Drumbeat: September 9, 2010

Reaching the outer limits: Societies in the developed world are based on continued economic growth; a lack of energy in the future threatens that entire concept

Several key trends suggest the West will soon reach the limits of economic growth. Chief among these is the declining supply of fossil fuels and the inability of markets to foment alternative energy sources.

As Western societies are based on continuous economic expansion, reaching these limits is likely to herald alarming consequences touching all aspects of life as we know it. As long as societies perceive economic growth as the most important thing and link this growth exclusively to increased consumption, the resulting disillusionment will be exceedingly painful, with globalization likely making this a pain felt by all.

Natural gas from shale rock promises energy revolution

A new source of energy, shale gas promises to add significantly to the world's energy reserves but there are concerns about the environmental impact of extraction.

BP's former chief executive Tony Hayward has described it as a "game changer" in energy supply, the major oil companies are betting millions on its success and it might just turn Blackpool into the new Dallas.

Shale gas seems to answer the oil industry's desire for an accessible energy source perfectly just as other sources are becoming more problematic.

Canada Helps Create an Oil Sands World

Alberta is showing the way for nations with similar reserves. Brace for a global 'age of tough oil.'

OPEC Sailings Seen -130,000 B/D In 4 Weeks To Sept 25-Tracker

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Oil exports from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, excluding Angola and Ecuador, are forecast to drop 130,000 barrels a day in the four weeks to Sept. 25, tanker tracker Oil Movements said Thursday.

BP Spill Report Hints at Legal Defense

WASHINGTON — BP spent months this summer trying to contain the gusher of oil on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. Now the company is trying to contain the legal and financial fallout from the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, and on Wednesday it released the results of an internal investigation that mostly pointed fingers at other companies.

Mexico's Pemex 2011 budget 30 pct lower than request

(Reuters) - The Mexican government proposed on Wednesday a 2011 investment budget for state oil monopoly Pemex that was more than 30 percent below what the company had said earlier this year it would need.

Venezuela Bonaire oil terminal still shut due fire

(Reuters) - Shipping was halted for a second day at a 12-million-barrel oil storage terminal on the Caribbean island of Bonaire as smoke and flames billowed from a naphtha tank, traders and a witness said.

The terminal is owned by OPEC-member Venezuela's PDVSA, which uses it to mix and ship crude and products to China and the United States. The Bonaire terminal is 50 miles (80 km) north of Venezuela and also stores fuel for its neighbor's domestic market.

Nigeria: 2 kidnapped Russian sailors released

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Authorities say two kidnapped Russian sailors have been released after a month in captivity in Nigeria's oil-rich and restive southern delta.

The Seafarers Union of Russia tells The Associated Press that kidnapped sailors Igor Ivanov and Andrei Pukke have been released by their captors.

China U-turn on enforced power cuts in Hebei

Thousands of people in China are to have their electricity restored after the reversal of an order for enforced power cuts to meet energy-saving goals.

Officials in Hebei province ordered local governments to maintain normal power supplies for residential users.

Oman oil rises as refiners start buying; Aramco supplies

Oman crude oil, an Arabian Gulf benchmark for Asia, rose as refiners started early purchases of the grade on expectations of stronger demand spurred by winter fuel needs.

Deadly car bomb strikes near Russian market

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — A car exploded Thursday near the central market of a major city in Russia's restive North Caucasus region, killing at least 12 people, regional police said according to the Interfax news agency.

Explosion Rocks Honeywell Uranium Facility Run by Scab Workers

On Saturday, nuclear regulators allowed Honeywell to start up core production at the facility, where core production had been shut down for over two months due to concerns about the training of replacement workers. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission delayed reopening the plant for several days after questions were raised about the unusually high levels of uranium that were appearing in the urine tests of several nuclear workers.

The following day, a hydrogen explosion rocked the plant. The blast shook the ground in front of the plant and could be heard a mile away, according to local reports. State Trooper Bridget Rice said that police were called to investigate to the scene of the explosion after receiving several phone calls reporting an explosion at the plant. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah also confirmed that there was indeed "a small hydrogen explosion that was very loud" at the Metropolis facility.

'Not So Big House' makes a better home for you, Earth

The choices we make about where and how we live have a tremendous impact on our environment, community and economic well-being. If we choose wisely, we can minimize the negative impacts while maximizing value. They go hand in hand. Well-designed, efficient spaces can be beautiful, functional and comfortably provide for our needs.

Architect and "Not So Big House" author Sarah Susanka defined a relationship with "home" that is driven by quality not quantity. This is a timeless message that is often lost in our culture of consumption and growth. The term "bigger is better" means little when it comes to green living.

Green building takes off in real estate slump

Green building remains the bright spot in an otherwise dull U.S. real estate market as companies and homeowners look to lower utility bills.

It now accounts for nearly one-third of new U.S. construction, up from 2% in 2005, according to a report aired Tuesday by NPR, which cites industry data from McGraw-Hill Construction. The story attributes much of that success to the private U.S. Green Building Council, begun in 1993.

John Michael Greer - Animals I: birds, bats and bumblebees

You’re not going to get anything close to a majority of the net primary production of your garden onto your dinner table, by the way, and it’s a mistake to try; if you do, you’ll starve other living things that depend on a share of net primary production to keep their own dinner tables stocked, and you need these other living things in order to have a healthy and productive garden. (Ignoring this latter point is one of the critical errors of today’s industrial agriculture.) Your goal instead is to make sure that as much of the net primary production diverted from your table as possible goes to living things that earn their keep by doing something for your benefit.

Have a canning party

About once a year I have what I consider a pretty great idea. This summer, it was a canning exchange, a hot-weather version of the holiday cookie swap: Throw a party and ask each of your friends to make a batch of pickles, preserves, jam or chutney. You bring maybe half a dozen jars of one kind, but you go home with a seasonal medley that lasts through the coldest months.

Brilliant. Except for that nagging little voice inside my head: Please, please don't let me kill anybody.

Mining the Truth on Coal Supplies

No matter how bad coal might be for the planet, the conventional wisdom is that there is so much of it underground that the world’s leading fuel for electricity will continue to dominate the energy scene unless global action is taken on climate change.

But what if conventional wisdom is wrong?

A new study seeks to shake up the assumption that use of coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, is bound to continue its inexorable rise. In fact, the authors predict that world coal production may reach its peak as early as next year, and then begin a permanent decline.

Tom Whipple: Politics In The Great Transition

Someday there will be thousands of scholarly books on how political systems coped or failed during the transition from fossil fuel-sustained civilizations to that which is to come. For now, however, there are practically none as only a relative handful of the 6.7 billion on earth today have even a glimmer that the great transition is underway.

Indeed, it will be many years before we begin to appreciate the dimensions of how the various forms of government, (parliamentary democracies, theocracies, military dictatorships, "Communism" etc.) that have evolved around the world will cope with the great multi-decadal transition to civilizations that can function with little or no fossil fuel. Some already are predicting anarchy as industries, businesses, and monetary system crumble without their accustomed sources of energy; some talk of the great wars that will be fought over dwindling energy resources; and some foresee a return to pastoral towns akin to life in the 18th and 19th centuries - albeit after much social turmoil.

Easy to be complacent about energy until it's too late

David Suzuki warns us about complacency with the story of the pond where the lily pad population doubles every week. Starting with one plant, a corner of the pond starts filling up. But the week before the lily pads smother the whole pond, half the water is still open, so choking from overcrowding still seems a long way off.

That's an apt metaphor to illustrate a report recently released by two highly respected United Kingdom institutions: Lloyd’s of London and Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs. The report dives headfirst into the doomsday pool by predicting "catastrophic consequences" for businesses that fail to prepare for a world of increasing oil scarcity, higher oil prices, and disrupted energy supplies. They're all on the way, says the report, because of soaring energy demand in China and India (40 percent growth projected in the next two decades in China), constraints on production resulting from the BP oil spill, and moves to cut carbon dioxide emissions to slow down global warming (and mitigate floods like the one now ravaging Pakistan).

The Crisis Papers

Place a few fruit flies in a bottle with a layer of honey at the bottom, and they will quickly multiply to an enormous number, and then, just as quickly, die off to the very last, poisoned by their wastes. Similarly, add a few yeast cells to grape juice, seal the bottle, and the cells will consume the sugar and turn it into alcohol. When the alcohol rises to 12.5% it will kill off all the yeast, and the wine will be ready for the table.

Fruit flies and yeast in a bottle are embarked upon suicidal endeavors. They can’t help it. They don’t know any better, lacking the cognitive equipment to “know” anything at all.

Human beings, we are told, are different. Humans can utilize their accumulated knowledge, evaluate evidence and apply reason, and with these skills and accomplishments they can imagine alternative futures and choose among them to their advantage.

Crude Rises on Speculation U.S. Inventory Growth Fell Short of Estimates

Oil rose for a second day on speculation that a government report today may show a smaller increase in crude inventories than previously forecast.

U.S. crude stockpiles fell 7.31 million barrels last week, the industry-funded American Petroleum Institute reported yesterday, which may lead traders to revise expectations for U.S. Energy Department data due today. A Bloomberg survey earlier this week forecast that the government report will show that crude supplies climbed by 1 million barrels.

“The API drawdown was massive,” said Thina Saltvedt, a commodities analyst at Nordea Bank AB in Oslo. “The DOE and API often go in the same direction but the sizes are different. But there’s more than enough oil in the market.”

OPEC Trims 2011 Demand Forecast as Production Outside the Group Advances

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries trimmed the outlook for demand for its members’ crude in 2011 as production from outside the group grows.

OPEC, responsible for about 40 percent of global supplies, predicted in a monthly report today that the world will need 28.8 million barrels of oil a day from its 12 members next year. That’s about 100,000 barrels a day less than in last month’s report. The organization left its forecast for global oil demand in 2011 unchanged at 86.56 million barrels a day.

Refiners Cut Oil Output in U.S. to April Low, Survey Shows

U.S. refiners probably cut crude- processing rates to the lowest level since April as they began seasonal maintenance, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Refineries operated at 86.5 percent of capacity last week, down 0.5 percentage point from a week earlier, according to the median of 14 analyst estimates in the survey. The Energy Department is scheduled to release its weekly supply report at 11 a.m. today in Washington, a day later than usual because of the Labor Day holiday on Sept. 6.

Saudi Aramco to Supply Full Contracted Volumes for October to Asian Buyers

Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the world’s largest state-owned oil company, will supply full contractual volumes of crude to Asia for loading in October, according to refinery officials in Japan and South Korea.

Saudi Aramco, as the company is known, will provide 100 percent of cargoes sold under long-term contracts for an 11th month, according to a survey of refinery officials, all of whom asked to remain unidentified, citing confidentiality agreements with the Middle East producer.

Tropical Storm Igor drifting north in the Atlantic

MIAMI -- Tropical Storm Igor is drifting northward in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa near the Cape Verde Islands.

Maximum sustained winds for the storm Thursday are near 40 mph (65 kph). The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm could begin strengthening some on Friday.

British MPs to grill BP CEO Hayward

LONDON (Reuters) – British Members of Parliament (MPs) will next week grill outgoing BP Plc Chief Executive Tony Hayward, as part of an investigation into risks around deepwater drilling in the North Sea.

BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill has raised concerns globally about the dangers of drilling in ever-deeper waters.

US government sends oil clean-up bill to BP

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US government Wednesday sent a sixth bill to BP for clean-up costs related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, bringing the total to date to 389.9 million dollars, officials said.

BP has already spent eight billion dollars trying to contain the disaster and has forecast that it will eventually cost the group more than 32.2 billion dollars.

Wednesday's 128.5-million-dollar bill covers costs incurred by federal, state and local governments involved in the massive response effort, US officials said.

Should $10 a Barrel Be the Real Price of Oil?

I have been in the investment business for 30 years. Oil peaked at monthly average prices around $40 per barrel in 1980-81. It bottomed around $11/barrel in 1999. Oil peaked in 2008 at a monthly average around $126/ barrel and stands today somewhere around $73/barrel. Like many other investors we at Smead Capital Management have been conscious of “Peak Oil” theory. In his book, “The Prize”, Daniel Yergin points out that “Peak Oil” theory has popped up every ten to twenty years since oil was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 1855. Whether “it’s different this time” doesn’t matter to us because we see a dramatically quicker transition away from gasoline to electric and hybrid automobiles than the average portfolio management firm does. We believe the transition to electric/hybrid vehicles is a 10-15 year process. If you spend much time in Los Angeles or Seattle, you can see the speed of the transition with your own eyes. If you cut demand for gasoline by 25-50% in twenty years, you chop off the “lack of supply” argument which “Peak Oil” is all about.

Resource Investing with Exchange Traded Funds Part 2

Recently John Stephenson, senior vice president and portfolio manager with First Asset Investment Management Inc., shared his thoughts on the marketplace rapid structural changes around the world “setting the stage for a massive bull market in commodities as smart investors know that after a decade of decline, stocks aren’t where the big money will be made.”

Selecting one particular asset class, Mr. Stephenson was bullish on oil, “If it’s just one, then you would have to pick oil. It’s a miracle fuel, costs less than orange juice on a volume-weighted basis, we’ve reached peak oil and China has just become the largest car market on the planet.”

On Clean Energy, China Skirts Rules

The booming Chinese clean energy sector, now more than a million jobs strong, is quickly coming to dominate the production of technologies essential to slowing global warming and other forms of air pollution. Such technologies are needed to assure adequate energy as the world’s population grows by nearly a third, to nine billion people by the middle of the century, while oil and coal reserves dwindle.

But much of China’s clean energy success lies in aggressive government policies that help this crucial export industry in ways most other governments do not. These measures risk breaking international rules to which China and almost all other nations subscribe, according to some trade experts interviewed by The New York Times.

Metro Vancouver unveils draft regional food system strategy

A long-time farmer and Richmond city councillor is predicting a time when B.C. beef is no longer sent to Alberta for processing.

As a case in point, Harold Steves told the Straight that, with his help, his son Jerry’s Cache Creek farm already “direct-markets” much of its beef to Lower Mainland customers.

Hollywood star in north Queensland

She lives in a house powered by solar panels, drives a vehicle that runs off used cooking fat and grows most of her own food.

Yet Hollywood star Daryl Hannah isn't convinced she's doing enough for the environment.

The 1980s pin-up girl is in far north Queensland for a two-week course on permaculture, which aims to mimic the principles of natural eco-systems in human settlements and agriculture.

Ms Hannah says she's searching for "a more sane way of living in harmony with our environment".

Murphy examines cars, consumption

Electric cars may not be the answer to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, says local author Pat Murphy in his recently-released book, Spinning Our Wheels.

Instead, Murphy proposes, we should share rides to increase transportation’s efficiency and reduce the number of total cars on the road.

Traffic deaths at lowest in 60 years

Traffic deaths in the USA are at a 60-year low despite a slight uptick in miles driven, and the chances of dying on the road are the lowest ever, the Department of Transportation says.

An exclusive first drive of a Tesla-powered electric Mercedes

CALIFORNIA -- I got an unexpected treat during a recent visit to Tesla Motors' headquarters near San Francisco: They let me be the first journalist, ever, to drive the electric version of the Mercedes A-Class.

Let me say up front, I was totally captivated by this car, a product of the growing collaboration between Tesla and Daimler. Some 500 will be built, likely for delivery to "hand raisers," probably mostly in Europe.

Automakers still making a date with the powerful V-8 engine

Just when its future looked to be in doubt, automakers are putting some new life in the old V-8.

Despite pressure from federal gas mileage rules ratcheting up, makers are selectively peppering their lineups with the iconic engine — known for smooth, high-torque power — that many thought was an endangered species. These days, however, it likely is reserved for luxury or performance models.

Vestas Wind Tumbles After Reporting That Blade Broke on Turbine Prototype

Vestas Wind Systems A/S fell to its lowest in almost two years in Copenhagen trading after the world’s largest wind turbine maker said a blade snapped on a prototype and Danske Bank A/S downgraded the stock.

Alex Salmond unveils plan to turn Scotland into 'world's first hydro-economy'

Proposed legislation would allow state-owned Scottish Water to use vast landbank and pipe network for renewable energy projects.

To Go Where Compact Fluorescents Cannot

Mention “new lighting technology” and what leaps to mind is probably a compact fluorescent curlicue. Shaped like a soft ice cream cone, it is viewed as a replacement for the ubiquitous 60-watt incandescent light bulb, which looks almost like it did 90 years ago.

But a profusion of light-emitting-diode lamps is about to hit the market, many of them in applications that are awkward or impossible for compact fluorescents.

Federal Agency Sues LED Bulb Maker

Even as lighting companies report advances in LED technology, consumers are being warned that some LED lighting products do not live up to the hype.

