Drumbeat: July 27, 2010

U.S. Rep. Schauer: Oil spill near Battle Creek largest in Midwest history

Marshall Township -- As much as 1 million gallons of oil may have leaked into the Kalamazoo River near Battle Creek in what could be one of the largest oil spills in Midwest history, officials say.

U.S. Rep Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, called it the "largest oil spill in the history of the Midwest" in a description to President Barack Obama this afternoon prior to a conference call with the media.

"According to EPA officials, this is the largest oil spill ever in the Midwest," he said. "The EPA is estimating 1 million gallons (spilled). ... This feels like déjÀ vu all over again with regard to what happened in the Gulf."

US, Canada refiners say unaffected by pipe rupture

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The rupture of Enbridge Inc's 190,000 barrel a day pipeline in Michigan has yet to choke off oil to several U.S. and Canadian refineries served by the artery, but it could be lifting prices for some alternative supplies.

Refiners such as Marathon Oil Corp, Suncor Energy Inc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Husky Energy Incsaid their plants in the U.S. Great Lakes region and southern Ontario were not hampered by the break of Enbridge's Line 6B at Marshall, Michigan, on Monday.

Crude Oil Declines From 11-Week High After Consumer Confidence Report

Crude oil tumbled the most in more than three weeks in New York after the Conference Board reported confidence among U.S. consumers fell, a sign that economic growth and energy demand may be restrained.

Japan, China agree to speed up gas fields talks

Japan and China agreed on Tuesday to seek an early conclusion to talks over plans to jointly exploit oil and gas fields in a disputed area of the East China Sea, officials said.

Valero sees refinery runs down 12-13 pct

(Reuters) - Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N) said Tuesday its refineries will run between 12.5 and 13.1 percent below their combined capacity in the third quarter.

The 15 refineries, with a combined capacity of 2.78 million barrels per day (bpd), are expected to run between 2.355 million and 2.435 million bpd in the third quarter.

BP Unlikely to Sell Venezuelan Assets to Cover Costs for Strategic Reasons

BP Plc, battling to contain the worst oil spill in U.S. history, is unlikely to sell stakes in three Venezuelan joint ventures as it seeks to raise cash to pay for the slick in the Gulf of Mexico, said Richard Obuchi, a professor at the International Energy Center in Caracas.

London-based BP is more likely to keep a presence in South America’s largest oil producer as a base for future expansion, Obuchi said yesterday in a phone interview. The Energy Center is part of the IESA business school.

Best Peak Oil Blogs

1. The Oil Drum – The Oil Drum discusses the future of energy and its impact on our world. They believe that we are near a peak oil point and that current oil production levels cannot possibly match the world’s ever growing energy demand. With original research and calculated conclusions, they aim to raise awareness and persuade people to work towards a common goal.

Russia attacks Iran's verbal assault on Medvedev

(Reuters) - Iranian criticism of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is "unacceptable" and "fruitless, irresponsible rhetoric", the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

Medvedev told foreign ambassadors on July 12 that Iran was moving closer to the potential to create nuclear weapons.

Chevy Volt priced at $41,000

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors announced the final price of its Chevrolet Volt electric car Tuesday afternoon, but it's the lease rate that will probably be most interesting to consumers.

The purchase price for a Volt will start at $41,000. The vehicle qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit, for an effective price of about $33,500.

More roadside chargers needed for electric cars

NEW YORK — The auto industry calls it range anxiety: Drivers want electric cars but worry they won't have enough juice to make long trips. After all, what good is going green if you get stranded with a dead battery?

It's a fear that automakers must overcome as they push to sell more battery-powered cars. So government and business are taking steps to reassure drivers by building up the nation's network of electric charging stations.

US seeks solar flair for fuels

The US Department of Energy has launched an 'artificial photosynthesis' initiative with the ambitious goal of developing, scaling up and ultimately commercializing technologies that directly convert sunlight into hydrogen and other fuels.

Palladium: The Cold Fusion Fanatics Can't Get Enough of the Stuff

mong physicists and chemists, cold fusion—nuclear fusion at close to room temperature—enjoys a reputation about on par with creationism. Cold fusion has always been alluring, however, because if it worked, our world energy shortage would be over. Instantly. It would produce loads of energy from, potentially, nothing but water and leave very little nuclear waste to deal with. But it also tempts people precisely because it's been pronounced impossible so many times—there's no better way to make your name in science than by demonstrating something impossible.

Audit: U.S. can't account for $8.7 billion in Iraqi cash

BAGHDAD — The U.S. Defense Department is unable to properly account for over 95 percent of $9.1 billion in Iraqi oil money tapped by the U.S. for rebuilding the war ravaged nation, according to an audit released Tuesday.

The report by the U.S. Special Investigator for Iraq Reconstruction offers a compelling look at continued laxness in how such funds are being spent in a country where people complain basic services like electricity and clean water are sharply lacking seven years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Oil spewing from wellhead in Louisiana marsh

Adding insult to the Gulf's injury, an oil wellhead ruptured and is spewing oil into a Louisiana marsh, officials said Tuesday.

The oil is shooting up 20 feet into the marsh area, the office of Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said.

The well is in inland waterways on the border of Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes, about 65 miles south of New Orleans, and in a marsh area not accessible by road.

How the Gulf of Mexico became the nation's 'toilet bowl'

Perhaps nowhere is the protracted death of the Gulf Coast more apparent than in Pointe-Aux-Chenes, Louisiana, and other indigenous bayou communities where, decades before the BP oil disaster, the marsh started disintegrating and environmental problems washed in from as far away as North Dakota and New York.

The Gulf of Mexico became, in effect, the United States' toilet bowl -- known for its seasonal "dead zones," high erosion rates, dirty industry, ingrained poverty and, now, for the biggest oil disaster in the history of the country. Compare that legacy on the Gulf Coast with the East Coast, with its wealth, and the West, with its more-sterling record of environmental stewardship.

Richard Heinberg: You Can be a BILLIONAIRE Without Even Trying!

What can you do to optimize your chances in the case of hyperinflation, a deflationary economic Depression, an oil crisis, a famine, or a series of horrendous environmental disasters? If you don’t already know, you’d better wise up fast—because some or all of these exciting opportunities are on their way to a neighborhood near you! In fact, one or two may already be tapping you on the shoulder and asking to make your acquaintance.

Pointy-headed intellectuals have been warning us about this stuff for years. Decades. Who cares? Who’s had the time for depressing, worrisome, gloomy, hard-to-understand statistics and graphs? There’s been work to do, money to be made, kids to put through college, new episodes of American Idol to watch.

The End of Capitalism? Part 2A. Capitalism and Ecological Limits

The following exchange between Michael Carriere and Alex Knight occurred via email, July 2010. Alex Knight was questioned about the End of Capitalism Theory, which states that the global capitalist system is breaking down due to ecological and social limits to growth and that a paradigm shift toward a non-capitalist future is underway.

Monitor Urges Utilities to Go Slow on Smart Grid Renovations

A report by the operations monitor of the North American electricity grid, issued today, raises a large yellow caution flag over climate policy initiatives that would require a massive change in the nation's power and transmission infrastructure.

A task force on climate change formed by North American Electric Reliability Corp. urges that policymakers not count on large amounts of renewable energy, demand reduction from smart grid systems or new storage technologies before they prove they can be worked onto the grid without endangering the system's reliability.

Deep cuts in generators' greenhouse gas emissions require an unprecedented transformation from current generation, says Mark Lauby, NERC's director of reliability assessment and performance analysis.

A cure for the energy crisis

Mike Markham used to hold a match under his faucet and light the tap water on fire. He’d get a small blue flame or an explosive orange fireball, depending on the day. “I had to check to see if I still had a moustache,” he says. Markham lives on an 80-acre farm in Fort Lupton, Colo. There are about eight natural gas wells within a few miles of his property, which he says are causing methane gas to migrate into his water.

