Drumbeat: November 12, 2010

IEA lifts 2010 global oil demand forecast

The International Energy Agency has raised its forecast for global oil demand this year following strong consumption in industrialised countries, but held its forecast for next year steady.

The IEA on Friday lifted its forecast for global oil demand in 2010 to 87.3 million barrels per day, an increase of 400,000 barrels per day from its previous forecast.

The agency noted in its monthly Oil Market Report that the forecast 2.8 per cent growth of global oil demand was the highest rate since the late 1970s, except for a spurt in 2004.

Oil Falls the Most in Three Weeks on Speculation China May Increase Rates

Oil fell the most in more than three weeks on speculation China will raise interest rates, curbing demand growth in the world’s biggest energy-consuming country.

Futures slipped 3.3 percent after Chinese stocks tumbled the most since August 2009 on a report yesterday that showed consumer prices rose 4.4 percent from a year earlier, the fastest pace since 2008. China’s central bank may increase rates within weeks, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

US natgas rig count unchanged at 955--Baker Hughes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States were unchanged this week at 955, according to a report on Friday by oil services firm Baker Hughes in Houston.

The gas-directed rig count, which has fallen three times in the last five weeks, hit 992 in mid-August, its highest level since February 2009 when there were 1,018 rigs drilling for gas.

Oil Sands Could ‘Delay’ Peak Oil - Candice Beaumont

Ludwig: If oil sands were produced as aggressively as theoretically possible, would that production make a meaningful difference to delay the onset of peak oil?

Beaumont: Definitely. We are still going to have peak oil at some point, but it would delay it. So, right now we have about 400 million barrels of light oil, we have about 14 years of production. So, with 900 billion barrels of light oil that is recoverable currently, if we can get that production online, it gives another 30 or 40 years. So, it just puts that whole peak oil problem way out there in the future rather than in our generation. It's helpful.

Parabolic Asset Prices Are A Precursor For Deflation, Not Inflation

Recently, many commodity prices have undergone parabolic increases leading market participants to conclude that high inflation is on the horizon. However, history suggests otherwise as parabolic price increases have always led to parabolic price declines.

As shown below, in 2008, oil ascended to $150 in parabolic form. During that time, peak oil, global growth, and easy money by the Federal Reserve were the only talk on Wall Street. Of course, in hindsight, the surge in price was merely the result of speculation. The collapse in the price of oil reinforced the deflationary pressures already affecting the global economy, culminating in a banking crisis just months after oil’s peak. The story of oil demonstrates that investors focus on inflation and growth as prices rise and on deflation and recession as prices collapse.

Angola Official Says Sonangol's Chinese Convoy Attacked

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- A convoy of Chinese workers contracted with state-oil company Sonangol were attacked Monday by separatists in Angola's Cabinda province, a top government official said Friday.

He was confirming statements by local armed groups as unrest persists in the Africa nation's oil-rich region, 10 months after a deadly attack on a Togo soccer team.

Future of the Gulf of Mexico Oil & Gas Industry

The general consensus from these sessions was that the world of offshore oil and gas has changed and will never return to the way it was in the past. As a result, industry participants will need to be open to making organizational and operational changes in how they conduct their business in the future.

US National Academy Interim Report On Gulf Spill Due Out Nov. 17

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- A panel led by former U.S. Navy Secretary Don Winter will on Wednesday release an interim report on the causes of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Why are British Gas customers’ bills going up?

But given this global gas glut that we keep hearing about, the question is why are prices about to rise?

The answer BG gives is that whatever is happening on the global scale, they are paying more now than they were last year for wholesale gas - 25 per cent more in fact. They are also paying more for extra costs like transportation and other overheads.

Chile Government Looks To Educate Public On Nuclear Energy -Report

SANTIAGO -(Dow Jones)- Chile, which is acquiring the technical and legal know-how needed to someday decide on building an energy-producing nuclear power plant, is also working to modify people's attitudes toward nuclear energy, the Energy Minister said, according to evening paper La Segunda.

With Chile's installed capacity forecast to nearly double over the next decade to keep up with growing energy demand, the government has been moving forward on establishing the legal and technical framework and developing the human capital needed to eventually make a production decision on nuclear energy. A decision on nuclear energy, however, won't be made during President Sebastian Pinera's four-year term.

EV1 backer Chelsea Sexton to test drive GM's Chevy Volt

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Until a few years ago, demure Chelsea Sexton posed a threat to General Motors as an activist leader in protests about its decision to walk away from its 1990s electric car, the EV1.

But driving near her home Thursday in this Los Angeles suburb, Sexton was all smiles. Her protests weren't in vain: She is among 15 members of a GM advisory board who this week got pre-production Chevrolet Volts, Chevy's extended-range electric car, to try for three months.

From bomb maker wannabe to e-bike revolutionary

Now a 29-year-old engineer and business owner, Lemier-Elmore has found himself among the vanguard of a thriving online counterculture. This group rejects traditional bicycles, and chooses to make their own bikes propelled by battery-powered electric motors. Many of them believe they're helping to create future communities that will have fewer polluting vehicles and less traffic congestion.

Mexico Violence Costs $350K Daily in Natgas Losses

Threats and violence by drug gangs are preventing some government oil workers from reaching installations in northern Mexico and costing state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos about $350,000 every day in lost production, a company official said Thursday.

The official said Pemex has shut down the equivalent of about 100 million cubic feet of natural gas production per day. He talked to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, because company rules do not allow him to be quoted by name.

That amounts to about $10.5 million per month, or about 2.3 percent of Mexico's $450 million per month average in monthly natural gas revenues.

The age of cheap oil is over

We are now inhabiting a 'post-peak' world. That is the implication of the International Energy Agency's (IEA) new report, World Energy Outlook 2001, which in its 25-year 'New Policies Scenario' projects that it is most probable that conventional crude oil production "never regains its all-time peak of 70 million barrels per day reached in 2006." In this scenario, crude oil production is most likely to stay on a plateau of around 68-69 million barrels per day.

Drilling Challenges Reshape Oil Exploration

More than six months after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank, resulting in an estimated release of nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, regulations have tightened and the industry is just getting a taste of the potential changes and challenges ahead.

Cheniere Working On Deal To Send Liquefied Natural Gas To China

A subsidiary of Cheniere Energy Inc. said Thursday that it is working toward a deal to supply liquefied natural gas from its Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana to one of China's largest independently owned natural gas companies.

Electricity rationing fires up generator sales down south

Factories in southern provinces have found a way around Beijing's power-rationing measures, and the result has been a significant jump in the sales of diesel-powered generators.

Mexico Oil Producer Pemex Belongs on Stock Exchange, Bolsa CEO Tellez Says

Petroleos Mexicanos, Latin America’s largest oil producer, would benefit from following the path of Brazil’s state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA and selling a stake to the public, according to Luis Tellez, chairman and chief executive officer of Bolsa Mexicana de Valores SAB.

“Pemex should move the way Petrobras has moved, with the government having still controlling shares and having a very transparent privately run company,” Tellez said today in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. “Within the political establishment, within Congress, within the parties, the issue of Petrobras is being discussed.”

Brazil's Petrobras's Tupi Pilot Production Running At 50,000 Billion/d - Financial Chief

SAO PAULO -(Dow Jones)- Brazilian state-controlled oil giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, is producing around 50,000 barrels per day oil from the Tupi presalt field offshore Brazil in 2011, Petrobras chief financial officer Almir Barbassa said Thursday.

Pakistan signals bidding for gas pipeline

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (UPI) -- Bidding for a long-awaited natural gas pipeline stretching from Iranian gas fields to Pakistan will open soon, the Pakistani prime minister said.

Islamabad signed an agreement with Iran in June to move ahead with a gas pipeline stretching from the South Pars gas field in Iran.

Give me more

Nepal - For the next two years we will not only be facing load-shedding of up to 16 hours per day during the dry season but we might also witness the bankruptcy of the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). The energy scenario after that looks even more dismal. Increasing demand of energy, limited means of supply and a cash-strapped NEA unable to invest either on generation or expansion of its grid will mean that energy shortfall will be one of the greatest challenges facing the country in the days ahead. The first step towards addressing this enormous challenge is a serious public debate on misconceptions surrounding the energy sector.

If the spark is bright, it lights the way for both you and me

Amongst the many problems facing development in southern Africa, energy, or rather the lack of it, remains at the top of the list. Therefore it came as a very welcome surprise to see that energy also features high in the top priorities of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Finland's nuclear waste bunker built to last 100,000 years

(CNN) -- It's one of the great questions of our age: What to do with nuclear waste?

It's challenging, not just because radioactive material is highly toxic, but because really engaging with the problem forces us to confront unimaginable timescales.

But in Finland they believe they have found a solution, with the world's first permanent nuclear-waste repository -- "Onkalo" -- a huge system of underground tunnels that is being hewn out of solid rock and must last at least 100,000 years.

FERC Moves Ahead With Campaign to Promote Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

"Quite frankly, FERC is sort of operating independently of the electoral process," Wellinghoff said in an interview in Portland. "We've been acting under our statutory federal authority to move forward toward what I see as our responsibilities under the Federal Power Act, and that is to ensure rates are just and reasonable. And part of that I see as improving efficiency and competition in the markets, and incorporating new resources into the markets, including renewables and the demand side.

"That's been my strategic plan. That's been my focus, and I plan to continue that focus regardless of the change in Congress unless and until Congress would change our authorization legislation, and of course I would have to follow whatever Congress set out as policy."

Panasonic's $30 Million Tesla Investment

Panasonic announced yesterday that it will broaden its ties with Tesla, buying a 2 percent share in the company at a cost of $30 million. Though the deal isn't earth-shattering in size, it has drawn new attention to an emerging green car alliance between two of the world's largest corporations and a young EV startup that has sold just 1,300 vehicles in its seven-year history.

'Fracking' for energy in Northeast: boon or doom?

Fracking, shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, injects millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals into each well to break apart the shale and release trapped gas.

A drilling boom has been under way since 2008 in the formation, the biggest known deposit of natural gas in the nation.

Controversy over the technique has been building, with momentum shifting towards supporters after the midterm elections earlier this month.

The GOP takeover of the U.S. House will almost surely doom efforts in Congress to impose federal regulation over gas drilling. Congress exempted fracking from federal clean water regulations in 2005.

Weak greenback, rising demand give new lift to commodities

While some might be inclined to play a version of game theory and bet the Russians won't succeed in attracting the foreign capital they need to develop their fields and infrastructure, leaving Canada with a wide open window to move into Chinese markets, it might not be the time to take that bet.

That's especially true if, as Rubin predicts, oil prices will hit triple-digit levels within the next six months.

And he also believes the high price is sustainable because rising consumption in the Middle East is going to reduce the number of barrels available for import, whether because of subsidization, the need to purify water or irresponsible use such as indoor ski hills.

"The energy consumed in one day at the indoor Dubai ski hill is equivalent to what a car uses in gasoline in a month," he said.

KazMunaiGas Looks To Raise Core Field Production - Company Official

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -(Dow Jones)- London-listed Kazakh oil and gas producer KazMunaiGas Exploration Production (RDGZ.KZ), or KMG EP, aims to raise production at its core fields, a process which will require additional capital expenditure, a senior company official said Friday.

"Our current approach is to see whether we can increase production at core fields somewhat," Alexander Gladyshev, the company's managing director for investor relations, told a conference call. "At the same time, it is clear it'll require additional capital expenditure and our goal is to optimize the combination of the two."

Recharge that electric car wirelessly

Maybe we won't even need plugs to recharge electric cars in the future. It will be like magic: Simply drive around and the whole thing gets powered wirelessly with help from magnetic fields. The New Zealand-based company HaloIPT recently unveiled its commercially available charging technology that makes that magic possible.

UK could save billions by focus on gas future: ENA

(Reuters) - Britain could save nearly 700 billion pounds ($1.1 trillion) by 2050 if it continues to use gas as a major fuel, a group representing UK energy transmission companies said in a report Friday.

The Energy Networks Association's (ENA) 'Green Gas' scenario in the report assumes gas will continue to be used for power generation and heating, that technology for carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be rolled out and that the use of a dual-fuel heating model will limit the need for gas to peak-load demand.

Centrica to Raise Domestic Gas, Electricity Prices for U.K. Households 7%

British Gas, a unit of Centrica Plc, the country’s biggest energy supplier, will raise natural gas and electricity prices for U.K. households by 7 percent, becoming the second supplier to do so this year.

The increase, starting Dec. 10, will raise the average weekly bill for about 8 million customers by 1.50 pounds ($2.40), Centrica said today in a statement. Based on consumption of 20,500 kilowatt-hours for gas and 3,300 kilowatt- hours for power, the typical bill will rise by 80 pounds a year.

Oil slides past $86 amid Europe, China jitters

LONDON – Oil prices fell below $86 a barrel Friday in Europe as investors shifted from commodities to the dollar amid renewed fears about a debt crisis in Europe and worries that Beijing will move to cool growth in China's overheating economy.

China Diesel Squeeze Boosts Refineries as $100 Oil Looms

China’s drive to curb energy use is exacerbating a shortage of diesel, sending refining profits to the highest level in almost two years and raising the likelihood oil will trade at $100 a barrel in coming months.

Two senators eye gas-tax hike to pay for highways and bridges

A bipartisan pair of senators has urged President Obama’s debt commission to consider raising the gas tax to pay for infrastructure projects.

Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) have written to the chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform advocating for a 25-cent per gallon tax increase.

“We suggest that the commission include an increase in the federal tax on gasoline and diesel as part of your report to the president,” they wrote. “We suggest that the taxes be increased by one cent per month for 25 months — a total of 25 cents over a three-year period.”

Peak Oil Finally Piquing Analysts?

According to a new report: We need to put a carbon price on oil to keep the price of oil down.

You know how the climate-denier politicians love to warn the public that any climate legislation will increase energy costs and destroy our economy? A recent report pokes some holes in that reasoning. The authors of the report? None other than the International Energy Agency or IEA.

IEA Chart Says Conventional Oil Production Peaked in 2006

Yes, new oil discoveries happen all the time, but is looking a quarter century into the future and saying that over 50 million barrels a day of oil produced will be coming from who knows where really accurate or wise?

If just half of those projected discoveries don't materialize and half of those fields yet to be developed turn out to be less abundant, we've got less oil in 25 years than we do today. In fact less oil production than in 1990 and years well before this chart even begins.

Jeremy Grantham Has ‘Already Started to Sell’

On peak commodities, I am in the Grantham boat. I think we are reaching a point where the demand for natural resources is outstripping supply. Debt deflationary moves like the one we have witnessed over the past few years can mask this temporarily. But eventually the supply demand imbalance will re-assert itself as we have seen this year. The move in commodities is two parts fundamental and one part speculative, especially toward the end (see my 2008 post on peak oil here). These price rises are self-destructing due to the demand destruction they induce. But over time, they cause higher lows and higher highs in commodities.

