacks between all three variables under the influence of Earth-orbital (Milankovitch) forcing and long-term tectonic CO2 forcing. It is shown that a phenomenological theory advanced by the authors, emphasizing the role of CO2, provides a credible account of the phase-space trajectory.

No, "they" were worried about the effects of the Milankovitch cycle [...

Unlikely, it wasn't till 1976 till analysis of the relevent core data was published giving it the status of a well established theory. The rash of press articles about impending ice age started immediately after the Rasool and Schneider paper in 1971.

I don't like to hear people denying the occurrence of the Little Ice Age, or the Medieval Warm Period that preceded it.

Few deny their existence, but there is considerable doubt about whether they were global events.

Today, glaciers everywhere are melting at extremely high rates. Arctic permafrost is melting at an extremely high rate. Arctic multiyear sea ice is essentially gone. Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing gigatons of mass yearly; the Antarctic mass loss is supralinear.

What distinguishes today's climate change from previous changes is the rate of change in atmospheric and ocean chemistry, which is immensely faster than in the past. There is no reason to believe that existing ecosystems and agricultural systems can adapt in time, but there's plenty of evidence in the geological record to infer that much slower climate changes led to mass extinctions.

...the rate of change in atmospheric and ocean chemistry, which is immensely faster than in the past.

Just published today in Nature Geoscience:

Rate of ocean acidification the fastest in 65 million years

It called the Artic Oscillation. Basically it concerns the rate heat is transfered between the arctic and the mid lattitudes. This winter a lot of heat is being transfered, so high lattitudes are warmer than usual, and mid lattitudes colder. Since few people live in the arctic (and few TV crews are up there filming stories), we get a rather selective sampling of whats happening. Normally high lattitudes have a lot of variance in their winter temps, one year it is 10 below normal in January, then the next it is 10 above. Further south large variations are much rarer.

Now, it will be interesting to see what effect the big (highly negative) AO has on this years global temps. Warm arctic in winter means thinner sea ice but perhaps more snow, so maybe sea ice declines, and glaciers have a rare good year. The extra winter snow cover in mid lattitudes is reflecting some sunlight into space, so you might expect cooling from that. To the expent that the arctic air masses end up over the ocean so they extract heat from it and rapidly warm up. So the balance of heat between the atmosphere and ocean can be affected as well. Then we have an El Nino (just switched from strong to moderate), which is normally associated with higher than normal global temps. So it will be interesting to see which effects win out.

Some places in the South -especially the US SW -only get big time winters during El Nino's. During 97-98 I was in New Mexico. I had -12F, and several mornings -5F to -10F. The local podunck ski area closed the season with a hundred inch base (i.e. packed) and it didn't melt out till late May. But (until 2005), that was the record year for global warmth.

Thanks for stepping in, Consumer, Leanan, Barrett, EOS.

Rainsong... whatever.

And yes, the Arctic sea ice is fixing to set (or at the very most near) a new record low winter maximum extent. Should know within 6 weeks. And given that the thicker multi-year ice is rapidly declining and by some measures has all but disappeared the sea ice mass is clearly less than ever before, in a classic positive feedback loop.

Last Refuge for the Homeless: Living in the Car

For people who cannot afford rent, a car is the last rung of dignity and sanity above the despair of the street. A home on wheels is a classic American affair — from the wagon train to the RV. Now, for some formerly upwardly mobile Americans, the economic storm has turned the back seat or rear of the van into the bedroom. . .

"Cars are the new homeless shelters," says Joel John Roberts, CEO of PATH Partners (People Assisting the Homeless), the largest provider of homeless services in Los Angeles County, which had nearly 50,000 people homeless in 2009. Of these, experts estimate up to 10% live in vehicles — even though this is illegal across most of the county. A similar situation is true for many other regions across the nation, especially in the Sun Belt. A woman lives in her BMW in Marina Del Rey, a swank L.A. address on the coast. PATH outreach workers Jorge Guzman and Tomasz Babiszkiewicz say she was an executive recruiter until the Great Recession. "She was self-employed for 36 years," says Guzman. "Now she sits in the car with a blanket and reads. She has not told her daughter."