The problem, which also affected about 100 of Markham’s neighbours who get water from the same aquifer, ended this year when the drilling companies changed pipe infrastructure and introduced filters and holding tanks to remove the gas before it entered household sinks. The aquifer is still contaminated, but local concerns about water quality aren’t going to stop the nearby drilling. That’s life on the front lines of what might be the biggest energy revolution in generations.

Valero CEO says Aruba restart in Sept. if profitable

(Reuters) - Valero Energy Corp plans to restart its shut 235,000 barrel per day (bpd) Aruba refinery in September after completing an overhaul currently underway and if the plant can operate at a profit, Chief Executive Bill Klesse said in a statement.

Kyrgyzstan’s energy crisis worsens

BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan might see energy prices go up again. After April’s ouster of then-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the new government reduced electricity rates for the population from 1.5 KGS (about 3 US cents) per KWh to last year’s level of 0.7 KGS, pledging no more cyclic power cut-offs or rate increases in the near future.

The Bakiyev government explained the 2009 rate increases as needed to cover an energy industry deficit of 1.4 billion KGS. Those price hikes caused mass protests.

Time For Indonesia To Accelerate Use Of Renewable Energy

JAKARTA (Bernama) -- With the impressive rate of its economic growth which leads to a dramatic increase in energy consumption and in an effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, Indonesia has to find renewable energy that would may help reduce reliance on carbon-fueled energy, Antara news agency reported.

It is for that purpose that the Energy Care Society (MPE) on Sunday urged the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) to encourage the use of renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuel.

Pakistan: PM extends two-day weekend till October 31

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Tuesday extended two-day weekend for government employees till October 31.

The decision to extend the weekend came after a meeting to discuss the energy crisis was held, where all four chief ministers were present.

UK to back wind and nuclear to avert energy crisis

Energy secretary Chris Huhne will today set out the government's policy to secure the UK's energy supplies amid warnings of a potential power crisis.

The government will also publish a series of suggestions as to how the UK can meet its commitment to reduce emissions by 80% by mid-century.

China seen quickening hydropower approvals - media

(Reuters) - China is likely to expedite approving hydropower projects from the second half of this year, or face missing its ambitious renewable energy target after cutbacks in the past five years, local media said.

ANALYSIS: Wounded oil giant BP heads for uncertain future

The April 20 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 people and sparked the biggest environmental disaster in United States history, was a 'watershed incident' in BP's 101-year-history, chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said Tuesday.

But he hopes that the company, whose cash flow and underlying performance remains strong, has turned a corner in the fight to salvage its reputation - and secure its ultimate survival.

FACTBOX - BP sells assets to cover oil spill costs

Below are details of the assets BP has agreed to sell, and those that analysts deem likely to be considered for sale or that have been reported to be for sale.

BP should end the oil age early

The Gulf oil spill should spur BP to leave Canada's tar sands alone, and focus their energy on renewable power

James Akins, 83, dies; energy expert presaged danger of relying on Mideast oil

James E. Akins, 83, who as the State Department's chief energy expert in the early 1970s controversially predicted that growing U.S. dependence on Middle East oil gravely threatened the national economy and was vindicated when nearly all of his predictions came true, starting with the 1973 Arab oil embargo, died July 15 at his home in Mitchellville after a heart attack.

Eliot Spitzer: Two Crises Wasted

As we all now know, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and here we have wasted two of them. The momentum for change will now fade into the haze of a long, hot summer. Many Americans hoped that the BP leak would finally focus us on generating an energy/climate policy that would deal simultaneously with global warming and our dependence on fossil fuels. That hope has now totally disappeared. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the end of meaningful reform in the energy arena, and the politics after the midterm elections will make that issue even less palatable.

Australia: Food security plan essential for the national interest

While people discuss the threat of obesity in the suburbs and in the seat of power, nobody talks about the threat of global food scarcity. No one in Government seems worried about where the world will source its food or the consequences of shortages. Few are concerned about land being bought by overseas interests, about farmers being driven from the land by low farm gate prices and trade rules which discriminate against Australian growers. In fact, the Labor government in its 2010-11 budget cut programmes for natural resource management and land stewardship in the face of climate change and peak oil.

Selling the Farm, Part I: Does Australia risk losing control of its food resources?

Foreign interests including state-owned companies from China and the Middle East are increasingly looking to Australia to secure their food production by purchasing key agricultural assets.

Selling the Farm, Part II: Does Australia need a food security plan?

Tasmanian Greens Senator Christine Milne says Australia urgently needs a national food security plan because of the growing danger of foreign takeover of key Australian agricultural assets.

Oil Trades Near 11-Week High; Goldman Says Crude Too Cheap

Oil traded near an 11-week high in New York as equities rallied around the world and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said crude prices are too cheap.

Oil was at about $79 a barrel before a government report due tomorrow that may show U.S. fuel supplies increased last week. Goldman Sachs said futures prices are “significantly” below the level warranted by “fundamentals,” offering buying opportunities for this year and next.

“We expect an average of $92 next year, so on a longer- term horizon prices are too cheap, but not far too cheap,” said Hannes Loacker, an analyst at Raiffeisen Zentralbank Oesterreich AG in Vienna. “Crude faces some resistance around $80 as although fundamentals are slowly improving they’re not yet strong enough.”

Fuel price hike won't affect consumers: Deora

New Delhi (PTI) Ruling out any rollback in cooking gas and kerosene prices, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora today said that the increase was "not that high" and would not affect consumers much.

"What should we rollback? We have increased prices only by Rs 3. If a family uses 5 litres of kerosene in a month, then its expenditure is increased only by 50 paise per day," he told reporters here.

Oil Supplies Falling to Four-Month Low in Survey on Storm

U.S. crude oil inventories probably fell to a four-month low last week as imports declined and Tropical Storm Bonnie disrupted production in the Gulf of Mexico, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Stockpiles fell 1.75 million barrels, or 0.5 percent, in the seven days ended July 23 from 353.5 million the week earlier, according to the median of 11 analyst estimates before an Energy Department report tomorrow. The last time supplies were so low was March 19, when prices averaged $81.46 a barrel.

Natural gas could lead to new Lebanon-Israel war

BEIRUT – The discovery of large natural gas reserves under the waters of the eastern Mediterranean could potentially mean a huge economic windfall for Israel and Lebanon, both resource-poor nations — if it doesn't spark new war between them.

The Hezbollah militant group has blared warnings that Israel plans to steal natural gas from Lebanese territory and vows to defend the resources with its arsenal of rockets. Israel says the fields it is developing do not extend into Lebanese waters, a claim experts say appears to be correct, but the maritime boundary between the two countries — still officially at war — has never been precisely set.

Occidental Petroleum Misses Analysts' Estimates on Shortfall in Production

Occidental Petroleum Corp., the U.S. oil producer that bought Citigroup Inc.’s Phibro energy-trading unit last year, posted a smaller profit increase than analysts predicted as output fell short of the company’s forecast.

Russia to use space tech to develop energy sector

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will employ technologies, initially meant for outer space research programmes, to develop its vast energy sector, Energy Ministry said on Tuesday in yet another sign of the Kremlin's modernisation drive.

The ministry said in a statement it signed a long-term agreement with Russian space agency Roscosmos "to secure effective exploration, production, transportation and usage of the energy resources by employing modern space technologies, products and services".

Total, Novatek Natural-Gas Venture in Russia Risks Losing Siberian License

Total SA and Russian partner OAO Novatek may lose a license to develop an Arctic natural gas field in a venture agreed on last year that was green-lighted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The Natural Resources Ministry’s environmental watchdog put a permit for the Terneftegaz venture on a list for possible early termination, according to its website. The Moscow-based regulator, Rosprirodnadzor, didn’t cite a reason.

Is peak oil imminent?

I have just read an article by Brendan Coffey with the title "Has peak oil arrived?" The short answer is "no" since OPEC has ordered its members to shut in production in order to keep up prices. Until the world economy picks up, there will still be a surplus of oil available.

BP replaces CEO and posts $17 billion quarterly loss

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil giant BP Plc launched a plan to repair its battered image in the United States on Tuesday, ditching its gaffe-prone chief executive and promising to slim down by trebling an asset sale target to $30 billion.