As end times near, Glenn Beck peddles ‘food insurance’ kits

For months, it seems, Beck has been urging his audience to buy gold as a hedge against global financial collapse. I've never understood the appeal of gold-buggery to the end-is-nigh set. What do they plan to eat when the apocalypse comes -- gold coins?

Well, Glenn's got you covered on the food front, too.

Shell Wins Australian Approval for Prelude Floating Platform LNG Project

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s largest oil company, won approval from the Australian government to proceed with the development of the world’s first liquefied natural gas project using a floating plant.

Prelude, located about 200 kilometers (120 miles) off the coast of Western Australia, was approved with “strict conditions,” Environment Minister Tony Burke said in a statement today. The Hague-based Shell must comply with 13 requirements to protect the marine ecosystem and minimize the risk of oil spills.

Petrobras Quarterly Profit Rises to $5 Billion, Misses Estimates

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, the oil producer that raised $70 billion in a share sale this year, posted third-quarter net income that missed analysts’ estimates after profit at three of its five operating units declined.

PG&E erred in pipeline assessments?

SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) -- A natural gas pipeline that utility company PG&E listed as high risk was done so in an apparent error, utility officials told California managers.

Prolonged pipeline shutdown to paralyze sizeable oil supply

MANILA, Philippines – A shutdown of the oil pipeline beyond the next two weeks is seen paralyzing oil supply flow to a sizeable portion of Metro Manila, hence, affecting normal course of business for customer-industries and even individual motorists.

The gasoline stations of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation and Chevron Philippines Inc. are already drenched with product run-out notices to the chagrin of customers filling up at their stations. Petroleum products transmitted through the pipeline account for 50-percent of supply for Metro Manila and adjacent areas.

Rwanda May Sign Production-Sharing Accord With Canada’s Vanoil

Rwanda is poised to sign an agreement to share output from the Lake Kivu region with Vanoil Energy Ltd. when the Canadian explorer confirms it’s found oil.

“When they confirm oil deposits, we will then discuss and probably sign a production-sharing agreement,” Vincent Karega, Rwanda’s minister of infrastructure, said today by phone from the capital of Kigali. “They had started the process earlier but stopped because of unfavorable weather.”

Malaysia to Offer Tax Incentives to Spur Exploration for Crude Oil, Gas

Malaysia, Southeast Asia’s second- largest oil and gas producer, will offer tax incentives to encourage the exploration of less-profitable fields to boost revenue and extend the life of the country’s petroleum reserves.

The nation wants to attract oil and gas companies including state-owned Petroliam Nasional Bhd., or Petronas, to explore “marginal” fields, Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said in an interview with Bloomberg yesterday. High exploration costs make some areas economically unviable.

Nigerian Rebels Hold Seven Hostages, Including Two Americans After Attack

Nigeria’s main rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, released the names and employers of seven people seized in an attack on Nov. 7, saying they intend to keep them “for a while.”

Iran arms-smuggling case roils Nigeria

ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria will take actions against Iran if an investigation shows it violated international law and U.N. sanctions in an arms smuggling case, Nigeria's foreign minister said Friday.

The US should either let Shell drill in the Arctic or refund its leases

While Royal Dutch Shell waits to hear from the US government on whether it will be permitted to drill in Alaska next year, environmentalists are stepping up their campaign for a “no” vote.

Questions in Joliet Area About Coal-Ash Threat

A coal-ash-filled quarry in Joliet has nearby residents concerned about the safety of the groundwater in their wells.

Doctor Heading Italy's New Atomic Agency Pledges to Sell Nuclear Revival

The head of Italy’s new nuclear safety agency said he will persuade the public to embrace atomic power more than two decades after the nation voted to dismantle its reactors.

“It is safe, people are uninformed -- they are afraid of phantoms and I have been fighting phantoms all my life,” said Umberto Veronesi, an 84-year-old oncologist and a senator for the opposition Democratic Party. “We are the only major European country without nuclear. We can’t afford to stay out. The benefits for jobs, energy prices and work for a myriad of our industries are huge.”

Vermont Yankee Reactor Restarts

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, shut down on Sunday night because of a small leak of cooling water, reconnected to the New England grid at 5:18 Thursday morning.

Ordinarily, a nuclear shutdown of this sort does not attract wide attention, but the consensus in the Vermont state legislature is that Vermont Yankee, in the town off Vernon on the Massachusetts border, should be closed when its current 40-year license expires in March, 2012.

Nimby Rears Its Head Against Wind Power Project

But the path to Mr. Miller’s dream of energy self-sufficiency took a turbulent turn after he filed the required permit application with the city’s building department. Acting on the advice of a city planner, Mr. Miller capped the windmill at 35 feet, the height limit for buildings in his low-density neighborhood.

Mr. Miller’s neighbors caught wind of his plans through public notices. “We object to the windmill because it will make noise, create movement with odd shadows and be an eyesore to look at,” Jack Lawhon, who lives two doors from the Millers, wrote in a letter to the San Francisco Planning Department.

OPEC pans biofuels programmes in industrialised nations

OPEC has sharply criticised the biofuels programmes of industrialised countries as it raised its forecast for global oil demand next year.

In the US, a federal biomass programme introduced this month "pays farmers to experiment with energy" at an annual cost to taxpayers of about US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion), the oil exporters group said in its November oil market report.

"Although these government subsidies are helping the biofuel industry, the negative effect on the environment is vast and the programmes place a burden on the public budget," OPEC said.

Energy Monitoring at U.T. Produces Savings 2 Ways

Five years ago, with energy prices soaring, John Graham, the director of the basketball arena at the University of Texas, decided to measure the use of electricity and other utilities in real time. He soon found that the Frank Erwin Center, the team’s home, spent $3,500 on utilities in a single day.

“Everybody was shocked,” Mr. Graham said. Right away, the arena’s office workers began turning off unnecessary lights and computers. The next day, the bill dropped by about $1,000.

Fruits and veggies: Good for diets, bad for developing economies?

In Britain, experts estimated that fixing the country's bad eating habits might prevent nearly 70,000 people from prematurely dying of diet-related health problems like heart disease and cancer. It would also theoretically save the health system 20 billion pounds ($32 billion) every year.

In Brazil, however, the rates of illnesses linked to a poor diet are not as high as in the U.K. So Brazilians would get relatively few health benefits while their economy might lose millions.

Beijing to melt snow to address water shortage

Beijing will collect and melt snow this winter in a bid to quench the water shortage that has plagued the Chinese capital for years, state media reported Friday.

Two vehicles with high-powered heaters capable of processing around 100 cubic metres (3,500 cubic feet) of snow and ice an hour will be sent to locations around Tiananmen Square, the Global Times said.

Discourage sale of BMWs, Audis, says Jairam

New Delhi: Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh on Friday called for corrections in the fiscal policy to discourage luxurious cars like BMW and Audi in the country as they were a major source of greenhouse gases.

Movie review: 'Cool It'

If Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" left you feeling as if we've already lost the battle against global warming, "Cool It" is a tantalizing counterpoint that will make you wonder if maybe we've just been going about it the wrong way.

Bjorn Lomborg, the controversial Danish economist/political scientist at the center of filmmaker Ondi Timoner's energetic new documentary, doesn't find Gore's truth inconvenient so much as distorted, a position that has made him about as popular as a toxic spill in many circles both left and right.

Global Warming and Common Sense

Blond, boyish and with an irrepressible faith in human adaptability, Mr. Lomborg is the anti-Gore. Too bad, then, that the final section of the film shunts him to the margins during a whirlwind tour of frontier technologies, including artificial photosynthesis and geo-engineering. This last-minute barrage of experimental energy strategies may leave you more stupefied than hopeful, but “Cool It” is all about the pep: playing down the talking heads and playing up the “git ’er done.” If algae can suck up carbon dioxide and spit out oil, what on earth are we worrying about?

Island nations seek climate relief funds

TARAWA, Kiribati — Small island developing states called yesterday for urgent funding to help combat sea level changes that are already damaging many coastal communities.

Sea-level rise: Is Boston headed underwater?

No discussion of the threat posed to Boston by rising sea levels would be complete without a mention of the 1988 proposal by Boston urban planner Antonio DiMambro to protect the city with a flood-control structure from Deer Island to Long Island. This week's Boston Harbor Association's conference on the rising sea level did not disappoint.

Amid talk of other adaptation measures, from flood-proofing buildings to using pumps and retention ponds at Logan, those in attendance also learned about DiMambro's plan to shield the inner harbor and downtown from wicked high tides and storm surges. Under his proposal, the structure would allow navigation and normal tide flow through gates.

The IEA published today the Highlights of the latest Oil Market Report

October global oil supply rose by 0.8 mb/d to 87.6 mb/d, largely on higher non-OPEC output. Seasonal maintenance in the Caspian and Norway ended and the US Gulf avoided storm shut-ins. Non-OPEC 2010 estimates remain at 52.6 mb/d, but 2011 is boosted by 0.3 mb/d to 53.4 mb/d on stronger North American and Chinese supply.

This is very interesting. We now have a huge discrepancy between the IEA and the EIA. The IEA says non-OPEC 2010 liquids will average 52.6 mb/d while the EIA says they will average 51.47 mb/d. The IEA says that non-OPEC liquids will average 53.4 mb/d next year, a gain of .8 mb/d. The EIA says non-OPEC liquids will fall next year to 51.22 mb/d, a decline of .25 mb/d.

The IEA upped their estimate of 2011 non-OPEC production estimate this month, from last month, by 300 kb/d while the EIA dropped theirs by 10 kb/d. The IEA says this is because of stronger North American and Chinese production. The EIA says North American production will fall next year by 200 kb/d and Chinese liquids production will remain completely flat.

I also noticed one very strange thing in the new IEA report:

OPEC crude oil supply in October is assessed at 29.15 mb/d, off by a marginal 40 kb/d from the previous month.

OPEC’s Monthly Oil Market Report came out yesterday and their "secondary sources" said their October production was 29.304 mb/d, up 143.7 kb/d from last month. Platts said OPEC October production was up by 140 kb/d to 29.17 mb/d.

The EIA’s new estimates came out Tuesday. Short-Term Energy Outlook They had OPEC crude October production down by 30 kb/d to 29.33 mb/d.

I am increasingly of the opinion that everyone is just guessing about both future production as well as current production. The question is how much are their guesses influenced by what they want the figures to be?

Ron P.

I am increasingly of the opinion that everyone is just guessing about both future production as well as current production.

By definition, every prediction about the future is a guess. And even a cursory analysis of the different numbers put out by different agencies or the revisions to previous numbers shows that they can have pretty large error bars -- on the order of >10% IMHO. And, yes, people -- especially the economists involved in making up these numbers -- are influenced by what they want/expect.

(To get a more honest appraisal you would have to increase the number of petroleum geologists on the staff of these agencies. Now ask ROCKMAN whether the predictions of petroleum geologists are influenced by "what they want the figures to be".)

While monthly-to-month changes may be useful for day trading and market arbitrage, these changes are not very good indicators of longer-term trends. To understand what is going on and develop proactive rather than reactive policies we need to look at longer term trends -- at least a decade IMHO.

Best Hopes for focusing on the signal and not the noise.


Really, whether we peaked in 2005 or will peak in 2020 hardly matters -- that is less than a generation, so pretty much the same people will have to deal with the turn. Moreso that we're already 5 years into that 15 year window.

Why quibble about a decade when a century of pain is at stake? Humans are irrational in the aggregate, but calculatingly competitive at any subset down to the individual, or so it seems. I know everybody likes to bet on their favorite calendar day, but what difference does a year or decade really make?

I still believe the true issue is population, and until we move from "resource shortage" meaning "need more resources" to "need fewer people" the issues will only intensify. The sooner we take meaningful action on this profound problem the more likely that population will be managed in a manner more humane than the Four Horsemen will enforce.

jonathan - Are "the predictions of petroleum geologists...influenced by what they want the figures to be?" NEVER!!! Unless, of course, their employment is dependent upon their answers.

A very few of us are lucky enough to be in positions where we can afford to take the moral highground. Many geologists (like many other professions) are not in such a position.

Are you sure that it is economists doing these numbers? With all their faults, economic statisticians are usually pretty darn good with numbers.

Economists might be really good with numbers, but in general they are lousy with predictions.

Compared to what? Unless you can point to someone who does better, they may be lousy, but still the best.

Economists also don't claim to be able to predict the future. They make forecasts that help set up frameworks for other analysis, but they don't think these things will happen exactly as they forecast them.

The point is that predicting the future is impossible, not that nay one forecaster is lousy.

1. All forecasts are inaccurate, but some are useful
2. Economists are among those who make forecasts
3. Some of these forecasts are useful, none are "right"
4. Anyone who thinks that forecasts can be right, is wrong

I would argue with this point about predictions. Any government that hires an economist wishes that the economist will be able to guide the country's economy to a successful outcome. That would involve predicting which way the economy is heading and then having the economist suggest taking certain steps to direct it toward an intended outcome. There is essentially no distinction between doing this (predicting which way a control stimulus will steer course) and predicting the future with no stimulus.

So yes indeed, an economist is always making predictions. Weasel-wording the distinction between prediction and forecast is silly. How could anyone find fault with a weatherman that makes a prediction versus a weatherman who makes a forecast? I think it all boils down to preconceived notions. In the past pseudoscientists and occultists, like Nostradamus have usually made predictions rather than forecast -- as in a prediction using a crystal ball. This may have given the term a black-eye, but that is simply subjective.

Engineers do this all the time with control algorithms as well. They try to predict the future based on a model (of both data and noise) and then adjust the control parameters to account for the future events.

I get tired of seeing all this discussion of futility of making predictions when we are doing it all the time.

I, for one, am certainly not arguing that predictions or forecasts are futile. In fact, I said "some forecasts are useful" and make them all the time. I am not particularly hung up on one word or the other, although I do think the distinction is valid, if subtle.

My point is that humans have a limited ability to foretell future events, and to the degree that we can do so it is probabilistic.

If someone was given ten to one odds on guessing the outcome of the roll of two dice, I would suggest that they guess seven. This does not imply that I think I know the outcome of the roll, or even that I think that the outcome I forecast is likely.

In this case, seven is the correct forecast and is useful, although it is likely to be wrong.

I don't see a great deal of distinction between the forecasts of economists and weathermen. In fact, to a large degree they are both acting as specialized statisticians in different fields.

