Drumbeat: March 8, 2010

How food and water are driving a 21st-century African land grab

We turned off the main road to Awassa, talked our way past security guards and drove a mile across empty land before we found what will soon be Ethiopia's largest greenhouse. Nestling below an escarpment of the Rift Valley, the development is far from finished, but the plastic and steel structure already stretches over 20 hectares – the size of 20 football pitches.

The farm manager shows us millions of tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables being grown in 500m rows in computer controlled conditions. Spanish engineers are building the steel structure, Dutch technology minimises water use from two bore-holes and 1,000 women pick and pack 50 tonnes of food a day. Within 24 hours, it has been driven 200 miles to Addis Ababa and flown 1,000 miles to the shops and restaurants of Dubai, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with more than 13 million people needing food aid, but paradoxically the government is offering at least 3m hectares of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world's most wealthy individuals to export food for their own populations.

POLL - OPEC to keep oil production targets steady

LONDON (Reuters) - OPEC will keep oil production targets on hold this month but could raise output later year as the world recovers from recession, pushing up demand for fuel, a Reuters poll showed on Monday.

Fourteen analysts were unanimous in saying the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would roll over its existing commitment to pump no more than 24.84 million barrels per day (bpd), equivalent to about 30 percent of global demand.

ADNOC eyes 50% boost to drilling

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) will increase oil and gas drilling by 50% this year to sustain and enhance output, a senior company official said today.

Diesel shortage paralyzes Egypt's highways

Diesel fuel shortages continued throughout Egypt on Sunday, causing cars and buses to form 500- meter-long queues at some gas stations, as supply quantities were cut by half in many areas of Cairo and the provinces. Several fights between drivers over limited supplies of diesel fuel were reported, with police having to intervene in some cases.

Lyondell files restructuring, rejects Reliance

MUMBAI/NEW YORK (Reuters) - LyondellBasell filed a restructuring plan on Monday, rejecting a takeover bid from India's Reliance Industries that valued the bankrupt petrochemicals firm at $14.5 billion.

Gulf braces for huge petrochemicals expansion

The Gulf is undergoing massive capacity expansion in petrochemicals and will soon account for a lion's share of world's ethylene production, investment bank Alpen Capital has said in its new report.

Arroyo warned vs bypassing Congress in dealing with Mindanao power crisis

Opposition senators on Monday warned President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo against bypassing Congress in addressing the energy crisis in Mindanao.

Senator Francis Escudero said failure to seek the approval of the both the Senate and House of Representatives would make the contracts entered into by the government voidable.

The first wind farm in Venezuela will be installed in June and July this year

The towers of the 24 wind turbines of the first wind farm in Venezuela will be installed in June and July this year, said Stella Lugo, Governor of Falcon state, where the wind farm is built. The wind farm Paraguana will have 100 megawatts in its final phase.

The power plant is part of Venezuela policy to diversify its energy sources for electricity production, which now depends on more than 70% of hydropower.

Zimbabwe: Full-scale ethanol production on the cards

Government has set up a team of experts to finalise modalities on full-scale commercial blending of petrol and ethanol produced from sugarcane at Triangle in Chiredzi to ease petrol importation pressures on the fiscus.

The ethanol plant at Triangle resumed production in 2008 following refurbishment and last year produced over a million litres of fuel grade ethanol.

It Came From the Sea

Since mapping the human genome 10 years ago, J. Craig Venter has found plenty of work. The biologist now is burrowing into DNA in as many forms as he can discover, in organisms from the sea and deep underground. His goal: to use the building blocks found in naturally occurring DNA to make synthetic cells. He and his partners at Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP PLC believe genetically engineered life forms hold great promise for energy and other industries.

China lawmakers call for more crude, fuel reserves

BEIJING (Reuters) - China should step up efforts to build up state reserves of crude oil and refined fuel to enhance the country's energy security, state media cited lawmakers as saying.

National crude demand would exceed 550 million tonnes by 2020, compared with about 400 million tonnes in 2009, National People's Congress member Chen Geng told the China Energy News in an interview published on Monday.

Chen, also a former general manager of state-owned China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the country's top oil producer, said it was unlikely China would increase domestic oil production above 200 million tonnes in the next 10 years.

"That means we have to import about 350 million tonnes of oil by then," he told the newspaper.

Oil Advances to Two-Month High Above $82 on Economic Optimism

(Bloomberg) -- Oil rose to a two-month high above $82 a barrel in New York amid growing confidence that the economic recovery is proceeding and set to bolster fuel demand.

Crude advanced for a second day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the group of nations using the euro is ready to rescue Greece should the government struggle to fund its deficit. Hedge-fund managers and other large speculators increased their bets on oil prices rising for a third week, according to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

India’s ONGC May Borrow $10 Billion to Buy Assets

(Bloomberg) -- Oil & Natural Gas Corp., India’s biggest energy explorer, may borrow $10 billion over the next decade as it competes with rivals from China and South Korea to buy oil assets overseas to meet domestic fuel demand.

Essar Group Said to Plan $3 Billion Debt, Equity Sale

(Bloomberg) -- Essar Group, owned by Indian billionaires Shashi and Ravi Ruia, plans to raise $3 billion overseas to fund acquisitions and expand its oil, power and steel businesses, two people familiar with the matter said.

CNPC sees China oil output up 1-2% in 2010

China's crude oil output will rise by 1-2 percent this year, Yu Baocai, vice president of China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), said on Sunday.

The forecast is slightly below a previous estimate of 2 percent given in a CNPC research report but above the 0.5 percent growth target issued by China's planning ministry, the National Development and Reform Commission, in its 2010 economic plan.

Saudi Arabia to promote private sector: Saudi king

RIYADH - Top OPEC exporter Saudi Arabia has been largely unaffected by a global financial crisis and will continue to encourage private sector growth and pursue a moderate oil policy, King Abdullah said on Sunday.

Total to Invest in EDF LNG Terminal Near Site of Shut Refinery

(Bloomberg) -- Total SA, under fire from unions for the planned closure of its Dunkirk refinery in northern France, will invest in a 1 billion euro ($1.4 billion) liquefied natural gas terminal nearby that’s being spearheaded by Electricite de France SA.

Basra has a 'good feeling' about vote

Turnout is 60% in the southern Iraqi city. Many voters express optimism about the nation's fifth post-Hussein elections. But some fear rivalries could spill into violence.

Shell, PetroChina Offer $3 Billion for Australia’s Arrow Energy

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc and PetroChina Co. made an offer worth more than A$3.3 billion ($3 billion) to acquire Arrow Energy Ltd., the holder of Australia’s biggest coal-seam gas acreage, triggering a record gain in the shares.

Queensland Coal Producers to Bid for QR Coal Network

(Bloomberg) -- Queensland coal producers will bid for the state government’s rail network and counter a planned A$3 billion ($2.7 billion) initial share sale of the assets, the local resources council says.

Goldman Sachs partner Jeffrey Currie goes against the flow

The Goldman Sachs oil research team, which reports to Currie, who is global head of commodities research, consistently tops forecasting league tables. But in early 2008 it made an uncharacteristically poor call. Oil analyst Arjun Murti forecast oil could spike to $200 a barrel in two years if spurred by a 1970s-style oil crisis event. Murti’s claim carried weight as he correctly predicted oil’s rise to over $100 a year earlier.

Sasol’s First-Half Profit Falls 52% as Oil Declines

(Bloomberg) -- Sasol Ltd., the largest producer of motor fuel made from coal, said first-half profit fell 52 percent as the rand strengthened against the dollar and as the price of competing crude oil declined.

Kairiki Energy Seeks Partners for 600 Million-Barrel Oil Field

(Bloomberg) -- Kairiki Energy Ltd., an Australian oil explorer whose shares have tripled in the past year, is seeking partners to develop a crude field in the Philippines with potential reserves of 600 million barrels.

China positive toward resolving gas field dispute

BEIJING — China has a positive attitude toward addressing a dispute with Japan over gas field development in the East China Sea, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Sunday. ‘‘The attitude of China is positive, not negative,’’ Yang said at a press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament.

What’s wrong with exploiting nature?

The filmmakers interview local indigenous people whose lives have been disrupted by the works. Where once this was an isolated, tranquil landscape, it is now scarred by strip mining and the air in some areas reeks of ‘stink bomb’ fumes from the extraction process. But this is just the latest instance of the industrialisation of wilderness. What gives these indigenous inhabitants the right to the unfettered use of this land? While it is right that oil companies should leave the land in a state where it can be used for other purposes afterwards, there is nothing wrong with making use of natural resources.

Energy Group Proposes North Sea Electricity Super-Grid, FT Says

(Bloomberg) -- A group of 10 companies including Areva SA and Siemens AG will propose a plan today for a North Sea electricity “super-grid” connecting the U.K., Germany and Norway, the Financial Times reported, citing the group.

ANALYSIS - Smart grid spending powers ahead in Asia

SEOUL/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Japan, South Korea and China are investing about $9 billion this year in infrastructure and information technology to make electricity networks more efficient, creating lucrative opportunities for niche technology and equipment providers.

The "smart grid" system, through computerised monitoring of electricity flowing through a power grid, allows utilities to automatically manage electricity usage in a way that is more reliable and flexible.

Asia's spending on smart grids is expected to outpace the United States, with China alone seen investing $7.3 billion in the sector this year, according to Zpryme, a market research firm based in Austin, Texas.

Will smart meters help reduce energy bills?

Smart meters that monitor exact energy usage multiple times a day, resulting in accurate bills, have to be in all households by 2020, the government said last year. It is hoped they will also cut carbon levels by encouraging householders to pay more attention to energy usage and make more effort to control it. So should you switch to a smart meter now, and will it really save you money?

EBay Highlights Conservation as a Benefit of Buying Used

On the site, green.ebay.com, and in the ads, eBay makes the case that buying something used is as environmentally correct as conservation and recycling.

“Most people think you have to make a product in a certain way with a certain set of ingredients for it to be green,” said Amy Skoczlas Cole, director of eBay’s green team. “What we’re saying is you don’t have to make this new product at all.”

Australia: Why didn’t I get my personal financial ‘stuff’ sorted earlier?

The age pension makes up a third of the annual Federal Budget and is set to increase at double the inflation rate to reach $45 billion in four years.

Future governments will look to scale down this commitment as the number of future taxpayers declines.

It is clearly obvious that managing this expectation gap of future retirees is an understatement. With rising inflation and living costs and fundamental changes such as a reaching "peak oil" and the question of who knows whether the age pension will be around in 10 to 20 years from now, only add to challenges in managing the expectation of these future retirees.

A social conscience

Steve Earnshaw is talking the talk and walking the walk as the spokesman for Transition Timaru. Feature writer Claire Allison met the environmentally aware orthopaedic surgeon.