I posted a concern the other day for what will happen as more people lose their homes to foreclosure, and this article snipet you posted goes to the heart of that with people living in their vehicles. These aren't people we see as we power through the day doing whatever we need to do keep the roof over our heads, but they're there on the outskirts trying to avoid the police and continue living on albeit smaller scale.

As the ravages of peak oil continue to reduce economic viability for more people, do we simply allow banks to send people packing into their vans, or do we see the writing on the wall that this will be the case for so many millions more, a policy is established to help keep more people in their homes?


I've uploaded a new version of my Peak Oil software to my site.

The new features are:

- Hubbert Curves of Algeria, Angola and Iraq added


have you reduced your lifestyle today? did you force someone else to if you did not?

i bought two slices of pepperoni pizza and a six pack of a flavored malt beverage, 5% alcohol. my car get 10% alcohol.

i did this to console myself from a tiring week at the factory. $15 per hour. enough to pay property taxes, electric bill, car insurance, house insurance, high speed cable internet, land line phone and service some debt related to dentistry. oh, and i have enough left over for two slices of pizza and a six pack of a malt beverage. talk about a paradigm.

so i just cant wait for the system to collapse. i want to see bernancke and giethner in the same hobo transient village i will be passing through. then when some one recognizes them we all beat the $hit out of them. some ultra violence right out of "a clockwork orange", real savage like.

then i can die happy.

until then i take small comfort from posting on the oil conundrum.
OOOOO! pretty graphs and conflicting information.

i just love reading posts from pundits about how others have to reduce their lifestyle.

dont forget to visit:

historic photo archive of what life was like 100 years ago and what life will be like pretty soon for the .001% of humanity that makes it past the great die off. that means that every poster today on TOD, even including your humble narrator, will be dead from the great P.O. die off.

P.O. die off. that makes me P.O.'ed.

and let us not forget, goobermint is run by crooks for crooks.
the man enslaved to wealth can never be honest.

"it's all good"

Bernanke and Geitner will be on a beach in Costa Rica, drinking Pina Coladas. Geintner looks at Bernanke, says; "it's all good!".

[...] .001% of humanity that makes it past the great die off

Do you realize that .001% of humanity is about 68,000?

How did you get 68,000? I got 7 million.

Remember 7 billion is 7 with 9 zeros following it x .001 = 7 million.

If you used 6.8 billion it would read 6,800,000,000 x .001 = 6,800,000

An easy way to do the math without a calculator is to figure mutliplying by .001 eliminates three zeros at the end of 6.8 billion to make 6.8 million.

Of course, I think that number is too low for the number of people that will survive, unless we nuke the whole planet. I figure about 1 in 10 will pass through the bottle neck. Using 6.8 billion means there will be 680 million.

.001 = 0.1%

.001% = .00001

Ahh! Good point Consumer. I only noticed the numbers and decimal, not the percentage symbol.

Of course, I think that number is too low for the number of people that will survive, unless we nuke the whole planet. I figure about 1 in 10 will pass through the bottle neck. Using 6.8 billion means there will be 680 million.

And that would be 10% of humanity. Doomerish, but much less so than .001% of humanity.

Yes, 1/10th is doomerish. I don't see an easy transition away from an oil based economy.

But I'm curious, what is your projection of future population based on whatever criteria you support?

Depends - are we allowed majik in the form of 50 year 2kW power sources that run offa the tears of dead babies, fusion power too cheap to bother metering? Cuz with that kind of power we can move the Phosperous back from diluted sources like, say, the ocean back to industrial agro-crop land.