One big difference between weather forecasting and economic forecasting is that the economic forecast itself--by virtue of being generally believed--can alter future outcomes. For example, suppose there was a consensus among mainstream economists that the Fed was going to target inflation at 5% per year for the next five years (which happens to be Paul Krugman's recommendation). Now if people generally believe this forecast they will get into buying more stocks, more houses, more cars, more of many things, to buy now, before prices go up. All that increase in demand will indeed tend to drive prices up. In other words, economists can sometimes create self-fulfilling prophecies, while weatherman cannot.


I am guessing the EIA has North American production dropping next year because of the drilling moratorium in the gulf. I just read an article on CNN about this which stated that even though the moratorium was lifted there still has not been a single permit issued and that they expect 2011 to be a very slow year.


I have no idea why the IEA thinks North American production will rise. Are there planned tar sand expansions?

jim - I don't think the DW drilling slow up will manefest itself in GOM production rates for a couple of years at least. From the initial spud of an exploratory well to start up for that particular field can take 5 to 7 years. Even when all the development wells in a field are drilled it can easily take 12 to 18 months before the facilities are completed and they open the valves. There may be a field or two where the last of the development wells are delayed thanks to BP. But those fields probably wouldn't start producing until 2012 or so regardless. Most, if not all, of the GOM production coming online in 2011 will have already been drilled by the time of the accident. Just a guess but if their projected drop proves correct it would have occurred whether BP had the spill or not. Most fields coming on in 2011 would have been drilled up before the BP accident so any drop would have been just business as usual IMHO.

Unfortunately any drop in GOM oil production as a result of the BP accident won't hit us until 2012-15 IMHO. More unfortunately it could be around the time another oil spike may be coming at us.

I have no idea why the IEA thinks North American production will rise. Are there planned tar sand expansions?

I think there's about a million barrels per day of new oil sands production coming on-stream in the next year or two. And, as Rockman says, it will take two or three years for the drilling moratorium in the GOM to have an effect on production.

However, once there's not much planned in new oil sands development after the current slate of projects is done, and once the drilling slowdown in the GOM has its effect, 2012 and subsequent years will not be much fun for US consumers, or US oil companies for that matter.

I have no idea why the IEA thinks North American production will rise. Are there planned tar sand expansions?

Also, US production has been up slightly the past couple of years. I would
think we will probably be able to squeeze a few hundred thousand barrels per day out of the Bakken, say 200,000 to 500,000 more there, and some more DW?, and
some more tarsands, an extra million bpd may not be unreachable.

Behind the WSJ paywall, but viewable through Google:

IEA Says High Prices May Threaten Recovery

LONDON—The International Energy Agency Friday warned that higher oil prices may threaten the economic recovery next year, rebuffing bulls who are eyeing three-digit oil prices after a spike close to $90 a barrel.

LONDON—The International Energy Agency Friday warned that higher oil prices may threaten the economic recovery next year, rebuffing bulls who are eyeing three-digit oil prices after a spike close to $90 a barrel.

In its monthly report for November, the IEA said a slowdown of global economic growth "would not support sustained high prices in 2011."

Is it the high price of oil that will slow the economy (as stated in paragraph 1), OR is it a slowing economy that will not support high oil prices (as stated in the last paragraph)? Those are diametrically opposed statements, yet both were made by the IEA. Both statements are potentially true, but shouldn't they pick one or the other?

Re Global Warming and Common Sense

It seems that even climate skeptic Lomborg is finally coming to his senses... as he no longer agrees with his own stance in Cool It.


Has climate skeptics’ favorite Danish statistician, Bjørn Lomborg, changed his stance? In the forthcoming book edited by Lomborg, Smart Solutions to Climate Change, he calls climate change one of the world’s “chief concerns” and suggests investing $100 billion annually on climate change solutions.

The suggestion certainly comes as a surprise. In his previous books, like The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It, Lomborg argues that anthropogenic climate change is real but that it isn’t a “catastrophe”–that the associated “hysteria” was causing us to spend money trying to curb the globe’s warming where it would have been better spent, say, feeding the hungry or curing HIV.

Understandably, that stance has made his work appealing to climate skeptics who don’t want to spend money on curbing emissions–and unpopular among those who see Lomborg as a distraction who misrepresents the science and confuses the issue. In his new book, the statistician apparently reorders his priorities, now arguing that climate change solutions should get more cash.

The denialist propaganda machine needs to do a better job of keeping up with current events, it seems they're slipping.

It might have something to do with the recent reduction in solar activity that some scientists believe may indicate that a Maunder_Minimum type event is likely in the near future, aka the little ice age.

Even if we had a Maunder Minimum type event, it would likely only mask a small fraction of the warming. In any case if Lomborg thought a new MM was going to save us or mitigate the effects of warming, that would make him less likely to suggest spending money on mitigation, not more.

Scratches head. Why would this have anything to do with a possible maunder minimum?

What reduction?

This chart shows that cycle 24 has so far been very weak.

Yes the blue lines in the wiki graph show it going up and down in an 11 year cycle. Your chart is nothing new and it doesn't scare me.

They should also plot this graph with the zero included. It is misleading because the baseline starts at 60. It should be compared to your figure which includes the zero level.

OK Here's another chart, I can't edit the original one, that one showed solar flux levels.

This one shows sunspots.

Interesting, I didn't realize that you can interchange radio flux and sunspot number that readily.

It looks like RadioFlux = SunspotNumber + 60
give or take.

Last year, during a period of prolonged quite with few or no sunspots coming into view, there was a considerable amount of talk from the denialist camp that the sunspots wouldn't return. That's what happened during the Maunder Minimum. However, as your graph shows, there appears to be renewed sunspot activity this year, which will possibly result in another cycle of activity typical of that seen in previous cycles. Only time will tell. One should be aware that the measured change in the "solar constant" from peak to minimum in the sunspot cycle is quite small and most of that variation occurs in the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum which does not pass thru the atmosphere to the surface...

E. Swanson

I have a cuestion. Why there is no more oilwatch monthly updates since august? Someone knows when they will be updated again?

I've wondered the same thing. I used to look forward to those every month.

Someone posted that Rembrandt had a heavy course load this fall. No time for TOD.

Dammit all this "working for a living" stuff is interfering with the contributors' free time to provide us with all this content at no cost. We need to put an end to this!

Also, why has it been over a year since a Peak Oil Update?

At least about that have appeared this.

The oil 'peak' has been reached

Sam Foucher tells me he is working on a Peak Oil Update, but it may be December before it is done.

No word on Oil Watch Monthly.

Above: Jeremy Grantham Has ‘Already Started to Sell’

I recommend folks watch the 29 min. interview of Grantham. Pay attention to what he doesn't quite say. His description of commodities being in "a chain-linked crisis" is telling. ..."We are running out of everything.....and that will become devastatingly clear to everybody."

Another link: http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=171947

yes, and interesting that he points to agricultural land as being a reasonable long-horizon play. while, of course, he's talking about several hundred or several thousand acres (meaning: an industrial quantity), there's a pretty cold-hearted message implicit there -- food will not remain so cheap, or more bluntly, perhaps, scarcity will drive prices.

also interesting that he explains, he's alone even in his own firm about his recognition/expectation that 'we are running out of everything.' some of us tod-ers wonder if power-players and thought leaders share our skepti-pessimism, but push their optimism anyway (for a whole host of reasons). apparently, many who one would think are 'in the know' do not share tod's/grantham's outlook.

Agricultural land, timber, and commodities still in the ground, and plenty of patience.

"apparently, many who one would think are 'in the know' do not share tod's/grantham's outlook."

Perhaps they don't want to risk popping the bubble they've been blowing. Not just yet...

he points to agricultural land as being a reasonable long-horizon play

I have seen recently maps of predicted regional temperature changes that are expected because of AGW. The expected temperatures are claimed to preclude human habitation in large regions of mid-latitude. I didn't notice any comment on the future of agriculture in these regions, which are now major food producing areas.

I wonder where in the world would be a good place to make a LONG TERM investment in agricultural land. Maybe not in Illinois or Iowa. Maybe Alberta? I don't know. I'm hoping to provoke expressions of informed opinion.

Try for any place that gets right now at least 52 inches of rainfall a year in a normal year. If the area goes south on you, in that you have a few drier seasons, You can still grow some things, just not everything that you used to grow. Buy mixed land, not all flat river valleys, throw in hills and streams and if you can get it natural springs, or even wet season springs.

When you mean Long Term, are we talking that you will be using this land yourself to grow crops on now, or that you want to be able to in some future time grow crops on it?

For myself, I would buy as many mixed acres as I could, because the land can now support many different ecosystems. I'd buy into swampy areas as well, wetlands if you maintain them as wetlands, and don't try to drain them and make farm land out of them. Will provide you an already build natural water sink. No need to go about building a lot of Swales to catch all the rainwater coursing over your land. This also provided you with added areas to grow food forest type cultures of different kinds.

I have a seasonal wetland in my back yard, it was built as a drainage system when the area was first built up, but that was 57 years ago, and it has since overgrown. Water tends to stay in the area for weeks after a good rain. I'd hope for more than that if I were going out to buy land though. A good hillside with it's own stream or creek coming off it, a few rolling hills, even some flatter land where I could grow a few arces of grain crops if I so choose to do so.

But land prices are in the 2k to 4k range per acre in farmland around here. If you have road access and could build a house on it, then prices go higher and higher. I don't have the funds to buy much of anything besides what is needed and used on a daily basis, so I am not in the market.

I'd also love to have enough wooded or rocky land to use in building my own shelters or several of them, so as not to have to import a lot of building materials. That is another point of mixed landscaping/ ecosystems.

It all depends on what you want to do with the land and how you want to cash it in later. When I think long term I am seeing 40 or 50 years, not a few of them.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

What got me about that interview is that He said that he wondered why the Fed let the bubbles get so big and then fail. He said He knew they could have prevented them from getting big and they could have prevented them from blowing up and taking out so much value on monies invested. He just could not understand why the Fed let it happen time and agian.

Well If there is greed driving the bubble, why not let it rise and then pop? If you know you are making a bubble, if you know when you could insert your foot to stop it, why not also let others go on investing and you (insert bank, or person's name here) get out and watch the collapse happen. Buy at the low point and start the rolling all over again.

Several people Especially folks over at TAE tell that players in the markets, know this is happening and they are playing the game to win big, not caring about the small uninformed players. If the Fed is a group of Centrally controlled Bnaks, Why on earth would they not want to have more money for themselves and their stock holders? Why would they be altruistic in nature?

It seemed simple to me. The Fed does not have to care about doing the Moral thing, as it is not a person of honor, but a money making enterprise.

I do wonder still what would happen if an altruistic type of overly rich dictator type were to try and do the moral thing and help the little guys of the world? How much money or power would he have to control to change things from where they are now to some different form of game.

Buy up a few banks and give houses away for free, give back all the tax payer funds and do so with a nice bit of interest thrown in as a surprise gift. Pay a large portion more of his taxes then we have seen in the past. Things like that.

Just a few thoughts from an author who has been trying to save the world in a few stories recently. Though I also have a story where the aliens try to change our climate to suit them, so I am not all goody two shoes in my writings.( imagine Huge cubes of South Polar Ice appearing on the White House lawn, with a post it note saying. We are here, thanks for your planet.)

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

I don't know about anyone else here, but this is certainly the largest overnight increase in gas prices I've seen. $2.65 to $2.75/gallon in NJ.

Jeff Rubin predicted an upward slope.

Seeing 2.99 in Maine.

And sales of big trucks have taken off again - these will be the people most vocal in their outrage about the climbing fuel prices.

Maybe they'll be able to make use of their incentive prize: Sanford truck dealer offers free AK-47s

Doesn't anyone see this ass a very serious issue? Heck, diesel prices in NYC are close to $4.00/gallon. Remember what happened in 2008?

Can't remember the last time I bought gas and the first number was 2. It was $3.09 the last time I filled up, maybe 10 days ago. I'll check the price when I go to town.

My last fill up was $2.79. This was at my rural country store - not the cheapest place around. OTOH, it was a few days ago.

It was $2.50-something through September (at this same place), and started creeping up in October. I'm going up there this afternoon and I'll check again.

Here in Aberystwyth, UK, gas price is $7.27 per US gallon. Quit moaning.


I wasn't moaning - just adding a data point. :-)

Anyway, I was at the store this afternoon and totally forgot to look at the gas price. Oh well!

So true JN2. In Houston it has surged to $2.59. Of course, I do live across the highway from the largest refinery in the US and just down the road from 3 very competative truck stops.

BTW some years ago I spent several pleasant days in Aberystwyth. Even learned how to pronounce it. When times get hectic I'll occasionally think about the peacefulness of sitting along the sea wall there. A very nice memory.

My last tank of gas was $1.52 a gal. Oh! You mean gas-o-line, not nat-gas. Sorry.

$3.19 yesterday, but I'm not sure when the changes happened. Don't fill up much anymore.

It is still $2.89 in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Where do you live that has such high prices?

I believe The Rat hails from somewhere a little north of San Francisco.

I live about 300 miles north of San Francisco, closer to Oergon (Eureka, CA) and the price here has been between $3.26 and $3.29 for the entire year (as I remember it anyway). Very narrow range. Weird?

I think California has some of the highest state gasoline taxes in the country. I wonder what gasoline costs now in Alaska and Hawai'i.

I often hear on the national media that Hawaii (maybe just Honolulu?)has the highest prices and they're always about 10 cents cheaper than it is here.

When I bought a diesel pickup a few years ago (farm use) diesel fuel prices were 20 - 30 cents cheaper than regular gasoline. I filled up yesterday and diesel fuel ($3.13 gallon) is now 50 cents a gallon more than regular gasoline ($2.65) . Diesel prices have been going up much more rapidly than gasoline prices in this area.

Just goes to show - it's pretty hard to game the system when the system is as complex and weird as the system that sets fuel prices.

1. The rest of the world runs on diesel, but you cannot refine just diesel, nor (from what little I understand) can you change the mix all that much. Therefore the rest of the world produces more gasoline than they need, and we buy it at a discount.

2. I believe that they remove the sulfur using hydrogen derived from NG - which increases the FF inputs required to produce diesel.

Both of these things will tend to raise the price of diesel relative to gasoline. If my understanding of these issues is wrong, someone please correct me!

Diesel also compete with heating oil, so in the fall in winter it goes up dramatically. That's why I traded my TDI Jetta in on my NatGas Civic. Diesel was spiking way up in the 3.00 a gallon range before the big oil spike and I was tired of the high prices. As it turned out, that was a fortunate thing for me, because during the oil crisis, I was paying 63 cents a gal equivelant for nat gas when the gasoline was 4.20 a gal.