However, the company, the target of public anger over its Gulf of Mexico oil spill, tempted further ire by denying it needed cultural change and offsetting the costs of the spill, including expected fines, against its taxes.

The tax move will cost the U.S. taxpayer almost $10 billion.

BP Asset Sales Win 58% Premium, Show Potential for More Deals

Robert Dudley, appointed as BP Plc chief executive officer today, will sell as much as $30 billion of assets over the next 18 months after the company got a 58 percent premium for fields bought by Apache Corp.

BP plans to dispose of between $25 billion and $30 billion, mainly in oil and gas production, “worth more to other companies than to BP,” the company said in a statement today after it reported a record $17.2 billion second-quarter loss because of the costs of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Activists disable some London BP petrol stations

LONDON (Reuters) – Protesters from environmental group Greenpeace disabled some of BP's 50 petrol stations in central London on Tuesday in protest at the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Greenpeace said its activists had managed to close down 47 service stations in the capital. BP confirmed 30 had been forced to close temporarily. The company branded the demonstrations an "act of vandalism" and said it would reopen the sites as soon as it was safe to do so.

Conference looks to secure energy future

The future of Australia’s energy security is one of the key agenda items at the 2010 Gaseous Fuels conference being held this week.

Hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia (SAE-A), conference delegates are discussing a variety of topics.

However the central theme of many presentations is securing Australia’s energy future by promoting home-grown gas fuels, including liquid propane gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

India's Nuclear Push: The Conflicts Within

After years of years of negotiations and sustained backing from the US government to find acceptance as a global nuclear power, India's plans to go nuclear for a major share of its energy production are in limbo, stalled by the refusal of the Lok Sabha, the country's lower house of parliament, to pass legislation limiting corporate liability in the event of a nuclear accident.

Porsche testing three electric Boxsters in 2011

Porsche has been ramping up its vehicle electrification program, ranging from the plug-in hybrid 918 Spyder concept and the 911 GT3R Hybrid racer to the new Cayenne hybrid that recently went into production. The latest addition to the electric drive program is a trio of experimental Boxsters that are powered purely by electrons.

Bikes and Cars: A Lesson in Los Angeles

Attending the Copenhagen climate conference last December, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles had a revelation: his own city needed to do more to promote bicycling as a clean form of transportation.

“I’ll tell you what I came away with: that in the area of bicycling, I’ve got to do a better job and the city’s got to do a better job,” Mr. Villaraigosa told Southern California Public Radio.

Last weekend, however, the mayor learned a tough lesson about urban cycling firsthand: cars and bikes don’t mix.

Let There Be Dimmers on Our Glowing Planet

America roared into the electric age and didn’t stop to consider what it had wrought until just short of the 100th anniversary of Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb.

That’s what Jane Brox, author of “Brilliant,” argues, and she dates that realization not to the 1965 blackout that closed down most of the northeast but to President Nixon’s dictum in the wake of the 1973 energy crisis that all nonessential lighting — holiday lights, advertising, the lights of Broadway — be dimmed. “Something essential had been taken away,” she writes, “something larger than sheer illumination: the assumption that we could live without thinking about energy, that we could take it all for granted.”

Delawares Drinking Water at Risk: At decades-old bait shop, fear erodes a livelihood

Decades of spills and accidents have delivered hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil, refining chemicals and plastic residues onto fields that drain toward the run.

In 2006, a federally mandated investigation at nearby Delaware City Refinery found benzene trickling into Dragon Run from its bottom, along with other gasoline additives. Levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, had reached 50 percent of the concentration in some samples that would make the water off-limits for drinking.

"It used to be better and cleaner," Wilmoth said. "Now a lot of people are afraid to even go and catch any fish. They say not to eat this or that. Everyone is sort of scared about the river. The only people who aren't afraid are temporary workers, immigrants. That's mostly who I deal with now."

Voyage Redeems 12,500 Plastic Bottles

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — A 60-foot sailboat built largely from 12,500 recycled plastic bottles docked Monday at Sydney, after four difficult months crossing the Pacific Ocean on a trip meant to raise awareness of the perils of plastic waste.

Brazil Indians free workers at hydroelectric site

SAO PAULO – Protesters on Monday released workers from the construction site of an Amazon hydroelectric plant that Indians say is being built on an ancient burial ground.

The Indians initially freed about 100 rank-and-file workers and later the last five senior employees who had been kept inside the Dardanelos plant in the city of Aripuana, national Indian bureau coordinator Antonio Carlos Ferreira Aquino said.

Virginia: Emissions Ruling for Coal Plants Is Reversed

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, on Monday reversed a ruling requiring the Tennessee Valley Authority to upgrade emission controls at three coal-fired power plants in Tennessee and one in Alabama.

Texas: Air Quality Decision Is Appealed

State officials on Monday appealed the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to overturn a state air permitting program. The E.P.A. ruled last month that the state’s flexible permit program violated the Clean Air Act, which requires state permits to set limits on each of the dozens of individual production units inside a plant.

Armageddon Wars: Overpopulation Vs. Global Warming

When the problem is resource scarcity, companies and individuals have a powerful incentive to become more efficient. It keeps their costs down. Mr. Simon understood this, and it’s the fundamental reason he won the bet.

But global warming is different. The fact that carbon emissions are warming the planet doesn’t make it more expensive to produce those emissions. So companies do not have an ever-increasing incentive to emit less — the way they would if the problem were, say, a lack of oil. Global warming doesn’t solve itself the way that resource scarcity does.

Green machine: Aircon that doesn't warm the planet

Maidment is leading a research effort, funded by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, to investigate more environmentally friendly air-conditioning and refrigeration systems. One option, ironically, is to use carbon dioxide to replace the synthetic HFC refrigerants used in such systems, he says: such gases can have around 4000 times the global warming potential of CO2. Around 2 per cent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to them, says Maidment.

European Climate Exchange site hacked

The hackers took the website offline and in a public act of digital direct action posted a message that they aimed would raise awareness about carbon trading as a "dangerous false solution to the climate crisis". Instead the group showed its support of the grassroots activists aiming to oppose the power structures and companies profiteering from the dysfunctional Cap & Trade scheme.

Fiorina backed by coal-mining firms

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina has received about $63,000 in donations this year from Appalachian coal-mining interests, much of the money from an outspoken Ohio mine owner who dismisses global warming as "hysterical global goofiness."

In a cluster of transactions, most of them dated Feb. 4, 64 donors associated with mining in Ohio, West Virginia and other coal-producing states made contributions to Fiorina, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer.

U.K. Carbon Calculator Shows 80% Emissions Reduction Is Achievable By 2050

The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change announced a “carbon calculator” that shows the country’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in the six decades through 2050 is achievable.

The calculator is an online tool that allows power consumers to gauge how to achieve the necessary cuts by adjusting 34 measures of energy demand and supply, ranging from the temperature of people’s homes to nuclear power generation.

Concerns raised about NSP’s plans to use biomass to meet its renewable energy targets:

Biomass may emit more CO2 than coal, URB told

"There’s a common perception out there that forest biomass energy is carbon neutral but new research being done shows that forest biomass is a much more complicated issue than originally expected," Simpson said.
"In fact, on a per-energy-unit basis, you actually produce more carbon dioxide when you burn wood than when you burn fossil fuels, even coal."
He said a recent study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences in Massachusetts underscores the need to know more about biomass energy before establishing government policy.
"Based on that research, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has decided to overhaul their renewable energy standard," said Simpson, who suggested that Nova Scotia should do the same.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/1193940.html


Biomass energy hearings start in N.S.

Mark Arsenault, president and CEO of the New Brunswick Forest Products Association, says biomass operations should be part of renewable energy portfolios but when they get that large, their environmental and economic benefits become questionable.
"When we look in New Brunswick, we're finding that the smaller plants tend to make more sense in terms of the availability of biomass in the local area," he says, adding that it requires less transportation of biomass from long distances - which adds additional costs and carbon to the equation.
Raphael Shay, energy co-ordinator at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, shares Arsenault's concern about the size and centralized nature of the proposed biomass facility.
"The more centralized the plant, the more driving trucks will have to do to transport the biomass around, so you're not reducing CO2 emissions by doing that," he says.

