Drumbeat: October 11, 2010

Economy Sandbags Plans for Nuclear Reactors

WASHINGTON — Just a few years ago, the economic prognosis for new nuclear reactors looked bright. The prospect of growing electricity demand, probable caps on carbon-dioxide emissions and government loan guarantees prompted companies to tell the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that they wanted to build 28 new reactors.

The economic slump, which has driven down demand and the price of competing energy sources, and the failure of Congress to pass climate legislation has changed all that, at least for now.

Constellation Energy’s announcement on Saturday that it had reached an impasse with the federal government over the fee for a loan guarantee on a new reactor in Maryland is a sign of how much the landscape has been transformed.

Essentially, the Energy Department argued that Constellation’s project is so risky that the company must pay a high fee or provide other assurances of repayment if it wants the taxpayers to guarantee its construction loans. Constellation said the government’s demand was “unreasonably burdensome.”

Constellation Pullout From Md. Nuclear Venture Leaves Industry Future Uncertain

If the "nuclear renaissance" is not dead, it appeared in a coma for most of the country following the collapse of Constellation Energy's plan to build a third reactor on Maryland's Chesapeake Bay shore, energy officials said this weekend.

India's nuclear power generation exceeds target

Mumbai (IANS) Electricity generation from India's nuclear power plants exceeded its target for the first time in nearly half a decade, mainly due to the availability of imported fuel, an official said here Monday.

EU is suddenly busy with energy projects

BRUSSELS --EU seed funds to offset the recession after the 2008 financial crisis are breathing life into major -- and sometimes long-ignored -- energy projects, raising hope that another midwinter Russia gas cutoff won't leave many West Europeans shivering.

In the past two years, the EU has spent euro3.8 billion to draw investors to scores of pipeline networks and power grids valued at almost $30 billion.

"Out of the total of 59 energy projects, 56 have been started to date," says a recent report from EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger seen by The Associated Press. The projects span the EU from Spain to the Arctic to Greece.

The boom is being driven by the EU handout and nightmare memories of Russian gas cutoffs. In 2006 and last winter, a dozen EU nations suffered drops in Russian gas shipments. Last winter, at least 10 people froze to death in Poland when temperatures fell to -13 F (-25 C).

Iraq has the oil stores, but does it have the know-how?

By announcing that Iraq's proved reserves had jumped from 115 billion barrels to 143 billion, he effectively added two Algerias or four Norways to the oil world. But what is the real significance of this announcement? Everything and nothing.

Nothing, because oil in the ground is essentially useless. Neither markets nor OPEC will take account of these new reserves until Iraq backs up its impressive numbers with action. The contracts awarded to international oil companies such as Shell, BP, Malaysia's Petronas and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) add up to output of 12.5 million barrels per day within seven years, which would make Iraq the world's largest producer.

Sanctions hit Iran petrol imports

Iran’s oil minister has said petrol imports have fallen to their lowest level in more than a decade owing to international sanctions over the country’s nuclear programme but insists domestic production remains sufficient to meet demand.

Although Iran sits on the world’s third-largest oil reserves, it lacks sufficient refining capacity and until recently imported about a third of its 66.5m litres of petrol needs.

Saudi Aramco to Supply Asia Full Crude Oil Volumes for Loading in November

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

Saudi Aramco, as the company is known, will provide 100 percent of cargoes sold under long-term contracts for a 12th month, according to a survey of refinery officials, all of whom asked to remain unidentified, citing confidentiality agreements with the Middle East producer.

Chinese, Saudis ink security pact

RIYADH - CHINA and Saudi Arabia have agreed to set up a joint security commission, in the latest sign of growing ties between the two countries, the kingdom's official SPA news agency reported on Monday.

Saudi Arabia looking for investors in water and power

Saudi Arabia has asked for private sector investment to help it meet a growing demand for power and water.

The state run Saline Water Conversion Corp is restructuring its business and has plans to take on private sector participation so as to reduce subsidy costs to the government.

Energy crisis worsens

The energy crisis in Pakistan has worsened as power shortfall is now nearly 3,000 megawatts behind demand.

Up to 10 hours of load shedding is being observed in urban areas, while in rural parts of the country, power outages have grown to 12 hours a day.

Plan for 20-day oil stocks to avert shortage

ISLAMABAD: Drawing a lesson from last month’s fuel shortages, the government has decided to import about two million tons of petroleum products in about 45 days and has asked private marketing companies to maintain at least 20 days of oil inventory to ward off another fuel crisis ahead of winter and Haj.

Sources told Dawn that the government was striving to build adequate inventories of almost all petroleum products to cover 20 to 21 days of domestic oil requirements.

Poor scenario of power generation & energy source

Bangladesh is facing a dual energy crisis with the same root cause. The most apparent crisis is a power shortage forcing load shedding in both urban and rural areas. The table shows that the installed capacity is only 5823 MW and the maximum supplied was 4698 MW in August 2010. The present generation shortfall exceeds more than1000 MW during peak hours. The daily shortages in power and the list of problems coming with it are largely due the lack of investments in new power generating capacity over the last decade.

Our infrastructure: Utilities working to avert an energy crisis

Distributing electricity and natural gas with aging equipment could have an impact on public safety and the economy. Local utilities say they are working hard to keep up.

PetroChina Discovers Major Oil Reservoir in Xinjiang

PetroChina has found commercial oil flows at wells in the Mobei oilfield in the oil-rich Xinjiang Autonomous region of Northwest China, and it expects to add new crude oil reserves of tens of millions metric tons, parent China National Petroleum Corp. said in its in-house newsletter Monday.

Demand for used cars shifts into overdrive

Auto dealers have seen a shortage of used cars this year, leaving them scrambling to keep their inventories up, sometimes resorting to purchasing cars online.

While some segments are improving, there's still a shortage of trucks and SUVs stemming from auto manufacturers curtailing production two years ago as fuel prices spiked and the economy tanked.

Herman Daly: The big population question

Should we be thinking about the number simultaneously alive or the cumulative number ever to live?

Foes Outspend Backers of Proposition 23

At the start of the campaign for California’s Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would suspend the state’s global warming law, opponents darkly warned that the Texas oil companies backing the initiative would spend as much as $50 million to win the election.

But with three weeks until Election Day, it is the No on 23 coalition of environmentalists, investors and Silicon Valley technology companies that is raking in the cash, taking in nearly twice as much money as the Yes on 23 campaign.

Trees planted for global climate campaign

BERLIN — Environmental campaigners planted trees, collected rubbish and rallied against pollution on Sunday for what organisers aimed to make the world's biggest day of climate-change activism.

The 10/10/10 event known as the "Global Work Party" kicked off in Australia and New Zealand before spinning its way across the globe via more than 7,000 community events in 188 countries.

Carbon-Storing Forests, Farms May Compete for Australian Land, Study Says

Carbon-storing forests may compete with agriculture for land in Australia, the world’s fourth- largest exporter of wheat, if the nation introduces emissions trading, according to a research report.

“Large areas of land could become more profitable” as sites for plantations to absorb greenhouse gas emissions, depending on the price at which carbon trades, the Australian Farm Institute said today. A cap-and-trade system “would potentially generate new competition for agricultural land.”

Urban farming yields small climate gains

Farming in and around cities is sustainable, but the gains in terms of climate are limited. To really make a difference we must change our eating habits. This conclusion was reached by Wageningen University researchers (The Netherlands) from PPO, who calculated for Almere council the likely climate gains from large-scale urban farming in the planned Oosterwold. This 4,000 hectare development with housing, offices and farms is intended to become the vegetable garden of Almere. The study calculates what this urban farming would mean in terms of fossil fuel usage, greenhouse gas emissions and food kilometers.

Pemex's Exit From `Drill, Baby, Drill' Oil Policy May Hurt Cicsa, Tenaris

Petroleos Mexicanos’s plans to scale back drilling by 60 percent next year at its $11 billion Chicontepec oil field will hurt Mexican oil services providers as they lose contracts to companies such as Halliburton Co. and Schlumberger Ltd., analysts said.

Pemex, as Latin America’s biggest oil producer is known, is shifting its strategy on Chicontepec and earmarking the majority of the field’s 2011 budget of 21 billion pesos ($1.7 billion) for research after output missed forecasts, Chief Executive Officer Juan Jose Suarez Coppel said Oct. 1 in an interview.

Crude Oil Futures Slip on Concern That Demand Recovery Is Not Fast Enough

Oil gave up earlier gains as the dollar recovered and traders bet that demand isn’t rebounding fast enough to justify this month’s increase.

Gas up more than 8 cents in the last two weeks

CAMARILLO, Calif. — A new survey finds the average price of regular gasoline in the United States has jumped 8.23 cents in the past two weeks.

Hedge Funds Raise Bullish Bets on Oil to Five-Month High

Hedge funds raised bullish bets on oil to the highest level in more than five months amid speculation that the Federal Reserve will enact further stimulus measures to keep the economic recovery on track.

China's Unipec Reduces Diesel Exports in October to Meet Domestic Demand

China International United Petroleum & Chemical Corp., the nation’s largest oil trader, plans to reduce diesel exports for a second month in October because of increased domestic demand, a company official said.

Iran ups its reserves cache

Iran today unveiled a massive boost in its estimated oil reserves, a move which sees it wrest back its place as the holder of the third-largest reserves base in the world.

Reuters quoted Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi telling a news conference that Iran had 150.31 billion barrels of reserves, up from previous estimates which ranged from 132 billion to 138 billion barrels - and he said that figure would be revised even higher soon.

OPEC May Maintain Oil Output in Vienna on Uneven Economic Growth

OPEC may leave oil production quotas unchanged when it meets in three days’ time because signs of a recovery in fuel demand have yet to emerge among the world’s developed economies.

The oil market is “a little oversupplied,” Mohamed al- Hamli, the oil minister of the United Arab Emirates, the third- biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, said Oct. 9. OPEC members are all exceeding their allotted quotas after prices surged 78 percent in 2009 and a further 4 percent this year.

Russia's Novatek set to produce 43 bcm of gas in 2011

(Reuters) - Russia's largest independent gas producer, Novatek, expects to produce 43 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas in 2011, up from the 37 bcm planned this year, its spokesman said Monday.

Novatek anouced the higher production target during a visit by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who launched the third phase of production at its largest production asset, the giant Arctic Yurkharovskoye field.

Marseille Port Strike Continues; Fuel Shipped Overland as Refineries Shut

A strike by workers at the French port of Marseille’s oil terminals entered its 15th day, forcing the government to transport fuel by road and rail to avoid shortages as refineries in the region began shutting down.

Japan "urges China to set up communication system"

(Reuters) - Japanese Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa on Monday urged his Chinese counterpart to set up a bilateral maritime communications system quickly following a row over disputed islands, Kyodo news agency said.

Aramco-Total Venture Plans to Sell $1 Billion Bond, Credit Agricole Says

Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest state-owned oil company, and Total SA plan to sell Islamic bonds valued at $1 billion this year to fund construction of their Jubail oil refinery, Simon Eedle, global head of Islamic banking at Credit Agricole SA, said in Abu Dhabi today.

U.S., Chinese firms enter shale deal

The China National Offshore Oil Corp. will pay Chesapeake Energy $2.2 billion for a one-third interest in a South Texas oil and natural gas shale project and will pay billions of dollars more for its share of development costs over the next several years.

Chesapeake Energy, an Oklahoma City-based domestic exploration company, announced the deal Sunday night, saying it will help speed development of resources on 600,000 acres in the Eagle Ford shale play that could help keep natural gas prices low and boost production of unconventional U.S. oil resources.

