Drumbeat: February 18, 2010

Crude diplomacy: Iraq, Iran and the politics of oil

Iraq is now trying to recover its glory, with plans to quadruple production or more. This could transform the global oil industry; it also threatens two other founding members of OPEC. Saudi Arabia might have to share its leadership of the organisation and Iran faces an even greater setback. Close relations with China, based on Beijing’s thirst for oil, have helped Iran to avoid isolation over its nuclear programme. But Chinese oil companies are now turning their attention to Iraq, with American backing.

Yet Iraq will have to pull off an unprecedented feat. In the history of the modern oil industry, no country has increased output with the speed the Iraqis envisage. Over the next seven years Iraq intends to go from producing 2.5m barrels per day to 12m b/d, a target that exceeds Saudi Arabia’s current output by more than 30%. To this end, Iraq has signed ten deals with most of the world’s top oil companies. Some got down to work this month.

IAEA fears Iran may be working on nuclear warhead

The U.N. nuclear watchdog fears Iran may be working now to develop a nuclear payload for a missile, the agency said in a confidential report on Thursday obtained by Reuters.

The International Atomic Energy Agency report also confirmed Iran had produced its first, small batch of uranium enriched to a higher purity -- 20 percent -- but said the Islamic Republic had failed to give inspectors the required advance notice.

MMS Adds New Auditors for Onshore Producers

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) has finalized its 2010 audit plan to ensure that energy producers on Federal and American Indian lands are properly paying the royalties due to the Federal Government and American Indians. The 2010 audit plan reflects both an increase in staff and the number of audits planned.

"We will be adding 19 new auditors this year and continuing to target companies that have been identified as high risk," said MMS Director Liz Birnbaum.

Saudi Aramco: Jubail refinery's start-up delayed

(MENAFN) Saudi Aramco said that its joint venture with France's Total, Jubail oil refinery, is slated to start operations in late 2013, later than a previous target of March 2013, Reuters reported.

Norway says to give go-ahead to Gudrun field

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's oil ministry will later on Thursday give its go-ahead for Statoil's project to develop the Gudrun field in the North Sea, the ministry said in a press invitation.

Mexico oil port plan may help Maya quality, output

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's state oil company Pemex is mulling a $377 million upgrade of crude oil treatment facilities to fix quality problems in its main export blend, people familiar with the plan said on Thursday.

The project, which has not yet been released for tender, envisions the construction of new equipment at the Dos Bocas oil terminal that would cut the water and salt content in Maya crude oil, said one of the people who had seen a Pemex presentation on the project.

Chesapeake looks to get oily

Chesapeake's output is currently made up of about 93% natural gas, but the Oklahoma giant is adding more profit-boosting oil to its portfolio, it said today.

"Our liquids production is set to begin expanding rapidly, due to the success we have established in six large new unconventional oil plays," McClendon, who was called "Mr. Gas" in a Fortune magazine article, told investors on the company's earnings conference call.

Uganda Asks Tullow to Trim Proposed Share of Oil Assets

The Ugandan government has asked U.K.-based Tullow Oil PLC to reduce the size of its proposed share in three of the country's oil blocks in order to diversify ownership of Uganda's oil resources, the ministry of energy and minerals development said Wednesday.

Concerns Raised Over Gas Flaring in Uganda

Environmental advocates are expressing concern over the potential impact of oil discoveries in western Uganda’s Lake Albert region, thought to total as much as 1.7 billion barrels.

Most recently, documents made public by Platform, a British environmental and human rights organization working in Uganda, appeared to reveal an agreement between the British oil exploration company Tullow Oil and the Ugandan government to allow gas flaring.

A Debate Special: "Will Ecology Dominate The 21st Century?"

In the 2009 New Ecology issue of Alternatives Journal, Thomas Homer Dixon, professor of Environment and Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo, wrote that Ecology would replace Physics as the master science of the 21st Century.

In that same issue Stephen Bocking of Trent University argued that Politics, not Ecology, was the real master science.

To sort things out Alternatives Journal asked them to square off mano-a-mano in a panel discussion format.

How many is too many? Australia's people problem

Australia is an open and tolerant country with a rich history in migration. But it is an illusion that Australia can absorb many more millions.

Even a basic assessment shows that Australia's more recent high population growth causes or exacerbates many of our major economic, environmental and social problems. Yet successive federal governments push it higher and higher.

Why Bill Gates is wrong

Gates has burst on to the energy scene with some rather ill-considered thinking. To get a flavor, see his blog post, “Why We Need Innovation, Not Just Insulation.” The idea is that “conservation and behavior change” might get the world to its 2020 or 2030 targets, but to get to 80 percent emissions reductions by 2050 we’ll need fundamental technological innovation. Ergo: we should pay more attention to, and devote more money to, basic science and R&D.

NRG Sees Two-Month Wait for Answer on Nuclear Aid

(Bloomberg) -- NRG Energy Inc. said it expects to find out in about two months if it will get a federal loan guarantee needed to build new nuclear reactors in Texas. The company will scrap the project if it doesn’t get them.

NRG will try to sell some of its share in the project if it receives loan-guarantee approval from the U.S. Energy Department, company Chief Executive Officer David W. Crane said today in an interview. The company, based in Princeton, New Jersey, is seeking to build two reactors at an existing plant site about 100 miles (161 kilometers) southwest of Houston.

GCC eyes Philippines renewable sector

Several GCC investors have expressed interest in investing in the Philippines' renewable sector, said an official.

This is because despite being oil-rich most of the countries in the six-country group lack gas to fuel their energy-extensive residential, commercial and industrial projects.

With a shortage of natural gas (except in Qatar), Gulf countries are pushed to find other alternative sources of electricity, which the Philippines has mastered for years.

E.U. Countries Vie to Meet Renewable Goals

The European Union as a whole will meet its goal of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, according to an analysis by the European Wind Energy Association — though some individual countries will fall short of their individual production targets, while others now report they will exceed them.

Virginia Files Challenge to E.P.A. Greenhouse Gas Regulation

Virginia’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, filed a petition Tuesday asking the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its finding that global warming poses a threat to people.

Jeremy Rifkin: The third industrial revolution

My sense is that we're nearing an endgame for the modern age. I think we had two singular events in the last 18 months that signal the end. First, in July 2008 the price of oil hit $147/barrel. Food riots broke out in 30 countries, the price of basic items shot up and purchasing power plummeted. That was the earthquake; the market crash 60 days later was the aftershock. It signaled the beginning of the endgame of a great industrial era based on fossil fuels. The second event, in December 2009, was the breakdown in Copenhagen, when world leaders tried to deal with our entropy problem and failed.

John Michael Greer: Why factories aren't efficient

Last week’s Archdruid Report post fielded a thoughtful response from peak oil blogger Sharon Astyk, who pointed out that what I was describing as America’s descent to Third World status could as well be called a future of “ordinary human poverty.” She’s quite right, of course. There’s nothing all that remarkable about the future ahead of us; it’s simply that the unparalleled abundance that our civilization bought by burning through half a billion years of stored sunlight in three short centuries has left most people in the industrial world clueless about the basic realities of human life in more ordinary times.

It’s this cluelessness that underlies so many enthusiastic discussions of a green future full of high technology and relative material abundance. Those discussions also rely on one of the dogmas of the modern religion of progress, the article of faith that the accumulation of technical knowledge was what gave the industrial world its three centuries of unparalleled wealth; since technical knowledge is still accumulating, the belief goes, we may expect more of the same in the future. Now in fact the primary factor that drove the rise of industrial civilization, and made possible the lavish lifestyles of the recent past, was the recklessness with which the earth’s fossil fuel reserves have been extracted and burnt over the last few centuries. The explosion of technical knowledge was a consequence of that, not a cause.

Interview with Dr. Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell, founder of the Association for the Study of peak Oil and Gas, is officially retired from his career as oil geologist and Peak Oil pundit but kindly agreed to this interview for the zone5 podcast.

Oil Declines as Dollar Rises, U.S. Fuel Stockpiles Increase

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil fell for the first time in three days as the dollar strengthened and an industry report showed an increase in U.S. fuel supplies, fanning concern that demand in the world’s biggest energy user is slow to recover.

Oil dropped from a four-week high as the U.S. currency extended gains against the euro, damping investor demand for commodities. The American Petroleum Institute said U.S. gasoline inventories rose last week to the highest since March 1999 and distillate fuel stockpiles ended a four-week drawdown. An Energy Department report today is forecast to show crude oil supplies increased, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

Gasoline, Diesel Surpass Crude in Floating Storage, Poten Says

(Bloomberg) -- Traders are choosing to store oil products in floating tankers instead of crude oil as freezing temperatures and rising demand boost the need for distillates, Poten & Partners said in a report.

Crude oil stored in tankers fell to about 25 million barrels currently from levels exceeding 80 million barrels last year, Poten said in a report to clients last week. Floating storage for clean products such as gasoline and gasoil reached a peak in December at 80 million barrels in 127 vessels. That’s down to 57 million barrels currently, it said.

Shipyard Order Books Dwindle on Global Recession, SSY Says

(Bloomberg) -- Orders for vessels to transport commodities such as iron ore and coal have dwindled since the end of 2008 because of the global recession, a surplus of newly commissioned ships and cancellations, according to a report by SSY Consultancy & Research Ltd.

The order book for bulk carriers has declined by 7.5 percent or 21.2 million deadweight tons to its lowest level since mid-2008, according to the report on Feb. 16, based on data from Lloyd’s Register-Fairplay.

Iran aims for an energy break-out

While Western attention was focused on Saudi Arabia's possible provision of energy guarantees to China in return for a "yes" vote on Iran sanctions, Iran was working to leverage its natural gas reserves into economic alliances with China, India and Pakistan.

Thailand: Tight security at energy plants

Stringent security measures have been put in place at tank farms, oil refineries, natural gas separation and power plants as the Feb 26 judgement day draws near, Energy Minister Wannarat Channukul said on Thursday afternoon.

“I have ordered responsible authorities to ensure the safety of these plants. Natural gas should not be transported during the night hours, to prevent the tanker trucks being seized as happened in the April riots,” Mr Wannarat said.

Norway Growth Will Slow This Year on Oil Spending, Agency Says

(Bloomberg) -- Norway’s economy will expand at a slower pace than previously forecast as lower petroleum investments and a struggling manufacturing sector curb growth, the country’s statistics office forecast.

The mainland economy, which excludes oil, gas and shipping, will grow 2.0 percent this year, the Oslo-based agency said in a report on its Web site today. The office in December forecast 2.2 percent expansion in 2010. Gross domestic product will expand 2.7 percent next year, it said.

Russia to seize Kovytka gas field from BP venture

Russia is poised to seize control of Kovytka, one of the world's largest gas fields, from TNK-BP, a joint venture between BP and four Russian oligarchs.

Reliance Falls on Speculation of Higher Lyondell Bid

(Bloomberg) -- Reliance Industries Ltd. declined the most in almost two weeks after reports said India’s biggest company by market value may have to increase its bid to buy bankrupt chemicals and fuels-maker LyondellBasell Industries AF.

Poweo Expects 2009 Operating Loss; May Sell Assets on Law Delay

(Bloomberg) -- Poweo SA, a French power company, estimated an operating loss for 2009 and said it may sell assets amid delays for legislation to further open the French market.

The operating loss was about 85 million euros ($115 million) as sales fell 2.2 percent to 565 million euros, Paris- based Poweo said today in an e-mail. It had forecast it would break even, after an operating loss of 21 million euros in 2008.

ABB Deepens Savings, Says Outlook Still ‘Cautious’

(Bloomberg) -- ABB Ltd., the world’s biggest builder of power grids, said it aims to cut costs by $3 billion by the end of 2010, 50 percent more than previously planned, to meet profit targets as customers remain hesitant to invest.

"The Plan" by Edwin Black

Author Edwin Black's niche is to, assisted by dozens of volunteers, sieve through libraries and archives and write extremely well-researched books. He usually spends a couple of years doing research before he cranks out a new book, but he made an exception for the sleek, no more than 130 pages long "The Plan: How to rescue society when the oil stops - or the day before."

Why the TTC should get liquored up

We’re not suggesting that alcohol should be readily available on subway cars and in stations (but could you imagine?). But see, the LCBO is a government institution with a veritable monopoly on its product, and yet it also provides one of the most enjoyable retail experiences this side of Tiffany’s. Ideally, the TTC, as a government institution with a monopoly on public transit, should strive to provide the best goddamn rider experience of any public transit provider in the world.

The Spotless Garden

Mr. Torcellini’s greenhouse wouldn’t look out of place on a wayward space station where pioneers have gone to escape the cannibal gangs back on Earth. But then, in a literal sense, Mr. Torcellini, a 41-year-old I.T. director for an industrial manufacturer, has left earth — that is, dirt — behind.

What feeds his winter crop of lettuce is recirculating water from the 150-gallon fish tank and the waste generated by his 20 jumbo goldfish. Wastewater is what fertilizes the 27 strawberry plants from last summer, too. They occupy little cubbies in a seven-foot-tall PVC pipe. When the temperature begins to climb in the spring, he will plant the rest of the gravel containers with beans, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers — all the things many other gardeners grow outside.

