Drumbeat: February 20, 2010

Gas Shortage Raises Egyptians' Anger at Government

CAIRO (AP) -- It's something Egyptians rely on daily: the ''ambooba,'' the steel canister of government-subsidized cooking and heating gas, hooked to the stove or water heater in the cramped homes of nearly everyone in this country's large population of poor.

So in recent weeks, when the amboobas stopped coming, the angry outcry spread fast.

A winter shortage has sent authorities scrambling to find a solution and has once again fueled criticism that the government of this key Mideast U.S. ally is unable to deal with the problems of its people. For many, it raises memories of acute shortages of cheap subsidized bread in 2008 that raised similar frustration and anger.

Yemen's water crisis eclipses al Qaeda threat

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni water trader Mohammed al-Tawwa runs his diesel pumps day and night, but gets less and less from his well in Sanaa, which experts say could become the world's first capital city to run dry.

India: Who pays for fertilisers?

Last year, we saw the unfortunate spectacle of fertiliser riots, and sale under police protection. The issue of food inflation is related to low food productivity. Ultimately, we want more food production per acre of land, and that requires increase in productivity. (We can no longer simply increase land acreage under cultivation.). This means we need more fertilisers produced, and sold at a remunerative price, enough to attract new investment. We will need to protect the small farmer with a targeted cash subsidy (as done in NREGA, or perhaps using the UID).

This isn't Falklands II

Just as historical tragedy replays as farce, black gold often turns to fool's gold. Before doing anything silly, Kirchner's Argentina might be best advised to wait and see whether there is anything worth fighting over.

A Close Look At OPEC Strategy Reveals That They're 100% Short-Term Focused, And Sure Of Peak Oil

OPEC's 'management' is also concerned with short term profits, but not for the same reason. The more far-sighted OPEC personalities and/or theoreticians have as an ultimate goal the use of oil incomes to reconfigure the economic structure of OPEC economies - i.e. to move from being producers of petroleum to producing oil products and petrochemicals, and to a certain extent beyond. An intention of this nature logically means restricting the production of oil.

Assuming that every barrel of oil reserves that is not produced now will be produced later, many of these 'future' barrels will be transformed into oil products (e.g. naptha), and a large fraction of these items into petrochemicals. As the last Shah of Iran mentioned, "crude oil is too precious to be burned up in the air."

OPEC unlikely to raise output ceiling in March - Iran

TEHRAN (Reuters) - OPEC is unlikely to raise its output ceiling at its next meeting in March, a senior Iranian oil official said on Saturday.

"It seems unlikely that OPEC members would make any decision towards an increase in the organization's output ceiling in their next meeting," Iran's OPEC governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi was quoted as saying on state news agency IRNA.

Bangladesh: Prioritise renewable energy

GOVERNMENT is learnt to have been preparing to frame a renewable energy policy for the country. The exercise needs to be expedited in view of the severe energy crisis the country is facing. A seminar in Dhaka recently on the prospects of renewable energy in Bangladesh revealed that the country has the potential to produce 10,000 mw of electricity on a sustainable basis from the solar source alone. This figure is well above the current total effective demand for electricity. The government through its fiscal measures should further encourage the development of solar energy.

Are New Types of Reactors Needed for the U.S. Nuclear Renaissance?

Ongoing problems with nuclear waste might resurrect plans for reactors that would leave less of it.

Total Workers Start Shutdown at French Oil Refineries

(Bloomberg) -- Total SA refinery workers on strike at six plants across France began shutting crude-processing operations and warned of fuel shortages in the coming days.

“The shutdown process has started,” Michael Crochet- Vourey, a company spokesman based in Paris, said by telephone. The process of halting refining operations may take a few days, he said.

Workers at Total’s six French refineries and seven out of 31 fuel-storage depots walked out for a third day to protest the permanent closure of oil processing at the idled Flanders plant near Dunkirk. Employees have criticized Total’s decision to scale back refining in Europe while expanding in the Middle East, according to the Confederation Generale du Travail union.

Oil Rises to Five-Week High on Fed Rate Gain, French Strike

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil climbed to a five-week high after the Federal Reserve’s discount-rate increase signaled an extended economic recovery and as a strike at Total SA refineries in France cut fuel output.

Oil May Breach 200-Week Average, Test Highs: Technical Analysis

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil is poised to settle above its 200-week moving average today, positioning it to test new highs at $84 to $86 a barrel.

It would be the third time in six months that the most- active oil futures price has breached the technical-resistance level on its way up. Oil rose to a one-year high of $82 a barrel on Oct. 21 after breaching the average in the week ended Oct. 16. It rose to a 15-month high of $83.95 on Jan. 11 after breaking through in the week ended Dec. 25.

Peak Oil Crisis

Knowledge on the oil potential of Saudi Arabia is limited to its own press releases. Unlike the North Sea, information is not public. Yes, the oil potential is there and Saudi Aramco is investing heavily to boost its production. However, the bottleneck is the energy demand of the country itself. Saudi Arabia depends on natural gas to produce electricity. Electricity is used to power the water injection pumps to maintain oil production. It is not possible to maintain production rates without sufficient water injection. Since several years projects are initiated for boosting the gas production. Oil is in the ground but it takes time to reach the targeted production rates until the on-going projects are completed.

Falklands oil row threatens British banks

ARGENTINA is preparing to target British banks with links to the new oil drilling ventures off the coast of the Falkland Islands.

HSBC and Barclays are thought to be on a list of firms that could be hit in revenge for the exploration, which Buenos Aires claims is a "violation of sovereignty".

Saudi Aramco: Has 4 Million B/D Spare Crude, Output 12 Million B/D

"We still have 4 million spare capacity--although in the current climate this is very expensive to maintain--but it's a reflection of global responsibility to maintain [a] reliably supplied market at all times," said Dawood Al-Dawood, Aramco vice-president for marketing, supply and joint-venture coordinator, on the sidelines of the International Petroleum Week conference lunch in London.

Exelon Says More Cuts Not Needed as Demand Returns

(Bloomberg) -- Exelon Corp., the biggest U.S. utility owner by market value, won’t expand spending cuts as power demand returns, President Chris Crane said.

Russia: Iran's non-cooperation 'very alarming'

Moscow: Russia's foreign minister said he is "very alarmed" over Iran's failure to prove its nuclear program is peaceful, suggesting Moscow may be closer to acceding to Western demands for new UN sanctions against Tehran.

Sergey Lavrov's deputy said later on Friday, however, that Russia was still against crippling sanctions, returning to the traditional rhetoric Moscow has used for its "partner" and business ally.

China's daily power generation up 30% over Spring Festival

BEIJING: China's daily electricity generation during the week-long Spring Festival holiday rose nearly 30 percent year-on-year, figures from the power dispatch center of State Grid Corporation of China revealed Saturday.

US panel OKs trade probe against China drill pipe

A US trade panel on Friday narrowly approved a Commerce Department investigation into charges Chinese companies are selling oil well drill pipe in the United States at unfairly low prices.

The US International Trade Commission voted 3-3 that there was a reasonable indication US producers were threatened with injury by the imports.

A second hydrocarbon boom threatens the Peruvian Amazon

A rapid and unprecedented proliferation of oil and gas concessions threatens the megadiverse Peruvian Amazon. The amount of area leased is on track to reach around 70% of the region, threatening biodiversity and indigenous people. This is one of the central conclusions from a pair of researchers from the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA) of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), and the Washington DC-based NGO Save America's Forests, who have, for the first time, documented the full history of hydrocarbon activities in the region and made projections about expected levels of activity in the near future.

British Gas profits surge 50% as cash-strapped elderly freeze

British Gas faces a backlash as it prepares to announce a 50 per cent surge in profits on the back of a winter of crippling energy bills.

The UK's largest supplier, with 15.7million customers, has made profits of more than £550million in the past year.

Thousands of elderly, meanwhile, have been unable to afford to keep warm during the coldest winter in 30 years.

PG&E Expects to Spend Up to $35 Million on Ballot Initiative

(Bloomberg) -- PG&E Corp., owner of California’s largest utility, will spend $25 million to $35 million in 2010 on a statewide ballot initiative that would require two-thirds voter approval for local governments to enter the electricity business, a company spokesman said.

Deciding Today on Energy for Tomorrow

In his State of the Union address, President Obama talked about "making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development."

When it comes to respectfully developing America's abundant oil and natural gas resources--including areas in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)--there's nothing tough about this decision. We should be developing America's Outer Continental Shelf, and we should be doing it now. It's a huge win for America. Here's why.

Lithuania Eyes Korean Nuclear Reactors

Korea is seeking to export nuclear reactors to Lithuania. A nine-member Lithuanian government delegation arrived in Seoul on Wednesday and is talking to relevant government ministries here, including the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, about purchasing reactors. The delegates include Lithuania's Defense Minister Rasa Jukneviciene and Vice Minister of Energy Romas Svedas.

"The Lithuanian government is planning to build two nuclear power plants by 2018, and it is interested in Korean-made reactors, which are cheap and safe," a Korean government official said.

Ohio coal group challenges EPA on greenhouse gases

COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Coal Association has joined a fast-growing list of business and industry groups and states that are challenging the federal government's finding that pollution from cars, power plants and factories is dangerous to humans.

Why Climate Scientists Are Hurting Their Caus

Climate scientists who play fast and loose with the facts are imperiling not just their profession but the planet.

Climate scientists defend global warming evidence

Some global warming skeptics say the computer models that simulate future climate change can be wrong.

Walter N. Meier, a climate scientist, agrees.

"They tend to be underestimating" how quickly global warming is melting arctic sea ice, Meier said. The models "can be wrong in both directions."

Can Condoms Help Save Polar Bears?

An environmental group is distributing hundreds of thousands of free condoms with hopes that it will educate the public about the impact of human overpopulation on endangered species.

The condoms are enclosed in colorful packaging bearing images of endangered species like polar bears, jaguars and the Puerto Rico rock frog. The images are accompanied by slogans like “Wrap with care, save the polar bear,” and “Cover your tweedle, save the burying beetle.”

Friday night failures:

4 banks fail, 20 total in 2010

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Regulators shuttered four banks Friday night, bringing the tally of institutions that have gone under so far this year to 20.

Fridays closures cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation almost $1.1 billion.

Texas, Florida, Illinois and California each had one bank closed by regulators.

Do you happen to have a graph with these plotted out over some span of time? I'm finding graphs of bank failures but most of them seem to stop around 2006 or 2008, right before things get juicy. There's a giant spike in the 80's but they all stop before the recent spike and I'm wondering what it looks like in context of the failures of the 80's.

