Drumbeat: May 27, 2010

Setback Delays ‘Top Kill’ Effort to Seal Leaking Oil Well in Gulf

BP had to halt its ambitious effort to plug its stricken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday afternoon when engineers saw that too much of the drilling fluid they were injecting into the well was escaping along with the leaking crude oil.

A technician at the BP command center said that pumping of the fluid had to be stopped temporarily while engineers were revising their plans, and that the company hoped to resume pumping by midnight, if federal officials approved.

The technician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said the problem was not seen as serious. “We’re still quite optimistic,” he said, but cautioned: “It is not assured and its not a done deal yet. All of this will require some time.”

Obama Pushes for More Regulation, Extends Oil Drilling Moratorium

President Barack Obama, under pressure to step up response to the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, on Thursday vowed tougher regulations for the oil industry and said he is suspending action on 33 exploratory drilling operations in the Gulf and canceling or temporarily suspending pending lease sales and drilling in Virginia and the Arctic.

API: The Impact of Delaying Offshore Development

"We understand the concerns many people have about offshore drilling in the wake of this incident, and the frustration many feel toward oil companies. But this issue is much larger than the oil industry, since access to affordable energy impacts every sector of our economy, every state in our nation and every American family. Further, thousands of products - from toothpaste to iPods, cell phones to computers, and vitamins to vegetables - use oil and natural gas as a feedstock in the manufacturing process.

An extended moratorium on safely producing our oil and natural gas resources from the Gulf of Mexico would create a moratorium on economic growth and job creation--especially in the Gulf States whose people and economies have already been most affected by the oil spill--by undercutting our nation's access to affordable, reliable, domestic sources of oil and natural gas.

Scientists find evidence of large underwater oil plume in gulf

The scientists, aboard a University of South Florida research vessel, found an area of dissolved oil that is about six miles wide, and extends from the surface down to a depth of about 3,200 feet, said Professor David Hollander.

The plume is clear, with the oil entirely dissolved.

"Here is a situation where, unless you're looking at the chemical fingerprints, [the oil] is absolutely not visible," Hollander said. "It's not some Italian vinaigrette or anything like that. It's absolutely, perfectly clear.

USF researchers confirm massive underwater plume from gulf oil spill

A news release from USF's College of Marine Sciences refers to it as "a wide area with elevated levels of dissolved hydrocarbons throughout the water column."

The thickest concentration, they found, was more than 2 miles beneath the surface — deeper than where the Deepwater Horizon well has been spewing oil for the past month — and about 20 miles northeast of the collapsed rig.

Gulf Spill Bigger Than Valdez, Estimate Shows

A team of U.S. scientists on Thursday significantly raised the estimate of how much oil has been leaking from a damaged well into the Gulf of Mexico. The figures signal that the disaster is at least as big as the Exxon Valdez spill two decades ago, and could perhaps double it in size.

Between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day are estimated to be spilling into the waters of the Gulf, said U.S. Geological Survey director Marcia McNutt, the leader of an inter-agency team created to measure the size and rate of the spill following criticism that a previous estimate of 5,000 barrels a day was inaccurate.

The announcement comes as Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said Thursday that BP PLC's effort to stop the flow of oil from a broken well in the Gulf of Mexico has so far "stabilized the wellhead" and stopped the oil and gas from coming up.

But Adm. Allen and a BP executive, in separate appearances Thursday, cautioned that the so-called top kill operation to seal the well, and stop a gusher of crude fouling the Louisiana coast, isn't complete.

Gulf oil spill now largest in U.S. history as BP continues plug effort

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey said the well has gushed 500,000 to 1 million gallons a day — greater than the original estimate of 210,000 gallons a day offered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration several weeks ago.

At that pace, at least 17 million gallons and possibly as much as 39 million gallons have spilled into the Gulf in the five weeks since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank 50 miles off Louisiana's coast, killing 11 crew workers and unleashing an ecological emergency. Exxon Valdez spilled about 11 million gallons into Alaska's Prince William Sound.

Admiral Allen Approves One Section of Louisiana Barrier Island Project Proposal as Part of Federal Oil Spill Response

The National Incident Commander for the BP oil spill, Admiral Thad Allen, today approved the implementation of a section of Louisiana’s barrier island project proposal that could help stop oil from coming ashore and where work could be completed the fastest—as an integrated part of the federal response to the BP oil spill.

This step will save Louisiana the cost of construction for this section by integrating it with the federal government’s ongoing oil spill response—thus paving the road for payment by BP, as a responsible party, or the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

It will also allow assessment of the effectiveness and environmental impacts of this strategy in one of the areas most at risk of long-term impact by BP's leaking oil.

Obama Suspends Arctic Oil Drilling Until 2011

The Obama administration, under pressure to act over the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, announced Thursday that it will suspend consideration of any applications for exploratory drilling for oil in the Arctic until 2011 and said that a moratorium on permits to drill new deepwater wells will continue for six months.

President Barack Obama, in a news conference, vowed tougher regulations for the oil industry.

Mr. Obama said the "oil industry's cozy and sometimes corrupt relationship" with federal regulators underscores the need for more oversight.

Gulf oil spill: Head of Minerals Management Service quits [Updated]

Elizabeth Birnbaum has resigned her post as head of the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the beleaguered federal agency that oversees offshore oil drilling.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the resignation Thursday morning at a House subcommittee hearing on the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Salazar said Birnbaum resigned on her own terms, and he praised her as a good public servant.

US oil spill clean-up boats recalled after crews fall ill

All 125 commercial fishing boats helping oil recovery efforts off Louisiana's Breton Sound area have been recalled after four workers reported health problems, officials said.

The crew members aboard three separate vessels "reported experiencing nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains" mid-afternoon Wednesday, the US Coast Guard said in a statement.

"No other personnel are reporting symptoms, but we are taking this (recall) action as an extreme safeguard," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Robinson Cox.

7 Gulf oil spill cleanup workers hospitalized

Seven workers helping to clean up the Gulf oil spill remain hospitalized after they reported dizziness, headaches and nausea while working on boats off the Louisiana coast.

West Jefferson Medical Center spokeswoman Taslin Alfonso said Thursday that doctors believe the likely cause is chemical irritation and dehydration from long hours working in the heat.

US wind energy market facing constraints in 2010: IHS study

The recession-induced drop in power demand and lower electricity and natural gas prices have "had a profound effect on utility willingness to ink power purchase agreements," IHS said.

In addition, the study said that increased transmission congestion and reduced utility demand have reduced growth in traditional "wind hot spots"such as Texas, Minnesota and California, forcing developers to look to states with less ideal wind resources and more difficult development conditions.

"Transmission remains one of the greatest barriers to the development of US wind projects," the study said, adding that "[c]oordinated national policies will be necessary to more efficiently link the US' vast wind resources to high-demand regions." But even if those policies are in place, IHS said there "will be a lag of several years" before those projects begin operating. "A national renewable energy standard or federal energy policy legislation along with a streamlined transmission siting and cost allocation process are the essential ingredients to building a robust future US wind market."

Mixed messages on offshore wind’s future

While capital costs would usually fall as an industry grows, offshore wind is seeing the reverse. The UK wind energy trade association, RenewableUK, in a paper of its own, attributes this to supply chain issues. More specifically, they list:

-Reduced competition within the wind energy supply chain combined with an increase in demand for supplies, particularly from onshore wind.

-Contracts drawn up between suppliers and customers during the sector’s early years caused losses to suppliers, as high early competition amongst suppliers set low future price projections, before costs later rose once the true costs and technology challenges were realised.

-With over 80% of UK offshore wind capital value being imported, the fall of the pound against the euro and fluctuating commodity prices have forced prices up.

Cost per MW projections from British Wind Energy Association. Click for larger image.

Accounting for increasing energy use by the US food system

Energy used by the US food system accounted for 80% of the increase in American energy use between 1997 and 2002, according to a recent report from the USDA’s Economic Research Service. Other remarkable conclusions of the analysis include:

-Food system energy use increased by 22.4% while total energy use rose by just 3.3%.

-On a per capita basis, total energy use actually fell by 1.8%, but food system energy use was still up by 16.4%.

JM Greer: The World After Abundance

What’s going on here is precisely what The Limits to Growth warned about in 1973: the costs of continued growth have risen faster than growth itself, and are reaching a level that is forcing the economy to its knees. By “costs,” of course, the authors of The Limits to Growth weren’t talking about money, and neither am I. The costs that matter are energy, resources, and labor; it takes a great deal more of all of these to extract oil from deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico or oil sands in Alberta, say, than it used to take to get it from Pennsylvania or Texas, and since offshore drilling and oil sands make up an increasingly large share of what we’ve got left – those wells in Pennsylvania and Texas have been pumped dry, or nearly so – these real, nonmonetary costs have climbed steadily.

The Peak OIl Crisis: After the Spill (Tom Whipple)

It is not yet clear whether the drilling industry, or the government for that matter, wants government inspectors aboard every drilling rig participating in critical operational decisions that could result in a blowout. With a million dollars a day at stake, it is unlikely that the industry wants relatively low level inspectors deciding that the cement needs another day or so to dry properly. The upside of course is that should the unthinkable happen, the industry is in a good position to pass the liability on to the government if it signed off on the procedure.

There are obviously billions of dollars and the fate of nations involved in this question, for if offshore drilling takes substantially longer and becomes substantially more expensive, then so does our oil.

BP decisions Set Stage for Disaster

A Wall Street Journal investigation provides the most complete account so far of the fateful decisions that preceded the blast. BP made choices over the course of the project that rendered this well more vulnerable to the blowout, which unleashed a spew of crude oil that engineers are struggling to stanch.

BP, for instance, cut short a procedure involving drilling fluid that is designed to detect gas in the well and remove it before it becomes a problem, according to documents belonging to BP and to the drilling rig's owner and operator, Transocean Ltd.

BP also skipped a quality test of the cement around the pipe—another buffer against gas—despite what BP now says were signs of problems with the cement job and despite a warning from cement contractor Halliburton Co.

Once gas was rising, the design and procedures BP had chosen for the well likely gave this perilous gas an easier path up and out, say well-control experts. . .

Finally, a BP manager overseeing final well tests apparently had scant experience in deep-water drilling. He told investigators he was on the rig to "learn about deep water," according to notes of an interview with him seen by the Journal.

BP Used Riskier Method to Seal Oil Well Before Blast

Several days before the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, BP officials chose, partly for financial reasons, to use a type of casing for the well that the company knew was the riskier of two options, according to a BP document.

If the cement around the casing pipe — used to line the well — did not seal properly, gases could leak all the way to the wellhead, where only a single seal would serve as a barrier.

Using a different type of casing would provide two barriers, according to the document, which was provided to The New York Times by a Congressional investigator.

BP worker takes 5th, making prosecution a possibility

A top BP worker who was aboard the Deepwater Horizon in the hours leading up to the explosion declined to testify in front of a federal panel investigating the deadly oil rig blowout, telling the U.S Coast Guard he was invoking his constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.

The move Wednesday by BP's Robert Kaluza raises the possibility of criminal liability in the April 20 explosion that killed 11 and five weeks later continues to spew hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day.

Gulf oil spill: Governor calls for permission to dredge

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took another boat tour of the oil spill area Wednesday and later repeated his call to get federal permission to dredge sand and create barrier islands to protect inland estuaries.

The Army Corps of Engineers is fast-tracking the application but must allow other agencies to comment, according to federal environmental law.

A timeline of the disastrous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (photos)

Since the Deepwater Horizon rig sank into the Gulf of Mexico on April 22, more than 200,000 gallons of oil a day have been pouring into the sea from the well it was drilling. Response teams have been working day in and day out to contain and clean up the floating oil, while experts have attemptedcso far unsuccessfully—to shut off the flow of oil from the wellhead. The leaked oil has already washed up on the delicate Louisiana shoreline, and may soon reach the coasts of other gulf states as well, closing down fisheries and threatening the region’s fragile ecosystems.

Gulf oil spill: Results of 'top kill' operation won't be known for 24 hours

It will be at least 24 hours before BP officials will know whether their high-risk effort to plug the wellhead spewing crude into the gulf has succeeded, the Chief Executive Tony Hayward said Wednesday afternoon.

He said the effort is proceeding as planned and cautioned that the televised images of the oil plume do not give an indication of how the operation is going or whether the oil flow is increasing or decreasing.

White House leak reveals Barack Obama's reaction to news of oil spill

The administration has repeatedly put responsibility for the cleanup on the oil firm. "We will keep our boot on their neck until the job is done," the interior secretary, Ken Salazar, said this week.

But a CNN poll suggests the focus on BP has distracted from the administration's own efforts, showing for the first time that the majority of Americans, 51%, disapprove of Obama's handling of the crisis.

Commentators are also increasingly complaining about lax oversight by his administration before the spill, and a hands-off approach to the cleanup.

Obama warns on “risky” fossil fuels

President Barack Obama said the US would not be able to sustain the kind of “risky” exploitation of fossil fuels that caused the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as he prepared to announce sweeping new regulations for offshore drilling.

On Thursday the White House will release the results of a 30-day review that it asked the Department of Interior to conduct about the safety and regulatory regime that was in place before the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. Previous reports have suggested numerous regulatory and technical failings.

The review could have wide-reaching implications for other energy companies involved in offshore drilling, such as Royal Dutch Shell, which has invested $3bn looking for oil in Alaska.

Oil Spill Response: New Ad Demands Leadership on Climate Legislation from Senate Democrats (Video)

A leading environmental group is upping the ante in the climate change debate, making a major ad buy targeting predominantly Democratic senators to get them to push for more progressive energy legislation in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf.

Repackaging an ad that has already aired nationally, the Natural Resources Defense Council is now taking its effort local. The group is airing the same spot in key strategic states in an effort to compel more legislative leadership on the climate front.

Poll: Majority give Obama, feds failing grade on oil spill response

Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed Monday and Tuesday say BP is doing a "poor" or "very poor" job in handling the calamity. Six of 10 say that of the federal government. And a 53% majority give Obama a poor rating.

The catastrophe has boosted concern about the environment over development of new energy supplies -- a long-time balancing act in American politics.

Now, a majority say protection of the environment should be given priority, "even at the risk of limiting energy supplies."

The 55%-39% divide on that question was a reversal of American views in March, before the April 20 explosion sent crude oil spewing into the gulf.

Rig mechanic says BP was in a rush despite problems

Hours before the fatal accident that sank the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, workers for the rig's owner quarreled with BP officials who wanted to finish the drilling job despite problems, a mechanic told a Coast Guard committee in Louisiana on Wednesday.

Douglas Brown, the rig's chief mechanic, testified that three officials for rig owner Transocean Ltd. balked at the desire of a BP "company man" to remove drilling mud from the pipe connecting the rig with the well.

"There was a slight argument [that] took place.… The [BP] company man was saying, 'This is how it's going to be,' " said Brown, who could not identify the BP official.

After the midmorning meeting, Brown said, Transocean worker Jimmy Harrell grumbled, "Well, I guess that's what we have those 'pinchers' for" — apparently referring to the shear rams on the blowout preventer on the seafloor.

Gulf oil spill: Is MMS so corrupt it must be abolished?

On Wednesday, Sen. Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska introduced legislation to mandate a two-year waiting period between government and industry jobs in order to reduce industry influence on regulators. The legislation, called the Stop Cozy Relationships with Big Oil Act, would also make gift-acceptance, a key focus of the most recent MMS investigation, a felony with a possible 15-year prison sentence.

The reality, however, is that the MMS needs industry expertise to properly manage America's oil riches, says Inspector General Kendall.

BP Deepwater Horizon operations were six weeks behind schedule, documents say

BP's drilling operations were about six weeks behind schedule when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, according to documents cited Wednesday at a hearing examining the cause of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Reading from BP documents that have not been made public, BP safety leader Steve Tink said his company had applied to use the Deepwater Horizon in another oilfield on March 8, 43 days before the accident.

BP was paying Transocean, the company that leased the rig to BP and ran it on BP's behalf, $533,000 a day, Transocean safety official Adrian Rose testified.

Exploratory oil drilling in Arctic halted until 2011

The Obama administration Thursday will suspend planned exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska until at least 2011, a casualty of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The suspension will be part of a report that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will give to President Obama, who's likely to address the suspension as well as other proposals stemming from Salazar's report, at a White House news conference Thursday.

The move will stop Shell from drilling five wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off northern Alaska weeks before it had hoped to start work, an administration official said.

