Drumbeat: August 7, 2010

Guy R. McPherson: Cleaning up

I certainly understand why, given a choice, many people would rather die than live outside the industrial economy. I understand, too, why most people who spend time at the mud hut depart with a renewed commitment to civilized living. After all, culture has convinced most people they have a personal investment in maintaining the industrial economy, rather than bringing it down. And it's clear to most of my visitors that this new life of mine is tough on the mind and even tougher on the body.

Judging from the overwhelmingly negative response to my departure from the hallowed halls, I chose the perfect age to change life pursuits. All people older than my 49 years (now 50, if you're keeping score) claim they don't have the energy, at their advanced age, to do what I've done. All people younger that I claim they don't have the money to do what I've done (as if they could not join others, as I have done, by necessity and choice).

Tanker Damage Caused by Attack, Inquiry Finds

While tankers are slow and hard to maneuver, making them easy targets, attacks against tankers have been extremely rare. Modern tankers typically have twin hulls, many separate compartments to store oil, and are sturdy enough to withstand a direct hit from rocket-propelled grenades, for instance.

Aside from the attacks on ships that occurred during the Iran-Iraq war, the attack on the Limburg is the only other instance analysts cite of a tanker being attacked by terrorists. That attack, carried out by a small fishing boat packed with explosives, was believed to have been the work of Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen, and was the group’s first successful strike against an oil target.

The Limburg was crippled and leaked some oil, but did not sink.

Pakistan on red alert for more floods

More than 252,000 homes are thought to have been damaged or destroyed across Pakistan and 558,000 hectares of crop land flooded, and it could take weeks before electricity is fully restored.Authorities in Sindh said assessments of the damage to agriculture were in progress after farmers saw their livelihoods washed away.‘‘Our cattle died and the cotton crop (was) destroyed,’’ said Mohammad Bakhsh, 50, a resident of Qasim Ghot village.

Pakistani Police Kill 3 People Protesting against Power Failure

Pakistani police shot dead three protestors on Friday after a protest for electricity failure turned into a gunfight in Swabi district in the northwestern region of the country, reported local media.

According to the media reports, hundreds of people, protesting and shouting slogans against the government, became violent when police tried to stop them to burn the official record and furniture of the electricity department.

India: Police open fire as farmers seeking fertilisers turn violent in Parbhani

AURANGABAD: The police fired at least five rounds in the air when a group of farmers, seeking fertilisers for the Kharif season, turned violent and pelted stones at police and government officials in Pathri taluka in Parbhani district, about 150 km from Aurangabad, on Friday. At least 13 policemen, including senior officials, and about 25 farmers, sustained injuries in the scuffle involving stone pelting and lathi charge.

Governments Go to Extremes as the Downturn Wears On

Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation and sending working parents scrambling to find care for them.

Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.

Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.

BP: Future use of reservoir 'not currently under consideration'

BP clarified that the future use of the oil spill reservoir that gushed millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico is "not currently under consideration," according to a company statement issued Friday evening.

Ecuador pledges no oil drilling in Amazon reserve

Ecuador has agreed to refrain from drilling for oil in a pristine Amazon rainforest reserve in return for up to $3.6bn (£2.26bn) in payments from rich countries.

Under a pioneering agreement signed with the United Nations, the oilfields under the Yasuni reserve will remain untapped for at least a decade.

Buy Gold—And Commodities ETFs

What I'm arguing is that it's undeniable that demand from places like India, Brazil and especially China is a huge part of the price of oil and other materials. China may be heading for some near-term correction as it grapples with hard-to-fill skyscrapers in cities like Shanghai, but it seems to me the writing is on the wall. China is here to stay, and it will tax supplies of critical resources, most conspicuously oil.

The other piece of the petroleum story is that it's getting harder to find. I'm not exactly buying into the peak oil theory geologists such as Kenneth Deffeyes have been describing, but I think it's fair to say finding and extracting whatever oil there is on the planet is getting more expensive.

Is the Philippines heading for a nuclear future?

Like many developing countries, the Philippines is in search of alternative energy supplies to ease its reliance on costly imported oil, gas and coal. A new government plan includes wind, solar, hydro, biomass and nuclear power among potential energy sources for the country.

How eco-friendly is your favorite brewery?

A rating of the world's 15 largest breweries finds the most famous ones aren't necessarily the greenest.

South gets first ultra-efficient, passive-rated home

Corey Saft wanted a sheltered area for his young kids to play. He could have put up a fence around his large corner lot in Lafayette, La. But this architecture professor had a different idea.

"I could do a long thin house" that hugs the property's edge and creates a courtyard, he recalls thinking. "It would be an occupiable fence."

The result is the first house in the South to be certified by the Passive House Institute, which requires homes use up to 90% less energy than regular ones. Begun in Germany, this rigorous rating system is relatively new in the United States but is gaining popularity.

Not So Easy

The writers and editors at Nature this past week boldly proclaimed, with some carefully qualified caveats, that producing enough food for the world’s population in 2050 will be easy.

Maybe not. Sending humans to the moon and safely returning them to the Earth is easy. Been there, done that. Feeding 9 to 9.5 billion people or more by 2050? Not so easy. We’ve never done that. And there are good reasons to believe we might not be able to.

Crude Oil Futures Drop on Lower-Than-Projected U.S. Company Payroll Growth

Crude oil fell for a third day as weaker-than-forecast growth in U.S. company payrolls bolstered concern that economic growth in the world’s biggest oil- consuming country is slowing.

Oil slipped 1.6 percent after the Labor Department said private payrolls that exclude government agencies rose by 71,000, less than forecast, after a gain of 31,000 in June that was smaller than previously reported. A report on Aug. 4 showed that U.S. fuel supplies increased last week as demand dropped.

Weekend pump prices up a few cents

Motorists heading out for back-to-school shopping trips or a late-summer vacation will pay a few cents more for a gallon of gas this weekend.

Pump prices rose this week because of a rally in oil, yet they aren't expected to spike in the weeks ahead because of typical light trading in the oil market in August, still-ample supplies and fairly weak demand.

Pemex to Add Offshore Rigs, Seek Bigger Budget to Stem Drops in Production

Petroleos Mexicanos, Latin America’s largest oil producer, plans to increase the number of leased offshore drilling rigs to 60 from 52 as the state-owned company requests a bigger budget to arrest output declines.

“We need more rigs than the ones we’re using,” Carlos Morales, director of exploration and production, said yesterday in a telephone interview. It is “likely that we’re going to renew all the contracts that are expiring this year.”

Top Iran Oil Company Official: Persian LNG Project Suspended

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Iran is suspending some liquefied natural gas projects, including Persian LNG, and shifting focus on pipeline exports instead, the head of the country's state oil company was quoted as saying Saturday.

Iran's LNG schemes largely depend on key technologies owned by Western companies.

But Western companies have been deterred by mounting sanctions, with Repsol YPF recently ending talks to start Persian LNG. In an interview with Iran's oil ministry website Shana published Saturday, Ahmed Ghalebani, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Co., said some LNG projects have been suspended.

TransCanada pipeline to Oklahoma under scrutiny

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- TransCanada, which is working with ExxonMobil to build an Alaska natural gas pipeline, is now under scrutiny for a pipeline it plans to build in the Lower 48.

The federal government says TransCanada is in violation of statutes protecting Kansas wetlands. The 2,100-mile pipeline is being built from Canada through Kansas to Oklahoma.

Bengal minister asks transporters to defer strike

West Bengal Transport Minister Ranjit Kundu has asked transport operators to defer by 10 days their proposed strike seeking higher sops to offset the fuel price hike but the later are yet to take a final decision on it.

The state's bus, minibus and taxi operators announced a three-day strike Aug 10-12 to protest against the state government's decision not to increase fares after the recent fuel price hike.

Coverage Turns, Cautiously, to Spill Impact

Newsrooms are grappling with the same questions that the rest of the country is, after spending months watching oil gush into the water: Is the oil spill really over? And how damaging will it ultimately be to the gulf’s environment and economy?

The conundrum for television, print and online journalists alike has been that no one wanted to declare “Mission Accomplished” on the gushing oil portion of the calamity prematurely. But no one wanted to be the last to report that the leak had been plugged.

US-Vietnam nuke deal will likely allow enrichment

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has told U.S. lawmakers that a nuclear cooperation deal with Vietnam is unlikely to include a coveted promise by the Hanoi government not to enrich uranium, congressional aides say.

Plant Repository at Risk in Russia

The world’s largest collection of European fruits and berries — at the Pavlovsk Research Station outside St. Petersburg, Russia — is at risk of being plowed over so developers can build homes there, international environmental groups say.

Illinois: Invader Carp May Have Been at Home

A 3-foot-long Asian carp discovered in a Chicago waterway near Lake Michigan appears to have spent most of its life there and may have been planted by humans who did not know the environmental risk it posed, researchers said Thursday. Tests suggested it was not a recent arrival to the waterway and probably did not get there by evading an electric barrier meant to prevent the species from infesting the Great Lakes, said Jim Garvey, a biologist at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Even facing an emergency, the GOP fizzles on energy

When most Republicans and some oil- and coal-state Democrats oppose even mild measures to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and curb excesses, it’s a sign that special-interest politics trumps even a national emergency. The need to tighten rules on offshore drilling will never be more apparent than they are at this moment.