Lurker chiming in: the good people at the Housing Bubble Blog have researched this in detail. I haven't got the links handy, but the essence of their findings was that while there are numerically fewer bank closures presently than there were in the 80s and 90s, the amounts of vaporized money are much higher now.

The coming CRE implosion will of course speed up the process.

I agree about CRE. A lot of banks have been somewhat insulated from the residential mortgage meltdown, because most of the loans were sold to Fannie Mae, et al or securitized, but in most cases I think that banks kept the CRE loans on the books. But in any case, I think that the FDIC is almost out of money already.

The numbers for commercial real estate are ugly, but I wonder if the result might be more a slow deflation than a sudden pop. Banks seem to routinely roll over commercial mortgages if they can't be repaid. Which they would never do for ordinary people.

And the feds are effectively encouraging more "Extend & Pretend" programs in regard to CRE.

Thanks for the graph. It does look pretty tame next to the 80's but as speeding_ mentioned, there's likely been a lot of consolidation, so though fewer, they pack a bigger punch. Commercial RE is going to be an interesting bag of surprises. There's essentially no talk in the mainstream about the trouble with CRE, or even in residential "shadow inventory."

Re: Ohio coal group challenges EPA on greenhouse gases

The efforts to challenge the EPA in court may actually produce the opposite result from that desired by the denialist. In court, they will be forced to present their case, instead of simply being able to repeat old claims which have been repeatedly proven wrong. Maybe John Christy will be forced to explain exactly how he and Roy Spencer created their TLT algorithm and prove that the results from their artificial time series are actually valid evidence of global temperature and thus useful as an indicator of climate change.

E. Swanson

I expect that we'll be seeing more of this. It seems to be a trend:

AUSTIN – The State of Texas ratcheted up its attack on the Obama administration's environmental policies on Tuesday, filing suit against the EPA over a declaration that could broaden government enforcement of carbon dioxide emissions.


I wonder how much this is going to cost us. Progress on this issue seems impossible. At least the lawyers will be happy.

I think Climate activists & scietists didn't anticipate the extent to which deniers / polluters will go to maintain BAU. They will use every trick in the books and some not in them.

They already hired Russian intelligence agencies to hack the computers. We shouldn't be surprised if some scientists even get assassinated.

Do you have a credible source to support this claim?

Elementary, dear Watson. In the world of logical thought there is a technique called the process of elimination, and it works like this:

Since it is highly unlikely that the people who believe in Anthropogenic Climate Change would do such a thing, it therefore follows that those who strongly disagree or whose interests are threatened by it are the culprits.

I hope that clarifies things for you.

But isn't it possible Russia decided on their own to do it? As the world's largest oil exporter, they might have reason to oppose carbon limits.

Hi, Leanan ~

In a word, yes. A careful reading of my post would answer your question:

...it therefore follows that those who strongly disagree or whose interests are threatened by it are the culprits.

Notice that I didn't refer to location :)


I personally believe in climate change in general and warming in particular.

I also believe that your comment about dirty tricks is in the bullseye.

But one MAJOR POINT that you, and just about everybody else in this forum who agrees with these basic points, are failing to understand is this-as far as the public debate is concerned, the fact that the emails were hacked is either totally irrelevant or actually a point in favor of the denialist camp.

Anybody who fails to understand this is POLITICALLY TONE DEAF. (sorry about using so many caps, but I don't know how to italicize or underline in this format.)

Millions of people love Bill but hate Hillary.Why? Because Hillary is tone deaf, and Bill is not.

Since we seem to be a literal minded bunch of Mensans here, capable of understanding any amount of science, biology, and engineering , but not much practical psychology, I will attempt to explain.

The public by and large believes the climate science establishment is a condescending bunch of snobs who believe they are entitled to live and work on the public 's money and at the same time so arrogant that they feel entitled to claim personal and professional privacy concerns apply to thier work.

Once you(the rhetorical you is intended, not the personal) get your head around this concept, then it should not be too hard to understand the next step in the explaination.They see the hacking of the emails as a dirty trick PAYBACK- in other words, the first dirty trick (and there can be absolutely no doubt that there were dirty tricks pulled by the researchers and or thier spokesmen at this point)has only been REPAID with a dirty trick in kind.

So as a purely practical matter, I strongly suggest that those in favor of advancing climate change agendas SHUT UP about the hacking.It only makes the denialist's case more appealing than ever to the VAST MAJORITY of the population which knows next to nothing about science in general and climate in particular.

It was obvious to me as soon as I read the emails (meaning some of the ones that were widely publicized) that there would be a major pr problem.I suggested a proactive defense-admitting that scientists are just people, that there are always people willing to take shortcuts in ANY large group, that pressure to perform AND CONFORM can be hard to cope with, etc.In short, the scientific community should have "fessed up" immediately, because it was PERFECTLY OBVIOUS that they would be fessing up later, at the cost of enlarging the pr problem by delaying the final reckoning.

Having taken a non confrontational and conciliatory stance along these lines, the spokesmen of the scientific community, and the part of the media which supports it, would have been in an infinitely better spot as far as damage control is concerned.

The denialist camp cannot be converted, except by the proverbial "brick up side the head", and the ridiculous verbal contortions of the scientific apologists merely made (or make) the scientists look even more suspect.

The same contortions embarass ME , as I frequently try to argue or reason with some denialists of my acquaintance who are actually quire intelligent people-people with college degrees, kids headed to med school, people with high iq's.But unfortunately not much background in the sciences!

It may not be obvious to the scientific faction, but there are many , many millions of people who are open minded about such issues as climate change who will never have the scientific background knowledge , or the time and inclination to acquire it,necessary to understand climate change.

So they will make thier minds up in the usual and customary time honored way-they will believe whoever sounds most credible to them, based on thier OVERALL knowledge of the people and the issue.People don't trust politicians and lawyers as a group because they are too often found out twisting the truth to fit thier own ends, if not outright bullxxxxing us.We don't need to be caught bs'ing the public.

If you want to keep the peace, and you are wrong, apologize.If you are right, and need to keep the peace, you still need to apologize.This is absolutely necessary as it permits thine potential enemy to pretend to himself that he has changed his mind about the facts NOT BECAUSE HE WAS WRONG but because YOU were wrong. A little cognitive dissonance can go a long way ,when the use of it is properly understood.

The people in your own camp will understand, except for the ones who don 't understand practical politics.The enemy camp cannot be won over.

But the middle can be swayed by skillful application of good practical psychology.

Our national political parties understand this process well enough that it is kindergarden to any party delegate or midlevel community organizer.

Yeah, I always trust theives. That is what hacking is, isn't it? Well, sometimes it results in fraud, like stealing work which has a common-law copyright and changing it, whether by omission or otherwise, and calling it real - oops, that is what the hackers or their employers did, isn't it?

I do not condone what either party did. I will rely on the simple graphs of temperature change over time, particularly those which reflect an accelerating rate of change. Besides, the "positive" feedbacks which are now (or at least seem to be, now) kicking in, all of this will be forgotten by the time the earth's atmosphere and oceans warm another 2 degrees Centigrade.


Obviously you are tone deaf, politically.

Intellectual property purchased with public money cannot TRULY be stolen if it is distributed free of charge to the ublic which paid for it-any man on the street will understand this instantly.


Now just how much wieght do you think you ould give an argument on her part that you were in the wrong because you invaded her privacy.?

I am assuming you are a male, therefore I use cheating wife.

The public by and large believes the climate science establishment is a condescending bunch of snobs who believe they are entitled to live and work on the public 's money and at the same time so arrogant that they feel entitled to claim personal and professional privacy concerns apply to thier work.

I'm somewhat wary of listening to anyone who claims to know exactly what the "public" thinks - unless backed up by a poll, atleast.

The point anyway is that scientists and activists should think about what deniers/polluters might do and prepare appropriate response to win the PR battle. This includes good responses to hacking, IPCC Himalayan blunder, Snowstorms etc. We should almost treat it like a presidential campaign and run it like one.

Not that I think any government will actually do anything real about AGW - just some hand waving and sloganeering. Humans can't take actions that hurt personally in the short term for something that helps everyone in the long term.


I am in complete agreement with you concerning any real action.

However you reveal the mindset I am trying to get you to set aside-for a moment.I don't need no stinking poll (rememember Blazing SaDDLES THE MOVIE AND "bADGES?wE DON'T NEED NO STINKING BADGES?")


Do you think the professors who comment here on this issue on TOD frequently need to run a poll after teaching math and basic sciences at university level for decades?I taught myself for seven years.

Just go to the comments section of any website not followed almost exclusively by the very small portion of the pubic that IS scientifically literate,and read the comments.Ditto any large newspaper following this on the editorial page,or on its website.I actually get out of my ivory tower every once in a while and mingle with the vast unwashed , uneducated , ignorant and superstitious public the cognostiscenti here enjoy making fun of almost every day.

Remember the arts professor at a small college in the backwods of Vermont who famously quipped "I can't see how Mondale (or was it McGovern?) lost.Everybody I know personally voted for him."

Now you say that we should treat this like a presidential campaign-THAT IS my point.

And the VERY FIRST THING any savvy campaigner would do is QUIT CRYING ABOUT THE HACKING.


Mac, Very well stated.

I am not mensa level, but I have the psychology backgound.

I r just a dum hic from arkysaw.



and there can be absolutely no doubt that there were dirty tricks pulled by the researchers and or thier spokesmen at this point

Absolutely false.


Obviously you need to quit reading just your Bible, and check out some other authors-or perhaps I overstep , and you define dirty trick differently than I do.

The press is full of commentary , quite a lot of it by people well thought of in the scientific community ,members of the community, to this effect, although it is true that it is usaually couched in milder and more conciliatory language.

Methinks I do detect a bit of that old "rather die than admit making an error personally" flavor in the responses so far to my comment.

I hereby apologize for being right(sarcasm light is ON) so that it will be ok.

I must also add that using the term dirty trick in the way I did was a mistake-the public percieves the behavior of the cc establishment as a dirty trick , but I don't.The behavior was , however devious, condescending,elitist, and counterproductive, in terms of good stewardship of public monies and the establishment of trust.

One might hope for a repeat of the trial on teaching "intelligent design" in schools. The judge in the Dover, PA trial concluded:

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

Come on, all you denialist out there, bring it on!!

E. Swanson

Yes, but keep in mind the composition of the supreme court.

I've been noticing the Decomposition of the court, I'd say.

A simple defamation suit from virtually any of the climate scientists would do it. The basis would have to be the science and the contention they are making it up, lying, etc.

All it will take is ONE of them filing a defamation lawsuit.


Of course you know why NONE would file a defamation suit.

They would not stand a cat in hells chance of winning it.

Assertion? How about an actual argument?

