Drumbeat: November 19, 2010

U.S. Oil Imports Shrink, Yet Worries Loom

Good news on the energy security front?

According to some October statistics released by the American Petroleum Institute, the United States imported 10.75 million barrels of oil a day last month, a decrease of 133,000 barrels a day from October 2009.

That decline may seem small, and indeed that is equivalent to only about one-eighth of what the country imports from Saudi Arabia every day. But from a security and economic point of view, some say that it’s a step in the right direction, particularly given that gasoline demand for the month was actually 0.6 percent higher than last October.

Peak Oil: why the Pentagon is pessimistic [EXCLUSIVE]

“Twilight in the desert” is a book summing up the arguments of a Texan oil banker who suggests that Saudi Arabia is overestimating its future oil production capacity. I’ve learned through the American Department of Defense that this book is the source of two recent Pentagon reports envisaging a severe lack of oil starting in 2012 and continuing until 2015 at least.

According to the thesis developed in “Twilight in the Desert”, the official numbers published by Saudi Aramco, the national Saudi oil company, highly overestimate the true level of reserves that the largest world oil power is capable of extracting from its soil. As a consequence, according to Matthew Simmons, the Saudi oil production will no longer increase, and could even be on the point of a drastic reduction.

The advisory staff of the American armed services seems to consider the fears of Mr. Simmons as well-founded and credible, and based on this, the staff has produced a prognosis of a “severe energy crisis” that is potentially inevitable.

U.S. Diesel Fuel Consumption Increased 8.4% in October, API Report Shows

U.S. diesel consumption increased in October from a year earlier, a signal that the U.S. economy is rebounding, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Demand for ultra-low sulfur diesel, the type used on highways, rose 8.4 percent to average 3.19 million barrels a day last month, the industry-funded group said today in a report. Consumption during the first 10 months of 2010 climbed 2.9 percent to 2.97 million barrels a day.

An arctic Cold War with Russia?

Some fear that melting Arctic sea ice could trigger a new "great game" between the United States and Russia as they and other Arctic coastal states race to extract newly accessible energy and minerals resources. These fears are exaggerated. There are few, if any, signs of military buildups or tensions, as states are pursuing diplomatic solutions to border delimitation issues. But new confidence-building measures could help avert future risks.

Russia, the United States and Canada, among others, have vital interests in the Arctic region. Russia can benefit enormously if it safely develops northern energy and mineral reserves, much of which lie in shallow water on its continental shelf. Moscow's emerging Arctic strategy gives great weight to protecting this resource.

Russia and Canada are asserting national claims over the Northeast and Northwest sea passages, respectively, and monitoring the growth of international shipping close to their territory. U.S. interests stem from Alaska's location and keeping those seaways as international bodies of water.

Militants warn of more Nigeria kidnappings

Nigeria's military pledged today to flush armed gangs out of the creeks of the Niger Delta but the militants warned they would carry out more kidnappings from oil installations in the region.

Norway to spend $30m on far north seismic

The Norwegian Energy Ministry said today it plans to spend Nkr180 million ($30.1 million) in seismic studies of northern seas off its coast.

Russian Oil Companies May Pay $15 Billion More Tax, Finance Minister Says

Russian oil companies may pay $15 billion more in taxes because of new rules adopted by Russia’s Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said.

Russia plans to abolish export duties for oil and oil products sold to the Customs Union countries, while instituting higher levies on oil-products exports from Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, he told reporters in Moscow today. Russian companies will be compensated for the higher overall level of export duties they’ll incur as a result, he said.

Karoon Gas Scraps Brazil IPO in Sixth Canceled Sale This Year

(Bloomberg) -- Karoon Gas Australia Ltd., an oil and gas explorer, canceled a Brazilian initial public offering of its South American unit, citing an “unfavorable” market after five other companies delayed or shelved sales this year.

Shares sold by Brazilian energy companies haven’t fared as well as investors expected, Mt. Martha, Victoria-based Karoon said in a statement today. Karoon, which had planned to raise as much as $773 million in the sale, may reconsider an IPO at another time, Chief Financial Officer Scott Hosking said.

Bulgaria and Qatar make LNG pact

Bulgaria and Qatar have signed a confidentiality deal paving the way for talks on liquefied natural gas deliveries from the Arab country, state gas company Bulgargaz said today, as Sofia seeks to cut dependence on Russian gas.

New Zealand's First Mine Disaster in 40 Years Leaves 27 Missing; 2 Escape

New Zealand rescue workers rushed to save 27 coal miners missing after an underground explosion, in the country’s first mining disaster in more than 40 years.

Emergency teams were testing for poison gas after the blast knocked out power to the ventilation system and attempts to contact the missing workers failed. Two miners who managed to walk to the surface were treated for “moderate” injuries, police said.

Spain Slashes Prices 45% for New Ground-Based Solar Plants, 5% for Homes

Spain reduced subsidies for new solar-power projects while backing away from plans to impose cuts on existing generators after owners threatened lawsuits.

The government cut the above-market price to be earned by new ground-based photovoltaic plants by 45 percent in a Royal Decree, the Industry Ministry said today in a statement. Solar- panel installations on home roofs will make 5 percent less.

Enel Says European Union Should Limit Scope, Delay Start of CO2-Offset Ban

The European Union regulator should limit the scope and delay the start of a planned ban on carbon offsets in its emissions-trading system to avoid market distortions, according to Enel SpA, Italy’s biggest utility.

How Much Energy Does It Take to Get Our Energy? - When you look closely, not all energy sources are created equal in terms of the amount of net energy they produce

The future of our finite supply of fossil fuels is uncertain at best, and development of new energy options continues to gain speed. It’s likely we’ll use a combination of renewable energies and fossil fuels for the forseeable future. If you listen to some representatives of the alternative energy industry, you’d think every renewable fuel source out there is the No. 1 candidate to meet the world’s future energy needs — the most qualified to replace oil, coal and natural gas. So, which type of renewable energy will provide us with the highest net gain in energy?

Energy return on energy invested is more commonly stated as energy return on investment (EROI). The term was coined by Charles Hall, professor of environmental science and forestry at the State University of New York (SUNY), and is presented as a ratio of energy produced to the energy consumed during production. An energy source that yields positive net energy has an EROI ratio of more than 1:1. Anything less than that constitutes an energy sink, or net loss.

Oil creeps above $82 as traders eye Ireland, China

SINGAPORE – Oil prices crept above $82 a barrel Friday in Asia as investors weighed signs of resolution for Ireland's debt crisis against possible Chinese measures to contain inflation that could slow economic growth and hurt demand for crude.

Gasoline Refining Margins Double on Outages, French Strike

Refiners’ profit from turning oil into gasoline more than doubled this month as plants along the U.S. East Coast shut for repairs and imports from Europe declined in the aftermath of a French strike.

China Gas Output From Unconventional Sources May Double by 2015, CNPC Says

China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, may double its production of unconventional gas in five years to meet rising demand for cleaner-burning fuels.

Output of coal-bed methane and tight gas held between rocks may exceed 30 billion cubic meters in 2015, compared with an estimated 15 billion cubic meters this year, China National Petroleum Corp. said in a statement on its website today.

Sinopec, PetroChina Boost Diesel Imports as 2,000 Filling Stations Run Dry

Chinese state refiners are ramping up diesel imports starting this month to help meet increased demand that has depleted 2,000 retail fuel stations in the country’s eastern and southern provinces.

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., the nation’s biggest refiner, is seeking to import as much as 200,000 metric tons after buying 80,000 tons earlier in November, its parent said in its on-line newsletter today. The price of Asia gasoil, or diesel, has risen 12 percent more than Dubai crude so far this month on speculation Chinese demand for the fuel will increase.

Chesapeake hedges with call options

US gas giant Chesapeake Energy has been incrementally stepping up its sale of call options in the past year, doing over-the-counter deals in a bid to raise money.

Some analysts see it as a way to navigate low gas prices in exchange for giving up some profit should prices rise.

UAE keen to help develop energy sector of Turkmenistan: Hamili

ASGHABAT — UAE Energy Minister Mohammed bin Dhaen Al Hamli has held meetings with senior Turkmen officials to discuss venues of cooperation between the two countries on energy.

Weatherford executive killed in Mexico

Gunmen have killed a manager at a Swiss-based oil services company in Mexico, the latest sign of mounting lawlessness in remote parts of the country that is hurting a major industry.

Achieving energy security for America

In the end, if energy independence is presented as self-sufficiency, then the prospects of achieving the goal of energy independence is very small. Such a goal will bring disappointment that will undermine the longer-term commitments that are required for a sound energy future.

However, if the goal of energy independence is understood differently, then it is much more useful. We should define energy independence to be energy security i.e., more energy resiliency, robustness and reduced vulnerability.

Toyota to offer plug-in hybrid in 2012

TOKYO — Toyota is planning to sell a plug-in hybrid car in the U.S., Japan and Europe in 2012, targeting sales of 50,000 vehicles a year at $36,000 each without subsidies, as the automaker strengthens its green lineup to keep pace with growing competition.

NRG invests $10 mln in Texas car-charging network

HOUSTON (Reuters) - NRG Energy plans to invest $10 million to build a comprehensive charging system in Houston for electric vehicles next year, NRG Chief Executive David Crane said on Thursday.

Crane said the debut of new electric vehicle models in the next year made the time right to launch NRG's branded "eVgo" network to help "close the decision gap" for buyers debating the purchase of an electric vehicle (EV) versus a conventional gasoline-fueled car.

Nalcor, Emera Agree on C$6.2 Billion Power Project

The agreement with Emera “is free of the geographic stranglehold that Quebec has had for far too long on us,” Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams said today at a televised press conference in the provincial capital of St. John’s. “Today we are saying that Quebec will no longer determine the fate of Newfoundland and Labrador and one of the most attractive clean-energy projects in North America.”

U.S. Proposes Electric-Transmission Rule to Help Boost Wind, Solar Power

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is proposing to lower costs for delivering renewable energy by permitting more frequent transmission scheduling. The agency is considering a rule that would allow power- transmission providers to set schedules in 15-minute intervals instead of hourly, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said today at a commission meeting in Washington.

Republican asks to expand power of energy panel

(Reuters) - A key Republican on Thursday asked lawmakers to consolidate energy oversight in the House of Representatives into one powerful energy committee.

Doc Hastings, the expected incoming head of the House Natural Resources Committee, called for expanding his panel's jurisdiction to cover all energy policy. This expanded panel would be renamed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Cleveland Restoration Society luncheon speaker has new ideas for preservation

American cities -- whether fast-growing metropolises in the sun belt or shrinking cities in the industrial Midwest -- need to think about moving to what Jackson called "a conservation ethic."

He believes the pressure for change will rise over the next century as oil and gas prices rise and as the global economy reaches "peak oil," the point at which the supply of oil hits natural limits.

Welcome to Farm School

Romantic notions aside, some research suggests that with the evolution of the global food system beyond peak oil a good number of us day-dreamers will need to snap out of it and actually get our hands dirty.

A Socially Conscious Way to Invest in Farmland: An Interview with Dr. Jason Bradford about Farmland LP

Kalpa: Please start by giving us a small background on Farmland LP. What is it, what are its goals, and who might be interested in investing in it?

Jason: We are an investment fund that buys conventional farmland and converts it to certified organic, sustainably managed farmland. Historically, farmland has been an excellent, inflation-hedged investment. Our firm, Farmland LP, adds value to farmland by converting it to organic farmland and managing it ongoing. Our goal is to play a role in the transformation of the food system while benefiting the environment, people, and our investors.

America's Dirtiest Cities

The biggest problem spot in the country is California's San Joaquin Valley, where farming, industry, car culture and topography collide to trap smog. Wildfires contribute to the problem. Severe particle pollution in valley burgs like Bakersfield (the center of California's oil industry and the metropolitan area with the worst air in the nation), Fresno (third place), Visalia (fourth) and Modesto (eighth) can damage the lungs in the same way cigarettes do. Sacramento (ninth) incentivizes residents to trade in gasoline lawn mowers for electric ones, diesel-powered trucks for hybrid ones and old wood stoves for new ones. The only non-California cities in the top 10: Pittsburgh, Pa; Birmingham, Ala.; and metropolitan Phoenix, Ariz.

Soot gets everywhere. Even into the world’s highest mountains

THE Himalayas and the adjacent Tibetan plateau are sometimes referred to as the Earth’s third pole, because of the amount of ice they host. They are also known as Asia’s water tower. Their glaciers feed the continent’s largest rivers—and those, in turn, sustain some 1.5 billion people. Many studies suggest, though, that the Himalayan glaciers have been shrinking over the past few decades. This has usually been attributed to rising air temperatures, but climate researchers have now come to realise that tiny airborne particles of soot and dust are also to blame. Being dark, they absorb sunlight. And that warms their surroundings.

Obama pointman dismisses climate change skeptics

ARLINGTON, Virginia (AFP) – President Barack Obama's pointman for climate change on Thursday dismissed the impact of Republican election gains on US positions on the issue, voicing hope of progress at the upcoming climate summit in Mexico.

China rules out linking climate aid to transparency

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Friday it will not agree to any deal tying climate change aid from rich nations to its acceptance of tighter international checks of its greenhouse gas emissions, which it said will grow for some time.

Huang Huikang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry's special representative for climate change talks, laid bare rifts between Beijing and rich countries, especially the United States, that could trouble high-level negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.

Europe’s Oscillating Failure

With each rescue, the number of rescuers shrinks and their obligations rise. The buck stops with the richest euro-zone Europeans, the Dutch, Germans and Finns. And they don’t like it. Because all of the guarantees being made now ultimately fall on their shoulders. Default means they’ll end up paying the bill. And they won’t want to.

Ultimately, the reaction will run out of control and, like some financial nuclear accident, the euro zone will melt down. Maybe Chinese teams will bring their surplus of concrete and iron reinforcing bars and build a nice sarcophagus to contain the toxic waste.

The relationship between the better off and the worse off states in the US, in regard to possible federal bailouts of the states, is somewhat analogous to the situation in the EU (of course there is a huge difference between the EU and the federal government's power in the US). In any case, the number of "Better off" states seems to be in decline.

I am reminded of an analogy in a "The Great Reckoning" (which now appears to be accurate, but early in the time frame for the predicted recession/depression). Assume we have 10 men climbing a mountain, all hooked up together for mutual support. If one falls, the other nine can support him. If nine fall, there is no way that one man can support nine. Somewhere between the two extremes is the "breaking point."

There is a surprising amount of hostility directed to the Euro in the US and UK. Currency envy perhaps?

There some resentment but little downside to bailout efforts in the EU. For one thing the economies of Greece, Ireland and Portugal are very small compared with that of the EU, ~4% combined. The other thing is that Greece et al went into debt to Germans, French and Co. buying stuff from Germany, France, etc., so the net loss is small. Unfair? Sure, but it is like lending money to your poor relatives: You resent it, but you get over it because its your family.

The trouble is, instead of putting your borrowed money to good use, your poor relatives blew it all on expensive restaurant meals and useless consumers goods. You vowed to never lend them another penny again. I think that's how the Germans, Finns, and Dutch feel about the bailouts.

Like giving a helping hand or a hand out, very different. Why should I as a citizen of Germany be forced by the country that I live in to pay for the recklessness of others? Especially if there is no viable solution? I understand their anger. I don't live in Germany but I can relate by watching Ben Bernake. I also think the mortgage game was rigged by banks and it blew up in their faces, and they are still getting bonuses? Insane? I think so.

This financial mess is not going away quickly or easily.

The idea that 'the people' could revolt by not buying or bidding on foreclosed bank held properties was never on my radar. The implications of this crowd mood should be taken with dead seriousness by the banking industry.


Because it is the best available option? The Germans are not blameless. As a German you can't get much of an investment return on your savings by lending to other Germans, so you take a risk and invest in Greek or Irish real estate. Sometimes the risk pays off, sometimes it does not.

You are correct in the "Germans" not being blameless. The difference to me is that the investor, be it retirement systems etc. are not taking the hair cut. We are moving private debt to public balance sheets, to people and their children who didn't gamble on debt repayment.

As far as being the best option available I would differ. If there was a reasonable chance that this would 'fix' the debt problem I would like it. I'm not convinced that this will restore the financial growth needed to pay back increased debt. Add to this brew higher relative energy prices and I don't see where this is nothing more than a postponement of the day of recognition with more money tossed down a rat hole.

Again, if it 'fixed' the problem I would be all for it. Delay is just delay. Money spent cannot be brought back to be spent again or differently. Who gets the money from the bailout other than the private sector, even if they are in Germany or not. The idea that I should be happy bailing out irresponsible fat cat bankers so it doesn't collapse the world financial system is simply not me. Where are the criminal convictions?

The distinction between public and private debt is a subtle one in any modern society, particularly in social democracies like the EU. If you friend next door makes a bad investment and is about to loose his house, it may well be in your interest to get together with the other neighbors and bail him out. If he got into trouble doing something criminal or really stupid and reckless you might not, but what if it was an honest mistake that you yourself might have made?

All the investments that lead to this crisis probably seemed quite reasonable at the time. While there may be fat cat bankers to blame it is not like bankers are getting billions deposited in their private accounts. In the end it is a bailout of ordinary investors financed by ordinary tax payers. There is a substantial overlap of those two groups, at least in Germany.

All the investments that lead to this crisis probably seemed quite reasonable at the time.

I am glad you included the word “probably” because giving loans with no downpayment to borrowers with bad credit and phony income does not seem reasonable. For years and years the “conforming” condition that applied to borrowing on property was (1) the property was worth more than the loan, (2) the borrower had a job, and (3) the borrower had 20 % to deposit on the mortgage that was in fact their money. There was a serious deviation from this baseline and unreasonable does not begin to describe it.

Are you talking about real estate in Ireland, or Spain?

There isnt any risk to a German if they make a bad bet in Irish properties and lose, since Germany will pick up the tab.

That is the real story hear. Germany bails out its rich investor class -- on the backs of the less well off.

Same story as the Wall Street Bailouts in the US.

The bondholders should lose their investment. It was a failed investment.

The German government is funded by Germans via taxes. The investor class pays taxes also. Normal working class Germans also invested and also pay taxes. The solution will not be fair to all, but it may be better for both Germans and Irish (on average).

Perhaps it seems better. But propping up failures is not very efficient. We are all doing it -- Europe, America ...

It is not the intended design of capitalism I thought to favor failure.

What the policy is also favoring are investor class folks (pretty disproportionately), which is the ultimate intention.

It is interesting that the unintended consequence is to favor failure at the cost of favoring the winners.

A sad state we live in.

You seem to be surprised that capitalism favors capitalists.

Another shocker - there is not a Capitalist country on the planet. CapitOlism when combined with the will of the bigger business to have rules/the power of the State leads to the system we have today.

The greeks paid billions of euros for military submarines from Germany at a time they asked for financial aid to avoid bankruptcy.

That's why things are not that easy.

So German taxpayers (or the entire EU) are expected to subsidize (via bailouts) those companies and individuals that benefited from the sales of those submarines. Did the Germans knowing sell the sub's on credit so they could get other countries bailout subsidy for their industries.

Sounds like fighting cats in a sack.

The other thing is that Greece et al went into debt to Germans, French and Co. buying stuff from Germany, France, etc., so the net loss is small.

It's probably more accurate to say that borrowed money allowed many regions to increase their spending and consumption beyond what their annual incomes could support--and of course, the US overall and many states within the US are prime examples. But what is the rationale for continuing to subsidize high levels of consumption, given the reality of finite fossil fuel resources (and especially finite volumes of exported oil)?

True. But I think the concept of lending and borrowing obscures the picture. Germans were (and are) working harder and consuming less to allow the Greeks to enjoy a standard of living not justified by their level of industriousness.

I think you are misapprehending the magnitude of the problem in Ireland and, by extension, the EU. Ireland's banks are insolvent and have been nationalized. The obligations guaranteed by the Irish government constitute at least 175% of Ireland's GDP. Banks in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain have on their books $650 billion in loans to Irish banks. Many of those UK, German, etc. banks are already insolvent if stringent accounting rules were applied. A default on the Irish loans would cause a cascading disaster.

The rest of the EU does not care about Ireland's problems except that a default would cause a collapse in their own banking sectors. The solution, as always for the past two plus years, both in Europe and the US, is to solve the excess debt problems by offering more debt with the hope that sufficient economic growth will solve the problem. Absent such growth the bailout "solution" creates a much larger catastrophe later. Ireland is also facing a housing market collapse even worse than that in the US. That complicates matters further.

Add in Greece, Portugal, Spain and some of the eastern European countries and the EU is in big trouble. But then so is the US and everyone else.

Yes, but Irish GDP is trivially small and it is not like it all the loans need to be paid at once. The Irish, Greek,.. used the savings of Germans to buy German stuff. It was an unplanned distribution of wealth from rich to poor which will be formally accounted for in the form of a "bailout" to prevent "markets" from reacting chaotically over the uncertainty of who owes who what, and soften the blow to German savings accounts.

I think the problem could blow up, but it need not. And the Germans are not blameless, they tried to get better return on their savings by investing in these countries. It is all in the family though....

There is a difference between Greece and Ireland. Greece owed most of its debt to Eurozone banks. The Irish banks are the insolvent entities that have been taken over by the Irish government. The Irish banks owe a lot of money to Lloyds and RBS, which are UK banks that have been taken over by the UK government. Ireland is in some sense more like Iceland, which owed a lot of money to the UK and The Netherlands.

The Eurozone countries will not like to rescue Ireland in such a way that they are rescuing the UK banks and the pound sterling. Not without a lot of other changes to their benefit.

Haven't seen an estimate recently, but Portugal probably is in a lot of debt to UK banks as well.

A lot of this debt is probably OPEC money being invested via London banks -- both UK and US banks operating in London.

Clarke and Dawe: Lending merry-go-round


Somebody (Greece, Ireland, California, Illinois, New York, etc) is going to have to default as a Pilot Project.

We need to work out the kinks in the system and test the waters ala Lehman Brothers.

You know that all the theory in the world won't make up for practice.


In international terms, at what point do the creditor countries like China decide that there is no longer a net economic benefit in lending money to the debtor countries like the US, i.e., at what point does the US' continued high level of consumption of natural resources represent more of a threat to China than the benefit they get from us buying stuff from them (using money that we borrowed from them)?

I think it is coming to a head. You are one of the only people down in the basement exposing the foundation of this whole thing I believe. For me, this learning process is quite difficult.

In the WSJ this morning, they have an article about the currency war and Ben Bernank comments in Frankfurt I believe.

In the final 2 paragraphs, they actually CRITICIZE the Chinese for not taking our dollars and converting them to Yuan (which would raise the value of the Yuan) but for taking our dollars and buying OUR TREASURIES.

If that isn't damned if you do or don't, I don't know what is.


Ayn Rand is not a popular person 'round these parts, but there is an inescapable "Atlas Shrugged" element here. Having said that, one does have to appreciate the irony that the closest Atlas analogue is China, an allegedly Communist country.

But perhaps the better way to apply the analogy is on a more discrete regional to individual basis, i.e., I think that we are going to see more and more of a sharp demarcation line between the net producers of essential goods and services and the net consumers of essential goods and services (especially food & energy). To paraphrase an academic saying, I think think that an increasingly accurate statement is "Produce or perish."

Of course, as we have occasionally discussed, our position (you and I as energy producers) here in the US--being within the small number of net producers, among hordes of net consumers--could be "interesting."

In any case, wherever we are headed globally, I think that constrained oil supplies are acting as an accelerant, pushing us faster along the path. I suspect that is why Central bankers are so confused. They either fail--or refuse--to recognize the reality of constrained oil supplies.

I agree with you, westexas, except that I don't think central bankers are confused at all. Ayn Rand (who had some excellent ideas, but I hated that she kept mixing in that crazy solipsism - it skewed her view IMO) called them looters and moochers. The central bankers are the bagmen for the looters. No confusion, no mystery. Follow the money. The mechanics of the numerous bailouts and stimulus packages reveal exactly who is benefiting: bank bondholders and the other wealthy moochers. In fact, in our current situation, the line between moochers and looters has all but disappeared.

Mr. Brown,

Being one of a relatively small number of producers among a large number of consumers I suspect the US Government will reinstitute price controls like the Nixon Administration did. Freezing the price of oil and/or food products while allowing other prices to rise ultimately results in less production.

The initial excuse was to fight inflation but the ultimate use was to keep consumer food prices low.

That's kind of weird, how you describe Atlas Shrugged. I've read the book fully once, and another half again some years later (before tiring of it). The story of the Taggarts, Reardan, the search for the motor, the demise of sanity as is entirely a scene I can appreciate (and even the secret Mountain society has a parallel to the present, a rich enclave in the Rockies exists today, though there's no golden dollar sign in the town square). The issue throughout the book wasn't energy, though, the issue was a will to persist - the will to be an individual. Atlas Shrugged is a story of Capitalism, and of course, objectivism.

China? Huh? I don't get it. Did I miss the point of the book entirely?

- the will to be an individual

That notion is far from being the objective (-ist) naked truth and in fact is totally delusional.

We "humans" (or more-truthfully, cloth-covered hairless apes) owe our survival entirely to being part of a group. No one of us can survive on his/her own.

Numerous experiments have been conducted and they all show that even a small family group is unlikely to survive "on its own".

Instead, it appears that "we" need at least a critical mass of people as well as luck in having good weather, plentiful resources, etc.

Ayn Rand did not publish and sell her book "on her own" in the rugged individualistic (me, me, me) way. She had aid of a publisher, PR people, book selling organizations, tobacco companies, etc. In other words she was a hypocrite who never walked the walk she talked.

What if all the lowly janitors walked off the job and went to a mountain retreat? Who then would clean up the BS that the creative mentalists spill on their plush carpets? Objectivism indeed.

That points out nicely that there is a very strong parallel between the ideas behind "Atlas Shrugged" and the idea that China is "carrying" the US.

In fact, the very small investor class depends on the rest of the country just as much as China is interdependent with the US (and the rest of the world).

FF - "For me, this learning process is quite difficult."
Me too.

I have been reading for over two years trying to get my head wrapped around this. I have concluded there are many facets, but the big three are; PO/energy, financial, and generational/attitudinal. It is said somewhere that people are rationalizing not rational.
Here is a website I find very useful, it rounds out the 'big three' TOD, TAE, and Generational dynamics. "History may not repeat but it rhymes" Mark Twain.


Much of the problem revolves around housing.

If you really think about it, the idea of shelter, once built, being an appreciating asset is so absurd that it boggles the mind. If anything, it should constantly depreciate, it should take less and less wealth to purchase a used good for the 2nd, 3rd time, especially when there is so much supply of said good.

So we built up this amazing housing stock, and the financial oligarchs take advantage of it through asset price appreciation that has no basis in reality, and enables them to hold the population in debt peonage.

It doesn't have to be this way! There is so much energy, so much built wealth, so much information in society that 90% of people could have essentially decent lives. They could work, earn a little, spend a little on essential goods (which again, should be inexpensive), and save. They would be educated and prosperous, so they probably wouldn't reproduce too much, and population would stabilize.

