Drumbeat: November 13, 2010

Richard Heinberg: The end of growth

The central assertion of this book is both simple and startling: Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with.

The “growth” we are talking about consists of the expansion of the overall size of the economy (with more people being served and more money changing hands) and of the quantities of energy and material goods flowing through it.

The economic crisis that began in 2007-2008 was both foreseeable and inevitable, and it marks a permanent, fundamental break from past decades—a period during which most economists adopted the unrealistic view that perpetual economic growth is necessary and also possible to achieve. There are now fundamental barriers to ongoing economic expansion, and the world is colliding with those barriers.

Sustainability author says future is now

The future may not be what we want, says author Richard Heinberg, but it could be bearable — even fulfilling — if we start planning for it now.

How Climate Change and Resource Scarcity Threaten Democracy

Heinberg makes it clear that vast urban centers in dry areas like southern California will simply not exist two decades from now. For two reasons. Owing to dwindling fresh water supplies everywhere there will be no way to supply drinking water to millions of people between Los Angeles and the Mexican border. And because of skyrocketing fuel costs, no one is going to transport food 5,000 miles (as they do now) to feed them.

‘Energy crisis an illusion by capitalists’

THIRUVANATHAPURAM: The global phenomenon of energy crisis is just an illusion created by modern scientists and capitalists, eminent Japanese physicist Masaru Emoto has said. He was inaugurating the Global Energy Parliament organised by the Isa Viswa Prajnana Trust here on Friday.

Emoto said that the concept of energy crisis was just a folly. The energy sources available today are four times of what was available in the beginning of the 20th century, he said.

Sanctions Hit Iran's Oil And Gas Industry

The strict implementation of the economic and trade sanctions on Iran is clearly affecting the Iranian economy and impeding the financing of oil and natural gas projects, and translates into daily devaluation of the Iranian rial against the dollar (a 13% loss of value in October alone).

Greenpeace seeks halt to North Sea drilling

Environmental activist group Greenpeace says it has filed a claim with the High Court in London to force the government to stop issuing new licences for deepwater drilling in the North Sea.

Greenpeace said Friday it wants licencing halted until the causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 workers and triggered the largest oil spill in U.S. history, are ascertained.

Nigerian military threatens action in delta

(Reuters) - Nigeria's military threatened on Saturday to carry out raids against camps of criminal gangs in the creeks of the oil-producing Niger Delta, and told civilians in the vicinity to leave.

China, Kuwait vow to enhance oil, gas cooperation

China and Kuwait Thursday vowed to develop stable cooperation in the oil and gas sector.

The pledge came out of the meeting between Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang and Kuwait's Minister of Oil Sheik Ahmed Al Abdullah Al Sabah.

Shortage of diesel leads to longer lines at gas stations in NW China

BEIJING - China's diesel shortage has paralyzed traffic on a pivotal expressway in Northwest China, with trucks waiting in long lines to fill their fuel tanks.

Coal is ‘viable option to fuel Cebu’s future power needs’

With Cebu's economy growing, demand continues for additional energy sources which only coal plants could adequately provide, a businessman said.

Nation to import natural gas after 2025

HA NOI — Viet Nam will have to import up to 17 billion tonnes of gas for domestic use annually after 2025 despite its sizeable reserves of natural gas, a senior official has said.

'Bonkers' green energy risks power shortages

Scotland is in “serious danger” of suffering power shortages over the next decade thanks to Alex Salmond’s “bonkers” green energy policies, the head of one of the country’s largest generators has warned.

A gesture that warms more than just the heart

Deficit problems at both the state and federal levels are likely to make it a colder winter than usual for some Connecticut residents — no matter what the thermometer says.

This year, Operation Fuel, the private, non-profit program that provides emergency energy assistance, is depending on private dollars and grants to help lower-income working families and elderly residents who are not eligible for energy assistance from government-funded programs.

A Verdict on Controlled Oil Burns and Cancer Risk

Fumes from oil burned by spill-response teams in the Gulf of Mexico did not contain enough cancer-causing chemicals to pose a risk to human health, two new studies from the Environmental Protection Agency conclude.

NY report predicts rising sea levels

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A new state environmental report predicts sea levels could rise more than four feet in some coastal areas of New York state over the next 70 years with dramatic implications for New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley.

Global warming harms Antarctica's penguins, book says

Global warming threatens Antarctica and its tuxedoed inhabitants, whose numbers have plummeted more than 80% since 1975, a new book says.

Farmers’ Water Deals Stir Debate

Two farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley are proposing to do with their water what farmers around the country have done for decades: sell it to developers.

Support Grows for Expansion of Ozone Treaty

This week I reported on a push by a number of nations to expand the scope of the Montreal Protocol, the treaty designed to deal with the degradation of the Earth’s ozone layer, to begin to address global warming. Several countries, including the island nation of Micronesia, joined by the United States, Mexico and Canada, are proposing to phase out a family of industrial chemicals known as hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which have a minimal effect on the ozone layer but are highly potent greenhouse gases.

OPEC's October Crude Output Compliance Little Changed at 55%, IEA Reports

OPEC’s compliance with record supply cuts was little changed last month as production increases in six of its member countries offset declines in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, the International Energy Agency said.

The 11 members bound by quotas produced 26.72 million barrels a day last month, implying compliance of 55 percent, the Paris-based IEA said today in its monthly report. That’s down from a revised 56 percent for September. Supply from all 12 nations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, including Iraq, fell by 40,000 barrels a day in October to average 29.15 million barrels daily, it said.

“OPEC monthly production fluctuations have stayed in a remarkably stable range this year, within a narrow band of under 300,000 barrels a day,” the agency said.

Oil Prices May Increase as U.S. Crude, Fuel Inventories Drop, Survey Shows

Oil may increase next week after an Energy Department report showed that U.S. crude and fuel inventories tumbled, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Sixteen of 37 analysts, or 43 percent, forecast crude oil will climb through Nov. 19. Twelve respondents, or 32 percent, predicted prices will fall and nine estimated there would be little change. Last week, 59 percent said futures would increase.

Russia's December oil duty seen reaching 2-yr high

(Reuters) - Russia is set to raise its oil export duty by 4.5 percent in December to a two-year high of $303.8 per tonne following an uptick in oil prices, according to Finance Ministry figures and Reuters calculations.

Bulgaria and Russia to sign energy deal

(AP:SOFIA, Bulgaria) The Bulgarian government announced Saturday it will sign a deal with Russia that will advance a pipeline project aimed at bringing Russian natural gas to central Europe and Italy.

The deal will be signed later Saturday during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to Sofia. It envisages the creation of a joint company to build and operate the Bulgarian stretch of the South Stream pipeline.

Gazprom to reduce gas price for Bulgaria by 5-7% before late 2012

MOSCOW, November 13 (Itar-Tass) -- The Russian gas major Gazprom has made a package offer on the price of gas supplies for Bulgaria envisaging a 5-7% price decline before the end of 2012, the documents prepared for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s visit to Bulgaria say.

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.”

3 Republicans Say Report on Spill Was Manipulated

WASHINGTON — Three Republican senators demanded Friday that the White House explain last-minute editing changes to an Interior Department report on the BP oil spill that falsely implied that a group of independent experts had endorsed a political decision to temporarily halt all deepwater oil drilling.

Russia's Gazprom discovers oil and gas in Algeria

(Reuters) - Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Saturday it has discovered hydrocarbon reserves in Algeria together with Algeria's state-owned Sonatrach.

It said it discovered the reserves after a successful drilling an exploration well in El Assel license area in the oil- and gas-bearing Berkine Basin, its first such discovery in North Africa.

Japan and China leaders aim to cool tensions

(Reuters) - The leaders of China and Japan sought to ease months of tensions on Saturday, while Beijing gave Japan reassurances over worries about a drying-up of rare earth exports and a dispute over gas fields.

The problem with "Peak Oil" from an economist’s point of view

A lot of peak oil analysis leaves economists cold. After all, production levels are in part a result of production choices, and in markets production is driven in part by costs and prices. The popular Hubbert’s Curve approach to modeling peak oil ignores all of this.

Panasonic Is Getting Positive Responses From Makers of Electric Vehicles

Panasonic Corp. is receiving “strong responses” from automakers as it seeks new buyers for batteries to be used in electric cars, a company official said.

“Automakers are studying various batteries including their prices. That’s welcome to us, as we believe we can win,” Naoto Noguchi, president of Panasonic’s battery unit, said in an interview yesterday at the company’s headquarters in Osaka. “We’re getting strong responses,” he said, declining to say if the company has won new customers.

Tesla Expects Third of Electric Car Sales From Asia by 2015, Musk Says

Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said he expects a third of sales will come from Asia by 2015, with equal shares coming from the U.S. and Europe.

Chevrolet Cruze Eco could be GM's game changer

The new Chevrolet Cruze Eco and its 42 mile-per-gallon highway gas mileage rating is likely to send the rest of the auto industry scrambling. Suddenly, every chief engineer is going to have to measure the fuel mileage of vehicles under development against a General Motors sedan.

Saudi Arabia Investing in Nanotech for Desalination

The development of nanotech membranes for use in desalination is one of the new ideas Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is considering to modernize the Kingdsom’s 80-year-old oil-powered desalination technology.

Two things need to be accomplished. As peak oil continues to deplete oil production now used to generate the electricity for desalination, the nation, now entirely dependent on seawater, must transition to the use of concentrated solar power to replace oil-powered desalination, or risk real water deprivation.

Chocolate: Worth its weight in gold?

"Galaxy, Creme Eggs, every kind of £1 chocolate bar will be a thing of the past," warns London chocolatier Marc Demarquette, who believes a bar at £7, or its future equivalent, will be more like it. And Demarquette, who worked as an advisor for a recent BBC Panorama documentary on the troubled West African cocoa fields, is not alone. John Mason, executive director and founder of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council, has forecast that shortages in bulk production in Africa will have a devastating effect: "In 20 years chocolate will be like caviar. It will become so rare and so expensive that the average Joe just won't be able to afford it."

Ice Road Trucker dishes on bears, new book

OCR: With all the talk of global warming and rising oceans, do you think the ice roads will be around much longer?

Debogorski: Oh yeah, they'll be there in, 30, 40, 50 years. The seasons might be shorter or longer, but they'll be there. My concerns are more the 80,000 man-made chemicals, many not regulated, that are polluting the North and South Poles.

OCR: And what about the oil supply?

Debogorski: I have all those books (about peak oil), but because I spent two years in Prudhoe Bay and spend more time around oil fields and have a brother (who works for an oil field company) … I don't think I'd be overly concerned. I'm not concerned about running out of oil. I'm concerned about other things. It doesn't make sense that we don't have electric cars when they had electric cars in the end of the 1800s. It doesn't make sense that the EPA rating on a 1950s or 1960s car is very close to the ratings on a full-size pickup today. There were cars in the 1960s that got 20 miles per gallon.

EU's CO2 Market Faces Shortage Without More Sales, New Energy Finance Says

The European Union carbon market will have a shortage of 190 million metric tons of allowances in 2011 after the regulator said it probably won’t auction permits for phase three next year, said an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The Copenhagen emissions gap

The main point is that the IEA’s outlook confirms that the fossil fuel age is far from over. Refuting the peak oil mystics, the IEA predicts that oil production will keep growing for the next quarter century to almost 100 million barrels a day. Canada will add an extra two million barrels a day from the oilsands. Output of natural gas is set to grow. Coal retains its importance, with China’s coal-fired electricity tripling by 2035 — while Western jurisdictions such as Ontario punish their consumers by shutting down coal plants.

Climate talks 'will not yield binding treaty': Calderon

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AFP) - Mexican President Felipe Calderon said that upcoming climate change talks in Mexico will produce "unprecedented results" but not a hoped-for legally binding treaty.

Adding Iron to Ocean Would Backfire, Algae Study Suggests

Fertilizing the oceans with iron - a tactic that "geoengineers" have proposed to fight global warming - could inadvertently spur the growth of toxic microbes, warn scientists who analyzed water samples from past iron-fertilization experiments.

Zimbabwe: Not Knowing When to Plant

Most small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe depend on regular rainfall patterns, and this is also true of commercial farmers because much of their irrigation equipment was either vandalized or stolen at the height of the land redistribution programme in 2000.

"It is no longer possible to predict with accuracy when to start planting and in most cases, farmers end up replanting," Denford Chimbwanda, president of the Grain and Cereal Producers Association (GCPA), told IRIN.

How Long Before We Can Replace Oil?

Malyshkina and Niemeier’s computations are much more sophisticated, and their estimate of the time it would take to replace oil products is 131 years. BP’s latest statistical review reckons that global reserves will last about 46 more years. That means that unless we do something to speed up development of an alternative to oil, people alive in 2050 are going to be doing a lot of walking.

I find it rather astonishing that the author, a Mr. Paul Ausick, seems to believe that we have almost 46 years of business as usual before we suddenly find our oil supply has ran out. But it is interesting that it will take 131 years before we find something that will replace oil. And of course that means 131 years of business as usual. We are not likely to find anything after the oil supply is gone. People will be too busy just trying to stay alive. Anyway, 131 years means it just ain't gonna happen folks.

The formula they used to arrive at 131 years can be found in The Abstract. It is T ≈ (P0oil/C0)·ln (Δ·P0oil/P0alt), where P0oil and P0alt are the current aggregate market capitalizations of oil and alternative-energy companies, C0 is the annual aggregate dividends that oil companies pay to their shareholders at the present, and Δ is the fraction of the oil (oil products) replaced at time T.

Perhaps WHT can understand it but it is beyond my capabilities. At any rate after reading that the dividend payout of oil companies is a major input to the formula, I have to take the whole thing with a grain of salt.

Ron P.

"doing a lot of walking"

100% correct. I've been saying this for a long time. Walking shoes and bicycles. That is the future.

Peak Shoes, something I've thought about at times....

As I've recommended before, get some highest quality hand-made bespoke shoes. The shoemaker makes lasts of both of your feet, and he can make (over time) any number of pair of highest quality shoes. Kept cool and dry, unused new shoes will keep well for at least thirty years and probably longer than that. Also stock up on heels and soles, and learn how to fix the shoes yourself, in case your shoemaker dies or you lose touch with him.

If I were to learn a new skill now, I think it would be traditional shoe and boot making.

I am on VERY good terms with my cobbler (who used to make shoes but gave it up for repairs only). Over $100/year for repairs.

I have just about enough good quality shoes (Made in USA) to last me to the end of my walking days if I keep them in good repair.

