Drumbeat: February 26, 2010

Like Rome Before the Fall? Not Yet

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN complains that he is being driven crazy because so many people are betting on America’s demise. Reports of it are not just exaggerated; they are, he insists, ridiculous. Like President Obama, he will not accept “second place” for the United States. Despite the present crippling budget deficit and the crushing burden of projected debt, he denies that the country is destined to fulfill a “prophecy that we are going to be a great nation that has failed because we lost control of our economy and overextended.”

Mr. Biden was referring in particular to the influential book “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” by Paul Kennedy, a British historian who teaches at Yale. Published in 1988, the book argues that the ascendancy of states or empires results from the superiority of their material resources, and that the wealth on which that dominance rests is eroded by the huge military expenditures needed to sustain national or imperial power, leading inexorably to its decline and fall. The thesis seems a tad schematic, but Professor Kennedy maintains it with dazzling cogency. In any debate about the development of the United States, one would certainly tend to side with the detached historian rather than the partisan politician.

US natural gas rig count climbs near 12-mth high

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States climbed by 12 this week to near a one-year high of 905, according to a report on Friday by oil services firm Baker Hughes in Houston.

It was the ninth straight weekly gain and puts the gas rig count at its highest level since March 6, 2009, when there were 916 gas rigs operating.

Report says oil supplies in Fla. waters negligible

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Estimated reserves in Florida waters would provide the United States with less than a week's worth of oil and have no discernible effect on prices at the pump or U.S. reliance on foreign oil, says a report released Friday as part of a state Senate review of whether a ban on offshore drilling should be lifted.

The report is the latest indication that the push to open Florida waters as near as three miles from the state's beaches may be waning, at least for this year.

Lights failure throws Chavez into darkness

A televised speech by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was suddenly thrown into darkness when lights failed, at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas.

Japan's 2nd 'pluthermal' nuclear generation set to begin

MATSUYAMA, Japan (AP) - (Kyodo)—A nuclear reactor in western Japan is in the final stage of preparation to become the country's second for "pluthermal" power generation using plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel.

Incentives to rise for home solar arrays

At least 10 times a day Andrew Kin clicks onto the Internet for the pure joy of watching his electricity meter run backward.

The 30-year-old business consultant placed an array of rooftop solar panels on his Los Angeles area duplex last fall, and thanks to a Web site provided by his installer he has watched his monthly electricity bills drop, in real time, from $50 to about $10.

10 questions about the Bloom Energy Server

Bloom Energy is developing a power box for the home too, a development that could fundamentally change the way home users buy energy, if (again) the Bloom box is the real deal. Ten questions to consider.

Ethanol output rises in December: EIA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. daily ethanol output rose in December for the third month in a row as distillers took advantage of low prices for corn and natural gas, the Energy Information Administration said.

Distillers made 787,870 barrels per day of the alternative motor fuel in December, the last month for which data was available. That was up from 786,400 barrels per day in November, and 740,000 bpd in October.

Belgium offers chickens to waste-cutting households

Residents of a Belgian town are to be offered chickens as part of a campaign to reduce household waste.

The town of Mouscron has 50 pairs of chickens that it will distribute to families with sufficient space to keep the birds in their gardens.

Those who take part in the scheme must agree not to eat the chickens for at least two years, or to give them away.

Local officials are stressing that applicants could gain a supply of free, fresh eggs.

Helping plants fertilize themselves

(PhysOrg.com) -- A BYU researcher helped discover a cellular tool some plants use to fertilize themselves. This fundamental understanding is important in the effort to reduce the 88 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer used worldwide every year. That in turn could help reduce fossil fuel use, because 3-5 percent of the world's natural gas is burned to make nitrogen fertilizer. The research is published in the journal Science.

Oil Industry Booms - in North Dakota

KILLDEER, N.D. — A massive oil reserve buried two miles underground has put North Dakota at the center of a revolution in the U.S. oil industry, a shift that has radically altered the fortunes of this remote area.

Harold Hamm, chief of Continental Resources, one of the biggest producers at the Bakken Shale in western North Dakota. He is pictured in April at an oil rig near Watford City, N.D.

The Bakken Shale deposit has been known and even tapped on occasion for decades. But technological improvements in the past two years have taken what was once a small, marginally profitable field and turned it into one of the fastest-growing oil-producing areas in the U.S.

The Bakken Shale had helped North Dakota oil production double in the past three years, surging to 80 million barrels in 2009—tiny relative to the more than seven billion barrels consumed by the U.S. every year, but enough to vault the state past Oklahoma and Louisiana to become the country's fourth-biggest oil producer, after Texas, Alaska and California. If current projections hold, North Dakota's oil production could pass Alaska's by the end of the decade.

"Most people felt like they could kind of write off the oil industry in the U.S., and that's just a long way from the truth," said Harold Hamm, chairman and chief executive of Continental Resources Inc., one of the biggest Bakken producers. "The fact of the matter is that a lot of people quit looking for oil." Continental reported Thursday that its North Dakota oil production doubled in 2009 and would continue to grow rapidly this year.

Mexico oil output falls amid delay on reforms

Mexico's oil production continues to fall from year-ago levels as the government struggles to implement hard-fought energy reforms designed to boost exploration.

January crude production was 2.615 million barrels a day, a 2.6 percent decline from 2.685 million in the same month of 2009, state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex, reported Thursday.

The bright side is that January output was the highest level in nine months, though still a significant drop-off from the record annual average of 3.4 million barrels a day in 2004.

Pemex Production Fell at Slowest Rate in Two Years

(Bloomberg) -- Petroleos Mexicanos’s oil output fell 2.6 percent in January from a year earlier, the smallest decline since December 2007 as the state-owned oil company pumped more crude from onshore fields.

US Misses Deadline for Offshore Drilling Study

The Obama administration failed to meet a deadline for submitting a court-ordered analysis of the environmental effects of offering new leases to drill in Alaskan coastal waters, the oil industry said Thursday.

Russia Making Oil Inroads Through Siberian Pipeline

Refiners across Asia, including Unipec and Exxon Mobil, have warmed up to Russian ESPO crude barely two months after shipments began, raising eyebrows from Riyadh to Rio de Janeiro as producers vie for leadership in the world’s fastest-growing oil market.

Nigerian refineries back online

ABUJA, Nigeria (UPI) -- Nigerian petroleum officials said the resumption of activity at two refineries would ease fuel shortages plaguing the oil-rich country.

Levi Ajuonuma, a spokesman for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., said the Kaduna and Warri refining companies resumed production after regular maintenance, Nigeria's Next newspaper reports Friday.

Fuel shortage brought out the best and worst in people

THAT THE petrol crisis has revealed our over dependence on cars will not surprise many on the island.

However, what is surprising is how even a temporary petrol scarcity has impacted on so many areas of peoples' lives.

An informal survey of readers' experiences, by the Cyprus Mail has shown how various sectors, such as from tourism, healthcare and education, suffered from a lack of infrastructure or provision for such an occurrence.

Rig Shortage Delays Ugandan Drilling Programs

A shortage of drilling rigs is hampering appraisals and drilling activities in oil fields in Uganda's Block 2 and Block 4B, the senior geologist at the petroleum exploration and production department said Friday.

Lower Gas Prices Create Competition for Coal, BP’s Ruehl Says

(Bloomberg) -- Lower natural gas prices are creating competition with coal for U.S. power generation, BP Plc Chief Economist Christof Ruehl said.

“Gas can compete with coal as an input fuel for power generation again,” Ruehl wrote in an article in Foreign Affairs published on the journal’s Web site this week. “Consumers will benefit if the price of natural gas is progressively delinked from the price of crude oil.”

BP and Shell face new shareholder revolt over tar sands

Shareholders at BP and Shell will get the chance to vote at upcoming AGMs on whether to force oil giants to come clean on their Canadian tar sands involvement.

Institutional investors including The Co-operative Asset Management and Rathbone Greenbank have co-signed a ‘special resolution,’ which would force the two companies to fully disclose and justify their involvement in Canadian tar sands.

Australia: Dreams of statehood are buried in a sparsely populated area

THIS week's announcement by federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson that the commonwealth's preferred site for a national radioactive waste depository is Muckaty station in the heart of the central desert foregrounds a bitter truth about Northern Territory politics.

FACTBOX-U.S. nuclear units seeking license renewal

(Reuters) - A total of 59 nuclear reactors in the United States have obtained 20-year license extensions from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission since 2000, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade association. No applications have been rejected.

Currently, 19 renewal applications are under NRC review and 20 other reactors have indicated they will apply for extensions before 2017.

A curious blend of doom and optimism

Former green Stewart Brand’s new book proves a surprisingly useful source of arguments and facts against green dogmas. But critics of environmentalism should still be wary of him.

Using tech to save the planet

In 2007, Starks set up AMEE (Avoidance of Mass Extinction Engine) with the UK government as his first client. The goal: to provide a neutral aggregator that could pull together all of the standards, all of the methods used to do calculations, and all of the raw data to provide the most detailed and accurate picture possible of how we consume our planet's resources.

The futility of alternative energy in the midst of hyper-population growth

But let’s return to the phrase, “…and keep our economy growing.” That means to keep our population growing in order to create more production, consumption and use of natural resources. What those politicians fail to tell you: our non-renewable energy resources dwindle while our population accelerates on its way to adding 100 million people in the next 30 years.

Toxic towns: People of Mossville 'are like an experiment'

For decades, Mossville residents have complained about their health problems to industry, and to state and federal agencies. Now with a new Environmental Protection Agency administrator outspoken about her commitment to environmental justice, expectations are growing.

Oil era not to end in coming decades - Shafranik

LONDON, February 26 (Itar-Tass) --The oil era will not end in the coming decades, Yuri Shafranik, President of the Council of the Russian Union of Oil and Gas Producers, has said in an exclusive interview with Itar-Tass in London after his report at the British Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). He believes the “oil peak”, in the form in which it is described by Western analysts, is hardly probable.

“Naturally, a peak and a recession will come some day, but not in the form of ‘up and down.’ Some day energy production will be stabilised, and not because of oil, but because of other energy sources, like shale gas, liquefied gas, nuclear and hydrogen power engineering … Those energy sources will occupy their niches, because they offer no competition to oil. No one will lay a gas pipeline to tents of skin and bark, in which people live in the tundra, or to highland villages. Other energy sources will be used there. This is why I have long preferred the idea of stabilized oil production to the idea of an oil peak.”

Europe to need Russian gas for years to come - Shafranik

LONDON (Itar-Tass) -- Despite all alternative technologies, Europe will need Russian gas for a long time to come, Yuri Shafranik, President of the Council of the Russian Union of Oil and Gas Producers, has said in an exclusive interview with Itar-Tass after he made a report at the British Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House).

“The greatest amounts of gas are delivered by gas pipelines, but the production of liquefied gas is developing, offering competition to the traditional natural gas. Of course, this competition does not make us happy. Nevertheless, gas consumption in Europe will continue to grow. The only problem is the dynamics of that growth,” Shafranik said. In his opinion, “the growth will not be great, because Europe is taking effective measures for introducing energy saving technologies and is confidently mastering other energy sources, including alternative ones. And still, Europe will need our gas for a long time to come. This is why the Nord Stream and South Stream pipelines, which are a supplement to the existing ones, are quite promising projects.”

Suicide bombers strike in heart of Kabul; 17 dead

KABUL – Insurgents struck in the heart of the Afghan capital Friday with suicide attackers and a car bomb, targeting hotels used by foreigners and killing at least 17 people and wounding dozens, police said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, which Afghan President Hamid Karzai said were aimed at Indians working in Kabul.