Now - I am not a communist or utopian. But if we aren't working towards this ideal, then what exactly are we working towards?

I think around the 1970's it was clear that if we made the right decisions, we would reach this endpoint. But either the oligarchs decided they didn't want it, or people got bored, or both.

It's quite possible that humanity is incapable of living well.

I recently read "Caught in the Middle" which is a pretty good quick read about the history and future of the Midwest US. It was written in 08 prior to the kersplat but what I see in there is an evolution towards your ideas.

The author notes that the talent measured by ambition and aptitude is headed for the cities. Chicago is noted as a global city along with New York, LA, etc. These young people identify more with Apple or Microsoft than they ever will with Ford or GM.

When they cluster in the cities, the resource use drops. Owning a home is probably not as big a deal as having access to culture and like-minded people. Continue the campus experience if you will.

The part I couldn't get is that his utopian globalized cities hold such wonderful occupations as investment bankers, international attorneys, health care insurers and consultants, and other service providers that a big company can farm-out its internal departments to.

I'm a production type guy. Take some basic inputs and create something that is worth more than it costs to create. Net Present Value creation is the reason for the enterprise. This I did not see. I'm probably (most definitely) out of the date with the current approved model though.

The problem with that model, is where does the food come from? Where does the desk chairs come from? Where do the lattes get their coffee? Every model has to have food and shelter placed smack in the middle of all the thinking service people jobs.

You might be able to green the city enough to grow part of your own foods, but you still have to get materials from elsewhere. Someone has to mine the rocks, grow and cut the trees, plant and take care of the feilds of veggies, and they can't all be in the cities.

Too many people see jobs as the end product, but never think back to where the chickens come from. Silly me, we can service ourselves into a better lifestyle.

Will we be the generation that starves to death, because FarmVille did not produce real meals?

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

So we built up this amazing housing stock, and the financial oligarchs take advantage of it through asset price appreciation that has no basis in reality, and enables them to hold the population in debt peonage.

It doesn't have to be this way! There is so much energy, so much built wealth, so much information in society that 90% of people could have essentially decent lives. They could work, earn a little, spend a little on essential goods (which again, should be inexpensive), and save. They would be educated and prosperous, so they probably wouldn't reproduce too much, and population would stabilize.

Which is precisely why I feel that we are about due for a pretty major reset. There is a point beyond which the inequalities become so extreme that it will take just the slightest spark set the whole crumbling tinderbox aflame.
I think the time is fast approaching when the even the average Joe realizes how badly they have been shafted.
Humans, being great apes, have a well developed, innate sense of justice, once the scales fall from their eyes they are going to demand it be served upon those who have slighted them.

I assume you've seen Jay Hanson's essay on America 2.0?

The “bad news” is that “peak oil” marks the beginning of the end of capitalism and market politics because many decades of declining “net energy” [1] will result in many decades of declining economic activity. And since capitalism can’t run backwards, a new method of distributing goods and services must be found. The “good news” is that our “market system” is fantastically inefficient! Americans could be wasting something like two billion tonnes (metric tons) of oil equivalent energy per year!!


The Market is Fantastically Inefficient

Yes, that is correct: The “market system” is fantastically inefficient! [4] Our present way of distributing goods and services wastes enormous amounts of natural resources, but gigantic resource savings are possible. As an illustration, let’s make a rough estimate of per capita food energy requirements and current waste:

If we wanted our government to distribute food directly instead of using the market, how much energy would be required to produce and deliver provisions to each and every American?

Adults need about 3,000 nutritional calories of food each day. Let’s allow 30,000 calories to produce and another 3,000 calories to deliver food to every American. That’s a total of 36,000 calories per day.

Just how much energy did the American “market system” actually consume? In 2006, Americans consumed an average of 231,008 calories per day, so 231,008 minus 36,000 equals 195,008 calories wasted each day. This simple calculation suggests that Americans could be wasting something like 2 billion tonnes of oil equivalent per year! [5]That’s FAR more oil wasted than all the oil produced in the Middle East!

If we change a few of our founding beliefs and assumptions—and reorganize politically—more than enough energy remains to mitigate the worst.


In order to prevent collapse on the downside of the net energy curve, Americans must force corporate-special interests completely out of our political environment. A careful review of the progressive assault on laissez faire constitutionalism and neoclassical economics, from the 1880s through the 1930s, explains how this can be done legally and without violence. [9] These early progressives showed how we can save our country. All that is lacking now is the political will. I call this adjustment of our political environment “America 2.0.”

The modification that I am proposing could reduce natural resource consumption by something like 90% and greatly reduce, or possibly eliminate, civil violence caused by the inevitable post-peak-oil-economic collapse.

Our present method of distributing goods and services works something like this:

• Our government loans money to banks, so bankers can operate businesses (which require buildings, computers, furniture, lights, air conditioning, employees, commuting, etc.)
• The bankers then lend money to other businesses, like restaurants, real estate developers, etc. (which also require buildings, computers, commuters, advertising, accountants, etc.)
• So the employees of these restaurants, real estate developers, etc. can buy a car and drive to the store (with even more buildings, computers, commuters, etc.)
• Just to buy a loaf of bread!

The “market system” has to be the most inefficient organization possible!

Why not simply have government pay someone to pick up that loaf of bread at the bakery and deliver it to the consumer? This is a form of distribution that would eliminate the banks, most of the other businesses, and all the stores. Most Americans would no longer need a car to commute to work or run to the store! However, some private businesses that provide critical services would still be operated but at our government’s direction.

We could use the same efficient method of distribution for everything that Americans really “need.” Shoppers would order provisions online, in the same way that Amazon or Netflix works now, and then their orders would be delivered the next day. And a medical care caravan could regularly drive through neighborhoods, filling teeth, giving checkups, and so on.


Great post Oilman - I think you are absolutely correct with all that you say in this.

I think the housing bubble and all the associated materialism, financial shenanigans, and general cut-throat attitude spawned by it officially pushed this country (perhaps a good part of the globe) into the realm of insanity. Not that we weren't on that trajectory already but at least prior to this there was some counterbalance to those forces of uber-capitalism. The frothing at the mouth attitude over housing "numbers" endlessly spewed forth by the media and the promise of "free" money was greedily consumed by the public and initially roped in those who would be suckered by any scam... but as the momentum built it became harder and harder for even the formerly sane to stay out of it for fear of being "left behind".

Now we're left with cleaning up the rubble and our attitudes have been so skewed that rather than use what we have to shelter those who have been steamrolled our first concern is to not fall for "socialism" and "redistribution of wealth", followed closely by thinking that the wise thing to do is to hold out hope for yet another round of speculation (granted there were many many buyers involved who were not innocent spectators thru all of this - but there are also huge numbers who got caught up in it because of losing jobs etc. as fallout from what went on with all the initial fraud). From the outside looking in* - it appears to be an absolutely terminally ill society.

* I personally did not participate in any way regarding the housing bubble - more luck than anything else - didn't have the money to get in early enough to make a killing at the top (like some did) but also thankfully discover TOD and the housing bubble blog early enough to prevent me from getting in too late (like many many more did). Really, I just got lucky and I'm thankful that I had the right blend of luck, general suspicion of the "free lunch" ideals of the past decade, and perhaps some genetic components of frugality (Depression impacted grandparents) to avoid (direct) involvement in the whole mess.

Sachs, when trying to understanding why our economy is stuctured the way that it is, I like to consider the "toilet scrubbing factor." That says that a certain percentage of society would consider it beneath them to scrub their own toilets. They simply have better things to do. But the riff-raff are an ornery lot and are inclined sometimes to believe (incorrectly, of course) that everyone ought to scrub their own toilets. So, what to do about that?

Well, first you write rules of the game that "prove" your superiority -- your skin is whiter, your family was here first, your manners are better, you can solve math problems faster -- whereby you then convince the riff-raff that you really do deserve to live better than they do. When that is done, the rest is easy. You go about consolidating your holdings so that you own both the carrots and the sticks. The riff-raff -- being inclined as they are toward eating and sleeping in warm places -- get themselves busy at scrubbing your toilets (many, many toilets, to be sure) and YOU -- being the superior being that you are -- get busy at making more money (so that you can buy more carrots and sticks). Just the way the man up stairs intended it.

May I quote you on that?? I have some friends I would love to share this with.

I've scrubbed toilets to earn money, and I've also hauled garbage. Garbage hauling pays more, especially if you own the truck. So far as skills after TEOTWAWKI, we'll always need people to haul garbage, even when we're back to outhouses. The second oldest profession.

The second oldest profession.

I guess if one takes garbage and bakes bread your cost ofthe materials is less - leading to profit.

(thinks back to the 'high fiber' bread that was shut down in scandal once it was shown the fiber was wood.)

P.O.T. The Man upstairs said scrub your own toilets, any holier than thou person that tells me otherwise, will be reminded of what he or she did as a kid.

I'd also remind them of the parable that Jesus told of the rich dude getting ready to build himself more barns for his wealth, only to die in the night before all his plans were finished, or for that matter even started.

I know there must be people out there that can't stand the sight of there own messes, and have to have other people handy to wipe their faces during dinner or what not, they have been around a long time. But that being said, does not mean we have to settle with them thinking they can lord it over their fellow man. It is not a prefect world, but it'd be nice if everyone got a few years of toilet scrubing duty, just to round out their personalities.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world. Any job fit for the hired help is fit for the king.

A friend of my brother, government employee (almost 6 figure salary last year) cleans his own ... "crapper". This guy owns land, has an outhouse...puts on a face mask and a pair of rubber gloves, grabs a shovel and a 5 gallon bucket and goes to town. Its not just him using this outhouse. Other people hunt/stay at his land. The same guy built a cabin and use OSB for the flooring with about 8 coats of poly on it...

If you really think about it, the idea of shelter, once built, being an appreciating asset is so absurd that it boggles the mind.

I perceive it to be deeper than housing.

It is the notion of 'perceived value'.

If a house has a good location, it is worth more.

A baseball from a store, commodity. A baseball hit during a famous 1930's world series (one of a kind!) ...higher value.

Those that have wealth will always be incentivized to exploit any flows of money, due to perceived value, to make more money. (It seems to be an innate human trait?)

It doesn't have to be this way! There is so much energy, so much built wealth, so much information in society that 90% of people could have essentially decent lives. They could work, earn a little, spend a little on essential goods (which again, should be inexpensive), and save. They would be educated and prosperous, so they probably wouldn't reproduce too much, and population would stabilize.

Now - I am not a communist or utopian. But if we aren't working towards this ideal, then what exactly are we working towards?

I think around the 1970's it was clear that if we made the right decisions, we would reach this endpoint. But either the oligarchs decided they didn't want it, or people got bored, or both.

Your instincts are dead on, Oilman. There is hard data available that supports what you are saying here. This piece, from Pulitzer winner David Cay Johnston, is one of the hardest hitting, most eye opening pieces I have seen in quite some time. I'll include a few snippets, but the piece is a must read in its entirety for anyone who wishes to understand how things have gone to terribly awry over the last 30 years

The number of Americans making $50 million or more, the top income category in the data, fell from 131 in 2008 to 74 last year. But that’s only part of the story.

The average wage in this top category increased from $91.2 million in 2008 to an astonishing $518.8 million in 2009. That’s nearly $10 million in weekly pay!

You read that right. In the Great Recession year of 2009 (officially just the first half of the year), the average pay of the very highest-income Americans was more than five times their average wages and bonuses in 2008. And even though their numbers shrank by 43 percent, this group’s total compensation was 3.2 times larger in 2009 than in 2008, accounting for 0.6 percent of all pay. These 74 people made as much as the 19 million lowest-paid people in America, who constitute one in every eight workers.

Financial oligarchs indeed. But wait- there's more!

During the years from 1950 to 1980, the share of total income going to those at the top declined, and the real incomes of the vast majority grew much more quickly than did nearly all incomes at the very top.

In those years, America had the money, and vision, to invest in the future through education, research, and infrastructure.

In nearly three decades of Reaganism, however, we have become a society of mine-here-and-now. Now what we hear from Washington is about today, not tomorrow. War without sacrifice (or a congressional declaration). Savings without interest. More government services while lowering taxes.

In this era, the incomes of the vast majority have barely grown while incomes at the top have soared. Reaganism has trimmed the base of the income ladder while placing a much heavier weight on the top. Narrowing the base while adding weight to the apex does not make a stable structure. Here are some numbers that may surprise those ages 50 and under, taken from the latest analysis of tax return data by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, who have won worldwide praise for their groundbreaking work examining changes in income distribution: (see link for table)

While the vast majority must get by on a much smaller share of the national income pie, the re-slicing resulted in concentrated benefits at the top. The top 10 percent enjoyed a nearly 40 percent increase in their share of the income pie. But within the top 10 percent, the re-slicing of the income pie between 1980 and 2008 was also heavily weighted to the top.

Those in the 90th to 95th percentile income category saw their income share rise by just 0.24 percentage points. The 95th to 99th income category got 2.43 percentage points more slice of the national income pie.

That means that of the 13.59 percentage points of increased pie going to the top 10 percent of Americans, the top 1 percent earned almost 11 percentage points of it.

Note that the results are the result of number crunching the actual data. This is not some theory-wielding Reagan basher. The verdict is in. Corporatism wins.

That said, I do think it's important to note that the Democratic Party is just as corporatized as the other guys. The run continued through Clinton years, and is proceeding apace under Obama.

So the reason why, despite so much energy, built wealth and all the rest, 90% of the people will NOT be permitted to have 'decent ives', is that, well, there's just not *enough* for them after the fat cats have taken their 'fair share.'

This is America in the 21st century - truly an oligarchy cum kleptocracy. Hey, it ain't just a conspiracy theory when there's a demonstrable conspiracy, is it?

So the reason why, despite so much energy, built wealth and all the rest, 90% of the people will NOT be permitted to have 'decent ives', is that, well, there's just not *enough* for them after the fat cats have taken their 'fair share.'

Isn't there supposed to be more than one way to skin a fat cat?

We could start with this one: Set a series of short-term easily attainable goals, resulting in skinned fat cat. Accomplish goals.

This is America in the 21st century - truly an oligarchy cum kleptocracy. Hey, it ain't just a conspiracy theory when there's a demonstrable conspiracy, is it?

Nope, you'll still have people calling your theory bunk. Even if you get 'em to establish a goalpost of 'meet this and I'll agree you were right' as soon as you hit or beat that goalpost they will move the goalpost, call the goal unmet, claim they disproved the statement, or even clam up on the topic.

Actually Ozzy's theories are fine. We're just conspiring against yours.

Oilman Sachs,

I would love to have a nice equal culture, where everyone has a nice home, not a castle, if you want a castle that is great but you can build it along with your kids on your land, right beside the nice modest one we( collective group of people living in this area ) helped you build.

A sort of Habitat for Humanity model. Small houses that can be added onto, living off the land, trading locally. With regional trading going on several times a year to bring in new things this area can't grow or make.

Houses get passed down from generation to generation, they are made well and aren't prone to fire, winds or floods. The only reason an area would be abandoned is if there were a several year drought. But other areas would be opened up for those people, when the weather changed, they'd move back to the old homestead.

The reason houses have to grow in value, is because there is interest paid on money in my humble opinion. You don't get interest in nature, you do get growth, but generally speaking the whole balances out over the wide open system.

Not many people truly think about the whole ecosystem as a living and breathing organization of parts, that fits well together, and works well together. Mankind has for a while felt that it was apart, could master it and take what it wanted, without caring for what he had been given.

I've always thought that God meant for us to be wise stewards of what we had. Somewhere along the way, people thought he meant for us to rape and pilage the place we call home, that is an idiotic idea, we only have one Earth, can't go to the Moon to get a fillup on good drinking water, or great looking topsoil. But time and again, someone along the way saw the wide open green grass on the other side of the fence and decided that would be a great place to mow down and plant a shopping mall.

When I think of a Shopping Mall all I hear in my head is the beat line from a Laurie Anderson song, I can't remember the title too, I used to listen to her music back in the mid 80's. The tone of some of her songs was rather harsh at what we were doing with the place.

Our great problem, is that we can imagine a great world, where everything is loving and cool and no child goes to bed hungry at night. But we just can't convince enough other people of the dream we have. Some bully keeps coming along trying to knock us off our parkland and build that darn Shopping mall.

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world, not many shopping malls, in the sense that we have them today. parkalnd that goes back to parkland after the sheep go back to the feilds and market stalls roll back home to get refilled till next month.

If we aren't working towards this ideal [of equally decent living for 90%], then what exactly are we working towards?


This is one of those "you want the truth? --you can't handle the truth" answers.
[ i.mage.+]

We are working for exactly the opposite.

One commentator above already gave the answer in a way:

It is the notion of 'perceived value'

But let me digress so I can circle back on that answer from different angle:

My over-90 yr old mother (still in good health, knocks twice on faux wood) lives in one of these retirement communities with others of like age. Needless to say, almost every day there is news of another neighbor who has moved on to that next community upstairs.

You would think that at this stage of the game, with all that white hair wisdom and the realization that one foot is already on the staircase to heaven, these people would have risen above the pettiness of arguing who is "better" than whom. Who has the nicer car? Who's house/apartment is better decorated than the other's? Who wore the nicest dress to last night's canasta card game?

But no. It's still the same social order pecking game that has been going on since freshmen year in high school. It just never ends for these people (for all people).

So that is why MrFlash818 got it right up above:

It is the notion of 'perceived value'

The game (and the goal) is to fool the next person in line into perceiving that they will have greater "value" (be perceived as a person having greater value) if only first they give you greater value.

Basically, a giant Ponzi scheme where the thing traded is "perceived value" rather than money itself.

Ultimately, of course, somebody at the top of the Ponzi scheme converts all this up-flowing "perceived value" into cash. They "cash out" and run away before the flames from bursting bubble behind them gets close enough to singe their behind.

Housing and the ever-appreciating "value" of the same is one example.

A simpler example that our feeble minds can better grasp is stock in "Enron" or a like positioned corporate entity.

The trick is/was for Mr. Ken Lay (former CEO of Enron and already residing in that great retirement community upstairs) to convince you and me that we will be "perceived" among our day-trading friends as being most clever "investors" because we were first to perceive the ever-increasing "value" of the stock he holds in his perceptively wonderful and prospering corporation and he is only doing us, just us, this wonderful favor by letting us in on the insider secret because he perceives us to be more highly valued and deserving persons than the next joker.

Oh say do you yet see the "perceived value" game and why this is our goal --the one we are all working for?

No? --then "you can't handle the truth" [ i.mage.+]

They are being critical of the right thing. Holding stake in the US economy is the only way to ensure the Yuan is pegged to the dollar. The Chinese need to start exchanging the treasuries they hold for dollars, and then exchange those dollars for Yuan. They could then spend those Yuan until they ran out while suspending taxes in China until then. Then the Chinese State would have built that which it is soveriegn over into a larger taxable base.

The Fed will buy the excess treasuries. This will cause inflation in the US. The Chinese can't buy enough US treasuries to keep the Yuan pegged if the Fed doesn't allow it. Chinese inflation will make this impossible.

Right now the Chinese have inflation themselves precisely because they keep devaluing the Yuan. Without this interference, the Yuan would buy more, and their inflation problems would disappear.

Why I post here.

Let somebody who knows better do my thinking for me.



Maybe when the debtor nations are using the money to buy finite resources at a rate that adversely impacts your own economy, by triggering, say, a national shortage of diesel fuel.

I think the Chinese are strategic thinkers, like the Russians. They look not only at the short term economics, but longer term. For example, what is it worth in the long run for China to hold worthless US treasuries (currently, I think they hold about $800B), if in the process the US can be encouraged to self-destruct, monetarily and fiscally?

China loses $800B, but becomes a far more dominating presence, thus potentially enabling them to push their currency as world reserve currency. That's worth a helluva lot more to them than $800B.

Obviously, there is a lot more to it than this (China loses a major buyer for its goods if we crater, for example - but they have been diversifying like mad in this area and something like 40% of their exports now go to Asia-Pac countries, IIRC), but the point is, we make a mistake when we think the basis for their decisions is the same as ours would be. They are playing the long game, we rarely think beyond the short game.

I think the Chinese are strategic thinkers

I hear that often but have trouble seeing how that is true. They are clearly making the biggest strategic mistakes any civilization can make: setting up their systems to work on debt-based growth and declining resources while doing very little to prepare their people for the coming collapse. Talk to Chinese businessmen and they are quietly confident that the next century is theirs (the obvious assumption that we will all continue to operate in the current economic paradigm).

Instead, I see their one way contracts for resources increasingly under stress and countries will break them when there are good geopolitical reasons to do so. Their population is still increasing, their environment is a mess, etc.

I find it difficult to see much strategic thinking of value over there (same as here).

Andre, I think you are confusing 'strategic' with 'omnipotent' ;-)

Within the confines of the existing, dominant paradigm, one can be very strategic and still lose in the end, not because one is not strategic in one's thinking, but because one was wrong about the paradigm. As an example, say two brilliant chess players are playing a game. They are both highly strategic thinkers. Player 1 moves his rook to protect his queen - player 2 pulls out a gun and shoots player 1. Doesn't make player 1 non-strategic - just makes him dead.

I think that's the case here.

As an example, say two brilliant chess players are playing a game. They are both highly strategic thinkers. Player 1 moves his rook to protect his queen - player 2 pulls out a gun and shoots player 1. Doesn't make player 1 non-strategic - just makes him dead.


Reminds self to wear a bullet proof vest should I ever find myself on the other side of a chessboard from you...
Or perhaps I could interest you in a game of poker instead, weapons to be left behind the bar...

You still lose.
You wear a bullet proof vest. The other player sees that as an obvious tell. They play accordingly and shoot you in the head. Same result- dead.
Whatever move the US makes the Chinese will adjust their play accordingly.

China has alot of questions to address in the coming years/decades, and it may not do so successfully.

They have a tremendous imbalance in the sexes which is going to frustrate a good portion of the male population. They have built, in their infinite wisdom, alot of shoddy, ugly high rises that nobody in their right mind would choose to live in. And, as history shows, ruling the world always leads to declining marginal returns.

American Empire is fading, and I suspect that we will be the last and will drag down China with us.

The world is too full and developed for any new empires now. China may make one final play into Africa.

For once I agree with AA.
The Chinese are adopting the most idiotic lifestyle on the planet(the US).

China is going to get to the point that they will want hard assets for their loans. Name a National Park that you want China to Own. Name a mineral deposit you want China to own. Then they will loan us the money for whatever we need, and if we fail to pay them back in a timely manner, they come over here and set up shop.

Look at Peru, a whole mountain of copper ore that China bought. The people that live there can move, not that they don't want too already as the wasteland they live in is kinda toxic. Look at places in Africa that are now owned, or rather mined, by China.

Debtor nations have yet to sell their souls to pay for their spending, that will be next, if they want to get loans, or do we just call that buying outright?

Look at it now, China hinted really strongly a while ago, that the US needed to get it's house in order, hinting that they(china) had a lot of Paper in dollar amounts to force their wishes on the US. Last time I checked Wiki it was just under 900 billion in T-bonds.

What day is coming when they will just want to buy Alaska to pay for our debt to them?

Or we could all just default all at once and get it over with. Say on saturday Nov 27th 2010 All nations around the world decide to make it an all for one default day. Come Monday morning it is back to buying things with metals and goods, and hard currencies for a while till things get back to some bits of normal again, all with a new single money unit called The Debt-Buck.

No easy answers, just a lot of what if this, or what if that, not till someone takes that first leap into the water off this sinking ship. "Look mommy, are those shark fins, going after those bankers that just jumped in the water?"

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world, hopefully a better system than what we now have.

Name a National Park that you want China to Own. Name a mineral deposit you want China to own.

The same people who complain about REX 84, Adjenda 21, Codex Almerntarious will point to, as I remember, Clinton era EO's that turned all that stuff over to either the UN or the IMF.

It may not be China's to own.

For whatever reason, so-called "blue states" tend to be high-income areas that pay the vast majority of federal taxes. Some 84 percent of federal individual income taxes—which account for over 40 percent of federal revenue—are paid by the those in the top 25 percent of the income distribution. The majority of these taxpayers live in wealthy, urban, politically "blue" areas like New York, California, and Massachusetts...

How much would the largest "donor states" have had to receive in federal spending to boost their spending-taxing ratio to New Mexico's 2.0, the biggest "beneficiary state" that year?

As the table makes clear, far more than is realistically possible. California alone would need to receive more than half of the nation's discretionary spending.


For whatever reason, so-called "blue states" tend to be high-income areas that pay the vast majority of federal taxes.

Yet they have to put up with obstructionist Republicans? Seems like the country could still be the United States when it was really necessary like fighting a world war or something. But for most of the time it would seem like a much better country if it was split between red and blue states. Red & blue would have their own president, senate and house, their own military and set of laws regarding abortion, drugs, etc.

If the Red states under a Republican Prez decided to unilaterally invade a soverign country we're not at war with, the blue states would have the opportunity to take part of reneg. All the wars cost would be born by taxes from the set of states (red or blue or both) that decided to take on that war, and the soldiers would come from those states.

The red states could opt for using as much FF as possible, whereas blue states could decide to lean more towards renewables. Healthcare in blue states could have the public option and the red state people would of course have to fend for themselves as individual payers with zero power to influence who is rejected or accepted under their healthcare plans.

Red states could make it a crime punishable by death for taking part in an abortion, whereas blue states would continue to have it remain a choice. The blue and red states would each own 1/2 the current debt, and then from that point forward be responsible for their own money borrowed and debt from wars, imprisonment, etc.

Now that's a US I could love! From the vantage point that is of remaining in a blue state, CA.

It could be taken further. Red states could opt for torturing prisoners, eliminate taxes for the top 1%, eliminate the minimum wage, abolish unions, extend the death penalty to a whole array of crimes, have school vouchers, no medicare, no VA, no social security, no mortgage interest deduction, no corp. taxes, no death taxes, etc.

We would eliminate the infighting on so many topics in DC and the people in the US would have a clear choice about where they wanted to live. And if a family got tired of being under red state rule, they could move to a blue state & vice versa. It would be a great solution to many of the divisive arguments that are seemingly endless.

Question Peak?????

If your suggestion were to take place, how long before all (or at least most of the people in the "Red States") would have moved over into the "Blue States" ???

Uh Peak, who is going to grow the food in your brave new world? Additionally, I would add that the Blue states could benefit from nuke plants and nuclear waste storage in the Red states. I suspect that the Red and Blue states could come to a settlement about doing some mutually beneficial trading. California has long thought of splitting the state into the Blue coast and the Red central valley, but in the long run the same considerations as above will prevent it.