Diesel prices here have been flip flopped from the old price relation to gasoline for 7-8 or more years. Long time. At first, the scuttlebut had west coast refinery issues as the reason, now it's just taken for granted. With gas, it's been $3.20 or better most of the summer local, with highway diesel at a 40-50 cent premium.

America uses more petrol than diesel for its transport. Europe uses much more diesel than America for personal transport, with a falling dollar in a tight market guess who is going to get the diesel.

Gasoline is in short supply in the New Jersry and New York Harbor area. Reports are that to obtain necessary supplies to prevent a shortage, shippers were able to buy additional supplies in Europe and ship them right away (and expected to arrive in a few weeks).

Of course, we read news reports earlier in the week that we were "swimming" in excess oil supplies, but apparently the type and amount of oil that refiners need is not matching up with refinery demand.

Reuters News
November 12, 2010

US Cash Products-Harbor gasoline up, Gulf/Midco down

* Harbor gasoline surges on strong buying

* Backwardation pushes Gulf, Midco gas down

HOUSTON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Cash gasoline in the New York Harbor surged 6 cents per gallon on Friday on strong buying interest linked to refinery maintenance, traders said.

Ongoing refinery maintenance at ConocoPhillips' 238,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in Linden, New Jersey, and Colonial Pipeline allocations on nearly all lines headed into the New York regional market likely led to temporary shortages, according to traders.

At least one major was rumored to be purchasing prompt RBOB in the harbor, an act that doubled the differential to the December RBOB futures screen from Thursday's levels.

[no link]

The Colonial Pipeline has been an ongoing problem. If the economy weren't so bad, I expect it would be more of an issue. Capacity was tight anyway, and after aging northeast refineries like the one in Delaware were closed, it made the problem worse. (The Delaware City refinery is supposed to re-open under new ownership next year.)

"Deficit Plan Revives Debate on Spending Priorities" - PBS Newshour

Jeffrey Brown interviews Grover Norquist (President, Americans for Tax Reform), Damon Silvers (AFL-CIO) and Maya MacGuineas (President, Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget).


About the only thing everyone could agree upon was that we need to return to at least 3% growth in order to solve all our problems. Sigh...

Unfortunately, that 3% (or even higher rate) of future growth in real GDP is built into everything. For example, pension funds assume that--and that assumption has a lot to do with serious underfunding in recent years. Government budgets, both at the federal and state level use that assumption--one reason California got into such bad trouble is that they were relying on that growth and instead got a decline.

Nobody, but nobody is willing to do projections based on zero growth. Long-term decline in real GDP is literally unthinkable. In the mainstream of economics, nobody has done any work like that since the Great Depression.

"Unfortunately, that 3% (or even higher rate) of future growth in real GDP is built into everything."

Isn't economics meant to be at least somewhat descriptive, rather than purely normative? In most fields that use models, you'd do at least some model runs with outlying parameter values to check on the stability of the models, and to map out the edges of the territory.

Usually you'd have a sensitivity analysis pass right after you verified the performance of the models. But if economists paid much attention to the sensitivity to initial conditions, governing assumptions, and coupled variables, the whole quant-devised deriviatives industry never would have hatched. People like to oversimplify, especially when that means you can oversell the result.

"Make the solution as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein

For several decades 3.5% real GDP growth was the long-term trend of economic growth. Of course there were boom times and recessions, but in the long-term growth seemed to fluctuate around this 3.5% figure. Thus, the assumption that this growth rate could be relied upon to continue was not totally unreasonable. Of course the assumption is wrong because we know that exponetial growth cannot be continued indefinitely. Something, sooner or later, had to bring that growth rate down.

Note that over the past six years the global oil production rate has been a plateau. So has the the U.S. economy been on a plateau if you take in the end of the real-estate bubble, the Big Recession, and the anemic pseudorecovery since the recession. IMO the current price of oil is high enough to prevent any significant growth in real GDP next year. In 2010 we have had some continuation of the Obama fiscal stimulus, but that is nearly done with.

So what happens next year? Could be zero growth. Could be a deflationary depression. Could be a return to stagflation if QE2 is followed by QE3. There is no way to know at this point what 2011 will be like in terms of economic growth or decline.

I was doing some interesting reading today. It appears that 65% of China's massive growth is from internal real estate expansion. AKA BUBBLE! This is what is driving the massive usage of natural resources they are consuming like there isn't a tomorrow. My sources were CNN Money and the WSJ and was a real eye opener for me. This expansion is double the sizes of the ones in Brazil, Indonesia, Japan and triple our recent US real estate boondoggle. The question is, what will happen when like all other real estate bubbles to date (of much smaller size) this one breaks. How will this will affect economies and more importantly the current balance on resources - specifically oil demand?

China's real estate bubble will break--perhaps sooner rather than later, and then China will have its first recession. You're right, much of China's reported growth in GDP is just phony highly-leveraged real estate development, and at this point there is nothing they can do to stop a collapse in the real estate market followed by recession. If their exports continue at their current high rate of growth (highly questionable), then their recession might be relatively mild, but for the Chinese it will be a huge betrayal of expectations.

China has embraced the market and modern financing. What they may fail to understand is economic fluctuations.
I wonder how many Chinese economists have studied Keynes. When I was in graduate school in economics we had quite a few students from Taiwan, but none from Red China.

Sailor - saw an interesting video a good while back about a newly built city in N. China. Very nice apartments and business centers. Wonderful wide esplanades with virtually no traffic. No traffic because the folks in the old coal town nearby couldn’t afford to live there. If I recall correctly it was built by private investors with a high degree of govt support. Thus it might stand as the poster child for the bubble that’s been described. But there’s a big difference from our bubble (I think): their bubble was built for the most part with direct govt investment. In that sense is it any different than what the US is trying to do with its current govt funded stimulus plan? Actually some could argue that the US stimulus plan is creating another unsustainable bubble: new jobs (how ever many are actually being created) that will exist only as long as the fed gov’t continues to feed it. Of course the hope is that the stimulus will invigorate the economy and that growth will replace the need for stimulus. But OTOH couldn’t that also be argued on behalf of China’s new and empty cities?

As far as Chinese economists go you’ve reminded me of a story I heard from an econ teacher about 7 or 8 years ago. He was contracted to do basic economics teaching to a group of Chinese businessmen. Early on he gave a 1 day explanation of profit motive. Turned into many weeks. The short of his problem trying to make the point: the Chinese kept asking the same question: if it costs $1 to make a widget why would the widget company sell it for more than a $1? The company employees widget makers, the sales cover the costs of making the widgets and China now has it’s own source of widgets instead of having to import them. So it’s a win all around. He said it was much more difficult to explain then westerners might think given how the Chinese govt is the business sector for the most part. IOW if the Chinese govt is spending the people’s money why would it build in a profit margin to be taken from the folks who’ll then have it returned to them in some other form? There are some valid answers to that question but his student could not grasp any of them.

There is another problem with figuring out what is going on in China--the paucity of valid statistics. For the U.S. the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the NBER do a remarkably good job of compiling, adjusting, and publishing data, though the government bureaus are seriously underfunded and understaffed. China apparently just does not invest nearly as much as the U.S. does in getting good and timely economic data. Or, and this is only a possibility, they may be keeping a lot of important numbers secret, as typically happens in a command economy.

Don - I agree with their nature to keep numbers secret. I had a small taste of that first hand when I adopted my daughter in China 10 years ago. Details of an adoptive baby would hardly be considered state secrets by any govt. Let's just saw getting details out of local officials was similar to a fed questioning a monbster: lots of deflection with a hint of a covert threat.

I think from my study of Chinese culture that they have always been highly secretive about financial affairs, going back more than two thousand years, when they had a sort of money and also credit. The Chinese are some of the best money managers in the world, and this has also been true for thousands of years. The only group to compare with the Chinese in sophistication about money are the Jews. Keynes pointed out that Jews were quite different from Christians in their attitude about borrowing and lending money. If a Christian borrows money, the implied promise is that "I'll pay you back if things go well." On the other hand, when a Jew borrows money, the debt is absolute and unconditional. In other words, there is some truth in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice."

By the way, I'm of Jewish ancestry myself, though I was never bar-mitzvahed and am not now a practicing Jew. Half my relatives and many of my friends are Jewish. At UC, Berkeley, I had a lot of Chinese friends, especially electrical engineers, but also one of the brightest people I've ever known in the Ph.D. program in Business Administration (specializing in finance). I taught him to play tennis, and in return he would help me with hairy math.

I'm of Jewish ancestry myself, ... At UC, Berkeley, I had a lot of Chinese friends


Tim'shel Mr. Adam Trask. Tim'shel.


Anybody study the effect of real estate expansion in the other emerging economy India?.The prices in Bombay and Delhi(National capital region)are way out of whack.How much does that add to the GDP?Is it a bubble?Every second person seems to be dabbling in real estate.

Nobody, but nobody is willing to do projections based on zero growth.

If fact if you look at the things economists measure, the last couple of years has been zero growth to slow growth. The truth is with our current system zero growth feels like severe recession. Growth below pop increase plus productivity gains equals higher unemployment. So technically we are "recovering", but the on the ground experience is that we are stuck at the bottom.

The truth is with our current system zero growth feels like severe recession.

The truth is, with our current system, zero growth IS severe recession.

That's why I can't get the semi rosy scenerios painted around here. Look what is happening with 1.5% growth. At zero growth the economy is like a boiler that is about ready to blow. What is going to happen when we are looking at a 4% retraction that people claim is the 'good' outcome?

Nothing good will happen when we are at negative 4% real GDP growth. Study the Great Depression; there will be some strong similarities between the nineteen thirties and what we're in for over the next ten years. Of course there will be the key difference that in the thirties we had abundant and cheap oil and coal. The future is bleak.

For me, stoicism is the appropriate philosophy in times like these.

They'll all buy EVs and nat-gas trucks and PV and wind installations for themselves. Naturally.

Nobody, but nobody is willing ...

IMHO, nobody, but nobody has any idea what the economy will be like ten or twenty years into a period of zero growth. Give the prognosticators a break. There is a limit to their willingness to guess.

I will boldly guess when no mainstream economist who wants to be published will. Of course my guesses can be wrong. Three months ago I thought we'd have $60 oil now because of slackening demand for imports by the U.S. and China. Boy, was I ever wrong about that!

IMHO, nobody, but nobody has any idea what the economy will be like ten or twenty years into a period of zero growth.

Well, there is no need to estimate what the economy will be like after ten to twenty years of zero growth, because we will not have a period that long of zero growth. When oil production goes into serious decline in the next two to five years, we will not have zero growth, we will have serious negative growth.

Okay, what will the economy be like after ten years of negative growth. No need to make a prediction there either. There won't be any economy. But we can guess what the world will be like then. We can... but I won't.

Ron P.

I do think John Michael Greer in THE LONG DESCENT, probably got it right. The decline will be more or less gradual, in a stairstep fashion with some big steps down.

My own guess, based on what I've been reading on TOD over the past four+ years and on my knowledge of economics is that the real GDP of the U.S. in 2020 will be very roughly half what it is today. Peak coal and peak natural gas are still in the future, and that will help. When all three fossil fuels are in decline, then the rate of decline in real GDP will accelerate.

I do not buy into the myth of the apocolypse.

On the other hand, I cannot prove that the fast-crash doomers are wrong. As the British say, things could go pear shaped in a hurry. So I give fast-crash about a 20% probability in my thinking.

I love John Michael Greer's work and agree with almost everything he writes. With emphasis on almost. There will be no long descent, that is just wishful thinking on John's part, and yours also Don. I agree with the German Bundeswehr report which stats:

"Intuitively, it might appear that a phase of slow reduction in the amount of oil leads to and equally slow reduction in economic capacity...

This is a false assumption: economies move within a narrow band of relative stability.

Outside this band the system reacts chaotically.

No, a slow gradual descent is impossible. The population keeps on growing and in a shrinking GDP world, unemployment grows even faster. Soon chaos breaks out. Riots break out and everything goes to hell.

A gradual slow decline? Dream on. When economic stability collapses, like a row of dominoes, everything else collapses.

Ron P.

Ron, I think the guy that hangs around here that studies complexity would agree with you. Complex systems do not handle things like chaos very well. Complex things like global economies tend to fly apart rather quickly when not properly lubricated.

This is a reason why it is not entirely clear that everyone cutting back, say, on electricity usage, would be all that beneficial. Does that result in a lot of bankrupt utilities, and municipalities that are in such poor shape, that they can't bail them out?

You are quite right. The economies of the world are complex interlinked systems. By drinking a couple of bottles of French champagne (with a friend) last Thursday, I stimulated the economy of France. Perhaps Americans stimulating the economy of France is a crucial link in keeping the global economy going. Thus I didn't feel the slightest guilt in also having French chocolate and matzos baked in Jerusalem.

Now I did not do the U.S. balance of trade any good by consuming foreign luxury goods, but it may be that the U.S. has to run substantial balance of trade deficits every year indefinitely to keep globalization going. Of course in the long run this cannot go on, and if some trend cannot go on forever, then at some point it will stop and probably reverse direction.

I think we are now teetering on the brink of a descent into escalating protectionism. A deflationary depression would almost certainly push us off the cliff into a descent perhaps more severe than the extreme protectionism of the Great Depression.

During the worst of times in 1933 the official rate of unemployment was 25%; the true rate was undoubtedly higher than that. Yet there were almost no civil disturbances or riots. Crime rates declined very significantly.

I expect the unemployment rate to rise to 25% to 30% during the next ten years, and after that I expect the U.S. will get a dictator and go to some form of command economy. I think a reasonably competent dictatorship, say on the order of Mussolini's (who was not very effective) could keep the electrical grid up for the next thirty years at least. For me, that will be the big turning point, when the lights go out. Fortunately, I'm unlikely to live long enough to see that day, so I'm not stockpiling candles.

I think a reasonably competent dictatorship,

Ah, but you're not going to get a reasonably competent dictatorship. You're going to get the Tea party. ;) :(

Sucks to be you, and sucks to be any country that has anything the soon-to-be-really-angry mob wants.

Queen Sarah the First. Hm. Well, there are worse possibilities, and we may well see some of them.

I used to like watching end of the world movies. I got tried of them because most of the time they were only in it for the shock and horror of it, and not anything about long term results of whatever had happened. When I was younger I never really expected to be living during a time when some of the things seen would happen.

But then a Big ole Ocean wall of water hit a populated area and 6 months later I was told I lost my job because of that wave. I knew I was being lied too, I knew I was just getting a story that fit into what they thought I might know, not what I really did know.

We are living in a time when all bets are off the table as to how things will play out. 30 years before the Fall of Rome, what did the people know about what was going to happen to them?