Pressure Building on Future of 2 Coal-Burning Power Plants

Mayor Richard M. Daley has repeatedly billed himself as a green mayor and recently vowed to use “every available tool” to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, but critics say City Hall has failed to grapple with Chicago’s two most significant sources of greenhouse-gas pollution.

U.S. Changes Plan for Capturing Emissions From Coal

WASHINGTON — The Energy Department abruptly shifted course on Thursday on a flagship federal effort to capture and sequester carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, saying it would not finance construction of a new plant in Mattoon, Ill.

Instead of underwriting that project, which would have turned coal into a hydrocarbon gas, filtered out the carbon and burned the hydrogen, the government said it would contribute $737 million to remake an obsolete oil-burning plant in Meredosia, Ill.

Has a Warming Russia Outpaced the World?

Better known for long, bitterly cold winters, Russia is well on the way to becoming the poster child for the perils of global warming this summer.

UN talks flounder as climate impacts mount, say delegates

PARIS (AFP) – UN climate talks tasked with curbing the threat of global warming are backsliding, delegates from both rich and developing nations said Friday at the close of a week-long session in Bonn.

Even as evidence mounts that deadly impacts are upon us, negotiators said, chances for a compromise deal under the 194-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) are slipping away amid furious finger pointing.

Worst Impact of Climate Change May Be How Humanity Reacts to It

The paper notes that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by constructing dams for hydropower generation can cause substantial damage to key freshwater ecosystems as well as to the flora and fauna in the flooded valleys. It also notes that the generally bogus concept that biofuels reduce carbon emissions is still being used as a justification for the felling of large swathes of biodiverse tropical forests.

12 Places To Go If The World Goes To Hell

War, oil shortages, global warming, nuclear bombs, and economic collapse... All of it seems unlikely, but don't you want to be prepared?

If you have to jump on a plane (or a boat or a train or a hot air balloon) and head for safety, you want to know where in the world you should go.

I think oil shortages and economic collapse are very likely however I am not buying all their recommended places to go and be secure. A few of them are okay however a few are also a little absurd. They say you should consider Denver because of its proximity to shale oil. And it’s a mile high so you don’t have to worry about rising sea levels. As Charlie Brown would say: “Good Grief”.

Anyway, here are their 12 recommendations:

Chiang Mai (Taiwan)
Tristan da Cunha (An island chain in the South Atlantic)
Bern (Switzerland)
Puncak Jaya (Mountainous region of Indonesia)
Capetown (South Africa)
Necker Island (British Virgin Islands)
Rio de Janeiro
Kansas City
Tierra del Fuego

Ron P.


Chiang Mai is in Thailand, not Taiwan.

Yah, sure, whatever. For example: Guam ???

American patriots can take refuge in this far flung outpost of America. While the economy is currently an unsustainable mix of government aid and tourism, the island could easily revert back to the kind of sustainable practices that kept its population alive for 4000 years.

Right. 209 little tiny square miles, crammed to bursting with 179,000 people, set squarely in Typhoon Alley. And the authors posit that it would be a good place to be if the world went to hell in a handbasket??!! Who are they kidding?

Who are they kidding?

Look, if they can get you to move away from them to some bad place, they win via less local competition.

IMO, people who think tropical islands are a good peak oil hideout are unaware of their history. Easter Island is far from the only failure. There are many "deserted" islands that weren't always deserted. There's evidence of human habitation, sometimes vast agricultural terraces, temples, etc. But no one lives there now. Typically, what happened was that they cleared land for planting, and that resulted in massive erosion and water that ran off before it could sink in. That turns what used to be a forest into dry scrubland. (That is what happened on the leeward side of the Big Island in Hawaii.)

I concur...I think people moving to Hawaii in preparation for Energy Descent are making a mistake. I'd rather have access to the vast grain fields of the Midwest. (Granted, they might start burning just like Russia's...)

Russian Fields Burning

Russia, Crippled by Drought, Bans Grain Exports

I think a few of the Hawaiian Islands would have a chance (Molokai, Big Island, and maybe Maui), but it would be a huge adjustment.
I lived in Maui 10 years, still have a house there, and lived upcountry.

Molokai is further along than the rest. it has a small population, already agricultural, close community ties.

Islands would not be my first choice.

I think the Big Island would be a very poor choice. Being a relatively new island, it's got poor soil quality compared to the others. It also gets much less rain. (That's why sweet potatoes were the staple there, instead of taro.)

The soil on the Big Island was exhausted by the time Capt. Cook arrived; that is likely one factor that drove King Kamehameha to conquer the other islands. And the population was half what it currently is.

Maui is similar - dry, relatively new island.

You are probably right about the Big Island. I have 3 feet of rich topsoil on my property in Kula, and, if not for the nematodes, I can grow just about anything.
But Kula is as good a soil gets on Maui.
I sold avocados from my property on the local market.

I find I can pretty much make a case for moving from anywhere to anywhere; and make just as good a case against it. Except perhaps for the dumb places listed in the article.

The ultimate limiting factors like soil quality probably won't be what control the trajectory of things over the coming 20-30 years, which is the time horizon salient to many of us here without kids. For instance, on the big isle one could sock away a bunch of NPK fairly cheap now - a lifetime's worth. Plenty of rain in many spots.

The big question is "what will the other people do?" As in, social stability or turmoil.

Projecting 100 years ahead is a lot more difficult - even in principle. Once the boneheaded locations are excluded, I think the main determinant of one physical place being better than another will be "luck".


.. at which point, there's that saying about 'When I've prepared and planned and studied a bit, I find my luck tends to improve.'

I'm hoping I've made a couple decent bets about Geography and Cultural Strengths v. Weaknesses, with the choice to live in Maine.. some of the rest include learning skills I can see using in a wide variety of outcomes, planting long-term foods, getting connected with good people and groups.. I'm still eager to delve back into basic chemistry, so I have a better handle on essential materials.

A fun and interesting read is An Island To Myself by Tom Neale, 1966, about the time he spent (by choice) on Suvarov atole. It also clearly shows how difficult it can be to survive even when you have skills and supplies.


I have lived on Guam-- not survivable.
I commercially fished there, so have insight into the food system.
It would be vaporized in minutes in a nuclear confrontation.

The historic taking of food from the oceans looks to be not able to be done if energy becomes constrained.

I also speared fish for money and trade, on the outside reef. It works for a small population, but would never supply the Guam population.
The off shore stuff is energy intensive, and one had to balance the gallons burned per hour as to the money made from catch even with cheap fuel.

The off shore stuff is energy intensive, and one had to balance the gallons burned per hour as to the money made from catch even with cheap fuel.

Yep, If things go south in a big way I'm betting that most commercial and recreational fisherman who depend on fuel to get to the fish will not be able to do it anymore. Hopefully that gives the fish a chance to replenish their stocks.

As long as I have the physical strength to paddle my kayak out to the reef I'll catch a few`lobster and spear a few fish for my own table. I'm now teaching my 15 year old to do the same, who knows, when the old man can't do it any more maybe he'll still bring me a fish or two... while I tend to the mangoes and papayas.

"As long as I have the physical strength to paddle my kayak out to the reef..."

I think you can pull that off a little longer than that.

Personally, I'd put on my backpack and hike over to Todd's Place B4 I'd think about Denver or KC.
I hope I don't get shot on the way.

I'll bring one of my GMRS walkie-talkies when we get together on Tuesday. I'll also give you an encoded copy of the PASSWORD so we'll know it's a friend walking up the road. That'll save the lock and load routine.


How stupid are these people beyond simply looking at a map? I worked in Yukon and if you can harness the bugs up to plow fields that have no topsoil, and have someone buy your diesel powered electricity (except Whitehorse) for you, well, go for it.

Glad we were not on the list!!

I nominate Alberta. We got:
- the oil and gas
- the farmland
- the altitude (sea levels? what about sea levels? Calgary is a kilometre above sea level)
- dry climate (humidity is never mentioned in weather reports on the news)
- there are no rats or Dutch Elm Disease in Alberta. Insect pests are rare compared to other places.
- no massive debt levels in the provincial or municipal governments. We got our hair mussed after the Panic of 2008, but no government here is like California or Illinois.

I nominate Alberta.
We got:
no rats

Nomination fails for lack of a second.

Rio de Janeiro

I've lived in Rio, it would be at the very bottom of my list. There are a few places in Brazil that I would consider but I'll keep them as my own little secret...

I wonder who the article is intended for - what audience frequents "Business Insider" ?

Naive but wealthy??

I notice The Hamptons didn't make the list.

Lots of amenities, right next door to NY (Gotham) City, easily secured and protected by Blackwater Inc.

I thought the article was a tongue-in-cheek filler piece...I sure hope that is correct!

