Drumbeat: October 18, 2010

OPEC turns 50... What now?

The challenge is not so much now, but in the medium term. Ministers here are talking about spare capacity – basically the ability to produce more oil when demand justifies such action. That demand is not expected in the next 18 months, but certainly in the next 2-3 years, due to the growth of China and less so India.

Canada-US pipeline on hold amid oil's recent woes

A company waiting for the U.S. government to approve the last leg of its multibillion-dollar oil pipeline network between Canada and the United State may be running into public concerns stemming from recent oil disasters.

Some experts conclude the so-called Keystone XL pipeline is a victim of guilt by association amid the negative publicity of the Gulf Coast oil rig explosion and other spills.

Scientists lower Gulf of Mexico's health grade

Scientists who study the Gulf of Mexico say its ecological health has declined, though not dramatically, since the BP oil spill. In an informal survey for The Associated Press, 75 scientists offered baseline pre-spill grades on a scale of 0 to 100 in July, with 100 being pristine.

The mighty American chestnut tree, poised for a comeback

Now that they've got trees with a shot at survival, volunteers have joined federal officials to begin reforestation. They've planted 20,000 to 25,000 chestnuts, and some of the most promising work is being done on land decimated by strip mining that must be restored under federal law.

"Surface mines may make the best springboard for the American chestnut back into the Eastern forest," said Patrick Angel, a senior forester at the Office of Surface Mining who is helping to oversee the effort. "The natural range of the American chestnut and the Appalachian coal fields overlap perfectly."

The new fear: Electric car 'range anxiety'

(CNN) -- Chase Ballew had miscalculated a little bit. He was bringing home some furniture from Ikea in his electric-powered truck, and there wasn't enough charge to get him all the way to the house.

About a mile from his Portland, Oregon, home he decided to pull into the parking lot of an auto parts store to see if it would let him borrow an outlet. He reasoned that the store would have no problem with him recharging, hoping he'd come back in the future. So he charged for a few minutes, getting enough juice to make it the rest of the way.

Green Rankings: The Top 10

For NEWSWEEK's 2010 Green Rankings, we worked with three leading environmental-research organizations to analyze the 500 biggest publicly traded companies in the U.S. This allowed us to cut through the green chatter and compare their actual environmental footprints, policies, and reputations. The result: the most comprehensive rankings available on this subject.

(Bio)Mass Confusion: High costs and environmental concerns have pushed biomass power to the sidelines in the U.S.

CARSON CITY, Nev. — With all the plants and trees in the world, biomass energy would appear to have boundless potential.

Yet in the U.S., biomass power—generated mainly by burning wood and other plant debris—has run into roadblocks that have stymied its growth.

Here at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center, officials in 2007 built a $7.7 million biomass plant to meet all the power needs of the medium-security prison. But last month, two years after the plant opened, prison officials closed it, citing excessive costs.

"This was a project that was well intentioned, but not well implemented," says Jeff Mohlenkamp, deputy director of support services for the Nevada Department of Corrections.

Across the U.S., other biomass projects have met similar fates.

Crude Oil at a Crossroad of Inventory and Fed's QE2

Crude oil prices had generally correlated with the base metals and equities on U.S. dollar weakness and strong Asian demand. However, due to the abundance of inventory and supply, crude has remained range-bound, despite improved market sentiment, and started to decouple and underperformed other commodities with tighter supply conditions, such as copper, as well as equities.

Europe Products-Gasoline crack rises as French strike continues

LONDON (Reuters) - European gasoline's crack held just below a six-month high on Monday as strikes in France continued to paralyse oil supplies in the country.

French strikes force petrol stations to shut

About 1,500 petrol stations in France have run dry or are about to close as fuel supplies are hit by strikes over government pension reforms, officials say.

A blockade of oil refineries is into its seventh day and the body that supplies most supermarkets says one in four petrol stations is affected.

Airlines told to refuel before flying to France as gas shortage grows

Gas pumps could run dry in France by Wednesday, experts warned on Sunday, as the standoff over pension reforms reached crisis point.

Airlines advised pilots to refuel abroad and UFIP, the country's oil industry association, said that if strikes continued at all 12 of France's refineries, then national shortages would follow.

Fearing shortages, the French rush to fill up at petrol stations

Fearing a fuel shortage due to ongoing nationwide strikes against pension reform prompted many drivers in France to rush to petrol stations that were still open on Monday, despite a message of reassurance from French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

Saudi Arabia warns France of fresh al-Qaeda terror attack

France said the Saudi intelligence agency has warned it of a fresh al-Qaeda attack that is part of a larger plot to target Europe.

Ukraine to develop oil, gas fields in Venezuela

KIEV, Ukraine—Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych says his country will develop oil and gas fields in energy-rich Venezuela.

Russia invites BP, Total to offshore oil projects

(Reuters) - Russia's top energy officials met with the chief executives of France's Total and Britain's BP on Monday, to discuss potential cooperation in offshore oil deposit projects usually closed to foreigners.

Russia to supply Poland with 11 bcm gas/yr from '12

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Gazprom will supply Poland with 11 billion cubic metres of gas a year from 2012 annually until 2022, up from 9.7 bcm in 2010, the Russian energy giant said in a press statement on Monday.

Morningstar: 2011 Gulf Outlook for the Offshore Drillers

In 2009, we wrote that we thought 2010 would be the year of Brazil, thanks to its huge offshore discoveries and equally large spending plans. In hindsight, we should have focused our gaze a little further north, as the aptly-named Macondo well and Transocean's Deepwater Horizon made the Gulf of Mexico one of the biggest stories of the year. The ongoing impact of the spill has several implications for the sector in 2011. We believe that the short-term outlook for the sector is fairly murky, but the long-term outlook remains bright, as a significant portion of the global oil production being added over the next few years will come from offshore projects. In our view, the production increase should lead to higher rig activity levels and day rates.

LPG cylinder shortage leads residents to cook with wood and cow-dung

Illegal commercial use of domestic gas cylinders by private hotels, restaurants and dhabas has left residents of Vasai, Nallasopara and Virar with severe shortage of cooking gas, forcing them to use cow-dung and wood instead

Christophe de Margerie: a man in Total control

Total, the €122bn (£107bn) energy giant, stands alone among the oil majors for a number of reasons, not least being thoroughly French amid the US-UK dominated group of BP, Shell, Exxon, Chevron and ConocoPhillips. Its chief executive also holds a number of views that few of his peers are willing to admit that they share.

He is a defender of OPEC, the oil cartel whose members include Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, insisting that they "no longer play political games". He speaks out against embargoes on trading with unpopular regimes and believes speculators contribute to high oil prices. And, most controversially, he believes in spreading the word that oil prices are going to sky-rocket.

Should Big Oil Fund Energy Research at Universities?

Universities need money to perform research, and rich, peak oil-wary petroleum giants need researchers to find alternative sources of energy as well as more efficient ways to drill for oil. It seems like a reasonable match--but are oil company-sponsored research projects unduly influenced by their sponsors?

Kurt Cobb: Talkin' triage

"Don't waste your breath" needs to become a mantra in the peak oil and sustainability communities. The season for arguing with peak oil and climate change deniers has long since passed. Our time is too precious and the need to act too urgent. The time has come for talkin' triage.

Monbiot: It goes against our nature; but the left has to start asserting its own values

Progressives, he shows, have been suckers for a myth of human cognition he labels the enlightenment model. This holds that people make rational decisions by assessing facts. All that has to be done to persuade people is to lay out the data: they will then use it to decide which options best support their interests and desires.

A host of psychological experiments demonstrate that it doesn't work like this. Instead of performing a rational cost-benefit analysis, we accept information that confirms our identity and values, and reject information that conflicts with them. We mould our thinking around our social identity, protecting it from serious challenge. Confronting people with inconvenient facts is likely only to harden their resistance to change.

Dangerous exponentials - a radical take on the future (report excerpt)

In this report, the fifth in the Tullett Prebon Strategy Insights series, we set out our core thesis, which is that the global economy is in the grip of a forest of dangerous financial and non-financial exponentials.

As Fig. 1 illustrates, a series of key indicators – including population growth, energy consumption, cumulative inflation and the money supply – all appear to have turned into exponential ‘hockey-stick’ curves.

The 2010 ASPO conference: national security aspects

The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) held its annual conference in Washington on October 7-9, 2010. The theme of this year’s conference was “The Future of Oil, Energy and the Economy.”

This review summarizes what transpired at the conference with respect to national security concerns, including not only military aspects but related issues such as energy security, financial & economic stability and food security.

Transportation, Food, and Electricity Systems Not Well Prepared for Peak Oil

Earlier this month, I was able to attend the final day of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO) USA conference, and it reminded me how far behind we are in preparing for a future in which oil is less readily available than it is now.

2010 Local Future conference features Nicole Foss

The 2010 Local Future conference is finalized; its title is: The 2010 International Conference on the Future: Energy, Economy and Environment.

The dates and venue are set: Friday, Nov. 12 – Sunday, Nov 14, 2010 at the Prince Conference Center at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Copper thieves continue to be as bold as brass

MULTI-million-dollar security systems put in place by power companies to stop copper thieves have failed to scare off blackmarket gangs.

Hundreds of thefts from depots and work sites in the past year has doubled replacement and repair costs for some companies and contributed to increases in electricity bills.

Author describes our 'new planet'

Author and environmentalist Bill McKibben addressed “Moral Life on a Tough New Planet” to more than 300 people gathered Sunday at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 2136 Brady St., Davenport. His presentation, which included photographs from around the world, was part of the St. Paul Lutheran Church Guest Speaker Series.

China Almost Triples U.S. Low-Carbon Incentives, Study Shows

(Bloomberg) -- China’s incentives to encourage low-carbon generation such as solar and wind power are almost triple those in the U.S., according to the Climate Institute.

Measures to spur renewable energy, as well as taxes on dirtier forms of generation such as burning coal placed China above the U.S., Japan, Australia and South Korea in a six- country study and below only the U.K., according to the report, prepared for the Sydney-based institute by London-based analysts at Vivid Economics.

China Escalates Fight With U.S. on Energy Aid

BEIJING — A dispute between China and the United States over Beijing’s subsidies to clean energy industries escalated on Sunday when a senior Chinese economic official warned that Washington “cannot win this trade fight.”

Skill Shortage Clouds Prospects for British Energy Industry

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND — A lack of engineering and technical skills in Britain poses a serious threat to the country’s ability to expand its renewable-energy industry, according to those who work in the field, a problem that analysts say is rooted in a lack of emphasis on science education in British schools and universities.

A report this year by RenewableUK, an umbrella organization for the British wind and marine energy industry, has warned that there are not enough trained and experienced workers in the industry to install, run or maintain the technology that it will require to achieve its full potential.

RWE Says Nabucco Pipeline Can Avoid Turkmen Gas on Azeri, Iraqi Supplies

RWE AG, the German utility planning the Nabucco natural-gas pipeline to Europe to help cut reliance on Russia, said the venture may not need fuel from Turkmenistan.

Nabucco is in negotiations to source gas from northern Iraq and Azerbaijan, and “if those materialize there will be no room for Turkmen gas anymore in Nabucco phase 1, the 31 billion cubic meter capacity pipeline,” Stefan Judisch, head of RWE’s supply and trading unit, said in a phone interview today. “The supply picture becomes slowly but surely clearer.”