IANAL, but defamation suit will not help here - unless monitary damage is shown. And no scientist I know of has a stomach for something like that ...

Better to let EPA make a policies based on CC and let deniers/polluters bring challenges.

No, reputation alone can be sufficient, but I'm using defamation broadly to include slander and libel. Besides, the point is not to win, but to have the facts presented and the lies revealed.

It's fairly obviously you don't understand slander and libel law. The global warming deniers didn't actually say the scientists were lying, they said they were wrong and were fudging the data to make it look like they were right.

If a scientist sued them, they'd subpoena all his files and e-mail, and find *ONE* instance in which he was wrong and fudged the data. (In this case, it would not be hard because of the leaked e-mails). Having seen one instance, the court would find that as a matter of *FACT* it was true that he was wrong and fudged the data. Case lost.

If you're a prominent scientist with a reputation to protect, you don't want that to happen, so don't expect any of them to sue. One of the worst things you can do to your reputation is sue for libel, and lose on a point of fact.

All scientists are wrong on occasion, and it takes a strong-willed researcher to not cook the data a little at times. It's human nature. In fact people do it subconsciously without realizing it, something that scientists have to beware of.

They need to get to work on all that marvelous clean coal we've heard so much about. But of course it doesn't exist which is why they are suing. The people that should be sued is all the companies that have held progress on this issue all these years. They should be sued for all the lives and species that will be terminated in the years to come. Where do we sue to get our planet back?

I'll wish the condom effort success. Even though I think we can support the number of people living on earth, it does not mean I don't also support caution.

What we should be doing and are not doing is limiting the impact we are having on what is left of our stored biodeversity. Places that we haven't trashed with slash and burn farming, or coal hilltop mining, Oil wells in the jungle.

When we continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, we are going to get the same result over and over again.

In my BioWebScape Project, I would love to think that there is still some plants and animals left to discover in those Peruvian Jungles.

Some of the plants might be used elsewhere in the world to promote a better food outlook in BioWebScape designs. Never know when something might of use to you, until you plant it and see.

Maybe we can just ban people from using the remaining places that have not been touched by man. Oh wait, sorry I'd have to be king to get that one done. My bad.

Oh and on another thought, would greenpeace get after me If I wanted to go into say the Gobi and make it bloom again?

Cheers for a better future,

Oh and on another thought, would greenpeace get after me If I wanted to go into say the Gobi and make it bloom again?

You would not be able to do that even if you were king of the world, you would have to be God. The Gobi is a desert because it is dry. The annual rainfall in the Gobi is about 7 inches but if, as God, you could perhaps double that then that would help. Anyway, as a mere mortal, you would not have to worry about Greenpeace getting after you. If you tried to make the Goby bloom again they would just laugh at you, deservedly so.

However: Currently, the Gobi desert is expanding at an alarming rate in a process known as desertification. The expansion is particularly rapid on the southern edge into China, which has seen 3,600 km2 (1,390 sq mi) of grassland overtaken every year by the Gobi Desert. Dust storms, which used to occur regularly in China, have seen a dramatic increase in occurrence in the past 20 years, mainly due to desertification, and causing further damage to China's agriculture economy.

The expansion of the Gobi is attributed mostly to human activities, notably deforestation, overgrazing, and depletion of water resources.

This is only one of the many reasons that the earth cannot possibly support its current population for very much longer. We are deep, deep into overshoot. We are killing the earth.

Ron P.


You know I am not going to be king of the world any time soon.

But If GOD wanted to, He could do anything he wanted to, including do nothing, but could also make the desert into a paradise, man limiting God is an oxymoronic thought. Not to get into a war over what God is or is not going to do, I don't know God's mind.

I know that we humans are trashing our planet. Just look at what we are doing to the oceans with plastic in the North Pacific Gyre, amoung other places.

Waves from the edge of nowhere,

And why are people dumping millions of tones of fuel in the form of plastic garbage in the oceans while making a large effort to dig up coal?

I have always thought that Dioxin [etc] poisoning will be the limit to pop growth. Once we are sitting in the cold and dark [as I watch the snow falling again here in the UK] as organisation crumbles, those who had the foresight to buy rubbish tips will be selling plastic, 50 yr old used diapers and other 'human peat' for the trolls to warm their open fires..

People didnt live for 30 yrs in old days just because of the hard life - it was the fire in your roundhouse/wigwam etc that poisoned you.

Trash, thrown away, lost over board, left on the beaches of the world, or just about anywhere, be it up river or down on the coasts.

The ocean stirs it around and slowly breaks it down to the hair fine particle that finds its way into you own diet.

100's of millions of tons of trash plastic in the oceans at least.

Best use for the stuff is to be ground and reused. Or dissolved.


What do you think of Tom Blees 'Prescription for the Planet'?
Also, what about this?
We can have all the energy we want, and we can have an energy carrier.
So you must be talking about agriculture?

If you would prefer to answer by reference to material somewhere else on the algorenet then please do. Such references are valuable because they can be seen and sometimes found by many and not just the original asker and askee (obviously in this case the asker has not necessarily found the references yet).

More on Leanan's "Food Desert" theme:

Wyoming Town Loses Food Mart ... And A Bit Of Hope

For years, the town of Hanna, Wyo., only had one grocery store. Late last month, that store closed its doors. It was one more casualty of the bad economy, and it's a blow to a town where jobs are scarce and a snowstorm can close roads for days at a time. . .

With the Hanna Food Mart gone, there will be nowhere in town to buy bread or milk. There's not even a regular gas station in Hanna — just a couple of credit-card-only gas pumps. A simple mini-mart is 20 miles away. The nearest grocery store is an 80-mile drive, round-trip, but a lot of people in Hanna can't get around that easily. . .

Cashier Lorinde Schisel: "Yeah, we're all going to have to get back to basics."

An update on the "Grand Prix of Debt Race"

Greek Crisis Fallout: Could the Euro's Days Be Numbered?

"This is a very deep crisis for the euro and all of Europe because what we have is a terrible debt and deficit problem that virtually all European nations share and no collective structures to deal with any of it," says Philippe Moreau Defarge, a European affairs expert at the French Institute on International Relations. "Europe is being forced to recognize it isn't as rich or as well-organized as it thought, and faces several long, hard years of finding its way back to solid ground."

And what about the future of the euro? "I think it's quite possible we could see the euro gone in several years — or at least reduced to a currency only used by France, Germany and a few small nations keeping it alive," says Bob Hancké, an expert on European political economics at the London School of Economics. "The problem is that monetary union was never followed up by political union to coordinate budget and taxation practices and create euro-zone institutions and capacities to help member economies adapt to changes and turmoil. The result is member governments are left very few ways to deal with the current attack on Greek debt and the severe pressure that it's putting on the euro."

"Europe is being forced to recognize it isn't as rich or as well-organized as it thought." Of course this is true of most OECD countries.

I wonder if a group of permaculture folks could go into Hanna and set up shop as a sort of test project. If they can grow food on the wind swept high plains they might be able to be used as a teaching center.

My problem is I see things like this and wish I had the money to go test my Hypothesizes about growing foods in different regions of the world, in different climates and with different plants. It is all well and good to have the datums filled with information, but getting them into real world applications is the other side of the coin.

Sighs, Anyone want to go live in Wyoming for a few years? Let me know. I have lived in Wyoming, I'd go if I did not have a place that needed me already.

Cheers for a better future,
BioWebScape design project

I've been to Wyoming. I camped in the Big Horns during a snowstorm ...in late JUNE! I drove straight through from Wisconsin to Buffalo, WY (just stopping for gas) The morning i left was hot humid (around 80F) and rainy and by the time i set foot (in the snow) at 9000ft in the Big Horns i was ready to turn back!

The state is desolate! Very few cars, antelope everywhere and not a tree outside of the higher elevations (except by water).

I would think growing in that state (lower elevations) would work wonderful with high tunnels. During the days (that are usually sunny) you'd build up a ton of heat, while outside the temps would drop (dry air/low dew points) at night, inside the high tunnel it would stay warm. You would probably need a lot of mulch and possibly a jackhammer to work in that soil out there. I've seen pictures of some WY "soil", it looked like rock!

I have my theories that if you brought in plant from other regions of the world and you used agressive planting measures ( not to be confused with agribusiness) you could in a few years time change some region.

The problem is that the temps can get bitterly cold and plants don't handle that well, unless they are hardy ones. But the world is full of hardy plants, they just don't grow in all the same regions.

BioWebScape designs is all about juggling the maximum number of plant species into each plot of land. Planning for maximum food production, and maximum interrelations (plants helping plants).

BioWebScape design project for a better future.

The more I think about it, the more I like the Buffalo Commons idea. These small towns in the semi-arid west are dying, and the water tables are dropping trying to support modern agriculture.

Buffalo Commons would solve a few problems: give people money for their houses/businesses in these areas so they can relocate, arrest the dropping of water tables, restore a natural ecosystem, and create a much less ecologically damaging source of meat for the USA.


Great Plains Restoration Council:

News article:

NPR had a chat with Stewart Brand this morning, on his reasons to support Nuclear Power, using all the familiar slogans like "Kneejerk" when describing any kind of opposition to fission.

"To survive now, Brand says, we need nuclear power, genetic engineering, giant cities. We must manage nature or lose civilization." (This link has a couple video keynotes with Brand, and then with Lovins.)

For the other side on this, here is Amory Lovin's response to Brand's 'Ecopragmatism', which as a term sounds like 'We'd better not keep our standards too high..' - trying to mix 'realpolitik' and environmental stewardship (Oil and Water??). I expect that Nature is all-too ready to be far more Real with us before long, putting our illusions of reality to shame.


Of course, a few countries with centrally planned energy systems, mostly with socialized costs, are building reactors: over two-thirds of all nuclear plants under construction are in China, Russia, India, or South Korea. But that’s more because their nuclear bureaucracies dominate national energy policy and face little or no competition in technologies, business models, and ideas. Nuclear power requires such a system. The competitors beating nuclear power thrive in democracies and free markets.

In the long comments section Lovins responds to commenters.. worth looking at his replies.

Bob, Thanks read the article and the comments section.
This 'conversation' is really heating up.
I think aware folks on all sides can see the confluence of the 'big #3' bucket o crap we're stepping into.

The OECD Debt crisis
The Vulnerable ELM picture
The Urgency of AGW/CC

If anyone doubts how big an impact the looming loss of massive FF imports is to the US they only need study where the BTU Quad's currently come from.