Venezuela Plans to Keep Oil Production Levels Steady

OPEC member Venezuela has no plans to increase to oil production levels near term, a top official said Thursday.

"We have a firm decision not to increase production," Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said. "We believe it isn't necessary to modify anything."

Spanish driller joins race for Falkland Islands oil bounty

Spanish-Argentine oil group Repsol YPF said yesterday it plans to start drilling for oil at the end of the year in the Falklands basin near the Falkland Islands, which are claimed by Britain.

China oil company inks gas exploration deal with Thailand

XI'AN: A State-owned oil company from Northwest China's Shaanxi province has inked a deal with Thailand to explore for natural gas in parts of the Khorat Basin, an oil-rich region 280 kilometers from Bangkok.

UK: Jump in energy group profits prompts call to cut prices

Calls mounted for widespread cuts in energy bills yesterday after Centrica revealed record results at British Gas following a 58% leap in profits.

Centrica warns of higher gas and electricity prices

Roger Carr, Centrica chairman and until recently head of Cadbury, cautioned that a combination of higher wholesale energy prices this year and the huge investment needed to ensure security of supply and meet environmental targets meant the group was in a "very different commodity price environment."

Why is Bloom Energy Lying to Us?

Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely excited about Bloom Energy. I honestly think that their technology is a good thing for the world and that it might very well revolutionize the power infrastructure in America and throughout the world. And yes, it will create jobs and make a select few people very rich.

In fact, I think it's so revolutionary that it doesn't need to be inflated by false or misleading claims.

Will Google Charge Your Electric Cars?

“Electricity is the new vehicle fuel,” explains Dr. Will Kempton, Director, Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, University of Delaware. He is confident that the U.S. electric grid can support millions of electric cars that are likely to be added in the next decades. He observes that the U.S. total grid load is about 417 GW. If all U.S. cars will be converted to V2G plug-ins with an average of 15 kWh per vehicle, they would provide 2,865 GW. A U.S. fleet of electric vehicles could provide 7X entire electricity needed in U.S.

China’s ‘Overcrowded’ Solar Sector Faces Lower Demand, More M&A

(Bloomberg) -- China’s “overcrowded” solar power industry faces lower demand this year from Germany, the biggest buyer of the technology, and an increase in the number of mergers and acquisitions, according to Yuanta Securities Co.

Revenue may fall 40 percent in the second half of 2010 after the German government agreed this month on draft legislation to reduce subsidies to renewable energy users, said Min Li, a Hong Kong-based energy analyst at Yuanta Securities.

European take-up of small cars drives down average CO2

Increasing take-up of small, low-CO2 cars, boosted by national scrappage schemes, is helping to drive down average CO2 emissions in Europe. So says JATO Dynamics, which has released new data showing that volume-weighted average CO2 emissions across all models and segments fell by 7.9g/km last year, with over half of all cars sold in Europe now emitting less than 140g/km.

Mammoth iceberg could alter ocean circulation: study

An iceberg the size of Luxembourg knocked loose from the Antarctic continent earlier this month could disrupt the ocean currents driving weather patterns around the globe, researchers said Thursday.

While the impact would not be felt for decades or longer, a slowdown in the production of colder, dense water could result in less temperate winters in the north Atlantic, they said.

From ocean to ozone: Earth's nine life-support systems

We have already overstepped three of nine planetary boundaries and are at grave risk of transgressing several others.

Global warming 'may cut deaths'

The high number of people who die in Ireland during the winter months - particularly as a result of respiratory disease and heart failure - may reduce thanks to global warming, an all-Ireland conference on the health implications of climate change was told today.

OPEC Output Reaches 14-Month High on Saudi Gain, Survey Shows

(Bloomberg) -- The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries increased crude-oil production to a 14-month high in February, led by a Saudi Arabian gain, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Output rose 125,000 barrels a day, or 0.4 percent, to an average 29.17 million barrels a day, the highest level since December 2008, according to the survey of oil companies, producers and analysts. The January production total was revised 45,000 barrels a day higher.

OPEC cut its production quotas by 4.2 million barrels to 24.845 million barrels a day beginning in January 2009 as fuel demand tumbled during the worst global recession since World War II. The group left the targets unchanged at a Dec. 22 meeting in Luanda, Angola. Ministers are next scheduled to gather on March 17 in Vienna.

“At $70 there is really no incentive for OPEC to cut production,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. “OPEC should be worried because rising production and economic uncertainty isn’t the recipe for a bull market.”

Oil hovers above $78 amid mixed crude demand signs

Oil prices have bobbed between $70 and $80 for most of the last six months as investors mull growing crude demand in developing countries such as China offset by flagging consumption in developed countries.

Even a cold winter in the U.S. has failed to boost demand for heating oil.

"The absence of any sustained seasonal draw in heating oil inventories is still striking," Barclays Capital said in a report. "The inventory overhang remains stubbornly high."

Oil Set for Monthly Gain as Economy Recovers, Stockpiles Drop

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil is poised for the biggest monthly advance since October as the U.S. economy starts to recover and fuel inventories fall.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said this week the U.S. economy is in a “nascent” recovery. The U.K. emerged from recession in the fourth quarter at a faster pace than previously estimated, a report today showed. The amount of crude stored in tankers fell to 25 million barrels this month from levels of more than 80 million barrels last year, Poten & Partners said.

Tanaka warns of downside risk to oil

There is more downside risk to oil demand than upside risk, the International Energy Agency's head Nobuo Tanaka said today.

"In terms of the oil demand, it is more the downside possiblity," Reuters quoted Tanaka, as saying to a two-day oil market forum in Tokyo.

Oil May Reach $81 Next Week, Passes ‘Cloud’: Technical Analysis

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil prices may rise to $81 a barrel within the next week, according to indicators on a Japanese charting method called Ichimoku Kinko Hyo, or “one- glance cloud chart,” said Mitsubishi Corp.

Did 'unsafe' natural gas release lead to power plant explosion?

Enough natural gas to fill a basketball arena was released just before an explosion at a Connecticut power plant, say federal investigators, who call it an 'unsafe' practice.

Sarkozy’s Refinery Gamble Pushes Up Closure Cost for Total

(Bloomberg) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s intervention in Total SA’s plan to shut a refinery near the northern port of Dunkirk may have raised the cost of the closure for France’s largest company.

The government’s bid to delay the plan until after regional elections next month backfired, as unions widened a strike across Total’s refineries and pushed France to the verge of fuel shortages this week. The government was concerned about the political fallout from the closure, which risked the livelihoods of about 400 sub-contractors.

BP Seen Investing More Than $2B in Oil Sands Project

BP PLC is expected to invest more than $2 billion in Value Creation Inc.'s oil-sands project in Alberta, beating out rival bidder India's Reliance Industries Ltd. (500325.BY), according to an industry source.

Though the final terms could change, at this stage in the negotiations BP is expected to pay $500 million for a 75% working interest in Value Creation's oil-sands project plus a commitment to invest an additional $1.6 billion to help develop the project, according to the source.

Statoil Ordered by Nigerian Court to Set Aside Crude Revenue

(Bloomberg) -- Statoil ASA, Norway’s biggest oil and natural-gas producer, was ordered by a Nigerian court to set aside all revenue from its stake in an oil field following a claim from a local businessman.

BG, Eni Oil Venture Faces Kazakh Tax, Contract Review

(Bloomberg) -- Kazakhstan is preparing tax claims against the BG Group Plc and Eni SpA-led Karachaganak project, and may challenge the production-sharing agreement as the government seeks a stake in the oil field.

Indonesia Bank Row May Hinder Cut in $11 Billion Fuel Subsidies

(Bloomberg) -- Indonesia may delay raising energy prices as a dispute over a 2008 bank bailout divides President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s coalition, PT Bank Danamon said, undermining efforts to rein in almost $11 billion in subsidies.

Sempra Plans to Exit Commodities Venture With RBS

(Bloomberg) -- Sempra Energy, owner of the largest U.S. natural-gas utility, said it plans to exit the remaining parts of a commodities-trading joint venture it has with Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

Selling its stake in North American gas and power trading would dissolve the venture and free up cash for stock buybacks and investment, the San Diego-based company said today in slides posted on its Web site. Staying in the venture would have required the company to issue about $2 billion in equity, Chief Executive Officer Don Felsinger said.

Are Investors Tough, Blind or Crazy?

The eurozone is on the brink of chaos. A host of countries are trembling on the brink of sovereign default. Many people believe the US can't service its debts. California is sinking into the mire. Nobody knows how Japan services its mighty deficit. China is in protectionist mode. People are worrying about peak oil again. And the England football team is heading to the World Cup without a recognised left back.

Hummer in a Peak Oil-Fearing Era: Why China Couldn't Buy the Brand

General Motor’s failure to sell off its Hummer brand to Chinese manufacturer Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines highlights the country’s hyper-awareness of its growing energy appetite.

The Chinese government’s decision to scuttle the deal suggests it’s worried whether the global oil supply can meet the country’s energy demands in the long-term. China wants to promote efficient, gas-sipping cars, not massive SUVs with poor fuel economy.

Odierno requests more combat forces in Iraq -- beyond the Obama deadline

In a move that could force President Obama to break his vow to get all combat troops out of Iraq by August of this year, his top commander in Iraq recently officially requested keeping a combat brigade in the northern part of the country beyond that deadline, three people close to the situation said Wednesday.

FPL’s Hay Relies on Wind as Rate Case Clouds Utility Outlook

(Bloomberg) -- FPL Group Inc. became the largest U.S. electricity producer by investing $11 billion in wind and solar power around the country. Those holdings are more critical to the bottom line after a utility rate ruling in Florida dimmed earnings prospects at the company’s flagship unit.

Sales of ethanol-free gasoline

The tow truck driver seemed sympathetic as he wrote out the receipt at the repair shop. It sounded to him like another car that wouldn't run due to a faulty fuel pump, or maybe the fuel injectors. He had towed many of them after Oregon mandated 10 percent ethanol in pump gasoline beginning in January 2009.

Thanks to legislation presented by local state Reps. Bruce Hanna and Tim Freeman, Oregonians can now choose more conveniently to opt out of ethanol fuel.

German wind power firm to withdraw from Taiwan

TAIPEI (AFP) – Germany-based InfraVest, the largest private wind power company in Taiwan, said Friday it will withdraw from the island because it does not have confidence in the government's energy policies.

InfraVest said a newly announced government purchasing price for wind power was below the cost of producing it, forcing the company to concentrate on mainland China instead.

World’s Biggest Power Plan May Be Thwarted by Congo

(Bloomberg) -- A plan to build the world’s biggest power complex in the Democratic Republic of Congo may never happen because the government is too indecisive, the head of a venture that had planned to invest $5.2 billion said.

Skipper unveils world's biggest solar-powered boat

KIEL, Germany (AFP) – A skipper hoping to become the first to sail round the world using solar power said his catamaran could carve a wake for pollution-free shipping as he unveiled the record-breaking yacht Thursday.

Spaceship Earth is running out of fuel

It has almost become impossible to read a story about energy without finding the word "sustainable" used at some point. We all have some basic understanding of what is meant. The current supplies of oil and natural gas are limited and those new fields being found are increasingly expensive to maintain. Therefore, our current pace of using up the supply of fossil fuels is not sustainable, or will not be for very long. That discussion is generally focused on peak oil.