We suffer from having great imaginations, having a load of information at our fingertips, having a detailed bit of history to look at and ponder and not really being able to control anything much more than our own actions.

I know that a lot of people are worried, and a lot of people are selling you things on that worry, (gold and food comes to mind top of the list)(I don't think guns, as I don't have one, that does not mean I can't use one, just that I don't).

I have been sickish since last friday, so I have been doing a lot of story building, and remembering a story I wanted to finish about how a space alien shows up to rebuild Earth into a planet he'd like to live on. All our current climate change issues are nothing compared to what he is doing to the place. Then I see online where you can play a game that pits asteroids against Earth and I am thinking, Okay who has been reading my fiction now? I pit ice cubes as big as one cubic mile against mankind.

There seems to be this Western need to have our relatively safe world thrown into chaos so that we can experience the Fight or Flight joys of yesteryear all over again. Does that say we have too many armchair generals that just don't get out enough into the battles on earth? What are we, that we need to scare ourselves over and over again? Fear mongering junkies, or people that like to jump out of planes, not knowing if our chutes will open or not?

Maybe I need to get out my rose colored glasses( or buy a pair as I don't have any really) and put them on so I don't have to see the people hitting the ground all around me.

Up top the article talks about Glen Beck shilling for a bugout bag with 2 weeks worth of waterless food in it, water being something you need more than anything else, they should pack 2 gallons of it cartons just in case, first. But I degress. Who is going to bug out in a city of 5 million and not die before he gets to the farm lands outside of it? Then again I have a friend that is building his own bug out bags for 24 close friends that will be his posse that can survive without much more than what is in those bags of his making for several months on end. So I can't say they aren't a bad idea. Seeing all the people fleeing natural diasters around the world these days, they'd hope they had those bags too.

I don't really care if it is fast or slow, either way I know where to get water, how to find food, and have a lot of tools stocked away so that if I had too, I could set up my own kingdom, or be the making of someone else's as I am roasted on the spit in the back yard. No worries.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.
" Sir before you cook me, might I suggest several herbs and things to go with your dinner, I so don't want you to have a tummy ache. "

Greer's intellectual hubris is breath-taking, and you're allowing your leg to be pulled.

Mr Greer actually has no clue how things are going to pan out, though he convinces you that he does so you will continue to read his fiction.

Even weather forecasting is pretty hopeless beyond a 48-hour time frame, and yet you think someone can make long-range predictions about the economy?

For the period more than 48 hours in the future, weather forecasting enters the twilight zone, where accuracy and reliability decline to a point of very limited usefulness. In fact, the prediction of the specific time and places of precipitation beyond two days becomes indistinguishable from random guessing.

W. Sherden, The Fortune Sellers

Like people who want to believe certain conspiracies that shall remain nameless, only fools put stock in predictions about the future of such a complex system as an "economy."

So why do we believe predictions that have no basis in reality? ...[W]e believe we can predict the future because we want to believe it. We abhor uncertainty. We like to feel in control, and the thought that we can predict the future gives us a better sense of control....

...As William Sherden says, "The theories of chaos and complexity are revealing the future as fundamentally unpredictable. This applies to our economy, the stock market, commodity prices, the weather, animal populations, and many other phenomena."

Greer's intellectual hubris is breath-taking

Yes it is - and with very deep range projections we can assured that large parts of it are very wrong. However - Greer focus is deep range projections and in general it "feels" right.

Of course with very long range projections we can learn from the last set of them - the ones from the 1950's to the early 1980's. It has occurred to me that the current doom cycle is a reaction to the misplaced techno-utopia from that era.

Either fish nor fowl - I think you can assured that humans will manifest some force to address resource depletion. But I can tell you right now we got nothing technological/social that can "solve" the problem in the next decade.

Often longer term forecasts can be much better than shorter term ones. For example, I can predict that this January the weather in Minnesota will vary between cold and very cold, and even give a temperature range. On the other hand, I have no idea what temperatures will be like ten days from now. Temperatures could be below zero or above sixty for a high. In Minnesota, we have a saying: If you don't like the weather, don't worry; it will change. I've seen the temperature drop fifty degrees in the space of eighteen hours, now that is what I call drastic change.

Tomorrow the forecast if for temperatures around 32 or 33 degrees in the Twin Cities with rain and snow, mostly snow. If that forecast is right, then there won't be any freezing rain. I'm travelling tomorrow, but it would not surprise me to drive into freezing rain; if that happens I just slow way down. As a long time sailor and sometime pilot I have learned to take weather forecasts very seriously, but I know their limitations.

Economic forecasting isn't much worse than weather forecasting--except at turning points in the economy.

I've seen the temperature drop fifty degrees in the space of eighteen hours, now that is what I call drastic change.

Oh, come on, you can't call that drastic weather. It gives you more than enough time to go out, chop a cord of wood, start a good fire, put on your woolly underwear, and prepare a nice cup of hot chocolate to get ready.

In the Black Hills of South Dakota, the town of Spearfish experienced a 49 degree rise in temperature in just 2 minutes. 90 minutes after that, the mercury dropped 58 degrees in less than a half hour.

See: Chinook winds can be phenomenal and dangerous

on January 15, 1972, in Loma, Montana; the temperature rose from -48°C (-56°F) to 9°C (49°F).

That's a rise of 105°F in 24 hours.

In Pincher Creek, the temperature rose by 41°C (from -19°C to 22°C) in one hour in 1962 - trains have been known to be derailed by chinook winds there.

That's a rise of 74°F in one hour.

See: Wikipedia: Chinook wind

If you live in Chinook country, there's no way to predict the temperature, you just have to have both a down jacket and T-shirt at all times. I can confidently predict that at some point the temperature at my house will be 20 degrees different than what the weather channel predicted, and 10 degrees different than what it is 10 miles down the highway or 4000 feet further up the mountain I live on.

Dress in layers......a pretty good philosopy for living ones life these days :-)

Whoa there big fella! Somebody pushed your hot button for sure!

JMG paints with a broad brush and a long time scale. He has studied history in depth, and has seen how things can go down. He also is quite numerate, and runs the numbers with some rigor and discipline.

I wouldn't call anything about Greer "intellectual hubris"... more like intellectual humility. He's giving it his best shot. And to accuse him of pulling anyone's leg is absurd. He may be wrong, he may be right (in the broad outlines), but he's not a shill for anything. Have you read his stuff? Have you followed his blog? "Hubris" simply does not fit.

But something about him sure seems to have gotten your goat. Maybe it's his beard?

As far as your ranting that predictions about the economy are worthless and absurd, well, I hate to break it to you, but that's what the whole f-ing project of capitalism is all about. Yes? It's predictions, all the way down. What do you think "investments" are?

I will now translate the jist of your post:

"I disagree with Greer"

He has studied history in depth, and has seen how things can go down. He also is quite numerate, and runs the numbers with some rigor and discipline.

"...the amount of knowledge we have in a certain area will not help us predict what will happen if the events are inherently unpredictable." --Thomas Kida

That sounds more like something Greer would say, than like something that's an accurate criticism of his work. He, more than any of the peak oil writers, understands that the future is inherently unpredictable.

That said...I think Kida may be wrong. In fact, knowledge in a certain area can help us predict the future, even if events are inherently unpredictable. I don't know what the weather will be like 10 days from now, but I do know it won't be 300 degrees. And I am fairly certain that 10 months from now, it won't be snowing in New York City.

Gilbert argues that humans are really bad at predicting the future, but it's not because the future is inherently unpredictable, or that we don't have enough knowledge. It's that we ignore the most useful knowledge, usually because of our own biases. He found that the future is consistently more like the present than people predict. Even when people should know better from personal experience, they think "This time, it's different." The best way to predict the future is to look at the past...but most people refuse to accept this. Or at least to apply it.

That said...I think Kida may be wrong. In fact, knowledge in a certain area can help us predict the future, even if events are inherently unpredictable. I don't know what the weather will be like 10 days from now, but I do know it won't be 300 degrees. And I am fairly certain that 10 months from now, it won't be snowing in New York City.

I think we all know that we're not talking about such banalities when we talk about "predictions." The fact that it won't be 300 degrees in New York is not the subject of books.

Also, this statement directly contradicts itself: "knowledge in a certain area can help us predict the future, even if events are inherently unpredictable." That which is inherently unpredictable is, well, inherently unpredictable.

Name me one person, beginning with "Daniel" the Prophet, who has written a book that successfully predicted the future.

I can think of one comment by one person--somewhat more of an intellectual heavyweight than the person we're talking about--and his comment was, "it's just one damned thing after another."

I think we all know that we're not talking about such banalities when we talk about "predictions."

I disagree. Greer is not making specific predictions about events, but giving broad outlines of what we can expect over a long time period. It's more like being reasonably certain it won't be snowing in July in the northern hemisphere than predicting it will rain in Hartford next week.

Name me one person, beginning with "Daniel" the Prophet, who has written a book that successfully predicted the future.

There were a boatload of books predicting the housing bubble crash. How about Empire of Debt?

If your idea of "hubris" is daring to predict the future, why pick on Greer? The other peak oil writers all make predictions as well, and most of them are far less willing to admit their forecasts might be wrong than Greer.

Your last line is right, and the only ones I read are Orlov and sometimes Kunstler because they at least have stylistic verve and are damn funny.

And, yes, unsustainable debt is bad, which is more of a principle than a prediction. You have to look at these predictions in a wider statistical context, too: If you have a wide number of "economists," or "analysts" (whatever you want to call them) making predictions, and these predictions are all different, then by sheer chance someone is going to be "right."

500 prophets base a prediction on a coin flip. 250 are "right."

Those 250 prophets make another prediction based on a coin flip. 125 are "right."

Those 125 flip the coin: 65 are "right."

Then 34. Then 17. Then 8. Then 4. Then 2. Then 1.

That "1", who has gotten ten predictions in a row right, must be a sheer genius. But only if you fail to see the wider statistical context.

I was just about to comment on the contradiction between your line "That sounds more like something Greer would say, than like something that's an accurate criticism of his work," and the subsequent "That said...I think Kida may be wrong." "Greer sounds like Kida, who may be wrong."

Finally: This ain't just about Greer. Some more esteemed predictors: Remember about a year and a half ago, Stoneleigh was saying the stock market "might" reach 10,000 by the fall of 2009 and then it would turn and drop? She's now off by a full year and 1,000 points. How much time do you allot for the predictor to be "right"?

Then there are the forecasts for 200-dollar oil, 500-dollar oil by the esteemed Simmons and Hirsch. So it goes.

(I can give you a fairly precise time I gave up on book-length, long-range economic forecasts: about two years after the publication date (1993) of Bankruptcy 1995, which I read earnestly, twice.)

Predictions? Prophecies? I prefer trend analysis, which can be quite effective at determining direction. If a society, be it local or global, is reducing its resource base and increasing its population one can be fairly certain that there will be fewer resources to go around. If this occurs at a time when the society is increasing its reliance on the resources that are declining the fastest one can be just as certain that there will be increasing competition for these same resources. When this occurs at a time when virtually all of the societies resources and systems are stressed, things will invariably reach a tipping point and the longer this tipping point is avoided, the sharper the peak is likely to be.

In past societies, there were usually external resources and ongoing inputs that allowed substitution, not only of physical resources, but of other stablizing forces, ideas, migrations, trade that permitted recovery to a previous level.

I don't see this as being the case going forward. As Grantham states in the video link above; "We're running out of everything......this will become devestatingly clear to everyone".

Predicting the future? Not. Determining the trend that future will take? A little study and intuition can serve us well in that regard. There will be less of everything for most everyone going forward, at least until the inevitable reset. Whether the reset is hard and glaringly obvious, or slow enough for societies to adjust in civil ways is just a guess. I fear the former, hope for the latter, try to plan for both, but have little doubt about the trend.

This is how I read Greer.

I can't disagree with you because you've decided to change "prediction" to the, ahem, trendy "trend analysis."

I might add the corollary: The more fuzzy the predictive terms, the more likely they are to be observed.

Gosh, I love coincidences.

After posting here, I went to a news site and found this video:

Riz Khan - Are we living in the end times?

The beard. The accent. The apocalyptic rhetoric. It looks like a perfect parody of the issues discussed here: capitalism, environment, financial collapse.

"Philosopher. Psychoanalyst. Cultural Theorist." Impressive!

Trend analysis is prediction. It is very valid when predicting direction, less so when predicting specific outcomes. Predicting specific outcomes and timeframes is prophecy, something I dabble in while acknowledging its fantasy factor. But then, prophets only become prophets after the fact. Nothing ventured, nothing gained ;-)

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Very true.

Like many INTPs, I have a tendency to be wishy-washy. I don't like to close any doors. My high school writing teacher called me on it, telling me no one would want to read what I wrote unless I took a stand. She told me it was better to go out on a limb and be proved wrong than to not go out on the limb at all. At least when it came to writing. And that if I truly was unsure, I should take a stand anyway, whether I believed it or not.

Looking back, she was right. Nobody's going to be interested in what you have to say if it's, "I dunno." That's the reality peak oil writers have to deal with.

Ghung - You've reminded me of my favorite rebuttal I use when arguing about future recoverable reserves from producing reservoirs. There are two way to get the final answer: projections and predictions. In the case of most reservoirs projection fails terribly. A well consistently making 100 bopd for the last two years won't do it indefinitely. Thus the physical limits have to be supplied to the projection to make it a valid prediction. I know that sounds simplistic but many times I've had sellers try to ignore/minimize those limiting factors and offer the "we don't really know" position. That's when I would usually piss them off by showing how I can come up with an approximation better than the "we don't really know" position.

Several years ago one could make a very nice projection of future home values based on the very nice gain seen over the years. A very easy projection. But to turn it into a prediction one had to assume there would not be a recession. Projections are easy…anyone with a straight edge can do it all day long. Predictions, OTOH, are a tad more difficult.

And, yes, unsustainable debt is bad, which is more of a principle than a prediction. You have to look at these predictions in a wider statistical context, too: If you have a wide number of "economists," or "analysts" (whatever you want to call them) making predictions, and these predictions are all different, then by sheer chance someone is going to be "right."

Sure, but I think it's worth looking at who's right, who's wrong, why, and how.

The people who correctly predicted the housing crash (and the dot-com crash before that) were the ones who were looking at history. The ones who said "it's not a bubble" were the ones saying, "This time it's different. History doesn't apply."

Also interesting is even the ones who were right, were generally wrong on the timing. The dot-com boom went on twice as long as the first Cassandras predicted. Ditto the housing bubble.

"Greer sounds like Kida, who may be wrong."

Greer may be wrong. Does anyone deny that? No one's saying he's an infallible oracle.

In particular, I think even he may be expecting things to move faster than they will.