Best Hopes for soles & heels,


I also have enough new walking shoes to last me for my next twenty years, by which time I'll be ninety and if still alive will be walking very slowly. Once, near Ala Moana Beach in Honolulu I met an elderly man who was walking at about one and a half miles an hour around the track--more than a mile. I got to talking to him and it turns out that he was born in Japan and was 103 years old. My doctor told me decades ago that walking was the most important thing I did in regard to keeping healthy and increasing my chances for longevity.

I'd still like to find an outstanding cobbler in the Twin Cities who for $500 a pair would make me the kind of excellent walking shoes that I had during the nineteen eighties. No luck so far.

I have repaired 3 pairs of the last 4 pairs of sandals that I have had. One pair I lost while hiking through a swamp, I ended up walking out of the brush barefoot, after an hour or so in the swamp half the time on hands and knees as that was the easiest way to travel.

I go barefoot almost as soon as I get home. I also do a lot of gardening barefoot, I have even done a fair amount of walking about the area barefoot.

But I have a good pair of Hiking boots, and several pairs of repaired sandals, with one new pair. I do not walk places barefoot that might have broken glass or other manmade nasties. Though I don't freak out about going barefoot like some people do.

Having skills to repair things you wear is always a good plus. I was taught sewing a long time ago, and have had more than one teacher in the craft.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

A lot more people go barefoot in the world than most people (in the west) can imagine.

I think I could learn to make alpargatas--Mexican sandals with old tire tread for soles--pretty easily. However I need a shoe with good uppers and orthotic insoles, because otherwise I get painful and disabling planar fascitis. (sp?)

Having had the luxury of expertly crafted traditional shoes made from lasts of my feet, I can never be fully satisfied with anything else. I wonder if any tech schools offer courses in traditional shoe making. Or maybe I could apprentice myself to some elderly shoe maker for the several months that it would take to learn just the basics of being an expert cobbler. Of course I would need some tools, but nothing huge or terribly expensive.

I must second the motion on really good footwear. It's absolutely worth it.

I sometimes fight wildland fires, so I'm partial to Whites boots myself. Expensive, yes. But they last me four or five years and I'm gong Cadillac style the whole time.

I've got a pair on right now that's really old. I call them my "slipper Whites" because they are literally more comfortable than any other footwear including my bedroom slippers.

And like you, I was also recently diagnosed with plantar fasceitis. Thought it was my boots and started trying to go barefoot more often. Big mistake.

I won't be walking much without arch support. I guess I could ride my mountain bike where I need to go. Or stock up on boots now...

Stock up on boots now. I'd get a lifetime supply of boots before I'd spend a nickel on guns or ammunition.

Well, I certainly don't trust the stock market, or even US dollars in the long run (I'm only 42).

I think I'm going to do as you suggest. Stock up on boots now. Pretty hard to see how that could end badly. And I'll be supporting some damn fine boot-makers in Spokane at the same time!

Got to admit that all this talk of stocking up on boots reeks of displacement activity. Anyone here really envisage a post peak scenario where its not possible to have decent boots made? Haven't they been made for centuries using sustainable materials and via a traditional low-tech high-skill process?

I am not stocking up on boots myself. But it's not really a question of whether they can be made in a post-peak scenario. Obviously, they can. The question is how much they'll cost. If you don't trust banks, or the stock market, and know you can't eat gold...what do you invest in?

There was the account that came out of the collapse of Yugoslavia, that gave recommendations for what held value for that sort of situation. It was almost all useful things. A headlamp, so you could do the dishes and other chores that require both hands, even if there was no electricity. Cast-iron cookware, in case you have to cook over an open fire. Soap and shampoo. Gold didn't hold its value, but toilet paper did.

Ok, so boots will hold their value, or even increase in a post peak scenario,but they should remain available and, as you indicate, form just part of a portfolio of items, such as cookware, maybe a woodgas stove, axeheads etc. Most of these items are low cost currently and can be squirrelled away in case of a doomish playout.

For a drawn out readjustment, which will see many posters, including myself, pushing up the daisies, life will mean a continuing engagement with a stagnant/shrinking economy where energy, food and skill possession will account for more than a pair of boots. Anyhow, if boots are so valuable, learn to be a bootmaker.

There are almost no shoes being manufactured in the US today. If international trade breaks down, as is likely in many people's scenarios, it will become very difficult to get new shoes (and many other things) very quickly. Of course, just having the financial system melt down could make it hard to obtain anything new at any price.

It takes time to acquire skills like boot or shoe making or repair, and few are around to do such training.

Well the thing about shoes is that bartering them is not easy. Moreover, I find it hard to imagine any scenario in which we reach peak shoes.

Ammunition, on the other hand, is much more easily bartered, especially for the more common types of firearms. I don't think we'll reach peak ammunition either, but at the very least it should hold its value.

Stockpiling ammunition makes perfect sense, even if you are not a gun owner.

And, please, spare me the nonsense about how those who stockpile items like gold and guns will be "targets." If anything, they should be able to quickly find favor with local warlords, who will offer them protection in exchange for their goods.

Americans are so used to prosperity that they think either its suburbia forever, or anarchy.

The truth is somewhere in between, and all you need to do is study relationships that develop from the bottom up in economically disadvantaged areas - gangs, Mafia, that sort of thing, and you realize that there is always some level of basic organization, and that society never really devolves into an all out free for all.

I used to have a substantial stockpile of ammunition and guns. I don't anymore. I have decided that other things are of greater value--including excellent shoes that fit me exactly right.

All out free for alls end in death, because no one plans on feeding themselves for the long term. You'll tend toward a warlord type rule, is my guess.

But back to the stockpiling things. I'd first add a water filtering system that would last a long time, then the shoes, also books, even fictional ones will be good as they provide something we will miss from this day and age.

My problem feet wise, is that if I am vertical too long, my feet swell from damage in the veins of my lower legs from blood clots. So the open style sandal becomes the only thing I can wear if I am walking when they start to swell, it'll get so bad that walking also goes out the window until I can have a long horizontal rest re-set. I don't wear the sandals with the piece between the big toe and the rest, but the kind that act more like a shoe does.

I have found that walking a lot on pavement is bad for me, so I walk about as much on open ground as I can get.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

Another viewpoint: Yesterday on television I saw a bunch of "third world" kids playing soccer bare footed. It made me think that I heard that native Americans only wore foot covering in the winter. Maybe shoes, too, are optional.

In many places they're only optional if you're OK with being infested by parasitic worms.

Paul, you have such a vivid imagination.

No imagination. Hookworms and probably some others enter the body through the soles of the feet.

Then wear sandals.

No imagination. Hookworms and probably some others enter the body through the soles of the feet.

Yeah, but mostly through the soft uncalloused soles of people who generally wear shoes and then walk where they shouldn't... I highly doubt you would get them if your feet were tough enough to play soccer barefoot in a field.

Parasites are present in our environment and our modern lifestyle has not eliminated them. A regular parasite cleans should be part of your preventative health measures even now. Methods for controlling parasites have long been part of traditional rituals, and the fasting that is a part of many religions may have been a way of encoding that behavior.

Parasites are present in our environment and our modern lifestyle has not eliminated them. A regular parasite cleans should be part of your preventative health measures even now.

Reminds me of an anecdote told by my grandfather, an old school physician, about an old but otherwise apparently healthy man, from whom they had removed a rather large tapeworm, circa 1940s. The man developed heart disease not many months later and died of a massive heart attack. My grandfather suggested that he might actually have been in a stable symbiotic relationship with his parasite and once it was removed his otherwise unhealthy, and very rich in fats and carbohydrates, diet, quickly did him in.

Did you know that there are approximately 500 different species of bacteria living in your throat and mouth? Chances are you might not want to kill all of them in the name of prevention...

And in tropical places (such as Darwin, Australia - where we lived for 10 years) - meliodosis was a real and abiding threat, if you ventured outdoors during the wet season (December - April) without shoes. It is almost always fatal - but there again, lots of things in the tropics (12° south of the Equator) could kill you - or at least make you feel very unwell for a long time.

There's also the new school of thought that holds that shoes are actually bad for your feet. Heck, bad for your whole body. They change your gait unnaturally, meaning a higher risk of injury. And the expensive, highly padded shoes are the worst.

It does look like some sort of discounting formula, and very likely exponential discounting.
The discounting factor is

Discounting is all about figuring out if you should take a payout today or in the future. Yet if this has an average dividend built into the exponent, C0, it seems awfully rigged. How can anyone predict what kind of dividends would be available in the future?

So it looks like a financial plan for investors telling them whether they should hold on to oil stocks discounted by the potential for future profits and how much capitalization will remain in the oil industry. This is balanced against the potential for alternative energies taking over.

I don't know exactly how well speculative formulas fit in to estimating how long it will take to replace oil. Is the premise that only market speculators and investors can push the transition forward, and if they don't see the financial advantage then they won't?

At any rate after reading that the dividend payout of oil companies is a major input to the formula, I have to take the whole thing with a grain of salt.


The big problem I see with oil company stocks is that within ten years they are likely to be subject to both a brutal excess profits tax and also with price controls when we go to rationing of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and home heating oil. I think rationing and price controls by 2020 is a pretty good SWAG about the future.

This prediction is based on history and sociology more than on economics.

So you are saying that the exponential discounting time constant is 10 years?

If the price of oil goes to two hundred dollars a barrel and stays there for at least a matter of weeks, then I think we'll have both price (and profit) controls and the rationing that has to accompany price controls to allocate resources in something like a somewhat fair and efficient way. Unfortunately, there is a big tradeoff between fairness and efficiency: This is a DUET, a Deep Universal Eternal Truth.

I was thinking more in terms of whether this variation of exponential discounting can lend some economics insight.

It is hard to use payback period or PV under conditions of uncertainty (as opposed to risk). See the classic work RISK, UNCERTAINTY, AND PROFIT by Frank Knight for more on this.

Uncertainty is not dealt with much in economics. On the other hand, in the finance specialty of Business Administration we studied a great deal about uncertainty.

For my professor I searched all twenty-seven branches of the U.C. Berkeley library (This was long before computerized library catalogs; I did the search on my bicycle and with pen and ink and 3" X 5" cards.) You will never guess which library had the best collection of books and journals on decision making under conditions of uncertainty.

It was the engineering library. Hands down, by far the best. I got a lot of sources from that library.

The other aspect of planning I like from Engineers is the understanding that you have to have failures to progress.

Of all the professions I know of, engineers are the best when it comes to understanding the limitations of their models.

Old doctors are also good at this--not so much the young doctors. They have not yet made enough mistakes to learn the limitations of what they learned in Med school.

Chefs understand that too. Failure makes us work harder at figuring out what we did wrong and also helps us discover new ways of cooking something that bombed as one thing.

Without knowing what the limits are to your designs, you can't know where to improve them fully. You could get stuck in a rut where you only Design one kind of thing( building, garden plot, bread recipe) and never enjoy the discovery of a new way of doing something if you don't fail from time to time.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

Ps. Not all designs work for all applications, too many variable in the world of housing, growing and cooking.(can't feed someone what they can't grow, without shipping it miles and miles, not a good way to plan)

It is hard to use payback period or PV under conditions of uncertainty (as opposed to risk). See the classic work RISK, UNCERTAINTY, AND PROFIT by Frank Knight for more on this.
Uncertainty is not dealt with much in economics. On the other hand, in the finance specialty of Business Administration we studied a great deal about uncertainty.

Yet hyperbolic discounting can be derived as an exponential discounting approach that assumes uncertainty in the discount rate.

Google uncertainty and "hyperbolic discounting" and you will see lots of references. There are over 300 Google Scholar references from just this year.

So you think it is the problem of finance vs economics vs business where one can say it's the other guy's problem?

Hyperbolic discounting is based on risk, not on uncertainty. As Knight pointed out, with risk (e.g. an insurance company) you can make good strong calculations. Under uncertainty (by definition) you cannot make valid calculations. Thus economists mostly avoid uncertainty.

In the realm of finance, of course, you have to deal with uncertainty all the time. And in this field the best you will get is heuristics--never valid quantitative models. Keynes knew all this, by the way.

My understanding is that hyperbolic discounting covers "uncertain risks" so that it has both bases covered, ordinary risks along the lines of objective probability and uncertain risks that allow for subjective probability.

They wouldn't have invented hyperbolic discounting if it wasn't for uncertainty, and the exponential discounting would suffice.

"Uncertain risks" is an oxymoron. See the book by Frank Knight, RISK, UNCERTAINTY, AND PROFIT. It is a classic and is still assigned in post-graduate business administration classes, less often in economics classes. For historical reasons, economists tend to ignore uncertainty, while those in business administration (especially finance and also management) often focus on uncertainty.

Uncertain risks fall under the category of fat-tail statistics or super-statistics, which I think many people are interested in because of the Wall Street collapse and the Black Swan book by Taleb. I had assumed that this kind of uncertainty has significant economic implications.

Economists eschew uncertainty. Finance people (educated in business administration departments) deal with uncertainty all the time. By definition, you cannot use quantitative or probalistic models to deal with uncertainty. Just cannot be done. See the Frank Knight book.

Knight's idea of uncertainty apparently differs from other kinds of uncertainty, for example the uncertainty that you can reason with by applying the maximum entropy principle. That is reasoning with incomplete information and analysts from all disciplines do that routinely. I just don't understand what makes economics special in this regard.

Say I was working on a problem and I was uncertain what the problem was, then yes I would stay away from trying to solve it if that was what Knight was implying. If it is just one of those practical bits of advice, then I kind of get it.

To the best of my knowledge, Knight's distinction between risk and uncertainty is universally accepted by all economists--mainstream and nonmainstream. It is a classic. You would like it.

It's online. I looked at it and I am certain that I don't like it. No math and I don't need another philosophical treatise on what probabilities mean.
Thanks anyways.

Not all truth is to be found in mathematics. Plato said the opposite of this, and I (and Aristotle) think that Plato (and Pythygoras) were wrong about the power of mathematics.

I will pass on those guys as well. Same goes for the bible.

Well nobody can say that the herd at TOD is from a single breed!

Heeyaw! CRACK!

Movem, movem, movem;
Git those Kitties Movin', Rawdata!

Agree...rationing is coming...

Be an interesting black market once that happens.

I still remember how my students coped with high gasoline prices during the seventies. Some would do the "gas and dash" and make a quick getaway from gas stations without paying. In my sociology class a majority of the male students admitted to siphoning gasoline out of other people's cars. This was long before gasoline caps came with locks. And of course it was before most gas stations required prepayment before the gasoline would be pumped.

Our experience with rationing is harsh. Let's hope it doesn't happen. Re: excess profits tax - that will delay conversion to alternative fuels. Perhaps excess profits tax will result from the immense anger over high prices.