See: http://nbbusinessjournal.canadaeast.com/front/article/1150809


Monitor Urges Utilities to Go Slow on Smart Grid Renovations

A report by the operations monitor of the North American electricity grid, issued today, raises a large yellow caution flag over climate policy initiatives that would require a massive change in the nation's power and transmission infrastructure.

A task force on climate change formed by North American Electric Reliability Corp. urges that policymakers not count on large amounts of renewable energy, demand reduction from smart grid systems or new storage technologies before they prove they can be worked onto the grid without endangering the system's reliability.

See: http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2010/07/27/27climatewire-monitor-urges-util...


Lunk Heads! How much CO2 does coal absorb while growing?? Woody bio-mass is considered carbon neutral from the feedstock point of view. FF's are burned for the planting, maintenance, harvesting and preparation and can be calculated on a BDT (bone dry ton) or cubic metre basis based on species. What more do they need to study??

Yes, for an EE I learned a lot about forestry and logging operations while working on bio-mass generation projects. Not an expert by any stretch, just enough to be dangerous.

But that is not the issue to consider. As in BC, stewardship of the sustainable bio-mass system is the critical path. It doesn't take a PhD thesis to observe the obvious that there simply isn't enough - not even close - bio-mass sources or processing capacity to make a dent in displacing FF's. Best use is community heating and bio-product outputs.

But the guy in the referenced second article has it right. We came up with the smaller more mobile gasification plant design for that purpose. There becomes a break point where it makes more sense to take the plant to the feedstock than to truck in the fibre, especially with woodlot waste.

OK, job done, now where's the beer...

BTW, I get leeway to use Lunkheads because I went to Lakehead in Thunder Bay and only we get to call ourselves Lunkheads.


I'm not particularly knowledgeable in this area, but the Manomet study referenced in this testimony suggests that the GHG emissions for biomass are initially higher than that of coal and remain so for the first twenty or so years, after which biomass starts to pull ahead, provided proper forest management practices are put in place.

For more information, see: http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=eoeeaterminal&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Energy%2c+Utili...


The brother-in-law on the couch version of the apocalypse:

Census: Moves because of evictions increase

More Americans say they moved because they were evicted or wanted to spend less money and now live in a worse house with more people, new Census data show.

The 2009 American Housing Survey shows the stark effect the recession and housing crisis have had on some people's lifestyles in just two years. The survey, last conducted in 2007, captures the brunt of the downturn's impact on housing.

"It seems to mark some erosion in the standard of living of Americans," says James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. "It's not surprising given the depths of the recession. ... Some portions of Americans are now in survival mode."

Home shoppers taking fresh look at renting

“We lost two-thirds of our equity,” says Mark Cleaver of their Milwaukee home. “It definitely soured my view of home ownership.”

The Cleavers say they may rent for the rest of their lives. Their monthly costs to live in downtown Chicago are about $200 more than the costs of owning in Milwaukee, but their budget is more predictable — no more surprise $20,000 porch repairs or replacement snow blowers. And no taking a bath on the investment.

As the real estate market has turned, so too has the real estate consumer. Many adults are no longer sold on the merits of owning a home. Indeed, some are just as happy to rent — and instead of seeing owning as a benefit, they see it as equal to or even less appealing than renting.

My daughter, the renter, is taking a fresh look at buying, now that others have "lost two-thirds of our equity”. It's a matter of finding a place with enuf usable land and good water.
"And no taking a bath on the investment."
It ain't an investment...everybody needs a place to live. Even wharf rats construct shelters down by the docks of The City.

Say Mr. Rat,

Would you happen to have a dime, a dime for a cup of coffee?

I got no dime, but I got some time to hear your story.

My name is August West, and I love my light sweet crude the best, more than my wine.

as fred c dobbs said in treasure of the sierra madre: " Say, mister,could you stake a fellow american to a meal ?"

Many adults are no longer sold on the merits of owning a home.

There are two points here ... firstly the value of owning your home is not only (or not even primarily) about dollars - and why did the Milwaukee couple take a bath? They didn't have to sell it, did they? And there are intangibles associated with home ownership that are very important to a lot of people.

And secondly, water finds its own level - and renting may soon be quite a lot more expensive, as the demand for such property increases ... there are no free lunches.

They didn't have to sell it, did they?

I assume they moved for a job, as people often do. At least one of them is working, and the "walkable commute" is one thing they like.

And secondly, water finds its own level - and renting may soon be quite a lot more expensive, as the demand for such property increases

Disagree. That assumes demand for housing stays the same. But that's not what's happening, as the other article I posted points out. If you can't afford to pay, then you won't be renting or buying.

That's possibly true - that the overall demand for housing (and a certain quality of housing) might be reducing - however comparing like with like, more people (in general) can afford to rent an identical house than can afford to buy the place. And the rental market responds fairly quickly to the vacancy rates in any given location, from my experience.

The last 2 years have been bad for most of my immediate family. I now live in a worse house, worse neighborhood, cannot afford to buy decent food, clothes or even shoes. Most of my adult life has been spent in the middle income bracket, now we are in the low income bracket. This is affecting my health, both physically and mentally.
I am certainly not alone in this mess. There may be millions of us. I wonder about the effect all of this will have on society. The end of the middle class? And what will happen then?

Sorry to hear.

What happened?
Someone lost a job?

My family has also been on unemployment longer than I ever thought would happen.

A recurring nightmare of mine is waking up behind the garbage bins at the local supermarket and realizing I ain't got no job, no home or food any more and only hope of survival is finding some rotting thrown out food in the bins and a cardboard box to sleep in. But then the nightmare gets worse as I realize I am not alone in my plight. There is lots of "competition" for the scarce resources. (And then realizing in the dream that they had promised us that like greed, 'competition' is a good thing.)

Guardian: Modern cargo ships slow to the speed of the sailing clippers

The world's largest cargo ships are travelling at lower speeds today than sailing clippers such as the Cutty Sark did more than 130 years ago.

A combination of the recession and growing awareness in the shipping industry about climate change emissions encouraged many ship owners to adopt "slow steaming" to save fuel two years ago. This lowered speeds from the standard 25 knots to 20 knots, but many major companies have now taken this a stage further by adopting "super-slow steaming" at speeds of 12 knots (about 14mph).

I wonder if this is financially sustainable. Right now ships are cheap because of the glut of new vessels coming to market. (Ordered before the Great Recession -- Take a look at the Baltic Dry Index) Ships are rented by the day and as long as rates are low it doesn't cost nearly as much to go slow. What happens when they get expensive again?

This article is interesting.
And you pose a good question.

Maybe rates won't get expensive again?
A glut of new shipping is part of the equation, but there is also the view that the Dry Baltic Index mostly tracks bulk shipments (read commodities). Where as MERCK tracks shipments of finished, newly manufactured goods. MERCK has been trending up; Dry Baltic trending down. The implication may be that governmental stimulus money has temporarily generated more manufacturing, but now that those orders are shipping, there are no new orders upstream to stimulate new raw material shipments.

Double dip anyone?
I don't know, but I'm still not betting my own money against it.

Yes, container shipping situation seems quite different from dry bulk. The NYT has big article on rising container shipping costs and it mentions slow steaming:

Retailers Pay More to Get Cargo (No Guarantee)

Because of slow steaming, which takes containers out of the system for a longer period of time, and because places like Russia and India began to demand container space, finding something to ship goods in, much less space on a ship, has been problematic.

The cost of shipping a 40-foot container from Hong Kong to Los Angeles without a contract, or the spot rate, was about $871 in July 2009, a five-year low. This month, that spot rate reached $2,624, a five-year high, according to the industry consultant Drewry Shipping Consultants, as reported by The Journal of Commerce. That exceeded even the cost before the recession, which was about $2,000.