Russia's oil giant to hit Asian markets

Lukoil, the second largest oil producer in Russia, wants to enter the Asian markets. Currently, the company's shares are traded in New York, London and Frankfurt. Recently, the company's management purchased a part of its holding of shares from ConocoPhillips. These shares may go to the Asian trading floor that picked up the interest of the Russian companies after the IPO of Rusal.

Population: It’s the infrastructure, stupid. Or is it?

I was at the local pub a few weeks ago with a friend and her husband, both of whom work in defence. He was keen to catch up and discuss my involvement in the fledgling Stable Population Party, and as it turned out, to rebut concerns I have about population growth.

More infrastructure, he said, would solve everything.

He’d barely considered peak oil or other finite resources, the loss of arable land, food security, water supply, carbon emissions or climate change. Nope, it’s all about infrastructure.

The Viscous Nature of Oil in Winter

…Economic “winter” that is!

The more expensive the oil, the more everything costs. Every step of production is influenced by oil’s price. As price rises, it acts as a tax on the consumer. Given a constant income level, spending more on energy means spending less on other goods and services which themselves also cost more.

Summary of annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil-USA (ASPO-USA)

What is interesting about this meeting is the range of backgrounds of the individuals that attend and speak. There were practicing and academic economists, persons working in the oil and gas industry, ecologists, a congressman (Roscoe Bartlett), and a Navy admiral (Lawrence Rice). With all of these backgrounds, the basic consensus of the group is that oil production is in fact peaking now as production has been within 5% of the same level of production around 83 to 85 million barrels per year over the last five years, and will begin to irreversibly decline within the next five years. Additionally, the current economic downturn and high unemployment levels are directly tied to the precipitous rise in oil price from 2003 to summer of 2008.

Feds to study oil spill's effect on bluefin tuna

NEW ORLEANS — The National Marine Fisheries Service will study whether the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has hurt the bluefin tuna population to the point that the fish should be placed on the endangered species list.

Panhandle tourism officials blame losses on spill

FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. -- Three Florida Panhandle counties say the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had a devastating effect on local tourism.

Compared with August 2009, tax revenue from short-term rentals declined 27 percent in Walton County in August. Santa Rosa County reported a 22 percent drop. Okaloosa County had a drop of 35 percent.

China Said to Permit Argentine Soy Oil Imports, Easing Six Months of Curbs

China will allow the two largest state-owned grains and oilseeds trading companies to import soybean oil from Argentina, easing restrictions imposed in April, said two traders with direct knowledge of the matter.

Masdar City overhaul cuts $3.3bn from costs

The cost of Masdar City, Abu Dhabi's signature carbon-neutral development, is expected to drop by as much as 15 per cent, or US$3.3 billion (Dh12.12bn). The savings will come as the project adapts to a slower property market, its chief executive said. A 10-month review of Masdar identified technology choices that are now not viable and pushed back the huge project's completion date. Costs, previously estimated at $22bn, were reduced significantly as a result of the review, said Dr Sultan al Jaber, the chief executive of Masdar, which is wholly owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.

Murray plan 'falls short' on climate

PLANS to cut farmers' water rights in the Murray-Darling river system have underestimated climate change, according to farming and green groups.

...Despite farming groups responding with outrage at the severity of the proposed cuts, the fine detail of Friday's report suggests that a return to a wetter climate may be needed to reach some of the environmental goals.

Re: Iran ups its reserves cache

Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi told a news conference Iran had 150.31 billion barrels of reserves, up from a previous estimate of 138 billion barrels and added that figure would be revised even higher soon.

Ron wrote on October 4, http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7015/728819

On another subject, it looks like Iraq's figure of 143.1 billion barrels was deliberately designed to put them just above Iran's reserve figure of 138.4 billion barrels. Look for Iran to upgrade their reserve figures in order to get back in second place.

I was looking for the same quote. You beat me to it, LOL.

Ha ha, a good observation and kudos to Ron there..
If I was Ron I would direct my gut feeling towards Lotto or some such, and since he is a good ol' man he in turn could give all the monies to TOD after 'pocketing down' for his own necessities..

Lottery? Not likely to happen Paal. I consider the lottery a tax on the mathematically impaired. Anyway it was not just a lucky guess, I knew the Iranians would never allow Iraq to get ahead of them in reserves. And their words; "- and he said that figure would be revised even higher soon" was a warning to Iraq that if they raised their reserves again then Iran would just raise theirs again, keeping them in second place.

Ron P.

Exactly: 'we'll see your 3 billion barrels of reserves, and raise you 10 billion, and BTW we have plenty of chips to put on the table.'

Next question is: how long before we see articles that say 'Stunning Reserve Growth in Iraq and Iran is Another Devastating Setback for Peak Oil Crackpots...'?

Here you have already this reply: As Phil Flynn, the PFG Best analyst, said: "Oh well, another setback for peak oil theorists." The increased reserves further undermine widespread claims that we are approaching geological limits to increasing oil production.
Quote from http://www.thenational.ae/business/energy/iraq-has-the-oil-stores-but-do...

Less than half a day. Breathtaking! And they are not content with a sound bite, either, going for the full-throated historical narrative:

The new numbers are probably now the best attested of any major OPEC nation. By analogy, they also suggest that, when the oil reserves of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE jumped sharply in the 1980s, these countries were correcting past conservatism and allowing for technological progress, more than exaggerating their hoard for political ends. Even Iraq's latest reserves figure is conservative, implying that barely a quarter of the oil under its territory is considered recoverable. Boosting this to an industry standard 40 per cent - and note that Saudi Arabia targets 70 per cent recovery from similar fields - would add as much reserves as the entire UAE.

I guess time will tell if Iraq 'probably' and 'by analogy' 'suggests' some oil out of the ground. Really, if they would only 'target' a higher level of recovery, we would have no need to fear future shortages...

If Iraq bumps up it's reserves to a number above Iran's, and then Iran bumps up its numbers again, what will the IEA do:
(1) Accept these new mumbers and lose all credibility?
(2) Say that they need more evidence to comfirm these new numbers, thereby questioning all ME reserve numbers?

Either way, the IEA is in a tough spot. It'll be interesting to see what they do.

(1) Accept these new mumbers and lose all credibility?

If their credibility hasn't already suffered from their accepting the initial '80s OPEC revisions and their many Fantasyland-based forecasts, what makes you think this would do it?

So . . . is there any kind of auditing or documentation requirement for these claims? Or can any oil minister just make them up? Are they kind of like appraisals that you pay for where you get the appraisal you want because you are paying the appraiser?

OPEC's oil reserve claims are about as valid as the major banks legitimacy claims on millions of robo-signed mortgages. AMBAC discovered that Wells Fargo had 97% of mortgages that Wells originated and then securitized failed to meet Wells Fargo's own lending standards. Note: AMBAC has an interest here as they were the insurers of the Mortgage Backed Securities which were supposed to be AAA financial instruments. Yet they were not. The entire financial pyramid is massive fraud, from inception forward.

Likewise, OPEC's reserve claims are all massive fraud. People who believe OPEC has that much oil probably also believe that Wells, Citi, and BoA are all really solvent too. Of course, they probably believe in the tooth fairy as well.


(From The Moscow Times - 11 October 2010): ' Norilsk Nickel, the world's biggest producer of autocatalyst metal palladium, said Friday that it expected Russian state stocks of the white metal to be "finished" next year.
"This year will be the last year when any substantial quantity from this stock has any chance to enter the market," deputy CEO for sales and distribution Viktor Sprogis said at a briefing. "That is why we expect that next year this stock is finished." Officially levels of Russian metals stocks are a state secret. ... '

'...Sales of metal from Russian palladium stockpiles have been a key component in overall supply for years. Metals refiner Johnson Matthey estimated in a report earlier this year that such sales amounted to 960,000 ounces in 2009.
Without these sales, the palladium market would have been in a deficit of some 200,000 ounces, according to Johnson Matthey data, rather than in the surplus they actually recorded.'

See the full article here: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/state-palladium-stockpile...

Before anyone says, "So what?" I offer this from Wiki:

Over half of the supply of palladium and its congener platinum goes into catalytic converters, which convert up to 90% of harmful gases from auto exhaust (hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide) into less harmful substances (nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor). Palladium is found in many electronics including computers, mobile phones, multi-layer ceramic capacitors, component plating, low voltage electrical contacts, and SED/OLED/LCD televisions. Palladium is also used in dentistry, medicine, hydrogen purification, chemical applications, and groundwater treatment. Palladium plays a key role in the technology used for fuel cells, which combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water.

In our insane determination to continue to grow exponentially, and in particular our greedy determination for economic growth, we deplete all of the finite resources of our small world. Peak Oil, Peak Palladium, Peak Coal... all point to Peak People.


It is interesting that the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was just awarded for work in the '70s on reactions catalyzed by palladium.

Of course we can get a lot of recycled palladium, platinum and other catalytic metals from the catalytic convertors on our cars. I've wondered whether the catalytic convertor was promoted at least partly in order to provide a strategic reserve of these critical elements.

Note to self.

Before poking hole in gas tank to drain gas cut catalytic converter.

Might as well grab the aluminum rims at this point so bring cinder blocks ...

Thanks Craig, I forgot to mention it.

In electronic trading, corn prices were up some 40 cents per bushel this morning.

Corn prices hit a two-year high on Monday, jumping more than 8 per cent, as traders scrambled to buy after the US Department of Agriculture warned last week of “dramatically” lower supplies because of bad weather.

Corn prices have surged more than 15 per cent over the past two days, making the jump one of the biggest in recent history and prompting some analysts to warn that the world was fast moving into another food crisis.

Right now, or rather the 30 minute delay quote, shows December corn trading at $5.68 4/8, up $.40 2/8 since the close Friday. However in June of 2008 corn reached a high of $7.65 per bushel and closed the month out at $7.24 6/8.

CBOT Corn Monthly Price Chart

Ron P.

How High Will Corn Prices Have to Go? on page 24 has an interesting chart of historical corn prices. Note that corn was around $1 / bushel until the '74 oil shock. Afterwards, it was around $2.25 until recently.

We are probably headed for a new price range.

Aside from the domestication of wheat, and the Haber Process, the domestication of corn was one of our species great mistakes.
Corn has domesticated us, as we practice biocide to provide environments for it to grow.

The really bad mistake was the invention of smelting and metal working. Axes and plows are what did the damage. Metal only became plentiful enough for metal agricultural tools and implements after the development of smelting of iron ores using charcoal and limestone.

The corn growing native american cultures did limited damage to the environment, since they only had stone tools.

Really? Mesoamerica was a devastated ecology, with few mega fauna left, and a population reduced to a challenging diet.

Devastated compared with today in Mesoamerica? Devastated compared with Iowa? Hardly. In fact, the Mayan civilization's range had been largely reclaimed by the jungle.

The American megafauna were mostly killed off by pre-agriculturist big game hunters in the first wave of settlement. But, they may also have been helped to extinction by climate change due to Non-Anthropomorphic Global Warming at the end of the last Ice Age and the onset of the abnormally hot Holocene which persists to the present.

The challenging diet just proves that Malthus was right.


I'll agree with you. Iowa is a giant cornfield... I can't imagine how beautiful it was before it was destroyed.

The corn growing native american cultures did limited damage to the environment, since they only had stone tools.

There wasn't much they could do, since their ancestors killed off all the large game that might otherwise have been domesticated and turned to beasts of burden, or perhaps sustainably harvested. Just one crazy, short-sighted mistake after another...

What about the 60+ million bisons on the plains circa 1850?

Bison are like zebras, difficult to domesticate in comparison with the other domesticated species. It can be done but remains difficult even with succeeding generations.