The Federal Trade Commission announced on Wednesday that it had sued Lights of America, a light bulb manufacturer based in California, for misrepresenting the light output and life expectancy of its LED bulbs. It is the first F.T.C. case challenging LED marketing claims.

China may relax its one-child rule

"In the past, we only focused on slowing population growth," says Peng Xizhe, a professor at Shanghai's Fudan University. "It's much more complicated than we earlier thought."

The National Population and Family Planning Commission, which enforces the "one-child policy," refused interview requests. The policy has prevented 400 million births in China, which has a population of 1.3 billion, according to the family planning agency. But a dramatic decline in birth rates and improved longevity over the past two decades have caused China's population to age at one of the fastest rates ever recorded, says the Population Reference Bureau, a demographic firm.

Also, a traditional preference for boys has led to the abortion of many girls. In 2009, the ratio of newborn boys to newborn girls was 119 to 100, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics.

U.S. names Asian carp czar

The White House has tapped a former leader of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Wildlife Federation as the Asian carp czar to oversee the federal response to keeping the invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

This summer really was hotter than others

The intense heat this summer wasn't a mirage for the tens of millions of people in the eastern and southern USA. Every state east of the Mississippi River recorded one of its 10 warmest summers since records began, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Obama's Climate Image Blurs as He Nears Last Half of Presidential Term

Barack Obama was considered a climate change savior 20 months ago, rushing into the White House with promises to price carbon, accelerate renewable energy technology and participate in a worldwide effort against global warming.

He was a champion to environmentalists and sometimes described the atmospheric impacts of unregulated emissions as a threat to his own family. Global warming, he said in 2007, is not "a someday problem; it is now."

But the legislative remedy would have to wait. Now, nearly two years into Obama's term, the president's climate image has changed. He is no longer a champion to some, and others are astonished at his administration's unenthusiastic support of a climate bill in the Senate this year. It failed without a vote.

Climate Forecasters Should Share Studies More to Help, Science Body Says

Climate researchers need to do a better job of sharing their studies to raise the effectiveness of their findings for insurance companies and farmers, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences said.

The research community should increase collaboration with the public by holding workshops and through researcher exchanges with weather centers, The National Academy of Science said in a report on its website. Establishing public archives of forecasts would improve transparency, it said.

Study: Irrigation affecting global warming

NEW YORK (UPI) -- Expanding irrigation is helping feed the world's billions of people and may even mask global warming, but the future could bring problems, scientists say.

Columbia University researchers say some major groundwater aquifers, a source of irrigation water, will dry up in the future hitting people with the double blow of food shortages and higher temperatures, an article in the journal Geophysical Research says.

"Irrigation can have a significant cooling effect on regional temperatures, where people live," Michael Puma, a university hydrologist, says. "An important question for the future is what happens to the climate if the water goes dry and the cooling disappears? How much warming is being hidden by irrigation?"

From the China Skirts Rules story above:

Evergreen Solar, the Massachusetts company, struggled for three years to raise money in the States, but had no trouble doing so in China. Chinese state banks were happy to lend most of the money for the factory on very attractive terms, like a five-year loan with no payments of interest or principal until the end of the loan, said Michael El-Hillow, the company’s chief financial officer.
“You can’t get a penny in the United States, it doesn’t matter who you call — banks, government. It’s awful,” he said. “Therein lies the hidden advantage of being in China.”

So how does one get the hundreds of billions of dollars on corporate balance sheets in the US moving into the economy of the future?

While some folks around here imagine money disappearing into a void of debt, the reality is different. Debt in this corner, means savings/investment in that corner. National finances are not like household finances.

So, who has the money? http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/business/economy/09rates.html?hp

Some savers have begun to pour more of their cash into the corporate bond market, where big companies sell bonds to raise money, usually at a slightly higher return in exchange for modestly higher risk.

As demand for such bonds has soared, it has prompted corporations like PepsiCo and Wal-Mart to issue more bonds at bargain-basement rates of interest. Such companies sold $563.4 billion to United States investors last year, a record, and have sold $238.8 billion more so far in 2010, according to Dealogic, a financial data provider. Yet, economists complain that apart from a few notable corporate acquisitions that were financed largely with pent-up cash, many businesses are sitting on their money rather than spending it. For now, that would seem to undermine the purpose of low interest rates, which is to get companies and consumers spending again.

Nonfinancial corporations were holding about $1.8 trillion in liquid assets in the first quarter of this year, according to the Federal Reserve, a level that has been steadily rising and compares with $1.5 trillion at the start of 2009.

Hmmm. It would be nice if people like Kunstler would start dealing with the real issue, which is not disappearing credit/money, but insufficient investment.

A carbon tax, as Bill Gates wisely argues, is one way to spur investment.

Truly seems like a conundrum, doesn't it. The corporations have plenty of money yet won't invest because (maybe) there is not sufficient demand to make their investments worthwhile. But this failure to invest, expand, and employ, is a major part of the reason why there is not sufficient demand.

On the other hand, the right wing, which includes prominently the pundits on CNBC, think that the market and the economy will be saved when the Republicans take over next year. This will supposedly unleash the animal spirits of the private sector and all will be well, again, just like during the Bush years (sarc).

But the government, so it goes, can't create jobs, can it? Tell that to all the people who have or had jobs because of the stimulus. The fact is that government can employ people or cause people to be employed. The D.C. area is the wealthiest area of the country. Guess where the government is located?

The bottom line is that the private sector can't or refuses to create jobs despite all the money they are sitting on. Even if they start spending some of that money, expect it to go overseas to outsource even more jobs or invest in overseas enterprises.

Our private sector is broken and they blame the government. At what point will they wake up or start telling the truth? They talk about all the "uncertainty" out there. And they imply that the "uncertainty" will go away when the Republicans take power.

We shall see. We will have certainty, finally. The certainty will be that there will no longer be a scapegoat for all that uninvested cash.

If one thinks in terms of conspiracies, it might seem reasonable that the Repugs, as a business oriented party, would actually want to keep the recession going, which could allow them to regain control of the US Congress. That banks aren't lending and businesses aren't investing might just be part of The Plan...

E. Swanson

I think it's pretty obvious that the Repugs are the 'party of no' for the purposes of electoral gain. The people who claim to be for small government just can't stand not being in government, where they can reward friends, play at statecraft (launch wars, support terrorism against 'leftist' governments around the world), impose behavioural codes, and interfere in the economy for the benefit of the already rich.

But there are real push and pull factors which have nothing to do with electoral choices which explain the idleness of capital.

If you guys are really eager to foster a Middle-school conversation here, keep saying 'Repugs'.. but remember that you're painting all of the dialog into a very small and unproductive corner.

Raise the bar. Please.

Yes, please. Let's keep the age of the conversation at the adult level.

Yes but please consider that some of us are our second childhood. "Repugs", I just love the term. ;-)

Ron P.

"Repugs", maybe not such a bad term for people who behave in childlike, egocentric, ways.

Thank you Johkul.

I would suggest that the element so certain-apparently with the certainty of liberal holy writ- that govt is the answer read the parts of Tainter's "the Collapse of complex Civiliizations " -very carefully-relating to the fall of the Roman empire.

It takes two to make a baby, unless it's rape.

The "best paid" people around DC do some useful work, it is true;but the next time a different argument is needed by a mudslinging liberal, they will remember that that is where the Pentagon is-hq of thier worst enemy, the mic.Home of the lobbyist army.

A very large part of the problems we haver in this country are quite easily traceable to the excesses of govt, working either alone, or in an incestous relationship with big bisiness, big labor, big education, big health, big welfare, big law,...I could go on all day.

The difference between a person who thinks and a sterotypical demorat of repuglithan is that the one who thinks understands thast there is a great deal of truth -and misrepresentation-in the positions and policies of both wings of American politics.

Simple minds are the norm , unfortunately.

Perhaps the typical liberal needs to be reminded that the typical federal or state employee is far far better paid, insured, and pensioned than his business counterpart, except perhaps at at the highest level.

I would like to hear a coherent explaination opf the phrase "going postal " from any liberal that is better than this one;postal employees are so over paid in relation to the actual skill, knowledge, and responsibility levels involved in thier jobs that they stick no matter what, until they "go postal".

The dream of every truck driver I ever knew in the construction business was to get on with VDOT.We have virtually zero turnover except for retirements in lots of govt offices, once employees are settled in;I once worked for govt , and still know many people who do.

WE HAVE THE MOST MISERABLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS OF ALMOST any advanced country for lots of reasons-we could cure that problem quickly with a little (partially)free enterprise education-just by letting the parents have some choice in the matter. Most community activists in poor black nieghborhoods agree , by the way.

I could go on, but argueing with an intellectually blind person, liberal, conservative, religious, or otherwise, is a complete waste of time, as experience has proven over and over;and furthermore , anybody-meaning any run of the mill passerby- listening to the public dispute is apt to find it very difficult or impossible to distinguish between the fool and his opponent-even if the opponent were to be a Socrates or an Einstien.

Dang! Good rant, Mac! To which I'd say let's remember it goes both ways..

I'm trying desperately to keep good communications going with my Brother and Sister, a year after our mom's death, and I'm regularly reminded of how easy it is to destroy a conversation with accusations and insinuations, even very slight or 'justified' ones.

I do have to accede that there are some fine Conservative folk on this site that do a great job of restraining themselves when my Liberal-leaning brothers get carried away with the less-productive rants.. but it's easy for any of us to get blinded into the same old tussles, as you said.

There is middle-ground, and as far as I can see, there's probably a lot of room for us to fit in there, as well.

Personally, both 'Wings' of this bird seem to be fouled with crude and related byproducts at this point, so I'm trying to find a cleaner spot to sit.

Bob Fiske

I do have to accede that there are some fine Conservative folk on this site that do a great job of restraining themselves when my Liberal-leaning brothers get carried away with the less-productive rants.

And vice-versa.

It's all relative.

I know that in your part of the country private enterprise wages are generally worse than federal pay. Up here they are usually better.

Our public schools up here are also quite good.

It is important to remember that the USA is not a monolith, and that the differences are quite surprising.

(My inner 2 year old looks at the ratio of Federal Tax Dollars spent vs received and says "sure, if those red states want to stop taking our money I'm all for it!")

Here's a nice collection of info-graphics illustrating how dramatic the differences are.

Is there a map of tax dollar spending that differentiates between spending on public servants, military, roads, and welfare?

Not that I've found.

However, just knowing that the GSA scale is constant nationwide and looking at the average household income chart by state does put a lot of the varied opinions on whether federal employees make too much into perspective.

If everyone you know is making $20K a year, a $40K/yr government job looks extravagant. If most of the folks around you are making $50K it doesn't look so hot.

Who in the gov't makes $40K? I hear a lot more about $100K+.

"Government workers are now compensated an average of more than $120,000, or about twice as much as the average private sector worker, who receives about $60,000".


This includes benefits, and only gov't employees enjoy early retirement and hefty benefit growth anymore.

Live is good making 2x the norm wherever you live. I can't figure out why so few choose to live in the cheap states, and work remotely, when so many can do so these days.

Suppose you are an owner of an appliance store. Would you rather have that store in an area with a high poverty level or an area where there are a large number of well paid people with secure jobs? There is always talk that investment creates jobs while I contend that it is customer demand which creates jobs. Why would anyone invest in a business without customer demand? So many corporations are sitting on their cash because they don't believe there will be an increase in customer demand anytime soon.

There is always talk that investment creates jobs while I contend that it is customer demand which creates jobs.

Clearly you need both. Investment by itself creates jobs building whatever system is being invested in. But, longterm jobs require demand as well. And businesses will be reluctant to invest in capacity if they don't think demand will be there.

You know, there aren't a lot of burger flipping and ditch-digging jobs in the Federal government.

Most of the low-level jobs have been outsourced to private companies in the name of "efficiency", and the Federal government has *no* part-time positions that I am aware of.

So now people are complaining that the white-collar jobs that are left pay better on average?

Cheap tricks.

I notice that they didn't even link to a particular report from BEA, so unless one is willing to do quite a bit of legwork you have to take their word that the numbers are accurate and compare similar things.

I call shenanigans.

You know, there aren't a lot of burger flipping and ditch-digging jobs in the Federal government.

I saw a graph a while back about the education levels in government work versus the private economy as a whole. Proportionately the government employs more PhD's and college degrees. So an apples to oranges comparison will show they are paid highly. I had gone to grad school in seismology, and I can tell you the only jobs for (earthquake) seismology are government. Private industry does not pay to have seismic hazards studied. The same thing applies to most environmental hazards, they are collective risks which require governmnet programs, otherwise they wouldn't be done, and we would suffer the consequences of ignorance.

enemy of state -

I know this is a day after this particular edition of Drumbeat but I think yours is a great post with a point that is very often lost on the anti-government crowd.

The fact is there is very little private enterprise dedicated to science unless it can be turned into the latest gee whiz tech gadgets (or maybe somehow yet again boosting horsepower in already overpowered cars).

As you say private industry almost never pays for geologic hazard assessment (or weather or any other science information) unless held hostage by government permit requirements (be they local or federal requirements). Of course then you get the general public who, like in the case of the recent floods in TX from tropical system Hermine, act completely bewildered by weather events etc. ("it just came up so quick - there was just no warning" etc etc. except for the warnings by National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service, NOAA, USGS etc. but the public just doesn't pay attention b/c it doesn't have anything to do with their Iphone). See, they want the warning, private industry could care less, the gov't gives them the warnings, but Glenn Beck tells them the gov't is useless and should be de-funded, de-funded FEMA can't help, citizens complain, private industry steps in to pick up the slack, right ? - yeah didn't think so...

As an example check out the huge number of USGS stream gauging stations slated for elimination - many of which are in areas hardest hit by floods in the southeast over the past year. "We don't need none of that commie gov't science - let us drown in peace without gov't stepping on our toes..."

Anyways - thanks for pointing this out about environmental risk monitoring.

Whether or not government is the answer depends on the question. To say that government could have a positive role in providing useful employment is not the same thing as saying that the government should run the economy or that we should do away with the private sector. I am just saying that there is a defect in our current economic system if one of the critical goals is to provide employment at a living wage. One side says we simply need to lower taxes or not raise them. I am arguing that this is not sufficient and that even if we could get historical growth it would not result in significantly increased employment. Some argue, certainly that some or most government folks are overpaid. But then, are people literally making tens of millions of dollars to trade in things like credit default swaps not overpaid. Or all those CEOs who have run their company into the ground?

My experience is that some government employees are not worth their income; others provide services far and away higher than their income. But I am not having that debate. I am more concerned with the fact tht the private sector is not getting it done.

coherent explanations of the phrase "going postal " from any liberal

A breakdown of cognitive stability resulting in rash, irrational and violent behavior. Believed to be caused by hyper-authoritarian rigid workplace rules that are maddeningly insensitive/disrespectful to the front line employees. Associated with the employment being difficult to leave because of lack of better options and loss of valuable time accrued employment benefits.

In other words they are overpaid, over insured ,and over pensioned, with too many paud days off in relation to thier responsibilities-Just as I said.

I have walked off from jobs when they irritated me- but I wouldn't have walked nearly as fast from a federal job.

Ok, let's say there is a privately owned company (UPS) that compensates it's employees as well as the post office for more or less the same level of work. Would you have a similar issue with that?

Many people seem to be resentful toward highly paid blue-collar jobs. It's ok for someone in a nice suit to make big bucks but not someone wearing a plaid shirt. Why?

Is it the attitude that we deserve a kings ransom for our effort while everyone else should work for a pittance. And surely that guy in a greasy t-shirt better be making less than me...

I guess when I think of people being overpaid I think of Goldman Sachs not the post office.

sorry, gotta call you on that one. UPS drivers work factors of 10 harder than postal drivers. I'm not one, but I have previously worked in receiving and know others that do. I also am friends with postal drivers. Its really not even close.

Ok, maybe UPS is not the best example as far as work output goes. As far as work place mental/emotional stress however I would think the post office is the more difficult job.

There are, make that were, many private jobs that paid good for blue collar work. The government and utility jobs are some of the last left. There are still some paper mill jobs in my area but those are in danger.

Also, there seems to be a attitude difference between age groups. People entering the work force right after WW2 seem to have a much different mindset about this compared to those of us that entered the work force after 1980.

I can understand people with a farming background having a bitter attitude toward good paid blue collar workers. The average person's my "right" to cheap food mindset is horrendous.

I can't remember hearing about any UPS guys going postal, but they are indeed paid Very well in relation to the work they do;otoh, they actually work really hard and earn it.My cousin the mail carrier barely "strikes a tap at a snake" in relation to his pay and benefits.