Dunno, my crystal ball is out for repair (it gave numerous faulty predictions during the oil price run up in 2008). In recent history there has been the currency collapse in Argentina, the collapse of the Soviet Union. Both were hard times, someone posted recently the population drop in the decade or so in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union and IIRC it was something like 10 million in a population base of around 195 million. I was suprised as how small the drop was it was and I think Argentina's population dropped little if any. Switzerland made it thru WWII without a population crash.

I do think there will be a collapse, I tend to agree with Leanan's catabolic collapse scenario and it may not look like a collapse to those living thru it. It will look mostly like BAU but with more odd happenings than the normal background noise level of such. I think history books will have the start of the collapse dated four or five years before Feb 13 2010, and possibly date it back to Sept 11 2001. I'll make a WAG that it will be more than a human lifetime before population is reduced by half, but after a couple of millenia we may be down to that 680 million figure.

For more declinist views see John Michael Greer's essay The Tempo of Change.

I think history books will have the start of the collapse dated four or five years before Feb 13 2010, and possibly date it back to Sept 11 2001.

I think it's possible it will be much earlier - 1973 or thereabouts. By some estimates, that's when energy consumption per person peaked. It's also when the world population growth rate started to drop.

And of course, it was peak oil USA. I suspect that was the root cause of a lot of our current economic problems.

And the last manned moon landing was December 1972.

I think 680 million would represent a bit of overshoot, but it could happen. IMO population will susatain at near 1.0 Billion... maybe a bit more if we don't make a large part of the planet radioactive first. And, if we retain knowledge we now have on intensive organic farming.

The criticisms of local farming using more energy assume that small trucks and SUVs will be the transportation used to get produce to market, and that consumers will drive to the farmers markets. Much more likely, animal power will be used to bring produce to town; and consumers will get there on shank's mares, or for the wealthy in buggies. Still energy intense, but no one will be flying produce in, unless perhaps a few billionaires retain some private aircraft and use what little liquid fuel is available for that purpose. Maybe they could get away with it, even. But I believe that there will be electric power, probably streetcars and rail travel, even over distance, and communications will still be good. We will have to do quite a bit of infrastructure improvement, however, in order to have a chance at that.

So, see? I am not a doomer! I think we can sustain a population of 15%!


From link above.

We've been having that debate for years already, and the consensus is that Peak Oil will occur sometime between 5 years and 50 years from now. When it comes, we will not see a steep drop off in oil supply but a so-called "undulating plateau" with oil companies responding to rising prices by finding new and novel ways to wring more oil out of the ground.

This talk about undulating plateaus is starting get on my nerves. I have not heard one word yet what would cause the world's oil to production to plateau for decades. There are powerful forces that drive oil production up or down, and these would have to be in rough balance for a plateau to occur. Anyone who insists that a plateau is a likely scenario would have to explain why successful exploration and extraction should be equal to decline.

After that opening boxed verbiage from an article and your first sentence, I thought you were going to state something on the order of; Haven't they noticed production has been in an undulating plateau since late 04, which many claim to a sign of peak oil?

I think that the current and probably future "undulating plateaus" related in part to "market acceptance" of the higher prices which are necessary to bring additional production online. In 1998, anyone suggesting our current oil price above $70 would have been quickly befriended by guys in white coats and gotten some time away from the stresses of everyday life. Economides was laughed at a few years later with his prediction of $35 oil and missed the date by a month, looking out into the future two years or so.

Production at the margins now makes prices much lower seem impossible, but nothing is impossible. As we cycle through the peaks and valleys, we will see a gradual acceptance of the higher prices. I think this is why we have a language disconnect between peak oilers and the heads of both NOC's and IOC's. Those heading up those companies know that they can find more, whatever that turns out to be, and we think that all the lower price stuff is gone, and that the requisite higher prices will destroy the world's economy. In that sense, we are both right. Give me a high enough price, and let me get comfortable that the price will hold for the long run, and even I can find additional reserves. But at this measley $70 a barrel, with the world economy in a tailspin, I'd be foolish to go after oil which would cost $250 a barrel.