Wonder what the most efficient speed is of one of the cargo ships? I think the boat i have is most efficient around 20mph...i know idling (5mph) isn't as efficient because so much of the boat is in the water vs being up on plane. I doubt a cargo ship has that problem, but can they put along at 5 knots and go vast distances...?

If your engine weren't over-sized to get up on plane it would be most efficient operating as a displacement hull at a speed in knots up to 1.34 times the waterline length (aka Hull Speed).

I think you missed a term in your equation (square root of waterline length), those would be some fast boats.

woops! - you are indeed correct. 1.34 X Sqrt(Waterline Length)

Regarding fuel efficiency you can't compare a planing hull with a displacement hull.At low speeds a planing hull will drag a lot of water behind the transom,increasing fuel consumption relative to speed.

A displacement hull stays wholly in the water regardless of speed.There is a certain hull speed related to length beyond which the application of more power will result in little increase in speed but a lot more fuel consumption.A displacement hull will be efficient at any speed up to the hull speed therefore a lower speed will result in less fuel consumption.Of course that statement ignores the factor that the engine may be more efficient at a certain number of revolutions.

It's informed content like this that keeps me coming back to TOD day after day. Thank you.

Hull speed is something of a theoretical maximum invented in the days of sail to calculate how fast big, heavy sailing ships could go.

What happens is that a boat generates a bow wave as it moves along. As it goes faster, it will generate a train of waves along its length. This will require more power as it goes faster and faster due to the friction of the waves. At hull speed, the boat will be balanced between two waves (the bow wave and the stern wave), and most of the boat will be in the trough between the two waves.

If it goes faster than hull speed, the stern drops into the trough between the two waves, and the ship has to motor uphill to go any faster. Obviously, the power required to drive a 150,000 tonne SuezMax container ship uphill is ridiculous, so none of them go faster than hull speed. Big, heavy sailing warships with lots of cannons also couldn't get enough wind power go any faster than this, so it was a hard limit for them. Modern racing catamarans and trimarans can ignore these theoretical limitations because they are much lighter.

For a smaller boat, there is an alternative solution. You add enough power to climb up onto the bow wave, and once you are surfing on top of the bow wave, much of the boat is out of the water and your power consumption drops considerably. With a planing hull they surf quite nicely on top of the bow wave, but they use an awful lot of fuel doing this. The difference in fuel consumption between power yachts with planing hulls and sailing yachts with displacement hulls is like night and day, in addition to which sailing yachts can always sail if there's a wind.

However, for a SuezMax container ship, there is the additional factor that the wave friction increases on an exponential curve right up to hull speed. The faster they go, the more fuel they use, and there will be some point on the fuel consumption curve which is optimal at any given fuel price. The biggest ones have a theoretical hull speed of nearly 50 knots, but they will never go any faster than 25 knots, and if fuel prices are high, they might motor along at 12 knots.

If you look at these big ships, there will be a big bulb under the water at the bow. The bulb interferes with the bow wave the ship generates, making it smaller. The bulb might improve the fuel economy by up to 15%.

What happens when they get expensive again?

I don't know, but last year the head of COSCO (Chinese Overseas Shipping Company) was idly speculating that it might be a good time to look at nuclear powered container ships.

The capital costs would be very high, but the fuel costs would be very low, and they'd only have to refuel them every five years or so. With the size of container ships they are building these days, nuclear power starts to make sense. Speed wouldn't be a concern to them because of their low fuel costs, so they would probably run at two or three times the speed of oil-fueled ships.

However, if anybody does start building nuclear-powered ships, it would be the Chinese. They're building large numbers of power reactors, and once they have acquired (i.e. stolen) the necessary technology, they could become the world leaders in constructing reactors. Once they got enough nuclear-powered container ships running, if the economics were favorable, they could bankrupt all the world's oil-fueled shipping companies. Nobody else would be able to raise the capital to compete with them.

Once they have nuclear powered container ships they'll also have nuclear powered warships.

(ducks and covers)

China has at least 10 nuclear-powered submarines, and has at least been thinking about nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. However, the head of COSCO said he had been in talks with their nuclear authorities about building nuclear-powered cargo ships.

If you think about it, nuclear-powered container ships would be their most effective nuclear weapon. There would be no defense against them, at least under international trade law.

Stuart Staniford: Global Oil Supply Now Contracting?

It's too soon to remove the question mark from the end of the post title, but not too soon to be talking about the subject.....

Whether this presages a renewed contraction in the global economy, a stagnation, or just a transient hiccup in the ongoing recovery, I'm not certain of yet. But certainly each passing month of lower oil production will add to the concern.

My reading of the data suggests that the global economy is due for a period of stagnation for the rest of 2010 and probably into the first half of 2011. In particular, for the U.S. it seems likely that the rate of growth in real GDP will drop to about one percent over the next six months. In other words, I do not believe the official forecasts; they are too optimistic.

Whether economic growth in the U.S. will go negative is an open question. Currently, my guess is that it will not--but I'm basing that on an expected decline in the price of oil to the sixty dollar per barrel range. Why should oil prices decline? Because of lower growth rates in the global economy and, even more important, expectations of further weakness in global economic growth. My guess is that OPEC will not further cut its production to maintain a seventy-five dollar per barrel price, but of course I could be wrong about that. To me it seems that OPEC nations will perceive their best interests to be served by a price of oil that does not cause a double-dip recession; hence I think they will not fight a moderate price decline from current levels.

Because of excess capacity in OPEC, I think a rise in the price of oil above eighty dollars per barrel is unlikely.

Don, I'll give you credit for not buying into the view of the cheerleaders but — no offense to you — your profession has little credibility with me right now.

From a report from Société Générale, the predictive ability of mainstream economists is very poor:

Economists Can't Predict Recessions

James Montier, the author of the report wrote, “when you look at their record, it’s clear that the three blind mice have more credibility."

In general, I think it's because they are using the wrong models, and even the ones that are using better models don't include energy.

“No One Saw This Coming”: Understanding Financial Crisis Through Accounting Models

Steve Keen has a good short writeup on the paper:

"The widely believed proposition that this financial crisis was “a tsunami that no-one saw coming”, and that could not have been predicted, has been given the lie to by an excellent survey of economic models by Dirk Bezemer, a Professor of Economics at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands."

“No-one saw this coming?” Balderdash!

Thankfully the biophysical economists are starting to update your profession. Charlie Hall distinguishes biophysical economics from ecological economics and neoclassical economics in this excellent blog post:

Exchange on the difference between biophysical and ecological economics

In a nutshell, the ecological economists began to incorporate environmental ecosystem services explicitly but used the same poor neoclassical models. The biophysical economists are reworking the basics so that the models begin to make biophysical sense.

As Charlie says in the post linked above "peak oil, declining EROI, resource depletion, fresh water issues and so on will dicate the rest of civilization's days."

Can you provide a reference for the Société Générale paper?

I don't have the original link but I've uploaded the report for you here:


You often refer to these GDP figures and seem to think they're reliable. I'm no economist or statistician, but many people have pointed out that they are not.

For instance, Chris Martenson, in his Crash Course, talks about 'fuzzy numbers' and explains the numerous ways that official figures for GDP growth, inflation, employment etc. are cooked, to such an extent as to make them virtually meaningless. What is your opinion on whether and to what extent they ought to be trusted? I would appreciate some elucidation.

The official numbers are useful provided that one is aware of their limitations. If you don't like the official numbers you can go to shadowstats and get somewhat different ones.

It is not correct to say that the official GDP numbers are meaningless. However, their meaning is not what many people seem to think they are. For example, GDP does not measure economic welfare; it wasn't designed to do that, and it does not. For making policy, however, the GDP numbers are very useful. For example, economists know that it takes about a 3.5% rate of growth in real GDP to keep unemployment from increasing. Indeed, the main reason economic growth is stressed so much in macroeconomics is its link to employment. The reason we have so much unemployment now is that over the past few years we've had negative economic growth, and what recovery we have seen has been anemic--below the 3.5% rate needed to maintain a particular rate of unemployment. I expect rates of unemployment to remain high for at least another year, because I expect very slow growth in GDP.