Novatek to start Arctic LNG construction in 2012

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's largest independent gas producer, Novatek, will start building its liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on the Yamal peninsula in 2012, a document on the Russian government website said Monday.

According to the document, which outlines Novatek's Yamal LNG development plan, construction of the first LNG production line, or train, will start in 2012 and is expected to be completed in 2016.

U.N. environment chief: 'We are destroying life on Earth'

NAGOYA, Japan — The world cannot afford to allow nature's riches to disappear, the United Nations said Monday at the start of a major meeting to combat losses in animal and plant species that underpin livelihoods and economies.

The United Nations says the world is facing the worst extinction rate since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago, a crisis that needs to be addressed by governments, businesses and communities.

The Revolution Has Begun - "The Shift Hits the Fan"

In the words of filmmaker Tom Shadyac, "The shift is hitting the fan." We're experiencing the dawn of a revolutionary transformation. This awkward 'tween state marks the end of pre-history - the sunset of an ecologically illiterate civilization. Like a baby being born, a new world is crowning.

The revolution has begun. But in fits and starts. The challenge is it's one minute to midnight - too late to avoid large-scale destruction. We have to fan the shift to ecoliterate societies at sufficient scale and speed to dodge irretrievable cataclysm.

Peak Oil Talk tonight in Second Life

Monday Oct 18th is the third in our series of presentations on the future of energy. Dr Steven Sorrell will be presenting a talk on "Peak Oil: a Look at the Evidence" at 17:15 UK time. In his talk, Dr Sorrell will examine the available data on oil production and discuss the likelihood of a peak in oil supplies in the next 10, 20 or 50 years. The talk is open to the public and will be accessible to anyone interested, not just scientists.

Steven’s talk will be broadcast in the virtual world “Second Life”, so that it is freely accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Second Life is free to download and easy to use. To download the software, go to www.secondlife.com/Second+Life to set up an account. Once you have an avatar, you will need to get to the site of our conference, which is called the Elucian Islands. You can teleport directly to the conference venue by pasting the url http://slurl.com/secondlife/Elucian%20Islands/214/42/58 into a web browser or the command bar at the top of the Second Life game screen.

King's Battle With Clerics Dictates Fate of Saudi's Oil Economy

When Saudi King Abdullah appeared in a newspaper photo with 40 veiled women in April, he broke a taboo by mixing with the opposite sex in public.

Since then, the 86-year-old monarch has crimped the power of conservative Muslim clerics more than any of his five predecessors since the foundation of the kingdom in 1932. He prohibited unauthorized religious edicts, or fatwas, and shut some of the websites where they’re issued. In the past month, he backed supermarkets employing females for the first time.

...The friction between king and clerics underscores a shift in Saudi society away from the dominance of strict Islamic law. The king is spearheading the move by forging a Saudi national identity and bringing women into the workforce as part of an attempt to make the economy less dependent on oil.

Crude Trades Near One-Week Low Because of Outlook for Weaker Fuel Demand

Oil traded near its lowest level in more than a week in New York on a stronger dollar and concern that U.S. fuel consumption is rebounding too slowly.

Crude fell as the Dollar Index climbed for a second day, damping the appeal of commodities as an alternative investment. Work began on 3 percent fewer houses in September in the U.S., the world’s largest oil user, than a month earlier, economists estimated before a Commerce Department report tomorrow.

Hedge Funds Cut Bullish Bets on Natural Gas to 2010 Low

Hedge funds cut their bullish bets on natural gas to the lowest level this year as expanding stockpiles drove prices to a 13-month low.

The funds and other large speculators cut wagers on rising prices by 36 percent in the seven days ended Oct. 12, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s weekly Commitments of Traders report. It was the third week of declines, bringing the reduction since Sept. 21 to 71 percent.

OPEC: A lifeboat in a turbulent sea

So why [is OPEC] a lifeboat? Through its policy on oil production, the organization has succeeded in maintaining oil prices at a reasonable level. It has also succeeded, through production cuts, in credibly and sincerely defending prices, in the wake of their collapse at the start of the global financial crisis (falling to nearly 30 dollars per barrel), all without dealing any blows to the global economy. In addition, the majority of OPEC’s member states have since injected the necessary funds for investments and new projects, particularly in the petroleum sector, in contrast to the deflationary policies of the industrialized nations which, first and foremost, attempted to rescue their crumbling financial institutions, while approving spending cuts in their budgets.

OPEC seems keen to draw Viennese blinds

OPEC appeared uncomfortable in the spotlight of the global media last week in Vienna.

Perhaps members were a little embarrassed that oil revenue this year is on target to be the second highest in the history of the 50-year-old organisation as the world faces the prospect of a double-dip recession.

France seeks to calm fuel fears as strike momentum builds

PARIS (AFP) – France sought Sunday to calm fears of petrol shortages, with the oil industry admitting it cannot hold on forever as strikes against pension reform intensified ahead of another wave of mass protests.

French Truckers Block Roads as State Pledges Fuel Supplies

French truckers blocked highways and officials said they’d use police to prevent strikers from cutting fuel supplies as the standoff hardened over President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans to raise the retirement age to 62.

The government said it won’t give in to demands that it suspend parliamentary debate on the change and keep the minimum retirement age at 60. Sarkozy’s ministers sought to guarantee fuel, saying police would be deployed to ensure access to storage sites as refinery strikes entered a second week.

Oil workers defy French demand to open depots

French oil workers on Monday defied the government's demand to get back to work and end scattered fuel shortages, stepping up their fight against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62.

Striking workers piled up tires and set them ablaze in front of a refinery at Grandpuits, east of Paris, after authorities issued a legal order insisting that some strikers reopen the facility. Workers said Monday they would refuse, as curls of heavy black smoke wafted into the air.

Dh5bn power station for Abu Dhabi by 2014

The next major power station for Abu Dhabi will cost Dh5 billion and over time generate the cheapest electricity the emirate’s utility has secured since 1998, according to an official statement today.

Cnooc's Overseas Acquisitions May Increase Its Credit Risk, Moody's Says

Cnooc Ltd.’s debt may rise if China’s biggest offshore oil explorer increases overseas acquisitions following its stake purchase in Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s Eagle Ford project, Moody’s Investors Service said.

TNK-BP to acquire BP's Vietnam, Venezuela assets

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian oil company TNK-BP said on Monday it had agreed a deal with its part-owner BP to acquire the troubled British oil giant's assets in Vietnam and Venezuela for 1.8 billion dollars.

TNK-BP, Russia's third-biggest oil company, is owned 50 percent by BP and 50 percent by a group of Russian billionaires including banking magnate Mikhail Fridman known collectively as Alfa Access-Renova (AAR).

Halliburton Net Income Increases as Work Shifts to Onshore

Halliburton Co., the world’s second- largest oilfield-services provider, said profit rose as onshore work in North America more than made up for a slowdown in the Gulf of Mexico following an April oil spill.

In Collins, effects of gas drilling are debated

Since July, Natalie Brant has complained to anyone who will listen that U.S. Energy isn't living up to its promises and isn't drilling safely.

But state environmental regulators say methane gas is found naturally in well water in this part of the area, and there's no proof the drilling is causing the family's health problems.

And U.S. Energy officials said they have tried to help the Brants and their neighbors, but the gas in their water is coming from a nearby septic system.

Analysis: Uncertain Energy Policy Among Key Risk to Upstream O&G

Uncertain energy policy poses a key risk to upstream oil and gas companies worldwide, according to the Ernst & Young Business Risk Report 2010.

Uncertainty, which was ranked second in Ernst & Young's previous report in 2009, has grown as a risk as direction of energy policy have been prolonged, partly by the vague outcome of the Copenhagen climate conference in December 2009 and partly by the inability of the U.S. to adopt a clear energy policy. Policy decisions worldwide have further been complicated by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

India to launch shale gas auction before end-2011

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India will launch bidding for the exploration of shale gas before the end of 2011, Petroleum Secretary S. Sundareshan said on Monday at the opening of a new bidding round for conventional oil and gas blocks. Although India's estimated shale gas reserves are not known, the government is assessing the potential for the energy source and is seeking data and technology from the United States, petroleum ministry officials said.

Iraqi province pushes for more say

Iraq's western Anbar province is demanding more control over its potentially huge energy reserves ahead of this week's auction of gas fields, including the vast desert province's Akkas reservoir.

Blessing or Curse? Exploration of oil discoveries in Afghanistan not without risk

In September 2010 the Afghan government announced the discovery of an oil field containing an estimated 1.8 billion barrels in the northern region between Balkh and Jawzjan provinces. The find was made after a survey conducted by Afghan and international geologists and represents a key opportunity for the country to resume commercially viable industrial activities.

US says Sudan votes must be held on time

(CNN) -- The United States says that January's planned voting in Sudan on the southern region's independence should proceed as scheduled, despite a snag in talks over the status of a key oil-rich region.

Angola's oil-fuelled tragedy

Angola, where British oil companies have substantial interests, does not feature on the UK's list of countries whose human rights records are of concern.

A battle begins

In July, Ukraine’s Government announced coal market reorganisation for 2011 – 2014. The plan assumes the liquidation of unprofitable mines, coal trade liberalisation and privatisation.

Three major players will definitely compete in mine privatisation: System Capital Management (SCM), ArcelorMittal and the Russians. China may also enter the game.

Global Hydro and Nuclear Power in Perspective

The prospects for any future growth from nuclear power are now very dim, at least, if one was hoping to extract a meaningful contribution from that energy source. The reasons are myriad, but, in the developed world because of societal concerns and the pricing of risk it’s not even possible for the nuclear industry to function without government support–from financing to insurance. Meanwhile wind power, with its relatively fast construction times and consequent return on investment at moderately attractive levels, is now more competitive by comparison. Yes, wind is a different kind (and different quality) of energy. But we are already witnessing wind power construction globally pulling way, way ahead of the nuclear industry.

Unfortunately, the entire discussion of Wind, Solar, and Nuclear power is marginal when considering how the world powers itself, in the main. The title of my ASPO conference talk, Return to Coal, addressed the coming crossover point when coal once again becomes the primary energy source of the world. When we consider these energy sources, and their actual use in perspective, we can see that the politics of Climate Change legislation for example is actually just a parlour game played in the developed world: and one that offers no practical solutions.

Severn barrage tidal power plan axed

Chris Huhne, the Secretary of State for Energy, is to give the go-ahead to a string of new nuclear power stations, wind farms and clean coal plants as he sets out how the coalition plans to keep the lights on in the next three decades.

But tomorrow's major statement on energy policy will pull the plug on the vast Severn barrage plan, which it was claimed could generate 5 per cent of Britain's electricity. Wildlife campaigners are delighted at the news, ending fears of the destruction of unique habitats.

Government to announce plan for ocean energy

A new blueprint for a billion euro ocean energy industry is being developed by the government, and energy minister Eamon Ryan is expected to make a major announcement over the next few months.

Financing Dearth Holds Solar Back in U.S.

NEW YORK — The U.S. solar energy industry is having its best year ever, yet financing remains scarce for the billion-dollar projects needed for it to gain ground on global leaders like Germany.

For the U.S. solar sector to move up from rooftop add-on technology to the scale of fossil fuel power plants, the country needs to build large plants covering hundreds of acres. Each can cost as much as $1 billion, a huge sum for the nascent industry to finance, even with U.S. government incentives.