Often, this basic definition is followed by someone's favorite solution for maintaining economic growth in the face of such diminished supply of energy. Sometimes, these solutions are reasonable, like an increased use of wind and solar. Sometimes they pose a technological challenge with promise of a future energy supply, such as biofuels from algae. Others so defy rational analysis that they could exist only in a bad sci-fi movie.

The focus on energy, as important and immediate as that is, allows us to ignore the very basic notion of what it would take to be truly sustainable. Some have tried to explain this with the analogy of a spaceship.

Only crisis will convince climate deniers, audience told

Crop failures and famine may ultimately convince people who still deny the world’s climate is changing.

But even then, a Lethbridge audience was warned Thursday, some leaders may refuse to act. But the longer politicians and the energy industry try to postpone real change, the higher the price to be paid by Canada’s next generations.

Students and experts at the University of Lethbridge debated “tipping points” during a mid-day forum, as part of the “Peak Week” examination of oil and energy issues facing Albertans. While scientists around the world are reporting climate change data almost daily, guest speaker Thomas Homer-Dixon said many politicians and industry-backed “think tanks” are still refusing to believe it.

"The future of our cities lies in their integration with the environment”

A conversation with Daniel Lerch, author of Post Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty, to understand how we can build cities that are resilient to climate change and able to meet their own energy needs without depending on oil.

Pacific nations vie to create OPEC-style tuna cartel

KOROR (AFP) – Leaders of eight Pacific nations responsible for a quarter of the world's tuna catch vowed Thursday to conserve stocks of the fish and increase their own financial return from the lucrative industry.

Despite their waters producing much of the world's tuna, the impoverished nations receive only three to four percent of the wholesale value of the catch, which is mainly controlled by foreign companies.

Wal-Mart Unveils Plan to Make Supply Chain Greener

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, announced on Thursday that it would cut some 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain by the end of 2015 — the equivalent of removing more than 3.8 million cars from the road for a year.

The company plans to achieve that goal by focusing on popular product categories with the highest embedded carbon — milk, bread, meat, clothing — and by pressing its suppliers to rethink how they source, manufacture, package and transport those goods. Essentially, suppliers are being asked to examine the carbon lifecycle of their products, from the raw materials used in manufacturing all the way through to the recycling phase.

Vancouver Olympics going for the green

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada - As is normally the case for top city officials during the Olympics, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has a car and driver assigned to shepherd him through the whirl of the Winter Games.

But the 45-year-old former organic farmer, who earlier ran the Happy Planet juice company, has shown up for most Olympic events as he always does: on his battered but serviceable mountain bike, suit pants tucked into his socks.

Since he became mayor in December 2008, Robertson has doubled Vancouver's bicycle infrastructure budget, set landmark electric-vehicle-charging standards for new buildings, and expanded the city's "car-free" days.

Clearing the Air at American Ports

The Teamsters union and environmental activists have formed an unlikely and outspoken alliance aiming to clear the air in American ports, and perhaps bolster the Teamsters’ ranks in the process.

Climate Scientists Possible Criminals, Says Sen. Inhofe

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has called for leading climate scientists to face criminal charges for their role in “Climategate,” the scandal that has cast doubt on the validity of man-made global warming theories.

UN to review controversial climate panel

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AFP) – The United Nations said Friday it would conduct an independent review of its Nobel prize-winning climate panel, whose credibility has been hit by errors in a key report on global warming.

The UN's plan was announced as environmental experts at an international meeting hailed the opportunity to make progress on climate change after last year's Copenhagen talks ended in chaos and urged India and China to come on board.

Road Transportation Emerges as Key Driver of Warming in New Analysis from NASA

SIn a paper published online on Feb. 3 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Unger and colleagues described how they used a climate model to estimate the impact of 13 sectors of the economy from 2000 to 2100. They based their calculations on real-world inventories of emissions collected by scientists around the world, and they assumed that those emissions would stay relatively constant in the future.

In their analysis, motor vehicles emerged as the greatest contributor to atmospheric warming now and in the near term. Cars, buses, and trucks release pollutants and greenhouse gases that promote warming, while emitting few aerosols that counteract it.

The researchers found that the burning of household biofuels -- primarily wood and animal dung for home heating and cooking -- contribute the second most warming. And raising livestock, particularly methane-producing cattle, contribute the third most.

Re: OPEC Output Reaches 14-Month High on Saudi Gain, Survey Shows

Do Saudis pumping as much as they can, or do they still have some spare capacity left?

6) OPEC spare capacity - According to the International Energy Agency total effective spare capacity (excluding Iraq, Venezuela and Nigeria) increased from December 2009 to January 2010 by 17,000 b/d to a level of 5.54 million b/d. Of total effective spare capacity, an additional 3.80 million b/d is estimated to be producible by Saudi Arabia within 90 days, the United Arab Emirates 0.40 million b/d, Angola 0.21 million b/d, Iran 0.30 million b/d, Libya 0.18 million b/d, Qatar 0.10 million b/d, and the other remaining countries 0.55 million b/d.

Total OPEC spare production capacity has not yet been updated for January 2010 by the Energy Information Administration at the time of writing. In December 2009 spare capacity increased by 10,000 b/d to a level of 5.03 million b/d from 4.93 million b/d in November according to the Energy Information Administration.

The Oil Drum: Europe | Oilwatch Monthly February 2010

Fascinating to see bureaucrats tinker with numbers when they don't understand the concept of significant digits or probable error. For the IEA to say they can measure spare capacity by 10,000 b/d out of 5 million, is to claim precision of +/- 0.2%. If they were honest and put error bars on their figures, they would have to say, "Due to the complete lack of verifiable data and incessant over-reporting of OPEC nations, we really don't know about the numbers to within +/- 50%."

Completely analogous to the US reporting "jobs added", or many other attempts by governments around the world to pacify with hopeful statistics.

A retrospective analysis of previously reported numbers is the only way to approach error estimates for these data. Having done this a little with historical versions of the BP Statistical Review I can say that the error bars:

  1. vary with time as reporting techniques change
  2. are quite different for each commodity/reporting region
  3. are asymmetrical (over -vs. under-estimates)

It would be wonderful if someone would do a careful study and repot on the error bars associated with different reports that come out weekly, monthly or annually. But it's hard work to do it right.

Anyone know of a source of funding for such a project?

-- Jon

I can't help with your question, but I have one back: based on what you see, are the error bars getting smaller as technology improves (or worse as politics intrude??), is the asymmetry toward higher production or lower, and is the error behavior "sign" similar across regions even if "magnitudes" differ?

Paleo -- I'll jump in with just part of the puzzel. If you're referring to tech improvements in recovery efficiencies that could cause a little variation in estimates but not over the course of just a few years. Effective change doesn't happen nearly that fast. If you're talking about changes in the technology of reserve estimation that science was well stablished over 40 years ago. The basic methodology for such calculations can't be improved. But there is a feed back loop that as you produce a reservoir you can refine your estimates based upon actual production history. But given the age of most of the major fields these adjustments have been made long ago IMHO.

If a group of 10 reservoir engineers had access to the basic data for all the other major fields in the world as we have for US fields it would take no more than 6 months for them to come up with a pretty accurate picture of future production from known fields IMHO. But "they" won't provide the data and thus "we" can't.


First off, we should be clear that "spare capacity" is only a guesstimate. While the actual production is a measured value, the potential production is not necessarily known. From what I've read, calculating maximum oil production capacity is a little trickier than looking up the maximum flow rate on your kitchen faucet.

What I looked at with the BP Statistical Review dataset were changes in the reported production and consumption values from year to year. These are real, measured quantities. My investigations were only that -- investigations. I wasn't systematic and I didn't write things down at the time. But I did see that the annual change to previously reported data was low in Europe and high in the Middle East and South America. Each subsequent year the BP Statistical Review would tweak those previous numbers, usually by a little less each time, until they settled down on the "final" value.

In some cases, Columbian natural gas production comes to mind, the entire 40 year time series was updated from one year to the next.

I attribute all of these changes to improved reporting and additional data trickling in. In other words, all human factors. If I remember correctly, non-European nations often had changes of a couple of percentage points in the reported production or consumption when comparing a value as initially reported with the "final" value.

If 2% is the typical error for values that are actually measured I think it is safe to assume that errors in guesstimated quantities are, at a minimum, over 10%. So reporting them as if the precision were +/- 0.2% is pretty ridiculous.

This also points out the reason I don't pay too much attention to the weekly numbers that come out. There's simply too much uncertainty. I prefer to wait for annual numbers where I hope the precision will be a little higher.

-- Jon

Interesting. Are the old editions of the Stat Review archived somewhere?

Here's a post I made last month; I'm starting to save these things for future ref.

You see all kinds of nutty things parsing the production data. For instance June '04-March '05 KSA production was 11046.171 kb/d. Every month. To the 3rd decimal place. Then they must have brought something online, for April-Sep production was 11146.171. Then they needed to boost prices apparently, because it was back down to 11046.171 for 3 months...from Jan '04 to Oct '09 it's .171 on every number as well. Does EIA have a disclaimer for this? Because it isn't documentation in any sense of the word. It would be fodder for a story here, too. I call dibs!

I noticed last month that some Venezuelan numbers had been revised down either 100 or 200 kb/d for about half a year, too.

Sam Foucher did some interesting analysis of EIA revisions here at TOD, in 2006 I think. Strictly short term stuff.

From July '08 peak to Jan '09 trough the world contracted 3.5/3.0 mb/d, for AL/C+C, if you want the most conservative numbers. EIA/IEA are throwing in Khurais/Vankor/etc into the pot to get these larger numbers. Who knows wherein the truth lies? As my post above shows the production numbers themselves are just WAGs.

Are the old editions of the Stat Review archived somewhere?

I've got versions from 2002 - 2009 archived at this address:


Just click on the "Original Data" header to see them.

If anyone has access to earlier versions please let me know and I will archive those as well.

-- Jon

Thanks, Jon! Hadn't noticed your archive. Will do some playing around with the #s. Have you contacted BP about ^/-, "n/a", etc? Hate that. Without some editing you get a mess of DIV! errors when running numbers, as I'm sure you know well. Dunno about Excel but OpenOffice can Find&Replace in all sheets at once, making the editing a snap.

Click on the header labeled "ISO Standardized Datasets". I've already done all of that work for the current year.

Yes I saw that but I do not belive these numbers. Luckily there is a rather easy way to tell what's going on: price. So far each time oil got to 80 Saudis would push price down. But sooner or latter they'll be pumping at max and then price will go over 80 and up and up.

Same thing with supply peak vs demand peak. Price will tell us what it is. If it's price is rising then it'll show that it's the demand that pushing it up.

Speculators can affect price somewhat but ultimately all oil that's pumped out has to be used, so near price of oil has to be objective. So speculators can only affect long term oil price but they can't affect current price by any significant amount. The system is self balancing if speculators could affect current oil price then there would be a mismatch between supply and demand, which is impossible to have when speculators are not willing to take physical delivery of oil.

Saudi Cumulative Net Oil Exports Versus US Oil Prices
2002-2005 & 2005-2008 (EIA, Total Liquids)

Here are the average Saudi net oil export numbers per day by year, versus average annual US spot crude oil prices:

2002: 7.1 mbpd & $26
2003: 8.3 mbpd & $31
2004: 8.6 mbpd & $42
2005: 9.1 mbpd & $57
2006: 8.4 mbpd & $66
2007: 8.0 mbpd & $72
2008: 8.4 mbpd & $100

Relative to the 2002 net export rate of 7.1 mbpd, in the following three period, 2003-2005 inclusive, the cumulative three year increase in net exports was 1,716 mb, versus a three year increase in oil prices of $31.

But then we have the 2006-2008 data.

