Drumbeat: May 31, 2010

BP Shifts Gears in Gulf Oil Fight as 'Top Kill' Fails

In such a scenario, "there could be oil coming up until August when the relief wells…are finished," Carol Browner, special assistant to the president for energy and climate change, told NBC's "Meet The Press."

Appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," Ms. Browner added that government experts believe BP's containment operation could result in a temporary 20% increase in the volume of oil spilling from the well. That's because the company will cut off a kink in the pipe that currently seems to be holding back some of the gusher, Ms. Browner said. She added that government experts believe the increase could last four to seven days.

"Once the cap is on, the question is how snug is that fit?" Ms. Browner said. "If it's a snug fit, then there could be very, very little oil. If they're not able to get as snug a fit, then there could be more."

Factbox: Gulf oil spill impacts fisheries, wildlife, tourism

Tourism operators in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama -- from hotel owners to restaurateurs and boat charterers -- have reported cancellations as a result of the oil spill, although some are picking up other business from journalists, officials and cleanup workers who have flocked to the Gulf Coast.

Amidst a scare involving tar balls found on Florida Keys beaches -- later declared not to have come from the BP oil spill, Florida's $60-billion-a-year tourism industry is also losing millions as a result of the incident, a top state tourism marketing official said earlier this month.

Regulators let oil industry write rules

Our economy went in the ditch while traders got rich peddling CDOs and DSs. Even many bankers — much less average Americans who lost their shirts — were gobsmacked by the acronyms, and scrambled to figure out how collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps worked.

And now a gazillion gallons of oil have poisoned the Gulf of Mexico, thanks in part to unethical employees at a once-obscure agency known as MMS — the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service. MMS is charged with collecting royalties from Big Oil even as it regulates it — an absurd conflict right there. So MMS has had the same sort of conflicts of interest as ratings agencies like Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s had with Wall Street.

Salazar: Oil Moratorium In Gulf Won't Affect Oil Production Wells

Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday a moratorium in place for 33 rigs in the Gulf only applies to exploratory, deepwater wells in 500 feet of water or more, not those that currently are producing oil.

After fix fail, a dispiriting summer of oil, anger

BOOTHVILLE, La. (AP) -- There is still a hole in the Earth, crude oil is still spewing from it and there is still, excruciatingly, no end in sight. After trying and trying again, one of the world's largest corporations, backed and pushed by the world's most powerful government, can't stop the runaway gusher.

As desperation grows and ecological misery spreads, the operative word on the ground now is, incredibly, August - the earliest moment that a real resolution could be at hand. And even then, there's no guarantee of success. For the United States and the people of its beleaguered Gulf Coast, a dispiriting summer of oil and anger lies dead ahead.

Oh ... and the Atlantic hurricane season begins Tuesday.

Fury and despair as BP admits oil could leak for months

An uncontrollable fountain of oil could gush into the Gulf of Mexico until August, the Obama administration warned today, as BP conceded it was moving to a containment strategy after failing to plug the well at the centre of the most environmentally disastrous spill in US history.

As anger and despair grew in the coastal communities of Louisiana, BP began preparations to cut a leaking drill pipe on the ocean floor and attach a containment cap intended to capture at least some of the 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of crude spewing from its Macondo well every day.

BP facing multimillion-dollar legal claim from British pension fund

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which could see BP face hundreds of lawsuits, is giving new impetus to a highly damaging legal case stemming from a previous environmental disaster in Alaska.

A UK pension fund alleges that it lost money because of falls in the BP share price after a pipeline leak in the Prudhoe Bay field four years ago. Lawyers for the fund say the latest spill is providing further ammunition for its case.

"It is too soon to tell exactly what went wrong in the gulf, but what is clear is that they [the accidents] both reflect a corporate culture and series of operating procedures that need to be reformed," said Thomas Dubbs, a partner at New York law firm Labaton Sucharow, which is handling the case against BP for the Lothian pension fund, claiming tens of millions of dollars. The fund, an investor in BP, looks after the retirement benefits of 67,000 workers employed by councils in Edinburgh and the Midlothian area, and also by the local bus company.

BP CEO disputes claims of underwater oil plumes

During a tour of a BP PLC staging area for cleanup workers, CEO Tony Hayward said the company's sampling showed "no evidence" that oil was suspended in large masses beneath the surface. He didn't elaborate on how the testing was done.

Hayward said that oil's natural tendency is to rise to the surface, and any oil found underwater was in the process of working its way up.

"The oil is on the surface," Hayward said. "There aren't any plumes."

BP’s behavior in the Gulf is appalling. But our thirst for oil is the real issue

Casting BP executives as cardboard cut-out villains does not get us very far though. Whatever the courts may find about BP's culpability the real cause is our demand for oil and our refusal to pay its true price. Right now, everyone in America wants to do something to fight the spill. However, if you suggest that perhaps we should double the price of fuel and use the revenue to rebuild our transportation network, the general response is suspicious silence.

BP unsure how much oil in reservoir in Gulf spill

COVINGTON, La. (AP) -- BP spokesman John Curry says the company does not know how much oil is contained the vast reservoir nearly three miles beneath the seafloor.

Curry said Sunday that the company didn't have time to properly analyze how much was in the discovery well. He says if the oil rig had not exploded, BP PLC ultimately would have drilled another well to complete that analysis.

Reforms slow to arrive at drilling agency

Mr. Obama, shortly after taking office, had assigned Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to clean up the agency, the Minerals Management Service. The office’s history of corruption and coziness with the industry it was supposed to regulate had been the subject of years of scathing reports by government auditors, lurid headlines and a score of Congressional hearings.

But the promised reforms of the agency were slow to arrive, and the subject of the minerals service never came up at the meetings leading to the new drilling policy, according to a senior administration official involved in the discussions.

Political expediency may have played a role. In pushing offshore drilling, Mr. Obama was hoping to placate the oil industry and its supporters in Congress, who were demanding increased access to the outer continental shelf in exchange for their possible support for broader climate change and energy legislation that Mr. Obama wants.

That focus apparently eclipsed any concerns about the minerals agency, especially since at the time no oil rig had exploded and sent hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into the gulf.

Oil prices steadied after upwards drive

Oil prices steadied on Friday after an upwards drive was reversed by renewed concerns about the health of Europe's economy.
Most metals prices fell as the US dollar gained strength against other currencies.

Radioactive fish near Vt. nuke plant deemed common

MONTPELIER, Vt. — When a fish taken from the Connecticut River recently tested positive for radioactive strontium-90, suspicion focused on the nearby Vermont Yankee nuclear plant as the likely source.

Operators of the troubled 38-year-old nuclear plant on the banks of the river, where work is under way to clean up leaking radioactive tritium, revealed this month that it also found soil contaminated with strontium-90, an isotope linked to bone cancer and leukemia.

Three days later, officials said a fish caught four miles upstream from the reactor in February had tested positive for strontium-90 in its bones. State officials say they don't believe the contamination came from Vermont Yankee.

Tritium was reported leaking from the plant in January, and since then has turned up in monitoring wells at levels 100 times the federal Environmental Protection Agency's safety limit for that substance in drinking water. Other radioactive isotopes have been found as well, including cesium-137, zinc-65 and cobalt-60.

Presence of world leaders ‘paralysed’ climate summit, UN letter claims

A leaked letter from the United Nations' climate chief suggests the Copenhagen climate summit failed because the presence of 130 world leaders paralysed decision-making and the Danish presidency backed the US and other western nations over the interests of the poor.

Pedal or throttle? The lure of the electric bike

We might not have been fast but we've made it – over the past couple of weeks myself and two colleagues have been testing out three examples of that curious half-way point between the bicycle and the moped. You can hear more about the experience in the next Bike Podcast, out on Tuesday.

Below are some details about the three models, but firstly an observation as someone who had never previously tried out an electric bike: they really are great fun.

Why Wal-Mart wants to take the driver’s seat

The retailer aims to take over U.S. transportation services from suppliers in an effort to reduce the cost of hauling goods. Wal-Mart is contacting all manufacturers that provide products to its more than 4,000 U.S. stores and Sam's Club membership warehouse clubs, says Kelly Abney, Wal-Mart's vice-president of corporate transportation.

Manufacturers would compensate Wal-Mart by giving the retailer lower wholesale prices for the goods it transports. Wal-Mart isn't saying how much it hopes to save. However, in a slim-margin business such as retailing, even small efficiencies can help the bottom line; in 2009, Wal-Mart trimmed expenses by almost $200 million by packing and scheduling its U.S. truck fleet more efficiently, according to spokesman Lorenzo Lopez.

The new Nissan Leaf electric car sold out

Automaker Nissan reports that more than 19,000 of the new Leaf electric cars have been ordered in the U.S. and Japan. The car is not scheduled to arrive at dealerships until January 2011, and that model year is already sold out. CEO Carlos Ghosn has not yet decided if the automaker will continue to take preorders for the electric auto. The advance orders include 13,000 in the U.S. and 6,000 buyers in Japan. Most of the U.S. orders are in California, where charging stations are being installed.

After speaking to the Detroit Economic Club, CEO Ghosn said that the company is very happy with the level of advance orders. The cars are priced at $32,780 with buyers receiving a federal tax credit of $7,500.

California: ruined by the supermajority

You don't need to know anything about electricity to understand what's wrong with Proposition 16, the initiative sponsored by the parent company of the Northern California utility PG&E, on the June 8 ballot. You only need to know California's tortured history with supermajorities.

Proposition 16 would establish a new supermajority requirement in the state Constitution by mandating that local governments get approval from two-thirds of their voters before starting or expanding a public power agency.

Vermont family farms face a grim future

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture last month delivered a worst-case scenario that envisioned 200 farms — 20 percent of the state’s total — closing down this year, primarily because of volatile milk prices and debts accrued during a devastating 2009.

Last year, prices fell from $18 a hundredweight to $12 a hundredweight for conventional milk, forcing farmers to sell milk at a loss. A hundredweight, the unit by which milk most commonly is measured, is 11.6 gallons. The cost of production for a Vermont dairy farm regularly is estimated at $17 to $18 per hundredweight.

Rail transit ideas await their fate in Milwaukee

After years of study and debate, the state has landed an $810 million federal grant to build a high-speed train line from Milwaukee to Madison. At the same time, Milwaukee-area authorities are seeking federal permission to start preliminary engineering on a $283.5 million commuter rail line from Milwaukee to Kenosha and a $95.8 million modern streetcar line in downtown Milwaukee, two other long-discussed ideas.

Mile by mile, landmark Bay Area Ridge Trail comes together

The plan is ambitious: a 550-mile-long trail for hikers, horse riders and bicyclists, complete with campsites, scenic vistas, mountain ranges and forests.

It's still unknown to many of the Bay Area's 7 million residents.

But the Bay Area Ridge Trail, begun as a far-off dream by a few parks lovers more than 20 years ago, is slowly taking shape.

We Are Oil Responsible; Can We Get Serious About Kicking the Habit?

Make no mistake:BP stinks. Their Gulf accident and safety violation record, their lack of transparency, their short-term profit focus are all sickening. But ultimately, BP is only truly responsible for this spill if you believe that drilling for oil in a mile of water can ever be done safely. BP is part of a system that has made us all dependent on oil and petroleum-based products, and with our consumption spurring demand, we must all shoulder some of the blame for the calamity in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

It's not just about the gas for driving cars. Oil is everywhere, trickling throughout our consumer-driven society. Denture adhesives, electric blankets, bras and bubble gum…they all contain oil. Cameras, carpets, umbrellas, vitamin capsules…ditto. Perhaps we are finally waking up to realize that what once seemed so cheap and plentiful is actually very, very expensive--and becoming more so.

U.S. natural gas production reaches highest level in 30 years

U.S. natural gas production in March rose to the highest level in at least 30 years, led by gains in Texas and Alaska, the Energy Department reported Friday.

Production increased 1.3 percent to an average 74.64 billion cubic feet a day, according to the report. Texas, the nation's largest gas producer, was up 2 percent to 20.71 billion cubic feet a day, while Alaskan gas production rose 1.2 percent to 9.97 billion cubic feet a day.

"We've had production and rig numbers increasing all while prices are decreasing, and that makes no sense," said Michael Rose, director of trading at Angus Jackson Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "I think they have to reduce the rig count and production."

Natural gas for July delivery advanced 4.7 cents, or 1.1 percent, to settle at $4.341 per million British thermal units. Prices have fallen 22 percent this year.

Shale's a curse and blessing for natural gas

A supply surplus has made natural gas a cheap source of energy, and its growing production from so-called "unconventional" sources such as shale may be destined to keep it that way.

"Natural gas is at a historically cheap price, assuming we're just looking at the last ten years, but one major issue not affecting other energy markets is driving the price lower and lower," said Neal Ryan, managing partner at Ryan Oil & Gas Partners LLC.

Driven by the nation's growing need for energy and high natural-gas prices in recent years, interest in gas derived from shale, a geologic formation, has increased despite the high costs involved with developing the sources.

I want to thank Debbie Cook, who has been my faithful assistant in putting Drumbeat together in Leanan's absence. Prof. Goose has also helped with formatting, and there have been several others who have provided individual article references. Thanks so much!

.. and add my thanks to you as well, Gail.

It's no small deal for me to know that 'the lights are always on..' at the Drumbeat. I try to steel myself to a future where intermittent Oil Drum information will have to be the best I can expect! For better or worse, this is the beacon for me these days.

Bob Fiske

Gail, I would like to thank you all for the great effort and high quality you contribute to TOD. For me it has been many years of learning, both information and a new respect for the people who struggle to produce oil. TOD has changed Peak Oil from a buzz phrase to an understanding of the uneven and complex onset of the peak and the great unpredictability of events. Thanks again.

Gail- I was thinking the other day how little Leanan has been missed since she went on vacation. Thanks for clarifying who has picked up the slack in her absence. Right now with the GOM oil spill at the top of the news the mission for TOD has become center stage and I can see that activity has jumped markedly as this ongoing disaster moves forward. Thanks!


We on the staff have missed Leanan. It takes a significant amount of work to keep up Drumbeat, even though people aren't paying quite as much attention to it now. Oil Drum staff members often work together on things, even when only one name appears on a post.

You folks are doing good work. But I miss Leanan's comments. I wonder how one person can process and retain so much information on such a wide variety of subjects.

Great job, we appreciate all your hard work replacing the almost-irreplaceable Leanan!

You sure get the news out early! I know many of us start the day with a coffee and drumbeat. Thank you.

Amen! (tea and drumbeat)

It's no small deal for me to know that 'the lights are always on..' at the Drumbeat.

You sure get the news out early! I know many of us start the day with a coffee and drumbeat.

Hey, relax. Isn't the knowledge of unsustainability frightening enough to take at least the Sundays off and publish the most important news on Mondays ?

Well, that depends on just how serious you deem this situation to be.

Do you take Sundays off when your house has faulty smoke detectors? Maybe..

When the flames are licking at the windowsills? Not me.

That said, I am pretty relaxed, well rested and eating properly.. but I'm definitely also on steady high-alert.