Were you born after 1967, a date after which you likely would not have directly suffered from the problems of drivers due to the Arab/OPEC embargo of 1973 or the Iranian Crisis of 1979? Since the US hasn't had any experience with a real fuel rationing program since WW II, I think you are spitting in the wind. The Odd/Even scheme doesn't really count as "rationing", since it was little more than an inconvenience. Would you rather have the market decide fuel distribution thru increasing prices, prices which could easily exceed those in Europe today, but without the tax benefit to the Government? How many people would suddenly find that they could no longer afford to pay for gasoline and thus be unable to drive to work or to find food? What would the impact be on the economy and the investments of the average participant in the stock market?

E. Swanson

Link up top: The problem with "Peak Oil" from an economist’s point of view

Articles like this really get under my skin. They just assume that peak oilers are so damn dumb that we do not take such things as the cost of extraction and oil prices into consideration at all. In fact we have talked about almost nothing else in the last few years. We have debated almost endlessly how much the cost of extraction is rising and the effect that prices have on demand. But this quote from the article really got me:

In short, the IEA’s report more resembles CERA’s undulating plateau story than peak anything. Yet we are told the “age of cheap oil is over” and the consequences of relying on on natural gas liquids and unconventional fuels are “stark.”

A more reasonable characterization of IEA’s most likely scenario is that it estimates oil production will remain steady for the foreseeable future at around the level attained in 2006. Scary? Rioting in the Streets? Stark?

No? Well, are you at least mildly concerned?

Basically they are saying that the IEA, along with CERA, are predicting an undulating plateau and there is nothing at all scary about that. And even if that is true we should be only mildly concerned. Incidentally CERA doesn't even have the undulating plateau beginning until about 2035 or later. So let's just wait until then before we get mildly concerned.

Ron P.

While I personally don't find this undulating plateau scary, I think that the economists/people who believe in endless growth should. We don't have a clue how we can operate for several years in zero growth mode. This will really be negative growth mode 70on a per capita basis since we are assured of continuing population growth.

I find, however, that relying, if we can, on alternative fuels to be scary especially when those alternative fuels include tar sands, oil shale, and coal gasification.

If I were a young person, however, and I understood what was going on, I would be a bit scared, especially for my children, if any.

And people are worrying about having to work longer in the year 2070. Ha Ha Ha Ha

I think concern over economic distress will trump global warming. The tar sands, etc will go at full throttle. I think somewhere around $160 a barrel may be the long term peak of oil prices - the point where alternative fuels become cheaper. For liquid fuels, besides tar sands, oil sands, and coal-to-liquids we also have gas-to-liquids. Finally ng and electricity may power vehicles. I see a 10 to 20 year period of zero or negative growth until the alternatives kick in. Frankly, I don't think $160 a barrel oil is that terrible. Here in the USA that would translate to no more than $6.00 a gallon gasoline. Europe is already doing ok will $7/gallon oil. Forget about buying walking shoes and storing food stocks and guns.

American infrastructure depends on cheap gasoline and cheap diesel. Quite different from Europe.

Meh. Between improved efficiency gas vehicles, electric vehicles, rail, and public transport, we'll do just fine. Prices will rise a bit and we probably will have less food that is imported from far off places but there is nothing wrong with that. But I just really don't subscribe to the doom scenarios. The market does adjust.

In case you haven't noticed, the American people have just elected politicans who are hell-bent on destroying rail - the most prominent examples being Wisconsin and Ohio. I'm not making an argument one way or the other, I'm simply observing how our dysfunctional politics are part and parcel of the collapse.

Efficient vehicles merely delay the collapse, they don't prevent it. In fact, efficiency paradoxes ensure that we may end up making things worse, because by being efficient we won't be forced into the structural changes needed to really get off fossil fuels.

Moreover, electric vehicles do nothing to ameliorate fossil fuel decline - they merely substitute coal and natural gas for oil, quickly leading to depletion and higher, volatile prices for the former, which should consequently wreak havoc on the electricity market for residential/commercial. Unless you have a 100% renewable energy economy, electric vehicles do nothing.

This is to say nothing of population, financial fraud, fiat currency wars which are large and deep problems.

And even if we somehow solve peak oil, and fossil fuel depletion, what then? Will we have utopia, and stop making war, and colonize Mars, and everybody will be happy and free of pain and suffering?

What I'm basically getting at, is that peak oil merely exposes the rot at the center of everything we are doing to ourselves and this planet. Die off and collapse are quite natural under the circumstances.

I think a significant clue in that article was how 'these PO Analyses leave economists cold'.. which helps remind me that Economists may have gotten into that trade because they definitely don't like being cold, and will try to find any way they can to proscribe a future where they'll be assured warmth and comfyness..

That may have been obscure or odd, but I'm actually serious with the point of it. I think economics is a trade that very clearly is defiant of the 'wilderness' that exists outside our neat little Hobbit doors, and their definitions are all kept inside the cultivated parts of our universe, neatly defined by price or some similarly controlled figure. Where the wild things are simply will not be invited into the tea party until they are properly attired.. (..ie, Not 'That' tea party, necessarily)


I think economics is a trade that very clearly is defiant of the 'wilderness' that exists outside our neat little Hobbit doors,

LOL spot on jokuhl! Hobbits indeed, that might explain their "growth" obsession.

I don't know why people dump on economists. The first economist was Thomas Malthus. In my economics 1 textbook, chapter one started out by saying the basic economic problem is how to allocate and reconcile limited resources and unlimited wants.

Good point. Many (but probably not most) economists are neo-Malthusians.

Economics is all about scarcity. Jeavons in the mid nineteenth century wrote a whole book about declining coal reserves in Britain and how serious it would be. (Of course, Jeavons had no way to foresee the coming dominance of oil.) His book on the eventual decline of coal production is well worth reading today. Jeavons wrote well, as is a tradition among English economists. (On the other hand, most American economists cannot write their way out of a brown paper bag. Many economic textbooks are ghost written, because the eminent economists themselves are such poor writers.)

Economics is all about scarcity.

There, in a nutshell, is why economists are dumped on. Roughly the same reason as for corporations. People don't want to hear that they have to get out of bed and go to work in the morning, nor that they can't have infinite quantities of whatever they feel morally entitled to (limitless futile medical "care", and palatial houses for people whose services are chronically worthless to others, both quickly come to mind.) More to the point in these parts, nor do they want to hear that their pet remedy for some real or perceived social ill can't actually be waved into existence with a magic wand (for example, barring an overnight major war, the roads on Monday will look about as they did on Friday - about the same level of traffic burning about the same mixture of fuels; about the same percentage of Priuses.) So the inclination is to shoot the messenger.

Oh come on PaulS.

Both economists and corporations have been telling people that they CAN have whatever they want. Advertising is all about raising expectations, getting people to spend money they don't have on crap they don't need.

Don't make out the economists and corporations to be innocent victims - they are utterly complicit, if not largely responsible.

You are quite wrong. I know of not one single economist who has told people they can have all they want. I challence you to cite one single example to the contrary.

Economists fixate on maximizations. So maximal consumption and maximum market "efficiency" are routinely associated and sought. For example the endless sneer at barter as "inefficient".

Economists do not sneer at barter. Cite one solitary example where this has happened.


The utility is maximized when people have access to as many goods and services as they "want". That is why you have a multi-billion dollar advertising industry in most developed states.

It is universally accepted by economists that barter is inefficient because of the "double coincidence of wants" constraint (http://www.econessays.com/bart.htm). So once again having some cash in your pocket increases your consumption potential.

The whole economist universe revolves around consumption maximization. When the only tool you have is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.

You are wrong. Economics does not revolve around maximization of consumption. Economics revolves around the maximization of utility, ever since the days of Jeremy Bentham. Economists realize and publish widely on the fact that increases in utility do not equal increases in GDP. The reason economists focus on growth rates in real GDP is because that number is very closely linked to increases in the rates of employment or unemployment. Economists favor minimization of unemployment, virtually without exception.

"The reason economists focus on growth rates in real GDP is because that number is very closely linked to increases in the rates of employment or unemployment."

Sometimes, but sometimes not. And GDP is certainly not a good reflection of how most people feel about their own well being.

We may need economist, but what we need them most for is to construct an economics of powerdown and de-growth--but very few are doing this, even though it is our inevitable future.

The economic theories that worked and got reinforced over the last 150 years or so were those that assumed eternal growth.

Now that this growth is over we desperately need a new economics. If you can point to people working seriously in this direction, I'm all ears. If you can't, I am not likely to be interested in any assertions your are likely to make about the value of traditional, neo-classical economics (and neither will many others around here).

I think the running joke is that the economists use that as a premise "assume scarcity of resources", then make the deft substitution "presume an alternative will appear", and then go from there.

I think the frustration is that you don't find many economists who seriously study the depletion equation or the alternative of "no alternatives".

Ron at the top of this thread dug up a reference to some non-economists fiddling with discounting theory to figure out depletion possibilities. Why don't we figure out what the famed economist Harold Hotteling had to say about this:

Hotelling's rule is the result of analysis of non-renewable resource management by Harold Hotelling, published in the Journal of Political Economy in 1931... Hotelling's result shows that in an efficient exploitation of a non-renewable and non-augmentable resource, the percentage change in net-price per unit of time should equal the discount rate in order to maximise the present value of the resource capital over the extraction period.

Does that really tell us much, or is this another indication that economics is not about studying scarcity but about studying the exploitation of resources to maximize profit?

I think that few if any modern economists accept Hotellings 1931 paper. Very little in economics published before 1936 (when Keynes wrote his most famous book) is accepted today without major modification. Indeed, much of what Keynes wrote in 1936 is no longer relevant. Economists take most seriously their contemporaries and not their predecessors.

Economics has come a long way since 1931. For example, in all my extensive reading lists in the 1960s Hotelling's paper was not even mentioned once.

I think the running joke is that the economists use that as a premise "assume scarcity of resources", then make the deft substitution "presume an alternative will appear", and then go from there.

The problem is that economic theories are often based on idealized special case theoretical assumptions which end up being useless when it comes to actually solving problems in the real world.

A physicist, a chemist and an economist are stranded on an island, with nothing to eat. A can of soup washes ashore. The physicist says, "Lets smash the can open with a rock." The chemist says, "Let’s build a fire and heat the can first." The economist says, "Lets assume that we have a can-opener..."

We are about to become stranded in a world without fossil fuels, the physicists and chemists have suggested using such imperfect alternatives such as wind and solar and are telling us we need to try a new paradigm. While the economist is still telling us the invisible hand of the market can come up with a perpetual motion machine and we can continue with BAU.

Me, I say let's just build a fire and roast the economist >;^)

Did you know that Ph.D. economists earn more than either physicists or chemists? Indeed, being an economist is one of the highest paid professions. Three of my four children have at least an undergraduate major in economics, and they all have high-paying jobs. They are all in their forties and all are Peak aware. Actually, an economics education helps a lot in understanding Peak Oil. However, most (almost all) economists accept the conventional wisdom about oil that comes from CERA, IEA, EIA. After all, if you are not expert in a field, such as oil, doesn't it make sense to accept the strong consensus of conventional wisdom from the oil people that Peak is nothing to worry about for the next twenty-five or thirty years?

As I mentioned elsewhere, most economists think half or thereabouts of all recoverable oil will stay in the ground, to be replaced by technological advances in fuels and also by the power of the market to reallocate resources when one of them becomes scarce or very expensive. Economists are not fools. Please explain to me why one would expect economists (or anybody outside TOD) to reject the conventional wisdom.

Economists aren't stupid. The conventional wisdom is shifting. The consensus is moving. Once oil production declines in spite of high prices it will be impossible to deny Peak Oil. Also, the longer oil production remains in a plateau despite quite high prices the harder Peak Oil will be to deny.

The question, like that of PO is 'when will that change happen for any given economist?' (I don't assume they are all the same, of course they're not) My concern is that too many will be like the Free Market, and will only change reactively.. ie, Too Late.

Look at this Giberson's conclusion in the 'Energy Collective' article, 'An Economist's view...' -

"A more reasonable characterization of IEA’s most likely scenario is that it estimates oil production will remain steady for the foreseeable future at around the level attained in 2006. Scary? Rioting in the Streets? Stark?

No. Nothing Scary.. let's instead remain 'reasonable'. Look, I'm a WASP, I was raised on 'reasonable'.. if you can't say anything pleasant, don't say anything at all.

A steady oil production will be a disaster in the face of rising demand. How will world economies grow without oil growth? Oil prices will likely skyrocket unless there is a source of increased liquid fuels production. I think that once spare capacity that OPEC may have is used up - perhaps in less than two years - we'll be in a very precarious situation.

I agree with that assessment.. but I'm not sure he does. He makes it sound like an undramatic stasis.. like a quiet day. Now if others like him can notice that being 'becalmed' is different for a sailboat in harbor than it is for a Clipper far from shore, then maybe we've got the idea moving forward.

The insistence of 'not being worried' is pernicious. It almost feels like a High School 'coolness' thing.

As I've already said about seven or eight times, almost all economists rely on the conventional wisdom of experts in the oil industry--EIA, IEA, CERA. The experts are unanimously agreed that Peak Oil is nothing to worry about for the next twenty-five to thirty years. Why should economists not believe expert petroleum exploration geologists employed by these three agencies? Note that TOD has no credibility whatsoever. And there are good reasons why TOD has no credibility and is regarded as fringe or beyond the fringe. Look what happened on TOD as recently as last Thursday.

As I've already said about seven or eight times, almost all economists rely on the conventional wisdom of experts in the oil industry--EIA, IEA, CERA. The experts are unanimously agreed that Peak Oil is nothing to worry about for the next twenty-five to thirty years.

I thought economists thought of themselves as being a branch of science and so therefore were seeking the truth (to various degrees). Therefore they ought to be able to think for themselves and not have to rely on experts in the oil industry. That is the key to having fundamental theories; as they are built on a sound foundation and solid premises. If they have to rely on what people tell them, it doesn't sound fundamental or scientific to me. EIA, IEA, CERA are not giving out their methodology for outsiders to cross-check, after all.

You CANNOT be an expert in all fields. I'm an expert in sociology, economics, philosophy, and to a lesser extent, human genetics. I'm an autodidact when it comes to oil. I believe much of what I read on TOD (e.g. your comments) because in philosophy I was educated to be a critical thinker. Indeed, Logic and Critical Thinking was always one of my favorite classes to teach. I had my first logic class in 1955-56 at the University of Chicago. It was a freshman "Foundations of Mathematics" year long course--all symbolic logic. I've never had a more valuable class. In the nineteen eighties I was actively involved in the critical thinking movement and especially the critical thinking across the curriculum subset of the critical thinking movement. The textbook I wrote, ECONOMICS: MAKING GOOD CHOICES, is explicitly based on critical thinking and has many critical thinking exercises in the text.