I do agree though, if we are going to be so partisan it would be smart for people to start relocating with their own kind. (sarc)

"Additionally, I would add that the Blue states could benefit from nuke plants and nuclear waste storage in the Red states"

I too had an amusing image of the Blue staters (NY or MA) all standing around their solar panel (made without mining or logging, don't ask me out of what) in a Lake Effect blizzard or a Northeaster wondering why they are both freezing and starving. While a few miles away in Red State, the locals look at the outside thermometer and say "Damn, they'll have to pull the control rods up another 2 inches for this one." And go make a hot chocolate.

The point is, a frightening number of Blue Staters have no idea how the real world works. Having lived in both, I've found that the Red staters tend to be less specialized (and therefore less well paid under the current value system) but more capable of operating "well enough" over a broader area of life. And this gives them a better view of how things interconnect.

Having lived in both, I've found that the Red staters tend to be less specialized (and therefore less well paid under the current value system) but more capable of operating "well enough" over a broader area of life. And this gives them a better view of how things interconnect.

I'm not following you on that one, but maybe that means you'd be happier in one of the red states. It's all a matter of perspective and with a choice there would be 'more freedom'.

If you think Blue Staters don't know how the real world works, you've never lived in rural New England. I can't imagine more competent, independent, tough, versatile people.

LOL - don't you know there are no competent rural people north of the Mason-Dixon line? Tiring, isn't it?a

*gets out tour guide hat*

Here we see one of the last thriving examples of 'political handwavus generalis' - a style of post made extinct by the great orbital re-alignment of the stars about TOD.

Binary statements about artifical terms with one to two line ascertions about said binary relationships which ignore actual realities.

Structured in such a way that it will generate more heat than light.

As you'll now note this post and its replies are now encased in the amber of 'no further comments are allowed'.

*takes off hat*

Only 4 states don't have budget deficits--MT, AR, AK and ND.
Texas sized deficit of $25B looks worse than New York's at $18B.
Now who wants to bailout Texas?

maj - The Texas gov is floating the idea of droping Medicaid. Makes me wonder if he'll threaten to do that in order to push the feds to lending a "helping hand". I don't think it's an idle threat. Texans are not know to be overly sympathetic for the underprivaledged. We're something of an equal mix between rural and intercity so such debates tend to split between "us" and "them".

Perry was hawking his book,'Fed Up', on FOX this morning.
His bright idea is to have the Federal government give the states block grants with Medicare administration to be done by the states.
Of course, everyone knows what an excellent job state legistatures (many of whom have balanced budget requirements but are nevertheless in quasi-bankruptcy) do in managing money.
Perry said that spinning off Social Security is down the road for now.

Of course the real purpose of Perry's book is to jumpstart his campaign for president along with Sarah Palin's 'America by Heart' and Newt (the Adulterer) Gingerich's book 'Valley Forge'.

Frankly, I can't understand the mentality down there.
There ARE highly competent politicians in Texas.
Mayor Bill White was a fabulous candidate (and Peak Oil aware). He proved himself during the Hurricane Ike and after Katrina.
I'd have to chalk it up to typical plantation politics(scratches head).

maj - Perry for prez is a definate possibility...and a little scary. He's a stealth Palin IMHO. He'll be much more digestable by the American public. Ole Bill White was a good manager but he killed his statewide political career when he made Houston a sactuary city. The MSM doesn't like to higlight it and much of the country doesn't want to hear about it but S Texas isn't far from becoming a free fire zone. Not so much from the illegals coming across but their unfortunate and forced link with the drug cartels. Both sides of this battle is just a small step from a shoot-on-site mentality. Now that Perry was won re-election it's a good bet he try to ride that horse all the way to the White House. He's already planning a move to take away imigration enforcement along our border from the feds. And some legal smarties say he has a solid plan that's much more defensible than AZ's.

Doesn't make a material difference, but the projected Texas deficit is over a two year period. I don't know if that's true for New York.

About twenty years ago I was flying from San Francisco to Dallas to change planes at the American Airlines hub there, and in the seat next to me was an extremely attractive woman from Texas (married, alas). After an hour or two of conversation I told her that I thought prospects for Texas were bleak, because they would run out of cheap oil and cheap water sometime relatively soon--in about twenty or thirty years I prophesied.

My batting average as a prophet is moderately good. Well over .300

Re: Obama pointman dismisses climate change skeptics

Stern however insisted in the United States there is "a significant basis of support and belief among the public for the proposition that climate change and global warming are significant threats, and that action needs to be taken."

After quoting the famous saying in US politics that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts," Stern said: "people who want to look at the facts and pretend they're not there are not in the long run going to do us any good."

The trouble is, economics trumps reality. The man on the street clearly isn't interested in doing anything to solve the problem, especially if it's likely to cost him money or, worse, his job. These days, that's a major concern, as evidenced in the election just passed...

E. Swanson

The trouble is, economics trumps reality. The man on the street clearly isn't interested in doing anything to solve the problem, especially if it's likely to cost him money or, worse, his job. These days, that's a major concern, as evidenced in the election just passed...

I'd argue that it's the other way around and that reality is finally begining to trump the economy. That is the main reason that the man on the street( probably because he has already lost his home to foreclosure) has lost his job, his benefits, his health care, his social safety net, he doesn't have much hope for getting out of the hole he is in and the main reason he is where he is, is because the current economic paradigm of continual growth has failed him miserably.

Of course it doesn't help that TPTB are still doing a heck of a good job in selling the poor shmuck, on the proposition that *ONLY* more growth will solve the problem. That we need to continue with the status quo even if it means the we continue degrading our environment so that the rich minority continue to reap the benefits and allow them to trickle down a bit. Well guess what, it isn't working, is it?

The problems of climate change, hitting up against resource limits, environmental degradation and the man on the street's current economic plight are a direct consequence of BAU.

I think it is a strawman argument to say that the man on the street clearly isn't interested in doing anything to solve the problem, The truth is, he clearly isn't being given any real alternative by anyone in a position to actually start working on possible solutions. All he is being told is a bunch of lies, and that things will get better again soon. Yeah, right!

Well, don't hold your breath.

Doing what we really need to do to stabilize CO2 would involve reducing our emissions (standard of living) to the level of Ghana, according to Kaplan's article in the current "Atlantic." Can you blame people for seizing on any possible evidence that the climate scientists might be wrong?

That's sort of like asking if you can 'blame' people for confirmation bias, which probably has evolutionary roots, per evolutionary psychology. So lets blame evolution. :)

That said, confirmation bias isn't rigorously deterministic. Can you fault people for not developing nor exercising their capacity for critical thinking, for objectivity? I guess it might depend on the consequences, to some degree.

If your neighbor tells you that he thinks your dog knocked over his $2000 statue and he'd like you to replace it, can you be faulted for questioning his evidence?

On the other hand, if a credible and well regarded seismologist announces that a tsunami is coming, and you live on the beach, I think you can be faulted for not getting your family the h*ll outta dodge - especially if in so doing, you also convince other families to stay.

OK, that's a truly lousy analogy, but I hope it gets the point across. It's certainly no surprise that people act in their perceived self interest at the expense of others, especially if those others have yet to be born. As EO Wilson put it:

Individuals place themselves first, family second, tribe third and the rest of the world a distant fourth. Their genes also predispose them to plan ahead for one or two generations at most. They fret over the petty problems and conflicts of their daily lives and respond swiftly and often ferociously to slight challenges to their status and tribal security.

But oddly, as psychologists have discovered, people also tend to underestimate both the likelihood and impact of such natural disasters as major earthquakes and great storms.

The reason for this myopic fog, evolutionary biologists contend, is that it was actually advantageous during all but the last few millennia of the two million years of existence of the genus Homo.

The brain evolved into its present form during this long stretch of evolutionary time, during which people existed in small, preliterate hunter-gatherer bands. Life was precarious and short. A premium was placed on close attention to the near future and early reproduction, and little else.

So it looks like we're back to blaming evolution. ;-)

They ... respond swiftly and often ferociously to slight challenges to their status and tribal security.

What illegal aliens are in your Capital Uno back pocket?


Excuse you me most valued Kimosabee and Lone Ranging pale face with black mask over eyes, but you don't exactly look Honest Native American to me and where is your "founding" forefather's green card?
[ i.mage.+]

I have a few questions. What criteria are being used to measure 'Standard of Living'? Is it conceivable that those criteria are not a true measure for a good quality of life? Why would you conclude that reducing CO2 emissions automatically equates to a lower standard of living? Especially given the fact that continued CO2 emissions are no guarantee of an improving quality of life and there is already ample available evidence that it might actually severely degrade it.

Emissions are not standard of living.

We went to dinner last night with friends who have a second home nearby. They are "tow-the-line" Republicans, hard working, self-made. Nice folks (despite our philosophical differences) and we enjoy their company. I managed to avoid discussing my doomer/peak oil stuff, though they did get into economics and politics a bit. The conversation moved to the status of the golf course/clubhouse at the gated community where their second home is, which is now under bank management after the previous developer defaulted on $millions. My only comment was that I give even odds that the golf course would be cow pasture again in 10-20 years, that we would be bailing hay there as I did years ago. Blank stares; I guess it seemed like a very strange comment. The next 20 minutes were all rationalizations about how things will return to previous levels of prosperity, etc.

It occured to me that these folks can't make the switch. Their entire lives, all of their decisions, hard work, dreams, are invested in their world view and their "plan". This is all they can see through their BAU blinders. I see no point in trying to burst their bubble.

So it goes.....

It occured to me that these folks can't make the switch.

I think they can but I agree with you that there is no point in you antagonizing them by bursting their bubble.
The day will surely come when they see their grand kids farming on what used to be their golf course, whether you say anything to them or not... Might as well just enjoy the evening and a good meal!

Having said that, I refer to what Thomas Khun said "Don't waste your time with reactionaries; rather work with active change agents." Unfortunately those are very few and far between.

So how do you change paradigms? Thomas Kuhn, who wrote the seminal book about the great paradigm shifts of science, has a lot to say about that. In a nutshell, you keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm, you come yourself, loudly, with assurance, from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. You don't waste time with reactionaries; rather you work with active change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded.

Systems folks would say one way to change a paradigm is to model a system, which takes you outside the system and forces you to see it whole. We say that because our own paradigms have been changed that way...

...People who cling to paradigms (just about all of us) take one look at the spacious possibility that everything we think is guaranteed to be nonsense and pedal rapidly in the opposite direction. Surely there is no power, no control, not even a reason for being, much less acting, in the experience that there is no certainty in any worldview. But everyone who has managed to entertain that idea, for a moment or for a lifetime, has found it a basis for radical empowerment. If no paradigm is right, you can choose one that will help achieve your purpose. If you have no idea where to get a purpose, you can listen to the universe (or put in the name of your favorite deity here) and do his, her, its will, which is a lot better informed than your will.

It is in the space of mastery over paradigms that people throw off addictions, live in constant joy, bring down empires, get locked up or burned at the stake or crucified or shot, and have impacts that last for millennia.

Donella Meadows: Leverage Points - Places To Intervene In A System

Most of us do not want to apply for martyrdom.


Systems folks would say one way to change a paradigm is to model a system, which takes you outside the system and forces you to see it whole. We say that because our own paradigms have been changed that way...

...People who cling to paradigms (just about all of us) take one look at the spacious possibility that everything we think is guaranteed to be nonsense and pedal rapidly in the opposite direction. Surely there is no power, no control, not even a reason for being, much less acting, in the experience that there is no certainty in any worldview. But everyone who has managed to entertain that idea, for a moment or for a lifetime, has found it a basis for radical empowerment.

Thanks, Fred. I suppose that this is where I've been most of my life which is why I may be considered an outliar by some, not particularly successful by mainstream standards. I wouldn't change much, looking back,,, though it can be lonely at times. Perhaps it's beginning to pay off, and I can at least be at peace with my world view. That's something.

[...reflects quietly]

Brilliant quote, Fred, thanks.

I live in Ashe County, which I guess is north of you folks. A couple of days ago, when I last went to town, I was struck yet again by how many larger 4x4 SUV's there were zipping about. Many newer ones and most with only one person on board. We have a town center which provides most of the commerce for the entire county and an area to the north into Virginia. After Peak Oil, how will these folks be able to cope, as many of them are immigrants from elsewhere, such as Florida, who have no memory of the old ways. And, we had the gated community thing in our area too, such as Laurelmor, which was to be a up scale golf community that began with very high sales prices but then went bust.

Greater fool that I am, I bought 2 lots at auction in such communities, one for less than 20% of the previous owner's price and the other for less than 5% of the previous sale. I had some fun last summer fixing the broken gate to the first one, which may turn out to be good work experience as things progress...:-)

E. Swanson

Two types of communities that are going to have particularly difficult transitions are retirement communities and welfare communities. Both types have one thing in common -- they live off of transfer payments.

Retirement communities benefit from transfer payments such as social security, medicare, private and public pension plans, tax advantaged retirement investment plans, etc. While the upscale planned communities with resort-level amenities in Florida, the Carolinas, and Arizona come to mind, there are a wide variety of age-restricted retirement communities throughout the country, all the way down to some pretty wretched trailer parks for old folks. Indeed, the backbone of many small cities in the midwest is the income from the care and feeding of the seniors left behind by the out-migration of young people. The Medicare supported medical center is now the largest building and employer in town.

Welfare communities benefit from transfer payments such as SSI, disability payments, medicade, food stamps, subsidized jobs program incomes, public payroll featherbedding, etc. The city of Detroit is largely a welfare community. Other uban areas also have large welfare communities, but there are also rural welfare communities.

Defined benefit private pension plans are coming to an end, and defined contribution and tax advantaged retirement accounts are not providing the returns that will ensure a steady stream of wealthy retirees. Public pension plans are underfunded and public pension benefits will likely be cut after huge legal battles. Social security and medicare will likely be means tested, reducing seniors' income from these sources. Welfare benefits are unsustainable at these levels as the economy adjusts to lower energy supplies.

Therefore, communities whose main source of income is from transfer payments are likely to experience a severe reduction in living standards.

Retirement communities that depend on interstate movement of retirees are likely to be especially hard hit, since retirees will avoid them if they want to see their grandchildren in an environment of high cost travel.

Extremely well said, Merrill. Also consider this: even in the absence of declining energy flows, even in the absence of the current economic crisis, both Medicare and Social Security are - let's be plain - Ponzi schemes. For example:

"The Social Security System has posted the story of Ida Fuller on its website. Fuller paid in under $25, retired in 1940, lived to 1975, and collected almost $23,000."

Promises that cannot possibly be kept won't be. Anyone who has not watched I.O.U.S.A. - made *prior* to the current crisis, and thus understating the problem considerably - would be wise to do so, forthwith.

If we look at human history back to small tribal groups, the young and the old have always subsisted on transfer payments from the working age segment. Where that segment is located and how the transfer occurs is irrelevant as long as the middle isn't stupid enough or greedy enough to abandon the young and old.

There is no reason that lower energy supplies should put the aged last in line for sustenance unless the society has its priorities severely out of whack with human decency.

Which it may.

I would suggest that both the young and old make important contributions to the success of the society, so it is not just a matter of decency to support them.

Petro, I think your argument ignores the very real practical issues which IMO formed the basis of Merrill's post, a la:

Retirement communities that depend on interstate movement of retirees are likely to be especially hard hit

Small tribal groups never had the interstate highway system to grapple with.

There is every reason to expect energy supplies to impact the aged who with the rest of us live within the infrastructure created on the back of cheap, abundant energy.

Until recently, transfer payments from the working population to the old and young have usually been informal. My grandfather, for example, spent his later years living with us and shared our food and shelter. Children who were not supported by their parents, would often be taken in by relatives or neighbors. Seniors who did not live with their children would often live with other relatives and usually stay in the area where they had lived and worked and built up some social capital.

Purpose-built retirement communities only date from 1954. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youngtown,_Arizona

This is about the time that the interstates and air travel made it possible to return from places like Phoenix to visit the family back in places like Iowa or Minnesota.

I'd expect that the old (who believe that they've earned it) and the needy (who believe that they deserve it) will continue to enjoy a reasonable share of societies goods and services. It's just that the share is likely to be considerably less than they have been expecting, and it will be delivered in a place and form that was different than they thought.

Basically, for families, things are supposed to work on the communistic principle, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

The knee-jerk response against this seems so strong in this country that we may end up ejecting our children and our old folks out onto the streets to fend for themselves.

The US has gone from the extended family to the nuclear family to the sub-nuclear family of unmarried parenthood.

It is unclear who benefits from this evolution, but someone must, since it is encouraged by various forms of media and propaganda. Presumably it is easier to condition public opinion if the targets of conditioning don't have a lot of messy family and kinship relationships to complicate messaging.

However, the products of this attempt at societal homogenization appear to be baffled when they come into contact with Middle Eastern and South Asian societies which still have strong extended family relationships, kin group and clan identifications, and ethnic ties.

The US has gone from the extended family to the nuclear family to the sub-nuclear family of unmarried parenthood.

Yes, we're down to the elementary particles. This is how the consumerist system likes it, because they can sell us products to fill the gaping hole that results. Of course, the products can never fill the hole. Solution? More products! It's perfect, really.

Yes, our current economic system has sliced and diced the family into separate economic units which can then be targeted by marketeers. But once these units are singled out and separated from the family they become vulnerable to other predatory systems and crime. Similar to the way a cheetah separates a calf from its mother to make it easier to catch and kill.

I find your view on Middle Eastern and South Asian societies interesting. I strongly believe that Islam has been targeted by our consolidating, centralising and homogenising global system (loosely defined as "civilisation") due to its anarchic dispersive nature. There is no central authority in Islam to be corrupted and turned to assimilate the people and collectivise them into the global system. Possibly humanity's last outpost of resistance against the global dehumanising system which has established itself in control of the planet.

1) The 10 planks of the Communist Manefesto are alive and more than a few are doing quite well in the US of A.
2) The Democratic Party was loosing out the the Communists back during the last big economic kerfuffle so under the cover of the darkest night they went over to the Communists platform, took the planks, went by the Capitalist miller and had 'em trimmed so they'd look good, and stuck 'em into the Democratic platform. (It is the darkest night whenever a party meets to discuss the platform., right?)
3) "Communisim" was a response to the excesses of "Capitalism". Hey, anyone think there is not excess right now?

The knee jerk is non thinking reaction to rhetoric VS the actual reality. The actual reality - Communist principals are well in play in the US of A.

FDR and John Maynard Keynes did more to save (welfare) capitalism than any other two men. Of the two, John Maynard Keynes was the more important one, because he was the idea man.

...and in so doing, the two of them did more to destroy the free market form (the one which actually yields the most benefits) than any others. They have a lot to answer for, this is true.

Well, I think people underestimate how long it takes for most to assimilate new ideas that significantly deviate from their existing "mental model" of how the world works. Radically different ideas are simply rejected - they have very little impact at all. And if those ideas represent a whole different world view then some will simply never be able to make the adjustment. It's a slow process, and if people are pushed or overwhelmed then they just get angry and come up with some narrative to explain it that does fit their existing beliefs.

I think that is the greatest benefit of sites like TOD - there are at least a few people in the world who will not be surprised, who have had the time to adjust their understanding. Given the massive numbers who will not be mentally prepared it may not mean much in the end, but maybe it will make a difference in some places. That's something anyway.

"Their entire lives, all of their decisions, hard work, dreams, are invested in .."

Well, 'there but for the grace of (*You know, whoever) go I'.

I think you're right.. this rude awakening will be a matter of degree, it seems. Theirs might be VERY rude, and yet I'm sure I've got some awakenings that will seem fairly rude, too. 'Ooh, didn't see that ramification, oh crap!'

Ok, back to weatherizing.

Moderation in all Blogs. (I liked Jack's typo last night, when he called it a 'Bog' ..)

Bob (or "Blob")

i'd argue people are not going to make 'the switch' without price signals (and signals of other kinds). when the light is green, you can't convince them it's actually red. until the light changes, you're/we're the crazy guy standing in the middle of the street pointing at the light and muttering obscenities. for their family, gas is affordable and food is affordable. the mortgages are getting paid, so there's no need to switch anything.

Those folks cant and wont make the switch. But they can and will go to war. If not with an external enemy, then with each other.

I've been feeling overwhelmed lately, surrounded by people who can't/won't see anything but business as usual, or a green tinged version of it. Sometimes I just can't take another blank stare/swift change of subject or blind optimism. I used to believe in the power of the rational. Not any more. This place, and others like it, are oasis of sanity in an insane world.

Or we are the insane ones and everyone else is sane.

Or everyone else just knows that the future is uncertain and laughs, rightly, at those who claim they know exactly what is going to happen.

a ton of truth in that. you may be accused of insulting the most vocal here on tod, imo of course.

I am crazy, but I won't let that stop me from trying to live closer within my means, which are more limited than most.

Here is a crazy thought for you, I live in a 7,200 square foot home, lots of open views, some trees and even a little garden set within the walls. Then off in several places about the house, are 5 black holes, others might call sheds, 1 is even called a house.

People have trouble seeing beyond thier limited views. Oft times if you change their view by changing how you discribe something, like my example of my parent's house and land. You can get them to think outside the box for a bit. It might take more bits of this thinking outside the box to get them to see the world differently.

Showing them pictures of the night sky where there is city lights, then showing them the night sky without city lights. It is best if you can take them, but pictures work wonders as well, if you can't startle them with all those stars out there.

But welcome to a world where you know something and then telling them, only has them think you are crazy. Some of us have been in that world a long time. My family has heard me talk about it enough, with enough good examples that now they figure I am not crazy in that manner anyway.

I have done several small stage skits/plays where I play the insane fellow you just met. I know what it like to be stared at as if you are totally bonkers, and still have to stop yourself from laughing at everything you hear yourself saying. Shifting people's views of the world is something of a stage trick anyway.

Welcome and Hugs,

BioWebScape Designs for a better fed and housed world.

We went to dinner last night with friends ... "tow-the-line" Republicans, ... The conversation moved on to the status of the golf course/clubhouse at the gated community ...


It's all about "perceived value".
You gotta love it.

(( We are "self made". We didn't climb up on the backs of those we crushed under our feet. Don't you hate it when the Mexican fruit pickers want "rights"? OMG, is that a brown dirt patch in the middle of our green green golf course? They need to fire the gardener and get a new one. ))

"The trouble is, economics trumps reality. The man on the street clearly isn't interested in doing anything to solve the problem, especially if it's likely to cost him money or, worse, his job. These days, that's a major concern, as evidenced in the election just passed..."

The man in the street, by recent voting, appears to have emasculated US govt ability to tackle climate change effectively. Or is my take on this flawed?

What seems so different in Europe is that climate change action is seen as necessary, and the sceptics are in a minority. The business sector, though unelected, is beginning to actively manage climate change risk and the main business body, the CBI, even runs a climate change website.

I empathise with Stern and guess is that if he were a european politician, he'd have the freedom of crossparty support in tackling the issue. Trouble is the US is a key player, and inertia in the US affects all of us.

The man in the street, by recent voting, appears to have emasculated US govt ability to tackle climate change effectively. Or is my take on this flawed?

Yes, that is a deeply flawed take, due to the fact that the man in the street is just a puppet with little or no real power to orchestrate any meaning full change one way or the other, they have no real influence on what the US goverment does. Its all part of a smoke screen and the the strings of real power are held instead by special interests such as the billionaire Koch brothers and others who invested heavily in funding the Tea Party.

I have the impression that in Europe while there are certainly opposing ideologies and special interests, there are some issues that everyone agrees transcend the normal day to day political squabbling. The CEO, the politician, the banker, the baker and the candlestick maker all understand that regardless of their political and private interests they all have to work together to be able to tackle the big issues such as climate change and they seem willing to do so.

Of course Europeans being so diverse and in such close proximity to each other have had a long history of dealing with adversity and conflict and seem to have learned a few lessons about the advantages of putting aside their differences to work for some common goals. While we here in the US still have many of those lessons to learn.

Oh, be careful there, Fred, before you crown the Europeans with all sorts of wisdom in how to get along.

They have had nearly sixty years of peace and U.S. dollar + fossil fuel driven prosperity upon which to build a nice little imaginary bed of roses. The "real" europe is starting to reappear methinks, what with unsupportable debt driven austerity. The Greeks are back to condemning German crimes from WWII, haven't you heard.

The twentieth century was one of the bloodiest on record as multi-ethnic european empires disintegrated and national entities took their places. This after horrendous bloodshed in order to distill multi-ethnicity down to the ethnic majorities needed for functional democracies.

History isn't over in Europe by a long shot!

I agree with this. The two previous world wars, and a lot of smaller conflicts, could be seen as the paroxysms of a world transitioning from coal to oil. I think it's likely that the transition from oil will be at least as bad.

Can you explain how you can make this statement and then credibly argue that TOD should not host discussions about the WTC7, or whatever?

If there are that many elephants in the room, toil, it might be prudent to take to them on a bit at a time, eh?

Kind of reminds me of the Looney Tunes where someone is in a dark room (with the label TNT on the door..) and they light a match to see where they are..

For same reason talking about beaming energy down from space is acceptable, but claiming the moon landings were a hoax is not.

Your explanation does not work me, Leanan. To be clear, for me the proposition that Dick Cheney is the spawn of satan doesn't require speculation about a purported active or passive alliance with the crazies who organized and pulled off 9/11. I'll go with the official report. Moreover, I'm quite happy if all discussion of this issue is verboten on TOD.

But your comment about the 20th century wars isn't of the nature of speculation about the viability of beaming energy from space to earth. It's much more akin to the hoax claims. The wars occurred and an enormous literature exists around the question of causes and/or contributing factors. Some of it, I've read, and I just can't recall your thesis therein.

Wow, it never occurred to me that that's what you were questioning.

Perhaps it's a reflection of my education and biases, but I thought it was widely accepted that wars are always about resources.

I think you'd have to stretch the definition of "resources" to the point where it was no longer useful.

For instance, you could define the US Civil War as being about "human resources", and some colonial wars as over "market access resources".

The significance of oil in WW2 in particular is hardly a non-mainstream thesis among history buffs. It's been studied extensively.

And the second link google returned on coal, oil and WW1 was this one:

Oil and the origins of the ‘War to make the world safe for Democracy’, which seems to be a well documented thesis.

So I wouldn't say that the notions Leanan has given are not among the theses advanced in attempts to explain various aspects of the world wars. Not only that, but it seems rather intuitive doesn't it? That the xition from coal to oil would have involved such paroxysms?

I'm not touching the topic of WT7, though. ;-)

The author of the "Oil and the origins of the ‘War to make the world safe for Democracy’" is an interesting guy:

Engdahl stated in 2007 that he had come to believe that petroleum is not biological in origin, produced from remains of prehistoric zooplankton and algae, which had settled to a sea or lake bottom in large quantities under anoxic conditions, which is a theory supported by the majority of petroleum geologists and engineers[3]. Instead he now believes the hypothesis that petroleum is geological in origin, produced deep underground from carbon, by conditions and forces of heat and pressure deeper down than the Earth's bioshpere. Engdahl calls himself an "ex peak oil believer", stating that peak oil is actually a political phenomenon.[4]

Global cooling
Engdahl argued that the Earth is cooling, not warming.[5] He claims that global warming, like peak oil, is merely a "scare" and an attempt "by powerful vested interests to convince the world to sacrifice that they remain in control of the events of this planet".