Relative to the 2005 net export rate of 9.1 mbpd, in the following three year period, 2006-2008 inclusive, the cumulative three year decline in net oil exports was 841 mb, versus a three increase in oil prices of $43.

Note that in early 2004, the Saudis reiterated their support for the stated OPEC policy of maintaining an oil price band of $22 to $28, and they made good on their promises to support lower prices as they significantly increased net oil exports in the 2003-2005 time frame, but then in early 2006, they started complaining about problems finding buyers for all of their oil, “Even their light/sweet oil,” even as oil prices continued to increase. Apparently no one thought to ask them in early 2006, as oil prices traded over $60 per barrel, why they didn’t offer to sell another two mbpd of oil for $28 per barrel.

Wow! All of the posts on this thread say almost the same thing. Don't trust the figures you read. Of course, that is good advice, and it makes accuracy impossible. The other point taken.

I have been trying to infer from data when the supply/bottom figure meets the demand/top level in the price band for oil, and when the data is all suspect have no clue how to finish the equation.

For one thing, to figure costs per barrel, I need to know things like real reserves in newly discovered fields, rig costs for deep water, deep drill and combo of those, including horizontal and hydrofrac costs. Plus real figures for time value of money; percentage leveraged; estimated depreciation time for capital equipment; real time cost figures for each phase of a project: construction/erection of the platform; exploration; production wells; maintenance during useful production time (all to include labor, replacement parts, repair costs, etc.), and of course costs for leases, and eventually shutting down costs. Also, costs for such things as insurance, workover, down time for weather events (especially in tropical waters, but most anywhere offshore). The final figure to be derived from all of this would be the real cost per barrel going in to the average project.

I suspect I will eventually have to subscribe to OGJ; right now I am trying to conserve and get the info on the cheap. {sorry, y'all}




Hummer in a Peak Oil-Fearing Era: Why China Couldn't Buy the Brand


Sales of ethanol-free gasoline, up top.

If one looks closely at the chart from World Energy Outlook in the first article, it is clear that the United States is projected to be in better shape than Europe and China come 2030.

This is partly due to ethanol. Ethanol is not without problems as pointed out in the second article, but that is mostly due to its ability to clean out fuel systems. I and thousands, if not millions of Midwesterners, have been burning ethanol for over 2 decades now with few problems.

In areas new to ethanol it seems every fuel pump or engine failure is assigned to ethanol. I doubt many are caused by ethanol. Clogged fuel filters due to ethanol cleaning out dirty fuel systems is valid, but that is a minor, though aggravating, repair.

But the gain from ethanol is worth it as the chart in the first article shows.

The US has huge tracts of fertile agricultural land. It has massive reserves of low grade coal, and substantial reserves of expensive natural gas. It is still the fourth largest oil producer in the world. Given that most of the remaining oil is from nodding donkey wells, the rate of decline in these fields is generally very low. It has unrivalled military technology.

In any rational world, the US should be the only world power standing 20 years from now. However, trying to sustain BAU of exponential growth in consumption, whilst gutting industry and lobotomising the education system, and off-shoring profits to the global super rich has guaranteed the US will suffer catastrophic economic and social collapse. Not helped by ever creeping climate change and soil degradation.

In this context, using your excess prime resources (agricultural land, water, coal and natural gas) to provide a replacement for a small percentage of your most prodigiously wasted and highest quality resource - oil - is simply accelerating the juggernaut towards the cliff.

Wow...nice overview...seriously. I think you have it right.

I agree with your analysis -- but not necessarily your conclusion.

I believe that the Obama administration is taking us to a "rational" world -- one that is controlled by a small group who impose draconian rationing, that is -- in the only way it can-- short of violent revolution or coup d'etat, which are demonstrably less effective-- through the manipulation of "free" politics.

It is hard to say what this world will look like, other than there will be no "commons" and "freedom" will mean freedom to choose among a limited menu of options (Coke/Pepsi, 400 cable channels and the like.)

This won't necessarily be bad -- if the ruling class is enlightened and has some vision of a sustainable planetary ecosystem.

It could be a technocratic paradise or a Stalinist-type hell, but the present reality of resource depletion and unrestrained population growth can logically move only in two possible directions: either in the direction of increased central control or of complete collapse.

I vote for the likelihood of central control -- the "fools" in charge are hardly as stupid as the media make them out to be, and it is clear that most people will do whatever the TeeVee tells them to do.

That was essentially Garrett Hardin's (Tragedy of the Commons)solution to the dilemma he posed -- and after all the hoopla, which continues 40+ years later, I think he got it about right. After all, ants and bees figured out sophisticated communal living arrangements tens of millions of years ago, and they are doing pretty well.

Not that I would willingly choose to be a bee.

On what evidence do you think that the POTUS can, will try or even want to turn this juggernaut around? Beyond hope, love, faith.

RW -- Did I fail to make myself clear?

The POTUS is not trying to turn this juggernaut around -- he is aiding the process of moving to a more "rational" world. A world which is controlled by a very few people, and resources are apportioned "rationally". That is, rationed. Most of us are not likely to find our standard of living improved under the new regime, but looked at from afar it might make sense. Maybe the new regime will send oil where it is needed, and repair the infrastructure. Maybe not.

How is this not already a "command economy?" Goldman Sachs et al tell the Government what to spend money on, and the government complies. TV reports it as the way things are and ought to be. A little steam is let off by letting the "Tea Party" vent helplessly. And life goes on.

Obama is just a front man. I think the ruling elite has already been established. Obama takes orders just like Bush did. A lot of talk but nothing happens except war.

Without taking off on a conspiratorial thread here, I do agree with this to some extent. Powerful nations have large corporations pulling their strings or dominated by people from the corporate elite. Any appearance of "political parties" is a diversive game played for the masses.

The recent US spate against Toyota is a good example of this. Toyota makes a fine vehicle, but like other companies has had a few instances of problems. Compare them to any other carmaker and see. The US politick sees the recent problems as a chance to take some sales away from Toyota in favor of US companies and perhaps scare Japan a bit since what is good or bad for Toyota is good or bad for Japan...where have I heard that before?

Powerful nations have large corporations pulling their strings or dominated by people from the corporate elite

And insignificant nations too. Today in Spain the United Left party (IU, communists, very, very few votes) has asked the Spanish elite, that is 1400 people who control 80% of the Spanish GDP, to put their shoulders to the hard task ahead.
Warning! PDF, in Spanish.
Those 1400 rich are ~0.003% of the population.

President Zapatero, nominally Socialist, rather goes for cuts in salaries of the public workers, increasing the age of retirement to 67 years and more, and cuts in government expenses.
No cuts in Spanish soldiers in Afghanistan, of course! That may upset Obama. And he's accepted 5 prisoners from Guantánamo, the most in Europe, anything to keep el Obamán happy.
Those are the Socialists, imagine the Conservatives.

I have long preferred the idea of stabilized oil production to the idea of an oil peak.”

I don't know if this was supposed to be a critical comment, or simply factual. My view is that, like the US, retirement ages in Spain and around the world are set far too low.

In the US, the retirement age of 65 was set in the 30's, at a time when life expectancies were 58.1 for men and 61.6 for women. A bit higher for white folks, much lower for black. This was what Social Security was set up to accomodate. Basically, for people past their life expectancy, who could not longer work.

Today, LE for men is 75.2 and women 80.4. Again, blacks are lower, but not so much as before.

In any case, with LE at 59.7 when Social Security began, and at 77.8 today, a case could be made for a reset of Social Security full retirement at age 80. Or 82. Or 85? SSI should be used for those becoming disabled earlier.

I say that with full knowledge that I am already over 65, and a ways from 80 or 85.

And, saying it, I don't know if that places me with the Conservatives or with the Socialists. I prefer to think I am with the realists.



Being in theat same, over 65, age group I wonder: If we have to employ everyone between 65 and 80 are they going to have a place for us to take our nap?

And who, of the under 25, are going on welfare while we keep their job?

Seriously, the whole concept of everyone having a job in a corporation to earn money to buy things from another corporation, taxes being extracted from every transaction, is not working so well these days.

LNG, we may be on the way to an authoritarian government but it won't be Obama progressives and technocrats deliverying it. Obama is increasingly viewed with skepticism by the "Great Middle" of the American electorate; with the Right-wing, he hasn't a chance. I have no problem in predicting that if the Obama-ites don't radically reduce (a) unemployment and (b) government spending in the next two years, they are going to be "outta there."

I agree that we are probably headed for a rationing system for fuel and possibly other essentials, but that will be introduced and enforced by someone with a lot more credibility with the Tea-partiers and Red-State America. Obama couldn't do this if he wanted to.

To accomplish both (a) and (b) is impossible. I'll take reducing unemployment.

fitz, I agree. The best we can hope for is one or the other. Like you, I would focus on putting people to work but my fear is that the Obama-ites instincts would have them create "make work" jobs that add little to economy. Two years isn't much time to do anything substantive, but -- rightly or wrongly -- I think that's what Obama and the Dems are up against.

I Agree, Tarzan. And, I wonder whether make work in infrastructure, like we saw in the 30s and 50s, with Roosevelt and Eisenhower, is to be preferred to make work in military spending, ala Johnson, Nixon, Bush, Bush, and Reagan. Infrastructure at least provided roads, electric power and national parks. Military defense is fine, when you are defending your country. Otherwise it is 100% waste.


zaphod, I lived and worked near the Blue Ridge Parkway and will verify that good things can come out of make-work jobs. The Parkway is a jewel.

I think everyone who frequents this site will agree that our dependency on petroleum -- particularly imported petroleum -- is at a dead-end. So, any federal jobs program that reduces our dependence on oil could have long-lasting benefits. My concern is that we may not have the resources today to grow our way out of the inevitable debt that such projects will spawn. But maybe we have no choice but to try.

Absolutely spot on, Tarzan!

IMO the type jobs that would be best would create new infrastructure. The cost of that would be underwritten by debt, backed on ROI from the cost as reflected in rates charged for useage.

For instance, creation of public transit would involve fares from users, (and VAT on goods produced using labor transported by, etc.) of the enterprise. Everything that we do involving the commons has a social cost, and that should be amortized over the life of the project by the users, direct and indirect. Power infrastructure equates to both use of the power, directly, and as a consumer I indirectly use that power. The companies using the power would effectively transfer the cost to the user in price. Where it is the power itself being used, it is reflected in the rates.

If the Federal Goverment is the work provider and involved in the construction of the new infrastructure ["IS"] vis a vis the jobs program, the cost of that debt must be paid by the users of that IS. It is something that can, and IMHO must be done. And, the devil will be in the details.


There's a better chance of pigs flying.

There's a better chance of pigs flying.

My reaction, too.

Better get busy genetically modifying those pigs. Go for the more practical solution.

I frequent this site and don't agree that our dependency on petroleum is at a dead-end. In fact, I fully expect petroleum to be the primary energy source in the world for the next 50 years. Bash me all you want, but it is reality. Why is it reality, because the scale of our petroleum energy infrastructure is too big to change within 50 years.

So... your advice is that we disband and reconvene in 50 years to ponder our next step?

Edit: No one is going to argue that we don't have a significant economic investment in petroleum (Heck, there are even some guys here that make their livings in the petroleum industry). And many here -- myself included -- will agree that we have no substitute for petroleum. That's why we know that an oil-short world won't look much like the world we presently inhabit. So pull up your shorts. Things are about to get interesting.

I won't bash you, Steve, but I don't buy it, either.