The painful limits of localism

Every field of endeavour produces its classic conundrums, the tough nuts it never quite cracks. For centuries, engineering sought the secret of perpetual motion. Applied physics keeps looking for an efficient means of storing electrical power. In democratic politics our age is not the first to struggle to devolve decision-making without throwing sand into the wheels of big national plans: to reconcile bottom-up with top-down.

Solon Shares Jump After Report Says State Aid May Be Approved

(Bloomberg) -- Shares of Solon SE, the German maker of solar panels, jumped as much as 21 percent following a report that the unprofitable company may get state aid guarantees.

Small biofuel farm bears fruit

If the vision of father and son farmers Christian and James Twigg-Smith becomes reality, acres of now-fallow sugar cane land will be growing crops again.

But rather than producing food, the land would be used to grow fuel oil.

About two years ago they planted jatropha, an oil-rich nut native to South America, on 250 acres in Keaau on Hawaii island. They have leased another 750 acres that could be put into production if the crop is successful.

Deal to Save Everglades May Help Sugar Firm

When Gov. Charlie Crist announced Florida’s $1.75 billion plan to save the Everglades by buying out a major landowner, United States Sugar, he declared that the deal would be remembered as a public acquisition “as monumental as the creation of the nation’s first national park, Yellowstone.”

Standing amid the marshes at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in June 2008, Mr. Crist said, “I can envision no better gift to the Everglades, the people of Florida and the people of America — as well as our planet — than to place in public ownership this missing link that represents the key to true restoration.”

Nearly two years later, the governor’s ambitious plan to reclaim the river of grass, as the famed wetlands are known, is instead on track to rescue the fortunes of United States Sugar.

Asia seen as growth driver for voluntary CO2 market

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Fear of Western-imposed carbon tariffs on goods and services from Asia is likely to drive growth in offsetting emissions by large firms in the region, a voluntary carbon market executive said.

The market, worth $705 million in 2008 and likely much less in 2009, relies on businesses to voluntarily manage their carbon emissions, for example from the energy they use to produce and transport goods around the globe.

The Maldives Buys a New Island – That Floats

Sea level rise creates new business opportunity and “green jobs” that we’ll see more of, borne from the effects of climate change, as sea levels rise. The first floating island has just been commissioned this week by the sinking island nation of the Maldives, from Dutch Docklands, whose past work includes part of the artificial islands comprising The World off the coast of Dubai.

A local CSA imports 3 tons of greensand and 10+ tons of compost to balance the loss as food is shipped to the 500+ subscribers.

Anyone want to bet the water table is being depleted and soil importation isn't being done?

His Saudi Star company plans to spend up to $2bn acquiring and developing 500,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia in the next few years.

And under "so, what ethical and humanitarian reason would you do this" I bring you a 2003 sourced datum point.

Epicyte Pharmaceutical also announced in 2001 that it had discovered a rare class of antibodies that attack human sperm, which it had then manipulated to create contraceptive corn. "We have a hothouse filled with corn plants that make anti-sperm antibodies," Mitch Hein, president of Epicyte, told the LONDON OBSERVER.[5]

JH Kunstler, in his most recent post Then All At Once, once again shows the sparkle that makes his one note Cassandra rants perhaps the best peak oil writing on the blogosphere:

Whatever else one thinks of how we live these days, it's hard to not see it as temporary, historically anomalous, a peculiar blip in human experience. I've spent my whole life riding around in cars, never questioning whether the makings of tomorrow's supper would be there waiting on the supermarket shelves, never doubting when I entered a room that the lights would go on at the flick of a switch, never worrying about my personal safety. And now hardly a moment goes by when I don't feel tremors of massive change in these things, as though all life's comforts and structural certainties rested on a groaning fault line.


I'll hand it to him, and I often don't. That was a good line. He's actually an observant guy, and a good writer. If he can hold off on the silly, angry caricatures and class putdowns, I think he'd be better regarded.

That line above is effective, in part because he acknowledges that he's in the same boat, and had to find out how to get past the blinders. Would he have gotten there if someone were just yelling at him and calling him names? Maybe, but I doubt it works on many people.

And the earthquake suggestion is timely.

The Japanese are getting nervous too:

Oarfish omen spells earthquake disaster for Japan

This rash of tectonic movements around the Pacific "Rim of Fire" is heightening concern that Japan - the most earthquake-prone country in the world - is next in line for a major earthquake.

Those concerns have been stoked by the unexplained appearance of a fish that is known traditionally as the Messenger from the Sea God's Palace...

...In recent weeks, 10 specimens have been found either washed ashore or in fishing nets off Ishikawa Prefecture, half-a-dozen have been caught in nets off Toyama Prefecture and others have been reported in Kyoto, Shimane and Nagasaki prefectures, all on the northern coast.

According to traditional Japanese lore, the fish rise to the surface and beach themselves to warn of an impending earthquake...

... figures that people have more interest in legend than actual analysis.

Understanding the size distribution of earthquakes is not that difficult a topic.

It won't explain the size of the next one though. That seems very random.

That seems very random.

Except that it's not. Plates do interact as do fault lines. We know this now. It wasn't until very recently anyone was willing to say this was so, but now we know. At least about connected faults.

Now we hear pronouncements that earthquakes don't affect widely separated areas of the world. I say try moving one puzzle piece horizontally and see what happens. A bunch of blocks laid down together is more accurate, perhaps. Well, easier to move, anyway.


Now we hear pronouncements that earthquakes don't affect widely separated areas of the world. I say try moving one puzzle piece horizontally and see what happens.

I think your mental picture assumes that the plates are completely rigid, except for bounding faults. But compared to the size of large scale features like continets or oceans, the plates are eggshell thin. Below roughly 20miles depth, they become pretty plastic, I doubt stress can be transmitted unabted for long distances. Dissipative forces such of plasticity, and innumerable small faultlines bleed off the strain with distance.

False assumption. But then, I knew quakes propagated before science said so, too. I'll stick with this one for now.

There's knowing and there's proving. I'm real comfortable with the former. Of course, both together is good, too.

Besides, your eggshell analogy works in my argument's favor, not yours. If they were really rigid, it would actually take more energy to move those huge masses. The fact even the continental plates are fractured all over the place makes it more likely quakes would propagate, at least regionally.


Aftershocks, yes, of course are related. Locally, plates realign and creep starts again; as in the bathtub curve that's when another quake (though smaller) can happen.

I like my derivation as it puts the geologists one to shame.

My work takes me out driving around, looking at structures. Really looking, eyeballing the foundations of commercial buildings and the sagging overhead electric service, the inadvertent "green roofs" with moss roots harboring the oil eating bacteria that make soft spots in asphalt roofs, the still pricey suburbs with a disturbing number of for sale, for rent, empty, foreclosed, clearly converted to rental, and occupied but severely under-maintained houses.

I'm with Jim Kunstler. I also have that weird (as in the original Old English sense of fate) creepy feeling up the back of my neck that big sections of the built landscape are dead men walking. I talk to people every day with zombie jobs in zombie industries. I meet far too many working age people at home in the middle of the day in the suburbs, people who tell me that they have been laid off for nine months, a year and a half.

Bruce Willis & "The Sixth Sense" Movie

Bruce Willis is a ghost who does not know he is dead and who only sees what he wants to see. At the end of the movie, he realizes and accepts that he actually is dead.

In a similar fashion, for most of us our perpetual growth, auto centric suburban way of life is dead, but most of us don't know it yet, and we only see what we want to see.

IMO, there are two types of "ghosts" in the US--those who know that our current way of life, for most of us, is dead, and those who will realize that our current way of life is dead.

Agree. I don't wish to tread on any sensibilities but seeing how the twin-towers disintegrated it left me wondering how our high-rise cities will fare. Surely there will come a time when all these skyscrapers will become rotten and need to be demolished lest they fall over when no one is expecting it.

Deep in the bowels of the 'lets find the "truth"' you'll find references to the outside shell of the 2 towers, the inside steel, the salty air and claims that galvanic reactions rotting the buildings such that demolition orders were issued/being drawn up/blah blah.

Consider also - brick and mortar have a 'deployment life' - what's the plan to dismantal these towers in 100+ years?

Consider too - how many building that could be impacted with the new madrid fault line moving - are they up to earthquake code?

It would not shock me that other building suffer such faults. Like it did not shock me a 20+ story building I know of lacked the spray on insulation to the iron frame when they did load calcs. Nor does it shock me that one of the elevators in another building is not used because the shaft was built crooked. Nor ..... well you get the idea.

Just about every time I've seen a new tall building under construction since the late 70s, the thought that has come to my mind is: "dinosaur".

It has also amazed me how often I've seen still-usable commercial buildings razed, just because they did not fit in well with the pre-conceived, pre-packaged plans of some corporation headquartered hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Suburbia is madness, but the madness hasn't been confined to just there.

Explosives are cheap. Reclaimed steel is valuable. The only real concern is where do the people go?

Civil engineering in a nutshell: every building will come down eventually. No building should ever come down, for any reason, without enough forewarning to complete an evacuation.

High rises will not last. They will succumb to metal fatigue. But there will be warning.

"every building will come down eventually",... except Roman bridges. It has become a joke for me since the fall of a metal bridge (that killed people without warning) left populations with no way to cross a river other than the “old” Roman bridge.
Apparently the engineering at those days was not as advanced as today. They had the nasty habit of building things that last centuries…

Roman bridges may have been well built but I don't think they would withstand the daily pounding of interstate highway traffic. Donkeys and horse-drawn wagons maybe.

"every building will come down eventually",... except Roman bridges.

The Romans invented concrete, but they didn't realize how strong it was. They built using the same techniques they used for stone bridges. As a result, not only are many of the Roman bridges still standing, but some of them are now carrying motorized vehicles with no problem.

The Egyptian pyramids are another example of a building type that is not likely to come down in the next millennium or so. Actually, a few of the earlier pyramids did collapse, but they had the advantage of time to perfect the design. In engineering terms, the great pyramids rest at their natural angle of repose. It is physically impossible for them to fall down, although they might eventually be eroded away. Even stone doesn't last forever.

The 50 story building downtown in Dallas, TX that I worked in the end of 2009 has been foreclosed. Today it sits empty, with no plans known as to its fate. The understanding is that, because of the asbestos in it, no on could afford to redo it; remediation is needed first. As for demolition, remediation is needed first. Quite a dilemna: It cannot be redone into useful space, because it costs too much to remove the asbestos. If the asbestos was gone, it could be redone into useful space. It cannot be demolished because it costs too much to remove the asbestos... What now? Wait for the building to crumble with age? Of course, if it looked like it was about to collapse, they would have to demolish it. To do that, they need to remediate the asbestos, at which time it would be a wonderful building to redo.

How many similar buildings are out there, waiting for foreclosure, or simply for everyone to leave them and the cities will own them for taxes... and what happens if the cities don't want them? The owners are all corporations and limited liability entities having no real assets other than the building, and no way to continue to insure them. The entity files bankruptcy and is dissolved. The assets go to? No one? If the city does not foreclose for taxes, who then 'owns' the not inconsiderable liabilities?