Of course, none of this conclusively demonstrates that he doesn't make Leanan's point, which as I take it, suggests that the transition from coal to oil underlay violent conflicts in the last century, and that the next transition would witness similar 'paroxysms' of violence. That he doesn't conclusively demonstrate this is evident in the article itself.

Maybe if he had any actual training as an historian, he might have done better.

That oil played a very significant role in numerous 20th century conflicts is not something that I would dispute. But after the US's disastrous adventure in Iraq, and given the extent and balance of destructive power in the hands of the major nations, and the extent of economic interdependence as well as the mutual dependency of the economic and political elites of the various powers, I seriously doubt that the 21st century is going to see any major conflagrations at all, least of all over oil. And do we really expect a fight over windfarm sites.

Wait - you're saying you wouldn't fight for your windfarm?!? Tsk tsk...

I should note - as I posted, that article was simply one that immediately popped up on google on my first search. I wasn't saying it was authoritative, rather than there seems to have been some study of early 20th century wars in relation to fossil fuels, which was at one point questioned. Obviously, you'd want to do a lit review among the historical journals to demonstrate conclusively. I used ease of access via google as a proxy, which is questionable.

The closest thing I've got to a windfarm is my bean patch.

I think Leanan's comment that "I think it's likely that the transition from oil will be at least as bad" (implying wars and such) is pretty uncontroversial when you read "transition from oil" as "transition from oil to... nothing much".

If the US is overtaken by a dictatorship and starts waging wars explicitly to take over oilfields for national operation, instead of this nonsense about installing a democracy and opening the oil market, I can totally see oil wars happening and working.

Was the Thirty Years War, when it started in 1618, primarily about resources????? By 1630 it evolved into a war about resources, but it didn't start that way.

Was the First Crusade primarily about resources?

Were the conquests of Mahomet primarily about resources?

Was the long and bitter war between Athens and Sparta primarily about resources?

Was the declaration of War by Britain and France against Hitler because they wanted Poland for themselves?

Strongly disagree with you Leanan. SOME wars are about resources, most are about power, politics religion, revenge.
Power: Britain didn't declare war on Germany to obtain resources but to stop Hitler upsetting the world order.
Politics: Civil wars such as the Chinese 1930s-49 are usually about spreading/imposing ideology.
Religion: The early Islamic conquests were about spreading Islam. The huge civil war in China (circa 1860) was about religion.
Revenge:Hitler devoted his life to revenge the defeat of WW1. His push for the oilfields was primarily to obtain the resources to wage war and defeat his enemies.

Since Santa Claus distributes resources, perhaps we could spend hours debating his existence. We would have to either recruit a bunch of six year olds, or convince the 9/11 conspiracy gang that Santa is a CIA plant.

But I don't see any reason, in theory, why we couldn't bog down entire comment threads, waste everyone's time, and undermine the credibility of TOD this way too.


Have you seen any good extended discussions of this?

Stirling Newberry wrote about it a few years back. He's not the greatest writer, but he did take a peak oil perspective.

The last energy transition is not reassuring - in the late 19th and early 20th century, internal combustion began to replace steam power. The coal economy of that time could not keep very many people in affluence - though it could keep more people in affluence, and many more people alive than the previous mechanical water/wave economy. The 1899-1918 period saw a series of conflicts which could be labeled "the last of the rock wars" - the last wars over access to coal and gold, the two key commodities in the coal age. Coal ran the economy, and gold measured the economy. Since wealth was created by digging rocks out of the ground and turning them into things, gold was a good measure of the flow of raw value into the society, and therefore a good incentive to productivity.

Ah. You said "The two previous world wars, and a lot of smaller conflicts, could be seen as the paroxysms of a world transitioning from coal to oil." I guess you were referring to conflict over coal resources. I thought you meant that the transition to oil was a cause of the conflict.

My 2 cents: it would be far cheaper and more effective to simply make oil obsolete. E.g., it would have been far cheaper to replace all ICE vehicles with EREV/EVs (230M x $5k premium = $1.15T, not counting fuel savings) than to fight the Iraq war ($2T and counting).

I meant both. It was running up against the limits of coal resources as well as trying to get access to oil.

Which isn't to say I'm expecting WWIII tomorrow.

...By the mid 19th century, even as the coal economy was getting established, the misery that it created, the limits on its expansion, and the dangers of allowing "decadence" to knock the few off the top of the perch, were well known. Dozens of figures - from Marx to Wagner - warned of what came at the end of that historical age: conflagration. They were right, merely not for a long time. It would, in fact, take 60 years for these warnings to begin coming to pass. And the longer they took, the more they were disregarded. Up to the very day that "The Great War" broke out, the prevalent view was that economic and political inter-relatedness made war unthinkable.

I think that's how it will be with the transition from oil as well. The end may be in sight, but we'll muddle on far longer than those who see it expect.

The difference in our case being, of course, there is no ready substitute to transition to - lets hope the oil flows dry up fast. Best way to avert *major* resources wars. Of course, we'll still have minor ones, cuz, like, it's what we do.

Yes. That's a big difference, IMO. Even if we do successfully transition to wind or nuclear or whatever...it's thermodynamically more difficult than transitioning to oil (or we'd have done it already). Which sort of implies the next transition might be a lot rockier than the last one.

Let me throw a different proposition your way to chew on, Leanan:

Couldn't it imply that the next transition might be a lot LESS rocky? Especially if there is nothing suitable to transition to, en masse and at a global scale (which I think is the case)?? What if it falls not with a bang, but with a whimper?

Anything's possible. But these things don't seem to happen gently. Even collapses that seemed peaceful (like the Anasazi) turned out to be violent when you look closely.

Oh I think there will be violence, I simply question whether it will be one a scale that trends upward from WW1/2. I can't say that view is not plausible, but I think others views are equally so. Of course, much depends on how exactly things shake out, and that is unknowable at this point.

The best book I've read on peak oil, which has absolutely nothing to do with peak oil, but which I do think is highly relevant to that topic, and to this discussion, is Rebecca Solnit's A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, based on over a century's worth of hard data collected and analyzed in the field of disaster sociology.

It always amazes me that so few in the PO community - who posit disaster on a daily basis! - have had a look at the highly relevant data which this branch of the social sciences offers.

It's quite important, in my view, because it is so easy to become discouraged when one contemplates all of these possible future scenarios. And most hard headed folks like myself (and many on TOD) are not willing to embrace wishful thinking, certainly not at the expense of our intellectual integrity. But there really is some solid data which points to some reason for hope, and may conceivably offer some guidance which I see as potentially useful at an individual level. ;-)

That is exactly my thought - I was in the Philippines this year and it felt like what the USA would be in the future. The PH import all oil and they made use of every drop. Not a car, Jeepny or cycle was not jammed with people going from A to B

The buildings except for the malls were run down, the church Sunday morning were packed, the food portions small and I walked - a lot. The people were well scrubbed and internet access was everyplace, cheap cell phone texting was all over the place. -- They use half the overall energy and less then half the oil they we do

Very good substitutes certainly exist. EVs and extended range EVs (aka plugins) are the best example.

It was running up against the limits of coal resources as well as trying to get access to oil. "... the limits on its expansion"

hmmm. I saw that discussion before, but that idea didn't have detail behind it. I haven't seen anything detailed that suggested that per-WWI Europe was running into problems with coal supplies. I've seen discussions of the UK coal peak in the 1920's, but it's not clear what caused that -there's no sign of a rise in coal prices during that period.

I wonder if you've seen info supporting that idea?

See the link I posted just upthread Nick. May be something in there which bears on the issue.

Thanks, I did read through it. The following seems to be the most relevant:

" By 1904 Fisher had been named Britain’s First Sea Lord, the supreme naval commander, and immediately set to implement his plan to convert the British navy from coal to oil. One month into his post, in November 1904, a committee was established on his initiative to “consider and make recommendations as to how the British Navy shall secure its oil supplies.” At that time it was believed the British Isles, rich in coal, held not a drop of oil. (emphasis added)

The thought of abandoning the security of domestic British coal fuel in favor of reliance on foreign oil was a strategy embedded in risk. The Fisher Committee had been dissolved in 1906 without resolution of the oil issue on the election of a Liberal government pledged to work for arms control. By 1912, as the Germans began a major Dreadnought-class naval construction program, Prime Minister Asquith convinced Admiral Fisher to come out of retirement to head a new Royal Commission on Oil and the Oil Engine in July 1912. "

That's consistent with what Yergin said in his history of oil: there was no sign of a scarcity of coal in the UK.

Hmmm...interesting to imagine how things might have gone differently had the UK somehow possessed the know-how at the time to find/extract North Sea crude. Might be a good one for Don Sailorman's 'alternate history' series. ;-)

Thank you. I may use that idea. But the problem is, I don't think the North Sea could have been drilled much before it was because the technology of drilling for oil was and still is advancing with time. I don't see any way to get around that problem. I do not think the North Sea could have been drilled in 1950.

Stephen Baxter has a similar Victorian alternate history story, more steampunk really, where a British expedition finds a meteorite in the Antarctic that has a stable form of anti-matter in ice, which then sparks off a global energy grab. Which starts with Sevastopol becoming the new Hiroshima and bringing the Crimean war to a rather abrupt end.

Sounds good. I do like steampunk. Title?

Lack of access doesn't necessarily mean worldwide scarcity.

Coal played a big role in the Franco-Prussian War. And the resulting resentments were one of the factors that led to WWI.

That's an interesting example - I'll have to look at it more closely.

On the other hand, that's pretty local. It doesn't seem to justify "The two previous world wars, and a lot of smaller conflicts, could be seen as the paroxysms of a world transitioning from coal to oil."

I don't mean to beat a dead horse here, but I'm really trying to come to some sort of preliminary conclusion about whether conflict over coal was really a big factor in pre-WWII wars.

Yes, Nick, coal was a huge factor in the nineteenth and early twentieth century wars. Just check the history books. They didn't have oil: Coal fueled the first hundred and fifty years of the Industrial Revolution. It was (in bulk) of much greater value than the whole world's stockpile of gold and silver.

I agree.

I was thinking more about Leanan's suggestion that people were fighting over coal, perhaps to secure access to coal resources.

Resentments being the operative word. The coal of the Franco-Prussian war wasn't really a factor in WW1 but the resentment was (revenge).

Which isn't to say I'm expecting WWIII tomorrow.

Arguments can be made that we are in WWIII now. Bloodshed by one nation state in other nation states seperated by large bodies of water (thus not a border dispute) over things that were not nation state VS nation state conflict in addition to evidence that the cause belli at the time of the start of active hostilites was supported by bogons and not truth or reality.

If now (or the last 8 years) is labeled by surviving historians as the Start of WWIII - how many of us and our camels will make it though the eye of the needle?

The camel and needle story appears to be an allegorical reference to entering an imaginary place. Last of my worries.

The 'eye of the needle' as I understand it, was a narrow gate in the wall around ancient Jerusalem, too narrow for a camel, but suitable for human foot traffic.

Here's another allegory that will be mis-translated in the future:

The successful candidate will find it hard to pass through the doorway of the White House if heard encouraging work, hell and dark-skinned people in his talking points (example: Hella of Job Brownie) but will slip in easily if seen encouraging gambling by voters (You Betchya)

Forgive them for they know not what I meant

Excellent points, Eric.

One of our limitations as humans is our tendency to expect the future to look like the past, whether in terms of warfare, or whatnot. But, to coin a phrase, sh*t mutates. Sometimes in ways that make if difficult for us to recognize the contiguity.

I think ex-Marine Col Thomas Hammes makes a very compelling case about the end of 3rd generation warfare (America's preferred style) and the evolution into 4G warfare, in his The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century.

In a sense, then, WW3 - looking nothing like WW1 and WW2 (both arguably 3G exercises) - has been going on since the end of WW2. Be on the lookout for false flag ops and scapegoating (already underway).

Be on the lookout for false flag ops and scapegoating (already

Same as it ever was....

Well, you didn't answer Nick's question; whatever. It doesn't take away from the fact that you consistently demonstrate an enviable intelligence.

In fact, I think you're too smart to continue spending your time here. I know it's presumptious of me to say so, but I think you should quit and apply yourself elsewhere. What about dealing with questions of who we are, and why we believe the things we do? And yes, not to be coy, I think that you need to come to terms with why you find yourself in a deterministic mold.

A book from Charles Taylor comes to mind: Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity

This book established Taylor as one of the greatest philosophers of our era, in some peoples's minds the only one who will still be read a century hence. It's six hundred odd pages, and deserves multiple readings, but you will emerge stronger, more independent and far, far, far less susceptible to the attraction of determinism.

The twentieth century was one of the bloodiest on record

Actually, it was one of the most peaceful, if you measure it in terms of the % of population killed in war.

Hunter-gatherers are just about the bloodiest - constant low level warfare.

Hmmm....Democide...260 million people killed by their own governments during the 20th century does NOT sound peaceful to me. So let's factor in MORE than simply the percentage killed in war - which is about half the number governments killed.

Besides those factors, you'd need to look beyond killings. Bloody includes maimings and all sorts of other violence.

If you look back across *civilized* history (perhaps leaving aside the Black Death), the 20th century stands head and shoulders above every other era as the bloodiest - it's not even close.

Oh, I'm not suggesting that the 20th century was a walk in the park, only that it was less bloody than it's predecessors, as a %.

Let's look at the US civil war. 30% of all Southern combatants (white males aged 18-40) were killed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_War ). That's killed - there are usually more injuries than deaths. Very likely only 20% of the white adult males were left healthy at the end of the war.

Now, let's discuss the history of democide. The website you provided has a tab for the history side.

" from 1252 when Khubilai was granted full power over the Eastern Mongol Empire through his conquest of all of China in 1279 and to his death in 1294--for two generations--he killed something like 1 out of every 137 Chinese each year"

For 40 years he killed .7% every year. That's a cumulative total of roughly 30% of the population!!!!!

Oh, I'm not suggesting that the 20th century was a walk in the park, only that it was less bloody than it's predecessors, as a %.

Actually, Nick, I think what you are doing is cherry picking. :)

To argue that the 20th century was less bloody than its predecessors, you'd have to look at the 19th, 18th, 17th, etc.

And what you said in reference to the 20th century was, "it was one of the most peaceful" - which does sort of sound like a suggestion that, comparatively, it was walk in the park.

I *think* then you might acknowledge that you are changing your position just a bit toward mine? It sounds that way to me, but I may be misinterpreting.

And again, I disagree that percentages are what matters here. If you assign a value to each life, then it's straight multiplication. And they were individual lives that were lost - not "just" percentages of populations, which strikes me (subjectively I will admit) as far too abstract an approach. Even if we look at it from the definition of the word 'bloody', I think I can support my contention: the very term implies volumes of blood. More deaths = larger volume of blood spilled = bloodier. We may need to agree to disagree here. I do see your point, for what it's worth. Socrates would have insisted we define our terms before debating. :)

All that said, the info about Khublai Khan is interesting - I will acknowledge that I had not seen that before, so wasn't factoring it in. But I'd also point out that this was not a hunter gatherer society per your contention that "Hunter-gatherers are just about the bloodiest." And, Rummel follows the statement you quoted with this one, which throws some doubt on your position: "Even if the figures are highly exaggerated, which is probable, and he annually killed 1 out of 1000, the inhumane barbarity would be no less." That is, though the percentage changes, the barbarity represented doesn't. That percentage would be 0.1%, which would work out to a cumulative total of 4% over 40 years. Assuming it lies between here gives us a range of from 4% to 30% - split the difference, we're at 17% or so.

By comparison, the Khmer Rouge - about whom we have much firmer statistics - killed off 25% of the population of Cambodia - in just 4 years!!

So I think I'll stick with the notion that the 20th century is head and shoulders above ALL predecessors in terms of sheer, voluminous bloodiness, and think it likely that if not true in percentage terms, there is only one century which may possibly beat it on that measure - *maybe* one, but certainly not *all* of 'its predecessors". Certainly, you cannot now hold to your original contention that "it was one of the most peaceful"! ??

It may be that Khublai Khan managed to be so astonishingly barbaric as to mount a challenge to that claim, if we use worst-case numbers, but outside of that single possible outlier, the 20th century was the shiznit when it came to slaughter. Fair enough?

In the interests of tying off loose ends...

It's not easy to find detailed analyses of levels of violence in hunter-gather societies. What I have been able to find indicates primarily that it is a mistake to bunch 'hunter-getherer societies' together as some sort of monolith. For example:

The mortality rates reported for the Hiwi are higher than those for other hunter-gatherers -- especially the African groups (Hadza and !Kung), but not stunningly so. Among pre-1960 Hiwi males, 57 percent could expect to survive to age 15, and 43 percent to age 30, with an average young adult mortality rate of around 2 percent annually. So it is not anything like as high as has been suggested for Neandertals and earlier humans (with annual mortality rates as high as 6 percent).

The most interesting aspects of the paper are the comparisons between the Hiwi and other ethnographically-known hunter-gatherers. Many of the differences in mortality profiles are attributable to strong cultural differences:

Cause of death among the groups differs considerably. Disease is an important cause of death in all groups, but represents only 20% of deaths in the precontact Ache, 45% among the precontact Hiwi, and about 75-85% of all Hadza, !Kung, and Agta deaths. Respiratory disease is the main killer of the Ache, whereas gastrointestinal pathogens are most important among the Hiwi and probably Hadza. Among the !Kung, respiratory and gut infections are about equally important. Violence is the major cause of death among the precontact Ache (55% of all deaths) and very important among the Hiwi (30% of all deaths), but notably less important in the two African societies and the Agta (3-7% of all deaths). Indeed, the crude homicide/warfare death rates per year lived are more than ten times higher among the Hiwi and Ache than among the Hadza or !Kung (1/100 and 1/200 per year for precontact Hiwi and Ache, respectively, vs. 1/2500 and 1/3000 for the Hadza and !Kung, respectively). Blurton Jones et al. (2002) suggested that this may be due to the more pervasive effects of colonial governments in Africa and the reduction of intertribal warfare. Even so, within-group homicide and infanticide rates are also much lower among African foragers, suggesting real cultural differences in violence rates.

So, probably not surprisingly, inter-group rates of violence seen to vary more than intra-group. I did think this bit of info interesting:

"infanticide (especially on females) constituted the highest mortality rate component of all Hiwi conspecific violence."

In other words, what even this limited info makes clear is that it's not possible to make blanket statements about violence in hunter-gatherer societies without doing some serious due diligence. It would require a lot of work (some of it guesswork) to perform a comparison between modern violence and hunter-gatherer violence if the goal were to draw sensible conclusions.

BTW, the link I'm quoting from is here.

Hunting and gathering societies have never had the excess resources to wage war. All cultural anthropologists know that; it is not a controversial statement. For example, the Eskimo vocabulary lacks a word for war.

War starts with horticultural (gardening) societies such as China 3,000 B.C. With horticulture you can build and economic surplus with which to equip and feed armies. For all intents and purposes, war was unknown until the invention of horticulture (which preceded agriculture). Agricultural societies are very prone to war, even moreso than are industrial and post-industrial societies.

Talk to some anthropologists for confirmation. Or read a few thousand pages of anthropology.

Excellent points, Don. The issue was not really war, per se, though. It was violence and bloodshed, which has existed outside and inside of war since time immemorial.

Part of the problem, I think, is exactly that - when the question comes up as to 'bloodiest' historical periods, people immediately think of war. One of the facts I've tried to convey in this thread is that, in the 20th century, more people were killed by their governments outside of war, than were killed in aggregate in ALL wars during that time period, despite the fact that the 20th century was the century of 'total war.'

Rummel estimates 260 million dead at the hands of their respective governments - most estimates I see of war dead for that period are in the range of 150 - 200 million.

Personally, I think it is absolutely mind boggling that this is the case, but I rarely make this point and get anything other than a head scratch or eyes glazing over for a response.

I used to have a saying: "You cannot productively discuss economics with someone who cannot distinguish between voluntary transaction and theft." I am thinking of changing this to: "You cannot productively discuss politics with someone who cannot distinguish between peace and violence."

war was unknown until the invention of horticulture

Well, I wonder if that's really true. True with horticulture/agriculture you can build up a surplus that your neighbors might covet. But I suspect many areas of hunter gatherers tended towards overpopulation, and that wuld cause conflict over land.

I think in many primative cultures war was pretty ritualized. It was often more about showing ones mettle, than winning or inflicting substantial damage on the other side.

I am remined of the movie Zulu, in far less primative conditions. A small british force was surrounded and fighting for their lives, after a couple of days of struggle, just when their ability to continue was exhausted, the Zulu's decided they (Brits) had proved their worthiness by putting up such a brave struggle, and broke off hostilities.

Hunting and gathering societies have never had the excess resources to wage war. All cultural anthropologists know that;

Are you making a distiction between war and tribe VS tribe violence?

Human on Human violence - I'd stake out that's been part of humanity once you had more than 2 people. Perhaps after one person even.

Hunting and gathering people do not live in tribes. Tribes are a bigger and more complex form of social organization than are clans. Hunting and gathering peoples all (that we know of) lived in extended kinship groups that were essentially clans. One universal rule: You had to marry out of the clan. Nobody knows for sure how this rule came about. They did not know of the dangers of inbreeding, yet they had exceeding elaborate incest taboos. See literature on Australian aborigines for an extreme example of incest taboos.

any aggregate of people united by ties of descent from a common ancestor, community of customs and traditions, adherence to the same leaders, etc.

Semantic games don't win arguments. ;-)

Chimpanzees practice ethnocide, according to Jane Goodall. Violence goes back to our pre-human ancestors.

For war, however, you need an economic surplus. Hunting and gathering peoples were almost all nomads. All the wealth they had (mostly babies and arrowheads and water gourds) they carried in their hands. Many did not even have baskets.

This is beside the point - the debate is not about war. It's about which century was the bloodiest. War factors in, but it's only one factor.

Study the Yanomano. Bloodiest society known on earth, the last time I looked. They are horticulturists (slash and burn) tribesmen in Brazil. They killed all outsiders, including the first x number of anthropologists who tried to study them. Finally, one anthropologist figured out how to communicate with them without first getting himself killed. That made him famous. Try Google.

Don, I don't need to google it since it doesn't bear on the topic. I may google it for personal interest though, thanks. :)

The question we're debating here is:

Is there good reason to believe the 20th century was the bloodiest, or is there good reason to believe it was "peaceful"? The data we have supports the former contention, and I'm still waiting to see if data can be found to support the latter.

So far in that regard, we have one possible outlier - the 13th century - due to the barbarity of one ruler, Kublai Khan. And it's not at all clear whether his slaughter rose to the level of challenging that of the 20th century. And even in that case, his slaughter of a sub population - by percentages - over 40 years clearly pales in comparison to a 20th century barbarian regime: the Khmer Rouge, over 4 years. NO OTHER DATA has been advanced yet to support the latter assertion above.

The viciousness of this or that tribe doesn't really bear on the matter. On that point, what we do know (and I posted a snippet to support this view) is that pre-civilization tribes differed markedly in their propensities toward violence.

The question we're debating here is: Is there good reason to believe the 20th century was the bloodiest, or is there good reason to believe it was "peaceful"?

Perhaps that's what you're interested in figuring out, but that's not what I was addressing. I said, in reponse to "The twentieth century was one of the bloodiest on record" that "Actually, it was one of the most peaceful, if you measure it in terms of the % of population killed in war. Hunter-gatherers are just about the bloodiest - constant low level warfare."

I meant that the 20th century was less violent, in general, than previous centuries, and that there has been a general trend towards less violence over time.

The viciousness of this or that tribe doesn't really bear on the matter.

It's exactly relevant.

pre-civilization tribes differed markedly in their propensities toward violence.

Yes, and they were all more violent than the 20th century.

Stop with the inane rationalization Nick.
By your standard if a town of 100 people slaughters the inhabitants of another town of 100, that makes them more violent than a city of a million wiping out a city of half a million, simply because the percentage was less.

Would you class a murderer of five of family of eleven, less violent than a murderer of one of two?

if a town of 100 people slaughters the inhabitants of another town of 100, that makes them more violent than a city of a million wiping out a city of half a million

I think that this doesn't apply because you're intuitively comparing this to the overall population. If the population of your world is 200 (say, on a very remote polynesian island), and there are only 2 villages, then one wiping out the other 100% is definitely more violent.

Similarly, a murder of 5 in a family of 11 is something we intuitively compare to the overall population, so the murder of 5 is larger than the murder of 2. On the other hand, if an invader murders a portion of every family in a country, then 5/11 is slightly less violent than 1/2.


So, it's fair to say that we don't have good evidence that overall society has gotten more violent?

Given the common perception on TOD that "things are getting worse", this is a valuable thing to point out.

There is fairly strong evidence that chimps are more violent than humans. Based on what antropologists have discovered, horticultural societies are the most violent of all, followed by agricultural societies. By comparison, industrial societies are RELATIVELY peaceful. We have not had a major war since 1945. I see no signs of a World War III in the making. Future wars will probably be small, just as current ones are.

Links, please. There is no logic or data given by which to evaluate these claims.

The key thing to look at is this: how does one define violence? If anthropologists use a politically correct version (i.e. the violence used by governments against their people isn't counted as violence), then their studies would be badly skewed, and the results useless for our purposes.

From The Myth of Democratic Peace:

Peace. It is hard to think of another word more frequently used and so rarely defined. A Google Internet search uncovered few sites which addressed in detail the meaning of "peace." If we don’t know or care what it is, how can we get there?

Let’s say that peace is the absence of war and violence. War and violence involve the physical destruction of or damage to people or property. Which is not to say the peace is breached only by physical damage. What about a gun to the head? Okay, we must expand the definition to include the immediate threat of violence. What about the fact that the fellow on the bus might punch me in three minutes? No go; too speculative to involve a breach of the peace. It is clear however that the palpable threat of force is violent. What force is threatened then involves an analysis of the social context. What laws, customs, habits or mores can the individual reasonably expect to be enforced against him if he does this or that?

Is all physical destruction a breach of the peace? What if someone rips your face off with a knife? That is not necessarily violent if he is a plastic surgeon, using a surgical knife, and operating on you with your consent. Thus, the concept of consent must be an element in the definition of peace. This is consistent with the etymology of the word "peace" which is derived from the Latin word pax, meaning agreement or contract. What if I grab a guy and put him in a headlock? Certainly I have breached the peace. How? I have interfered with his control over his body, otherwise known as his liberty. If this happens in the middle of a wrestling match, however, it is not a breach of the peace because I have his consent. Neither is it a violation of his liberty. Thus, liberty, closely related to consent, must be factored into any definition of peace.