“Because the debt market is so thin right now, it is very difficult to find lenders who are able to lend long-term,” said Scott Frier, chief operating officer of Abengoa Solar, which has two big U.S. plants under development.

NASCAR to use ethanol fuel mix

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- NASCAR says that it will use a 15% ethanol blend in its racing fuel, days after the government approved the mix.

Global Macro Notes: Fed Simply Driving Markets Toward a Brick Wall

And finally, there is simply a lot of crude oil in the world. Crude oil inventories just keep hitting record levels. New production keeps coming online in all sorts of places. The peak oil thesis, if not flat-out defeated, seems at least very much on hold from a medium-term supply and demand perspective.

Apple poised to become largest public company in America

With suggestions that the world is approaching 'peak oil' as supplies begin to dwindle and increasing concern over the role that fossil fuels play in climate change, Exxon looks set to be replaced by perhaps the most potent symbol of the digital age.

Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America

In this intelligent and refreshingly readable--if inevitably depressing--expose, Freudenburg and Gramling, professors of environmental studies and sociology respectively, and longtime collaborators and observers of the oil industry, analyze the origins of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and its aftermath, concluding that we may be facing a "technological Peter Principle": we may have elevated "the societal significance of our technology up to, and perhaps beyond, the point where it can actually do what we expect it to do."

Our Thirst for Oil: A Deeper Dive

This summer's Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico called attention to the world's thirst for oil and the hazards of that dependence. It also heightened concerns about the health of the world's oceans. We asked experts in these areas to recommend books that shed light on these topics. Here's what they say about some of their favorites.

Cable cars: back to the future to help combat peak oil?

A plan to run cable cars along High St could be a "small but significant" start to Dunedin preparing for the effects of peak oil, an Australian transport researcher says.

"Cable cars and trams worked wonderfully 100 years ago when we did not have cheap oil," Associate Prof Philip Laird, of Wollongong University, told the Otago Daily Times last week.

New Zealand: Pipe upgrade urgency signalled

Dunedin's water pipes must be upgraded before oil shocks intensify and worldwide energy prices surge, a draft paper prepared for the city council suggests.

The paper warns potentially expensive improvements could be much harder to afford in the maelstrom of supply crunches and price spikes as the world grapples with peak oil.

Funky cob house is first to meet extreme-green standard

On a hilltop in Victoria, British Columbia, Ann and Gord Baird lived in a trailer with his two children for 20 months while they hand-built their dream home -- out of cob.

Their funky, multi-generational home has curved, two-foot thick cob walls -- a mixture of water, clay (the glue), sand and straw (the strength) as well as pumice (for extra insulation.)

Fossil fuel future

So there is no denying that cheap fossil fuel has been a boon to humankind, and we are not about to foist guilt feelings on anyone for its use, or even on those who made bundles of money in its extraction and trade. But we now know that like any business, the cost analysis is deficient in one area-the cost on the environment. Carbon emission as a consequence of fossil fuel use is like cigarette smoking to cancer. When we started costing the consequences and saw facts our business bottom lines did not like to see, we went into massive denial. Up to now, there are still people who refuse to see that climate warming is a consequence of the accumulated emissions that retain solar heat in the environment, melting the polar caps and putting additional water into our oceans with consequences on the weather we are now just beginning to suspect are not pleasant.

Global warming issue spans two ballot items

Fundraising for a ballot initiative to suspend California's global warming law has flagged, but oil companies and other business interests are pouring millions of dollars into a separate ballot measure that could dry up funds to implement the law.

Global warming will be a problem for youth, NASA climatologist warns

James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, visited the University Saturday to talk about the scientific impacts of climate change on the Earth's species and the importance of protecting the planet for future generations.

CG admiral asks for Arctic resources

ABOVE NORTHERN ALASKA — The ice-choked reaches of the northern Arctic Ocean aren't widely perceived as an international shipping route. But global warming is bringing vast change, and Russia, for one, is making an aggressive push to establish top of the world sea lanes.

This year, a Russian ship carrying up to 90,000 metric tons of gas condensate sailed across the Arctic and through the Bering Strait to the Far East. Last year, a Russian ship went the other way, leaving from South Korea with industrial parts. Russia plans up to eight such trips next year, using oil-type tankers with reinforced hulls to break through the ice.

All of which calls for more U.S. Coast Guard facilities and equipment in the far north to secure U.S. claims and prepare for increased human activity, according to Rear Admiral Christopher C. Colvin, who is in charge of all Coast Guard operations in Alaska and surrounding waters.

"We have to have presence up there to protect our claims for the future, sovereignty claims, extended continental shelf claims," Colvin told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview conducted aboard a C-130 on a lumbering flight to the Arctic Ocean.

This is unrelated to any news of the day but I thought it a note of interest. According to the EIA's
International Petroleum Monthly, Petroleum (Oil) Demand

Petroleum demand, all liquids, in millions of barrels per day.

                 2006            2nd quarter 2010   Change   Percent Change
OECD Demand      49.82           45.45              -4.37      -8.8 
Non-OECD Demand  35.44           40.81               5.37      15.2

Ron P.

Perhaps in a parallel universe somewhere most or all of that non-OECD demand increase is fictitious - by definition non-IEA/OECD demand is not really tracked accurately after all...

In such a parallel universe of course the multi-year plateau "nobody predicted" (multiple sources for that quote - Hirsch the latest) never actually happened and panicked governments ran around like headless chickens as production relentlessly declined year after year and there was nothing they could do. Don't mention the markets - keep pumping these paper barrels and shout loudly about speculators and "people who hate us" for the rising oil price. Quadrupling of prices caused simply by maybe a ten percent fall in real crude production - what nonsense!

Lucky that's a fictional reality :)

France, Germany extend hand to Russia at seaside summit

AFP - France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia's President Dimitry Medvedev meet Monday for talks on building a pan-European security partnership.
The trio will meet in the seaside Channel resort of Deauville, two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War and a month before the NATO allies meet to agree their new security vision.
No big announcements are expected, but observers will seek signs Moscow and the West are ready to put decades of hostility behind them and commit to what optimists see as a common security vision "from Vancouver to Vladivostok."
Some allies of France and Germany were annoyed to have been excluded from the get-together, concerned the pair should meet alone with such a difficult neighbour, but diplomats here insist the summit will defuse tensions.

The NY Times is running a series called "The Great Deflation: Coping With Decline," about "the effects on Japanese society of two decades of economic stagnation and declining prices." The first installment is here.

OSAKA, Japan — Like many members of Japan’s middle class, Masato Y. enjoyed a level of affluence two decades ago that was the envy of the world. Masato, a small-business owner, bought a $500,000 condominium, vacationed in Hawaii and drove a late-model Mercedes.

But his living standards slowly crumbled along with Japan’s overall economy. First, he was forced to reduce trips abroad and then eliminate them. Then he traded the Mercedes for a cheaper domestic model. Last year, he sold his condo — for a third of what he paid for it, and for less than what he still owed on the mortgage he took out 17 years ago.

This, not Mad Max or Ecotopia, is probably what the future will look like. Just an ever-lower standard of living, and slowly losing the hope of anything different.

In Japan, people don't even seem all that upset about it. Unlike in Europe. My guess is the US will fall somewhere in between. The formerly well-offs will get angrier than people in Japan, but won't strike or protest like in Europe.

Just a note: Japan doesn't have a military of any respectable size. Europe doesn't have a cohesive military force. We have a strong military which can be an offensive weapon when push. To paraphrase, our way of life is nonnegotiable.

Our way of life is nonnegotiable, but not in the way Cheney meant.

Do you really think we're going to war because some middle managers have to scale back their vacations, or California is forced to cut back on pensions to retired school teachers?

going to war because some middle managers have to scale back their vacations

No, it'll be because large firms with billions at stake are suffering a drop in profit.

(See Smedly Butler War is a Racket and Dole as example material)

Our leaders have always come up with creative and conniving ways to lead us into wars. I have not heard of any leaders in world history where they explicitly declare war simply because their citizens are going poor. Chronic high unemployment of youths leading to disenfranchisement makes for a segment of the population willing to do anything no matter the rationale. Actually the more absurd the reason, the more it is believed. Middle managers and retired teachers may not be physically fit to fight, they will however support war wholesale.

I didn't say there would be no wars. I said the financial wellbeing of the little guys wouldn't be a reason to go to war.

But the little guy has a shot of stopping it, if they were all to withdraw support.

The WWI Christmas parties during the 1st year. Or a more modern version - the reported lack of auto fuel in France.

Any of the wars could be stopped if the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex was not fed.

And I have no idea how enough people would be upset enough to withdraw their support because it strikes me that plenty of others would step up and say 'sure' to work if others were to have such a national strike.

The little guy has a much better shot at getting shot than affecting policy.

The labor movement had a few people get shot that effected policy. Same with Kent State.

On occasion one man can stand in front of tanks to obtain change.

I have to think that communication tools, from printing press to radios and their offshoots have given more power to 'smaller' people.. 'course, they've given more power to bigger people as well, but who knows what I-phone apps a Pacifist Hacker might come up with? Better make it something the FBI doesn't think it has any interest in, though. As soon as you declare 'open war' on war, war fights back.. gotta shoot from the bushes.

'scuse me, I gotta get the door..

We have a strong military which can be an offensive weapon when push.

This is doubtful for several reasons.
- the US military appears to be stretched to the limit to field around 250,000 personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are two rather small countries,
- the supply chain to operations in Eurasia is highly vulnerable and depends on not having serious opposition that can destroy AWACS, military jet transports, and cargo ships (not to mention oil tanker trucks in lots), and
- much of US military expenditure actually goes to the military industrial complex for fancy weapons systems, and for operating expenses to garrison forces around the world, which increases the odds that in a real war we would be stuck with large stockpiles of obsolete or unreliable weapons suited for fighting the last war in the wrong place.

- the supply chain to operations in Eurasia is highly vulnerable and depends on not having serious opposition that can destroy AWACS, military jet transports, and cargo ships (not to mention oil tanker trucks in lots), and

If this dawns on more people, terrorists, para-military groups and opposing military forces will probably concentrate most or all of their efforts on hitting US and NATO forces fuel supply operations. Since many of the insurgent forces are not as dependent on Liquid Transport Fuels for effective operations, it will probably turn conflicts into less of a one sided affair. All in all, a terrible waste of the world's remaining oil.

This makes me wonder about possible changes in behavior if civilization follows the path described by Greer into Scarcity Industrialism and The Age of Salvage Societies. When the cost benefit analysis is done, how many battles will be abandoned because there is too much to loose and not enough to gain?

Alan from the islands

When the cost benefit analysis is done, how many battles will be abandoned because there is too much to loose and not enough to gain?

I don't think cost benefit analysis figures as an input into the decision making process. The US middle eastern wars are predicated on emotionally scary hypotheticals, and the huge political risk of being labeled as weak on terrorism. Terror-phobia is not amenable to cost-benefit analysis.

This is indeed an interesting world that we live in. That the 4% of the planets population that lives in the USA are terrified that some number of the other 96% do not "play nice" when the game gets rough. ET said it best downthread describing' the results of the US's acting on it's emotionally scary hypotheticals, and the huge political risk of being labeled as weak on terrorism.