The same results would devolve from the death of an insolvent owner who is a real person. That person's estate, being destitute, would have no way to pay for losses from the building falling down. At some point, I suppose, the city, county or state would almost have to step in and take it down, as a matter of public safety. But, what if the responsible body is also insolvent? Do we no go into a future of gradual self destruction? Do we repeal laws concerning asbestos abatement? Or perhaps, grant special waivers? How is the public protected in such cases?

I submit that we have begun the process of decay... the future is upon us.


Central Arkansas is filled with these buildings that can't be used because of Asbestos, but can't be fixed due to cost of removel. I know of one such building that I used to work in, the Old M.M.Cohn building at 510 Main St, in downtown Little Rock. My dad worked for them for 26 years after he retired from the Air Force (22 years). I have been all over inside that building and I'd love to make it a nice place to live and work again, but I could never afford to do anything but dream about it.

It would need a complete overhaul of most of it's systems even if it did not have Asbestos in it(mostly in the wiring and pipes). Anyone remember those old elevators where you had to use the hand lever to move them from floor to floor? One of the other buildings that M.M.Cohn Company owned in Little Rock, had one in it, and whenever we were over there working, I just loved to see how good I was at getting it to stop prefectly even on a floor.

My dad being the maintaince man for the company and all it's buildings got to crawl in and out of places few people ever knew were even there. I was his helper for 3 years right after High School, and off and on later.

I know of loads of buildings that have not had anyone in them for years, and Likely never will until people use them to get in out of the rain along with all the other places in a collapsed world, if it ever gets that far.

Even if everything were going to be bright and shiny in the next 20 years, we'd still need to spend money on reconditioning all these empty places, and right now I can't fathom where the money is going to come from.

On a side note, if the end is near you won't care if the asbestos might kill you later, getting at the materials in the building will be more important, the rules will be bent, or ignored.


Just a reminder. For those who might be interested, don't forget to watch Aftermath-A World Without Oil tonight at 9 on the National Geographic Channel. I am recording it on TiVo just in case it is so good I might want to watch it again. If it is crap I will just delete it. I am reserving judgment until after I watch it however.

What would our world look like if we ran out of oil? The lifeblood of our high-tech, highly mobile world won't last forever. Watch one scenario of what happens when one day oil does run out. How might our world change and how would we adapt? Aftermath follows the chaotic days and months after this catastrophic event through dramatic re-creations and CGI animation. Find out how we might cope as food disappears, electrical power fails and winter turns the big cities into isolated pockets of concrete and glass. What will be more important to our survival — the technology to develop new sources of energy, or a change to a more sustainable way of life?

Ron P.

"Life After People" (History Channel) is one of my few infotainment indulgences. They often go to actual sites that have been abandoned to decay (ie: Gary, Indiana, or closed factories). It astounds me how quickly our infrastucture crumbles when we can no longer afford to maintain it (or no longer have the will).

Who picks up the advertising on a show like that? Zoloft, Aetna?

Ruger, Hormel?

No, I've got it.. they'll introduce a Knockoff Generic Med called 'The Day After Pill'

Advertising? Don't know, I record and skip the sales part.

The usual advertisers: Mercedes Benz, Cialis (call your doctor if you experience an erection lasting longer than 4 hours). Which creates an interesting juxtaposition with the content of the program. I wonder what most viewers are thinking.

I love that line.

It's like selling a Prius with the warning.. 'See your mechanic if you're getting over 150mpg'

Ah, the Prius of Priapus.

Nice one.

Wait, I'm working on one for Volvo that won't get me kicked off the board.


Transonic Combustion, a startup based in Camarillo, CA, has developed a fuel-injection system it says can improve the efficiency of gasoline engines by more than 50 percent. A test vehicle equipped with the technology gets 64 miles per gallon in highway driving, which is far better than more costly gas-electric hybrids, such as the Prius, which gets 48 miles per gallon on the highway.

This may be a site of interest, in terms of maximum range per quantity of gasoline, no 'coming soon' technologies either :)



Do you suppose they own the Fish carburator patents?

Unlikely. They said "fuel injection", which rules out any sort of carburetor.

Patents have a finite lifetime (i.e. cannot be extended indefinitely), and the information is all on file with the USPTO. If there were any companies sitting on patents, in theory one ought to be able to come up with the patent number, look it up, and see when it expires.

A self igniting critically timed injection ICE...that would be a diesel engine then. No wonder the economy is good.

I love that line.

Just for the record, the warning is legitimate. There are serious risks of permanent physical damage in such cases.

I don't doubt it..

But I still have to wonder what other warnings they don't trumpet as clearly, since this one carries such a perfect 'WooHoo!' feature that can't be bad press for the product.

It's like the people who think global warming will just be their 'Endless Summer' at last. (AND, you don't have to go to the beach, the beach comes to you!)

I enjoy it too, but it gives my wife the creeps and she refuses to watch.

National Geographic channel has a program called Aftermath: Population Zero airing tonight at 8 pm right before Aftermath: Life After Oil which airs at 10 pm in my location.

Aftermath follows the chaotic days and months after this catastrophic event through dramatic re-creations and CGI animation.

This comment makes it questionable if 'Aftermath' is realistic. Days and month after this catastrophe ? It is about an event taking many years, even decades.

Han - Keep in mind that this presentation is not designed for oil drummers but instead for the uninitiated. Without the dramatic specter of Sudden Cataclysmic Events Peak Oil holds little general interest.


Joe, presenting it like that people forget it even more rapidly. Anyhow, it won't change things.

Actually I don't think they are trying to be realistic. I have heard that the assumption of the show is that all of the oil runs out immediately - not in a Hubble type scenario. If that is true it is a little silly - bit it might be interesting.

the oil runs out immediately -

And that giant sucking sound you hear is...

... The End ...


That was my impression, too.

Kinda like "Life After People." They never say why all people disappear, or where they went. There are no bodies lying around. It's just a sort of gedankenexperiment - what would happen if there were no people?

I think it's a legitimate tactic. You get around the some political and emotional pitfalls, and get people to just accept it.

They do ,at least, offer
Peak Oil
as a possibile cause.

That would be fine if this was what peak oil is all about. It distorts the message, and diminishes the potential impact.

To be a true representation, the story line could either be "long emergency" or "long descent." Better, it could give both possibilities and leave the viewer to puzzle out which is more likely.


Yeah for sure. It's an infotaining format like a lot of what is passed as education on TV. Insulting to a more serious study but presumably not all will throw out the baby with the bathwater. The article at least offers up something for the intellectually curious who happen by the site.

Personally it's getting difficult to tell how far along folks are on the learning curve. Maybe it's steep like a brick wall, the profligate energy use I see every day would indicate so. But just about the time I think nobody gets it somebody surprizes me.

There's a neat old train depot in a local town here that AT/BNSF and the city council are going to save and integrate it into their bike, park and downtown access. (Helping promote a decent possibly car-free destination spot in North Idaho) At least 25% of the support letters (including mine) had some kind of PO message in them. The businesses are stuggling to survive and the station is in disuse, and the downtown traffic is spoiling the walkability. Some others seem to have made the connection.

Yes, I think that alot more people are "getting it" than we realize. It's hard to tell, though, kind of like the guy who goes to church but thinks it's all bs, or the guy who never goes to church but prays every day. Our world is so large, and (usually) our own circles so small, that it never seems to be that the people we meet are the ones who understand.

Part of me wants to believe that all the people you see driving huge SUV's every day have actually thought it through, and realize that it makes no sense for them to buy a new car, but that they should just cut back on spending and drive less.

The actions have been shouting "We are spending our kids inheritance" boy how true that was.

It's starting in a few minutes in the eastern time zone.

It will rerun at 1 am if you miss it.

Is it running or not? My guide says Life After Oil, but its showing Life After People. The guide claims the 9PM show (Pacific time) is supposed to be Life After People.

Yeah, it ran. At 10 Eastern. It had some good points, I suppose, but guess I was underwhelmed.

It was an "F". Started OK .... The world running out of oil turned out to be one big inconvenience. They said food was a problem ... but not a starvation problem. It took algae-to-oil technology to bring world trade back to today's level.

It was a starvation problem. People did die, though they skimmed over the gory details. (I expected that, though.)

The "solution" wasn't realistic - corn ethanol, soybeans, algae. They mentioned how the lack of petroleum-derived drugs would impact health care, but nary a word on how we would grow all that corn, soybeans, and algae without petrochemicals.

I thought it was totally unrealistic. I was disappointed. They did get a few things right but what they got wrong far outweighed the little bit they got right. In the end they had everything returning to business as usual. And the fact that all the underground oil disappeared at the same time made the show a joke.

Ron P.

Dunno if I'd call it an "F". Just like the program before it it was a thought experiment. The vision of all the people on earth disappearing in an instant leaving driver-less vehicles and pilot-less aircraft careening out of control, is just about as ridiculous as all the oil fields in the world drying up in an instant. Of course they avoided the massive die off that would result but, any thinking person should come to that conclusion on their own.

When it comes to a return to BAU, the same skimming over the die off is what begs the question as to how the proposed solutions would allow some sort of semblance of BAU. In the area of transport, I think they should have consulted one Alan Drake since, the future importance of rail transport was not emphasized enough nor was the option of electrified rail. They also did not address how maritime transport might adapt, nuclear? a return to sail-ships? The idea of biofuels making any meaningful impact in the total absence of oil was a long shot.

The most realistic images I took away from it were the ones of one of the main characters using a bicycle, a lot.

Alan from the islands

Re: What's Wrong With Exploiting Nature

This is just the latest instance of the industrialisation of wilderness. What gives these indigenous inhabitants the right to the unfettered use of this land? While it is right that oil companies should leave the land in a state where it can be used for other purposes afterwards, there is nothing wrong with making use of natural resources.

When I was a kid in the 60's my family used to rent a beachhouse in Oceanside, CA every summer. We lived the rest of the year in Las Vegas and were glad to get out of the heat. I found local friends there and we would spend long afternoons hiking for miles up the San Luis Rey River (a seasonal creek really) pretending to be explorers. Today the same area is choked with roads, suburban developments and chain link fences.

The reviewer of the above film Dirty Oil, is obviously someone who missed bonding with nature as a boy, which brings me to our current dilemma. I obviously side with John Muir but I can see that nearly a century after his death the utilitarians have won. I no longer get angry...just sad.


Well, one answer as to to why not wreck indigenous lands is ecosystem services.
Put another way: "When the last tree has been cut, the last river been poisoned, you will discover you can't eat money".
It seems to me that indigenous people own their land and might not want it wrecked. Yes, whites with a big military can take it (what usually happens), but whatever happened "to treat others as you'd like to be treated yourself"? Or if nothing else, "what goes around, comes around".