Total Energy Supply and Distribution Table

We simply must recognize that the default setting for reacting to this shortfall (as opposed to freezing in the dark and not moving) will be to ramp-up all the coal production we can possibly muster. Why? B/c in a crisis cheap and dirty will win out over planned and prudent every time. Seen it a few times on wildland fires. Mandating carbon and other planning could be outrun by events if we get 'too far behind the decision curve'

I don't have any idea how long is left for mitigation but I do know that if heating oil and diesel and gasoline supplies become a problem excess pressure will be placed on the power grid. Quite literally the grid is the backup lifeline for most folks today. I do not want to even begin to contemplate what life in these here 'United' States would be like if significant parts became chronically interrupted.

In addition to those nuke expansions just announced I think that continued wind buildout ,as here in Wa where we just became #4, will continue. Looks like NG the bridge fuel will get a boost particularly if the diesel fleet converts a bunch when imports falter. (My background in mechanics leads me to belive this is a pretty doable trend which could be ramped up fairly fast in a 'crisis' as there are several ways they can be converted although the advent of HP fueling and computer controls will mean it will require expertise and money) (I wish longhaul trucking no long life but presevation of BAU will dictate vigorous attempt will be made)

A little checklist of possibilities for comparing what will probably drive which alternatives get the most push between now and crunch-time might be.

Climate Impact
Viability-Ease of direct increase
Long term supply

I'm not choosing here necessarily, but I do think that it may be difficult to get new tech through the development/approval/building phases before economic conditions degrade blockin further big start up capital. Been calling this 'look-around-see-what's-still-working-and use-it'. I'm trying to outline why I think it's very urgent that we build up and re-enforce the grid ASAP with all the investment and proven tech that can be done with the time and money we have left.
I belive this extends down to the local level too b/c even small reliable amounts that do not depend on total interconnectivity and suffer less from as much transmission loss to use are good security in a changing power landscape.

In any event if we need nukes in the long run we better stay friends with the folks up north and the land down under

As always negawatts, ELP, and conserve. let the non-negotiable lifestyle negotiations begin

Oil Futures Contango Soon to End

The Fed's rate hike is having a profound effect on our most precious commodity. The level of contango (upward slope in the crude oil futures chain) is markedly lower after Thursday's rate hike. Here's what things look like in the Energy Futures Databrowser:

The market seems to believe that supply/demand balance will tighten this year yet stay within limits over the next decade, discounting demand growth in Asia and the effects of depletion in existing fields.

If the contango in the oil futures chain reverts to actual backwardation (negative slope in the futures chain) we should see a fall in drilling activity which will lead to a much higher price for oil a few years out.

The current action in the oil futures markets reminds us once again that the market has absolutely no clue about how to factor in asian growth or Peak Oil.

The coming months will be very interesting in the futures markets.

-- Jon

Hey hey johnathan,

Ilargi and Stoneleigh over at The Automatic Earth think that a global depression in the economy is going to create a supply glut. Which will cause new investment to fall so that when the economy recovers it will be facing an energy shortage and much higher prices.


I am in complete agreement with their assessment. I think we will see a decrease in prices in the near term followed by an increase over the longer term. As with all things market related, however, it's all in the timing. Is "near term" 6-12 months or 1-3 years? Will the economy start recovering (in the US) beginning 2 years from now or 10 years in the future?

The one thing we can be certain of is that there will be large variations in the price of oil and oil futures (and plenty of opportunity for savvy traders). That's why I like to have a quick look at the shape of the futures chain every day. It lets me see the change as it's happening. We are truly watching history.

Welcome to the Great Volatility.

-- Jon

Actually this is pretty much what everyone is thinking.

With complex systems I have a sort of soft law that when everyone knows how things are going to turn out then everyone is wrong.

I'd argue that there are at least two other very good alternatives to the main stream viewpoint.

First and foremost in general the Market has decided to take the Saudis statements of spare capacity as fact.
However the market is slowly tightening towards backwardation and is steadily signaling that the Saudi's arge going to need to produce.

The next variant involves what ever oil is still stored offshore and a belief that its substantial thus the collapsing contango is suggesting that anyone holding physical now should start unloading the threat of course is if the price goes much higher the Saudi's may well act.

These are in my opinion the basic alternative arguments to explain the market movements. In general the market is suggesting that plenty of oil is around just that its time to transition out any short term aberrations left over from the collapse. This is floating storage and some Saudi spare capacity.

Now with that said what happens if the markets strong suggestion goes unanswered ?
What if there is no Saudi spare capacity or if there are no vast fleets of oil stored offshore ?

Who knows but I think the Market is asking for answers and depending on what they are it will react.
Long term ?

Well given the above at the moment there is nothing long term in the current market except that its trying to eliminate short term issues to discover its longer term moves. The current contango is now low enough that holding oil offshore is not worthwhile but its also below the price that would trigger the Saudi's to pump more thus its in a sense giving anyone that been holding oil for speculative reasons a chance to sell before the Saudi's act to dampen prices. However its also a bit of a game of cat and mouse as the Saudi's probably wont act until the price is over 90 and storage levels have fallen i.e US storage levels are lower and offshore storage has been drained. Thats a guess but I think as I said the market is entirely focused on elimination of short term issues before it moves into its longer term configuration. Perhaps thats the same as where it is now who knows.

Obviously if you look longer term its not pricing in any scenario except that the Saudi's can control prices to some level in addition this level is high enough to ensure plenty of oil sources are profitable thus the current long term is basically no change. But outside of the price being a good one for future development its no really predictive thus its just the short term situation completely overshadowing any long term market moves thus your back to the market focused on the now not the future.

You have summed up the current situation well, but I might add that most sources think that offshore oil storage - especially near the US - has come down rather rapidly in 2010. It's possible the small but notable upturn in US oil imports lately is just bringing those supplies ashore.

Recent reports from Oil Movements indicate a minor uptick in OPEC exports in the second half of February, but that increase is mostly headed for the Far East.

The true normalized (ex-storage inflated) levels of US imports are probably now below the level that is necessary to keep the US economy running at its present output - or in other words prices will have to rise enough again at some point to create enough 'demand destuction' to equalize supply and demand again.

However it is not only possible but likely that the US economy could improve in the first half of 2010 until the next oil (or gasoline) price spike arrives. One reason the US is blessed for now is that markets are malfunctioning by being overly concerned about the relative value of the Euro vs. the dollar, when it should be concerned with the absolute level of net exports that westexas keeps talking about.

The coming spike will be a signal of realization that demand has temporarily superceded supply, just as in early 2009 supply temporarily exceeded demand. However I find it irrational that the passing of peak oil - or more specifically the decline of net oil exports - will lead to a typical state of supply exceeding demand. At least not in the first stage of post peak oil where governments and currencies are still mostly functional. Later on, events such as a dollar crash, bond market crash, or some yet unknown war or famine, will bring more chaotic conditions and wilder price and demand swings - due to non-price related drops in demand.

Yep in general I agree with what your saying.

One more point is that know one really knows what the fundamental level of demand is for oil. By this I mean both infrastructure and also what decisions people are willing to make. I'd argue for example that plenty of case history exists to suggest that the car is the last thing to go and its what people will hold onto. This is because once its gone its gone. If you can find stats I suspect that many families reduced to living on welfare try and keep their car.

In general what I'm trying to say is few people are really considering the economic landscape when things are seriously stressed. We are not even close to the level of desperation that occurred during the Great Depression. Certainly the safety nets put in place since then are playing a role but also the modern dual income household can take a hell of a financial hit and still go on with daily life. They may lose access to credit and default on their debt obligations but in general if they can make some income at all they can make it at some level. With two or more potential wage earners you can get buy.

I think we have crossed the Rubicon if you will on the matter going into 2008 families where fighting to hold onto their gains primarily speculative gains in real estate going into 2010 families are focused increasingly on day to day survival and not living on the streets ( with no car ). Demand patterns are very different between the two cases. Most importantly is that pre 2008 people where willing and able to sacrifice to make their debt payments while now they are willing to default and keep their daily living standard higher.

This growing group of people focused on paycheck to paycheck life that have defaulted on their debt probably filing bankruptcy represents a group that is far less likely to cut back dramatically on gasoline even as prices rise. This is because driving a car is the last thing that they have which keeps them differentiated from the true poor. Coming form Arkansas this is very well known and its the 4X4 in front of the trailer or the Cadillac in front of the shack. In America once you give up on the homeowner dream there is a second level if you will which is car ownership and driving.

People don't think about it much because most people are a bit better off than this lower middle or upper poverty level class.
But there is this huge intrinsic level of resistance and it there for a good reason. The infrastructure in the US is geared towards the automobile. If you have a car then your lifestyle is similar to people with a lot more money if you don't then your mobility and life style is in general dramatically different and a lot more restrictive in the US.

Thus I think that there are a lot of excellent arguments for a strong resistance level in the US at a certain consumption level.
I of course thing we have already hit our inelastic demand level and that a further fall in demand of any large magnitude is unlikely.

I've thought about it a lot and I've come to the conclusion that I will keep a car as long as I can. If gasoline price go high enough I'll use alternative transportation but I don't see me giving up on car ownership even if I just use it on the weekends for pleasure driving. Probably keep it to buy groceries also until local corner stores come back. Or if I live in the country make the biweekly or monthly run into town. In short I'd keep right on using gasoline as long as I could even if it became a luxury good.
I'm a bit less into cars then a lot of people but I'm willing to hang in there to the point that its one of my luxuries.

Thus I have to think that demand for gasoline exists right to the point where its a true luxury for many and no longer a necessity.


This is about the Vespa in post war Italy but my point is that people are not recognizing this intrinsic demand.

On another tact every now and then people claim that as things get bad people will give up their mobile phones and say cable TV.
In both cases esp mobile phones I think people are seriously missing the intrinsic demand factor.

Of all the things we have done in modern times I'd argue that the car/motorbike mobile phone and then TV are the luxuries that people will keep as long as possible. These are your average person not your radicals but your plain ordinary person.

Again its trivial to figure out this is true since if you go to even the most impoverished place in the world you find cars/motorbikes mobile phones then TV's :)

That does not say what the actual overall consumption level is for oil products simply that the demand exists right down to the bottom.
Real demand all ways equals supply but if you spend a bit of time looking at it then it seems clear that their is significant real demand for oil products even down to the point that they are luxuries not necessities. Basically your not going to outbid the farmer in Africa that uses a small motorcycle to haul his crop to market or take his family once a month to the city etc.

Rising prices will simply ensure that oil usage is a rarer and rarer luxury yet its also persistent. At some point of course the remaining demand levels and alternative biofuels meet in a viable system. Just as obvious this can't be done until demand has dropped to a fraction of what it is today. But thats the substitution point where alternatives to using oil for luxury use are viable.
Probably biofuel but perhaps electrical who knows. Heck for a lot of the world probably donkeys and mules and horses no telling.