I'm not an expert on oil. But I can identify the reliable experts on TOD: Darwinian, Rune Likvern, Rockman, Westexas, etc. Indeed, I can distinguish petroleum engineers from petroleum geologists just by looking at how they write and how they use numbers. In contrast to you, Web, I think the petroleum engineers have the most to contribute to the discussion of Peak Oil. Of course I pay attention to the geologists as well.

IMO, it is wrong to criticize economists for relying on the conventional wisdom. Life is so complicated that most of us have to rely on conventional wisdom most of the time. As John Kenneth Galbraith and others have pointed out, the conventional wisdom of American economists is often very wrong. But note that modern physics is also very wrong. How can you possibly reconcile General Relativity with Quantum Theory? And if you cannot do that, how can you call physics a science?

I just assumed that there would be a paper or two out there on peak oil by a classical economist that I could reference.

Let me put this in some perspective. The article that started this thread apears in "Environmental Science & Technology" which is a scholarly journal that publishes nearly 10,000 pages a year. 10,000 pages a year is kind of typical for a journal. You would think that somewhere in some classical economics journal that we could find something on oil depletion. It just takes a single person; I'm not asking the whole field to jump on the subject, just someone to show a little intellectual curiosity. I just can't comprehend why it doesn't happen, even as a fluke.

There may be such a paper published by some obscure economist in some obscure journal thirty years ago. If it were by a major economist or in a major journal, likely I'd know about it. Along with an American Economics Association membership comes a choice of two journals to subscribe to (as part of the annual fee). Thus it is easy for me to keep up on economics. The AEA membership is cheap to the retired.

Re: ES&T article

The perspective here should be that economists would realize up front that publicly traded securities represent a small non-representative subset of capital markets that is likely to be heavily weighted towards traditional industries of all sorts. At the point, they would discard the study as worthless.

Scientists who wander into softer areas of analysis tend to get so excited about their complex methodologies and so eager to have solid parameters for them that they make assumptions based on their ability to serve as a platform for "science", rather than the actual validity of the data.

In this case, it is almost impossible to get meaningful data on overall investment in clean energy. So rather than trying to find good data that matches their need, they take what data they have and crunch it to death. Ironically, I think this is much of the problem with quantitative finance as well.

In the real world, most capital that is allocated to innovative ("new", "renewable") fields is done through investments in venture capital, private equity, corporate capital, university and private funding, so is left entirely out of the their model. Note in this case corporate can be fairly small companies.

If you did the same study on information technology ten or 15 years ago, you would have found exactly the same thing. All publicly listed capital was for old media and none for new media. They probably would have concluded that new media wouldn't threaten old media for 131 years.

But then as soon as Google listed on the stock market the study results would change dramatically. But this wouldn't represent any step change in the information technology development. Instead a key variable, would cross boundaries, moving from something they didn't count to something they did count.

Statisticians love publicly traded companies because the data is abundant and the analysis is "easy". Unfortunately, is a subset of the data they should be using and can be fundamentally flawed. Great analysis based on bad assumptions produces garbage.

I don't care where these guys get their degrees from, what fancy formulas they use, where they publish, how many "peers" review their work, or if their analysis matches what I want to believe. As long as they define parameters so badly (presumably the peers don't understand basic capital market operations either), the research is so deeply flawed as to be meaningless.

Scientists seem to think that the problem with economics is that it is a science being done by non-scientists and would be better if scientists just did it. But they are just a hammer, assuming economics is a nail. They may hit it pretty hard, but shouldn't be surprised when they wind up squashing it.

I learned a lot more about financial markets from my study of social psychology (especially collective behavior) than I ever did from my finance and economics classes.

Don, is there a significant difference between the 1995 and 1997 editions of ECONOMICS: MAKING GOOD CHOICES?

Also, can you recommend a book that would capture the essence of your class FOUNDATIONS OF MATHEMATICS?

There is no significant difference between the 1995 and the '97 printings. Try to get the Student Guide to accompany ECONOMICS: MAKING GOOD CHOICES. It is some of my best writing and really easy reading. Often the two come together in one shrink-wrapped package.

There were some typographical errors that were corrected in the 1997 printing.

But note that modern physics is also very wrong. How can you possibly reconcile General Relativity with Quantum Theory? And if you cannot do that, how can you call physics a science?

I gather you haven't been following what's been happening with the LHC. Don, questioning the validity of physics as a science doesn't exactly give me much confidence in your arguments in General (pun intended).

For the record, reconciling General Relativity with Quantum Theory, is exactly what they are planning on doing and they are well on their way. Listen to this talk by Frank Wilczek, the Nobel Prize winner in Physics for 2004.


One of the things I have learned about science is that you don't have to worry about all the arcane features on the bleeding edge, going into quantum and string and relativity and all that. So I read all the popular or technical accounts of science and skip that stuff and head straight for the practical stuff like statistical mechanics and entropy instead. I know enough that you can separate these while there is enough new and interesting at the practical level to keep yourself busy with fresh concepts. YMMV.

I was being sarcastic when I made the "How can you call physics a science . . ." remark. I thought the sarcasm was obvious from the context of the remark. I was wrong about that.

My bad, I should take some of my own medicine >;^)

Wait a second. Haven't I been telling you over and over that scientists think economists think that they are scientists, but economists don't think that at all.

Hence the problem is with scientists incorrectly defining parameters, not economists overstepping their capabilities.

The problem is that if one were to apply a small portion of this scrutiny to scientists or engineers, they get defensive and upset and the conversation is over.

I have never heard a single economist describe economics as a science. At most, it is a "social science," more or less on a par with sociology and political science--which of course is not a science at all. Some economists say economics is "The queen of the social science," but the sane economists all know that economics is nothing like physics, astronomy, chemistry, or biology.

I have heard the distinction between "soft sciences" and "hard sciences". Yet the soft sciences are often considered more difficult because of the elements of human reasoning, which is difficult to model scientifically.

So I am willing to agree with whatever you say.

I have a feeling some of the breakthroughs will come via the branch called "econophysics" where they seem to not shy away from using scientific principles. But then this isn't classical economics either.

Don said: "the sane economists all know that economics is nothing like physics, astronomy, chemistry, or biology"

I also suspect that the sane scientists know that sciences such as physics, astronomy, chemistry, and biology are nothing like economics.

Econophysics just seems like another attempt to breathe life into the corpse of quantitative finance by a bunch of academics who either don't know their limitations or are seduced by the money being earned by people they think aren't as smart as they are.

As Don notes elsewhere in this thread, soft "sciences" such as psychology have added a lot more to the fields of economic and finance than the hard sciences.

I would watch the development of behavioral finance more closely the econophysics if I was looking for breakthroughs.

At the end of the day, economics is a soft science because it operates in a soft world where definitions and assumptions are much less clear than in the hard sciences. No matter what form of hard tools you apply to soft data, you still get soft results.

This is a pretty good snapshot of the overall issue:

Since economic phenomena are the result of the interaction among many heterogeneous agents, there is an analogy with statistical mechanics, where many particles interact; but it must be taken into account that the properties of human beings and particles significantly differ.


I am a big fan of econophysics because I can actually understand it and have been using the concepts in my day-to-day work. If it it is not really classified as economics but whatever goes into productivity studies I am glad that someone is working on this.

Once oil production declines in spite of high prices it will be impossible to deny Peak Oil.

"Environmentalists are blocking access to our Oil!"

"Nationalised oil companies are inefficient. If they'd allow private companies access, we'd have plenty of oil!"

"The Government needs to get its nose out of our business, and let us get on with drilling!"

"It's a lack of investment incentives. The Government needs to do more to encourage exploration!" (note that this one conflicts with excuse #3, but both will be used, often by the same people, and in the same conversation)

"We need to Nationalise the oil companies. They're sitting on vast amounts of oil, but are holding it back so they can make more money!" (conflicts with #2)

"Exxon/Shell/The Government et al have bought the rights to/murdered the inventors of cars that run on water/Free Energy Machines! It's all a conspiracy to keep us down!"

These and more are the excuses you'll hear to explain declining production.

General Motors bought up a bunch of streetcar companies in order to shut them down and force us to burn oil !

True, BTW. Convicted of restraint of trade and fined $5,000.


St. Paul will be a much better city when we finally go back to street cars. There is some light rail (not sure I'm using that term correctly) between the Capitol in St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis along University Avenue. The light rail line we do have is long walking distance from where I live; it runs north and south in Minneapolis and is a good way to get to the Mall of America (ugh) or the new Minnesota Twins ballpark, Target field. Because of the great success of this rail line I'm pretty sure we'll get more rail in metropolitan MN.

Interesting story about the Hiawatha Light Rail line.

It was observed that ridership fell in the winter months. Further analysis showed that the drop was only in the peak direction during rush hour. Further analysis showed a correlation with temperature (colder > fewer riders).

Odd. Why would people chose to drive on the coldest days ? Were the shelters inadequate ?

Then the cause was discovered. The average diameter of Minnesotans increased in the winter and you could cram fewer of them on-board :-)


There are building light rail between St. Paul & Minneapolis. Open November 2012. A site worth looking at


... and you could cram fewer of them on-board


Good one.

Was Don Sailorman one of the tested subjects?

They have some heaters in the station, but the areas are completely open on one side, and when it gets well below zero and the wind is howling, you can quickly get darned cold waiting for the train.

I think they should have some totally enclosed areas, maybe sliding doors or garage-door-type contraptions for the cold months at least.

Tubular stations with doors that open right where the train doors are would work and has been used with bus mass transit in some places.

I think the planners just never actually use these things in the depths of winter.

Please explain to me why one would expect economists (or anybody outside TOD) to reject the conventional wisdom.

I am just looking for one economist that has written a deep paper on the subject of oil depletion. There was this one from the last year that was pretty deep but I think was misguided.
'What Goes Up Must Come Down? An Economic Analysis of Peak Oil' John R. Boyce
"Technological change driven by learning-by-doing offsets Ricardian depletion effects."

So can you explain to me whether Boyce is accepting the conventional wisdom or rejecting it?

I have not read the paper. It is getting close to my bedtime, and I'm getting sleepy. Probably 99.9% of all Ph.D. economists rely on conventional wisdom when it comes to oil. Why should they not? I rely on experts all the time when I go into disciplines outside my field, e.g. physics. By the way I'm an avid amateur astronomer (used to build reflecting telescopes from a disk of Pyrex and pipe fittings) and a strictly amateur physicist. However, I've known a lot of physicists, and I know how they think. They think way better than most people. Some of them write pretty well, too. Einstein was one of those.

Did you know that Ph.D. economists earn more than either physicists or chemists? Indeed, being an economist is one of the highest paid professions.

Yes Don, I actually do know that, there is a relative of mine who is a US educated economist he holds a Ph.D. and worked many years for the IMF and today works in the finance ministry of a small country that will go unnamed. However with respect to income, that in and of itself doesn't say all that much. My ex wife is an astrologer and she too probably makes more than most chemists or physicists.

To be clear, having read many of your posts I hold your opinions in high regard and while I may occasionally make snide remarks about economists I am certainly aware that there are highly intelligent people amongst their ranks and that quite a few of them must be at least somewhat cognizant of reality. I still think that the views of most mainstream economists are fair game for criticism and they should certainly have their feet held to the fire.

As for rejecting conventional wisdom, regardless of ones background or profession, I realize that is not something that happens overnight.


It's the economists that make themselves look stupid. And it is not up to their scientific critics to coddle them. When some prominent economist claims we will never run out of any metal since the price signal will spur alchemy (transmutation) then it should be up to other economists to make the clown retract his drivel. Intelligence is not a blank check for limitless growth and zero pollution and environmental cost dogma.

This is an interesting discussion. One of my undergraduate degrees is in economics and, for a time, I seriously considered pursuing a Phd in the field. I concluded though that neoclassical economics is 50% social "science" and 50% religion. I would now put those percentages at 80% / 20%. I decided to go in a different direction. I have no doubt that economists are paid more than many other types of Phds. The rise in economists' earning has, IMO, paralleled the rise of the FIRE economy in the "industrialized" countries. Financial companies hire legions of economists to produce the economic analysis that sells the financial products and services marketed by these companies. These analyses are by and large worthless. Go back and read the anlyses of the economists from the NAR over the last three years and you will see my point ("there's never been a better time to by real estate!). No offense to our resident economists but any time you see an economist offer a projection or estimate of the future course of any economic parameter, simply substitute "guess" for "projection" and you will place the proper value on it.

Good points but you will see the apologists pointing out that what you are talking about is finance or business but not necessarily economics. Whether intentional or not, the business school types have set up a finger-pointing network of disciplines that can avoid accountability. Spin that with petroleum engineering and geology not really wanting to have anything to do with resource depletion issues, you can see how these issues fall through the cracks.

So then it is up to all these other spin-off disciplines such as environmental economics and environmental "fill in the blanks" to fill in the cracks. Weird how this has played out.

[They] have set up a finger-pointing [blame-passing] network of [sub-]disciplines

Plausible deniability is not unique to economics.

Essentially all management level jobs employ the "plausible deniability" ruse.
In fact, "plausible deniability" is a feature of all specializations under the Adam Smith umbrella.

How many times have you heard, "Hey, I'm not a ____(blank) expert, but ..." --where the fill-in-the-blank can be science, engineering, math, computer, medicine, etc. and it is followed by the butt covering explanation.

It is an easy excuse for helping everybody to explain away our common ignorance (we are all individual ignoramuses when it comes to the vast storehouse of human knowledge) and to pass off responsibility to somebody else.

Hey, I'm not a "geologist"; but the good ones promise we will have oil for the next 50 years and that's all I need to know.

Ron - I suppose I must now confess to making all those bad choices when I drilled dry holes. Obviously I should have chosen to find more oil/NG. Even today I continue my folly by drilling for NG. I should immediately abandon those efforts and pull all my oil prospects out from the back of the file cabinet

A more reasonable characterization of IEA’s most likely scenario is that it estimates oil production will remain steady for the foreseeable future at around the level attained in 2006. Scary? Rioting in the Streets? Stark?

No? Well, are you at least mildly concerned?

Well, even if we accept the implication that there will be no decline in production and 2006 levels can be maintained into the forseable future, there is that niggling little issue of global population still currently growing by a little over 1.1% annually, (source CIA World Factbook). This means we are still adding approximately 74.5 million new potential consumers of oil every single year who will also be dipping into that steadyproduction. Granted the global population growth rate has been steadily declining but it is still expected that by circa 2050 we will be adding an extra 40 million people, yearly, to the World's population.