The problem is the "goes around" profits some right now, while the "comes around" hit future generations. We've extended The Tragedy of the Commons to include future time as a shared (and abused) resource base.

paleobotanist - My point is more personal than waiting for a visit from the four horseman or a just comeuppance. For me I have never been to Alberta nor Alaska (among many) but the knowledge of secure, pristine environments is more than enough compensation. For that I would gladly exchange convenience and easy prosperity.



The most encouraging thing about the movie was the knowledge that Peak Oil would prevent that from happening on any extra-terrestrial worlds.

Small comfort, but at least we can be assured that it stops here.

Joe -

Unfortunately your example hits on two points - first your story can be repeated by millions of us who grew up in similar situations, only to witness the ever accelerating destruction of future "exploration" grounds for younger generations - this then leads to fewer and fewer young people even remotely connected to their natural surroundings - further insuring that the utilitarians have won. Nature deficit disorder I think it's now referred to - nature is merely an annoyance now or something to be temporarily passed through on the way to something of great importance... I went for a nice fair weather hike this weekend - the first weekend of temps in the 50's since maybe November. On the way to the trailhead the world appeared to have re-awakened with literally thousands of cars bustling around on a finally non-snowy weekend day. Went for my hike and saw only 4 other people - this at a very accessible town park - certainly no remote wilderness... and I felt that sadness too. I like solitude in nature and often seek it out deeper in the mountains and rivers but I found the lack of people re-connecting with nature as the first indications of spring appeared to be very disturbing.

I think the big problem with the what's wrong with exploiting nature theme is that our legacy has gone beyond exploitation to just pure waste. We have empty subdivision yet they still build more empty subdivisions. We have new Super Wal-Marts built right across from a not very old *Giant* but not *Super* Wal-Mart. We have shiny new office complexes and strip malls, which at best will only see fractional occupancy, continuing to be constructed for no apparent reason right on top of already fractionalized forests, wetlands, vernal pools, farmland etc etc. Continuous use of resources for no good reason - just more and more fluff and repetition of things we already have WAY too many of. I'm with you Joe - a few skirmishes may have been fought to a draw at one point but the larger battles and what now appears to have been the war were decidedly lost some time ago...

Catskill - Thank-you for your thoughtful comments.

I have come to the conclusion that Peak Oil awareness must follow the same pattern as the stages of grief.

The progression of states are:

1. Denial – Peak Oil is a myth

2. Anger – It's not fair! "Who is to blame?" It must be the evil corporations.

3. Bargaining – This stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay Peak Oil.

4. Depression – "I'm so sad, my entire life has been a lie...why bother with anything?" It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.

5. Acceptance – "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it." This final stage comes with peace and the understanding that the end of industrial civilization is approaching. At this point all you can do is surrender and try and make yourself useful.

It has taken me 6 years to reach stage 5. I'm a slow learner.


joemichaels - thank you for this post.

I have been PO aware for many years, and am comfortably in stage 5. But lately, I have been experiencing bouts of depression and I hadn't realize why until now. I am at stage 4 with climate change and the destruction of the biosphere.

In many respects I am grieving. Your post just helped me to realize that this is natural.

i think i go thru all five stages every week and not always in the same order.

I wonder why I skipped those stages ?

A clue is that post-Katrina New Orleans has been one of the best times of my life. MASSIVE suffering all around, destruction, despair, depression, suicide yet I enjoyed it because I was helpful, hopeful and useful to others.

And then is when I first started using the salutation or valediction,

Best Hopes,


I skipped them, too, but I think it's just how my mind works. With most things, adding in a piece of info instantly leads to virtually all scenarios just... coming to me. I'm pretty sure most people do this to some degree or other, actually, but I seem to always zip to the most likely and all too often am correct... so there's not much point in messing with the stages. I'm too impatient for them, anyway.


5. Acceptance – "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it." This final stage comes with peace and the understanding that the end of industrial civilization is approaching. At this point all you can do is surrender and try and make yourself useful.

Great post.
What I cannot accept about P-O is that SOMEONE KNOWS, and they are keeping quiet about it.

"What I cannot accept about P-O is that SOMEONE KNOWS, and they are keeping quiet about it.

OK, I confess, it's me. It was me all along. But I keep my reasons to myself.



this then leads to fewer and fewer young people even remotely connected to their natural surroundings - further insuring that the utilitarians have won.

No, actually they have lost! Lost everything, but they will probably never know it and they too shall pass and there will be no one left to miss them...

I grew up in Lawton, Oklahoma, near the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge 20 miles away. The Wichitas are a plug of granite 70 miles long and 20 miles wide rising out of the surrounding red clay. I think this is where the Yellowstone hot spot stopped ages back on its way north. In the 1930s many streams in the mountains were dammed, making several lakes, small and large.

After college, I camped many weekends at a site we called The Narrows, a sandy beach inside a little bend in a stream with a 50 foot cliff on the other side. You had to park at Boulder Camp, a picnic ground, and hike half a mile over a rocky hill to get there. The site had deep pool on the outside of the bend for real swimming, a shallow sandy bottom near the beach where you could play with sunfish protecting their saucer-shaped nests. We could lay around all weekend, build a fire for hotdogs, see maybe two hikers while we were there, taking off down the valley where there was a stone face atop a cliff in the distance. For variety we'd swim off the dam in Lost Lake near the Cache, OK, entrance, a narrow, deep lake with what looked like black water, water with a cold, dark, mineral taste. The refuge had herds of bison that tourists were foolish enough to try to pet (yeah, race them back to your car), long-horn cattle, elk off across a fence.

Alas, by the time I had kids, I couldn't share this experience with them. By then, camping was only in campgrounds, no swimming except where lifeguards were on duty. Population had burgeoned since my youth, and there had gotten to be just too many people to allow them free access to the mountains.

Considering the Story about Japan and the quake alerts going around, I wondered if Yellowstone is part of a broader sequence, or if it's generally considered independent of Chile & Haiti events etc..

Feb 27,
Recent Yellowstone earthquake swarm was the second-largest ever

Yellowstone is basically one huge, inactive volcano. It's not part of the same systems as Chile or Haiti, but that's not necessarily a good thing.

If it ever blew, it would be big - a seriously bad experience for the whole USA.

More likely, the San Andreas fault will slip, and there goes San Francisco and/or Los Angeles. A more localized but even worse experience.

Yellowstone is basically one huge, inactive volcano.

If it were, you wouldn't have any geysers, mud pots, earthquake swarms, or rises and falls in elevation. I think you mean low-intensity or something like that.

Pedant for hire!


A volcano is considered inactive if it has not erupted within historic times.

Mount Saint Helens was considered inactive until it blew up in 1980. The last major eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano was 640,000 years ago. The biggest eruption, 2.1 million years ago, was 2500 times as big as Mount Saint Helens.

A few bubbling geysers don't mean Yellowstone is active. We need to see lava to make it an officially active volcano. If there was no possibility of it erupting, it would be considered extinct. It's not extinct.

What’s wrong with exploiting nature?

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If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. - Henry David Thoreau

shox, I understand (and empathize) with the point you are making but there is much evidence that Native Americans significantly altered habitats by burning -- forest systems included. See, for instance...

I have to say, as a life-long tree-hugger, I don't think it does the cause any good to state that Native Americans had a negligible impact on their ecosystem. They undoubtedly had a profound effect on their world.

have to say, as a life-long tree-hugger, I don't think it does the cause any good to state that Native Americans had a negligible impact on their ecosystem. They undoubtedly had a profound effect on their world.

Tarzan, I saw only a Thoreau quote in Shox's post. Nothing about Native Americans whatsoever. In that respect I don't understand your complaint.

However looking at the map of virgin forest in 1620 verses today, those Native Americans sure set a lot of fires during those almost 400 years. They must have just discovered fire in 1620; else the forest would have been gone much sooner. Perhaps the white man should have been killed the Native Americans off a lot sooner and then perhaps the virgin forest would still almost cover the nation.

Getting serious now, there is no doubt that primitive men, all over the world, dramatically altered their environment. No one I know would question that. Homo sapiens were the ultimate introduced species whenever they entered new territory. They killed off all other native species that were easy prey for them. That was the case whether it was New Zealand, Mauritius or the Americas.

All that does not alter the fact that we, with the aid of our guns, power saws and mechanized farm equipment are a hundred times more efficient in killing off species, destroying the forest and generally destroying the ecosystem than the Native Americans.

Ron P.

Ron, my point merely was that the "Virgin Forest - 1620" map is a bit misleading. No need to argue the point, here. We all understand that "virgin" in this sense, is a relative concept.

the "Virgin Forest - 1620" map is a bit misleading. No need to argue the point, here. We all understand that "virgin" in this sense, is a relative concept.

Yes, the native people used to ignite the forests on a regular basis. It was actually part of an agricultural management system, but modern people tend not to think in terms of aboriginal people modifying their environment.

They had actually made huge changes in the environment, but people only think in terms of what happened post-European invasion. By the time Columbus arrived, things had settled down to a more or less steady state. The really big changes happened 10-12,000 years ago when humans first arrived in North America.

Among other things, almost all of the large herbivores in North America went extinct shortly after the human invasion. The mammoth, the mastodon, the stag moose, the giant beaver, the giant sloth, and several species of American horse are all gone, as are carnivores such as the short-face bear, the American lion, and the saber-tooth cat.

In fact, the only large herbivore left from pre-human days is the pronghorn antelope, which has the survival characteristics that 1) it runs extremely fast, and 2) it doesn't have much meat on its bones. The rest of the large herbivores in North America when Europeans arrived were species that had migrated in from Eurasia.

See Quaternary Extinction Event in North America for details.

I'm not at all convinced this was a human-caused thing. Part of the story? Sure. But let's not forget the Younger Dryas was around that time, e.g.

Occam's doesn't always apply. In this case, it probably only does in that multiple interactions were likely involved.

EDIT: "in the Arctic, it is becoming clear that each species is following its own population trajectory. This is a strong argument that it is changes in habitat that are driving these population dynamics, and not a single factor such as the introduction of human hunters."


I love it when a plan comes together!


Not to be overlooked is the fact that the population of American Indians was much greater before Columbus. The early explorers brought European diseases with them, which killed many of the locals. By the time the US was formed, much of the Eastern US had reverted back to "virgin" forest.

Also, the Indians had copper and made some rather intricate implements with it. I took a tour of a park around the excavated Etowah Indian Mound on north Georgia and there were quite a few artifacts which indicated their ability to work metals. There were such mounds located all over the Midwest...

E. Swanson

There is a difference between hunting with spears, collecting firewood, and clearing up some wilderness to make space for various small tribes on the one hand; and on the other, hundreds of thousands of bulldozers razing down entire forests, all fertile land being turned into a degraded sponge for petrochemicals and fertilizers, and 300+ million people consuming more than their bodyweight in almost everything each day.

Surely the minuscule impact of the activities of those early native Indians, most of whom were exterminated to make space for a stronger, more warlike and acquisitive breed of humans, cannot possible be compared to what we see now in the US. The cities, and indeed the country, viewed from satellite, look like circuit boards: square grids, parallel conduction tracks, epicenters for specialized functions, little electrons moving around 24/7.....many more similarities.