Declining GDP as a result of declining oil production after Peak Oil will inevitably cause unemployment to worsen, and I think this unemployment will be the main intermediate term hardship related to declining oil production.

For making policy, however, the GDP numbers are very useful. For example, economists know that it takes about a 3.5% rate of growth in real GDP to keep unemployment from increasing.

In the US I don't think population growth is that high.

Is there an accepted mechanism for the differential between workforce growth and GDP growth required to maintain employment?

If not, why not?

Of course the labor force is not growing at 3.5% per year. But productivity is growing at very roughly (long-term) two to three percent per year. Hence the 3.5% rate of growth in real GDP required to keep unemployment from rising is made up of two parts--mostly productivity increase but also some increase in the labor force, too.

Note that the rate of growth in population is not the same as the rate of growth in the labor force; the most rapidly expanding part of the population is that part over age 65--which tends not to be in the labor force.

I suspected it might be mostly productivity gains, but I wasn't sure.

Hmm. At a 3% sustained productivity growth rate it only takes 23 years to cut the workforce required to support a particular level of GDP in half if I remember my formulas correctly.

I can definitely see why we have needed growth.

So in 23 years we could work 20 hour weeks and spend the rest of the time in productive pursuits?

More likely those employed would work a forty hour work week (some much more with overtime) and the unemployment rate would rise to about fifty percent--which would cause the labor force to decrease due to more discouraged workers.

Those who are unemployed but not seeking work are not counted as being in the labor force.

The decline of oil production after Peak is going to cause an increase in two kinds of unemployment:
1. Cyclical, due to a decline in real GDP, and
2. Structural, due to many kinds of jobs (e.g. in tourism) disappearing.

It is hard to get the work week much below forty hours, because workers tend to seek and find second and third jobs. It is common for part-time workers to have two or three jobs with the total number of weekly hours often far exceeding forty hours. Also, some fulltime workers have part-time jobs in addition to their fulltime ones.

This points to a cultural problem, "Part Time" jobs are treated as inferior right from the top.

In a country where employer provided health insurance is the primary way of paying for health care, part time workers are frequently excluded from benefits. The pay per hour for part time jobs is usually less than for the same work on a full time basis. Part time workers frequently have imposed irregular schedules, so they can't plan to have particular hours available for other pursuits.

Sure, we could have the same number of people working half the hours, but with the way things are currently rigged they would be being taken advantage of mercilessly.

It is hard to get the work week much below forty hours, because workers tend to seek and find second and third jobs. It is common for part-time workers to have two or three jobs with the total number of weekly hours often far exceeding forty hours. Also, some fulltime workers have part-time jobs in addition to their fulltime ones.

What planet are you living on Don? It can't be the same one that I'm on. You might want to drop by your local unemployment office for a chat with some of the folks who are there just for the sh!ts and giggles.

Of course you'll have to go somewhere else to find those who are unemployed but not seeking work, since as you yourself point out,they are not counted as being in the labor force. In case you're wondering these people are out there though...

Hint, most of these folks aren't lazy or looking for handouts either! The unofficial unemployment rate is close to 20% if you include the people who have given up trying to find work. Of course if you are part of the 80% that still has a job, things don't look all that bad.

The problem being, of course, that we don't need everyone working to provide everything we need, plus a huge amount of crap we don't need.

So with productivity higher than ever, we have high unemployment, but families with two wage-earners working flat out to just keep their heads above water. What a strange and broken system.


A huge amount of crap indeed. Why do we do it? Suicidal and insane, when the same effort and resources could get us what we do need.

Yesterday I hitched a ride with two different young engineers. Both had huge pickup trucks with tons of torque, they used for nothing but a short commute that they equally could have done on a bicycle. The thought they were impressing me. They were.

When we talk about the economy, we need some language that separates what we actually need and or could get this planet where we want it to be, from mere frivolities that ruin the world for our grandchildren. The one should grow, and the other shrink.

Lots of jobs should be lost, and lost for good.

Think of all those jobs lost at the end of the war (the 1945 one). All those poor U boat commanders, concentration camp guards, deck apes like me, and so on and on. What a pity.

We should redefine the "full time" job. First step could be to define, full time as 5 days, 7 hours or 35 hours per week. After a few years, we could go to 4 x 7 hours. After a few more, we could go to 4 x 6 hours.

Particularly for workers with children, we could change school hours and working hours to more or less match and solve a lot of problems with after-school care.

Don & Jussi:

I'm inclined to allow at least a 1% of GDP margin of error for any econometric data or forecasts I see. It just never is any more precise than that. Thus, as far as I am concerned there really isn't any difference between talking about a 1% GDP growth forecast and a 0% GDP growth forecast. Either falls within the margin or error.

I am fairly certain this is economically related. However that doesn't discount peak oil. If we are at or near peak, every attempt at a growth breakout will be stymied by spiraling energy costs.

The key thing right now is the past few quarters of "growth" are all on top of the government stimulus replacing nearly 11% of final private demand in the economy. As soon as that stimulus ceases or even grows smaller, contraction will and must resume. Yet the stimulus cannot continue forever without inducing bad side effects of its own.

As I told Stuart, debt can only be (a) paid off, (b) defaulted, or (c) forgiven. There are no other choices. And with this silly "jobless recovery" (an oxymoron if ever one did exist), household standards of living continue to decline while those same households are holding record levels of debt. So I fully expect foreclosures to continue at a record pace, for credit card charge offs to continue at a record pace, for housing to remain moribund, for durable goods sales to totally suck compared to 2006-2007 (though they may look a hair better than the worst of 2008-2009), and for all other such defaults to continue as well.

In such a deflationary environment, even government printing can only do so much, unless Bernanke is willing to simply print and give the cash directly to the debtors, which will destroy the creditors in a rash of inflationary consequences. So Bernanke's choice boil down to the economy going nova in an inflationary blow out, possibly even hyperinflationary, or collapsing into the black hole of debt and deflation. And so far, deflation is winning this argument which is why production is falling.

i wonder how much of the jobless recovery is off the books. one way a person, particularly an unemployed person, can improve his/her personal economy is to work for cash or sell something for cash.

maybe sailorman has an algorithm for that part of the economy ? it may be more than one would think.

in the dead of the past winter, i had a snowblower for sale. i advertised it on a bullitin board - asking $375. the first and only guy that showed up - he wanted it real bad, he reached for his pocket and asked "would you take $375 cash ?

You are correct that the underground economy expands as the "on the books" economy contracts. By its nature of avoiding and evading taxes, it is impossible to get accurate data on the underground economy. Over the long term of future economic stagnation and eventual decline the underground economy will expand greatly; thus the figures that show declining real GDP are somewhat misleading because they take no account of growth in the underground economy.

Estimates of the size of the underground economy vary widely--as do definitions of what exactly is meant by "underground economy." For example, should illegal drug sales be included as contributing production to the underground economy? Or should illegal drug sales be considered an economic "bad" (as opposed to an economic good) and not counted as contributing to economic output?

There is no algorithm, however.

I've been trying to explain this to folks. The "underground" economy, a.k.a. the Black Market economy or whatever else one wants to call it, is substantial and is set to grow explosively in the future. This has negative ramifications for the ability of government to fund itself that are far reaching. Essentially, we are looking at something of a return to a pre-twentieth century economy and all the corresponding inefficiencies in raising tax revenues. Without that good ol' W-2, methinks there is some very ugly sledding ahead for government.

I concur. In session #1 (the introduction session) of The UnCrash Course I explain that as we go down this curve:

Stages of Technic Societies

our economy will shift from what is currently considered 'developed' to look more like the so-called 'developing' countries:

Rise of the Informal Economy

(Numbers from the World Bank.)

A good example of that:
In Uruguay, not good but not the worst Latinoamerican country, 331,348 workers over a total of 1:244,619 are in the illegal economy and do not contribute to the (Social Security, to simplify matters).
Surprisingly, even a surprise for the government, things have improved!
Total population, about 3.5 million, about 800,000 pensionists, about 600,000 state workers.
Curiously they know perfectly well the number of informals and it is 23.2% of the total workers; it was higher 27.1% in 2008, and it was much higher still 39,6% en 2004 when 492,857 were in the informal economy.