Yes, I'm from a farm background, and retired back to the farm;but I have a degree[from a school with a top ten football team, no less!!! so there ;)] and have held professional jobs, as well as trades jobs, and I have earned as much as HUNDRED T THOUSAND on an ANNUAL BASIS AS FAR BACK AS THE EIGHTIES as a UNION MEMBER WORKING LONG HOURS AT A NUCLEAR PLANT.My dear old Daddy was on HIS plant negotiating committee for twenty years plus and Teamster for fifty years-that was his part time job in town , you see.

Pardon me folks , but the ones of you who worship in the Church of Daddy Govt And Momma Welfare State are as blind to some obvious truths as any backwoods Baptist.

I am intellectually honest.I try to be anyway;we all have blind spots we don't know exist.

(For instance I have pointed out here on other days that I have personally benefitted from many liberal policies, and that my Mom consumed an ungodly sum in health care expenses paid mostly by the good people of this country thru thier taxes before she died.)

Any body who cares to read my extensive and varied commentary here over the last year will quickly see that I understand THE NEED FOR and support many , many govt programs aS UTTER AND ABSOLUTE NECESSITIES.

But I don't get freaking religious about the failings of the left, which are many and well documented;but there is no point wasting my time, or TOD server capacity, listing examples, because somebody who doesn'think will deal with the examples the way a fundamentalist deals with evolution-by shutting his mind to the evidence.

I simply point out that there is a point when the marginal gains to society from more and more govt are eclipsed by the increased costs of said expanded govt.In my estimation we have passed that point as our govt is currently organized and administered.

Right now for instance it looks as if we are going to get saddled with some sort of cap and trade emissions bill before too much longer, even if the right wing wins the election , as I expect.Remember the drug benefit recently passed?That was the result of a political compromise you say never happens.

It is perhaps better than nothing, but a simple overhaul of the laws governing the sale and patenting of drugs would have been far better-as in forcing the drug companies to sell to all comers at the same negotiated price, including medicare;instead we got another new buercracy and a few thousand more useless clerks and well paid supervisors shuffling paper in govt offices, and tens of thousands more insurance and medical clerks and sales people doing essentially useless make work , thereby driving overall medical costs even higher;at least under the old system, the high prices represented a profit to the druggist and the manufacturer, which could be spent usefully on other goods and services.

The work of all the people and the energy they consume taking care of the compliance necessary is essentially wasted.

But perhaps such an example is over the head of a Govt fundamentalist.

I am niether a demorat nor a repuglithan, but a person who seeks the truth wherever I find it.

Our REAL PROBLEM IS ignorance-scientific, economic, and political, in sociological terms.

Unfortunately sociology is a young science that has not yet matured sufficiently to bring it into good mesh with the larger science of biology-which teaches us that we are going to divide ourselves into us and them camps as surely as we screw, make babies, get old, and die.

The people who provide the real goods and services we must have become fewer each passing year in relation to the number who produce little or nothing of real value.

Read Tainter.He ain't no doofus follower of Limbaugh or Beck by any means.

He gets it.I'm rereading him this week.

Incidentally I do have the answer to our problems, but nobody wants to hear it; it's called collapse.Maybe we will get lucky and it will only be a partial collapse.

I hope so.

Tainter also points out that war is to be expected as a likely stage of collapse.

Of course government isn't the answer, but is an answer to some problems or we wouldn't have one.

There are lots of things that need to be done that won't be done by anyone who has to be responsible for providing profits to shareholders. There are only two solutions that have been raised over time for ensuring that those things get done, and those are religion and government.

Since religions spend more time squabbling and fighting over who is right than doing right, I prefer that a secular government handle those things.

While reasonable people can disagree as to exactly what those things are, I have run into very few who think that we can have a working society and business-friendly environment without a meddling, carpet-bagging government interfering with the affairs of private individuals and businessmen.

As for the few who seem to believe that businesses will be well-behaved without a meddling government: I note that drug cartels are private business operations.


You sir are a gentleman and a scholar without a doubt.I agree entirely;I am not opposed to govt;I am opposed to never ending expansion of govt, which cannot end well for anybody in the end, any more than unregulated free markets or capitalism can end well.

I recognize that certain particular problems and certain classes of problems are best managed by govt and have never claimed or implied otherwise.

I just get really tired of partisan comments that place the blame for everything wrong on the right wing;I can't remember any major piece of legislation ever being passed without a considerable amount of compromise and crossing of party lines somewhere along the way.

As I see it, the primary source of problems is the body of solutions to past problems;and I could just as easily and just as justiafiably complain that the right has compromised and caved on all the socially oriented legislation passed in my life time-except I an honest enough to admit that first, some repugs were honestly swayed to vote for the legislation out of principle or the interest of thier constituents;and that the legislation has accomplished some good.

The people who pxxx me off are the ones who simply refuse to recognize reality and carry on like little kids having a temper tantrum, repeating the talking points of thier party campaign strategists like Jesus freaks thumping thier bibles.

Of course there are plenty of this sort preaching for both sides, but the distribution seems to be pretty far skewed to the left in this forum.

This is no suprise , as the left is in the lead in respect to environmental matters by a substantial margin, and since this forum touches directly or indirectly on the environment every single day, well....

Raving about the "party of no" will not win any converts among people who are reading TOD and who are still in the process of defining thier political identity;the right wing has a lot to offer to idealistic people young or old, and if they are leaning right, "party of no" is just the sort of language to help them make up thier mind to vote republican in a few weeks.

I haven't seen much principled legislation come from the Republicans since I could vote.

I have seen both parties race to see who could get us to a police state faster, however. From my corner of the world it looks like the Republicans are winning that race currently, so I oppose them more than I oppose the Democrats.

This could, of course, change at any time if either party chooses to roll back police state powers.

My children will be better served by freedom than a state-imposed illusion of safety.

Ya got my vote Ryeguy! How about a bonus for every callous and back ache you get from working? I think that would be a great way of determining who is really keeping this nation going.

P.S. I ready your last comment in a different thread on population well after it was closed. Thank you for your kind words.

The "best paid" people around DC do some useful work

So, the lobbyists?

WE HAVE THE MOST MISERABLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS OF ALMOST any advanced country for lots of reasons-we could cure that problem quickly with a little (partially)free enterprise education...

I'm far from an expert, but... how many of those other advanced countries have let free enterprise into their education systems? Additionally, one might ask how many of them allow local or state school boards to dictate to the science teachers just "what" is known about biology. I suspect that many of them have a far greater degree of centralized control than the US does.

how many of those other advanced countries have let free enterprise into their education systems?

The top public school systems in the world according to the Program for International Student Assessment are Finland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and Japan. Finland is tops in all categories, but the other countries vary in position for different subjects.

It is noteworthy that all of the top countries spend less on grade school education than the US, but the United States ranks 15th in reading, 24th in mathematics, and 21st in science. None of them has a particularly high level of private schools. I think the key issue is that, if you have a first-class public school system, there's no incentive to send your kids to a private school.

I suspect that many of them have a far greater degree of centralized control than the US does.

Not really. If you consider Canada, which is where I went to school and which ranks 2nd in reading, 2nd in science, and 5th in mathematics, public schools are the exclusive jurisdiction of provincial and local governments - The federal government has no control over schools and the provincial governments make a point of keeping the feds out.

I think the key factor is that the governments with the top school systems set very, very high standards, and insist the students meet them. The students, by and large, perform to expectations, but they don't have much time for football and cheerleading.

If you guys are really eager to foster a Middle-school conversation here, keep saying 'Repugs'.. but remember that you're painting all of the dialog into a very small and unproductive corner.

Personally, I prefer "Rethugs" myself. OT: you can criticize taunts like that for being juvenile, but not for being inaccurate.

You can show 'justification' for any manner of abuses. This government is still obfuscating over torture.

You get to choose the bathwater you're going to be sitting in.

jokuhl (et al.)

Since we have one political party which refuses to participate in the usual compromise process of the US government, I think it's very adult to point out their anti-democratic stance. Worse, the Tea Party "movement" has repeatedly refused to accept any sort of intrusion by government which are intended to face problems, such as Global Warming. Climate Change denial explicitly was written into the Maine GOP platform after the Tea Party took over. I have to think that the people who voted for this platform are either completely ignorant or delusional. What label should I apply to their vision of the future, since we are in the midst of a campaign (read: war) for the future of the US as a nation?

E. Swanson

I have no problem calling out the actions of the Parties or Individuals.. but you do really get what you pay for when you do it with that language. If it starts getting into impish name-calling, I'm sorry to say it, but it's JUST LIKE Koran Burning, in the sense that you actually lose 'points' in the merit of your argument, and give the worst of those you're criticizing excellent Footholds to come back at you with. They get to point at such childishness, and completely bypass the actual criticisms.

Pick those labels carefully.

We all use language for communication. Words are picked because of their impact, both on the intellect and on the emotions. That one party has repeatedly refused to participate in the business of governance for which they were elected, thus refusing to admit that they lost the last election is a big problem. That some loud mouthed "entertainers", such as Limbaugh and Beck choose to use inflammatory language to spread disinformation and outright lies makes it nearly impossible to conduct a rational debate. When this nation began, the only media was print and the politicians actually had to stand up and debate each other face-to-face. The literate public regularly communicated in writing, which required some thought and effort.

Now, most people get their news from TV and radio while the print media are shrinking. Anybody with a computer can write a book and many do, with books and magazines pumped out by the ton, seldom read and soon forgotten. We on TOD are just a few of the many posters on numerous blogs and websites, with the intellectual content in all communications declining into the dirt. Just today, here's is a WaPo story and commentary regarding the pastor in Florida and his "inflammatory" plans. He is a leader of a congregation of only 50 people, yet, he could start a religious war. The Tea Party folks want the US to revert to some mythical vision of government in 1800, ignoring all which has transpired since and also ignoring the fact that their philosophy is partly the cause of our present economic mess. Is this getting rather insane, or what? Maybe the story of the Tower of Babel from the Bible is to be our future, as in, Tainter's "Collapse"...

E. Swanson

I think we have a choice. 'Timshel' ..

Your post right there is excellent. The one above, where you used "Repugs" sadly put you on the same level as Limbaugh, as much as I might agree with the particular policies or some idiocy that you were protesting about. I feel it's just as self-defeating when Thom Hartmann does it, or when Air America did it, or Rachel Maddow.. it's lame, and it accomplishes NOTHING except perpetuating flame-wars.

Schoolyard putdowns bring this list down to the same shouting matches that ARE all over the web. The only thing that will keep us here even partly out of the mud is our own ability to just sling the arguments, and not the flatulence.


Adam said, “Do you believe that, Lee?”

“Yes, I do. Yes, I do. It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There’s no godliness there. And do you know, those old gentlemen who were sliding gently down to death are too interested to die now?”

Adam said, “Do you mean these Chinese men believe the Old Testament?”

Lee said, “These old men believe a true story, and they know a true story when they hear it. They are critics of truth. They know that these sixteen verses are a history of humankind in any age or culture or race. They do not believe a man writes fifteen and three-quarter verses of truth and tells a lie with one verb. Confucius tells men how they should live to have good and successful lives. But this—this is a ladder to climb to the stars.” Lee’s eyes shone. “You can never lose that. It cuts the feet from under weakness and cowardliness and laziness.”

Jokuhl, don't you think you are getting just a wee bit overly dramatic here?

Ron P.

Eye of the beholder, Ron.

I'm well aware that such a nitpick in all the brutal noise around us today might come across as Tilting at Windmills.. but I'm happy to say that this is something I'm quite passionate about. I do enjoy the range of voices at this site, and our most intense debates about various issues.. but when they turn childish and churlish, the potential of this conversation diminishes, the weight that this collection of people can muster becomes dreck.

Civilization is how people treat each other. How they coordinate their efforts. Honest and even hot argument is entirely valuable, impetuous ranting and tossing out epithets and poorly thought-out slurs is deadweight. It's gratuitous friction. It's an efficiency loss. and I hate that, and will object when I can.

(That was Steinbeck.. of course it's dramatic. I don't think 'overly' so.. transcendent would be the word I'd use.)


The problem is that while we who post on TOD can choose to be civil and reasoned, the rest of the media, such as Faux News, Limbaugh and Beck, don't care. These only want to spread their message, which is usually disinformation and lies. We talk about Peak Oil, Climate Change and other long term problems, but we don't get a forum at the national level. We are basically talking to ourselves, which, of course, is pointless without some way to bring these issued before the general public.

That's been the situation for more than 35 years that I'm aware of. Ever read the TRANSITION report from the Oregon Govenor 's office? Jimmy Carter got nowhere with his appeal for conservation. Even Richard Nixon preached the Project Independence scheme. The few political campaigns I worked on involved outsiders who ran against Washington. That was true for Reagan and Obama as well, both of whom claimed to have plans to change the situation. But, we still can find no real discussion about our energy situation and a general sense that environmental regulations are intrusions into the presumed "Liberty" as described by our original Constitution.

"Liberty" was a serious issue when the government was run by a monarchy, but things in the US are so different now that we as individuals can not act with complete freedom. That's where the Rule of Law should come in, but even that seems to have fallen by the wayside as our police and courts arrest people and try cases with plea bargains instead of actual trials. Juries are chosen based on psychological profiles with the idea of winning a case, not achieving justice. A small time thief goes to jail and a big time white collar thief working on Wall Street retires with a Golden Parachute. Propagandists and lobbyist are paid to influence the public and Congress in ways which were never available 200 years ago. The list is long and it includes some of the ideas of the Tea Party folks, but that does not mean that they have the best solutions. But, there's no real debate on a national level, since the media is bought and paid for by the richest fraction of the population.

I had hoped that we would see a serious debate about Climate Change and Peak Oil in the 2008 election cycle. Didn't happen. Tell us, just how would you go about bringing the Transition to the national level, so that the problems might actually be discussed? I submit that to accomplish that goal, there must be some sort of event which makes people much more aware of our situation than has occurred so far. A couple of wars in Iraq, so what, we'll pay for them with their oil. Oil prices spike near $150 a barrel hardly produced a hiccup. A few weather extremes here and there, floods in Pakistan and a big drop in Russian wheat crop? Not a problem, we're all (going to be) rich as soon as the economy recovers, right?...

E. Swanson

Those are great questions. I am fully aware of the crassness and the apathy in the greater discussion out there.. which is why I'm in here. THIS is a really valuable conversation.. at least to you, me, and a large number of Lurkers. I don't really buy into the thought that we have to be 'just as crude' to get the world's attention, though. If you want to get someone's attention, whisper. (or get a reputation for saying things that are worth listening to.)

"Always tell the truth. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." - Twain

Did Jimmy Carter make it all better? No.

Has he made a difference in how people view statesmanship, and the potential of certain, very special individuals in America? Personally, I think so.

He took some early swings at that wall.. a few chips flew out, and the echo is still audible. But it's a big wall. He didn't fail.. it's just a big wall with a LOT of defenders.


How would I try to instigate a transition? Well for one, I wouldn't expect to get very far with namecalling. What we do here is lit up on numerous screens on every continent in the planet, in real time. I have to think Gutenberg might be smiling about that.. and I think that even if it's "Just Talk", that it actually matters, and it matters how we carry on in this discussion. Is it going to be 'more of the same internet blather..' or can we choose to make this one stand out? It would be like magic to the world. Imagine, they act like adults there, I didn't think such things were possible!

I'm not talking about 'changing human nature'.. I'm talking about selecting the parts of human nature that we want to champion. We see people who are out there doing it.. we know it's possible. (Carter..) So can we.

I'm not talking about 'changing human nature'.

This is where we hard science geeks fall flat on our supposedly clever craniums.
As we approach the Wizard of Oz curtain labeled, "Human Nature",
we suddenly get strangely uncurious.

What's behind the curtain?

We dare not look.
Only the great and wise Oz is permitted to look behind that particular curtain.

The curtain will always stand there, blocking us off from ever venturing down the hallway of greater enlightenment. If the good Lord had meant for us to see what is behind curtain #1, he would have made it transparent.

I believe that is why we have art and mythology. The 'Woolly' sciences..

It is our way of at least partially rationalizing and working within the unknown.. and while Science has made a great many things known to us now, there is still (as you put it very well) a great curtain that masks so many mysteries, and some of them, like the makeup of the 'Human Heart' (Not the 4-chambered muscle.. the other one) we do have to try to understand in some form or other.

there is still a great curtain that masks so many mysteries, and some of them, like the makeup of the 'Human Heart' we do have to try to understand

The "curtain" is not real.

Many of the "mysteries" are not mysteries at all.