Read Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (9780393317558): by Jared M. Diamond for a deeper look at the advantages that particular domesticable species provided, and how these species helped drive the spread of agrarian society.

Yes, I thought that was one of the most interesting parts of that book. Diamond argues that a big reason Europe colonized the Americas, rather than the other way around, was geographical. In particular, the east-west layout of Eurasia vs. the north-south orientation of the Americas, and the lack of large domesticable animals in the New World.

There are several qualities needed to make an animal domesticable; you can't do it with just any species. Some of them can't be tamed. Some can be, but will not breed in captivity.

The New World was stuck with dogs and llamas as beasts of burden, and they were too small to pull carts or turn mills. So the wheel remained a toy in the New World. They knew about it, but without large draft animals, it just wasn't much use. Diamond argues that held back the development of technology, which allowed Europe to conquer the New World.

Aside from the turkey, llama, and the guinea pig, it was a wash.
Huge devastation to mesoamerica.
Grains are poison.

We should restore those 60 million buffalo, and those perennial grass that sequester carbon and provided a robust ecosystem, rather than that decimated eco ethic cleansing that occupies it today, with its devastating effects on fossil water, soils and Haber induced death zones.

Where YOU LIVE the natives had no word for famine.

Between salmon, waterfowl and shellfish they never went hungry. Oh, and acorns were a staple too.

Does that wash with 'huge devastation'?

They were doing well until we came along....

Really now? And just where did you get that bit of information? I'll bet they had a word for "everybody hungry".

It appears you completely buy into the myth of the noble savage. Whenever and wherever there has ever been an abundance of food the natives have always multiplied until there was no longer an abundance. And these people always had neighbors, and these neighbors wanted food also.

For a different opinion try: Constant Battles

Not only are human societies never alone, but regardless of how well they control their own population or act ecologically, they cannot control their neighbors’ behavior. Each society must confront the real possibility that its neighbors will not live in ecological balance but will grow its numbers and attempt to take the resources from nearby groups. Not only have societies always lived in a changing environment, but they always have neighbors. The best way to survive in such a milieu is not to live in ecological balance with slow growth, but to grow rapidly and be able to fend off competitors as well as take resources from others.
Steven LeBlanc, “Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage” page 73

The book in hardback was called "Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage" but when it came out in paperback they changed the name to "Constant Battles: Why We Fight".

Ron P.

Dammit Ron you're costing me money and bookshelves !!

Well you cannot go wrong with this one. It's one of my favorite books, right behind "Overshoot" by William Catton and "The Moral Animal" by Robert Wright... and perhaps "Born That Way" by William Wright... and perhaps... ;-)

Ron P.

I know that conundrum well.
Ah, books and travel is money never wasted.

Access to an even half-decent public library solves the money part, at least for a first reading. Even if they don't have it, they usually have a deal with one or more university libraries to get hold of it (here in the suburbs of Denver, the local public library doesn't have their own copy, but can get the 1980 version from any of nine different universities in their network).

Pirated e-book versions of a lot of things have started to appear (more fiction than non-fiction, though). Cheap digital cameras and steadily improving software are making it easier and easier to make your own soft copy -- some commercial systems claim an experienced user can scan 1,000 pages per hour. It's common enough that there's a do-it-yourself site. I've met at least one college student who built a rig and spends a Saturday afternoon at the beginning of each semester scanning his textbooks into his laptop. He says that the advantages of always having all the books with him are enormous.

And let's be honest; if you scan the copy of the book borrowed from the library and keep it for yourself, no one is going to find out. I keep waiting for the publishers to figure out that there's a workable pricing model for this. The U of Illinois Press still has the book in print, but I imagine that sales are quite slow at $27 per copy. A $2 per copy e-book version would probably sell enough more to "make it up in volume," particularly since there would be essentially no printing or storage costs. Don't know about others, but there are a number of things that I would pay $2 for a legal e-book copy instead of waiting two weeks for the inter-library loan.

O Boy! Another fight!

Source: I was reading "The Ohlone Way" in bed yesterday morning. These are the central California native folks. They're still around...

They hung around the same places I do now. Not going hungry.

And yes I read "Constant Battles", "Overshoot", "Collapse", "End of Nature", "Party's Over", "Selfish Gene", "Twilight", "Lord of the Butterflies", "Green Eggs and Ham" etc etc. And I am science-and-reality based. And I haven't bought into the noble savage myth.

Simply: Here in coastal central California the residents did not starve. Between the fish and the birds and the shellfish and the acorns, they always had enough. I like the part about fires up and down the beach, with each group happily roasting the goslings and ducklings.... MMMMMMMmmmm tasty!

And yes I read "Constant Battles",... Green Eggs and Ham" etc etc...

Simply: Here in coastal central California the residents did not starve. Between the fish and the birds and the shellfish and the acorns, they always had enough. I like the part about fires up and down the beach, with each group happily roasting the goslings and ducklings....

That is the noble savage myth! And obviously you have bought it hook, line and sinker. Each group lived happily, no conflict because everyone had a full stomach. They did not even have a wotrd for war either. ;-)

I am shocked. You said you have read Constant Battles yet the coastal areas of Central California was one of the main themes of the book. LeBlanc documents how the refuse piles the shells from the shellfish kept getting smaller and smaller as time went on. And there were in constant conflict with other tribes. Yet you fail to mention that or make any attempt to dispute Leblanc's thesis.

I know they have myths about how it was back in those days but that is all they are, myths. And no Ohlone remembers how it was before the arrival of the white man.

But belief in the noble savage myths die hard.

It took more than twenty-five years and a great deal of additional fieldwork for me finally to change my initial naïve view of the past, and humans in general. My take on warfare is now very different from what it was. Though these new ideas about conflict seem exceedingly obvious to me, I arrived at these conclusions not by means of abstract theory, but by being forced to look at warfare based on conclusive evidence found on the ground. The central importance of warfare throughout known history came to me slowly, prompted by archeological fieldwork in a number of different region and reinforced as I tried to reconcile theoretical positions that became increasingly impossible to accept.
Steven LeBlanc, “Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage” page 3.

Ron P.

One thing that amazed me about the Lewis and Clark expidition was that they were near starvation in the Pacific Northwest because the natives had maximized their own consumption in the existing ecosystem. There was no game or excess vegitation for even the eleven members of the expidition. Without sharing from the local tribes (and that only because Sacajawea was related to the local chief)they would have never made it home. These were seasoned, armed travelers and soldiers, no city folk.

i am just wondering. care to answer the fact that if our ancestor's 'constantly' fought each other and to due the average group size was about 100 or so. why are we here now? each group would of interbred out of existence long ago? similar to how the Neanderthals were theorized to have died out.
i think that they did fight, but only when times were bad enough that their current population levels. though if there was a excess of food in the area as would also happen, they would cooperate and exchange members.

Groups of 100 or less do not interbreed out of existence. If this were so then there would be no chimps or gorillas left on earth because all their groups are smaller than that.

Humans do make allies however. So perhaps they could have exchanged members. But war was the reason they made allies.

The group with the larger population always has an advantage in any competition over resources, whatever those resources may be. Over the course of human history, one side rarely has better weapons or tactics for any length of time, and most such warfare between smaller societies is attritional. With equal skills and weapons, each side would be expected to kill an equal number of its opponents. Over time, the larger group will finally overwhelm the smaller one. This advantage of size is well recognized by humans all over the world, and they go to great lengths to keep their numbers comparable to their potential enemies. This is observed anthropologically by the universal desire to have many allies, and the common tactic of smaller groups inviting other societies to join them, even in times of food stress.
Steven LeBlanc, “Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage” page 73-74.

Ron P.

The notion that native Americans lived a nirvana like existence and could do no ecological wrong is patently false. For example, much of the American southwest was not arid desert until decimated by over production. Go read about Chaco Canyon as just one such example. Now some native American tribes were living much more sustainably, but very typically those tribes were also slowly losing ground to tribes with more agrarian and destructive behaviors. The main difference is that it was happening at a much slower pace than in Europe.

The problem revolves around the fact that agriculture is a destructive behavior in itself, one of the most environmentally damaging behaviors we've taught ourselves. Yet, agriculture creates the basis for more specialized labor pools including soldiers to do the bidding of the ruling hierarchy. Hunter-gatherers don't have the resource depth to create a specialized labor pool and ultimately end up being unable to compete with agrarian societies. This makes it impossible to roll back the clock unless you somehow execute everyone who knows about agriculture and then execute anyone who tries to do it again afterward. This is another genie that is already out of the bottle.

What that means is the calls for a return to hunter-gatherer society can never actually materialize. Someone will always be willing to utilize agriculture to gain an edge over competing hunter-gatherers. The only solution is to move forward in some manner beyond modern agricultural society. And no, I don't have the great solution of where "forward" is, just that we can't continue to do what we are doing. Maybe we can really eventually "tame" agriculture, though I doubt it. Maybe we can replace agriculture. But voluntarily returning to our hunter-gatherer roots is as nonsensical as expecting us to voluntarily return to a 1900s lifestyle. It might happen but it certainly won't be voluntary and there will always be someone willing to go the next step, which puts us right back on the path we're currently on today.

That's because a truly sustainable human population on the long term of a typical species is probably at a few tens to a few hundreds of million spread out as hunter-gatherers. At least that's so under Pleistocene-Holocene climate conditions, which are admittedly not the best. If humans were to aspire to a typical two million year species lifespan, they would have had to limit themselves to those population levels and hope no asteroids or comets hit meanwhile. Resorting to agriculture allowed the show to go on and to even expand, in the Takeover mode of Catton (1980). We were doomed then to make it as far as we have until now. It would have been hard to have ignored fossil fuels. Imagine some sage telling others not to be tempted, you might get hooked and then what would happen if the supplies run out? Hindsight for me wishes we would have been a bit more creative with the stuff (burning it in cars? Going where exactly?), then maybe we could have kept the show going on a bit longer still.

The decades-long drought in the middle ages didn't help at all. I don't think the southwest has ever recovered from that.

Where YOU LIVE the natives had no word for famine.

Cept for the native Mayans or the native Anasazi.

(or were they not native and got taken back in the motherships?)

That's not where I live.... (No Surf, dude!)

It's foraging societies that often can't comprehend the idea of starving to death. Mayans were agriculturalists, a far more complex society.

It doesn't mean foragers are "noble savages." They are vulnerable to death by violence. But generally not death by starvation or disease. Skeletal remains from the stone age show people then were tall and healthy, to a degree not matched until now.

All animals, other than the human animal, are either forgers or hunters. (Omnivores are both.) And when they overpopulate their niche, they starve. Primitive human hunter-gatherers were no different. True, many died by violence but because they were fighting over territory and resources. Death by violence, when it is over territory and resources, as it usually was, is essentially death because of limited resources.

I have no doubt that stone age people, who survived to adulthood, were strong and robust. They had to be in order to survive.

Ron P.

"Foraging societies" is what they call hunter-gatherers these days.

Death by violence, when it is over territory and resources, as it usually was, is essentially death because of limited resources.

I don't deny that, but it does show how it's possible for a society to not be able to comprehend famine, without it being a "noble savage" fantasy.

Foraging societies also had a slower growth rate, because the combination of long breastfeeding and constant walking meant children came about every five years, rather than every year. So it was more difficult for them to outgrow their resources.

One reason why Diamond calls farming the worst mistake in the history of the human race.

I don't deny that, but it does show how it's possible for a society to not be able to comprehend famine, without it being a "noble savage" fantasy.

Seriously Leanan? Do you really believe that any any tribe, or whatever, ever existed that could not comprehend long periods of very scarce resources when they went hungry for long periods of time. They might not have had a word for it but they sure as hell were aware of it, and most lived it at some time or another.