Very important part of my post was

This makes me wonder about possible changes in behavior if civilization follows the path described by Greer into Scarcity Industrialism and The Age of Salvage Societies.

As long as the powers that be do not subscribe to resource constraints (limits to growth), financial and material resources will be considered negligible compared to the political risk. Hence my interest in possible changes in behavior when it is widely accepted that there IS NOT more where that came from. Will the strong always continue to invade the weak to plunder resources they believe are there? In that case, what will the invaders do if for example, they invade an oil producer and find that the resources they thought were there prove not to be worthwhile?

Alan from the islands

I think you hit the nail on the head. Not only is it difficult to field a large army, but the military seems to be gearing up for civilian unrest in the 2012 to 2015 timeframe. They are more aware and better prepared than most... not that that is any consolation. How they put down unrest, and what that portends for the rest of us is a very dark prospect, indeed.

Meanwhile, the markets seem pleased with everything that is going on, as we accelerate during our race to the bottom.


This is doubtful for several reasons.

That is true so long as the US seeks to not stray too far from civilized rules of engagement. Should we decide to become all out bad guys instead, there is no telling how much damage we could inflict.

Should we decide to become all out bad guys instead, there is no telling how much damage we could inflict.

Reminds me of a quote from JHK in the The End of Suburbia trailer 1 minute 40 seconds in where he says "All it takes is 5 pounds of plastic explosives and a camel to put down an oil refinery." Some time ago some terrorist figured out that all they needed was two fully fuel jetliners to take down the World Trade Center.

Might I suggest that there are not enough soldiers and police in the world to prevent attacks on oil infrastructure (rigs, pipelines, shipping terminals, refineries etc.) from sufficiently motivated terrorists/insurgents. Should they decide to retaliate against all out bad guys, there is no telling how much damage they could inflict. As an alternative, over the past decade the US has probably spent more on bank bailouts and military operations than would be needed to install more than enough solar PV on every American house and transition most of the transportation infrastructure away from oil.

Alan from the islands

A panel on every roof? That sounds hauntingly like a chicken in every pot..

As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable!

('..You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. ')

That is true so long as the US seeks to not stray too far from civilized rules of engagement. Should we decide to become all out bad guys instead, there is no telling how much damage we could inflict.

It seems to me we strayed 'too far from civilized rules of engagement' pretty thoroughly in Vietnam and in the 2 recent gulf wars. The US govt. went to (and is going to) great lengths to deny the extents of the collateral damage in these wars. You need to read some more of Chomsky's writings. Like he says, the US is no exception when it comes to brutalizing the countries it invades.

No, but we are better. There are signs at the Gitmo and Abu Graib bathrooms advising our Servicemen and Embedded Psychologists to carefully wash their hands and minds after they perform their perfectly legal enhanced interrogations.

The skills with coping with lossing a lot of your wealth and in some cases your health along with it is not something most parents or schools teach. Most of us have had to deal with lose, usually in the form of a loved one or a close friend, but that is also the same set of emotions you will be using as you loose health or even wealth.

The article the other day that someone posted on a PBS video, made me think of all the things people collect when they have money. I've been trying to clean out the pack rat collections of several decades, from sheds and storage places. Some things were kept because we'd find them broken somewhere, then fix them, but have no one to give them too, or any easy way to sell them.

Now We are not hurting for money, but we do have too much stuff gathering dust in a place that could be used for work areas, now that my dad is retired, and has all these tools he has never used much, gotten as gifts over the years, stored in a work shed.

But people tend toward gathing too many things and collections of items that they paid money for that could have been used for a better cushion for retirement or hard times. It seems that a lot of bad habits have now gotten ahold of us, and stung us, or other people really hard in this time of less of everything.

But I have never considered myself middle class, nor have I really been that, but I was not poor poor, I was always well fed, though I have had to use food handouts in the past. I know people who are homeless, were homeless, or are so close to being homeless that they are always on the fine edge of wondering where the next meal or night of sleep will be.

Whats going to be scary for most people not used to living on the edge is having to pack up things and getting turned out onto the streets. Most homeless can carry their belongings, most people that live in housing can't, and that fall from grace is going to be harder for them than someone who is used to living next to the ground.

As a friend said the other day, "I have been homeless once, I can do it again if I have too." Not many americans want to even think about that, and most will have to learn whole new sets of coping skills to handle it.

Know where your local helping hand organizations are in your area, in fact if you can go help them with your spare time if you can. Networking now with them can help you later on if you need their help in the future. If you find yourself needing help, swallow your pride and ask for help, you'd be surprised that most times you aren't looked down on by those people helping others.

Maybe we need to get back to the family that lives together stays fed and housed, some kind of multi-generational living arrangement. It seems to be, being forced on us, what with people not being able to live alone.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

The author John D McDonald had an interesting take on this in one of his mystery stories. A retired economist living in Florida did an informal survey among fellow retirees who were struggling with finances: all the stuff they had bought in their working lives, and disposed of, trinkets, "new and improved gadgets", etc. etc. would have made the difference between living on a very constrained budget, or having a comfortable retirement.

I knew a family friend, came to the US in the 1950s, age mid 40s. With good planning he retired comfortably at mid 60s. Every purchase decision was made with common sense and he lived well.

My mother has rented all her live, did not move upscale when it was possible. What shocks me is not how much she has saved, rather how little I have saved over the same period. Public transportation versus several cars, houses, which require rebuilding every 30 years in the US. just had a roof replaced, 25% of original house price...

My dad did spend about 6,000 dollars in credit to get new siding and windows put in, but the house is going on 57 years old, so the original windows had been holding up for a while.

I think we have put on a new roof twice in the course of living here, going on 34 years. Most recently within the past 10 years, I am thinking the past 5, but I can't remember when it was really.

My dad and mom are frugal, and pack rats, but the things they save aren't kinds of things that fall into the brik-o-brak class. Though looking about the living room where this computer is, makes me wonder if I am not mistaken in what I just said, LOL. My dad has tools older than I am though, and some that my mother's father had in his shops ( at one time while she was growing up He owned and ran a saw mill, as well as built several homes, and built a house boat on Lake Table Rock, up in the Ozarks. ) Her dad had died long before she met my father, he was in his 80's then, she was from his second batch of kids.

Though I am like you, not one to have saved a lot of money in my lifetime. I basically have what I have in books, and cookware and tools and clothes ( and not many of them ).

Maybe this trouble will teach people more about being frugal, though it might have to happen the hard way, lessions learned that way tend to stick with you and you do have a higher chance of passing them off to your offspring, and anyone else that will listen. Might not in the long run be a bad thing.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

John D. McDonald was one of my favorite authors, thanks for reminding me of him.

I think you're right.
"Just an ever lower standard of living, and slowly losing the hope of anything different."
Of course the economists in our midst don't see things that way.
The belief seems to be our problems could yet yield to Somewhat More Artful policies implemented by Somewhat More Able administrators.

Many economists remain confident that the United States will avoid the stagnation of Japan, largely because of the greater responsiveness of the American political system and Americans’ greater tolerance for capitalism’s creative destruction.

What does that mean?
...oh, here, they tell us...

“We’re not Japan,” said Robert E. Hall, a professor of economics at Stanford. “In America, the bet is still that we will somehow find ways to get people spending and investing again.”

Get that?
We can spend our way back to affluence and growth America, We can do it!
It's not individuals that need to spend. They're spent.
Can't ask local governments to spend. They're spent.
So large corporations are sitting on huge piles of money and won't invest it.
Isn't that where these formerly well-offs should focus their anger?

That's exactly why I think there won't be a lot of unrest. They'll keep telling us - and we'll keep telling ourselves - that it's temporary, things are going to get better soon.

That's exactly why I think there won't be a lot of unrest.

I don't necessarily buy that. Americans may be slower to ignite because they still believe that things will indeed get better soon but I don't think that can go on forever. I realize that comparisons to what is happening in France right now might be a bit of a stretch but Americans are still human and at some point something could set them off. I think that barring some miracle, unrest is definitely in the cards. Granted things might still smolder along for quite a while.

As long as the game still seems:

'If that guy over there does something, I can take his place and I'll be better off.'

Why would one rock the boat and run the risk of stepping over the bodies of the fallen to advance your personal place?

Things would have to get bad before the masses say "Stop. No more."

exactly... when the disaster is a 9/11 style, in-your-face disaster we wax nostalgic over how the country all has come together over a cause just like in the oldie days...

but when the disaster is orders of magnitude larger but unfolds over months and years, person by person and family by family, this completely selfish and hollow society moves on to "how can I profit from this..."

The United States is the third largest country by population and the fourth largest by area. The WASP elite that pretty much ran things up through WW II has mostly lost its grip to other groups. There is considerable regional, racial, linguistic, and class factionalism.

It is not unthinkable that the US breaks up. Other large countries like the Soviet Union and British India have. Multi-ethnic Austria-Hungary broke up, partly at the urging of Wilsonian self-determination. So did its sucessor state Yugoslavia.

Periodically, one hears discussion about whether the Han majority in China can maintain integrity of China in the face of restive minorities, most notably Tibetans and Uighurs.

However, not much introspection is given to the situation of the US.

There is considerable regional, racial, linguistic, and class factionalism.... It is not unthinkable that the US breaks up.

Lots of factors that could contribute to such. The ongoing depopulation of the Great Plains is one of them. Given a buffer 500 miles wide in some places, it becomes much easier for East and West to "grow apart" in terms of their interests. The depopulation seems (to me) to have reached a point where positive feedback effects have kicked in -- declining opportunities lead to people moving out lead to a decrease in available services (medical, dental, education, etc) lead to more people moving out...

If the global climate models are right and the Great Plains are going to be significantly warmer and drier during the summer months, agriculture becomes more difficult. Once the "Great American Desert" returns in fact, the whole area starts to look like Egypt -- agriculture and some civilization along the rivers, the rest the "Buffalo Commons" the Poppers have suggested. Maintenance of transportation across the Plains becomes increasingly iffy.

In terms of an actual political split... the biggest hurdle seems to be the debt issue. Who, if anyone, stands behind the (currently) $13.7 trillion debt? Split it on a per-capita basis? All parties simply default?

It is not if the political entity that we call the United States dissolves, but when.

But the USA is not a tribal type of land like all that you mentioned. It is a pile of almost everyone else in the world mixed up into a soup that moves freely about changing status over time.

I know that I can say where my father grew up, there is a lot of family going back a half dozen generations, but even then they have moved out, been stirred and they aren't all loyal to each other. Except knowing that they are related, I don't see us banning together to form a state or town anytime soon.

It is all a hodge-podge of folks. The only way to seperate them out would be on a small parcel type network, sizes of towns, less than 5,000 people. Anything bigger and you get too much of a mix of differences.

I don't see the states breaking up either, as they can't deal with everything themselves, there is just too much movement over state lines and too many things that make us better off as a whole than broken up.

Basically beyond a few million people, no one has been here longer than a few hundred years, in fact on my mom's side her dad's parents came over here before he was born, that is recent. Look at all the people that have moved here in the last 100 years, they might have strong ties back a few generations, but nothing like the examples that you bring up. Where people have knowledge going back from before the USA was anything much.

We aren't like any other country in that respect, so I can't really see us breaking up along the same types of lines.

BioWebScape Desgins for a better fed and housed world.