American faith in technological magic exacerbates frustration with Gulf of Mexico oil leak

"Americans believe that there must be a technological fix. If a problem is not solved, they tend to assume incompetence," said David Nye, the author of "Technology Matters: Questions to Live By."

"This is not about logic, it is about being a victim of forces beyond the control of local politics, so people bump it up to the next level," said Nye, a professor of the Center for American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.

And the last next level is the Oval Office where, as everyone knows, the buck stops.

Project delays threaten oil supply: Technip

PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) - The world will face an energy shortage in two years if oil and gas companies delay investment decisions in new projects due to the economic crisis, the head of oil contractor Technip (TECF.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Wednesday.

Oil prices have plunged 20 percent from the 19-month peak of $87.15 hit in early May, on concern about the euro zone debt crisis and austerity steps that may hurt economic growth.

"If the price of oil was to collapse again to around $50 to $55 a barrel, then we would probably see customers rethinking their plans," Thierry Pilenko, the head of Technip, which builds refineries, oil rigs and gas plants, told the Reuters Energy Summit.

But any more delays in approving new production projects would lead to a global energy crunch, he said.

Oil prices jump as market panic recedes

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in July, jumped 2.76 dollars to 71.65 dollars a barrel at the end of Wednesday trade.

London's Brent North Sea crude for July soared 2.19 dollars to 71.74 dollars.

Oil had plunged on Tuesday on fears that the eurozone financial crisis could turn toxic for the global economic recovery.

Flannery: I’ve changed my mind on carbon capture

THE environmentalist Tim Flannery has withdrawn his support for carbon capture and storage as an answer to combating climate change, saying he now believes it would be economically unachievable.

The former Australian of the Year, who has championed CCS and projects such as Santos' $700 million Moomba storage project in South Australia, said he had changed his view on the idea of capturing carbon and storing it underground during a trip to Germany last week.

Nissan’s Ghosn gambles big on electric cars

Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn made the rounds in the U.S. the last two days pumping up his electric-car plans. He said the automaker and its global partner, French carmaker Renault SA, will be able to build 500,000 electric cars a year by 2014. To back up his bold plan, he announced a $1.7 billion investment in a lithium-ion battery plant in Smyrna, Tenn. All told, Nissan is dropping $5 billion from 2007 to 2012 for its ambitious play to be the leader in electric cars. The U.S. government loaned Nissan $1.4 billion of the cash for the battery plant. So in essence, we all have a piece of his gamble.

Honda may develop electric car batteries in China

May 27, 2010 (China Knowledge) - Japanese auto maker Honda Motor Co is looking to China to develop electric car batteries, as it aims to tap the country's technology and vast resources, CEO Takanobu Ito said yesterday, Reuters reported.

"If there is a suitable chance, we hope to work with China to (develop) batteries," Ito said, adding that a major breakthrough is needed in battery technology and it would take 10 to 20 years before battery-run electric cars became common patterns.

GM set to develop electric car for south Asia on its own

General Motors looks set to go it alone in developing a battery-powered car for south Asia based on its best-selling mini-car, the Spark, after its partner, Reva Electric Car, sold a controlling stake to an Indian competitor.

Mahindra & Mahindra, India's biggest sport utility vehicle maker, said yesterday that it had bought a 55 per cent controlling stake in Bangalore company Reva, one of the biggest producers of commercial electric cars in the world.

GM, based in Detroit, said in a statement: "We may not continue with the Spark [electric vehicle] programme with Reva in the light of this development and will pursue our own electric vehicle programme." Under its alliance with Reva, announced last year, GM was to provide the vehicle platform and manufacturing facilities for the car, which was to begin production this year. Reva was to provide technology for the battery, electric motor and power management.

Record Production from Bakken oil Wells

Initial flow results showed a peak rate of 3,171 and 5,035 barrels of oil equivalent a day (BOEPD). With these results, this company now has the two top producing wells in the entire Bakken play.

For the Second Quarter, this company will be producing as much as 6,800 boepd. By the end of the year, it is expected to be 10,000 boepd.

Alaska Oil Pipeline Shut Second Day After Power Outage

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, owned by BP Plc (BP) and other oil majors, remained shut a second day Wednesday, cutting most supply out of Alaska oilfields, following an oil spill triggered by a power outage.

Pipeline operator Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., owned by BP, ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM), ConocoPhillips (COP) and other oil companies, said North Slope oil producers have been asked to cut oil sent to the pipeline to 16%. That's roughly 107,000 barrels a day, down from an average of 670,000 barrels a day, said Alyeska spokeswoman Michelle Egan.

UK gov’t discloses size of its nuclear stockpile

Britain offered its first public accounting of its nuclear arsenal Wednesday, disclosing that it has a stockpile of 225 warheads in a move that offers transparency to non-nuclear states in hope of winning stricter global controls on the spread of atomic weapons.

Britain had earlier disclosed that it possessed 160 operational warheads, but Hague's comments that the country's "overall stockpile of nuclear warheads will not exceed 225 warheads" was the first time the maximum size of the total stockpile was revealed. The Foreign Office later said the 225 figure was the number of warheads the country now holds.

Quote of the day:

The increased cost of oil due to scarcity is largely being paid by shrimp fishermen.

Peak Oil + Lemon Socialism = Oilpocolypses>

This is a great article. The author argues that Stuart Staniford's arguments here: Singularity > Climate Change > Peak Oil > Financial Crisis are totally wrong. I agree.

Stuart argues: "I think the arguments for a very near-term peak in oil supply have started to look quite weak." I think Stuart's arguments are very weak in this article.

Ron P.

Shouldn't that quote of the day be:

The increased cost of oil due to scarcity is largely being paid by the shrimp...

I agree with you about Stuart's arguments. They are weak.

Stuart says he can't get excited about the financial crisis as being a massive long-term threat to humanity.

The problem is that the financial system has been the enabler of our current massive international trade system. The financial system as we know it cannot continue without economic growth, because there will be too many debt defaults. (Debt must be repaid with interest, and growth helps provide this interest increment.) Lack of economic growth because oil supplies are now flat to declining will make all of the inter-country debt balances huge problems. (These is the case whether flat oil supplies are due to lack of supply or lack of demand--both are equivalent. Lack of demand reflects a real problem--the benefit is not great enough to justify the higher cost, given total funds potential purchasers have available.)

It is easy to think of a substitute for our current international trade system that would work--bilateral trade--essentially barter -- I'll trade you this, if you trade me that. But this would require a massive drop in trade. With this approach, we couldn't make all of our high tech things--computers, electric cars, even replacement transformers for the electric grid.

It is Liebig's Law of the Minimum that is important. If there is one needed thing that we don't have, the system won't work. It may be a financial system that enables our current way of life, or it could be parts to repair our electrical transmission system, that we can't get because of trade problems (really debt problems).

a substitute for our current international trade system that would work--bilateral trade--essentially barter -- I'll trade you this, if you trade me that. But this would require a massive drop in trade. With this approach, we couldn't make all of our high tech things--computers, electric cars, even replacement transformers for the electric grid.

Gail, you wrote yesterday about "not assuming the worst till it happens".

And a strictly barter international economy is simply *NOT* going to happen !

The unit of trade may well chance from the US Dollar to:

1) Gold
2) Swiss franc
3) Brazilian real
4) Russian ruble
5) Norwegian krona
6) A standardized barrel of oil
7) A bushel of wheat
8) Gold
9) Cigarettes and nylon stockings (these worked in occupied Germany)

or some combination of the above.

Economic history (for THOUSANDS of years and HUNDREDS of societies) shows that a unit of currency will be created to allow multi-lateral trade.

Yes, barter will exist (it exists today) but so will multi-lateral trade.

And, BTW, several nations can produce an electrical transformer within their national borders.

You are simply wrong.


PS: And just why can we not have international trade based on gold ? Increase the nominal value (say $20,000/ounce) and the physical volume available is more than enough.

I suggest a combination of 1) and 8) ;-)

Alan, just a couple of points.

1. Gold is a form of currency, it has been for centuries.
2. A bushel of wheat, gold, cigarettes and nylon stockings are all consumable commodities and using them for trade would be strictly a barter system.
3. Using oil would be marginal, semi barter if you will. It would be extremely difficult to swap oil from nation to nation.

Gail states: "With this approach, we couldn't make all of our high tech things--computers, electric cars, even replacement transformers for the electric grid."

This statement is absolutely correct. The fact that several countries make electrical transformers has nothing to do with it because most do not. The point is that most of the countries that do make transformers must import copper or other metals in order to make them.

I really don't understand what your complaint is with Gail's post.

Ron P.

Gail -

I'm very curious as to how you arrived at the conclusion that the US would be incapable of manufacturing replacement transformers for the electrical grid without our current international trade system.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a time not all that long ago, when the US manufactured all of its own large transformers? If so, then what would stop us from resuming to do just that?

I suspect you might be making the mistake of confusing financial interdependence with technological interdependence. The US imports a great deal of stuff not because it is technically incapable of manufacturing those things itself, but rather because there has been a strong financial incentive to off-shore such manufacturing in order to bypass the higher-paid American workers. Sure, if we revert to more domestic manufacturing, many things will cost more, but in most cases there are few if any technological barriers to doing so.

Please also keep in mind that in terms of both volume and value of shipments, key raw material imports into the US (such as chromium and certain other metals/mineral resources) represents a very small percentage of total imports. It is the finished manufactured goods that currently comprises most of these imports.

The USA still produces the specialty steel used for transformer cores (as does Iceland BTW).

The rest is fabrication of common materials.


Wow, seeing the debate go back and forth about manufacturing electrical transformers... Just a guess, but I would estimate most don't know which are the critical components in a transformer's construction. It's not where you think.

Regardless, one of the significant economical factors in power transformer supply, (>50 MVA, and I'll be condescending, they are measured in Volt-Amperes and not Watts), is shipping. County X might be able to manufacture a transformer at less expense, but when it reaches the site at Country Y the competitive advantage is negated. Just been through this exercise.

To throw one out there for those south of the 49th, a lot of the components are U.S. manufactured anyway, like Basler tap changer controllers and explosion relief diaphragms.

And when you get into the large category of +200-300 MVA, well just the logistics of transport is a specialty unto itself. But I digress...

Joule, sure we could manufacture electrical transformers but we could not manufacture nearly as many as we need. This is because we import just over half copper we use.

Annual Data 2009 Copper, Brass and Bronze PDF

In 2005 we mined 1.15 million tons of copper while we imported 1.2 million tons.

Many metals and minerals we do have within our borders but we also import far more than we mine here, especially in the high tech sector. Life as we know it today would be impossible without international trade.

Ron P.

Darwinian -

But does that mean that we had to, or that there were some economic advantages to do so?

We also now import a good deal of the steel and steel products we use, but that's not because we have a shortage of iron ore in the US. It is because other countries manufacture steel at very competitive prices and thus can export it at a profit. During the 1980s when Lee Iacoca was vigorously preaching 'buy American', I was visiting a Chrysler body panel stamping plant and noticed huge rolls of sheet steel stamped with Nippon Steel. I'm sure the reason Chrysler was buying Japanese steel was not because US steel wasn't available but rather that they got a better deal on it.

Again, we must distinguish between economic and purely technical reasons why there are imports of certain items. And to amplify what I previously said, most of the stuff we import has nothing to do with a shortage of raw materials in the US. It's mostly about price.

But does that mean that we had to, or that there were some economic advantages to do so?

Joule, iron ore is not a scarce resource, copper ore really is. Also steel is a far more labor intensive process than copper production. China, for instance, imports iron oar then exports the finished steel into the US cheaper than we can manufacture it ourselves. That is not the case when the price of oil gets very high as Jeff Rubin has pointed out.

Also Jean Laherrère says Copper Peaks in 2020. So to answer your question I would say the US situation with copper is similar to our situation with oil. We produce every barrel of oil and ton of copper we can and import the rest.

But I state emphatically that the US could not manufacture computers and other electronic parts without international trade. The reason is Coltan. (Columbite-tantalite). That is a metallic ore found in Australia, Canada, Brazil, and central Africa. After refinement, coltan yields metallic tantalum (Ta), a heat-resistant powder capable of holding high electrical charge. Tantalum is used in the manufacture of numerous electronics including cell phones, pagers, and computers.

By a huge margin the lion’s share of coltan comes from the Central African nation of The Congo. That is because they have so much more of it than anyone else.

Cell phones fuel Congo conflict

At stake for the multitude of heavily armed militias and governments is a cut of the high-tech boom of the 1990s, which sent the price of coltan skyrocketing to peak at US$400 per kilo. Coltan -- short for colombo-tantalite -- is refined into tantalum, a "magic powder" essential to many electronic devices.

We import Coltan or Tantalum because we have to. We have exactly none here in the US. And without it all those tiny memory storage devices is impossible.

Without international trade there would be no cell phones, computers, digital cameras, and a host of other things. Without international trade life as we know it in the US would be impossible.

Ron P.

Tantalum is used for capacitors like here http://www.kemet.com/kemet/web/homepage/kechome.nsf/weben/products#sur-tan and there are alternatives but tantalum capacitors is simply the best choice for some purposes.

As they say in computing, Garbage In, Garbage Out. People have been trading valuable materials, including even bulky foodstuffs, over long distances for millennia. While central direction is convenient for this, it's never been required, the notion that it's required is just egotistical commissar-talk. Think hawala, and it's not the only method.

We're talking tiny specks of tantalum or niobium in those capacitors. A year's supply for the US would take up very little space. The problem lies in the assumption of NO international trade. Highly unlikely even in Mad Max scenarios; trade has remained around despite yet worse scenarios in the past.

Oh, and in many cases there are substitutes for those capacitors. Newer power supplies don't necessarily need 'em any more.

At the end of the day, if you need something to satisfy a compulsion to worry, this isn't the biggest worry by a long shot.

In my view, I think you're minimizing the kind of credit freeze up that could occur. We actually saw a lot of trade stop when the letters of credit weren't being written by the banks and thus container shipping plummeted in 2008.

No, trade wasn't brought to complete standstill but it's easy to see a big dip that disrupts production lines long enough that the manufacturer can't get products out the door. That sets in motion a series of cascading effects in which the manufacturer — also cut off from credit right when it's needed most — is forced to close their doors.

Will trade eventually recover to some degree after that event? Sure it will. But that process could take years.


You are right on it. The credit freeze up in 2008 caused a lot of ripples.

The word from the street now is that electronic component factories in China are backordered eight weeks to six months. Some aren't taking new orders.
There is some upheaval going on. We have outsourced so much manufacturing that we are utterly dependent on Chinese parts. For about everything.

For electronics, we are dependent on China for a dozen rare earths, directly and embedded in the parts.

Darwinian -

The main point of my original comment was that the US is perfectly capable of manufacturing its own large electrical transformers and is not inherently dependent upon international trade to do so. I think that is still true regardless of whether copper is getting increasingly scarce. By the way, the single largest use of copper in the US today is in home construction, and these days that does not look like a very bullish area to me. My secondary point, and really probably the more important one, was that the driving force for the vast bulk of the stuff the US currently imports is cost rather than resource scarcity. And I will stick by that. Probably over 90% of the stuff carried on these monstrous container ships from China could be manufactured in the US if need be.

Sure, certain rare metals like tantalum will have to be imported, but the amount used in things like cell phones and computers is in the gram quantity range per unit, and our total coltan imports is only several thousand tons per year, not even enough to fill a small bulk carrier ship for one single voyage a year. Hell, we could continue to import such small quantities by clipper ship if we had to. So, I still think that this vast edifice of international trade we've erected is not critical to our well-being or survival, and that some radically scaled-back level of trade, solely having to with things we can't do without and can't supply ourselves, can continue at a several orders of magnitude lower level. Hell, there was brisk international trade during Roman times, so I don't see oil depletion putting a total end to such. In the hierarchy of important fossil fuel usage the import of small quantities of high-value critical materials is pretty high up on the list, even if we have to revert to coal-burning steamships.

By the way, the single largest use of copper in the US today is in home construction

The last time I checked the 'if you have more than 100 lbs of copper you are a horder' rules from WWII are still law - thus most homes today are in violation of the old hording rules.

Buildings with copper waste stacks even more so.

But I state emphatically that the US could not manufacture computers and other electronic parts without international trade. The reason is Coltan.