Why Obama's Nuclear Bet Won't Pay Off

If you want to understand why the United States hasn't built a nuclear reactor in three decades, the Vogtle plant outside Atlanta is an excellent reminder of the insanity of nuclear economics. Its original cost estimate was less than $1 billion for four reactors. Its eventual price tag in 1989 was nearly $9 billion for only two reactors. But now there's widespread chatter about a nuclear renaissance, so the Southern Co. is finally trying to build the other two reactors at Vogtle. The estimated cost: $14 billion. And you can be sure that number is way too low, because nuclear cost estimates are always way too low.

Cellulosic Fuel Gets Cheaper, Companies Say

Two of the world’s leading companies in the enzyme business, Novozymes and Danisco of Denmark, announced this week that they had found a way to produce enzymes that could reliably and affordably convert agricultural waste into so-called cellulosic ethanol.

Utility Executives Like Nuclear Power. Climate Science, Not So Much.

American utility industry executives see nuclear energy as the most promising carbon-free power source, are skeptical of climate change science, and are uncertain about the future, according to a report to be issued Thursday by Black & Veatch, the engineering and consulting giant.

Environmental Advocates Are Cooling on Obama

WASHINGTON — There has been no more reliable cheerleader for President Obama’s energy and climate change policies than Daniel J. Weiss of the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

But Mr. Obama’s recent enthusiasm for nuclear power, including his budget proposal to triple federal loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors to $54 billion, was too much for Mr. Weiss.

Top UN climate official resigning

AMSTERDAM – Top U.N. climate change official Yvo de Boer told The Associated Press Thursday that he was resigning after nearly four years, a period when governments struggled without success to agree on a new global warming deal.

His departure takes effect July 1, five months before 193 nations are due to reconvene in Mexico for another attempt to reach a binding worldwide accord on controlling greenhouse gases.

Methane: the quick fix for global warming?

Its short lifespan and greater potency means tackling methane emissions now could have a dramatic effect on atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

Overpopulation and Climate Change

PUTNEY, VERMONT — With the continuing failure of governments to reach agreements on combating climate change, the outlook for both humans and nature remains bleak.

And nowhere is the failure more conspicuous than in the avoidance of the subject of population growth. Population is a double-barreled environmental problem — not only is population increasing; so are emissions per capita.

Re: "The Plan" by Edwin Black

The commentary in the article is interesting. However, one should note that the book was published in September 2008. Given that President Obama has just flipped to support nuclear generated electricity, one must conclude that He didn't get the message.

E. Swanson

Are these smaller reactors more fuel efficient? [anyone? Bueller? Bueller?]

Are these smaller reactors more fuel efficient? [anyone? Bueller? Bueller?]

Depends. For example, the traveling wave reactor that Bill Gates is excited about is much more fuel efficient, primarily because of it uses fast-spectrum neutrons to breed fissile fuel from fertile depleted uranium or thorium. There's another smaller gain because the proposed TWR would operate at higher temperatures than today's commercial reactors, yielding improved thermal efficiency in generating electricity.

There are only a small number of fast-neutron reactors operating in the world (even though they date back to the 1950s), and no fast-neutron designs licensed for commercial use in the US. The US Department of Energy operated the Fast Flux test facility, a 400 MWt fast-neutron reactor from 1982-1992, setting a then world record for fuel efficiency.

Isn't this the type used to produce weapon grade fissile materials? And wasn't this the type in Chernoble? I can't remember.

I know that there is some excitement b/c it reuses fuel, and with a limited amount of U235/238 and Plutonium available, it helps with fuel availability, plus as I recall it also recycles radioactive waste.

It has been a few years since I happened across any articles on this. Are you up on those, and what is the current state of affairs there? I personally believe that some nuclear is going to be important in getting through the impending disaster looming as our politicians look the other way.


I'm certainly not an expert, but am trying to get more informed.

Any reactor based on a uranium/plutonium fuel cycle can produce weapons-grade plutonium. If you want to breed plutonium for weapons, you don't want to leave the fuel in the reactor too long; you want Pu-239, not Pu-240. A reactor with a basic scheme that leaves the fuel in place for decades is, in theory, more proliferation resistant: too many other plutonium isotopes and arguably no need for any commercial reprocessing. Expert opinions vary.

To my mind, the big thing right now is that there are some really detailed simulations, and a lot of numerical solutions to models, but no one has ever built such a reactor core to see if the process is self-stabilizing or not. Does getting a commercial design approved require that at some point the NRC has to go out on the limb and accept the simulation results? Who funds the first research reactor based on this type of design?

Chernobyl was a thermal-neutron reactor with a lot of really serious design flaws. There has never been a time when that design would have been approved for commercial use in the US.

Thanks. Keep posting here. We need your input, and it is important.


Out of the operating reactors the most fuel-efficient are CANDU reactors. The CANDU uses natural uranium as fuel. The CANCU can use as fuel uranium that is discarded from PVR and BVR as spent fuel.

On the subject of overpopulation:

PM: Parents, shape up!

Prime Minister Bruce Golding, while speaking in Parliament this week, said the State would no longer allow bad parents to get away while children became disadvantaged because of their poor discharge of parenting functions.

"We are going to have to send a signal to parents that if you are not prepared to honour your obligation to your children, then don't have them," Golding told the House of Representatives Tuesday night.

"If you have them and you are not prepared to honour those obligations, then you are going to be punished. We are going to have to start making it clear that the discharge of parental responsibility for children is not an option," he added.

A first step in the direction of population control? Some cultures that have a legacy of slavery seem to have some sort of leftover inclination to procreate in order to produce more workers for industry (slaves). In Jamaica this means that it is not uncommon for a male unskilled laborer to have way more children than he can afford but, either deny that he is the father or pay lip service to fatherhood. I can not remember ever hearing a Jamaican prime minister issue such a direct threat to deadbeat parents. While the sentiment is noble, any attempts to enforce legislation are likely to be unpopular with the deadbeats who, are also voters.

Alan from the islands

That is one of the many issues facing us. I am working toward a better world for everyone in my thinking and my actions. But I can't stop someone from being a bad parent, or a killer, or anything else negative that this world's human population can come up with to jinx a better future for everyone.

What do you do with those that behave badly?

Once I wrote a story where all the bad people were put out on floating islands in a vast sea. They were given a shelter, means to catch fish, grow plants, store rain water, and live out their life the way they wanted to ALONE.

If they tried to swim to shore, they would be shot and taken back to their island, the third time they got to shore they would be killed. If they could not survive because they were mentally ill, they were cared for in a different way, if they were medically unfit to survive alone on an island, they were cared for in a different way.

The islands were about 500 square feet and stayed in one location, about 500 feet apart in a grid pattern. You could go swimming if you needed exercise, but beware of it you don't have lifeguards on hand to save you.

Systems were set up to be self sustaining and it solved a lot of things in the society of the story.


I don't know what to do with most misbehaving humans, I like to think that I am not going to have to kill them for their bad actions. But I have not been in the position where I have been given that choice to make.


Something slightly along these lines, but all on one island, was tried before. It is called "Australia".

(Sorry, Ozzie mates, you've got a great country, but you do know your own history!)

I created that story as a vocal work, some people and I were gathered along the side of the Arkansas river and asked me to tell them a story.

I was looking at those big round bumper guards at the lee side of the bridge there, They are about 15 feet around and filled in big rocks, with steel rung ladders up the sides, and there were plants in the rocks and it hit me.

Some people showed up late, and thought I was relating a true news event that I had heard. They wanted to know where this place was, they liked the idea.

Fiction can be so close to fact that you have to be careful. It might just turn out that way.


Ps, a lot of my works, are vocal stories, and poems, I make them up as I go along, or relate ones I have thought up elsewhere, the ones that get written down are rare.

I can't let this snide remark go past,WNC.Most Australians born and educated in Australia do know a lot about their nation's history.Probably a lot more than most Americans know about their history.For instance,you either do not know or choose to forget that a considerable number of convicts were exported by Britain to the American colonies before the War of Independence.I don't recall reading that any of them were sent back.You could even be a descendant,shock,horror.

Secondly,given the nature of the British justice system at that time most transported convicts were guilty of minor offences.Given the appalling nature of British society and economic conditions at that time,both in and out of the prisons,a lot of convicts welcomed transportation to Australia as a way of escaping the conditions at home.

Thirdly,many convicts did very well in Australia after they gained their parole and became respected,valued and honoured citizens.Also,free settlers vastly outnumbered transportees not many years after the first white settlement.

Lastly,over the past 20 years or more,the social attitude in Australia to the convict era has changed with increasing knowledge about what went on and why.It is quite common now for people who can trace their ancestry to a convict to be very proud of that fact.The same also applying to people who can find some Aboriginal blood in their family.

Yes, I am aware of all of this. I do not claim any expertise on Australian history, but I did read Hughes's Fatal Shore, which probably gives me a little more knowledge about Australia's history than many Americans.

And you are right, of course, that convicts were transported to the US as well. However, it must be admitted that the North American colonies were not set up with that as the primary original purpose, at least not to the extent that Australia was in its earliest days.

It is also true that British "justice" in those days was pretty harsh, especially toward those unfortunate to have been born on the lower tiers of society. Both countries were settled by large numbers of such people, who were glad to be rid of the old country, regardless of whether they landed in trouble with the law, fairly or unfairly, or managed to keep out of the Crown's clutches and left on their own initiative.

My comments thus were not intended to carry with them any implied value judgement, just the historical observation that Australia was indeed originally intended to be a place where Britain could isolate its "outlaws" from itself.

Thanks,WNC - the American War of Independence put the British in a spot regarding their human garbage disposal system and,as you say,Australia was seen as a solution.Never mind about reforming their system - has anything changed?

However the solution didn't last too long in the historical sense.Because of pressure from some enlightened people in Britain and New South Wales, the government was compelled to improve conditions on convict transports which had been very bad.This ended up making the transportation system much more expensive and money talks,as you know.

As the number of free settlers increased there was also pressure within the colony to cease transportation,probably mainly on economic grounds as the slave labour of convicts was seen to depress the demand and the remuneration for free labour.It is possible that the morality of the whole system was a concern as well,not only by free settlers but also by British governors,some of whom were of the enlightened class and certainly not floggers as sometimes depicted.

In any case,transportation ceased in the Eastern colonies before the Gold Rushes of the 1850s.South Australia never had transportation and West Australia received it's last convicts in the 1860s.

Without transportation it is likely that Australia would have been settled much later.The strange and harsh conditions would not have encouraged free settlers,at least initially.Also,the French were showing interest in the Great Southland at that time.So,we could have all been speaking French Down Under.

It would be an interesting exercise in counterfactual history to speculate on how Australia might have developed if it had been kept exclusively as a reserve for the transport of convicts, and if free settlers had not been allowed in. My guess is that eventually there would have been a Haiti-style revolt and overthrow of the British overlords, and Australia would have developed as another English speaking republic outside of the British Empire/Commonwealth. It is quite conceivable that, sharing this common status, the US and Australia would have warmed up to each other much more rapidly than they did, probably by the time of the Spanish-American war rather than waiting until WWII.

Firstly, the Victorian Goldrush (the largest the world has ever seen) meant the end of convict transportation, so even if free settlers had been barred from 1788 to 1848, it was all over when the gold was found. And secondly, the colonies required free settlers almost from the start - a military garrison and convicts are the not the best ingredients to build a self-supporting society, and that was evident to the very first governors. So the business class, and the farming aristocracy, came mainly from free settlers of means, or those having strong entrepreneurial spirit, or those with mates in the Army hierarchy. There were some convicts that had brilliant careers.

How many is too many? Australia's people problem

While the author of the article does sound rather far-right nativist (using code to say that white people are being over-run by swarming crowds of brown people, etc), he does make some sense otherwise. In general I don't buy the "population problem" in relation to Peak Oil or Global Warming ... it is a neat way for the Western rich to get out of jail free. Additional people in poor countries do not add to the problem like such people do in rich ones, let alone the fact that the richest in the rich countries consume obscene amount of energy because they can afford to. It is immoral to blame the increasing population of the developing world.

But the argument for Australia is different - it is an extremely barren, fragile, eroded, dry, hot and tough place. It is Arizona rather than Iowa, and for that reason it has created huge cities, with few medium-sized ones - and on those grounds I think a peak population of 25 million, dropping slowly over time, is in fact the right policy. All those arguments about no young people to support an ageing population is policy gobbledegook - the reality is that most Australians will need to take a real cut in their (financial) standard of living ... but the upside is, if we do do that, quality of life could be greatly improved.

PS I am a seventh-generation Australian by the way ... direct descendant of a transported couple on the First Fleet (1787-88). Not that the First Fleet is any more significant that the second or third, etc, but some people seem to think these things matter.

[Australia] is an extremely barren, fragile, eroded, dry, hot and tough place.

Um ... Australia exports 60% of total agricultural production. And that's without putting any significant agriculture in the vast wet top end.

Not to mention the Bradfield scheme ...

one of the agricultural products the australians are exporting is kangaroo meat.
this according to a long time long haul driver acquaintence i have talked to. he swears on a stack of harley davidson owners manuals that he used to haul kangaroo meat to mcdonalds. kangaroo meat is probably as good as any marsupial meat and marsupial meat is probably as good as any growth hormone, antibiotic charged red or white meat. it's just that the golden arches havent made it part of their ronald mcdonald sthick (that wouldn't induce many warm and fuzzies).

one of the agricultural products the australians are exporting is kangaroo meat.

According to Australians I know, somebody should eat them because there are far too many of them.