Even if they never experienced famine themselves they surely knew what it was... and how to avoid it.

"Humans starve only when there are no other choices. One of those choices is to attempt to take either food, or food-producing land, from someone else. People DO perceive resource stress BEFORE they are starving. If no state or central authority is there to stop them, they will fight before the situation gets hopeless."
Steven LeBlanc, Constant Battles, page70

The Neanderthals disappeared because their territory was taken away by the Cro-Magnons. That was about 35,000 years ago. And ever since then Cro-Magnon tribes have been disappearing because other Cro-Magnon tribes took over their territory.

It is just the nature of the species.

Ron P.

There is a really great description of the hunter-gatherer society in "The Old Way" by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. But the people she studied weren't exactly tall.

The hunter-gatherer tribes that live today in the Amazon, and in New Guinea are not tall either, and they sure as hell are not peaceful.

From "The Blank Slate", the data below were bars on a chart in the book but I cannot reproduce the chart here so I will just give you the figures as near as I can eyeball them.

Jivaro 59 percent of males died as a result of war.
Yanomamo (Shamatari)39 percent of males died as a result of war.
Mae Enga 36 percent of males died as a result of war.
Dugum Dani 30 percent of males died as a result of war.
Murngin 29 percent of males died as a result of war.
Yanomamo (Namowei) 25 percent of males died as a result of war.
Huli 20 percent of males died as a result of war.
Gebusi 9 percent of males died as a result of war.
US & Europe 20th C. less than 1 percent of males died as a result of war.

Pinker's next paragraph:
The first eight bars, which range from almost 10 percent to almost 60 percent, come from indigenous peoples in South America and New Guinea. The nearly invisible bar at the bottom represents the United States and Europe in the twentieth century and includes the statistics from two world wars. Moreover Keely and others have noted that native peoples are dead serious when they carry out warefare. Many of them make weapons as damaging as their technology permits, exterminate their enemies when they can get away with it, and enhance the experience by torturing captives, cutting off trophies, and feasting on enemy flesh.

Ron P.

Warfare is highly adaptive for hunter gatherer societies. It keeps the numbers safely below the carrying capacity of the environment so that the predator-prey cycle does not result in periodic severe starvation and disease.

This was probably more true in temperate Europe and Asia than either the tropical envronments that you cite (where weather variations from year to year are less) or the high Arctic (where the populations were thin and high homicide and suicide rates serve the purpose).

Yes, it makes perfect sense, more deaths via warfare means fewer deaths by starvation. This means, of course, that if the savage were truly noble then there would have been a lot more starvation.

Ron P.

Well, height obviously has to do with genetics as much as environment.

What's interesting is comparing how the height of the same population changes with the transition to agricutlure.

From Diamond's The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race:

One straight forward example of what paleopathologists have learned from skeletons concerns historical changes in height. Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that the average height of hunger-gatherers toward the end of the ice ages was a generous 5' 9'' for men, 5' 5'' for women. With the adoption of agriculture, height crashed, and by 3000 B. C. had reached a low of only 5' 3'' for men, 5' for women. By classical times heights were very slowly on the rise again, but modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors.

Another example of paleopathology at work is the study of Indian skeletons from burial mounds in the Illinois and Ohio river valleys. At Dickson Mounds, located near the confluence of the Spoon and Illinois rivers, archaeologists have excavated some 800 skeletons that paint a picture of the health changes that occurred when a hunter-gatherer culture gave way to intensive maize farming around A. D. 1150. Studies by George Armelagos and his colleagues then at the University of Massachusetts show these early farmers paid a price for their new-found livelihood. Compared to the hunter-gatherers who preceded them, the farmers had a nearly 50 per cent increase in enamel defects indicative of malnutrition, a fourfold increase in iron-deficiency anemia (evidenced by a bone condition called porotic hyperostosis), a theefold rise in bone lesions reflecting infectious disease in general, and an increase in degenerative conditions of the spine, probably reflecting a lot of hard physical labor. "Life expectancy at birth in the pre-agricultural community was about twenty-six years," says Armelagos, "but in the post-agricultural community it was nineteen years. So these episodes of nutritional stress and infectious disease were seriously affecting their ability to survive."

Palaeolithic diet (‘‘stone age’’ diet)
Staffan Lindeberg - Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden


A popular diet in Sweden today is the palaeolithic diet, where lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots and nuts are dietary staples, while cereals, dairy products, salt and processed fat and sugar are avoided. The underlying rationale is that foods that were available during the evolution of primates, up to the emergence of fully modern humans, are healthier than recently introduced ones (dairy products, cereals, beans, refined fat, sugar, etc.), since our digestive and metabolic systems were not designed for the latter group of foods. Variation in plant foods, another principle based on evolutionary biology, is recommended to avoid high intakes of potentially harmful bioactive substances. It is not known whether palaeolithic diets are more, or less, effective than other diets in weight reduction.

Do you really believe that any any tribe, or whatever, ever existed that could not comprehend long periods of very scarce resources when they went hungry for long periods of time.

Yes. There were lean periods, but they were times when they had to eat less desirable foods, not times when they starved to death.

The Neanderthals disappeared because their territory was taken away by the Cro-Magnons.

That's still speculative. New DNA tests show that the Neanderthals live on...in Asians and Caucasians (that is, in Homo sapiens that left Africa).

Yes. There were lean periods, but they were times when they had to eat less desirable foods, not times when they starved to death.

To claim that primitive hunter-gathers never starved is a comment so.... so.... words fail me. So I will not even attempt a rebuttal. It is my sincere belief that some comments should never be replied to. That just has to be one of them.

That's still speculative. New DNA tests show that the Neanderthals live on...in Asians and (that is, in Homo sapiens that left Africa).

Sorry Leanan, but you completely misunderstand the DNA conclusions. The Neanderthal DNA dates back to about 80,000 years ago, shortly after the departure from Africa. There is no DNA in modern humans from Neanderthals that lived during the last 40,000 years of their existence The Neanderthals that lived during those years died out, probably forced out by the Cro-Magnon. There is no DNA from those Neanderthals of that period in modern day humans.

Study: Neanderthal DNA Lives On in Modern Humans

The genetic information turned up some intriguing findings, indicating, for instance, that at some point after early modern humans migrated out of Africa, they mingled and mated with Neanderthals, possibly in the Middle East or North Africa as much as 80,000 years ago...

The absence of Neanderthal DNA in the genomes of the two present-day Africans indicates that interbreeding occurred after some root population of early modern humans left Africa but before the species evolved into distinct groups in Europe and Asia.

Ron P.

To claim that primitive hunter-gathers never starved

That is not what I claimed. I said that some foraging societies don't understand how you can starve to death. That doesn't mean none do.

As for the bit about before we evolved into distinct groups...well, of course. That was relatively recent in our history, and there is no way the genetic material would be present in both Europeans and Asians otherwise.

They probably didn't starve to death. The males first probably raided the neighbors with high death toll on both sides. Food, womens and surplus popultion taken care of in one fell swoop whatever the outcome.

Acorns? Upon hearing that native americans at them I tried eating Acorns as an 8 year old. I tried them au-naturale, soaked for one day in multiple changes of water, soaked for 2, 3, and 4 days in multiple changes of water. I didn't have a running stream nearby with water I trusted to be clean, but I did use many changes of water to leach the tannin out of the acorns to make them palatable/edible.

The thing is, that they still tasted like they would tan my insides if I ate more than one or two even after a week of leaching.

I'm glad I don't have to choke down that crap.

I think you're supposed to feed the acorns to the pigs, and then eat the pigs. Bacon tastes better than acorns.

"We should restore those 60 million buffalo, and those perennial grass"

A very good idea... if only we did not consider land 'ownable.' It would require unfenced plains, and the idea of interstate highways running through buffalo grazing areas is ... novel?

What is needed is a much reduced populace, and those open plains with limited numbers of buff being harvested to provided high protein, low fat food. It all boils down, though, just like most of our problems, to lower population levels and sustainable production of food and products.

Anyone want to give odds that TPTB will be on board with that?


Interesting, but he seems to have discounted caribou, and it seems there never was a reason for domestication. What was the need in a land that fed well without agriculture? Perhaps the stimulus needed to be a population stuck in an area with intermittent rainfall, where once there was plenty.

Actually, he discussed caribou/reindeer. Apparently, there's still some dispute on whether they are the same species, and one of the points of contention is that reindeer can be domesticated. Sort of. They aren't fully domesticated.

What was the need in a land that fed well without agriculture?

They used dogs to pull sledges, and llamas as beasts of burden. And when horses were introduced, they took to them like ducks to water. Obviously, the need was there.

when horses were introduced, they took to them like ducks to water

White Man's Dog my memory says they were called by some tribes.

Gregory Clark's A Farewell To Alms is the book to read to understand the Malthusian Trap in which all the human race existed until the industrial revolution. Disease, infanticide, and war all raised living standards by keeping populations closer to the carrying capacity of the land. There was no utopia before industrialization.

There was no utopia before industrialization.

And Utopia wasn't achieved by Industrialization.

I'm betting the downside of oil depletion won't bring on Utopia.

I think Diamond well understands that. Indeed, it's a major theme of Collapse: that human societies haven't changed. There were no "noble savages" in the past. But also, past societies weren't made up of stupid primitives who didn't know better. We are no worse than they are...and no better.

We are no worse than they are...and no better.

I would say we are worse.

We have networks that expand distance to the point where I can know what goes on on the other side of the world and they what goes on here. The 'noble savages' did not have the technology to gather and store data as we can - books and now data logging computers. Time used to be what a man could remember/mis-remember. Now time can go back billions of years via putting electronic eyes into space.

I can be aware of the use of dangerous technologies - so dangerous they can't get insurance (fission power) yet my fellow man keeps building 'em.

I can be aware of global warming risks yet watch my fellow man support efforts that are 70% ineffective with pitiful arguments of "its less than 1% of their income" or even more pathetic "at least they are doing something"

Knowledge used to be what the 'noble savage' would see/hear. We are not restricted like that.

And yet, here we are. We are worse.

A bison is a wild cow
I live near Ted Turner's ranch with 5000 heads of bison
I can't find a link right now, but one estimate suggest that at least a 1/4 of all bisons in the US have domesticated cow DNA.
With methodical breeding (nothing high tech here) I'm sure we can get a bison to draft and do other things.

Sadly, Native Americans did not have domesticated cattle at hand to interbreed. I think arguing that they might have domesticated bison is a stretch. Whichever tribe achieved it would have had an overwhelming advantage and likely would have founded an empire. If bison were domesticable, it almost certainly would have happened.

I don't think so either i.e. native Americans never domesticated the Bison, and we have no evidence of such. For some reason or another, the Mississippi delta never developed into something like the Nile or Tigris/Euphrates deltas. I think you have to have the right conditionS to domesticate draft animals.

The Aurochs from which modern cattle are derived were powerful and dangerous animals.

Even today, the handling of bulls is a dangerous business, and many farmers were maimed by their bulls before artificial insemination of dairy cows became the norm.

As draft animals, only the neutered oxen are used, and for food the bull calves are castrated early in life, since steers are easier to handle and better tasting.

I would say corn monoculture is far worse than the 1000s of varieties of corn cultivated by the Native American cultures.

Corn is ok if it is treated like a grain and not a sugar source or fuel source.

Germinated Corn , Beans , Squash , Olive Oil .... basic diet for over 13 years


I am convinced of two things-one, that you are one of the most obstinate and opinionated members ;) and two, that you are almost aways right-except on the fairly rare occasion when you happen to disagree with ME of course -double winky ;0 ;) here for those who don't recognize a light hearted comment.