The key point is with a bit of thought its fairly clear that oil consumption can rapidly transition into being a sought after luxury item that people are willing to pay for thus the floor or intrinsic demand level is in my opinion far higher than most people realize and price will simply ensure that you partake in luxury use less often. Lets say you love a fine steak and when your rich you have one every other day. As you get poorer you have one less and less often until say you only have one once a year as thats all you can afford. Oil has this sort of luxury good capacity.

Perhaps one day in the future this might be the only time someone rides in a car.


But I'm pretty confident that the demand is there all the way down to the point that its a treat at your wedding.

Demand is still there. It is very telling that we have $80 oil with a (temporarily) strong dollar, massive foreclosures and stubbornly high unemployment - not to mention liquidiations of offshore stored oil (as I mentioned further above). Just a few years ago $80 oil would have been considered extremely high; now we get $80 oil with a poor economy.

So while it may seem that demand is not keeping up with supply, or there has been 'peak demand', the fact is the fundemental balance of supply and demand has only gotten worse the last few years (ignoring short term price spikes and price collapses).

It will be interesting to see what happens in 2010 if China and India grow 8 to 10% and the OECD countries just stay where they are with no growth. The guy driving a small car to work in India or China is not going to be bothered much whether oil is $80, $90, $100 or more when his life in general is improving.

Well its much deeper than that we are oil addicts and Chinda is creating a whole slew more. In the end thats what I was trying to say we have a very deep addiction to automobiles its deeper than the US homeownership addiction and others.
What people don't realize I think is how widespread the problem is nor how deep it runs. I'm honest enough to admit I'm and oil addict and I can and will use ever drop I can afford. Since I'm peak oil aware however I'll work aggressively to try and ensure that I'm not dependent on large amounts to make a living. I'm not going to do a 50 mile commute to work its dangerous and can backfire if oil gets very expensive. But ensuring I have alternatives to gasoline for getting to and from work is about all I'm going to do.
I'm also not going to buy a new car mines paid for. If I can't afford to drive to work and I have alternatives I'll use alternatives to save money when I have too.

Other than working to ensure I don't get myself in a bind where I'm working to buy gasoline well I'll use what I want till its gone.

Maybe I'm a selfish bastard maybe not dunno I just don't see the point in extreme conservation. When/If it gets truly to expensive then I'd suspect public transport will get a little bit better and you could even transfer buses three times without taking half a day.

But we have way way to many oil addicts in the world and plenty of people willing to use what you don't your not really helping anyone in the end. In fact conservation in the wealthier countries is probably making things worse not better as more people in Chinda choose to purchase a car using todays oil prices as reasonable. Later when prices go higher these people are addicted and unable to quit.
Better in the long run for us old addicts to burn up the last of the stash and make it too expensive for new addicts to buy in.
The ones that just got their first dose are the ones least likely to quit. Thus conservation in the wealthier countries is probably making the situation even worse.

I'd argue that the current high prices and Westexas repeated observation that Chinda is willing and able to out bid us points towards this new addict binging effect.

Basically what your saying however I don't think people really think it through and realize that conservation is not only a waste of time but making matters worse.


There is a key assumption in this paragraph that not everyone shares:

However it is not only possible but likely that the US economy could improve in the first half of 2010 until the next oil (or gasoline) price spike arrives. One reason the US is blessed for now is that markets are malfunctioning by being overly concerned about the relative value of the Euro vs. the dollar, when it should be concerned with the absolute level of net exports that westexas keeps talking about.

Quite a few people are waiting, not for a recovery, but for another leg down in the markets and general economy due to any one or more of the following: sovereign default, Chinese banking issues, commercial real estate collapse, city/state bakruptcies -- take your pick.

I fully expect markets to respond to any such calamity, especially Euro-troubles, as they almost always have in the recent past -- with a rush to the dollar which will drive down the dollar price of oil. This malfunctioning you mention may continue for some time and will likely be accompanied by a further, perhaps modest decrease in demand. Any bullish oil traders may find themselves in a short squeeze as a result.

As I said above, timing is obviously the difficult part and, if a year passes without an economic crisis, I will probably have to modify this prediction. But for now, this is what I expect.

You are absolutely correct, however, that global net exports are the only thing we need to pay attention to for the long term and the story there is pretty obvious:

  1. once a nation switches from exporter to importer it never goes back
  2. every decade, more nations make this switch

From the Energy Export Databrowser:

The green "exports" curve in this case represents the total amount of oil available to the global markets.

We will slowly watch as the green countries on the map wink out and change to red. Here are the nations that have recently made or are about to make the switch from exporter to importer:

  • Indonesia (2004)
  • Great Britain (2005)
  • Vietnam (2010?)
  • Egypt (2011?)
  • Argentina (2015?)
  • Mexico (2016?)
  • Denmark (2017?)

I'm still dumbfounded that players in the oil futures markets can't figure this out.

-- Jon

No argument of course about the overall theme, but EIA data show that Egypt became a net oil importer in 2007:


The preliminary 2009 data were up for a while, but have since been taken down.

Thanks for the correction. The BP data show Egypt scraping the export barrel in 2008 butI think we can chalk up the difference to lack of precision and safely say that Egypt has already made the switch.

I'm in close agreement, just saying that oil prices are lower than they would have been without the Euro crisis, and although oil is at $80, I don't think $80 will stop the economy from growing. Maybe at $90 or higher some negative feedback will develop, although they may not show up until the second half of 2010 [I never said we will look forward to a good second half economy].

I'm still dumbfounded that players in the oil futures markets can't figure this out.

-IMO the simple answer is that they don't have to, as they are 'playing' against/with their peers based on shorter term supply/demand issues. To use a driving analogy they are more interested in the bumps and potholes in the road than the fact it ultimatley leads us all off a cliff...


Consumers who buy individual health policies feel trapped

They have few options other than dropping coverage as insurers raise rates and slash benefits. Insurers blame the soaring cost of medical care and the churn of customers in the individual market.

Insurance companies' SOP is to pool individual policy owners into a group for a period of time, say a calendar year, and then cutoff enrollment in that group and then start a new group for the following year. With time, the original group gets older and sicker and the healthier members of the group opt out, getting cheaper coverage, leaving the remaining group older and sicker, in other words, a death spiral. But the point is that the system is designed to produce a death spiral.

I have a high deductible catastrophic policy, as a backup in case my wife isn't working (I'm self-employed): the Blue Cross of Texas Select Saver 2002 $5,000 Deductible Plan. Note the date, 2002. Presumably, they have the 2003, 2004, 2005, etc. plans. In any case, those of us remaining in the 2002 group have been seeing accelerating rates of increases in the premiums.

That's what hit my former employer, the rates went up and they started tagging people who had high claims. There was a management change in who controled the company, and to increase the profits in the bottom line, they laid off for the first time ever as many people as they could afford to lose.

Bye bye charles, Thank God,it was after my Wife Trisha had gotten the gastric bypass surgery, even though that was an additional claim to my account, it was only one of many others, but it would have been impossible without insurance.


And then we have the drug companies. . .

Controversial Diabetes Drug Harms Heart, U.S. Concludes

The bipartisan multiyear Senate investigation — whose results are expected to be released publicly on Monday but which were also obtained by The Times — sharply criticizes GlaxoSmithKline, saying it failed to warn patients years earlier that Avandia was potentially deadly. . . The Senate inquiry concludes that the company threatened doctors who suggested in public that Avandia might have serious risks.

In 1999, for instance, Dr. John Buse, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, gave presentations at scientific meetings suggesting that Avandia had heart risks. GlaxoSmithKline executives complained to his supervisor and hinted of legal action against him, according to the Senate inquiry. Dr. Buse eventually signed a document provided by GlaxoSmithKline agreeing not to discuss his worries about Avandia publicly. The report cites a separate episode of intimidation of investigators at the University of Pennsylvania.

Well, yes. And then we have the unmentionable underlying driver - the do something, do anything, no matter how unaffordable the cost or how horrific the side effects bias in today's Western societies with respect to anything that remotely smacks of elf'n'safety or environment. Well, nearly all Westerners survive to senility one way or another nowadays, so a lot of it just doesn't matter one whit. But be that as it may, sometimes "we" would do better to do absolutely nothing, and sometimes we would do better to do something conservative and incremental. Then again, who dares tell that to today's hysterical, overwrought eschatologists and worry-warts?

Very good article in Discover Magazine on wonder drugs that can kill:


One of the dirty little secrets about drug trials is that if you, as a test subject, have complications from taking the drug, and drop out, you are listed as non-compliant, and your reaction to the drug is not included in the final results. Then the drug is unleashed on the general population, and as the above NYT article shows, then some drug companies reportedly threaten doctors who try to tell the truth about their concerns about the drug.

westexas, sadly enough this happens. But also sometimes very serious adverse effects are so infrequent, that they don't appear in the trials. Even then, most registered medicines have serious adverse effects in 1:10.000-100.000 patients and stay registered. It is the reverse side of the medal of pharmaceutical healthcare.

Surely "pharmaceutical healthcare." is an oxymoron.

Surely "pharmaceutical healthcare." is an oxymoron.

So back to the life were many children died because of infections and a life without insulin for diabetes and no medicines for epilepsy, Parkinson, hypertension ?

Children weren't GETTING diabetes back then. Childhood Type 2 Diabetes is a new phenomenon.

Overreliance and Misuse of Antibiotics is quickly bringing us to the end of that rope. 'With great power comes a great responsibility.'

Children weren't GETTING diabetes back then. Childhood Type 2 Diabetes is a new phenomenon.

Actually, they were, but nobody paid any attention because 1) they didn't know what Type 2 Diabetes was and, 2) kids were dying all the time anyway.

A century ago half the children born didn't live to see the age of five. We've come a long way since then, and now expect almost all of them to live.

That is the source of the modern population problem (6.8 billion and counting). It wasn't that people started having more kids, it is that the kids stopped dying like flies. It took time for people to realize that you only need to have 2.1 kids to maintain the population level, not 4 or 5. I think most of them have started to catch on, though, even in developing countries.

In those countries that haven't caught on, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will deal with the problem, just as they always have.

Children weren't GETTING diabetes back then. Childhood Type 2 Diabetes is a new phenomenon.

I was writing about diabetes Type 1.

If I were a real sneaky hillbilly and thought I might be getting seriously sick , I do believe I might be tempted to cross a couple of state lines, get a fake address, a throwaway phone, and a diagnosis fron a doctor who knows me as the new patient just moved to the nieghborhood.

Then I might be tempted to buy a health policy w/o saying any more than necessary.

Seriously, I am a free market kind of guy, but the medical and insurance businesses have sunk into such a cesspit of buttcovering and money gouging,aided, abetted, and turbocharged by the legal prfession, that I can see only one hope for a return to sanity.