The failings and faults are not in our stars or in the lack of available scientific literature,
but rather in the rigid world models that we engineering/physics geeks impose on ourselves

The curtain isn't real?
Are you accusing your own metaphor of being an illusion?

No. My metaphors accuse me of being an illusion.

One more image.
I can't resist:

(Apologies to Leanan for its size --but I think it is a picture worth far more than its byte)

This is a fair picture of us geeks when it comes to refusing to understand the other side
(the heart part of hearts and minds).

(Yes, it is also a fair picture of the non-science types who believe the geeks and technology will save the world)

((In other words it is a fair picture of what all human beings are like --always operating with blinders on, always seeking to be part of their herd, never seeing the other side.))

Oughta know what the WASL on the helmets stands for, but I can't remember.

Please????? Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL)

(confession: I had to look it up)

Good rant Swanson, and I agree.

Let's get the terms right.
Rethuglicans as in thugs
and Demonrats.

US 'Conservatives'/American Taliban are so sensitive when it comes to their 'sacred values' and respect for their 'faith' which cannot be questioned but when they cheerlead one another they're making up phoney factoids/baloney faster than Oscar Meyer.

For example Sarah Palin says that burning a Quran is no worse than putting up a mosque for people to pray in.

How come they get away with their level of dumb?

Because they are the MASTERS of lowered expectations.

You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is 'never try'. --Homer Simpson

EXACTLY Black_Dog !

And that one party has at every single turn going back as far as I can remember absolutely refused to engage in any constructive debate or propose viable solutions that don’t completely screw over large portions of the population – and then have the guts to turn on the democratic party as being “obstructionists” when they request debate on an issue that the republicans are pushing.

The democratic party has continually caved and compromised with the republicans on matters of war, the economy, taxes, globalization, free trade etc. – the list is a mile long. They see the world in some shades of gray at least – maybe we did need some kind of military action after 9/11 – maybe there were some viable reasons to go to Iraq (I don’t personally believe that to be the case, but maybe there were some arguments for it). At least the democratic party considered it and ultimately many (most) supported it. The same can not in any way be said for the republicans – particularly the past few manifestations of them – you would think that there has not been one good idea presented by a liberal or democratic party member in the history of the country based on their complete lack of compromise and their party line votes at every turn.

The republicans are a failed party and they will fail miserably in this next round – by winning – and hopefully winning big – they will no longer be able to point the finger (politically) at the democratic party as this empire disintegrates at an ever increasing rate. They probably won’t need to though – we’ve got bigger scapegoats to go after as we travel down the path toward WWIII.

Funny – I’ve never once heard republicans describe an idea as to how government could be made better – somehow they wrap themselves in the constitution constantly yet fail to acknowledge the necessity of the government that very document defines. Nobody in their right mind would argue that gov’t is efficient enough but after this election cycle you will see the republicans go after the nuclear option – they don’t want effective or efficient governance – they don’t want to “cut costs” – they want ELIMINATION of government and their platform is morphing into just that kind of rhetoric. They want to de-fund Obamacare but why stop there – they are already rattling the sabres about every other “entitlement” (except of course why don’t we maybe double our budget for wars and destruction) and threatening to shut down the gov’t again a la Newt back in the ‘90s. This will be a bloodbath for a country now rapidly aging and more and more dependent on those entitlements (which, oh by the way, they paid into for many years). But instead of trying to find a solution they will just go nuclear and pull the rug out from under millions of people. They are the true Doomers of this country because instead of advocating for a controlled power down they have worked hard to keep that motor screaming right along even as they launched us over the edge.

That’s no way to run a country or business or any other entity – it’s now a race to the bottom – will people wise up in time or will the republican party complete their mission of leading the blind over the cliff.

This only the 4th year of the last 30 with both democratic Congress and a democratic president. So which party is responsible for our current situation? Are you unable to afford a doctor or even the medicine he prescribed what is the response of the GOP? As Sara Palin put it the GOP is "not just the party of NO it is the party of Hell No!" Is that bridge you need to cross everyday in need of repair will the GOP help? Hell NO! The school your kid attends just had to lay off half its teachers and will the GOP help? Hell No! When it comes to correcting the insane and wasteful accounting practices of the Pentagon will the GOP do anything about it? Hell NO! What about the deceptive and often outright crimes of Wall St? Hell No! Enforce safety regulations at coal mines and offshore oil wells? Hell No!

Heard a comedian last night say, "Demos have no plan. Reps have a bad one."

When you guys speak of corps having money, it must be large, multi-national corps and global banks, which are choosing to invest in growth markets. Small companies have no spare money.

As for wealth in DC, when those who live off the public live better than those who are taxed, and the goal seems to be to expand the public sector, the system is obviously broken. You can create the "privileged few", but not the "privileged many".

Redistribution of wealth has some viable social benefits. Having it redistributed to those who regulate the rest of us is not an acceptable way to go about it. May the chains you desire lay lightly on your shoulders.

Maybe you should work to bring democracy to the US so that regulations are made and redistribution effected by persons accountable to you.

Small business does not have money in the bank, in general.

To get people to serve the public, what you appear to call 'living off the public', you have to provide incentives, such as a paycheque. The payroll in DC is for services rendered. I would drop most of the national security state/defence of the imperium services, and spend the money elsewhere, but that's just me. This whole private sector creates wealth which the public sector consumes line is just so much bullshat. The economy depends on an educated workforce. It depends on laws and regulations being enforced. It depends on public health and the garbage collection and defecation disposal that is a big part of this. It depends on a whole range of policies being properly construed, or as near to properly as one might reasonably expect, which requires an information evaluation process.

Wealth redistribution from the few to the many is a prerequisite for a healthy economy. Not just wealth is redistributed, but so is opportunity. Technological and organizational change is a constant. Expanding or declining physical resources alone ensure this. Do you really believe that corporate bureaucracies provide the means to undertake this change in the most efficient and effective way? Over the mid to long term? Without wealth redistribution from the few to the many, you will get individuals and corporations with the most to gain from maintaining the status quo, determining the rate and type of change. That's the current situation.

We are currently suffering the consequences of wealth redistribution from the many to the few, which is the main result of self-styled conservative economics from Reagan to the present (Mission Accomplished).

The economic stagnation settling on the US is the chain I would not want on my shoulders.

"Serve the public" is something that sounds good during election campaigns. Like Fed-speak, where they pretend to do the nations bidding only while on Capitol Hill.

Payroll in DC is for services rendered handling other people's money, and siphoning off as much as possible within the beltway. A smaller gov't would spend less, and leave more for everyone else. With requisitioned money from the many to the corp-welfare and bureaucratic few, and political influence from the moneyed corp few to the elected bureaucratic few, you've created the very inverse wealth distribution you decry.

Of course massive corporations do no better, and multi-nationals are worse still. I don't know where you get the notion that I would favor such. But trading one oligarchy for another is a poor solution.

Money is a service provided by government.

Concentration of wealth is an empirically observable tendency of capitalism. If you can come up with some other means than government to reverse this tendency, please let the world know, as it seems capitalism is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Lobbyists Rush to Hire G.O.P. Staff Ahead of Midterm Vote

Looks like being a professional Repugnant has its rewards. will the lobbying firms now layoff their stable of Dems, or hold on to them in anticipation of another reversal in public opinion.

In any case, how about putting some serious reforms on the table that would curtail the influence of corporate lobbyists and enhance the flow and analysis of information in the public policy process.

Note that for several years now your Dems have had all the power they needed to reverse the flow of lobbyist power and did nothing more than Repubs did a decade ago.

Decrease the power of gov't and you'll decrease the power of lobbyists. Decrease the gov't middleman in the flow of money and you'll decrease the power of lobbyists. Decrease the size of corporations and you'll decrease the power of lobbyists. The only thing missing is any desire on the part of those who pass laws and manage gov't largesse to decrease the power of lobbyists. Gotta admit -- we've got the best form of gov't money can buy.

Concentration of wealth is a natural tendency of humanity -- it's an emergent symptom of the interplay of humanity, as we've always had rich and poor. I think WHT had some math support for it being a natural outgrowth of entropic processes.

Taken to extremes, an unfettered economy and a command economy both have clear failings, yet only free enterprise works well on the small scale. Seems like the optimal role of gov't is to work hardest to squeeze down the largest and richest, and worry least about the smallest businesses and workers -- leaving them to innovate and find their way the best they can.

Capitalism is largely unfettered free enterprise ruled by capital; there are other forms of enterprise which are slightly less "free" but much more "collaborative", that work just fine. I have outline before my thoughts about home financing as an equity split between lender and borrower, which would not only have prevented the large growth in home values and hefty loans, but during the recent slide would have shared the loss according to the value risked. You get rules that favor banks when the banks pay those who make the rules.

My dems? I don't have a hound in the hunt. But with some exceptions, the dems are clearly less repugnant.

You can go on wishing all you want for a republic of small government and small business. I also like to avoid reality from time to time. The fact is that we have, almost everywhere, an economic system that concentrates wealth to the detriment of societal well-being, especially over the long term as it leads to stagnation.
There is no other mechanism than government to counter this tendency.

This by the way doesn't mean that government has to be overstaffed. It is evident that Repugnants do not cut the size of government, they cut or cripple programs that displease their gods. And build prisons.

Peak oil, peak this and that, climate change demand a societal response. I totally favour individual action, local voluntary group action and all things sweet and nice.

Unlike you, it seems, I also recognize the real world imposes a need for action at the level of government.

I'm not defending Repubs, nor Dems. I can hardly tell the difference most days.

Minimizing the delta between the highest 10% and the lowest 10% to a factor of 10 or less has a lot going for it in terms of social stability while maintaining some notion of opportunity and incentive.

It does not take a big gov't to do this, though. Having that top 10% contain many, if any, gov't employees, encourages centralization of power. You won't be able to prevent some of that anyway, which is a good reason to keep gov't small.

Keeping corporations small, and bounded by national constraints, makes sense too, else the wealth becomes centralized and internationally fluid. This benefits few but the wealthy.

It is obvious that NOBODY much cuts gov't, only arguments ensue about what to expand. I don't know why anybody would wish for a larger gov't, so the only rational response is to strive for it to be smaller.

I don't expect other people to do much that doesn't benefit them quite directly, unless they have spare time and money (a Maslow's Heirarchy thing). Sweet and nice rarely go far beyond home. For those who manage to do better, good on 'em.

Similarly, gov't works best close to home. Local, then state, then gov't, then international. Today, the Fed Gov't has unfettered power because it can run a deficit, while most localities and many states cannot (except for bond issuance, which generally requires voter approval).

Most of the actions of gov't will have unintended consequences which are worse than the problems they attempt to solve. The housing bubble for example -- a key tool to impoverish a generation or two.

This by the way doesn't mean that government has to be overstaffed.

According to this article's graphs, government employment (excluding institutional employment) has stayed between 5% and 6% of the population from 1980 to 2010.


With all the Right-wing adulation of 'Small Government', I don't see either party doing much that would really reduce the power of Lobbyists. I do think that should be the main target, Corporate money and Influence.. and Donkeys and Elephants are at that trough, too happy with the kibbles.

I would think left and right taxpayers could agree on many things such as that, but the party electorates cannot.

I'd be happy just starting at the notion of "How much deficit should we run"? Once that's decided, however it gets spent can be argued, and we cannot possibly do worse than we already do.

List all the programs, every year, and vote yea or nay for each. Tally them up, rank them in order, and fund from the top until you run out of money. Then stop.

That last step seems to be the hard part.

Worth chewing over, Paleo.

No doubt there's plenty of waste in the system. I blame oil
I do sincerely hope we here can at least keep talking about it together.


Tally them up, rank them in order, and fund from the top until you run out of money. Then stop.

The problem with that, or my variant, congress votes a budget, then the revenues are divied up proportionately. If the budget is twice the revenues, then all programs get 50% of the nominal amount. Well, people and institutions, and suppliers often need a longterm commitment, the project needs 100thousand tons of steel. If the budget is cut to 90%, we can't build the bridge lighter, it would fall down. Or for your method, we would have a lot of projects abandoned halfway through. Also people aren't going to make a commitment to a government job without a reasonable level of assurance it won't be canceled on short notice.

The rest of us work with little assurance it won't be canceled on short notice. Projects could be fully funded in one year. Or, politicians could just show a little realism and plan ahead -- only those "on the bubble" would much at risk, year to year.

Companies have to cut back, do things halfway, and halt work all the time when markets shift. Sometimes my kids get upset if we down-size a vacation because the AC went out unexpectedly, too. You could add a ramp-up or ramp-down filter if it really caused problems, though. Key point is to PRIORITIZE the commitments, and spend only what we have.

Hiring people cuts into profits.

Hardly anyone seriously disputes that the government can create jobs at least temporarily. However, one of the more startling assertions that this is actually useful comes from Keynes:

If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal mines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it private enterprise on well tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again(the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory),there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is.

This seems much like what a lot of government is up to as it enacts yet another close relative of the Broken Window Fallacy, that hardy old chestnut which suits the temperament of those who would appoint an exponentially growing army of government bullies and busybodies to run every detail of everyone else's life - and usually for the worse, for little purpose but to amuse themselves in the manner of small children pulling the legs off spiders.

Back in the real world - from which Keynes in this particular respect was utterly disconnected - the government can certainly hire more shiftless bus drivers who can't be bothered to show up on time, more road-"construction" contractors to push piles of rocks from one side of a torn-up street to the other and back again for months or even years on end without ever getting any particular work done, more bureaucratic jobsworths to obstruct and delay every conceivable form of activity, and so on.

So what? Why bother? Who needs this? Better to cut the government in half, limit it to tasks where it's actually needed (see, e.g., the US Constitution for a starter guide), and demand that its handsomely overpaid and often useless minions actually work for a living or else be fired summarily. (And yes, the DC area is indeed hugely and disproportionately wealthy, as might be expected of the ultimate bloodsucking parasite that drains the life from everyone else.)

Of course, as always, the devil is in the details... as in you can't get there from here.

Like it or not government employees spend money which helps prop up this consumer driven economy - as many have pointed out those hated gov't employees receiving stimulus money are the ones that have been keeping this economy propped up to the meager extent that it is.

So let's get on with the "cost cutting" and fire all the minions... my guess is that the implied dramatic effect on the economy occurs in exactly the opposite direction of what is expected by those who are just so so sure that this is all the fault of the government and their useless workers. I'd say watch instead as the free market does anything but line up to fill that vacuum - not in time to save the economy in its current construct, anyways.

Not that I would give a wit about the consumer economy being propped up - I'm just saying that everybody with their free market wet dreams should be prepared for a MAJOR interruption in their understanding of business as usual. Things could change for the better with a gradual orderly unwinding - but there will be no order when you suddenly pull the rug out from under millions of workers... Good luck handling that Mr. free market, my old buddy...

So let's get on with the "cost cutting" and fire all the minions

California resembles that remark. Of course the way budgets work, much spending is really the fullfillment of promises made long ago, pensions, interest on bonds, maintaining prisons for all those who ran afoul of all the laws, that actual services end up getting cut, but cost rises anyway. So Meg Whitman can claim that spending is out of control, at the same time government workers are being fired left and right, and made to take unpaid furloughs etc.

Stoneleigh at The Automatic Earth suggests the reason that business is holding onto cash and paying off debt is rational.
It is the same reason we all should be.


In inflationary times the inflation rate is subtracted from the interest rate. And. .
Deflation being negative inflation the deflation is ADDED to the interest rate.
Not only that but there being no work, and high gearing and less ability to declare bankruptcy this will lead to a fire sale.
Cash will be King.

So stop your juvenile looking up to Daddy to fix things. You are on your own.

Let me be blunt, if I was the Treasurer of a major company, I would borrow as much money as possible for as long as possible to take advantage of the coming great rise in US interest rates and lock in rates now. The rise will be caused by falling credit ratings for the US in general, but mostly from increasing inflation.

So right now, I would have as much cash as possible on hand, and that would have nothing to do with worrying about defaltion.

if I was the Treasurer of a major company

Depends on the company, of course, and its prospects. It worked for Ford but in the next wave of general contraction (that I believe is coming and you do not) it could just as easily backfire. Debt equals risk and there is no way around that. We are moving into a risk-averse period so not many CEOs would soon let you bet as much as you might like. Easily rolling over debt was common but that's not the case anymore.

Steve Jobs has had some run-ins with low cash positions and he certainly isn't going to let that happen again:

"We know if we need to acquire something -- a piece of the puzzle to make something big and bold -- we can write a check for it and not borrow a lot of money and put our whole company at risk," Jobs said in February, the last time a shareholder asked him publicly why Apple didn't pay dividends.

"The cash in the bank gives us tremendous security and flexibility."