There also is the new eco-conscious group, kangatarians - Australians who on environmental, ecological and humanitarian ground avoid all meat except kangaroos. They figure somebody has to eat the kangaroos, otherwise there will be no vegetables left for the vegetarians.

They're also free range organic meat because nobody is going to deliberately feed them, water them, or give them growth hormones (one would hope).

The environmental cost of all that agribusiness is enormous - have you flown Adelaide to Perth, to see the huge (permanent) salt-pans all over the former wheatbelt, or been to Lake Alexandrina at the mouth of the Murray ... I could go on and on. Much of it is unsustainable.

Have you spent any time in that "vast wet top end" of Australia? It has very poor, leached soils, it is too hot, too rugged, too far from markets, short on infrastructure, riddled with birds and pests, and has no rainfall for eight months and then monsoons for four. There are very good reasons why the Ord River Scheme (for one example) took 30 years to come to anything. I wouldn't bank on a major agricultural industry in the north.

Australians who on environmental, ecological and humanitarian ground avoid all meat except kangaroos.

Sounds rather odd to me ... there are vast swathes of the country (70%?) that are only good for the raising of cattle - and pretty "organically" too - they just roam around from water point to water point, until they are rounded up to go to market. Nice beef.

Seventh Generation I gather there was rather a mating orgy when the prisoners were disembarked must have been quite a baby boom 9 months after.

To also clarify my story's point of view, the only convicts were, killers, rapist, robbers, and mobsters.

Products like weed, and coke and those that make you feel good, but tend to be criminal around here, were not so in this culture. In our day if we got rid of those as crimes we'd have a lot fewer people in prison.

Morality is hard enough to manage, but telling someone that smoking a pipe of tobacco is a crime, or eating a fast food burger is a crime could lead to the prisons being fuller still.

There were no tax crimes, no debt crimes, only killing, robbing, and harming.

Anyway, if anyone wants to see the story, email me.


"I don't know what to do with most misbehaving humans"

Your story is a bit like Escape from New York, but for hermits. Personally, I think Escape from NY is an eminently sensible solution for hardcore criminals. Note: Hard core would include virtually all white collar crime as it is actually far more devastating than all other crime combined, imo. Current events support this point of view quite nicely.

Further Note: It would *not* include most drug or prostitution offenses unless they involved minors. Pimps/Madams who abuse their workers or force/manipulate them would also be considered hard core criminals.

Enclose an area in a mild climate area such as Hawaii or southern Florida, give them everything they need to build shelter and grow their own food and have access to water and let them spend their days as they wish. Most would never be getting out, anyway. You might want to seriously consider keeping the genders segregated, of course, for the safety of the women and to prevent births into such an environment.

Might be quite interesting to see what developed over the years. Not so interesting if it turned out to be one long gladiator tournament leaving a last man/woman standing. Maybe a Plan B would be a good idea.


Grouping prisoners together, only lets them continue their actions, until the last man is standing. No that is not a good solution in my book.

Punishment is not to let them continue what they were doing in the first place, and ginving them access to each other is just that.

Giving them each their own cell, let them deal with themselves in an enlightening manner. If they want to gang up on each other they can, but they have to work at it, Swimming 500 feet in water is not an easy task, given that when you get to your target Cell you are going to have to find a way to climb up out of the water, The ladder down is a draw bridge of sorts.

Attacking your fellow inmate in a normal prison is more common than we would like to believe. In my story, attacking another is a hard thing to do, and you can't talk to the others to plan anything, unless you swim over to their prison pile.

When the USA has so many more prisoners per capita than most other countries if not the highest in the world, you have to ask yourself why?

Cheers for a better future,

Of course you'll end up with politically-incorrect people slotted for time there as well. Kinda like the notion that hate crimes are worse than other sorts. Once you get into thought police, poor thinkers are more dangerous than poor do-ers.

Re: Jeremy Rifkin: The third industrial revolution

He talks about the ideas of the "Enlightenment" being a hindrance to moving forward into the necessary new paradigm.

It might be interesting to revisit the http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-enlightenment-2-0

"Now we tend to see the Enlightenment view of human psychology as thin and mechanical, and Enlightenment hopes of social progress through the spread of humanitarianism and the scientific outlook as naïve...One of this book's aims is to replace the thin, mechanical psychology of the Enlightenment with something more complex, something closer to reality...another aim of the book is to defend the Enlightenment hope of a world that is more peaceful and humane, the hope that by understanding more about ourselves we can do something to create a world with less misery. I have qualified optimism that this hope is well founded..."

We all hope for a world that is more peaceful and humane, Fred. The problem is the vast number of adherents to the economic theories that abound, all claiming that economics and humanity are evolving and that it is the rule of tooth and claw, epitomized in their mantra of, "Greed is good." In fact, as Mr. Rifkin points out,

. . . the discovery of mirror neurons suggests that we are not wired for autonomy or utility but for empathic distress; we are a social species.

Indeed, it is cooperation that allowed the species to prosper before the industrial age. The wholesale use of stored energy is an aberration in the history of mankind, and of the world. Even without, our numbers were challenging the ability of the planet to support our species. It will take cooperation, and empathy far beyond any seen in the past, and certainly above that glimmer noted today, to work our way out of the dilemna of declining energy, burgeoning population and impending climatic disaster.

As I often have said, hope does spring eternal. It is just that eternity is such an awfully long time.



Well thought out, thanks. As a God fearing man, I am reminded that I have a long life ahead of me, given it might end in the next few seconds, or last till I am 110 years old. I don't know when I will die, nor should I worry about it. I should live in the now and do my best to help others live better lives as much as I can.

The BioWebScape project as I am starting to call it, is not limited to any one thing beyond forging a better future for us all.

I have found people in all walks of life, trying to help others to be able to grow their own food, support their families, end homelessness, and make the world a safe place for themselves and their children. We just need more of them.

There are a lot of ideas out there that look good on the outside, but when You get down to the cores they fail because someone wants to Lord it over another. That does not have to be the case.

As I have mentioned else where, the statement... If I were king...

If you had an empathic, caring, loving, king type person who did hold onto the ideals of a better life for all, an opposite to the King of Id, made famous by "Wizard of Id" it might work out okay.

Some would say a Christ like king, but lets not go into thumping our bibles or science text books. That is not the issue, and only limits us from a solution.

I can have my faith in my religion and you can have yours, but we can both move forward in a common goal of having a better world for all of us, now and in the future. Our differences are what help us not hinder us.

The biosphere is not a single tulip tree. It is billions of things all working in a chaotic mix that we humans have still only touched the edges of understanding.

What was life like before we showed up on the scene, and though we are here now, can't we just stay within the limits we have and work toward a better life? If we wanted to, later we could go out into the stars, but first we need to be able to live on earth without killing ourselves off.

Cheers for a better future,

Our differences are what help us not hinder us.

Exactly, Charles. It is our differences, working together and cooperatively, that make us stronger, in a paradigm called, "synergy." One plus one becomes something more than just two. It is was made the United States of America a great country.

The adoption of "Greed is good" as our philosophical direction that has destroyed our great synergy as a people. This is why I hate the Neo-Cons so. They follow the direction of "Saint Ronnie the Wrong," and go after individual gains, this quarter's profit sheet, and this year's bonus, to the detriment of the environment, the economy and our spiritual well-being. And, instead of investing for the reward of dividends paid, they try to "grow their wealth" by slight of hand, trading stocks. It is wrong headed, it has destroyed our economy, and it is destroying our world!

Sorry to vent. Sometimes ... I just must.


Vent away Craig! Not many people understand the strength of synergy, where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts...


You're reminding me of a Simpsons Halloween Special, when Homer is shopping for Fallout Shelters, and misses the Holocaust because he's left the door closed as he is inside, and is flipping through a Far Side/Gary Larson Calendar in there, going.. "I don't get it.. I don't get it.."

Boy, do I need to laugh..

I said it in 2008 that I was running for president under the Free Right Now party. Free Right Now was my idea for a party name, when I wondered what it would be like if Christ showed up to run for President.

Who would vote for a guy calling himself Christ? Was my thought puzzle, how could that work out, and whom would try to kill him for his afront to GOD, in their images( instead of man in the image of God, God in the image of man).

Then I thought could I run for the job, it was more tongue in cheek, until I got out there telling people I knew what my platform was and there was a lot of positive feed back.

I know I am not able to ever win and I am just doing it as the thought puzzle it is, but seriously we need some changes made in the US and World.

I voted for the actor the first time, then I started writing in "Winnie The Pooh" ever after that. Governors too.


Just makes me think that someone else would have to be contrary and run as Satan. Those would be some spicy election-debates, huh?

Thanks for the note. Will reply asap.

Indeed, it is cooperation that allowed the species to prosper before the industrial age.

It used to be you'd have to see the person you screwed over back then.

Now, you can screw over lots of people to piss 'em off, but not enough to get 'em to take action. Or, if they are pissed off enough contract law or even the barrier of a court case stops action.

I don't see anyone tearing down global trade anytime soon, nor contract law, nor the various laws on the books.

Think of the Donner pass party. They may have been empathetic but they still ate their relatives. Interestingly, the so called savages, the Indians that were along, refused to participate, and chose to die in the wilderness instead. There is a way out but it lies over the dead bodies of our fellow human and non human species.

THE SHINING - The Donner Party
... see? it's OK, he saw it on the Television!

Jared Diamond used the Donner Party to write about survival in general. He points out that those who survived were the most selfish of the lot. One particularly selfish family came through unscathed.

The two Indians didn't refuse to participate. They were shot for food early on.

Indeed, it is cooperation that allowed the species to prosper before the industrial age.

Indeed. Study after study shows cooperation to be more efficient than competition. Capitalism is inherently inefficient. The assumption that the market seeks the most efficient response is just BS based on ignoring that those that seek dominion in any form are inherently greedy.


I just heard a Shell commercial for "nitrogen enriched gasoline." I found this article with the following:

But the most revealing reason behind Shell's efforts to push nitrogen-enriched gas might be its decision to suspend research on alternative fuels. In March 2009, Shell announced it would hold back indefinitely on funding and research for solar and wind power. Hydrogen power was given the boot, too. Analysts cited recent drops in oil prices and an economic downturn as possible reasons for the move [source: Hadhazy].

Anyone care to comment?

Debbie, nitrogen enriched gasoline, if the hype is true, is a very good thing for the engine but it does absolutely nothing as far as gas milage goes. So it makes no sense to say this is why they are suspending research on alternative fuels.

How does nitrogen enriched gasoline work?

The nitrogen molecule is attached to the cleaning agent, and helps create more stable conditions at higher temperatures thus extending the life of detergent in your motor. This nitrogen additive in the detergent prevents the mixture from becoming a victim of thermal breakdown under heavy loads, which would reduce the effects of the cleaning agent. Mixing that detergent with nitrogen, the cleansing agent does not burn off. Nitrogen is an inert gas that doesn't burn, which is how the life of detergent is extended.

So I am all for it if it will extend the life of my engine. But this makes absolutely no difference whatsoever as far as the impact of peak oil goes.

Ron P.

Darwinian, Nitrogen does "burn" at the high temperatures and pressures within an ICE, producing those nasty NOx molecules we all love. As the NOx mixes in the urban atmosphere, they interact with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) and sunlight, the result being Ozone aka, smog.

My guess would be that cleaning the combustion chamber of the usual coating of carbon would slightly reduce compression ratio and increase the heat loss thru the cylinder heads and pistons, the result being slightly reduced efficiency of the engine and lower MPG.

E. Swanson

Well no it does not burn, not even at the temperatures and pressures inside the internal combustion engine. Nitrous Oxide is not produced by burning nitrogen. Nitrous Oxide (Manufacture)

Nitrous oxide is most commonly prepared by careful heating of ammonium nitrate, which decomposes into nitrous oxide and water vapor.

How Does Nitrogen Burn?

Nitrogen does not react easily with oxygen. To have oxygen react with nitrogen requires more energy than you get out of the reaction. This is called an endothermic reaction. So no. It cannot be used to run cars. The air is 3/4 nitrogen and 1/4 oxygen. If those two could react easily we would constantly have to worry about the planet exploding...
The bond between the nitrogen atoms in a nitrogen molecule is very strong. So strong nitrogen is virtually inert. The only industrial way to produce nitrogen compounds is by having it react with pure hydrogen. This is as close to being combustible nitrogen gets. The reaction is used to make ammonia. The ammonia can then be reacted with oxygen to form water and nitrogen oxide.

Ron P.

Hi Ron. An interesting comment.

Brings to mind that lightening, when it 'strikes' the ground, serves to fix nitrogen to the soil, and acts as a fast-acting natural fertilizer.

Clover also afixes it; and as I recall so do legumes. Which is the basis for planting clover in fields using crop rotation.

Do any of you organic farmers know anything else that can be used?


You can actually do it by daily hoeing of organic material into the soil


Clover is a legume. Beans, peas, clover, vetches, the siberian pea tree, locust trees, acacia trees, peanuts, lupins (flowers mostly) and several water plants that I can't remember the latin names of, but can see them in my head,, ((grr hate the way I can't remember names but see everyone's faces and all those plants I know about. I tell the nursery person, show my the plant, I'll tell you if I need it, spout the name and I will be clueless. sighs ))

They all draw nitrogen out of the nitrates and nitrites in the soil. That is one of the great uses for Hydroponics with fish and water plants added to become aquaponics. Tank set up starts a process called cycling where nitrates and nitrites mix it up and one is good and the other is bad, but at one ratio they are safe, it is all a bunch of chemical engineering I hardly ever bothered with.