BTW, it IS Monday.. it just feels like Sunday. (US has a holiday today.. as the Iraq/Afghan 'exercises' have become the longest war in US history, IIRC. We just passed the duration of Vietnam war.. while I guess Korea was never officially called over.)

Do you take Sundays off when your house has faulty smoke detectors? Maybe..

When the flames are licking at the windowsills? Not me.

In case of fire you run outside. But what to do if hell breaks loose because of PO ?

I am pretty relaxed,
but I'm definitely also on steady high-alert.

Being relaxed and on steady high alert doesn't combine. Have opposite effect on mind and body.

So does that make it a conundrum or a paradox?

Ultimately, I think we're saying the same thing.. but if having it sound like a disagreement makes for more dramatic TV, I'm all for it.

In the meantime, I'll follow Peter O'Toole's lead.. "It's not that it hurts. It's not minding that it hurts." - Lawrence of Arabia. (and appropriately, T.E. Lawrence was busy leading the raids that were taking out the OTHER key railway in Iraq, as they tried to build the Berlin/Baghdad Eisenbahn. Ausgezeichet!)

I like the O'Toole line from My Favorite Year. A somewhat washed-up show-biz personality, his character is supposed to appear in a skit on live television. Panicked, he protests, "I'm not an actor, I'm a movie star!"

Makes me think of the people in public life who could say, "I'm not a leader, I'm a politician."

Well, now you're sending me out for the big guns.

Lately, I've been thinking of O'Toole in 'The Stuntman', where as the unresponsible director of a WW1 Action pic, he says

"If God could do the things we can do, he'd be a happy man!"

- Kind of fits some of the personalities in this particular drama, eh?

You see there is the rub. God can do anything he wants to do. But a lot of times he does not overtly show himself. What Christians are taught is that, change is a two way street. If we are not willing to get off our butts and make an effort, then God won't hand us anything. It'll look like God is no where to be found, we'll wonder why God is not answering our calls for help.

But God is a Parent that knows helping us, with out us wanting to change our actions, is really no help at all.

If the Christian gets off his butt and does something, as much as he can himself, then God will do the parts that we can not. It is a hard thing to teach to fellow Christians, and it confuses folks outside the group too.

And not all people who claim to be from christ are from Christ, you'll know them by their love.

Sarah Palin et al, are a bit of hot air washing over the car hood as you come up to a stop after traveling a desert highway all day. Just forget about them while you go inside and get a cold beer/soda from the fridge.

IE God can do those things and is a happy man, he is the one offering you the beer.

Hey bob, I need to talk to you about some camera work, don't let me forget to talk to you about it. I have a stand up stage show that needs camera to record things and I am at loss at how to do it.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future, with good cold beer.

Bob, I prefer the term Xoda Rap, it was a street stage act I did a few years ago, with whatever was handy and usually outside so I could smoke and do word games with people. Small crowds were best. Though if I was really rocking, I can Howl really loud (got a good extra big set of lungs), For a while there I had a following of fellow howlers. But some of the Homeless folks got annoied at me.

XodaRap is Paradox in a mirror. Is my beer in my ear, or on my head, foam flat and just plain dead?

Some of the poems on my site are inspired from those days.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future with more hugs.

I always wanted to come up with a 'Fuzzy Paradox' to hang from my rearview mirror, but haven't grokked how to make all the cubic-sides turn 90 degrees from each other just yet.

Sincerely, Jubal

(5 points for the correct reference to the 90 degree part)

Speaking of coffee---- There is a certain person on YouTube named "jberni" (just search this name there) whose financial analysis is quite nice. He doesn`t talk about Peak Oil per se a lot but he seems to know everything about banking, currencies, bonds. He always ends his talks with the same phrase, "I hope you enjoyed your coffee". He is smiling and positive---not a gloomy doomer---but his analysis is quite in line with the pessimist crowd. And he seems to have connections so he sometimes has interesting secrets/rumors to share.

From the article linked up top: BP CEO disputes claims of underwater oil plumes

During a tour of a BP PLC staging area for cleanup workers, CEO Tony Hayward said the company's sampling showed "no evidence" that oil was suspended in large masses beneath the surface. He didn't elaborate on how the testing was done.

Hayward said that oil's natural tendency is to rise to the surface, and any oil found underwater was in the process of working its way up.

"The oil is on the surface," Hayward said. "There aren't any plumes."

Tony Hayward is a either a pathological liar or the dumbest man on earth!

This is the conclusion of an experiment done in Norway back in 1995 and 96 in relatively shallow depths of 100 meters. BP actually participated in more recent experiments to which I do not have a link at this moment, I certainly find it.

The Verification of Subsurface Oil Spill Models
study by Henrik Rye and Per Johan Brandvik of IKU Petroleum Research.


In the case of the 1996 oil and air release, there was no apparent regeneration of plumes in stratified water masses. Below some release flux threshold, the plume did not apparently reach the sea surface.

In the 1995 oil release case, the oil slick on the sea surface was found to be quite similar to those experienced during ordinary sea surface releases. Thicknesses were about 1 to 5 mm. However, for the 1996 oil and gas release case, the content of oil in the slick was found to be significantly lower than expected. The main bulk of oil was therefore assumed to consist of small droplets that did not reach the sea surface but were probably kept in suspension inside the water plume below the slick. One of the reasons for this behavior is probably the large release velocity used in the experiment, which will tend to create small oil droplets with a limited ability to rise to the sea surface. The slick thickness in the 1996 sea trial case was found to be relatively thin, which would be very difficult to retrieve by mechanical means (booms and skimmers). Therefore, alternative strategies have to be considered for oil spill contingency response against deep water releases.


“What we have very little information about what is going on below the surface,” Muller-Karger said. “We have no established, observing network.

“I think there is an enormous amount of oil below the surface that unfortunately we cannot see. And that’s where knowing how the Gulf of Mexico moves and carries water around is going to be enormously important.”

Muller-Karger was one of four scientists called to testify by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, who has been an outspoken critic of British Petroleum’s conduct in the aftermath of the April 20 spill. Joining Muller-Karger on the panel were: Steve Wereley, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University: Richard Camilli, Associate Scientist of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and Michael Freilich, Director of NASA’s Earth Science Division.

Markey has challenged the veracity of statements made by BP about the amount of oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon well and gathered the scientists on Capitol Hill to explore if independent scientists have accurate information on the flow rate of the oil and ways to mitigate the spill.

“The ocean in the gulf right now is very sick, and there are no emergency rooms for oceans,” Markey said. “We are going to have to deal with this the best we can and the more information we can get, the better off the gulf region will be in the years ahead. But it will be years.”

Yes the news media is know for sensationalizing and distorting the facts but there is much more than a smoking gun in this case.



* Weatherbird's Return May 28, 2010 - Media Greet R/V Weatherbird II Friday Morning
o Tampa Bay Online: Layers of oil found by USF researchers could pose 'insidious threat'
o ABC Action News: USF team brings backs suspect samples from Gulf for testing
o AP Press Wire: 22-mile oil plume under Gulf nears rich waters
* Bay News 9 - Video Report - Waiting for the Weatherbird's Return
* USF’s R/V Weatherbird II Detects Invisible Hydrocarbons in Gulf Waters
o CBS News: Undersea Oil Plume May Poison Sealife Food Chain
o Fox News: New 22-Mile-Long Oil Plume Found in Gulf
o St. Pete Times: USF researchers find new underwater plume from gulf oil spill
o Bay News 9 : USF team discovers massive new oil plume
o Tampa Bay Online: USF researchers find more oil
o Herald-Tribune: Miles-long oil plume raises alarms far beneath the surface
o Washington Post: Scientists find evidence of large underwater oil plume in gulf
o National Public Radio (NPR): New, Giant Sea Oil Plume Seen In Gulf

Tony Hayward is lowlife lying SOB! Here's to hopping he spends the rest of his miserable life in prison!

I also see some logical inconsistencies here.

Hayward says the oil is on the surface. Yet the role of the dispersants is to promote mixing with the seawater. So there is a disconnect right there.

This research study has just found oil in plume form under water:


Last night's entry begins:

May 30th, 18:00. One of the strangest things about these deepwater plumes we’ve been tracking is that we see a strong CDOM signal but there’s been no visible oil in the deepwater. That changed today: we saw oil in the deepwater.

I agree. It's past time for criminal charges.

Hi Fred;
In case I missed it, isn't there also a way that the heavier elements in Heavy Crude will be separated with the dispersants, and thus not carry the same kind of buoyancy as the combined oils, which would try to make it up to the water's surface?

It seems the epitome of wishful thinking that this slurry of subterranean materials will behave as neatly as olive oil in our Salad dressing. On C-span hearings the other day, a Congressman from SanFran was talking about the Bay Bridge spill, Exxon Valdez and Santa Barbara in '69.. and basically said 'As soon as oil has hit the water, you've already lost.'

I'm wondering if this is the Black Swan.. it's certainly the Black Pelican..

oh the Humanity..

In case I missed it, isn't there also a way that the heavier elements in Heavy Crude will be separated with the dispersants, and thus not carry the same kind of buoyancy as the combined oils, which would try to make it up to the water's surface?

Well I've heard that a mile deep column of sea water could be functioning as a natural fractionation column and separating the crude into different components by density.

So that becomes a very interesting question actually. perhaps some petroleum ocean chemists will chime in to set me straight but I happened to run across this paper about a heavy oil fuel spill:


The Density Behaviour of Heavy Oils in Freshwater: The Example of the Lake Wabamun Spill
Merv Fingas, Bruce Hollebone and Ben Fieldhouse Emergencies Science and Technology Division, Environment Canada Environmental Technology Centre Ottawa, Canada Merv.Fingas@ec.gc.ca

It includes this table about specific gravities of the submerged oil at a range of temperatures.

oil specific gravity vs temp

Now this may or may not have any bearing whatsoever on the specific gravity of the denser hydrocarbon components in the Horizon spill.
And I claim no knowledge whatsoever as to how dispersants may or may not change the specific gravity of the crude now spilling from the Horizon well.

However, what lept out at me from this chart was that at most temperatures below 20 deg centigrade the specific gravity of the submerged fuel oil was higher than that of ocean water which is about 1.0250 on average. Meaning it should sink in salt water, not float.

If I'm right then the water temperature a mile underwater is probably cold enough to keep some kinds of heavy crude from rising to the surface. Now couple that with the fact that dispersants are generally used to break oil up and make it sink... I don't think we have to go too far out on a limb to say Tony Hayward is lying about not having any knowledge about undersea plumes.

Even if there were no scientists claiming to have found them.

Let's hope it is what I like to refer to as a Pearl Harbor wake up event.

Just one won't be enough to get the attention of the general public but if somebody sinks a loaded tanker or two in a constricted sea lane soon, and a new killer disease does for a major crop what ccd is doing for the honeybeesshortly after that....

OFF TOPIC Our beekeeper just lost the hives he kept on our farm-they were doing great only a few weeks ago.So far as we can tell, nothing obvious has changed in the local environment this spring which might be the cause.

A friend of mine who has a dozen hives of bees descended from wild swarms captured many years ago is not having any problems-so far.It may be relevent that he manages his bees mostly by benign neglect.Other than harvesting a SMALL amount of honey and using a miticide sparingly, he simply leaves them alone.The hives appear to be literally falling apart, but the bees are vigorous and plentiful.

I am going to buy a couple of working hives from him this fall.

So sorry about the bees, Mac.
I forget what part of the country you're in..?

Let's hope it is what I like to refer to as a Pearl Harbor wake up event.

Just one won't be enough to get the attention of the general public but if somebody sinks a loaded tanker or two in a constricted sea lane soon, and a new killer disease does for a major crop what ccd is doing for the honeybeesshortly after that....

OFF TOPIC Our beekeeper just lost the hives he kept on our farm-they were doing great only a few weeks ago.So far as we can tell, nothing obvious has changed in the local environment this spring which might be the cause.

A friend of mine who has a dozen hives of bees descended from wild swarms captured many years ago is not having any problems-so far.It may be relevent that he manages his bees mostly by benign neglect.Other than harvesting a SMALL amount of honey and using a miticide sparingly, he simply leaves them alone.The hives appear to be literally falling apart, but the bees are vigorous and plentiful.

I am going to buy a couple of working hives from him this fall.

I don't know if Richard Sears' talk at TED has been posted already. (It's getting too difficult to keep track of the material here.)

To this lay reader, his talk is jaw-droppingly delusional. But who am I to question this guy?

Richard Sears is a visiting scientist at MIT, after a long career as a geophysicist and executive at Shell. His brief in both places: Think about the world post-oil. It's a corporate-academic crossover that aims to enrich the academic conversation with real-world experience from people like Sears, who is an expert in looking for new energy resources -- both hydrocarbon and the world of options for what's next.

He tells us he is going to "spin a story" about why oil "will never run out." He defines "peak oil" to mean the percentage role it plays in the overall energy system and claims that the "peak" happened long ago. This is obviously not a Hubbertian analysis.

He makes a claim that shocks me: Either I am completely ignorant after all these years of studying energy from a citizen's perspective, or Sears tells a Big Fat Lie:

...for 200 years we have been systematically decarbonizing our energy system.

He then launches into apocalypsis in the true, original sense of the word: He has a revelation of the world in 2100 CE when we have a "truly sustainable, carbon-free energy" system. (No mention of how population growth fares in that time frame.)

[Apocalysis is when YHWH vouchsafes to a prophet a revelation of the future of the Kingdom of Heaven, when the Messiah and/or Son of God comes to restore Israel to righteousness.]

Here comes the insane part--a metaphor that reveals nothing more than Sears' sheer conviction that humans (by which he probably means Americans) will always have inexhaustible supplies of energy.

In brief: Chalk is to the abalone shell as coal is to "future unspecified energy source." It's just about how all the molecules are arranged. (Please go to the link and see for yourself.)

How rearranging the carbon atoms in a lump of coal to become some super-dense, durable energy source is "carbon-free and sustainable" is beyond the grasp of this lowly observer.

He closes with the following revelation:

Oil will not run out--because people invented technology. The Stone Age didn't end because they ran out of stone.... ideas... innovation... technology....

As Jesus put it:

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."

To Sears, the Kingdom of Heaven is like an abalone shell...and presto... the energy Messiah arrives...

The Stone Age didn't end because they ran out of stone.... and neither will the oil age.
Low-Cost Solar For The Masses

It's always nice to have visitors from Fantasy Island, like Richard Sears.

"Finite Earth Types" and residents of Fantasy Island agree on a few things:

Discrete oil wells (e..g, discovery well in the East Texas Field) ultimately peak and decline.

Discrete oil fields (e.g., the East Texas Field), the sum of the output of discrete oil wells, ultimately peak and decline.

Discrete regions (e.g., Texas), the sum of the output of discrete oil fields, ultimately peak and decline.

But here is the disconnect

Fantasy Island residents reject the concept that the world, the sum of the output of discrete regions, will ultimately peak and decline, or in the alternative, there are abundant alternative sources of energy that will allow us to always increase our energy consumption, e.g., Peter Huber's concept.