Euro style socialized medicine.It would be unfair as hell to a lot of people, but in the end, we would all be better off-excepting the parasites making a living out of the health care system without contributing constructively to it.

One aspect of our modern capitalist way of doing business that is usually overlooked is the tendency of bueacracies, companies, and industries to grow like cancers, until a point is reached where by the product delivered is entirely secondary to the maintainence of the evergrowing organism doing the delivering.

If I were a real sneaky hillbilly and thought I might be getting seriously sick , I do believe I might be tempted to cross a couple of state lines, get a fake address, a throwaway phone, and a diagnosis fron a doctor who knows me as the new patient just moved to the nieghborhood.

Then I might be tempted to buy a health policy w/o saying any more than necessary.

It wouldn't work. They would know who you are by your social security number.

For this reason, medical fraud is one of the fastest-growing types of identity theft. People steal your social security number and get surgery, etc., pretending to be you. Then they skip out on the bill. This is dangerous, not only to your credit worthiness, but to you. Because someone else's medical records are mixed up with yours, and this may affect your treatment.

I most assuredly would not use my own id or social security number, or anybody else's. I have been in at least a half a dozen doctors and dentists offices in the last ten yrears and have not had to show an id yet-just the cash, when I didn't have insurance, which was about half or more of the time.

My object would be to get a diagnosis, which I would be asked to pay for on the spot-results to be delivered either on the spot or a few days later when test results are evaluated.

Fortunately, I am not in need of a policy -My doc says he is quite impressed with my overall health, except for the love handles.

The problem is probably not so much caused by drugs that kill, but by drugs that have no measurable effect whatsoever, cherry-picked from a whole range of clinical trials conducted by the companies that own the drugs themselves. If the sample size is small enough and if there are a sufficient number of trials, you will always find a proportion whose results by pure chance can be classified as 'statistically significant'.

Good article on the subject by Ben Goldacre at his Bad Science Blog:
Head to Head
Is the conflict of interest unacceptable when drug companies conduct trials on their own drugs? Yes


I'm in the exact same boat wt.

My wife and I had 1k deductible healthcare from Blue Cross here in California. It switched to Blue Anthem and they just recently announced 39% rate increases! Well, we didn't know they would retract the threat, so we changed policies to a cheaper one with a 10k deductible. So now its really for upper catastrophic situations, and even then we have no guarantee they will pay if something needs to be done.

I personally think they threatened 39% rate increases just to let the Dems know they have no power against them. Then they pulled the rate increase to 'act' like they're compassionate about people's ability to afford healthcare. Yeah right!

Once a year, Blue Cross of Texas helpfully suggests that I increase the deductible to $7,500 or $10,000. The irony is that I don't think that they have paid a dime in claims since I took out the policy in 2002. We have always been covered under my wife's company's plan, but even if she wasn't working, and we went with Cobra, that doesn't last forever, so I have always had a backup policy. Unfortunately, being on the wrong side of 50, we now have some preexisting condition issues, and we are trapped in the death spiral.

One reasonable reform would be to require that companies put all of the individual policy members, with the same type of coverage, in one group (for my coverage, there would be one "Select Saver" group), but the present system--designed to produce death spirals--is far more profitable.

There are politicians that claim the govt. should not interfere with health care insurance, particularly those planning on future high paying lobbying positions, but private corporations simply seek out the highest profit margins possible. So therein lies the conflict of interest between profit and health. The only way to take profit out of the equation is to have govt. run healthcare coverage. But people claim that would be cost inefficient. However, if we did not pay so much for some corporations profit, then doesn't that suggest there would be more money available for health care coverage?

We pay a lot more than even the nearest comparable country yet have as many uninsured as S Korea has people almost.

'Nuff said.

Today insurance companies don't make a big percentage compared to many other businesses, but that's only part of the "profit". Some goes to docs, some to lawyers, some to bandage companies, some to companies who make machines that go "bing", and who knows where else.

To reduce cost more than the value of graft (which is likely significant), you'll have to cut services. Just changing who processes the paperwork and collects money and pays bills is only going to address a small part of the cost picture.

I know that this is not a brilliant insight but people die daily because care is unaffordable and insurance is unaffordable. That is perhaps a little abstract until a relative or close friend dies because of lack of care. Who needs death panels when people die every day because of poor care or no care? The people flying into buildings lately seem to be those who are outraged over taxes or some other manifestation of government. But there seems to be little outrage or concern for the health less.

I cut back my level of insurance this year because of an outrageous increase. I am still ok but how many more years will I be able to afford even a mediocre plan. I am fortunate, at least for now. But millions will not enter or will drop out of the system in years to come.

My question is, why do we have such insane increases in health care costs while the rest of the economy is deflating?

And once again. Where is the freaking outrage? People should be in the streets. Instead, the tax cutters and government haters are getting all the attention.

Hey guys, longtime lurker here.....

Cheney once said the "The American way of life is non-negotiable", he was wrong about so many things but we do (or did) have a great way of life. As an engineer, I always hope and expect some kind of technical solution.

The big issue is transportation, so I had this idea.. If in a few years we start getting lots of Volt like electric cars on the road then we are really close to having a solution. The only missing piece is long distance travel - but what I was thinking is there has to be some way to wirelessly transfer power to a moving car on the freeway. Maybe there is a special lane which not only provides enough power to move the car, but also re-charge it's batteries. Long haul trucking could also plug into this power. With such a system, the batteries in the cars could be pretty small an inexpensive - the cost of the car could be less then current ICE based cars. Most of our freeways already have high voltage lines on the same right of way - there has to be a way to make it work.

We cannot even maintain the current system of highways. We should look to some other approach to transportation that takes into account that the only direction for the interstate highway system is down given the current and projected deficits and the refusal to increase the gas tax to fund the maintenance of the current system. I suggest we phase out the interstate highway system and make long distance travel the exclusive province of trains and a few planes. Those who choose long distance highway travel can fend for themselves by putting together a system completely funded by tolls, that is, those who choose to use the antiquated system of long distance auto travel.

Another option for personal travel would be some some of integration of an electric train system and and prt's that could utilize the tracks to get from city to city.

Long distance travel by auto is a low priority. I think that we should quit worshiping the auto god even in its electric manifestation, the mammon that is rapidly destroying the planet.

What about a car like vehicle that goes along the highway, driving on a grid like track, It can take an exit and then convert to a regular car in the intown areas. But on the Highway it acts like a train feeding off of a grid power or other method of powering. I think I saw this in a magazine as it is not my own idea.

Just thoughts


The big issue is transportation, so I had this idea. If in a few years we start getting lots of Volt like electric cars on the road then we are really close to having a solution.

In that case, it seems to me, the next "big issue" is electricity. Suppose we replace the entire U.S. auto fleet with electric cars. How much additional electricity would that require, above and beyond what we are currently producing? I'm guessing that it would be on the order of 50%. A little over half of current U.S. electricity is coal-fired, and another 17% is produced by using natural gas -- combined total, a little under 70%.

When do we reach Peak Coal and Peak Gas? There's plenty of room for disagreement there, but let's say 2030 for the sake of discussion. The bottom line is that you are talking about a "solution" that exacerbates another very serious problem that could be staring us in the face in another couple of decades or so. IMHO, it's not really a solution at all except in the context of a solution to the broader energy problem -- a problem that is distinctly non-trivial.

It very rarely occurs to anyone that the solution to the problem of powering autos is to do away with the auto. Problem, I guess, is that taking away the auto violates people's fundamental sense of the freedom to which they are entitled. The American, now the Chinese, dream must be maintained at all costs. And it will. Anyway, more thinking outside of the box is needed.

I think that part of the problem is the phony dichotomy: either a society where everyone gets everywhere by automobile, or a society where nobody has automobiles or drives them at all. The reality is that there are a whole range of intermediate possibilities. I think it more likely that we'll gradually transition to a society where decreasing miles traveled are by automobile (with an even steeper decline in miles traveled by ICE automobile), and a decreasing percentage of the population even own an automobile (again, with an even steeper drop in ICE automobile ownership). I don't know what the pace of this transition will be or its exact pathway, but I truly don't think we are all suddenly going to just stop using our cars - unless motor fuel totally goes away overnight.

There is a dichotomy, but unlike years ago, even when I was a young boy, it wouldn't even occur to over 99% of the population to take the train on a long distance trip. Part of that is that our trains suck but part of the reason they suck is that they have been neglected. Even with massive investment to make them a viable long distance tool, it would still be difficult to get people out of their autos or what has become a horrible nightmare, our aviation system.

Part of it, I guess, is that I am a romantic and love those old movies where almost everyone took the train. Loved my experience in Europe as well. I am also old enough to have experienced actually getting around a fair bit with a long distance train.

But then the love affair with the auto got out of control. We could put a dent in that love affair if we neglected the interstates even more than we already have. Unfortunately, the stimulus money fixed up considerably some of the interstates that were in deep disrepair. Shortsighted, I think.

The problem is that we think we must do it all. Bring back a decent train system and continue to maintain and expand highways. Doing both just delays the day when people won't have a choice.

We shouldn't wait for fuel to go through the roof before we have an alternative in place. By that time, it will be too expensive or perceived to be too expensive to engage in what will be called a luxury.

Frankly, I don't think we will ever truly recover from this recession. On top of the government being broke, there is a resurgence on the right by those who don't want government to do anything other than police our social mores.

I just don't believe we are going to have several hundred million EVs sipping around with ranges in the hundreds of miles between charges. The price is just going to be too high for too many people. Only those at or near the top of the heap will be able to afford those.

I do believe that we may end up with as many as a hundred million or more smallish, NEV-style vehicles, some maybe with ranges a bit longer than today's generation of NEVs, but for most, probably not. People will need local transportation to get groceries (and for a lot of families, that is more of a load than is really practical to carry with a bike), do other local business, and to get to and from the nearest mass transit node. Even these will be out of financial reach for some people.

The electrical demand for recharging a national fleet of NEVs would probably not be quite the demand on the electrical system as would a fleet of long-range EVs. We may indeed need to boost electrical generating capacity a bit, but maybe not by all that much.

Hey WNC, I agree but if you could charge while driving on the freeway, then you don't need a lot of range. Cars could be really low cost and alternatives like compressed air or flywheel storage would work - taking the battery our all together. An electric fleet would be much more efficient - saving lots of energy overall.