Re: Stoneleigh, etc. I agree, which is why I like Greer. His argument is change will be coming, but slower than you think. And, based on past history, recent and not so recent, I think that's correct.

Stoneleigh thought that credit would dry up, and the store shelves could be empty over night. It didn't turn out that way. Yes, there was some trouble in that regard, but it wasn't catastrophic. They fixed it...temporarily, anyway.

And this is the other important lesson we can take from predictions. Even Greer misses this, or doesn't emphasize it enough, IMO. It's that collapse is not a one-way street. It's more like the price of oil (only in reverse). Stair steps down may be followed by stair steps up. Many of the more pessimistic sorts believe that once things start to collapse, it's only down from there.

I think history proves that wrong. New Orleans got better after Katrina. Russia has bounced back from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Argentina recovered from their financial collapse. Does that mean they are sustainable in the long term? No. But it does mean that riots over food and water one day may be followed by years of BAU. Not a one-way trip to Mad Max or the stone age.

Nice having this discussion with you. I have to go out and move firewood. I'll close with a quote from William Burroughs' "Queer," which is one of my favorite comments on prediction, ever:

"So we got like a holy man and some b*tch reporter comes to interview him.

"He sits there chewing his betel nut. After a while, he says to one of his acolytes, 'Go down to the Sacred Well and bring me a dipper of paregoric. I'm going to make with the Wisdom of the East. And shake the lead out of your loin cloth.' So he drinks the P.G. and goes into a trance, and makes cosmic contact--we call it going on the nod in the trade.

"The reporter says, 'Will there be war with Russia, Mahatma? Will Communism destroy the civilized world? Does God exist?'

"The Mahatma opens his eyes and compresses his lips and spits two long, red streams of betel nut juice out through his nose holes. It runs down over his mouth and he licks it back in with a long, coated tongue and says, 'How in the f*ck should I know?'"

Moral: Prognosticating is utterly pointless and practically useless. Read for entertainment purposes only.

Moral: Prognosticating is utterly pointless and practically useless. Read for entertainment purposes only.

And I disagree. I think there's a lot to be gained from looking at what makes for accurate prediction and what doesn't.

Plus, it was really profitable for me personally, to listen to those who predicted the dot-com and housing crashes. ;-)

This is the "20/20 Hindsight Fallacy." When our "predictions" are "confirmed" by subsequent events, we take the credit. We they are disconfirmed, we rationalize.

Reading prognostications today, I want to know: "What are you telling me to do?"

This is exactly why I don't mention peak oil except to those who know about it, because the question inevitably arises, "So what does one do?", the answer to which is, "I haven't the foggiest."

Well, there are and have been numerous courses of action to do:

- use taxes and other incentives to prod folks into buying vehicles with double to triple the mileage of their current vehicles (jettison the phantasy of rolling large in your Dodge Ram or Ford Excursion and get down with the 21st century version of a plastic-skinned Geo Metro for long-distance driving and NEV-type vehicles recharged by rooftop PV, etc for intracity commuting)

- Drive less, bike and walk more

- carpool

- Use buses more

- move closer to your work (or to a pool of businesses that can provide you work)

BUT: Until the price of gasoline rises to the point where these lifestyle transportation changes become necessary, there is absolutely no impetus to do these (and so many more) things!

If you or I or anyone were to lay out the ways to power down our profligate transportation energy use to stretch out our remaining oil supplies and transition to a post-oil lifestyle, most people would point to the gas pump sign and say 'I don't believe you', you are a wacko or a socialist control freak.

So either the frogs will slowly come to boil or maybe the wheels will come off our current BAU paradigm suddenly and dramatically...but the majority of people are going to keep on keeping on with BAU until they can't...

"This is the "20/20 Hindsight Fallacy." When our "predictions" are "confirmed" by subsequent events, we take the credit. We they are disconfirmed, we rationalize."

I disagree. Evolution has clearly provided us with the ability to make "predictions", and to learn from our misinterpretation of signs, trends and sometimes even the obvious. If this ability had not been useful in the past we wouldn't possess it.

I read recently (not sure where) about Elephants in South Asia. Folks were worried that the tsunami that occured had killed the Elephants that lived near the coast. Turns out that the Elephants were the first ones to head for high ground, well before the tsunami hit. Sometime in the past, some matriarch of some group of Elephants figured out the warning signs of a tsunami, low freq vibrations perhaps, and decided to head (or stay) inland. Whether this is now a learned behavior, passed down by the elephant elders, or simple instinct matters little. This group of Elephants lives to reproduce and teach what they now know or pass on these warning genes.

Too many humans are ignoring too many warning signs.

I fear indecision/inaction more than being wrong.


It looks like some of these people are smiling :-/

This is a fascinating take on the subject.

But the elephants are not "predicting" anything. They're simply responding to blind, genetic instructions, "If X, then Y."

"They're simply responding to blind, genetic instructions, "If X, then Y."

Are they? I'm not so sure. If so, why aren't we? My gut tells me that the days of plenty are short; take action now, for myself and my offspring. Intellect? Instinct? Paranoia brought about by TOD overexposure?

Thanks for the fun! Gotta go paint the greatroom.

When our "predictions" are "confirmed" by subsequent events, we take the credit. We they are disconfirmed, we rationalize.

It is difficult, maybe impossible, to avoid that, but I think it's worthwhile to try. That's what Gilbert tries to do in his book - help people get beyond their own biases. Might not be possible, but it's worth a shot.

The reason I believed those who said the dot-com boom and housing boom were bubbles was not hindsight. Nor was it believing what I wanted to believe. It was looking at history. It's not perfect, but it's better than any other method we have. Greer gets this.

Reading prognostications today, I want to know: "What are you telling me to do?"

I like Greer for this reason, too. I think his recommendations make sense. Basically, he's saying, "Prepare to improvise, because the future probably won't be what you're expecting." May seem simple and obvious, but a lot of peak oilers seem unable to grasp this.

He also points out that any actions you take now must make economic sense in the present. Again, something that many peak oilers ignore.

Lastly, I really like his Advice from German Poets. Learn one thing, give up one thing, save one thing. That seems like something that would be useful and enriching no matter what happens in the future.

"Prepare to improvise, because the future probably won't be what you're expecting."

If "what you're expecting" includes "headed for a dark age, as the author of the statement believes," then I'd have to agree. But the statement is so vague as to be useless ("improvise"?) and it therefore undermines its purpose as advice.

The lecturing tone also irks me. I'll take Orlov any day over this stuff. I don't believe him half the time but he makes me laugh.

The problem I have is that in Greer I hear banalities disguised as aphorisms. I think of the movie about the savant that inhabited the White House--"Being There"(?)--where at the heart of it there was nothing, nothing at all.

But the statement is so vague as to be useless ("improvise"?) and it therefore undermines its purpose as advice.

Again, I disagree. I think it's something many peak oilers overlook, to their peril. They get so locked in on one imagined future that they're blindsided by the unexpected. IMO, everyone needs to keep in mind that people are terrible at predictions, and whatever you think the future will be, you're probably wrong.

As for specific advice...I don't think that's desirable or possible. Everyone's situation is different, and they need to make their own decisions. Telling people "you need to move to a walkable urban neighborhood" or "you need to buy an organic farm in the boondocks" or "you need to move to a small town" is neither justified or useful.

Note that sociologists are even worse than economists when it comes to making predictions. To the best of my knowledge, not one single sociologist predicted the post-World War II Baby Boom. Nor can I recall a single sociologist who predicted the end of the baby boom after it was in full swing. Not one sociologist predicted the race riots in the U.S. in mid 1960s. No sociologist predicted that these race riots would abruptly end, as they did.

Of course sociologists deal with whole societies instead of the narrower concept of economists; their job is inherently more difficult than that of economists.

My favorite sociologist who made predictions about the future is the late Pitirim (sp.?) Sorokin. So far his analysis seems to be right on. About sixty years ago he predicted a swing back toward religion in the U.S., and the rise in Protestant fundamentalism in recent decades fits right in with what he predicted. Sorokin used a historical approach enriched with a lot of sociological statistics.

Leanan - The conversation has reminded me of a point I would drive when I mentored young geologists/geophysicists: your maps are not “facts”…they are predictions. And the most important point to remember: all maps (predictions) are wrong. Wrong to some degree. Your well might be a discovery but odds are it won’t be just like you mapped it. And it might be a dry hole. A failure because you missed a critical interpretation or because there were unknown factors that could not be predicted. So the issue isn’t whether the prediction is correct or not. It’s a question of which potential errors are inconsequential and which will have a huge negative impact.

An investigator can offer his prediction of the “unpredictable“. After all, how often do we see the “predictable” fail to materialize? I’ve drilled two “sure shot…can’t miss” wells in my career. And not just by my interpretation but fully agreed with by many. And both were dry holes. But IMHO it takes hubris to predict even the somewhat unpredictable. It can also take a far degree of hubris to believe the clearly predictable since that ain’t always correct either. I kid westexas about his exploration hubris. But without it many wildcats wouldn’t be drilled.

One fairly recent book that successfully predicted the future was IRRATIONAL EXPECTATIONS by Robert Schiller. He predicted rather accurately the ending of the real-estate bubble in the U.S. and some of its major consequences.

This book is by no means unique. And Schiller is a very well known and widely respected econonomist, generally a mainstream economist.

Here's the dilemma:

At the time Schiller's book was published, there were many, many other books predicting different things.

Now that subsequent events have "proven" Schiller right, how do you know he hasn't just been "selected" by chance?

In other words, how would you have known at the time he was "right"? What specific predictions did he make, how many of them did he make, what was the timing?

Did such predictions come "true" by a demonstrable margin over chance predictions?

It's hugely problematic, the "20/20 Hindsight" error all over again.

I've been reading Schiller for twenty-five years or so--ever since he began publishing. I even used his textbooks for a few years in my Microeconomics and Macroeconomics classes that I taught. When I was doing research for the textbook that I wrote [ECONOMICS: MAKING GOOD CHOICES] I used Schiller as one of my major sources. After you've been in a field such as economics for a few decades you get pretty good about sifting out the wheat from the chaff. It has been clear to me for a long time that Schiller was wheat.

Note that many books predicting our financial and economic future are not written by economists but instead are written by financial journalists. With few exceptions, the work of financial journalists is poor--superficial and ignorant of some of the most basic basic fundamentals of economists. The last book that I read by a financial journalist was THE BANKERS by Martin Mayer. He was good. That book is well worth reading today, though it is long out of print.

Note that at The Automatic Earth the articles posted are almost all by financial journalists; they seldom post articles by economists. That is one reason I don't take TAE too seriously, though you can find some interesting numbers there most days.

Then what you are asking for is that if I make a prediction, That I can also say that my prediction will happen at 4:25 am on Day X in month Y of year ####.

I predict that my predictions will be 95% correct, but that having a 5% chance of failure, also means that they are unpredictably likely to fail as well. Am I willing to bet against my unpredictable 5% chance of being wrong. For me that answer is yes. I play a lot of pool and at times I know for a sure thing that I can sink the ball in that pocket, and I'd almost be willing to give you a prediction of 100%, but I know better than that.

Past actions of me playing pool, can not predict for me what my future outcomes are going to be, because I have been surprised too many times. I just do not predict my shots, In Pool that is known as Calling your shot. I don't do that unless the other player requires it of me, to play the game.

You mentioned, tossing a coin to get a prediction, that is the chance predictions. But the people who predict our future, have to use something beyond that, or else anyone's guess, or anyone's rolling of the dice is just as good as the rest. What you seem to be saying is that given 40 guys tossing coins, and 40 guys giving their opinions, the end result is the same. All predictions are random chance, period.

All I know is that things change, that I can't predict the weather, that I can't predict what my body will do, what it is doing, or what it might do, so I'd best just be good at rolling with anything that happens to happen in my direction.

I will say that the two times in the past that I had money tied up in a 401(k) I cashed out before each up swing session had dipped. But that it was not something I did on my own, That God was looking out for me, would be my guess. As I was able to live off those funds being out of work both times.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

Sarge, basically what Greer and Don are saying is that they believe we will have a long slow descent and things will get a little worse each year but nothing that we cannot deal with. In other words there will be no catastrophes, only some really hard times. That is a prediction pure and simple and a prediction I cannot agree with.

Remember when crude oil production starts to decline it will decline forever, or until circumstances dictate that no more production will even be attempted. Only a fraction of the current seven billion people can possibly survive then. And that time will be here in less than 50 years, probably less than 30 years.

People who have lived at the very edge of survival all their lives and have always known hunger will likely just lay down and die without protest. But that is not the way the newly impoverished will behave. They will blame someone else for their predicament and they will do everything in their power to punish those whom they feel are responsible for their plight.

No, no one can predict the future, especially when the future is likely to be anarchy and chaos. But to believe it will all go down gradually and we can all adjust gradually to harder times is a little like a grown man still believing in Santa Clause.

Ron P.

I expect the world's population will be somewhere between half a billion and one billion people in two hundred years. Thus I am forecasting a dramatic increase in death rates. But a country can take enormous declines and still exist. Take a look at Zimbabwe for example: hyperinflation for years, not able to pay for much oil, an insane dictator in charge. Nevertheless, life goes on. Life expectency in Zimbabwe is roughly now what life expectancy was was in the U.S.--somewhere around forty.

IMHO, the United States will probably still exist thirty or forty years from now, but with a life expectancy of about forty--much higher death rates and very greatly higher infant mortality rates than we now have. I have no idea what the population will be, because when Mexico's oil runs out and Mexico goes down the tubes to a Zimbabwe level, there may be a mass migration of tens of millions of Mexicans into the U.S.

If people can live and get by in Zimbabwe today, I think most Americans will be able to live with greatly lowered standards of living twenty and thirty years from now. Implicit in this forecast is a change from a capitalist to a command economy, probably somewhere around 2020.

By the way, the population of Italy at the time of Rome's fall in 476 was very roughly half what it was before the great plague of 166. Indeed, that plague during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (one of the best emperors Rome ever had) may have reduced the Italian population by one half, to judge from what data we have. It marked the true beginning of Rome's long decline.

Demography is one of my big interests, and I had three classes in it, one as an undergrad and two as a graduate student in sociology.

You may be right, provided we can keep some energy and some food coming to the masses. If the production halts, we have to remember that we have populations that were unheard of in the times of the roman empire. Zimbabwe gets by right now because there is an outside world that pipes in needed 'stuff'. In the world to come, there won't be an 'outside' world. What is is. If you can't produce it yourself and protect it, you won't have it. Given the 'overshoot' of population and the better than even chance that the system will collapse totally. I'm more willing to go along with Ron's scenerio of a mass die off up front. Once we have shed 5 or 6 billion people, then you will get an equilibrium start to evolve.