The theft or destruction of property without the consent of the owner is violent and unpeaceable. Thus, the concept of rightly owned property must be part of any definition of peace. Theft or destruction of property is violent because it overcomes or violates the will of the owner. The ultimate basis of property is the time and energy of individuals who either produced the property, acquired it while it was previously unowned, or traded for it with someone who had previously owned it. Property is an extension of the self. When property is stolen or destroyed, the time and energy of the owner is destroyed or wasted. Time is life. Theft and destruction are violent because they use others’ lives without their consent. Any attempt to exclude property rights from the concept of peace is absurd. Taking the absurdity to its logical conclusion, one could "peacefully" murder someone merely by snatching food from his plate for about three weeks.

What then is peace? Peace is the absence of violence or the palpable threat of violence against persons and their property. The concept of peace primarily describes social relations and mental states, and only secondarily physical action or its absence.2 Violence is the use of physical force against persons or their property in such a way that their person or property is used in a manner contrary to their will. One can be in a peaceful relationship with some people and in an unpeaceful relationship with others. For example, this author is in a state of peace with the people of Iceland. None is currently using violence against me or threatening to do so. However, my relationship with the federal government of the United States and the State of New York is not peaceful. I must pay each money regularly or I will be put in prison. This continual threat of being kidnapped is not conducive to my peace of mind.

What about the threat of violence against people who wish to assault others and destroy their property? This threat of violence is not properly considered a breach of the peace. What about actual violence against criminals? This is best seen as a breach of the peace by the criminal. The response by those charged with protecting people and property is part and parcel of the criminal’s breach of the peace.

Einstein was correct when he wrote that "Peace is not merely the absence of war . . ." Certainly, wars are violent, but overt violence between states is merely one way to breach the peace. The others are violence between persons and violence between states and persons.

As for major wars, see the Hammes' book I cited earlier. Future wars will likely, for the most part, fall into the category of 4th generation warfare, not the 3rd generation we are used to thinking of as 'major war.' 3G extends past the battlefield to target command and control entities. 4G extends past command and control and targets political will. Think: Iraq and Afghanistan. For that matter, think Vietnam War.

Google "Jane Goodall chimpanzee violence"

I usually do not provide links, because Google is so easy.

Wow, talk about drawing the opposite conclusion from what the data show. I just showed you that your cherry picked 'other bloodiest century and barbarian' (you chose Khublai Khan, who probably killed less than 20% over 40 years, I chose Pol Pot, who verifiably killed around 25% over 4 years) was in all probability vasty LESS bloody, and you come to the conclusion that you have shown no data to sport, and which runs counter to the data we do have. I really don't know how to respond Nick. If data doesn't convince you, then I'm at a loss.

Things most assuredly have gotten worse. The last century was the bloodiest on verifiable record - this much is clear.

you that your cherry picked 'other bloodiest century and barbarian'

Yes, I picked the worst I could find in the list. OTOH, I think if you look the rest of the historical commentary, it will become clearer that it wasn't so much of an aberration.

Pol Pot, who verifiably killed around 25% over 4 years

Did you reply to the wrong comment? I was talking about your hunter-gatherer stats. The events in Cambodia were an aberration - it never happened in any kind of recent history of Cambodia, and there's no indication it will happen again. It was the result of the enormous trauma and destabilization suffered by Cambodia due to the Vietnam war next door.

The last century was the bloodiest on verifiable record

Look again at the hunter-gatherer data you presented.

"the crude homicide/warfare death rates per year lived are more than ten times higher among the Hiwi and Ache than among the Hadza or !Kung (1/100 and 1/200 per year for precontact Hiwi and Ache, respectively, vs. 1/2500 and 1/3000 for the Hadza and !Kung, respectively"

The Hiwi suffered a 1% death rate due to homicide every year, year in and year out. For generations. It was just normal. 1% in the US would be 3M per year. Every year. Year in and year out. 3M deaths from violence....

I see. So now, we should factor in the reasons for the violence?

The reasons do not matter (although, in fact, the ones you give are wrong) and your fortune telling skills (how the hell do you know that further genocide does not lie in Cambodia's future, or that of any other nation?) are not germane.

My statement was simple: the 20th century was the bloodiest.
Your statement was that, au contraire, it was peaceful, that prior centuries were more violent, and that hunter gatherers are the bloodiest of all.

As evidence, the only data you have so far been able to come up with (data which is highly questionable according to your own source) was for a sub population in the 13th century - then you went on to say you "think" (without providing even a scintilla of evidence) that a century by century downtrend ensued. Your biases are showing. That is to say, having no data, the only way you could conclude there was a downtrend is via preconceptions.

Now, once again, in your latest, you insist on focusing on a SUB population of hunter gatherers, and only those MOST violent. Riddle me this: what percentage of the total population of the planet did the Hiwi constitute? You don't have the data. So you don't have any idea just how bloody it was. So again, absent data, you are using a tiny sub population to try to extrapolate about hunter gatherers in general, which your quote above indicates is flawed, since the other tribes studied show markedly LOWER violence, indicating a far lower TOTAL percentage dead from such violence.

I have demonstrated that the MINIMUM percentage killed - NOT including homicides (as the Hiwi data does) - in the 20th century, was 3.7% of TOTAL WORLD POPULATION across a century - not some cherry picked sub-pop. And you come back with 1% for a sub-pop - which only applies to the MOST violent hunter gatherer society, and excludes the far less violent???? In other words, there is no way to determine what the percentage killed across a century was. The source I provided does not even stipulate the period across which that worst 1% occurred. To be charitable here, you are grasping at straws.

In so doing, you've decimated your own argument that hunter gather societies are by far the bloodiest, and still not delivered a single solid piece of evidence that ANY century we know about was bloodier than the 20th.

Tell ya what Nick. It's just not worth it to debate someone who has no evidence, only blind faith. If I wanted that, I can just call my Dad.

The 20th century was one of love and joy for all beings across the planet. I'm sure the next will be even better. You're right. Congrats.

we should factor in the reasons for the violence?

Sure. If it was a one-time event, that's very different from an ongoing process. Hunter-gatherer societies had a high birthrate, so they had to have a high death rate. Did that come from infanticide? Disease? Or, did they grow to the point that they needed more territory in which to hunt and gather, and come into conflict with their neighbors, who helpfully reduced their population back to a sustainable level?

The reasons do not matter (although, in fact, the ones you give are wrong

If you know what they were, tell us.

(how the hell do you know that further genocide does not lie in Cambodia's future...?

From the simple fact that it didn't lie in it's reasonably recent past.

Your statement was that, au contraire, it was peaceful

I said it was more peaceful. Obviously, that's not the best way to put it. Better to say that it was less violent.

the only data you have so far been able to come up with

Go back and read your source's discussion of historical violence.

you insist on focusing on a SUB population of hunter gatherers, and only those MOST violent.

True, there was a range. The least violent was only 10% as violent. .1% per year. Over 100 years, that's 10% of the population. 700M out of 7B. That's pretty violent.

3.7% of TOTAL WORLD POPULATION across a century

Yes, across a century. That's .0037% per year.

Finally, I agree - I haven't had time find data. OTOH, the data you've provided seems pretty consistent with my argument.

I disagree that percentages are what matters here. If you assign a value to each life, then it's straight multiplication.

I guess it depends on what we're trying to evaluate. To my mind, what's important is 1) whether human society society is getting more or less violent over time, and 2) whether an individual's risk from violence is improving.

Let's take an analogy. The percentage of children dying during or just after birth has dropped dramatically, yet the total number of deaths in childbirth has risen, due to a much larger population. Has childbirth gotten safer? Do women feel better about the prospect of getting pregnant? Have "things gotten better" in this area?

To argue that the 20th century was less bloody than its predecessors, you'd have to look at the 19th, 18th, 17th, etc.

Yes, and I think you'd find that the percentage of deaths fell as time went on, century by century. Why did population rise faster and faster in the last 5 centuries? Not because births rose, but because death rates fell, by more than 75%. Some of that decline was from deaths from violence.

Go back and read your source's discussion of life 2 millennia ago. Read the description of the conquests of Israel in the Old Testament. They didn't just conquer competitors, they exterminated them. Why is Judaism one of the very few surviving cultures from the Old testament? Pretty much because the rest were exterminated (not necessarily by the Israelites). That's just what people did back then. The kind of killing that we currently find most painful in the world, like Rwanda, was just routine historically.

I think what you are doing is cherry picking. :)

Read what your source says about record keeping: there was an enormous amount of violent death that no one even noticed.

As you note, there are many kinds of violence. Some are state-sponsored, some are inter-state, some are less organized. Heck, violent deaths by employers, parents (infanticide and more) and spouses were common several centuries ago. Now, there are even countries that ban parental corporal punishment, which would have truly baffled anyone from 2 or more centuries ago.

To argue that the 20th century was less bloody than its predecessors, you'd have to look at the 19th, 18th, 17th, etc.

Yes, and I think you'd find that the percentage of deaths fell as time went on, century by century.

You may think so, but I don't, and there's good reason to think otherwise.

1. Best estimates I've seen say there were about 11 billion people alive at some point during the 20th century.
2. Rummel estimates 260 million killed by their own governments
3. War dead estimates I've seen run between 150 million - 200 million - let's be conservative and go with the lower number
4. I cannot find estimates of non-governmental homicides during the 20th century, so let's leave that completely out of the calculation - more conservatism

410 million/11 billion = 3.7% of all living humans killed by those forms of violence in the 20th century. That is a low ball estimate. My guess is we're probably somewhere in the 4 - 5% range, if all data were available.

What are the numbers for the 19th? 18th? 17th? Absent some calculation of those, there is no basis for your assertion of a downtrend in violence as the centuries progressed.

Clearly, with this scale of violence, as calculated by sheer volume of blood spilled by violence, there is no way to maintain that the 20th century was not an incredibly violent century - it certainly was not "peaceful" by any stretch of the imagination. The only way you can get away with asserting that it was, is via your qualifier "if you measure it in terms of the % of population killed in war." But, that's not a sensible way to measure it, since we have data demonstrating that non-war violent deaths by government alone exceeded war deaths. So we can dispense with that qualifier.

I mean, in a discussion of what constitutes bloody, you wish to leave out the holocaust! If you let me pick and choose which relevant data to include and which to exclude, I can "prove" pretty much anything.

I probably should have just noted the inadequacy of your proposed criteria to start with, and let it lie there. But the act of trying to portray a century that is steeped in an inconceivable amount of blood as "peaceful' - well, it just riles the hell out of me.

there were about 11 billion people alive at some point during the 20th century. 410 million/11 billion = 3.7% of all living humans killed by those forms of violence in the 20th century.

A better way to calculate mortality rates is average population divided by annual death rate: ~4B/4.1M, or about .1%

you wish to leave out the holocaust!

Huh? I didn't say that. This is an interesting point, though: 12M is only .12M per year, or a .003% rise in overall mortality.

trying to portray a century that is steeped in an inconceivable amount of blood as "peaceful'

Ah, well, that's not what I meant: I meant "less violent". I hope that helps.

A minor quibble. Your reference states in conclusion:

Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6% in the North and 18% in the South.[172][173]

Still a large number of Confederate dead, but not as many as you wrote. Perhaps a problem with Wikipedia...

E. Swanson

You need to bring some linkies with you when you say such things, Nick.

As far as the century itself is concerned, I understand that the ratio of Civ. killed grew continuously with each conflict, as our tools became stronger, more accurate, and the leadership accordingly less concerned about the body-counts. "War is Hell" Created room for continual growth in such statistics..

Try here.. I'm too busy to find the summary to retort to your statement.

(Scroll down to the "MASSACRES" section.. tho' admittedly, it may not compare this to the Hunter Gatherers, I still think you're probably off with that conclusion..)

"Here are some of the major episodes in which huge numbers of non-combatants were killed at more or less a single place over a relatively limited time. The traditional definition of massacre would require that all the killing be done deliberately and face-to-face over the course of a day or two, but I've loosened up that part in order to compare numbers from a variety of concentrated mass killings. "

Nonetheless, anything that one says to try to downplay the unique and creative forms of bloodletting that we are even at this moment playing at in our modern, sophisticated and enlightened world are clearly not trying hard enough to appreciate this new, Terrible Beauty.

I agree.

There is another aspect which must be considered. A killing which happens in the context of a fight for survival vs one which is visited upon one's fellows simply because they don't buy into one's ideology or religion, say, is, I would argue, qualitatively different.

I also find the percentage approach wrongheaded. Is it really easier to justify killing a million out a population of 10 million than 15 out of a tribe of 100? Percentages tend to remove us to a cool and clinical distance.

Hunter gatherers - so far as we know - also never constructed massive focused death camps like the Nazis, Soviets, Khmer Rouge, etc, on a scale where millions died in a *concentration* of agony and torment which probably could not even have been imagined in that earlier age.

A killing which happens in the context of a fight for survival vs one which is visited upon one's fellows simply because they don't buy into one's ideology or religion, say, is, I would argue, qualitatively different.

You should join the discussion elsewhere with Leanan over whether all modern wars are about resources.

Is it really easier to justify killing a million out a population of 10 million than 15 out of a tribe of 100?

Neither is better than the other. But, if you lose 15% of your tribe, I'd say that's pretty bloody, and arguably bloodier than losing 1 of 10 M.

Nick, I think you hit the nail on the head. Neither is better than the other. Arguing stats doesn't really change the fact that the 20th century was one bloody mother of a century, and that much of the slaughter was facilitated by, and arguably committed in the service of a quest for, fossil fuels.

In another thread yesterday we were talking about Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil - which is essentially the background story of a slightly different modality of fossil fuel fueled violence, during the 20th century. There's just something about fossil fuels that seems to go hand in hand with violence to me.

As I said above, I'm not suggesting that the 20th century was a walk in the park, only that it was less bloody than it's predecessors, as a %.

Let's look at the US civil war. 30% of all Southern combatants (white males aged 18-40) were killed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_War ). That's killed - there are usually more injuries than deaths. Very likely only 20% of the white adult males were left healthy at the end of the war.

Now, let's discuss the history of democide. The website ozzie provided has a tab for the history side.

" from 1252 when Khubilai was granted full power over the Eastern Mongol Empire through his conquest of all of China in 1279 and to his death in 1294--for two generations--he killed something like 1 out of every 137 Chinese each year"

For 40 years he killed .7% every year. That's a cumulative total of roughly 30% of the population!!!!!

Take a look at the table at the upper right corner at http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/MURDER.HTM . I think if you adjust the numbers for the total population, you'll see that the percentages fall sharply.

Oh, be careful there, Fred, before you crown the Europeans with all sorts of wisdom in how to get along.

I'd be the last person to want to crown the Europeans for anything, I really hate European monarchies, >;^)

What I meant is they have quite a bit of firsthand experience with very bloody conflict and are quite aware of their history. Sure, that can go either way when push comes to shove but I have a gut feeling that they will tend to work harder at conflict resolution to avoid a repeat of some rather bad previous experiences. Though I'm not quite willing to make any set in stone predictions about everlasting peace among European Nations...

"Yes, that is a deeply flawed take, due to the fact that the man in the street is just a puppet with little or no real power to orchestrate any meaning full change one way or the other, they have no real influence on what the US goverment does"

So, the fact that the US electorate backed the Tea Party and the GOP showed that they were puppets?? Try a more convincing argument please.

Try a more convincing argument please.

Here's one I consider to be both convincing and compelling, ymmv:

The Indefensibility of Political Representation

Doesnt do it for me at all. Lets take a very simple example. Hank has a vote. He votes for Tea Party. Dont care why, it might be his rugged individualism, his right to no taxes, his belief in unlimited energy, his denial of climate change, his hate of Obama. If enough Hanks agree they affect policy in the US.

Conversely, if enough Freds vote democrat then they affect policy.

How may excuses are needed before someone acknowledges that the electorate are responsible as well as the politicians?

You really need to check this out:



This isnt about republican, democrat or tea party. Its about taking responsibility rather than finding excusess to do the wrong thing. Now it may just be that that we have unlimited energy production going forward and there is no global warming. But it really doesnt help when the world No 1 superpower's leaders are in denial or policy gridlocked, especially when the electorate seems to welcome that result if it helps to lower taxes

Try a more convincing argument please.

OK! How's this?


...The Tea Party movement, which is threatening to cause an upset in next month's midterm elections, would not be where it is today without the backing of that most traditional of US political supporters – Big Oil.

The billionaire brothers who own Koch Industries, a private company with 70,000 employees and annual revenues of $100bn (£62bn), used to joke that they controlled the biggest company nobody had ever heard of.

Not any more. After decades during which their fortune grew exponentially and they channelled millions of dollars to rightwing causes, Charles and David Koch are finally getting noticed for their part in the extraordinary growth of the Tea Party movement.

The two, 74-year-old Charles and David, 70, have invested widely in the outcome of the 2 November elections.

But that doesnt address the issue. What you seem to be saying is that the electorate vote with the money. In this case money from big oil.

How does this excuse the electorate?

Because the individuals comprising the electorate have no actual voice - it is an illusion. I think what Fred is saying is not that the electorate vote with the money, but that it's the money that determines how the electorate vote (hope I'm not putting words in your mouth, Fred). Coalitions of investors come together, split apart, align, re-align. It is these coalitions who are responsible for the candidates that make it to the elections, aside from occasional oddballs who accomplish little, and then for who wins as well. The Tea Party candidates won, where they did, thanks to the efforts of one (or, more likely more than one) of these coalitions of investors. It is the purposes of that coalition which will thus be served, in contention against candidates for other coalitions. And the purposes of such coalitions are very, very rarely what the 'platform' of this or that party appears to support. It's money, baby. It's all money.

For a compelling read, I suggest:

Try this: The Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems (American Politics and Political Economy Series).

It's all there, documented, logic and data driven, persuasive. IMO. Again, ymmv.

If you are really interested, then I would also suggest Jacques Ellul's The Political Illusion. The translator's introduction reads thus:

THE POLITICAL ILLUSION is the third of Jacques Ellul's books to be presented to the American public. The first, THE TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY, was essentially an overview of the conflict between technology and human freedom; the second, PROPAGANDA, showed how modern man, surrounded and seized by propaganda, more often than not surrenders himself to it only too willingly even in democracies, even if he is educated; this third volume, THE POLITICAL ILLUSION, examines modern man's passion-political affairs-and the role he plays in them and in the modern state....

And he concludes that all facets of political activity as we know it today are a kaleidoscope of interlocking illusions, the most basic of which are the illusions of popular participation, popular control, and popular problem-solving in the realm of politics.

The first great evil from which most other evils spring is politicization (the act of suffusing everything with politics and dragging it into the political arena). In our modern world, contrary to what was the rule in all previous ages, everything is politicized: men seek political solutions for everything, whether the problem be freedom or justice or peace or prosperity or happiness.

Anything not political does not arouse widespread interest; it is not accorded any independent existence in our politicized world.

As a result of this politicization of all aspects of life and of the orientation of all thought and energy toward politics, men increasingly turn to the state for a solution of their problems, though the state could not solve them if it tried. And everywhere in the world this increasing inclination to turn to the state leads to three evils: boundless inflation of the state's size and power; increasing dependence on it by the individual; and decreasing control over it by the "people" who think they control it, whereas in reality they merely surrender all their powers to it.

And for what it's worth, this goes a long way in explaining why expectations of government (other than at the micro level) (let alone supra-national entities like the UN) playing a productive role in addressing PO (or climate change for that matter) are futile.

Ozzy, I'm not arguing against the imperfections of the system, and I accept some of your and Fred's points.

What I'm trying to point out is that voters dont have to follow the money, or to put it a different way, to follow the new money seeking to block existing incumbents policy.

Lets just say, there's a tv campaign to get me to vote for compulsory culling of dogs. The money funds ads showing how dogs are disease carriers, will give your firstborn rabies etc. Do I have to vote that way? Yes/No/Abstain. There's a choice.

You're saying that votes make no difference? I dont agree.

In your example, it's a local issue, and I do think votes at that level can have some significance, yes. Nice to be able to agree with you there. :)

But on the level at which truly weighty matters are decided - the federal level, and even largely the state - I do tend to think that the political system in force is an oligarchy (though the set of people making the 'real' decisions changes over time and that it is not a united cabal by any means - that's what "The Golden Rule" details - in gruesome detail), hiding behind the mask of a democracy, which itself hides behind the mask of a republic. I would have to say there is always a chance - a bare minimum chance - that some vastly improbable set of conditions might arise through which votes at the federal level could conceivable make a difference. Have I qualified that heavily enough? ;-)

Then again, there is a chance I can walk right through my wall, per quantum mechanics. But it would require several times the lifetime of the universe for that to come into the realm of the probable. I guess I am not postulating *quite* that high a barrier for national politics, but it's close.

Ok Ozzy, so one last point before I head for bed tonight. Take the recent US elections and flex the voting to give your preferred result. Then flex results to give your least preferred result.

Policy and program outcome? Same/better/worse?

Now tell me it's all a waste of time ;)

OK Maz, lemme try one more time. :)

The change in makeup in political leadership at the federal level *will* certainly change outcomes in that, rather than one coalition of investors making out like bandits, another will. I do not argue this point. The issue I am getting at is that the *voting* is a waste of time, because the outcomes that will arise, depending, will not benefit the voters. It will benefit the winning coalition. Voters in this country have proven far too easy to fool and manipulate, and so they will grow poorer, even as they congratulate themselves for being 'winners' - reminds me of the time a company I worked for was hard up for cash (start up) and so instead of raises, they gave out titles. Same deal, only we were sufficiently intelligent not to be fooled, whereas voters have demonstrated no such evidence of relative cognitive function.

So I'm looking for a way to agree with you, and I think I have found one. You are right that it is NOT a waste of time, on one condition: that you belong to one of the coalitions of investors. :)

If not for the important benefit of legitimation, we really might as well do away with voting entirely, and just let the big dogs duke it out amongst themselves. At least we would be honest about things that way. As one of my bumper stickers says 'If voting could change anything, it would be illegal.' ;-)

The rich will get richer, the rest will get screwed. The only relevant question is: at what rate will the rich get richer? That's the outcome that matters, so from the three options you give me, and operating at a macro level, I will choose 'same'. Wait - 'worse' - no 'same' - lol either way, it's the same or worse. It is most assuredly not 'better' for all of us.

As evidence, I'll submit this piece, which I posted in another thread today. Really astonishing data, IMO. And I think it requires some serious magical thinking to imagine this will change anytime soon. It's a lock, for the foreseeable future. It's frankly where we've been headed for 200 years. We have arrived.

And speaking of the Tea Party - even if those who managed to get elected were working in good faith toward their campaign promises, it is literally an impossibility that they will achieve their vaunted reduction in the 'size 'of government (which is really just a piece of misdirection anyway), which among all of the clashing goals is the one most of them hold in common. Why? Consider this (source: Casey Research, emphasis mine):

"In fiscal 2009, mandatory spending (things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, income security programs, and some others) increased 30% from the prior year and rang in at $2.1 trillion. Total receipts for 2009 were also $2.1 trillion. That is, in 2009, for the first time ever, mandatory spending equaled total tax receipts.

That means that every single penny the federal government received in taxes last year (including individual income taxes, corporate income taxes, social insurance and retirement receipts, excise taxes, estate and gift taxes, customs duties, and miscellaneous receipts) was already spent on something mandatory before it came in. 
And while the specific figures for itemized outlays haven’t been released yet for fiscal 2010, given the growth in income security programs like food stamps we saw over the year, I’d bet mandatory spending outpaced total tax receipts. Going forward, our aging population and retiring baby boomers ensure that skyrocketing mandatory expenses will outpace tax receipts in the years ahead."

That is what is called the tipping point. There is no possible way on the midst of 22% un/underemployment, which shows no signs of improving, that any tax increases that may somehow squeak through the Republicrats in DC will be able to keep pace with the rapid growth in mandatory outlays - and this does not factor in the inevitable interest rate increases (an inevitable result of uncontrolled and now permanent deficit spending), which will blow a hole right through outlays when it comes due to interest on the debt. Fiscal positive feedback in action.

Yet even the politicians hottest to shrink government - to wit, the Tea Party - won't consider cutting the two ginormous Ponzi schemes - SS and Medicare - which constitute the bulk of those mandatory outlays, per this buffoon:


Just one man's opinion. Aren't you glad you asked? ;-)

Is the average voter helpless over energy policy?

No. If voters were to usher in a government that made dramatic changes to our energy polices, I don't believe that the corporations that were affected would try to overthrow the government. And, if such a government campaigned on the basis of dramatic change, and therefore had a mandate to implement them, I don't think that lobbyists behind the scenes would succeed in preventing them.

On the other hand, I think it's clear that corporations try to manipulate voters in order to get their short-sighted way. And, it seems pretty clear that most voters aren't very good at resisting the disinformation and appeals to emotion that corporations use to achieve their goals.

You're saying that votes make no difference? I dont agree.

Considering that a vote only ends up getting a human into an office and history has shown many of these humans:

1) Acting differntly than what they had stated they would act.
(no new taxes, Gays are evil - they they get caught in such "evil" et la)
2) Voting contrary to what the population asks.
(biggest modern example - the 1st bank bailout. Gays in the military, the vietnam war as others)
3) Passing unread legislation.

Care to link what the person thought they were voting for (what was said by them that they would get if they were put into office) VS what the voter gets (a corruptable, flawed human being)?

Because it sure looks like the whole voting process is nothing more than who can spend the most to get into office to then do what they want in some kind of wierd wealth re-distribution scheme.

World money meltdown can start in surprising places, physicists say

Their meth­od in­di­cat­ed that 10 na­tions are so tightly linked in­to the glob­al busi­ness net­work that they can trig­ger a world­wide cri­sis, re­gard­less of wheth­er the cal­cula­t­ion con­sid­ers trade ties alone or ow­ner­ship ties alone. The coun­tries are: Ja­pan, Spain, the U.K., the Neth­er­lands, It­a­ly, Ger­ma­ny, Bel­gium, Lux­em­bourg, the Un­ited States, and France.

I am a little shocked that China is not listed among the nations whose meltdown would cause a global crisis. I suspect it would but perhaps not for the same reasons as those countries listed above.

Ron P.

Imagine Chinese exports get delayed because of this:

Diesel shortages in China

The last time there was a surge of oil demand from China, an extra 800 kb/d before the Olympic games, oil prices went through the roof to $147 a barrel. I call it the Oilympic peak

Good call. We are on that trajectory this time all over again. This time my bike and garden are in much better form. Still we will be more miserable when oil hits $160 this time.

The linked article does say:

Moreover, if only ownership ties but not trade ties are considered, Sweden and Switzerland join the list. If only trade but not ownership ties are considered, then China and Russia march on to the roster.

The base case model seems to focus on flows of capital rather than trade.

Surprise that the small country Luxembourg with about 500.000 inhabitants is mentioned.

China mainly exports crappy goods. The world really does not need all this shoddy merchandise. So China could collapse utterly (which could happen), but I don't think it would have much impact on world financial markets. Anything that China makes can be made better (not necessarily cheaper) someplace else.