AAPL currently has ~$40B in cash and cash equivalents. Companies with cash will have a buffer. Those without will be early casualties, in my view.

As an aside, here is Jobs' commencement address at Stanford (15 min):
How to Live Before You Die

Stoneleigh is confused. Business will invest when it sees the opportunity for profit. It sees that opportunity by identifying demand it can competitively supply.
What business sees now is a shortage of demand. Which is why governments inject demand into the economy. This time, because of the prevalence of irrational notions regarding one element of our accounting system, the deficit, the political leadership didn't inject enough demand. And because of the efforts of people trying to protect the world they know and the status and privileges it affords them, the political leadership has failed to introduce an important, arguably civilizationally important, innovation: a carbon tax/tariff. And so today we all are affected by the resulting unemployment and absence of new market rules aimed at redirecting the efforts of entrepeneurs.

I am not on my own. Anyone who is is screwed.

And by the way if you see government as 'Daddy', you clearly suffer from political immaturity, and are probably a male chauvinist boar to boot. It's time for you to grow up, and act as a citizen.

Yes, higher demand is needed. A tax decreases consumption, that would be a negative impact upon the economy.

Yes, and we must increase the rate at which we are consuming the earth=the future!

Eat! Eat! Faster! Faster!

Yes a tax decreases consumption, of what is taxed. But it does not decrease overall demand if the tax revenue is recirculated immediately, or if an equivalent amount of revenue is not collected from another tax, say a payroll tax.

At this time, in a disinflatonary period of high unemployment and low interest rates, and in a time when a transition from fossil fuels should be undertaken for obvious reasons, a carbon tax is an excellent policy choice. It will reduce carbon consumption. It will support demand for alternative energy, including negawatts, a labour intensive activity. The transition from fossil fuels will be the big piston in the economic engine of the next decades.

But a carbon tax will not in current conditions create enough demand to overcome the waste of lives that is occurring as long term unemployment becomes entrenched because of insufficient aggregate demand. More fiscal stimulus is required for that problem.

A carbon tax would not increase demand, it would decrease it. If there is a 99% income tax, people won't want to work. Taxes do not increase anything.

Stoneleigh is confused.

Sorry, I've listened to Stoneleigh extensively. Where — precisely — is she confused?

Business can invest only if they can borrow. You won't see businesses with cash spending that cash for another generation -- the kind of thinking that says "spend to zero and then some" is a gambling rush that can only be fueled by those who haven't lived through a recession that drove many out of business and provided sleepless nights and long hours for many others.

The gov't has created a massive deficit, with an unsustainable spend rate, yet squandered the cash on ill-selected projects. Not only did they spend too much, they failed to collapse bad debts, so there is no healing to be had. They also did nothing to impact the structural issues of trade imbalance, mostly due to energy.

You cannot spend yourself rich at any level. You can pander for votes by spending money you don't have, though.

A carbon tax, as stated so far, is completely in the hands of multinational banks, and will support the status quo.

Seriously, paleo, you need to do some reading. You could start with the article I posted earlier pointing out the ease with which major corporations can borrow via bond issuance. And you might take note of the habit of businesses to invest out of cash flow.

This whole 'you can spend money you don't have' notion, signals a misunderstanding of the difference between a household or a firm and a money-issuing state. The state has any amount of money it wants: the question is what amount of money is appropriate so that the economy is not infected with either inflation or deflation. At this time in history, faced with disinflation and possibly deflation due to high unemployment of labour and plant, and when the central bank faces the zero-bound, fiscal stimulus is called for.

Some argue that, up against interest rates at or near zero, monetary policy can still effectively provide stimulus via "the effects of non-standard open market operations in which the government exchanges liquid government liabilities for illiquid private assets". http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2010/03/monetary_policy

Perhaps, but aside from also raising the ire of people who think that we should just sit back and let one of the Gods take care of things, this policy is insufficient.

So how does one get the hundreds of billions of dollars on corporate balance sheets in the US moving into the economy of the future?

But, these hundreds of billions are moving into the economy of the future! The only problem is location, location, location. By our actions they deserve to have the economy of the future, and we don't.

I would like to see some discussion about the implications of Brent being around $3.00 higher than the WT oil price.

IMO, it's due to stronger global (especially developing country) demand versus weaker US demand--and I think that the US is well on its way to becoming free of its dependence on foreign sources of oil.

Predicting US demand to drop below US production?

Re: Mining the Truth on Coal Supplies (uptop)

From the article:

“The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal,” said President Barack Obama earlier this year, referring to estimates that the United States has the largest coal reserves of any country.

There is of course one significant difference between Saudi oil and US coal. In 2008, Saudi Arabia consumed about 22% of domestic total liquids production, while the US in 2008 consumed about 96% of domestic coal production.

But Obama was correct in one sense, Saudi net oil exports and US net coal exports are both in decline (relative to 2005 for Saudi Arabia and relative to 1981 for US coal).

Saudi net oil exports (EIA):

US net coal exports (EIA, note the change from BTU's to tons):

It's hard to compare coal and oil, for several reasons. Using published statistics:

  • One country, China, is by far the largest coal producer (50% of world production) even though reserves are widely distributed.
  • The same country is by far the largest consumer of coal (46%)
  • And also the second largest importer
  • The U.S., which claims the largest reserves, is the second largest producer -- but produces less than one third as much as China
  • Less than 16% of world coal production is traded internationally, and the two top exporters are the fourth and fifth largest producers (Australia and Indonesia) -- the top three producers either import coal (China and India) or export very small amounts (U.S.A.)

Another important factor is that oil is much easier to transport, particularly over land. This gives exporters with reserves close to the coast a great advantage. Thick seams of low-sulfur, low-ash bituminous coal, shallow and with little dip, close to a deepwater terminal, are the coal equivalent of giant oil fields onshore or in shallow water.

The U.S. has just about exhausted these giant field equivalents, as have China, India and most European countries. The coal reserves remaining in North America are the coal equivalent of oil sands (lignite or high ash) or marginal fields (thin seams) or deep water (a long way from a port).

I'd go with the conclusions in the National Geographic article. We're about to hit the peak of cheap coal. The country to watch is China: it's the largest producer, the largest user, and already close to the largest importer. I doubt if the exporters can increase their exports fast enough to make up for a significant drop in Chinese production: a 10% drop in Chinese production is equal to 30% of all current exports and 50% of the total 2009 production for the two largest exporters.


I sometimes state that I believe it is possible for coal production to go up significantly over the next decade. But that's not what I think is most likely.

My gut sense is in complete agreement with your analysis and assessment.


Yes, I am aware that there are quite a few differences between a ton of coal and a barrel of oil, but describing the US as the "Saudi Arabia of Coal," suggests that we have both large coal reserves and a large export capacity--when in fact in 2008 the US only (net) exported 4% of production, with the long term trend line showing the US approaching net coal importer status.

But my larger point is that "Net Export Math" works for oil, natural gas and coal.

Three key factors that affect net export declines: (1) Consumption as a percentage of production at a production peak; (2) Rate of change in production and (3) Rate of change in consumption.

And there are three key characteristics of net export declines: (1) The net export decline rate tends to exceed the production decline rate; (2) The net export decline rate tends to accelerate with time and (3) Post-peak net export declines tend to be front end loaded, with the bulk of post-peak CNE (Cumulative Net Exports) generally being shipped early in the decline phase.

I woke up to the news this morning (my birthday, 10th sept 2010) that the Communist Party in China is laying about with a big stick.

They have declared that they will decrease carbon pollution by 20%. . .Now.
(Don't you just love Absolute Power?)

The media found some nay sayer outside the hall to quote, of cause.

Yep. China is able to get 'er done. The U.S. is not. Total dysfunctionality and hopelessness.

The original quote was, "They have declared that they will decrease carbon pollution by 20%." So we know they know how to make declarations, just like a lot of other countries, even the USA, have made declarations. It remains to be seen what they get done, and whether they find a way to do it that makes it worth the costs it will inevitably impose.

Resource decline explains most of Japan's relative slide. From Paul Krugman's blog this morning:

Japanese Demography
I’m not the first person by a long shot to make this point, but it’s fairly amazing how much of Japan’s relative slide since the early 90s can be explained not by economics per se but by demography.

Using the Total Economy Database — another useful source — I find that from 1992 to 2007 (eve of the crisis), Japanese GDP per capita fell from 88 percent of US GDP per capita to 76 percent. That sounds bad, and it is. But about two-thirds of that decline can be explained by the aging of Japan’s population. According to the OECD factbook, in 1992 working-age adults were 69.7 percent of Japan’s population, compared with 65.5 in the US; by 2007, the Japanese number was down to 64, while the US number was up to 67.

Demography is not the whole story; Japan has stayed depressed, deflation is a problem, labor markets are poor (although the trouble tends to show in rising numbers of freeters rather than high measured unemployment.) Still, when you look at Japan’s declining share of world GDP, and even its relative decline in per capita GDP, the biggest single cause is the declining number of working-age Japanese.


The human resource that is.

On the other hand, the unemployment rate in Japan in July of 2010 was 5.2 percent. There is way too much emphasis on GDP. The unemployed can't eat GDP. Yes, changing demographics create some problems, but I would rather have those problems than the ones caused by overpopulation.

The U.S. may very well stayed depressed for the next decade or maybe indefinitely. Get over it.

I like Krugman as a person and I think he is a decent economist. But I think he,like most economists is too obsessed with growth. Give me Herman Daly. Growth, even if possible, has become a very blunt force instrument when it comes to employment. I don't think this paradigm works anymore.

Once we determine that resources are limited and that only a small fraction of the populace is really needed in the resource-driven trades (agri-business, mining, manufacturing, etc.) the real question becomes how best to keep everybody working to 'earn' their share of the production. A complex economy does this by adding layers of services, taxes, and social supports to spread the money around.

As resources become less available, and the economy simplifies, it will hard to keep a decent game of musical chairs going, as more people scramble for fewer seats in the "viable" parts of the economy.

Except that, as the physical resources we currently exploit become less available-, and as the sea of knowledge rises from the constant input from the well spring of human genius, we will exploit other resources, with the likely result of maintaining or increasing complexity.

For myself, I'm hoping for bicycle-by fast quads-massage Mcparlours on every block and for meditation services on public transit. Of course, the price of the services should include accoustic music for its duration. In fact, how about a regulation requiring live music or poetry in the foyer of every building over a certain size.

Best wishes for the end of ideological prejudices in the matter of what constitutes value added.

I think the fundamental issue that goes to the heart of all this is that the conservatives believe that the market allocates everything, including wages, salaries, and goods in an optimum and just fashion by definition. By market definition, a baseball player is worth 30 million dollars and a life saving nurse maybe $50,000. By definition, the higher the compensation, the more value to the society of the person. Any attempt to provide compensation not strictly in accordance with the dictates of the market is verboten. And oh, did I mention the Octomom and Brittany Spears and Kate plus 8. And oh, yeh, there is the brilliant and talented Bristol Palin, not to mention her mother.

Oh,never mind. The market rules.

Huh??? I'm confused about the scenario that could support those purported massages.

If the "other resources" to be exploited in the future turn out to be additional "physical resources", in some sense fished up from the "sea of knowledge", such as new forms of energy and the like, then hardly anyone will need or want "bicycle-by fast quads-massages". They'll be driving cars, not riding bicycles. After all, that seems to be the aspiration virtually everywhere that bicycles are still widely used for utilitarian purposes, which no longer includes, say, the considerable tracts of China shifting over to cars. (Likewise for transit, who would waste endless hours waiting around for lazy greedy jobsworths, perpetually and unpredictably tardy or even on strike, given that cars were still available?)

On the other hand, if the "other resources" turn out to be intangible, well, one can't actually live from the "sea of knowledge" itself. Presumably we would drift back into some new version of the past, with nearly everyone spending every waking moment eking out their daily bread, leaving no time or economic surplus to support "bicycle-by fast quads-massage".

We live entirely from the sea of knowledge. It feeds us, houses us and clothes us. The more knowledge we have, the better I eat and the better I shelter and clothe myself. We call ourselves homo sapiens in recognition of this fact. We educate our young so that they can survive.

The manufacture of ski jets does nothing more to create wealth and well being than quad massaging. In fact if anything the production of skijets most likely consumes more resources, and for what. Jobs. A temporary thrill for a subset. On the negative side, there is always the concern that consuming those resources now will lead to a shortage of parts for firefighting equipment down the road. Though of course we may come up with another way to fight fire.

So what rule says that the job of quad massager for cyclists doesn't contribute to an economic surplus as much as ski jet assembly line worker. Okay, there's less inputs and those inputs also employ people. Alright, two quad massagers for each cyclist, and an advertising campaign with a special emphasis on the increase in sexual performance arising from regular quad massaging. In any case without skijets to buy, a victim of the carbon tax, the cyclist has extra money to spend. And let's face it, a quad massage is all most skijetters ever wanted in the first place.

Now tell me, how is the economic surplus affected?

A Request for Editing Help

I am writing as article that is likely to be posted here on TOD, but intended for a much broader audience (the draft has circulated surprisingly far). The title is "A American Citizen's Guide to an Oil-Free Economy - Chapter 1 - Electrified Railroads".

I would like comments on Appendix B – Oil Supply Emergencies

An oil supply emergency is a complex issue that can develop in wide variety of ways. The “American Way of Life” is dependent upon none of them developing.

Economic – “One day” the USA may need to pay for it’s imports with exports. People with oil to export may simply not be willing to trade their black goo for more US Treasury bills, but will want something they can use in return. Perhaps like what the Chinese are ready and willing to trade for oil. In 2009, we exported $1.57 trillion and imported $1.95 trillion, 24% more imports than exports

Political – “One day” the 9,000 princes of the House of Saud, with their $10,000/month stipends, may be kicked out and replaced by the Islamic Republic of Arabia (perhaps with a nephew of Osama bin Laden on the Ruling Council). The Islamic Republic of Iran may ally with their fellow Islamic Republic and together they could either liberate or intimidate all the other emirates on the Persian Gulf.

If the Islamic Republic of Arabia decided to only export enough oil to buy food, medicine and spare parts, there would be a severe oil supply shortfall world-wide.

There are many other potential political risks. The 1973 Arab Oil Embargo and the 1979 Iranian Revolution are past examples.

The Chinese have been very active is assuring the reliability of their oil imports. Some examples are buying half of an Uganda oil field, lending Venezuela money that will be paid back in oil over 20 years, helping the Iranians build a subway and develop oil fields and much more. The net result is that in an oil supply emergency, Chinese oil imports will be disrupted less and other nations proportionally more.

Natural Disaster – A Cat 4 or Cat 5 hurricane, pushing water up the Houston Ship Channel, would not only destroy 40% of our refining capacity, but also severely disrupt our oil supply network for many months. If another hurricane hit New Orleans that same year, the effects would be even more catastrophic.

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is 99% unrefined crude oil, which is of little help if many refineries are destroyed.

Peak Oil Exports – Peak Oil is the point in time when world oil production peaks and then declines. Peak Oil Exports is when oil being exported (and imported) peaks and then declines. The delta between the two concepts is the oil produced and consumed domestically by oil producers (about half of world production).

Since the USA is the world’s largest oil importer, Peak Oil Exports is our concern. Domestically, the USA is 40 years past our own Peak Oil, with crude oil production down by half.

Oil consumption by the major exporters is rising quickly, and many of them shield their population from price signals (as cheap as gasoline for pennies per gallon). In 2008, Russian oil production rose slightly with record prices, but oil exports fell due to a 6% increase in domestic consumption.

Saudi Arabia is not only using more gasoline and diesel to support their growing economy and population, but they recently announced plans to burn 1 million barrels/day more of crude oil to generate electricity by 2020. The Saudis are short of domestic natural gas, electrical demand is growing by 8%/year and they would rather burn crude oil than imported natural gas to generate electricity.

The US Joint Chiefs of Staff have noticed this strategic threat, and in JOE2010 state “A severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of production” and “By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and, as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD”.

10 million barrels/day is almost a quarter of total world oil exports.

A more detailed German Bundeswehr study of the effects of post-Peak Oil Exports was recently leaked. [link]

I would expect that the scenario builders at the CIA would have these sort of events considered by now. At one time, the number one scenario for the beginning of WW III was said to be some military event in the Persian Gulf, which would disrupt the flow of oil from the Gulf...

E. Swanson

My audience is not particularly the CIA, but rather American Citizens.

Best Hopes for Positive Actions by all,


Sunni Wahabbis allied with Persian Shias? I would put money on an Israel/Saudi alliance before that unlikely scenario.