But what do the data show?

There was a clear price signal from 2002 to 2005, as annual oil prices went from $27 to $57, and we saw a positive production response, i.e., rising crude oil production.

The price signal continued from 2005 to 2010 (to date). Even with some demand weakness in 2009, annual oil prices have exceeded the $57 that we saw in 2005 for four straight years and for 2010 to date. But even with some contribution from unconventional sources, we have seen a cumulative shortfall between what we would have produced worldwide at the 2005 rate and what we actually produced.

So the data support the quaint notion that the world oil production, the sum of the output of discrete regions, will ultimately peak and decline.

Hi WT,

Always nice to see this spelled out.

That "stones" comment really gets me - (every time!)

Stones don't burn. That's one problem with them.

[Apocalysis is when YHWH vouchsafes to a prophet a revelation of the future of the Kingdom of Heaven, when the Messiah and/or Son of God comes to restore Israel to righteousness.]

My mistake: Should read "Messiah or Son of Man" (from Daniel). The Hebrews didn't believe in a divine Son of God. That is a Christian spin on an ancient Hebrew idea.

Which the Hebrews plagiarized from the Egyptians.

I haven't the time to mess around with trying to persuade Adobe Flash to work, so I haven't seen the video. However, it may be that (whilst the word "systematically" is unclear) that statement is technically true whilst being misleading: I'm sure that a significantly greater percentage of the energy I "cause to be used" is carbon free than it would have been for someone my age 40 years ago (say), I'm also "causing to be used" a significantly greater amount of energy to be used so I'm more dependent on carbon-energy overall. (Like changing to lower-calorie biscuits but also eating many more packs.)

It's a bit complicated, because you can spin it a lot of different ways. The lecture does seems a bit confused especially as it closes, although this is not atypical - IMO lecture-circuit folks know that, generally speaking, people don't come back again if you're too depressing. Anyway, as he tells it, most of the percentagewise-decarbonization lies in the recently increasing share of natural gas, which is carbon-lite-ish rather than carbon-free. The rest is the smidge of nuclear. (Wind, solar, and even hydro would graph as too small a fraction of a pixel wide to merit attention in this broad-brush context.)

Unfortunately, when you put it like that, it does nothing to advance a thesis that "ideas" can even help, much less come to the rescue, since the only practical idea explicitly in play is the use of natural gas. If anything, the utility of ideas winds up underplayed despite words to the contrary and despite the happy-ish ending. This, IMO, partly reflects a fundamental and irremediable property of lectures, which is that they are the slowest way available to convey complex abstract ideas of the sort in question.

Of course we've been doing it that way since the perorations of classical Athens, or long before, so, hey, why stop now? Heck, academia (and quasi-academia like TED) is one of most conservative places on planet Earth except when they're pushing pet social-engineering projects for other people to live in (think Cabrini Green.)

But I digress. You don't get to convey anything of the nuances of a complex subject in seven minutes. A well-written paper or blog post could convey far more in the same time. A well-structured interactive simulation* might also convey more, but that's still a young and expensive technology. So I'm not inclined to be as harsh as I might be; best, most of the time, simply to ignore videos and lectures on large abstract subjects as being at best disproportionately time-consuming, unless one has reason to believe that a particular one is exceptional. (The sad/infuriating/hilarious one about Booming School (language NSFW) would be an exception, but OTOH that's not a large abstract subject.)

*By interactive, I don't mean the sort of patience-breaking nonsense favored by fashionable-idiot Web Designers, where they show the Big Picture, but all covered up after the manner of one of those newfangled hospital gowns with all the velcro trapdoors. There's nothing interactive about having to click and click and click to reveal one pixel at a time. And there's nothing educational about being able to see only one pixel at a time (the previous trapdoor often closes the moment you open the next one.) Nor is there anything interactive or educational about being actively prevented from seeing or actually grasping the Big Picture as a whole.

To Sears, the Kingdom of Heaven is like an abalone shell...and presto... the energy Messiah arrives...

Why is it that human folly is always followed up with defenders of that folly. In Las Vegas last month Richard Lee, a real estate cheerleader for the last twenty years, was at it again preaching to the faithful that Las Vegas will recover from overbuilt subdivisions, business parks and strip malls by building (you guessed it) more of the same.

Local homebuilder American West unveiled its latest collection — American West Reserve at Coronado Ranch — at a May 6 grand opening preview event that included a presentation by Las Vegas real estate authority Richard Lee, who said a turnaround is coming in the local market.

Lee isn’t predicting exactly when the market will turn around, but he is getting more optimistic.

“If there’s one point I want to get across, it’s that it’s time to get ready for recovery,” said Lee.

I know a lot of people (self included) who saw a significant share of their personal wealth go down that drain. Las Vegas built a Potemkin economy based on construction. But what can you expect from a city that believes in something for nothing. In earlier times Lee would have been burned at the stake.

WT hit the nail on the head with the "Fantasy Island" metaphor. One of the obvious false hoods of Sears presentation is his graphs showing sources of energy: gas, coal, nuclear, renewables being on the same scale. Anyone who frequents TOD and has taken even a basic peak oil primer knows that to be patently false. Renewables are a trickle of energy. The big 3 are coal, oil and gas: carbon based fuels. Never mind about existential threats from climate change or in particular ocean acidification to the lowly abalone making those mother of pearl shells. (see Hydro chloric acid and Calcium carbonate) . Cornucopians are frustrating to people who have spent time educating themselves on this site or elsewhere.


I always love that throwaway line about the Stone Age not ending because they ran out of stone. It's widely known in archeology that it sure looks like that's exactly what happened.

There is stone, as in huge granite boulders that rumble down mountains and fall on your head, and there's the high quality chert and obsidian suitable for making tools and weapons. There's oil miles down under pre-salt formations in the Gulf, and there's West Texas gushers.

The quarries for the good stuff for stone tools, high quality chert and obsidian, show clear signs of exhaustion by low-tech mining methods. It was traded for thousands of miles and Turkey must have been the Saudi Arabia of the Neolithic.

The archeological records shows that metal was used to make small decorative dohickies during the Late Stone Age, probably by pounding naturally occurring nuggets. The development of metallurgy coincides with increasing resource scarcity of good stone.

Same conclusion I had. Also the trade networks and collective mining behavior from the end of the stone age fostered the advent of the metal age. Also pottery plays a role. One has to wonder who was the chicken and who was the egg in the rise of agriculture. We have always focused on agriculture but the trading networks that arose from depletion of easily available stone also allowed people to live in the alluvial plains and get the stone they needed in exchange for food.

I think the interaction was a lot more complex and natural than most people realize. The critical factor in my opinion was not the follow on technologies but the original trade networks setup between people dependent on critical stone resources.

This is quite different from the original networks which traded in shells and other luxury items say perhaps furs etc.
The stone trade was literally a life and death affair for all involved.

What I find really funny is that the economics of the late stone age early metal ages are assumed to be really primitive.
Perhaps because archaeologists create the economic models. No real reason for the equivalent of a futures market and selling of contracts to not have arisen.

Indeed we had writing appear during this same time period. I like to think that it was probably driven by the need to trade stone futures on the open market :)

I'm only being a bit facetious here people are really smart our stone age ancestors are no different from us. I expect that when faced with the need that they rapidly developed the complex financial instruments needed to manage long distance trade. They had no choice.

This does not mean that at first the way things where recorded had to be complex most of the complexity is in the interpretation.

One thing I've wondered about is all the figureins we find from this period archeologist's assume they are for religious reasons however given my ideas it makes more sense that they were really a combination of money and contracts.

These figure may well have been money.



Temples may well have also been banks. They kept their money with their gods. Obviously religion and money would have been tightly mixed early on not that this has changed. People would have taken their money to the grave with them.

And just as obvious for me at least it seems that the early trade routes also where important for the the buying and selling of people. If my ideas are right the first form of money was denominated in fertile females but in statues and in reality.

This buying and selling of women along the stone trade routes helped mix genes and also allowed steady population growth.
As young women where bought and sold between tribes.

More links


Just consider if these are actually money and you can see what I'm saying.

And just as obvious for me at least it seems that the early trade routes also where important for the the buying and selling of people. If my ideas are right the first form of money was denominated in fertile females but in statues and in reality.

This buying and selling of women along the stone trade routes helped mix genes and also allowed steady population growth.
As young women where bought and sold between tribes.

The virgin age didn't end because we ran out of virgins ?......

well, maybe we shouldn't go there....

The virgin age didn't end because we ran out of virgins ?......

well, maybe we shouldn't go there....

Good one !!!

Thank god I set my tea down before reading.


The venus figurine pictures are fun. Thanks.

The figurines could have been money. In a society without a standardized coinage, anything could be money. Hey that's a great venus figurine, I'll give you a basket of cabbages and a dead leopard for her.

Money is surprisingly easy to generate. The simplest idea of money is just a marker for a claim on future production. Back in the day in Chicago, mobsters created money in the form of "markers", just signed and dated notes. The markers traded among third parties and had an element of demurrage and risk, as the valued plunged if the issuer died.

Hence the expression "calling in all my markers" to described expending great social capital to accomplish something.

Whats funny is when it dawned on me what they probably are I felt like the primitive guy looking at a picture not realizing its was a 2D image of himself.

We are so used two 2D images and money we cannot grasp 3D money or markers.

Once you realize that the first money was probably these 3D figurines it makes sense.

Perhaps payable in virgins on demand ?

But there are also cattle etc all seem to represent wealth. The style differences where probably the equivalent of bank notes. Forgeries would have been ahh interesting to say the least.

And as I said it probably was a mixed religious/banking system with the shamans also working as bankers.

The real magic was the same as today.


Nothing has really changed it seems since we started running out of stones.

The quarries for the good stuff for stone tools, high quality chert and obsidian, show clear signs of exhaustion by low-tech mining methods. It was traded for thousands of miles and Turkey must have been the Saudi Arabia of the Neolithic.

Fascinating. One of the reasons I love coming here.

Can you offer a good source or book to read on this?

Sure, search for Catal Hayuk in Turkey. Catal Huyak was a very early city whose wealth came from trading the output from weapons-grade stone mines.

Jane Jacobs has a fascinating discussion of the role of Catal Hayuk in metastasizing early civilization in Cities and the Wealth of Nations.

The quarries for the good stuff for stone tools, high quality chert and obsidian, show clear signs of exhaustion by low-tech mining methods. It was traded for thousands of miles and Turkey must have been the Saudi Arabia of the Neolithic.

I was recently reading a piece on the history of the Polynesians spreading across the Pacific, and the archeologists have found evidence of extensive trade in stone tools. Volcanic islands tended to have good stone and the atolls had essentially none.

Now there were some brave people. I simply can't imagine setting off across hundreds of miles of open water in a 50' twin-hulled sailing canoe. Cordage made with fibers from coconut husks; sails woven from strips of tough plant leaves; all of the planks and timbers cut by hand with stone tools.

I suppose the ultimate example of this is the island of Yap (near Guam) that used "stone money". Discs of stone with a hole in the middle that were used as a form of currency. The reasoning was that the stones on the island itself weren't suitable for making money - the only way to get more was with a long canoe ride to Palau to get more. But eventually when westerners got there, fetching more stones became easier, which effectively devalued their currency.

Obsidian tools found at Bukit Tengkorak in Malaysia, and dated to 1200-900 BC, may have originated in Papua New Guinea, a 3500km sea journey away.



Super dense carbon is diamond. The hardest Carbon form known and one of the hardest known rocks. If I remember my reading correctly, but he may know of the super dense inner core of a nuetron star and be thinking we have some handy to use.

Gibberish by any other name is still nonsense, and it might be funny on the stand up stage, it is not funny when you are listening to someone who claims to be a knowledgable person trying to help his fellow man.

It seems to me that there are a lot of people trying to hoodwink the general population, so that they can keep their hot tubs and corner offices, and nice wooded estates. That they know they are telling tall tales, and being the Maddoffs of the Oil Patch they have to keep spinning those plates to keep the scam going just a while longer.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future, with fewer scammers around.

Government review to examine threat of world resources shortage Guardian.co.uk, Monday 31 May 2010 14.40 BST

Well, glad to see the Brits are studying the situation.

Ministers have ordered a review of looming global shortages of resources, from fish and timber to water and precious metals, amid mounting concern that the problem could hit every sector of the UK economy.

Woah! What about oil?

For years, experts have warned of the threat of peak oil to both the world economy and international political stability if countries go to war to secure access to fossil fuels.

But wait, they are not looking at oil at all:

Resources under scrutiny by the UK government do not include the already heavily-studied oil industry, nor ecosystem services such as flood defences, but the range was still "vast", Dolley, said.

Okay, they are studying everything but oil. That should tell us something. (But I really don't know what.)

Anyway, the hoarding has begun.

Among the countries known to be stockpiling resources, Japan has said it is storing supplies of seven rare metals it believes are "essential to modern life and industry".

I predict that when the world becomes conscious of peak oil many oil exporting nations will begin to hoard their oil. Most small exporters will stop exports altogether and others will decrease their exports. Also even coal exporting nations will dramatically cut back on their exports, realizing that their reserves are limited.

This will be one, but only one, of the causes of a shark's fin curve in oil production, and oil exports.

Ron P.

Wow! Good to know that my government has the balls to even acknowledge a report has been commissioned.

However, I think I can predict the outcome. The relevant minister will read the report, stuff it in a draw somewhere, let out a huge sigh and go back to working on his re-election campaign - maybe giving more emphasis on 'promoting sustainable growth' and other such BS. What will NOT in a million years happen is for the minister to read the report, break out in a cold sweat, rush to the nearest TV camera and declare that the age of Growth is over as it can not be sustained on a finite planet.

Good that they are finally getting around to commissioning these sort of reports but don't hold your breath about it changing anything. We are well past the point where this whole growth and consumption jamboree can be turned around easily or painlessly, and as such politicos with their eye on the next election will not do what is necessary.

And don't forget the Olympics influence. All sense of reality's negative consequences will be suspended until the Olympics has come and gone as it did in Vancouver. Then all will be happy, happy times.

Until the specified time, London must remain the land of enchantment (sorry Puerto Rico, you're title has been co-opted), and all Brits busy themselves like merry little elves to deliver the world's spectacle. You've already got all the cameras, so this will be just one more item checked off on Big Brother's list.

Sorry, feeling cynical this morning. The mention of the politician's re-election reminded me of the times around WW II with all the radical changes required to sustain, the Brit's still couldn't pass up on mid-term elections. Not even Churchill made it to the very end as PM. Being overly facetious, but when everyone should be pulling on the oars, Brits want to stop for tea and get up and change seats now and again.

(Disclaimer, my family is a good part English and emigrated to N.A. in conjunction with Marconi. Playing soccer - football - through Canadian winters demonstrated the English lean towards masochism; just jersey, shorts, socks, and shoes, strictly FIFA in those days).

London must remain the land of enchantment (sorry Puerto Rico, you're title has been co-opted)

Huh? I thought New Mexico held the Copyright on "Land of Enchantment"?