Ron, I agree on the international trade part, but you write only half of the story about Tantalum.
There are promising new identified resources for Tantalum ore, for example in Egypt,Chile and China. Besides, there are alternatives such as Niobium.
Your comments are one of my favorites, because they are absolutely free from cornucopianism and have sometimes a healthy dose of sarcasm, but occasionally seem to be too pessimistic.

but occasionally seem to be too pessimistic.

He he, yeah I do don't I. I dearly wish I could be optimistic. But in my lifetime I have seen the world population TRIPLE! And, I have seen the devestating result of that massive population explosion. So I should be optimistic ans say: "Not to worry, we will be saved by technology, or God, or providence, or whatever your popular savior happens to be." No, massive amounts of very cheap energy and technology got us into this mess. Should we expect the cause to also be the cure?

Ron P.

I dearly wish I could be optimistic.

Ron, that is not my point. In general I also am not optimistic. That is why I wrote: occasionally. In this case there are new significant discoveries and 'the elements of hope' like Niobium. How it all will play out during an economic downturn is another story. The optimists always say: look at what happened during for example WW II, something like that could be done again.

US could not manufacture computers and other electronic parts without international trade. The reason is Coltan.

Well there is always the sea and sea-water extraction (plus recycling)

Niobium and tantalum were measured in North Pacific seawater. The concentration of Nb shows a slight depletion in surface water and that of Ta shows a slight increase near the bottom. The mean concentrations of Nb in surface and deep Pacific water are 3.0 and 3.8 pmol/kg, respectively, and for Ta, 0.08 and 0.20 pmol/kg. Their relatively uniform distribution suggests that Nb and Ta are less reactive with particles in seawater than Zr and Hf. In analogy with V, the species of Nb and Ta may be oxyacids rather than hydroxides.

By comparison in ppm
Uranium U 0.0033
Copper Cu 0.0009
Niobium Nb 0.000015
Gold Au 0.000011
Tantalum Ta <0.0000025

So the technofix might be harvest Uranium to make fission power to power the extraction.

Thus not a 'not possible' situation. Just not really likely to happen.


Your PDF file is an excellent source of data but it's largely tables of numbers. For us visually oriented people another source of information on minerals is the US Minerals Databrowser which allows folks to peruse the century long time series of US production, consumption, imports etc. for copper and 85 other minerals tracked in the USGS Historical Statistics for Mineral and Material Commodities dataseries.

For example, here are a couple of plots available for copper that show how our production/consumption balance has evolved and what we currently (2003 is the latest data) use copper for:

Happy Exploring!


This debate about the manufacture of transformers is really interesting. I know Wikipedia isn’t exactly a peer reviewed academic paper, but here’s what it said about iron ore mining (iron ore, of course, being a main component in the manufacture of the specialty steel used in transformers):
“The major constraint to economics for iron ore deposits is not necessarily the grade or size of the deposits, because it is not particularly hard to geologically prove enough tonnage of the rocks exist. The main constraint is the position of the iron ore relative to market, the cost of rail infrastructure to get it to market and the energy cost required to do so. [Emphasis mine]
Mining iron ore is a high volume low margin business, as the value of iron is significantly lower than base metals.[6] It is highly capital intensive, and requires significant investment in infrastructure such as rail in order to transport the ore from the mine to a freight ship.[6] For these reasons, iron ore production is concentrated in the hands a few major players.”

Two observations:
1) I think it’s important to remember the role energy plays in all of this. If we’re talking about manufacturing transformers, we’re starting from mining. Mining requires a lot of energy. In the hypothetical situation where international trade collapses, but the U.S. still produces the same amount of oil they produce today, they will be working with 1/3 of the supply of petroleum. To assume continued production of iron ore and specialty steel at levels sufficient enough to maintain the current grid as well as other critical steel needs would be to assume that a combination of coal, natural gas, nuclear, and alternative energies can step in and replace the energy lost to petroleum brought in through international trade. It also assumes that infrastructure at mines will be changed to accommodate these new energy sources. Technically, granted a slow enough rate of change, this is all very feasible. Technical feasibility is not the ultimate judge of whether something will or will not happen, however, and when you factor in #2…
2) From Wikipedia, again: “Mining iron ore is a high volume low margin business, as the value of iron is significantly lower than base metals.[6]It is highly capital intensive, and requires significant investment…” These few major players do not produce iron ore to make steel. They produce iron ore to make profits. If there is a financial collapse resulting in either deflationary or inflationary economic collapse, it is safe to say there will be much less profit for these major players, and so there will be much less iron ore to manufacture steel to manufacture transistors.
An example of combining numbers 1 and 2:
In my career, I have spent some time observing the operations at an underground limestone quarry. The whole operation right now is highly dependent on diesel fuel for many things, including huge “Euc” trucks for transport, and ANFO explosives for rock fracturing. There is little doubt that engineers could technically re-design the entire operation to use much less liquid fuel, if not eliminate it all together. If we are talking about, say, a well planned 5-10 year long shift taking place in a market climate where the economy is expanding (contingent on expanding energy supplies) with growing demand for limestone, and the credit and the technology required to change the infrastructure are both widely available, the company running the quarry may be able to pull off the transition, albeit probably while still going into a ton of debt. However, if there is less than 5-10 years to make the changes, the economy is stagnant or contracting with shrinking demand for limestone, and credit and the requisite technology are not widely available, then the company is probably not going to be able to profitably mine limestone.
I think the same would go for iron ore, chromium, manganese, and any other metals used in electrical transformers.

Lorax, mine this...


FMag, good suggestion, and I totally agree that it makes sense to recycle metals we've already mined.
I wonder, are there any really good comprehensive studies out there that have attempted to compare the energy costs of mining vs. recycling metals? I know that a good percentage of steel manufactured today uses scrap as a feedstock, so recycling must be less energy intensive.
One of the more energy intensive aspects of recycling I can think of is that it's probably even more transportation intensive than mining. You've got all these different locations with bits of scrap metal, and you have to gather them all up and take them to the mill to be melted down and processed into new ingots or sheet or coil or whatever, then redistribute it again. Mining is similar, but all of the feedstock comes from a single location.

None of this is to say that we shouldn't be recycling to the full extent of our ability, just that recycling has some energy cost too.

...just that recycling has some energy cost too.

There is no doubt the recycling is orders of magnitude less energy intensive than mining most metals. Perhaps local scrapyard recycling centers already exist in large enough numbers near rail and harbors so that shipping to and from these centers could take advantage of more efficient transportation options of barges, ships and trains. It might be possible to do the smelting near wind, hydro or even areas that could take advantage of solar furnaces.


Daniel Miller of Yale University and his colleagues derived the first estimates of the total stock of iron in use and elsewhere in the U.S. "Over the last century, there has been a lot of mining activity; metals have been put into society," he explains. "Where are they now?"

The researchers used information from the American Iron and Steel Institute, United Nations trade statistics, and U.S. Geologic Survey data among other sources to estimate that between 1900 and 2004 the U.S. has brought into use 3.2 billion metric tons of iron. "A very large fraction of the metals that have been mined are still in some sort of product," Miller adds. "Such in-use stocks are becoming important mines for the future." In fact, because the amount of metal in use is roughly equivalent to the amount of metal still in the ground, recycling alone could supply future demand for iron and steel. "There is demolition of buildings and infrastructure, cars are going to be scrapped. There is every year already now a large amount of scrap becoming available," he says. "You can put the scrap directly into the steel furnace and eliminate the most energy-intensive step."

Further to your comment, Fred: a factoid from http://macorship.blogspot.com/2010/05/metal-recycling-may-ease-steel-mak...

As a substitute for iron ore, recycled scrap steel currently accounts for 8 percent of total steel production in China, while the figures in developed countries like the United States and Japan have reached 50 percent and 40 percent respectively, said Yu Liangui, a senior analyst at Mysteel.com.

Of course, a lot of China's steel production is being "locked up" in permanent structures like buildings and bridges, and in increasing the size of its vehicle fleet, so it will be a long time before China reaches "developed" country levels of recycling as a percentage of current production.

Recycled steel goes into arc furnaces which use electricity [say 20MW to 100MW - about the same as a small town]. It takes about 1 hr of cooking to make approx 100 tonnes of liquid steel. It's then cast into 10 ton lolipops and remelted at a later date, or poured straight into a continuous casting plant to make long bars which are again remelted later.

Iron ore is smelted with coal/coke in blast furnaces. I don't know if they throw scrap in as well.

I do have a question about that graph, but I might be reading too much into it. Do you have any idea why near the end of the data there is a sharp drop in US consumption and then a steady decline after that? Is it just noise in the data or did something else drive down the demand?


No, it's not noise at all. And your question is an example of how one starts to see things and ask questions when the data are presented graphically like this.

The main culprits for declining consumption since 2001 are a combination of deindustrialization (offshoring) and substitution of plastic pipe for copper in housing construction.

The USGS 2007 Minerals Yearbook section on copper describes:

Brass mill product shipments by domestic producers continued their downward trend, falling to 665,000 t in 2007 from 738,000 t in 2006 and from 770,000 t in 2005. While all market segments declined, the building-related product markets of alloy rod and copper tube were particularly hard hit, declining by 16% and 11% respectively. Industrial and electrical market segments of alloy strip and sheet, copper rod and bar, and flat rolled copper products declined by 8%, 3% and, 1%, respectively. In addition to weakness in the housing market, the copper tube market was affected by continued substitution by plastic in light of high copper prices. Copper tube shipments, which accounted for 32% of brass mill shipments in 2007, were down by 24% from 2005 levels (American Bureau of Metal Statistics, Inc., 2008a).

People with an interest in minerals and materials really should try reading some of the information put out by the USGS. It's of the highest caliber. (Yes, I know that they take the OPEC reserve numbers at face value and we all know they cannot be right. I'm talking here about the group that reports on non-fuel minerals.)


EXCELLENT points Gail.

"It is easy to think of a substitute for our current international trade system that would work--bilateral trade--essentially barter"

Just like Argentine Trade Tango after their 2001 financial collapse.

Financial collapse, or even an extended global depression will make any mitigation efforts that much harder to fund and implement.

The financial system as we know it cannot continue without economic growth, because there will be too many debt defaults. (Debt must be repaid with interest, and growth helps provide this interest increment.) Lack of economic growth because oil supplies are now flat to declining will make all of the inter-country debt balances huge problems.

I agree 100%! What that means though, is that current system won't continue because it can't. So I think its time to start moving beyond the current paradigm. No use whipping a dead horse. It's time for mature economies to stop with their own growth paradigm.

I think there will still be plenty of growth in the underdeveloped world for quite some time to come. I believe there are going to be huge markets in medium tech such as water purification, low cost small photovoltaic systems, electric bikes, ubiquitous portable telecommunications, etc.

There can be growth in educational services, preventive medicine, aquaculture and hydroponics systems, recycling of resources including humanure and so on.

My guess is that someone is still going to finance all of this and that there will be plenty of global trade. Will a lot of the old debt be defaulted on? Probably! Will our current financial system collapse? Again, probably.

Will there be growth in SUV sales and credit default swap derivatives? I doubt it.

I grew up and lived in Brazil during number of currency devaluations and lived through 1000% a month inflation there. I got to see the underside of the underground economy up close and personal. I have reason to believe your worst fears are fully justified.

But guess what? life went on, some people jumped out of their office windows in tall buildings, there was a military coup followed by dictatorship and people did what they had to do, they survived.

So at the end of the day I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for those in the rich fat countries who will now have to do with a bit less. They need to go on a diet and stop growing anyway!

So let me leave you with these words:

“The idea that today’s model of consumption-driven economic growth will secure sustainable, equitable and decent lives for 9 billion people between now and 2050 is literally laughable. The refusal of all the major parties even to acknowledge this incontrovertible reality, let alone explore its implications, is disgraceful.”

Jonathon Porritt, former chairman of the SDC

So either you're with the new program or you are part of the problem that needs to be fixed and I guarantee you it will be fixed one way or the other...

Now this got me going to post my own take - a summary...long, apologies,

Will the world financial system crash ? I think it will.


1) Too much debt. - OECD countries. Hedged with derivatives and insurance, which only makes the situation worse, and contributed directly to the staggering amounts. To what degree is not visible to me. Without them, horse-trading could, in principle, take place, leading to a sort of re-setting, with hair cuts apportioned, I suppose. One of the problems is that ‘wealth’ (assets) has evaporated by who knows how much, trillions and trillions of dollars, some alarming % of OECD wealth. But the debts due are of course still hanging around.

It would be nice to see some worked-out accounting, just as a *hypothetical* exercise, to get ppl thinking. Because the essential characteristic of money, since the dawn of time, is just that, the clearing of debt _ credit. Perhaps it can’t even be done.

That nothing of the kind is openly discussed by Gvmt heads, Pols, MSM, bankers spokesmen, etc. shows either that all elected leaders are stupid and/or out of the loop, or just hanging on with da cronies on da block; or that they realize the problems are insurmountable, and they are playing pretend-and-extend, hoping for a miracle. Or some combination of these.

Mama Mia! What a mess.

Everybody owes money to everyone else and no-one can pay. As debt, or money creation, is a bet on the future:

2) Not enough ‘growth.’ This has been masked by depressing, squeezing, lower rungs - employees, middle class, weak countries, etc.-, by bubbles, by mal-investment, (e.g. US, Spain housing bubble, US invasions), by labor arbitrage, by ‘profits’ in the financial sector, and by hype, false numbers, grandstanding.

The debt should be put in relation to ‘growth’, and ostensibly ‘growth’ has nevertheless taken place, see some ‘emerging’ countries, etc. (e.g. Vietnam, Poland, Brasil.) Yet, the ‘growth’ is hard to judge as it is not, on the whole, counterbalanced with ‘shrinking’, with loss of living standards (measures doubtful, difficult), such as in the Congo or Iraq. Moreover, its cost in debt is not figured in!

Peak oil per capita passed by in (??) the 70’s. Ever since then, we in the OECD have been consuming more or about the same, to the detriment of everyone else in the world. A staggering example not of income gaps, but the energy gap, a bit of the same story.

3) We humans on Earth are bumping up onto limits: cheap hydrocarbons- soil - the ravages of over-population and agri - biodiversity, forests, etc. Cultural transmission - the ‘knowledge’ economy, remember that? is bogus. It is no longer effective, it only lifts a few small boats here and there, in conjunction with Corporations, e.g. Big Pharma, Munitions.

4) The economic system has been taken over by a small set of ‘banksters, speculators’, in cahoots with Gvmts, who squeeze out profit from transactions, leverage, computer trading, etc. skimming off the top; by coercion and intimidation (bail outs.) By running a casino where essentially they bet against all the rest of us with a tremendous house advantage. But mostly through fraud, which flies as they operate in a legal limbo, unexamined, unchecked, free as the birds. (Relative of course.)

5) An ethos of competition that pervades every nook and cranny. (aka Capitalism sometimes.) Europe, for ex. How can one have one currency without ‘federal’ oversight and collaboration, but instead treaties and agreements that ensure competition between nations? Nonsensical, and perceived by voters, whose votes were circumvented or re-iterated to conform or plain prevented or denied. The peripheral countries and ‘late joiners’ were scammed. Ersatz prosperity, anyone?

6) Gvmts (OECD) have become privatized, that is, they are there to defend private interests, not the common good, or the ppl of their country. Private debt (banks, insurance, hedge funds, some big biz, mortgages in the US, and more) was turned into public debt. That is, the clearing house is history, dust, and debts are assigned willy-nilly to any passer-by. Called moral hazard now, in the past, extortion, fraud, a crime. Admittedly, politicians believed that the merry go round could continue, that private interests melded with the interests of the ‘public’, or they just turned a blind eye.

The utter hypocrisy and conceptual emptiness of the ‘free market’ mantra is evident. Those who bet on future ‘growth’ and revenues should be scalped - e.g. if Greek bonds are worth zero or only 33% of previous, as certified by the corrupt rating agencies or ‘market values’, well then, after all, the fool who bought is left with penny paper, junk bonds, eyes to cry as the French say.

An end-run looms, all these boondoggles interacting at once. A run to zero, a destruction of the system, jiggered by relentless positive feedback loops. The most important is the financial system, as that is what regulates what is actually carried out in the real world .. It used to be the other way round, finance adapted to real-world possibilities, constraints, judged ‘facts’, etc. Medieval kings used to devalue by decree, ha ha, ppl just carried on and paid no attention. Sumerians knew how much effort (energy) it took to raise sheep or produce cloth.