The current population of my native Sao Paulo Brazil, is about 18.5 million people, so the way I think about this is that in 2050 we will still be adding the equivalent of an additional two, new Sao Paulos, to the global population of oil consumers, every year... Sufice it to say, I'm also more than a little skeptical that there will not be any decline in oil production between now and then. My gut tells me, "Houston we have a problem..."

The actual annual growth in the number of humans fell from its peak of 88.0 million in 1989, to a low of 73.9 million in 2003, after which it rose again to 75.2 million in 2006. Since then, annual growth has declined. In 2009 the human population increased by 74.6 million, and it is projected to fall steadily to about 41 million per annum in 2050, at which time the population will have increased to about 9.2 billion.[9] Each region of the globe has seen great reductions in growth rate in recent decades, though growth rates remain above 2% in some countries of the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, and also in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.[10]
Source CIA World Factbook

So, yes, I am, mildly concerned even though given my current age I will not be here in 2050 but my son might still be...! But thanks to the constant 'all is well' propaganda no one else seems to be very concerned. Least of all the economists.

No Peak!

Watched DVD last nite (Running the Sahara) on 3 guys running across Africa and the Sahara Desert (ave. about 45 mi/day, my wife is a marathoner or we would have never rented it).

Anyway, they came across an influential nomad in Niger who was concerned with the bulk of the young giving up the life and going to the cities. The nomad felt it primarily a reaction to declining water levels/water holes. His solution is more water holes. So they are drilling wells by hand through rock hundreds of feet deep in the desert. They lower guys with picks and shovels in a basket and haul it back up via handcrank. Amazing what we can do, what we will do to preserve a lifestyle, and 'all is well'.

What might be a sad fact of that Nomad's thinking, is that the city sapped his water table, and he can't see that as a possible reason for lack of water.

Just digging down till he finds water might not solve anything.

Days like this I want my Geo-engineering space aliens to show up and plant a few hunks of polar ice cap where people need the fresh water. Even if in the long run they want to make earth more like thier home and less like ours. (it's a spy-sci-fi novel I started working on about 1996, and recently dug out to finish, adding a section where the aliens put a 528ft on a side cube of Ice on the White House lawn as a warning sign.)

Oh well no aliens to save us from wasting our fresh water and sending our kids to the big cities.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

Sorry, but it is highly unlikely that the city sapped that water table. His well is far beyond the middle of nowhere, probably several days journey from the last hole in the middle of nowhere.

I searched earlier for a link to show the depth and general area of that well. No luck. There is an organization associated with the DVD, H2OAfrica, but it's emphasis is machined wells for village consumption. Between the mental challenges of running nonstop across Africa, and digging that well, it has swallowed my attention today, that I need to do more, especially at my age.

Export Land Model ?

What's that ?

Surely consumers in Saudi Arabia and Venezuela will have to outbid other potential consumers, such as those in the USA and China, if the market is going to allocate the available oil to them.


Economists do have a lot to answer for, but do economists dominate CERA or EIA or IEA? I don't know that this is the case. I find that often economists are blamed when the true villain is financial journalists or some other group. Are there petroleum engineers in these groups? Are there petroleum geologists? Maybe all the wishful thinking is based on the forecasts of exploration petroleum geologists rather than those of economists.

They just assume that peak oilers are so damn dumb...

Maybe not exactly that. Consider "spin", "PR" - no, the short words have all become too loaded, something more neutral, but "expression" is too airy and professorial, as is "pedagogy" - anyway something neutral along those lines.

From the original quote up top:

Refuting the peak oil mystics, the IEA predicts that oil production will keep growing...

(emphasis added intentionally.) Look at that for a sec. Now, I submit that once you push the mystic button in public, there's no telling what the consequences will be, except that they won't be conducive to rational discussion or even to moving something in a desired political direction. And I also submit that in the open and accessible peak-oil discussion, there's probably too much pushing of the mystic button for anyone's own good. It repels people.

What I mean by pushing the mystic button is that plenty of folks, for assorted idiosyncratic reasons, entertain romantic notions of turning everybody else's life upside down, and of course it's only for the presumed greater good. And these folks are attracted to fossil fuel depletion and climate change like moths to a flame, because those issues seem to excuse them from having to explain where they would get the right to coerce others. Meanwhile, hardly anyone wishes to join them; most simply seek to live out their lives (whatever that means to them), thank you very much indeed.

A prominent reflection of those romantic notions is the continual hankering for the dead past (so I could just as well have called it the reinstate the dead past button.) This seems rooted in some airy but historically ridiculous notion that life would be "fairer" or "simpler" - or maybe just that life would be more past-like and that would in some mysterious way be a good thing. The often-entertaining Jim Kunstler comes to mind; even if a magic Mr. Fusion were invented this very afternoon, he would surely go on dishing suburbs and promoting stuffy Victorian overcrowding for purely philosophical reasons. We also get the apotheosis of small farms and even of harsh peasant life in the USA and some parts of Europe. Or the American-exceptionalist survival-bunker thing, which, as I've said before, seems to be rooted in our founding myths in some way I just don't quite 'get'. Or the fast-dieoff thing. Or the ever-recurring cocksure meme, nutshelled elsewhere on this page as "Walking shoes and bicycles. That is the future." Anything, urban, rural, something neither, whatever, doesn't matter, just so it reinstates the dead past.

To bring it down to earth let's focus on that bicycle thing for a moment. Merely riding a bicycle can be a provocation, even in the Berkeley of the Midwest. Full Lance Armstrong outfit; utility riding in jeans; either way, it just doesn't matter. It pushes the mystic button, also known as the I have the right to run your life for you button. A typical response to provocation is harassment. These days that is (mostly) more muted around here (but not always elsewhere) than back in college days. It used to be eggs, small rocks, and gunning engines alternating with screeching tires. Actual communication was rare, but there was the guy in the pickup truck who screeched his tires, yelled at the top of his lungs, "what do you think this is, Red China?", gunned it, and zoomed off. Not on the highway mind you, but on a small-ish mostly-residential through street.

Now please ponder that guy's comment, which I quoted as directly as I can recall it, for a moment. I figure that in some inarticulate sense he felt threatened*. Now, in that light, ponder also the results of the election that just (mostly) concluded. Observe that some things never change, or if they do, they only change slowly.

... OK, enough pondering, no need to wallow. Here are my questions, and they're not about occasional comments responding to blog posts, but about keyposts, media articles, or prominently repeated comments. If one wishes to promote change - of whatever sort, not just with respect to energy or climate matters - then to what extent will pushing that mystic button actually function as promotion (to anyone other than True Believers), and to what extent will it just send people running away? Given the look and feel of so much of the literature, is it really a huge surprise that the item quoted up top was worded as it was?

*He wouldn't have been exactly wrong in possibly taking the view that if I wasn't driving a car that day, then some greenie-weenie politician might use that as an excuse to restrict his use of his hard-earned pickup truck arbitrarily, and shove him back into his great-grandparents' day. Consider, after all, that a number of TOD posters express exactly that sort of attitude repeatedly and vociferously - I get along without [whatever], and that implicitly gives me the right to force you to do likewise.

In sociology we call the longing for an idealized and romanticized past the fallacy of nostalgia.


I just came in for a break from bucking up a tan oak with a 32" butt. It's damn hard work at any age and I'm just about 72. Without a chainsaw? For get it. It seems to me that the only people who idealize the past are those who have never come close to actually doing it/living it. FWIW, this firewood is for the year after next; next year's is already done.

The same thing is true about growing stuff and on and on. It gets old after years of doing it.


That is why I have four adult children and two teenage grandchidren (so far, some younger) to help me out when I'm old and worn out. Fortunately I'm on good terms with all of them, and all of my children said that I can move in with them and enjoy free room and board if I need it. My son will give me his low-mileage Toyota Corolla when I need it.

In my opinion, good children are the best investment any of us can make.

You can also run into situations that aren't great. My wife's sister and her husband who, at 62, are raising her son and his ex-girlfriend's 5 year old to avoid the child being sent to a foster home. There is a story behind this but I'll let it go at this.


Having children is a crapshoot. I got lucky, four winners out of four attempts. However, one of my chief criteria in choosing a wife was to find a robust, healthy, intelligent, well-educated one who would also be a good mother.

I think that young people should think more about the breeding prospects in their prospective mates. In the old days this was done all the time.

I think that young people should think more about the breeding prospects in their prospective mates. In the old days this was done all the time.

Don, that is a very facile answer that displays no understanding of the fact that some people (these two at least) do not have the ability to make those kinds of decisions. The father was a fetal alcohol syndrome baby that was adopted (without knowing this) because my wife's sister had had a horrid first pregnancy so they adopted this boy at birth. This (now) man has never been able to cope with life and lives on SSI. The child's mother they are caring for has enough psychological problems to write a book about.

So, knock off the "intellectual" crap.


It isn't "intellectual crap." If you study history and anthropology you will find that (especially among the upper and middle classes) people were very careful about whom they married or had babies with. IMO opinion the younger generation or two in America has been almost criminally careless in that regard. This is an opinion informed by my study of sociology, anthropology, and history.

It isn't "intellectual crap." If you study history and anthropology you will find that (especially among the upper and middle classes) people were very careful about whom they married or had babies with. IMO opinion the younger generation or two in America has been almost criminally careless in that regard. This is an opinion informed by my study of sociology, anthropology, and history.

Dude, it's called sexual selection - and it's a part of nature. The females (young or older) will ALWAYS choose the fittest male. You should look harder at your own disapproval of their choices and why (I suspect you are talking about race and sorry but getting a diverse set of genes from someone of another race isn't bad from a genetics point of view.)

I'm not talking about race at all. What I'm talking is pure sociology (including demography), and one of the main concepts of sociology is social class. Turns out race doesn't make much difference for sociological dependent variables. On the other hand, social class is a powerful independent and predictive variable. There is far more difference between a lower-class Black person and a middle-class Black person than there is between Black middle-class and White middle-class.

This stuff has been studied for fifty years in sociology. At least fifty years, maybe more.

These situations are good or bad depending on what you make of them. The situations exist... I know, since I am raising 4 grandchildren now (ranging 4 to 13); one son died, the other is disabled and divorced.

I could gripe and bitch, but it would only make me feel bad. Instead, I welcome the opportunity to raise and guide these little ones, and there are more than just a few days when I want to apologize to them for the godawful mess we are leaving them.

The situation is not great. It ain't bad though! And, it keeps me alive!

With 4 generations in the house, things are hopping all the time.



Just gotta say - I respect you greatly for the way you are approaching that.

*He wouldn't have been exactly wrong in possibly taking the view that if I wasn't driving a car that day, then some greenie-weenie politician might use that as an excuse to restrict his use of his hard-earned pickup truck arbitrarily, and shove him back into his great-grandparents' day.

I suspect you are misinterpreting, what is in actuality an honest and realistic assessment, based on observation and available empirical data, and extrapolated into a possible future scenario, (not necessarily a prediction) by certain readers and posters here on TOD, for an attempt to force people to do things they don't want to do.

I think it boils down to the fact that some, at least on this site have already come to a very clear understanding of the fact that the current paradigm is unsustainable. It doesn't matter how hard-earned that pickup is or was or whether or not it's owner feels that it is unjustly going to be taken away from him. The reality is that humans desperately resist change, sometimes at all costs even to their own detriment. If someone points out that change might include a world without pickup trucks, I'm not surprised that someone whose personal identity is almost exclusively defined by the possession of just such a vehicle might resist a world view that tells him it won't be possible any longer.

Unfortunately this doesn't change the reality that the pickup owner is going to end up walking,riding a bicycle or taking the train and that has absolutely nothing to do with what anyone here or anywhere else wants to restrict.

Once you step off the edge of the 20th story you will probably hit the pavement and go splat. Reality sure can suck, but that's a far cry from anyone wanting to push someone over the edge. We are just saying that that's what we think is probably going to happen.

Consider, after all, that a number of TOD posters express exactly that sort of attitude repeatedly and vociferously - I get along without [whatever], and that implicitly gives me the right to force you to do likewise.

Yeah, right! Some of us here are such meanies aren't we? We obviously aren't happy to wallow in our own misery by ourselves, we want to force people like you to suffer as well!
Yeah, we are so incredibly powerful...

...and extrapolated into a possible future scenario...

Hardly any extrapolation at all, really; more of a naturalistic description of a political process ongoing since World War II. After the war some of the run-my-neighbor's-life busybodies wanted to keep the rationing and price controls going indefinitely. Americans were mostly having none of it, but the Brits didn't lift their rationing and controls until 1953 or 1954, and in New York City and some other places the housing-rent controls still live on (in much modified form) a mere 65 years later, with the wartime rationale for them essentially beyond living memory. In the 1970s a bit of "rationing" (such as it was, odd-even, short hours; the coupons never did get issued) rose again from the land of the undead - as did very real price controls, along with the artificial shortages and phony "new" products they engendered.

Not until the 1980 election was the wooden dagger run through the heart of that stuff, but still with exceptions. At the Federal level, talk of levying punitive gasoline taxes came back from time to time. Locally, officials impeded street expansions from keeping up with population growth, on the theory that people had so much time on their hands that whenever they wanted to pop out for a bit, they'd be happy to wait an hour for a bus that might or might not show up, instead of simply driving for a few minutes.

Naturally, nearly all the expansions have since been built - in the end that's what happens. But in the meantime, our screaming pickup-truck driver and folks like him heard the official pronunciamentos and drew their own conclusions. And lest we delude ourselves that this is all just some remote "extrapolation" to be ignored with impunity, let's not forget to bring it right up to date: less than a week ago, those same folks (and/or their offspring) let out another primal scream, and this time at the voting booths, not merely at some passing cyclist. So now we'll have to wait and see just where that takes us...

A lot of peak oil analysis leaves economists cold. After all, production levels are in part a result of production choices, and in markets production is driven in part by costs and prices. The popular Hubbert’s Curve approach to modeling peak oil ignores all of this.

Well, there's an economist rising to his own level of self-importance...

Hubbert's model, while in some parts is determined by economics, is mostly a physical model - ie, a constraint on top and interconnected to the economic model. It is not an economic model of itself.

This was my comment over there. (I'll get better feedback here, if I was way off on something..)

“..production levels are in part a result of production choices, and in markets production is driven in part by costs and prices..”

Well understandably, the economists will continue to channel their analysis down to the parts which work within their purview.. costs and prices. There are other parts that don’t work as a result of Money, but instead drive costs and prices, which would include A)The amount of technology, sheer metal, and labor required to get each barrel of oil out of the ground, and B) The ratio of new discovery to the amount being drawn out each year.