I'm not sure that we might not see nuclear war started just for the purpose gaining resources, but more importantly to significantly reduce population. Yes you have residual radiation, but as you see from Hiroshima, it isn't the end of everything. I think you will have idiots decide it is the lesser of evils. I can easily see a command government like China make that decision. Who know's who we might have here making decisions once things get really tough.

But we have burros and the locals are VERY good at building carts out of old automobile parts. Plenty of food grown within a small area here. Not too worried.


No, no one can predict the future, especially when the future is likely to be anarchy and chaos. But to believe it will all go down gradually and we can all adjust gradually to harder times is a little like a grown man still believing in Santa Clause.

Please note how this prediction can fit on one side of an index card. That is the worth of such predictions, not whole books. Not that I'm disagreeing with you, either. I'm biased by readings in Catton, et al.

Here's another prediction fit for an index card and thus worthy of our time:

The lesson is that zero population growth is going to happen. Now, we can debate whether we like zero population growth or don't like it, it’s going to happen. Whether we debate it or not, whether we like it or not, it’s absolutely certain. ...Therefore, today’s high birth rates will drop; today’s low death rates will rise till they have exactly the same numerical value.

Therefore, today’s high birth rates will drop; today’s low death rates will rise till they have exactly the same numerical value.

Births and deaths will be at the same point only for an instant. After that the death rate will be much larger than the birth rate and will remain so until some time well into the future. Of course that is a prediction and the data that supports that prediction would not fit on an index card.

Ron P.

You've changed my statement from "this prediction can fit on one side of an index" to your statement "the data that supports that prediction would not fit on an index card."

I'm not disagreeing with you. In fact, your comment above fits nicely on an index card.

We need a series of peak oil fortune cookies.

(I forgot to cite the quoted prediction: Albert Bartlett, "Arithmetic, Population, Et Cetera.")

The news on peak oil in 2010 was just posted. Not much new here except this comparison. You have seen the two graphs before, but probably never side by side.

Compare the two graphs from 2009 to 2010:

Notice that in the 2010 world report there is no expectation of us ever reaching over 100 million barrels of oil per day in production. Also notice the sharp and sudden cliff we are heading towards in conventional oil.

Ron P.

I think the 2009 forecast is right on one point: Production from "fields yet to be developed" will peak long before 2035. For example, many of these fields will be abandoned before 2035.

Actually production from "Fields yet to be developed" is pretty flat from about 2015 until about 2025. The decline you see is because the base, "Crude oil - currently producing fields" declines so sharply.

Ron P.

Yes, but that is probably correct. "Fields yet to be developed" will start production between 2010 and 2020 (mostly between 2010 and 2015) and peak between 2015 and 2025. In the 2010 forecast, production from "Fields yet to be developed" keeps growing until 2035.

Also, "fields yet to be found, and yet to be developed" are way overstated. We will be on the permanent downward slope by 2020.

Both these charts are drawn with the soft nebulous 'yet to be developed' and 'yet to be found' bits in the middle. I wonder what impression the would have on the press if they were drawn in order of likelyhood of actual production, with 'yet to be found' clearly on top.

There is an art to chartmanship,


I think both categories could easily be combined into 'Wishful Thinking'.

How about "Fantasy Oil"? Maybe I can use some of that in my dream car, if I win the lottery.

The biggest change, though, appears to be the decrease in the forecast for natural gas liquids. Hard to measure, but it looks like a 20-25% decline in the 2030 number. Have they changed their forecast for NG production? Changed the fraction that could be expected to be liquids? Changed where those liquids are going to get used?

You are correct, Ron.
This is an interesting comparison.
This is the same agency which only a few years ago predicted world demand of 130 mbpd, as I recall.

The time-line has been extended to 2035, which only makes things look worse. Conventional oil continues to drop (whereas we've been told to expect a long, flattened tail... no sign of it here).
An without having a ruler & calipers (and my eyes aren't that good) it appears to me that for 2030 the 09 projection for conventional is well over 20, but in the new graph it's at or below 20.
As for new developments of conventional, we don't get the near-term bulge which was predicted in the 08 and 09 graphs.
And the 6th category, EOR is missing entirely in the new graph.

U.S. of "Irony and Hypocrisy": We're No. 1 ... At Currency Manipulation, Pento Says


Grain prices are getting hideous again.

We buy turkey and pig feed from our local hardware store. Last week, grain prices went up $.50 "across the board." This week, $.20.

A bag (50 lb) of turkey finisher now costs about $13.00.

A bag (50 lb) of turkey finisher now costs about $13.00.

I'd say that's quite cheap for a bag full of axes, that is what turkey finisher means, right? >;^)


So are you saying i won't find a clearance turkey the day before Thanksgiving this year like i did last year (it had obviously been dropped on the floor, but man was it cheap! and organic)???

The Denver Post ran a story this morning about donated turkeys. This particular charity usually handles about 6,000 frozen birds each year. By this time last year they had 4,000 in hand; this year, less than 300.

I have some 4 legged 'turkey' if you're interest. The price of cat chow is getting outrageous! I have 2 'turkeys' too many.

My favorite fortune-cookie fortune...

"That wasn't chicken"

a little off-topic, but here goes...
'turkey finisher'? I am raising turkeys for the first time this year- (love 'em! I've done almost every other type of fowl but i had always been put off turkeys by what turns out to have been misinformation)- anyway, i went to my local feed store and asked about a finisher for them, basically thinking i wanted to lower the protein and raise the fat, and he told me that current thinking is just to finish them on their regular feed (in my case Purina flock raiser pellets.) I believe his reasoning was that the higher corn ratio was not taken up by birds as efficiently as in mammals and doesn't result in much weight gain.
I'm agnostic so i am interested in your take on it.
also... $13 seems almost quaint for a bag of feed. The turkey/game bird pellets I was feeding them was $18. Yikes!
it only pencils out when you can supplement with local forage or ag byproducts.

We've tried turkeys years ago, and I wasn't impressed. Still not, and I guess that goes for most fowl, tho my wife still has chickens. For a northern areas, just too much expensive feeds vs eggs/meat provided. (Even free range, when you factor in coyote/cat mortality.)

We do have an alternative for Thanksgiving turkey. Home grown peacocks. Much more dark meat, tastes very similar to pheasant, and much larger bird. They're free range, so no feeding in the summer, minimal grain only in winter, but I know they swipe the chicken grain and dog food if they can. Predators take their toll of the young, but always seems to be much, much more than enough. Very long lived it seems, my wife's favorite male is over 10.

Correction: The price was $13.75. Seems like it was 9 dollars not too long ago.

The turkeys are not a for-profit operation. We raise 8--1 or 2 for us, the rest we sell to friends for $2.50/lb plus butcher's fee. Outrageous compared to store prices, yes, but people love our birds, esp. the fact that they're not raised in concentration camps. The poop is lovely, compostable.

As for the finisher--I don't know if it makes a difference. That's what the store has now, so that's what we buy.

Turkeys are fun. They're flightless dinosaurs that yap like dogs.

If you have a market, and you enjoy the bird yourself, great.

There's no mistaking a peacock call, for several counties.... Can't count the movies where I hear a peacock in the background and wonder...We have extensive flocks of wild turkeys all around in the county, a pest in many regards. Especially for the compost starter kits the large flocks leave over yards and walks. Surprising thing about the peacocks is that they keep the flocks of turkey at bay. So while neighbors complain of knee deep turkey leavings, we have only our own peacock mess to contend with. Not the best of trades. As for finishers, the wild ones here winter fatten primarily on Ponderosa pine seed.

Regarding public vs private compensation and retirement plans, Time has this:
Teachers' $500 Billion (and Growing) Pension Problem


Thanks for the link. My own pension fund, Teachers' Retirement Association of Minnesota used to be overfunded at some times in the past; now it is underfunded--only 85% funded the last time I looked. Of course, TRA was using economic growth (real GDP) estimates of about 3.5% over the past forty years or so. The problem of underfunded teachers' pensions will get much worse as the economy stagnates. And if we get either a deflationary depression or hyperinflation (or both, one after the other) the pension plans will crumble and fail.

Fortunately, I have my four fine children to rely on when and if my Social Security and TRA pension incomes become either much reduced or perhaps become worthless.


You've mentioned you were in community college ed. Does the fund you mention above cover K12 in MN, or are K12 and higher ed separate?

I've commented previously on my thoughts of public compensation levels, probably we are in disagreement on this. Public K12 compensation is well beyond what you find privately. And I wonder if taxpayers will shoulder their retirement debt. Back in the last big recession, early 80's, quite a few higher ed instructors were back in school to get K12 certification. Called them "retreads" at the university, allowing to the age difference to the bulk of ed majors. K12 was a high paid cush job compared to a university instructor.

There is a reason why private schools pay less: people want to work there (i.e. supply and demand).

You have to pay people less to work in a nice school where the kids have supportive parents, and more to work in a school where they might get stabbed.

There is another reason: The credentials required to teach at a private school are usually less than that required to teach in a public school.

Teachers are paid less at private schools primarily because private schools are not unionized. Private schools also tend to provide a very stingy package of benefits. I never have met a public school teacher who wanted to teach in private school. Because of the large surplus of teachers, many of them are forced to work at private schools because they cannot find jobs in the public schools.

It did not used to be this way. Back when I went to private high school there was a shortage of teachers, and private schools had to pay competitive salaries. In those days, the early 1950s, private schools often paid higher salaries than public ones did.

By the way, at most private schools there is no such thing as tenure. You can be fired at any time for any reason or for no reason at all. Not so in public schools.


Was Michele Bachmann one of your students?

I have had over 9,000 students during 31 years of teaching. If Michelle went to Itasca Community College, she probably had me for an instructor in sociology or economics or philosophy, or accounting, or interdisciplinary humanities, all of which I taught. Indeed, I was the entire sociology department, the entire economics department, and the whole philosophy department. (Indeed, I created the Philosophy department at ICC.) I have had some Bachmans as students but do not recall a Bachmann.

Bachmann: Winona State University / Oral Roberts / William and Mary

That list of educational institutions tells a lot about Michelle Bachmann. Of all Minnesota state universities, Winona is the weakest--except in nursing and education, where they are strong. Oral Roberts, very interesting and not surprising. Did she get a law degree from William & Mary? Bachmann is a truly bigoted woman, and not very bright either. None the less, she is very strong politically in her district. To be a success in politics does not require a good education or exceptional intelligence.

As a group, lawyers are not too bright. They are highly verbal and good at argumentation, but that does not make them bright. I've known many lawyers who were innumerate. In fact, most CPAs can tell many good stories about the ignorance and stupidity of lawyers.

As a group, lawyers are not too bright.

Lawyers are no different than any other herd-full of humans who share a common education.

Some lawyers are drug addicts, some compulsive gamblers and some geniuses.

The one thing we have in common is that in law school we have our brains twisted to operate in a same thinking framework as that which the judges operate in.

Accordingly, it may sound totally insane to ordinary folk to start talking about arcane aspects of "civil procedure" --i.e. proper service of process, long arm jurisdiction, etc. But for lawyers, res ipsa loquitor --the thing almost speaks for itself.

If you know Latin (as I do) studying law becomes a lot easier. I do know some very bright lawyers. On the average, however, they are not as bright as engineers and not even in the same league as physicists.

Here good private schools pay more than most public schools, and among all of them teachers pick based on classroom support as much as salaries.

In cheaper schools, teachers often dip into their pockets to provide basic materials, or do without. In a wealthier school, the school funds the needs and the booster club passes the hat for more.

Some Christian schools pay less because they see teaching as a ministry, and you get all sorts of variance from that dynamic.

Community college and university profs make more than secondary teachers, except maybe for special ed teachers. Administrators, including especially the union employees of the service centers who work on curriculum and textbook selection, seem to make more than in-the-trenches teachers, though arguably providing less value.

At least being a primary school teacher won't be outsourced to India too soon. I think plumber is still safer, though.

"Hello how may I help you, I am Mr. Singh."

The India sounding voice said, which made me wonder, what happened to Joe's South Arkansas Twang.

"Is this Joe's Plumbing Service?" I asked thinking I might have gotten a wrong number.

"Yes this is Joe's Plumbing Service. I am here to assist you in all your plumbing needs." Said the voice that now had a bit more of an accent to it than I would of had liked hearing given that my sinks were clogged and the floor was wet.

"Okay so what happened to Joe Fairchild, and Why didn't he answer the phone?"

"He has out sourced his service to India Sir. I will walk you through what you need to do to fix your problem, all you need is the proper tools and my expert help over the phone...."

I am not sure what else he might have said, as I was running for the door and screaming into the night.


Laughs out loud after having used something like this bity story in a voiced skit to my dad after reading your post.

They already outsource tech help for your computer, and I have called my dad up more than once to have him walk me through some sort of household help before, so I would not bet that plumbers and other such services could not be outsourced off site in the coming years, all it takes is something to think about it and try to do it.

This in no way says that India is a poor place to find a plumber, just that over the phone help still means you yourself are doing all the work, and not some expert, who can think faster than you when trouble arises. Hands on working is loads better than a call center helper, in a lot of things.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world, aka Author at Large.

To the best of my knowledge, TRA covers all teachers in public schools at all levels in the state of Minnesota, with the exception of the University of Minnesota. It does not cover teachers in private schools.

IMO, good teachers are underpaid and the bad teachers should be fired. Unfortunately, the teachers' unions don't agree with my approach.

Cyclical business climates help a lot with cutting deadwood. In a for-profit operation, when things get tight and you have to cut, you absolutely must fire the deadwood first or you'll scare off everybody highly competent (who will simply go get a job at a good company who makes smarter decisions).

During the good times nobody has time to worry about marginal producers -- you get them to do SOMETHING at least -- so they tend to stick around too long. Kinda like drone bees though, and when it gets chilly and the nectar gets short they get pushed out into the cold.

In public schools, when the crunch comes, teachers are laid off in reverse order of seniority. The unions have that provision built into the contract. Thus the deadwood stays and you lay off the youngest and most energetic and some of the best teachers.

It is a perverted system.

In other careers time on the job gets called "experience" and is valued. Do you think young teachers spring fully experienced from the head of Zeus?

Teaching is not about being young and energetic. It's a job like any other, not a gift or a calling or any of that, and experience is just as important in the field as in any other. Trying to mythologize teaching as some kind of magical ability of youthful energy is stupid.

Good teachers get better over time and bad teachers get worse over time. I was a much better instructor in year 2000 than I was in 1970. We learn by making mistakes in teaching. The bad teachers are often somewhat stupid, but mainly they do not care or are unable to see things from the students' points of view.