I just set the tanks up and felt my way around things. Plants and fish and water and things that come in on the air currents and make things really lovely.

I had fish living in swamp water, it looked like to others, and they were happy and healthy enough to breed, which is a good sign that you are doing something right.

If you want to get at the deep down minerals, grow acacia if you can.

Here is a list that wiki gives


There they go with those names again, sighs, I never could pass that darn class, I had to have a B or better, names and faces aren't stored in my head the same way as other folks. If I see it a picture, I'll never forget it. But words just end up as blurry images to me, unless I hear them then I can remember them as well as seeing things.

If you need more help let me know.

There are free living diazotrophs Azospirillum and Azotobacter are probably the two most well known. They need lots of stable humus with a nearly neutral ph to produce anything significant.

The only industrial way to produce nitrogen compounds is by having it react with pure hydrogen.

However a spark gap will create NO compounds when water is present. And most gasoline engines use a spark gap and do not filter out water vapor from the air intake.

Nitrogen does not react easily with oxygen. To have oxygen react with nitrogen requires more energy than you get out of the reaction. This is called an endothermic reaction. So no. It cannot be used to run cars

Yet the idea of the Ammonia economy has a Nitrogen compound (NH3) as a fuel. So N2 (Nitrogen gas) to run a car no. But Nitrogen as a part of the reaction to 'run cars' - yes.

And in other news that have nothing to do with Nitrogen....

The holy grail of the field would be superconduction at room temperature, Taillefer said. "Now we're pretty sure we know how to get there."

Room temp superconductors would lead to a redone power grid....wonder how rural electrification will go this time eh?

Thermal NOx is not "burning" per say, but engines can and do produce an oxidized state of nitrogen if the temperatures are high enough AND the conditions are maintained under oxidizing conditions. Since gasoline combustion is essentially a "pre-mix" system, you do not have diffusion burning in the combustion chamber, though you do have a travelling flame front upon spark initiation. While you theoretically have a peak adiabatic flame temperature under these conditions, the practical effect is that the peak flame temperature is much lower.

Usually it forms nitric oxide (NO), a colorless gas which is quite easily oxidized to nitrogen dioxide, a poisonous brown colored gas. If you've ever seen a coal fired power plant that has a near clear stack convert to something that looks a little brown, that is NO oxidizing to NO2.

[Nitrous oxide (N2O) is usually not produced by ICEs (or gas turbines for that matter). Nitrous oxide is a product of partial oxidiation of ammonia and ammonium compounds in the atmosphere in a process known as partial denitrification. }

Maintaining reducing conditions greatly inhibits the formation of NOx (but tends to increase the production of CO and unburned carbon particles) but it does not prevent it. Gas recirculation also lowers the rate of reaction by reducing the amount of oxygen introduced into the combustion chamber, slowing the rate of combustion and hence the peak temperature.

The standard spark ignited gasoline engine uses a very sophisticated metering and measuring system with a three-way catalyst to minimize the NOx emitted from the tailpipe. The catalyst requires a stoichiometric mixture of gasoline to air (no excess air, 0% O2 leaving the combustion chamber to head to the catalyst). The combination of NO, simpler partially combusted hydrocarbons and CO that comes from the slightly incomplete combustion passes through the catalyst, reduces the NO back to N2 (with some very small quantity of NH3 formed under reducing conditions.

The OBD II system on every automobile in the US sold since 1996, releis upon this catalyst, the heated O2 sensors and an air mass flow meter, as well as precise mtering of fuel into the engine under the range of load conditions to pull this trick off.

You lose a little efficiency but you gain a less polluted exhaust gas (which works much better since the advent of ultra-low sulfur gasoline. Sulfur acts as a catalysr suppresant in the catalytic converter).

Quite coincidentally, last night in the mail, I got a Miata newsletter with a write up on the Shell stuff. According to it, the main advantage was to minimize the deposits on the valves. (Are the deposits on the convex surface of a valve? I don't know). The article didn't state how that translated into efficiencies, but my guess is that it either optimizes the fuel/air flow into the combustion chamber or it reduces the momentum of the individual valves (I'm guessing the former).

"Are the deposits on the convex surface of a valve?"

Yep mostly, a harder thinner deposit will be on the combustion side.

BTW AFAIK N2O 'nitrous' is an (oxidizer) accellerant for use high performance in race cars and fighters during WW2 (oh and dentists, whipping cream, and cooking spray).Goddard and rockets story there too. NO and NO2 (or others I learned) are pollutants commonly the 'oxides of nitrogen' produced from diesels and gas engines burning too hot.

My guess would be that cleaning the combustion chamber of the usual coating of carbon would slightly reduce compression ratio and increase the heat loss thru the cylinder heads and pistons, the result being slightly reduced efficiency of the engine and lower MPG.

In the few gasoline engines that I have rebuilt, I usually see the most carbon buildup on the back side of the intake and exhaust valves, which would restrict exhaust and intake flow, decreasing efficiency, in my humble opinion.

Another thing about carbon build up, if in the combustion chamber, can cause preignition, as hot pieces of carbon causing the mixture to ignite, and not the spark plug, which generally hurts mileage of the fuel, and can be a cause of really nasty piston head damage.

E. Swanson, your guess is correct, lower MPG is what I got with my Ford Ranger on Shell's nitrogen fuel. I tested it for four fill ups in a row and the results overall overall were a 1.7 MPG loss per gallon. Usually I get 17.8 mpg (its a 4.0 and we live in a mountainous region) and got 16.1 with Shell's Nitrgen enriched gas. If I want clean fuel injectors I use Chevron Techron, which I have found works the best for keeping the engine running smooth, quick acceleration and good gas mileage.

Yesterday someone sent me a link to this article:

Team Finds Subtropical Waters Flushing Through Greenland Fjord

Waters from warmer latitudes -- or subtropical waters -- are reaching Greenland's glaciers, driving melting and likely triggering an acceleration of ice loss, reports a team of researchers led by Fiamma Straneo, a physical oceanographer from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

It would seem like this might be related to the Greenland glacier melting articles we saw a few days ago:

Greenland's glaciers disappearing from the bottom up

and the related scientific article:
Rapid submarine melting of the calving faces of West Greenland glaciers

If currents are indeed changing, this could also contribute to the loss of arctic ice, it would seem to me.

It probably came from here


I have that as my home screen when logging in to the internet!


The Times made that connection on Monday.

You know thinking about what the world was like millions of years ago, were there any glaciers then? If we lived back then would we be able to have gotten enough food to live?

Questions I don't have the answers to.

But seems to me, BAU is not going to stay an active meme.

We are going to be forced whether we like it or not to change, why don't we make the best of it and stop all those actions that have been causing us heart ache and misfortune and go with something that works better.

Gee,, Where do we find that?


Reminds me of James Hansen's comment in his new book, Storms of my Grandchildren. The theory is that changing ocean currents will warm up methane hydrates on the continental shelves. And supposedly there is a lot more methane under there now, than there was during the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum, when temperatures shot up wickedly in a very short time and massive extinctions resulted. Truly a very frightening book!

Ocean currents can cause things to change very quickly. When we started to see melting in the arctic and in Greenland happening very rapidly, it seems like ocean currents should have come to mind first. The fact that climate models didn't predict such changes would make a cause such as ocean currents even more likely.

Unfortunately, I don't think we have a clue what might be done to change ocean currents to our liking, so this explanation is not very satisfactory from a point of view of our being able to do anything about the problem.

Also fun: Antarctic ice shelf collapse possibly triggered by ocean waves

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.

Unless waves are a new phenomenon, I fail to see how this could relate. Those ice shelves had been there for thousands of years, and presumably there were waves that whole time.

Do you understand what a "trigger", is and how it relates to bullet smashing into someone's head?

So in my example, you are holding a gun to someones head and pulling the trigger every day, and on the 35,236th day a bullet smashes into their head, and you blame the trigger pulling?

Changes in ocean currents are a predicted element of climate change. Indeed, when it comes to abrupt climate change, it's all about ocean currents.

Now we wait to see if the current will return to its previous course, or if it has found a new, stable pattern. I'm hopping for the previous.

I'll skip to that, but not holding my breast!



And people wonder why I am so adamant about climate change. Anyone who smugly thinks we've got time and there is no urgency really is bordering on idocy at this point.

We have been told recently that we cannot identify tipping points until they are happening.

We have been told recently that we cannot identify tipping points until they are happening.

We have been told recently that we cannot identify tipping points until they are happening.

We have been told recently that we cannot identify tipping points until they are happening.

We have been told recently that we cannot identify tipping points until they are happening.

Hope I've made my point for any that read this post. Oh, and...

Climate can change significantly in months according to new research done on Irish lake sediments. Months.

Climate can change significantly in months according to new research done on Irish lake sediments. Months.

Climate can change significantly in months according to new research done on Irish lake sediments. Months.

Climate can change significantly in months according to new research done on Irish lake sediments. Months.

Let ye who have ears listen. The Arctic Sea Ice is like swiss cheese. This is a big, big, big deal. I promise all and sundry, once summer melt becomes essentially complete, major shoot is gonna start hitting the fan.


I'm all for letting the globe die - if the best 'solution' is to apply a consumption tax that only delivers 30% to the actual problem and 70% is 'administration and overhead' than it seems the only way to kill off such greed and waste is to kill off man.

Go back to the drawing board - figure out a plan that doesn't waste 70%.

Perhaps you should do more reading. Hansen's tax takes 100% and puts it back into the pockets of citizens. Those that use more carbon will get the lesser benefit. (Personally, I'd limit the tax refund to the lower 2/5 of the population.)


On the Aquaponics article, They said that it was something recently getting a foot hold. I love the media when they want to get a story going they can claim that it is a new breakthrough. I was learning about Aquaponics from NASA studies 20 years ago or longer.

As I have been mentioning of late, BioWebScape is the newest system out there. But it is not my invention, just the name of it. A collection of any number of idea streams in the Permaculture, Forest Gardening, Edible Landscape, Hydroponics, Aquaponics genre. Tied into the things we now know about our world, and the dreams for a better future for everyone. Within the scope of using the current mass of social networking that we call the Internet, as a tool to extend the knowledge base so that more people with more ideas can push for this vision of a better future for everyone.

It is not a religion. It is a mindset, whereby we learn how to live with all the deversity that our world and our peoples bring to the table. Greed and selfishness and hate need not be involved, they are what we have been doing all these years and that system is failing all around us. Aren't we smarter than that?

If you can live in peace within your own family, why can't you spread that out to your town and city and countryside?

Do we really need to go on doing what we are doing now, knowing full well that it is a failing system? Others have shown the way and they have changed how the childern think, who are growing up learning about things that are right in front of their eyes.

If we say that at one time there was nothing, a ZERO moument, then there was something, and now we have what we have because of that growth, why are we limiting ourselves, when we see that the rest of creation is still moving forward?


A collection of any number of idea streams in the Permaculture, Forest Gardening, Edible Landscape, Hydroponics, Aquaponics genre.

I wonder if you've got the same general misunderstanding of what permaculture is that most people do. It is not: a system of agriculture or a farming method. It is: A design system that integrates human and natural (using nature in the vernacular sense, not meaning we aren't part of the natural world) systems to create sustainable communities/cultures.

Please ignore if you already understood this.


Yeah I understand that, and I like to talk, e.mail me we can discuss it more.

We need all the like minded people we can get moving forward in a positive direction.

Better futures are here today, just look to the end of the nose.


I nose nothing.

I'd e-mailed before you posted. Awaiting your response.


Wal-Mart suffers sales decline in key quarter

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said fourth-quarter sales at its stores open at least a year - a key gauge of retailers' performance known as same-store sales - fell 1.6% compared to a 2.4% increase for the same period a year ago.

..."I am disappointed that [our] U.S. comparable sales were below expectations in the quarter," Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke said during a pre-recorded call to discuss the company's results.

"The economy is a real challenge for many of our customers," he added, warning that Wal-Mart's first-quarter sales "will be difficult" due to tougher year-over-year sales comparisons and ongoing price deflation in some of its key merchandise categories including food and electronics.

And in Europe:

Credit markets flash hottest warning signal since crisis

Conditions appear to be deteriorating. Bank loans to companies contracted at an annual rate of 1.9pc in November and 2.3pc in December. Consumer credit also fell. The Bundesbank fears that disastrous earnings last year will cause scores of German companies to breach loan covenants, triggering a wave of downgrades that further damage German banks and potentially setting off a second wave of the credit crisis.

Until recently my wife was a manager at Wal-Mart. Before the same-store sales dropped they had another indicator of the future. When the economy started to slide her store actually showed increases in y-o-y sales. But there was a catch: people weren't buying more...there were more customers buying less then the average purchase in the recent past. The interpretation was that the store was picking up market share from other retailers as folks searched for a cheaper price. Thus gross sales went up even though individual customers were spending less. The referenced story may represent the next logical step: the gain from new shoppers has passed and now the net effect of the recession is showing up on the bottom line. Though the CEO implies the drop was a surprise her internal memos had predicted the situation. And Wal-Mart had already began adjusting for this future by scheduling layoffs.

I must say, I am amazed that more of the big national chain stores o/t WalMart haven't gone belly up yet. They must be hanging on by their fingernails at this point.