I can't really see us breaking up along the same types of lines.

The default fracture lines are "race" and "religion" with the occasional 'what political party'. Class is as fractured as always.

Without unions to organize collective action, I can't see how it would happen here.
Unions have been so stigmatized in this country I don't think a militant stand against government rollbacks would find much support, even if they were to act in concert.
The only economic sector where they are still strong is the public sector. If one of those unions were to be so foolish as to risk an action outside its immediate jurisdiction it would be just the bait some Republican demagogue and the right-wing noise machine are looking for. A replay of Reagan and PATCO.
I see American anger being dissipated in self-reproach and escapism.
I was struck by the quote from the article

“Japan used to be so flashy and upbeat, but now everyone must live in a dark and subdued way...”

but who knows...I suppose it could happen...for example students can be organized with charismatic leadership, they live clustered rather than dispersed, and young people will certainly have cause to be angry with authority if they ever wake up to all that we stole from them.
Maybe a child will lead us...

Most of the anger is directed towards the government which supposedly is spending us into continued recession and mass unemployment. Just lower taxes and fire all the deadwood and everything will be better. On the bright side, this misdirected anger will help guarantee a no growth or negative growth economy. However, trickle down economics didn't work very well when there was something to trickle down. What now?

On the bright side, this misdirected anger will help guarantee a no growth or negative growth economy.

Which creates yet more anger to be misdirected. Me thinks I spot a viscious positive feedback loop.

Americans’ greater tolerance for capitalism’s creative destruction.

That sounds like real Austrian school stuff. "Just prevent government from doing anything, and all will be well". We know from bitter experience that that way leads to severe economic depressions. Not that Keynesian response are sustainable longterm, but we do know that the Uastrian response leads to severe downturns as there is no one left to drive demand.

There are differences that lead me to believe that the next twenty years in the US will be much worse than the last twenty years in Japan.

1) The world oil production will not increase but decrease over the next twenty years. I optimistically project that the US will be consuming 25% of the oil it now consumes. Japan is consuming about 100% of the oil it consumed in 1990.

2) Environmental conditions worsen, causing greater crop losses and property damage.

I don't think the markets will survive #1 and cannot predict #2.


Keep in mind that the Japanese have a good health care system, a good transportation system, almost no military costs, a mostly homogeneous society, many people alive who lived through the extreme deprivations of the war and post war years...

"Stagnation" is another word for "steady state economy." It is only an abomination from the perspective of a grow-forever-or-bust mentality. We should have all been striving for such a steady state more than two decades ago, when there was still some hope of sustainability. Now we are all into overshoot and will have to de-grow, as some have put it.

The big problems the Japanese face are an aging population and a complete dependence on foreign oil.

Keep in mind that the Japanese have a good health care system...

And far more importantly, they are famously community minded. They see themselves as members of the same tribe, whereas in the US we have different groups with strong indentities.

Thanks. That's really the crux of the issue. Of course diversity can be a strength. But I think much of the resistance to rational national programs that would help everybody is the aversion of some to putting their money toward helping "those people" (whatever racial, ethnic, socio-economic group is the object of their fear, distrust, hate...).

The Japanese do have some minority groups--the old lowest-caste Eta are still easily identifiable by their neighborhoods and they get all the bad treatment associated with red-lining here, especially lack of access to good jobs and credit. There are also a number of historically Korean families and communities, especially in the south, many of whom have been there for generations but who are still seen as outsiders and treated as such. And we won't even mention the Ainu.

I just want to mention that there is a touch of the "Ant and the Grasshopper" in this story.

In the boom times, Masato Y.'s expenditures seemed to be pure consumption (Mercedes, trips to Hawaii, expensive condo) so when the bust came, he had no investments to fall back on. At least some people must have invested their boom times cash in durable assets (rental properties, agricultural land, productive machinery, non-yen denominated stocks and bonds, etc.), and their story would likely be quite different.

In the US, both now and in the former boom times, investment in durable assets was and is an alternative to spending all income on consumption, just not an alternative that many US citizens choose (and of course the poorest have no choice in the matter). The number of big screen TVs and SUVs sold indicates the choice for consumption over investment.

At least some people must have invested their boom times cash in durable assets (rental properties, agricultural land, productive machinery, non-yen denominated stocks and bonds, etc.), and their story would likely be quite different.

I'm not sure that would be true in a deflationary economy. If rents are falling, is investing in rental property a good idea? Is productive machinery a good investment if customers aren't buying the products?

I've heard that rural land has held up better that city real estate in Japan, but it's because of sentiment, not utility. Often it's been in the family for generations, and so people keep it, even if it's a money-loser.

I know for a fact that farmland in Canada is not an investment. Not sure who's putting in the money, but land here is going at about 4x the amount that can be paid back in installments using typical 1/3 of gross crop output. That's Ontario corn country. My brother tells me Alberta grain country is similar. In other words, somewhere there's people with huge amounts of money willing to put it into cropland and make zero return on it for very long time periods.

Whether or not Canadian farmland is a good investment depends on future currency values too. When Argentine currency essentially became valueless during their collapse, even a very low return foreign investment beat the alternative of a frozen bank account with withdrawals prohibited. Investors with currently strong European currencies are buying lots of US real estate in NYC and Florida right now.

Personally I wish I had purchased real estate in France back when the dollar was strong against the franc. Dollar returns on investments made back then have been huge, and just get better as the dollar falls.

Even if rents are falling, equity in rental property will still be generating a return, and even if property values are falling at least some fraction of capital would be preserved depending on initial equity percentage. In the boom times, Japanese could invest outside the Japanese economy easily enough too. All investments are exposed to the possibility of capital loss.

Conversely consumption leaves no equity at all.

There's a third option, which is the problem. So many Japanese are neither investing nor consuming. They are saving.

Savings are either reinvested because banks lend them to investors or savings are lent to the government who (in)directly consumes a lot of it.
Ultimately all production is for consumption – saving is just a temporal shift and investing is a) consumption of its own b) done with the view that what is produced by the investment is for final consumption.


Well, exactly. If you expect that the future will get steadily worse (your income will get lower), and that any money you save now will buy more goods the longer you leave it, it's rational to defer consumption as long as possible, to cushion the impact on your future self.

If everyone (or the great majority) believes this, no-one buys anything apart from the bare necessities.

In this situation, with no-one buying, investors see no reason to invest -- there's no profit in it. The Japanese government tried half-heartedly to give investors reasons to invest, by spending. The US government has not even tried that so far. The Japanese government did not credibly say "if you don't spend now, your money will be worth only half as much in fifteen years. Better buy now, if you want that bookshelf/fridge/whatever." -- i.e., they didn't raise inflation to a moderate positive number, and keep it there until everyone started spending again.

Saving is not the same thing as investing, which we have been forcibly reminded of during this "Great Recession."

Sorry for the late reply, but I think that S=I as long as the money is in a bank. In a jar at home, no, it is not invested.
The moment you put money in a bank it is invested. The investment could range from an overnight purchase of a bond, a reverse repo or a debt or equity investment in a business making widgets. Direct or indirect one's savings are invested.


Saving is also not investing for most of the money spinning around in the markets. It is nominally invested, but the sort of investment we need involves new issues of stocks or bonds or taking money *out* of non-productive investments and putting it back into circulation.

The folks who have the money don't seem to be in a big hurry to invest in new issues or spend their money on things that will enable others to invest, so here we sit.

Sorry for the late reply, but I think that S=I as long as the money is in a bank.

Disagree. Paying off debt is not investment.

equity in rental property will still be generating a return

But far less return than say a lump of shiny yellow metal. And since most rental property is purchased on credit with as low as possible a downpayment, once it gets too far underwater, it become cheaper to just default on it. Especially if market clearing rents go down, the interest payments may not be serviceable. I doubt many people have bought rental property with cash.

None of us can predict the future, but I strongly suspect the returns on Japanese rental property will be better than the "return" on a lump of shiny yellow metal (gold prices at a generational peak will likely revert to the mean.Commodity speculation and investment are not identical).

"The year 2009 saw a rebound in various asset markets as ultra-easy monetary policies around the world have flooded financial markets with ample liquidity. Loads of cash is being poured into different assets to chase better investment returns. The Japanese property market is one of the hot picks as the market is offering good bargains to overseas investors again.

Global real estate solutions provider Cushman and Wakefield said in its latest global property market survey report that the Asian property market will be increasingly important in global property investments. China and Japan will be the two biggest property investment destinations for overseas investors, as the two markets offer ample investment opportunities.

Even Chinese property investors are now attracted by the potential of the Japanese property market.

Japanese media have reported that more Chinese property investors are scrambling for Japanese property. A Chinese buyer bought a property in the Tokyo Bay area for $1.07 million for investment or residential purposes. In another case, a Fujian tourist brought a 30-square meter small flat for $323,000 when she just spent her holiday in Tokyo. She does not think the investment is expensive and expects good return from it.

Business consultant Christopher Dillon who has extensive property investment experience in Japan and Hong Kong, has recently written a book titled Landed: The Guide to Buying Property in Japan. The book cited a series of financial and market factors to explain the increasing popularity of the Japanese property market to overseas investors.

Sluggish prices explain the attractiveness of Japanese investment properties. "Compared to the skyrocketing property prices in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, Japanese property prices are relatively reasonable. This can create returns in price appreciation," said Dillon.

Relatively high rental yields provide another source of investment returns. The average rental yields for residential properties in Japan hovered at around 5.5 percent in 2009, according to Global Property Guide research. As Japanese property prices fell at rates much greater than rentals did from 1995 to 2008, this helped push up rental yields.

The low interest-rate environment is another factor that encourages investors to buy Japanese properties. As the Japanese Central Bank maintains an extremely low interest rate, the financing cost is so low that overseas investors can consider Japanese property investment as lucrative, Dillon said."

I'll let you know,
Our family jewels are firmly embedded in Rental Assets at this point. Of course, one of the two buildings is also our home, so we have our mortgage directly covered by our tenants, essentially.

This week is a pair of energy audits, and I'll continue to find ways to cut into the heat/hot water expenses for the buildings, which since these are figured into the rent, will be producing returns directly toward our equity. Maybe all energy savings do that, but in our case, it's very tangible.

We have had good relationships with our tenants (having only 4 units now..), and I'm very cognizant of the fact that OUR stability depends on THEIR employment.. and the rental market in general. But it's walkable distances in a coastal city with colleges, key healthcare centers for the state, active arts community, tourism and financial and conservative trades as well. Even in lean times, port towns remain focal points for activity, it seems to me. Knocking wood, just in case.

I could rent from you and save you on heating and hot water, I rarely use hot water, and like it nippy in the house a lot better than hot.

But most people just love to use their hot water for everything, I guess I might have lived on less so long in the past that I rarely think about how other people might like to live, so I am not normal citizen Joe.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

I've been reading that series, and scratching my head.

As others have said, the US is not Japan.

I'm familiar with those areas of Osaka mentioned in the article - I used to visit them infrequently. Osaka is still a busier, more entertaining place than anywhere in the US outside of NYC. Trying to measure the exorbitant heights of Japanese nightlife as a measure of what deflation will mean to the US just doesn't seem to be useful, IMO.

The Japanese have had many centuries of practice at doing-more-with-less.

In the US the tradition has been doing-more-with-more.