Yes, the scale of the machine is big. How does that suggest security? There's a reason we use the Titanic analogy here a lot. IF Peak Oil hits the way some fear it will, then that size, and the size of the population that hungrily feeds on that massive nipple will work against itself, the momentum of a big system CAN smooth over all sorts of bumps and scrapes, and grind us through, but I think that was 1979 until Prudhoe came online, perhaps. It might not work this time, if no 'Alaska' or 'North Sea' cavalry comes online in the nick of time.

Being too big to fail doesn't keep you from failing.

Tarzan -

I totally agree with this and I think that liberals, progressives, environmentalist etc. should all be making plans for turning the reigns over to complete control of gov't by the looniest fringes of the Republican party. If the Democratic party had any brains they would have resigned themselves to this even before they ran Obama in 2008. The electorate should reap what they sow - namely 30 years of buying into the unwinding of the New Deal by Reagan et al. (with admiteddly more than enough help from Clinton re: globalization etc.).

As others have pointed out here - let them drill baby drill and institute all the other free market / kill big government policies they can dream up. Only when they have backed themselves into a corner so badly and their followers are in complete dire straits will there possibly be some sort of awakening (revolution). Rather than continuing with this charade of "democracy" the Democratic party should have long ago conceded that they would give the Republicans and their dittoheaded followers enough rope to hang themselves for good. There's no guarantee this would work but I think it stands a better chance than any of the other scenarios discussed here.

This is Republican catastrophe 30+ years in the making - it should be their legacy. I can't understand why anyone would have wanted to run for public office while inheriting the massive problems caused by the opposite party - let them clean up their own disaster and when they only make things worse come in to help right the ship - at the very least you may find a public at least willing to listen to your alternative ideas to the trickle down failure that has been the mantra for so long now.

Umm, you realize the other perspective has a rant that sounds just like yours, right?

Neither side has any brains, just Obama drew the short straw. Party power will flip back and forth with each step down.

Replace "drill baby drill" with "carbon credits"; "free market" with "bureaucrats", "kill big gov't" with "choke small business", and swap the parties and you'd have the paragraphs transposed.

You missed a sentence though, that would have swapped "defense/industrial complex" with "welfare entitlements".

If you'd had one for "lobbyist influence", it wouldn't have needed to change at all.

But the key difference is that drill baby drill, free market worship, kill big government, trickle down, pull yourself up by your bootstraps myth is what the people WANT and will vote for (probably in record numbers during the next election) and despite the rants of the "other side" they are projecting onto the Democratic side what, in reality, politicians from their own party have done to them. I don't think anyone is delusional enough to think that any of the environmental agenda, or expand big government or let's have more bureaucracy platforms will be well received by the masses.

So as a liberal environmentalist I see the writing on the wall - I'm content to sit back and watch these clowns get everything they ask for and then look around in bewilderment as things continue to worsen despite all of their free market fantasies coming true. I'm perfectly willing to just stay out of the way and politely shrug my shoulders acting just as confused as the next guy while witnessing policies (which have already been proven as failures) be instituted in a desperate attempt to hold on to BAU.

So as a liberal environmentalist I see the writing on the wall - I'm content to sit back and watch these clowns get everything they ask for and then look around in bewilderment as things continue to worsen despite all of their free market fantasies coming true.

IOW I had an offer from a foreign place (Canada or Scandinavia preferably), so I can watch from a safe distance. The problem with your prescription, is that I, and my kids may have to live through that period.

I didn't word it very well but I wasn't even talking about watching this as a "spectator" from some safe haven - I'm going nowhere - I don't think there's anywhere to run to. I've admitted on here a number of times that I have no illusion about being some kind of "survivalist" through the bottleneck - if it happens in my remaining years then I'll be consumed like most everyone else in it. But at the very least I'll be able to know that the ruinous policies that got us here were not, by and large, anything I supported - to be sure I am just as reliant on the modern world as anyone else but when I really started to research what was going on here I did wake up somewhat. In addition, there's been a lot of talk on TOD about the psychological aspect of what is coming and I've done my best to prepare myself so that I'm not amongst the bewildered "who could have seen this coming...?" crowd when all their favorite policies have been instituted and still fail to allow the continuation of BAU.

Just by the fact that you read and post here EOS I would assume you and your kids will be much better prepared - at least psychologically. I don't think we can overestimate just how unprepared the average citizen is to find out that the myth they've been indoctrinated to is not a function of the fortitude of the USA or the wonderful free market but simply a byproduct of an age of cheap energy.

Neither side has any brains

I disagree. Both sides include mindless sycophants and hangers-on and camp followers.

But both "sides" are tightly scripted and intelligently run -- look at the larger picture. Where are we, as a society headed?

Central authority, a tiny elite, a huge crowd of sometimes useful, sometimes expendable people. A good cop/bad cop style of governing, and an extremely sophisticated media that can make people believe anything.

People cry over the love lives of cartoon cars, for Pete's sake!

I don't argue that we are doomed. But we will be controlled, and possibly even happy, given enough chemicals. Aldous Huxley had this pretty well worked out by the late 1930's,

Brave New World was published in 1928, not "late 30s"

People cry over the love lives of cartoon cars, for Pete's sake!

That has nothing to do with democratic/republican duopoloy. Nor with manipulations by the media.

Homo sapiens like telling and listening to stories. They could be about talking snakes, fitting elephent heads on people, a dragon that controls all waters or clouds that can be used to send message between lovers.

Heck, the story could even be about militant back-to-nature environmentalism.

Catskill, I think Obama sought the job because he genuinely thought he was the right guy for it (i.e. that he could make a difference). I posited here one day -- either shortly before or after the 2008 election -- that Obama's big accomplishment would be to be the first person of color in the White House, and took some grief for it. Maybe being the first President of color doesn't seem like much of an accomplishment but I'm old enough to remember when a person of color would get his head busted for sitting down at the lunch counter in G.C. Murphy's.

I, otherwise, had low expectations for the Obama team. The reality of the political situation in America is that the country is evenly and strongly divided. Stalemate is us and stalemate I'm afraid it will be until there is nothing left to argue over. For this reason, I've pretty much stopped participating in political discussions, preferring instead to focus on the little things that I actually have some control over.

Hate to burst your little bubble, Catskill, but this already should have happened in 2006-2008.

But it didn't happen.

Collapse continues.

I wouldn't say your bursting my bubble at all Oilman because I totally agree with you - so many were caught up in the fervor of righting the country after the Bush years but in hindsight I almost wish McCain would have run unopposed. Apply 'ole Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule - let the party that broke it buy it and try to come up with a way out of this mess. As it turns out it does look like Obama's populating of a good deal of his administration with Goldman Sachs alumni is just a continuation of BAU.

I do get annoyed though when I hear how there is this equivalency in the two parties - I will concede that over the past decade or so, due to lobbying and corporate coziness, the differences are more superficial than substantive. But true progressives and liberal have FAR different viewpoints on matters of resource depletion / finite planet than all but the smallest number of Republicans (perhaps dwindling numbers of "true" conservatives). The problem is that there is no effective true left wing in this country - despite the claims by Limpbaugh and others - so in effect the left has come far to the center and almost completely bought into the cut taxes / govt until it has almost no role except for pandering to every corporate whim, free market worship, trickle down nonsense that has been a huge LOSER for all but about 1% of the country. BUT the people have spoken - they have been led down the path to where they don't even want to hear alternatives to policies that are proven failures - so that's why I was saying by all means, let's give them exactly what they want.

Collapse definitely continues - particularly amongst the middle class - but just watch and see how they embrace the guarantee of further collapse through their chosen candidates / issues in the coming elections.

Obama and his administration is just another tool. He will do his part, and be gone. It might be four years, it might be eight. Doesn't matter.

The power elite has a much longer time frame.

Maybe the next time we get Palin/Cheny or Palin/Beck.\

The growth of central authority is iterative, works back and forth between the major parties. Third parties are useful to determine where to go next, but the power is applied through the established parties.

x, this is great news. I am beginning to understand your enthusiasm for this marvellous new source of energy and why we need to be reminded of this at least once a week. What I especially like about ethanol produced from temperate agricultural regions is that you nearly always get more energy out than you put in (1.1 < EROIE < 1.5 - wow!) and we do not really need the land for agricultural purposes - because there is so much of it. Even better, topsoil never gets depleted these days - thanks to modern agrochemicals; erosion isn't an issue any more either - thanks to GPS tractors - and americans are generally overweight anyway.

I prefer to consume ethanol as it occurs in dry white wine.

Banks Bet Greece Defaults on Debt They Helped Hide

Bets by some of the same banks that helped Greece shroud its mounting debts may actually now be pushing the nation closer to the brink of financial ruin.

How did Denninger describe this? Like taking out insurance your neighbor's house, then piling kindling around it and dousing it with gasoline.

Have you seen the new Matt Taibbi article:

To appreciate how all of these (sometimes brilliant) schemes work is to understand the difference between earning money and taking scores, and to realize that the profits these banks are posting don't so much represent national growth and recovery, but something closer to the losses one would report after a theft or a car crash. Many Americans instinctively understand this to be true — but, much like when your wife does it with your 300-pound plumber in the kids' playroom, knowing it and actually watching the whole scene from start to finish are two very different things. In that spirit, a brief history of the best 18 months of grifting this country has ever seen:



Wall Street is in the business of eating your lunch. It's really that simple.

Some days, Leanan, I just wanna cry.

Today is one of those days!


Where is the logic in the markets? The Saudis are pumping more, but crude price is shooting up today. Just doesn't follow logic...at least to the facts I have exposure to.

Probably responding to this:

Economy grew 5.9% in fourth quarter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The U.S. economy grew at a slightly faster pace than originally thought during the last three months of 2009, according to a government report Friday.

Ya...there is that, but any decent economist or oil trader with lots of money knows that this GDP spike was due to short term inventory replacement. Take that out and GDP was less than 2%.

Doesn't matter. Like someone here pointed out, traders are actually responding to other traders, not directly to supply/demand considerations.

How else to explain how oil prices typically rise when there's a cold snap? It's winter, it's not a surprise that it gets cold, but market still responds like it didn't realize it gets cold in winter.

Dragon -- To add to Leanan's comment but please don't take this to be patronizing. The sales price of oil, at the end of the day, isn't a function of Saudi output. It's ultimately the price the oil buyers are willing to pay. They bid their price against other bidders. The exporters sell to the highest bidders. And yes, there are times when that price doesn't seem to fit the fundamentals. It doesn;t matter though. If the buyers bid up against what looks like a fundamental cap then that's what oil will sell for. And pretty much works the same on the way down.

The sales price of oil, at the end of the day, isn't a function of Saudi output. It's ultimately the price the oil buyers are willing to pay. They bid their price against other bidders. The exporters sell to the highest bidders.

ROCKMAN, this needs some more explanation for me. On Bloomberg t.v. channel there is always written 1 or 2 oilprices, one of them is Brent. I think that most people (like me in the past)think that there is only one oilprice, while there are a lot. So, if the Saudi (?) oilprice doesn't always depend on their output or supply/demand fundamentals, there is a lot of speculation possible and is it difficult to say when and to what extend ?

And yes, there are times when that price doesn't seem to fit the fundamentals.

Is there a possibility that the price spike in 2008 was due to other things than fundamentals ?

It doesn;t matter though.

For conclusions about Peakoil it does matter.

Han -- I wish I could offer more of an explanation. I work far upstream and have virtually no contact with the oil traders. I'm left with the same confusion many have other than accepting that this is all about horse trading. To some degree fundamentals do apply. But only until they don't. I beleive for a fact that the oil price spike of 2008 had nothing to do with actual supply/demand pressures. It swung far too fast to be a function of physical reality IMHO. But that doesn't mean the PERCEPTION of supply/demand didn't have a bearing. How did the future traders effect this game? As I said I really don't try to figure this out. One dominant driver? Five intermediate drivers?