In any case, you don't need to speculate on this kind of thing. An allusion to the potential for disruption in the flow of oil from the 'turbulent' middle-east suffices, though you may want to ennumerate the historical examples without comment or additional speculation.

The ELM is your best information. That, and the case that the marginal barrel of oil consumed in the US does not benefit the economy to the extent that consumption of that same barrel benefits the economies of Greater Chindia, which means that they can outbid the US.

Sunni Wahabbis allied with Persian Shias?

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. I agree not a durable alliance, but one that the otherwise isolated Islamic Republics of Arabia & Iran might develop for their own self interest.

And such an alliance is not needed for Arabian oil exports to fall significantly.



If you are going to refer to that type of thing, it's best to refer to a strongman creating a caliphate. It's got more currency in the region, and in western government think tank circles, than temporary alliances between Sunni and Shia. It ties in with their own end of days mythology and the hidden Imam.

Is the Hidden Imam just Shia or Sunni too ?


ELM is your best information.

According to EIA data, the only net exporters in the region are Qatar and Oman and the region as a whole actually saw net export decline in 2008. BP data, show an uptick in net exports for 2009 but I expect increasing demand throughout the region to eventually start catching up with production resulting in Peak Net Exports of natural gas for the region before the end of the decade.

Nations in grey are net zero, usually because of a lack of import/erxport infrastructure.

(Chart from the Gas Trends databrowser)

The Saudis are short of domestic natural gas,....

i think you meant to say:" the saudis have underutilized natural gas reserves"

ksa's annual depletion rate of proven ng reserves is less than 1 %.


It is my understanding that much of that NG is reinjected to maintain pressure for oil production. This NG will be produced as the final act of a dying oil field, "blowing off the gas cap". (The source of much UK natural gas today).

There is no doubt that there are NG production shortfalls in all Persian Gulf states except Qatar and perhaps Iran.


Well Aramco does reinject some gas but they have been doing that for years, just like almost everyone else. That is necessary, as you say.

Aramco tests interest in two key gas projects

Aramco has switched its focus to gas in order to meet domestic gas demand, which is rising 7 percent per year, after it completed a crude expansion project last year to boost output capacity to 12 million bpd.

Production of raw gas -- unprocessed natural gas -- stands at nearly 10 billion cfd, an Aramco executive said last week.

Aramco is making desperate efforts to increase natural gas production in order to meet the rising demand. But still, apparently, demand for fresh water and electricity are rising faster than they can increase natural gas production and they are forced to burn huge amounts of crude oil to generate water and electricity.

Ron P.

Aramco has switched its focus to gas in order to meet domestic gas demand, which is rising 7 percent per year,

ksa has been increasing dry ng production by nearly 7 % per year.

the majority of ksa's gas reserves are non associated. non associated ng production and reserves are not, afikt, separately reported.

other indicators of ksa's non associated gas production are 1)sulfur production and 2)oil and condensate gravity.

we know that sulfur production is on the increase. we also know that crude oil and condensate gravity is on the increase.

here is a brief history of ksa dry gas production:

1992    38.3 bcm
1999    46.2
2009    77.5

associated gas should correlate more or less with crude oil production so the lion's share of the increase is non associated.

Saudi gas output to rise 'by more than 50% by 2020'


New discoveries and higher recovery rates have also raised the country’s non-associated gas deposits to more than half of total gas resources at the end of last year compared to about 25 per cent in 1990.

One, re-injected NG is often not reported as produced. Depends on the reporting authority.

Two, even though the majority of newly produced NG is coming from non-associated fields (quite likely IMHO), there is no causal link to say that there are additional significant supplies of non-associated gas waiting to be developed. One does not follow from the other.

I personally think that ARAMCO has almost run out of new non-associated gas fields to develop. Thus the stated preference to burn crude oil for electricity in the future.


re-injected NG is often not reported as produced.

bp's ng production figures are equal to dry ng(methane) consumption, so apparently ksa is not reporting re-injected gas as produced. i don't see how this changes the discussion about non-associated ng though.

there is no causal link to say that there are additional significant supplies of non-associated gas waiting to be developed.

i am not claiming a causal link. i am reporting what is written in the spe and many other sources. here is a tantalizing example:

Ghawar: The Anatomy of the World's Largest Oil Field*


Figure 1 shows the khuff permian gas reservoir covering nearly all of ghawar.

i have dozens more and if you are interested, i can email them or post them here. on the other hand, if your mind is already made up, c'est la vie.

By 1991 Saudi Aramco had added more than 2,000 MCF/day of non-associated gas gathering capacity to the system, mostly from the Khuff beneath Ghawar.


I would expect Khuff non-associated gas to be in at least modest decline by now. This is over 1/3rd of all KSA NG produced & consumed.

Aramco has an essentially unlimited Capex budget, and decades to foresee the gas demand and prepare for it. And if they miscalculated, it would not take too many years to accelerate long term plans.

Nowhere have I seen statements that oil burning is a temporary option till we can bring XYZ gas project on-line.

But if you have links to massive undeveloped non-associated NG reservoirs in KSA, please send them.


I would expect Khuff non-associated gas to be in at least modest decline by now. This is over 1/3rd of all KSA NG produced & consumed.

if khuff non-associated gas is in decline, how is it also be increasing ?

i have estimated that ghawar paleozoic reservoirs are producing in excess of 5 bcfd(wet gas). ksa produced 7.5 bcfd dry (methane)gas in 2009. they are claiming to be producing 10 bcfd gross (wet) gas. the balance (shrinkage) being due to ngl and condensate recovery.

And if they miscalculated, it would not take too many years to accelerate long term plans.

aramco is accelerating their gas production as i posted above. ghawar permian khuff is a complex reservoir with varrying hydrocarbon gas content and composition, and varying acid gas(h2s and co2) content. there are apparently many compartements to the field. and part of that "unlimited budget" is spent on optimizing depletion with giga-cell compositional models. gas processing equipment needs to be customized for the varying h-c and acid gas content. this all takes time - rome wasn't built in a day.

khuff is only part of the story. rich gas condensate reservoirs have also been discovered in the devonian and pre-permian paleozones.

that an arm chair king abdulla thinks that ksa should manage their resources differently doen't make a casual link either.

there is a surprising amount published on the subject of ksa's non associated gas and is apparently being wholesale ignored by the eia and the oil drum.

i can't find a recent ksa rig count, but presumably, they are cotinuing to drill non associated gas wells. i think it is safe to assume that aramco is developing something

i can't find a recent ksa rig count

Baker Hughes has KSA gas rigs at 38 for August, up 5 from July, up 12 from a year ago. Surprised that you drop refs to SPE papers but don't know about BH; or do you mean you can't find a count for Sept? That's asking a bit much.

ok, 38 rigs. i would assume that ksa must be finding/developing something with their 38 rigs.

... but don't know about BH;

where did you get that idea ?

Because you said you couldn't find a recent KSA rig count, and they provide one.

in your opinion, are the spe articles fake ?

Where are you going with this? I find these second hand accounts from you about the papers on the Khuff interesting, provided the link to Simmons's assessment that extraction has to date been disappointing due to technical challenges, and that's about all I have to say about the matter. It isn't being discussed on a regular basis by anyone, including those in the media, leading me to conclude it's more of a footnote than anything else.

So many people have some pet tech or resource that they think will just slay the peak oil dragon in an instant, whether it's gas under Ghawar, hydrates under bottom reflectors, electric cars in the Tesla factory, blah blah blah. It's all interesting, now show me some numbers, by which I mean actual production displacing actual Saudi consumption. Or big bold presentations from Armaco promising to dispense with their burning oil for power within 5 years.

Where are you going with this?

you tell me, you are the one that was Surprised that you drop refs to SPE papers but don't know about BH.

So many people have some pet tech or resource that they think will just slay the peak oil dragon in an instant,

you must be interpreting way more than was ever intended. i have posted numbers showing how much non associated gas in place there could be in ghawar. i have never made any claim as to how this gas in place would effect peak oil. that is not my game at all, i have no opinion on when peak oil will occur.

now show me some numbers

ok, i will re-post the numbers.

ksa dry(methane) gas production and consumption:

1992  38.3 bcm
1993  40.0
1994  42.8
1995  42.9
1996  44.4
1997  45.3
1998  46.8
1999  46.2
2000  49.8
2001  53.7
2002  56.7
2003  60.1
2004  65.7
2005  71.2
2006  73.5
2007  74.4
2008  80.4
2009  77.5 

25 % of the gas was non-associated in '90 and 50% in 2009. so the increase in non-associated dry(methane)gas between '90 and '09 was more than 400 %.

wet gas would be more, possibly 500 %.

And the Saudi depletion rate of proven crude oil reserves is about 1 % also. That is of course if you believe they really have 264.6 billion barrels of proven reserves as the BP report says.

But I am astonished that you believe the Saudis are so stupid as to make plans to burn 1 million barrels per day of crude oil per day to generate electricity when they have all that natural gas they could burn if they only would.

The Saudis are not blooming idiots Elwood. If they could possibly burn domestic natural gas instead of domestic crude oil they would. The reason they don't is because they don't have the natural gas to burn regardless of what they say their proven reserves really are.

One more very important point! You are correct that if the Saudi's have as much proven reserves as the report states, then they are underutilizing their natural gas reserves. But the fact that they are burning crude oil, at about twice the cost, to generate electricity and fresh water, proves, to my mind anyway, that their stated natural gas reserves are a gross exaggeration.

Ron P.

But I am astonished that you believe the Saudis are so stupid as to make plans to burn 1 million barrels per day of crude oil per day to generate electricity when they have all that natural gas they could burn if they only would.

that would require an explanation that you have demonstrated an inability to understand.

plans......plans..... i am astonished that you chose to believe plans......plans but reserves are fake.

The reason they don't is because they don't have the natural gas to burn regardless of what they say their proven reserves really are.

you seem to lack an understanding of the term underutilized

But the fact that they are burning crude oil, at about twice the cost, to generate electricity and fresh water, proves, to my mind anyway, that their stated natural gas reserves are a gross exaggeration.

i can see how you would feel that way if you fail to understand underutilized

ksa is also burning - as in flaring - ng. why wouldn't aramco just burn that wasted ng to generater electricity and fresh water instead of expensive crude oil ?


They want to collect the gas, which is being flared, and distribute it to Kuwait and Saudi," an industry source told Reuters

ksa is also burning - as in flaring - ng. why wouldn't aramco just burn that wasted ng to generater electricity and fresh water instead of expensive crude oil ?

The link you supplied applies only to the neutral zone. Gas is flared there because neither Kuwait or Saudi has built a pipeline to collect the gas, because of political reasons I suppose. Now they are so desperate for natural gas that gas from the neutral zone is divided up and piped out.

From your link:

The only country in the Gulf with gas to spare is Qatar. The rest of the region would burn more if it could.

But they can't because they simply don't have the gas. Thanks for confirming my argument.

Saudi did once flare most of their gas, as did just about everyone else in the world back in the day. Prior to 1975 Saudi flared nearly all their natural gas.

Saudi Arabia Energy

Domestic Gas Pipelines
Domestic demand, particularly the delivery feedstock to petrochemical plants, has driven consistent expansion of the nearly 8.0 bcf/d Master Gas System (MGS), the domestic gas distribution network in Saudi Arabia first built in 1975. Prior to the MGS, all of Saudi Arabia's natural gas output was flared. The MGS feeds gas to the industrial cities including Yanbu’ on the Red Sea and Jubail.

The neutral zone was the last area where gas was flared. If you look out over the northern part of the Persian Gulf at the oil platforms, you can tell exactly where the Saudi-Iranian border is. All the Iranian platforms still flare their gas and none of the Saudi platforms flare. To gather the gas from the offshore pipelines requires a gas pipeline. The Saudis have laid the needed pipelines, because they need the gas. The Iranians have not.

Ron P.

The link you supplied applies only to the neutral zone.

ksa can do anything they want with their ng.

But they can't because they simply don't have the gas. Thanks for confirming my argument.

that is your interpretation and your interpretation confirms your argument.

To gather the gas from the offshore pipelines requires a gas pipeline.

i think you are trying to say that ksa's ng is underutilized ?

ksa can do anything they want with their ng.

It is not just their gas, half of it belongs to Kuwait.

Do you simply not understand a thing about the neutral zone? It belongs to both Saudi and Kuwait. Nothing can be done in that area unless politics comes into play. They had to figure out a way to divide the gas equally and send it to Kuwait through a pipeline and through a much longer pipeline to Saudi's industrial area. Earlier, it was likely that there was not enough gas to justify such a project. Now that the gas is desperately needed...

that is your interpretation and your interpretation confirms your argument.

Yes, the link you posted clearly says that they, (Saudi and others), would burn more gas if they could. Now what does that sentence mean? .

i think you are trying to say that ksa's ng is underutilized ?

Clearly, to any person capable of logical reason, the reason Saudi would lay pipelines to catch the associated gas on a far offshore platform, would be that they need the gas. How could one possibly interpret that to mean that their gas is underutilized? That makes no sense whatsoever. NO, they are utilizing every cubic foot of natural gas they can possibly produce.

And they just cannot produce enough. That is why they are burning very expensive crude oil to generate water and electricity.

Sometimes Elwood...

Ron P.

It is not just their gas, half of it belongs to Kuwait.

yes, the half of the gas that is not kuwait's is their gas and is underutilized.

Yes, the link you posted clearly says that they, (Saudi and others), would burn more gas if they could.

they could burn more gas with sufficient sour gas processing equipment. thus the underutilized tag. based on your previous posts, it doesnt appear that you have much knowledge of gas reservoirs in general and gas processing in particular.

How could one possibly interpret that to mean that their gas is underutilized? That makes no sense whatsoever.

clearly, ksa is laying the pipeline to utilize the gas.

NO, they are utilizing every cubic foot of natural gas they can possibly produce.

except for the cubic feet they are flaring. they are not utilizing flared gas, the name for that is wasting.

And they just cannot produce enough.

i don't know what ksa's gas production capacity is and niether do you. clearly, they probably cannot process as much as they would like.

Elwood, your posts are getting exasperating. Nothing you post makes any sense. You are so hung up on the belief that Saudi Arabia has billions of barrels of condensate and enough non-associated khuff gas to supply themselves for hundreds of years that it is affecting your thought process.

What we know is that Saudi, when they get the neutral zone pipeline finished, will be flaring no gas whatsoever. Your claim that they were just wasting gas, apparently because they did not need it, is totally absurd.

We also know that Saudi is burning hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day to generate electricity and to desalinate water. They have plans to burn another one million barrels per day to generate water and electricity by 2020. If they had gas to waste obviously they would not be doing this.

It should be obvious to everyone that Saudi is desperately short of natural gas else they would not be burning all this expensive crude when they could be burning cheap natural gas... if they only had it.

That is the bottom line. End of story. But I know you will keep posting those silly post about the trillions of cubic feet of khuff gas Saudi has and the billions of barrels of condensate they will produce as a result of producing all that gas. That belief is like a religion with you. Yes you will keep posting and posting and posting that junk until you think you have convinced someone. But it is getting old, very old. It was funny at first, then tiresome then exasperating.

But in the quiet of the night tonight, away from your computer... ask yourself why... why Saudi is burning all that precious $75 a barrel in their boilers when all that natural gas they have would would work just as well, even better. And why are they making plans to burn even more, a million barrels per day more in the next ten years? Why are thy doing it? Why? Why? Why?

Ron P.

But I know you will keep posting those silly post about the trillions of cubic feet of khuff gas Saudi has and the billions of barrels of condensate they will produce as a result of producing all that gas.

No, he won't. Elwoodelmore...enough on this topic already. I think we're well past the point of diminishing returns on it.

enough on this topic already.

huh ?

1. Raise awareness
Most people are not aware of the problems we face or they underestimate their potential impact. Politicians and the traditional media have overlooked the problem, out of ignorance or due to a conflict of interest. We seek to fill the information gap, disseminating underreported facts and analysis.

2. Host a civil discussion
This website is a space where energy issues can be debated in a civil manner. Through the encouragement of evidence-based reasoning and logical arguments, we aim to host discussions with a depth and breadth absent from the traditional media or current political discourse.

3. Conduct original research in a transparent manner
We believe that the issues such as the timing and impacts of our supply and demand problems and the feasibility of alternatives to oil can be explored empirically in an open and honest manner.
Our site draws on the fast pace of the internet and the time-tested traditions of peer review in search of the truth, whatever it may be.

check the record. i responded to alanfrombigeasy's request for editing help, darwinian felt compelled to jump in.

I mean it. Enough on this. I'll let you continue the discussion in this thread as long as you want, but don't bring it up in a new thread.

it comes down to censorship then, eh ?