It would probably be best to set aside that wireless "charge while driving on the freeway" concept from upthread for a while. Sure, I've heard about the lab experiments in transferring small amounts of power over distances on the order of a meter, and I see no theoretical technical reason why it couldn't be scaled up. Still, it seems ludicrous to envision building, say, 100,000 lane-miles of that sort of thing, and at a power level suitable for running vehicles, i.e. orders of magnitude more than what's been demonstrated. It would probably make electrified rail look dirt-cheap. And given all the ridiculous fuss over the "risk" from power-line fields and cell phones (which must be utterly trivial since the "effect" seems to be buried in the noise despite the ubiquity of both), the whining and lawsuits would kill it even if it were otherwise practicable.

The automobile and the freedom it represents is the American way of life, maybe there are solutions that allow us to keep our way of life. Yes, the next problem is electricity - but solar, wind, other renewables can work. Large solar thermal plants in in the south west could power the whole system - it wouldn't be that hard.

If by the "whole system" you mean "the entire U.S. electrical grid," how much land area would you need for the solar collectors? ~100,000 square miles, maybe? At that scale, I think it's hard....

Isn't it only about 100sq miles to replace the entire US power grid? I think that's what they were saying - 10x10 miles using something like the Ausra solar thermal plant. Compared to war and other things that we have done. We built the highway system I don't see why we couldn't rebuild the whole thing if that is what it takes.

I hadn't looked at the Ausra system before. I see that Pacific Gas & Electric announced a deal for a 177 MW Ausra plant in 2007, which was supposed to have a footprint of one square mile. According to the EIA, U.S. generating capacity is ~1,000,000 megawatts. 1,000,000/177 = ~5650 sq. miles. Call it a square roughly 75 miles on a side.

If that's true, then my estimate of 100,000 sq. mi. to replace existing U.S. generating capacity would be about 18 times too high, but your estimate of 100 sq. mi. would be 56 times too low. It's not clear, however, what the actual "continuous" rating for the PG&E plant would be (allowing for hours of darkness and for cloudy conditions) -- I'm thinking that at least 10,000 square miles (100 miles on a side) might be a more realistic requirement

Note that these estimates assume no growth in generation capacity either to support economic growth or to provide for replacing our fleet of ICE cars with electric vehicles.

In the November issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, Jacobson and Deluchi outlined a plan for replacing the entire world's fossil fuel consumption with wind, water, and solar. Under their plan, 40% of energy would come from solar (a mix of photovoltaics and concentrated solar). They said that "The nonrooftop photovoltaics and concentrated solar plants would occupy about 0.33 percent of the planet's land." According to my math, that would be 188,933 square miles.

Isn't it only about 100sq miles to replace the entire US power grid

I seem to remember something about a square 90miles on a side. Quite a bit bigger than your 100square miles. Now the problem isn't finding that much desert, it is building the plants, and the transmission lines. And we will need plants that require very little water per KWhr, because they will be in a desert. Thats not insurmountable, but it does increase the cost.

you guys are right - 95 miles on a side or so to do the whole thing. It wouldn't need to be that big because wind can also do a lot. Also, we have 20 years or so to build it - we went to the moon in 10...

Well, from an energy scarcity perspective we ought to have more than 20 years. I would expect that by 2030 oil production will have been in decline by about 20 years, but a lot of oil will still be being produced. As I said earlier, coal and natural gas might then still be reaching peak production.

The real issue's going to be economics -- unless the technology's cost-competive with the cheapest fossil fuel alternative out of the gate, I don't think it's likely to be built without government subsidies and/or government mandates. When we went to the moon, "we" was the U.S. government, not private industry. I see that the 177 MW plant that Ausra was to build for PG&E has now been cancelled (and apparently PG&E only wanted it in the first place to "meet state-mandated renewable energy targets," according to the New York Times).

Dear, dear. It seems we have to go over this every now and then. According to this, US electric consumption is about 425GW averaged 24/7/365. That's approximately the sunlight that would fall on 400km2 in a place that had noonday sun 24/7/365. That's about 154 square miles, close enough for government work I guess. So far so good as long as we're space cadets.

But down here on Earth, it's night about half the time, and the USA is not at the equator, and even during the day, the sunlight is oblique most of the time. So multiply by around 5. Then it's cloudy or hazy a lot even out in the desert, so multiply by oh, around 1.6 to 2.5. (And you can't put it all in one place, because you're hosed if heavy clouds park over that one place, so it can't really all go into the southwestern desert.) Then, in real life you might get a conversion efficiency of 30 or 35 percent (even if the prospectus claims more based on measurements in pristine lab conditions) so multiply by about 3. Now we're up to somewhere between 9600km2 and 15000km2. Call this a square at least 100km on a side.

This is roughly consistent, IIRC, with a somewhat theoretical article on this subject some years ago, which first got distorted to 100 miles on a side by metric-system illiterate reporters and bloggers, and then got distorted to 100 square miles (10 miles on a side) by wholly illiterate reporters and bloggers. But, like, you know, what's a factor of, like, 100, between, you know, friends?

Oh, and I was forgetting. You'll be wanting somewhat more area since things break, things have to be maintained, and things don't always run at nameplate rating. And you might want to double it again since you'll be wanting electricity in winter when the days are short and the sunlight is more oblique. That probably indeed gets us to the order of 100,000 square miles.

With estimates of the land area required varying by an entire order of magnitude, I think it's going to take a lot of real-world experience to determine what the actual requirement is.

Assuming 10,000, or 100,000, square miles of plant area, how much actual mirror surface would we be talking about? Assuming that the reflective surface of the mirrors is silver, how much silver are we talking about?

You know folks this has been thought of before and solved before. simple solution is.

Every roof top ever built from here on out is a solar collector. Every roof top that is not one now is converted to being one.

The houses are already for the most part on the grid. Then you get a numbers of roof top acreages and you have to do some math that I am not going to both with, but you get the picture.

Money and time is the big issues, as well as supplies of materials.


Well thats fairly obvious since we know a lot about rooftop collectors for homes and generally they don't produce all the energy a family uses. Try probably 2x-4x and of course the cloud issues etc. Probably if you cover twice the area thats rooftops your getting close to parity. Now of course the energy required to produce that many solar cells and collectors is huge. Assuming we are reluctant to expand nuclear or fossil fuel usage then your talking a long long time. And thats not even getting into the money side.

Now with that said you can certainly consider lifestyles quite different form today that only used electricity for a few super energy efficient devices. Computers and other communication equipment could probably easily be improved a bunch in their energy usage.
Solar hot water is doable etc. If population density is low a return to biomass/charcoal and steam. Inefficient but cheap and durable.

So there is a lifestyle similar to current off grid lifestyles but even more efficient that could readily result in low enough electricity usage such that PV and some wind made it doable. But every time I look at alternative energy my conclusion is it will only really work when the demand for energy has dropped by and order of magnitude if not more. Consider the previous calculation and assume demand is two orders of magnitude lower. Instead of 100,000 square miles its 1,000 square miles of solar cells. Thats a lot but its not and immense level. Or consider it this way. 10 sq meters of solar cells per person for 300 million people. Thats if I did the math right about 0.3 million square km. 10 sq meters is not a huge amount but it adds up 1 sq meter is probably more realistic.
1 sq meter of solar cells is a pitiful amount of energy per capita. Assuming I did not biff it on the conversion I think thinking about it this way I.e population * X sq meters of cells with a known output is a better way.

For me at least it just seems like PV is really a solution for a society thats rebuilding its energy usage level i.e it works as a society comes back from have dropped much lower the investment will be there as there are not a lot of other choices and the growth rate does not matter as anything is better than nothing. So I'd say PV and indeed all alternative energy sources really seem to be viable to rebuild with. Then they make sense and as I said obviously it does not really matter how slow the expansion is as the alternative is zero. It could take a hundred years to build back to a certain level fine time is not your enemy in this case.

That gets into a really critical observation its that alternative energy works when you have all the time in the world and demand is low but there. By low I mean whatever you can produce you have demand for but if its not met its not met so its a steady growth thing within the capacity of the system which itself could be very low at first.

Actually this is one reason in the long run I don't see why we really want to go nuclear as coming back from a crash and assuming we finally keep population under control then solar/wind/biofuels will readily meet the energy needs of a smaller population. Throw in some hydro for a few energy intensive industrial processes and your done. The point is once you consider a society thats very energy concious and controls its population you simply never come close to where we are now there really is literally no need.

See other reply - should have been 10,000. But we're not likely to do 10,000 square miles of silver. Aluminum or something else that's comparatively abundant.

Aargh, posting while tired, that number should have been 10,000 square miles, which is still a helluva lot more than 100. The really large numbers come when you try to convert some of the rest of the economy (electricity being only a fraction), which might get you to 40,000 or more.

Not likely. The snow ice covered roads of Wisconsin would kill a system if it even existed. Just today at a stoplight i was looking at the road that was brand new less then 10 years ago and there were missing pieces everywhere (of concrete). The snowplows up here rip roads apart, along with the road salt and the horrible freeze/thaw cycle that happens (-20F to 100F almost every year).

High speed rail, either electric or diesel. Adding additional tracks should be child's play vs invading a country like Iraq.

I could walk from my door to Amtrak depot and ride it to Seattle or out east to Chicago, its just Amtrak is a joke vs what they have in Spain, France, Germany, etc etc.

We'd not only have to set aside the joke that is Amtrak - we'd have to surpass Europe, where the merest trace of "the wrong kind of snow", or an air temperature merely in the high 80s (Fahrenheit), seems enough sometimes to shut down even their flagship services. Otherwise we'd have train service only in a few months of spring and fall.

Apparently Europe knows how to build rubbish just as well as we do, only we fail to notice because their systems' faults differ from Amtrak's faults.

We'd not only have to set aside the joke that is Amtrak - we'd have to surpass Europe, where the merest trace of "the wrong kind of snow", or an air temperature merely in the high 80s (Fahrenheit), seems enough sometimes to shut down even their flagship services.

That certainly does not apply to Switzerland, a mountainous country that gets its share of winter weather. The punctuality of the Swiss Federal Railways is according to Wikipedia:

Punctuality (2006): 96.2% of all trains and 95.9% of the trains running on workdays with less than 5 minutes of delay.

I doubt Amtrak, or Greyhound, or any airline, or private automobiles can beat that.

I my experience, the main reason for train delays in Europe is because of congestion (too many trains on the track), not because of weather.

(1) Maybe, then, given this winter's events, top-level Eurostar engineering staff need to receive a briefing from Swiss Federal Railways on coping with snow, since it was apparently beyond their ken. And the British could certainly obtain and heed some advice on coping with not just snow, but "leaves on the line", especially when said leaves are of the "wrong kind".

(2) Private automobiles can certainly come close except in large overcrowded cities. A 96% record indicates failure on about 4% of one-way journeys even in an ideal case where one needs only one train or bus to complete a journey; in the real world one often needs two or three. To attain, say, an 8% rate of failure, my car would have to let me down more than once a week, week in and week out; it just doesn't happen quite that often even in winter. As an added bonus, the car makes it possible, for example, to deviate somewhat from the usual route or time in order to offer someone a lift, pick up some groceries, etc. Even the smallest deviation is often punished by a huge cost in time when using buses or trains.