Like so many articles comparing the economies of Japan and the US, the NYT series so far just hasn't dealt in depth with the demographic and cultural differences between the countries. It's as if the "economy" of a country is merely defined by the monetary policy of the central banks, at least to the writers.

I know people like to compare Japan and the US but I think the situation from now on in both countries will really be different from the long slow slide that started in Japan in 1991. OK that was peak oil working...in the sense that energy was no longer so cheap and so easy, and Japan doesn't have oil.

But after that Japan used everything it could to align itself to the bigger economies (that were still growing, even though that growth was as we now know fictious specious credit bubble growth) and play the export game, using the money to prop up the economy.

But after the Lehman shock, I have noticed a real difference here---the larger Tokyo area--- in the number of shut down offices and shops. This is quite different. This is not what we saw before in the 1990s up until 2007. This is a draining process. This is the emptying of wallets, bank accounts. This is not the old slow slide. I'm not saying collapse is right around the corner, but certainly it doesn't seem so distant anymore. People have really stopped spending money.

Speaking of shutdown shops...I went to a pumpkin festival this weekend, and drove down a major arterial I hadn't been on in awhile. One of the traffic lights was no longer cycling through green, red, yellow. Instead, it was blinking yellow. It wasn't broken. It had been set to blinking yellow (the equivalent of a yield sign) because it was no longer needed. On one side was a failed auto repair business, on the other was an empty strip mall. With no cars entering the road from those businesses any more, the traffic light wasn't needed.

Yeah and just wait till all the McDonalds around you start to close down....talk about scary! That is now happening. All the signage----gone. Brown paper lining the windows. PArking lots---abandoned.
Only McDonalds in still (for now) busy city areas are left open....young adults who don`t drive and don`t have kids are their main customers now. No one else can afford it. McDonalds is now upscale. They have gourmet coffee, special decor.

And so many other fast food outlets aimed at auto drivers---also shut down. I think the food desert issue loometh. That is when the true face of the economy will remove its mask......truly people have been not understanding what they were doing when they poured all thius cement.

Jberni on Youtube, I think he is a great economics commentator (based in Zurich) says that now there is the run on the central banks. All this QE is a run on the govt currencies. It can`t go on forever. But maybe a few years???

Interesting. McDonald's is going upscale here, too - going after Starbucks' customers. However, they are doing quite well, at least partly because people who would have gone to a sit-down restaurant in better days are going to McDonald's instead.

Link up top: Fossil fuel future

Hidden underneath the Rockies is the world's biggest oil reserve but extracting it would be at a higher cost than utilizing those wells in other parts of the world.

There are many myths about the state of fossil fuels. This is just one of them. There are no oil reserves in the Green River Shale. What is there is kerogen but it could be considered as "pre oil". It would have been oil if it had ever been buried deep enough and long enough. It was not therefore it never became oil.

But it can be mined, processed and converted to oil. But it would cost more energy to do that than you would get out of the process. Shell has come up with a method by which they can convert the kerogen to oil and gas without mining it. But this process still consumes an awful lot of electrical energy, so much that it would require that a string of power plants be built over the area of the shale, or more correctly, marlstone. That, if it is ever to happen will be a couple of decades into the future.

But the article insinuates that we could get all the oil we need if we were just willing to invest the money, but we choose instead to rely on foreign oil. That is simply not so and is grossly misleading.

Ron P.

But it can be mined, processed and converted to oil. But it would cost more energy to do that than you would get out of the process.

The TOD energy myths on oil shale are nonsense.

In the 19th century more oil was produced from shale than drilled such as Lothian in Scotland. Lothian has a richness of 20 gallons of oil per ton plus 4 gallons of asphalt while lower grade Green River gets +25 gallons per ton(Piceance oil shale is richer 30 gal/ton).

The richest deposit is in Estonia which gets 48 gallons per ton and Estonia exports a small amount of shale oil, 222000 tons in 2005.

Mining clearly is technological feasible and retorts are net energy positive(the fuel gas produced by cooking is recycled to heat the rock +80%). The Shell method eliminates most of the mining but requires MUCH more energy.

The real problem is the huge amount of shale to be mined.
For example the Stuart Shales of Australia produced 28 gallons of oil per ton so it would take 1 billion tons to produce 1.7 mbpd (3.5 quads per year). The US mines 1 billion tons of coal to produce
24 quads of energy. Alberta tar sands yield 1/2 barrel of oil from 1 ton of sand.

On a net energy basis mining is amazingly efficient. These processes are net energy positive.



Mining is a huge 'visual' issue for the US public.
This is the main reason shale oil 'mining' is not likely to be developed.
The recovery rate for oil in place from retorts is higher 95% than for in-situ heating 75%?. OTOH, mining will require much more water 3 barrels per barrel of oil.

EROI may be a big deal at TOD but nimbyistic out-of-sight-out-of-mind is the bigger consideration, even for coal mining.
The legal impediments to hugely expanded US mining are insurmountable so the less efficient insitu method is more likely for the next few decades.
I expect oil shale production to soar in China where nimbyism
is under control.

Yes, that's probably the reason all past attempts to make a profitable venture out of the Green River Shale have been abandoned after hundreds of millions were lost in the attempts. And the water is another problem to the mining option.

Myths and Realities of Mineral Resources

If oil shale is part of the energy alternative for the United States, the impact of developing that energy source on already scarce southwestern water resources would be large, and probably not sustainable.

But what about Shell's in situ option: Shale Oil

In summary, “low-carbon” shale oil (carbon intensity similar to conventional oil) from prime deposits 100-m thick should compete when oil averages over $110/bbl, but there are still concerns about ground water contamination after the freeze walls are abandoned. High-quality deposits 30-m thick should compete in a carbon-constrained world when oil averages over $130/bbl. However, the scale-up of shale-oil will be slow for a combination of reasons: (1) it developed a very dirty reputation over the last three decades, (2) the demonstrations for at least the next six years are likely to have carbon intensity 80% greater than that of petroleum, (3) In mid-2008, Shell testified before Congress that they are not expecting to come to a conclusion on the economic viability of ICP for at least three more years, and (4) it is not clear if Shell plans to license its ICP patents to competitors. Hence, shale-oil is unlikely to contribute more than 1% to global oil production by 2020 and thus will have negligible effect on the price of oil by then. Even the most “environmentally sensitive” ICP shale oil (powered by clean-coal plants, with 90% CO2 sequestration) will still be 15% more carbon intensive than conventional petroleum, and both will probably be taxed at $30/bbl by 2018. Moreover, peak coal may be only 30 years away, so there really isn’t any spare coal for use in pyrolyzing the oil shale.

Economical when oil gets to $130 a barrel but it will require a lot of coal and a lot of power plants in the foothills of the Rockies. But peak coal is only 30 years away and this will, if implemented, bring the peak of coal a lot closer. And the oil it produced would be a pittance.

Ron P.

Producing "oil" from shale is expensive in financial, environmental, and EROEI terms.

But burning shale directly in thermal power plants is already economic and in practice plenty of places in the world (Estonia especially).

Sadly, as a Colorado resident, I expect the "shale oil" plans to fail, but I expect lots of shale to be mined and burned in thermal power plants to produce electricity. There is really no practical barrier to this process,except for the extreme environmental impacts, but if energy is scarce enough and expensive enough, I expect to see pulverized shale going up conveyor belts into boilers all over the shale-bearing regions.

Sadly, as a Colorado resident, I expect the "shale oil" plans to fail, but I expect lots of shale to be mined and burned in thermal power plants to produce electricity. There is really no practical barrier to this process,except for the extreme environmental impacts, but if energy is scarce enough and expensive enough, I expect to see pulverized shale going up conveyor belts into boilers all over the shale-bearing regions.

I'm also a Coloradan, and don't expect to see oil shale being burned in thermal power plants in my lifetime. Used that way, it can be regarded as really crappy coal -- high ash content, plenty of heavy metals, sulfur, arsenic, very low energy content. Energy density is about one-sixth that of bituminous coal, maybe one-fourth that of sub-bituminous. Unless you had already burned all of the coal within hundreds of miles, you just wouldn't go to the trouble.

Depends how long you expect to live, but I agree that shale gets burned after the easy and cheap coal, I am just not smart enough to predict how long easy and cheap coal will last.

I like this guy Doty's web site a lot. He thinks globally and has lots of very cool ideas but making carbon fuels like methanol from coal plant exhaust CO2 has to be 100 years in the future AFTER we have significantly overbuilt renewables( which I certainly approve of--of course if we sequester the concentrated CO2 it becomes a resource for future generations).

The question is CTL or oil shale by Shell's method. CTL is 50% efficient a boe of CTL requires 2 boe of coal,

while oil shale by Shell has an EROI of 3 so a boe of oil takes
1/3 boe of electricity or 1 boe of coal.
Therefore oil shale uses half the energy of CTL.

Unfortunately by this logic to replace 37 quads of oil with 37 quads of shale oil we would need 37 more quads of coal.
24 quads of coal current production + 37 quads =61 quads.
if there are 250 years of coal reserves at 24 quads per year
there would be 98 years of US coal at 61 quads.
With CTL it would be 61 years at 24+37x2=98 quads, not to mention double the CO2.

The question is, will people leave the coal in the ground?
98 years is long after China, Europe and South Africa have exhausted their supplies? That raises the issue of the morality
of the US, Russia and Australia enjoying the last of the coal legacy while billions suffer greater CO2 induced misery and NO POWER.

The first time I heard about that stuff was about a few years before I met you Ron. I was listening to one of the only radio stations I could get inside the building I worked in, in Huntsville Al. The Am Talk station, listening to Rush, I found some of his humor funny, something to pass the time doing data collection.

So I hear how there is billions even Trillions of barrels of oil, there. I hit the internet, read the articles on the facts of the matter and laugh at him. But cringe at how many people he'd confuse and how much I'd have to know to convince them if I heard about it, that it was all falsehoods, told by con men telling half the facts.

We could if we really put our heads together, make a firewood fueled car, I mean they have drawings of them, and at the time a friend even found a working model. But who wants to have a live flame so close to their feet and have to stop every once in a while and load up on firewood. Lots of neat toys to use all those carbon atoms tied up in mostly worthless deposits on earth. Heavy on the word TOYS.

Just one more lie that always seems to the folks mad at someone sending Their Money to all those other places. We should go and mine a few tons of it, and hand it out as gifts at Election time and tell people what it really is, then they can hold it in their hands and shake their own heads sadly at all the bad press and lies they are hearing. It won't be dripping oil like they have been told and they might see the con for what it is.

We could hope anyway, but people still play the lottery, on the dream of being rich someday, all the while wasting their money doing so.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

Firewood fueled cars are running today. They are called woodgas cars. Quite common in Europe in WWII, like most of these technologies they were kept going by the far sighted.


That is simply not so and is grossly misleading.

Worst it is deliberately feeding the meme that all our energy problems are the result of commie-treehuggers. When the oil cruch hits, will that cause a whirlwind of violence?

To counter the doomer gloom,

Hybrid fusion/fission reactor technology coming closer.

NNSA and LLNL announce first successful integrated experiment at NIF 10/2/10

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) today announced that the National Ignition Facility (NIF) recently completed its first integrated ignition experiment. In the test, the 192-beam laser system fired 1 megajoule of laser energy into its first cryogenically layered capsule, raising the drive energy by a factor of thirty over experiments previously conducted at the Omega laser at the University of Rochester. With the completion of this test, NIF is beginning its next phase of the campaign to culminate in fusion ignition tests.