One factor that helped bring down the number of informals was that the legalization meant they could get health protection for their families even if they had to pay taxes.
Evasión (warning ! In Spanish)

University studies are totally free in Uruguay (for the citizens, there is a small charge for foreign students) although graduates later have to pay a special tax --Seems that Mr Cameron wants to imitate the Uruguayan communists !

there's this from the imf:


~15 % from oecd economies

~25 % from transition economies

something tells me the u.s. is "in transition".

Good synopsis.
And some positive feedback loops there; higher taxation = more shadow economic activity, less tax revenues = higher public sector unemployment, more unemployment = higher taxes to boost revenues = more shadow economic activity, etc.
Interesting section regarding tax returns in that write-up. Any self-employed person (if feeling in a particularly honest mood) will tell you that the social security tax is a real killer. 15% right off the top is simply not doable for many start-ups, especially sole proprietors. So what happens when tax time rolls around is whatever deductions are needed to balance the return are made up out of thin air, added to the schedule C and then mailed in, with a hope, a prayer and crossed fingers that there won't be an audit.

The insidious consequence of all this is that a larger and larger segment of the population essentially criminalizes itself out of pure financial necessity; with additional unintended consequences further down the road.

And with this silly "jobless recovery" (an oxymoron if ever one did exist)...

For most of the world, it hasn't been jobless. (defining world by population). Similarly with some of the developed world. For instance: Dunno if it will last but Canada has experienced a full v-shaped recovery...including employment (measured in number of employed). Employment is quite decent in Germany also.

I disagree with Staniford in that I don't think slightly declining oil production means the global economy is shrinking. Coal & nat gas is more where it's at for most of the world.

As I told Stuart, debt can only be (a) paid off, (b) defaulted, or (c) forgiven. There are no other choices.

The (d) choice, and what the govt. and many businesses and many individuals are trying to do is perpetually roll over the old debt for new debt (after all, interest rates are going down). While this strategy might work in a situation where actual productivity rises again in the not to distant future, when we face a general decline in energy resources over the long term, it obviously just puts off the choices (a), (b) and (c).
But putting off tough choices is what people excel at. The question just becomes, how long can it last?

Those of you who think you will suddenly throw up a garden in an urban setting to ward off shortages caused by peak oil (or any other situation that disrupts society) need to read My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned His Big-City Backyard into a Farm.

It is not a pleasant tale and it illustrates many of the pitfalls and problems of growing your own. This is why so many people tell you that you must learn to garden and farm before problems strike. You likely will not just sow seeds and reap a Pilgrim's harvest. No, you are more likely to end up starving if you have not done this for a while and learned the ins and outs of such work, as well as the true level of labor it requires.

One thing that no one mentions is the importance of doing variety trials to be sure it will do well in your area...and that you like it. I've been growing stuff for 40 years and I still trial new varieties every year. This year I'm doing a comparison of 8 varieties of straight neck summer squash, 4 new melons (cantaloupes and water melons), two varieties of sweet corn, a bell pepper (none have ever done squat here) and a new variety of sweetmeat squash.

You can't rely on catalog blurbs.


Very much true - tried quite a few new varieties this year and most have been big disappointments.

My big problem is the f&%@#*g deer.

Deer? Get yourself a bow and kill them. I'd take an adult doe over any potato or carrot! Backstraps are beyond delicious, just don't overcook them.

Well, the authorities wouldn't look to kindly on that ;)

I have been seriously considering dropping one and leaving it there for the coyotes. That would keep other deer away for a week or so.

I just fixed venison chili-- and I live in Marin.
A deer showing up in the garden would be a blessing to any of our ancestors.

My garden in the woods was almost wiped out by those giant rats 2 years ago. I bought a solar powered electric fence controller at Harbor Freight for $50 and the aluminum wire, insulators, and ground rod at Lowe's for $50. I initially baited it with strips of aluminum foil coated with peanut butter over the wire. No problem with deer since. Best $100 investment I ever made.

BTW Agree with Todd: experiment to find what grows well for you. AND then save the seed. I detail my garden trials Here:

I had a friend who had room around his garden, so he put in two 6' fences, one 3' inside the other. The deer used to leap right over the single 6', but were spooked by two layers.

looks like at least 28,616,886 people are wondering about johnny cash's empire of dirt.

watching this video might give us a glimpse of the american psyche...

"who knows how much we know that we dont know we know?"

---donald rumsfeld

Another to be added to that would be Pink Floyd's "Sorrow"...


as an antidote to any faint stirrings of hope...

in about six months, 252,499,578 people have watched this.

it could be they know stuff i dont know i know.

or something.

five beers later, trying to make sense of gaga and her bad romance...

there might be something there, but it's beyond me... i've aged out.

the song is probably some kind of adaptive mechanism that i know about, but i just dont know i know about it.

in the meantime, it's like picking a scab, or watching a slow motion train wreck... fascinating, pleasing to some darkness that you'd never admit to owning.

or, it could be the teenage equivalent of cash and "hurt".


if we're to abandon morals in defense of israel, gaga's video is progress.

probably the most operative idea here, is: are the gaga fans gonna throw us off the bus when they cant afford us anymore?

you couldnt kill your own granny and grampa, could you? ...bad karma.

so you get shipped off to elsewhere, to kill other people's granny and gramps.

oughta work.

EDIT: still listening to gaga ... should i blame gaga's music for these ideas?

ten beers later, no closer to understanding

...except the understanding i already had.

In our garden, I find growing the usual stuff (tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, squashes etc.) to be relatively easy. Just supply the plants with manures and keep relatively weed free soil and nature will help you. Here in the high desert we need irrigation and a solar pump will handle that nicely because when you need the water most, you have the most sunshine.

What I find difficult is knowing and growing nutritional, vitamin wise, crops. Many of the herbs, I have never heard about or grown. Next year, we will concentrate on this facet of gardening.

So far our prototype garden of about 600 sq feet and 20 varieties has been a success. Sheep manure, humus and regular watering have been the answer here. We are more or less organic but will not hesitate to use chemicals if necessary to save a crop. There are two periods of hard work; spring with soil prep, planting and harvest time with canning, drying and storage. We are learning and will expand to 2000 sq feet (4000 sq feet counting grains) as needed. True, it is a lot of work but as long as the grocery stores are open, it is not too stressful. When the JIT fails, we will be better off than most.

Lynford, many of the most useful herbs are also very easy to grow, so you should have no trouble. In a high desert setting, you can grow most of the standard Mediterranean herbs, and there's also a rich flora of healing plants native to the Southwest -- Michael Moore's Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West is a good text on the subject. Choose your herbs right and you can also help support wild pollinators and keep plant pests down, too.

Soil is a huge part of success. You need to build a good soil for successful crops. If you don't want to use chemical fertilizers or ""organic"" (either way you are taking nutrients from one part of the world and putting them in your garden) then you better start pooping in a bucket...

Does anyone know a good website to view commodity prices with more than 5 days of history? Yahoo futures, linked on the side, is nice but only has 5 days of history. Is there a site to view weeks or months of oil futures prices that is open to the public?

The Energy Futures Databrowser displays NYMEX energy futures chains for the past three months in a single chart and allows you to retrieve charts for any date in the last 12 months. Here's an example that shows futures chain bands for 3-months, 1-month, 1-week and yesterday's close:

This databrowser does not yet allow you to look at the evolution of futures prices that expire on a particular date -- the zeroing in of guesses as the settlement date approaches. But to my mind, the slope of the futures curve, whether contango or backwardation, is a more useful indicator of market sentiment and investment potential. Being able to review older futures curves by walking backward through time allows you to explore volatility and associate changes with specific historical events.

Happy Exploring!