The U.S. economy depends not at all on China's exports. Either we can import from Mexico or a hundred other countries, or we can make TVs, computers, and clothes the way we used to.

On the other hand, Germany's collapse would be serious for the world. They make very good things, such as my 1993 Audi with 240,000 miles on it. Germany, however, is a much sounder economy than is China's.

Don, if China collapses so will Australia and many others. The Australian,US, Brazilian etc agricultural export volumes and prices are booming due to Chinese demand so if Chinese demand collapses then expect your Midwest states to be crushed.
Maybe other countries can make up for the crap that China exports but to rebuild the industry will take many months if not years and in the meantime the dislocation to retailers will destroy your economy.


You can keep track of QE2 here-


The member banks are selling their treasuries to the New York Fed.

What I want someone to explain to me is why a bank would sell treasuries yielding over 8% as they did on 11/17/2010.

It is my understanding that you get the cash deposited in your reserve account at the Fed, and you can loan out maybe 9 times that amount (feel free to correct me).

If there is more money to lend than there are deals to place it in, aren't you just creating work for yourself by taking cash that you now have to make 8% on.

So, the only other reason I can think is that someone thinks the price of this instrument is going down.

I'm way out of my knowledge base but if I had 8% "risk free" hmm hmm money I wouldn't part with it.


A conspiracy theorist might suggest that the Fed is ridding the member banks of treasuries in preparation for Default.

I have read at the end of QE2 the fed, including re-investment of proceeds from MBS etal, will have $2.5T in Treasuries on the balance sheet, nearly 25% of US debt.

Who again is the buyer of last resort of toxic assets??


FF -

1) What makes you think Treasuries are "risk free?"

2) The 8% on Treasuries is an annual yield. There are better alternatives. For example, yesterday silver was up more than 4% in one day alone. Silver is up more than 50% year to date.

3) The Fed wants banks to invest in higher risk, higher return assets, like stocks and commodities, to "combat" deflation. As the saying goes, "don't fight the Fed." Take what they give you.

4) If you expect QEII to result in Dollar devaluation, by intention or or not, why would you invest in a Dollar denominated asset like a US Treasury?

1) History. It always sets the interest and the discount factor of every cashflow producing investment. Also, the powers behind it can have all of you and I's property if they want at day's end.
2) What is BofA, Citi, etc, return on assets?
3) That is an interesting one. Due to a lack of Supply and High Demand for US Debt, we need to "crowd" all the other buyers out of the market who have $75 billion a month burning a hole in their pocket to buy our treasuries.
4) This I do not have any answer for and kind of is the point of default if you have to sell $140 billion a month to not bounce checks.



I'm certainly no expert, but I believe price is inversely proportional to yield on bonds. If the yield was 8% then then value of the bond was way down. They would have sold to the Fed at a significant profit.

Is that current yield or coupon rate on the original issue date. Also, there is a difference between yield on a bond an yield to maturity. A bond with an 8% yield is probably going to reach maturity pretty soon, in which case the yield to maturity will be much lower than the nominal yield.

That is right. For example, CUSIP 912810ED6 T 08.125 08/15/19. This was issued in 1989 when the 20 yr rate was 8.125.

I think follow the money. I agree 8% is damn good- so why sell? They need cash. Why? Where does the cash go? I have no idea.

This is too complicated to explain briefly--especially if you are not a major in finance or economics. Best bet might be to go to theautomaticearth.blogspot.com and look for articles about what is happening and for different opinions as to what all this does (or does not) mean. Another good site is econobrowser.

Plug-in EVs and Weather

The note about the Toyota plug-in up top raised a question for me. We are currently expecting to get up to 2 feet of snow by Monday night and it is not unusual for us to lose power in these storms. (In fact, I checked to be sure our back-up generators were working yesterday and I'll chain up the 4x4 today.) Anyway, I have never seen anyone mention a concern about these types of cars when grid power is lost.

Many areas lose power in winter storms; often for weeks at a time. So, what happens to these people if the EV is their only car? Even if the people had a back up generator and lots of stored gas, given the long charging times I wonder if they'd go broke charging their cars. My 8kW uses about 1 1/2 gallons/hour at high loads and even my 2kW one uses 1/2 gallon per hour.


"My 8kW uses about 1 1/2 gallons/hour at high loads and even my 2kW one uses 1/2 gallon per hour."

My liquid cooled diesel (12kw) uses about 0.6gals/hr at 3/4 load (rated at 0.9gal/hr at full load), slightly less on B-50. Our old propane Generac uses over twice that much. Maybe you should shop for a diesel genny.


Actually, I do have a diesel too - 23kW. But, for normal usage for a few hours a day, the others are more practical.


23kw. Jeez Todd! I was thinking something more like this:


My experience is that these small diesels produce clean power up to full rating, unlike most gasoline powered gennies, which I usually derate by about 20%.

"Maybe you should shop for a diesel genny."

He already has a wife Ginny. She might get jealous.

EVs are appropriate at this point to only very small sectors of the market, something many EV proponents don't seem to understand or at least try to minimize. People living in circumstances like you describe will not be buying EVs.

And I think Nissan is making a marketing mistake claiming their Leaf can go 100 miles between charges. In the next year I can almost promise you'll read a story of someone who bought the car believing the manufacturer's claim and then discovering that when all is said and done they are getting at best 50 or 60 miles (especially if they want to lengthen the life of their battery).

And YET,
People who are still running their RAV 4 EV's (and I know, I've plugged this a few times now..), are many of them seeing the advantage of getting rooftop PV, which gives them House power and Car power regardless of the grid, (while being reduced to PV only in an outage would likely force many to seriously 'budget' their KWH's, at least the option is still there.)

And, as I also hammer at, they are reporting their original Nimh Packs giving them 100mile range and many of these packs lasting 100k miles plus.. and I'm sure that design could be much optimized, by limiting size, max speed (+motor size), opening the price range and the accessibility of such vehicles to a broader group.

I don't deny that EV's are for certain people who can make it fit, just as are bike commuting and many of the other alternatives we bandy about.. of course, the level of discomfort tolerated for an 'acceptable lifestyle adjustment' is still devilishly thin, as we continue to have the option to eat Cake at every meal (Muffin, Cornbread, Donut, 'American Scone', Pastry, what have you..) .. but like you, I'm expecting that not to hold for TOO much longer.

Really, most of us should be able to bike and walk to more things every week. Except Paul. We can give Paul piggybacks from here on in.

the advantage of getting rooftop PV, which gives them House power and Car power regardless of the grid, (while being reduced to PV only in an outage would likely force many to seriously 'budget' their KWH's, at least the option is still there.)

I'm not so sure, Jokuhl. The vast majority of rooftop PV installs do NOT include battery backup, because of the extra expense. I worked briefly for a solar installer in Cali last year and they had never done a single rooftop install which included battery backup system for off grid use. This may differ from region to region, but I would think north of 95% (maybe north of 98%) of rooftop installs lack off-grid capability.

I'd love to hear other data points in this regard, because, as a proponent of sustainability, I have always though this a critical flaw in the way solar is currently being deployed.

I'd also be interested in particular in similar data points for Germany.

I do appreciate many have gone in with simple GT inverters, but that's not an irreversible situation, as Dual-use Inverters are available, and I would suspect that you could even get some trade-in for the grid-only inverter, so it's not just pure outlay to get to the next level.

Beyond that, that EV has a lot of KWH under its belt, and there are surely going to be ways to 'Hack your EV' and use that power for the house if you are in the dark. At that rate, just coming off the PV directly with a car charger, not necessarily a whole new Household inverter, and you've got a workaround backup power supply right there. {EDIT: Which is especially positive as the intermixing of these components gives them multiple uses, and that they can be supported from a variety of supplies. I'm very pro- 'modular, intermatchable' solutions..}

John Howe, in this video of his Electric Vehicle tests, (a Farmall Cub, an MG and a Club Car,) describes using the modest pack in the Golf Cart to keep his house in Rural Maine running when the power had gone out.. and otherwise, takes this buggy out to cut and collect firewood with the same inverter..


Oh I'm not disputing your positions, Bob, just pointing out that the vast majority of rooftop PV installs lack the wherewithal to go off grid. And it's possible that the point at which it becomes apparent that this would make sense to do, the gear you would need to do it is not likely to be in abundant supply. That is, there's vastly insufficient inventory of true deep cycle batteries (which are the limiting factor IMO since people can get by fine on a 120V inverter, but must have storage) to retrofit storage capability onto existing GT systems, and if PO means they can't be manufactured in quantity anymore, then I think it's likely that most rooftop PV installs will become virtually useless.

Those who had the sense to downscale their home energy needs and configure for off-grid early, like Howe (super cool video BTW), will be set. Most - who will wait too long, if history is any guide - won't.

"..that most rooftop PV installs will become virtually useless. "

THAT is where I disagree, and why I brought it up. Once you've got panels up there, translating that DC into usable power is possible with a great many kinds of applications. One of the simplest ways of inverting DC to AC, while a good bit less efficient, is DC motor direct to alternator.. there are all sorts of ways to manage battery charge control as well, all the way down to just a big blocking diode.. .. another site shows a guy who put DC motors into all his shop tools. going direct to pumps or heaters or iceboxes can be a way to just store or use that power right when it's there.

That doesn't mean everyone with panels will KNOW this.. but of course, that's why I bring it up again and again.

I'm not expecting 'perfection'.. it's just a point on the horizon that I use for navigating.


Bob, thanks for the clarification. I think as much as anything you are highlighting the opportunities that a post-peak world will offer, and I appreciate that. Those who understand how to make useless PV panels useful again will have a valuable skill, this much is clear. :)

I still don't understand, though, how you are going to get around the lack of storage. Sure, you can run directly off the panels - when the sun is out. But absent batteries (unless of course we're talking some version of BAU where batteries can still be manufactured), the panels will not be much help during nights or seriously overcast days. I understand that iceblocks can help in certain ways (ICE Technology here in Colorado is having some success with their approach), but maybe you can explain what you have in mind for electrical storage solutions in a post-peak scenario from PV.

In sunlight all one needs is a good charge controller and a couple of car batteries as a sink. With good, heavy wiring and a 2kw inverter one can keep a fridge/freezer cold, pump water, make coffee, charge stuff; all forms of storage. As bob suggests, one would need to configure some panels to the proper voltage. I ran an electric chainsaw the other day, using my truck battery and a cheap, old 1800 watt inverter, as a test. I may get one of these saws; worked great.

Not sure a couple of car batteries are gonna do it to maintain a fridge/freezer, G. ;-)

For the past year, I lived in a travel trailer powered entirely by solar, with a couple of 120W panels, an MPPT charge controller, and 2 true deep cycle 6V batts (220 Ah), and the main load was a very low draw marine fridge, and after a coupla days of California rain, the fridge would die on me. And there was a lotta rain in Cali last year.

My point is, if we look at rooftop solar, for most of the decent sized systems, say 5kW and up, absent some decent storage setup in advance, that's a lotta potential for power that's gonna go to waste. Now, it may be that cars aren't drivable, so there may be lotsa batteries available, but if not, in a scenario where fossil fuel starved manufacturing isn't prioritizing battery fabrication, I think it's likely that the vast majority of rooftop solar will turn out to be useful pretty much only when the sun is shining.

Hey Ozzy; (Pardon the lag-time, just watched Altman's MASH tonight.. whew! Still Shaking)

I don't expect our losing all MFG capacity, and so become unable to have Batteries and Inverters and such still being produced. I don't KNOW, but I feel it's pretty likely that we'll see industrial technology continue, even if it downsizes or ends up focused into very specific regions, etc.. but the gameplays are so all over the board that I don't really try to speculate on them much..

What I DO focus on is what tools I can identify that have Basic, Inherent Value.. Durability, and Simplicity and Portability are plusses, as well. PV is inherently valuable if you still have ways to USE that power. It is helpful Today, WITH the grid still going along, and it's also viable in a blackout, and a given panel is likely to keep going for a long, long time. Very useful for 'fine motor' stuff, automated controls, communications. Electric is also good with large power stuff, but that's when you also should have bigger or steadier sources, like hydro or wind..

The form of a household's energy use would/will have to change considerably. Refrigeration, while still possible with PV, is a constant, nagging drain. To me, that says Insulation and Thermal Mass are going to be your batteries. I want to build a walk-in in my basement, with three levels, Root-Cellar, Fridge, Freezer.. and have GodAwful thick insulation for the whole thing. In winter, the first two tiers wouldn't need external power at all, but they would have some kind of storage fluid that could 'fetch the cold' and hang onto it for as long as possible. (so ok, there would be a circ. pump and controls for that item, but truly minimal in watts.) Solar Fridging and Adsorbtion are possibilities, and another storage possibility might be to create a reservoir of pressurized refrigerant, to be doled into the 'box' as needed.

As far as 'PV Going to Waste' .. it is a concern, but it doesn't take much to come up with ways to apply the power when it's there. It takes much more, of course, to IMPLEMENT the resulting notions.. but once the examples start showing themselves, they can be reproduced, too. It's just another way we have to look at our energy and how to Make Hay while the Sun Shines. 'Store' the energy as finished products, as cooked foods, as heated water, as chilled Walk-in's, as Pumped Water, as a spinning flywheel..


Hi Bob,

Years ago, during the winter months, I would fill a half dozen or so 2-litre pop bottles with water and set them outside to freeze overnight, then rotate them the next morning with the ones in my fridge. Just leave the caps loose and allow sufficient space for expansion, then screw them back on tight. An effective and an inexpensive way to take advantage of the free coolth (the volume to surface area ratio was ideal and they held up surprisingly well even after several months of use). You might apply this same technique with your cold room.


Hi, Oz. My suggestion about a couple of car batteries was in the vein of extended power outages, stop gap stuff, and ways to store energy during sunny periods. In a pinch, keeping food refrigerated/frozen by using the sun during the day and turning things off at night is doable. The most one might get without any sun (overnight) would be some lighting, maybe a radio. The main purpose of a couple of batteries is that using PV direct to an inverter can be problematic (e.g. under load most inverters will shutdown every time a cloud passes, requiring a reset). The batteries would be used as a sink/buffer for fluctuations in solar output (more of a capacitor function), not for longer term storage.

It occurs to me that, in a severe decline situation, if I am unable to replace my battery bank (large 2 volt cells), the batteries can still perform this function, though they may no longer hold a long term charge. This only applies to batteries that are sulfated. Batteries with shorted cells should never be recharged; fire hazard applies.

BTW, in general, car batteries are awful for RE applications and will fail quickly.

We're on the same page Ghung. And I liked Bob's post upthread regarding insulation/thermal mass/root-cellar approach. I think that's exactly right, because whether or not quality battery manufacture is still feasible in a non-BAU world, those sorts of timeless, passive approaches are where we are headed. About time, says I. ;-)

Stimulating discussion. I am now wondering how difficult it would be to think through a home-made battery fab process, using scavenged materials....hmmm.....if Volta could do it...;-)

And then there is this:

"In June, 1936, workers constructing a new railway near the city of Baghdad uncovered an ancient tomb. Relics in the tomb allowed archeologists to identify it as belonging to the Parthian Empire. The Parthians, although illiterate and nomadic, were the dominating force in the Fertile Crescent area between 190 BC to 224 AD. It is known that in 129 BC they had acquired lands up to the banks of the Tigris River, near Baghdad.

Among the relics found in the tomb was a clay jar or vase, sealed with pitch at its top opening. An iron rod protruded from the center, surrounded by a cylindrical tube made of wrapped copper sheet. The height of the jar was about 15 cm, and the copper tube was about 4 cm diameter by 12 cm in length. Tests of replicas, when filled with an acidic liquid such as vinegar, showed it could have produced between 1.5 and 2 volts between the iron and copper. It is suspected that this early battery, or more than one in series, may have been used to electroplate gold onto silver artifacts."


Amazing indeed!

There is plenty of stuff online about rebuilding lead acid batteries. Somewhere I have a PDF of a book from the 20's:

" Troubled Times: Rebuilding Lead Acid Batteries
This 1922 book, now available in PDF format, is invaluable. Download it, print it off for those times when your computer may not work or you may be without electricity.

Unfortunately, the link doesn't work anymore. I'll try to find my download.

I still don't understand, though, how you are going to get around the lack of storage

Perhaps storage of electricty isn't going to be the 'happy' place humanity ends up.

Storage matters if you are trying to have a 24X7X365 grid as Americans in Cities have come to expect.

Capturing the sun shining to run a water pump to fill a storage container sure beats having to haul it from a river or up a well.

Same with a passive solar home/evacuated tubes to warm your water. Sure beats shovling coal or chopping wood.

The human upper body has a 90 watt power output. Lower - 200 watts. A couple of solar panels outdo the output of a man. Enough to run 3 1500 watt 120 AC power tools can put a home together in a month vs a crew of 30 2-3 months "back in the day (1890's)".

A few panels can make quite a difference, even if you lack storage of electricity. All you have to do is be willing to make hay when the sun shines. VS the today "I pays my money I gets me power 24X7 so I can do what I want when I want" model.

If storing electrical power matters and you are willing to accept the heat output via loss - the Nickel Hydroxide batteries (edison batteries) show no sign of failure do to use - you just need to change the hydroxide to give 'em a boost.

Dude, awesome pointer - Ni-Fe batts. I'm researching this. Looks appropriate for non-BAU PV storage/backup (which has been my question in this thread), and probably easier to fab due to lack of requirement for exotic elements.

I definitely agree that expectations of continuous availability of elec for high load and inefficient apps will need to go bye bye. I am interested in how to achieve optimal use, post-peak, assuming an end to BAU, from existing installs. For my money, retrofit is gonna be one of the huge growth industries, via appropriate technology, so brainstorming about what constitutes 'appropriate' is what I'm after. This helps.

Hey Oz,
Just to say that I've been glad to have this conversation. 'If not here, where?'

I just quit a Yahoo group called Simply Solar, which has a lot of good folks building solar heating equip, but I found there was SO much debunking in the mentality, that you couldn't play with ideas, so I hung it up. Might be worth it for others here to check out, though.. Me, I'm still looking for a really great site for a TOD-level interaction on DIY energy projects. Until then, this site is a sort of 'Only Nixon could go to China' place to be having it, but hell, I'll take it!

At least if some good notions are floating around here, I know they are hitting eyeballs on every continent, as far as I can tell. To me, that's a very encouraging thing!

Mordor is on the march. Gots to get some more Hobbitses out of their Shires..


DIY, yes. I would sure like to find a proper place to give away all my great stuff for the benefit of not me. So if you find one, please let me know here.

This summer I went thru 4 generations of solar water heater and ended up in a sort of obvious one that really worked fine- a swimming pool heater (cheap, big) heating antifreeze, natural convection to a tank thru which the house water went for preheat or final heat, depending on sun, of course. For many days this thing did all the water heating, and was totally trouble free.

Now that the wood stove is going, I get all domestic hot water from a coil in the after-combustion zone. I am pleased with my self-driven circulating system which works on the toy put-put boat principle, that is, just a coil of water tubing in the hot part of the stove, kicking the cooler water with intermittent steam bursts thru a jet pump. Tuned right it works great and has the added advantage of little thumping noises to keep the fight-or-flight reflexes exercised. I have placated my risk-adverse wife with heavily reasoned arguments to the effect that this thing cannot explode.

Anyhow, that water pipe is contained in a pretty strong stove, worst case would just be a steam explosion inside, where there is nothing more threatening than a big mound of red hot coals and a 1500 C fl--- ah, never mind.

I'll let on if I find it, W.
Was searching Craig's list tonight to find a good Stainless Watertank from some fisherman, where I could store some hot water.. there are a few out there.

Maybe it's the tips about convincing risk-averse wives that I should be researching. Playing with plumbing fittings seems to be better for my Blud Pressure, though.


Zappworks (or some name like that) claim to be the only US of A makers of the batteries.

The battery case seems to be plastic.

Otherwise, its an order to China to get 'em. (And the chinesee batteries have a plastic case, unlike the glass cased ones I have.)

Keep in mind these are 'lossy' batteries. My memory is 35% or some such number. And the watts stored per kilo are low.

I'm not so sure, Jokuhl. The vast majority of rooftop PV installs do NOT include battery backup, because of the extra expense. I worked briefly for a solar installer in Cali last year and they had never done a single rooftop install which included battery backup system for off grid use. This may differ from region to region, but I would think north of 95% (maybe north of 98%) of rooftop installs lack off-grid capability.

Well I've been trying to specialize in smaller off grid projects recently, I think it is a good niche for me personally. I recently spent over a month redoing a job that my former employer (they specialize in grid tie without battery backup) totally F'd up. I created extensive documentation with high resolution photographs of what I found. I did this more for my own benefit and to have as an example of how not to do a job, than with any intention of denigrating my former employer's installers. The customer wasn't interested in pursuing the issue either they just wanted their system to work, fortunately for me money wasn't a problem for them.

To be clear this was an out of the box kind of job that required skills and knowledge beyond what the installers had. They only knew how to attach panels to a roof and do a grid tie. Without going into too much detail they didn't understand anything about problems of electrolysis or control systems, anyone with some simple knowledge of chemistry and how different metals react with electricity running through them in an outdoor environment or maybe someone with experience in marine electrical systems would have been a better candidate for this particular job.

The point is I think you are right that most systems have been sold with the intention that they tie into the grid and battery backup is actually actively discouraged by most, a prime example would be my former employer. I on the other hand am squarely on the other side of the fence I specialize in off grid or at least strongly recommend the battery backup option. Here in South Florida people understand the need to have power when the grid goes down.
I could see myself specializing in adding battery backup to systems that currently are grid tie only. IMHO it is downright stupid to have thousands of dollars worth of panels on your roof and not be able to use the power they generate if the grid is down.

I was in Germany recently and what I found was that their solar is almost all grid tie without battery backup though to be fair it is a bit of an apples to oranges comparison but I haven't got the time to get into why at this moment. I'm redoing my girlfriend's pool deck this weekend and I already tore it up early this morning and I shouldn't even have sat down at my computer... gotta go!

Damn, Fred, I'd like to apprentice with you - I don't have those skills but I want 'em. I'd even help with the pool deck resto job. :)

Nissan is actually being kind of careful to make sure the Leaf does not end up in the wrong buyer's hands. When you try to sign up to get a Leaf it makes you go through a series of questions such as 'how far do you live from work', 'can you charge at work', etc.

And they have been putting out much more information than simply '100 miles on a charge'. I fully agree with you that expectations have to be set properly or else EVs will flop. They are NOT for everyone. But right now, they make a GREAT 2nd car to use for commuting. And the Volt is a great EV for those who need to occasionally drive long distances.

That's good to hear...manufacturers' claims are notorious for being unreliable and so far it had all the hallmarks of "more of the same."

when all is said and done they are getting at best 50 or 60 miles

I'm sure there will be some. Probably more related to driving, fast and/or lots of braking. Or expecting to get the same milage driving through heavy unplowed snow or up steep hills etc. Also people who don't have a clue that running the AC or the heat full blast is a big draw.

Then there will be the inevitable surprises, starting home with just enough fuel/charge to make it, but being forced onto a long detour...

If you live in a place with frequent power loss then an EV only is probably not for you. But as is, I think most EV buyers in the next decade will still have a gas car.

The solar discussion above is very right . . . most solar will not work if there is a power failure but you could switch to an inverter that does do battery back-up. But if you have frequent power failures you probably already opted for the PV with battery back-up.

Todd, just curious if you are exaggerating about "many areas lose power in winter storms; often for weeks at a time"? I've lived in rural Michigan for 25+ years, we've had two "long" outages in that period. But they were both about 4 or 5 days duration. I'm under the impression that this somewhat unusual for most areas of the US. Sure, places go dark for a few days, maybe, but that is pretty rare. (*)

Also, don't most households own multiple vehicles? And really, if the power is out in an area, it doesn't make too much sense to go out, businesses will be shut down anyway.

(*) I do know about that huge ice storm in Canada that did result in nearly a month long outage for some areas.

Hi John,

The longest I've personally lost power is about a week and a half.* It was that storm that led to my installing a 3.6kW PV system because we couldn't buy more gas for the generators since the gas stations didn't have power to pump gas.

In any case, I live about 20 miles inland in coastal northern CA in the Coast Range Mountains. A few years ago a winter storm really reeked havoc on the actual coast and some people didn't get their power restored for a month+ due to replacing lines and poles and clearing trees that came down.

You have to remember that my area/county is low population so there is no push for the power company to make a maximum effort as might be done were there tens of thousands of people without power. To put low population into perspective, there area where Wharf Rat and I live has about 4,000 people scattered over around 600 square miles.


*Edit to add. There have been many other times we've lost power when the PV system saved us. And, FWIW, we always get snowed in at least a week a winter. The longest was three weeks and we only got out then by bringing a CAT to plow the road. The total snow fall from a series of storms was about 5 feet.

Wow. A week and half! The worst I had was a couple days and that was the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.

You have to put my power in context. I live in the boondocks off a dirt and gravel county road. My own road is a mile long. Plus, I'm the last person on the power line for the next 20 miles. There probably only other 10 customers within 3 miles of my place.

But, here's a fun story. Several years ago our power went out during a winter storm and they got it back in a few days. A guy shows up with a 4x4 bucket truck (with city tires) at our house to see if the power is back. However, he wanted to check a pole and cross tree on the lower part of our property that is accessible via jeep trail. I rode along with him to show him the way. Well, we got to where the lines cross the trail to the pole and he wanted to stop. I said not to because there was snow on the ground and there is a 40-60' drop-off on one side. However, he insisted he wanted to stop.

What happened when he finally tried to move was that the rear end of the truck started to slide toward the drop-off as the wheels spun. Bummer. I asked if he had a winch - yes. He and I spent the next two hours winching his truck in a 180 degree turn so he was head the right way to get out, then we winched the truck to a downhill place. He pleaded with me not to tell any of his co-workers; I didn't until he became a foreman. That's life in the country.


That's why EREVs like the Volt are better for most people - they're dual fuel.

Eventually, of course, people will figure out how to use an EREV as a generator.

Global Guerrillas: Dmitry Orlov on Collapse"

Orlov says the collapse has already begun.

The Five Stages of Collapse. Here's a quick summary:

1. Financial Collapse. Already in motion.
2. Commercial Collapse. Just started.
3. Political Collapse (a loss of faith in the political process). First part is over (the recent election in the US). Second part is going to be nasty.
4. Social Collapse. Potentially the end state or stable equilibrium point for most of the world. Everyone against everyone with points awarded by the global marketplace.
5. Cultural Collapse. Full meltdown. Global market breaks.

Ron P.

Those new to Orlov might find value from this post of mine:

Essential Dmitri Orlov

Includes videos, essays and presentations.

IMO, there's not much Orlov which is NOT essential - especially in terms of maintaining a sense of humor, albeit dark, in the face of PO. ;-)

Good point! I love his black humor.

I am very concerned about Gail and Leanan removing their names from the editorial staff listing here on TOD. I'm not privy to what's going on in the inner circles but the Leanan's comments lately have indicated that she's a bit upset.