The Romans, the ‘Goths’, the Moors, invaded Spain, for trade, resources, territory, produce, transport routes, possibilities for expansion, blond Galician ladies, booty of all kinds, but also cultural renewal, innovative scenes. It costs all of them massive investment, armies, lakes of blood.

Today: just sit behind your computer screen and have some confidential chats in the corridor. Halls, I mean, of power.

Remember the massive demos against the invasion of Iraq?

What happened? Nothing.

Enough for now...

light relief, Brit humour: ;)


Ah, hate to say so, but they're clearly Australians/New Zealanders, not British. Still, rest of the post was spot on.

I think Stuart has lost completely his grip on reality.

I suspect he is projecting his deepest desires to mate with computers and become a BORG himself.

I have to say I agree with some significant part:

When you have not quite enough oil, the price goes through the roof, and everyone immediately realizes that there is a major not-quite-enough oil problem, and begins thinking in terms of smaller cars, hybrid cars, skipping the family vacation this year, etc. The price feedback is immediate and relentless until enough conservation has been achieved for however much oil is available this particular year. And the same thing will be true all the way down - if at some point we need to transition from gas scooters to electric scooters, there will $40/gallon gas pointing out to us the immediate urgency of that step.

This seems to restate peak oil as a two-pronged dilemma: There is a supply peak, and there is a demand peak. If we hit the supply peak, it creates immediate economic contraction, thus producing a reduction of demand, and hence we re-visualize the problem as a demand peak.

The real flaw in the article is the assumption that we can, somehow, produce and transport all of the many faceted replacement technologies with the remaining fossil fuels before they become unavailable. This is magnified by the capital problem and liquidity problem associated with that. If you follow all of the arrows, you find that the combination of difficulties could well, and in my mind will most likely result in a sudden collpase, with much of the remaining oil remaining in the ground. An ironic and ignominious finale.


In a market economy, with no externalities, this is what would happen. BP (or whoever) would pay the cost, and pass the cost on to customers.

In our lemon socialist system, things work differently: BP skips the safety and contingency plans, thus passing the cost on to someone else. In this case, the someone else is whomever is harmed by the oil volcano: basically, everyone who benefits from the services provided by the Gulf of Mexico (fisheman, tourist industry, etc).

Well, of course. This is what we did with the banks, and with the auto industry . Why not include the oil moguls as well? And, the holding company at risk does not hold the assets here, as I have pointed out many times already. BP PLC is on the hook, and while I am not privy to their inner finances, my bet is that they only own the lease at this single field. In the end, the US and the impacted states will be the big losers here.

It is time we tax the bejesus out of oil! Let the oil companies and users pay all of the costs of their insanity (including me, to the extent that I purchase oil products). Not that I believe for one minute that will happen. Instead, conventional wisdom says the rich will get the inheritance tax eliminated or negated significantly, and their tax cuts will be extended. And, business taxes will remain the same, or decrease (to stimulate employment, of course). After all, Business and the wealthy few own the politicians who pass all of those legislative measures, and they will get what they pay for.


No matter how many times the administration explains that the best minds in America -- in the world -- are working to seal that gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, that BP has the most advanced technology and the greatest motive to get it done, there remains across the land free-floating anger and frustration. Surely it is not beyond American ingenuity to plug a hole in the ocean, if only President Obama would put his foot down.

Behind the anger and frustration is a wounded pride.

"It usually begins, 'If we can land a man on the moon, comma' ..." said John Pitney Jr., a professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College.

But, Pitney said, as it happens, "we've literally touched the surface of the moon more than we've touched the deepest part of the ocean."

That is not a consideration for a nation where "failure is not an option."

From the above, "American faith in technological magic exacerbates frustration with Gulf of Mexico oil leak"

Failure is not an option. The American lifestyle is not negotiable.

Boy o boy, the U.S. is in for one hell of a surprise.

The government is the captive of the oil industry. As long as there is a revolving door, the good old boys will take care of each other. If the gov is going to regulate it must develop its own expertise. Having said that has anyone in mms been fired or prosecuted?

Beyond that, l think that Obama is incapable of feeling passionate or compassion about what is going on in the gulf. Where is the outrage? Where is the bully pulpit?

Bush set up the conditions for this but Obama seems to have done nothing to reverse W's legacy

And where is the clean up? Although, much of this area may be beyond hope.

And now to recoup some costs of the BP disaster....oil almost to $75 today...coincidence that oil is shooting up after leak has been plugged?

China has made it very clear that investment will continue to flow into Europe. This is likely the best explanation of the trend at the casino today.

There is also a growing expectation that China will allow its currency to rise more quickly than has recently been anticipated.

What the moves in China demonstrate is that the financial system, which is one of civilization's most successful technologies, will continue to be adapted. International trade will continue. The world will go on. Good people will continue to work for social justice. Greedy people will continue to rationalize their behaviour. Doomers will continue to look for the dark cloud.

Hey...quit raining on my dark cloud.

fly -- Given that it might be 5 or 6 years at least before the first bbl of oil is sold from the BP discover, logic would say no. But that would assume oil traders are logical.

We were promised the taxpayers would not be hit up for this cleanup. So the BP was given the green light to increase the cost of crude after they plugged the well...that's all I'm saying here. They will come out flush after a month or two with crude over $80.

Given the green light by whom? How does BP get to unilaterally increase the cost of crude? I'm pretty sure that's not how it works...

sgage...not really being serious. Just thought timing of the rise in crude was pretty closely tied to the plugging of the leak. Crude price has been hanging pretty hard at $70 for awhile now. Why did it go up today?

Because clearly BP got the green light to raise crude prices. :-)

I wonder if the leak really is plugged - I sure hope so...

Well..it wouldn't be BP proper. It would be the shadow commodity hedge funds that work with the oil companies and central bankers of the world actually pulling the levers.

Evidently the leak is NOT plugged. Top kill is suspended 'til midnight. Old man Murphy is lurking about.

All those oil stocks that went up on the news that the topkill was successful today... well, look out for tomorrow.

LOL not even I believe this one.

No just the stock market was up today and perhaps a lot of people felt oil was undervalued.

Assuming this is a pump and dump situation for stocks lets see what happens when this rally fades.

However earlier oil was up to steady while stocks where still down so perhaps a bit of decoupling perhaps not.

The acid test will be when we start seeing this set up.

Treasuries down ( interest rates up ) Dollar down, Oil up, stocks down.

That in my opinion is the signal for TEOTWAWKI.

Until we see some decoupling from the stock market for oil and esp some moves in treasuries then its BAU.

It'll be sooner than you want, Memmel!


No telling really I think once its starts it will move fast.

Basically what I'm saying is at some point the finanical world which is already divorced from reality will begin to realize that its money might just not have any value. I.e the fiat currencies are worthless and worse debt is worthless.

If debt is worthless then real estate companies etc have little value right now. Government promises to pay have little value. Basically we have the immense some of money that can only be lost.

The only thing with a little bit of value would be stuff consumed right now for daily life. People will begin to realize that a few billion people in the world have intrinsic demand for food and oil thats not going away.

The paradox is we literally cannot destroy money fast enough to prevent people from attempting to convert it to positions in commodities. And the commodities markets simply are not big enough for all the money trying to keep from being destroyed.

Thats the problem in my opinion with deflation while you have immense amounts of fiat money that literally can only be lost. This is whats different this time from the first Great Depression. We are having deflation occuring on top of a massively over inflated money supply.

Be glad for the moment that its being soaked up in US treasuries and other liquidity games. Once its clear that these are losers watch out. A slowly contracting daily economy simply cannot absorb the money that will be thrown at it.

Gold will get some but its also not big enough of a market.

Its a mad rush to find liquid stores of value and there simply is not enough real wealth in the world that can be purchased with our current money supply no matter how fast it deflates its orders of magnitude greater than our "real economy".

So I'm basically asserting that eventually debt deflation does not matter if the amount of notational capitol is significantly greater than the economic system. Right now it does but the turning point when only real wealth holds value.

Indeed if you read about housing you see that cash investors are making up a big part of the market. I suspect that behind these cash investors is a significant amount of borrowed money not just cash. So for the moment its acting as a drain of money. However once prices start falling again many of these so called cash investors will be forced out of their positions and forced to sell to stave off losses. This of course will start a stampede out of real estate once its clear the bottom is not even close to being in. Sure it will slosh around a bit into stock and treasuries but eventually as I said it will become increasingly clear that no financial instrument is safe.

Some of this money might land in land but taxes on raw land and volatile pricing makes me think this won't happen also raw land is illiquid and with housing crashing and if I'm right about oil rising who needs it ?

We shall see if I'm right right now I did not see enough to convince me that the big one has happened yet.

memmel...way too long a theory. I think mine is much more parsimonious.

Where is the outrage? Well lets have some perspective and look at soem of the rank hypocrisy going on right now.
IMHO if Obama had proposed to have in place a huge federal response for such a disaster beforehand, talk radio and the tea partiers would have screamed bloody murder about federal overreach, too much regulation, deficit etc. The people as a whole probably would be ambivalent at best. The democrats in congress would have given at best lukewarm support.
I remember my working visit to the LA coast 12 years ago where you took your life in your hands if you said anything negative about the offshore oil industry, now the people on the Red state gulf coast now want to see outrage and massive federal help. As for the Clintonistas saying that the response would be better under Bill or Hillary I call BS. Although corruption at MMS appears to be W's legacy, the dismantling and underfunding of the USGS, NOAA and Coast Guard began under Bill.
The truth is that most people and their elected reps wanted that oil and didn't want to hear about any consequences. That's where my outrage is today.

Said it before and I'll say it again, Entropy always wins.

This is what maximum entropy rate looks like. And, I still like my Lord of Rings analogy, this may well be our Balrog.

Moore’s Law is no longer valid.

That is not to say that computing power will not continue to increase… but not very much. From here on out it will certainly not double every 18 months. Moore himself predicted, in 1997, that Moore's Law to hit wall

Moore's Law is coming into direct conflict with the law of nature. So says Gordon Moore.

Intel's chairman emeritus told an audience at the Intel Developer Forum today that the industry's ability to shrink a microprocessor through improved manufacturing processes is going to start butting up against the finite size of atomic particles.

Then just last year IBM researcher says Moore's Law at end.

Exponential growth in every industry eventually has to come to an end, according Anderson, who cited railroads and speed increases in the aircraft industry, the report said.

That is the point: Exponential growth in every industry eventually has to come to an end! Whether it is GDP, the national debt or whatever, no exponential growth can continue forever.

Yet many people continue to quote Moore's Law as if it will hold forever. And even when they admit that eventually it must come to an end, they put that end in the far distant future. In fact Stuart Staniford, in the link I quote in my first post today, states:

2. (Moore's Law) The historical rate of progress in computer speed is incontrovertible and general technical consensus is that there is no near term barrier to it continuing...

4. (Available computer power will exceed human information processing capability in 25 years or so). As a statement of raw computing power, this seems plausible, though of course the further we try to extrapolate Moore's law, the less certain the result.

Though he does admit that Moore's Law will eventually yield less certain results, he obviously does not see a problem with it right now. But according to Moore himself, and the IBM researcher quoted above, this is just flat out wrong.

Ron P.

Ah, but technocopians believe that someone will figure out how to use quantum particles, or even black holes, as computers, thus extending Moore's law indefinitely. Just add water! (Or a few googleplex-joules of energy)



Well the quantum computer could invalidate Moore's Law, but in the other direction. It could evaluate all possible alternatives simultaneously and come to a solution in one step.

However, I don't believe we're at the limits of Moore's Law with regard to conventional computers, yet. We're still not down to the atomic level in component size.

So you disagree with Moore himself and IMB. Okay, fair enough but what on earth makes you think we could ever get chips down to the atomic level? Just how would we ever get down that far?

I know the silly little story about a robot making a smaller robot and that robot making another one until everything is at the atomic level. That whole story is silly because making the first robot takes a huge factory. Chips are made with lazers in huge clean rooms requiring many engineers and a massive amount of machinery. The first robot could never make a second smaller robot without all that!

In my humble opinion chips will never be made on the atomic level. Hell, we cannot make anything on the atomic level except bombs. Making chips at that level would come decades after we made a simple motor or even a hinge at that level. That is a pipe dream. Forget about it.

Ron P.

Many things have been made at scales measured in ångströms, from tiny basic mechanical devices to sculptures. The problem is mass production more than making such things. This is where using biotech and nanotech together with computing brings about a decent compromise, since cells have been making molecular machinery for, ooh, several billion years. The first experimental synthetic organism being made this month lends credence to the idea that we are advancing on the front of controlling these processes more accurately.]

Of course, one shouldn't believe the wanked out fantasies that one can find in Kurzweil's more technocopian pieces, where nanomachines can be used to do things we do today with more primitive production technologies. Grey goo is no more a saviour of civilisation than it is the imaginary bogeyman of sci-fi (and Prince Charles).

Let us see if they can get spin probability to work.
Personally, I don't think there will be anyone available to answer the phone, let alone deal with quantum predictions in the very near future.

Computer parts may make sharp arrowheads.

"Computer parts may make sharp arrowheads."

kinda puts a new spin on me knapping at my desk all day.

Nicely played, nucleargraffiti!

Important post. If microchips keep on getting smaller they will be grey goo. Prince Charles is probably right in warning the world about the risks of "grey goo" spreading "like carbuncles of buildings" over the land.

If you actually consider the physics and the chemistry (rather than portrayals in science fiction), it's very unclear at the moment whether a wide enough range of energy-extraction reactions can exist in one set of atoms to make genuine "grey goo" (ie, able to spread almost anywhere). This doesn't mean it might not be possible to have very, very dense computing elements (as in my post below, I'd give odds for their feasibility of existance several orders of magnitude higher than whether they could actually be used for anything practical).

Unfortunately, it's easy for people like Prince Charles to "warn" about things they haven't actually spent any time analysing and asking actual experts questions about. I hereby warn of a massive wave of dementia in women 40 years from now from toxins from repeated Botox migrating to the brain. Is that realistic? Who cares, I haven't spent any time investigating it, but can't you see what a valuable service I'm doing warning people?

I'm going to talk about the generalised Moore's law of double "computing power" in around 18 months; no-one needs to remind me of the definition of the original law. Some techincal points:

(1) I don't think anyone except maybe Kurzeil in his most hyper moments say exponential growth will go on forever. The key question about any exponentially observed increase is will it continue into the future long enough to dramatically change things. There's a significant difference about the possibilities between if it continues for 6 more years or 24 years. For example, it still mildly shocks me that "spare" datacenter power now makes it possible for an Android phone to send speech for filling text fields off and decoded for "free".

(2) The EE Times link no-longer works, so I can't see the reasoning why Anderson thinks the end is now-ish. Various researchers have lots of ideas, most of which are not clearly infesible yet, eg, the physics of a transistor appears to work with 7 atoms


Can you make enough of these connected together to make a supercomputer economically? Don't know, but it's not clear that you definitely can't. So the issue is IMO open.

(3) For me, the most important point: 2 years ago I sat in a seminar where some HPC software researchers talked aobut how they were acheiving 100s of peta-flops and their "we can absolutely guarantee being able to do this" roadmap was acheiving 10s of exa-flops in 5 years (ie 3 from now). However, this was exaflops ONLY doing some chemical fluid-state interactions modelling where they've spent intense effort understaniding the patterns of coupling between elements of the simulation to actually access the theoretical computing power of the device. Most of the architectures I see proposed for the next couple of steps of generalised Moore's law appear to again give theoretical power that may not be economically accessible (hardcore programming costs money) for the kinds of AI processing that's required to make the computer power have an effect on the physical world problems (rather than niche massively parallisable physics simulations). Even with stuff like OpenMP, CUDA, OpenCL and other language paradigms, it's not clear we're going to make a dent in the problem.

[Edit: wikipedia suggest my memory is a factor of 10 too high both times.]
So my opinion, for all my thinking on this subject, is that it's not clear which way it will go.

How about the new memristor technology? It's a 4th passive element(along with the resistor, capacitor, inductor) making it possible to make 4 nm transistors.

It's altso making it possible to make ultra low power processors and other electronic devices.

Read more on the exciting development of this fairly new technology at http://www.memristor.org/

The thing is, it doesn't matter anymore.

When cell phones can receive and transmit video in real time, when laptops and desktop computers can cater to every use the average person uses a computer for, it just doesn't matter that we can't cram transistors anny denser. At this point, computer development doesn't care about it any more. CPUs are fast enough, and rather than speed them up, we are looking at imporving how computers use multiple processors concurrently.