What in your opinion are some of the better sources for information on insider trading?

I have noticed that a lot of bau conservative types who are dismissive of the general ff depletion message are seriously impressed with such information as contained in the JOE reports pt out by the Pentagon.

I belive they will be likely to be just as impressed with the data on inside trading if the stuff I have read is true;but I'm not big into financial news, and might be way off base in this respect.

But it appears from a casual first look that insider selling is and has been outrunning insider buying by a factor of hundreds to one.

Any response from anybody who follows this subject will of course be appreciated.

Mac, I haven't a clue. I was heavily into the market in the 80s and was even a broker for about six months in 86. But I got completely out in the early 90s and haven't been in the market since.

That being said, I really don't think insider trading is a really big problem right now. The major force in the market right now is automatic computer high speed trading. Of course that could be considered a form of insider trading. But watch the 60 Minutes segment here:

CBS 60 Minutes High Speed Trading

Or read about it here:

60 Minutes;High Speed Trading Helps Insiders

Ron P.

We need a transfer tax on stock sales. The government needs the money, this will help level the playing field for small investors, it will reduce the volatility, it will reduce the chance of another 'flash crash', it is a way for wall street to help pay back some of the money that was (and is) given to them by the federal government and the Fed, etc. It is a no-brainer.

But you know the spineless legislators won't do it.

Amen, and 10+ !

Somehow, they wealthy feel entitled to possess all the benefits of a rich society, and to have others pay for them. Of course, most legislators are wealthy (or hope to be), and there is the problem.


Craig - Not necessarially arguing against the idea but you do know that a huge chunk of that tax would be collected from persion funds etc? Last number I saw from the GAO the "rich" own a much smaller chunk of the stock market than most beleive. Just like small business (less than 100 employees) doesn't make up much of our economy in the mnds of most folks. Looked those numbers (from the US govt) up last week and was shocked: In the USA - large business (over 1,000 employees) = 1,000. Medium size (100 - 1,000) = 270,000. Small (less than 100 employees) = 8 million. And these small business make up 50% of all wholesale and retail revenue in the country. They also accounted for 70 to 80% of all new jobs created. So when they talk about increasing the tax rates on the "rich" they're talking about most of that increase tax revenue coming from small businesses. BTW: the average revenue of those 8 million companies: $3.2 million/year. It might warm the hearts of many to think about taxing the crap out of those CEO's making $10 million/year or more. But that won't add up anywhere close to what folks want to think. If folks want to transfer monies (as well as raising med insurnace costs) from these small busineses to the govt have at it. They just shouldn't be surprised when many of those 8 million companies start laying folks off to make up for it.

Sure, a lot of the money would come from pension funds, but each individual's share of that would be utterly dwarfed by the Lords and Ladies of Wall Street.

Don't buy the myth, do the math.

r4 - You might want to take your own advice. Also, offering some links to support your position might add a touch of credibility. You're certainly welcome to your opinion as long as you don't try to disguise it as fact.

Pension funds alone own 40% of the stocks. And that doesn't include insurance company and other corporate holdings. "... in the Harvard Business Review this spring, pension funds have $2.5 trillion in assets, are enormous industrial lenders, and own 40 percent of American common stock". http://www.well.com/~art/exxon.html

Today less than 30% of the stock market is owned by individuals. And that includes not only the fat cats but everyone else who owns stock including all those employee stock ownership plans. Individuals "owned more than 90% of the US stock market right after World War II compared to less than 30% in 2006." http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/4025

I dug up the data on the small business income myth last week, you really expect me to go find official figures that demonstrate how someone with a $100,000 retirement account is going to pay less in transaction taxes than someone with $100Million trading in the same market?

Not going to do it, I don't need that kind of backup on this one.

Besides, a lot of people who are going to be publicly aghast at this horrible imposition of government on our freedoms probably don't even have $100K in the market, they just wish they did.

r4 - No...I expect you to find that there are thousands of times as many small investors (including 10's of millions of union memebers) as the megamillionares and that collectively they'll contribute as much to the kitty as all the super rich...and maybe more. Again, I'm no arguing for or against increased taxes or fees. Just pointing out where the monies are coming from. I just think it's disengenuous to make people think only the super rich are going to be supporting this expansion of the govt. Personally it doesn't matter to me either way. I don't own stock and am not dependent upon small businesses for a living. In fact, the greater the pain inflicted on those companies the more deflation we'll see. As an avid consumer it benefits me. Remember how I make a living: PO pretty much gaurentees my financial future. But that doesn't mean I should ignore what's going on.

It's disingenuous to insinuate that people will pay more than their individual fair share even if they aren't super rich.

A transaction tax disproportionately comes from people that trade a lot. This isn't retail investors and it isn't significantly retirement funds.

It is HFTs, and they are raw finance super rich.

there are thousands of times as many small investors (including 10's of millions of union memebers) as the megamillionares and that collectively they'll contribute as much to the kitty as all the super rich...and maybe more.

It depends on the tax design.

This is the problem:

High-speed trading, which uses sophisticated computer algorithms based on specific scenarios to automate transactions at speeds in the millionths of a second, now accounts for about 60 percent of U.S. equity volume.

A transaction tax, fires on every sale, so it has two effects :

a) It clips the ticket on every sale.
So someone who holds shares long term, will scarcely notice.
Speculative traders can still speculate, only now they pay tax.

b) It has a damping effect by making fractional sales, uneconomic.
So the funds being deftly removed by the algorithm traders, will reduce.

Share traders already charge by transaction.

There is also some case for this on international exchange, as a means to get revenue from speculation.

Remember there's a big difference in these small businesses between "revenues" and "income" (I can say that based on some painful experience). A wildly successful small business would get 10% profit from that $3.2 million revenue. The average taxable income would probably come down to less than $250,000. Given that, a lot fewer than half of those small businesses would fit the "rich" category that the "conservatives" are so worried about being taxed.

How did you make the jump to assuming that the 8 million small business owners were rich? A great many of those are middle income folks and some are just getting by; based on the small business owners that I know.

Your GAO numbers really show that the big guys aren't the backbone of the economy; the real backbone is the millions of small enterprises. Increasing taxes on the rich would probably help the little guys compete.

It might warm the hearts of many to think about taxing the crap out of those CEO's making $10 million/year or more. But that won't add up anywhere close to what folks want to think. If folks want to transfer monies (as well as raising med insurnace costs) from these small busineses to the govt have at it. They just shouldn't be surprised when many of those 8 million companies start laying folks off to make up for it.

Yes, Tax hikes are usually sold on the Politics of Envy Spin, but the real tax engine room in most countries, is the middle.
Bracket creep also helps siphon off more in taxes, in those countries that have tiered income tax levels (and most do)

Don't you already tax corporate profits and capital gains?

Btw, the tax will increase volatility and increase the chance of another crash. This is basic control theory - what you propose is effectively a delay, and delays make control systems less stable. (Being a Swede, I'm not sure about the English terminology, but the engineers among you probably get the idea anyway.)

Jeppan, watch the 60 minutes link I posted above. We are talking about buys and sells in milliseconds. I mean super-fast trades with no human intervention whatsoever. Computers that do nothing but watch the market looking for favorable trades and they are often in and back out in less than one second. Scalping only a few pennies on each trade but doing thousands of such trades every day.

These firms, these computers do no useful service, they they only try to scalp others. Slowing things down would be the best thing to help stop this practice.

As far as a tax I don's see how that would slow things down and it sure would not increase volatility. Every trade is recorded and the taxes paid quarterly. But a tax on every trade would definitely mean a lot of trades would not be made and these scalping firms would be out of business. But a tax is not going to happen. New York threatened a tax and the New Your Stock Exchange said they would move to New Jersey if they did. The plans were dropped.

Ron P.

Jeppan, watch the 60 minutes link I posted above.

Sorry, that would mean too much of a delay for me. :-) I think I have a good grasp of this subject anyway.

These firms, these computers do no useful service, they they only try to scalp others.

You are not listening. They certainly do a useful service, as they provide liquidity and more correct prices.

As far as a tax I don's see how that would slow things down and it sure would not increase volatility.

As far as control theory goes, the above shows a lack of understanding. There's a lot of math involved which I won't go into, but let me try an analogy instead to try to convey a basic insight in this field: Assume you have an auto-pilot in you car. Now, would you like the on-board computer to adjust your speed and course according to measurement data every millisecond, or would you like to decrease the adjustment pace to perhaps every two seconds in order to "decrease volatility" and decrease the likelihood of crashes?

If you introduce a transaction cost, you will prevent market actors from reacting appropriately to what they perceive as small price incorrections. They will have to wait until they percieve prices to be even more erronous, and the eventual correction will come later but will be sharper, with a greater risk of avalanches, overcorrections and panics. Also, the "scalpers" will probably do even better compared to small investors in such an environment. The small investors won't have the benefit of a price that is fine-tuned, and they will be the ones to buy and sell on the wrong sides of the sharp corrections.

You are not listening. They certainly do a useful service, as they provide liquidity and more prices.

And you obviously have not watched the clip, and neither do you know anything about super high speed program trading or you would not make such a silly statement as that. Last Spring they caused the Dow to drop 600 points in 15 minutes.

It may surprise you to learn that most of the stock trades in the U.S. are no longer being made by human beings, but by robot computers capable of buying and selling thousands of different securities in the time it takes you to blink an eye.

These supercomputers - which actually decide which stocks to buy and sell - are operating on highly secret instructions programmed into them by math wizards who may or may not know anything about the value of the companies that are being traded.
How Speed Traders Are Changing Wall Street

The transcript, or something very close to it, can be found at this link.

These high speed trades provide 70 percent of all trades. And these firms try to locate as close to the stock exchange as possible in order to get the data sooner. That is because even a few microseconds make a difference.

But at 70 percent of all trades they do provide liquidity. But transparency trumps liquidity every time. Or, at least that's what they said on the program.

Ron P.

And you obviously have not watched the clip, and neither do you know anything about super high speed program trading or you would not make such a silly statement as that.

You are in good company, getting riled up about "documentaries" but refuse to really learn about the subject at hand. Many seek upsetting news that way - it probably fills some need they have - and what is demanded someone will supply.

Last Spring they caused the Dow to drop 600 points in 15 minutes.

Badly tuned automatic control systems can do that when they interact. There is money in correcting such behavior too, as the pricing is very bad during such baseless panics. Wherever there is bad pricing, there is an opportunity to make money.

And these firms try to locate as close to the stock exchange as possible in order to get the data sooner. That is because even a few microseconds make a difference.

That may not help much, but won't hurt either. Small-time tay traders work with minutes, at best. To them it is irrelevant whether the high-frequency traders work with milliseconds or microseconds.

But at 70 percent of all trades they do provide liquidity. But transparency trumps liquidity every time.

You want a lot of both.

I think you fail to think this through. Those fast-trading computer systems are making money in their trades, meaning someone else is losing money (at those speeds, the market IS a zero-sum game). So who is losing? Obviously not those or other fast-traders, else they'd be out of business very shortly. Clearly where they are making money is in getting in between the little guy's broker and the market. When the little guy's broker posts a bid for some shares for little guy at whatever price the broker's system last knew the price was, and then the price rises a few tenths of a penny, the "fast trader" jumps in between them and makes the difference. Either the little guy pays more than he needed to for his bid share purchase, or the company in which he invested or the selling investor gets too low a price. No "market liquidity" benefits involved, since the computers never jump in unless they've already got participants for both sides of the trade.

Net damage long-term investors. Net gain, skimmers.