They say you should consider Denver because of its proximity to shale oil.

Denver's not a bad choice, but oil shale is a miserable reason to choose it. The strip just east of the Rockies from Casper on the north to Pueblo on the south has a number of things working for it. More water than most people realize, although it needs to be managed better and put to better uses (I'm embarrassed about how much water is used to grow corn to feed the ethanol plants). Farmland, given the water to irrigate. Good wind resources (some great), fair solar resources. If you're willing to build a few dams in the correct places, pumped storage to help even things out. Quite a lot of unconventional gas, modest amounts of oil, and of course, insane amounts of coal nearby. Treated just as a local resource, the Powder River Basin seams are good for a long time. There's pipelines in place that could bring oil in from western North Dakota and eastern Montana as well during a transition.

The climate change models I've looked at seem to suggest that the area would see warmer dryer summers and cooler wetter winters, with earlier melt and runoff -- more water management needed, but that's feasible. OTOH, the region's population has already been growing at a fairly ridiculous rate, and is forecast to continue that growth. When the Broncos play a national game in the second half of September, I always hope for snow in order to discourage people: "It snows like that in September? I ain't movin' there!" It's all gone in two days, but the network isn't here to show those pictures.

I'm not nearly so sure about Kansas City. I suspect climate change is going to be fairly brutal on the Great Plains. Have to wonder how much Missouri River water is going to be diverted before it gets that far, especially if things are falling apart and there's no one to stop the people upstream from doing diversions. I would think that Des Moines or Davenport in Iowa, a bit farther north and east, would be better choices.

Denver's not a bad choice ...Good wind resources (some great), fair solar resources.

I would question these two. A long time ago I lived in Boulder. Truly we would get some epic winds, well over a hundred miles per hour. But that means any WTs need to be able to stand up to these extreme events. More than average wind speed, what you want for WTs, is steady wind, with limited extreme events. Designing solar to withstand such wind -both mechanically, and to avoid panels/mirrors getting scoured by windblown dust has to substantially increase the cost. Same with the occasional heavy snow load -better design for four feet of wet snow on the Eastern slopes that face towards the Gulf moisture source. Maybe it only happens once a decade, but you want your system to last longer than that.

Ron - Interesting mental candy while we wait for the next step at the BP blow out. Just a couple of quick observations. Forget Bern: if you know anything about the Swiss, when TSHTF I can't imagine many other countries were outsiders would be less welcomed. And given that Swiss law requires at least one full auto weapon in every home I wouldn't count on forcing your way in. The Swiss are not pacifists...they are neutralsists.

I would pick Goliad, Texas, as one of the safer spots. Lots of game/cattle, fresh water, relatively cheap land, oil & NG, nearby refineries, close to GOM sea food, limited road access to the entire county and lots of folks who are heavily armed and wouldn't hesitate to kill any and all who might threaten the area. And this county is surrounder by many others with a similar profile. Just need to get there early enough to be accepted by the locals. Might get a tad uncomfortable in August if AC isn't available but at least you won't freeze to death.

I would like to add Cicinnati -

"When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always twenty years behind the times."
- This quote has been attributed to Mark Twain, but until the attribution can be verified, the quote should not be regarded as authentic.

In that case add Newfoundland.

Canada has five full time zones (Atlantic, Eastern, Central, Mountain, & Pacific) and one half time zone (Newfoundland). So it is common for television stations to announce programming (staggered across the time zones) something like this... "such and such at 8 o'clock, half hour later in Newfoundland."

Which has led to the (somewhat tired) joke: "The world is ending tonight at midnight sharp. Half hour later in Newfoundland."

Then again, Native, stick with Cincinnati... any place off by twenty years sure beats Newfoundland's meager half hour reprieve.

Anyway, here are their 12 recommendations

Along with others, I can think of lots of pretty good reasons why none of those would be on a sensible list of refuges in difficult times - including tough climate, rain, soil, altitude, energy, politics, stability, infrastructure, culture, population density, violence ... and on and on. Being a Southern Hemisphere denizen, there are exceptionally good places in Australia (and even better, most of New Zealand) I would rank higher than possibly any of the Dirty Dozen above.

In reference to the top article, I agree with the author that I am really dismayed at the write up in the Nature. It is shocking to see that level of complacency, hubris even at such a distinguished journal :(

If the best and brightest don't get it then what chance do we have to spread that knowledge? I mean the Limits to Growth models were pretty spot on, 30 years plus of comparison have shown them to be absolutely correct and there is evidence of this and they didn't even consider peak oil in their scenario! Society is inert it seems to evidence and fact and bends towards myth and stories. Collapse is inevitable it seems, as we can't change a culture primarily composed of blind infinite growth men.

Yes that is a fantastic article. (Not So Easy) My favorite line from it:

Scientists, like everyone else on this planet, need to differentiate the theoretical from the economical and the practical.

A lot of folks here on Drumbeats need to learn that difference as well. How many times has someone posted about the food we waste. Their message is if we did not waste so much we could easily feed the whole world, even if there were 9 billion of us.

And the article points out that just feeding our current population we are quickly sapping the world's water resources. The water tables in both India and China are dropping, in many places, by several meters per year. In India many wells are running dry and whole villages are surviving on trucked in water.

I am going to save this article and the next time someone talks about how much food we waste and how many people the world's resources could easily feed, I will just tell them to read this article.

Ron P.

China is a land of contradictions. On the one hand they don't have that much arable land and they have severe water issues as well as environmental pollution that is extreme. On the other hand they want to keep growing, growing, growing or else they will lose face so they do this via extreme stimuli. There are an estimated 64.5 Million empty homes in China along with house price to income ratios of 22x in major cities! 85pc of Beijingers can't afford a toilet in a house, let alone a house. 1000sq ft homes are going for around $236,000!! It is simply mind boggling.

Optimism is a disease, a disease that is slowly and surely killing the planet and our support systems. What's the point of all that growth if your people can't afford a home to live in or have to live near polluted rivers and smog laden cities? I know that they've pulled a lot of people out of poverty but that has occurred by using finite fossil fuels. So for a few decades of air conditioning, future generations have been condemned to millennia of misery.

" I know that they've pulled a lot of people out of poverty but that has occurred by using finite fossil fuels. So for a few decades of air conditioning, future generations have been condemned to millennia of misery."


if we're really facing thousands of years of misery, then that implies pre-industrial life was simply miserable. so, in that context, a few generations relief from the unrelenting misery of pre-industrial life sounds like a brilliant idea. i don't see any benefit in uninterrupted misery.

what i'm saying is, you're overstating it a bit.

Articles which appear to confirm your 'end-of-world-is-nigh' apocalyptic screed always are to your liking.

People who think critically on the other hand can ask, how are we likely to respond once a resource becomes expensive? Water being such a resource. And from experience in the real world, we note that as a resource becomes more expensive, efficiencies in its use are developed and/or exploited.

We can note in the case of water:

Raising irrigation efficiency typically means shifting from the less efficient flood or furrow systems to overhead sprinklers or drip irrigation, the gold standard of irrigation efficiency. Switching from flood or furrow to low-pressure sprinkler systems reduces water use by an estimated 30 percent, while switching to drip irrigation typically cuts water use in half.

As an alternative to furrow irrigation, a drip system also raises yields because it provides a steady supply of water with minimal losses to evaporation. Since drip systems are both labour-intensive and water-efficient, they are well suited to countries with a surplus of labour and a shortage of water.

A few small countries - Cyprus, Israel, and Jordan - rely heavily on drip irrigation. Among the big three agricultural producers, this more-efficient technology is used on one to three percent of irrigated land in India and China and on roughly four percent in the United States.


Drip irrigation "raises yields". Hmmm. How interesting. And well suited to countries "with a surplus of labour and a shortage of water". Well, there's food for thought.

I wonder how much of Chinese food production will have shifted to efficient use of water before its rapidly aging population slips into the Japanese population decline mode?

Agree VK

I read through it and was dismayed. The basic storyline was that there should be no problem feeding 9 billion people - all we have to do is get everyone to share.

Just like humans have always done......

As Kunstler once said - "What's the point of sending these people to Ivy League colleges if they can't make sense of their world."

I wonder if the Nature article is an example of "group think" at the Denial Stage, or the Bargaining Stage. I would love to see how these scientists live, and what their backgrounds are - purely academic, or from some sort of real, practical experience.

My favorite point from the article above:

It all comes down to this. It may be theoretically and even economically possible to feed 9.5 billion at mid-century, but we shouldn’t bet the farm that we will.

Yes, what are the probabilities that go along with the hypothetical possibilities?

"It is easier for a richman to pass through the eye of the needle, than it is to feed the people in 2050"
(apologies to Jesus)

It is shocking to see that level of complacency

Imagine if we had to sit down and address the problems.
At the end of it, a bunch of people who are now 'in the leadership class' would stop being in that class/having what they have now. Thus they'd rather move the issue along and hope someone else addresses the issue.

Dear editors of TOD and editors of NATURE,

Is there enough food on the planet at the moment to feed the members of the human community?