At that point, instead of density, you go for larger chip surfaces and new circuit designs. Then, instead of raw clock speed, you can design to improve the energy efficiency, or the hardiness (against electrical and mechanical interference) of the components, or the longevity.

"BP decisions Set Stage for Disaster"

Reading this article, something occurred to me which I haven't seen discussed. What, exactly, is the composition of the "drilling mud" ?

Googling returns a number of possibilities, including polymers and other chemicals (potassium formate?) mixed with water and clay, or bentonite gel.


The abovementioned article references about $15 million of "mud" which was "lost" into the ocean.

"The rock was so brittle in places that drilling mud cracked it open and escaped. One person familiar with the matter estimates BP lost at least $15 million worth of the fluid."

Is this ever counted in the costs of pollution, or is it just like "fugitive emissions" ? Some nebulous event, not measured, or counted, just a line-item in a table, somewhere ?

Is this like "fracking fluid" ? Proprietary ?

spring -- Just a guess but probably right: the mud they lost didn't go into the GOM. It was "lost circulation" into the rocks while they were drilling. They were drilling with oil based mud (OBM). At around $140/bbl of OBM they lost around 100,000 bbls of mud. That's a rather significant volume and indicates a fairly serious problem. I believe the lost circulation problem is also why they went with the lighter weight N2 cement. OBM is around 30% diesel with various amounts of clay and other chemicals mixed in to it. Not quit like intentionally frac'ing a well but similar.

Thanks for clarifying.
I feel better....I think....

Doug Shuttles said in last night's press conference that the drilling mud being used in "Top Kill" is water based. Near the end of this press conference: http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/go/doc/2931/568323/

Thanks for the link - my system doesn't respond well to ".wav" files.

My question was really related to an issue regarding potential toxicity of the "mud" - water-based or otherwise.

I notice the Wikipedia entry makes reference right at the bottom of the entry to a "Compliance Engineer", responsible for monitoring environmental effects, and general reference to water-based mud being less toxic that synthetics, but not much clarity otherwise.

Monitoring another Flow

Last map shows more evidence (see upper left corner) that the oil pollution is being picked up by the Loop Current. Some chance of this loop being cut off, but ...



BP Effort To Plug Oil Well 'Is Successful'

I sure hope so - what a mess?!

I think I'll wait for something more "official" before I start breathing again.

BP Effort To Plug Oil Well 'Is Successful'

I sure hope so - what a mess?!

Amen, frugal, Amen. Here's waiting to see if it holds.

Breaking news from the LATOC site:

Matt Simmons: "There is another leak, much bigger, 5 to 6 miles away"

Several Oil Drum staff members are seriously doubtful that Matt Simmons is correct on this one, based on the discussion I have been reading on the Oil Drum staff group site.

Have you confirmed that Simmons actually made this claim?

Edit: Okay, I watched the MSNBC interview and it seems that Simmons is at least claiming that the 'leaks' being addressed do not account for all the oil in the water and suggesting that that oil is escaping elsewhere down the pipe.

And now there is this news on the LATOC site:

Washington Post: Massive new underwater oil plume found in the Gulf.

Matt Simmons: "There is another leak, much bigger, 5 to 6 miles away"

Maybe he's trying to distract everyone from that dumb bet he's losing about oil price in 2010.

Well, he's right about more leaks just not the location. Looks like the riser kink has sprung a few more holes. I'm seeing a couple of additions tonight or perhaps there is just better lighting and angle than before.


Another oil leak for BP. Oh dear, oh dear...and this :

-A top BP worker who was aboard the Deepwater Horizon in the hours leading up to the explosion declined to testify in front of a federal panel investigating the deadly oil rig blowout, telling the U.S Coast Guard he was invoking his constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.-

Bunch of criminals, they say as much by their lack of admission. Make them pay America...and riot until they do.

That would be, I think, Mr. Robert Kaluza, who has been remarkably able to keep his name out of many but not all news reports. I can think of several reasons why.

The Sanibel link, is a cautionary tale, hasn't happened yet!! Probably should change/modify the link.

Thanks, I will look at it.

"BP sets stage for Disaster"

No oil and gas well ever drilled has gone exactly to plan, or without mistakes being made. The Upstream Industry has learned the hard way. The path to todays drilling (well construction) approach is littered with terible loss events, and awash with lessons. But the fact is that todays drilling approach allows for mistakes to be made, simply because wells do not always behave as planned, and the execution of each step of the well construction plan relies on people. Contingency measure after contingency measure is layered over the average well construction plan such that if one, two, three, or even more consecutive issues occur and stack up against the well construction team there remains the cability on hand to identify there is a problem, to secure the well, and to plan and effect an appropriate remedial plan.

Yes a number of issues were stacking up against the well contruction team on Mississippi Canyon 252 #1-01 well on the night of the tradgey. Issues such as a communication path between the reservoir (oil and gas) and the well bore, the choice of casing plan and related well barriers, etc. However up until around 21:45 there remained the cability on hand to identify there was a problem, to secure the well, and to plan and effect an appropriate remedial plan to deal with the issues that had stacked up.

Unfortunately, at around 21:47 the Annular BOP opened releasing the immense energy that had accumulated beneath it (gas), energy that on release evacuated (ejected) the drilling riser of fluids in seconds. Thousands of gallons of fluids entering the workspace (drill floor) at almost jet force would have made any subsequent action to try to regain control of the well very difficult.

Much has been made about the issues that stacked up against the well construction team on that night, the cement program, the cement quality, the casing program, the testing program, etc etc, however the point remains that until around 21:45 the team still had the ability on hand to identify there was a problem, to secure the well, and to plan and effect an appropriate remedial plan to deal with the issues that had stacked up. The BOP Annular was closed and was capable of containing pressure build up as a result of the leak path between the reservoir and the well bore. There were other BOP Ram Preventers available of high pressure rating than the BOP Annular Preventer to call upon if required. With this contingency at hand (the last layer of contingency in any well construction plan), why did it still go so wrong?

I would offer that the real question is why did the BOP annular open? Did it fail? Was it opened by mistake? Was it opened thinking there was no hazardous gas build up below it? The investigation team will undoubtedly determine the truth.

I can also offer that in the Drilling Industry the Driller (the man that operates the drilling machine integrated into the rig structure) has two Golden Rules when it comes to well control:
#1, if there is any doubt whatsoever about a possible influx of formation fluid into the well bore then the well must be shut in (close the BOP), he requires approval from no-man for this action
#2, if the BOP has been closed for whatever well activity the Driller must be assured that doing so will not result in a hazardous situation for him, his team and all with him at the worksite. He requires approval from the worksite supervisors for this action.

The mud logger charts (main drilling parameter record) for the period 20:00hrs through 21:50hrs as presented at the Senate hearing show clear indicators of a problem with the well. There was more flow coming back from the well than going in, there was additional pressure where there should not have been. Evaluation and interpretation of these charts is an essential part fo providing the Driller the assurance he needs that opening the BOP Annular will not result in a hazardous situation.

If the BOP Annular was opened by the well construction team the other question undoubtedly being asked by the investigation team is whether suitable and sufficient evaluation and interpretation of the drilling parameter records was undertaken prior to authorising the opening of the BOP Annular?

The time line on the mud logger chart suggests around 15 minutes (from 21:30hrs to around 21:45hrs) may have been available for the well construction team to evaluate and interpret why there was pressure under the BOP Annular when there shouldnt have been.

15 minutes is not a long time to consider this kind of situation. Given that there had been a number of issues going on with this well since the casing was run and cemented (a lot of red flags were flying) there should have been the highest degree of awareness on every subsequent step of the operation. This means the full attention of all supervisors at all times. So, assuming again that the BOP Annular was opened by the team, why was there only a few minutes spent deciding the next step when the biggest red flag of them all (pressure under the BOP Annular) was waving.

Thanks for reading.

Thanks for Writing!

You may want to repost your comment over on Heading Out's latest thread. There is a lot more discussion of the situation going on there.

There are also quite a few earlier discussions you may be interested in reading, if you look down the list of older posts.

POLITICO Breaking News:

Elizabeth Birnbaum, the director of the Minerals Management Service agency that oversees drilling operations, has been fired, the AP reports.

For more information...http://www.politico.com

Take that, evil director of inept agency! And the government flails away.


To think, she was a Harvard Grad, Editor of the Law Review no less!

I can't decide if I am more surprised that she was appointed or that she was fired.

We Need Oil Drillers "More Than They Need Us," James Altucher Says


When I get totally frustrated with the status quo, like the marshes which are the home to many of the wild species which are being fouled beyond the capability to be used for a long time as a habitat, I like to think out of the box - What else can we do to create some temporary habitats, for instance?

Can we load barges with dirt and transplant some of the reeds into those barges? It would keep wave action and the tides from overwhelming 100% of the substitute habitat, but I am sure there are many other actions we could take which will (maybe) help some of the wildlife survive this disaster. BP could rent the barges and cover the cost of making these temporary rooks, I am quite sure.

I am sure with the variety of different experts on the DB that we can suggest some things which can be done, and if BP is not made to pay for them before the extinction, they will never be able to make any meaningful contribution to a recovery of that part of the world.

Ideas? (don't worry, I have been told that I am crazy before, and that is not an idea anyway.) Suggestions?

Let's work to make tomorrow better than it looks today, for some of the other species who cannot log on here and tell us what to do !!

What else can we do to create some temporary habitats, for instance?

Alas, won't do much good if the food sources they eat are also dead from the fouling.

Well, there is one more thing for BP to get started on. I would envision a whole bunch of folks familiar with the whole existence of these species getting new BP jobs.

The only true systemic response that the US (and the world) has to do is this: reject cars and the transportation system based on cars.

The USA has ONE-THIRD of all the AUTOMOBILES in the world. 200 million out of 600 million, roughly. This should be a huge shameful statistic that causes people to cringe and wring their hands. Obama and the Fed. Govt should start a huge public relations campaign against cars, and give all sorts of assistance to people who live without one---in every possible way.

Cars should become like cigarettes were in the 1970s and 1980s: a yucky, harmful, suicidal addiction that people would try to get over---and fast. Yes, suicidal. Absolutely and imminently!

Interstate highways should be closed down section by section and dismantled or replaced by train lines.

Huge sections of suburban sprawl should have their huge roads taken away and replaced with one little road and bike paths and green space for nature. "Re-Villaging" should come into vogue. People should reject cement and automobiles and plastic in all their forms. They should emphasize bringing nature in as a emergency to save humanity, because only green nature, the plants and animals that get energy from the sun, will be sure to sustain us in the future.

Ummm... yes, that's got it... the pot calling the kettle black. According to this, 451 cars per capita in the USA, 325 in your Japan, as of 2007. Numbers from other sources vary a little, but the ratio seems to hold well. 1.4:1. All those fantastically expensive Shinkansen and subways and monorails... and... whee, a whole 1.4:1, that's it! Not exactly an earth-shattering, order-of-magnitude difference, is it?

In fact, I had no idea it had gotten that close to 1:1. Seriously. No kidding. Thanks for goading me to bring my very badly outdated intuition up to date.

Considering how much of the Japanese population lives in crowded cities where storing a car is often a real headache - as in New York City in the USA, only worse - I'd guesstimate very firmly indeed that the propensity to own a car in Japan is about identical to that in the USA, with actual ownership an inverse function of population density, also as in the USA. I'd guesstimate just as firmly that in neither place is car ownership materially affected by airily academic philosophical views. This aligns better than I realized with something I've noted before: the full bike racks that went on for blocks and held on the order of 3000 bikes at the Funabashi station of the Keiyo Line (serving, e.g., Tokyo Lalaport), 20 years ago, were all gone 5 years ago, replaced by a corral behind a turnstile, capable of holding maybe 300, and half-full.

So: with respect to the superciliously moralizing anti-American rant, ROFLMAO, give me a break. The only difference is the logistical capability to act on them, which simply varies with income level and crowding. Rich countries have many more cars per capita than poor ones. Highly crowded rich countries have slightly fewer than uncrowded rich countries. Quite simple really, no surprises.

So: if the USA were reduced to 'third-world' poverty, then I'd expect hugely fewer cars - with most probably careening recklessly in the hands of overbearing government "officials" on their way hither and yon to bring to a juddering halt anything non-governmental that ever dared to move. Quite simple really, no surprise.

So: when and if the USA comes to be sinking under the sheer weight of three billion people and their appurtenances, matching Japan's wild overcrowding, then the USA, too, will likely have slightly fewer cars per capita than if it were uncrowded. Quite simple really, no surprise.

In the meantime, nearly everyone dreams fatuous dreams now and then, but it would be most unwise to hold your breath waiting for the USA, or Japan, or any other country on planet Earth to reduce itself to 'third-world' poverty voluntarily.

I think you`re wrong!

I know plenty of families who have one car and a few who have zero cars! It is easy to manage here without a car. Really easy. Not just in a big city either.

Young people don`t buy cars anymore. They can get around without one, so since money is tight right now, they skip the driving thing. Actually cars are considered uncool by youth culture---the pollution, the costs, the parking problems. But people in their 50s do like them. But car sales peaked in 1991---now less than half of their peak of about 7 million units. The total number of the auto fleet in Japan started to decline two years ago I believe. I was VERY HAPPY to read that!

Methinks you do protest too much! Maybe you also secretly---in your heart of hearts---long for a car-free landscape. As I do and it is not (as you point out) to be found in Japan at the moment. We still have all too many cars. So noticeable on such a tiny landspace! A scourge, actually! I am always happy when I notice the price of gas going up because that and ONLY that will bring the end of the cars.

But I am happy to say that I can bike 6 km each way to my job and it is safe to do so. Check the statistics for bicycle use. I`m sure you`ll find it is relatively high here.

I should tell you that I was in an accident on a US highway 20 years ago. Luckily I was not injured and neither was the driver (it was a one car accident). But this stayed with me as flashbacks that stoppped me from falling asleep easily sometimes. I think ever since that accident I have disliked cars and wondered why the mad rush to automobilize---everywhere. ANd when I found out about PO I was glad because I thought "well, cars have finally met their nemesis!" And I still think so!

I read that there are 770 cars per 1000 people in the USA and 500 cars per 1000 people in Japan. It doesn`t seem like a lot on paper but it seems to make a huge difference because the roads are not as big, perhaps.

From Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog: What would a hurricane do to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?:

So, the Ixtoc blowout experience shows us that if a sandy beach is already fouled by oil, a hurricane can help clean up the mess. However, the situation is different along shores with marshlands, where the many shoreline plants offer crevices and tangled roots for the oil to accumulate in. A hurricane will help scour some of the oil out of marshlands, but the majority of it will probably remain stuck.


One of the more unnerving prospects to consider if a hurricane hits the oil spill is what the hurricane's storm surge might do with the oil/dispersant mixture. The foul mix would ride inland on top of the surge, potentially fouling residential areas and hundreds of square miles of sensitive ecosystems with the toxic stew. The impacts of the oil and dispersant on vegetation may be too low to cause significant damage, since the hurricane would dilute the mixture with a large amount of sea water, and wash much of the toxic brew off the vegetation with heavy rain.

and now this: NOAA's forecast: a very active, possibly hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season.

It seems that the main question is how long it will take the local bacteria, long accustomed to a diet of naturally leaking hydrocarbons, to turn the spilt oil into water and carbon dioxide. I expect the bacteria are familiar with hurricanes and will be there after hurricane season.


Master's post is quite good, I liked his photos of the land burn sequences after Rita, they are perhaps predictive of what is to come. Fairly good recovery afterwards, except for the benthos, burrowing animals. Didn't care for end of repeating erroneous Perdue spill estimates

When we see the video and photos of spill on the surface of the Gulf, we miss the other issue. There's still lots of oil under the surface. Here's a video from ABC a few days ago which gives a first hand appraisal of the mess below the surface.

If this sort of mixture is still around when a hurricane passes overhead, I would expect that there would be lots of oil lifted into the air and carried along inland with the winds. That could spread the oil over vast areas of coastal land with living plants and animals, causing a second disaster of near Biblical proportions.

E. Swanson

2nd Iceland volcano issues ominous warning
Scientists say a more powerful Katla volcano is 'close to failure'

LONDON - A second, much larger volcano in Iceland is showing signs that it may be about to erupt, scientists have warned...