We do have new (and not so new) tools that help us improve extraction, help us reach deeper into the seabed, help us count existing fields as bigger than they once were, (at a new extraction cost, that is) We’ve been employing most of these for a couple decades already too, as far as that goes. “Tertiary Methods”.. We’re poking our straws around much more adroitly for those last dregs of milkshake at the bottom of the cup, in other words.

The ‘big new’ discoveries are none of them all that big now. Maybe we’ll find a couple more supergiants, but look at this discovery rate, and at the likely extraction rate from these ‘big’ discoveries .. or to Paraphrase Bill Cosby’s God to Noah exchange, “How Long can you pump water?”

The IEA clearly showed crude’s high-mark in ’06. If you want to bet that ‘other liquids’ , ‘reserve growth’ or some magical new discovery will turn that into a footnote, and that the supply of crude isn’t a Keystone that holds many of these other choices aloft, good luck with that. I think we’d be smart to be ready for the harder of these two, possible directions this could take us in, and not keep banking on having continued Good Luck in the energy that runs this whole thing.

That’s what leaves me sort of cold with the Economist’s point of view on this issue.


Which economists do you have in mind? Please name one that fits your description. I don't know any economists that dumb.

I don't know, Nate supplied us with this excerpt a while back:

Ravaioli: But there are many other environmental problems ...

Nobel Laureate Friedman: Of course. Take oil, for example. Everyone says it's a limited resource: physically it may be, but economically we don't know. Economically there is more oil today than there was a hundred years ago. When it was still under the ground and no one knew it was there, it wasn't economically available. When resources are really limited prices go up, but the price of oil has gone down and down. Suppose oil became scarce: the price would go up, and people would start using other energy sources. In a proper price system the market can take care of the problem.

Ravaioli: But we know that it takes millions of years to create an oil well, and we can't reproduce it. Relying on oil means living on our capital and not on the interest, which would be the sensible course. Don't you agree?

Nobel Laureate Friedman: If we were living on the capital, the market price would go up. The price of truly limited resources will rise over time. The price of oil has not been rising, so we're not living on the capital. When that is no longer true, the price system will give a signal and the price of oil will go up. As always happens with a truly limited resource.Why an illusion?

Ravaioli: Because we know it’s a limited resource.

Nobel Laureate Friedman: Excuse me, it's not limited from an economic point of view. You have to separate the economic from the physical point of view. Many of the mistakes people make come from this. Like the stupid projections of the Club of Rome: they used a purely physical approach, without taking prices into account. There are many different sources of energy, some of which are too expensive to be exploited now. But if oil becomes scarce they will be exploited. But the market, which is fortunately capable of registering and using widely scattered knowledge and information from people all over the world, will take account of those changes

From Economists and the Environment

We can make up our own mind based on their words.

Isn't it wonderful what vague terms can do for an "argument"?

"other energy sources"

"many different sources of energy"

"the market"

The vaguer the argument, the more it is believed.

By the way, to those of you in-the-know: How true is the following statement:

Nineteenth century historian Thomas Carlyle called economics the "dismal science." Much attention has been paid to what Carlyle meant by 'dismal.' It seems apparent that the problem with economic prediction is not with its dismalness, but with the fact that

" ...economics typically does not use the scientific method, where hypotheses are tested by observing what goes on in the economy. Instead, economists often develop elaborate theories that may be logically consistent, but are often based upon unrealistic concepts. For example, a basic assumption of economics is that people are consistently rational in their behaviors." (Kida 2003: p. 149)
Skeptic's Dictionary.

What was the date of the Milton Friedman conversation? In any case, Friedman was essentially right: The LIMITS TO GROWTH book was wrong about their dates for the (economic) exhaustion of oil reserves. The conventional (non economic) wisdom of CERA, IEA, EIA all says that we have nothing to worry about in regard to Peak Oil for twenty-five or thirty years. I suspect these overoptimistic forecasts are based not on what economists say but rather on what petroleum exploration geologists say.

If you were an economist and out of your field, would you not listen to the conventional wisdom? Why listen to TOD, which is a notorious site for conspiracy theorists and others beyond the fringe? TOD has no credibility. CERA, IEA, EIA all have great credibility. Too bad the conventional wisdom is so wrong, but you cannot blame that mainly on economists.

I am just curious about a scholarly reference on peak oil by an economist. I could name the economist Jeff Rubin but does he count? He has book out but I don't think he does research papers. I think James Hamilton is in the same camp.

Any refereed papers out there by an economist?

The Milton F quote was from 1995, BTW.

Jeff Rubin and James Hamilton are both bona fide Ph.D. economists. I often read Econobrowser for Hamilton's remarks. There are a few--all too few--economists who are Peak Oil aware in the sense that those who hang out at TOD are Peak aware. Except for James Hamilton and Lou Grinzo, I don't know of any economists who read TOD or even know that this site exists.

So you don't have any scholarly economic references that you can point to?

I have had a hard time finding some myself. Same thing with petroleum engineering or oil geology scholarly references to oil depletion. Nothing really out there.

What was the date of the Milton Friedman conversation? In any case, Friedman was essentially right: The LIMITS TO GROWTH book was wrong about their dates for the (economic) exhaustion of oil reserves.

That's curious. I don't recall LIMITS TO GROWTH making predictions about either the physical or economic exhaustion of oil reserves. What I recall is that they set up a number of scenarios for their model and graphed the resulting exhaustion of mineral reserves (I don't think they treated oil as a separate subject at all, but used a more general class of mineral reserves)for each scenario.

Can you cite me the pages in THE LIMITS TO GROWTH where predicted dates of the economic exhaustion of oil are mentioned?

You are correct. One of the big failings of LIMITS TO GROWTH was its failure to focus on oil. Oil is the bottleneck that stops economic growth and reverses it.

You have said several times today that TOD HAS "no credibility," and that it is "beyond the fringe" and "over the top."

Of course, I recognize that there are conspiracy theorists out here. Not all of us think that PO or AGW or any other phenomena is a conspiracy. Personally I believe that it is the consequence of people being people and doing what they do. The act from fear, and from personal insecurity mostly... some call it greed. It stems, IMO, from those emotions and from a lack or failure to make critical examination of facts.

Having said that, are you aware of a PO aware site that IS credible? Where no one is far out, or strange. And, no one proposes some conspiracy has created the ruinous state in which we find ourselves? If so, please educate me. I would like to add that to my (short) list of such.



Thanks Craig;

That helped me put things in perspective. It seems the seas are a little choppy right now, maybe it's the election, maybe it's foreshocks or aftershocks.. but there has been a clear rise in the tension around here lately, and yet I don't feel that this site is better or worse for it.

I understand why Don and others are perturbed by the 911 sidetrack the other day. It's far more of a codeword for crazy than Peak Oil is.. and yet, like you, I'm not that thrown by such a detour, and this question of our getting credibility, as in some kind of approval by those who don't buy PO and would look to this site to make that call.. well, I think the overwhelming weight of the comments over the last several years isn't really undone by that, not for long anyhow.

There is still an assembly of smart folks here who don't want the same kind of reactive idiocy that embroils so much of web conversation.. the discussion does get in there here and there, but it also comes back out again.

"The problem isn't falling down. The problem is not getting back up."

(Kind of like Leanan's thoughts about collapse not being simply a one-way street the other day. THAT was nice to hear. There IS bad, and there is ALSO good.)

EDIT; Finally, as I pore over these interactions, day after day, I'm reminded how much of it is Character. 'Everything is Character' .. and I find this cast to have a very rich and useful spectrum of them, helping us delve into many parts of the Gamut of Ideas that ought to be explored in such an enveloping issue. bob

why Don and others are perturbed by the 911 sidetrack the other day

Yesterday, my wife and I saw the "Fair Game" movie.

It focuses in on one and only set of lies used to sell the Iraq 2002 war to the American people:
the Niger yellow-cake and aluminum tubes story and the uncloaking of Valerie Plame (Joe Wilson's wife) as a CIA operative.

After seeing the movie, my wife finally started to "get it". (She thinks my beliefs in Peak Oil are kook city.)

"Why, then, why did we go to war against Iraq?" she asked.

"It's the oil," I answered. "It's always been the oil."

The 9/11 incident probably was all about the oil as well --even though we may never know the full truth ever.

(I've learned to just live with it and move on. How long can you go on tormenting yourself about WTC 7 and other mysteries?)

Haven't seen the movie. I know some claim that Plame's real secret assignment was Peak Oil related.


Not only was Plame's cover blown, so was that of her cover company, Brewster, Jennings & Associates. With the public exposure of Plame, intelligence agencies all over the world started searching data bases for any references to her (TIME Magazine). Damage control was immediate, as the CIA asserted that her mission had been connected to weapons of mass destruction.

However, it was not long before stories from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal tied Brewster, Jennings & Associates to energy, oil and the Saudi-owned Arabian American Oil Company, or ARAMCO. Brewster Jennings had been a founder of Mobil Oil company, one of Aramco's principal founders.

According to additional sources interviewed by Wayne Madsen, Brewster Jennings was, in fact, a well-established CIA proprietary company, linked for many years to ARAMCO. The demise of Brewster Jennings was also guaranteed the moment Plame was outed.

...Given that energy is becoming the most important issue on the planet today, if you were the CIA, you might be a little pissed off at the Plame leak. But there may be justification to do more than be angry. Anger happens all the time in Washington. This is something else.

One of the most important intelligence prizes today - especially after recent stories in major outlets like the New York Times reporting that Saudi oil production has peaked and gone into irreversible decline - would be to know of a certainty whether those reports are correct.

Wayne Madsen is another conspiracy theorist on the level of Alex Jones and the 9-11 truthers. Why link to him?

To be honest I had no idea who Wayne Madsen was until I googled it after reading your reply. I have heard of Michael C Ruppert the main author though.

I just picked that link because it seemed to give a concise summary of the claims.

I think the Energy Bulletin has more credibility than TOD. However, that is not saying much.

Energy Bulletin will often republish TOD posts.

Only the best ones.

Then why did they do mine?


Well, Friedman is that dumb but you have chosen about the most conservative economist one could come up with. I learned to respect people like Herman Daly decades ago. Or try Kenneth Boulding.

Robert Heilbroner was another knowledgeable economist. When I used to teach Environmental Economics, back in the seventies, one of the textbooks was by a couple of economists, Barkley and Secker, and the title was something like ECONOMIC GROWTH: THE SOLUTION BECOMES THE PROBLEM. I imagine you can find this excellent little book cheap on amazon.com. I may not have every word in the title exactly right, but I think I spelled the authors' names correctly.

Many excellent books on energy and the environment were published during the seventies. I have a shelf full of them. Hardly anybody (including those on TOD) read those books anymore, which is a great pity.

So it appears that the economics discipline has essentially split and the only economists to seek out are those in the environmental economics or ecological economics or evolutionary economics fields? That covers Daly and Boulding who are the offshoots from the mainstream. Nothing in the classical economics area?

None of the dominant neoclassical economists that I know of are worried about Peak Oil. The very few economists who worry about Peak Oil that I know of are all out of the mainstream of economics.

OK, thanks for your help. I will quit trying to pry for more information until the next economist comes along.

How about John Quiggin?


I found this by him:
It is another one of those review-level articles, nothing of much depth at all.
"The Peak Oil Hypothesis is controversial, to put it mildly. On the one hand, its supporters are a vocal group including some prominent geologists, with a large and somewhat cult-like following. On the other hand, most official agencies notably including the US Geological Service, have been dismissive, and arguably complacent. The current period of high prices and short supply is consistent with predictions of the Hubbert Peak."

Robert Heilbroner was another knowledgeable economist. When I used to teach Environmental Economics, back in the seventies, one of the textbooks was by a couple of economists, Barkley and Secker, and the title was something like ECONOMIC GROWTH: THE SOLUTION BECOMES THE PROBLEM. I imagine you can find this excellent little book cheap on amazon.com. I may not have every word in the title exactly right, but I think I spelled the authors' names correctly.

Many excellent books on energy and the environment were published during the seventies. I have a shelf full of them. Hardly anybody (including those on TOD) read those books anymore, which is a great pity.

I chose Friedman because elsewhere Don said that he admired him.

I admire a lot of economists that I do not entirely agree with. For example, Friedman was wrong about the stability of a function to predict the velocity of money. He admitted his error and modified monetarist doctrine accordingly. By the way, Friedman, along with Paul Samuelson, was an excellent writer. The Friedman-Samuelson dialogues in NEWSWEEK that went on for a decade some twenty or thirty years ago were excellent. Friedman and Samuelson agreed on 98% of economics, but all the attention goes to the 2% where they disagreed. Samuelson famously wrote: "We are all monetarists now." To which Friedman graciously replied: "We are all Keynesians now." Friedman had a lot of respect for Keynes, though he disagreed with Keynes's policy prescriptions. Friedman thought pure fiscal policy wouldn't work at all. I think he was wrong about that.

I took a Macro-Economics course from Samuelson years ago. It was an interesting time.

It seems that both Friedman and Samuelson had a few assumptions that are questionable. My observation in early 2008 was that these guys were all guessing. I have not seen much to change my mind.

Not that they are not smart, educated, or good writers. Especially Samuelson!


Friedman wrote every bit as well as Samuelson. See for example the book he did with Anna Schwartz, A MONETARY HISTORY OF THE U.S. (I might have that title slightly wrong--am relying on memory.)

Also Friedman's book CAPITALISM AND FREEDOM is very well written. In this book Milton Friedman proposes a negative income tax to abolish poverty in the U.S. That is an excellent idea, IMO.

You have to separate the economic from the physical point of view.

Translation: Economics is Fiction.

What about the author? Michael Giberson.

We're getting this happy talk from Economists on a regular basis, Don. Maybe not from your favorites, but this 'Oil will find it's price, and if it's too high, an alternative will just step in to replace it' -- story that comes through here daily.

Now I'm sure it's not a monolithic attitude from the whole profession.. but we're certainly not strangers to it. They keep saying that price will drive the solution, as if the physical world will bend to meet the need and make us happy. Of course it might be US being bent.. but not a lot of the Broadcast Savvy $$oothsayers seem to work with the fortitude of Mr. Malthus.


Economists are correct insofar as a free market will help ("help" not solve) us to deal with the Peak Oil predicament. However, I think the U.S. will become a command economy--not ruled by market forces--about the year 2020.

Economists and economic historians know a great deal about command economies. Indeed, I studied them extensively and in depth when I was in the graduate school of economics in Berkeley.


I think the real problem is that the mainstream falls into the logical trap that says, "technology has always bailed us out when we got in a jam. Therefore, they will always bail us out, no matter what the problem is."