If you correct too often the overhead of the correction mechanism can overwhelm any real signal that might be there.

HFT isn't a correction mechanism, it is a successful attempt by well-connected traders to suck ever smaller arbitrage opportunities out of the system until there is nothing left for mere mortals like us.

If you correct too often the overhead of the correction mechanism can overwhelm any real signal that might be there.

Eh, no.

HFT isn't a correction mechanism, it is a successful attempt by well-connected traders to suck ever smaller arbitrage opportunities out of the system until there is nothing left for mere mortals like us.

The point of being a dishwasher vendor is not to provide people with dishwashers either, but to make profits. The point of HFT is not to correct prices and provide liquidity, but it does.

The important stock market opportunities for us mortals lies in evaluating companies and trends long term, not in arbitrage. Perhaps some day traders have lived on arbitrage opportunities previously, but I for one am not very sorry for them. Their activity has been made more efficient by computers and automation and those guys have to seek other opportunities.

Neither measuring the signal nor acting upon the measurement is free to the system.

This means that as you increase the rate at which you are measuring and adjusting you eventually reach a point where the measurements and adjustments are causing more of a signal than the real signal.

"Improving liquidity" is just an excuse, and a thin one at that. You can't take billions in profit out of the market without someone else putting billions in, market exchanges do not produce money out of thin air.

These folks are definitely making huge money out of HFT. HFT is one of the major drivers of supercomputing hardware and software over the past few years, and these are people who are concerned about latency to such an extent that they are renting space as close to the exchanges as they can get because light isn't fast enough for them.

This means that as you increase the rate at which you are measuring and adjusting you eventually reach a point where the measurements and adjustments are causing more of a signal than the real signal.

Not if you design well.

"Improving liquidity" is just an excuse, and a thin one at that. You can't take billions in profit out of the market without someone else putting billions in, market exchanges do not produce money out of thin air.

The arbitration profits were there before. They've just moved to HFT, and probably diminished, due to increased competition and due to the fact that they aren't allowed to grow that much anymore.

Improving liquidity isn't an excuse, its more of a fact. Just because business owners isn't doing stuff for the good of mankind doesn't mean what they do isn't of benefit to all.

Nothing is free.


I don't care how well you design there will always be a limit beyond which increasing sampling rate is counterproductive.

As far as the profits go, they are moving money from someone else's pocket to their own using the HFT techniques. It's probably mostly coming from trades done by the big retirement funds since those have the money to move the market and aren't being managed at the microsecond level.

This effectively makes HFT a tax on market moving trades, the bigger the trade the bigger the tax.

I don't care how well you design there will always be a limit beyond which increasing sampling rate is counterproductive.

Nonsense. If you sample more often, you'll increasingly often get the same or almost the same value, and thus won't have to make corrections.

This effectively makes HFT a tax on market moving trades, the bigger the trade the bigger the tax.

Please explain your thinking here. If a big retirement fund decides to put 20,000 M$ stock on the market at a certain price, then how does the HFT trading program make a profit? If the fund place 200,000 stocks at the same price, how does the HFT program make a correspondingly larger profit?

Sampling has a cost of its own. You can't have a free peek, it always costs something.
If you look too often that cost distorts the system you are watching.

Getting a quote may only involve throwing 8 bytes to the exchange and listening for an 8 byte response, which seems free if you are only doing it a few times a second. Try doing it thousands of times a second and you start generating a noticable load, do it millions of times a second and you're burning T1's of bandwidth (not to mention processing time at each end).

As to the profit: HFT's interject themselves as middlemen in transactions. If they see a profitable spread between a buyer and seller, they buy it themselves from the buyer for an intermediate price and sell it on, taking the margin for themselves.

This is why they have to be so fast, it only works if you can get in between the buyer and seller before they actually make the transaction themselves.

This is not "providing liquidity", it is barging into deals as an uninvited middleman and taking a cut.

This is not "providing liquidity", it is barging into deals as an uninvited middleman and taking a cut.

Exactly. Needs repeating. At the speeds they're operating, the market IS a zero-sum game. If they're taking money, then someone else is loosing it, likely your pension fund.

Just because business owners isn't doing stuff for the good of mankind doesn't mean what they do isn't of benefit to all.


It has already been proven that HFT fails to increase liquidity while at the same time actually decreasing systemic stability.

We need a transfer tax on stock sales.

If what you want to do is require a minimum holding period, then do that, rather than trying to engineer social behavior through the already overly-complex tax system. The IRS has enough problems; can they realistically monitor (or at least audit) trillions of sales per year to verify that everyone reported accurately?

Although it may be too late for that now, I think. Someone, somewhere, will let the financial engineers create a system of tradeable contracts and a market for same. After all, someone who buys a share of IBM and sells it again 20 seconds later doesn't care that what they sold was a share of stock; it could have been anything so long as there was a comparable market to try to game. And the money will flow there.

There is already a transfer tax on stock sales. It is just low ($5.60 per $1,000,000 from memory). It is called the SEC fee.

Edit: I looked it up. It is 0.0000169 is the rate effective April 1, 2010 (optional mid-year adjustment was announced on March 1, 2010)

Which means that it is now $16.90 per $1,000,000

Insider selling to buying a few weeks ago was 2400+ to 1. I'd have to go look up the exact number. Last week was just 1100+ to 1.

In other words, in this "market to the moon" that Kramer and other CNBC shills are touting on tout-TV, the people who run these companies are cashing out as fast as they can. This is just another statistic that makes you go "Hmmm...".

Still, there is the argument that, for a CEO who receives a large share of his/her compensation as stock, diversification is a sound strategy that requires always selling but never buying.

Advisers used to give the same advice to the little guys, too: "If your company provides a 401(k) match in corporate stock, sell big chunks of it at an early opportunity. You're already dependent on the company for your salary and your health insurance; if they fail and you lose that salary and health insurance, do you want your savings to disappear as well?"

Diversification in a statistically evenly distributed market should be roughly 50-50, no? And indeed if you look back at past SEC records you find that extreme buy or sell ratios were in the 10 or 20 to 1 range. Now they are in the thousands to 1 range. The excesses are there right in front of your face yet rather than acknowledge the facts and adapt theory to actual observations, you, like so many others, try to twist observation to preserve your favorite theory. This is a classic weakness of homo sapiens unfortunately.

My opinion is that there will be more sellers than buyers of stocks over the next 20 years, at least, if not considerably longer. Baby doomer demographics (selling stocks to buy Viagra and vacations) are bearish for stocks independent of peak oil. Moreover, there are limits to growth (are Coke and Apple going to sell their products to Martians?) which likely put a firm upper bound on stock prices. In addition, two big crashes over the past 10 years have scared away the dumb money (which normally might be a contrarian indicator, except now we have Weimar Ben, ultimately powerless, trying to keep prices artificially inflated to maintain confidence).

Add increasing price of food/fuel into the mix (supported by fundamentals but augmented by Weimar Ben), and the value of cash increases relative to stocks, as stocks cannot be used to pay for these things until liquidated.

So basically the combination of demographics, limits to growth, and peak oil is very bearish for equities. I personally am never buying stocks, ever again. Although I have to admit, if one has more confidence in financial reform and some post peak stability, then investing in stocks, particularly in energy/alernative energy/emerging markets, might be a way to make more money. I just would rather have cash and gold/silver.

My advice is to get out of the insane asylum and let Weimar Ben and the HFTs try to figure it out.

Obama's on TV now, calling for infrastructure investment.

Obama to Press for Infrastructure

WASHINGTON – President Obama will join mayors, governors and current and former transportation secretaries on Monday to argue for a major initiative to repair and modernize the nation’s roads, rails and air systems, just weeks before an election that is all but certain to expand the size of his Republican opposition in Congress.

A new report from economists at the Treasury and Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers concludes that this is the “optimal time” to invest in public infrastructure because of high unemployment and lower prices in the construction industry, which has been hit harder than any other sector by the puncturing of the bubble in housing and commercial real estate.

Yeah, time to repave the road to ruin. We're broke and there isn't a prayer of getting it through Congress, and even if they did it would all go to fixing roads to continue BAU. Sometimes I daydream what it would be like to have leaders who were serious about doing something useful and beneficial for the society they represent.

"Yeah, time to repave the road to ruin. We're broke and there isn't a prayer of getting it through Congress, and even if they did it would all go to fixing roads to continue BAU."

You can hope they would put in new rail, and rebuild locks and dams, and canals where they would be useful. The problem is all this stuff keeps getting peddled as stimulus, and it will take ten years to get the permits to start anything. The Liberal run-everything-from-DC system has cemented itself in place.

The Liberal run-everything-from-DC system has cemented itself in place.

Really? The federalists are "liberals"?

The liberal or conservative labels are meaningless - they're just old uniforms worn so the people can recognize their team. All that's left in DC are imperialists, and maybe that's all there ever was.

Study them. Study their actions. They are not liberals. They are not conservatives. They are not socialists and they are not capitalists. What they are is very clearly demonstrated by their actions rather than their words. They are fascists, placing the corporation above the individual and marrying the government and the corporate complex together at the hip. This is why we didn't get a rational health care bill from a so-called liberal president. He's not liberal at all; he's a fascist and his bill, the one he shepherded through Congress is a multi-thousand page labyrinth intended to do one thing and one thing only - further enrich the corporate/government complex involved in the health care process.

So please don't accuse Obama of being a liberal or Bush of being a conservative. Both they and their followers are Mussolini style fascists, as proven by their actions. And the fascist state is also the imperialist state, driven forward by its mandate to maximize profits for the corporations it serves.

GZ - Welcome to our small but growing club. BTW: Mussolina did get the trains running on time. Can't say that about most Metro's today.

GZ - you do know I've been saying that for years, right?

I am really amazed at how strong people's desire to believe in the system is, when it is clearly obvious what is happening to anyone who cares to see. And yet the old two party charade continues on, with each blaming the other.

marrying the government and the corporate complex together at the hip


Nicely put.

So that is why they called it "Citizens United", cause they're wed at the hip(py).

Kunstler is in fine form on the economy with his recent Bank Shot blog entry.

A delightful sample of literary craftsmanship:

Is it indelicate to say that the USA as an enterprise has its head so deeply and firmly up its ass that the all the proctologists alive on planet Earth could not extract the collective cranium from the collective cloacal chamber even with the aid of a Bucyrus-Erie 1060-WX bucket-wheel excavator? Like, where were we the past ten years? Surely not everybody in the nation was doing bong hits while playing Grand Theft Auto, or watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey, or downing tequila shots and Percocets in the parking lot of the Talladega Superspeedway, or cooking meth in the family room, or whacking it to Internet porn, or searching for "excitement" in one of America's 450 commercial gambling casinos.

I don't always agree with Kunstler but I do enjoy reading him usually. I do urge reading this blog entry, just for the pure appreciation of a rant done well, as well as happening to agree with its major points.

He is on form today. I appreciate his Eyesore of the Month short postings perhaps even more. I hope he would consider doing it weekly, because there is endless amount of material here.

I simply cannot read Kunstler, its hysterical word salad. I can never figure out the point he is trying to make.

The world is ending. Again. Just because his timing was off on the LAST few proclamations of Doom, please don't treat him like...Ruppert....because..you know...he's so SERIOUS and all.

He is As pathetic as usual.

At least Jon Stewart is honest about the fact that he gets a lot of attention for making fart jokes, and yet he still delivers some really productive social satire in the process.

JHK is making great big glorious Poo-sculptures in honor of worthy targets, but I rarely hear him deliver an upshot that amounts to much more than whining.

We have far better clowns to adulate.