...An initial research paper by the University College of London Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction said: "Analysis of the seismic energy released around Katla over the last decade or so is interpreted as providing evidence of a rising ... intrusive magma body on the western flank of the volcano." "We conclude that given the high frequency of Katla activity, an eruption in the short term is a strong possibility," the report said....

...Icelandic President Ólafur Grímsson has warned governments around Europe that a significant eruption at the volcano is close.

Re: Euro Banking Crisis:

Hugh Hendry: "I Would Recommend You Panic"

"The banking sector is responsible for gross failing (sic)...

....When you bring on a professor (co-guest Jeffrey Sachs)... they are not accountable - if Jeffrey's wrong he'll go on with tenure. If I'm wrong I'll go bankrupt, right? Who do you want to trust?"


Jeffrey Sachs sounds like Rip Van Winkle.

One week before U.S. Independence Day (the biggest gas guzzling weekend of the yr), show your support for a post-oil economy by using no gas for the day. Tell our government, BP and the oil industry that you are serious about energy alternatives.

Or, at the very least, do not fill up at a BP station. Rolling down the window as you drive by a BP station and sticking out your tongue is OK too.

Ummm, yeah, this illustrates precisely why I commented that Grist's "10 things to do" list over on the other thread was a good list of what's sociopolitically possible, but fell an order of magnitude or two short of what the headline pretended to offer. July 4 is on a Sunday, so "one week before", "for the day", would covers the preceding and perfectly ordinary Sunday, June 27.

So let's try this on for size: instead of calling for not using gas on a conveniently ordinary Sunday, when there's comparatively little traffic anyhow, why not call for a real show-of-force? How about calling for not using gas over the July 4 weekend (except if you are obliged to drive to work) - a time when the roads are normally packed, when driving is, as you observe, intense and popular?

Oh, wait a minute. Whoooooooa! Not using gas over the July 4 weekend??? Outrageous, simply out of the question.

Yup, one lousy weekend of merely discretionary driving. No way. And then some folks around here get their undies in a wad when I make light of their Simplistic Plans To Conform The Whole World To Airy Philosophies???


Since they are removed from the White House site periodically, here the the transcript of President Obama's press release and Q&A today, minus the bits that were not about oil:

Remarks by the President on the Gulf Oil Spill

12:50 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Before I take your questions, I want to update the American people on the status of the BP oil spill -– a catastrophe that is causing tremendous hardship in the Gulf Coast, damaging a precious ecosystem, and one that led to the death of 11 workers who lost their lives in the initial explosion.

Yesterday, the federal government gave BP approval to move forward with a procedure known as a “top kill” to try to stop the leak. This involves plugging the well with densely packed mud to prevent any more oil from escaping. And given the complexity of this procedure and the depth of the leak, this procedure offers no guarantee of success. But we’re exploring any reasonable strategies to try and save the Gulf from a spill that may otherwise last until the relief wells are finished -– and that's a process that could take months.

The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort. As far as I’m concerned, BP is responsible for this horrific disaster, and we will hold them fully accountable on behalf of the United States as well as the people and communities victimized by this tragedy. We will demand that they pay every dime they owe for the damage they’ve done and the painful losses that they’ve caused. And we will continue to take full advantage of the unique technology and expertise they have to help stop this leak.

But make no mistake: BP is operating at our direction. Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance. I’ve designated Admiral Thad Allen -– who has nearly four decades of experience responding to such disasters -– as the National Incident Commander, and if he orders BP to do something to respond to this disaster, they are legally bound to do it. So, for example, when they said they would drill one relief well to stem this leak we demanded a backup and ordered them to drill two. And they are in the process of drilling two.

As we devise strategies to try and stop this leak, we’re also relying on the brightest minds and most advanced technology in the world. We’re relying on a team of scientists and engineers from our own national laboratories and from many other nations -– a team led by our Energy Secretary and Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Stephen Chu. And we’re relying on experts who’ve actually dealt with oil spills from across the globe, though none this challenging.

The federal government is also directing the effort to contain and clean up the damage from the spill -– which is now the largest effort of its kind in U.S. history. In this case, the federal, state, and local governments have the resources and expertise to play an even more direct role in the response effort. And I will be discussing this further when I make my second trip to Louisiana tomorrow. But so far we have about 20,000 people in the region who are working around the clock to contain and clean up this oil. We have activated about 1,400 members of the National Guard in four states. We have the Coast Guard on site. We have more than 1,300 vessels assisting in the containment and cleanup efforts. We’ve deployed over 3 million feet of total boom to stop the oil from coming on shore -– and today more than 100,000 feet of boom is being surged to Louisiana parishes that are facing the greatest risk from the oil.

So we’ll continue to do whatever is necessary to protect and restore the Gulf Coast. For example, Admiral Allen just announced that we’re moving forward with a section of Governor Jindal’s barrier island proposal that could help stop oil from coming ashore. It will be built in an area that is most at risk and where the work can be most quickly completed.

We’re also doing whatever it takes to help the men and women whose livelihoods have been disrupted and even destroyed by this spill -– everyone from fishermen to restaurant and hotel owners. So far the Small Business Administration has approved loans and allowed many small businesses to defer existing loan payments. At our insistence, BP is paying economic injury claims, and we’ll make sure that when all is said and done, the victims of this disaster will get the relief that they are owed. We’re not going to abandon our fellow citizens. We’ll help them recover and we will help them rebuild.

And in the meantime, I should also say that Americans can help by continuing to visit the communities and beaches of the Gulf Coast. I was talking to the governors just a couple of days ago, and they wanted me to remind everybody that except for three beaches in Louisiana, all of the Gulf’s beaches are open. They are safe and they are clean.

As we continue our response effort, we’re also moving quickly on steps to ensure that a catastrophe like this never happens again. I’ve said before that producing oil here in America is an essential part of our overall energy strategy. But all drilling must be safe.

In recent months, I’ve spoken about the dangers of too much -- I’ve heard people speaking about the dangers of too much government regulation. And I think we can all acknowledge there have been times in history when the government has overreached. But in this instance, the oil industry’s cozy and sometimes corrupt relationship with government regulators meant little or no regulation at all.

When Secretary Salazar took office, he found a Minerals and Management Service that had been plagued by corruption for years –- this was the agency charged with not only providing permits, but also enforcing laws governing oil drilling. And the corruption was underscored by a recent Inspector General’s report that covered activity which occurred prior to 2007 -- a report that can only be described as appalling. And Secretary Salazar immediately took steps to clean up that corruption. But this oil spill has made clear that more reforms are needed.

For years, there has been a scandalously close relationship between oil companies and the agency that regulates them. That’s why we’ve decided to separate the people who permit the drilling from those who regulate and ensure the safety of the drilling.

I also announced that no new permits for drilling new wells will go forward until a 30-day safety and environmental review was conducted. That review is now complete. Its initial recommendations include aggressive new operating standards and requirements for offshore energy companies, which we will put in place.

Additionally, after reading the report’s recommendations with Secretary Salazar and other members of my administration, we’re going to be ordering the following actions: First, we will suspend the planned exploration of two locations off the coast of Alaska. Second, we will cancel the pending lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico and the proposed lease sale off the coast of Virginia. Third, we will continue the existing moratorium and suspend the issuance of new permits to drill new deepwater wells for six months. And four, we will suspend action on 33 deepwater exploratory wells currently being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico.

What’s also been made clear from this disaster is that for years the oil and gas industry has leveraged such power that they have effectively been allowed to regulate themselves. One example: Under current law, the Interior Department has only 30 days to review an exploration plan submitted by an oil company. That leaves no time for the appropriate environmental review. They result is, they are continually waived. And this is just one example of a law that was tailored by the industry to serve their needs instead of the public’s. So Congress needs to address these issues as soon as possible, and my administration will work with them to do so.

Still, preventing such a catastrophe in the future will require further study and deeper reform. That’s why last Friday, I also signed an executive order establishing the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. While there are a number of ongoing investigations, including an independent review by the National Academy of Engineering, the purpose of this commission is to consider both the root causes of the disaster and offer options on what safety and environmental precautions are necessary.

If the laws on our books are inadequate to prevent such a spill, or if we did not enforce those laws, then I want to know. I want to know what worked and what didn’t work in our response to the disaster, and where oversight of the oil and gas industry broke down.

Let me make one final point. More than anything else, this economic and environmental tragedy –- and it’s a tragedy -– underscores the urgent need for this nation to develop clean, renewable sources of energy. Doing so will not only reduce threats to our environment, it will create a new, homegrown, American industry that can lead to countless new businesses and new jobs.

We’ve talked about doing this for decades, and we’ve made significant strides over the last year when it comes to investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The House of Representatives has already passed a bill that would finally jumpstart a permanent transition to a clean energy economy, and there is currently a plan in the Senate –- a plan that was developed with ideas from Democrats and Republicans –- that would achieve the same goal.

If nothing else, this disaster should serve as a wake-up call that it’s time to move forward on this legislation. It’s time to accelerate the competition with countries like China, who have already realized the future lies in renewable energy. And it’s time to seize that future ourselves. So I call on Democrats and Republicans in Congress, working with my administration, to answer this challenge once and for all.

I'll close by saying this: This oil spill is an unprecedented disaster. The fact that the source of the leak is a mile under the surface, where no human being can go, has made it enormously difficult to stop. But we are relying on every resource and every idea, every expert and every bit of technology, to work to stop it. We will take ideas from anywhere, but we are going to stop it.

And I know that doesn’t lessen the enormous sense of anger and frustration felt by people on the Gulf and so many Americans. Every day I see this leak continue I am angry and frustrated as well. I realize that this entire response effort will continue to be filtered through the typical prism of politics, but that’s not what I care about right now. What I care about right now is the containment of this disaster and the health and safety and livelihoods of our neighbors in the Gulf Coast. And for as long as it takes, I intend to use the full force of the federal government to protect our fellow citizens and the place where they live. I can assure you of that.

All right. I’m going to take some questions. I’m going to start with Jennifer Loven.

Q You just said that the federal government is in charge, and officials in your administration have said this repeatedly. Yet how do you explain that we’re more than five weeks into this crisis and that BP is not always doing as you’re asking, for example with the type of dispersant that’s being used? And if I might add one more; to the many people in the Gulf who, as you said, are angry and frustrated and feel somewhat abandoned, what do you say about whether your personal involvement, your personal engagement, has been as much as it should be either privately or publicly?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ll take the second question first, if you don’t mind. The day that the rig collapsed and fell to the bottom of the ocean, I had my team in the Oval Office that first day. Those who think that we were either slow on our response or lacked urgency don’t know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred.

Personally, I’m briefed every day and have probably had more meetings on this issue than just about any issue since we did our Afghan review. And we understood from day one the potential enormity of this crisis and acted accordingly. So when it comes to the moment this crisis occurred, moving forward, this entire White House and this entire federal government has been singularly focused on how do we stop the leak, and how do we prevent and mitigate the damage to our coastlines.

The challenge we have is that we have not seen a leak like this before, and so people are going to be frustrated until it stops. And I understand that. And if you’re living on the coast and you see this sludge coming at you, you are going to be continually upset, and from your perspective, the response is going to be continually inadequate until it actually stops. And that's entirely appropriate and understandable.

But from Thad Allen, our National Incident Coordinator, through the most junior member of the Coast Guard, or the under-under-under secretary of NOAA, or any of the agencies under my charge, they understand this is the single most important thing that we have to get right.

Now, with respect to the relationship between our government and BP, the United States government has always been in charge of making sure that the response is appropriate. BP, under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, is considered the responsible party, which basically means they’ve got to pay for everything that's done to both stop the leak and mitigate the damage. They do so under our supervision, and any major decision that they make has to be done under the approval of Thad Allen, the National Incident Coordinator.

So this notion that somehow the federal government is sitting on the sidelines and for the three or four or five weeks we’ve just been letting BP make a whole bunch of decisions is simply not true.

What is true is that when it comes to stopping the leak down below, the federal government does not possess superior technology to BP. This is something, by the way -- going back to my involvement -- two or three days after this happened, we had a meeting down in the Situation Room in which I specifically asked Bob Gates and Mike Mullen what assets do we have that could potentially help that BP or other oil companies around the world do not have. We do not have superior technology when it comes to dealing with this particular crisis.

Now, one of the legitimate questions that I think needs to be asked is should the federal government have such capacity. And that's part of what the role of the commission is going to be, is to take a look and say, do we make sure that a consortium of oil companies pay for specifically technology to deal with this kind of incident when it happens. Should that response team that’s effective be under the direct charge of the United States government or a private entity? But for now, BP has the best technology, along with the other oil companies, when it comes to actually capping the well down there.

Now, when it comes to what’s happening on the surface, we’ve been much more involved in the in-situ burns, in the skimming. Those have been happening more or less under our direction, and we feel comfortable about many of the steps that have been taken.

There have been areas where there have been disagreements, and I'll give you two examples. Initially on this top kill, there were questions in terms of how effective it could be, but also what were the risks involved, because we’re operating at such a pressurized level, a mile underwater and in such frigid temperatures, that the reactions of various compounds and various approaches had to be calibrated very carefully. That’s when I sent Steven Chu down, the Secretary of Energy, and he brought together a team, basically a brain trust, of some of the smartest folks we have at the National Labs and in academia to essentially serve as a oversight board with BP engineers and scientists in making calculations about how much mud could you pour down, how fast, without risking potentially the whole thing blowing.

So in that situation you’ve got the federal government directly overseeing what BP is doing, and Thad Allen is giving authorization when finally we feel comfortable that the risks of attempting a top kill, for example, are sufficiently reduced that it needs to be tried.

I already mentioned a second example, which is they wanted to drill one relief well. The experience has been that when you drill one relief well, potentially you keep on missing the mark. And so it’s important to have two to maximize the speed and effectiveness of a relief well.

And right now Thad Allen is down there, because I think he -- it’s his view that some of the allocation of boom or other efforts to protect shorelines hasn’t been as nimble as it needs to be. And he said so publicly. And so he will be making sure that, in fact, the resources to protect the shorelines are there immediately.

But here’s the broad point: There has never been a point during this crisis in which this administration, up and down up the line, in all these agencies, hasn’t, number one, understood this was my top priority -- getting this stopped and then mitigating the damage; and number two, understanding that if BP wasn’t doing what our best options were, we were fully empowered and instruct them, to tell them to do something different.

And so if you take a look at what’s transpired over the last four to five weeks, there may be areas where there have been disagreements, for example, on dispersants, and these are complicated issues. But overall, the decisions that have been made have been reflective of the best science that we’ve got, the best expert opinion that we have, and have been weighing various risks and various options to allocate our resources in such a way that we can get this fixed as quickly as possible.

Jake Tapper.

Q Thanks, Mr. President. You say that everything that could be done is being done, but there are those in the region and those industry experts who say that’s not true. Governor Jindal obviously had this proposal for a barrier. They say that if that had been approved when they first asked for it, they would have 10 miles up already. There are fishermen down there who want to work, who want to help, haven’t been trained, haven’t been told to go do so. There are industry experts who say that they’re surprised that tankers haven’t been sent out there to vacuum, as was done in ’93 outside Saudi Arabia. And then, of course, there’s the fact that there are 17 countries that have offered to help and it’s only been accepted from two countries, Norway and Mexico. How can you say that everything that can be done is being done with all these experts and all these officials saying that’s not true?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me distinguish between -- if the question is, Jake, are we doing everything perfectly out there, then the answer is absolutely not. We can always do better. If the question is, are we, each time there is an idea, evaluating it and making a decision, is this the best option that we have right now, based on how quickly we can stop this leak and how much damage can we mitigate -- then the answer is yes.

So let’s take the example of Governor Jindal’s barrier islands idea. When I met with him when I was down there two weeks ago, I said I will make sure that our team immediately reviews this idea, that the Army Corps of Engineers is looking at the feasibility of it, and if they think -- if they tell me that this is the best approach to dealing with this problem, then we’re going to move quickly to execute it. If they have a disagreement with Governor Jindal’s experts as to whether this would be effective or not, whether it was going to be cost-effective, given the other things that need to be done, then we’ll sit down and try to figure that out.

And that essentially is what happened, which is why today you saw an announcement where, from the Army Corps’ perspective, there were some areas where this might work, but there are some areas where it would be counter-productive and not a good use of resources.

So the point is, on each of these points that you just mentioned, the job of our response team is to say, okay, if 17 countries have offered equipment and help, let’s evaluate what they’ve offered: How fast can it get here? Is it actually going to be redundant, or will it actually add to the overall effort -- because in some cases, more may not actually be better. And decisions have been made based on the best information available that says here’s what we need right now. It may be that a week from now or two weeks from now or a month from now the offers from some of those countries might be more effectively utilized.