Re: Audit: U.S. can't account for $8.7 billion in Iraqi cash

Tom Engelhardt has a great article over at Antiwar.com about how the US is blowing billions in Afghanistan and has very little to show for it:

And here is the oddest thing of all, though no one even bothers to mention it in this context: the Taliban haven’t had tens of billions of dollars in foreign training funds; they haven’t had years of advice from the best U.S. and NATO advisers that money can buy; they haven’t had private contractors like DynCorp teaching them how to fight and police, and strangely enough, they seem to have no problem fighting. They are not undermanned, infiltrated by followers of Hamid Karzai, or particularly corrupt. They may be illiterate and may not be fluent in English, but they are ready, in up-to platoon-sized units, to attack heavily fortified U.S. military bases, Afghan prisons, a police headquarters, and the like with hardly a foreign mentor in sight.

Consider it, then, a modern miracle in reverse that the U.S. has proven incapable of training a competent Afghan force in a country where arms are the norm, fighting has for decades seldom stopped, and the locals are known for their war-fighting traditions. Similarly, it’s abidingly curious that the U.S. has so far failed to train a modest-sized air force, even flying refurbished Italian light transport planes from the 1980s and those Russian helicopters, when the Soviet Union, the last imperial power to try this, proved up to creating an Afghan force able to pilot aircraft ranging from helicopters to fighter planes.


Here’s the truth of the matter, as Whitlock’s piece makes clear: we carry on in the most bizarre ways in far-off lands and think nothing of it. Historically, it has undoubtedly been the nature of imperial powers to consider every strange thing they do more or less the norm. For a waning imperial power, however, such an attitude has its own dangers. If we can’t imagine the surpassing strangeness of our arrangements for making war in lands thousands of miles from the U.S., then we can’t begin to imagine how the world sees us, which means that we’re blind to our own madness.


Read the whole thing, there are some pretty amazing details in there!

Ah yes, for the good old days, when the Imperium stood tall, 'morning in America', after crushing the commie insurgents in Grenada. They wanted free public education and the mighty army of democracy gave their public an education for free.

Nowadays, it seems that Allah has changed sides.

I wonder how many black granite walls with names engraved upon them are going to have to go up in Washington before it finally sinks in to TPTB that trying to fight other people's civil wars for them is really, really not a good idea?

The names on the wall are not related to TPTB. It won't sink in until the survivors start to make waves... when there is danger to TPTB, they might change something. In the meanwhile, they do not understand why we are not really happy to keep them wealthy. They are, after all, entited.


Heating oil prices expected to climb gradually

PORTLAND, Maine — Heating oil prices are projected to rise modestly this winter, giving homeowners in the Northeast another year of relief from the sky-high prices they were paying two years ago.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is projecting that average residential prices in the Northeast will climb gradually in the months ahead before topping out at $3.13 a gallon in the dead of winter. Energy analysts and oil company officials said they don't expect extreme price swings like two years ago, when prices soared to over $4.50 a gallon.

The outlook suits Charlie Webber, who last year burned about 1,800 gallons of oil to heat his farmhouse in the Portland, Maine, suburb of Scarborough. Webber, 63, thinks prices will remain flat or even drop a bit this winter and that the wild spikes in 2008 won't be repeated any time soon.

See: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gnO2HA_MWsNxiVtJqnw4VN...

"...the wild spikes in 2008 won't be repeated any time soon." At 1,800 gallons/6,800 litres a year, he best hope not, but I wouldn't want to count on it.


We're sitting here trying to work out our OIL deal for next winter.. Ouija board, Crystal Ball, and Zoltar booth, all warmed up and offering us conflicting predictions..

Wish I could convince her to let me put a bunch more panels on the roof. "It would be great, but we can't afford to do it right now.." Well, At least it keeps me working on the insulation, which is more out of sight, out of argument, and a critical investment.

Best of luck, Bob. Our last oil fill was three hundred and thirty-seven days ago and I'm guessing we might have used 150 litres/40 gallons during this time -- mostly to keep the pipes from freezing when temperatures drip below -20°C and to exercise the boiler periodically to hopefully keep everything in proper working order. At this rate, a tank should last us five or six years. We're nearly all electric at this point and our rolling twelve month usage currently stands at 11,547 kWh/year.


Thanks, Paul.

If I keep all my laptops tuned to TOD and placed carefully around the house, I might be able to mitigate a little of my oil use..

Still keeping the Heat Pump idea in mind as well..


Regime change time!

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated a new policy on Tuesday to encourage population growth, dismissing Iran's decades of family planning as ungodly and a Western import.

The new government initiative will pay families for every new child and deposit money into the newborn's bank account until they reach 18, effectively rolling back years of efforts to boost the economy by reducing the country's runaway population growth.

"Those who raise idea of family planning, they are thinking in the realm of the secular world," Ahmadinejad said during the inauguration ceremony.

The plan is part of Ahmadinejad's stated commitment to further increase Iran's population, which is already estimated at 75 million. He has previously said the country could feed up to 150 million.


Ah yes, say the Religions of the world to whatever variation of "be fruitful and multiply". You'll find very quickly that the last thing they want are for other groups of Religionists to do so...

To equate I'ma dinnerjacket with Islam is like equating George Rekers of Rentboy fame with Christianity.

In Iran, it's all about the internal political battle, which I suspect is going poorly for I'ma dinnerjacket, in spite of outward appearances. Prediction: Iranian women will continue to have fewer children and have them later in life.

In the US, more fundies will be found in the closet with rentboys.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated a new policy on Tuesday to encourage population growth, dismissing Iran's decades of family planning as ungodly and a Western import.

Last I'd heard just a few months back Iranian births had dropped off dramatically. Tis a country and culture with many surprising contradictions. Ayotollah',s putting on Opium parties. The acceptance of few hours only marriage for a single night stand. All among hard core fundamentalist religion.

Link up top: Oliver L Campbell : Is peak oil imminent?

Almost everyone has an opinion about peak oil these days. And even some are looking at both sides before they decide. Mr. Oliver Campbell says:

I am firmly in the Michael Lynch camp which believe peak oil is at least twenty years away,...

The fact is oil will still be the kingpin for many years to come and substitutes and renewables will only gradually have an impact on oil production. Predicting peak oil is a mug's game because there are so many variables but, on balance, I do not believe it is imminent. If you want me to stick my neck out, I should not expect it to occur before the 2030s.

So most of the "experts" are not expecting peak oil before 20 years from now, so no one will be worrying about it. No need to prepare any way soon. Carry on business as usual.

I expect most of the "experts" to be singing a different tune in two to three years.

Ron P.

If memory serves, Michael C. Lynch would not concede the possibility of a production plateau until some time in the 22nd Century.

What color are the clouds on his planet?

FWIW, weren't they saying 20 years ago that it WOULDN'T be happening in 20 yrs? (or at all..) It seems even the most flippant flipoffs are ranging in, and at a pretty good clip, too.

Big Wind is back in business in California:


When completed, Alta could produce three times as much energy as the country's largest existing wind farm, analysts said. It's slated to be done in the next decade.

The project will probably be a wind power bellwether, affecting the way renewable energy deals are financed, the development of new electricity storage systems and how governments regulate the industry, said Billy Gamboa, a renewable energy analyst with the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

How about Really Big Wind? Designers are at work according to this article:


The 3 articles on the Australian Broadcasting Commission website re food security and selling the farm are quite accurate and apt.Mineral resources have also been sold off as well.

We are currently enduring a federal election campaign in Australia. None of these issues are being discussed and that doesn't surprise me.Australia,by and large,is a nation of hedonists who seldom think of the longer term issues.

Even for one of my experience,scepticism,even cynicism,the complacency and disconnect from reality is astounding.A rude awakening is in the offing.I hope it comes sooner rather than later before even more damage is done.

So this is what a pre 4/20 spill event looked like here. I am sorry gang if I distracted too many of you. The difference is shocking to say the least. TinFoil.

Not sure if this has been posted:

MSM Alert:

Dan Rather reports on fracking.

HDNET (Dishnetwork 362) On now and rerun tonight at 2300 EDT.

Find other sources here: http://www.hd.net/danrather.html

Pretty good so far.