As far as not mattering I was only referring short term fundamentals vs. actual pricing. In a way I see these price odditites falling into the same arena as to how a very cold and snowey winter doesn't change the conclusions about AGW. Short term apparent contradictory variations in neither oil prices nor temperature change the ultimate path.

Yeh, that was me. And since its Friday I'll tell you a classic joke that sums up how these guys work;

Two Bushman newbies walking through the jungle and they get to a clearing.
There half way across when a tiger suddenly appears and runs at them...
After half a dozen steps one guy turns to the other and says
"It's no good, there's no way we are going to be able to outrun it..." To which the other replies:
"I'm not trying to outrun the tiger, I'm trying to outrun you..."

-and there you have it in a nutshell. Except its not a tiger its a whole pack of them chasing a herd of us...


How else to explain how oil prices typically rise when there's a cold snap? It's winter, it's not a surprise that it gets cold, but market still responds like it didn't realize it gets cold in winter.

It's just a classic commodities market. The fact that the traders knew it was going to get cold is irrelevant because the market is following a pure supply versus demand graph. When it gets cold, demand goes up, but supply does not (supply may actually go down due to equipment failures), so the price goes up to discourage the marginal players from buying.

The smart traders will have already bought the oil they need in advance (this is where futures trading comes in), so the fact that the price goes up doesn't bother them. Only the dumb traders and the desperate ones will be buying. If you are dumb and/or desperate it can be a bad experience.

This is why I tell people not to get involved in oil trading unless they know exactly what they are doing. It's not a game for amateurs and you can lose an awful lot of money in a hurry. The professionals will always win because they know exactly how the game is played and they have a lot of inside knowledge about what is going on.

Based on the reported production number, the Saudis have increased their net oil exports to about 7.0 mpbd--which would be about 23% below their 2005 annual rate.

Of course, the SA fields have not peaked yet, have they Westexas?

My view is that 2005 was the early peak; since then, for a VERY short period of time in '08, world production topped the 2005 figures, and since then they have not. This looks clearly to be an 'undulating plateau,' IMHO.

We should watch prices and production. What to look for: the price band - now between $70 and $80 per barrel. (see Oil hovers above $78 amid mixed crude demand signs , above) As we progress past the peak, the range will narrow and the top will rise. Any crests much above will signal economic contraction, and the contraction will create downward movement below the range as it overshoots, thus creating a brief wild fluctuation in prices, which will again find their price band. At least until the next overshoot upwards, which will create a repeating cycle of volitile prices.


What has amazed me is that crude has stayed in the $70-80 range with the worst economy the world has seen in a long time. THAT speaks volumes to me.

That is b/c below $70 development stops, sending prices up. Above $80 economy stagnates, sending demand down. As costs of extraction increase, that $70 figure goes up. The $80 will stay the same... except for inflation. That is where it constricts the economy so as to kill the demand side.

Eventually, the development cost exceeds $80. That is when TSHTF!

Good Night, Irene.



That is b/c below $70 development stops, sending prices up. Above $80 economy stagnates, sending demand down. As costs of extraction increase, that $70 figure goes up. The $80 will stay the same..

As technology and techniques improve the $70 goes down, i.e. yesterdays oil field which would cost an inflation adjusted $70 to develop may now be $65. See the article on the Bakken, as an example. Of course depletion fights against this trend. But at least there is something to at least partially counteract the effect of having to tap progressively tougher sources. Also on the consumption side, as we get more efficient in consuming oil (meaning we generate more GDP per barrel consumed), the $80 economic limit goes up. The trick is going to be to keep the cost below the economic systems limit. Better techniques and efficiency are in a race against depletion. Obviously when the fat lady sings, depletion will have won. But hopefully by then we can evolve into an oilfree economy.

Frankly, I think we are already starting to lose the race. If we were wise we would implement the necessary policies to stay ahead. But that requires a degree of political will, and intellectual honesty which is not apparent.

Written by Dragonfly41:
What has amazed me is that crude has stayed in the $70-80 range with the worst economy....

That's the power of OPEC acting as a swing producer. Last month Saudi Arabia decreed that the new price range is $70 / barrel to $100 / barrel.

I think your the closest to the truth, tho the other 2 are partially right.
SA will require whatever price is required to maintain their economy - free welfare for the Royals etc. Clearly there is a revenue product = barrels sold x price. If they are the swing producer, ie they can choose to produce more or less than the state must earn in revenue, then they can choose either to maximise the product parabola [peak revenue today], earn most over the future [hotelling model], or stabilise revenue by withholding excess sales - which will behave differently when other suppliers are at peak. I'm sure they have done the maths and have mapped out their future better than the UK did. With their huge pop growth, they will reach a point where they have no capacity revenue wise. Then they will sell for whatever they can get and you may see a drop in price to the World average exporter revenue requirement.

Wait a minute...2007 to 2010..I wonder??

I'm sure they [Saudi Arabia] have done the maths and have mapped out their future better than the UK did. With their huge pop growth, they will reach a point where they have no capacity revenue wise.

I'm pretty confident that they don't have it mapped it out at all. They're in a state of denial. By the time they run out of oil, they are going to have more people than Spain - and they have no other resources other than oil. They don't have any water, they don't have any farmland. Their only real hope is to educate their children to as high a level as possible in science and mathematics, and put their money into building a modern, high-tech country. That's not what they're doing. Their religious leaders are dead set against that path. They want to give them a religious education.

I'm sure the richest 1% of the population will get their money and themselves out of the country and do okay, but for the other 99% it is going to be a complete disaster. There are far too many of them to make a living by nomadic herding.

At this point in time you can see the dark at the end of the tunnel and vaguely make out the NO EXIT sign before the rock wall. When the crash happens, for Saudi Arabia it will be really bad. The religious fanatics will, of course, blame it all on the West.

You are quite right. Even the worst crash imaginable in North America (outside the desert) will be a picnic compared to what it would look like in Saudi Arabia. That being said, middle eastern oil producers will probably find ways to reduce the ELM effect because they will need the oil exports to buy food imports.

I imagine the CIA will probably take care of the other remaining producers. The only problem is, China probably has a CIA too.

(new) top article: "This is why I have long preferred the idea of stabilized oil production to the idea of an oil peak"

Me too, mister, me too. Unfortunately the niches you talk about are just that. And Physical reality does not care what we prefer

But "stabilized oil production" sounds so much better than "plateau."

I disagree. Plateau is a French word, and therefor much more sexy. The only problem being that all plateau's, even the largest in the world, the Tibetan plateau, have a beginning and an end.

Plateau is a French word, and therefor much more sexy.

Only to Francophiles.

...all plateau's, even the largest in the world, the Tibetan plateau, have a beginning and an end.

How poignant. If oil discoveries peaked in 1965 and peak production plateued 40 years later in 05, and we are still on that same plateau in early 10, then the question is; When will the descent begin?

It's been 5 years of plateau so far, so it would seem the descent would be starting pretty soon.

Any conjecture on that timing?

It's been 5 years of plateau so far, so it would seem the descent would be starting pretty soon.

Earl, that could be. OTOH, the world is made up of so many oilproducing regions, with many showing a 'second peak' and third peak (the U.S.?) that it could also last about 15 years.

That top article is full of contradictions.
First he says:

Some day energy production will be stabilised, and not because of oil, but because of other energy sources,

I think the reality confuses him so much, that he can't think logically anymore (if he ever could).

What difference does it make what Shafranik prefers? I prefer perpetual motion, and cold fusion. But, hey! Shafranik wants stabilized oil production, so...

Whadda dope.

You have any doubt? Consider

… during the past 20 years it turned out that prospected oil reserves are greater than the oil reserves which are being developed.

What planet is Shafranik living on?


Craig -- reminds me of a very old joke: Dr: "How's that heart attack patient doing?' Nurse: "His pulse has stablized" Dr: "Good...he'll be OK then?" Nurse "NO...he's dead. But his pulse has stablized...at zero". I said an old joke...not a funny one.

It's an old joke, but as you say not necessarily that funny, or that far from the truth.

My wife was working as an ultrasound technician in a hospital, and one day they called her in to do ultrasound on a patient who came in with stomach pains. She ran the ultrasound, and they asked her, "What do you think the problem is?" She said, "Well, the main problem is that his heart is not beating. Don't you check people's pulses around here?"

Later in the day, the staff doctor who reviewed all the ultrasound tapes stuck his head out his door and said, "Hey!! Who did the ultrasound on the dead person?!!"

I just had a brainstorm and thought of some parallels with what some of the oil optimists have been saying. "Doing ultrasound on a dead person" sounds like a good metaphor, but I think I'll leave it lie there.

Rocky -- "Doing ultrasound on a dead person sounds like a good metaphor". You're right...so many openings I don't know where to start. So I'll pass to.

Wal-Mart Unveils Plan to Make Supply Chain Greener--- Story up top

She may be looking for a smaller carbon footprint, but the family seems to be getting out of solar energy.

First Solar’s Ahearn, Wal-Mart Protege, Slashes Stake


We don't have to worry anymore..., the Bloom Box will save our bacon. It's not a primary source of energy, but that's what I keep reading in MSN so it must be true.

Why I’m Not Touching This Rally in Oil | zero hedge

The author of this piece explains that, while he is an advocate of peak oil and even believes that the peak oil community understates its case, he is not buying this current rally. Annualized contango returns are shrinking rapidly, suggesting existing contracts will not be rolled over which means that a large amount of oil currently offshore in tankers will be dumped onto the market somewhere.

Personally, I am expecting a drop of $12-$20 per barrel when existing contracts expire. Real demand remains very weak.

A good subthread on this topic was started a few days back and includes insights from your's truly, memmel, Charles Mackay, westexas and others.


I am expecting a drop of $12-$20 per barrel when existing contracts expire. Real demand remains very weak.

That would be true if we were seeing a demand peak. Instead, we are more likely seeing a supply peak, with real supplies diminishing, and cost of production increasing rapidly for remaining oil.

The formula is that oil will trade in a price band determined by demand on the top level, and supply and costs of production on the bottom. Since prices below $70 make new development problematic, that is the floor today. Since $80 creates sudden economic contraction, that sets the top level. As the floor comes up during the drop from peak, that band will narrow. The reaction of traders may cause prices to exceed that $80 top level, and that will cause greater contraction in the economies of the world... worldwide recession, if you will. Then, demand will drop below the ceiling again. If the prices get sufficiently high, the contraction will cause overshoot, which will have the effect of stopping new development of oil again, and the cycle will repeat.

You may see a drop to $70... maybe, just maybe, a bit more than that. I doubt a $20 drop, though. And, given instabilities in the mideast, we could receive a jolt at any time with renewed terrorist activities in any of the oil fields.

The oil in the tankers? Consider that a hedge.


we are more likely seeing a supply peak, with real supplies diminishing,

Craig, this in case spare capacity is close to zero or in case OPEC (mainly KSA) don't want to use spare capacity because they want high prices to develop more 'difficult' to produce oil.

Since $80 creates sudden economic contraction, that sets the top level.

Sudden in no way. It takes some time before rising oilprices are reflected in the price of gasoline, etc. and food.