One would never guess, from looking at the country today, with all its profligacy and decadence, that early pilgrims came to this virgin land hundreds of years ago to found a spiritual utopia, to break away from the stifling culture of Europe. Now, an entire generation has grown up for the first time with in an almost completely artificial environment, with scarcely any recollection and fondness for nature.

The only way for nature to survive under these conditions is if some people will take the initiative to freeze samples of various species or to keep a repository of DNA, and wait for a hundred years, when the human population will have mostly died off, and conditions are right for nature to be reintroduced.

One would never guess, from looking at the country today, with all its profligacy and decadence, that early pilgrims came to this virgin land hundreds of years ago to found a spiritual utopia, to break away from the stifling culture of Europe.

You mean some religious fanatics came in as illegal immigrants and killed off most of natives ?

As they say, history is always written by victors.

It's only illegal if there are laws, natives had no laws and were living in the stone age. There's a reason why China and India really weren't colonized.

Ah, yes, thank god (or someone) that the Europeans brought us laws - everything has been so much better now that 'the rule of law' protects everyone's interests.

Your ignorance of Global History is breathtaking !

BTW, India was colonized (mostly by the Brits, some by France, one area by the Portuguese held on till Independence, others absorbed before 1947(.


China was kept from being carved up into colonies only because of the US's "Open Door" policy (instead semi-colonies were set up).

VERY few other colonies could be called "Stone Age". Most were quite civilized, many more so than the Europeans.


"natives had no laws"

Most ignorant comment of the day.

Thank you, Toil! The natives indeed had laws. It was just that they did not have any concept of a single person or tribe owning the land. They belonged to the land!

Of course, without ownership, there could never have evolved Capitalism. The prevailing paradigm of human history was sharedness... early people shared shelter, they shared food. I don't know whether they shared each other, but in some cultures it could have been.

The point is, when we stopped sharing, we became, by definition "selfish." Some say that came about when it became possible to cultivate and grow food more than the group needed. Someone began to horde it, later to demand special favors during a lean year. Probably said, "that's MINE... if you want it, bend over." Or some such.

Virgin lands, virgin forests, virgin people. IMO, the word refers to never having been abused, not never having been used.


Whew, Florida kinda stepped in it today.

Of course, another point is that these PURITANS had some mighty laws they were supposed to be following as well. Killing, Stealing and I suppose 'Coveting thy Neighbor' come to mind.

.. And then of course, here are some of the Laws that we came upon, and helped us to form our own system.


Haudenosaunee (People of the Long House) fundamental law, the Great Law of Peace, stipulates to this day that sachems’ (chiefs’) skins must be thick to withstand the criticism of their constituents: sachems should take pains not to become angry when people scrutinize their conduct in governmental affairs. Such a point of view pervades the writings of Jefferson and Franklin, although it was not fully codified into U.S. law until the Supreme Court decision New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) made it virtually impossible for public officials to sue successfully for libel.

The procedure for debating policies of the confederacy begins with the Mohawks and Senecas, called “elder brothers.” After being debated by the Keepers of the Eastern Door (Mohawks) and the Keepers of the Western Door (Senecas), the question is thrown “across the fire” to the Oneida and Cayuga statesmen, “younger brothers,” for discussion. Once consensus is achieved among the Oneidas and the Cayugas, the discussion returns to the Senecas and Mohawks for confirmation. Next, the question is laid before the Onondagas, who try to resolve any remaining conflicts.

That is a gross oversimplification of native American land use. You'll find lots of instances of the Indians buying and selling land, and you can rest assured that stepping onto an Indian's pumpkin patch or beanfield without his permission was, and remains, a bad idea.

re: That is a gross oversimplification of native American land use.

Yes, it is a very naive interpretation of what was actually a fairly complicated system of rights in land.

Not nearly as complicated as the British system, but hardly anybody understands that - certainly very few involved in this conversation.

"natives had no laws"

I'd say that didn't have formally codified laws that the Europeans would recognize. It was easy for the settlers to push them aside. I think the statement about a culture with a big military to push aside the natives is a bit disingenuous. Mostly it was relatively disorganized -but armed settlers that do the trick. In the Americas, many of the native tribes were organized and advanced enough that some military support was needed. But, I think many natives are pushed out/eliminated by gangs of settlers with no formal military involvement (think Brazilian cattle ranchers and gold miners versus rainforest hunter-gatherers).

In any case the population density, and degree of cultural sophistication of India and China were such that foreign "settlers" weren't going to overwhelm the native populations, as happened in the US and Australia. Interesting the British never made a decision to turn India into a colony. They started with isolated trading ports, and the East India company. Then the company wanted to expand a little bit. It took a very long time until so much of the country was under nominal British control that making it a colony made sense.

"It was easy for the settlers to push them aside."

Tell that to the thousands of Europeans that died at the tips of their arrows and the blades of their axes.

If they were so easy to push aside, why did Europeans bother making treaties with them--treaties they later mostly broke, of course. (And don't say it was because the Euro's were so bloody fair-minded.)

As Diamond points out, it was diseases and pure pressure of population that helped the Europeans win out as much as technological superiority (guns and steel).

I'd say that didn't have formally codified laws that the Europeans would recognize.

I would say that is not true. The native people had codified systems of law, which were quite recognizable in European terms, but the Europeans did their best to suppress them because they were not in the Europeans' best interests.

It was easy for the settlers to push them aside. I think the statement about a culture with a big military to push aside the natives is a bit disingenuous. Mostly it was relatively disorganized -but armed settlers that do the trick.

I think that if it was disorganized but armed settlers that had tried to push them aside, the settlers would have all been killed and the natives would still own the land. It required a major military effort to suppress them and confine them to reservations.

No, no difference at all. Humans are a rapacious super predator, modern tools and petrochemicals or not. Granted, the world might be different if we hadn't learned to exploit fossil fuel energy. But alas, we did. The only thing that exists in reality is what is, not what could have been.

There is no steady state. Only chaos.

I should also point out that the native Europeans have gotten mighty good at turning their landscapes into ones that are clearly the domain of mankind but that need not be lamented for it. Just look at Switzerland, Austria, or Norway.

The notion that we can't modify our landscape without defiling it is proof that in the United States we've forgotten how. (And that is something Jim Kunstler can rant on at great length -- I'll just say that we still have Vermont.)

What's wrong with exploiting nature?


Just as all animals interact with or "use" nature, humans are no different. We have overshot our resource base and this will result in a die-off, as has happened with other species. And due to how humans have interacted with the natural world in an extreme fashion, we may become extinct, as has happened with many other species.

I don't see any physical laws being violated here. What's wrong?

Just as all animals interact with or "use" nature, humans are no different.

710 - The difference is human beings are an invasive species; in our case a form of planetary cancer. As evidence I present the fact that humans are the first species that has brought on a mass extinction known as the Late Quaternary.

Oh Poor Earth!


So you speak for all humans (including those yet to be born)?

"we may become extinct, as has happened with many other species.
I don't see any physical laws being violated here. What's wrong?"

Right and "wrong" don't apply to physical laws. The violation is that we know. This is why we have morality.

"God, don't forgive them, for they know what they do."

i wouldn't blame an ant colony for building an ant hill. likewise i can't blame people for all the resources we extract and all the things we build. we are part of the ecosystem, and our contrivances are no more or less natural then ant hills and trees.

to me, humans are the only species arrogant enough to think they have control over their behavior. we do what we do because it's what we do and it works, same as all other organisms.

That's it exactly.

Ah, the old semantic switcheroo.

The story most Europeans (at least) had in their heads as they were running amok was not that they were fitting in with nature--they largely saw themselves as separate from nature, superior to it, and conquerors of it.

Turning around now and saying "Oh, it was all just fitting in with nature" is akin to a life long racist, upon hearing that there is no such biological thing as genetically distinct human races (and certainly not one genetically uniform dark race), declaring that he therefore has never been a racist.

Just a bit too convenient.

i wouldn't blame an ant colony for building an ant hill.

I wouldn't necessarily call it blame at least in the case of the ant hill's actions. However in the case of human societies I would hold them responsible for the acts of their individual members.


Prelude... Ant Fugue -- Douglas Hofstadter

CRAB: I reject reductionism. I challenge you to tell me, of instance, how to understand a brain reductionistically. Any reductionistic explanation of a brain will inevitably fall far short of explaining where the consciousness experienced by a brain arises from.
ANTEATER: I reject holism. I challenge you to tell me, for instance, how a holistic description of an ant colony sheds any more light on it than is shed by a description of the ants inside it, and their roles, and their interrelationships. Any holistic explanation of an ant colony will inevitably fall far short of explaining where the consciousness experience by an ant colony arises from.

Ant --> individual unpredictability, but statistical reliability.

"Each neuron receives signals from neurons attached to its input lines, and if the sum total of inputs at any moment exceeds a critical threshold, then that neuron will fire and send its own output pulse rushing off to other neurons, which may in turn fire."
- continuous threshold function, sort of.
- input to nerve endings resemble white noise. By the time they reach the brain, signal resembles 1/f noise.
- with both nerves and ants, signal either fizzles or snowballs.

ACHILLES: Normally, I think I'm in control of what I think -- but the way you put it turns it all inside out, so that it sounds as though "I" am just what comes out of all this neural structure, and natural law. It makes what I consider my "self" sound at best like a by-product of an organism governed by natural law and, at worst, and artificial notion produced by my distorted perspective. In other words, you make me feel like I don't know who -- or what -- I am, if anything."

What if we know we are doing the wrong things, but have to do them anyway because we have no other choice? How does the morality shake out in that case? What if we are just a dumb bunch of monkeys who really don't know anything at all, but we just tell good stories? What if being recognised as person of high morals confers popularity or some other benefit? Does that lessen the morality since it is done for personal gain? What if our moral obligations are really just a story we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better? After all, some bad guys must be responsible for our predicament. Maybe we should punish someone.

Outside of humans, morality is nowhere to be found in nature. It's just something we made up.

"Outside of humans, morality is nowhere to be found in nature. It's just something we made up."
I think you just made that up.

What if we knew there are clear 'wrongs' we were doing, even ones that hurt ourselves in the long run, but we just obfuscated around these with a bunch of 'clever' what if cop-outs instead of taking responsibility?

I'm sure I've seen consciously 'moral' behavior in animals*, but I don't know that I've seen many of them generate a bunch of loopholes and 'legal justifications' in order to pointedly avoid correct action, at the speed we've learned to do it.

*(and I'm not the only one who thinks so.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Law_of_the_Jungle )

'Ye may kill for yourselves, and your mates, and your cubs as they need, and ye can; But kill not for pleasure of killing, and SEVEN TIMES NEVER KILL MAN.'
'If ye plunder his Kill from a weaker, devour not all in thy pride; Pack-Right is the right of the meanest; so leave him the head and the hide.'