I think the Zia pueblo people sued the state, because their sun symbol was appropriated as the state flag. Don't recall hearing how that turned out.

I think the Zia pueblo people sued the state, because their sun symbol was appropriated as the state flag. Don't recall hearing how that turned out.

I think their case was dismissed because their copyright had run out ;-)

"if countries go to war to secure access to fossil fuels.."

IF, indeed.

Here's a plaque of honor, with some Dorset boys who fell in Baghdad in the teens. (See Lovell, Puckett and Stratten) According to Satirist/Performance-Artist Robert Newman, this was the first Regiment in place and fighting in the War. Would that have anything to do with Churchill moving the British Royal fleet off of Coal and onto Oil just prior to WW1? (1911).. or of the planned Berlin/Baghdad Railway..

Naval innovation: from coal to oil - Cover Story

Oil erased the drawbacks of a solid fuel. As Churchill noted, "the advantages conferred by liquid fuel were inestimable." But he also recognized that a switch would be difficult to implement: "To change the foundation of the navy from British coal to foreign oil was a formidable decision in itself." Finding and securing sources of oil threatened to be the most difficult part of the venture:

The oil supplies of the world were in the hands of vast
oil trusts under foreign control. To commit the navy irrevocably
to oil was indeed to take arms against a sea
of troubles.... If we overcame the difficulties and surmounted
the risks, we should be able to raise the
whole power and efficiency of the navy to a definitely
higher level; better ships, better crews, higher
economies, more intense forms of war power--in a
word, mastery itself was the prize of the venture. (2)

(very interesting article for this crowd.. I've only skimmed it.)

Many a truth is said in Jest.. thanks, Robert!
"Robert Newman's HISTORY OF OIL"

.. and beggin' y'alls pardon, I've been corrected, that Dorset was sent to Basra, not Baghdad.. and 51 other divisions also were quickly deployed to Iraq, to support the interests of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.. one day to become.. yes, "BP!"

Darwinian -

There is a little-known US government entity known as the Defense National Stockpile Center (DNSC), which is under the Defense Logistics Agency.

It was created early in the Cold War as a means of ensuring an uninterrupted supply of strategic materials (mostly metals and minerals, but also including other substances) in the event of war. The DNSC encompasses roughly a dozen storage facilities scattered across the US. Some are active, others are virtually dormant, and some have been shut down. They do not appear to be generously funded, as one of the facilities I visited in Ohio in connection with some environmental consulting work looked to be virtually inactive and was operated by little more than a skeleton crew.

Though I don't quite understand the mechanism, the DNSC is also involved in the markets for these materials, and is sometimes a buyer and other times a seller. One might say they play the commodities futures market.

Storing metals and rocks is not as sexy as building the next generation fighter plane, and the DNSC is looking like a relic of the Cold War. While strategic storage can act as a valuable buffer over the short term, it ultimately can have no impact on chronic long term shortages.

For years, experts have warned of the threat of peak oil to both the world economy and international political stability if countries go to war to secure access to fossil fuels.

I think it is worth pointing out again that attempts to use modern warfare to secure access to fossil fuels have failed miserably in the last three decades. Let's examine the historical evidence for my claim:

Case #1 -- Iran-Iraq war

In 1980, Iraq attacked Iran with several main goals in mind, one of which being the annexation of oil rich Khuzestan. Even with US support things did not turn out so well for Saddam Hussein's attempt to secure Iranian oil riches. Not only did this war fail to secure additional oil supplies but it also resulted in the Nowruz oil spill that NOAA estimates at 733 thousand barrels.

We can see the results of this attempt to use military force to secure oil in the following chart from the Energy Export Databrowser:

So what was Iraq's return on their investment in this military adventure? Decidedly negative. They didn't get the oil and neither did anyone else.

Case #2 -- Invasion of Kuwait and Gulf War

After only two years of licking their wounds from the Iran-Iraq war the Iraqis again attempted to use military force to secure oil resources, this time from much less powerful Kuwait. We all know that that also ended poorly for the Iraqis and this time resulted in the #1 oil spill of all time.

Here's the view of Kuwaiti oil output that shows how unsuccessful that military adventure was in securing oil supplies. Iraq didn't get the supplies. Neither did anyone else.

Well, by now you might be thinking that the Iraqis are simply knuckleheads and that a more advanced nation with better weapons and deeper pockets could be successful where Iraq was not. Could, for example, the United States succeed in using military might to secure oil supplies where the Iraqis had failed?

Case #3 -- Iraq War

For a moment, let's entertain the notion that the Iraq War was actually an attempt to secure oil supplies. (With just about every top position in the administration at the time filled with someone with connections to the oil industry it's hard to imagine anything else.) The oil spills in this war were much smaller than in cases #1 and #2. That's the good part. But what about the effect of modern warfare on securing oil supplies. A decade has elapsed since the war so let's evaluate the "return on military investment".

(Note that the BP Statistical Review has no consumption data for Iraq)

Can you identify the following in the above graphic and their effect on oil supplies coming from Iraq:

  1. 1980 Iran-Iraq war
  2. 1990 Gulf War
  3. 1991 Iraq sanctions
  4. 1996 UN Oil-for-Food program
  5. 2003 Iraq War

For a nation that is supposed to have huge untapped resources of easily accessible oil it looks like modern warfare has only had negative effects on the availability of Iraqi oil. The US hasn't gotten the oil. Nor has anyone else -- yet.

I'd like to use the "if ..." clause from the quote at the top as a beginning clause rather than an ending one:

If countries go to war to secure access to fossil fuels, their leaders are idiots who have paid no attention to the history of the last 30 years.

I feel very strongly that we must point this out whenever the idea of going to war for access to fossil fuels is mentioned.

Best Hopes for some, any, even the tiniest little bit of Historical Awareness.


I've heard that the same failure to learn from Historical Lessons can be applied to our desire to solve problems with Bombing Campaigns.. classically, we saw how England was more unified, motivated and resolute following the intenst Night Bombings of the Luftwaffe, but the High Command and RAF and Eighth Air Force couldn't seem to restrain themselves from applying the same 'demoralizing lessons' on Germany, when it was their turn.

Now, we use drones and kill off Wedding Parties in order to demoralize the Taliban.

Evolution may be real.. but it's also real slow.

Hi Jokuhl.

I find it interesting that the supposed failure of war in respect to obtaining resources coincides rather well with the television age.

I also find the arguments somewhat unconvincing;if you want to believe that we have not succeeded in securing access to oil by being in the ME for the last six decades or so,I invite you to contemplate just how much oil we might be getting from there if the Chinese (for instance) were in our shoes, or if the old USSR had held together and incorporated the major producing countries into the soviet empire, or if the Japanese had won WWII and continued their expansion.

Now it may be that German morale was favorably impacted in the aggregate by allied bombing during the latter part of WWII; but having read a lot of WWII history, I'm not so sure about that either.The bombing came as a brutal eye opening suprise to the local people who had been led to believe it couldn't happen in both Germany and Japan.

One thing is certain, although a lot of historians won't admit it;the bombing played hell with the production and distribution of many critical war materials, and also forced the diversion of materials and manpower on a huge scale to the defense.

The fact that the Germans were able to maintain war production for the most part simply does not prove that bombing didn't work;production would have been far HIGHER if there had been no bombing.

That the Germans were reduced to using animal transport in some cases was not solely due to a lack of fuel;they were also running short of trucks, tanks , and planes due to production being hampered by bombing.

Of course one can find as many advocates for either side of such arguments as these as one wishes;there are no definitive answers.

As Heisenberg points out way down thread, the original question that I raised about securing oil supplies and tried to supply hard evidence for is really one about "return on investment".

I am of the opinion that we have not gotten a very good return on our investment in Iraq. We could have instructed the very same high technology companies that supply war materiel to help build a forward-looking energy infrastructure at home. But instead our leaders went adventuring with the expectedly (to anyone who reads history) poor return on our monetary, social and human investment. Unlike WWII, the war in Iraq was a war of choice for the US. It is against that kind of war that I feel we should take a stand.


None of us saw the return on the investment, but someone got richer for it.

Not all money movements are meant to benifit the common folks, but I would be willing to bet that there were some people that came out of this smelling sweeter, and having more power to play with for it.

I don't like war myself, it is hell on earth.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future, hugs from Arkansas,

I might have been clearer, Mac;
I was pointing to the use of bombing as a demoralizer, as propaganda, which may be fully debatable. Heidelberg, Dresden, Koln,.. you name it. We did some absolutely vicious population and culture bombings, (Cathedrals, Museums..) and I think it did us as much harm as good, if any good at all, including its affect on the Airmen who knew the kind of missions they were flying.

I don't argue the usefulness of bombings on railheads, fuel depots and factories.. sadly, this was not the only kind of bombing we undertook. We may have held some high ground at the start, but we threw it away.

Some of our current bombing disasters are showing that we still don't appreciate how much this clumsy blasting can cost us in morale and international respect/cooperation.

Now I'm not an expert, but in the European war weren't most of the "destroy the city" type bombing raids done by the British. The Us did "high precision" daylight raids, and the British did night bombing, which because of its lack of precision encouraged the selection of targets too large to miss. Of course when it came to Japan, Curtis Lemay moved it up a couple of notches.

I'm not entirely clear on how the lines were drawn.

Got this from Wiki ..

"By 1943, the United States had significantly reinforced these efforts. The controversial firebombings of Hamburg (1943), Dresden (1945) and other German cities followed.[12] The attack on Dresden killed at least 24,000 people, nearly half the number of those killed in the entire Blitz campaign. Nevertheless, RAF Bomber Command had a limited effect on German industrial production, and was no more successful at breaking Germany's will to fight than the Luftwaffe was at breaking Britain's.[11]"

If you've heard Howard Zinn speak of his time in a B-17, there's no doubt we did our share, too.


There are two parts to The Bomb. One of them has to do with Zinn’s own experiences bombing -- and destroying -- the French town of Royen in April 1945 three weeks before the end of the war in Europe, that resulted in the deaths of more than one thousand people. Zinn was a bombardier with the 490th Bomb Group and flying in a B-17 with the crew. “I remember distinctly seeing, from our great height, the bombs explode in the town, flaring like matches stuck in fog,” he writes. “I was completely unaware of the human chaos below.”

Twenty-one years later, Zinn returned to Royen to do research about the destruction of the seaside French town. And in 2010, 65 years later he was still haunted by the bombing, and his own role as a bombardier. What Zinn learned from his research was that in the bombing of Royan, napalm or “liquid fire” was used for the first time. He concludes that it was “an unnecessary military operation” and that Royan was bombed to fulfill “pride, military ambition, glory and honor.”

So we've got that going for us..

Evolution may be real.. but it's also real slow.


Yes, but tragically we have constructed civilizations where leadership positions are filled by aggressive idiots to whom military might is a solution to problems...I agree that military force rarely solves problems, unfortunately people with that insight do not seem to be in leadership positions...

Military might is probably seen by leaders of companies in the military-supply business, as a solution, at least, for THEIR problems. When money runs tight, when the economy slows----get a war going and the spigot flows with money. The government allocates and allocates. The worse the hole, the worse the quicksand, the more resource flow is needed to make up the gap. Wars are a way to spur demand and increase material flow around the economy. Especially in an economy designed to produce weapons and armor, the impulse to let these companies pick up the slack is irresistible. The people in the wars are truly sacrificed and they often have no idea.

If countries go to war to secure access to fossil fuels, their leaders are idiots who have paid no attention to the history of the last 30 years

I think I would amend that. Cynical leaders might go to war because they know the low information voter doesn't understand or care about history. It's not about securing oil, it is about securing political control.

Okay, they are studying everything but oil. That should tell us something. (But I really don't know what.)

Umm, perhaps they're finally figuring out that the quarries for the good stuff for stone tools, high quality chert and obsidian, show clear signs of exhaustion by low-tech mining methods.

Meaning they will finally acknowledge that the stone age is over...

Maybe in few thousand more years they will come around to mentioning that we are running out of oil and should do something about it, eh?

Ron, I am glad you posted today, I wanted to share with you today's Pearls before Swine cartoon.


For May 31st.

It is so funny but sad at the same time as it is what people on other threads have been doing with hi-jacking the debates.

The guy who writes the strip is crazy at times, but really hits the nail on the head at how he depicts the goings on in the comic to the real world events and peoples attitudes.

You said the hoarding has begun, and you are right, people are hoarding lots of things, more videos about how to prepare for the end of the world, and even Costco is selling rather cheaply a 1 year food supply for at least 1/4th the price of other top brands.($999.99) I might try out the freeze dried fruit, it is rather cheap. I still remember the old late 80's MRE's that had freeze dried fruit and hamburger patties in them, Yummy stuff in the dead of night.

Hugs from Arkansas,
BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

Thanks Charles, loved the cartoon. Reminds me of the some of the gobbley gook we get from time to time when some people try to be really impressive by trying to talk in a complicated language that they know no one else understands.

Thanks again,

Ron P.


You know me, I try to use plain language, or maybe it is my limited intellect and bad spelling that gets me into the simpleton class. I have noticed that my dyslexia is advancing from just numbers to almost everything I type.

Glad you liked the cartoon, If you can, would you post the picture here, I am html limited.

BioWebScape designs for a better mind,,,

Pearls Before Swine - May 31, 2010

Charles, I am not that good at HTML either but I cheat. I just bring up the source page and then search on < img . (But leave out the space between the chevron and "img".) Of course there are usually several images so I just copy and paste them one at a time then post preview them with the preview button. I keep trying until I find the right one. I got this one on the second try.

To bring up the source page, in IE, just click on "view" then click on "source". The source page then will open in a new window. Then hit control F and type in "< img" , without the space of course. Then when the first < img is highlighted you just copy everything between the open and close chevrons.


Ron P.

Anyone care to comment on how this oil spill might effect prices over the short term.

Over the long term of course increased cost and lack of investment will of course add to the price of oil.

My guess however is over the short term this spill will have a general negative impact on the stock of many oil companies and this will have a short term negative impact on oil prices.

But I don't have a good feel on short term prices in general and esp with this event I'd like to see what others at thinking.

I am not convinced that people can afford to pay more for oil than their pocketbooks will allow. After a point, they default on their debt, or cut back on discretionary expenditures, and push the economy into recession.

So to the extent that there is a cutback in supply, I expect the effect will be more a recessionary impact than a high price impact. The prices can only go so high, before recessionary impacts set in.

Gail, it might get more complicated than that. When this sub-surface oil moves ashore, the dynamic of this event will change.

We might see very rapid political response, like:

changes in the pump tax
changes in car mpg requirements
changes in emissions requirements

My guess is that cars are destined to get a lot smaller and gas is destined to get more expensive very quickly. We can't fix the Gulf, but we can top kill the demand side. I think we will move aggressively on that. We will have no choice. Our offshore oil industry will be crippled and our demand needs to shrink significantly.

At the risk of linear thinking, I agree Will. Americans may be more pliable and accepting of increased taxes to help fix all that is wrong, which includes more alternative energy, roads, and public transportation. Although I don't believe the overall economy has the strength or resilience to absorb these taxes - unless it is monetarily neutral.