Now, it’s going to be entirely possible in a operation this large that mistakes are made, judgments prove to be wrong; that people say in retrospect, you know, if we could have done that or we did that, this might have turned out differently -- although in a lot of cases it may be speculation. But the point that I was addressing from Jennifer was, does this administration maintain a constant sense of urgency about this, and are we examining every recommendation, every idea that's out there, and making our best judgment as to whether these are the right steps to take, based on the best experts that we know of. And on that answer, the answer is yes -- or on that question, the answer is yes.

Chuck Todd.

Q I just want to follow up on the question as it has to do with the relationship between the government and BP. It seems that you’ve made the case on the technical issues. But onshore, Admiral Allen admitted the other day in a White House briefing that they needed to be pushed harder. Senator Mary Landrieu this morning said it’s not clear who’s in charge, that the government should be in charge. Why not ask BP to simply step aside on the onshore stuff, make it an entirely government thing? Obviously BP pays for it, but why not ask them to just completely step aside on that front?

And then also, can you respond to all the Katrina comparisons that people are making about this with yourself?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ll take your second question first. I’ll leave it to you guys to make those comparisons, and make judgments on it, because what I’m spending my time thinking about is how do we solve the problem. And when the problem is solved and people look back and do an assessment of all the various decisions that were made, I think people can make a historical judgment. And I’m confident that people are going to look back and say that this administration was on top of what was an unprecedented crisis.

In terms of shoreline protection, the way this thing has been set up under the oil spill act of 1990 -- Oil Pollution Act -- is that BP has contracts with a whole bunch of contractors on file in the event that there is an oil spill, and as soon as the Deep Horizon well went down, then their job is to activate those and start paying them. So a big chunk of the 20,000 who are already down there are being paid by BP.

The Coast Guard’s job is to approve and authorize whatever BP is doing. Now, what Admiral Allen said today, and the reason he’s down there today, is that if BP’s contractors are not moving as nimbly and as effectively as they need to be, then it is already the power of the federal government to redirect those resources. I guess the point being that the Coast Guard and our military are potentially already in charge as long as we’ve got good information and we are making the right decisions.

And if there are mistakes that are being made right now, we’ve got the power to correct those decisions. We don’t have to necessarily reconfigure the setup down there. What we do have to make sure of is, is that on each and every one of the decisions that are being made about what beaches to protect, what’s going to happen with these marshes, if we build a barrier island, how is this going to have an impact on the ecology of the area over the long term -- in each of those decisions, we’ve got to get it right.

Q You understand the credibility of BP seems to be so bad -- that there’s almost no trust that they’re getting --

THE PRESIDENT: I understand. And part of the purpose of this press conference is to explain to the folks down in the Gulf that ultimately it is our folks down there who are responsible. If they’re not satisfied with something that’s happening, then they need to let us know and we will immediately question BP and ask them why isn’t X, Y, Z happening. And those skimmers, those boats, that boom, the people who are out there collecting some of the oil that’s already hit shore, they can be moved and redirected at any point.

And so, understandably, people are frustrated, because, look, this is a big mess coming to shore and even if we’ve got a perfect organizational structure, spots are going to be missed, oil is going to go to places that maybe somebody thinks it could have been prevented from going. There is going to be damage that is heartbreaking to see. People’s livelihoods are going to be affected in painful ways. The best thing for us to do is to make sure that every decision about how we’re allocating the resources that we’ve got is being made based on the best expert advice that’s available.

So I’ll take one last stab at this, Chuck. The problem I don’t think is that BP is off running around doing whatever it wants and nobody is minding the store. Inevitably in something this big, there are going to be places where things fall short. But I want everybody to understand today that our teams are authorized to direct BP in the same way that they’d be authorized to direct those same teams if they were technically being paid by the federal government. In either circumstance, we’ve got the authority that we need. We just got to make sure that we’re exercising it effectively.

All right, Steve Thomma.

Q Thank you, sir. On April 21st, Admiral Allen tells us the government started dispatching equipment rapidly to the Gulf, and you just said on day one you recognized the enormity of this situation. Yet here we are 39, 40 days later, you’re still having to rush more equipment, more boom. There are still areas of the coast unprotected. Why is it taking so long? And did you really act from day one for a worst-case scenario?

THE PRESIDENT: We did. Part of the problem you’ve got is -- let’s take the example of boom. The way the plans have been developed -- and I’m not an expert on this, but this is as it’s been explained to me -- pre-deploying boom would have been the right thing to do; making sure that there is boom right there in the region at various spots where you could anticipate, if there was a spill of this size, the boom would be right there ready to grab.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. And so this goes back to something that Jake asked earlier. When it comes to the response since the crisis happened, I am very confident that the federal government has acted consistently with a sense of urgency.

When it comes to prior to this accident happening, I think there was a lack of anticipating what the worst-case scenarios would be. And that's a problem. And part of that problem was lodged in MMS and the way that that agency was structured. That was the agency in charge of providing permitting and making decisions in terms of where drilling could take place, but also in charge of enforcing the safety provisions. And as I indicated before, the IG report, the Inspecter General’s report that came out, was scathing in terms of the problems there.

And when Ken Salazar came in, he cleaned a lot of that up. But more needed to be done, and more needs to be done, which is part of the reason why he separated out the permitting function from the functions that involve enforcing the various safety regulations.

But I think on a whole bunch of fronts, you had a complacency when it came to what happens in the worst-case scenario.

I'll give you another example, because this is something that some of you have written about -- the question of how is it that oil companies kept on getting environmental waivers in getting their permits approved. Well, it turns out that the way the process works, first of all, there is a thorough environmental review as to whether a certain portion of the Gulf should be leased or not. That’s a thorough-going environmental evaluation. Then the overall lease is broken up into segments for individual leases, and again there’s an environmental review that’s done.

But when it comes to a specific company with its exploration plan in that one particular area -- they’re going to drill right here in this spot -- Congress mandated that only 30 days could be allocated before a yes or no answer was given. That was by law. So MMS’s hands were tied. And as a consequence, what became the habit, predating my administration, was you just automatically gave the environmental waiver, because you couldn’t complete an environmental study in 30 days.

So what you’ve got is a whole bunch of aspects to how oversight was exercised in deepwater drilling that were very problematic. And that’s why it’s so important that this commission moves forward and examines, from soup to nuts, why did this happen; how should this proceed in a safe, effective manner; what’s required when it comes to worst-case scenarios to prevent something like this from happening.

I continue to believe that oil production is important, domestic oil production is important. But I also believe we can’t do this stuff if we don’t have confidence that we can prevent crises like this from happening again. And it’s going to take some time for the experts to make those determinations. And as I said, in the meantime, I think it’s appropriate that we keep in place the moratorium that I’ve already issued.

Chip Reid.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. First of all, Elizabeth Birnbaum resigned today. Did she resign? Was she fired? Was she forced out? And if so, why? And should other heads roll as we go on here?

Secondly, with regard to the Minerals Management Service, Secretary Salazar yesterday basically blamed the Bush administration for the cozy relationship there, and you seemed to suggest that when you spoke in the Rose Garden a few weeks ago when you said, for too long, a decade or more -- most of those years, of course, the Bush administration -- there’s been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. But you knew as soon as you came in, and Secretary Salazar did, about this cozy relationship, but you continued to give permits -- some of them under questionable circumstances. Is it fair to blame the Bush administration? Don't you deserve some of that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me just make the point that I made earlier, which is Salazar came in and started cleaning house, but the culture had not fully changed in MMS. And absolutely I take responsibility for that. There wasn’t sufficient urgency in terms of the pace of how those changes needed to take place.

There’s no evidence that some of the corrupt practices that had taken place earlier took place under the current administration’s watch. But a culture in which oil companies were able to get what they wanted without sufficient oversight and regulation -- that was a real problem. Some of it was constraints of the law, as I just mentioned, but we should have busted through those constraints.

Now, with respect to Ms. Birnbaum, I found out about her resignation today. Ken Salazar has been in testimony throughout the day, so I don’t know the circumstances in which this occurred. I can tell you what I’ve said to Ken Salazar, which is that we have to make sure, if we are going forward with domestic oil production, that the federal agency charged with overseeing its safety and security is operating at the highest level. And I want people in there who are operating at the highest level and aren’t making excuses when things break down, but are intent on fixing them. And I have confidence that Ken Salazar can do that.

Q Is his job safe?



Q Thank you, Mr. President. We’re learning today that the oil has been gushing as much as five times the initial estimates. What does that tell you and the American people about the extent to which BP can be trusted on any of the information that it’s providing, whether the events leading up to the spill, any of their information?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, BP’s interests are aligned with the public interest to the extent that they want to get this well capped. It’s bad for their business. It’s bad for their bottom line. They’re going to be paying a lot of damages, and we’ll be staying on them about that. So I think it’s fair to say that they want this thing capped as badly as anybody does and they want to minimize the damage as much as they can.

I think it is a legitimate concern to question whether BP’s interests in being fully forthcoming about the extent of the damage is aligned with the public interest. I mean, their interests may be to minimize the damage, and to the extent that they have better information than anybody else, to not be fully forthcoming. So my attitude is we have to verify whatever it is they say about the damage.

This is an area, by the way, where I do think our efforts fell short. And I’m not contradicting my prior point that people were working as hard as they could and doing the best that they could on this front. But I do believe that when the initial estimates came that there were -- it was 5,000 barrels spilling into the ocean per day, that was based on satellite imagery and satellite data that would give a rough calculation. At that point, BP already had a camera down there, but wasn’t fully forthcoming in terms of what did those pictures look like. And when you set it up in time-lapse photography, experts could then make a more accurate determination. The administration pushed them to release it, but they should have pushed them sooner. I mean, I think that it took too long for us to stand up our flow-tracking group that has now made these more accurate ranges of calculation.

Now, keep in mind that that didn’t change what our response was. As I said from the start, we understood that this could be really bad. We are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. And so there aren’t steps that would have taken in terms of trying to cap the well, or skimming the surface, or the in-situ burns, or preparing to make sure when this stuff hit shore that we could minimize the damage -- all those steps would have been the same even if we had information that this flow was coming out faster.

And eventually, we would have gotten better information because, by law, the federal government, if it’s going to be charging BP for the damage that it causes, is going to have to do the best possible assessment. But there was a lag of several weeks that I think shouldn’t have happened.

And continuing beginning with the bits that make President Obama appear to be aware of peak oil (emphasis mine):

Jackie Calmes, New York Times.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I want to follow up on something -- exchange you had with Chip. Leaving aside the existing permits for drilling in the Gulf, before -- weeks before BP, you had called for expanded drilling. Do you now regret that decision? And why did you do so knowing what you have described today about the sort of dysfunction in the MMS?

THE PRESIDENT: I continue to believe what I said at that time, which was that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall energy mix. It has to be part of an overall energy strategy. I also believe that it is insufficient to meet the needs of our future, which is why I’ve made huge investments in clean energy, why we continue to promote solar and wind and biodiesel and a whole range of other approaches, why we’re putting so much emphasis on energy efficiency.

But we’re not going to be able to transition to these clean energy strategies right away. I mean, we’re still years off and some technological breakthroughs away from being able to operate on purely a clean energy grid. During that time, we’re going to be using oil. And to the extent that we’re using oil, it makes sense for us to develop our oil and natural gas resources here in the United States and not simply rely on imports. That’s important for our economy; that’s important for economic growth.

So the overall framework, which is to say domestic oil production should be part of our overall energy mix, I think continues to be the right one. Where I was wrong was in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios.

Now, that wasn’t based on just my blind acceptance of their statements. Oil drilling has been going on in the Gulf, including deepwater, for quite some time. And the record of accidents like this we hadn’t seen before. But it just takes one for us to have a wake-up call and recognize that claims that fail-safe procedures were in place, or that blowout preventers would function properly, or that valves would switch on and shut things off, that -- whether it’s because of human error, because of the technology was faulty, because when you’re operating at these depths you can’t anticipate exactly what happens -- those assumptions proved to be incorrect.

And so I’m absolutely convinced that we have to do a thorough-going scrub of that -- those safety procedures and those safety records. And we have to have confidence that even if it’s just a one-in-a-million shot, that we’ve got enough technology know-how that we can shut something like this down not in a month, not in six weeks, but in two or three or four days. And I don’t have that confidence right now.

Q If I could follow up --


Q Do you -- are you sorry now? Do you regret that your team had not done the reforms at the Minerals Management Service that you’ve subsequently called for? And I’m also curious as to how it is that you didn’t know about Ms. Birnbaum’s resignation/firing before --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you’re assuming it was a firing. If it was a resignation, then she would have submitted a letter to Mr. Salazar this morning, at a time when I had a whole bunch of other stuff going on.

Q So you rule out that she was fired?

THE PRESIDENT: Come on, Jackie, I don’t know. I’m telling you the -- I found out about it this morning, so I don’t yet know the circumstances, and Ken Salazar has been in testimony on the Hill.

With respect to your first question, at MMS, Ken Salazar was in the process of making these reforms. But the point that I’m making is, is that obviously they weren’t happening fast enough. If they had been happening fast enough, this might have been caught. Now, it’s possible that it might now have been caught. I mean, we could have gone through a whole new process for environmental review; you could have had a bunch of technical folks take a look at BP’s plans, and they might have said, this is -- meets industry standards, we haven’t had an accident like this in 15 years and we should go ahead.

That’s what this commission has to discover, is -- was this a systemic breakdown? Is this something that could happen once in a million times? Is it something that could happen once in a thousand times, or once every 5,000 times? What exactly are the risks involved?

Now, let me make one broader point, though, about energy. The fact that oil companies now have to go a mile underwater and then drill another three miles below that in order to hit oil tells us something about the direction of the oil industry. Extraction is more expensive and it is going to be inherently more risky.

And so that’s part of the reason you never heard me say, “Drill, baby, drill” -- because we can’t drill our way out of the problem. It may be part of the mix as a bridge to a transition to new technologies and new energy sources, but we should be pretty modest in understanding that the easily accessible oil has already been sucked up out of the ground.

And as we are moving forward, the technology gets more complicated, the oil sources are more remote, and that means that there’s probably going to end up being more risk. And we as a society are going to have to make some very serious determinations in terms of what risks are we willing to accept. And that’s part of what the commission I think is going to have to look at.

I will tell you, though, that understanding we need to grow -- we’re going to be consuming oil for our industries and for how people live in this country, we’re going to have to start moving on this transition. And that’s why when I went to the Republican Caucus just this week, I said to them, let’s work together. You’ve got Lieberman and Kerry, who previously were working with Lindsey Graham -- even though Lindsey is not on the bill right now -- coming up with a framework that has the potential to get bipartisan support, and says, yes, we’re going to still need oil production, but you know what, we can see what’s out there on the horizon, and it’s a problem if we don't start changing how we operate.

Q Two issues. Some in your government have said the federal government’s boot is on the neck of BP. Are you comfortable with that imagery, sir? Is your boot on the neck of BP? And can you understand, sir, why some in the Gulf who feel besieged by this oil spill consider that a meaningless, possibly ludicrous, metaphor?

THE PRESIDENT: With respect to the metaphor that was used, I think Ken Salazar would probably be the first one to admit that he has been frustrated, angry, and occasionally emotional about this issue, like a lot of people have. I mean, there are a lot of folks out there who see what’s happening and are angry at BP, are frustrated that it hasn’t stopped. And so I’ll let Ken answer for himself. I would say that we don’t need to use language like that; what we need is actions that make sure that BP is being held accountable. And that’s what I intend to do, and I think that’s what Ken Salazar intends to do.

But, look, we’ve gone through a difficult year and a half. This is just one more bit of difficulty. And this is going to be hard not just right now, it’s going to be hard for months to come. The Gulf --

Q This --

THE PRESIDENT: This spill. The Gulf is going to be affected in a bad way. And so my job right now is just to make sure that everybody in the Gulf understands this is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about.

Q The spill?

THE PRESIDENT: The spill. And it’s not just me, by the way. When I woke this morning and I’m shaving and Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, “Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?” Because I think everybody understands that when we are fouling the Earth like this, it has concrete implications not just for this generation, but for future generations.

I grew up in Hawaii where the ocean is sacred. And when you see birds flying around with oil all over their feathers and turtles dying, that doesn’t just speak to the immediate economic consequences of this; this speaks to how are we caring for this incredible bounty that we have.