Morality exists only in language. Take away language and there goes "right" and "wrong." That's why only humans have morality.

That's correct.

What is your definition of morality and language? Methinks you have constructed a tautology that cannot be maintained. Must one be able to communicate intent to an arbiter of morality in order to be moral? Was Helen Keller amoral before someone learned to communicate with her? Can there be language if known only to one being? If so, how can you know whether an animal might have an individual language? Cannot morality be observed in behavior alone?

Or going to a Turing Test -- computers have language. Therefore, by the converse, shouldn't there be some conceivable subset of possible computers which are moral?

Morality is a tool that humans use to define and enforce the currently acceptable forms of social behavior of individuals within a group.

Language, in this case, is the medium by which humans communicate.

Yup, we just made morality up.

But are you saying that, since you have had that stunning insight, you are completely free from morality?

If you now are making absolutely no moral judgments about your own or others activity, you can now be happy in your enlightened state.

But if you still feel just a tiny bit queezy about, say, smashing a small child's head in with a rock for no reason, then you have not escaped this made up "morality" and you must still continue to make moral judgments about your own and others' acts.

For instance, you may recoil at smashing children's skulls in with rocks, but do you find it somehow more morally worthy to deprive that child of a viable future because you have used up all of the resources and destroyed the viability of the planet in order to have a somewhat luxurious (though not very deeply satisfying) lifestyle?

"But are you saying that, since you have had that stunning insight, you are completely free from morality?"

No, not at all. Human morality is a social mechanism. As a fellow human I am subject to it's current rules. I'm saying that morality is a relative concept that changes with conditions. Totally arbitrary. It can be molded to fit any situation we find ourselves in. It's really just a form of rationalization. One of the strategic tools in the game of life.

What if, upon noticing that some child is going to be starving in the future, I decide to smash the child's skull with a rock in order to alleviate that child's future suffering? Moral or immoral? What if your children happen to be a convenient future food source for my starving children? What exactly is the correct moral stance? And who decides?

Morality seems like a simple thing until you stop to think about it.

Morality turns indignation righteous.

I think morality is hard-wired, not just a social mechanism. And as with other things that are hard-wired, it's evident in other animals, though perhaps not the extent as seen in Homo sapiens. Apes hate unfairness as much as humans, for example.

I found this article fascinating. It argues that there are five elements of morality: harm, fairness, community, authority and purity. When people disagree about a moral situation, it is because they rank those elements differently. And that is often molded by social conventions - imprinted at a young age. Is naming a stuffed animal "Mohammed" a death-penalty offense? It is if you rank respect for authority over not causing harm.

Morality is not hardwired. What we call morality is just a human refinement of the basic rules that apply in nature, especially with respect to social animals. We see a kind of "morality" in animals because they, and we, are hardwired with the basic game theory. Apes hate unfairness, yes. But that's because individual apes hating unfairness confers an evolutionary advantage to the species. Group cohesion and social stabilty are the main benefits.

It sounds to me like you're saying morality is hard-wired.

No. But the BASIS for morality is hardwired. Like all things that make humans different or special when compared to other animals, morality has it's evolutionary roots. The foundation upon which humans build morality evolved in nature because of the basic rules that apply to all social animals. As humans, we've taken those basic rules and added a twist. We call that twist morality. It gives us added flexibility when compared to other animals. It allows us to subtly refine and modify the social rules to fit any situation we may find ourselves in. But it is really just a layer of rationalization and that's not something people like to think about.

I know it seems like a semantic exercise, but if we are going to use the term morality to decribe both human and animal behavior, then we are going to have to invent a whole new word for morality to describe what it is people do in particular. Also, if we were to grant that other animals actually posess morality, then we open a real can of worms. The flexibilty and refinement of human morality allows us accomplish a great many things that other animals can't. Things like the Holocaust, for example. Or Nuclear war. Or slavery. And where does animal experimentation fit into all of this?! If apes have morality, it must be better than ours. Animals are simpler, purer, more harmoniuos, more in balance. That would seem to be the implication. It's the same thing as granting some higher moral status to aboriginal people vs. modern folk. That's just a story too. In fact it's a MORALITY TALE.

I know it seems like a semantic exrcise, but if we are going to use the term morality to decribe both human and animal behavior, then we are going to have to invent a whole new word for morality to describe what it is people do in particular.

I think we have. Many people use the term ethics to mean the latter.

Morality is quite visceral, with no real attempt at rationality. A different part of the brain is activated when you're talking about Stone Age situations (strangling someone with your bare hands) than with more abstract situations (killing someone by pushing a button). Our morality is deeply hard-wired, and from the stone age. Ethics is more like a problem-solving exercise.


Thanks. You make a very good point. I do see what you mean and that's probably a good way to think about it. My main emphasis, though, is on the meaninglessness of making moral judgements on others. What is right or wrong in a given situation, or who is more morally upright than someone else is completly relative and arbitrary. It depends mostly on who does the deciding.

PS----Great link by the way. Thanks.

From the article:
"People don’t generally engage in moral reasoning, Haidt argues, but moral rationalization: they begin with the conclusion, coughed up by an unconscious emotion, and then work backward to a plausible justification."

I was tweaking some of the other posters on the thread about just this rationalization component of morality. I think it's part of the overall rationalization matrix that is the human mind (the conscious part, I mean). I like to point this out a lot with respect to the topic of realistically visualizing our bleak future. There is a very strong taboo (moral inhibition) against talking about peak oil and social collapse. This causes people, even on this site, to instinctively turn away from trying to understand the worst senarios. Many of our assumptions (cherished beliefs) will, therefore, be wildly off the mark. Without constant vigilance, it's easy to forget that our minds are designed to play this trick on us.

In the quote from the article unconcious emotion is the "moral sense". Working backward to a plausible justification is "morality". Both animals and humans have the former. Only humans have the latter. I just had an unconscious feeeling (the moral sense that murdering the language is wrong) about the semantic convention. They don't refer to animals having "morals".

Wow. I had to bring up "morality". Maybe I should have said that humans have foreknowledge and can consider consequences, as in: "We are screwing up the planet, using up all of the good stuff, and it will likely make it harder for my grandkids to feed their children". Whether or not this tweaks your morality may vary.

Ha! Ha! That's funny.

Touchy subject, huh?

I don't believe in touchy subjects :-)

It would be an interesting question to TOD readers:

Why do you read TOD?

A. I feel, on moral grounds, that Peak Oil needs to be addressed. I am concerned about the future of humanity and the planet.

B. I'm worried about what Peak Oil means to me personally and want to cover my own ass.

C. I have the need to ensure my bloodline continues. Peak Oil could have an effect.

D. I'm addicted to doomer porn, a voyeur mesmerized by the sublime process of civilization in decline.

E. All of the above.

Just catching the tail end of this...it's more than just morality and ethics that live in language...all meaning lives in language. Take away language and there is no meaning.

Great point.

And morality is just one of the many examples of rationalization produced by the human mind.

Have you seen Kohlberg's six stages of moral development?

ROY: 'There's only two of us now.'
PRIS: 'Then we're stupid and we'll die.

- Blade Runner

It's not about 'breaking natural laws' .. it's about painting ourselves and every other living thing into a corner, and then setting our corner on fire.

Energy Histories -- Egypt

The headline says Diesel shortage paralyzes Egypt's highways. It's alarming. It's topical. But what is the context in which this is happening? Is the problem political, economic, geological? What is the backstory?

The best place to go for the deep backstory presented in a succinct manner is usually to look up Colin Campbell's Country Assessment from ASPO Germany's archive of his newsletters. His expertise in petroleum geology, combined with his interest in history make for brilliant reading. Here is his original assessment of Egypt's Oil situation from Newsletter No. 30 published in June of 2003:

Exploration commenced in the 1920s when a number of small onshore discoveries were made, and it was not until the opening of the Gulf of Suez in the 1960s that the country=s potential was realised. Amoco took a dominant position, working closely with the state oil company, to bring in the El Morgan Field in 1965 with over a billion barrels of ultimate recovery. It was followed by the July, Belayim and Ramadan fields that just attain giant status. About 1400 wildcats have been drilled. Peak drilling was in 1985 when as many as 56 wildcats were drilled, but after a second lower peak in the mid 1990s, current annual drilling rate has fallen to about 25 wildcats a year. In short, exploration is at a mature stage, with the larger fields being well into decline. Exploration drilling is expected to draw to a close around 2020.
The country will become a net importer of oil within about five years as domestic production continues to fall. But it is blessed with a high level of solar radiation, which could help provide for its energy needs as its oil and gas deplete over the next few decades.

Campbell revisited Egyptian oil producion in Newsletter No. 98 published in February, 2009 which contains the following update

Oil production commenced in 1914 but did not rise significantly until after the Second World War with the discoveries in the Gulf of Suez. It passed 500 kb/d in 1979 to reach a peak of 922 kb/d in 1996, since when it has declined to about 600 kb/d. It will likely continue to decline in the future at about 5.8% a year. Consumption has risen steeply in recently years to reach 241 Mb/a, meaning that the country already a net importer.
The country’s need for oil imports will grow as domestic production continues to fall. But gas production can be maintained, and the country is blessed with a high level of solar radiation, which could help provide for its energy needs over the next few decades. Looking ahead it would be reasonable to expect growing Egyptian pressure on Libya, its oil-rich neighbour, which may take the form of close cooperation or, if that fails, outright hostility. It might provide the foundation for a new Arab power base following the frustrated dreams of Col. Nasser.

We can see the bulk of the production history, it's recent decline against increasing demand and the slide from exporter to importer status in this graph from the Energy Export Databrowser:

Getting back to the topic of the original article -- diesel shortages in Egypt -- we note that the current diesel crisis in Egypt is not new. October of 2004 featured an article titled Diesel price hike fuels anger.

We can review recent diesel use in Egypt with charts from the JODI Databrowser which is based on the data from the Joint Oil Data Initiative. This data has some outliers but a general picture comes through nevertheless. The data on imports and exports is incomplete and the data on stocks is missing entirely in the data and not displayed in the chart below. But the production and consumption data look pretty reasonable and tell a story of decreasing refinery production since 2008 set against steadily increasing demand.

It seems obvious that the future holds only more price hikes and shortages for Egyptians and this will undoubtedly cause hardship as diesel is used for both transportation and generation of electricity.

A quick look at Egypt's population pyramid from NationMaster completes this scary picture of huge growth in consumption going forward set against dwindling indigenous supplies. For a poor country like Egypt the growing gap may be devastating.

I have long harped on the UK as needing to get its energy house in order but in countries like Egypt, with their booming population, the cause is even more urgent.

Best hopes for learning from history and the available data!

-- Jon

What's interesting about UK versus Egypt is that despite vast socioeconomic differences, their respective net export crashes were quite similar, with the UK going from final production peak to net importer status in 7 years, Egypt in 11 years (EIA). In both cases, their consumption as a percentage of production numbers were in the 50% to 60% range at their final production peaks.