Consider it getting even more complicated still. How about more of what we already have - a political Undulating Plateau. While voters' glands are still secreting overtime in response to carefully framed close-ups of oiled birds, we'll have a strong possibility for a political piling-on that cripples things. But soon enough, the economic impacts will take hold, the cameras will reframe onto the tent cities of the Newly Badly Off, and the very same glandular secretions will once again energize chants of "drill baby drill" (only in other words less reminiscent of what will then be the dead past.) Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Suppose the voters equate the two:

Catastrophic Industrial Disaster = Tent Cities.

Anything could happen but probably it unfolds too slowly for that. Plenty of time for pundits to have a field day picking apart the chains of cause and effect, playing dreydl with the pieces, and seeing what comes up.

Consider, for example, that traffic accidents don't cause the economy to shut down. Neither did the frequent and ghastly incidents with horses and horse-drawn vehicles back in the good old days. Neither did a routine death or two in the course of building the town hall or a medium-sized church. No direct cause-and-effect. So if Congress responds tomorrow morning by setting a national speed limit of zero (to abolish all risk) and thus shutting down the economy, it'll be obvious that Congress did it and not the accidents.

After all the political posturing and strutting, after all the moralistic preaching, after the cameras have shoved off to the next big thing, this matter will probably work out similarly. The oil spill can't shut down the oil supply, but Congress can - but if they do they'll be seen as responsible. So methinks that most likely we'll get a higher cost of living to help cover dither, delay, and stacks and stacks of new procedures that don't change the actual risk much (given how clear it seems to be becoming that if existing procedures had been followed it wouldn't have gotten so far out of hand), a few scapegoats' heads on pikes to please the baying wolves and bleating sheep, the tourist "industry" bellyaching about not enough visitors due to fuel price or availability, and ... life mostly going on.

re political Undulating Plateau.

Thats not too far from my own thinking. If we respond to this spill by restricting drilling, then when the cruch hits in a few years time the bogeymen will be bleeding heart liberals and tree huggers. I try to warn liberals of this, but they are more motivated by pictures of oiled birds then concern about potential political trajectories.

Well I like your post however it contains a bit of circular reasoning. This circle is expressed in a number of ways but its still a circular argument.

High oil prices lead to recessions and falling oil prices or towards conservation and flat to stable oil prices. The circle thats missed is oil is intrinsic to the economy its a fundamental input. If the prices of a fundamental input rise then overall economic output falls as less wealth is generated per barrel.

Its not about money its about true wealth. The higher the price of oil goes the poorer people are. The poorer they are the less ability they have to execute the marginal activities that use oil to generate wealth to pay for oil.

The problem is actually debt. You can't afford to service your existing debt much less expand it to either escape the recession or finance alternatives like more fuel efficient new cars.

The reality is once oil prices started to rise the world was bankrupt at some point along the rising curve. This event happened sometime in the past when outstanding debt and rising oil prices made it certain that the global debt could never be repaid. Monetary inflation and deflation simply change the accounting rules to some extent but the system was intrinsically bankrupt and the financial system basically unsound.

As long as oil prices are on average rising our ability to pay off debt much less expand debt falls. The system is intrinsically crippled. As it contracts economies of scale lead to overcapacity and rapidly falling margins similar to the first great depression.

Only a sharp drop in economic activity can briefly reverse the trend. However as long as wealth generation is in excess i.e each barrel of oil generates more wealth than it costs the overall economy can afford to purchase oil at any price.

Indeed games with debt actually allow it to use more oil than its paid for. Credit lines can be used up even though eventually default happens.

Thus it can hobble along until eventually the differential between wealth creation from each barrel crosses some threshold and the entire system finally collapses.

Thats not to say we won't see some fascinating moves in the interim but they are all moves that attempt to hide the intrinsic fact the global economy is bankrupt. As long as we face rising prices on average the system must fail.

The only way it could have transitioned without failure was if we had created enough stored wealth and infrastructure to make a smooth transition off of oil well before we had too. And had a financial system that borrowed little from the future. Far more conservative than we have. So we can't solve our problems either via recession or investment in alternatives because we simply don't have any money.

Basically what you say about the bankruptcy of the system is what I have been saying in a different way for five years. Money as we know it has little or know value in the post peak oil era. When we talk about the failure of the Euro vs. the dollar, all I can think of is that they are throwing the Euro off the Titanic while the dollar goes down with the ship - mainly because the dollar is too big to be thrown over board.

Paper money of course being the symbol of structure and wealth for the entire financial system. Granted if the dollar has no real value, then pretty much everything other financial asset has no real value, and the world is effectively bankrupt. Real wealth does not reside in dollars, although it still may take many years before that is finally realized.

Because all governments basically can not function in a deflationary monetary environment for very long (since most all are using deficit spending and inflation to finance their programs), I see general inflation continuing even as living standards fall. Not to say there won't be wild swings in prices of oil and other goods, but the overall trend of prices will still be up.

Emotionalism seems always to mire this discussion deeply in the fallacy of the excluded middle, but the two effects aren't mutually exclusive. Indeed, as a certain long-time TOD commenter who I will leave unnamed to protect his innocence tirelessly points out, we could see are already seeing systematically higher prices. And of course we are certainly also seeing recessionary impacts.

The much-maligned economists are correct to the degree that some uses will be valued more than others. There's a range of quantity consumed rather than all-or-nothing. There's a range of prices paid rather than all-or-nothing. Volatility and price spikes tend to obscure that, but they don't negate it. Reflect for a moment on the insane traffic in many parts of Europe, despite diesel/petrol in the $8/US-gal range (even a train every five minutes is useless when you're headed south and the train line goes east/west.) Consider the many poorer places where in terms of the practical difficulty of paying the price out of much smaller incomes, it as as if the price were in the $50-$200/gal range.

As I mentioned about three times in the last week, even though the trend in the long run, and even the medium run (six to 12 months), in the price of oil is up, the price of oil could fall below $75 – and it has.

Two weeks ago today, I said the near term price for oil will bottom within 24 hours of when the Euro/dollar exchange rate makes a bottom. Actually the low price for oil occurred within 48 hours, so I was off a tad. Anyway I am fairly sure the bottom is in for most commodities – unless some new type of financial crisis erupts that is even worse than what we’ve been through recently. I say this because the ECB, and to a lesser extent the Federal Reserve, have eased monetary policy recently. The extra money being created that does not go in to Euro bonds or stock markets around the world will go somewhere. Mostly that has been going into US treasuries lately, but that it not a good long term plan when we have trillion $ plus federal budget deficits. So the alternative is commodities in general, and gold and oil in particular.

The price for WTI oil may not follow the price of oil in the rest of the world as the oil spill gets progressively worse. Indeed the price of oil might ironically fall in the US as inventories are temporarily higher than necessary. Ed Overton, LSU Professor of Environmental Sciences, said on Face the Nation that oil supertankers are now going through a bit of the oil from the spill, being it’s very difficult to go around the slick for them. So far, it has done little to slow oil imports. In fact, somewhat surprisingly to me, oil imports have actually increased the last few weeks in the Gulf. Surprising because net world exports recently, at best, have been steady. I suspect imports may have been sped up to beat possible shipping restrictions or a greater spill threat later, but that’s just a guess.

However with clear signs that oil demand in the US has even exceeded the expectations of the optimists, and with world demand growing around the world, it does not seem rational to expect a lower world oil price over the next few months – especially as the summer “air conditioning” season starts in the Arabian peninsula.

Hmm however I'd argue that over the very short term somewhat irrational psychic factors are probably more important.

This suggest that depressed prices for oil company stock of all types translates over the short term to lower oil prices.

Whats really interesting is over the longer term as a result of the spill oil prices will be in general higher in time say 1-2 dollars perhaps premium as a result of slower drilling so in the end we will pay for this no matter what happens.

Unless of course BP is force to return any excessive gross over say 60 a barrel for oil for the next five years.

Thats what should really happen but I doubt it and all that money used for cleanup.

Now as far as all the other factors you mention I'd argue that up till now oil prices have been tightly coupled to the stock market. To the point you can look at one or the other and have a pretty good idea how each moved.

This tight coupling has worked to hide the effect of any of the numerous issues you have mentioned further more its my opinion that the tight coupling with the stock market is a result of belief that the US is well supplied with oil.

Given stated US storage levels any price pressure on oil is dependent on a strong recovery by the US economy the stock market is probably the best indicator of sentiment on the future economic situation in the US thus the tight coupling.

I don't believe the US is as well supplied as claimed and I've stated this a few times. One of the critical factors in the US have its claimed storage levels is rising internal US production. Well the MMS has been completely discredited with the recent turn of events and if companies operating in the GOM have been inflating production numbers then we simply don't have the storage levels claimed.

Why would companies inflate production numbers in the GOM ?

Well deep water drilling is incredibly expensive and royalty rates are laughable. Its costs almost nothing to claim production that meets or exceeds design. Obviously this success will translated into higher reserve claims and higher stock valuations. In the longer run even if average deep sea production is well off design you will make your money back.
So from a financial perspective if regulatory bodies failed to audit production effectively I'd argue that companies would tend to inflate their production numbers. Probably by a significant amount.

As always the truth is hard to find however if my concept is reasonably correct BP and others can lie as much as they wish about production numbers however they would be facing fairly serious cash flow problems. If they did not really produce the oil then they really did not make the money they claim and they don't have near the cash flow the claim to have. Depending on the situation your talking billions. A company with cash flow problems cuts corners aggressively.
As the details of the spill have come to light I see a company thats very aggressive about cutting costs not one rolling in cash. I'm sure a lot of people will fill I'm reading way to much into this however the culture in a company short of cash is distinctive and I feel really easy to spot vs one really making huge profits.

So all of this and more leads me to the conclusion that oil prices have been tightly coupled perhaps based on deception not truth. If so then we can expect them to decouple from the stock market to the upside.

This decoupling event I'm predicting would actually be and uncovering of very different intrinsic oil supply levels from whats been the market perception to date.

Or not and I'm completely off base.

However if we are on the verge of a decoupling event then future price moves for oil will not be closely related to current price moves as the underlying driving forces are quite different.

As far as when this happens if the situation in the US is not as claimed then as we enter the summer driving season pressure on oil supplies should mount steadily. In general for the stock market it looks like the peak is in for the most part and we can expect stocks to trade sideways at best to down perhaps significantly. One can expect the global financial situation to continue to deteriorate esp in Europe. This puts pressure on the other coupling between the dollar basket value and oil prices.

Fundamentals like export land etc whatever they are play a role but what role we don't know for sure.

So if we are going to bust the tight coupling then from right now forward through the summer is when it will break.

Obviously I expect it to result in oil prices moving generally higher regardless of how stocks and the dollar trade at some point CB's will be increasingly forced into currency manipulation if the dollar trades to much higher. That will play a role.

Probably this leads to and initial decoupling of WTI prices from global prices we have already seen the normal premium of WTI from Brent dissolve. However the US imports to much oil to allow depressed oil prices in the US to control the worlds markets forever. Sooner or later the US bargain basement prices won't work.

Here the oil spill plays a role if your choice is to ship to the US with real problems at a discount vs somewhere else for real money and your dealing with a spill well then people will make the obvious choice and ship oil to other markets.

One can thus expect falling imports and if I'm right and US storage levels are overstated then pressure will mount.

So overall I'm either completely wrong or we should see a decoupling assuming I'm right then its hard to know how future prices will move as they will become increasingly determined by whatever the real state of affairs are.

My more general concept of complex systems close to collapse suggests that if a system is lying about its true state then it tells a whopper the true situation is orders of magnitude different from whats being shown.

So its a very black and white situation either the public numbers are basically correct within reason or they are dramatically wrong no in between solution is viable. Or I'm completely wrong about how complex systems collapse.

Thus given this I'd argue if we do indeed begin to see a decoupling event unfold then it will be violent not tied to current price movements but driven by a realization that things are not as the seem.

Markets do not take kindly to having been mislead even if its internal delusion does not matter eventually they can and will correct violently. Assuming we are in a real depression we can expect the stock market for example perform such corrections.

We shall certainly see how things play out. However if I'm right then recent price moves have zero predictive power regarding future price moves. There is no relationship between the pre decoupled market and the post decoupled market any more than the stock market today is related to that in 2005.

And to finish if I'm right about this decoupling its the big one. Oil would basically decouple from "high finance" or the macro scale flow of money outside the real basic day to day economy. This basically mean no matter how the economy moves we have way to much money by several orders of magnitude chasing way too little oil.

This is intrinsically different from recession induced fairly small changes in demand and oil. It a move to true scarcity economics which are based on the amount of money seeking oil period even as it damages the overall economy.

It can best be described as destroying a village in order to save it or eating your seed corn etc.

Last but not least we can reasonably expect the predictions of and active hurricane season to play a role. This will of course impact GOM production and add more pressure.

My opinion is if we are on the verge of a decoupling event enough forces are in place now to cause it to happen.

Or we are not.

I don't have any general disagreement to what you said above. I think the correlation between the stock market and the oil market has been strong lately because we have gone through another phase of a type of financial panic - maybe not as severe as late 2008 early 2009 but none the less a panic where more speculative financial assets were liquidated.

I also don't have any basic disagreement that we are in a post peak deflationary economic cycle where these types of events will be more frequent. However where I disagree with the deflationary theory some talk about here is that while home prices and stock prices may become mired, consumers will experience relentless price increases punctuated by periods of deflationary panic for basic consumer goods - such as food and energy. So not only do I think a decoupling as you say is possible, but the most likely resolution of events.

Ironically lower oil prices lately have appeared to produce a positive feedback loop for oil product demand, so I don't really see much evidence oil prices could work lower on their own. But if I am mistaken that the current financial panic is not over then we could see oil prices back in the 60s again. Otherwise it will be steadily up for the next three months - that is not even considering the possibility of a bad hurricane season.

Speaking of how much inventory really is on hand, the last few major hurricanes have revealed that the distance from a smoothly functioning national oil product distribution system to an unstable and undersupplied one is in fact a very small % change in reported inventories. So it is possible your theory about inventories could be tested much sooner than most think.

The most important point is its impossible to see through this.

I'd argue the recent past is not a good predictor of future events and this decoupling breakdown what ever you want to call it is and intrinsically violent process thus volatile. You can't really see to the others side if you will.

The entire system becomes very unstable.

Thats why I think we are intrinsically low on oil. If oil was really plentiful then we would not have seen increasing oil prices over the last several months despite the fact that real demand remained basically flat at best and still well below reported highs.

The financial issues are bad sure but for the most part I'd argue that they have more in common with unfunded liabilities like Social Security rather than day to day "money". The backstop put in by the various governments should have stabalized things at least for a while say a few years.

Thats why I think oil underlies whats happening now its not money. The price spike in 2008 set a lot of things in motion that are still going on right now.

Now I don't think its a tin foil hat style conspiracy in the traditional sense simply and attempt to force the system to work by a number of very powerful players. If a conspiracy forms its out of necessity not design.

The only conceivable way out of our current predicament is to induce some serious and fairly general inflation without causing oil price to rise too rapidly.