From all I have read and studied, ever since the beginning of the industrial age (the age of Coal and Oil), cheap energy has been the lever, and science the fulcrum. What happens when there is no lever?


After all this time, I think I can reduce Hubbert's model to
"the area under the curve is equal to the URR"

An economist would reword this as "the area under the curve is the back of a giant tortoise"

it's turtles all the way down!

Many, and probably almost all, economists believe that half the recoverable oil will be left in the ground as technological advances and the price system make oil an obsolescent fuel. Of course, they are wrong.

Of course, they are wrong.

My God, Don is actually right about something, although probably not for the reason he imagines.

Given that on average only about 30% of OIP is commercially recoverable then we can say with a fairly high level of confidence that of the 6 trillion bbl of estimated world OIP only about 2 trillion bbl will ever end up as URR.

We have already burned through about 1 trillion of those barrels in the last century or so, with the resultant and all too predictable explosion in population and pollution. Something tells me it won't take but a scant few decades, at most, to burn through the majority of the last trillion barrels. And that's only if the tiny handful of geologically blessed countries sitting on top of those remaining reserves are persuaded to export them.

This leaves about 4 trillion bbl of OIP, in the ground and never to be recovered, for future economists to crow about.


Economists talk about recoverable oil being that oil which is available at market prices using existing technology. I think they are too optimistic about technological advances. I'm a Matt Simmons type of guy when it comes to new technology enabling us to find big new sources of proven reserves.

After all this time, I think I can reduce Hubbert's model to
"the area under the curve is equal to the URR"

Not bad, but let's be fair. Hubbert himself said "The area under the production curve is equal to the area under the discovery curve." And, just for the record, he explicitly gave no guarantees what the shape or symmetry of those curves would be, just that you could estimate the area given a good enough guess about URR.

He also observed that once the production curve crosses the discovery curve, which the world witnessed in about 1980, then you can start to predict with a fair amount of confidence what those areas will eventually be. This is especially true given that differences of a few hundred billion barrels either way does not move the date of the peak by much, making the analysis relatively insensitive to error.

He then went on to add that you can make pretty darn good guesses about total discovery by analyzing data per foot of exploratory drilling. I seem to recall that you have been making similar claims..., something about dispersive discovery I believe?


He didn't have access to sophisticated computers so he literally drew curves on graph paper and counted the grid squares, according to Laherrere.

To place it in the context of this thread, Dispersive Discovery is an economic model in the sense that it could be used in any situation where you were looking for something. More than economics, it is an applied mathematics technique. I find it interesting that economists would not apply something like dispersive discovery because you really don't have to know much about geology. You could be looking for needles in a haystack and you would see the same profile.
Hubbert never treated his views at this level of abstraction.

You could be looking for needles in a haystack and you would see the same profile. Hubbert never treated his views at this level of abstraction.

Well put, and if I haven't said it before, thanks again for your ongoing efforts to greatly improve the analysis.

I would only point out one minor detail, and don't get me wrong, I know this was not your intention, but the world's economy is not powered by needles. That said, given our current somewhat precarious perch atop Hubbert's curve, I can easily imagine a not too distant future where we will once again be counting on the aforementioned haystacks to do the job.


Food banks squawk over turkey shortage

In Cambridge and Somerville, the Salvation Army will deliver 450 Thanksgiving baskets, feeding about 1,200 people, an 8 percent increase over last year. About a third of this year’s recipients are children under 12.

A rise in turkey prices is also straining the food banks. David Andre, director of food and nutrition programs for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay, said he’s seen some increases of 30 cents per pound over last year.

What struck me was how callous the comments to this article were. Yeah, it's a conservative rag, but still...jeez.

Two of the 14 comments were removed for violating the site's guidelines.

One of the remaining comments was a screed about the 'eliets' needing to eliminate hunting seasons and let the poor hunt in the woods in Western MA to sustain themselves...

Another remaining comment was a random mess of words stating that if President Obama didn't waste $1B funding Planned Parenthood and ACORN, that he could use that money to feed the poor...strange, the poster seems to advocate getting rid of paying for birth control counseling so that we could use the money previously spent on that cause for feeding an increased number of poor people?

Oh, and he ended by saying that the President should take some driving lessons...I must have missed some minor story in the news I guess...

Best hopes for a well-educated, sane public crafting the best possible courses of action for sustaining a reasonable society in the future...

A block and a half from where I live there is a Planned Parenthood building for both Minnesota and South Dakota. Planned Parenthood was entirely driven out of South Dakota, and hence we get a lot of young women from South Dakota coming to the Planned Parenthood clinic here in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul.

If I were as rich as Warren Buffett I'd give 99.7 percent of my money to Planned Parenthood. Warren, by the way, has population control agencies as one of the major beneficiaries under his will. He is giving away about 99.9% of his fortune to charity; his children and grandchildren get practically nothing. And that is fine with kids, who didn't even know their dad was rich when they were growing up, partly because Buffett is so frugal.

i thought about "working" and "becoming a billionaire" and then "giving it all away to some worthy cause" but then i realized i could skip a couple of steps and still end up at the same place one hundred years from now.......warren buffet giving away 99.9% of his fortune at his death??.......we'll see how that turns out...why doesn't he just give it away now? of course the answer is his stock value would collapse. curious why he did that stock split anyway. to make a share more accessible to the common mortal? who knows?? is he slowly selling all his shares and getting out? or are his children... prediction for B/H ten years from now?
disclaimer.. i dont know anything about the stock market.. i have no idea what shares i might own thru a retirement fund and hope everything keeps on keeping on till long after my demise in ,statistically, 27 years.....not likely.....

Don, I salute you and the Oracle of Omaha for supporting Planned Parenthood.

Buffet did change his will shortly after his first wife died. Under her influence the sole beneficiaries of the Berkshire Hathaway fortune would have gone to population control agencies. Now, if memory serves, only about one third is going for population control and two-thirds for other charities. Buffett and Bill Gates are working together to get other multibillionaires to give their money to the Gates/Buffett trust (or whatever it is called) that very heavily emphasizes Planned Parenthood and other population control agencies, e.g. the one from the U.N.

What annoys me is the horde of picketers of the Planned Parenthood clinic down the street from where I live. Sometimes there are thirty of them chanting obnoxious prayers, and contrary to law they sometimes do block the sidewalk that I walk along. On the other hand, the St. Paul protesters seem to have no inclination toward violence toward Planned Parenthood doctors. One doctor friend of mine (in northern Minnesota) was physically attacked, and the protestors set his house on fire. They also tried to sabotage his airplane, which he used to fly to South Dakota to do abortions back in the 1970s. Now there are no legal abortions available at all in South Dakota.

Minnesota has always been a liberal state, I think mainly due to the high proportion of people who are of Scandanavian ancestry. I'm half Danish by ancestry, and that kind of thing is typical of Minnesota. Indeed, in Minneapolis alone there are more people of Swedish ancestry than there are in Stockholm.


Problem i see today. Smaller families...not working. Most 4 person families have 4 cars, untold amts of junk, travel all over the midwest for sports and eat meat 8x a day... I bet an African family of 300 uses less resources in a year...

Need to make people poorer (in progress) or limit their use (coming soon)...

I've got to add this... I jog by a house...nice newer home, not huge, but nice... they have 6!!! cars... And these aren't junkers. All newer, couple of trucks in the mix... They can't even fit them in the garage because i'm guessing its so full of junk.

Sometimes people in rural areas need more than one vehicle per adult. One of my sons-in-law is a construction contractor. He needs a full-size heavy-duty pickup for his work; it is a diesel. They also need a four-wheel drive passenger vehicle for snowy times when the truck is away working. In addition they have an economy car just for getting into town to buy groceries and to drive their kids to after-school events. On average, they keep their vehicles until they have well over 200,000 miles on them.

I bought my car, a 1993 Audi CS 100 wagon, for $4,000 cash seven or eight years ago. It originally cost $46,000 back in 1993; I bought it from an Audi mechanic whose wife was the car's owner, and he had meticulously maintained the car from day one. I now have 239,000 miles on it and plan to keep it until it gets to a quarter of a million miles a few years from now. There are a lot of things I like about that car, mainly that it was built to last rather than to wear out fairly quickly.


I understand that many Americans are profligate over-consumers...but I do not see how this can be correlated to families being too small.

If people had more children, the level of consumption would be greater in aggregate.

Six or Eight-person families in the U.S would end up with 6-8 people all having cars and cell phones etc. etc. in my estimation...

Don, given that wiki lists the pop of Minneapolis as about 380k, and of Stockholm at about 800k, how is that possible?

It must have been a mistake, probably mine. The source probably said or meant to say all of Minnesota. Or maybe they meant the Minneapolis suburbs, where most of the people of Swedish ancestry now live. I think greater Minneapolis has a population somewhere around two million people. Swedes are the single biggest ethnic group. Germans come next. Then I think it is Irish. We're cosmopolitan, and I think St. Paul still has the biggest Hmong minority in the U.S. They live mostly in Frogtown, St. Paul, except for the prosperous ones who have moved out to the burbs.

By the way, Minneapolis is radically different in ethnic makeup from St. Paul due to historical accidents.

H - Sounds like that rag is controlled by those wacky conservatives that give the other 10% of us a bad name. I run into the type often in the oil patch. The best I can do is to get them to stop trying to help the rest of us.


Based on your commentary here, run for national office and I will cast my vote for you.

I am a registered independent.


H - Thanks for your support. I'll post an address later where folks can send their contributions. LOL. I register in Texas as an R for the same reason I was a D in La. Essentially whoever wins the primary election wins the general election. I always chuckle when folks post the anti R/D remarks. The distinction seems increasingly unimportant. So often politicians run not so much on their positions as trying to scare folks about electing that other bastard. Thus both parties are highly invested in this group think effort IMHO. A New York Republican couldn't win in Texas running as a D because most would consider him too liberal. Ditto for a right wing Texas D running in a Yankee state.

I have read a lot of news stories, where the comment sections are filled with a new callous breed of people that I had not been exposed to before recently.

I read a lot of water and food and housing issues stories. The number of people being rude and callous toward anyone that is needy, or even richer than they are, is way out there. It is either that the internet is filled with more people being less thoughtful of what they say, or a general anger at others for having problems and the news stores for talking about that. Or maybe I am just hanging out in only the civil discourse regions of the internet, and the comment sections are where the riff raff hang out, because they'd get kicked out of places like TOD.

But there is a big issue with needy people, especially people who are homeless around here, the cities just don't want them hanging about. I'd wonder what will happen when or if we started having tent cities like they have in Haiti? In fact when the hurricanes came their way, the people were afraid to leave their tents for fear that TPTB would not let them return, and they'd be homeless yet again, if you can call only having a tent a home.

Right there in our own Hemisphere we have people living in Tents and no one seems to be doing a thing for them, even though billions were given to help them, yet nothing much has been done.

The poor will be forgotten and tread upon by those who have, because they can't share. Seems a poor way to live your life.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world,

The number of people being rude and callous toward anyone that is needy, or even richer than they are, is way out there. It is either that the internet is filled with more people being less thoughtful of what they say, or a general anger at others for having problems and the news stores for talking about that.

Could it be the mixing of culture's? In our area in 1966 we were the first forced into an integrated school. I had never seen people verbally abuse one another up until that point in time, thus it seemed cultural in origin. The more someone was vulnerable the more they got ridiculed, while the rest laughed it up. It was considered cool to be rude and really hard on people. If no one was obviously vulnerable, intimidation was used to find the weakest one. The current generation seems to have adopted that same style of interaction. It's really a very unfortunate transition that has taken place, but it seems to be complete and permanent.

The rudeness is all over, it's true, but 'complete and permanent'? I know things seem like that, but I have to believe the philosophy of my Natural History class, "The only thing that stays the same is change.."

The materialism of our times has opened the door to a magnificent wave of both cynicism and isolation, and so many of these comments fora on the internet have been serving more as anonymous venting centers.. Punching bags for all the rage that we don't have functioning social tools to manage properly.

But we also seem to be passing over some boundaries. It'll change. None of this is set in stone.

It sounds like you are also hinting that if the internet commentors got out in the streets, they'd be the mob riot throwing stones. People who can't control their anger online, will stray toward being bullies in real life, if they let themselves go while in public on place, a face mask lets them be the rock thrower in the street.

I was openly picked on all the way up during grade school and highschool. Thinking back on it, the first bully I had in 2 grade got hit back the second time around and left me alone later. But he was replaced by the new bully in the school. Maybe I had something written on my face saying I could be bullied. I am mild mannered to this day, as I was then.

But recently I was told by a guy, who was conversing about how he could handle himself in a fight with just about everyone he saw in the bar at the time. But he did not think he wanted to press his luck with me. And seeing as he has not been the only one to voice that opionion recently. I have to wonder what it is that they see in my body language and mild manner actions to lead to this statement.

I would hope that the internet is just a place where people could get their agression out, without harming people. But in one on one interaction the internet is just as big a mine feild as the real world. I am seeing a trend all over the media where people are being less civil.

How much change will be felt in the coming years is going to be the challenge as least in the realms of civil discourse and civil behavior in the real world.

Sooner or later I see a warrior class arising again, People who walk the byways of the internet and real world, that are peacemakers and known to kick your butt if you get to far out of line. Sort of a Jedi-type group for a modern example. And sooner or later, they wouldn't be limited to killing someone if the need be. Modern Police forces wouldn't be the model either, they are too limited by the system we currently have in place.

Oh Well I know change is afoot, all my tomato plants got killed by frost last week.

Charles, BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world, with more civil public and private byways.

hey Charles;

I think we have (in America at least) been frequently conflicted about how to deal with anger and violence, and have chosen too often to sweep it under the rug and NOT allow it to be worked with usefully, and so then it bursts out when it has bested the pressure seals, and does so in ugly and sad ways.

Warrior Class.. Hmm.. reminds me of the 'We'll all be in Warlord Clans again' kind of thinking.. and like the 'Stone Age- running out of stones' line, my stock answer now is that we simply continue to live in warlord clans. How could the US government ever have been painted otherwise? It doesn't mean you have everyone fighting always, but we do show plenty of the mental conditioning of a people who are socialized to not challenge the war mentality. Securityspeak..

May the Air-force be with you.

Middle class children suffering rickets

Middle class children in the south of England are suffering from the '17th century disease' rickets as parents cover them in sunscreen and limit time outside in the sunshine, a leading doctor has warned.

Well, at least they'll be "safe" from "cancer".

IIRC vitamin D is necessary to prevent skin and other cancers. So using sun block or avoiding the sun counter intuitively increases the risk of cancers, rickets and other calcium deficiencies by the look of it. Or is that what you where alluding to with the use of quotes?