If you want to call that, sure. We've always exercised control over what's posted here. This isn't 4chan.

You've been going about this for weeks, without presenting any new evidence or addressing others' criticisms. What's the point of discussing it further? You're beating a dead horse. There's nothing left but a damp spot on the ground and some trace equine DNA. Let it go.

without presenting any new evidence or addressing others' criticisms.

you haven't been paying attention.

no matter, it has been 4 years and mostly a good ride. the admission was reasonable.

if you think this idea will go away, you are sadly mistaken.

you do make a case for the irrelevancy of the oil drum, however.

why Saudi is burning all that precious $75 a barrel in their boilers when all that natural gas they have would would work just as well, even better.

just how much precious $75 oil is ksa burning ?

how much is diesel at remote locations ? how much is resid ?

at one time, you claimed that the amount of oil burned was insignificant, you remember that ?

just how much precious $75 oil is ksa burning ?

Well last year at this time they were burning almost half a million barrels per day

Saudi burns more crude for power, halts fuel oil import

Estimates on how much crude it is burning differ, but the kingdom's own data show it has risen in recent years, and it could be as high as 470,000 bpd of crude this year, up 62 percent from 2008, consultancy FACTS Global Energy says...

FACTS estimates that during peak summer power demand, crude burned could rise as high as 500,000 to 600,000 bpd. Less is used in winter when power demand is weaker.

You wrote:

at one time, you claimed that the amount of oil burned was insignificant, you remember that ?

No, I don't remember saying that but at one time it was insignificant. I worked for two years at Gazlan and we would burn oil for only a few hours a month, just to make sure all the oil injectors worked fine. But oil burning, for desal and electricity increased by 67 percent from 2008 to 2009. Now that is significant.

But you have never answered the question why! Why? Why? Why? Why do they burn so much $75 oil when they could just burn some of that khuff gas. Snicker, snicker.

But I see you have ignored Leanan and are still posting those silly "Saudi has trillions of cubic meters of khuff gas, trillions and trillions". But Saudi keeps on burning oil to generate electricity and you just can't figure out why?

But keep posting Elwood, keep posting and posting and posting and sooner or later someone might believe you.

Errr, why are you on this crusade anyway?

Ron P.

Supposedly, it is easy to tell the sea border in the Persian Gulf between Iran and the southern states from the air.

The off-shore production platforms in Iranian waters flare their NG (lack of capital & equipment to gather it), while Iran's southern neighbors gather their NG and pipeline it to shore.

The Neutral Zone does sound like a special case. The Kuwaiti Petroleum Company has told the electrical generating company (both gov't owned) that no additional NG will be available in the future from them.

Perhaps Neutral Zone NG will replace depleted Kuwaiti sourced NG.


Anyone know how this new Saudi power/desalination plant will be powered?

$2.44 Billion Power Plant Contract Awarded in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia : 09 September 2010
Sepco III of China is to construct a 2,400 megawatt integrated power plant that will include desalination facilities

Industry sources reported that Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) issued a power plant contract worth $2.44 billion (Dh 8.97 billion) to a Sepco III Electric Power Construction Corporation-led group.  SWCC is owned by the Saudi state and Sepco III is based in China.

Al Arrab Contracting Company from Saudi Arabia is also in the group that is set to construct a 2,400 MW power plant.  A water desalination service will also be included in the facilities located in Ras Azzour along the Gulf Coast of Saudi Arabia.

Several days ago I reported, with link, that this plant# was to be oil-fired.

Most likely dual fuel. If NG is available, they can burn that. But it will have the tanks, pipelines and burners to burn oil.

Not much hope for increased Saudi oil exports,


# Unless KSA has two 2,400 MW power plants it is about ready to build.

The American Way of Life is vulnerable to an oil supply emergency that can develop in a number of simple to complex ways, the following being some potential scenarios.

Actual exports like wheat or corn will be demanded as payment for oil instead of US dollars which can be printed at will.

Middle East governments fed up with neverending US Barbarism decide to impose another oil embargo.

Another or several hurricanes severly damage oil extraction, refining and distribution systems equal to or beyond what we've recently experienced.

Declining supply of oil in the global marketplace due to declining net oil exports brought about by the peaking of global oil extraction. This situation isn't the same as the shocks described above, but is just as serious because this situation is beyond human control.


The above trims your main points, which you may still wish to embelish. You may also want to add additional scenarios.

I will take a couple of those !



You're quite welcome. It's rather satisfying to help someone whose toiled so hard as an advocate for this issue. If you'd like to email me larger tracts to edit, pro bono, my email addy can be found in my profile.

A Request for Editing Help

The title is "A American Citizen's Guide to an Oil-Free Economy - Chapter 1 - Electrified Railroads".

Hi Alan,

Is your request for assistance with respect to grammar, spelling, punctuation and clarity/readability, or more so content? If it's the former, I might recommend changing the first word of your title from "A" to "An".

[As God is my witness, if my English teachers could possibly imagine me correcting someone else's grammar, they'd all be rolling on the floor bust'n a gut.]


Both (although I checked my draft and the title starts with "An American ...).


OK, sign me up !

[Rubs hands with glee and reaches into his desk drawer for a red pencil...]

Possibly "Peak Oil Exports" is not the best phrase to use if the audience is indeed the general public. They'll see the capital letters, Google "Peak Oil" or the full phrase, get a bazillion hits on doomer porn and a bazillion more hits on Glenn Beck et. al. denouncing doomer porn, and in frustration hastily move on to a more readily digestible Story Of The Day about, say, American Idol. Maybe the use of any easily-Googled jargon phrase would be redundant, in that it would already be clear that oil available for import might not increase forever. Or maybe "limitations on oil exports", "limitations on oil imports", or something of that sort, I dunno...

But Beck IS a doomer. Mostly.

Beck is a fearmonger.

Sometimes that means preaching doom, sometimes it means making up bad guys for people to hate and fear.

I'm thinking a high-value use of petroleum would be to supply him with tar and feathers and run him out of town.

Link up top: OPEC Trims 2011 Demand Forecast as Production Outside the Group Advances

This report is from Bloomberg but they got the data from OPEC's Monthly Oil Market Report just released today.

It was interesting comparing what OPEC says with what the EIA says. Opec says non-OPEC liquids will increase next year by 360,000 barrels per day while the EIA says non-OPEC liquids will decline by 160,000 barrels per day. That is OPEC says non-OPEC nations will produce 520,000 barrels more per day than the EIA says it will.

I expect that the EIA numbers will be closer to the truth. That is because the EIA has always been overly optimistic with their production forecast. They have almost always been too high with their guesstimates. Therefore when the EIA predicts a drop in non-OPEC production then the drop is very likely to be even greater than the EIA predicts.

At any rate OPEC expects the call on OPEC oil to increase by only 200,000 barrels per day next year, from 28.6 mb/d this year to 28.8 mb/d next year. This is crude only and does not include NGLs or condensate. These numbers don't jive with what OPEC's own production numbers say in this report. Well, the numbers from their own "secondary sources" anyway. Average OPEC crude production for the first eight months of 2010 has been 29.166 million barrels per day.

OPEC expects total world demand for all liquids to rise next year from 85.51 mb/d in 2010 to 86.56 mb/d next year. Although OPEC says they will only increase production by .2 mb/d next year they say their non conventionals, NGLs and Condensate, will increase by .5 mb/d next year. The remaining increase in oil production, they say, will come from non-OPEC.

Ron P.

The remaining increase in oil production, they say, will come from non-OPEC.

Sounds like Opec is trying to pass the buck for the expected supply increases needed for next year. Why else would they contradict the EIA? But why? Maybe because they aren't sure they'll have it, possibly due to ELM or lack of spare capacity?

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending September 3, 2010

U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.9 million barrels per day during the week ending September 3, 90 thousand barrels per day above the previous week’s average. Refineries operated at 88.2 percent of their operable capacity last week. Gasoline production increased last week, averaging 9.5 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel production remained relatively unchanged last week, averaging 4.3 million barrels per day.

U.S. crude oil imports averaged 8.9 million barrels per day last week, down by 794 thousand barrels per day from the previous week. Over the last four weeks, crude oil imports have averaged 9.5 million barrels per day, 500 thousand barrels per day above the same four-week period last year. Total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) last week averaged 1.1 million barrels per day. Distillate fuel imports averaged 253 thousand barrels per day last week.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) decreased by 1.9 million barrels from the previous week. At 359.9 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 0.2 million barrels last week, and are above the upper limit of the average range. Finished gasoline inventories increased while blending components inventories decreased last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 0.4 million barrels, and are above the upper boundary of the average range for this time of year. Propane/propylene inventories increased by 1.5 million barrels last week and are in the upper half of the average range. Total commercial petroleum inventories increased by 0.2 million barrels last week.

Any comments on this?
FSN In Depth: Joseph A. Tainter PhD, The Collapse of Complex Societies.

James J Puplava CFP

Political disintegration is a persistent feature of world history. The Collapse of Complex Societies, though written by an archaeologist, will therefore strike a chord throughout the social sciences. Any explanation of societal collapse carries lessons not just for the study of ancient societies, but for the members of all such societies in both the present and future. Dr. Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews more than 2000 years of explanations. He then develops a new and far-reaching theory that accounts for collapse among diverse kinds of societies, evaluating his model and clarifying the processes of disintegration by detailed studies of the Roman, Mayan and Chacoan collapses.

There's some discussion in yesterday's DrumBeat.

Pasttense, your post was posted as a reply to Leanan's post about today's Weekly Oil Market Report though it had nothing to do with Leanan's post. Please do not do that. It confuses everything.

And yes, that podcast was discussed extensively on yesterday's Drumbeat.

Ron P.

It looks like the previously reported fall in OPEC exports that has been ongoing since about the start of August finally showed up in the latest report as a fall in US imports. I would expect based on reports from OPEC, Venezuela, and Mexico, that imports the next few months will not achieve the relatively high rate seen in most of June and July.

Distillate (diesel) demand in the latest four weeks, as compared to last year, is running more than 9% over last year’s demand. This indicates that the economy is still on an upward track, albeit perhaps a slow improvement since employment doesn’t appear to be picking up much at all.

Gasoline demand was only up about 1% over last year, but keep in mind there are less people working than one year ago, so this really shows how little gasoline demand is affected by economic conditions. Note that gasoline supplies in the upper Midwest are in short supply, due to the Enbridge pipeline break in Michigan, but not low enough to cause local shortages yet.

So it still seems to me that the EIA report issued yesterday underestimates US demand through the end of 2010.

In sum, it now appears that ‘high’ levels of oil and products seen in these weekly reports are about to be worked off, perhaps slowly – as US demand now slightly exceeds available supply.

Forgot to post earlier where I a getting that OPEC export info from:

OPEC will reduce crude shipments by 0.6 percent this month as the global recovery slows and refiners conduct maintenance, Oil Movements said, the eighth weekly decline reported by the tanker-tracker.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which supplies about 40 percent of the world’s crude oil, will ship 23.17 million barrels a day in the four weeks to Sept. 25, down from 23.3 million in the month ended Aug. 28, the Halifax, England-based consultant said today in a report. The data exclude Ecuador and Angola.


Patzek says that the world coal production will peak next year with a (remaining) URR of 13171 EJ of energy or about 295 Gtoe.
Energy Watch(2007) has 309 Gtoe of coal reserves for USA, Russia, China and India alone with 2005 world production at 2.7 Gtoe/year.
Energy Watch reports 'proven reserves reserves' not resources.


These 'proven reserves' at present consumption rates would last more than a century if combined.

By separate country, his Table 1 shows China exhausted in 52 years based on current rates, Germany, FSU, RSA, India and Australia in 60-75 years and the USA exhausted in 100 years.


More efficient coal plants just means faster depletion of coal by Jevons Paradox.
Besides, going from 33% efficiency to 44% efficiency only extends the coal supply by 25%--a couple decades.

If the world rushes to burn all that coal even faster to meet Patzek's scenario of exhaustion in sooner than 82.5 years to meet 'demand' temperatures will obviously climb even faster.

If global emissions remain constant, global temperatures will be 1.75 degC(3.15 degF) warmer than they are today in 2100 AD, when proven reserves of coal are still available.

OTOH, going with the technically feasible lowest emissions scenario using things like CCS would shave .6 degrees C(1.08 degF) off the non-cap continuous emissions scenario.

How much is the difference of 1 deg F?
It's about the same as the warming between 1800 AD and today, on top of a temperature 1.8 degrees F warmer than today.

Think of Philadelphia,PA as warm as Richmond, VA with no electricity.


Coal(solid) burning represents ~38% of fossil fuel burning, oil(liquids)37% and natural gas 19%. all totaling 30.6 Gtoe pere year of CO2. 56% of GHG come from burning fossil fuels.


Thanks for posting that (probably copyright-infringing) link to Patzek's paper. I find more wrong with it than I had imagined:

  1. He has an obvious anti-IPCC axe to grind
  2. His use of a "multi-Hubbert" cycle approach is curve fitting at its worst -- add more parameters to get a better fit. (He even invokes Fourier methods!)
  3. He states the huge and compelling argument against the use of Hubbert analysis -- "provided that there are few artificial regulatory constraints on mine production" -- and blithely goes ahead with the analysis anyway.
  4. On the positive side he is honest about the caveats -- "Hubbert cycle predictions almost always underpredict the true future production rate of a resource." -- but does not note this on the published graphics. (I maintain folks generally won't read caveats buried in the text and instead just look at the pictures.)

I'll say it one more time -- Hubbert analysis has no demonstrated predictive skill outisde of US lower 48 and Norwegian oil production.

The Energy Watch publication is far, far more compelling than this paper.

I'll say it one more time -- Hubbert analysis has no demonstrated predictive skill outisde of US lower 48 and Norwegian oil production.

I bookmarked this one: GraphOilogy: The Hubbert Parabola. Handy graphs therein. The split between Behaves Well/Too Early to Say/Doesn't Behave is 20/9/21, so you're about evenly divided.

Rapier's pieces here on the shortfalls of HL were meaty stuff. In the end to me HL seems like a way of magnetizing both the tip of your dart and the bullseye, let's say. Might work; kinda gives a general impression, sort of. The demand side of the equation is more the point anymore, I think.

In the end to me HL seems like a way of magnetizing both the tip of your dart and the bullseye, let's say. Might work; kinda gives a general impression, sort of.

Exactly. It can't be used alone because it isn't reliable enough. But it can give pretty good hints in certain situations.

The Global Energy Systems Group will have a paper coming out on the various curve-fitting techniques in the next few months "Descriptive and predictive growth curves in energy system analysis," submitted to Natural Resources Research, that provides a good overview of the topic.

Looking forward to it.

I agree with Jonathan that doing multiple Hubbert cycles using Fourier techniques is hackery at its worst. In that case, I could do a fit by overlaying a set of points to the curve, and then declare victory. Or its like plotting X against X on a plot and then marvel at the perfect fit.

The only reasonable explanation for fitting with these kernel functions is to extrapolate a bit into the future, but since they have no model of future discoveries, this will obviously under-report. So it is strange that the author implicitly realizes this but still does the multi Hubbert anyways.

Mexico's Pemex 2011 budget 30 pct lower than request

As I predicted last month, Pemex is not getting the money it asked for in its capital budget. The government-proposed budget is up slightly from last year's, but probably has no chance of deflecting the EIA[Excel file] prediction of a 168,000 barrel per day drop in Pemex production in 2011.

Pemex is technically bankrupt (has no equity value, a soaring debt load, and a rapidly growing unfunded pension liability) but as a government-owned company none that is of no immediate concern. Their real problem is they have run out of places to find and develop cheap oil, and don't have the budget to find or develop expensive oil. There are also problems with drug cartels apparently morphing into guerilla armies which stop them from operating in some areas.

China and Korea compete for oil assets:


It seems to me that the early effects of Peak Oil are being seen in Asia. Demand and supply pressures are building as the article points out.

Asia is faster growing and can spend more on oil and still keep its manufacturing expansion going because other costs like labor are less than in the West.

Americans on the other hand have been such oil gluttons that cutting back is relatively painless and automatic whilst we are in recession.

Bill McKibben and some Unity College Students are taking some of Carter's Solar Panels back to 1600 Pennsylvania, task the Prez to put the 'Real Superpower' to work in Washington. (Just Interviewed on Democracy Now!)



"McKibben is challenging President Obama to install his new set of panels on October 10 as part of 350.org’s 10/10/10 Global Work Party, a day when millions of people across the planet will be getting to work on climate solutions. "


He should change his name to McGimmick.

He used to have some decent ideas, but when they stopped flowing decided to resort to hysteria and self-promotion.

Nicolas Stern's dissection in the NY Review of Books was excellent.