A neat way to create monetary inflation without causing a general price bubble is via asset bubbles. But we already did that one. Small wonder the US is desperate to reinflate the housing bubble as its practically the only solution.

This also goes back to some of my other musings a very good reason to try and accomplish targeted inflation of some sort is because simple general monetary expansion would send oil to the moon.

This goes all the way back to how I think the petro dollar really works. By shipping billions of dollars only to the ruling elite we get to print money without causing inflation and increased resource usage.

The billionaires in third world countries have no choice but to invest their money back in the western nations. In general the money is either not spent or ends up in treasuries.

This is important because if true it basically explains the nature of the bailouts almost all the funds except for a pittance have been kept locked up in the world of high finance. Via bank bailouts and interest bearing deposits.

In a real sense its variants of the same game the US used for years to extract resources out of the rest of the world.

Extreme concentration of wealth recirculated into treasuries allows the government to print money with impunity.

However the real money creation has to happen via the paying of taxes and thence principle and interest on outstanding debt. So the real economy still has to function to actually ensure that this money exported to the wealthiest top group becomes real.

I added this to the thread because in my opinion the financial moves post collapse are simply the expansion of the same policies we have used so successfully in the the third world to the first world. Create a class of immense wealth that literally has more money than it knows what to do with and ensure the money gets circulated back in as treasuries.

I wanted to add this because its another way out if you will. What it does is ensures the first world becomes like the third with a huge impoverished lower class. The obvious turmoil in such a situation allows for the creation of a military government. This government of course supports the status quo and existing obligations.

As impoverishment expands we have the most brutal form of demand destruction with rapid divergence in purchasing power ensuring the have get oil at the expense of the have nots.

The housing bubbles can be seen as a sort of pre third world expansion. Also obviously once the price of housing assets crash you move a significant amount of the population into poverty.

I don't see it as some sort of evil conspiracy at all its just the way our financial system really works. Its really designed to cause immense concentration of wealth to allow taxation without representation. By creating these immense concentrated pools of money the worlds governments effectively get and open checkbook and can bypass control by their citizens. As log as of course the economy can grow fast enough to pay the interest and roll the debt in a plausible manner.

Its important because obviously rising oil prices are going to seriously undermine the tax base. Without the taxes the recycling of petrodollars into treasuries grinds to a halt and all that money has to find a home.

What this mean is rising interest rates rising oil prices and a falling tax base.

Two of these are already happening the last shoe to drop is rising interest rates.

On the wealth concentration side I simply don't think the world can handle creation of "third world" America in the sense that its impossible to actually achieve the level of concentration of wealth required. You literally run out of taxpayers in the process.

We can of course pay for ever more expensive oil its just we are not generating enough wealth to generate enough taxes to really pay for it in the form of paying off treasuries.

So this side of the game is far more explosive than people realize. The housing bubble worked in a big way to hide all of this as spiraling asset prices and the resulting mortgage based securities worked to soak up massive amounts of capitol even as oil prices rose.

Sorry to be a bit rambling here but if this is really how things work then I'm convinced the game cannot be played to far into peak oil. The concentrated wealth itself cannot retain value as real wealth plummets. You cannot successfully create third world America as the third world itself was dependent on tax revenue generated in the western world.

Once the ability to pay the interest on government debt fails the system fails regardless of how much notational wealth you have created at the top.

Basically we cannot roll the debt as tax revenue start approaching whats needed to simply pay interest.

And again sorry for the rambling post but I'm trying to say that the system has so much implicit leverage in it that relatively minor changes can lead to big swings. Not just with oil itself but the entire system is over leveraged.

The collapse of the housing bubble simply bought just a small amount of time.

If I'm right then the current increase in oil prices is fatal as it will eventually lead to and impossible concentration of wealth that cannot be rolled as government debt. The whole world cannot be third world.

The money itself effectively loses purchasing power rapidly vs imports.

The most important point is its impossible to see through this.

Nonsense :-)

World War 3 is the plan :-(

By the way it is just as well that Rahm Israel Emanuel was apparently considered only competent to change tyres and wasn't recruited to Mossad or anything like that when he volunteered for the IDF. Otherwise the US would have a Mossad operative as White House Chief of Staff.

Sorry maybe not quite with it tonight.


And, in the end, if Israel was to miscalculate whilst teaching a new generation of Arabs their 'lesson', they always have their nuclear option to fall back on, the ultimate sanction against those who will not learn the lesson of history. The Sampson option, which, by the way, also includes us, as Israel's rockets are also targetted at all the major European capitals too. And these people are supposed to be our friends?

-- Posted by: writerman at May 31, 2010 8:25 PM

And in the end?

'And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give'

Well yes thats another way out of this mess if you call it a way out.

Under conditions of war scarcity of resources is treated as a necessary evil. Or at least it was during WWII.

However fiat backed wars like Vietnam turned into don't go quite as planned. Also of course the military industrial complex in the US at least has effectively been on wartime footing for sometime. One looks at the current costs of our current adventures and it readily compares to spending during WWII.

My point is that even with extensive wartime stimulus the US economy is still going down the tubes.

Also of course the nuclear angle makes things very dicey.

However if the real system is actually in bad shape on the financial and oil fronts closer to what I'm saying then Israel taking advantage of the situation makes perfect sense.

Same for that matter moves by North Korea etc etc.

I'm not saying that North Korea is privy to some sort of deep dark secret but its fairly obvious if you look around you that things are not exactly going very well. And I have to imagine that plenty of people have come to the same conclusion I have that the US is pretty much done.

So right now at least I don't think its war in the sense of WWII i.e being willing to go to war to escape a depression its war in the older sense where nations with grievances sense that the old world order is toppling and taking advantage of the widening power vacuum. This does not do the US a lot of good simply bleeds us even more.

I see war near the end like we are seeing now as having a very different effect working more to bleed the crumbling empire dry than to bolster it.

The actual cost of oil in Iraq is immense. A war with Iran in all probability will result in a drop in oil supplies probably significantly. War with North Korea gains nothing just takes a liability off the hands of the Chinese.

Flare ups throughout Asia esp Pakistan result in no short term gain.

In general war now results in a net loss to the system not a gain they simply hasten a process thats already occurring.

Now what they do accomplish is they further set the stage for the formation of a cabal government between the military industrial complex and the banking system. As the military grows in power it becomes increasingly directly tied with bankers. And of course it helps ensure that Bankers retain control of the debt they where promised. Eventually of course the military and bankers form a effectively unified government.

Heck look at Greece and its insane spending on its military.


No reason to even think about whats really going on in the US between the bankers and the military it will melt your tinfoil hat.

Brilliant. Your post is much appreciated.

It's my contention that Americans (not only the wealthy, but also the middle classes) generally have no clue what an immense advantage they enjoy due to the strength of the petrodollar. Traditionally, it has always meant relatively low prices for imported oil and goods as well as low taxation due to debt expansion of Treasuries.

If it is true that peak oil puts an end to this in the manner you have described, then it really does mean that America becomes third world! What we are seeing now is of course just the beginning. These processes are going to accelerate and go off in all sorts of tangential, unexpected directions in the years ahead. But the endgame is clear - American middle classes sacrificed on the altar of debt, and eventual breakup of the union.

It's a shame if you think about it - an amazing country, stretching across some of the best real estate on the planet - only to fail because of oil and bankers.

Meh. What's that they say about predicting both a price and a date?

Anyone care to comment on how this oil spill might effect prices over the short term.

Financially, I predict negligible change.

I think oil's BAU has a very large inertia, and any changes will arrive slowly, if at all.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is cutting short his trip to Canada and is canceling his visit to Washington after commandos stormed a boat running the blockade to Gaza.


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is well known for his vocal support of Israel.

To understate the obvious, the Palestinian issue is sore point # 1 between Israel and its neighbours. This time even Turkey is withdrawing its diplomatic niceties.

Should be interesting to see how all this plays out in the coming days.

Turkey has now called an emergency NATO meeting on what it claims is an act of state terrorism against it and an effective act of war and is now threatening to send a new convoy with military escorts.

No media organisation has been able to make contact with any of their many journalists on board. 40 British citizens said to be onboard. Many others nationalities involved and none have been allowed to contact the outside world. Israel apparently jamming phone signals.

This on the legal position according to outspoken former British Diplomat Craig Murray. Although best known as a former ambassador he was previously head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Maritime Section.


A word on the legal position, which is very plain. To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.

Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean however that international law is the only applicable law. The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place
on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody's territorial waters) the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

In brief, if Israel and Turkey are not at war, then it is Turkish law which is applicable to what happened on the ship. It is for Turkey, not Israel, to carry out any inquiry or investigation into events and to initiate any prosecutions. Israel is obliged to hand over indicted personnel for prosecution.

The U.S. has bombed Pakistan and I believe Turkey has bombed northern Iraq, are any of these nations warring with one another? I doubt anything will come of this when it turns out there was indeed firearms and terrorists on board.

Why do the Palestinians get so snippety every time they are further Ghettoized?

Watching the emergency UN Security Council Meeting now. Turkey is not pulling any punches. Strong stuff.

Al Jazeera is reporting reactions.


Reaction from the Turkish foreign ministry:

The interception on the convoy is unacceptable ... Israel will have to bear the consequences of its actions.

We strongly condemn it and await an immediate explanation.

By targeting innocent civilians, Israel has once again clearly displayed that does not value human lives and peaceful initiatives.

We forcefully condemn these inhumane activities by Israel.

The incident that occurred in open sea which is a gross breach of international law, could cause irrevocable consequences for our relations.

We wish to express our condolences to the bereaved families of the deceased, and swift recovery to the wounded.

The U.N. is a taste of things to come. Turkey has historically stood apart as the lone Islamic (albeit secular) backer of Israel. As a member of NATO it can press home the point that it has been attacked.

While I don't expect the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom to support diplomatic or military action against Israel, I don't think the western alliance is going to emerge from this turn-of-events unscathed.

Isn't turkey a NATO member? And IIRC an attack on a NATO member is viewed as an attack on all members. Well done Israel, they seem to have really stuck there foot in it this time.

I guess we will now see the treaty spun to allow attacks by so called friendly countries on members without invoking any retaliatory actions. One law for them and another for everyone else. Just about sums up everything going on in the World right now. If you're connected, you can do anything with impunity, if you're not, then it is a one way trip to the slums and a life of poverty.

Yes, they were just a bunch of friendly peaceniks.


Yes I just love watching processed, edited video where "Adding comments has been disabled for this video."

As all the journalists covering the flotilla are being held incommunicado, your unbiased input is appreciated. Thanks for sharing.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/middle_east/10199480.stm here is the BBC, I reckon they are unbiased. It even has some better footage. I guess it must be normal for peace activists to beat on commandos with metal rods.

They had the legal right to self defence. Most chose not to exercise that right. A few did - totally predictably, and are now dead. The IDF understood that and its implications, in advance.

Oh well. No meeting between Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu.

They were there to create an incident and they did, publicly announcing you are heading to a place they are not supposed to go to and then reacting violently when the local military arrives is not a great idea. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Peace activists don't bring weapons on board a ship bound to a place controlled by terrorists.

One day you'll realise you too are one of the victims. By then it will be far too late.

A victim of what? You are clearly not a rational thinker, it's patently obvious that there was a contingent of individuals on one of the vessels hellbent on causing trouble.

And it's pretty obvious to me that you are, deep down, of good heart but don't understand - yet.

Perhaps there's hope :-)

"it's patently obvious that there was a contingent of individuals on one of the vessels hellbent on causing trouble"

Er! Yes, that will have been the Israeli commandos. They were sent there to illegally attack people of other nations in international waters who where undertaking a humanitarian aid mission.

Your defence of such a disgusting act by Israel and attempt to attribute blame to its victims is pathetic. Why don't you just say that Israel can do no wrong and is therefore totally innocent of any atrocities it commits?

A fair piece of unbiased coverage of the Israeli raid was aired with the opening interviews on yesterday's CBC Radio programme, The Current.


Fascinating program overall. It featured an indepth interview with the Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on various issues facing the alliance.

The second half hour featured a series on "Drilling without Spilling" on Canada's regulations (or lack thereof) on deep ocean and Arctic drilling.

Three weeks ago, Newfoundland ordered a review of offshore oil drilling regulations to ensure proper spill prevention and response measures are in place. Currently, the East Coast is the only location in Canada where offshore drilling is allowed.

Plans were underway to begin exploratory drilling in Canada's Arctic waters in the Beaufort Sea -- companies such as BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron have already leased large swaths of the seabed -- but in light of the oil spill in the Gulf, Canada's National Energy Board is now reviewing those plans.

And as we continue our coverage of the issues raised by the Gulf oil spill, The Current spoke with two people who say these government reviews are a good start, but don't go far enough.

All topics of interest to TOD.

Isn't turkey a NATO member? And IIRC an attack on a NATO member is viewed as an attack on all members. Well done Israel, they seem to have really stuck there foot in it this time.

What was the name of the that US ship Israel attacked with great loss of life in the sixties? Seems we just sucked that one up and pretended it didn't happen. Somehow I don't think Turkey is likely to be so interested in just saying fogetaboutit. So now we have two potential military blackswans, this, and the Korean ship incident, either of which could potentially get out of hand. Then we are still playing hardball with Iran. Planty of scope for black swans........

What was the name of the that US ship Israel attacked with great loss of life in the sixties? Seems we just sucked that one up and pretended it didn't happen

That would be the USS Liberty and we chalked it up to "a mistake". According to wikipedia, its the only major maritime incident invovling the US which was not investigated by Congress. The incident occured in international waters, similar to this latest Turkish incident.

In May 1968, the Israeli government paid US$3,323,500 as full payment to the families of the 34 men killed in the attack. In March 1969, Israel paid a further $3,566,457 in compensation to the men who had been wounded. On 18 December 1980, it agreed to pay $6 million as settlement for the U.S. claim of $7,644,146 for material damage to the Liberty itself.[4]

On December 17, 1987, the issue was officially closed by the two governments through an exchange of diplomatic notes

USS Liberty Incident on Wikipedia

You have to wonder what those "diplomatic notes" actually say... Here is my take:

Israel: Uh... sorry about the whole sinking your ship thing. Can we be friends again?

USA: Dudes, next time try attacking someone who is actually fighting against you... Its not like you guys have a long list of close friends.

One of the crew members of the USS Liberty was there this time too..


Israeli commandos clad in black were about to land from helicopters and finish off what remained of the Liberty crew when Seaman Terry Halbardier (later awarded the Silver Star) slid over the Liberty’s napalm-laden deck to jury-rig an antenna and get an SOS off to the Sixth Fleet.

Israeli forces intercepted the SOS and quickly broke off the attack. But 34 of the Liberty crew were killed and over 170 wounded.

To avoid exacerbating bilateral tensions, the U.S. Navy was ordered to cover up the deliberate nature of the attack, and the surviving crew was threatened with imprisonment, if they so much as told their wives. When some of the crew later called for an independent investigation, they were hit with charges of anti-Semitism.