(3) It's always amusing and disgusting to see "congestion" given as an excuse for poor service when the carrier (or a regulatory agency) sets the traffic level. In such cases "congestion" means nothing more than "I chose to commit fraud by selling more capacity than was actually mine to sell." (With airlines, the fraud is usually committed by governments or air-traffic quangos that fail to limit takeoff and landing slots; for example they could auction off such slots to the highest bidder, with severe penalties on airlines that hoard slots without using them.)

I would like to see this idea seriously explored here sometime, even if only to rule it out as impractical. A robust electrical grid collecting power from various and numerous sources including wind and solar, and incorporating the necessary ballast in the form of pumped hydro storage or whatever, could facilitate the transition away from oil. What really are the options for wireless power transmission as suggested here? I assume a series of point sources (microwave transmission?) would be impractical due to the continuously changing distance from transmitter to receiver, as well as health hazards. Is there a system that could operate via induction from wires running alongside the road? I agree that having a system embedded in the road seems like a non-starter due to installation and maintenance expense. But just theoretically speaking, what types of systems are possible?

That said, I do believe that rail is the way to go for the bulk of freight and personal long distance. While electric is great for light passenger rail in populated areas, I never got a handle on how well electric scales up for heavier rail over longer distances. Perhaps Alan from Big Easy can provide some perspective?

While electric is great for light passenger rail in populated areas, I never got a handle on how well electric scales up for heavier rail over longer distances.

It scales up quite well. For over 50 years, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific operated hundreds of miles of electified lines in the Rocky Mountains, for example.

The electrified portion of the Milwaukee went all the way to the Seattle/Tacoma area through the Cascade Mountains in Washington state. The Great Northern also had electrified operations in the Cascades. With today's technology, the engines would be far more powerful and efficient than the Little Joes and boxcabs of the day. I think we will see a comeback of electrified rail in this country as oil prices increase, and if we were planning for the future, the comeback would start now.

re: While electric is great for light passenger rail in populated areas, I never got a handle on how well electric scales up for heavier rail over longer distances.

Oh, man, you haven't seen how electric rail scales up! A typical electric locomotive has about twice the power of the typical diesel one because it doesn't have to carry around that heavy, inefficient diesel engine. Some of the locomotives in use in China have over 12,000 horsepower.

The new locomotive represents the world’s most powerful series-production locomotive. It will be designed with an output rating of 9.6 megawatts. With six axles and weighing up to 150 tones, this freight locomotive will be able to operate at a top speed of 120 km/h.

See: World’s Most Powerful Locomotive Goes to China

Of course, that was in China. The US may be somewhat behind the eight-ball in this game.

Oh, here's another electric train story: China Inks Deal with Siemens for World's Largest High Speed Rail Network

China plans to create the world's largest high-speed rail network. The Chinese Ministry of Railways is planning to buy 1,000 high-speed trains within the next few years.

The company's Velaro train has a top speed of 350 km/h (218 mph). A typical train will have 16 cars and carry more than 1,000 passengers. With a total length of more than 400 m (1,300 ft), the new trains will be the world's longest single high-speed units

Just to show you where things are doing in the supposedly less developed world.

...there has to be some way to wirelessly transfer power to a moving car on the freeway.

It is technically possible, but the cost of transmitting serious power wirelessly is huge in just about every way - money, energy required, energy lost, heat, equipment required, safety (you don't want to fry the driver or their passengers), etc. It would be the desperate act of a desperate people, I would expect.

The motorcycle riders might be a little sensitive about getting fried as well. Those steel shanks in the boots might have to become a thing of the past. Same with the tassels all over the bikes.

Those changes might be non-negotiable as well, though. Does Cheney ride?

Cheney once said the "The American way of life is non-negotiable", he was wrong about so many things but we do (or did) have a great way of life.

One of the big koolaids that have been served to Americans who have lapped it up. Average American life is inferior to that of average lifes of people in many OECD countries.

Anyway, here is a charge-on-the go EV.


Average American life is inferior to that of average lifes of people in many OECD countries.

Perhaps so as a matter of airy unsubstantiated philosophical declaration, but I don't see much evidence on the ground. Immigration traffic, for example, still seems to be overwhelmingly (though, yes, not absolutely entirely) in one direction. And among those Americans who have actually lived overseas for a time, as opposed to visiting for a week as high-spending tourists, oftentimes the hideous cost of living and of taxes ("the government took everything and gave me a child's allowance") seems to be a turnoff, as well as the sheer overcrowded mass of wall-to-wall people. (Manhattanites will not experience the latter reaction, but that's unimportant to the larger picture since they constitute but a negligible fraction of Americans.)

[As for those Korean golf carts, plenty of golf carts roam about in certain areas of Florida and Arizona. It's not exactly a new technology, and it can run fine even on lead-acid batteries without installing a lossy and hideously expensive inductive cable system. It mystifies me why anyone should or would care about its range on an Interstate, since golf carts seem wholly unsuited to that sort of journey.]

Charging vehicle (car, buses...)while they are moving by magnetic induction was already tried a while ago and it works well from a technical point of view. The concept came from the 19 century and was tested multiple time, specially during the is oil crisis in the 70's then there was an extensive study in the 90's in the university of California, Santa Barbara. In that case they were able to power an electric bus going 45 mph with 60 kWh.. they could probably have send more power if they had the system configure for that purpose but they wanted "only" 60 kWh since the purpose was to power a mid-size electric bus. From what I recall of the study, they had an efficiency of electric transmission of around 80% with a gap of 3" between the magnetic rail inserted in the road and the receiving antenna under the car. One of their problem was that it was not efficient to transmit less than 27kWh using this system. Anyway, the program was terminated in 1994 even though there were a few attempt to revive it later on in a less ambitious way. Again, charging by induction is nothing new and is used for example for electric razor or tooth brushes when you don't want open wire in a wet environment. There is no major engineering or technical problems in powering a moving car or even a truck... just a lack or interest or willpower... plus installing the whole system would take time and money and won't worth it until it is too late. If you are interested, you can probably find the complete report online (including technical details) by searching online. I have it downloaded in my computer at work if you can't get it.

That's so cool, I agree it would need to be a government funded infrastructure, and that it won't happen until there is a crisis. BUT it does look doable. It could start as an add-on to Volt like electric cars in areas like LA or the SF bay area where the long commutes make electric difficult - but could eventually be expanded nationwide.

For people in cars, they are well shielded and wouldn't be getting much rf - plus you know its far less dangerous then the current fumes everyone has to put up with on the freeway today.

Systemwide Ridership Estimates - Total Calendar Month Boardings- Los Angeles County MTA
January 2008 - 37,222,705
January 2009 - 38,039,731
January 2010 - 35,235,614


As an MTA user, It seems ridership is less lately, trains and busses less full than a year ago, for the routes I take.

It would be nice if they had better ways to show overall ridership month-to-month.

havent seen this one posted:

Exxon Mobil suspends Hungary exploration project


if falcon oil is going to find bonanza shale gas in hungary, they will have to do it without Exxon.

Chesapeake shifting to oil as gas slumps, crude rises

Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation's second- largest natural- gas producer, will accelerate production of crude oil, expecting it to be more profitable than gas, CEO Aubrey McClendon said Thursday. Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake will double drilling in the Colony Granite Wash formation in western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle this year and accelerate drilling in other areas that produce oil or natural gas liquids such as the Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas, McClendon said during the company's quarterly earnings call with investors.

Oil accounted for 7 percent of Chesapeake's production in the fourth quarter. The company has targeted a 31 percent increase in oil output, to 15.5 million barrels this year from 11.8 million barrels last year. It aims for output of 17.5 million barrels in 2011 as it scales back gas drilling in some areas after meeting contractual agreements, McClendon said. "It's the one strategic weakness that the company has," McClendon said. "We're 93 percent gas in a world that does not value gas molecules they way it values oil molecules."

Does anyone know of any good updated ASPO style graphs that show production projections?

I ask because all the graphs and projections on the timing and decline rate after peak seem to be a couple of years old. (I see the colorful ASPO cumulative graph posted frequently, but that's a few years old now.)

Have any such projections and models been updated to take into account 2009 data and both near and long-term supply (including factors like idled capacity)?

Thanks. I had checked that out, but it seems that the projection needs to consider a few more cases (such as high, middle, and low production scenarios for Iraq). While I don't buy that there is much new production that can be brought online to increase total liquids production, I do think that there may be scenarios where the decline is slower thanks to new capacity and/or bringing idle capacity online.

Possum Living...

Yesterday Eric and Leanan both had links about Fnding Dolly Freed (the author of PL). I printed them out and told my wife she'd enjoy them. She did. At lunch today I got out my copy of PL for her to glance at...she read the whole book at one sitting and very much enjoyed it. Considering I've had for almost 5 years this is amazing. So, thanks again to both of you.


A wee anecdote about wobal glarming:

We put out maple taps on Feb. 17 here in Maine, earliest ever that the sap has started flowing for us.

Oh no, don't you remember, global warming was completely debunked by Fox News via their reporting of unusually high snowfall in NY this winter.

Just infusing a little humor into a serious topic.

The US NCDC has the latest monthly data available now. The global temperatures for January were quite warm, although some areas, such as the Eastern US and the British Isles, were colder than normal.

E. Swanson

i went to the city (NYC) on saturday. me and my gal saw leonardo da vinci at the discovery exhibit in the old NYT building. we tuk the bus in, then after leonardo we tuk the subway downtown and ate in chiantown at veit s'on. then the bus uptown to PA and bus back to jersey. i spent the rest of the evening hanging with my fav gal so i couldnt post in a timely manner.

no one made a comment about the daily mail article,
"British Gas profits surge 50% as cash-strapped elderly freeze"

what's up with that? it's the great die off drama as we speak and no one wants to post about it? no colorful graphs of year over year deaths due to elderly freezing? we all get elderly boys and girls.
so maybe we all get a chance at freezing to death.

99.999% of current humanity gone. even including this poster and everyone else posting on TOD. die off.

and what of the huge and misallocated resource we call military spending?

no chit-chat there.

every roof top in the usa could be covered with solar panels.
every community could have a wind farm. ever driver could be given (given) an electric vehicle. free health care for all. real social security retirement. that is instead of the trillions of dollars spent on ordinance and more "effective" ways of killing masses of people. oh, maybe that is another way of achieving die off. but think of the carbon footprint!

no one gets out of here alive.

"it's all good"

there's the real problem.