Curious Observer...why do you think so? Folks have to buy commodities somewhere even if those purchases are limited compared to today. Wal-Mart is the lowest cost provider of many staples. Perhaps it the globalized aspect of WM that you contribute decline....maybe a very valid point. But even if all future commodities are sourced locally someone still needs to sell them. Who can sell Florida oranges cheaper: a store that buys a 1000 pounds or a chain that buys a million pounds. In time WM may be just a shadow of its former self. But who'll be bigger?

People may need to buy commodities somewhere, but they don't need to buy the latest fashion statement or cool gizmo - those are purely discretionary purchases. I was talking about the chains that make their money mainly by selling these discretionary things. I can see why those that cater to the upper crust keep going, because the upper crust still has money. It is the stores whose customer base is a notch or two below that which I am wondering about.

Thanks Observer ...I get you. But many Wal-Mart products seem more neccessity than not. OTOH I can see chains like Best Buy fitting your profile very well. Unless I have to replace a computer I might never "need" to shop there again. If fact, I've felt that what you're describing in general is part of the big trap we find ourselves in: there's a very big chunk of our economy we can do quit well without. But what do we do with the millions of folks who have those jobs? For instance we could easily close 90% of the fast food joints and miss nothing. Except the paychecks of all those folks who generally aren't qualified to do much else. It really is a trap of our wasteful design. And can't escape that trap without hurting a lot of folks.

Getting past the EPA and Greenpeace and others, and buying up or getting from government stocks tracks of land in places that are considered marginal, or waste lands.

Take and mark them off into plots, Say into 10 acre squares.

10*43560 gives you 435,600 square feet of land to permaculture/forest garden/ change.

Each plot is given to one family. Each family has one or two mentors who come and help them learn from the ground up how to make the land livable, by working with nature and also designing which plants you want to try in the area, that might be able to live there from other places around the globe.

Seeds are shared from stock piles that have been in the works from collections all over the world. A lot of permaculture groups or individuals are working on seed saving and plant selection, and if they are not they should be.

The land is not given to the people, exactly, but it is on loan to them as long as they live, As the landscape changes over time more people can be fed on the extra foods. If the system is set up correctly you will not have to use anything but human power for almost eveything except in your homes.

Roads in grid patterns can be unpaved or stone paving, allowed to flex in the earth and rain runs into not off of. No need for heavy moving equipment, just small scale transport, even bikes and wagons.

I wish I had money to set this up, I'd be out there now doing it, and not just talking about it.

I can only do what I can do, but I am trying to do more.

Cheers for a better future,

Do you think that Wal-Marts can survive in their present configuration? Big box?

Seems to me, Rocky, that they will fall under their own weight, so to speak. The supply chain they use is stretched mighty thin. Long distance shipping, diesel trucking, oppressive management, financed in Arkansas in a single location. I don't know. They might make it, or some semblance of Wal-Mart may. And they will need to deal with local suppliers as well.

There was a reason that the stores of the early 20th Century and before were as they were.

Food was sold by locals to the town market stores... or sold in town by the farmers themselves. Manufactured goods had to be shipped in, and that was expensive. It was done by regional wholesalers, who in turn sold to local retail shops. Each shop owner became the local 'expert' in her commodity. Clothing, small appliances, sporting goods, hardware, etc., each had a local store where the user could get advice. What tool should I use for shaping my bench? What clothing will last longest; is the coolest (not in style, but in temp.)? What fishing lure should I use for the fish in our river? The retailer had special knowledge, and that was part of the equation when making a purchase.

In addition, you can go to Kuntsler's books and he will educate you on how the changes beginning today will impact the ability of large store merchants, and supermarkets. Detailed knowledge by local people, advise on how to survive, will be part of what you purchase. These things are not found at Wal-Mart.


Craig -- I think your concerns are valid and go way beyond WM. Excluding food how many of your local merchants sell goods from out of state? And from foreign suppliers? I don't know the exact percentages but I'm hard pressed to ID much merchandise that is manufactured within 100's of miles. Where will your locally owned and small appliance store acquire it's goods? From ther other side of town? I don't really spend much of my limited thought process on such questions but just shooting from the hip try this on for size: WM will become the only supplier of many of our staples. Due to size and location they will control the suppliers: sell only to WM or sell nothing at all at our stores. What do the manufacturers do then: send small shipments to thousands of ma and pa stores or ship one big shipment to a WM facility? Granted this is an extreme and somewhat silly model but what if.

Fodd may not fit this model quite as well. OTOH, if the folks in Houston will have to depend upon local sources for much of the diet we are probably in deep do do. Certainly folks could do their own gardens. But what about the thousands of folks who can't keep their lawns from dying in the summer? I've seen neighbors actually kill their cactus more than once.

Granted this ramble has some silly aspects but local sourcing can sound good on paper but we've all seen the power of scale. Scaling up may not be the best approach in some circumstances, but the inverse doesn't seem completely capable of meeting the needs. I fear the answer to such future problems is that there is no good answer. Just a string of poor choices.

Actually, I think Walmart could do better than most, even with local suppliers. Today, they can manage inventory and prices by area, to scuttle local competitors -- that's why they can compete with Whole Foods in some areas and Albertson's or Safeway in another.

Their inventory system could likely manage a huge number of local suppliers, and figure out where to get stuff to meet the needs locally, nearby, and further distant. Right now it just makes sense to ship it in because transit is cheap, but already they're working with local produce suppliers where it makes sense competively.

Remember, Walmart was "Buy American" when Walton was still running the show -- they could likely switch back. Stores would likely get smaller, but they are already the traffic center of many small towns, and could well become the weekend shopping destination in the future.

Hi Rock,

This business of small local producers being frozen out of the market by big retail operators is a lot more serious than most people ever dreamed.

But local goods which are not identical in every respect from one lot to the next and from one side of the country to the other just don't fit into the big box model, do they?

If the store produce manager needs to advertise peaches , and the ad campaighgn is laid out weeks before the peaches arrive, well....he needs an industrial size supplier of peaches.They will be picked green , hauled much farther than necessary, etc, but they will be there on the appointed day-for now at least.

And once they are THERE, no space is left for a few boxes of local peaches, which would anyway only cut into the sale of the industrial peaches, previously purchased and on hand.

Now THIS is OFF TOPIC,but I haven't ranted for a while about all the male bovine sourced organic fertilizer floating around in respect to people growing thier own food.About ninety nine percent of the comments and links I see here are in the same general category as the ones about space based power, cellulosic ethanol, political reorganizations of our society,perpetual self replenishing oil-stuff that can't happen, or WON'T happen anytime soon, and may never happen.Stuff that certainly is not going to happen fast enough to prevent the crash that seems to be only getting started.

Folks unless you are very, very lucky, get started very quickly, live on a very large property,as houses and lots go,live in a place with a VERY favorable climate,with GOOD SOIL,and are willing and physically able to put in some very long hours,YOU ARE NOT GOING TO GROW YOUR OWN FOOD.

You can certainly grow enough in places where the climate and soil is halfway decent to SUPPLEMENT your diet and food supply in a serious way, and I strongly reccomend that those ABLE to do so,DO SO.

I have absolutely nothing against the various well intentioned people who are working in the DIRECTION of food self sufficiency.

I AM SAYING that success in this endeavour is quite beyond the reach of the large-make that vast- majority of people who seem to think they can do it.

They lack adequate or suitable space,tools,seedstocks, fertilizer(organic or not) sources, soil, storage,irrigation water,and weather,in the line of material resources.

Such lacks can be remedied by moving and planning on the part of those who are financially capable.

The last two things absolutely necessary are physical/mental toughness and practical experience.

Practical experience-perhaps enough-can be gained in the back yard and kitchen over a period of a few years.

Physical and mental strength is hard to come by , especially if the seeker has spent his or her life in a chair and in a basically non competitive environment-which describes most jobs.Even a mildly mentally challenged breadwinner can hold down most modern jobs simply by working harder than his coworkers.(I know personally plenty of teachers, clerks ,truck drivers, cops, business owners , farmers and assorted other people who are not exactly heads and shoulders above the intellectual crowd, to say the least, and I a dead certain I am correct in this respect.)

I think that probably most younger people who are in good health can find the necessary emotional resources to deal with a collapse scenario,if they can see some hope of success.

The middle aged and older "chairborne army" is another question altogether.


mail headed your way

smiles, yeah words are fine, actions are better.


If there were a Farmer's Market inside Walmart people would shop there. It's not the oddball sizes and seasonal aspects that puts them off as much as the inconvenience and unfamiliarity. Nobody hurrying home from work wants to add one more stop, and Walmart or a chain-store offers one-stop-shopping.

At a farmer's market, you get what's in season. At Walmart, you get a full bin of out-season crap. Who doesn't check grapes to see if they're edible before they buy them? Why does a bulk buyer even bother purchasing those?

I have to back you on the "fall under their own weight". Absolutely. I would like to define that as "NO, it's not 'NOT too big to fail', BUT "SO big, they must fail.. under their own weight, laws of thermodynamics and such...".

The environment for that business model existed once, not that long ago, when inputs were abundant, but that environment, for that business model's validity is diminishing at an exponential rate, or as I would put it, like a M.F.er.

A new model of commerce needs to be embraced, if we dare to model our future on a more sane scale of our recent past...IMHO, Ala JHK, but there is too much invested by too many people in the not so far in the past business model, and things are moving at such a rapid rate (so far as collapse of the old paradigm), I have little faith the PTB can grasp how quickly we should drop that hot potato and sit down and work out a new plan that doesn't put the pedal to the medal instead of pumping the breaks so we can pull over, catch our breath, wipe our brow, and pull back onto the HWY, and maybe just stay in the outside lane for a while, till we are sure which exit off this hi-speed suicide drive we've chosen...for best and safest destination...
remember, we are carrying passengers with us as well...

Whew, rant way off... need more beer ;^)
(No Snark intended)


They are getting replaced slowly by stores like Save-a-lot ( lower prices than wally-world ), and Saver's (which takes donations, and buys in bulk cheap ).

There are still going to be places that have sales, but they get cheaper and cheaper, or they die out.

The strip mall is dying around here, There is more empty retail space than I have seen in years.

Online retail is still doing a fair amount of business though, maybe not the best they could, but Amazon's low overhead model is doing some changing in the system.

I buy things online that I can't find locally.


retail is fickle.
When i was a kid it seemed as though Sears had an indomitable market share and business model.
And then K-mart came along and seemed to be marketing revolutionaries...
then the brilliance of the Costco model, and living in the Northwest we were reminded of the genius of the Nordstrom business model...
not hard to imagine collapse scenarios for WM business model...
for example, they have that elaborate internal supply chain with that fleet of trucks, i could see that becoming a liability.

They used to store a lot more in the backs of their stores than they do now. I worked for the first 24 hour Walmart in Indianapolis in 1994, as over night stocking/truck unloading. Business was so slow that at times there were only workers in the store, but they were open for business.


they have that elaborate internal supply chain with that fleet of trucks, i could see that becoming a liability.

They can easily convert their fleet to NG. They will have problems if the shipping from China gets expensive ... but then so will everyone else, since everyone gets their stuff from China now.

yes, but...since they aren't in the trucking business per se, they will never be able to take full advantage of getting a backhaul.
when diesel shoots up you see independent truckers just park their trucks and wait.
an often cruel way of wringing efficiencies out of the system.
if WM trucks are rolling empty in that environment they are slowly bleeding to death.

On CNBC, Jim Cramer said many retailers were doing well/better. He thinks that people have stopped paying there mortgages, and are buying more clothes and the like.

I go to Walmart almost weekly, but have a hard time finding any bargains there except prescriptions. I am a price shopper. I go where the price is best for me.

Walmart has a grocery department that is quite large and takes up about half of the store. Their grocery prices are not competive with other local stores and with Aldi. So I don't buy much.

Following their merchandising strategy, they do not have sale specials like other local grocery stores. They do not have in store coupons. They do not offer carry out for those who might need that. Their produce is usually higher priced than the local competition. They do not offer a butcher department like one prominent local grocery, Fareway. So their meat is not the freshest and is often over priced.

Since groceries are likely one of the mainstays of sales in a recession and Walmart is overpriced compared to local competition, it is no wonder their sales are falling overall.

The wonder is that sales are as good as they are. I attribute that to their great prescription department. They offer generic prescriptions at 3 months for $10.

Being diabetic I have several that always need refill. They are all generic so I get the 3 month/$10 price. It is cheaper for me to pay cash at Walmart for all my prescriptions than to have insurance pay for it.

There is nearly always a line at pick-up. This despite 2 or 3 pharmacists on duty and several assistants.

I suspect that a lot of the attraction - such as it is - of WalMart to their customers is the convenience of one-stop shopping. People are busy, it is worth it to get their groceries AND prescription refills AND other drug-store stuff AND school supplies AND a package of underwear AND a new printer cartridge all at one time.

Here Walmart is always cheapest for non-sale items. Aldi and Warehouse Market work for off-brand items, but those stores are unpopular (my kids say they "smell funny", which is a turn-off). Name-brand items, if Walmart carries them (less likely of late) is cheaper at Walmart. Often their normal price matches other store's sale price. You can still beat it with coupons (especially if doubled) elsewhere, but you can use single coupons at Wal-mart too.

Meat quality is not as good as other stores here, and is highly variable (which is worse, really -- you never know what you'll get). They do have a butcher at the big store but not a publicly-accessible one. Veggies vary -- potatoes are just like anywhere. Fresh veggies and fruits are better at Whole Foods (despite the article saying otherwise) but cost twice as much here.