By the way there is one way to get rid of elderly teachers at the top of the salary schedule, and the Minnesota State Colleges and University system used it. It is the Rule of 90. If your age plus your years of teaching experience equals at least ninety then you can retire on full pension, same as you would get if you worked until age 65. Not only did I qualify under the Rule of 90, but they also offered me a full year of salary and medical benefits for the first year after I retired. Who could say "No." to that?

By the way, I was replaced with several cheap part-time instructors, none of whom was very good.

Cyclical business climates help a lot with cutting deadwood. In a for-profit operation, when things get tight and you have to cut, you absolutely must fire the deadwood first or you'll scare off everybody highly competent

I've seen the contrast in how private companies choose layoff victims during cyclical versus secular contractions. During the former, upper management threw darts at the org chart, but there was an appeals period during which lower level managers and victims could make a case that the victim is too valauble to lose. Hence during cyclic layoff, the better workers were usually retained, and the best employees felt secure. During secular contraction (the long downhill glide path), they still throw darts, but the darts are usually preferentially attracted to the higher paid staff, which usually means the top performers. And then there are absolutely no appeals, so they tend to trim out the older more experienced who look more expensive to the bean counters. And those victims aren't so sure it was a bad thing "better now while they still have funds for severance packages".

I agree with most of your comments on teachers. For the truly good teachers, we truly can't pay them enough. But then, I think they are in it for reasons other than money. And the bad ones should be fired.

Your comment on UM and the rest of the state begs the question-why? they see the writing on the wall and self insured/funded?

I don't know anything about UM or its funding of pensions. In the state budget, UM is on a line all by itself; it has a lot of political clout because many of its alumni are in high places, including the state legislature. UM is the only real research-oriented university in the state, and to encourage its research activities it gets a lot of political support from some powerful corporations in the state. It does seem to be more generously funded than the state university and community college system, but that is really comparing apples to oranges, because the mission of UM is different from the mission and functions of the other colleges and universities.

85% isn't too bad. They don't fail them until they are in really deep do-do. I'm in one that is something like 65% (and I won't retire for several more years). Last I heard, if you have been getting retirement pay for five years at the time it officially goes under, you continue to get the full amount, but those that miss the deadline take the full haircut. PBGC limit is $35 per month per year of vesting (which is several times smaller than what people around here have on the books -i.e. the haircut will be a severe buzzcut.) I always though that plan was too good to be true, so I never built a mental expectation of getting it, so at least it won't be a shock when if hits.

I always find it frustrating that these articles never say how the figure is calculated. Presumably it's some sort of net present value figure obtained by discounting and summing future shortages; after all, none of these funds appear to be at risk of missing any payments for at least 15-20 years. What discount rates? What actuarial assumptions on longevity? What assumptions about investment returns? The example given of $3,000 per resident for three states sounds like a scary number; but if that's spread over a 30-year period, with a 5% discount rate, it works out to about $3.75 per week.

Of course, the article makes it sound like the contracts with the teachers are sacred in some fashion. As a well-known economist once said, "If something can't continue forever, then it will stop." Lots of workers in the steel and airline industries have discovered just how sacred their pension guarantees weren't. When the time comes, cities and school districts will declare bankruptcy and redo their pension payments. State governments can't go through bankruptcy, but can certainly default. If the payments can't be made, they won't be; the only question is how/when things get changed.

Believe me, teacher pensions are big business. I don't think the executives and managers of Minnesota TRA are very good, but on the other hand, they aren't very bad either. I do know that they are paid a heckuva lot more than I ever was--and for mediocre perfomance.

Re: Recharge that electric car wirelessly

The company's description of the technology states that the generator (converts 60 Hz AC to 20 kHz) is better than 94% efficient. Anyone know off hand how efficient the open-air tuned magnetic coupling is likely to be?

From the looks of the arrangement in the sales pitch, I would guess there is a lot of energy loss to induction heating of metal parts in the vehicle. I can't see how they can keep induction heating from happening. But maybe there really is some innovation that I don't know about. Like maybe making the entire vehicle out of non-conducting ceramic materials.

Tuning also involves the use of capacitors to provide contervailing reactive load. These can also be quite efficient if enough money is spent on the right materials.

The arrangement is known to EEs as a tranformer. Transformers can be as efficient as desired (up to 100%) but at a cost in materials. The design rules are well understood. There is good software for evaluating any design before a prototype is made. This to the point that some shops skip prototyping. But ... packaging the primary and secondary coils in separate physical structures is seldom done.

I think that a fancier design of electrical plug with robotic actuators for plugging and unplugging would the a better solution to customer convenience issues.

Using induction to charge a car (or bus) on the go has been tried successfully multiple time, including a fairly detailled assay performed at the University of California Santa Barbara in the 90's before their credit got cut. From what I read, you get induction only in the receiver because it needs to be of the right shape and at right angle to the source to get the induction working at the frequency used which in that case was 800 Hz. Also it is closer to the ground than the rest of the car so absob most of the energy first and there were additionnal electronic circuits added to limit losses. The maximal distance in that case was 7 inches but the eficiency is better with less than 4 inches. In that test in the 90's they claimed over 80% efficiency and could transmit 60 kV which was far enough to get their test mid-size bus going at 45 mph indefinitively. I think what killed the project was their estimation of the cost of the magnetic rail to provide the electricity to the car/buses: around 1 million $/mile.
Comparatively to the consequences of peak oil I found that quite cheap, specially for dense area.
Of course there are a few minor problems if you try to scale this up like were the electricity is going to come from and the need to essentially rebuild a whole electric network for the purpose of electrifying the roads...

Overhead wires with transmission by contact is a well proven system. Two wires for trolley buses.

Wear and other reasons make this not an option for every car.


I'm not officially an EE, but know enough to have done some circuit design on small projects (enough to worry about voltage spikes if one side abruptly switches from a low to high impedance state). I know that transformers can approach 100% efficiency with superconductors. And that tuned transformers can be pretty efficient even with normal materials: electric grid transmission losses average about 7%, and that includes at least a couple of step-down transformers. As you say, physically separate primary and secondary with an air core is less usual, and I was curious as to whether someone could put a number, or at least a range of numbers, on it.

I know that transformers can approach 100% efficiency with superconductors. And that tuned transformers can be pretty efficient even with normal materials

Normal tranformers have some sort of magnetic "core" which conducts, and effectively amplifies the magnetic fields by hundreds to thousands fold. The air gap breaks that efficient flux conduit. And the
system has to cope with variable spacing and geometry (unless it has actuators to adjust it). I can't imagine efficiency will be very great. I'd much prefer a plug. Just gotta make the plug easy to connect/disconnect. They are using fairly high frequency, because it takes an obscene number of windings if the magnetic properties are weak, and the frequency is lowish.

I've already responded to a comment by Alan below giving some of my general feeling about this way of charging the EV batteries. I really don't have a good feeling about how efficient a 'realistic' design could be. I am convinced that Laws of Physics are NOT violated. This is NOT a fraud like perpetual motion, but I am also convinced that the problem of connecting to the grid for the purpose of recharging is too trivial to justify this level of scientific hokus pokus. It might help sell a stock offering, but beyond that it makes little sense, IMHO. I think a new product for automotive industry should use technology that is mostly already familiar to people who have been earning their living fixing cars, not a technology familiar only to recycled PhD physicists, and similar geeks. But maybe I'm mistaken.

One thing to consider. The power level will be quite high during charging of a large battery pack. If the efficiency is NOT near perfect then substantial power will be being used to heat something in the near environment. That something can be damaged by the heat, and that damage may be a far more important issue than the inefficiency of the coupling.

To some extent I think these discussions are another manifestation of the lack of intuition we have about how much energy is involved with making cars go. There is so much energy in gasoline, and we've become so used to it that it's darn near invisible. One you try to supply it with electricity you run smack into serious design problems - well, serious feasibility problems really, and ones that make the idea of a one-for-one replacement of the ICE automobile with an EV impossible.

When you fill your tank with gasoline you are not transferring energy so much as moving a fluid that is already charged. To actually move the required energy into the storage media is a whole different problem. The power levels involved are very high if you want to do it in a fairly short time. Any losses will be major problems (like with heating as you've described). To deal with that you will have to decrease the power levels and increase the charging time. I cannot see the losses associated with a poor inductive coupling as ever being acceptable. Nor does it sound likely we could afford the infrastructure costs, even without superconductors.

An ICE powered vehicle has for all practical purposes a 100% duty cycle.

An EV has a duty cycle that is much less, unless you run it on wires like a street car - and then it would be a street car.

Not good for people with pacemakers.


Not to mention stirring up all those people who think cell phones give you brain cancer.

There is a vast difference in frequency between a cell phone and anything that would be used in a charging system. I'm an EE and am not worried about low frequency fields, but I will not use a Bluetooth and I don't like having that phone up by my head. Then again, I don't like talking on the phone much.

A bluetooth is FAR less wattage output than a cell phone.

Are you claiming the the frequency matters far more than the outputted power?

I think it likely, and I don't want either next to my head for any length of time. Keep in mind the power does not fall off linearly with distance either. I don't and probably won't ever have the full picture, as once large sums of money are involved truth can get rather scarce. Still, the idea that RF can't cause any kind of problems with the functioning of cells and such strikes me as foolishness.

On the other hand, I also believe that humans conspire, so I am obviously a kook.

Hey, I'm with you on the cell phone thing. I hate the damned things. I just never bought off on the brain cancer thing. But, I was too busy getting the lymphoma cured I guess. U R the EE so I have to bow to your expertise.

There has never been any published evidence to show Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and mobiles have anything like the capacity to significantly and pejoratively affect human cellular functions. Aside from very low levels of thermal conductivity with headsets, the RF field won't do jack. We've had radio for well over a century outputting FAR more than any of these little devices (I myself live not far from a major TV transmitter). So the onus is on those scaremongering about wireless technology to provide such evidence. You can sit next to HV pylons putting out plenty of juice and suffer no ill effect (except perhaps insomnia if the noise gets to you).


The situation a much more complicated that you allow. No one exposes a fellow human being to an energetic field that might be harmful just to satisfy scientific curiosity. Without some serious soul searching the government cannot approve the kind of experimenting that could lead to scientific evidence either way.

The anecdotal evidence is that RF radiation is, at worst, far LESS dangerous than ionizing radiation of radioactive sources. But, strangely, that seems not to be enough to reassure some people. ;-)

True. I'm not saying we should charge cars wirelessly, if only for practical reasons to do with inefficiencies from wireless charging right now anyway (I don't believe the market hype), but until I see some conclusive evidence of RF being a serious health hazard, I'm going to ignore it when things like coal powerplant ash in the air, or flights close to the van Allen belts in airliners are far more likely to give you the Big C.

These systems work with a resonant circuit that is tuned to just the right frequency - and this needs relatively large inductors and capacitors. The wavelength is very long (miles for 800Hz) so it's like the fear of overhead power lines and not really an issue. Also, the people in the car are naturally shielded by the car. We would only need the system on the freeways anyway.

The nice thing is how much lower cost a car could be - electric motors are low cost and you wouldn't need a battery to last 100's of miles. It would allow other types of energy storage such as flywheel or compressed air to be used - it could be much lower cost then current ICEs.

We would only need the system on the freeways anyway.

Wasn't this about charging while parked. Continuous power supply while in motion is a whole other problem. The parking one ought to be easier, as you can nearly dock the two parts together.

Pacemakers are a serious problem. And I'm sure there are many other serious problems. In the end we will have much more rail transportation as the public becomes more aware of the unavoidable shortcomings of EVs.

There may be EVs for taxis to and from the rail station. For these, I think the likely solution will be drop-in battery packs so the taxi can re-fuel by leaving a discharged battery pack at a charging depot and picking up a recently recharge pack and get back to picking up fares almost immediately. And the taxi driver? Maybe replaced by Google un-manned driving software. OTOH, maybe taxi driver will be the best job available for most of us, just as Pullman car attendant was once the best job available to a sub-class of US citizens.

It has to do with the Q of the resonators. Q is Quality: High Q resonators have little loss. The coupling between is impressive.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resonant_energy_transfer (Lots of silly content related to Tesla-coilers, like silk-covered wire)
http://www.physorg.com/news173714272.html Sony
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=905836276094837978# Demonstration
If you couple same frequency resonators of different impedances, energy is delivered at a different pressure, like gears in a gearbox.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FY-AS13fl30 Tesla coil resonant transformer

Pretty song:

re Candice Beaumont

I have no idea who Candice is, but she makes a few statements which are absolutely shocking.

First, she says that SAGD means "steam assisted gravity drilling."
This explains what SAGD actually means and how it works:

Second, she seems pleased that the oil sands "puts that whole peak oil problem way out there in the future rather than in our generation. It's helpful."
One has to wonder if she is a parent, since I can't think of a single parent who would view it as helpful to burden the next generation with the problem of peak & decline in oil production.

Third, she clearly has no idea of who lives in northeastern Alberta. She describes this region as "very remote... 40 below zero, nobody is going to live in that neighborhood." Meanwhile, Cree and other First Nations have been there for centuries (if not millennia).

Fourth, Suncor and Syncrude are no doubt horrified to see her characterization of water issues: "... they are basically destroying the environment. If a bird flies over a river near the oil sands, the bird dies just from flying over the river. It's that toxic. They are just dumping all the waste into the waterways. If you did that in the U.S. you would be in jail."

Fifth, she says that the oil sands "are at 9 million barrels of production today, and it takes about three years for a project to come online. So current predictions have it that by 2025, production [will be] up to over 20 million barrels a day. That's International Energy Agency statistics."
The last time I looked, the Alberta oil sands had finally hit 1.5 mbpd (after four decades of intensive work & investment), with the hope of getting to 5 mbpd in the next 15-20 years.
I would like to see the IEA stats which predict otherwise.

There are other inaccuracies as well, but these five are enough for one posting....

Upon reading the article talking about the water shortages in China, one commenter posted my same question. If they had a bad snow fall of Half an Inch, how are they going to get water from snow in any amount to matter?

If you have to rain water collection system in place, every bit of rain or snow can be collected and used. But they said that they'd only collect clean snow, which is not something you are going to get in a smoggy city.

The big cities in China are already making the countryside more arid, draining rivers to feed the cities water, verses feeding those rivers to the farm lands that feed the people. I would be willing to bet that they are in a panic right about now if they are willing to dig up snow fall to making drinking water.

Water, Water everywhere and not a drop to drink, keeps running through my mind whenever I read these water issue stories.

In the local paper one of the Ripley's believe it or not's mentioned that if all the water in the atmosphere were to be rained out all at once, it'd only be one inch of water globally. Just goes to show you how much water is cycling through our climate each day.

I would if I were China really start working on water rationing for all those grassy lawns in all those suburbs they are building.

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