Perhas he can be convinced to fade away quietly. At this point, I think it would be better for both the plant and for Bill McKibben. He certainly can't be doing this for money. He must have stashed way plenty by now.

What do you feel is bad for the planet in what he's trying to do, to raise awareness of our predicament?

You're right, I really don't think he's doing it for the money.

What have you done lately?

I didn't claim that he is doing anything bad for the planet. But I don't think he is doing much good for anyone but himself though.

I view continually hectoring people about deviation from one's own self-defined fundamental moral views is a very different animal from raising awareness. McKibben is preaching to the choir, and only to the choir, in a way that alienates anyone who would be on the fence, or in my case highly sympathetic to the overall cause, and get a lot of attention focused on him (and money too by the way).

His intellectual points are also a lot weaker the his shrill whine, as Nicolas Sterns points out in the link below, basically saying that if McKibben took the time to get out of Vermont he would see how wrong he is about the world.


I've done quite a lot lately, but it's probably not a fair question since I work full-time on climate change for an international development organization. Do you want to answer the same question, or should we just agree it is silly?

Please contact me at Alan_Drake at juno dott conn (normalized). Do you know Ann Mesnikoff ?

For a joint solution to Climate Change & post-Peak Oil, read


Best Hopes !


"He certainly can't be doing this for money."

Maybe he has kids...

Following on from my comment yesterday, it was "Oil Falls a Third Day on Speculation European Debt May Curb Global Growth" yesterday. Today it's "Crude Rises on Speculation U.S. Inventory Growth Fell Short of Estimates". This time I went over to Yahoo Finance and did some comparisons between the DOW(DJI) and an arbitrary crude oil sub index DJUBSCL.

Before October 2008 I don't see any correlation between them. In July 2008 oil started it's plunge ending up about 80% down in mid February 2009. The correlation starts in October 2008 when the stock market plunged since then the price of oil appears to be loosely following the stock market. Have a look for yourselves.

The price of oil seems to be a bit more volatile in that, whatever produces movements in the stock indexes produces even larger movements in the price of oil. I suspect that some of these reasons for movements in the price of oil produce very short lived movements and that there is much larger fundamental driver at play. Something along the lines of "It's the economy stupid!". Now, watch the price of oil as the economy recovers! (Don't I wish)

Notice in the past hour oil has dropped two bucks, check the Dow, over the same time period down 50 points. See what I mean?

Alan from the islands

From an article above, we get this:

How much warming is being hidden by irrigation?"

But also not in that article is this question. How much is being hidden by aerosols, the tiny bits of dust created by industry worldwide?

If irrigation and aerosols are countering some global warming effects, then just how hot will it get when we descend from this plateau of oil production into a supply crunch, the world economy sputters, and at some point collapses?

That's the two punch combination I've mentioned previously in posts, that as we go down the net energy ladder, which will be painful enough economically, we will also get the 2nd gut shot in the form of much hotter weather, due to reduced irrigation and less aerosols in the atmosphere. Which of course will damage remaining crop acreage, and the bottleneck will tighten like a constrictor.

How much warming is being hidden by irrigation?"

Globally irrirgation should be having a warming (not cooling effect). All the energy used in evaporating the water is released when it condenses into clouds or dew. An irrigated region is simply exporting some of its heat as latent heat (water vapor). In the meanwhile, water vapor is a greenhouse gas. And cropland has a lower albedo than desert or scrubland, so the net effect on the global climate should be warming, even if the local effect is cooling.

I suspect the global net effect is pretty small.

Last night I was looking into the size of vehicle fleets worldwide, after reading the rather startling notion that China would be sporting 500 million vehicles in 2050, according to the IMF via PropertyInvesting.net, whoever that is - quite the interesting peak oil site, curiously enough.

That seems high, but when I project these guys' per capita ownership forecast forward I get 679 million in 2050. And even a number that staggeringly huge will only be about 500 per capita! This is just a rude linear trend forward, of course, and from mere random guys on the internet. How about IHS (pdf)? They see 21.2 million light vehicles per year production for 2016; tacking that onto a 2009 base number of 64 million we're at 167,309,900 in 2015. Continuing this linear buildout we have production of 24,732,900
and a fleet of 282,164,400 in 2020. Another forecast making the rounds recently sees "only" 200 million, reigned in by production or demand limitations, perhaps. They want 5 million PHEVs on the road by then of course, but that would be 1.7% of the total for 282m or 2.5% for 200m, scarcely an improvement on O-Bomb's goal of 1 million US PHEVs = .4% of 250m in 2015. Their fleet will be all the more efficient than the US one, of course, but any way you look at it it will be gobbling down some fraction of 9 mb/d, and where will that come from?

This all must come to the proverbial head, and soon. Chinese consumption was up 750 kb/d in June.

Does anyone know what percent of China's oil imports go toward cars today?

It would be interesting to take that number and the expected increase in the number of cars and see how it compares to mainstream predictions for China's growth in oil imports...


For 2006 EIA broke down Chinese consumption as follows:

Gasoline	17.95%
Jet Fuel	2.08%
Kerosene	0.82%
Distillate	33.03%
Resid		5.62%
Other		22.17%
LPG		7.76%

7.1% of their distillate consumption was for bunker fuel, rest was diesel and heating oil. Dunno how much was produced domestically. A puzzling aspect of the EIA numbers is that when you add up their individual streams it's only 89.43% of the number given as the total, yet another instance of their data being less than precise.

Steve Kopits had a piece here about the IEA projection for China being much too low. But hey, waddya know: China's Oil Imports Fall in July From Record as Slower Growth Curbs Demand - Bloomberg.

Read Dave Pendell's The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse, courtesy of Leanan's heads up - thanks. Pretty good book, not without flaws - I thought he could have better conveyed the span of time involved by spreading out when the stories took place, ala The Source by James Michener, which was what this reminded me of more than any other book. And one chapter was, at a guess, 5 times longer than the others for some reason, which rather unbalanced any pace the writing had.

Nevertheless a potent read, if you're intrigued by stories that convey a sense of real Deep Time, covering centuries and even millenia. Michener covered about 8k years I think, perhaps still a record for historical fiction. Pendell goes even farther, but, again, as almost a coda to the book proper. Pendell's book is also a powerful depiction of really out-of-control global warming. You wouldn't want to read it in conjunction with Mark Lynas's Six Degrees.

I read Six Degrees followed quickly by Alan Weisman's The World Without Us. I didn't sleep for a week! Although for out-and-out time span, I don't think you'll beat Robert Silverberg's Across A Billion Years.

Don't think I've read that one; sounds like archaelogical SF, sort of. Will snap it up if I can find it cheap and used, I like Silverberg's stuff and archaeology too. Was reading about some proposed arcology they want or wanted to build in Dubai, cramming a million people into one ziggurat shaped building; it immediately put me in mind of Silverberg's Towers of Glass.

Books like Wells's Time Machine, or Stapledon's First and Last Men/Starmaker cover ridiculous spans of time, but after awhile the reader has trouble relating to it all. When the pace is in a few decades at a time it makes much more of an impression on me, the above books deliver a different sort of punch.

An alternate history that covered a millenia or two was Kim Stanley Robinson's Years of Rice and Salt, where the Black Death wipes out almost all Europeans and the rest of the world takes up the slack in the Industrialized civilization sweepstakes. The king of 'em all would be Poul Anderson's Tau Zero, where an out-of-control spaceship cycles through the death and rebirth of the universe. I'm sure there are many more books in these respective subgenres.

Actually the Silverberg novel I had in mind was the World Inside.

How about Doris Piserchia's Earthchild? It spans billions of years.

Drifting massively off topic now, but Stephen Hawking's A Brief History Of Time gets the full 14.5 Billion in, but Douglas Adams' Restaurant At The End Of The Universe stretches the time span to it's limit - several times in Marvins case.

Wasn't familiar with Piserchia, there are innumerable obscure SF writers. Earthchild sounds more than a bit like Brian Aldiss's Hothouse, aka the Long Summer of Earth, set billions of years in the future, where the remaining stunted green skinned humans cope with predators descended from plants. The ocean basins are filled with a single globe spanning mangrove. Realllly weird book.

I have been reading a book called Auto Mania: Cars, Consumers and the Environment (2007) by Tom McCarthy (a professor of history at the US Naval Academy).

The most interesting thing I have learned (there are so many it is hard to choose just one) is that many people were concerned that gasoline was a nonrenewable fuel even at the very dawn of the auto age in 1905! They tried to make ethanol (grain alcohol) the dominant fuel BUT two things thwarted them: ethanol didn`t have the same power per gallon and it always seemed to cost a little more than gasoline. "So long as the petroleum industry continued to find and develop new sources of oil to keep te price of gasoline from rising too sharply, the oilmen effectively discouraged others from making the large investments necessary to produce low-cost alcohol". (p.30)

Reading between the lines (McCarthy doesn`t go into energy per se) from the start it seems that the EROEI of ethanol has always made it a dubious candidate for a replacement for the wonders of gasoline.

I was also interested to read how people were desperate to have a car so that they wouldn`t suffer loss of status in relation to their car-owning neighbors.

Early car buyers didn`t "need" a car, they just wanted one so they could keep up with the Joneses.

This is a very interesting book. I do recommend it!

Keeping up with the Joneses, per your post, is probably partly why sales figures for autos are so high in China. I heard recently that a guy wanting to woo a woman for marriage had to have a good job, own a vehicle and it needed to be more than just a minivan, and own (carry a mortgage on) an apartment. They said this preoccupation with material goods is a new phenomenon for China.

No wonder their economy is growing so fast.

So no wonder Tainter talks about a "flattening" of the social hierarchy after a collapse---energy accentuates the the small differences between people and so a smart person (pre-oil a farmer or a blacksmith or a school teacher) becomes, with oil, a "genius" (publishing a few articles or a run-of-the-mill book, driving a Lexus) and a less gifted person (who could be a hard-working self-employed man or a respectable servant in the olden pre-oil days)turns into a "total loser" in his old clunker.

It seems like it really bothered people that they didn`t have a car while someone else did and no wonder.

I've posted a few 90 year old newspaper pieces warning of an impending oil shortfall from falling production and rising demand. It's by no means new, our Cornucopian opponents often point out that some 5 times in the past people have warned that we're "Running out of oil!," as Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes warned in 1943.

Yeah, and this all got me wondering---what if there had been NO OIL in the USA?? Would they really have used grain for automobile fuel instead of for human food? Or---more likely---there would have been NO car industry to speak of?

It seems like the EROI of ethanol has always lagged behind gasoline.
In the beginning farmers used horses to grow grain....oilmen used primitive pumps but oil was easy to develop because there was so much.

Then grain started to be produced with machines. The EROI goes up but the oil technology to get gasoline gets better so oil`s EROI is still better. It seems like something chasing its own tail---never to catch up.

When oil becomes even more difficult to find and get, then growing grain will be less oil-intensive too and physically harder (worse EROI again). Will it ever make sense to make grain fuel except on a limited basis for farm machinery?

The interesting thing is that 100 years ago some people in the US who talked about the end of oil foresaw the problem but the whole issue could not be processed/digested/addressed by the whole society because of (I think it was) "cognitive dissonance". SOUND FAMILIAR?????

plus ca change plus c'est le meme chose!


Unemployment improves according to this article, but I heard on TV the totals do not include 9 states! How can they release data without 9 states?

Does anyone have a link to an article or data base showing the 9 states not included?

Denninger pointed out that the "improvement" may be people running out of unemployment benefits, and therefore not counted as unemployed.

That started around midsummer, and is in full gear now. It will peak sometime in next year.

The employment rate is consistently down.

I don't give a rip what the so-called "unemployment" rate is, until the employment rate starts going up we are not going to see material improvement in the economy.

until the employment rate starts going up

Don't hold your breath. There are structural reasons why unemployment will stay high and grow that have nothing to do with declining oil supplies:

Lost Decade

The Good:

The 'beast' is launched
U.K. firm set to erect a giant turbine to harness tides of the North Sea. Could the Bay of Fundy be next?

A U.K. COMPANY that is about to commission one of the world’s biggest marine energy turbines off the coast of Scotland has targeted the Bay of Fundy for future projects.

"The Fundy tides are one of the best tidal resources in the world. The area will become a key market and we want to be a part of it," said Timothy Cornelius, chief executive officer of Atlantic Resources Corporation, in an interview Wednesday.


Now that Atlantis has successfully installed one of its massive AK1000 turbines off the coast of Scotland’s Orkney Islands, the marine energy company is ramping up some European and Asian demonstration projects and remains keen about the Bay of Fundy.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Business/1200869.html

The Bad:

Power still out in pockets around the province

Last weekend's visit by Hurricane Earl is still affecting Nova Scotia Power customers.

Late this morning, the utility reported 2,881 customers were without power, most due to storm-weakened branches falling on lines.

Outages were mostly along the eastern part of the province in areas such as Goshen, Indian Harbour Lake, Guysborough County and Cape Breton County.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/9017821.html

The Ugly:

NSP had other biomass options
Pictou County, Sydney proposals deemed feasible

Two companies submitted alternative biomass power projects that would be "viable and offer good value" to Nova Scotia Power, according to an independent study released Wednesday.

Cape Breton Renewable Energy Inc. and Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corp. submitted bids in April to the power company to sell electricity from burning wood waste, according to a review done by Deloitte & Touche at the request of Nova Scotia Power.

The Cape Breton firm proposed a 15-megawatt stand-alone biomass fuel facility, to be located at Harbourside Commercial Park, Sydney.

Northern Pulp submitted a plan to replace its existing biomass facility with a 48-megawatt co-generating plant at its mill in Abercrombie Point, Pictou County. The facility would use a combined biomass and liquid biofuel source. (Liquid biofuel is extracted from agricultural products like the rapeseed plant or soybeans.)

Until Wednesday, Nova Scotia Power wanted this information kept secret, but government regulators forced the utility to disclose some of the contents of the high-level review done on the alternative projects.

Nova Scotia Power is seeking regulatory approval to build its own 60-megawatt biomass plant, with a price tag of $208 million. NewPage Port Hawkesbury Corp. would operate the plant, using an old burner at the plant, valued at $80 million.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Business/1200738.html

Best hopes for more good and less ugly.


So, what are the cons to tidal energy, assuming a good location. You know, environmental costs, EROEI, etc.

There have to be some, right?


Harsh environment...really harsh.

A tidal barrage is pretty bad on the environment. A bit like a dams effect on a river but on a far greater scale. Silting is always an issue too.

Tidal turbines are pretty much underwater wind turbines but working in a very harsh environment. Great for base load though as you know years in advance when the power will be produced and how much.

The Severn barrage keeps being touted as a goer here but a combination of build cost/time and enviromental lobbying will never see it done.

Along with much of Europe we've built up such a lot of red tape around constructing anything - not just renewable power generation - that building out massive amount of any renewables will be sunk before it even hits the drawing board.

Enbridge suffers another pipeline leak. This time in Illinois


Self-repairing solar cell is bio-inspired

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Carbon nanotubes studded with phospholipid disks enable solar cells to perform self-repairing operations similar to plants performing photosynthesis. The resulting photoelectrochemical solar cells are claimed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers to be twice as efficient as the best solid-state solar panels.
Strano's formulation mimics the reversibility of photosynthetic processes with synthetic disk molecules called phospholipids, each of which carries its own internal reaction center that coverts light into an electric current. When mixed into a solution with carbon nanotubes, the disks self-assemble around them. Since carbon conducts electricity even better than metals, the nanotubes enhance the transport of electrons freed inside the disks by their exposure to sunlight.
Inside the disks, Strano's team created a photosynthesis-like cyclical mechanism using seven different compounds that self-assemble into harvesters of light. By adding a surfactant, similar to those used to disperse oil in the Gulf this spring, the entire seven-compound assembly can be broken apart into its original components. Then, by forcing the whole solution through a filter that removes the surfactants, the original building blocks again self-assemble into a rebuilt solar cell.
Compared to under 20 percent for the best solid-state solar cells, the liquid-state photoelectrochemical cell achieved 40 percent efficiency; higher concentrations of nanotube-disks could increase efficiency further, according to researchers.

How long do they last? What happens at low temperatures? Notice too the comment at the end:

The 40 percent figure was calculated from the chemistry of the reactions, whereas the solution tested was relatively dilute. By improving the chemistry and making the solution more concentrated, they hope to outperform solid-state solar cells.

Calculations? We don't believe no smoking calculations!

E. Swanson

Breaking News: Massive(PGE) Gas Main Explosion in Residential Area of San Bruno, CA (outside SF). Multiple homes on fire, multiple injuries. Large explosion and fire in San Bruno