I mostly agree with yours and memmels price range analysis, although I think that it will take oil closer to $90 to set back the US economy in the second half of 2010. Even then, the impact on the economy takes a few months or more to take full effect. The first half 2010 in the US will see some small recovery when winter is finished. The reason being $90 is ok for now is that the US dollar has held up very well when it is considered that a trillion US dollars have been issued by the Fed in the same time (since last July) when the ECB has been very conservative about issuing any new Euros. Or in other words, the US is benefiting from a massive inflow of money to pay for rampant deficit spending, somewhat diminishing the impact of higher oil prices since about 1 year ago.

On another subject, the Bloomberg article above confirms what I said last week: there is general agreement that oil stored in offshore tankers has been mostly drawn down, although some claim (as noted a few posts above) that is not the case.

I think memmel has said, in the scheme of things, 50 million barrels of oil here or there is not going to change the long term fundementals of oil anyway - so I am not placing too much weight anyway on whether there are 25 or 75 million barrels of oil floating around. The effects of the exportland are insidious, and will soon overwhelm almost everything we do to stop it (at least in the US).

Despite an uptick in the survey of what people think oil output was in February (in the news links), preliminary indications are that OPEC has cut back expected shipments in March - at least as per Oil Movements:


So the recent uptick in US oil imports may be short lived, and the hard reality of westexas's net oil model may reassert itself just about the time the summer driving season arrives in the US. It may take about that long, or possibly a little longer, to work off oil supplies about the minimum operating levels (MOLs) that are needed for a smoothly functioning US oil and refined product delivery network.

I found this article interesting in several ways:

Watch How You Hold That Crayon

It's about how wealthy parents these days are getting their kids occupational therapy, generally to learn how write legibly.

Part of it is that the stigma is gone, and these parents want very much for their kids to succeed. They know there's nothing wrong with the kid, but they don't want him to suffer any disadvantage.

One father on the Upper East Side said anxiety about his son’s grip — his 3-year-old holds crayons in his fist — propelled him to seek therapy.

“The nursery admission people tell you they want your child to be ready to learn how to write,” said the father, who spoke anonymously so his son wouldn’t run afoul of nursery school administrators. “And I knew they would take one look at the way my son held a crayon and he’d be out of the running.”

Part of it is due to computers. Teachers no longer worry about handwriting, because they figure the kids will be using keyboards, not pencils.

But part of it is that childhood has become so restricted.

“Almost all our kids come into kindergarten able to recite their letters and their numbers,” Mr. DiCarlo said. “Some can even read. But in the last five years, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of kids who don’t have the strength in their hands to wield a scissors or do arts and crafts projects, which in turn prepares them for writing.”

Many kindergartners in his community, he said, have taken music appreciation classes or participated in adult-led sports teams or yoga. And most have also logged serious time in front of a television or a computer screen. But very few have had unlimited opportunities to run, jump and skip, or make mud pies and break twigs. “I’m all for academic rigor,” he said, “but these days I tell parents that letting their child mold clay, play in the sand or build with Play-Doh builds important school-readiness skills, too.”

I had truly atrocious handwriting as a young child. I wasn't lacking in hand strength; I'd write and draw for hours, just for my own entertainment, at home. I just didn't think it was important to write neatly. I preferred to write fast. My mom took matters into her own hands, and forced me to do penmanship exercises. I hated them so much that I quickly cleaned up my act. :)

The "Free Range" backlash to restricted childhood:


For crying out loud -- I thought all three year olds held their crayons in their fists. I am old enough to have practiced penmanship with lined paper -- a solid line for the tops and bottoms of capital letters and an intermediate dashed line for the tops of the lower-case letters. We began writing with pencils that were half- to three-quarters of an inch in diameter, presumably because we lacked manual dexterity. I smell the pushy parent syndrome at work. Pop will probably soon be running the kid downtown to be fitted for a set of wing-tips.

Bill Cosby had a classic, hilarious bit about this when he was doing stand-up comedy.

I have two sons, one 7 and one 10. The 7 yr. old has the most perfect handwriting, you would be amazed and my wife and I never worked with him on it. He is doing great in first grade.

The 10 yr. old is also doing fantastic in fifth grade, but for the love of God, the boy can't write worth a hoot. We have worked with him and pressured him to practice, but it just isn't in him. It's just part of the person. Just as a side note, 5th graders are doing most of their work in MS Word and PowerPoint these days.

The 10 yr. old is also doing fantastic in fifth grade, but for the love of God, the boy can't write worth a hoot. We have worked with him and pressured him to practice, but it just isn't in him. It's just part of the person.

Dragonfly, say to him his handwriting is perfect to become a medical doctor. Pharmacists will always be able to read it.

Just teach him to type. I still can't write worth a darn -- never could. Has harmed me not one iota, other than some teasing from my wife and kids.

This is one I just couldn't let pass. Having lived with young children in Manhattan, I can say that the preschool environment there is like no other I have ever seen. Parents truly believe that the preschool will be the first link in a long chain that will ultimately lead to an Ivy League education and financial success. Parents not only fret over ERB scores (an early test of aptitude), but even send three-year-olds to ERB coaching classes.

Note that the goal is to get into an exclusive (read: expensive) preschool in order to get into an exclusive (read: expensive) private school. Note also that all of the parents I met with this attitude would align themselves on the far left of the political spectrum -- all for equality, economic justice, and public education (in theory). But when it comes to their kids, the elitism emerged (clothed in the most politically correct language, of course).

This attitude was one (but just one) of the most revolting aspects of living in Manhattan and one of the things that eventually drove me out of the city. Another favorite of mine was listening to artist friends complain that they weren't getting enough money from the NEA. The list goes on.

End of rant.

I know a chunky kid who barely finished public school and whose only talents are drugs/alcohol. His family is one of the richest in the state.

It seems like success isn't inherited. I see all these movie star's kids on tv/magazines and most of them are bums who live off their parents.

A classic example of being fooled by the media. The most certain determinant of success is successful parents. The exceptions are in the news because they are the exceptions.

I forgot Charlie Sheen... his dad did a great job :)!

Actually, that's not true. In the US, the socioeconomic status you are born with is not necessarily the one you end up with. We have a roughly equal chance of becoming richer, becoming poorer, or staying the same as our parents.

Check out The Pecking Order, if you haven't yet.

He used the Clintons as an example. Roger Clinton a convicted drug dealer, Bill the President of the United States.

On the surface, it may seem that the case of the Clintons is atypical. And, of course, a pair of brothers who are, respectively, the president and an ex-con is a bit extreme. But the basic phenomenon of sibling differences in success that the Clintons represent is not all that unusual. In fact, in explaining economic inequality in America, sibling differences represent about three-quarters of all the differences between individuals. Put another way, only one-quarter of all income inequality is between families. The remaining 75 percent is within families.

This isn't to say genes and parental success don't matter. They do. Just not that much, and not in the way most people think.

Wealth matters, because rich families can invest in all their children, even the failures. If the Bushes were as poor as the Clintons, Dubya would likely be an ex-con, not an ex-president.

Most families are not so fortunate, and they have to choose which of their children to invest in.

I argue that in each American family there exists a pecking order between siblings--a status hierarchy, if you will. This hierarchy emerges over the course of childhood and both reflects and determines the siblings' positions in the overall status ordering in society. It is not just the will of the parents or the "natural" abilities of the children themselves that determines who is on top in the family pecking order; the pecking order is conditioned by the swirling winds of society, which envelop the family. Gender expectations, the economic cost of schooling in America, a rising divorce rate, geographic mobility, religious and sexual orientations--all of these societal issues weigh in heavily on the pecking order between siblings. In other words, in order to truly understand the pecking orders within American families, you cannot view them in isolation from the larger economy and social structures in which we live. The family is, in short, no shelter from the cold winds of capitalism; rather it is part and parcel of that system. What I hope you end up with is a nuanced understanding of how social sorting works--in America writ large, and in your family writ small. And just maybe--along the way--we will all have a little more sympathy for our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Of course, this research was done during the days of fossil fuel fiesta. I expect things will be different in the post-carbon age.

More reason to increase taxes on those positioned, usually by birth, occasionally through merit, to garner a disproportionate share of the warmth produced by the transformation of our environment into waste.

More reason to be really thoughtful about who should lead, and how they are chosen.

Why your brain hates inequities

"Our study shows that the brain doesn’t just reflect self-interested goals, but instead, these basic reward processing regions of the brain seem to be affected by social information," said study author Elizabeth Tricomi, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "That might explain why what happens to other people seems to matter so much to us, even when it might not actually directly affect our own situation."

...Social science research indicates that humans are attuned to inequality, and we just don't like it. For instance, people donate to charity to help those not as fortunate as them, and societies provide welfare.

I don't doubt that it's "natural" to be selfish. But I think it's equally natural to be altruistic. We are a highly social species.

Evolution of altruism is a hotly debated and researched topic for a few decades. I wonder whether this is related.


Extreme altruists, by definition, leave no descendants: They’re too busy helping others. So at first blush, a gene that promotes extreme altruism should quickly vanish from a population.

Hamilton’s solution to this problem was simple and elegant. He realized that a gene promoting extreme altruism could spread if the altruist helped its close relations. The reason is that your close relations have some of the same genes as you do.

Yes, exactly. There is no such thing as universal altruism. Never has been, never will be.

Not sure what you mean by universal altruism.

I think it's pretty clear that we are willing to help people who are not related. Indeed, people go to great length to adopt children who cannot possibly be related to them (traveling to China, Japan, Guatemala, etc.).

And we're not unique. Other species adopt, too. Scientists originally thought this was because in a breeding colony, orphaned young were likely to be related, but DNA analysis shows this isn't always true.

One thing I have found very interesting is that we have "stone age morality." Our morals are hard-wired (though how they're expressed is a matter of imprinting). But they generally only apply if we're face to face with people, or can at least see them. There's been some fascinating research done, using brain scans while people mull over ethical problems.

Just about all of us, if we walked past a lake where a child was drowning, would jump in to save it. Even if it ruined our designer outfits and personal electronics. If someone didn't, we'd think they were horrible people. Yet...just buying the fancy clothes and electronics, instead of giving the money to the Red Cross or Oxfam is basically the same decision. Those charities could probably save many children with that money, but we don't think people who buy iPhones are horrible people. And brain scans show the reason. "Buy an iPhone or give the money to the Red Cross" lights up the problem-solving part of our brain. "Save a child and ruin my iPhone" lights up a different part of the brain - the part of the brain that deals with morality.

"Other species adopt, too. Scientists originally thought this was because in a breeding colony"

But, others kill non related offspring or their own. Bummers are lambs, lambs the mother rejects, no matter it is hers. She won't let it nurse. "Grafting" is tricky, even after skinning out a dead lamb and wrapping the graft with the skin. Sheep are social, flock animals. Bottle feeding one now, how much longer I don't know... Hard to generalize with animals.

People do that, too.

My guess is that there's a continuum, with extremely altruistic on one end, and sociopaths on the other. Different traits are advantageous in different situations. Most people are capable of both behaviors. One is not more natural than the other.

Samuel Bowles does much work on this subject. He has restored my faith in humanity ... to a certain degree.

"A Cooperative Species - How We Got to Be Both Nasty and Nice"


From the Road Transportation box:

Cars, buses, and trucks release pollutants and greenhouse gases that promote warming, while emitting few aerosols that counteract it.

Forget Priuses or mini sardine-cans, we need cars we can fill up at the coaling station. Problem solved.