If not, why not?

If so, why are these people not being fed?

Extant, peer-reviewed, published and unchallenged evidence of human population dynamics and human overpopulation of Earth appears to indicate with remarkable clarity and simplicity that "political will" is the major obstacle to overcoming hunger in our time.

If there will probably be plenty of available food in 2050 to feed the human population at that time, does it not appear that the human community more likely has a food distribution problem than a food production problem now?
Is human population dynamics essentially similar to, or different from, the population dynamics of other species?

Consider Pollyanna's happy talk in the NATURE article.

If human population dynamics are fundamentally common to the population dynamics of non-human organisms, then the remarkably attractive, widely shared and consensually validated theory of a generally benign demographic transition in 2050 (the really good news!) could be a specious pipe-dream borne of politically convenient and economically expedient preternatural thinking. What is benign about the prospect of continuing business-as-usual for the next four decades and ending up with 9+/- billion people for whom food, shelter and clothing needs to be realistically provided? The human family cannot reasonably meet the basic needs of 6+ billion people. Hunger, starvation and extreme poverty are not strangers to billions of people among us in 2010.

As we discuss feeding the hungry between now and 2050, we cannot help noticing the business-as-usual activities that brought humanity to this point in space-time, when "business as usual" is approaching limits to its growth worldwide. Global overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities by the human species will probably become unsustainable in the fairly near future. The leaders of the human community are being presented with a virtual mountain of credible evidence for peak supply, peak demand, peak capital, peak oil, peak soil, peak dissipation of natural resources, peak pollution, peak environmental degradation and the massive extinction of global biodiversity. In such circumstances, can someone kindly lay out in a sensible manner a scenario for a benign demographic transition in 2050?

Please consider that the probability of achieving an actually benign demographic transition a mere 40 years from now here is tiny. Doing the very same business-as-usual things that got us into this formidable, human-induced global predicament will not work much longer, much less forever. Humanity cannot get where it wants to go in the middle of Century XXI by employing the same old "endless growth" strategies which put us into this mess. Conspicuous per-capita overconsumption, outrageous individual hoarding, unnecessary overproduction of stuff, and unbridled overpopulation are occurring both synergistically and perniciously, and appear to be approaching the end of their course toward becoming patently unsustainable on a finite planet with size, composition and ecology of Earth. Perhaps necessary change, from the "primrose path" the self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us are hotly pursuing toward sustainability, is in the offing.



Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
established 2001

Extant, peer-reviewed, published and unchallenged evidence ... appears to indicate with remarkable clarity and simplicity that "political will" is the major obstacle to overcoming hunger in our time.

I think that was yesterday's "major obstacle."

The global village is FUBAR now.

I think we are just kidding ourselves now. Trying to figure out if we can wait a little longer and maybe down-size and fit through the eye of that needle.

Don't look now, but I think we are ending the Bottom of the Ninth soon.... Putin swings, misses, 2 Outs!, Bernanke up to bat...

Looks good for the Home Team (doubt She even needs to bat last...).

(edit - speaking of "batting last" - Good Luck Guy - http://guymcpherson.com/2010/08/cleaning-up-2/ ... )

Hi Steve,

You ask:

In such circumstances, can someone kindly lay out in a sensible manner a scenario for a benign demographic transition in 2050?

I'm afraid the answer to your question is "no".

For the simple reason that the reality of what you are saying is not something that anyone in a leadership position is willing to even accept at an intellectual level let alone actually propose and initiate concrete steps that might change the current paradigm.

Despite the few Cassandras, such as yourself, raising the alarm. The message falls on deaf ears or causes such cognitive dissonance as to be automatically rejected as too horrible to contemplate.
Since it makes clear as day that just about everything we have been doing till now just isn't going to work from here on out. That I'm afraid is a terrifying thought to most people.


When science clashes with beliefs? Make science impotent
By John Timmer | Last updated 2 months ago

It's hardly a secret that large segments of the population choose not to accept scientific data because it conflicts with their predefined beliefs: economic, political, religious, or otherwise. But many studies have indicated that these same people aren't happy with viewing themselves as anti-science, which can create a state of cognitive dissonance. That has left psychologists pondering the methods that these people use to rationalize the conflict.



Are you in Moscow?

Is it as bad the the media reports say?

One of my course participants left Moscow to his dacha because the air quality in Moscow was miserable. He said that Russians prior to this event did not follow global warming as much as the Europeans or even the Americans but now they are suddenly very interested.

It was 40 degrees C/ 104 degrees F where he was when we were speaking two mornings ago.

No, I'm 1000 miles to the east of Moscow. It's 95 degrees here, but thankfully no smoke in the air. The problem is, very few have air conditioning in their apartments (summer temperatures rarely exceed 75). And not much lakes and rivers around my city (million-plus residents). I spent last evening swimming in the cooling pond of 1,100 MW power plant. The beach was overcrowded.

Interesting Weather Underground post here that touches on the self-reinforcing nature (positive feedback) of this and other heat waves.

Russian fires threaten 90 oil refineries without sprinkler systems:

Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the state nuclear agency Rosatom, said that any explosive or radioactive material had been transported away and that there was no risk of a nuclear disaster. However, around 90 oil refineries are still in danger and none of them have automatic fire extinguishers. The oil will have to be transported away from some of them as quickly as possible in order to avert a disaster.

For several days, the government avoided admitting just how serious the fires had become. Moscow only accepted aid from abroad on Tuesday, when fire-fighting planes arrived from Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Italy sent more on Wednesday. The fires have been caused by a heat wave that has hit Russia this summer. Since the beginning of July temperatures have constantly been well above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), and there is no prospect of cooler weather any time soon.

However, the Russian government shares at least some of the blame for allowing the fires to spread so quickly. During Vladmir Putin's presidency, the forestry service was practically dismantled. The 70,000 forest rangers who might have registered the fires and even been able to put them out had all been let go.

And the fire-fighting infrastructure has also been scandalously neglected. There are only 22,000 professional fire fighters in the whole of Russia, compared to more than 27,000 in Germany, a far smaller country. And there is nothing like the system of volunteer fire fighters, such as the one in Germany that encompasses 1 million people. In addition, Russia's fire-fighting vehicles and equipment are often outmoded. Many people in Russia's provinces have had to defend their villages and homes against the flames on their own, at times using their bare hands.



Just heard on CNN:

Moscow is suffering under a blanket of smog. Authorities are urging people to stay indoors. Carbon monoxide levels in the Russian capital are five times higher than what is considered safe. Health officials say inhaling the air is like smoking several packs of cigarettes a day. Nearley 600 wildfires are pouring smoke into the sky and Moscow could see temperatures reach 104 degrees tomorrow for the first time in recorded history.

That was it. They then switched to more mundane things. I am a little shocked that this has not received more air time on the news channels. And how will this affect oil production in Russia? The refineries should be shut down just in case. And if any catch on fire???

Anyway this is the biggest story to come out of Russia in years and considering the gravity of things I would expect it to receive a lot more coverage.

Ron P.

considering the gravity of things I would expect it to receive a lot more coverage.

You've been 'round for a long time......what makes you think things would have changed?

This is all that shows up on the main web page under latest news:-

"Wheat prices up; pizza next? CNNMoney'"

The story :-

"Wheat prices soar. Are bread prices next?"

"NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With wheat futures soaring to their highest level in two years, you could soon find yourself paying more for a loaf of bread at the local grocery store.

The price of wheat has surged more than 80% from its seven-month low in June, rallying to its highest level since August 2008 this week, as Russia said it would ban grain exports until Dec. 1 due to a drought that has destroyed more than 20% of its wheat crop. Prices retreated Friday but still remain up 10% for the week."


The reason stories like this do not receive much attention is probably because 80% of this country does not even know a commodities exchange exists. Seriously, read some of the comments on that CNN article, they simply do not understand how the market functions.

Anyway this is the biggest story to come out of Russia in years and considering the gravity of things I would expect it to receive a lot more coverage.

All it takes is the kidnapping or murder of a very photogenic young white girl, and any thing of global import will be pushed off the airwaves.

Looks like the sanctions against Iran is starting to have effect.

Iran's LNG schemes largely depend on key technologies owned by Western companies.

But Western companies have been deterred by mounting sanctions, with Repsol YPF (REP: 24.88 ,-0.15 ,-0.60%) recently ending talks to start Persian LNG.

He said the company was reconsidering LNG projects, which he said are costly and technology complex, and focusing on cheaper pipelines with neighboring countries.

14 Charts That Show China's Dangerous Housing Bubble Is Far From Over

China's real estate rocketship started slowing down this summer and even registered a small property price decline in June. But the potentially catalysmic drop-off hasn't happened yet.

I was shocked by a couple of the charts. Chinese housing prices have risen 140 percent since 2007 and land prices have risen 788 percent in the last eight years. If that is not the definition of a super-bubble then I don't know what is.

Ron P.

Wow, thanks for the link. Normally home price to income ratios should be around 3-3.5x, all the major chinese cities are set for atleast 50-90pc drops in home prices given that the multiples range from 6 to 22!!