I think Walmart works best if their logistics system can make a play, which means cheap plastic stuff, clothing, and paper goods. Here, there are MANY stores, so they saturate the area and transport cost is small. There are 4 stores within 5 miles of me, and probably 20 more within 20 miles (including 2 Sam's Clubs and a few Markets). EVERYBODY shops there routinely.

I think Walmart will be looking to carry mostly items that turn quickly with decent margins -- everyday necessities and conveniences. Slow-moving stuff, even if profitable, like furniture is already getting less floor space. Electronics seems to be a growth area though, especially TVs, cell phones, and games.

Walmart is wedded at the hip to China, though. When (not if) the dollar-yen relationship shifts, their gravy train will stop, and the expenses of everybody who shops there will shift to match. I bet they have an entire staff dedicated to making contingency plans for product sourcing already, with a goal to leverage other low-cost producers as well.

Paleocon, in your last paragraph your statement is true.

I live in Arkansas, Home state to Sam Walton, basically home of Wally-world. Just down the street about 1.5 miles was a store, it was store #7. It moved once. Back when we lived here at first it was in a shopping strip with a Krogers, then they built a new building just up the road and moved into it, the 1.5 mile away store. I don't know the exact dates, I was in an out in the late 80's to late 90's.

Late in 2008 they announced that they were going to close it and move out past North Little Rock, into Sherwood.

They have a big supercenter there, but it is not store #7, but store #2,000ish something in the middle. #7 was a plain wally-world which they are totally phased out of if not they soon will be.

Markets, supercenters and sam's clubs are the NA kinds of stores.

I don't like to buy many "Great Value products" They are changing the labels to an almost all white label. It reminds me of the Dharma labeling used in Lost.

I feel Lost when I go into the biggest walking plastic stuffed over packaged sugar pumped stores in america. I do shop there, but my disdain is growing day by day.


Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending February 12, 2010

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 13.8 million barrels per day during the week ending February 12, 182 thousand barrels per day above the previous week's average. Refineries operated at 79.8 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production decreased last week, averaging 8.4 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production increased last week, averaging 3.4 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 8.5 million barrels per day last week, up 206 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 8.3 million barrels per day, 1.3 million barrels per day below the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 709 thousand barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 391 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 3.1 million barrels from the previous week. At 334.5 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 1.7 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories decreased while blending components inventories increased last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 2.9 million barrels, and are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories decreased by 3.0 million barrels last week and are below the lower limit of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories decreased by 2.4 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

The weekly summary for heating oil and propane was posted today, a day late due to the Fed holiday. Propane stocks took another big hit downward, as did heating oil. The heating oil stocks are high compared to the long term averages, but propane is running much below the long term averages. And that's with rather high retail prices compared with the past few years. This brings up a big question, one often mentioned around here for oil, which is, "What's the Minimum Operating Level (MOL) for the propane delivery system?"

E. Swanson

My guy won't deliver less than 150 gallons;^)

Retirees Trade Work for Rent at Cash-Poor Parks

An itinerant, footloose army of available and willing retirees in their 60s and 70s is marching through the American outback, looking to stretch retirement dollars by volunteering to work in parks, campgrounds and wildlife sanctuaries, usually in exchange for camping space.

Park and wildlife agencies say that retired volunteers have in turn become all the more crucial as budget cuts and new demands have made it harder to keep parks open.

We talked about the nomadic lifestyle and how best to kit oneself out for it a few weeks ago. This article is an interesting take on that.

An important point: Barter doesn't always have to be called "barter" to be barter - sometimes people are more comfortable referring to it as "volunteering". In some ways that is even better, less chance that the IRS will hassle you about off-the-books, non-cash exchanges.

Boom times ahead for the "informal economy".

Ilargi has a thought-provoking post up over at The Automatic Earth entitled:


Here's the opener:

"There is a long-standing misunderstanding about the perceived influence of perceived limits to energy availability in our societies that leaves people from the energy field, or even those who have trouble understanding finance, convinced that what is known as peak oil is the driving force in our present financial collapse.

As crucial as energy is to our lives and lifestyles, such claims are simply wrong."


Check out yesterday's DrumBeat. There's a lot of discussion on this.

Why most people are looking for the wrong symptoms ? Because:

1. important things are overlooked or ignored by most
2. most don't learn from history

A deadly combination

Theautomaticearth's calculations are faulty. They state on their site:

"Say, to drive 25,000 miles (40.000 km) per year, the average American needs about 1000 gallons of gas. The price rise in 2008 then cost her an extra $1000 for the year. In that same year, her home lost about 20% of its value, or $40,000. Her pension went down an often reported 30%, which can, depending on her age, range anywhere from say, $100,000 to $1 million. In other words, the average American easily lost about 50 times as much in pure financial market terms as she did at the pump in 2008."

In the Inland Empire (California, away from coast, greatest decline in house prices) a much more realistic calculation would be:

- two-car household drives 50,000 miles total
- Suburban or Explorer style SUV, mileage about 16 2/3 yield total consumption of 3,000 gallons
- planned to move way out to get affordable house when gas price was at low, $1 per gallon, calculated their payments with having $3,000 gas cost in mind
- gas price rose to $2, $3, $4
- maximum gas cost therefore $12,000 per year, this is about one fifth of median household income (!)
- household tries to stay afloat by refinancing because house prices "always go up"
- household goes bankrupt, as many others do, taking the Inland Empire with it
- there are many more solid households in America, but the collapse was caused by the debt of people like the above imploding, causing a domino effect

Conclusion: the actuary's reasoning is correct (how could you have thought otherwise)

He's got a serious blind spot wrt oil, unfortunately. As I've posted many a time: minimum of $1T out-of-pocket for consumers due to oil price rises alone. No knock-on costs of goods made with oil, just the oil. It's actually closer to a minimum of 1.5T, which prior to 2008/9 was a HUGE amount of money.


Bill Gates' TED presentation on climate change and nuclear energy is online.

I'm not a huge fan of Gates, but I thought his call for getting to zero carbon emissions a pretty significant event. If the nuclear reactors he's talking about will actually work as described, it seems worth spending the money to build a prototype and test it out. I believe we have less time to get to zero carbon than both he and the IPCC think, however.

Understanding climate change without understanding the growth paradigm must die is a bit like knowing how to make a boat and wanting to make it out of paper.


Hello everyone,

May ask the assembled gurus on TOD to answer me the following two multi-part questions which have been on my mind and which I have yet to find satisfactory answers?

1. Why does it cost so much to build a nuclear power plant? What makes these projects run so much over budget? Leaving aside the issue of waste, is the cost all up-front?

2. Can anyone point me to a study which compares crop yields between organically produced and 'normal' high FF agriculture? I am trying to get a handle on just how much more production is lost per acre of comparable land when fertilizer/herbicide/pesticide is not used. Are there any crops whose yield is not significantly increased by f/h/p?

As ever, much appreciated

Yields per acre don't necessarily differ greatly between organic and "normal" agriculture. Yields per unit of labor and $$$ are of course higher in "normal" ag, which is why industrially farmed stuff is so cheap.

Here is just one study (corn, in this case), but just google 'yields organic vs. industrial" or something like that, and you will get lots of info.


Organic farms are typically smaller operations, which tends to improve per acre yields.

As the cost of inputs (fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, the GMO seeds to withstand the herbicides, etc.) goes up, and the cost of labor goes down, organic will make more economic sense.

It already makes more ecological sense.

1. I think one of the big problems has been regulating agents changing their minds as they go along, so that work that gets done needs to be re-done over and over. If there were standardized plans that were approved and reused over and over, it theoretically might make this better.

No, the costs are not all up front. Somewhere nuclear plants need to get enriched uranium. This cost has been relatively low compared to the total cost of the plant. But there is not enough uranium production ramping up to support all of the reactors in place and planned (partly because of the low cost of uranium, but also due to shortage of capital for all kinds of endeavors). There are theoretically other ways around this issue (reprocessing or conversion to thorium use), but if the whole chain of events needed to make one of these happen isn't done in advance, it won't be there.

2. I see one of the big issues going forward as loss of irrigated cropland. This is not an organic / "normal" issue, it is one of lowering water tables and increasingly less available diesel fuels. As I understand it, organic crops can be irrigated.

Also, people say that organic yields are similar to "normal" yields, but I wonder if these yields are with soil amendments trucked long distances and spraying with "organic" type pesticides. If we were to compare high tech to low tech yields, I think we would get a very different story. Most modern organic agriculture doesn't look very sustainable to me. If agriculture were done in a truly sustainable way, perhaps with crop rotation and letting fields like fallow as the main way of enhancing soil fertility, I expect yields would go down quite a bit.

"but I wonder if these yields are with soil amendments trucked long distances and spraying with "organic" type pesticides."

If this is a factor, then aren't the soil amendments in Commercial Non-Organic Farming just as likely to have been shipped/trucked great distances?

Soil amendments of both have been likely trucked long distances. I am just saying that neither organic as it is done today or "Non-Organic" is really sustainable.

The kind of agriculture that is sustainable uses only local inputs, very little irrigation (unless there happens to be a river near by), and needs to recycle nutrients into the soil--so huge amounts of food likely can't be shipped to distant cities (unless the nutrients are shipped back. The low tech method that would be sustainable would likely produce much less food per acre and look quite different than even today's organic farms.

If you look at developing countries and their yields in pre FF farming days - they were all essentially organic and sustainable - but with low yields. Of the countries I know of - India infact had major problems being self sufficient in food before "green revolution" which is essentially FF farming.

If current knowledge of organic farming is used, I wonder what the yields will be. Considering that labor is fairly cheap, they may be ok. But sustainability is another matter - what with Mansoons likely to fail more often because of climate change (and the water table is falling all the time).

The lowest tech growing method is Nature.

The tropical rainforest has one of the highest number of species count on the planet.

These are common facts.

But Could we design around the basic system , Nature, so that our bits of land were more productive than just letting nature take hold and shaking the place up?

I think so, as do other people smarter and better able to show you, than myself.

What we'd do is get a good database of all the plants that can grow in parcel of land by parcel of land. Mix and match with seedballs and planting. There will be maturity lead times on trees and bushes and things that have to have time to get older to produce a crop.

But You don't have to just plant and leave, you can mix and match, some small scale glade plantings for seasonal vegies, and some grain in wild stands. The goal is not to do anything you don't have to do, the less you do the better the system works.

I know it so seems counter productive, we have this mindset that we have to beat nature into the image we want it to be, but we never did have to do that, we just wanted to do that.

Marvin Crawford will have a book out soon, title is .Creating a Forest Garden, second line, Working with nature to grow edible crops.

As far as getting extra water. You can use catchment ponds, with water courses planned into the scheme of the design ( loosely I use that term, less hard lined design, and more fluffy design ).

I can't tell you what it will look like in 20 years.

In the words of Edward Everett Hale: "I am only one.
But still I am one. I cannot do everything, But still I can
do something. And because I cannot do everything I will
not refuse to do the something that I can do."

I'll leave you with that.
Cheers for a better future,

There are already a number of books and videos on Forest Gardens/Food Forests.



I'll be trying a "Three Sisters Garden" in my plot this year.

(Corn, beans, then squash,
crowded together on a large mound.
Beans grow up the corn and fix N,
squash shades the ground
holding moisture and reducing weeds.)

Co-planting. Yay!

The low tech method that would be sustainable would likely produce much less food per acre and look quite different than even today's organic farms.

You really need to come to our first permaculture course. You keep saying things that simply are not true, and are easily proven not to be true. It's all about systems. Monocultures will never be sustainable.



Truly working with nature, does not need a fallow field.

Where are there fallow fields in nature, if you have left the system alone, you never have a fallow feild, unless you have a desert moving into the area, or a drought, and even then those are likely a result of man and our actions being passed into the whole ecosystem.

Nature fills the air with yeast spores, animal eggs as small as dust lay in creek beds waiting rain. Given rain the desert blooms, what you see as fallow, is nature waiting for water, and given water nature blooms faster than you can think at times.

I am trying to find out, if deserts really are man made or a part of natural systems due to our climate patterns over a long period of time say 100,000 years or so. If you or anyone else has data on this question let me know, I might have seen it in my younger years, but I have lost a bit of memory due to illness.

What gets me in a tiff at times is listening to "Organic" farmers making the same mistakes as "regular" farmers.

If you work within the system that we find in nature that has not had man tampering with it/ Old growth tropical rainforests and Young forests in several locations around the US (these are rare nowadays) you find a big spread in biodeversity.

The linkages to biodeversity can't be over stated, each link in the chain does so much more than we know that it has been only recently that we have been able to understand what we have been messing with all these years.

The BioWebScape Project's goal is to be a clearing house of data about all the plants that can grow in the world that can feed people, and that can grow in more places than just where they are found "naturally" ( that term is okay, but leads some people to the wrong idea that if the plant grows in peru, it can't be grown in England, because nature didn't want it there in england). There are other data sources out there, I know that, but when you have a clearing house of information, you don't have to go hunting around for things.

I Worked in the GIS field for a while, I have handled vast amounts of data, I understand the complex systems I am dealing with. It won't be an easy task, I am not deluding myself. But when ISC could handle every map on the planet, If it was a map of the highest peak or the lowest deep sea trench, we had the ability to move from hard copy to digital to 2D to 3D to all kinds of other applications. IF they can do it, so can I.