EDIT: Then again, maybe I should give a little more credit for just pure catharsis.. but if that's the case, then I would expect him to show a little more humility when he's putting down the lonely art of internet-autoerotica..

Intellectual autoeroticism is OK, because, well... it's intellectual!

While I'm no stranger to the occasional theory driven circle-jerk, I was referring to the literal Internet Porn that JHK was describing, since I think his diatribes are simply another form of Dopamine-Self-medication, and it would set a double-standard to decry one while engaging in the other..

Otherwise, who has said it better than Woody Allen? 'What's wrong with Masturbation? It's sex with someone I love.'

Good News from the Pacific NorthWest

On my first morning back from the ASPO-USA conference I woke up on East Coast time and headed outside, walking six blocks up the hill to the world's best coffee shop. I was surprised at the bright moonlight outside given the thick Seattle cloud deck.

What's this? They've replaced all the streetlights while I was in DC!

Now I knew that LED's have been replacing stoplights and that bicyclists have been enjoying LED headlights for years. But I had no idea that LED for illumination was ready for prime time. Here are a a few related links describing the situation in Seattle:

Outdoor Lighting: Seattle to ad LED street lights on arterial roadways (June 22, LEDs magazine)

LELD streetlights installed in Belltown and Central District neighborhoods (August 05, city council member blog)

LED Streetlight Application Assessment Project Pilot Study in Seattle, WA (very detailed study from DKS Associates)

The final report emphasizes various benefits including modern controllers that will eventually allow individual lights to control light levels (and associated electricity usage). Light level will be modified depending on time of day, traffic, presence of pedestrians, emergency needs, etc.

As we move to electrify more and more of our total energy consumption it is good to see that technological fixes which save time, money and total power are progressing at a sometimes surprising rate.

And remember, somewhere around half of all electricity generated at a power plant is lost before it is ever converted to useful work/heat/light at the other end of the line. Conservation and Efficiency are priorities number 1 and 2.

Best hopes for rapid adoption of improved lighting technology.


"Light level will be modified depending on ... presence of pedestrians ..."

Just what we need, the street lights yoyoing on and off, announcing every newly arrived pedestrian to every mugger for a mile around...

Just what we need, the street lights yoyoing on and off, announcing every newly arrived pedestrian to every mugger for a mile around...

On the other hand, the intended victim could also detect the yo-yo lights triggered by an approaching mugger and take evasive action. Alternatively, if the mugger is waiting in ambush, the light where the mugger is located should be lit and the surrounding lights won't be if the system is working properly, another clue to the mugger's presence.

Maybe, but the mugger has all the time in the world to scan the horizon, while the prospective victim has to watch where he or she is going.

If the mugger waits in ambush, the lights will probably dim down again, because while sensors that detect stationary objects exist, they tend to be finicky and expensive, whereas motion sensors are cheap and self-calibrating.

Just what we need, the street lights yoyoing on and off, announcing every newly arrived pedestrian to every mugger for a mile around...

Wow. That was negative.

Personally, having the light levels above a crosswalk increase by 10-20% when I'm about to cross sounds like a great idea.


Yes, it was meant to be negative. People should stop for at least a millisecond to consider the possible blowbacks when they propose to change the landscape or streetscape radically. And a bright spotlight on every moving pedestrian, visible for miles in some settings (after all, streetlights are easy to see from six miles up in an airliner), would be a radical change to the nighttime urban streetscape. And we have more than enough muggings and rapes already, without such assistance.

Adding light is a routine way to avoid crimes and light likely would here too. Also it may be used by police to pinpoint a fleeing criminal.

People should stop for at least a millisecond to consider the possible blowbacks when they propose to change the landscape or streetscape radically

I wish we could have voted on the whole streetlight idea in the first place. Now we are stuck with millions of lights that light up very little (on all the time for no real reason), we spend millions of dollars on them, and we burn fossil fuels to keep them lit. Did someone stop for a millisecond before unleashing this?

Gas lights were installed in Paris in 1820. Dang European street lighting.

Perhaps you misunderstood what is described in the links I posted. Seattle is replacing existing high pressure sodium (HPS) lights with more efficient LED lights. It's not what I would call a radical change. The largest difference so far is the color temperature difference between the more yellow HPS lights and the more white LEDs. Modifying light output is something that seems quite possible but would probably have to go through a public review first, allowing people to raise concerns like yours.

No misunderstanding at all, I specifically quoted the "Light level will be modified depending on time of day, traffic, presence of pedestrians, emergency needs, etc." aspect. Simple replacement without changing the controller behavior doesn't raise the same issue, nor would turning the lights on and off gradually instead of suddenly.

The good news about simple replacement is that the color-temperature change may actually prove helpful if it improves color rendition. However, the all-concealing orange wash from the HPS units may merely be replaced by the ghastly and equally all-concealing blue wash emitted by the cheapest "white" LEDs, as the novelty wears off and the lamps are purchased on a large scale from the very lowest bidder without anyone giving any thought to what they're actually getting. (In this respect, I also hope Seattle is actually getting the ballyhooed extra lumens per watt of electricity - and not just more "luminous efficacy" which is something entirely different. Cheap, lowest-bidder white LEDs will still fall well short of HPS in efficiency, though their efficacy may well be higher.)

i don't know, is it really much of a problem mugging people in the dead of night?

No, it's already pretty easy to mug people in the dark. So let's not make it even easier.

How is china going to make shale oil a profitable source of oil? OMG. We are doomed and soon! Why on earth are they going to try to extract oil from shale?


What I read says they are buying to learn the information and tech of Chesapeake. Over $1 B. That seems steep tuition, but maybe not.

doug - The Chinese can get that education for free from Halliburton et al. And they'll even throw in lunch. As with almost all new plays developed in the last 20 years it's the service companies that developed the technologies...not the operators. If I had a EF lease offsetting a good Chesapeake well all I have to do is contract the same service company that drilled/completed their well. Confidentiality won't allow them to tell me how they did the job for CHP but CHP doesn't have a patent on the process so it's easy to imagine how the subcontractor would design my well.

Besides a pure profit motive the Chinese may have another side bet by getting into domestic oil production: swaps. Down the road the US might be buying crude from some Asian source. The US and China can swap title on the oil and save themselves the transport costs. The US and Japan did such a swap years ago with N. Slope oil.

What's your bet on the future of the US dollar? China's got a large pile of them, and if they think the value of the pile is going to decline sharply in the future, then it might seem like a fine price.

I have to admit, China's government is taking a more pragmatic? concrete? approach to future energy supplies. The EIA says "X amount from unconventional resources" without identifying which resources. China sets out to spend $1B to acquire the knowledge to say "This shale structure." Similarly, where the EIA says "currently undeveloped fields," China builds a pipeline to Kazakhstan. And makes plans to build W wind turbines, X nukes, Y coal-fired, and Z dams to generate electricity. With some degree of specificity for each.

I still don't think it will work out for them in the longish term. They have to deal with the fundamental problem that even 300M upper- and middle-class Chinese leave 900M rural poor living on a few dollars per day. And their domestic renewable resources might support 150M or so at a modest modern level of tech. Any readjustments the US has to make pale in comparison to China's problem.

Because we taught them to commit high tech suicide it would only follow suit that we taught them it would be cool to do it too....

Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon touted the economic benefits of the Cnooc deal.

This transaction will provide the capital necessary to accelerate drilling of this large domestic oil and natural gas resource, resulting in a reduction of our country’s oil imports over time, the creation of thousands of high-paying jobs in the U.S. and in the payment of very significant local, state and federal taxes,” McClendon said.

It takes a real pro to say that without bursting out laughing.

Sure . . . yeah, we'll reduce imports.

Chesapeake CEO makes me burst out laughing with coffee running through my nose. Maybe in Texas they can dig a hole and not refill it again and leave all the debris from the extract strewn all over the place. Let the sulfur emissions into the atmosphere. Maybe they can take away the water rights from cotton farmers in the area and maybe they can cook the books for the last 20% to make a $90 per bbl price once they take the Chinese money. Sounds possible.

I think of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and besides getting oil from dirt -- shale is the next worst thing -- diffuse as hell and hard as a rock. LOL

How GM "Lied" About The Electric Car

The Chevy Volt has been hailed as General Motors' electric savior. Now, as GM officially rolls out the Volt this week for public consumption, we're told the much-touted fuel economy was misstated and GM "lied" about the car being all-electric.
It turns out that's not correct. We're now told by Volt's engineering team that when the Volt's lithium-ion battery pack runs down and at speeds near or above 70 mph the Volt's gasoline engine will directly drive the front wheels along with the electric motors.
That means that for all of the all-electric or extended-range electric vehicle (EREV) hype GM's imbuing in the Volt, it's really nothing more than a plug-in hybrid vehicle. A very advanced plug-in hybrid, but a hybrid nonetheless.

Baloney. So those of us who use it for what it was designed for, running around town for 30-40 miles before plugging it back in, yeah, we'll be hitting 70mph between stop lights just so we can claim GM lied.

I have never purchased a GM product and swore I never would, back in the days when they laughed at the corolla's and civic's I motored around in reliably for hundreds of thousands of miles, while my buddies Camaro's and Blazers stopped running, parts fell off,engines grendaded, etc etc.

This is the first one I'll consider, and it has nothing to do with whether or not it needs the generator at 70mph but because, in part, they had the balls to correct (and spent the money to correct) the albatross they created with the EV1. Curing peak oil, one Volt at a time (get it...one VOLT at a time?). :>)

I'd rather have four Hyundais than one Chevy Volt.

I test drove a Sante Fe a few months back, certainly I'll have to collect one sometime and see how they drive. But I'd park it beside a Volt, which I would be doing the same thing to.

The big scam to me, if true, is that the engine would be used as primary drive assist in scenarios. My understanding was that the drive would be full-time electric motor and the engine was only a generator. While not perfect, at least it was a big step forward to a much more simple motor drive with a generator providing power presumably at the most optimimum load/efficiency setpoints possible.

If this is true, I'll be much disappointed. Not only would the fuel economy be substantially worse than our TDI Jetta, it won't even have the advantage of 100% motor-drive simplicity. Sure it would be advantageous if your commute was short enough and you didn't use the gas engine, but how could it be so atrocious during generation mode?!

Maybe this is bad information?

Popular Mechanics road test data regarding range on electric and fuel mileage
Once the Volt is available for testing by the press the facts will come out. The more Detroit oriented press like Motor Trend is just parroting GM press releases.

So assuming PM's numbers are accurate:

1. Electric-only range = 33 miles
2. City regen fuel mileage = 32 mpg

Case scenario Ty454...my wife drives into DC to commute each morning. It's a 90 mile round trip commute. Anyone around here knows how crappy the traffic is so assume stop-go.

So 33 miles electric in the morning, 57 miles left for regen. Even pretending electric is free, and if I only consider gasoline usage, each day she'll use roughly 1.8 gallons of gas. On our TDI Jetta she generally gets 45 mpg no matter how she drives. So roughly 2 gallons of diesel.

Wow, 0.2 gallons of liquid fuel saved on a car that costs some $12k more and is actually a more complex machine. Like I said, if this info is true i'll be very disappointed...I'm actually a graduate of General Motors Institute in Flint, MI and I'd never even consider this vehicle based on those stats.

Wow, 0.2 gallons of liquid fuel saved on a car that costs some $12k more and is actually a more complex machine.

I think others have come to the same conclusion

Sales of clean diesel models skyrocket in September; hybrids dip

My scenario. Wife takes kids to school and back, 2 schools, twice a day. Total driving during the day, maybe 30 miles a day. Gas system never turns on. Her usual ride uses 2 gallons of fuel each day. So a savings of what, maybe $5/day? $100/month? Pretty low savings, yet her commuting was darn near built for this car.