Re: Has a Warming Russia Outpaced the World?

Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, blamed the crisis on climate change and called for action.

“What’s happening with the planet’s climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of state, all heads of social organizations, in order to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate,”

Lets see, the Russians have stopped exporting grain due to the expected shortage from the drought. So, will they be equally concerned with climate change and ban exports of oil and natural gas? Maybe they will just stop the flow of oil and use it internally to replace the use of coal. Inquiring minds want to know. Here's a great opportunity for them to display some real leadership...

E. Swanson

Oh. And did someone just mention we can feed the world if we share. Russia does not seem to be in the mood to share, even for a price. And what happens when the fires reach the grain belts of the United States? Oh. And did I mention that congress is going on recess after having done nothing on climate change?

I popped over to Estes Park yesterday. I had not been there in 15 months and was truly impressed by the fact that the traffic was as bad as ever with as many large SUVs and trucks as ever. But there was clearly no food shortage there as the waddlers were in full force.

'Russia isn't in the mood for sharing their wheat.. ??!!'

Did you see the wheat fields on fire there, hear about the drought? It's like asking a drowning man to share his life vest with you. A little heart, eh?

Most people on TOD have never experienced a full blown ripe field of wheat on fire.

I once accidentally caught a small field on dry weeds on fire. First I tried to run the tractor over it pulling a disc. This just spread it more.

At one time I was on my hands and knees trying to use my palms to stop the early spread of flames. I burned my hands severely.

I finally used the disc to create a dirt barrier and was able to extinguish it before it went to the nearby woods where it would have burnt a couple residences.

Since that time I have had a bad phobia about out-of-control fires.

Once at my father-in-laws cabin in the mountains the guy below set some brush on fire. Its roared out of control and started up the hill to the cabin rushing through the woods completely out of control. I ran to get the hose but the neighbor 1/4 mile away had borrowed it.

I ran in a panic to that neighbor who hauled the hose to the cabin. The fire was reaching within 100 feet of the house. My wife had called the fire dept who came and watched, saying "its not got our sign on the house so we can do nothing".

I got it out around the cabin just barely. It burned for some time yet again the local yokel fire dept would do nothing. Finally the forest rangers came and put out all the small outbreaks.

For saving his cabin he never said 'Thank You'.

I never set a fire outside without a hose handy or a pumpup sprayer full of water.

I once set a fence row on fire and saw the flames reach 20 ft in the air. Guys driving by in their pickups might have found some melted paint on their sides. I never did that again. Dry brush and wheat can overcome almost any barrier. The heat is extremely intense and can easily kill you if it sucks up all the oxygen in the air.

Messing with fires during a dry season in the country is very very dangerous.Some people are known to set brush piles on fire and leave them at night unattended. Dozer operators do the same to pushup piles.

One Halloween some teenagers set 8 big round hay bales on fire , right next to an old house on my farm. It took hours and hours for the local fire department to get the flames out and wet down the rest. It was obvious that they set the fire in 4 different bales and the rest leaped across. Try putting out a thousand pound tightly rolled round bale after it sits for months getting drier and drier.

The guy whose land it was on refused to pay the fire department and said that since I called it in I should pay!!!. The wind was blowing hot ashes and live sparks onto my land and so I called it in and I didn't pay either nor should I have been required to. The guy was the high school principal and the kids were sending him a message.

People are real stupid when it comes to fires. I once was but learned some hard lessons.

Since that time I have had a bad phobia about out-of-control fires.

I remember as a kid myself and a few other teenage boys "saved" the woods behind our house several times. Of course this was New Jersey, and I'm sure the flammability of the woods never reached anything close to Western levels. But we would just grab a stick and beat the burning brush, and it would go out. The fires were almost always set by other teenagers playing with firecrackers. One fire was especially severe, and it did require the fire department to put out. I think they tried to chase us away. In any case, none of us ever got hurt doing this. We had sense, never to try to put out a fire in the foxtails (kind of a tall grass like plant -we used to call these areas the bamboos). These would be much like putting out a wheat fire if wheat was ten feet tall!

Do you really think I was serious?

Yeah. I guess I did.

I've been laying up Plaster all week.. it must be getting to me.

Sorry about that..

I popped over to Estes Park yesterday. I had not been there in 15 months and was truly impressed by the fact that the traffic was as bad as ever with as many large SUVs and trucks as ever. But there was clearly no food shortage there as the waddlers were in full force.

We had quite a few days there in 2003, put up by some friends ... I can honestly say it must win some sort of award for maximum traffic complexity relative to modest population. The place is a driving nightmare - or certainly used to be.

2 Top Economists Differ Sharply on Risk of Deflation

Morgan Stanley vs. Goldman Sachs, Wall Street's version of the Yankees vs. the Red Sox.

Looks like Goldman Sachs won this week.

If Mr. Hatzius is right, unemployment will still stand at 9.7 percent at the end of next year, slightly higher than it is now. Mr. Berner says he believes unemployment should sink to 8.7 percent by then. As for Friday’s numbers, Mr. Berner is calling for a private sector gain of 145,000 jobs versus Mr. Hatzius’s prediction of 75,000 new jobs.

Actual number: 71,000.

Even the pessimist wasn't pessimistic enough.

Hi Leanan, this link provides real time data on the state of the US economy. Updated daily as well, shows the US economy contracting at 4.3pc as of today!


And the proposed remedy for this is, of course, more government spending

One answer, Mr. Hatzius says, is another round of stimulus spending by Washington to fend off the deflation risk he worries about.

Like a true Keynesian, regardless of the problem, the answer is always more government spending. However, there is another ignored possibility...

In economics, the term stagflation refers to the situation when both the inflation rate and the unemployment rate are high. It is a difficult economic condition for a country, as both inflation and economic stagnation occur simultaneously and no macroeconomic policy can address both of these problems at the same time. (Wikipedia)

Economists offer two principal explanations for why stagflation occurs. First, stagflation can result when the productive capacity of an economy is reduced by an unfavorable supply shock, such as an increase in the price of oil for an oil importing country. Such an unfavorable supply shock tends to raise prices at the same time that it slows the economy by making production more costly and less profitable.[5][6][7] This type of stagflation presents a policy dilemma because actions that are meant to assist with fighting inflation might worsen economic stagnation and vice versa.

Second, both stagnation and inflation can result from inappropriate macroeconomic policies. For example, central banks can cause inflation by permitting excessive growth of the money supply,[8] and the government can cause stagnation by excessive regulation of goods markets and labor markets,[9] Either of these factors can cause stagflation. Excessive growth of the money supply taken to such an extreme that it must be reversed abruptly can clearly be a cause. Both types of explanations are offered in analyses of the global stagflation of the 1970s: it began with a huge rise in oil prices, but then continued as central banks used excessively stimulative monetary policy to counteract the resulting recession, causing a runaway wage-price spiral. (Wikipedia)

Does this sound even the slightest bit familiar right about now? Talk about deja vu.

Lets see, increasing price of a commodity, like oil. Hmmm... whens the last time that happened? Its not like Peak Oil will cause oil prices to increase in the future though, right? Meanwhile, deficit spending increases the money supply by its very nature. If you spend money you don't have, you'll either have to print it later, or raise taxes or drastically cut the spending later. Good luck finding a politician to promote and follow through with either those policies.

As always, you can't spend your way out of the problem, when the problem is your spending.

I agree that government spending will only postpone the problem.

But I don't think we have stagflation now, and I don't think we're going to get it.

Stagflation, like inflation, requires rising wages. In the '70s, unions still had enough power to negotiate "cost of living increases." No more. Indeed, unions have their hands full trying to limit pay cuts for their members.

Currently we simply do not have the "inflation" part of "stagflation". Deflation is certainly a possibility, but inflation tends to take a while to spin up, as increasing prices interact in vicious circle, so I think inflation in the near future is quite unlikely.

Stagflation, like inflation, requires rising wages. In the '70s, unions still had enough power to negotiate "cost of living increases." No more. Indeed, unions have their hands full trying to limit pay cuts for their members.

Also wage increases in the US are capped by the presence of globalized labor competition (the famous race to the bottom), unlike the 70s, when US workers did not compete so directly against Chinese and Indian workers who earn 80% less. And of course, the power of US labor unions is undercut by the competition from repressive governments in China, Colombia, Malaysia, etc., where "free association" by workers results in imprisonment, extra-judicial executions, firings, etc. "Free Trade" with countries where labor is not "free" is a big cause of the "Race To The Bottom".

As always, you can't spend your way out of the problem, when the problem is your spending.

The unverified assumption here is that "the problem is your spending". But US government spending as a percentage of GNP is much lower than many other successful economies, and lower than it has been at many times in the past when our economy was also successful.

So maybe the "problem" is not excess spending, but lack of revenue, due to the Bush tax cuts, and due to economic stagnation which is due to underinvestment in infrastructure, public health, and public education. Certainly US spending for personal consumption is excessive, as obesity rates would indicate. The US has more than 5X the retail square footage per capita as Europe does, and they seem to be doing fine.