There are species of plants that you can grow that will help you in drawing water from deep deep underground, using them in arid regions first as the attack goes forward can mean a lot to your system design. Digging catchment ponds and working with contours and springs and making water courses that plants will use is all part of the process.

We are working with nature, but we are also correcting what man has broken, with as little human input as possible, letting nature work the wonders it is good at.

Cheers for a better future,

There are species of plants that you can grow that will help you in drawing water from deep deep underground, using them in arid regions first as the attack goes forward can mean a lot to your system design. Digging catchment ponds and working with contours and springs and making water courses that plants will use is all part of the process.

You might be interested in this.


With all due respect Gail, you don't seem to be really that well informed wrt organic methods. You seem to have simply decided, based on speculation, that organic can't cut it.

Organic agriculture doesn't look very sustainable to you? How not? All the organic growers I'm aware of in New England are very sustainable, and source their inputs very locally. You "wonder" about soil amendments being trucked long distances and such, but that's not what happens, at least not around here. In any case, organic is a helluva lot more sustainable than agribiz.

You are probably also confusing, as so many people do, yield/acre with yield/farmworker or yield/$-input. You seem to forget about the massive subsidies to agribusiness, which skews any comparison of cost-effectiveness.

You end up by saying you expect yields to go down "quite a bit". 10%? 70%? You expect? Have you really looked into it? "People don't say" that organic yields are similar to "normal" methods - studies show it.

But it doesn't matter what you or I think about it, because organic is how it's going to be done in future. It was "normal", once, you know. ;-)

I will have to admit I have not seen a lot of organic farms, but what I have seen, the operators drove trucks, and used tractors, and used irrigation when needed. Their fuel use is admittedly lower, but it is far from zero. As long as we can keep a lower level of BAU going, organic would probably work. I would expect the problem to come when our current system can't really keep going, perhaps because we cannot get the imports we need, or because the electrical grid cannot be kept up (so oil can't be pumped) or there is some other breakdown in the system.

Large organic farms are not the future. At least, not without itinerant labor. Some of us are trying to get the rest of you to start growing your own. Sustainably.


Also, people say that organic yields are similar to "normal" yields, but I wonder if these yields are with soil amendments trucked long distances and spraying with "organic" type pesticides.

Nope. Lots of people growing tons of food truly organically. However, I suspect most large operations are doing as you suspect. I laughed at the lady who had an organic farm, a straw bale house and did it all with a FF burning tractor.

Most modern organic agriculture doesn't look very sustainable to me.

Agreed. If you're talking about the future and not talking about sustainability, you're spitting in the wind, I'd say.



On point #2, The studies on the yeilds of permaculture/forest gardens versus "plow and plant agribusiness" are still to be done so that there is a general knowledge of which is higher.

There are claims of higher yeilds under both methods.

In a young forest garden, where not all the plants are up to full capacity the yeilds are not as great as they will be in 5 to 10 years worth of growth.

Masanobu Fukuoka was still claiming that he had not reached maxium yeilds up till his death.

I have seen comparisons where a mature Masanobu Fukuoka style garden would be able to feed one person all year on only 2,000 square feet.

That would mean a "an agribusiness farm" would need to feed 21 people per arce, to be in the same boat. I don't know what every crop that can be grown with agribusiness can yeild.

But with permaculture and forest gardens and the whole mindset of doing less and letting nature do most of the work. You will see that in time the inputs of human labor slows to a crawl and the land where the gardens are on, are just tended a little bit every day, mostly picking produce and spot gardening( you adding a new plant, or mowing a crop down for harvest and adding mulch back into the system).

All in all a lot less work than an Agribusiness does, with all it's inputs of FF's and even land lost to erosion. Erosion control is built into the system in a forest garden.

I plan on looking into my own data keeping in this current year of harvests and labor hours.

BioWebScape Project Host,

Hi Hugh,

re: Ag question. A little better than guess, but trying to help:
I think there's a difference between fertilizer use and herbicide/pesticide use.

Organic and sustainable farms can and often do use fertilizer, just not the purchased kind.

Check out Gene Logsdon writing on www.energybulletin.net. I think he has an article just on this topic.

Last time I looked, the major sustain/organic v. commercial ag studies were done by Rodale Institute, though I believe the ag schools do some as well. Ask a librarian for help. (when all else fails.)

Mark your calendars for an energy webcast on Tuesday, February 23 at 1:30 PST.
You can find the PDF file used in the presentation at the link below. Look for Nathan Lewis on that page.

"Presentation is Now Available!"

"Global Energy Perspective:

Where in the World Will Our Energy Come From?"

Nathan S. Lewis, PhD. California Institute of Technology

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 1:30 pm PST

Sierra Hearing Room, 2nd Floor, Cal/EPA Building

1001 I Street, Sacramento, California

Announcement and Presentation can be viewed at:


For "internal" users please check the internal webcast calendar



For "external" users please check the external webcast calendar



For your added convenience, while viewing the webcast,

presentations can be downloaded at:


Your email questions will be aired during the

question & answer period following the presentations.

Webcast Viewers, email your questions to:


For more information on this Seminar and Series please contact:

Peter Mathews at (916) 323-8711 or pmathews@arb.ca.gov

To receive notices for upcoming Seminars please go to:


and sign up for the seminars list serve.

Lewis's 86 slide presentation can already be downloaded.

He goes through every energy source he can in a fair amount of detail, in an attempt to find low carbon substitutes for current fossil fuels. He summarizes our current status on Slide 40. His conclusions are on Slides 83 and 85.

Slide 40 Summary says (among other things)

- Need for Additional Primary Energy is Apparent

-Case for Significant (Daunting) Carbon-Free Energy Seems Plausible (Imperative?)

Policy Challenges:

-Is Failure an Option?

-Will there be the needed commitment? In the remaining time?

That is pretty comprehensive. Good coverage on Geo, Hydrogen as transport, Corn Ethanol.
It seems most of the impetus for transition is from AGW and not peak oil. Oil shales cost effective @$80 crude!? And he seems to imply cummulative need for oil to 2030 even 2050 is available or by liquifying gas and coal. EROEI for oven scrapings not mentioned.

The conclusions
"Abundant, Inexpensive, Resource base for Fossil Fuels."
"Current pricing is not the driver for year 2050 energy supply."

Think he said Coal is way too abundant and way too cheap and there is no real substitute on the horizon. Wind is working in the plains but not huge percent. Likes Solar (PV and thermal) but W/O significant tax push or pull US conversion is unlikely to any renewable. Expansion of nukes (this ultimately relying on mining seawater!) and solar has to happen if sequestration doesn't work.

That brings us squarely back to sequestration for what is the main impetus driving the presentation, the AGW problem. Seems like he is hanging hope on sequestration, but I'm not listening how he caches it so that might not be right.

Help me out here does anybody really believe sequestration is viable, likely? Are there successful applications anywhere other than mainly as EOR? If no then that leaves the other expensive alternative build out being renewables for which he says there is insufficient economic incentive, so have to make coal real expensive. With the PO/credit downturn how can that happen? New investment, big cap and trade and such.

What I missed was the path to conservation, but energy to 'GDP' will decline, implying growth? I'm wondering how this squares with FF inputs to the food supply given the population projections. Good presentation to get one thinking, thanks.

HI Gail,

Thanks for the link. I find Lewis' work massively disappointing, given his stature (Cal Tech and all.) For example, he starts out saying: "Future Constraints Imposed by Sustainability".

Well, you could read "peak oil" into this, I guess. But it seems quite far off the mark (IMVHO).

Then, take a look at slide 6.

Is there any chance someone(s) of the TOD "Contributors" could critique that slide?

And perhaps Lewis' talk, as well?

I used to carry around an article clipped from a "Westways" magazine from a year (or two?) ago. It's an interview with Lewis where he says we have plenty of energy for the next 500 years. (I forget the exact wording and don't have it handy.)

Every person I've talked to who's heard him speak comes away with no idea about "peak" - i.e., eg., that the global oil supply decline rate and timing actually matters.

It's all something to be "solved" by 2050 - or, "whatever." (In other words: 1) "Solution" assumed possible; 2) Fixation on energy extraction technologies, (as opposed to more holistic approach, including population/consumption issues, steady-state economy, etc.)

I'm not sure if the link to Heinberg's monograph was posted (it probably was), but just in case, here it is. http://www.postcarbon.org/report/44377-searching-for-a-miracle
He'll be speaking in Portland on Monday, Feb 22, as part of an Illahee Lecture Series.
Here's the text of an email from Illahee:

Bill Gates is calling for "energy miracles" to tackle what he now recognizes as the two most important issues facing humanity: climate change and energy. Oddly enough, that's the subject of Richard Heinberg's latest monograph, "Searching for a Miracle." We'll spoil the ending for you: like unicorns and chocolate rainbows, energy miracles don't exist. Richard will deliver the second talk in Illahee's 2010 Power and Change series on Monday evening, 22 February.

Gates laid out his agenda at last week's TED conference in Long Beach. So, one of the brightest, richest guys in the world gets climate and energy. Cool. Now we need to get the approach right.

More here: http://illahee.wordpress.com/

2010 Illahee Lectures: Power and Change

02 Feb Change
22 Feb Energy
15 Mar Food
27 Mar Water
12 Apr Money
26 Apr Power
18 May Nature

I want to know the answer to this question.

Could we still go to the Moon, if we all lived right next to our Forest Gardens?


Got my Heinberg tickets, thanks.

In the same vein as the NYT's post on utilities opinions, we wrote this article: The Latest Climate Change Skeptics: Utilities: http://earth2tech.com/2010/02/17/the-latest-climate-change-skeptics-util...

Intentional Kamikaze attack on IRS building in Austin.


There is nothing Insane about that manifesto. In fact if you all read it I would bet that most can find some sections that ring a little too close to true and familiar.

I agree with it.
The news is going to paint him as a nut of course but I think that more people are going to relate to this guy than Ted Kaczynski.
One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.

I dunno. The IRS are not the most sympathetic of victims for sure, but he was also angry at organized religion. It sounds like he ran into trouble with the IRS because he tried to avoid taxes by claiming to be a church. I think the average American will see that as cheating.

The fact that apparently he tried to kill his wife and daughter as part of the plan nixes any sympathy from me. It's possible to not care about the target nor the perpetrator. Too many rats in the cage syndrome. Let's shake it and see if they fight.

Paleocon, I agree with the vast majority of your comments, but I think we need to let the facts come out before we make comments regading Mr. Stack trying to kill his wife and daughter. I have been scouring as many of the articles on this as I can to find any reference to him trying to kill his wife and daughter either before or when he set the house ablaze, and I am not finding what you are finding. Maybe you can share what you have found.

In the meantimem, while I can't stand FOXNews, here's what their article (from Google News) states:

"Earlier Thursday, Stack's $232,000 home in a middle-class neighborhood was engulfed in flames about five miles from the crash site. Two law enforcement officials told the Associated Press Stack had apparently set fire to his home prior to the crash.

Neighbor Elbert Hutchins, told the Associated Press that a woman and her teenage daughter drove up to the house before firefighters arrived.

"They both were very, very distraught," said Hutchins, a retiree who said he didn't know the family well. "'That's our house!' they cried 'That's our house!'""

here's the link: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,586662,00.html

He obviously had reached the end of his rope and wanted to try to be a domino that starts a cascading effect of rebellion. I doubt he will have succeeded, but I am not surprised that this happened. Whether it is murder-suicides, rampages or lone suicides, I am sure we will be seeing more and more of this as the edifice on our civilization crumbles.

All the best,


I skimmed the guy's manifesto and I can see grains of truth in the thing (just as I could in Kaczynski's rants), but he still endangered (and possibly took) the lives of people with whom he had no personal truck. I don't buy that.

I still remember the picture of the OKC fire-fighter holding the badly-burned infant in his arms after the Murrah building bombing. No justification for that.

POTarzan: Please don't take my comment as saying I agree with his actions or condone what he did. I just wanted to make sure we had our facts straight on what he actually did. I just have not been able to find anythign to corroborate that he tried to kill his wife and daughter. My other point was this is not the first nor the last time we will see this, especially as PO - and its after-effects - really start to kick in.

I understand. If I've learned anything from these sorts of things it is that the first news reports are loaded with inaccuracies. The truth will probably come out over the next couple of days. I agree that we're likely to see more incidents like this one. We have entered an era of great uncertainty and instability and those whose heads aren't screwed on tightly are liable to lose them.

Yes, we are unfortunately likely to see many more instances of people "running amok", "going postal", or however you want to put it. Remember Huntsville just last week? The unemployment benefits have kept being extended up to now, and the banks have been dragging their feet on foreclosing in some cases, but this won't go on much longer. The pressures are starting to mount on a lot of people, so many that even if only 0.001% snap, that is still a lot of people that can cause a lot of trouble.

Having a really crappy winter isn't helping things very much right now, either.

I thought of the college shooting too; It was just a few days ago that the college professor shot up a faculty meeting.

The first story I read said the neighbor pulled the wife and daughter from the house. Later I heard they arrived there and the neighbor kept them from entering to look for dad.

I'll apologize for jumping to conclusions. I did hear they found a body in the building?