I added Indonesia to the other two for my IUKE case history (Indonesia, UK, Egypt). They went from a combined production peak in 1996 to zero net oil exports in 2005. I don't have the pre-1980 data, but it's a near certainty that at least 90% of their total cumulative net oil exports had already been shipped by the time they hit their combined production peak in 1996, with the remaining 10% or so being shipped from 1996 to 2005.

Egypt drilled 21/22 productive wildcats for 2008/2009. We'll see where that leads. They seemed to have an inordinately high amount of discoveries from 1998-2009, this is by no means proportional to a nation's output. AAPG Discovery Data spreadsheet


The AAPG Discovery Data is an awesome compilation of recent wells! Do you know of any way of tying the Well Names to specific latitudes and longitudes? I can imagine creating a pretty nice interactive tool if that information were available.

-- Jon

Thanks, Jon. Was a considerable chore copying and pasting all that stuff; one year came out distorted for some reason, needed a lot of patching up. My hope was to look for correlations with the Wiki megaprojects database but hardly anything came of it, although maybe I simply lack the chops to filter the data properly; the wildcat and the project may have completely different names, or part of the name of the latter is in the former, or...

Dunno how you'd go about superimposing that on Google Earth. Maybe Joules is up to the task. Would give a perhaps skewed impression of the world, though - two years are missing ('04 and '06 I think), also wildcatters are strangely attracted to unlikely locales. Who knew there were so many hydrocarbons in Poland?

Lots of effort went into this I imagine, yet data this sparse can lead to misleading results, see the problems with censored data that most statisticans are confronted with daily.

IMHO, we get a lot more juice from a good statistical model. I have been looking at some recent econophysics work recently. The specialists in this field, who mainly apply statistical mechanics and entropy ideas to macroeconomics problems, get hit on all sides. The economists hate them, the classical statisticians hate them, and the physicists don't consider econ a science.

The same thing holds for macro-modeling of oil discovery and production. All the conventional bottom-up geologists and engineers working this don't realize how much more useful a model based on probability is than trying to empirically build up a bottom-up data set.

I don't mean to diminish this work but just trying to be realistic. If manna would fall from the sky and we had a complete public data set of everything realting to discoveries, I would be happy. But that's not the way things are.

I will have a detailed post up on econophysics and modeling income disparities shortly. which will give you an idea of where I am coming from. It's funny, in one of the econphysics articles, the articles rightly complain that they can't get accumulated wealth data very easily because that is supposedly "private". Yet this data is vital to understanding our next economic crash. In the end, it doesn't matter because the good econophysics models can predict these distributions in spite of incomplete data. By the same token, we don't need all the oil discovery data either because we can fill in the missing pieces with the right model.

Come to think of it I could have possibly spent just as much time delving into company websites to find the discovery dates for what's in the wiki...some other time, perhaps.

Models are in disrepute at the moment, you notice; or at least among those who fervently insist that they can't be used to predict future climates. Lovelock is one who says empirical evidence should suffice to direct our decisions; as modeling past real first order stuff is beyond me I stick to that. Helps that it's an enjoyable hobby. I've a post I'm slowly shaping together as well, nothing more sophisticated than projecting past rates of change in petroleum demand on the recent past, to see what parallels can be drawn. Perhaps you could extract a model out of that. I'm envisioning something along the lines of a hydrocarbon Eliot Wave. Perhaps calls on a global peak occur at the tops of cycles? Might be in one of those $1k CERA papers...

If you don't believe in statistical mechanics models, you should have no trust in the computer that you are writing on ...

“Today physicists regard the application of statistical mechanics to social phenomena as a new and risky venture. Few, it seems, recall how the process originated the other way around, in the days when physical science and social science were the twin siblings of a mechanistic philosophy and when it was not in the least disreputable to invoke the habits of people to explain the habits of inanimate particles.”

Just a taste.

JSC - nice summary.

I may not be fully understanding the situation in Egypt, but it appears that exports of butane from Algeria to Egypt were reduced a few weeks ago (although it's not clear why that happened).

Butane and diesel can be used interchangably by some small businesses in Egypt, which apparently resulted in an increase in diesel consumption.

So only a relatively small increase in diesel demand drained surplus diesel supplies.

This is why I continually refer to "minimum operating levels", the amount in storage tanks, local gas tanks, and pipelines, needed to keep the supply system smoothly functioning. Once we get below the MOLs, the operating system becomes chaotic - and possibly at risk of permenantly destabilizing.

So far we got a taste of that here in the US after Hurricane Katrina, and briefly in 2008, before high retail prices brought down demand and restored inventories to above MOLs.


Thanks for the truly micro level details. It is amazing how different pieces of our complex system interact and how this affects the availability of different liquid fuel components.

I think we will be in for many surprises as we get down near the MOLs you mention. So far, demand destruction is ahead in the US but perhaps this is not the case in developing nations with burgeoning demand.

-- Jon

Capacity crisis looms for Britain's railways
Pointing out that passenger volumes had doubled in just over a decade, Mr Collins said: "The railways have got to a point where we are starting to run out of capacity. We need to get capacity into the system quickly. When we look forward five or six years we see severely over-crowded trains."


Coming soon to a city near you!


talk about efficiency gain

Which is more valuable, the locomotive or its cargo?
"We can't afford airbags - we got meatbags!"

cripes, how would you like to be the poor bastard who checks tickets?

Tickets, what tickets ? Do you really think they buy tickets ... ?!

Despite the un-aerodynamic profile, I would not be surprised if that train is getting 10,000 pax-mile/gallon.

Electrification (about a quarter of Indian Rail is electrified) would severely reduce the roof riders.


I could be wrong, but this image looks like it is a posed shot or an art project. It could very well be a photoshopped image.

I have seen other photos (closer shots usually) of the same riders on top, on the sides and in front of the loco. Commuter trains into major Indian cities (not all are this crowded, but more than one). Not so much fun or safe during the monsoon although they keep the speed down.

It is real.


Ha! Go to youtube and search "crowded trains". No photoshop here.


Re: The painful limits of localism

Related to this piece is the entire concept of "regionalization". I struggle to come up with a consistent vision of the scale of a region. In BAU, it's much of the globe: no problem that your shirt came from Malaysia and your strawberries from Chile. In the case of a catastrophic crash, it's back to the Middle Ages, I suppose: most people never see goods produced more than about 20 miles from where they live. How big/small can a region be? How self-sufficient must a region be?

Trade only works if there can be a sufficient degree of specialization. Assume there's only renewable energy sources available, and that there are two arbitrarily-defined regions, one with lots of renewable energy and one without. The first region can specialize in energy to some degree; the other has to produce surpluses of something else if they are going to trade for energy. Will there be anything as valuable as energy? Or is the second region simple out of luck? Or must the two be considered a single region, centered on the energy resources?

The error comes in assuming one is more valuable than the other.

If the trash collectors don't, everyone lives in filth, then disease, then epidemic then death.

All necessary pieces of the puzzle are ultimately equal.

Another case history of someone going nuts. I think that a lot of people are going crazy, just at different rates.

Gunman shoots father-son financial advisers, himself at North Dallas office tower

According to Dallas police spokesman Kevin Janse, the gunman may have been a dissatisfied client of the father-and-son financial advisers.

"This individual knew his victims. He was apparently disgruntled with them or had problems with them," Janse said.

I've had this discussion with others WT but I'm frankly amazed that there hasn't been more violence directed at the "financial industry". I think it consists of a large convoluted puzzle to put together in many cases but as more and more of the disenfranchised solve the puzzle as to who is at the root of their ruin you're going to see much more of this.

As you've pointed out before (paraphrasing) - it is probably not a wise choice to be flaunting your magnificent bonuses and exotic sportcars when your "clients" / "former employees" etc. just had their pick-up re-possessed...

"This individual knew his victims. He was apparently disgruntled with them or had problems with them," Janse said.

And didn't think he'd be able to obtain justice via the court/legal system.

Gonna see a lot more of the extra-legal reactions.

And he wouldn't have gotten justice from the court system. I had an employer rip me off of my last commissions of $8425, in 1988, which is however many dollars today. I went through the labor dept. and got a decision in my favor, then it was appealed, then got another decision in my favor in Superior court, but then there was no system to get the money from the owner.

I tried working with the Sheriff's dept. to take ownership, attach, whatever the right term is on his 2nd vehicle and they didn't even do anything. Then tried to attach income from a highrise rental of his and the Sheriffs gave up after one try in which one tenant claimed someone else owned the property.

What good is it to get a decision if the process of collecting is absent of any teeth? All my efforts were a waste of time and money.

So is it any wonder why people get frustrated and take the law into their own hands? Not that I did anything outlandish, but I can see how some people reach that point.

I suppose in the end you can sell it to a debt collector. I don't know how much you would get, but these people specialize in finding ways to get people to pay up.

Known in the credit world as "bottom feeders".

From up top, a point to ponder (emphases added):

OPEC will keep oil production targets on hold this month but could raise output later year as the world recovers from recession, pushing up demand for fuel, a Reuters poll showed on Monday. Fourteen analysts [blah, blah, blah]...

Polling surveys create reality?

Historic ship adrift, on the block

The SS United States, America's greatest ocean liner and the fastest ship of its kind ever to cross the Atlantic, is in "imminent danger" of being sold and ripped up for scrap, according to a preservation group.
The SS United States Conservancy says Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), which owns the mothballed ship, has set a deadline this month for bids from buyers and could sell it soon to a scrapper.

"This is it," says Dan McSweeney, conservancy director. "We could lose this symbol of the United States."


Just a few years before the airlines start shutting down and the need to re-establish trans-Atlantic passenger ship service becomes urgent.

The SS United States Conservancy is trying to make a last ditch effort to save this grand old lady, if anyone is interested.

The future of trans-Atlantic service?


Far future, maybe. But we really could and should go back to steamships as an intermediate step.

"The SS United States, America's greatest ocean liner and the fastest ship of its kind ever to cross the Atlantic, is in "imminent danger" of being sold and ripped up for scrap"

You must admit, this provides an apt metaphor for the general direction of the country, the "ship of state."

The U.S.S. United States, was a freakin' unbelievable ship. It was totally "state of the art". There was a whole program about it, I think on PBS.
The thing is moored right here in Philadelphia. I've driven past it many times. It's in a sorry state now. It was once the fastest liner afloat. In fact, it was faster in REVERSE than most ships were in ahead full!

Everyone who was anyone had been on the thing for a cruise; Marilyn Monroe, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, most of the politicians of the era, everybody.

Or perhaps this?