We could go back in time and bring President Reagan to the here and now...he rescued us from stagflation and malaise back after President Carter, the 1979 oil shock, etc.

I am struggling to recall how me pulled that rabbit out of his top hat....I seem to remember tax cuts and lots of government spending, which caused record deficits and pulled our economy out of the ditch!

Oh, and a lot of swell oratory to reassure everyone how great things were...

You are right...that kind of governance can't be a long-term solution...

Let us cut the federal budget, entitlements, discretionary, and military, by 50% over the next 10 years. Tax individuals and businesses to pay for the budget without any government borrowing.

The interesting part will be to sit back and watch all former bureaucrats who were on 'middle-class welfare' and all the government contractors who were benefiting from corporate welfare deal with being self-reliant free market poster children!

There will be a painful adjustment from cutting our budget in half, but after the wrenching transition things will stabilize and people will be better off than otherwise.

There will be a painful adjustment from cutting our budget in half, but after the wrenching transition things will stabilize and people will be better off than otherwise.

Is there a single real-world example of the success of this proposal, or should we just undergo "wrenching transition" because you say so?

Is there a single real-world example of the success of this proposal,

Is there any real world examples of deficit spending not ending up with bankruptcy?
Is there any real world examples of, oh say, fiat currencies not ending up being declared worthless?

Is there any real world examples of deficit spending not ending up with bankruptcy?

Only pretty much every country on the planet. National bankruptcies are rare (I can't think of a single example off-hand) but pretty much every country on the planet has run or is currently running a deficit. You may claim that they will all eventually become bankrupt, but there is no historical evidence to that effect.

Similarly, most indviduals have deficit years, where expenses exceed income, but most individuals do not declare bankruptcy.

We could go back in time and bring President Reagan to the here and now...he rescued us from stagflation and malaise back after President Carter, the 1979 oil shock, etc.

I am struggling to recall how me pulled that rabbit out of his top hat....I seem to remember tax cuts and lots of government spending, which caused record deficits and pulled our economy out of the ditch!

Let me help you out a bit... Reagan wasn't the one who ended the stagflation, as the president really doesn't possess the power to address that kind of issue. The person who ended the stagflation was Paul Volcker, the chairman of the Fed at the time, and the way he ended it was by massively increasing the interest(federal funds) rate to the point of extreme pain for just about everyone.

Paul Volcker, a Democrat,[5] was appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve in August 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and reappointed in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan.[6]

Volcker's Fed is widely credited with ending the United States' stagflation crisis of the 1970s. Inflation, which peaked at 13.5% in 1981, was successfully lowered to 3.2% by 1983.[7]

The federal funds rate, which had averaged 11.2% in 1979, was raised by Volcker to a peak of 20% in June 1981. The prime rate rose to 21.5% in 1981 as well.

Volcker's Fed elicited the strongest political attacks and most widespread protests in the history of the Federal Reserve (unlike any protests experienced since 1922), due to the effects of the high interest rates on the construction and farming sectors, culminating in indebted farmers driving their tractors onto C Street NW and blockading the Eccles Building(wikipedia)

There will be a painful adjustment from cutting our budget in half, but after the wrenching transition things will stabilize and people will be better off than otherwise.

Yes all government workers pay would be cut in half and Social Security recipients, like me, would only receive half our current stipend. Medicare would be cut in half so a lot of old people would just die, including my wife. But she is old so what the hell.

Military officers would probably get by but most enlisted men would have to live very close to starvation. Those with large families would die. But that would just cull the population so what the hell.

And of course with all that money disappearing from the economy millions of jobs would be lost. That would mean many more millions disappearing from the economy and more jobs lost. It would have kind of a snowball effect. Then after ten years or so the population would be back down to a more reasonable level then as you say, people will then be better off than otherwise. Well, those that are still around would be.

Ron P.

Yes all government workers pay would be cut in half and Social Security recipients
But she is old so what the hell
A small price to pay to create heaven on earth for the upper .1%! You gotta get your priorities right. THEY are the only people that count. The peons, are just peons!

We could go back in time and bring President Reagan to the here and now...he rescued us from stagflation and malaise back after President Carter, the 1979 oil shock, etc.

It wasn't Reagan, it was Paul Volker. He raised interest rates to choke off inflation by inducing recession. It did work. But we had ten percent employment for a couple of years.

The deficits came on a bit later. It was believing the supply side economics stuff (Cutting taxes will raise revenues).

Our situation now is different. We are facing seriously damaged banking sector, massive private debt (like underwater housing debts), and the specter of deflation. Japan has been facing deflation for fifteen years and hasn't been able to shake it off!

The biggie for medium term government solvency is healthcare costs. The current projections have the healthcare reforms helping mightily. But whether this actually happens remains to be seen. Secondarily military cutbacks would help -but this is a political sacred cow. If you look at government expenditures on actual physical stuff it is lower than the usual norms, as are the amount of taxes raised. But stuff like pensions, and medicare promises are hard to schuck off. Of course if we get into a limits to growth downspiral, off bets are off!

If you spend money you don't have, you'll either have to print it later, or raise taxes or drastically cut the spending later. Good luck finding a politician to promote and follow through with either those policies.

Of course, I should be fair and balanced: President Reagan presided over a government which raised taxes several times, starting not too long after he led the government to lower them right after taking office.


And President George Herbert Walker Bush ended up presiding over a government which raised taxes after his famous 'Read my lips: No new Taxes" pledge. Too bad the Republican-leaning voters punished him for his logical advocacy and the resulting logical tax code actions.

Then we had 8 years of government surpluses under President Clinton...

...of course non of these Presidents I mentioned, nor President George W. Bush, nor President Obama, have done much to address our long-term sustainability issues....they all belong(ed) to the church of endless growth.

On The Automatic Earth yesterday, they had an excellent piece on commodity speculation. We have often discussed on TOD the massive amount of 'funny money' sloshing around in the financial world as compared with the monetary value of goods and services. It appears now that the financial funny money is buying up commodities like mad. It seems that this will be a heavy inflationary influence, but I'm not smart enough in economics to be able to really figure out the deflation/inflation formula. But then, with experts arguing heatedly about it, is anyone smart enough to figure it out.

Thank you ET, TAU was where I read the article concerning commodity ETFs.

I was going to post it for contrast to the "Buy Gold—And Commodities ETFs " article above.

Commodity ETFs: Toxic, deadly, evil

The warning screams at you: "Do Not Buy Commodity ETFs!" Yes, this Bloomberg BusinessWeek cover reads like National Enquirer or a flashing neon sign on the Vegas Strip.

... Commodity ETFs are rapidly becoming a malicious virus breeding chaos in the global markets pricing all commodities: food, farm lands, metals, oil, natural gas, livestock, water and other natural resources are the assets under commodity derivatives and their ETFs, pricing that's now controlled more by Wall Street speculators than the weather, adding wild swings in volatility and trillions in global derivative risks.

I do not understand how anyone can have any confidence in a economic "recovery," - or that anyone paying attention could have any confidence in our ability to 'sustain' industrial civilization.

When I was a kid, my brothers and I would play marathon games of Monopoly, the popular board game. We altered the rules so that someone could act as a banker and we enabled the creation of lots more money than came with the game. After trading back and forth for a few days we would get fabulously wealthy. The reality of the current situation is such that it compares with our Monopoly gaming as if we could take that Monopoly money and go next door and buy our neighbor's entire vegetable garden, or his freezer full of food. I can see this developing into a very bad situation in which people are going to rebel at the notion that so few people can control so much wealth. It will become more sensible, at a local level, to go to a barter system for basic commodities such as food, medical care, housing, etc.

I see not only wars between countries developing over the control of *real* wealth, but wars developing within countries between poorer classes and the financial elite.

EDIT: It occurs to me that a radical stock market crash would actually be a good thing in terms of adjusting Wall Street financial type wealth back closer to the realities of the real world.

I do not understand how anyone can have any confidence in a economic "recovery," - or that anyone paying attention could have any confidence in our ability to 'sustain' industrial civilization.

Probably it has something to do with being old enough to have lived through a previous generation that was "sure" that the collapse of industrial civilization was imminent, but I have no confidence in my ability to predict the future, bad or good.
Despite my leftie viewpoint, I acknowledge that markets and small scale capitalism are incredibly resilient, people were buying and selling food inside Dachau. Given the "weed species" nature of humans and our colonization of almost every niche on the planet, I expect something resembling industrial civilization to continue in many times and places.
People who plan only for the worst have an opportunity cost if their expectations are wrong (just ask bitter back-to-the-landers hunched over their hoes and living hand-to-mouth while other members of their generation enjoy relaxed retirement because the corporate world lasted long enough to cash in their 401Ks and pay off their mortgages).
Big societal changes around Peak Oil and Climate Change are easy to predict, but the timing and details are impossible to predict, so having some conventional investments and income could easily be a winning strategy, while retreat to the bunker or the hideout could be a losing strategy depending on events.