One of the surviving crew of the USS Liberty, decorated Navy veteran Joe Meadors, was with the “Freedom Flotilla” when it was attacked. Meadors is past president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association.

The State Department tells us that Joe Meadors survived this latest Israeli attack. At last word, he sits in an Israeli jail.

Mind you we maybe shouldn't blame the Liberty attack totally on Israel because insane US President Lyndon B Johnson was about to use it as an excuse to nuke Cairo and start World War 3 - according to some accounts anyway...

Latest newsletter from Post Carbon Institute:

Should we be #%#%# mad at BP for the Gulf Oil spill? Should we hold them and/or Halliburton and/or Transocean accountable for the lives lost, and the environmental and economic damage they caused? Should we be angered by BP's delay tactics in sharing video footage of the oil leak or by their attempts to pay off people in order to avoid later lawsuits? Absolutely. And should we disgusted by California power company PG&E's power grab (Proposition 16) or the fact that out-of-state oil interests are trying to block California from enacting legislation it passed three years ago with the deceptively named "California Jobs Initiative"? Damn straight!

Is this the David and Goliath story? Probably not. David at least had a slingshot. The prospect of change is hardly even a prospect. The longer this oil spill goes on the better.


The longer this oil spill goes on the better.

Better for whom? Better for the pelicans and other sea birds? They are dying because their feathers are soaked in oil. Better for the sea turtles, an already endangered species? Better for the sharks and all the other fish who are dying by the millions? Better for the shrimp, oysters and other crustacean? Better for the dolphins, whales and other sea mammals? Or better for the wetlands which will likely be totally destroyed by the oil.

Or perhaps it is better for the local shrimpers and fishermen who may be out of business for life? Or better for the tourist industry who were already suffering from the recession.

Joe, I live on the Gulf Coast and I can tell you it sure as hell ain't better for anyone around here.

But perhaps it is better for you. What business are you in anyway?

Ron P.

Ron - I think you've known me long enough to realize that I am an environmentalist. (a dirty word in a lot of circles) I grieve for the losses more than you'll ever know. However the longer this plays out the more Americans and world opinion will shift. The agents of propaganda are already busy at work:

Photo Blockade of the Gulf Oil Spill
Photographers say BP and government officials are preventing them from documenting the impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Upon approaching the island, a Coast Guard boat stopped them. “The first question was, ‘Is there any press with you?’ ” says Herbert. They answered yes, and the Coast Guard said they couldn’t be there. “I had to bite my tongue. That should have no bearing.”

I can already hear the claims that restricting offshore drilling will negatively effect the job economies of La, Miss to TX. I want to see a fundamental shift in how Americans see energy. The oil spill is a crossroads for our way of life. The decisions that we make as a society as a result will have a large impact on how we move forward.


I understand that Joe, but you should choose your words more carefully. A few peak oil deniers could very well misunderstand, or deliberately use your words for an attack on peak oil and TOD. I can read their words now: "Peak oil doomers cheer for oil spill to continue."

However the longer this plays out the more Americans and world opinion will shift.

Perhaps this is true but any good that can come out of this can never outweigh the terrible toll this spill is taking on the natural wildlife in this area, nor even the economic hit the local economy is taking. I would hope for a cap of the blowout tomorrow even if it meant world opinion would never change.

The cost of this spill is far worse than most people can imagine. We have only seen the tip of the iceberg so far.

Ron P.

...you should choose your words more carefully. A few peak oil deniers could very well misunderstand, or deliberately use your words for an attack on peak oil and TOD. I can read their words now: "Peak oil doomers cheer for oil spill to continue."

You're right of course and I acknowledge my poor choice of words.

...any good that can come out of this can never outweigh the terrible toll this spill is taking on the natural wildlife in this area

That assessment may not be correct in the long run. I live in N. San Diego and I have worked on environmental restoration projects and restricting development in ecologically sensitive areas locally. Where I live is in the southern portion of the California Floristic Province 1 of 12 worldwide Biodiversity Hotspots. A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with a significant reservoir of biodiversity that is under threat from humans.

In the CA Floristic Province the most sensitive and species rich areas are coastal estuaries. In CA over 95% of these coastal estuaries have been wiped out and if you asked 9 out of 10 registered voters about it they would look at you as if you had horns growing out of your head. I remember years ago attending a public hearing for a large development that was being targeted by local environmental groups. The developers would have had these small focus groups thrown in Gulags if it were up to them. The drive for exploitation and profit is relentless. The environmentalists were overruled but the project was halted by court action under the Endangered Species Act.

This sort of event happens over and over again and people ignore it until it affects them personally. So I ask you: In the absence of horrific events like World War or this environmental disaster in the gulf what do you think will wake people up from this delusion that we can continue with BAU and it'll all work out in the end?

I think you and I came to the conclusion a long time ago that things may not work in the long run and maybe not even in the short run.


In CA over 95% of these coastal estuaries have been wiped out and if you asked 9 out of 10 registered voters about it they would look at you as if you had horns growing out of your head.

Uff da. I hate to ask this, but how does such a registered voter - not a biologist, mind you, very few are - even go about noticing that a particular estuary is "wiped out" in whatever sense is meant by those words? IOW, what would be calling for said voter's attention aside from, figuratively speaking, some slightly batty folks pacing the town square in sandwich-boards stating in the canonical dripping-letter font that "the squid are doomed" or some such thing? Sure, we've had religious folks doing that sort of thing for centuries, but it's kind of outdated and marginalized nowadays. Can you understand how absurd this can all seem to non-believers? 'Cos if you want to communicate, you're going to need to, at least a little bit. And remember that despite it all, said voter sees Life Going On rather than the constantly threatened TEOTW.

In keeping with this, the ESA is often seen as pretty much just a set of fusty irrational esthetic/religious canons. This is strongly reinforced by an apparent dearth of accessible, cogent, non-magical, down-to-earth, secular arguments in favor of it. It's even further reinforced by generous dollops of minor postmodern silliness, such as commentators mystically referring to, say, microorganisms as "who" instead of "it" - when, to go by recent reports, they're simply mechanisms you can assemble much like watches - nothing more.

If you can't or don't understand what I'm getting at, go find a news article about some freeway, bridge, or other project that's been shot down over such considerations, and skim the comments if you can bear to. They'll make the very worst-ever surviving TOD comments look like highly civilized scholarly discourse by comparison.

Paul - Imagine that you were the only sane person on the planet. What does that look like?

A couple of thinks I've noticed:

I just have not seen a shift in public opinion towards actually tackling our dependence on oil. Yes they are upset about the spill, but not so much that they are going to change THEIR lifestyle.

This reminds me of the Iraq war, and how long it took for public opinion to shift. How the bodies had to pile up like cord-wood and the blood flow like rivers before most of the public would even admit we might have a long-term problem that needs to be solved.

While I and other members of the oildrum may understand how the gulf disaster could reverberate into every corner of the USA's non-negotiable lifestyle, most don't. Also, that if BP's latest Rube Goldberg device actually works, people will turn away so quickly it will cause whiplash. After all, they still love their SUV's and sports cars.

The other thing I've notice is the rise of the “well of course there are consequences” talking heads. Those who have mocked and derided the resource depletion community, have tried to moonwalk away from their previous positions. I use the phrase moonwalk because they are not yet ready to apologize for the straw-man argument of “we will never run out of oil” or for the “drill baby drill” mentality. Instead they back pedaled to the “I've always know their were consequences and I accepted the risk.” (That the problem with having all your sound bites available on the web, it make it harder to do a 180.)

I just have not seen a shift in public opinion towards actually tackling our dependence on oil.

If this reservoir continues to flow for another 6 or 8 weeks and that oil wrecks the GOM, this event becomes un-spin-able.

Nobody can accept the consequences as reasonable or worth the risk.

Churchill said it well...

The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences…

Nice quote, gives things a historical perspective.

No matter what the era, or what the problem, an ugly truth is always hard to face.

Hmmm... inquiring minds wonder, what is the bright line that distinguishes "wrecked" from "not wrecked"?

When you start your question with "Hmmmm.." You're not inquiring. You're Trolling.

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU: " When we got into the water our worst fears were realized. One of the concerns has been what is happening in the Gulf with the application of these chemical dispersants into the oil and indeed, the oil was not confined to the surface, which was the original goal of applying chemical dispersants. It had permeated the water column down 15, 20 feet and would was over us in these billowing waves, clouds of this red toxic soup in which we found dead fish and we could see dead jellyfish floating through it. It was really a terrible sight. You know, often times it’s out of sight, out of mind and no one had done this before. No one had seen what this looks like and what the condition of the water would be. And while we know very little about the effects of these chemicals and the oil in the water, what we do know is that we have put 800,000 gallons of a very toxic chemical into the water column and that it’s likely these plumes of dispersed oil and this toxic soup is now distributed from the surface to the bottom and will be spread throughout the Gulf of Mexico and potentially through the Gulf Stream, down the Florida Keys and all the way into the Atlantic."

WERMAN: How toxic are those chemical dispersants, just on their own?

COUSTEAU: "Quite toxic. It attacks red blood cells, it causes nervous system damage and of course the oil itself has other volatile organic compounds and benzene and other things in it that are very toxic to humans and to really any living creature. Long term exposure can cause permanent, really permanent serious damage, which is why we had to take such precautions and we have full hazmat suits when we were diving."


more Cousteau..

"...It stays in the environment for a very, very long time. We saw oil going into mangroves already, making it into the wetlands, so it is in these coastal habitats, regardless of the chemical dispersant. And once it gets into all these reeds and these grasses and these mangroves, there’s no getting it out. It will be there for a very, very long time. I saw tar washing up on the beaches. I dipped my hand into it just to feel it and my hand is still yellow, days later despite all the washing and the soap that I’ve put onto it because this oil just doesn’t go away."

And Paul, I noticed you've been on a tear against Emotionalism today, so before you suggest that I'm simply trying to tug at the hormones of sensitive greens, understand that I'm responding to a crisis that was created by both complete emotional detachment from the ecosystems that BP and TransOcean are now poisoning, PLUS the rampant emotionalism of a Management Team who couldn't wait to proceed into waters it was already aware weren't safe.

So which is really causing the problems, and which is simply a bit annoying for you to have to listen to? How many spawning species in the gulf are actually dying because of the whimpering and screaming of concerned liberals.. and how many are being killed by a company which didn't listen to its own warning signs, but Boldly Went on and pushed the envelope to follow the cool-headed and perfectly rational and legal pursuit of simple profit?

You've spent the week laying it at the feet of "Bureaucracy" and the Whims of Media.. No. Keep looking, I'm sure you'll find the right culprit if you stick with it.

Not responsive to the question at all. There's always been plenty of poisonous stuff in ocean waters at low concentrations and even at localized high concentrations. What criteria do we use to decide that the entire Gulf is not "destroyed" yet but will be "destroyed" in the next couple of months as per the original histrionic assertion?

Have fun shrugging it off and showing us how you can avoid catching any emotional connection to this. He posed a suppositional question about how bad it would have to get before people could no longer spin it away, but you've offered wonderful evidence that spin can continue as long as it likes. Well done!

There's always been plenty of poisonous stuff in ocean waters at low concentrations and even at localized high concentrations. What criteria do we use to decide that the entire Gulf is not "destroyed" yet but will be "destroyed" in the next couple of months...

Even you must be able understand that there are tipping points in complex integrated systems, that if triggered may have unintended consequences. I guess according to you if the current Gulf ecosystems and food webs are simplified from the say 15,000 known species down to a few hundred which create conditions for blooms of jelly fish and cause the predator species such as tuna to go extinct one could argue that for all practical purposes the entire Gulf has not yet been entirely destroyed.

Unfortunately even when a tipping point in an ecosystem is reached it may take decades for the ripple effects to be clearly detected.

Your arguments are pure bullshit and my criteria for detecting that, is that they stink!

I doubt you'll listen or understand and appreciate this talk by E.O. Wilson but I' give you this link anyway...


There's always been plenty of poisonous stuff in ocean waters at low concentrations and even at localized high concentrations. What criteria do we use to ..."

I have issues with that statement. What time frame are you talking about when you use the wrod "Always"?

The world's oceans at one point before mankind started really having at it with industrial culture, were a nice clean pretty place.

Sure there are creatures in them that produce on their own merit dead zones or the currents swirl and there are low oxygen zones. Those are all part of the system. Oceans are a complex soup of currents and flows just like the air above them that we call atmosphere is. Both act the same as far as the physics is concerned, but oceans have more life in them than air does( the columns of air only have the vast number of life forms close to the ground).

Now man shows up in bigger and bigger numbers and we change the soup mixture, polution and over fishing do most of the changes. We will never get back what we once has access to, years ago. We have mucked it all up just by being here.

As the damage spreads over the area from right now, close to the coastlines, to get mixed in the LOOP current, we will not see all the changes, but they will be there none the less.

I saw the bit on ABC world news, those divers, in full suit protection gear, The cameras don't lie. Nasty thickish soup filled with floating bits of oil the size of rice grains.

Not something that I would call normal. I have been in the water, and have seen lots of video footage of oceans and underwater tests, Have never seen anything like this.

One big massive uncontrolled experiment with no one knowing the outcome, not something that is going to just go away and clean itself up.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future, with a lower footprint on the world, hugs from arkansas.

I just have not seen a shift in public opinion towards actually tackling our dependence on oil. Yes they are upset about the spill, but not so much that they are going to change THEIR lifestyle

I have noticed this lack of action as well, in the form of BAU at the local ARCO gas station. The pumps don't seem to be any less busy, I've seen no protests/protestors on the corner nearby, etc. In fact, I sometimes wonder if the majority of folks even realize that ARCO is owned/supplied by BP.

Everyone is mad at BP, talking about them, moaning about them, but no one is talking about retiring a gas mower for a battery or electric plug powered model, or trading in for a more fuel efficient car, or even just driving less. I think we've decided as a society that its much better to complain about our problems than it is to do something about them. The oil spill is just one more example in a long line of complaints without action (national debt, CO2 emissions, foreign oil imports, unbalnaced budget, social security shortfall, etc. etc.). We're not drilling in deepwater for fun... we're drilling there because we have an unsustainable, continual need for more and more oil. We can't solve the drilling problem until we solve the demand problem.

I think we've decided as a society that its much better to complain about our problems than it is to do something about them. The oil spill is just one more example in a long line of complaints without action (national debt, CO2 emissions, foreign oil imports, unbalanced budget, social security shortfall, etc. etc.).


Even here on TOD, there are many posts about changing laws or taxes. Less about what someone will actually be doing. Even less mention of any non-trivial lifestyle change that a person will be doing, or has actually done.

We decide, with our everyday actions, the course of history and society. Every SUV. Every bicycle. Every life.

"This oil spill thing is just awful. I'm so glad it's not happenin' to us"!

The only thing that makes people drive less is higher prices.

So bring on the higher prices then! Sheesh. Remember how after September 11th, the US government added the "security fee", $2.50 per flight leg or somesuch. According to wikipedia, the fees brought in 2.3 Billion dollars to the TSA.