Talk about sticking by your guns even as the ship is going down by the bow: From the Energy and Capital web site:

"But if you need some assurance that these unconventional gas fields are on the rise, just watch the big oil and gas companies scramble to get their piece of the pie. Call it unconventional wisdom if you will, but the major players have made it known that shale gas is on the big thing. They're aggressively going after the remaining unconventional hydrocarbons in the U.S. Naturally, the immediate deal that comes to mind is the latest $31 billion deal between Exxon and XTO (Exxon will also assume $10 billion in XTO debt). In today's natural gas climate, it's not about the short term. Exxon knows this. In the long term — maybe five or ten years down the road — this was a smart play by Exxon."

And the author offers this view in the same breath as: "Over the next two months, I wouldn't be surprised to see natural gas in the low $4/Mcf range, even threatening to drop further. If nothing else, it's going to be a perfect chance to buy at the bottom."

For those unaware of how oil/NG leases work they have a time limit. If not drilled by a specific date the lease expires. The only way to prevent this from happening is to drill AND establish commercial production. Such a lease is HBP: held by production. Any part of a leasehold not HBP by the anniversary of its original signing is forfeited. Drilling a good well on a 20,000 acre lease doesn't preserve 20,000 acres. Maybe 640 acres...maybe a lot less. And the balance of the 20,000 acres: expires. The time frame is usually 5 years at most. High price leases can be as short as 1 to 3 years. Thus, his "long term (5 to 10 years down the road)" investment by ExxonMobil in the SG play is worth $ZERO IMHO. Short term value of the SG portion this investment = cash flow from existing and rapidly depleting wells in the face of falling NG prices. And when/if NG prices jump back up in a few years these wells will be flowing that much less. But there's an upside: XOM is free to drill as many new SG wells as they would like on the existing acreage positions. Of course, this also means ramping up drilling in the face of declining NG prices.

Some SG plays like the Marcellus may prosper at sub $5 NG but many can't. At this point all we NG producers can do is dream about another cold winter and NG price recovery IN ABOUT ANOTHER 8 OR 10 MONTHS.

If not drilled by a specific date the lease expires. The only way to prevent this from happening is to drill

I was working in the land department of an oil company one time. They decided to drill a well on a lease that was about to expire just to see what was there. They must have hit something big (they wouldn't tell me), because they suddenly went to all the farmers in the area, threw down a pile of cash on their kitchen tables, and leased their entire farms (surface rights had been separated from mineral rights). Normally you lease 4 acres for the well and access road, but this was different and they didn't have time for details. They just took the entire farm and told them to go to Hawaii and have a good time with the money. And if they wanted to keep on farming the land (less 4 acres) that was okay too.

Within a week they had eight drilling rigs up and running at full speed within sight of each other. It was during spring break-up and all the roads were nothing but mud, so they had to hire a fleet of caterpillar tractors to pull the equipment through the mud to the drilling sites.

That's the sort of thing that can happen when a lease is about to expire.

Seen that too Rocky. Might see a spurt from XOM on some of those high prices leases which have had some offset success. But, then again, I've seen the XOM machine in action when speed was mandatory...and it wasn't a pretty picture.

i didnt see any comments about:

"How food and water are driving a 21st-century African land grab"

it being the first post. so have you reduced your lifestyle today?
if not, did you reduce someone else's?

isnt this what western civilization is all about? taking stuff? the CEO of gold man sacks got a 9 million dollar bonus. what did he do with it? i be he mostly put it in a bank or reinvested it.

but what does a person spend 9 million dollars on? mebbe a food and water grab in africa.

look at all those poor bastids in iraq. lots of lifestyle reduction going on there. i read reports of 1 million dead. i wish i had a dollar for every one. callous? there are some uhmerikans who get a $1000 for everyone dead.

some wag speaks about the misallocation of resources. there's some serious misallocation for yee. this same wag freaks out about once per month and starts calling everyone "nahzees". this wag hates happy motoring but doesnt use mass transit. he is more of a nag than a wag.

me? i am stuck in a paradigm. the town i live in forces me to go to work everyday to pay for pensions and benefits and vacations and sick days and health care i cant get.

the solution to PO is very simple, reduce wages and benefits and eliminate soc. sec. take from the many and give to the few.

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

"it's all good"-anon.


Australia: Why didn’t I get my personal financial ‘stuff’ sorted earlier?

Australia continues to perform remarkably well, compared to all other OECD countries, so our policy-makers can continue to ask lots of relatively un-urgent BAU questions, as can financial advisers who write these articles. Australia does well because we sell lots of stuff to China and other Asia - more than we buy from them at least.

It would be interesting to see how the financial adviser author is structuring financial plans for their clients, if the clients say that they know peak oil is coming. The price of real estate continues to climb steadily, banks continue to prosper, interest rates ratchet up ... and we have some of the worst housing (un)affordability in the world - but very few people default, and even fewer people talk of bubble bursts, and suburbs and malls and commercial parks sprawl around all the big cities. Oh well.

OK, just wow. Detroit may bulldoze thousands of vacant houses, entire blocks. Are they ahead of their time? I think they are mainly doing it to prevent crime and save city money from trying to maintain blighted areas, but if they turned it into productive green space, the idea could be coming to a city near you.


Detroit, the very symbol of American industrial might for most of the 20th century, is drawing up a radical renewal plan that calls for turning large swaths of this now-blighted, rusted-out city back into the fields and farmland that existed before the automobile.

Operating on a scale never before attempted in this country, the city would demolish houses in some of the most desolate sections of Detroit and move residents into stronger neighborhoods. Roughly a quarter of the 139-square-mile city could go from urban to semi-rural.

Near downtown, fruit trees and vegetable farms would replace neighborhoods that are an eerie landscape of empty buildings and vacant lots. Suburban commuters heading into the city center might pass through what looks like the countryside to get there. Surviving neighborhoods in the birthplace of the auto industry would become pockets in expanses of green.

Must be a drama working out all the ownership of all those blocks ... is the city going to compulsorily acquire all those houses?

Drama and Ownership. How those terms define our existence here. I must disagree...kindly... however in a post oil future those terms will not apply. Please, remember, to Native Americans the "Caucosiod" (i.e. White man.)concepts of "ownership" and "property rights", much less "money" or "interest" were, truly, incomprehensible. Perhaps their society was the first (?) truly socialist experiment. Environmental factors (no Heavy Industry) limited its expansion. Once again, I State, we are bound to a system of corrupt and illogical laws because those whom we have "duly elected" have led us to believe otherwise. These "Leaders" have no real experience at the so called"lower levels" of human industries (Farming, Mfg, Const) But require a higher level of "Tribute" from those thus engaged to fund their lifestyle. To the Elites, I say, I hope your Computers and I pods provides nutrition for your progeny. 'Nuff said.

Have you been reading Derrick Jensen?

You have to admit though its an interesting sociological and historical fact, that the most violent of the North American tribes were the ones that competed for and lived off the Buffalo. So it would seem that the more people are able to move away from a subsistence lifestyle in which there is plenty to go around, regardless of race, it always drives greed with its constant companion, aggressiveness.

There are interesting anthropological studies of the Pawnee (as I recall). They had been a peaceful, matrilocal, horticultural society living mostly along streams, with hunting providing only limited additional calories/resources.

The introduction of the horse radically altered all those patterns--they became much more bellicose, patriarchal, hunting and meat centered, and mobile.

I think something like this happened to some of the first groups to domesticate the horse in the old world, and that was the source of the Indo-European languages and cultures that spread throughout Europe and parts of South Asian, and now around the world.

Imagine what it must be like for the people that bought those houses cheap and then spent time and money fixing them up, thinking they would have cheap housing. Then the city of Detroit comes along and pastes a notice on the house to vacate, gives the person 50 dollars or whatever the going rate is for houses in defunct neighborhoods, and you have 30 days to exit stage left to who knows where. Ah, there goes the dream of cheap housing with a pit bull protecting the property.

I don't think it's going to work like that. It's not like this is out of left field; it's something that's been discussed for 20 years now, and has been done by other Rust Belt cities (though not on this scale).

The city offers people more than market rate for their homes - enough so they can buy an equivalent house in another neighborhood with money left over. Many homes are abandoned, and could be taken for back taxes. There are some people who refuse to leave even with very generous compensation; these are often older folk who simply don't want to leave the neighborhoods they've lived in for so long. Their houses could be taken via eminent domain, or the city could simply wait for them to die.

Perhaps they will live in trailers in the middle of nice new market gardens, and grow lovely veggies for all the yuppies from the better parts of town ... it'll look like the San Joaquin Valley, except not as sunny.

Imagine all that you describe will be gone. Imagine Tribes of Mankind existing harmoniously with nature. Imagine NO Lawyers, Fiancers, Banksters, Loan Mortgage operatives.... All living as one. Imagine a world populated by the indigenious Peoples of North America with their "Backward, slanted views) ((NO LAWYERS!!! HOW SHALL WE SURVIVE??) Might the NATURAL WORLD come into play? IMAGINE! Indeed.

Yeah ... love and peace, man.

PS I worked on the legal recognition of (and return of) Indigenous land rights for 20 years ... but as you were.

There is a bit more of truth to that comment than I would like to confess. In the 60's I listened to "The Age of Aquarius" Had posters and clocks to celebrate the age. You know... an end to war and all that other hopeful shit. Now, it is the 21st. century and all we can proclaim is a greedy, entitlement bound, self-destructie, lazy, Send your grandchildren to hell society. It was not supposed to be this way. Wars and war and the killing never ceases... neither does the breeding! (Fact: Born 02/24/63 - Bred NO Children, by Choice)U.S.A.F. Honorably discharged. Willing to trade building skills for food and shelter by happenstance. Never misunderstand kindness for weakness.

Peace, Love and Happiness... so easily to Proclaim, so hard to Obtain.My Generation, through its reach for unintended riches/ those not deserved through physical means; have cheapened the dollar to where it is almost worthless.In the 21st. century, the Age of Aquarius, we are to reign as gods, in peace. Instead, we war as enemies behaving like devils. It is a sorry sort of affairs. Plain and simple. Now it is too late, and we shall have to suffer the consequences.

Hey, that doesn't sound half bad Cargill.

Yep - breaking your back picking broccoli for $6.50 an hour might look pretty good pretty soon, Perk!

Who would have ever guessed the revenge of the greens would play out in this way? Interesting.

Yes, all of this is coming to a city near you. Next up: Phoenix, Las Vegas, L.A. Take your pick. Except this time, they go back to being desert.

A good friend of my wife lives in Phoenix (only because her ill daughter is living there) - she reckons the whole place is on a slow death march to desertdom as well.

Detroit may bulldoze thousands of vacant houses, entire blocks. Are they ahead of their time?

Detroit is an example of what happens to a one-industry town when the one industry goes down the toilet.

It's happened before, just usually not on that scale.

More about the North Sea SuperGrid:

UK is dependant on gas for its electricity production, a common grid with wind and hydro power producers (hydro power in Norway produces 50% of the electricity vs. 6% worldwide). Instead of distributing gas in pipelines, an additional electric distribution makes sense as an alternative. The UK certainly likes that after a failure in gas delivery due to pipeline troubles in 2009.