Or in other words.. Diversify your portfolio.

May I suggest that you read When Money Dies: The Nightmare of the Weimar Collapse http://www.wolf1168.us/misc/Articles%20of%20Interest/When%20Money%20Dies... 161pages


From my point of view, a diversified portfolio includes investment in non-monetary items, such as land, buildings, tools, personal skills and education, etc.

In the Weimar era, those who had paid-for physical possessions did better than those dependent on purely monetary investments. It is easy to find historical eras where the reverse was true. Which is one of the roots of the ancient saying " Do Not Put All Of Your Eggs In One Basket".

Someone pointed me to this link :-


Graphs the inflation/deflation trend and likely outcome.

From the Archives

Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Mar 19, 1976

Vast Additional Oil Fields Discovered In Saudi Arabia

DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia - Vast additional oil fields, equivalent in size to more than 20 per cent of the United stales' total proven oil reserves, have been discovered in Saudi Arabia, executives of the Arabian American Oil Company reported here.

“That makes us feel we're going to be in business here for a while," the company's chairman, Frank Jungers, observed drily.

The 3 fields discovered were Ribyan, Lawhah, and Dibdibah. These last two are incorrectly spelled "Lawadah" and "Didibah" in the article. The first two show up on this map from Greg Croft; some sources consider them part of the Marjan complex. This paper says 48% of Marjan's capacity has been mothballed; Simmons said in TWITD that Ribyan was one of various fields that had only been sporadically produced.

Dibdibah is on Croft's Map #1, the 2nd most northerly onshore field in the Saudi Eastern Province. It is mentioned in this entry in Reserve Growth of the World's Giant Oil Fields:

Figure 13. The percent change in total recoverable oil
volume between 1981 and 1996 estimates of giant oil
fields of the world, with respect to field size (excluding
the United States and Canada). The percent change
was calculated as ([1996 volume/1981 volume] À 1) Â
100. Five fields (Dibdibah, Yarega, Karan, Lakwa, and
Ghawar) plot beyond the axes limits of this graph.

Rather illustrious company! Don't get excited, it's the smallest KSA field listed in this TOD article: The Oil Drum: Europe | A few more thoughts on Saudi and HL.

So much for that Vastness the headline promised.

condensate the top under-reported ksa story on tod for 2007 through 2010(mostly).

the doomer denizens herein first don't believe it, then don't understand it, then don't understand it because they don't believe it.

it is difficult impossible to make someone understand something if their pre concieved doomer notions ideas depend on not understanding it.

this idea really needs to be investigated and let the data take it where it may. i would think that tod would want to be out in front of this and if ksa's condensate reserves step on the doomer's buzz, wtf ?

if an investigation shows that ksa's condensate reserves are insignificant, wouldn't that also be important for tod to know (rhetorical ?)

there is certainly enough there to at least start the discussion and ignorance is not an excuse.

i have been around here long enough to remember discussion on ghawar cretaceous arab d (cad)that spanned days,weeks,months, but nobody seems to want to talk about ghawar permian khuff's(gpk)condensate.

i personally dont have the resources to acquire all these spe papers at $25/. maybe berman will take this up.

you can be sure that unless i get banned from tod or get run over by a truck, i will continue to post what i can find on the subject.

can you connect the dots ?

you can be sure that unless i get banned from tod or get run over by a truck, i will continue to post what i can find on the subject.

Go nuts, I added another reply to yesterday's thread too. But I don't know why you're replying to this one instead of starting a dedicated thread, I simply posted this as an example of industry hyperbole. Perhaps I'll find some juicy stuff about all this ethane while I'm at it, too.

Damage to Tanker in Strait of Hormuz Caused by Terror Attack, Inquiry Finds

Investigators in the United Arab Emirates said Friday that a terrorist attack caused the mysterious damage a Japanese oil tanker suffered last week as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz, raising fears of future attacks in the narrow channel that serves as a passageway for shipping crude oil from the Middle East to the rest of the world.

The damage to the tanker — which an Emirati official said was caused by “homemade explosives” aboard a dinghy — was not considered serious, and there was little immediate impact on oil markets on Friday.

Re. "Worst Impact of Climate Change May Be How Humanity Reacts to It "

The way that humanity reacts to climate change may do more damage to many areas of the planet than climate change itself unless we plan properly...

Dr Turner said: "There are numerous studies looking at the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, but very little time has been taken to consider what our responses to climate change might do to the planet."

(my emphasis)

So The Clock is ticking, windows of opportunity are closing much more rapidly now and we need to plan properly yet...

* "UN talks flounder as climate impacts mount, say delegates "

* "Even facing an emergency, the GOP ((and some oil- and coal-state Democrats) fizzles on energy"

* "U.S. Changes Plan for Capturing Emissions From Coal "

In the economic/financial realm we have the same chaotic mess at a time we desperately need "to plan properly."

So here we are, the visiting team, in the bottom of the ninth... Obama, Geithner, Putin, etc. etc are all up to bat...

In the economic/financial realm we have the same chaotic mess

Like how for every $ spent on actual carbon control a $ goes to the Goldman Sachs of the world?

Like how 70% doesn't actually reduce carbon?


Yup - same old fleecing of the public for bankers benefit.

Exactly. Fraud all around.

Meanwhile, see "Governments Go to Extremes as the Downturn Wears On " above.

And we have posters on TOD who actually believe the FED, Treasury, etc, can hold Humpty Dumpty together.

And now is a good time to discuss in detail how much condensate the Sauds have, and how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and...

Such an enormous (black) Comedy of Errors.

In the economic/financial realm we have the same chaotic mess at a time we desperately need "to plan properly."

So here we are, the visiting team, in the bottom of the ninth... Obama, Geithner, Putin, etc. etc are all up to bat...

I think what we're seeing is a desperation to hold onto BAU at all costs. No matter how much data there is to back up AGW claims, or how much information is available to substantiate we are post peak oil, the game must go on 'as is'. A delusional determination to steadfastly and myopically press on in the face of two major forces angling in towards a cataclysmic bottleneck.

data there is to back up AGW claims ..., the game must go on 'as is'.

The game is a transfer of wealth and that's the plan when AGW prevention is implemented.

CHART OF THE DAY: The Scariest Jobs Chart Ever Takes A Turn For The Worse


I've seen that a bit over the last couple of days, but just noticed that there may be a hidden trend -- since ~1980, recovery in jobs has taken longer and longer. My hunch is that this is related to offshoring jobs from the US. Anyone have a thought?

You are not alone in noticing this trend. Economists say that recessions used to be "inventory recessions", with the characteristic that most of the people who became unemployed in a recession eventually went back to work at the same job they had before, after the business had gotten its inventory down to the proper level. In today's recessions, it is much more likely that when someone loses a job, the position is eliminated and never refilled.

Offshoring is one component, but automation has cost far more jobs, and has moved into the service sector big-time in the last 15 years. The media take note when a call center that employs 200 is moved to India; no one writes the story that 200 people have lost their jobs in doctors/dentists offices to cheap voice-response units. Or when a fast food chain discovers that with some inexpensive computer hardware and broadband connections, a handful of people working at home in their pajamas can provide the "Welcome to McDonalds! May I take your order?" function for the drive-through at every franchise in the city.

Add in underemployment, which has been getting progressively worse. If I remember the BLS numbers properly, almost 6% of the workforce is now "working part time because I can't find a full-time job." That represents an enormous amount of room to increase hours worked and output without hiring any additional staff.

I have been saying for several years that the first public policy crisis the Boomers create will not be Medicare or Social Security, it will be the 60-65 year-olds who can't afford to retire and whom the private sector will not hire.

The chart that was linked to yesterday used the same data but had the horizontal axis different. On that chart all the centers of the recessions were lined up. On this one everything is plotted from the first month of each recession. I like this chart better because it gives a better indication of the length of the recession. And I would bet big money that the it will be like the Energizer Bunny, it will just keep going and going and going.

chart of the day, job losses chart, aug 2010

Ron P.

That is just about the ugliest thing I have ever seen. It makes every doomer prediction look prophetic.

For the authors Nature article suggesting we can feed 9 billion in 2050...


“Hasty and uncoordinated” responses to peak oil “could damage ecosystems to such an extent that the resource base becomes degraded and the planetary carrying capacity is lowered, which would further stress human populations,” the authors write.

Although more expensive fuel could curtail some harmful farming and logging practices, it could also lead to more land being cleared to plant crops for biofuels, and increased exploitation of forests for firewood. At the same time, slowing oil flows could increase public support for damaging projects designed to wring oil out of tar sands and shale deposits, and make politicians uneasy about backing large-scale conservation efforts.

Sounds a lot like "Worst Impact of Climate Change May Be How Humanity Reacts to It " above.

"unless we plan properly... "

"and Benny-Hill Bernanke SWINGS... "

(too late, game over.... game over...game over...)

We can feed 9 Billion in 2050 ...