Perhaps we should spend a moment imagining what would happen to TOD if these two ladies just up and quit. I believe that both have day jobs and I don't think they're getting rich from their efforts here.

Who exactly would be willing to spend the countless hours they do collecting news (Leanan), writing cogent articles and finding interesting topics for discussion (Gail) - and as far as I know they do this because they care about all of us and they care about the future.

I'm a cynic and I expect, look for, and usually find the worst in human nature (I know, it doesn't sound that way - you'll have to take my word for it). But in Gail and Leanan I find two conscientious and disinterested people trying to hold together a wildly diverse group of mostly intelligent and often irascible commenters. I sympathize with their predicament. They are moderating one of the most informative comment sections on the web but the variation in quality from one day to the next is just crazy. It's a Bush bashing spree on Monday and on the Tuesday we find WHT is arguing with Westexas about some detail of his dispersive models.

What's the point? Well, I think a conversation that would be productive right now is for us to present our ideas about what purpose the TOD comment section serves both to us as individual contributors and to the world at large.

Leanan strongly hinted that she's willing to consider totally removing the comments so TOD would look more like energybulletin.net. Is that what we want? If not then we have to figure out a way to keep the level of conversation within the bounds of civility and relevance. We should all think about this and have some ideas.

I also think (and it's just an opinion) that Gail and Leanan are starting to wonder if all the time they spend is worth the effort. I think an expression of appreciation for all they do might cheer them up. I think we all love them dearly but tend to just take them for granted. That's the tale that ends many a marriage.

If I were Leanan, I would have given us all the middle finger salute some time ago and gone on to other activities.

BTW, here is an item that as posted on Drudge, from CNBC, about rising levels of mental illness in the US, especially in certain sectors, e.g., young people and the unemployed (with a high degree of correlation between the two)--which more or less supports my thesis that most of us are going crazy, just at different rates.


How important is the comment section to you, Westexas? Would you miss it if it disappeared? You contribute a lot and engage in a lot of conversations and speculations that I find worth reading.

I'm not asking for a predetermined and cookie cutter answer. Your comment indicates you're pretty disgusted too. And that's fine if it reflects your real opinion.

My productivity would almost certainly increase if the comments went away. In fact, my comments had tapered off quite a bit at least until recently, mostly because we largely seemed to be revisiting the same arguments over and over again, but I'm in a little bit of a slow period right in my oil and gas prospect generation efforts, because of problems finding a landman. BTW, any landmen looking for work out there who are willing to relocate to West Central Texas?

I don't think that you could characterize me as disgusted; my point is that I would not have been willing to do the job that Leann has done. As I said, all of us would have long since received the middle finger.

What's a "landman"?

Found it:

Basically an Oil and Gas Landman is the individual who checks title to the land where the oil company is interested in drilling a well. The geologist studies graphs and seismic data to determine a good spot where oil and gas will be located in the ground. It will then become the job of the Landman to lease this acreage from the owner so that a well can be drilled.

Wow, at one time I had quite a long contacts list of independent Texan Landsmen, back when I worked selling GIS and seismic analysis software. They can't have all closed up shop and moved to California, can they? Heh, I'll wallow for a nostalgic moment reminiscing about the workshops I used to give to teach them how to georeference their old county maps by warping the maps to more up to date datum. Good down to earth (no pun intended) people, I really enjoyed dealing with them!

I sincerely wish TOD could go back to the way it was four and a half years ago--before Drumbeats were posted every day. Also, the comments on the articles were way better four years ago than they are now. It is surely time for a change.

Gail and Leanan are two of my favorite people in the whole world. If they go, it will be a serious loss to TOD, especially in light of other recent losses of editors.

The drumbeats were created as an outlet for 'off topic' comments/current events that others felt tied somehow into the energy narrative.

I believe that goal is still being met.

There are posters who ignore the Drumbeats all together.

I'd have to say, though, that I don't fully trust that article. It seems to reflect a popular strain of rampant overdiagnosis, i.e. everything is a manifestation of mental illness, the same way everything causes cancer. And the underlying meme seems to come from folks who make their living at rampant overdiagnosis.

In social contexts, some will find labeling anything they disagree with as a manifestation of mental illness to be a convenient way to excuse themselves from ever listening. So it is that we get arrant nonsense like "nature deficit 'disorder'". The Soviet Commissars were masters at that trade. On another hand, though, nothing is simple any more: another reality is that sometimes listening is indeed an utter waste of time.

Great point Paul. My ex is a research prof in areas related to psychology. She used to say the 'mental health' profession moved from a paradigm of 'name it to tame it' to 'name it to claim' it in the past few decades. Rampant over-diagnosis supports a ballooning, and booming, mental health industry:

"Despite the known shortcomings of psychiatric diagnosis, the mental health industry continues to expand. In the United States between 1975 and 1990, the number of psychiatrists increased from 26,000 to 36,000, clinical psychologists from 15,000 to 42,000 and clinical social workers from 25,000 to 80,000, while the total cost of mental health care rose between 1980 and 1990 from about $20 billion to about $55 billion."

Not incontrovertible or incontestable, but interesting nonetheless.

I would imagine that during a prolonged jobs recession that mental depression increases, but the numbers quoted seem higher than i would have guessed.

Now it is clear the younger you are the worse off you are in this recession. while I have a job, my pay was cut to meet a budget and that cut falls on you harder if you are younger since your home was overpriced (by Greenspans bubble) and your starting salary is lower. I find it depressing but I move on.

I imagine it is worse to not get a job after graduating.

hoping the best for our younger Americans

Leanan strongly hinted that she's willing to consider totally removing the comments so TOD would look more like energybulletin.net. Is that what we want? If not then we have to figure out a way to keep the level of conversation within the bounds of civility and relevance. We should all think about this and have some ideas.

In the great scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. I comment very irregularly, and when I do it's a signal that I'd better find something better to do with my time.

This is not a slam on TOD--which is one of the only places where I bother reading comments--it's just that Internet comments sections overall are overrated (probably because they're a relatively new phenomenon). Comments are here today, gone tomorrow. They're electronic graffiti, for the most part.

This is not to say there haven't been some wonderful moments on TOD, but I believe I've had time to read only less that 1% of the comments here.

Also--the work Gail and Leanan have done has been phenomenal and, really, I don't see why they bother at all, given their smarts and the impermanence of the medium.

Well said, LJR. (I hadn't noticed until you mentioned it.)

I have learned a tremendous amount from my time here (including from the comments, where an idea can be analyzed for its value often more deeply than in just a post alone) and I always marvel at the energy of both Leanan and Gail. I fully appreciate their work here.

And I can understand that there might be some soul searching going on (Leanan has mentioned that on occasion). It takes a lot of time to run any reasonably successful site and, really, we each have personal issues to attend to considering what is coming. Over the weekend I resolved to spend less time commenting here myself.

The same thing is beginning to happen in Transition communities. Early members that were highly involved are being forced to move away because they've lost their income and their homes. Reality is making its presence felt.

Still, this is speculation until we hear from them. I hope they let us know what is happening when they can.

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of what I imagined many here will look like if the comments section is eliminated on TOD:


Anyway, Leanan removed it, though it may be appropriate in the near future.

I think an expression of appreciation for all they do might cheer them up.

Gail and Leanan, sure do luv ya! And thank you for your civility and moderation.

Likewise, thank you LJR for your insights. Monitoring and moderating this blog must feel like supervising a chicken coop at times. It's what make it an interesting read though.


I am very concerned about Gail and Leanan removing their names from the editorial staff listing here on TOD.

There is no editorial staff listed here. There was a post by Gail a few days ago explaining it all but I don't recall which day or what post. Things are being revamped.

Anyway TOD will collapse when everything else does so not to worry. ;-)

Ron P.

I'm not concerned about the future. I'm concerned about the present.

The comments section has been enormously beneficial to me, in my quest for knowledge about various aspects of PO, many of which I had never even realized were relevant to the discussion prior to finding TOD. It's a remarkable and unique repository - and an example of the type of community I hope to see more of post-peak. Civil society based (if not always so civil :), enormous breadth and depth of both knowledge and opinion, it is a bottoms-up, voluntary community that provides not only a fact-founded basis for hope, but the consolation that other like minded souls are out there looking for answers. I think it's priceless.

That said, as has been noted, it's no doubt a major time sink, and Gail and Leanan obviously have every right to manage their priorities as seems best to them. And I also agree that the ladies that do so much for all of us get far too little in the way of demonstrated and expressed gratitude.

Thank you so much, Gail and Leanan. It is not hyperbole to assert that your efforts have touched my life in a very personal and beneficial way. They are very, very much appreciated.

"....I think it's priceless......Thank you so much, Gail and Leanan. It is not hyperbole to assert that your efforts have touched my life in a very personal and beneficial way. They are very, very much appreciated."

....pretty much says it all.

This is a daily staple for me, as important as my morning coffee and breakfast. If this were pay only, I would pay.

Ditto (I see Leanan has already responded but still +1)

We didn't remove our names. All the staff names were taken down, in preparation for the changes we're making.

And I'm not upset. No more than usual, anyway. ;-) I'm just trying to prepare you for the changes to come. (The changes were not really my idea, though I fully support them. But it's not like I'm suddenly sick of this place or upset at any one commenter.)


So if this really would be my last post :o) many thanks to you editors et al for all you have done!

I have for example personally benefited amazingly much from this forum, in knowledge, and in wider thoughts and in "meeting" fellows thinking about the same things - and in having a fight or two with you colleagues on board.
I believe TOD has changed the perception on energy and efficiency for a large amount (50k+?) of people over the years. How is the individual readership doing the last months btw?

I am at an university, and I hardly do not find here the same spirit of discussions that can be found at TOD. People are too afraid to debate and to go and get facts and check things up at the coffee table - thats where TOD is great as an alternative. Check it up, think 5 min, write a reply.

I'm just trying to prepare you for the changes to come.

A couple of times recently the front page looked totally different, but drilling down to the next level everything looked normal. Are you experimenting with new software?

I'm afraid I don't know. I'm pretty sure we're sticking with Drupal. There may be a new site design in the works. There's a lot I don't know about the upcoming changes. I'll find out when you do. :-)

Frankly, I've always found that forum changes lead to a loss (often) of the best posters and then many people migrating to a new forum. To name one, Ron used to post all the time on the Yahoo Energy Resources forum and many people from TB2K have migrated to The Tree of Liberty.

Matt (the former Chimp Who Can Drive) has an interesting post on why he shut down LATCO http://lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/Archives2010/SavinarHerbstPeakOilSHTF.html

....Once the collective is cattle prodded out of denial and into rage, it's my contention that far fewer people will be logging on to the net to look for leadership, information, or "community". Instead they will be turning to people within the immediate neighborhood, not blogs/forums, for those things.

I go back far enough - I guess going on 5 years - to recognize how TOD has changed. Some parts of TOD's evolution have been welcome; others not so.

My guess is that any change will drive away some regulars whether this results in a better TOD won't be known until the changes are made. And, it's important to qualify what a "better TOD' might be in the eyes of the owners (since TOD IS owned). It's not a free association of people who somehow came together. After all, no one has put up a key post poll asking what non-owners think about the future of TOD.

One option that many forums come to is having a variety of sub-forums so as to categorize stuff. But this requires dedicated mods. I've done it and it isn't fun - but I'd do it again if called on.

I do thank the many people who have made this site work. There is no way that I would have bitten off something like this.


And then there's TheOilDrum, and there's The Drum Beat. Two different things...


Would you care to expound? The Oil Drum posts focused topical articles about peak oil and related energy issues, and the Drum Beat seems to be more of a free-for-all.

At least that's how it seems to me.

Very, very much agreed. I know of no other place on the web other than Drumbeat that produces such a first rate compilation of energy stories every day. Or stories that will have more bearing and predictive value for our lives. The big media, our local paper, Yahoo, Google all have a list I'll check, but none in my mind have the importance as the list compiled here.

Thanks Leanan.

I think we are expecting a quieter, lower bandwidth site in the future. Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell, and all that.

For me, personally, I don't think we should be looking online for community. For a lot of other things, sure, but not community. Our stone age brains don't register faceless online contact as "community." My guess is that sites like Facebook will prove to be the Cheetos of the new millennium: enticing, but not healthy.

I think you might be wrong in that, and that your mental model associated with 'community' is different to those who grew up 'online'.

It surprised me, but when I talked with some in their late teens and early twenties, they really did see community online as the real community, and 'real life' as something after you had grown to relate to someone online.

I'm not sure I think the hidden renegotiation of this site is to be a good idea, or quieter/lower bandwidth to be a positive move. But since we are not being asked, and views not valued, it will probably be a digg v4 all over again. Ho hum.

Community has to be face to face. All cultural anthropologists and sociologists know that. Read the literature.

...All cultural anthropologists and sociologists know that....

Insert sarky comment here.

Reference Arthur C's first law.

Not true--communities of practice, epistemic communities, virtual communities--there are many examples of anthropological and sociological research on communities not bounded geographically.

In social network terms though, I've argued in other venues that social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and even TOD each count as a node against Dunbar's number--the theoretical limit of the size of a human's personal network. If true, it means that frequent TOD followers have cognitive room for one less actual human contact. Add up all the virtual nodes that you manage, and some people may have a physical network of strong connections that is 10% smaller than it would be without technology.

Are you suggesting that having more nodes is indicative of better social health? I think it varies with the individual. In my case I find that too many "nodes" leads to a dillution effect, superficial interaction and all that. I prefer to focus on the quality of my relationships, not the quantity. I'm perfectly comfortable with not being known as a "people person". Some folks I know collect people (nodes), like followers. I generally don't have much use for their cluttered minds, lack of focus and inability to enjoy what really matters (to me, anyway). While I have reasonably good social skills, I prefer to be attractive for who I am and not for being who I think others will be attracted to. Life's too short to focus on collecting people, so I suppose my funeral will be small. Matters not, it does.

Others' mileage may vary.

It has nothing to do with my mental model, really. I used to think the 'net was as good as real life, as far as community goes. But there was a study that came out awhile back, where they scanned subjects' brains while they interacted with other people. People talking to each other in person react differently from people "talking" to each other online. Specifically, seeing each other's faces seemed to be key. (Would be interesting to see how this works with blind people.) Face to face contact produced a host of positive changes, reflected in the brain scans, while internet contact did not. This sort of dovetails with previous research that shows spending a lot of time online is linked with depression (though correlation is not causation, of course).

I have no doubt that a lot of people think online community is as good or better than real life, but they may be fooling themselves. People often like Doritos more than vegetables, even though the vegetables are healthier. What you prefer isn't always what's best for you.

Leanan is totally correct.

The notion that virtual relationships could be anywhere near as beneficial or sustaining as face to face flies in the face of what we know about neurology, psychology, and common sense. It's both ridiculous and ironic that we need experts to conduct a study to tell us this.

"Growing up online" cannot begin to compare in any measurable way with a brain which evolved over millions of years (or a quarter million in the case of sapiens) to interact directly with other people in a face to face fashion. An enormous number of absolutely vital signals are absent from 'online' interactions. There is no question that those insisting online-is-as-good-as are fooling themselves. But then, evolutionary psychology is pretty damned clear about the human animal's boundless capacity for self-deception. There ya go.

Read A General Theory of Love for more on the neurological basis for relational interaction, emotionality, etc.

And BTW, I have to say that I think not only is this one of the saddest commentaries I have ever read:

when I talked with some in their late teens and early twenties, they really did see community online as the real community

but one of the most frightening.


What about webcams? I'm sure Leanan can set that up for us? I hope you guys/girls aren't shocked easily! J/K..

I really enjoy the content of this site. The posters here seem intelligent. I've been following PO since '01 (joined PO.com in '04). I know there is nothing I can do to solve/help/rectify the situation. Everyone I've tried talking to about PO thinks I'm insane. Family members stopped calling years ago. They hide when I stop by their houses (something about showing up around dinner time).

for my part, I have to say that I would call TOD 'some kind of a community', but I don't confuse it with direct human contact..

It IS, however, a tiny periscope that I can use to get a glimpse out away from my local perspective, and test the waters of a sample of folks I consider pretty smart, from all over the world, from different walks of life, different ages and backgrounds.

I wouldn't trade my walking Lorelei to school and seeing the neighbors with their kids, while we're out in the real Maine air.. .. but as you all know, almost NONE of those people (the City Councilor excepted) is willing to talk about energy and society in a serious way.

I don't get to see many of your faces, and yet guessing at the tone of voice behind your text is actually a wonderful challenge. You get quite a lot by the way people just use language.. anyway, I've found it worth sticking with it.

"for my part, I have to say that I would call TOD 'some kind of a community', but I don't confuse it with direct human contact.. "

Exactly. Most of us have a "real" social life. In my case, sometimes work provides as much "community interaction" as I can tolerate, and the community garden I started is another small community, though seasonal, we still get together to share the rewards of our efforts over dinner from time to time. While I have plenty of face to face community interaction, TOD is the place I come to discuss things that aren't on the other communitys' lists for discussion. As many have noted, some of the discussions here wouldn't fly too far in a "polite" community gathering around here.

I also feel that one's location, rural or urban, is a factor. Where I live I have to travel some distance to find a group of like-minded individuals, an infrequent indulgance these days.

TOD is an outlet, and a community of sorts as well, and much less superficial than the social gatherings I'm used to. I just don't enjoy listening to folks talking about other folks very much. People these days don't talk about fun stuff much, unlike the posters on TOD.

Ghung, you might enjoy this article about a 36 hour, communal table, dinner party. In our modern, rush around society, it almost seems ludicrous, but it's nice to imagine a post-peak world wherein similar communal activities become the norm.

Right, Ghung,
and this also reminds me that we have many Seniors in our (ahem!) collective, and some folks who have disabilities and other mobility issues, certainly others who are way rural and don't have access to such conversations in the tiny communities where they do see people .. young people without cars (cough, cough!), and busy parents.. This provides a kind of accessibility, and for me in particular the late/night checkins are invaluable as well, that simply aren't possible any other way.

I simply can't imagine this wide a crowd getting equal access to present their thoughts, and hear and be heard simply on the merits of their words alone, (and to some degree on the developing recognition of their name and reputation to those reading) anywhere else.

I pretty much HATE TV.. but I weep with gratitude watching C-SPAN's Washington Journal, where they respectfully take calls from all over the country and the world, checking in on various topics. The TOD conversation is the Text'n'Graphics version of that for me.. and while it lasts, I AM weeping with gratitude. This is a very rich opportunity here, and I'll miss it when it's gone.


...and, as you alluded to, online it's impossible for everyone to talk at once, and interupt in the way that folks tend to do at "real" social gatherings. I also like the fact that I can read and edit what I type, making sure I've said what I mean. There's great value in being clear as to your meaning (especially to yourself), and feeling you've been heard. I find that folks tend to filter what I say in person. This is harder to do with concise written communications. That's why some people write letters, articles, essays and books.

Folks have complained some about the signal to noise ratio on TOD. I find the ratio much more tolerable here than at most other social gatherings.

RE: 'signal to noise ratio on TOD..'

And while long distractions into unproductive topics spend precious bandwidth and possibly reputation, they are also quite easy to bypass.. and ultimately not impossible to snip or prohibit, if it comes to that.

I'm with you Ghung. I also think "community" is something like freedom: as much a state of mind as a physical reality. I'm sure there's a small minority at TOD who, if we met in person every other weekend, would never consider themselves part of our community. Over 40 years ago I became a member of a small elite (in our own feeble young minds. LOL) "community" during a previous life. Even though it's been decades since I've had direct contact I still feel as much a part of it as ever. I just observe it from a distance. Like the very old line: "The best of time...the worst of time". You can't escape the imprint even if you want to. Though there's less emotional connection I view the TOD community in the same way. Same sense for those I agree with as well as those with whom I don't...like those who don't accept that Blue Bell is the best ice cream ever.

It IS, however, a tiny periscope that I can use to get a glimpse out away from my local perspective, and test the waters of a sample of folks I consider pretty smart, from all over the world, from different walks of life, different ages and backgrounds.

The departed poster (bobs?) is how I found out that mammalian prions differ from fish prions and that the research seems to show they are not transmissable between the 2 groups.

And because of the megabytes of interaction I've seen and have refined my positions.

But then, evolutionary psychology is pretty damned clear about the human animal's boundless capacity for self-deception.

Not so much self-deception, IMO (though that's certainly part of it). Rather, our stone age brains produce reactions so compelling that intellectual understanding really can't compete.

I came across a paper once that criticized Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone by arguing that people were just as involved as they ever were. It was just that some of their friends were fictional - TV characters we watch every night on the boob tube. Since we only evolved to know about 150 people, having all these TV friends had to push out some real life ones. I wasn't able to tell from the abstract whether the authors thought this was a bad thing or not.

It reminded me of something Jared Diamond wrote about: poor laborers in developing countries who spend the grocery money or sell their blood several times a week in order to buy movie tickets. Intellectually, this is insane. Taking food out of the mouths of your children, or risking your health when physical work is how you make your living is nuts. But it makes sense to our stone age brains, which see it as pursuit of extremely attractive potential mates. We may know that glamorous actress or handsome actor is hopelessly out of reach, but our stone age brains don't.

Point well taken Leanan. The story about 3rd world movie-goers boggles the mind. Our task, methinks, is to get a handle on these big brains and make 'em work for us rather than 'agin' us - not only analytically (neocortex), but emotionally (limbic system), in ways that are beneficial to all beings. Err...might need a few million more years of evolution yet...

...might need a few million more years of evolution

There it goes again

meaning, your brain: wrongly modeling "Evolution" as if it were a human being with beneficent intent and intelligent design.

But fetter not, for we do the same thing with Mr. Economy and Ms. Marketplace and Oh the Humanity itself. It's how our brains roll.

I think that it is the public and quasi-anonymous characteristics of comment threads that facilitate the negative behaviour.

Around '81 I was in a department that was made up out of three groups at one location and two groups at another about 30 miles away. Previous to the reorganization the locations had been in widely separated, but competitive parts of the company. During the reorganization, face to face meetings were held, planning exercises were done, and team building was undertaken to harmonize the new organization. No one was fired, and an expansion of work and funding was anticipated.

Email, which was thought to facilitate communications and was heavily used, erupted into flame wars about which subsystems should do what, who's fault each test failure was, etc. Not a pretty sight. Flames were generally copied to multiple groups if not the whole department. People wrote stuff they would never say to each other over the telephone or put in a letter for delivery to the other person by company mail. I think that it had partly to do with the impersonality of email, but more to do with the ease of copying lots of people in order to publically make a case.

Comments on a thread are the ultimate in copying a lot of people on a flame.

Yes, there's that, too. It's even worse when people are anonymous. People say things online they'd never say if they could see the faces of the people they're talking to.

There's also what Putnam called the "easy in, easy out" problem. In an online community, it's so easy to join, and so easy to leave. You can even reinvent yourself instantly, making up a new user name and wiping out all your past sins. He argues that real social capital involves deeper ties - a web of connections across multiple settings.

I instinctively distrust such studies, for a whole bunch of reasons.

eg so they reacted differently - your brain reacts differently when listening to music as opposed to looking at a painting. Both are considered art.

or, who were these test subjects, their ages and backgrounds?

'Positive' changes is highly subjective when looking at a brainscan.

In the end all I can say is the perception of these individuals (who had grown up with the net) seemed to be very different to me (who grew up earlier). These weren't loners, social inept, depressed, or any other stereotype. They simply viewed the world a different way. Maybe its akin to someone who grows up blind and thus their mental models develop differently, or someone from the countryside vs someone from the city - these people had incorporated social interaction at a distance into their social toolkit. It wasn't that they didn't meet face-to-face, but that there was no hierarchy in their model that said one wasn't real.

It's not the way I view online interactions - but it's not something I'm going to claim is not real. For them it is real, it is natural - and I choose to see it as a positive example of how the human brain can adapt.

Gary, I think it's important to understand that this position in effect rejects both evolution and neurology. Not some 'studies' done by who knows who on which test subjects, but the state of the art understanding of the structure of the human brain and it's development in the evolutionary context.

Human brains are not simply the product of the few years of our current lives, but rather the legacy of millions of years of evolution in an environment which tuned the structures of the brain in specific ways to survive and to relate to other beings in what was at times a predatory environment, but far more often was a social environment (which is predatory in a different way). The physical signals we send and receive - mostly unconsciously - are signals evolved over eons of time for purposes not only of survival, but for establishing relatedness (mating, mutual aid, etc). We have limbic systems, as do all mammals, and this chunk of the brain not only offers, but *demands* emotionality, which depends on those signals. [Babies deprived of sufficient limbic interaction don't grow up to be socially inept - they die; see the book I linked to for details]. Online interaction starves our brains of these signals, which has a profoundly negative impact on our ability to interpret relationships properly.

Someone upthread mentioned webcams, which is a great example. Webcams rely, usually, on H.264/MPEG-4 or something similar (H.263 sometimes) for video compression. The underlying algorithm for such codecs is a discrete cosine transform, which is in essence a *predictive* algorithm. When you see someone on a webcam, you are not getting full frame by frame video, no matter how much bandwidth you have - you are getting a full frame followed by a bunch of predicted error differential frames. In other words, you are not seeing what's actually happening - but rather a good-enough approximation which fools your brain into thinking you are getting the whole 'picture,' so to speak.

Consider the case of microexpressions (decades of work done, most famously, on these by Paul Ekman). These expressions occur in as little as 1/25 of a second - they are flash expressions of emotion - fear, anger, joy, disgust, etc - which our brains evolved to interpret.

Remember a time when you met a person who seemed nice, but you were left with the impression that they did not like you - that's often due to microexpressions which you did not consciously perceive, but which your limbic system detected and interpreted appropriately. These expressions don't show up in web cams reliably because of the underlying technology being used. Thus, webcams - while seeming to give us more information, actually deprive us of the ability to grasp the underlying mental state of the person with whom we are interacting. Some people have a disorder which does not allow them to do this "mentalizing" - that disorder is on the autism spectrum, and even the mild form of it, called Asperger's Syndrome, tends to be severely debilitating because it profoundly interferes with an individual's ability to form and sustain relationships. Yet, people with this disorder don't really 'perceive' that there is anything 'wrong' with them - they learn over time that it's really hard for them to make friends, but they do not understand why. From their perspective, other people act in really confusing ways that don't make sense. So your friends' "perceptions", being necessarily wholly subjective, are not reliable. None of our perceptions are reliable, absent limbic modulation in conjunction with other beings in a social setting.

Based on this information, what do you suppose would be the result of youngsters who grow up relying primarily on online interactions in place of abundant face to face interactions? Do you suppose that perhaps they might tend over time toward a sort of artificially induced Aspergers? An inability to truly relate to other people? This is what current studies are showing, which now makes intuitive sense since we understand the underlying psychological/neurological basis (again, more on this aspect in the book to which I linked).