This technology could basically produce almost unlimited nuclear energy (far safer than fast breeder reactors) using depleted uranium, thorium, deuterium and tritium. The technology could become commercial after 2050.


Inertial confinement seems difficult to scale for continuous energy production. It seems more like a redirection of fusion power research into physics experiments to support weapons inventory maintenance.

However, the fusion-fission fuel cycle does seem important and it can be implemented by using the high neutron flux from other designs of fusion reactors.

Fusion-Fission Hybrids Driven Research in China

"Difficult to scale" must be dry humor- an old Englishman I used to know usually referred to the Atlantic as "the pond".

It remains to be seen if inertial confinement can even be made energy positive in a laboratory.

If it is, eventually, ponder this:

The amount of heat continiously generated in a small space by the process will necessarily have to be enormous to operate a generating plant.

The machinery used to confine the fuel is going to have to coexist with that heat, and a way of getting the heat out and away to a point it can be used to make steam will have to be devised.

Unless I am mistaken, niether the materials nor the engineering knowledge needed to construct these things exist.

Fusion is still fifty years in the future-where it is likely to stay.

You describe exactly the reasons why I think IEC fusion is the most likely to actually work commercially: they actually have the energy extraction part of the equation worked out already.

They still might not be able to get a break-even reaction going, but at least they can run the reactor off itself if they do.

Inertial-Electrostatic-Confinement Fusion Device
The IEC Team in our Plasma Physics Group (P-24) and T-15 is working on developing practical fusion devices based on an IEC scheme. The recent experimental confirmation of the POPS oscillation and successful plasma compression in a particle simulation has provided solid scientific foundation for further exploration of this promising fusion device concept. This exploration will include direct experimental measurement of plasma compression and fully two-dimensional particle simulations of POPS dynamics. Successful plasma compression of at least 50 will be followed by a demonstration of nuclear fusion reactions using POPS.

Fusion is still fifty years in the future-where it is likely to stay.

Fusion as a power source - but we humans know of sonofusion and other cold fusion methods.

but we humans know of sonofusion and other cold fusion methods.

And I remember reading a paper thirty or so years back, where the experimenter got detectable fusion neutrons by using shaped charges to compress/heat the fuel. It is one thing to get a few nuclei to fuse, and quite another to get so many to fuse that useful energy can be extracted.

useful energy can be extracted.

The most optimistic claim was 400X output over input energy. Claim is the key word here.

We'll see if firms like Energetics Technologies or First Wave ever ship their hot water heaters.
(heh. The URLS of the 2009 cited 60 mins reports here http://www.prlog.org/10234978-60-minutes-cold-fusion-is-hot-again-an-ene... don't work anymore. )

Are generators getting efficient enough, that you could use one as a source of neutrons for fission? That might be easier/cheaper than using fusion-sourced neutrons.

In 40 years, I'd be 87, but when I was 18 I wrote stories of fusion powered space ships. Back then they had high hopes of having antimatter( which they do know is real now) reactors as well, not even with tongues in cheek,( star trek and all that).

Lab tests always take money and time. Money is tight these days, and we have millions of years to get this right before we have to worry about killing ourselves off and all that doomer stuff( smirks ). So yeah, let us look for this to be in the cards in 40 years.

I just wish my fictional stories were as true as some people have had hopes for these things all these years.

I am not really a full blown doomer, my problem is I can see solutions, but I can also see where people just will not listen to your solutions, and go back to doing what they were doing before you arrived to talk to them about their problems.

I used to comment that if I were King, things would be thus and that, and if I were king I am sure someone would want me dead because I'd take the current Control freaks to task. Laughs sadly, at least two of my wives have mentioned that I was a control freak myself, so there you have it. Just one more control freak trying to get his way. You all might be glad I don't have a lot of money or influence.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

(far safer than fast breeder reactors)

This 7.62 round fired at your home is far safer than the 50 cal round.

The sun is the best source of fusion power IMHO.

I was going to respond to OFM's

Fusion is still fifty years in the future-where it is likely to stay.

by saying that fusion has been with us since the dawn of time and will probably be with us till the end of time. Nature figured out how to harness fusion energy long ago through photosynthesis.

It's just that the human race found a bonanza of millions of years of stored fusion energy in the form of gases, liquids and solids and we have been going through it like there's no tomorrow. We would just love to figure out how to harness the power of our neighborhood fusion reactor at anywhere near the rate it is beamed down to us.

Alan from the islands

The technology could become commercial after 2050.

I highly doubt that. Funding for this and similar programs will likely be cut before 2020 or at most shortly thereafter.

This will never exist in production form, I predict. A collapsing financial system has consequences.

I wonder if the FF lobby feels threatened by fusion and is seeking to kill it. Quiet lobbying to restrict funding, spin out development. Why might they do that? How would they feel about an energy source that would provide masses of cheap energy? Would they see that as a threat to BAU?
Just a thought.


It certainly isn't impossible, though if they are realistic they are just trying to delay it enough to maximize their profits.

Haven't seen this one posted yet ...

Why Eastern Canada needs a strategic oil plan

A previous post – Why Quebec is poised for an oil shock – described the predicament of a part of North America that is among the most vulnerable to what may be increasingly likely interruptions in world oil supply. Just over 90 per cent of the crude oil used in Quebec is imported, compared, for example, with 63 per cent of the crude oil used in the U.S. (Data are for 2009.) Moreover, the U.S. has a Strategic Petroleum Reserve that could replace imports for up to 80 days. Quebec – indeed all of Canada – has no such reserve.

Canada may find itself in a bind. NAFTA implies that USA have a call on the proportion of Canada's supply of oil, proportionally to last three years of exports. The key is word supplies, not production. Canada produces roughly 2.6 mbpd and consumes 2.2-2.3. exports 1.something Mbpd to USA and Quebec and Ontario import all and most of it's oil respectively, and this amount is added to supply.

Canada's net export is less than 0.5Mbpd. So if..(a few fs..) Ontario and Quebec reduce consumption, there is a hiccup in production in Alberta, and US make their call, Canada may have to import oil just to sell it to USA based on NAFTA. A few ifs, but plausible.

There is a myth of Canada being oil "power". Yes, but only from American perspective of having supplies from a safe place. For Canada as a whole it is close to being a precarious balance. That is why ramping up oil sands is so important here - and Shell just cancelled a 400,000 bpd project.

There is an article by Jeff Rubin - about two solitudes.

The EIA puts 2009 Canadian net oil exports at 1.12 mbpd:


But to put their increase in net exports in perspective, the combined net oil exports from Canada + Venezuela fell by about one mbpd from 1998 to 2009.

the combined net oil exports from Canada + Venezuela fell by about one mbpd from 1998 to 2009.

Yes, but I think a key point the graph makes clear is that Canadian net oil exports have nearly doubled over a period of 10 years, while Venezuelan net exports fell off a cliff.

In reality, Canada is capable of increasing its net oil exports, but not nearly as fast as exports have been falling in Venezuela, Mexico, and other countries.

Canada's incremental oil production is very expensive and difficult to produce, but Canada has the technology, capital, and economic climate to do it. The same is not true of the other countries. Venezuela has vast amounts of the same kind of difficult-to-produce oil, but it is just not capable of getting it out of the ground.

Canada's net export is less than 0.5Mbpd. So if..(a few fs..) Ontario and Quebec reduce consumption, there is a hiccup in production in Alberta, and US make their call, Canada may have to import oil just to sell it to USA based on NAFTA. A few ifs, but plausible.

None of that is true. Canadian net oil exports now exceed 1.1 million bopd (and are going to rise substantially in the next year), but there are no fixed volumes involved. Canada is under no obligation to import oil to satisfy US demand, nor is it under any obligation to export oil to the US if there are shortages in Canada.

Here's a Canadian government web page that explains the implications of the NAFTA rules - Canadian Oil Exports to the United States Under NAFTA . Most people do not understand the NAFTA rules and misinformation is rife about them.

The key is word supplies, not production. Canada produces roughly 2.6 mbpd and consumes 2.2-2.3. exports 1.something Mbpd to USA and Quebec and Ontario import all and most of it's oil respectively, and this amount is added to supply.

According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, 76% of the oil used by Ontario's oil refineries comes from Western Canada, and 4% from Eastern Canada. Only 20% is imported, of which 4% comes from the US.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the US imports about 2.5 million barrels per day of crude oil and products from Canada (2.7 mbopd in June). The numbers are affected by the fact that a number of Eastern Canadian refineries specialize in refining imported oil and exporting most of the products to the US. These products don't legitimately count as Canadian consumption.

In reality, Canadian net exports are about 1.2 mbopd, and that amount has doubled over the last 10 years. It will probably double again over the next 10 years. Eventually (i.e. within a couple of decades) the US will end up importing more oil from Canada than it produces itself. Unless of course the oil goes to China instead.

Fed and Oil Fuel Talk of Demand Destruction

Commentary: Oil back above $80 raises question over Fed policy

As crude oil edged dangerously closer to $85 a barrel over the past few weeks, the buzz in oil trading pits and among a number of market strategists is increasingly about potential "demand destruction," or the impact this might have on retrenched consumers and an already weakening economy.

Ironically, of course, crude's more than 11% rally in September, and further gains so far this month, are largely symptoms of the Federal Reserve's determination to help the U.S. economy avoid deflation by pumping more dollars into the system.

By itself, a weakening U.S. currency helps boost commodities, most of which are dollar-denominated. In addition, over the past two years, near-zero interest rates and the Fed's so-called quantitative easing measures have fueled a carry trade: Investors have borrowed cheap and cheapening dollars to buy assets such as stocks and commodities.


More blaming the dollar for oil prices . . .

It is NOT just the dollar decline. It IS partly due to fundamentals. Supply & Demand . . . these traders are being provincial and just looking at USA demand for oil which is weak. But in other places around the world such as China, India, and the oil producing nations, oil consumption continues to rise. Meanwhile, production is stagnant.

I have the opportunity to present as a "guest lecturer" a couple class periods worth of fossil fuel / energy / resource constraints - related information to a class of first year college students (community college) in a general earth science and environmental themes type course.

I've found it relatively easy to come up with material for the presentation but I'm wondering if anyone out in TOD-land could direct me toward some worthy follow up assignments or web based "for additional information" type quests (perhaps web based ?) that the students could do as a follow up for the class (lecture) sessions. I'm sure I could come up with something for this as well but I was trying to avoid totally re-inventing the wheel if anyone out there has seen (or used) these kinds of good educational materials already available on the subject for people at this level of "awareness" - i.e., probably first exposure for most of them beyond a purely introductory level.

Thanks for any info you might be able to provide.


Hey Catskill,

I have taught various Energy, Sustainability, and Ecology classes to similar audiences.

What I would suggest is that there is (unfortunately in these incredibly math-phobic times) no substitute for running some numbers. No matter what you say about energy or any other resource limitations, the students will have happy-talk qualitative come-backs. Numbers, baby.

I don't know how much time you have or what your format is, but I would work out a couple-three very clear examples, with good numbers. It doesn't need to be differential calculus (with all due deference to WHT :-), just real data. Big simple graphs work well, too. But you need to be able to demonstrate the magnitude of what we face, or they'll just blow it off with "oh, we'll use solar/wind/unicorn farts/whatever".