Its funny how rickets has gone from a disease of poverty to a disease of modernity. Or maybe it still is a disease of poverty: modernity = poverty.

Middle class children suffering rickets

Most people don't realize it, but rickets was a major killer of children in northern Europe until the early 20th century. They simply didn't get enough sunlight at high latitudes to produce enough vitamin D to survive. What made it go away was the fortification of milk with vitamin D. Of course, fortifying the milk doesn't work if kids don't drink their milk.

In fact rickets and other vitamin D deficiency diseases are the main reason northern Europeans are white. The original Europeans were very dark people. About 9,000 years ago a mutated version of the SLC24A5 skin color gene appeared which caused very white skin, and it spread across the northern half of the continent like wildfire. The reason was that the new mutated white-skin kids survived at a much, much higher rate than the darker skinned kids. They didn't die of rickets at nearly the same rate, and so they were the big winners in the genetic poker game. Today 99% of northern Europeans have the mutated version of the gene, versus about 5% of Africans - this despite the fact nobody had it when human beings first inhabited Europe.

The most natural way to prevent rickets is to ensure that children get at least 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight per day, particularly in winter. Of course, if kids stay indoors all day playing video games, and don't drink milk because they only drink soft drinks, they are very likely to develop rickets. The easiest and most sure-fire solution is to give them 1000 IU of vitamin D per day.

Yeah, kids don't drink so much milk these days. Back in 1940s, when I was a kid, drinking a quart of milk a day was mandatory. I usually drank (full fat) a quart a day and more, because I liked milk to go with my peanut butter and honey sandwiches on 100% whole wheat bread. Now, because of lactose intolerance, I drink soy milk--but less than a quart a day.

Oil production peaked in 2008. It has been in decline since. Kjell Aleklett says the reserves are there, but the flow is lower than in the past. Kjell Aleklett disputes predictions of The International Energy Association. He says the price spike in oil in July 2008 was the trigger for the Global Financial Crisis.

Interview with Kjell Aleklett on ABC The Science Show.

Get a house for $50 or $1.7M at FDIC auction

DEARBORN, Mich. — A vacant lot in Hazel Park, Mich. sold recently for the price of a designer handbag — $225.

A home in a gated community in Bloomfield Township, Mich., was a bargain at $1.7 million

The $50 house was a four-bedroom in the city. The $1.7 million dollar home was listed at $7.9 million two years ago. One guy bought a 4-acre parcel of vacant land for $6,500, hoping to build a farmhouse on it one day.

But judging from the comments, a lot of people think those prices are still too high - that if you wait, they'll be cheaper next year.

During the Great Depression one of my father's friends was offered some prime downtown real estate in Chicago for for a bushel of potatoes. It is the real estate where the Prudential building now stands. Somebody asked my father's friend why he did not by the real estate. Answer:

"I didn't have a bushel of potatoes."

Now THAT is economics in action!


China released its oil production figures for October a couple of days ago. Production is listed as 1776 (units 10,000 metric tons) which is up 8.8% on October 2009. This works out at about 4.2 million barrels per day (exact amount depends on conversion factor) and is broadly the same as September.

Now the EIA currently projects that Q4 production will only be up 2.5% on Q4 2009 while China has just reported the first of these three months as up 8.8%. Chinese production for YTD is listed (by the Chinese) as up 6.1% but the EIA currently projects China only up 4.2% for the whole year.

Either the EIA does not believe Chinese production numbers or it will have to up its figures for Chinese projected Q4 production (or Chinese production completely crashes in November and December).

So for two months in a row now China has listed its oil production as up about 9% or approximately 350 thousand barrels per day on the same two months last year. Is that realistic? Chinese reported production in 2009 was almost exactly unchanged from 2008 (which itself was up less than 2% on 2007) and many fields are old and depleting so they have not only countered depletion in 2010 but greatly increased total production if their numbers are true. Unless as Rockman suggested they may be counting oil owned by them but produced in other countries. If so that oil would probably be counted twice (under the producing country and the Chinese total).

So the question remains where are the Chinese suddenly getting all this claimed oil from? In recent prior years it seems to have been a struggle for them just to stay about level.

To make it clearer here's Chinese reported annual crude production with my 2010 roughly drawn projection added based on YTD production reported by the Chinese through to October.

Chinese Crude production (EIA) with my projected 2010 based on YTD

Maybe they added some EOR somewhere?

Improving Food Security by Strategically Reducing Grain Demand

After several decades of rapid rise in world grain yields, it is now becoming more difficult to raise land productivity fast enough to keep up with the demands of a growing, increasingly affluent, population. From 1950 to 1990, world grainland productivity increased by 2.2 percent per year, but from 1990 until 2009 it went up by only 1.3 percent annually. Despite some impressive local advances, the global loss of momentum in expanding food production is forcing us to think more seriously about reducing demand by stabilizing population, moving down the food chain, and reducing the use of grain to fuel cars.

... Although we seldom consider the climate effect of various dietary options, they are substantial, to say the least. Gidon Eshel and Pamela A. Martin of the University of Chicago have studied this issue (Diet, Energy & Global Warming). They begin by noting that for Americans the energy used to provide the typical diet and that used for personal transportation are roughly the same. They calculate that the range between the more and less carbon-intensive transportation options and dietary options is each about four to one. The Toyota Prius, for instance, uses roughly one fourth as much fuel as a Chevrolet Suburban SUV. Similarly with diets, a plant-based diet requires roughly one fourth as much energy as a diet rich in red meat. Shifting from the latter to a plant-based diet cuts greenhouse gas emissions almost as much as shifting from a Suburban to a Prius would

Thanks, that article has some well thought out informational thinking in it.

Not just limiting our(US-western) over use of grain as food for big animals, but also limiting the use of Grain as fuels for our cars. Eating lower on the Food chain, but not pushing a total Herbivore diet. Like I said very well informed paper.

I added it to my bookmarks, I'll go back and hunt around and see what else they have to say.

I know people that hardly eat any veggies in their diet, hardly eating any fruits either. Half their calories are from junk foods, and no manner of telling them to eat better will change them. Though I suppose if they were served the healthy foods daily they'd either starve or eat, but without putting them into a home where that were the case. That is not going to happen on their own.

I guess I have been blessed and I am jaded by that fact, my father was a trained Chef and knew what was healthy to eat, long before I was born. He has had the experience of maintaining his own weight for over 60 years, given he is going on 75 now. Every time I see people eating badly I always wonder why they are doing it that way? Then I have to remember, they did not get the upbringing that I did, they did not get exposed to foods and eating habits that I did.

I am an over the national Ideal weight for my height and age group. When I lived under this roof as a child and young adult, I was inside a more healthy range. I was not a fat child. So I can't blaim my dad on my weight, but I also have a steady low blood sugar number, and don't have high blood pressure, even though just by looking at me, you'd be more than likely to guess that I do. National averages do not make the norm, in my case.

I eat a lot of fish, and fowls, some pork and a little beef. I like the first three more than I like the last one. But I do like dairy a lot, cheese being my fondest food, so I might not be one to talk too much about living a healthy lifestyle. But I do eat a wide range of plants, more than most people I know, and their is a lot of plants that have protiens in them, that you'd not expect to know about.

As the article said Population is the big kicker to all this, and trying to get everyone to realize this, so that we can work toward a stable low growth rate. While lowering the grain use of some and raising it for others, so that we have a middle ground usage rate, will be the only way we will avoid harsh outcomes in the future.

Charles, BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.


I know people that hardly eat any veggies in their diet, hardly eating any fruits either.

Fruit and greens are thoroughly good things, but I think the comparison of the energy cost of production etc. makes the point that it could be a better idea to eat the staple foods rather than stuff them down the gullets of dairy, pigs and poultry and most of the cattle grown for meat. Think of those vast hog and cattle lots and their effluent?


Upcoming Event: Chatham House - Nov 25, 2010

Mind the Gap: What Would a Growing Consensus on Peak Oil Mean for Policy and Investment?

Several studies have concluded that the world faces a peak in oil production in the next twenty years - if this has not already happened - and, given the world's rising demand for fuel, that the economic, social and political consequences of terminal decline without preparation would be catastrophic. Others argue that this is yet another 'false alarm' or that the crunch will not be in terms of actual reserves, but the high price of and political impediments to exploiting them. Whatever the case, the peak oil debate is gaining traction amongst the business community and government planners.

The CEOs and chairmen of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security conclude in an updated assessment scheduled for release on 17 November that the global oil industry has its asset assessment wrong in much the same way the banking sector did in the run up to the financial crisis.

We have a massive Geo-engineering experiment going on right now, and no one knows what or why things are going happen if they really take the time to look at even some of the findings that have been coming in over the last few decades. To even think that further geo-engineering can solve something is nonsense, we just do not know enough of the whole system to be running about doing this or that and hoping not to kill ourselves.

We just recently learned in an Ocean Creature survey what we didn't know about living things in the deep oceans. More creatures than we even dreamed of that live in places we couldn't even imagine.

What we don't know about the world we live in, is much more vast than what we do know. We have lived almost all our lives on this earth within a little tiny thread of living space. We have in the last 100 years been able to go into high earth orbit and see things that we had never seen before, we have been able to go deeper into cave systems than we were ever able to do before and see things we hardly imagined before. We can see the tiny and the vast, and everything new gives us more questions than it does answers.

Too many times humans have mucked up the houses they live in, and then complain the floors are messy, but they tend to blaim it on the last vistors, not on themselves. We are really good at making rules, and also really good at breaking every last one of them whenever it suits us.

Sorry for the rant, but everytime I see one of these geo-engineering articles it reminds me of the failures they had with Biosphere 2.

Not fully cured Concrete about killed them. Why in the Heck didn't they think about that in the first place?

Charles,BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

Water Rights, and new ranch devolpers, Yay poor planning.

Anyone building any new homes in the USA for that matter anywhere in the world, should be forced to only use rainwater to live off of for those houses. One of the major reasons is that ground water reserves are shrinking at a pace that we all know is not going to be there in the coming decades. The second is that not all ground water is going to be safe in the coming decades, as more and more polution streams around in the ecosystem. The third is that we need to become more frugal if we are going to be letting ourselves expand.

Then the average water use they quote is really high in my opinion as an average anyway. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, or an average of 12 inches of rainfall on one acre of land in a year. I would be willing to bet this includes people watering their lawns with ground water, or city water, when they can set up a plan to use only rainwater to water their plantings, and if they work at it be able use only rainwater for in the house as well.

Their numbers work out to be 446 gallons a day of water use. E.Gads What are they wasting all that water on?

The whole problem is that everyone needs water to live. You don't need it to bath with, (You can go a long time between baths/showers if you have too, in fact some people do it out of hand these days). Our modern living though, has greatly expanded our water needs far beyond just drinking it.

We should change how we have always been done things and do these 3 steps instead. 1)Leave the ground water alone. 2) Leave the rivers and streams alone. (save them for droughts) 3) Learn to live on the rainwater of your area, being frugal this way, you will be able to handle the droughts that might come your way.

Water usage needs to have a major overhaul before it is to late and people are forced to change by their own bad habits. Then again that might mean half of the desert southwest would depopulate.

Draining groundwater reserves is just another sign that we aren't as smart as we think we are.

Charles, BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

Ps, This does all tie into another top post, as well as what people have been saying for longer than I have about living in a desert on borrowed time.

‘Energy crisis an illusion by capitalists’

Emoto, who has been researching on possible energy sources contained in water crystals for the past 25 years, said that contrary to what the modern science taught us, energy was not contained in just soil or earth. Energy is contained in every living being. But we have been able to tap only three percent of this energy. The rest 97 percent lay untapped, he said.
Emoto's researches on water crystals are considered a taboo by many modern scientists, as they are yet to approve the potential of his research that could yield energy from water crystals. However, within the next twenty years, we will be able to produce humongous amounts of energy from water, Emoto, who is also the former president of International Water for Life Foundation, said.


Water crystals in bulk do have value in providing a primitive source of air conditioning. :)

Also, I heard a new one scanning the radio dial today: "science is the study of creation" and then I realized it was some religious rant show.

Perhaps Shirley McLain should wear water crystals... That would be cool.

Maybe these guys are trying to start a new industry, selling them?

(I think the Reddy people already beat them to it - NYSE: FRZ)


Several inches of water crystals fell in my back yard last night. I could lend them to him if he wants to try to extract energy from them.

I've had more success extracting cold from them, even using them to make ice cream, but that's not very useful this time of year.

Sounds like they just learned about 'E=mc^2' and are eager to begin converting mass to energy. They should have spent a bit more time in their science classes before trying to go public with their theories.

My question is how in the world did this end up in energy discussions. Reading what is written about him on wikipedia, all it talks the self help aspect of water crystals and healing.

He is right that there is energy everywhere. Most of it on earth is related to the Sun though.

Pity humans can't just stand in the sun 4 hours a day and get all their food energy from it. We'd likely fight over which shade of green we were though.

"Silly Rabbit Mind-tricks are for kids, not for cars." Thinking about a milkshake right now with all it's frozen water-crystal energy in it.

He might be on to something, I have a story idea, where someone is using a black hole like a big charged up battery. The idea being that the other end of a blackhole is a light bulb like energy source, only if you have the ability to plug into it. Fictional stories can help us cope with the time we have to wait till fresh home grown tomatoes again.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

Emoto's researches on water crystals aren't considered "a taboo" by scientists -- they're considered nonsense, and for good reason. Projecting wishful thinking on inkblot patterns is not a useful approach to scientific research. Or assessing energy futures, for that matter.

Emoto was in the movie "What the Bleep do we know", which was marketed (virally) as a documentary featuring projections that top level scientists were willing to make in a somewhat speculative manner about where science could be going in the not too distant future.
Infact this movie was absolute rubbish; no, worse than that. To the extent that gullible people thought it meant anything they were being mislead, and certainly duped out of the cost of the movie ticket.
I've never been so annoyed about a movie as that one.

China to unveil its own large jetliner

The money paragraph, as far as I'm concerned, is this one:

By one estimate, air passenger traffic in China is projected to expand by nearly 8% annually for the next 20 years. The country plans to build 70 airports by 2020. To meet demand, China's domestic airlines will need to buy an estimated 4,330 new aircraft valued at $480 billion over the next two decades.

Air traffic to expand by a factor of 4.66 in the next 20 years. 70 airports over the next 10 years. 4300+ new jetliners in the next 20 years. How much of the world's output of jet fuel will they have to "capture" in order to do that?

How much of the world's output of jet fuel will they have to "capture" in order to do that?

The hope is that jet-fuel will be algae derived and so not dependent on fossil fuel resources? If Craig Venter/Exxon Mobil have anything to do with it (link)...