I think that even KSA acknowledges that with the "save it for our future generations" comment. They want to produce the good old $3.00 cost-of-production reserves and let those future generations get squeesed on production costs.

Just a thought which has been rolling around in my head where a brain should be.

at this measley $70 a barrel, with the world economy in a tailspin, I'd be foolish to go after oil which would cost $250 a barrel.

That is a good restatement of one or the main PO points, Woody. Right now, the $250 oil is not recoverable. Later, maybe it will be... for some purposes, at least. What would the EROEI be on $250 oil? If anyone knows a way to translate cost of production directly to EROEI, that is something I have puzzeled over a bit.


I've tried zap but it's so dependent upon your input assumptions it makes almost anyone's number meaningless. If I just used the actual fuel used to drill a well or operate a production system the EROEI shoots right up. But then add the energy consumption to make the steel casing or pump jack. And then do you add cost for the sunk energy used to build the drilling rig? And then do you use the energy expended to shoot the seismic data that was used to generate the drilling project? And then do you only use the actual energy used to drill the successful wells or add some allocation for energy used to drill a dry hole? IOW I might drill a good well with an EROEI of 5 but if I drill 10 dry holes to get to that one good well and use those values my ERORI is now -2. Taken to the extreme do I use the gasoline consumed by my employees when they drive to work everyday? And then do I use the energy expended by the workers at the federal agencies that regulate oil/NG activities?

I have no idea what the EROIE would be on $250 oil. The oil patch has never and never will use EROEI in the decision making process. It's $'s in vs. $'s out. A well drilled today would look much better economicly due to lower drilling costs even though the EROEI might be unchanged from a year ago. One thought: I might project a rather disappointing EROEI at such high prices. I base this upon what I saw happen as a result of the oil price spike afer the embargo days of the lates 70's. We saw the rig count jump to 4600. And I assure you that a large percentage were drilling prospects that had very little chance of success. Simple explanation: greed over riding common sense. However much oil we found at that time it was done at a huge energy expense of which much had no energy return at all. If history repeats itself (IOW human nature hasn't changed) a price spike in the future may well lead to a significant decline in EROEI of new projects. The converse is also true: the price collapse has lead to lower drill activity now. This had led to less competition for good projects. This allows us a better success rate because we can cherry pick. Add much lower drilling costs and SHAZAM! Wells we drill today (at lower prices) have much better EROEI's then they would have had two years ago when oil/NG prices were much higher.

Like most aspects of life: matters are seldom as simple as they appear at first.

EROEI can be misleading. Many old wells were drilled with local fuels, e.g., gas from nearby wells which was unmarketable. Most everything now is drilled with diesel, cometimes converted to electricity first since electrics are easier to precisely control. On every conversion, there is a loss of efficiency. If I drill a gas well with diesel, I am converting diesel to natural gas/methane, and in effect get an additional loss there. The EROEI also needs to take into account the handling of the fluids, especially produced salt water. Rockman says that offshore, that is not a problem due to the salt water below the rig (you just dump it, and I hope I am not misquoting him), but I can tell you that onshore, it is quite different. I have no personal knowledge, but have been told that in the Barnett Shale mecca of Wise County, Texas, no additional salt water wells are being permitted or going to be permitted. Building a pipeline to handle corrosive fluids is a different matter from intending to use one for oil or gas, for instance, but flow lines to transfer the same on a lease are quite different. Virtually every project is totally different, and the industry uses a format of an "authorization for expenditures" for virtually every project undertaken - that way you are forced to plan, and even when you are wrong, at least you have planned and budgeted - so everyone knows what (they think) they have committed to.

The climate dogmatists are not going away. Nor should they. Scientific aspects of climate change are actually of some interest to those of us who live at sea level or who are affected by various economic issues. Why not have a monthly open house on TOD for the true believers on both sides to express their varying degrees of certitude. Having such an open forum available might help decrease the disruption of peal oil discussions by repetitive postings.

Edit: Posted by error. Was intended for the Feb 13 string.