Well, its time to add the "Catastrophic Oil Spill Prevention & Cleanup fee" to every gallon of gas sold. 10% of the money raised could go towards purchasing an armada of cleanup equipment and the rest could fund massive green power projects, electricity grid improvements and subsidies for EVs. Throw the "Catastrophic Coal Cleanup Fee" on each ton of coal and we're in business.

Why is it that we are willing to tax packs of cigarettes to the hilt (federal tax is $1.05 per pack, plus state taxes, plus in some cases city taxes... New York City adds a $1.50 per pack, and has the highest total cigarette tax per pack of $1.05{federal} + $2.75{state} + $1.50{city} = $5.30 per pack!) and yet we are unable to put even a small price/tax on carbon? The smoker is most likely only going to kill themselves and maybe the people that live in close contact with them, but the freaking Carbon in the atmosphere can and probably will affect everyone on the whole damn planet... and yet we can't even get a freaking nickel worth of carbon tax, much less a tax level which will encourage development of alternatives. It as sad as it is mind boggling. Find some courage, create a carbon tax and be done with it, and I say this as someone who hates taxes and wants as little government as realistically possible. We have a catastrophic enviromental event going on right now... use the opportunity to potentially do some lasting good from this unmitigated disaster.

I'm not exactly sure what protests accomplish for working and middle class people who have jobs to go to, and, if they don't show up, they starve (or end on food stamps, as it were). The Iraq War, the 700 billion dollar giveaway to banks - these seem like things worthy of protest - an accident in the GOM, not so much. What exactly are you protesting?

The amount of oil used in gas mowers is absolutely trivial compared to that burned by the world's airplanes, trucks, ships, and cars. I am surprised to see such a mindless comment.

I appreciate the Civic and Prius as much as anyone, but I also appreciate Ferraris and BMWs and Jeeps. I love cars, and peak oil isn't going to change that. People have different interests. You may love pelicans and marshlands - if that be the case, more power to you.

Don't get my wrong - I can see your point. It's just your comment is not well thought out, and it deserves a response.

The amount of oil used in gas mowers is absolutely trivial compared to that burned by the world's airplanes, trucks, ships, and cars. I am surprised to see such a mindless comment.

Personally, I'm surprised you choose to attack that comment. When a lot of people individually do one small thing, together, the effects can add up to a large result.

A 2001 study showed that some mowers emit the same amount of pollution (emissions other than carbon dioxide) in one hour as driving a 1992 model car for 650 miles (1,050 km).[10] Another estimate puts the amount of pollution from a lawn mower at four times the amount from a car, per hour. [source wikipedia]

Yale University has estimated that the United States uses more than 600 million gallons of gas to mow and trim lawns each year — about two gallons of gas for every man, woman and child, or five gallons per household. Mowers also consume engine oil in their crankcases, and two-stroke mowers consume oil in their fuel.

As of early 2006, there were 118 deepwater projects on production. Production from deepwater by the end of 2004 was approximately 950,000 barrels of oil


In other words, if everyone in the US switched to electric mowers(doesn't even include other yard equipment), our oil consumtion would decrease by more than 600 million gallons of oil per year, as versus 900,000 (37.8 million gallons) barrels of total deepwater production in 2004 (old numbers, but best I could come up with in a short period of time). More currently, for reference, at a spill rate of 20,000 barrels of oil per day on the Deepwater Horizon(estimate), 1 year worth of spill/production would be about 307 million gallons of oil per year, about half of what we use for lawn mowing in the US in that same year). Doesn't seem quite so trivial when you put it that way, eh?

I appreciate the Civic and Prius as much as anyone, but I also appreciate Ferraris and BMWs and Jeeps. I love cars, and peak oil isn't going to change that. People have different interests. You may love pelicans and marshlands - if that be the case, more power to you.

Don't get my wrong - I can see your point. It's just your comment is not well thought out, and it deserves a response

I'm not even freaking asking you to give up your car... I'm talking about giving up your lousy gas powered lawnmower! Is that really such a sacrifice? Talk about low hanging fruit... it doesn't get much lower than that. I think my comment is a bit more well thought out than you purport.

I just have not seen a shift in public opinion towards actually tackling our dependence on oil. Yes they are upset about the spill, but not so much that they are going to change THEIR lifestyle.

Yes. There is a lot of frantic ban offshore drilling activity, but very little demand side response. What we are likely to end up with is supply crimp and ignore demand. This just makes peakoil a little bit more imminent. At least Obama snuck an incremental bump of the CAFE standards. But, I think that was driven by Washington insiders, not voters screaming "take away my SUV". Easily reversible by a single election.

Deja Vu all over again for the GOM spill.

Video from the 1979 spill in the GOM (embedded 3/4ths down in the article)- with a pipeline leak in Alaska, the same protocols to stop the leak.


So it looks like BP etc are sort of going through the motions until the relief wells can be finished.

It seems that recovery from this did happen and this spill 30,000b/day compared with the 5,000 we are dealing with today. No need to change your behavior. Talking heads downplaying the seriousness of the situation.

Actually I think she was making the point that we do need to change behavior.

She notes that in '79 it was 300 ft of water, now it's 5000 ft... and in the intervening 30 years we have "stretched" our technological capabilities without changing a thing in terms of disaster planning.


Good News from the Pacific Northwest

I got my gas bill from Puget Sound Energy the other day and actually read the insert. Here's what caught my eye:

Every other year we evaluate how effective we are at doing our part to encourage you to save energy. We match the amount of energy saved against set targets. Over the 2008-2009 period, your efforts exceeded the targets. Here are the results.

Measurement Target 2008-2009 Performance
Electricity savings 53.3 avg. megawatts 66.4 avg. megawatts -- enough for 49,000 homes for a year
Natural gas savings 5.6 million therms 8.9 million therms -- enough for 10,000 homes for a year

*During 2008-2009 Pugest Sound Energy was required by state regulators to meet a certain threshold of cost-effective energy savings. If electric conservation goals were not met, PSE could have incurred a penalty of more than $10 million per year and up to $750,000 per year if natural gas conservation goals were missed.

Since the electric conservation goals were exceeded at the noted levels above, PSE qualified for incentives of $4.24 million in 2008 and $4.38 million in 2009 under its pilot electric incentive program approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

I've added bold to note that required by state regulators needn't always be a bad thing.

If you want to watch an uplifting video about how much electricity and natural gas we can save just by going for the low hanging fruit, have a look at their Energy Efficiency page. As I've said before: "Our level of waste in the US is so high that we can cut our consumption of just about everything by half."

Also at the PSE site you can learn about the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Project where improvements over the next couple of years will boost output from 44 to 54 Megawatts.

When you start adding up 40% reduction in demand through consumption efficiency and a 25% enhancement of supply through production efficiency you're starting to talk about important numbers.

Best Hopes for more good use of that dreaded required by state regulators phrase.


Before you pop the champagne cork on Puget's energy saving accomplishment, benchmark the degree heating and degree cooling days against the last 2 to 3 year's data. The utility should have that data buried on its website.

See whether there is real conservation or you simply had a less demanding heating or cooling season.

Good point about making sure we are comparing apples to apples.

We don't have cooling degree days in Puget Sound and hardly anyone owns an air conditioner. So we can ignore that.

As for heating, using the 1971-2000 average as a baseline, Seattle City Light reports that our heating degree days for recent years have been:

2007 = 101% of normal
2008 = 105% of normal
2009 = 102% of normal

That means it was slightly cooler in 2008 and 2009 than the 1971-2000 average and would have required slightly more natural gas than otherwise, all other things being the same.

So the efficiency gains appear to be real. Can I have my champagne now? ;-)

Actually, we saw significant efficiency gains ourselves by replacing our 1919 single pane windows with modern double panes and having insulation blown into the walls. This winter we were using 65% as much natural gas as we did in previous winters with very similar heating degree days. Anyone with an older home should definitely consider an energy audit and at least have insulation blown into the walls if you don't already have that. It cost us a total of $2,000 and will probably pay for itself in 2-3 years.

I don't know if you saw this story last month (I didn't), but even though you've posted three "good news" stories from the Pacific Northwest recently... here is the best one yet (IMO).

TransAlta and Washington State agree to Formal Talks on Closing Washington's Only Coal Power Plant by 2025.

Now you can have your champagne!

I thought it was hilarious.

Why are people selling the European currency and buying the US dollar?

Because the US economy is so much stronger than the European economy.

Correct, and why is that Roger?

Because it's owned by China.

Ron P.

things will only change when things change.

i say we let that oil leak to continue leaking. then we can properly study the results.

it is the only way.

pundits, trolls, shills all say this and that every day and every week different but the same.
sort of like zooming in on a fractal.

dont nobody go back and read what they sed last week?

no shame evident.

is GOM a black swan?

i say the same things over and over just like any other poster does.

the goobermint is run by crooks for crooks.

there is no limit to human greed and folly.

the man enslaved to wealth can never be honest.

and least us not forget. titan, a moon of saturn, is covered in hydrocarbons. it has lakes of methane. plans are being drafted right now by TPTB to go get it. humans will destroy more than one world before we do ourselves in.


things will only change when things change.

i say we let that oil leak to continue leaking. then we can properly study the results.

it is the only way.

pundits, trolls, shills all say this and that every day and every week different but the same.
sort of like zooming in on a fractal.

dont nobody go back and read what they sed last week?

no shame evident.

is GOM a black swan?

i say the same things over and over just like any other poster does.

the goobermint is run by crooks for crooks.

there is no limit to human greed and folly.

the man enslaved to wealth can never be honest.

and least us not forget. titan, a moon of saturn, is covered in hydrocarbons. it has lakes of methane. plans are being drafted right now by TPTB to go get it. humans will destroy more than one world before we do ourselves in.


jeez, humbubba, Earth has lakes of methane. As soon as we warm the oceans and permafrost enough, we'll be swimming in the stuff.

this is quite good. maybe a campfire

Very cool!

Thanks as well for showing that link to me. It confirms some of my own thinking. I'd enjoy a campfire about it, but if that does not happen, e.mail me and we can discuss it that way too.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.

Mistaken post, sorry.

$1 Trillion spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars so far:


Assuming a Toyota Prius costs $25,000, we could have outright bought 40 million Priuses over the last 10 years for this money. With a 25% Prius purchase subsidy it would have been possible to assist the purchase of 160 million Priuses over the last 10 years.

Or...how many wind turbines, solar electric panels, and transmission lines could have been purchased?

Or some combination of the above?

Not being a Toyota advocate here...a preferable idea (to me) would be an even more efficient light-weight hybrid (~100MPG) with a top speed of 50 MPH.

Oh, never mind, spending on the war machine is the way to go...

"Just buy a Prius"............
Stop the war, buy a Prius and save....eh sorry I can't visualize the next scenario.
Could you explain, what putting an extra 160 million hybrids on the road would achieve.

I'm sure you could find something better to spend it on, he was just trying to find some examples.. but could you have found something worse and less useful to the US than buying this war? I think that's the point.

Glad you can speak for someone else. I call 'em as I see 'em.
I'm not into "spending it on something better" that's your domain.

I don't want to spend on anything. I say get the vehicles off the road, tax them to hell and beyond. Make it beyond reason to have personal motor vehicle transport.
Spend a trillion dollars and build a wall around The Amazon and wildlife and national parks, sink factory fishing ships. Ground airlines, sextuple all taxes on beef products.

Truth is spending will continue a gather pace because we see engineering as a solution...windmills, hybrids, solar panels electric trains, that gives the impression of BAU and continues to enable the expansion of us. We should be deliberately limiting our expansion.......as if that's gonna happen.

I cant see a solution in what we can build or replace, I see the problem as being us. What's the use though the advocates for saving our asses now will always win out over preserving something for the future and I guess that's why we don't have a future any more.

'I'm not into "spending it on something better" that's your domain.'

But you do spend. You're part of the economy. It's very convenient to say you'd 'prefer not', like Bartleby, but you're in it, too.

As much as you resent it, there are actually things you can do to move into a smaller footprint, but even that change will probably mean buying certain things.. Need some bike parts, some seeds. Getting a tiny bit of Solar is certainly a way to live within much tighter limits than you grew up with, under the Utility company. Maybe even that disgusts you, knowing you're putting money into some company.. I don't blame you. I have a lot of resentment around money and class stuff.. but it's a tool, and if you see a place you can get to, you will almost certainly need to use that tool a bit to get there.

I think we do have a future, but a pretty tough one for a while. I'm not throwing away today's tools, just because they may not also be tomorrow's tools.

'The problem as being us' .. there are countless different kinds of people, and different ways to live on the Earth. It's too limiting to lump the whole lot into one category.

The only way we can get out of the whole morass we are in is to go to a new untouched land and only go there as our naked selves, taking only our skin with us.

The problem there is what is also contained in our skin( up to 1,000 different species living in the human gut , not counting anywhere else something is also living).

We can't take ourselves out of the picture unless we all die by drinking the kool-aid, and I'd be willing to bet not everyone will do that. Might be a way to go back to square one, with only a few parents left to start over.

But besides that line of thinking, we have what we have here and now and we are the makers of our own change, or lack of change.

We can do nothing and sit in the dust complaining that the world sucks and our life is a mess, or we can get up and wash a dirty dish in the sink. Change only happens one step at a time, you don't run a race without getting your feet to make a step. than another one and so on.

I am with you Jokuhl, I am up for fixing what I can in my own life and seeing where I can do without and if that is going to work or not.

I conserve water almost to the extreme in some cases. Last year I took two long showers( only when I really needed them) I normally use about a gallon of water a day doing what is called a sponge bath, with cold water no less. I conserve as many dirty dish making activities as possible. The new joke around here is me returning to the drawer silverware I have not used for dinner, once I even returned a clean plate. In time I will have the system set up that the only water I use came down from the sky, but I am still working on that one.

Footprints in the sand are one thing, but wasting what I believe GOD gave us is another. I have never understood the people who thought that God told us to waste the planet all we wanted too. That does not seem like something God would really tell his kids to do.

Sure be fruitful, but treat the place like the gift it is, and be mindful of everything else living on the planet with us.

Oh and to the buying of seeds and stuff, I try to reuse as many free things as possible. And I collect wild seeds and some cases plants to grow in my yard. I share seeds that I have and plants I have with others, and I give away extra food whenever I can. Right now I also give away extra money to the needy people I know, be they family, friends or strangers.

Change is not easy if you only want to sit on your ass and complain that you don't want to do anything, just want someone else to change it for you.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future, with extra hugs for all.

There are several truths that need to come out.
[1] BP could have pumped concrete down into the riser package on day one plugging this well once and for all.
[2] The “Cap” is just a tool to let BP pump as much oil $$$ as it can while the cap sits on top of the blowout preventer. The cap is not fixed to the riser and must rely on the sip above to keep it in place. Should a hurricane arrive in this area the ship will have to disconnect from the riser opening up the gusher until the hurricane leaves and the ship is able to return and reconnect. THIS IS A MAJOR ECOLOGICAL DISASTER.

If they really cared about the environment and sea life they would have done step #1 above On DAY ONE !!!