During the 1960s, it was predicted that by the 1980s there would be a shortage of protein-rich foods. In response to this, many research programmes were undertaken to use single-cell biomass as an animal feed. Contrary to the trend, J. Arthur Rank instructed the Rank Hovis McDougall (RHM) Research Centre to investigate converting starch (the waste product of cereal manufacturing undertaken by RHM) into a protein-rich food for human consumption

It is true that some people eat Quorn and drop dead, but, eh! they were genetic losers in the struggle for life, unfit for this New World.


Single cell protein (SCP) typically refers to sources of mixed protein extracted from pure or mixed cultures of algae, yeasts, fungi or bacteria (grown on agricultural wastes) used as a substitute for protein-rich foods, in human and animal feeds.

With Artificial Frankenfoods like this, and other I can easily think of, like mowing fields of hay and extracting the vegetable protein, vitamins, edible sugars and the like by simple and cheap biochemical processes it is possible to feed those 9 billion and more, I just wonder if there's not an easier and more pleasant solution to the Population Problem, and I don't mean Soylent Green: ¡ The Horror !

Artificial foods. There won't be much taste in them.

With Artificial Frankenfoods like this,

Err Quorn is just a selected mutation of a soil fungi. So the 'artificial' part is the selection and culturing. Kinda like how Brussel Sprouts came into being.

The Franken part is making fungi into 'chicken nuggets' - but people have been taking veggies and claiming they are hamburger patties for some time.

I will starve to death on grass soup before I eat f*****g Quorn.

What if I took a starch slurry and grew oyster mushrooms? How about a sofa as the source of material for the 'shrooms? Or phone books?

To add something to my previous comment, there are many trees that can be modified and relatively quickly to produce desirable food componentes and other necessary chemicals.

One example, not edible but it shows what can be done, is the eucalyptus that is now grown in Uruguay for the paper plant there. It has very little lignine, it is mostly cellulose and almost useless as a source of wood. It is even despised as firewood but for the intended use it seems to be very good.

An example of a tree that could be harvested for fat -and it grows in the USA- is el árbol del sebo, the Chinese tallow tree http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triadica_sebifera

It is useful in the production of biodiesel because it is the third most productive vegetable oil producing crop in the world, after algae and oil palm. This species is considered to be a noxious invader in the U.S.

Indeed it is poisonous, most Euphorbiaceae are poisonous (ricin is another Euphorbiaceae and just one seed can kill) but some have been 'domesticated' to a greater or lesser degree, like cassava (Manihot esculenta) and without any modern techniques.

Euphorbiaceae is a group of plants absolutely fabulous and they are a source of many important chemicals: the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) is one of them.

Milletia pinnata (Pongamia pinnata) "algarrobo aceitero" is another tree that produces useful oil for industrial and fuel uses.
There are many examples, some more adapted than others to different climates.

If needs be some species of tree could be modified to produce lots of protein (or starch, or fat) that could be harvested regularly without the need of sowing every year.
Some people believe that the path that was taken in the Neolithic to grow grasses to use their seeds for food has been very wrong and that trees could have been grown and selected equally well.
Indeed in Spain the 'sweet acorns' of the Holm Oak (encina) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holm_oak
although mostly devoured by pigs are also sold in the stores as a delicacy for people.
They sustained us in the past and may do it again in bad times.

If needs be some species of tree could be modified to produce lots of protein


The oil, health wise, similar to olive oil.

why not just raise olive trees ?

You know of olive trees that survive snowstorms for months?

When Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke admits to seeing an "unusually uncertain" economy ahead, it's pretty terrifying to imagine what he's really thinking. What John Williams envisions—and he's by no means looking to the far horizon—is a systemic collapse, a hyperinflationary great depression and the cessation of normal commerce. Despite that bleak outlook, however, when the economist and editor of ShadowStats.com sat down for this exclusive Energy Report interview, he also had some good news.


When Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke admits to seeing an "unusually uncertain" economy ahead...

I was taught that it was 'not unacceptable ' to use a double negative to indicate a positive. So does this mean that the '"unusually uncertain" economy ahead' is "certainly usual" (BAU) or is Bernanke saying instead, "it is certain, but you don't want to know what I know".

Betcha it's "you don't want to know what I know."

Nice find, I found this part interesting...

JW: Unemployment will be a lot worse than most people expect. Housing will continue to suffer in terms of weak demand. But in this crazy, almost perverse circumstance, the renewed weakness to a large extent will help push us into higher inflation...

The government is effectively bankrupt. Using GAAP accounting principles, the annual deficit is running in the range of $4 trillion to $5 trillion. That's beyond containment. The government can't cover it with taxes. They'd still be in deficit if they took 100% of personal income and corporate profits. They'd also still be in deficit if they cut every penny of government spending except for Social Security and Medicare. Washington lacks the will to slash its social programs severely, to change its approach to ever bigger government. The only option left going forward is for the government eventually to print the money for the obligations it cannot otherwise cover, which sets up a hyperinflation.

Actually, the more I read of the interview the more I find to agree with, and fear, for that matter.

TER: Hyperinflation means different things to different people. How do you define it?

JW: My definition has been and will remain very simple. When the largest-denomination note in circulation—the $100 bill in the case of the U.S. dollar—has the same value as toilet paper, you have a hyperinflation. You saw that in the Weimar Republic. People papered their walls with money.

TER: What will plunge us into this abyss? And when?

JW: I think the odds are extremely high that we'll see it break within the next year. I would put it six months to a year, outside. We're getting extraordinary protestations from other central banks about the U.S. finances, its solvency, risk of the dollar. Before the current crisis you never would have heard any central banker making such comments. As this breaks, it's going to be obvious that the U.S. is moving to debase its dollar. It'll have no option to do otherwise. I would fully expect some foreign holders looking to dump the Treasuries. With the dollar plunging, the Treasury won't be able to get the funding that it needs from a practical standpoint in the open markets...

Heavy dollar selling will be exceptionally inflationary. Oil prices will spike in response to the weakness in the dollar. Oil is a primary commodity that drives consumer inflation; that's how you can have inflation in a recession. The traditional wisdom is that strong demand against limited supply causes inflation, but you can also have inflation due to commodity price distortions, which is what we had back in '73 and what we've seen over the last year or so.

Scary stuff... Thanks for the link.

The government is effectively bankrupt. Using GAAP accounting principles, the annual deficit is running in the range of $4 trillion to $5 trillion. That's beyond containment. The government can't cover it with taxes. They'd still be in deficit if they took 100% of personal income and corporate profits. They'd also still be in deficit if they cut every penny of government spending except for Social Security and Medicare.

Easy to check, and blatantly incorrect. US personal income for 2008 was $12.8 Trillion. http://www.bea.gov/national/nipaweb/TableView.asp?SelectedTable=58&Freq=...

US corporate profits for 2008. $1.5 Trillion

2009 Social Security Cost
$695 billion ($0.69 Trillion)

2009 Medicare Cost
$453 billion

The President's US budget for 2010 totals $3.55 trillion

If the articles's hyperbolic claims are so obviously wrong about data that anyone can find in 30 seconds with Google, what else are they incorrect or dishonest about??

What about the interest burden on outstanding government debt, rather than just meeting the current-year deficit?

From the wikipedia link above, currently interest on national debt is a veeerrrry small component of the Federal budget, but interest rates are low so that could change eventually.

$164 billion (+18.0%) – Interest on National Debt

Good set of photos of Russian fires:


Seems like the situation there must have been building for many years, with dry, hotter than usual seasonal conditions persisting until a threshold of temperature and dryness was passed and many fires ignited within a short period of time.

That's the problem with waiting for AGW to get bad enough to galvanize a concerted effort to chart a different course. Once the evidence is overwhelming, it's too late to do much. Now we just have to live with it and know the momentum, the inertia of climate change, will lead to worsening conditions in the future.

Meanwhile, throw another chunk of coal on the barbe for me.

Those photos of the fires in Russia are deeply saddening. But, not to leave anyone out, how about those floods in Europe, Pakistan and China? Climate Change isn't just about warmer temperatures...

E. Swanson

Climate Change isn't just about warmer temperatures...

Specifically I was referring to the Russian fires, because the photos are of that disasterous situation. And, it would seem the fires broke out due to the drought and unusually high temperatures, rather than a flood, as experienced in the other locations you listed.

While on the subject though, 2010 is developing into quite a banner year for environmental events, i.e. climate change. There are the several months so far this year that exceed in average temperature than any other of those months dating back to when records started being kept in 1880. The huge iceburg that just broke off of one of Greenland's glaciers, which is the biggest to break off since 1962. The peat bog and forest fires along with high temps, and wheat export ban in Western Russia. The torrential floods in Pakistan, Europe, China and India. The arctic ice melt that will probably end up being the 2nd smallest ice minimum, with only 2007 being lower.

Maybe this will be the year the naysayers finally relent. Nah, forget that idea. Some things change, and some things never change.

Maybe this will be the year the naysayers finally relent.

Like a Shark or a Jet...

When you're a NaySayer, you're a NaySayer all the way,
From ya first ciga-rette til' your last dying day.


west side story