Won't buy a VW of course until they get a better reliability reputation, but $100/month in fuel savings (not net I realize, but I don't know how much electricity this thing would suck down) means this won't happen on incremental savings. I'll just acquire one maybe to see how they work...hell...I've bought cars for less reason than that before.

Most Americans drive far less than that; they drive <33 miles per day. Most trips are small trips around town which are 1-5 miles in length. Most people are not in the long distance trade-off with turbo diesels as you mention. So since Chevy actually studied driving behavior and you have not I presume, then I would go with Chevy on the design.

Name a better design for the Average American Commute. I dare you.

For under 15 miles -- the bicycle comes to mind.

For >15 to 70 miles -- I would go Volt. (it pays for itself)

turbo diesel seems to not be worth it until somewhere > 70 miles. In that case move closer to work.

Name a better design for the Average American Commute. I dare you.

Hey, you won't get any argument from me. But I'm a guy who would collect one just to try it out for a year or two, I certainly don't need a financial excuse to get one, I'm in suburbia, best place to be if there is are liquid fuels shortages.

I'm quite curious too, as I had read that the volt was a series hybrid with no mechanical connection between the motor and the drive wheels. Of course, it makes no sense to go through a conversion from mechanical to electrical and back to mechanical if you expect to need the engine often.

It certainly makes "first glance sense " that going from ff engine to generator to electric motor to wheels would be less efficient than ff engine to reduction gears(transmission, differential gears) to wheels.

But there are some savings to be had by designing the engine to run in a smaller , narrower power band, and there are obviously the savings to be had from regenerative braking, which is apparently common to all hybrids.

But the real savings in gasoline will be had simply because most drivers who buy this car will use it mainly for short trips -trips short enough for the battery to suffice.Any efficiency loss thru the generator /motor setup will be more than offset so long as trips are short and the battery is recharged from the grid.

I will withhold judgement as to what the real world effective mileage of a Volt might be until I have the opportunity to talk to about four of five owners, minimum.

It does seem altogether possible that lots of drivers will have to buy very little if any gasoline unless they take the car on a trip.The road from my house to town is hilly but I can make the twenty five mile round trip at thirty five to forty five on less gas than I need to burn to drive forty miles at freeway speeds on a level road;so if a Volt will go forty miles on battery on the highway, it might well take me to town and back without the gasoline engine ever starting up.

If I had a pickup truck that would do the same, I could cut my gasoline use seventy or eighty percent.

It seems hard to believe, but apparently generators, motors , and thier controls have gotten so good that you can use a diesel engine to drive a generator/electric motor final drive system about as efficiently as you can drive the wheels thru gear sets connected direct to the engine.

Catepillar is now building full size dozers with diesel generator electric motor drive.There is no battery used , except just a small one to start the diesel in the conventional way with a small electric starter motor.

The pr is that the system will outlast and outperform a conventional transmission system. This in my opinion remains to be seen;it might or might not run cheaper, and last longer too, but if it breaks,the only people who can fix it will be the Cat dealers, for a good long while at least.

Fixing it will not be cheap.

It seems hard to believe, but apparently generators, motors , and their controls have gotten so good that you can use a diesel engine to drive a generator/electric motor final drive system about as efficiently as you can drive the wheels thru gear sets connected direct to the engine.

Does anybody here realize that diesel-electric locomotives - the kind of "diesels" railroads normally run except very occasionally to push freight cars around slowly in yards - are pretty much like series hybrids, only without the large battery??? Oh, and that the concept was invented circa 1914, and has been used fairly widely since as long ago as the 1930s, decades before semiconductor controls of any sort, never mind modern ones???

Modern electronics does make it easier to do the job on the smaller scale of an automobile. So there's no longer much of a case (if there ever was) that a complicated friction-prone mechanical tranny is necessarily economically preferable - or that it is more fuel-efficient.

Electric motors have some distinct advantages in torque vs. speed characteristics compared to an ICE. Also, it is simpler to run wires than to run complex mechanical power transmission systems. These are more likely reasons for the diesel/electric approaches long used in trains.

In theory if you could make an engine that was highly optimized to run at a single speed, you might get enough efficiency gains to overcome the conversion losses. However, with modern digitally controlled variable valve timing engines, running direct injection and coupled to multi-speed gearboxes, I'm betting that would be tough to do.

The only two advantages a hybrid has are regenerative braking and the ability to run on batteries alone sometimes. However, for that you must essentially have two powertrains and fuel storage systems. No thanks.

A modern transmission with locking torque converter ( or clutch ) has very low losses-on the order of less than five percent overall iirc.As low as less than one percent is easily accomplished in whatever passes for "high gear" which can be a "straight thru" system consisting of two locked together shafts with no gears being used.

It should be kept in mind that unless electric motors are incorporated directly into drive wheels that some gears and axles are still necessary.

I believe the new model dozer is expected to last longer because the electrical system has fewer moving parts than a conventional transmission, and to be more economical of fuel -which remains to be seen in actual practice- not necessarily because less energy is lost between the engine and the final drive but rather because the machine will respond faster and more precisely to operator inputs and thus do more work.Supposedly the machine will accererate faster, turn faster, and reverse direction faster;thus a small loss in efficiency in the drive line-if there is one-could be more than offset in terms of fuel economy.

I don't think fuel economy was a very serious consideration in the design and construction of diesel electric locomotives in the early days.I expect the likeliest explaination for the locomotives being built that way was that building suitable transmissions and clutches would have been a bigger and harder job than building the motor generator setup.

Motors and generators are mechanically very simple and require next to nothing in the way of expensive machine tool work compared to cutting the teeth on lots of big heavy gears, which would have had to be very precisely hardened.It might have been beyond the capability of the industry to build such a big heavy duty transmission at all back then. .

Dead wieght was not a problem-dead wieght is a necessity in a locomotive, and cast iron and copper were very cheap in those days.

GM kills Electric Car, film at 11.

GOP ‘Pledge To America’ Is An Oath To Big Oil

House Republicans just released “A Pledge to America,” its agenda for the 112th Congress if they take charge. The Republicans claim that their document — written by former Exxon lobbyist Brian Wild — is “one in which the people have the most say and the best ideas trump the most entrenched interests.” When it comes to energy policy, the GOP leaders actually ignore public opinion, ignore science, and instead promote the same old ideas flogged by big oil lobbyists and other energy interests. The entire Republican energy policy is a single sentence

House Republicans Ignore Energy in ‘Pledge to America’

House Republicans Thursday confirmed their commitment to standing against whatever the Democrats are standing for. Despite claims from House Republican Conference Chair Mike Spence (R-Ind.) that the GOP could now be referred to as 'the party of yes' for putting forth real solutions to the critical problems this country faces, the 2010 Republican agenda,"A Pledge to America" (pdf), offers no new solutions to our growing energy problems and ignores climate and the environment altogether.

Maybe they're planning to repeal the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Although it's great sport to invoke the Second Law as a magic totem, it really doesn't enter the picture at all. They're presumably assuming there will be enough fuel around for whatever time-frame concerns them, and in some sense that's simply a question of inventory.

You missed his point entirely. The joke is that the Republicans want to marginalize science whenever it will advance their agenda.

Inspired by The Onion.

Sorry to be off-topic, and my profound apologies is if this is deemed inappropriate--if so, I am sure the mods will delete.

However, we own some land in Pennsylvania; the guy with land adjacent to us is contracting with a gas drilling company to go after the Marcellus Shale gas on that property; apparently as adjacent landowners we are able to collect some portion of proceeds from that development.

The contract the gas company wants us to sign can be viewed at:


My questions are two:

1. Does this look like a "standard" contract for this sort of thing?
2. Are we getting ripped off in any way, do you think?

We will have an attorney look at this, but I wanted to get your opinions.

I have redacted some of the information in a small attempt to remain somewhat anonymous.

Thank you!


bs - Despite what "they" say there is no standard lease. There is a standard format with details that can vary widely. Yes---by all means have your lawyer read the lease. Hopefully he has some oil background. It would be most helpful if he has had contact with other land owners/oil companies in the area. I'll offer some observations but take them with a grain of salt since I don't know what the lease market is like in your area.

First off, IMHO put the term "getting ripped off" out of your head. You'll either cut a deal as good as your neighbors or you won't. Leasing is a competitive business. The company's job is to get your lease at the lowest cost. Your job is to get the most you can for it. The trick is for both of you to not negotiate yourselves out of a trade. BTW: it would help to know how large your tract of land is and if you own 100% of the minerals. Please keep in mind I've known more than one land owner who was going to put the screws to the oil comapny and the company just bypassed them and their land was never developed. Remember this is horse trading and the oil company has a picture of what they think that horse looks like...but you don't. That will always be the disadvantage of the landowner.

Observations: A 10 year lease sounds too long. It may be the norm for the trend but a 3 to 5 year primary term is much more common in the Gulf Coast. A 15% royalty sounds light also but, again, may be the normal trade in the area. Down here a 20 - 25% is more common. A "paid up" lease vs. a yearly rental: if they are paying top $ for your lease than that's OK. But if they are low balling your bonus (hopefully your lawyer will know) then you want them to pay a big rental. Otherwise they might just sit on your lease for years and do nothing. And all the time you can't lease to anyone else. Unitization: easy to get screwed here. They could just put a couple of your acres in a unit and hold your lease for many years while you got little revenue from the producing well. Let's say the wells are put in 320 acre units and they include 10 of your acres. Then you would receive only 3% of the royalty for the unit...not 3% of the well. So if the unit royalty is 20% you would only get 3% of the 20% or less than 1% of the production from the well. If they are willing to negotiate try for your acreage to make up at least 25% of any unit. If they drill on your land you want some form of surface damage. Let your attorney figure that out. And if don't want them drilling on your land you can add that to the trade. That may or may not be a deal breaker. If the drill horizontally than the odds are they wouldn't be putting a rig on your land anyway. But that goes back to the question of just how much land we're talking about.

Mineral Rights
Basic information about mineral, surface, oil and gas rights.

Answers to questions frequently asked by landowners about oil and gas leases and drilling in Pennsylvania.

Hope this helps.

Economy Sandbags Plans for Nuclear Reactors

Symptomatically, not in Asia. About 50 reactors are under construction there, and still ramping fast. We are voluntarily turning over all initiative to them. The two old worlds are waning fast.

"Chief of company behind toxic sludge spill in Hungary arrested"

"CNN) -- The head of the company at the center of a toxic spill in Hungary has been arrested, accused of public endangerment and harming the environment, authorities said Monday.

Earlier, executive Zoltan Bakonyi had been questioned by authorities.

Hungary's Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, told CNN affiliate MTV that he favored strong government intervention against Bakonyi's aluminum company, MAL Co.

"I proposed appointing a state commissioner to exercise control over the company who should manage the company and its assets until the tasks stemming from the disaster have been fulfilled," he said. "I ask the parliament to accept the proposal. The company should be put under state control and its assets under state closure." "


Perhaps we have something to learn from the Hungarians.

PetroChina Discovers Major Oil Reservoir in Xinjiang

"Tens of millions of metric tons".

That is an impressive discovery, until you realize that China consumes close to a million metric tons of oil per day.

So the new discovery really should read:

PetroChina has found commercial oil flows at wells in the Mobei oilfield in the oil-rich Xinjiang Autonomous region of Northwest China, and it expects to add new crude oil reserves of tens of millions metric tons enough for several weeks of consumption, parent China National Petroleum Corp. said in its in-house newsletter Monday.

Edit: Corrected time units. Chinese consumption is around 8 million barrels per day, which is about 1.1 million metric tons.