The need to grasp at straws is huge for most people, and only clear numbers can make a beginning at breaking through the denial that most folks live under.

So perhaps the follow-up assignment, web-quest, etc. could be for students, singly or in groups, to research their favorite alternative energy or other resource, and instead of feel-good stories of some character putting PV panels up and going off-grid to come up with real numbers.

Another angle that's very important along these lines is cradle-to-grave analyses. Have the students try to identify the costs of a given technology not just in the operational phase, but all of the mining, transportation, manufacturing, etc. And not just $$$ costs, of course - energy costs. Emergy, as it were. And EROEI.

If you play your cards right, you can really open some eyes...

Have you looked at NEED? http://www.need.org/ (National Energy Education Developement) It may be too BAU/corporate.

For real folks, real world grassroots stuff on alternatives http://www.homepower.com has tons of stuff, much of it doesn't require membership. Real solutions going back decades. It's always good to give some background on early adopters. While some kids may decide that renewables won't change the world at large, they need to know that they have choices as individuals, choices that, indeed, work well. Some of the mainstream stuff is too stuffy, boring.

Tons of stuff over at Energy Bulletin

If you want to get their attention about the interconnected nature of energy, politics, finance, and society in general, there's always Kunstler (who probably speaks their language better than most).

Some may enjoy Greer.

I know that these aren't dedicated energy guys, but I've found that it's hard to teach folks about energy unless you provide context as to how it may affect their lives, where things are likely heading, and how some folks are dealing with it.

For great access to numbers, The Oil Drum is hard to beat.

Thanks Ghung for the suggestions - I checked out the NEED site - some good info there and even though there was that BAU feel to it I did find the question bank they provide useful as a compilation of energy related questions.

I find it really interesting that sgage (above) suggests using numbers to convey the real story and you, addressing the same question, suggest providing context beyond the numbers to where things are heading and how to deal - in effect connecting the dots with the help of the numbers. I think both approaches are equally valuable yet I think that's why addressing this topic is so tough. We're dealing with a population that has become all too uncomfortable with numbers and science yet at the same time we're trying to relate the potential for real societal and humanistic upheaval based on this science to a civilization that just has become accustomed to not being able to confront serious issues. It makes for a very interesting challenge that encompasses math, science, philosophy, sociology - literally hundreds of fields I'd imagine... In short it is not a topic that lends itself to simplicity but the message is trying to be related to a public that has no time for nor interest in the complex - hence I think education efforts have to try to bridge that gap between the two ends of the spectrum.

yes thank you sgage - I am definitely trying to stress the numbers - even just relatively simplistic numbers that frame ideas in a different way are very important.

One of my favorite examples used in an attempt to convey the concept of energy density for gasoline comes (I believe) from the movie Crude Impact. One of the contributors talks about how a gallon of gasoline will propel your car down the road, over 20 or 30 miles of hills and valleys, in about 30 minutes or less. Now consider the effort you would be required to make to push that same car that distance down the road using only your human power and just how much time it would take you even if you had that superhuman strength and stamina to be able to do it. All of that energy (and more) expended in the human powered effort (which would probably nearly kill you) would be contained in that one gallon of gasoline. I simply love that comparison...

Thanks again for the suggestions.

In a reply on the September the second thread about the leaked German Military Study on Peak Oil, oldfarmermac wrote:

Just to keep things in perspective-I just burned maybe a pint and a half of diesel ripping up about a thousand square feet of grass sod running to a brushy, shrubby briar patch-a place that we haven't gardened for five or six years.If the tractor and implement had been parked closer, it would have taken no more than a pint, but it took a third as long to drive there and back as it did to do the actual work.......

Working this ground up for a garden by hand would have been at least a week's backbreaking work for a young tough man

In this post, oldfarmermac vividly illustrates the value of liquid fuels to our food production systems.

Ajan from he islands

the value of liquid fuels to our food production systems.

We had an entire thread dedicated to just that - save the oil for the farms.

GE plans return to US-made products

Looks like Jeff Immelt is taking a page from Jeff Rubin's book.

Ugh . . . did you have to cut it off there?

The new fear: Electric car 'range anxiety'

(CNN) -- Chase Ballew had miscalculated a little bit. He was bringing home some furniture from Ikea in his electric-powered truck, and there wasn't enough charge to get him all the way to the house.

About a mile from his Portland, Oregon, home he decided to pull into the parking lot of an auto parts store to see if it would let him borrow an outlet. He reasoned that the store would have no problem with him recharging, hoping he'd come back in the future. So he charged for a few minutes, getting enough juice to make it the rest of the way.

That, said Ballew, was the only time in his 18 months as a Zap Xebra owner that he was ever close to being stranded.

That was the only time it happened to him. But more importantly, that was a $12,000 Chinese ZAP Xebra that runs on a few old lead-acid batteries. They don't even make those anymore because they sucked. Not a fair comparison to the new cars like the Leaf and the Volt.

CNN is trying to stir the pot. I would bet if people were given the option of a Free Volt or a Free ICE model, they would take the Volt given the cost of fuel.

And people run out of gas in ICE cars too.

I don't think that's true. As someone who does sometimes drive electric and natural gas fueled vehicles...infrastructure matters. Sure, you can run out of gasoline, too, but there are gas stations everywhere. You don't have to plan where to fuel up, or worry about the range being noticeably reduced because you have a passenger or use the aircon or the weather's unusually cold.

In France today, they would take the Volt.

the cob house article got me to thinking. considering many states have child welfare laws that require a residence to have running water for sanitation, wouldn't the state legally be able to take their kids away for having composite toilets?

I had a heck of a time figuring out how to word a search to answer your thought question.

From what I could find, no, states in general won't pull kids out of a household that does not have a regular flushing toilet. You would have seen a lot more about this by now as the things have been around for decades in housing designs in the US.

The home has running water, just not into the toilet, there were sinks in the pictures in the kitchen.

But what about the family that lives in a tent on their own land, are you going to pull them out of the family because they only live in a tent or lean to.

I don't know, maybe if you are poor or want to save the world, states will take your kids away from you, because you aren't teaching them to spend spend spend.

But other than that, chamber pots and the like only have issues with building codes and EPA rules.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

PS. Where did you get that idea anyway?

PS. Where did you get that idea anyway?

From Cops showing up because someone made exactly such a claim?

(it may be a county reg - not a State Law. In "law" there is "law", past court decisions and the volume of regulations. Its possible its a regulation. )

Funky cob house is first to meet extreme-green standard

On reading about the extreme green house, the thing that struck me was that it is in Victoria, which is probably the only city of any size in North America that continues to discharge untreated raw sewage directly into the ocean. Greater Victoria (population 330,000) discharges 130 million litres of raw sewage every day. They just pipe it underwater halfway to the US boundary, and let it go.

Needless to say, the good people of the State of Washington, on the other side of Boundary Passage, are not pleased with them. They have had to spend a lot of money to meet EPA regulations on their own sewage, and watching Victoria get away scot-free with dumping raw sewage into the same waters seems rather unfair.

However, it is coming to an end. In 2006 the Government of British Columbia gave the City of Victoria a "shape up or drop dead" notice, ordering them to stop discharging sewage directly into the ocean and build a sewage treatment plant. The main problem is that it is now 2010, they haven't even finished the planning yet, and it will take a minimum of 10 years to complete. It is going to cost them about $1.2 billion, but that is a consequence of not designing sewage treatment into the system from the start. It is much easier that way.

But to get back to the issue of flush toilets - in Victoria, composting toilets are a much better idea, at least until they finish their sewage treatment plant.

I have heard about cob houses for years but never investigated them further. Silly me, I always assumed, until I read this article, that they were made out of cobs.

Ron P.

The slides from ASPO-USA's 6th Annual Peak Oil Conference are now up at their site. Thanks for putting them up!

And if anyone has any more MP3's of presentations, I'd love to get them. :-)

Here is the link to the slides:


Some great stuff.

Canada-US pipeline on hold amid oil's recent woes

I'll just go through the implications of this for the Americans in the crowd, who may not see them all. The Keystone XL pipeline is designed to deliver bitumen from the Canadian oil sands to the Texas Gulf Coast. The reason for this is that the Gulf Coast refineries have a shortage of feedstock because Venezuelan and Mexican production have fallen off a cliff, and domestic production is not keeping up.

Now, if deepwater GOM development is slowed down as a result of political fallout from the recent BP blowout, and Canadian pipeline expansion is also suspended, these refineries have a problem. They have no oil to refine. Deepwater offshore and Canadian imports are the only things which have been keeping many American refineries supplied with enough oil in recent years.

If the Keystone XL pipeline to the Gulf Coast is not approved, and the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to Canada's West Coast is, the oil can and probably will go to China instead. I'm not sure the Obama administration is keeping its eye on the ball as regards the security of US oil supply these days. Most previous US governments have been acutely aware of the issues.

Texas Gulf Coast...these refineries have a problem. They have no oil to refine.

Weren't these the same class that were 30+ years old and needed maintenance that was not being done?

I'm not sure the Obama administration is keeping its eye on the ball as regards the security of US oil supply these days.

For all any of us know - this is by some grand design.

There is pushback on oil sands - what makes you believe this pipe is going to be able to be filled for the lifetime of the pipe?

Most previous US governments have been acutely aware of the issues.

You do understand that the US Government is not just the clown at the top? The clown car has some clowns with 20,30,40+ years of service - them thar cats who sit atop the warm burros? The legions of these burro-cats don't rotate out and the ones who knew/implemented the past policy.

Aware VS willing to take action VS *ABLE* to take action are different things. I'm not sure the US of A has the freedom of action due to:

1) Force projection looking like a paper tiger, along with that force projection being very expensive.
2) Not having the wealth/money to exchange for the oil.

Weren't these the same class that were 30+ years old and needed maintenance that was not being done?

The Texas Gulf Coast refineries are considerably more than 30 years old - some of them are more than 100 years old. However, it is true that the US has not built a new oil refinery in the last 30 years.

Oil companies don't want to sink a lot of money into refineries since they have known for decades that the US is running out of oil to keep them operating. They are willing to do modifications to handle imported oil as long as the payout period is short. However, they are not investing for the long term, so they tend to cut corners on maintenance. This applies to a lot of US oil infrastructure.

There is pushback on oil sands - what makes you believe this pipe is going to be able to be filled for the lifetime of the pipe?

I know how much oil is in the oil sands - about 400 years worth at current production rates, and I know about even larger resources nearby that aren't oil sands but could be made to produce oil if we pushed the technology. So, I think oil will still be coming long after the pipelines have turned to rust. (This is the source of the problems with the existing pipelines through the northern US. They're turning to rust too soon. Nobody expected them to be in service this long, or handle this much oil.)

Oil sands are quite different than conventional oil. Conventional oil fields produce at high rates for a few years and then fall off rapidly. Oil sands don't produce fast, but they just produce and produce and produce and just never seem to quit producing.

2) Not having the wealth/money to exchange for the oil.

However other customers do have money. China, for instance, is sitting on a lot of US Treasury bills that they would like to get rid of somehow. Buying oil sands properties seems to be a popular way.

Really, I don't thing the US government or the US public is paying enough attention to what is going on in the global oil situation. They're going to get blindsided, again.