That's not to say they would not be "functional" - there are innumerable examples of very high functioning Asperger's patients (who interestingly tend to be brilliant, intellectually). But their capacity for emotionality could easily become impoverished. They would not necessarily be socially inept - but there's good reason to think a higher percentage of them may wind up being desperately lonely, unable to form genuine and emotionally intimate relationships. All the while pretending (ego compensation) that artificial online relationships, which starve their brains of the info needed to establish genuine relationships, suffice. It's a frightening and tragic picture I'm drawing here.

Communications researchers tell us that words - or text - represents about 7% of the informational content available in person to person interactions, vocal intonations and inflections another 18% or so, while the rest - the vast majority of data - comes from body language, including facial expressions and all of the other multitudinous movements our bodies can deliver.

So in online interaction, we are typically getting 7% of the message - with voice added, about 25%, max. Webcams may add a very few percent to that, depending on a lot of factors, but you are still working in the absence of the majority of info content the brain needs to work properly to establish any sort of limbic connection, which is essential for genuine relatedness.

So even if you cannot claim it's "not real" I am confident that neurologists and psychologists who are familiar with this information CAN. Those kids are fooling themselves, and it's a tragedy to allow them to keep doing so, when we know that lifelong damage is - at least in some sizable percentage of cases - very likely being done.

The anthropological evidence on the prerequisites of community (which include primary groups and face-to-face interaction) is overwhelming.

seeing each other's faces seemed to be key.

The key is resolution. Another study found that very high-res video duplicated the effect of face-to-face interaction (mirror neurons, etc).

Yeah, but you have to wonder whether the resolution of the study itself was simply not high enough to reveal missing mysteries in these hi-res relationships.

in other words, There are a lot more keys than just resolution. But don't tell that to Kurzweil..

I could see that.

But that still rules out the vast majority of Internet interaction. Facebook, blogs like this one, message boards, etc. We could do a lot more video communication over the net if we wanted to, but we don't want to. Most people aren't interested in video phones and the like. They don't want to be seen.

It's true.

The still pix on Facebook seem to be an effort in that direction. Kind've like people looking at a loved one's picture while reading their letter.

Business, OTOH, is moving (slowly, but surely) towards high-res video-conferencing.

I do thank the many people who have made this site work.

I agree. One person who's not been thanked is Super G for doing the tech back end. Beastie says 'thanks'.

There is no way that I would have bitten off something like this.

There is not enough cash flow to have done the effort for money. A type of love has to be the reason.

(an example of the time - this place should be overrun with posts for AAAwebdude-wanting-better-SEO-numbers telling us all about the value of the via-ag-rah! web site he's hawking. Yet I only get to report such posts 3-4 times a year - they do a fine job of pruning that stuff)

Thank you for all your extraordinary hard work you do, Leanan and Gail! I personally don't know how you managed to keep the Drumbeats going of the past 5 years! It is almost unthinkable for me to imagine what TOD would be like without your more than generous contribution not just to this site, but to society as a whole.

I firmly believe that TOD is filled with the most comprehensive, data analyzing, largely scientific minded people(if not than very close) you could find the Internet. Of course being an open-to-everyone site, there have been and always will be the negative, no nonsense, stupid comments from a few know-it-alls. However there are many more people who are providing data and seeking answers to some question they have (knowing TOD they will get an answer of some kind in no time).

So I will thank you both once again in both of your contributions since you have affected so many of us positively.

I'm going to make my first post now. I've only been reading here since I found the site during the GOM spill, but I'm really glad I found it. I really appreciate the down to earth info and people that are here. I will be reading here (and maybe making the occasional post) for a long time.

I've been PO aware for probably 6-7 years but haven't come across a site with the amount of good information and discussions as are present here. Keep up the good work!

I can see how long-time members may be driven away by the nasty attacks and way off-topic posts. I've not been reading that long so it's still easy to ignore that. But it gets nowhere when you drive people away with such vitriol. I may express myself that way when talking with a tiny private group that I know has similar opinions but this serves no purpose at all when trying to get ideas across to others. I know this from direct experience with my extremely conservative father-in-law, just the mention of "global warming" starts a tirade about scientists greedy for grant money or that he was taught in grade school that AGW is impossible. I avoid any of the hot button subjects around him, ie severely limits the subjects that we talk about!

I may be considered more "Liberal" by conservatives but I also have been called a "Conservative" in a very condescending way by others. All in all, makes it interesting living in Alabama while installing a 4KW off-grid PV system!

Again, thanks to the Editors, OFM, Rockman, LFR, Ghung and many, many others for all you're contributing!


+10 (and this is only my second post) Thanks to editors and the rest. This site is very illuminating and refreshing.

westexas, where is your answer (on Drumbeat yesterday) on Chris R's reply (an impressive list of countries) on your question:

Can anyone think of any examples of countries that hit a production peak/plateau--and that failed to show a new production high within three years--that subsequently had a new and higher production peak?


I'll try to revisit this topic in a few days. I think that we do need to use a production cutoff, the premise being that we are looking for global analogues.

Thought Paul (HereInHalifax) would have been all over this one before a West coaster...


The Nalcor-Emera deal is a big game changer in Canuck economic and cultural politics. Essentially the Newfies have given Quebec the middle finger salute, and good on ya lads!

There is a fair amount of cultural hegemony and chauvinism from the Quebecois because they have managed to have it their way from the equivalent of an overindulgent parent. Hopefully we can start shutting it down with actions such as the under sea transmission link.

Ironically, I devised such a transmission system a while back in discussions with the Nova Scotia contingent and with back of the napkin estimations arrived at the same $3-$3.5 billion. Irony is more often sour than sweet... (that is, wish I got paid for that gig).

I'm all over it, boss!

See: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7120#comment-743993

Addendum: I was in meetings at NSP when I responded earlier and pressed for time. FWIW, I don't harbour any ill feelings towards H-Q and the Province of Québec. Yes, it would be great if we all played more nicely, but business is governed by its own set of rules and I'm sure that if the tables were turned Newfoundland and Labrador would act no differently. And why should they?

Looks like some of the good stuff will ultimately make its way to New Brunswick and points southward. No surprise there.

N.B., N.S. premiers discuss energy co-operation

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter and New Brunswick Premier David Alward used their first formal meeting on Friday to discuss ways to strengthen regional energy co-operation.


Dexter said in an interview that it would be possible for Nova Scotia to consume all of the hydro power from Muskrat Falls. But the Nova Scotia premier said there is an option for a "win-win-win situation" that would involve New Brunswick.

"The best economic value actually comes out of having the marketplace that allows us to drive that energy down into New England," Dexter said.

"We will take 170 megawatts of the power coming from the Maritime link. There is another 330 megawatts that will come to the New Brunswick border."

See: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/11/19/nb-ns-alward-dexter-energy-meet...

What I also like about this deal is that it makes it easier to incorporate additional wind and tidal resources into our energy mix.

Hope you kept that serviette to wipe away the tears!


Looks like some of the good stuff will ultimately make its way to New Brunswick and points southward.

Anything that can reduce the Maritimes' dependence on fossil fuel generated electrical power (whether imported oil or coal) is welcomed news on the east coast. Yippee!

And this may actually improve Newfie-Québécois relations since the 1969 pricing arrangement over Churchill Falls is no longer the only game in town (a perennial stick in Newfoundland's craw).

From the vantage point here, this is a win-win situation. Something worthwhile celebrating.


I couldn't agree more, Tom; it's great news for all Atlantic Canadians, especially when our dollars help support a good neighbour.

And may I add that it's nice to have you back in these parts -- after all, not everyone can enjoy the pleasure of your company at the local Tim Hortons!


.... it's nice to have you back in these parts....

Thanks. Finally energy news close to home. Cheers!

And a refreshing change from the standard fare...

Point Lepreau is out of control

As far as we know, the contract between NB Power and AECL stipulates that above and beyond $1 billion and replacement power, AECL - in other words, the federal treasury - would pick up the tab. Rest assured this cost is already into the billions with a few more to come.


There is a very good chance that the Fall 2012 finish date won't be met, and that the plant won't work well even if it eventually runs again.

See: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/opinion/article/1301152

What a disaster.


Okay class, how does one spell "white elephant"?

'P-O-I-N-T L-E-P-R-E-A-U'

A little over 50 years ago, the Honourable C.D. Howe, the Minister of Trade and Commerce, found himself in hot water during the memorable and nasty "pipe line debate" (which precipitated the end of a generation of Liberal government rule in Ottawa) by saying, "What's a million?", when referring to expenditures.

Today we may ask, "What's a billion?"

Inflation, I suppose...

In America these days, it's 'what's a trillion?'

Hi Tom,

C.D. Howe.... I should know this, but during WW II, when he was Canada's "Minister of Everything" didn't he propose that we should "boil" the waters off the Atlantic coast so that we could cook enemy submarines like lobsters? Something tells me he wasn't joking (must have had a lot of surplus energy in those days).


I hadn't heard that story before.

C.D. was a civil engineer by trade - a professor of engineering at Dalhousie University before going into business and then politics. He was one smart cookie. He was known as the "Minister of Everything" for a reason; he geared up a moribund Depression ridden economy into a lean, mean fighting machine. By 1945, Canada had the world's third largest navy, fourth largest army, and one vibrant and booming industrial economy. Not bad for a country of eleven million souls.

Cooking enemy submarines sounds a little far-fetched -- more anecdotal than factual -- but right you are, we probably didn't worry too much about energy in those days. But I sure would like to see another C.D. Howe grace our political landscape again.

I know it sounds highly implausible given that the man was one smart cookie. It was something I'm sure I had picked-up in one of my poli sci classes, but that's going back some 30 years and the mind is known to play tricks. If it had been said, it must have been in jest. (And I'm confident that if anyone can set the record straight, it's you.)


The local BC relevant information to parse out of the story is 825 MW at $2.9 billion, or $3.5 million/MW. That's a good industry average for storage hydro.

BC Hydro Site C 900 MW at >$6 billion, or $6.7 million/MW. Is BC Hydro that incompetent? This has the makings of a third world scam project and I don't mean to insult the third world.

In the private development world, if it is much greater than $3.5 M/MW the project doesn't get done until the capex improves.

Whoa, I had no idea AECL is the general contractor!


Coal Prices Set To Rise

This CNBC video reports on an article written by The Post Carbon Institute declaring the end of cheap coal. I couldn't find the article but here is a report on the describing it:

Should we be planning for the end of cheap coal?

The authors of the comment unquestionably have an agenda; they come from the Post-Carbon Institute, which clearly has an interest in promoting consideration of a world that doesn't run on fossil fuels. And that agenda is obvious in the article summary, which concludes, "Energy policies relying on cheap coal have no future."

The CNBC video makes the same point, that the article has an agenda or bias. Addison Armstrong, Tradition Energy Dir. of Market Research says the report ignores the fact that there are two kinds of coal. There is "metallurgical coal" which is used in steel making and is cyclical. And then there is "steam coal" which is about power generation.

I found that very strange. I thought steel companies and power companies used the same kind of coal. I am sure that is likely what he meant but he specifically stated that there are two kinds of coal. Oh I am sure there are many kinds of coal but it is just that "metallurgical" and "steam" are not two kinds of coal.

Ron P.

Okay, I stand corrected. I thought they both used the same kind of coal. So which kind do we have the most of?

Ron P.

I would assume thermal, since its a lower grade. Incidentally, I assume, but don't know for sure, that virtually any grade of coal can be converted to coke, but I assume that it's much more expensive to convert lower grades.

That article and several others on the topic were posted in yesterday's Drumbeat, including an interview with Heinberg about it.

The article itself is at Nature, but it is behind a paywall.

There's a brief synopsis here.

I believe there will also be a key post on this soonish.

Re. Welcome to Farm School above:

This reminds me of the movie "Field of Dreams" = Build it and they will come.

I'd love to see a school that teaches agriculture/permaculture/pastoral methods using non-industrial techniques used by Amish, Native and other non-industrial cultures.

I've attended several seminars conducted by UNC/UGA that were were geared away from industrial farming; a couple on rotational grazing, one on minimizing use of chemical fertilizers and reduced mowing/tilling. They were also focusing on reducing erosion and watershed damage from silt and introduction of nutrients into streams and ponds. Great stuff for $10/class.

This stuff is out there if one looks for it.

There are a handful around the country. Tillers International (http://www.tillersinternational.org/)is near my home , and I've taken classes there which I'm putting to good use. Tiller's focuses much of their education on rural Africa, teaching them to use oxen and manufacture their own implements. The also teach the use of draft horses, which has been my focus. I got the impression that they weren't particularly peak aware until recently, but am seeing some significant moves in that direction (Richard Heinberg spoke at their big festival this fall). Neat place!

Thanks Ghung and David. One area of particular interest to me is the use of beneficial bacteria, nematodes and mycorrhizal fungi for permaculture and agriculture in general.

I'm looking into some of the commercial preparations available.

I'll start checking into tillersinternational.org later today when I have more than 30 seconds of free time.

Again, thanks for the info and links.

"mycorrhizal fungi for permaculture and agriculture in general. "

I'm sure you've read Stamets on this subject:


I've had quite a bit of success with their spawn, etc.

They are on my list of potential vendors, and now per your recommendation they will move up the list ;) - thanks Ghung for sharing that you had success with their products, word of mouth via fellow TOD posters is very helpful and better than relying on marketing testimonials.

I really do want the nematodes and bacteria too. If I recall correctly FSU-Gainsville has a product with the fungi/bacteria/nematode mix...

Ultimately I want to culture my own mix so my fellow locals and I do not have to depend on long supply chains that may not be available indefinitely.

I too will point out fungi Prefecti - Paul Stamets (in case what I say will help you form a positive opinion of Stamets work.)

Nematodes - never had a lot of success with 'em.

Ultimately I want to culture my own mix

Then "you" never want to touch Stamets product let the "yours" turns out to be "his" and "he" is litigious.

Mr. Stamets I believe has patents on some of the life he's using - those patents give hime to power to claim things are "his".

"Mr. Stamets I believe has patents on some of the life he's using .."

Patents, schmatents...... I know a guy who has patented many varieties of plants for decades. Another guy I built a PV system for inoculated a large pile of hardwood chips, several years ago, with some of Stamets' MicoGrow product. Every year he uses half to ammend his garden, then mixes a fresh ton or so of wood chips into the compost pile to keep the culture growing. It's amazing to dig into his pile of mulch and see the extent of the active fungal growth. Is this a patent violation if he doesn't sell it? Stamets provides direction (encouragement) as to how to keep the various cultures he sells going for extended periods in some of his trade literature.

I believe the violations would be claiming "this is mine" - I do not remember any contract terms on my Stamets products...will have to go look.

ZeroHedge seems intent on educating its readers about peak oil (dragging them kicking and screaming into reality ??).

Yesterday they had the Martenson/Kunstler interview (recall the sad comments from their readers). Today this:

Guest Post: As Things Fell Apart, Nobody Paid Much Attention

How will Americans survive without the 7,500 Pizza Huts, 5,000 Dairy Queens, and 8,000 7-11s that dot our highways? The average Joe is so busy tweeting, texting, and face-booking on their iPads, Blackberries, and laptops, watching Dancing With the Stars on their 52 inch HDTV bought on credit, or cruising superhighways in their leased Hummers to one of the 1,100 malls or 46,000 shopping centers, that they haven’t paid much attention as peak oil crept up on them.

The comments section has its usual tragicomedy flavor, but there are some Peak-Aware people in their crowd. I wish them luck.

The comments section on ZH is priceless. America needs to face this soon. We are getting crazy.

going? most of the country already is.

NRG invests $10 mln in Texas car-charging network

I really hope more power companies do this. It is very beneficial to them and the country. Power companies love EVs . . . not because it gets people using more power but because it gets people using power IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. In the middle of the night a lot of excess power is just thrown away since it costs more to turn off the plant than the just keep it running at a reduced level. And as the article points out, Texas is particularly great place for EVs since their wind turbines generate a lot of power during the middle of the night.

The excess "power" isn't "thrown away". Recall that "power" is the rate of use of "energy", as in kwh or BTU/hr. The capacity to produce electricity isn't being used as some of combination of available power plants must be operated at lower output in order to supply the reduced demand. This means that there is no fuel being consumed, that is, no energy is being "thrown away". The capital equipment could be used to produce the demand for EV re-charging at night, in which case, the equipment would wear out faster, as well as use more fuel if the equipment were operated by fossil fuels. Some types of electric generating equipment, such as natural gas fired turbines, are intended to be used only for short periods during peak demand periods during the day. There is not a "cost" associated with turning off the plant, it's just that amortizing the finance charges for the plant is spread over a smaller net production per year, thus the cost per kwh would be somewhat larger...

E. Swanson

Actually, excess electricity is literally routed to ground. It isn't simply inefficient usage of capital costs. There is actual fuel which could be put to good use just being wasted. It is the steam turbines that cannot be throttled well. If you reduce the heat to a steam turbine you run the risk of condensation inside the turbine, which causes turbine blade impingement. So they often create power is not put to any productive purpose.

Wow - so the power companies could give this excess power nearly for free - it's such a shame to waste. Too bad energy storage isn't more developed.

They try to . . . that is why you can buy electricity for 4 or 5 cents per KWH if you use it in the middle of the night. But yes, the lack of good cheap electrical storage systems remains a large engineering and science goal. Batteries are too expensive. The other systems are pumped water, fly wheels, and air pressure. But none of the systems are as efficient and cheap as we'd like. The solution of this problem is far more important for renewables . . . you want to capture & store that sun in the day time and that wind when it blows.

"It is the steam turbines that cannot be throttled well"

Oh really? The turbines I stood watch over ran just fine at any speed from just rolling over to full speed. The efficiency was best at some designed blade tip speed, but they throttled just fine with no damage. The generator turbines always ran at the same speed, but again, they could throttle from no load to full load with no trouble, and run at any point between for months.

Or is this lack of throttling ability a characteristic of multi-reheat supercritical steam turbines? Those I don't know that much about.

I think that the real problem in shutting down a steam plant is the fact that starting it up from dead cold takes so long. Warming up the steam generator and turbine to bring it up to full power can take hours. So, the turbine and boiler are kept running as "spinning reserve", which also provides a rapid restart as a back up capability if there is a failure in another plant which is online generating power.

Large steam power plants (both nuclear and coal fired) are designed to provide the baseload fraction of the power curve, that is, they are intended to run all the time, 24/7. As I recall from my steam power plant course back in the dark ages, the steam partially condenses as it passes thru the turbine. As a result, the designers include a series of re-heating steps at points within the flow. Also, the flow can be throttled with a control valve, which would be a different situation than that of simply reducing the heat added to the boiler, which your comment implies...

E. Swanson

Re: How Much Energy Does It Take to Get Our Energy? up top:

The article is total nonsense. EROEI is fallacious because energy is an abstraction like grain and metal. It is poorly defined and has important characteristics other than BTU content. Every BTU of energy is not the same just as every bushel of grain or ton of metal is not the same.

Treating an abstraction as though it is concrete is called the reification fallacy. From Wikipedia:

Reification (also known as hypostatisation, concretism, or the fallacy of misplaced concreteness) is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete, real event, or physical entity.[1][2] In other words, it is the error of treating as a "real thing" something which is not a real thing, but merely an idea. For example: if the phrase "holds another's affection", is taken literally, affection would be reified.

Note that reification is generally accepted in literature and other forms of discourse where reified abstractions are understood to be intended metaphorically,[2] but the use of reification in logical arguments is usually regarded as a fallacy. For example, "Justice is blind; the blind cannot read printed laws; therefore, to print laws cannot serve justice." In rhetoric, it may be sometimes difficult to determine if reification was used correctly or incorrectly.

Energy does not exist outside of its concrete forms just as grain and metal do not exist outside of their concrete forms. Energy is a idea made of of its various concrete forms just as grain and metal are ideas.

Bushels of grain and tons of metal are amorphous undefined abstractions. So so are BTUs of energy. All BTUs of energy are not the same. They are not like dollars as in $RO$I.

When different forms of energy are compared as is done in the article, there may be very large gains in usefulness that are overlooked when BTUs are converted from one energy form to another. This gain in utility may be so great as to offset any loss in BTUs.

This is the case with electricity which is invaluable in running electrical devices. It is also true in the case of bio fuels like ethanol where the utility of a liquid form of BTUs compatible with gasoline and the gasoline vehicle infrastructure outweighs a small gain or even a loss of BTUs in its production.

EROEI is only valid with comparing forms of energy that are alike. Cross comparison among different forms of energy treats the different forms as though they were the same with the same utility.
The whole point of processing froms of energy is to make a gain in usefullness.

EROEI treats energy as concrete when it is not. The forms of energy are concrete and can each be measured according to the standards for that form.

The standards of each form of energy are different from every other form of energy which means that that they can not be validly cross compared which EROEI and this article tries to do.

EROEI is false when used to compare different forms of energy.

"EROEI is false when used to compare different forms of energy."

No matter how many times you repeat this, you will still be wrong. I just don't understand where your obsession with this comes from. In my opinion, you make yourself look foolish, and it detracts from whatever useful points you might make. This is offered as helpful advice.

If it takes ~x BTU's of FF inputs to make ~x BTU's of ethanol, this is clearly foolishness, and a lot of trouble along the way - turning gold into lead.

EROEI is fallacious because energy is an abstraction like grain and metal.

That's just silly.

Neither energy, nor seeds/metals are abstractions. They are physical reality.

Efficiency is a concept arising from the application of thermodynamics. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it is not useful or important.

Motor Trend slams Limbaugh's critique of their selection of the Volt as COTY

You said, “Folks, of all the cars, no offense, General Motors, please, but of all the cars in the world, the Chevrolet Volt is the Car of the Year? Motor Trend magazine, that’s the end of them. How in the world do they have any credibility? Not one has been sold. The Volt is the Car of the Year.”

So, Mr. Limbaugh; you didn’t enjoy your drive of our 2011 Car of the Year, the Chevrolet Volt? Assuming you’ve been anywhere near the biggest automotive technological breakthrough since … I don’t know, maybe the self-starter, could you even find your way to the front seat? Or are you happy attacking a car that you’ve never even seen in person?

Last time you ranted about the Volt, you got confused about the “range,” and said on the air that the car could be driven no more than 40 miles at a time, period. At least you stayed away from that issue this time, but you continue to attack it as the car only a tree hugging, Obama-supporting Government Motors customer would want. As radio loudmouths like you would note, none of those potential customers were to be found after November 2.

Back to us for a moment, our credibility, Mr. Limbaugh, comes from actually driving and testing the car, and understanding its advanced technology. It comes from driving and testing virtually every new car sold, and from doing this once a year with all the all-new or significantly improved models all at the same time. We test, make judgments and write about things we understand.

A masterful job of defending their selection of the Volt as Car of the Year against Rush's uneducated ramblings. Give it a read, it is quite amusing.

Well, in the twisted mind of that gas bag there simply should be no reason that you can't employ some good old fashioned American pull yourself up by your bootstraps gumption and drill yourself an oil well (since it's ubiquitous just a few feet below the surface of the planet), refine it, sell any excess as an entrepenuer and become a millionaire, and gas up any old gas guzzler you damn well please.

Failure to do so simply shows that you are a welfare cheat or a communist - probably both.

Good for Motor Trend for treating a bully as they should be treated - reply to a shove by knocking some teeth out.

I wonder if Rush owns the Mineral Rights under his house...

"Just remember: driving and Oxycontin don’t mix."

Nice Book-end on a real "right-back-at-ya-Rush" masterpiece. LOL

America needs to seriously ask why are these angry Rush followers et al. are so worries about the Volt and its 10,000 vehicle release. Good lord, focus on real issues.

Has anyone else noticed that just over the last few weeks we are seeing more and more stories about energy shortages in different parts of the world?

I think the Collapse Engine is gaining momentum...


It does remind me of the time just before the run up to $147 - where energy shortages were reported in countries such as Bangladesh.

We then hit $100 at New Year and peaked the following summer, with the recession coming up close behind.

If history rhymes, then we could expect to see similar behaviours this step, but probably with a shorter gap between $100 and final peak (since the economy is already weakened).

Don't forget, there has been a cushion in prices as oil overproduction that was stored during the global collapse has re-entered the market. That means we rejoin Euan's 'wall' graph further to the right, with a correspondingly faster spike in prices.

I think at the moment I would predict $100 before April, spiking in the $120-$140 region before the global economies fall back into the second deeper dip.

Thunderhorse Info

Some time back there was discussion on Thunderhorse's production numbers. I appears the production problems revolved around pressure build ups in the tubing annulas, resulting in collapsed tubing, required recompleteing the well with differant tubing and nodoubt other changes.

Reserves are still suppose to be there and therefore once the new completions are in place production should pickup.

Time will tell.

Thanks for the update.

Seems like a lot of Thunder Horse's problems are related to the extreme depth?

Leanan - Typically such problems are not depth related per se. And often not a problem with absolute pressures at such depths. It tends to be related to pressure differentials. This results in packers, used to isolate different section of the completion tubulars, leaking. Another complication: formation water production can drasticly reduce the integrety of tubulers. I recently pulled tubing that had only been in the well for 7 months and I could crush sections of it with my hand. Just a guess but they may have gone with rather standard tubulars which now are shown to be unable to handle the produced water chemistry/cathodic reactions. If so it could me a prolonged effort to fix the problem.

But what about the pretty significant increase in produced water from the main structure?

Glenn Morton's article:



I will see if I can get some more details, I bumped into a ex BP hand in Well Services and started talking about the problems they were having. From his opinon it was mainly a temperature problem and the reserves were OK. I will hit up on the water production and see what he says.


My source did not have any knowledge of the water production, he was not on the project but was working on a couple of land jobs, but obviously Thunderhorse was a topic of conversation in the office.

Time will tell, as if it is a water production problem then raising production will prove difficult, where as if the solution is just replacing the production strings, then recovery should take place fairly quickly. That is if they have approval for workovers after their "little spill".

The article up top Gasoline Refining Margins Double on Outages: Energy Markets is a very good review of the refinery situation in the Northeast, and explains why we almost had a shortage develop here over the past week (I first mentioned this one week ago). Gasoline prices in the greater NYC area were about a 7 to 10 cents a gallon premium relative to the rest of the country earlier this week, but started to slowly drop back since yesterday.

The reason for this mostly being is that two NE refineries are restarting after some extensive maintenance: (1) ConocoPhillips is restarting the 250,000 b/d Bayway Refinery in Linden, New Jersey and (2) Hess has finished repairing a gasoline-making fluid catalytic cracking unit at its 70,000 b/d Port Reading, New Jersey refinery. However indications are the restarts will be gradual over a few days.

So there will be no shortage of gasoline in the Northeast for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But what about the next time? The EIA and IEA say oil demand will exceed supply in 2011. How exactly is that going to work out for us?

Resource usage may be affected in a strange new way in the next few years.

There is some concern by observers that boycotts, somewhat like a trade war, may break out if climate change deniers take over policy in the USA.

I think the larger concern is that the US would be behind in clean tech.