Oil Industry Booms--In North Dakota (uptop)

This was actually a pretty balanced and accurate article. From the article:

U.S. oil production has fallen by nearly 50% since its peak in the 1970s. Even with the Bakken Shale, U.S. oil production isn't expected to ever return to 1970s levels, and even the most optimistic projections of production from the North Dakota field don't account for more than a small fraction of total U.S. oil demand. But new production from the Bakken Shale, combined with other big oil discoveries in California and the Gulf of Mexico, helped U.S. oil production rise last year for the first time since 1991, according to U.S. government figures.

(The reply to versus post a comment problem that the Rock has seems to be spreading.)


the article mentions "wells profitable at prices as low as $50 a barrel" Is this hype for just a small %, or do you see this price realistic for the play, if not now, then in future? Article implies that the techniques learned here spill over to other shale areas, what's your take---Somewhat, but still expensive oil?

Key point is that has no bearing on the Oil "Shales" in Colorado, which is a kerogen bearing marl deposit.

The oil in the Bakken Formation is a thermally mature oil, ready for refining. Regarding the specific economics, Elwood can probably give a better answer than I can, but there has been a lot of hype around this play. However, I don't doubt that it is a commercial play. I view it as another example of oil companies being able to make money in post-peak countries.

Driving around South Texas, you see 'dinkers' on every horizon. I have good friends who make their living servicing those wells, hauling oil and doing maintenance. Sometimes capping off. This will continue for a very long time, and will provide some lubrication, pharmaceuticals and the like.

And, I have advised my daughter to stick with her job in the industry down there. Valero and Koch don't much care where the oil is pumped, or whether the well delivers 10 pbd or 10,000.


Craig -- How old are your friends? It's too early to tell but I think I'm beginning to see a change in the small operators who keep those old wells producing the majority of US oil reserves. A very blue collar hands-on type operation as I'm sure you know. But I think I see a lack of next-generation folks to take up from this aging (like me group). The young ones have better education and thus more options. These thoughts remind me of a line from an old movie: "You work as a cowboy only when you can't find another way to feed yourself." A lot of our ma & pa operators came into existance as they were laid off by the service companies during the periodic downturns. Now hands have other options other then to hang around the ranch and do patch up work on old pump jacks.

The young ones have better education and thus more options.

ROCKMAN, how could that change with the ongoing rise in unemployment ?

That's a good point Han. Lots of the old timers were in rural areas with very few opportunities and little support outside of their families. That geographical gap may still exist though. Metro unemployed won't be in a position to handle wells in S Texas. Of course, they don't have the skills either. And no practical way to train them IMHO. The logical choices would be laid off service companiy hands but these are the ones I was talking about. Say, 40 years ago, their counterparts didn't have college degrees or the same level of social sophistication. Thus back to those "limited opportunities". Like I said earlier, I'm not sure how fast the old time small operators are slipping away and not being replaced. Just seeing a few anecdotal stories.

A bigger manpower loss may be the old farts like me. I've met only one petroleum geologist under 50 yo in at least the last 5 years at least. The boom/bust cycles in the oil patch has devastated the demographics. The vast majority of oil/NG professions are my peers: 58 yo plus. Without exception everyone I know is ready to go to the house permanently as soon as they can afford to do so. In fact, had not the stock market crash wiped out so much retirement money we would be short more than a few thousand hands right now. My current engineer/boss would be in his custom rock home in the Texas Hill Country full time now instead of commuting home every weekend. In addition to 4 to 6 years of college it takes a good 5 years of on the job training before a geologist or engineer can make independent contributions. In the next 5 to 10 years, as PO becomes all the more undeniable IMHO, that loss of manpower will start popping up more frequently in the MSM.

They're selling pump jacks along the road, south of San Antonio. Parts should be cheap at least. My friends, well... about my age, I guess. Maybe 5 years or so younger to 5 older. Sort of like you and me. They have been at it for quite a while.

My daughter, though. She's early 30s. Her husband mid 30s. They're in the service business, big time. Of course, for now, larger operations are their bread & butter. As things wind down, dinkers will become more important again. I haven't heard of them being cemented in like they were in the early 90s, but then again I don't get down there so much any more. It's a bit of a drive from DFW area, and the price of gas is... well, you get the picture.


Craig -- Hopefully they can weather the current downturn. If so matters could be looking up for them in a few years. Hopefully you've expained the importance of storing away a few nuts during the good times. Wished someone had beaten that point into in my youth. I'm just putting together a proposal to go back down to S. Texas and try to recover a bit of the billion+ bbl of oil stranded in some old fields. My owner has decided he wants to mix our pure exploration progam with some basic bread and butter type projects. Works for me: never could develop that "devil may care" attitude of the real wildcatters like WT. Just give me a half dozen workover rigs and some used tubing and I'm a happy camper. Maybe if my owner pulls the trigger on this project you can hook me up with our kin. I'd much rather work with the locals then the Halliburtons.

Thanks WT.

My impression of the Bakken has been that it is very discrete pockets of oil at great depths lacking conductivity between areas, and the article shows 10,000 feet wells.

So I have presumed alot of dry holes trying to locate those pockets, at considerable cost, for a short production period. Is the modeling such that we have decreased the dry holes, and horizontal is providing the lost conductivity, taking that isolated cost case down to 50 from 80?

From Homer-Dixon on CC at his Lethbridge talk (linked up top)

North America’s news media are also continuing to spread doubts voiced by business and industry spokespeople, Homer-Dixon added.

“The media want balance,” he said. “But they balance knowledge with ignorance.”

And from another toplink, World’s Biggest Power Plan May Be Thwarted by Congo, it seems the largest hydro facility in Africa, is going under:

“You couldn’t find a better project,” he said. “Maybe this is mother nature’s way of saying ‘don’t come and disturb me.”


But maybe it's just corporate chicanery. Seems BHP Billiton and the Congo want that power for an aluminum smelter. Let's see, we were told WA state lost its smelters to Chinese overproduction, that Norsk Hydro of Norway continues to smelt AL from nearly stranded electric power, that Iceland is gearing up its AL production. I guess AL is the metal of the future.

“The media want balance,” he said. “But they balance knowledge with ignorance.”

One of the best quotes I've seen in a long time on this topic.

Earlier journalists used to actually learn about the subject and question the interviewed by playing the devil's advocate. That provided intelligent, learned balance. Now the infotainers just get two people and let them go at each other. Facts and such don't matter.

Should credit John Stewart for exposing a lot of such instances ....

Yes, exactly. So they put on a lawn furntiture salesperson as a critic of global warming vs. a climatologist with a phd and give them equal time. Fact is the lawn furniture salesman is probably better at convincing ignorant people of his position because there is no science in what he says.

I noticed the hard questions in interviews ending when I listened to a radio interview (on the way to work) with Bush Senior when he was president, and he spilled out some sentence that was absolute pure garbage - part of it was gibberish. But the interviewer simply went on to the next question! I was a aghast. Since then it has been a popular way to do interviews. Simply ask a set of questions with no follow up questions. No hard questions. No accusations. No confrontation whatsoever, so the person being interviewed can simply say anything and the viewer is left to think it must all be true.

It's a society wide pandemic. The hard stuff is not looked at or questioned. We are simply headed towards a series of bottle necks in peak oil and global warming, etc. and things are BAU.

Australia: Dreams of statehood are buried in a sparsely populated area

It seems nobody outside Sweden actually wants a nuclear waste dump. Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory is a former cattle ranch now reverted to aboriginal ownership though when it suits distant clan members claim to own a share. With both Mucka and Yucca there seems to be an element of jealousy when neighbours feel they may miss out on cash. The Australian Federal government already owns a better site close to the Olympic Dam uranium mine. However the South Australian State government which will probably be re-elected next month is opposed to the nuclear industry and has previously blocked the site. Doesn't seem to stop them taking uranium mining royalties. The whole issue of N-dumps seems to be more about money than principle.

Still, having visited Muckaty Station, it seems to be quite a rational decision to place an N-dump there, in the sense of road and rail access, the area's stability and aridity, lack of population, lack of ecological diversity in any special sense, lack of surface water, and lack of many alternative uses for the area.

What concerns me is the huge distances that are involved in getting waste products to the place. Road, rail, and air are all possible, but the "supply chain" is fraught with dangers and risks - let alone the cost.

And "dreams of statehood" need to be taken with salt too - many Territorians (especially, but not only, the Indigenous population) seem to value the benefits of federal protection and largesse, over the possibility of a red-neck cabal in the capital Darwin getting total control.

Country near Muckaty Station

I think the Woomera area site makes more sense. Already truckloads of ammonia, acid, gold ingots, silver, copper and yellowcake pass back and forth on the nearby highway to Olympic Dam. As a former rocket testing area both the military and BHP Billiton are obliged to provide security. If OD goes open cut the underground mining equipment could be used to create a shaft and tunnel system for cask storage as proposed in Sweden.

Some might also find it appealing that some of the nuclear waste returns to where it started out. However the State govt vetoed that site in 2004. This July they are supposed to announce the OD mine expansion but they will most likely impose restrictions consistent their anti-nuclear views. Good thing that for now suitable waste sites aren't that hard to find. When the big money starts flowing more land owners will put their hand up.

Yes - I agree entirely that Woomera makes more sense, and I wasn't implying that Muckaty Station is a superior option at all ... but land tenure rules (and state v territory legislative differences) will trump any sensible logistical considerations every day. Let alone state politics.

I mentioned a couple Drumbeats back that I would be attending a gala evening to help celebrate Nova Scotia Power's accomplishments with respect to energy efficiency. I also mentioned that in the past two calendar years NSP has helped their customers reduce their energy needs by some 70 million kWh. Well, as it turns out, the independent programme auditors have now determined that the actual savings are in excess of 85 million kWh (I guess some of my savings estimates were a bit too conservative).

Anyway, I'm extremely proud of what Nova Scotia Power has achieved thus far and excited by their commitment to expand these initiatives going forward. Next year's target is 158.5 million kWh, so there are busy days ahead.

For anyone who may be interested, you can read more at: http://www.nspower.ca/en/home/aboutnspi/mediacentre/NewsRelease/2010/200... and http://www.nspower.ca/en/home/aboutnspi/mediacentre/NewsRelease/2010/201...


i spent the better part of two days digging out from under 3 feet of snow. i am so glad i had 2 1/2 gallons of gaz-o-leen for my JD snow blower. it's so old it was made in the usa!

but i needz to make more than $15 and hour so i pander to TPTB and BAU crowd.
the following info is for us elite types and supporters to nip this in the bud. no livable wages allowed. work the lackeys to death with low wages and no benefits and eliminate soc. sec.. this has to apply across the board to unionized auto workers and wildcats drilling wells. no favorites except for millionaires and above.
"'Living wage' could be factor in govt contracts

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House is looking at a new policy that would give an advantage in bidding on government contracts to companies that offer a "living wage" and generous benefits."

and here's a interesting tidbit (sic) on buying local:
"let them eat cake"
"POND-SONDE, Haiti (AP) -- Haiti's rice farmers are dismayed. It's nearly harvest time in this fertile valley where the bulk of Haiti's food is grown, and they're competing once again with cheap U.S. imported rice."

and finally to pi$$ off said PTB and BAU, goobermint is run by crooks for crooks. a billion dollars so far flown out of afghanistan. could be putting solar power on roof tops instead.
"Officials puzzle over millions of dollars leaving Afghanistan by plane for Dubai

By Andrew Higgins
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, February 25, 2010; A10

KABUL -- A blizzard of bank notes is flying out of Afghanistan -- often in full view of customs officers at the Kabul airport -- as part of a cash exodus that is confounding U.S. officials and raising concerns about the money's origin.

The cash, estimated to total well over $1 billion a year..."

"no one gets out of here alive"-greetings from the humungus

"it's all good"-anon.