I lose all sympathy when they target random employees of the institution. His beef is with congress that passed these laws, and the higher ups at the Fed/Treasury who oversaw the bailouts, not with Jane Secretary and Joe Clerk which is who he directed his physical violence against. Those people are just trying to pay the rent and feed their kids, they don't make the laws.

to quote Scott Adams, from a Dilbert strip: "When you find a big pot of crazy, it is best not to stir it."

Realy bad news.

The TED Conference people just put Bill Gates' talk on energy and climate on-line. Here's the link: http://on.ted.com/89Dt .

Pasadena becomes latest city to debut bike plan

While Los Angeles vigorously debates improvements to its bike infrastructure and Long Beach aims for the title of “the most bicycle friendly city in America,” Pasadena has released its own bike plan, which calls for nearly 20 miles of new bike lanes and paths.

I stayed a few days in Pasadena a few years ago and was impressed by their new light rail terminal with TOD above. Downtown was also also populated by a very diverse group of younger people which was interesting too.

Having grown up in So. Calif I always used to think of the little old lady from Pasadena and that it was an old folks community. While this was true at one time, it seems to have changed alot. It would seem natural to encourage bicycling there now.

Re: Colin Campbell

His blog cites the Uppsala/Global Energy Systems paper which says IPCC is overestimating the amount of hydrocarbons left.
The group is also skeptical of renewables producing much more than 20% in the next 50 years.

Hook, Sivertsson, Aleklett

The world is currently adding 29 billion tons of CO2 in 2006
to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and in the last few years the level of CO2 has risen more than 2 ppm per year(2.4 ppm in 2008).
We are currently at 380 ppm.
If we keep emissions from combustion constant for the next 90 years(2100 AD) we will be at 560 ppm(380+2ppm/yr*90), doubling CO2 levels from pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm and the IPCC estimates that global temperatures will rise 4.5 degree F.

I don't know how bad the climate will be at +4.5 degF but at the height of the Ice Age temperatures were 9 degrees lower than today( plus the Northern hemisphere was locked in continental ice sheets and the oceans were 300 feet lower).
I would guess that things will not be good.

90 years x 29 Gton of CO2 is 2610 GtCO2.
It is estimated that there is ~1 trillion tons of coal left
world wide which alone would add 2100 GtCO2 to the atmosphere.
A trillion barrels of conventional oil would add 500 GtCO2.
6000 Tcf of natural gas would add 300GtCO2.
Our current extraction rate for oil is 30Gb/year, for coal
6.6 Gt per year and 100 Tcf for natural gas.
If coal was to remain constant at 6.6 Gt/yr for 90 years (6.6G x 90 x 2.1=1250)that plus oil and gas would be 2050 GtCO2 raising ppm by 158 to a total of 537 ppm, which isn't much less than the 560 ppm figure above.


Coal is the fastest growing source of energy worldwide and will overtake oil in 14 years should oil remain at peak.


Most population growth is in cities and cities without electricity are unthinkable.

If the US and Australia alone stopped the production of coal completely that would reduce emission to ~500 ppm, again not a lot less than 560ppm. The old IPCC'redline' was 450 ppm.

The reserves of coal have been estimated at 17000 quads, of conventional oil 4000 quads and gas 5000 quads, uranium about 3000 quads of primary energy.

What about Chinese coal peaking soon followed by rapid decline?

Some strange stuff would have to happen for China to maintain BAU with coal consumption eg turning to US coal imports, maybe as exchange for manufactured goods. That's why I think those countries that talk about carbon taxes should include coal, oil and gas exports. That way the Chinese have to pay upfront carbon taxes then ask for a rebate for green programs.

Unfortunately Boof that's exactrly why coal will be excluded from the carbon tax discussion. I have no doubt the counties involved in the coal trade see the future very clearly. And they won't sacrifice any piece of their economy just to reduce coal usuage IMHO.

I have given some thought to the mindset of the techies; of those who tell me, “they will come up with an alternative.” I considered the things that “they” have “come up with” so far., and really, there are surprisingly few discoveries that marked major changes for the future for the species.

2.Simple tools from stone, wood and bone
3.The wheel
4.The lever
5.Metals from ores
6.Alloys of metals
7.Water powered machinery
8.Wind powered machines and ships
9.Steam power
10.Electricity & electrical motors
11.Organic chemistry (expanding use of fossil fuel/stored energies)
12.Atomic power (a subset of steam power)
And in the future, using present technology:
13.Fusion power – we're working on it, and it seems impractical (another subset of steam power).

Major inventions, including:
Computers (beginning with the Babbage Engine, etc.); transistors; radio; television, and of course the internal combustion engine.

Major Science breakthroughs – important discoveries, theories and instruments:
Big Bang; Hubble Telescope; General Relativity; Lasers; Evolutionary theory; string theory; M-theory; Black holes; Fermi Accelerator Lab & CERN, (& others of the type) Nano-technology

You math fiends can think of a few mathematical concepts I am sure. Trigonometry; Archimedes' discoveries; and Goedel's incompleteness therom come to mind. Who figured out Pi?

There were just a few major, paradigm changing discoveries in the 20th Century; it seemed like more than I have listed, and the numbers of paradigmatic discoveries have been diminishing. Most of what we see now are minor adjustments, and refinements that expand previous theories, as we get “better at it”. Significantly, it would take a truly mindboggling discovery to make the necessary difference.

Probably our only real hope, so far as Peak Oil, Gas, etc., is in the nano-tech field – some nanobot that might make oil or food out of elemental particles. And, it would probably require that illusive “singularity” predicted by Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurtzweil as a precursor to such.

In that event who knows what direction things might go? Some, like Kurtzweil, believe it will be to our advantage; others believe it may lead to disaster. Such is the world-view of the folks who produced The Terminator series of movies, based on that genre of Sci Fi where machines take over. The concept remains science fiction today. This is hardly where we should “bet the farm” as it were.

Have I missed anything? Does anyone know of some secret technology waiting for us out there? Food from the ether? Abiotic oil? Please let me know!


A few items in your list or implied by it deserve some attention.

When you look at computers, it takes me back to the printing press, and since then the typewriter and the teletype, and variations like that. I think our ability to have generated hundreds, thousands and sometimes millions of copies of our ideas and left editions and printouts all over the inhabited world is a really significant point to keep in mind.

The developments in these textbooks, blueprints, Promo materials and tech manuals, etc.. will seemingly have a decent chance for copies to survive, and for people in those regions where they are lucky enough to maintain them, not to have to 'fall backwards' and be left to reinvent these things (which would include essentially all the other items on your list) .. In the ancient world, there may have been a couple dozen great libraries, and now there must be many thousands.

The other ones that come to mind are tools for accurately managing energy, of which the most basic might be the transistor, that uses a tiny stream of electricity to control a greater stream of power, and which enables us to be very selective about how this power is spent. Spending a bit of this power sending out a signal with a short-wave radio is simply magnitudes more efficient and timely than writing and delivering as many letters as that broadcast could have reached.

Chemistry and all the materials science is also a doorway that is often maligned, but has left countless options for us that don't have to disappear with the decline of Petroleum. Thin Films, Ceramics, Metallurgy.. the understanding of the world in its elements and compounds gives us tools to potentially get by on a much lighter energy budget than if we didn't have them. Seen through today's lens, the usefulness of these items for a lower-energy lifestyle has barely begun to be really examined, but as awareness grows of the importance of our new energy realities, those books will be opened again with new perspectives on how the Periodic Table can be applied to this problem.

I'm not saying it'll produce magic for us to continue BAU (as I know will be hurled out there if I don't say this), but those teachings will be applied, and those books will surely have surviving copies around long enough to grab someone's attention.. and as soon as the value of such a book is remarked upon, you know that more copies will be getting made, too.

Printing is like the DNA of the modern age, carrying the patterns for any and everything, and begging us to keep fresh copies with appropriate mutations added to the Stacks, to keep it alive and vibrant. Other forms of recording have their frills, but the printed word and picture seem to have the greatest stability and promise during harrowing times, and it still only takes a few words to carry a reader several thousand lightyears out, or deep into the Pituitary Gland, so it's reach is pretty substantial, for such simplicity.


Craig said,

some nanobot that might make oil or food out of elemental particles.


Charles says,

Unless you are talking about building up from a quark and muon to a bit of food, you are not making anything new over nature by having a nanobot build food out of nothingness.

Why do we need to reinvent the wheel?

Food happens on this planet a lot more than most people seem to think.

Who told people they had to make straight rows and square boxes to put their crops in? Never mind, Our need to control nature, Our need to make something orderly our of what we saw as chaos.

Let chaos rule!!

Cheers for a better future,

the most important news today is....
"GOULDSBORO, Maine — Workers were shocked Wednesday when they were told that the last remaining sardine cannery in the United States would close down for good on April 18, ending more than 100 years of local history."

so much for buy local, huh?
seems there aint enough herring. so we have peak herring. i suspect overfishing which indicates over population, i.e. overshoot.

and the phd who shot up a university in alabama, more overshoot.

and now the irs bomber.

die off happens in more ways than one.

witness the tesla motors execs who died in a plane crash.
i bet no one saw that coming on a fancy colorful chart or spreadsheet.

looks like there is more than one way to "bug out".

seems folks best be learning how to make stone knives and bear skins.

think of how much money has been and is being spent on the uhmerikan military machine.

enough to make uhmerika run on "renewable energy", change the national fleet of vehicles from ice to electric, return to the moon,
health care for all, livable social security for elderly citizens.
and you know what? there would be lots left over. lots and lots for gold man sacks to steal.

military might allows pundits to post contrite comments to websites such as TOD while others die horrible deaths from ordinance.

have you reduced your lifestyle today? if not, have you reduced someone else's?

reality is chaotic and messy. doesnt follow a script of the smug elite.

"it's all good"

think of how much money has been and is being spent on the uhmerikan military machine ... enough to make uhmerika run on "renewable energy", change the national fleet of vehicles from ice to electric, return to the moon, health care for all, livable social security for elderly citizens. and you know what? there would be lots left over. lots and lots for gold man sacks to steal.

You know what worries me, humbaba? That without the uhmerikan military, there would be no electric vehicles, no moon shots, no SS, no health care AT all. That's something I've pondered since the days when I'd stay up all night with a few friends, a bag of weed and a case of Rolling Rock, "solving the world's problems." No one has ever given me a satisifactory answer to this one.

My mom's getting "up there" now. I go eat dinner with her every week. She says America should get the hell out of the Middle East and South Asia. I tell her, "We have no choice but to stay."

I attended a Southern cow college with a strong ROTC program. The Rangers used to walk around campus sporting tight black T-shirts that read "Kill them all. Let God sort it out." Maybe that's uhmerika's destiny.

Hi Peak oil

re: "That without the uhmerikan military, there would be no electric vehicles, no moon shots, no SS, no health care AT all."

I think this is one of those logic things that has a name (but I don't know what it is without looking it up, for which I'm out of time).

Like, umnnn...

without (fill in the blank) there would be no (your list).

Into the blank goes: oil, labor, people who don't have militaries but have resources that people with militaries can grab...

There's always a choice, or so they say. The more people who make choices together, the odds are the choice is an attractive one.

"the time is always ripe to do right." MLK

That without the uhmerikan military, there would be no electric vehicles, no moon shots, no SS, no health care AT all.

Yea, because there was no health care AT ALL 'till there was an uhmerika so there could be an uhmerikan military.

And the Edison electric car - well that existed because of the uhmerikan military being so big and burly in 1913.

This warehouse is one of several projects currently underway and by the time things wrap up, we'll have cut their lighting load by just over 26 kW and reduced their annual energy needs by some 77,000 kWh. The new fixtures are much brighter and at 222-watts consume less than half the electricity of the HID steelers they replace.

We're running flat out, which is great, but we're all fighting the effects of fatigue. Most nights I'm working at my desk until 02h30 in the morning and tomorrow is another full day with my first site visit scheduled for 07h45. However, our installation crews are the real heroes. Two of our crews volunteered to work this Saturday and Sunday so that we don't disturb this client's operations. I'm incredibly proud of these guys and the work they do on our behalf.


you sound like a great capitalist

Thanks, I think !

We're a small firm and facing some tough decisions as to whether and how we want to grow our business. We could easily double or triple the volume of work but that would require adding more staff and it would definitely change the business dynamics. Money is not my main motivator (I can't speak for my business partners); I simply love what I do -- lighting and energy efficiency are my twin passions.

I also love the interaction with our customers and that's something I don't want to give up. We completed a lighting retrofit at another facility earlier today where we changed out a large number of 2x4 troffers, and whilst the guys were pretty good about cleaning up after themselves, there was a lot of crap that fell out of the T-bar ceiling. We try to minimize any inconvenience but the simple fact is that you can't work at your desk as we're working above your head. In any event, the client was very understanding and accommodating and they took it all in stride. I dropped off a cake as a small token of our appreciation. They very much appreciated the gesture and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time with them and engage in some casual conversation. That's the sort of thing that makes me feel like a wealthy man.


I'm sure Mr. Harper wouldn't let me, but I'd like nothing better than to just come up there and work for you guys!

Get some sleep!

I DID light some beautiful interviews today.. all incandescent light.. sorry!

( Sioux Saying; 'The first thing a person says when they die is, "Why was I so serious?" ' )


Thanks, Bob. It would be great to have you on staff; I know our firm could benefit immensely from your experience in the industry. I can promise you that when I'm next in Portland I'll be looking you up. I've always enjoyed my time spent in the Pine State and Portland is one of my favorite cities.


Please do..