And so sometimes when I hear folks down in Louisiana expressing frustrations, I may not always think that they're comments are fair; on the other hand, I probably think to myself, these are folks who grew up fishing in these wetlands and seeing this as an integral part of who they are -- and to see that messed up in this fashion would be infuriating.

So the thing that the American people need to understand is that not a day goes by where the federal government is not constantly thinking about how do we make sure that we minimize the damage on this, we close this thing down, we review what happened to make sure that it does not happen again. And in that sense, there are analogies to what’s been happening in terms of in the financial markets and some of these other areas where big crises happen -- it forces us to do some soul searching. And I think that’s important for all of us to do.

In the meantime, my job is to get this fixed. And in case anybody wonders -- in any of your reporting, in case you were wondering who’s responsible, I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen right away or the way I’d like it to happen. It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to make mistakes. But there shouldn’t be any confusion here: The federal government is fully engaged, and I’m fully engaged.

All right. Thank you very much, everybody.

1:53 P.M. EDT

President Obama goes into depth about how he and the U.S. government are in charge of the operation. Yet, in his update on the top kill he made no mention that BP stopped pumping mud late last night (May 26, 2010). Omitting such a significant development shows him to be out of the command loop, like a puppet leader. We did not find out the real status until BP made its press release later. Obama really needs to cut out the superfluous link in the chain of command occupied by British Petroleum.

Hello Americans,

I've just seen a late BBC broadcast with your President, Mr Obama. The main subject was the oil spill in the Mexican Gulf.

This was a rare glimpse that we have ever had of your President, and I must say he does not stand well in front of the media. He looked like some kind of a high-school kid who had come good at the debating club. My God, the USA used to have the sort of leaders who were hard-hitters; the sort would make you sit up and take notice that you should nae f*ck with the US.

Sorry chaps, but your President looks like a wimp. He may float your boat with his policies inside the US vis-a-vis health care etc, but take it from me, looking into the US from abroad he looks like a complete Dilbert; a real light-weight loser. Frankly, you should thank your lucky stars you have Mrs Clinton striding the international stage. She is a force to be reckoned with. She would willingly give a good spanking to anyone who gets in her way.

How come you Yanks have voted in a complete wimp? Seriously dudes, the man is an international laughing stock! Where are his testicles?!

We voted him to be president of our country, not to play president on TV.

And we will re-elect him if he does a good job governing, regardless of how well he provides the TV networks with drama.

Obama is a good speaker, and would be very good at managing at his TV persona if he set his mind to it. In recent months, he has not set his mind to it, and that makes me like him all the more.

Apuleius -

sure, but he still looks like a complete nobody. You may have elected him to be your President but since WW2 the President of the USA has always projected a 'hard man' attitude to the rest of the world, especially when in front of the cameras.

Obama is a complete wimp in front of the cameras. I have never, ever, seen him look directly into the cameras as though he was looking and speaking to the whole world.

Now, speak about Bush's policies all you must, but he always looked like someone you don't want to mess with. George W Bush always looked into the camera and came over as a tough nut.

All, I is saying..

HACland; you're firing blanks, reload, man.

Anybody who thought Bush's 'tuff' act was anything to be impressed over has spent WAY too much time watching TV. .. and why would you be making light of our regretting his ABSOLUTELY DISASTROUS policies, in favor his well-orchestrated TV 'look'??

Your own tuff act seems similarly weightless lately.

jokuhl -

I guess being outside of America makes me able to give a non-partisan appraisal of them both. You may not like it, and it seams as though you don't, but to an outsider looking in as I am, Bush looked more the part of President than Obama is.

Sorry if that gets you going but there it is. Now, I hardly know about the differences between Bush and Obama on their domestic policies, and frankly I couldn't give a monkey's. How you fellas organize your domestic affairs is up to you. What I am saying is that Bush was MUCH more the outward looking President; and Obama looks like he is still in kindergarten on the international stage.

Let me perfectly clear here. I am not a Bush 'fan'. I am not a 'republican' or a 'neo-con'. I am not even an American citizen. I do however watch intently the way the world is going and Obama is most certainly not a major player...yet? He looks like a school kid in debating class. Christ sake! The man is supposed to be the 'most powerful man in the world'. Fooled me! He has no spunk! He should walk out into a press conference and COMMAND it. He should RULE it. People should quiver when he walks out to speak to the nation and the world!

Right now he looks like a damp rag. It is a shame really, because America deserves better, and indeed so does the rest of the world...

Sorry, HAC.. but you're sounding like an American Idol fan, not a Political Spectator.

If you truly liked the Sparkle and Powery-ness of GWB.. I've heard enough.

And forget following his domestic policies.. are you thinking he was being Presidential with his Foray into Iraq? It made people tremble, alright.. (actually made a lot of little kids Bleed and Die, even) is that supposed to translate into a winning leader?


I see that you value style over substance. Perhaps if the President would go on record telling a Senator to go F themselves, or proclaim that he wants BP's Exec 'Dead or Alive'you would be suitably impressed. Maybe state that out way of life is 'non-negotiable'. Maybe some pap invoking God's protection of American over all else by way of a couple more national days of prayer wrt the oil spill and energy?

I prefer someone who thinks through a problem and then acts to someone who works at sounding like a B-movie brash cowboy.

Is President Obama perfect, or even as good as I wanted him to be? Hell, no! I and many others are disappointed by his tip-toeing within the bounds of BAU...I was intrigued when I heard him mention the Peak Oil-Like lines highlighted in the above transcript, but than my hope faded as I heard the rest of the speech.

Your commentary lacks any substantive, actionable points, and I think they are a load of rubbish.

He should walk out into a press conference and COMMAND it. He should RULE it. People should quiver when he walks out to speak to the nation and the world!

Huh? Are you referring to the United States or North Korea? Just wondering....

You're trolling, and foolishly so.


I suspect Leanan would have shut this jabber down by now. Do yourself a favor and stop typing.


Never take a nitwit neocon on his word, folks. Especially one still pining for the tickle in his loins that he got from watching Dick Cheney. Watch Obama yourselves.


What's funny is this ecological disaster occurred just after Obama approved opening up new offshore areas for exploration and drilling. Drill baby drill. Are you sure you voted for the right candidate?

Funny? Seems like you're downright giddy over it.

I never seen Obama's name on a ballot in Canada. According to pollsters he would get about 80% of the vote if it was. The other 20% are made up mostly of our own version of wingnuts and whackos.

It's very reassuring to see an adult leading the executive branch of our neighbour's national government. Quite a change from when your ilk ran the show.

I never seen Obama's name on a ballot in Canada. According to pollsters he would get about 80% of the vote if it was. The other 20% are made up mostly of our own version of wingnuts and whackos.

Canucks are just grateful that someone with thoughtful intelligence and dignified poise is riding the elephant next door.

When Reagan opined about the Soviet Union being an evil empire, most north of the border cringed, not b/c we disagreed, but b/c we were sandwiched between the two superpowers and any fiery exchange of missiles would be over our heads. 911 shocked us as much as anybody else and sympathies ran high, yet most Canadians applauded PM Chretien's decision to stay out of Iraq, since the connection between fighting Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein didn't add up in the public mind. Best decision made by a Canadian gov't, IMHO, in the last decade.

Obama, if he was running for office in the Great White North, would probably not get 80% of the vote simply b/c he is politically to the right of center of this country. His rhetoric wouldn't fly here since Canadians are used to their politicians campaigning from the left and governing from the right (polar opposite to the way Americans do). Also, there are some major policy differences. A multi-thousand page US health plan legislation vs. the 35 page Canada Health Act is one glaring example of where there would likely be serious divergence.

HAcland, Obama is not perfect, but he does come across as competent. And that puts much of the rest of the world at ease.

OK, you are kidding, right?

What was the only other realistic (electable) choice? McCain and Palin?

To answer your question directly: Yes, I, and my wife and our two children, and many in our extended family, voted for the right person, President Obama.

Before anyone goes loony, neither I, nor anyone in my family, said or will say that President Obama is perfect, great, or even as good as we would like. But he sure is one darn sight better than McCain and his mouthy ornament Sara Palin.

Our choice was to choose the better of the two (electable) candidates. Sorry, neither God, nor even the FSM, appeared on my ballot.

speak about Bush's policies all you must, but he always looked like someone you don't want to mess with. George W Bush always looked into the camera and came over as a tough nut.


You got me blowing hazle"nut" coffee out me nostrils.
A tough "nut"?

There are plenty of tough looking thugs over at the mental hospital.

We Yanks didn't need another cowboy movie star (like Rollin eyes Reagan) to help run the herd over the edge of the cliff.

We needed someone with half a brain.

Now admittedly Obama does not have a full brain cause he's still punch drunk in love with Wall Street and Big Balls Business.

But there is still hope he might wake up and smell the oil plume.

I flagged your comment as inappropriate and hope others will too.


funny, is that!

Presumably because it was a stupid comment and made the rest of us non-Americans look bad. You can have your personal views and even elaborate on them all you like, but don't make it sound like the rest of the world sees things as you do.

If I may remind you, you were little short of ecstatic about D. Cameron becoming your new prime minister. People here politely indulged your glee, even though it seemed rather misplaced to perhaps most of us.

How come you Yanks have voted in a complete wimp? Seriously dudes, the man is an international laughing stock! Where are his testicles?!

I remember all the predjudice against Americans when I worked in the North Sea out of Aberdeen, Scotland. So I'm figuring this is just more of the same. Fact is, we don't care what you limey's think. So go get pissed on lager and forget about the fact your country is going down the drink ya wanker!


Funny shyte there. +5

Think they are still angry about that 1776 incident?

I do think that your perceptions - probably widely shared around the world - may have something to do with the recent behavior of N. Korea, and perhaps of others as well.

Temperatures close to 50 degrees Celsius gripped large swathes of India, killing dozens of people as the country waits for the annual monsoon rains to reach the mainland, media and officials said on Thursday.

The hottest place in India, at 49.3 degrees (121 Fahrenheit), was Sri Ganganagar in the northern desert state of Rajasthan, with severe heat also prevailing in the adjacent states of Punjab and Haryana.

The federal health ministry does not regularly publish aggregated statistics of heat-related death tolls across states. CNN-IBN news channel on Thursday put the number at 134.

New Delhi recorded its highest April temperature in nearly 60 years, according to the U.S.-based National Climatic Data Center.


121 degrees F is hot! My Father drove me through the Mojave Desert in the middle of the day, in the middle of Summer, in a white Dodge Phoenix with NO AC! At the cafe we just had lunch it was 120 in the shade at 12:30 pm. I was only 9 years of age and about twenty minutes after lunch I started complaining about the heat. He told me to sit up straight and stop complaining.

Then radiator fluid started dripping onto the passenger floor in front of me. I fell into the puddle of green fluid. My Father demanded I get back up, but I couldn't move. The fluid felt cool as I passed out. I awoke at dusk with a massive headache and my Father said, "Oh I sure am glad to see your ok. I would have caught hell from your Mother if anything happened to you on this trip."

So I can understand how people die at that temperature. Three people whose car broke down that day in the desert did die as we heard on the radio.

I've tried to keep up with news related to the oil spill as much as possible. One topic that I am not seeing covered relates to the tar balls that were showing up along the coast. The reports asserted that they were claimed not to be related to the Deepwater Horizon spill, which seemed strange enough to me - especially as dolphins and turtles were also washing up dead in the same time period and similar claims were being made about them. However, what was even stranger to me was that no one seemed to be asking where the heck these were coming from, if not from this spill.

In my brief time perusing the wealth of information on this site since I discovered it, I ran across some suggestions that there might be another BP leak out there, separate from or connected to the Deepwater well. Those allegations were negated by others on the site, but I'm still left with the question.

Does anyone know where in the heck those tar balls came from, if not from this spill? Has there been coverage of this and I am missing it? Is there another leak out there somewhere in the Gulf we don't know about or is BP denying the extent of the spill? Any information would be most helpful. Heck, I'd even take idle speculation at this point, which would be far preferable than the utter lack of discussion on this topic I am seeing thus far.

Thanks in advance.

Tar balls are constantly being generated from natural oil seeps throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Since a natural seep is a release of oil from under the sea floor, the tar balls will be similar to those created from the oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon well. Fortunately, oil has a "signature" of sorts which allows us to know where a tar ball came from if we can match it to a source.

As to dolphins and turtles, this may sound odd, but according to NOAA there is a regular mortality rate each year unrelated to oil spills. The number of dead dolphins and sea turtles that turn up varies by the time of year. It is not appropriate to assume that any dead dolphin or turtle is due to oil (although it would be hard not to if they were covered in it). NOAA has historical baseline mortality rates they will be using to get an idea of the number killed from the oil spill. They will also be conducting autopsies on a certain percentage to try and confirm cause of death.

They have to be a bit careful in using the baseline mortality rates because in the past there was no where near the emphasis on finding dead turtles and dolphins as there is now. Just the increased attention to finding them will result in a higher count than the average historical count.

The speculation of a second leak came from a single interview with Matt Simmons and another gentleman whose name escapes me. No other reputable source I'm aware of is comfortable with the strange, some would say bizarre, comments from that interview.

While I understand a lack of data is frustrating, idle speculation is even worse. It just seems to feed on itself until it is assumed to be fact. You have not missed anything if you are hanging around here.

Intellectual Conservative posts his 'You Betchya' Apology -sort of- re THE SPILL.

David Brooks is the NYTimes apologist for deep think tank conservatives.

In dealing with THE SPILL (from the drill baby drill cry), Brooks explains away the failings of his crowd as follows:

Over the past decades, we’ve come to depend on an ever-expanding array of intricate high-tech systems. These hardware and software systems are the guts of financial markets, energy exploration, space exploration, air travel, defense programs and modern production plants ...

Over the past years, we have seen smart people at Fannie Mae, Lehman Brothers, NASA and the C.I.A. make similarly catastrophic risk assessments [similar to BP's]. As Gladwell wrote in that 1996 essay, “We have constructed a world in which the potential for high-tech catastrophe is embedded in the fabric of day-to-day life.”

In other words, this intellectual free marketer is putting on his Sarah Palin hat and saying, Gee whiz, we're just plain and simple thinking country folk out here. How could we have handled and foreseen this complicated complicated thinking stuff? It's for them high tech gear heads to take responsibility for. I wash the blood stain from my conservative free market hands. Out damn spot, out. (allusion is to MacBeth)

Yeah Mr. Brooks. You betchya.
We accept your hypocritical apology -sort of.

Sounds like he has been reading Tainter..

Sounds like he has been reading Tainter..

Not exactly.

Brooks is a devout believer in the Intelligent Design of Free Markets.

The BP Blooper (aka the lil' ole' spill) is an example of market failure (catastrophic failure).

Mr. Brooks is looking for a way out from the contradiction between the facts and his clung-to ideology.

This is his cheap shot escapist editorial: (paraphrased)

"It's dem' darn complicated confusin' engineering machines and systems.
Dem's is the people to blame, the Dilberts in their cubicles.
Absolutely never blame the us who corralled the Dilberts into their cubicles and told 'em how to think and breathe so that the corporate machine can maximize profits.


I think there were some hearings this morning in Washington DC where they were grilling the surviving crew members of the Deep Horizon rig.

Should be interesting to hear it from the grunts in the trenches point of view.

This should be enough evidence that NOW we need to do an "old" alternative fuel. Alcohol fuel. No, not the heavy energy use ethanol stuff they do now, but the "old school" good ol, farmers alcohol fuel. I have the ATF coming in two weeks to approve my still area. I am using sugar beets and cattails for feedstock. And these are being grown on parts of my property that I was not even using before. Anyway, we still require oil for lubrication and all sorts of other things. It seems like a bad choice to go with solar and wind when a "centuries old" process can free my community up from fuel issues. Oh yeah since I grow the feedstock, we take care of that Co2 issue as well. The plants I grow for feedstock take in the Co2 in the spring. And just like our wood harvesting, we always plant more when we take it away.
But here we are memorial day weekend and all the talking heads on the news have to say is entertainment, weather, oh yeah and what the price of gas will be this weekend for your long vacation drive. Hmmmm?

I've thought for a while that it makes sense for farmers to band together and set up biodiesel coops--to provide a steady supply of biodiesel for their farms. After all, Rudolph Diesel designed his engine in the first place so that it would not be dependent on petroleum.