Drumbeat: December 18, 2010

South American mountains hold key to electric car's future: lithium for batteries

IN SUSQUES, ARGENTINA It's the lightest of all metals, skitters wildly on water and can unexpectedly explode. To mine it commercially requires an elaborate process involving drilling, evaporation tanks and chemical processing.

But if President Obama is to fulfill his goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, a once-obscure metal crucial for the batteries in those cars, lithium, will probably be mined by the tens of thousands of tons here in the high Andes. Its boosters say lithium will one day rival petroleum in value, and that has prompted a race to secure mining rights across this craggy, bone-dry mountain range where vast salt flats contain some of the world's largest deposits.

Chevron Says Wafra Oil Field Production Using Steam Is `Very Promising'

Chevron Corp., the second-largest U.S. energy company, said a pilot project to boost production by injecting steam into an oil field shared between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait showed “very promising” results.

Chevron is trying to boost production from the Wafra field in the so-called Neutral Zone shared between the two countries by as much as 600,000 barrels a day once a new method for injecting steam is applied on a large scale.

Coast Guard Report Examines Oil in Sea Floor Near Blown-Out BP Well

A federal report released Friday detailed the levels of oil that remain lodged in sea floor sediment around the blown-out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil was found in concentrations too small to collect in most areas, and below harmful levels. But the area spanning a mile and a half around the well had concentrations of oil mixed in with drilling mud at levels high enough to raise concerns about harming marine life. Chemical tests confirmed that it matched BP oil, and officials said there was no practical way to clean it.

WikiLeaks Reveals BP's 'Other' Offshore Drilling Disaster

A BP offshore oil platform suddenly shows signs of a potentially devastating leak. Bubbles form in the seawater. Alarms sound. Panicked oil workers flee the rig. That may sound like the moments that preceded last April's Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, but it actually describes an event 19 months earlier, in the Caspian Sea waters of tiny Azerbaijan. There are uncanny echoes of the Azerbaijan incident in the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, including the likely cause — a faulty cement job. But there was one marked difference: While the Gulf explosion created an ongoing political firestorm, the Azerbaijan leak remained almost forgotten until last week, when another leak — this time of diplomatic cables, released by WikiLeaks — showed just how close BP had come to a major disaster in the Caspian.

Nigeria Rebels Claim Responsibility for Attacks on Delta Oil Flow Stations

The Niger Delta Liberation Force claimed responsibility for bomb attacks yesterday on three oil flow stations in Nigeria’s Delta State belonging to Eni SpA’s Agip unit and Chevron Corp.

The attacks are a prelude to “a massive bombing soon where oil facilities, oil well heads, major distribution pipelines to the sea depot and refineries” will be targeted, Mark Anthony, a spokesman for the group known as NDLF, said today in an e-mail.

India: Coal shortage to beat mid-term projections

Within six months of the Mid-Term Review highlighting insufficient domestic coal production, current estimates have beaten the review’s coal shortage projections. The review’s assessment of coal production growth was already a downward revision from an initial estimate of 680 million tonnes by 2012.

Iraq entices investors to bid for power profits

BAGHDAD -- Iraq asked investors Saturday to compete to build four power plants and help the country meet burgeoning electricity demands, promising a healthy profit for the winners.

Why Night Raids May Doom U.S. Prospects in Afghanistan

Night-time raids by Special Forces have become a mainstay of the U.S.-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but they have turned much of the local population in the war zone against the Western presence. The conflicting narratives over what transpired in an Oct. 3 raid in the rugged farming hamlet of Loyi Rud, near the Pakistan border, is typical of the disconnect between the NATO mission and many of those it purports to protect. And that disconnect dims the prospects for success of the U.S. war strategy reaffirmed Thursday by the Obama Administration following a progress review.

‘Win-win world’ is possible

The world economic system is now creating disagreement and discord between nations, writes Gideon Rachman in ‘Zero-Sum World’ (www.atlantic-books.co.uk). He adds that new rivalries are emerging with the decline of American power; and the world’s major powers are finding that they cannot solve the big global problems such as climate change and nuclear proliferation, terrorism and failed states, energy and food security.

Our increasing use of biomass could mean trouble for our planet

According to research released by NASA, humans are using more and more plant life for “food, fiber, building and packaging materials and biofuels.” That increase is happening not just overall as the world population increases but also per person.

WikiLeaks cables: Dalai Lama called for focus on climate, not politics, in Tibet

The Dalai Lama told US diplomats last year that the international community should focus on climate change rather than politics in Tibet because environmental problems were more urgent, secret American cables reveal.

Dreaming of a trashy Christmas

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- 'Tis the season to be jolly, and unfortunately, to toss also out a lot of trash.

In the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's, American households generate 25% more waste. That's about 1 million extra tons of trash each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

How Green Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree? You Might Be Surprised

In the most definitive study of the perennial real vs. fake question, an environmental consulting firm in Montreal found that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually. The calculations included greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources and human health impacts.

An Efficient Way to Play Madden Football

Playing Madden NFL 11, the popular EA Sports video game, consumes roughly six times more electricity on the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Microsoft Xbox 360 than on the Nintendo Wii, according to engineers at the institute’s lab in Knoxville, Tenn. The Wii drew an average of 13.7 watts vs. 84.8 watts for the PlayStation and 87.9 for the Xbox. (The figures do not count the TV screens that the boxes must be connected to.)

Pittsburgh Steelers Treat Fans to a Solar Powered Tire Pump

The Pittsburgh Steelers have partnered up with a local environmental initiative to bring a solar powered tire pump to fans tailgating at this Sunday’s game versus the New York Jets. The matchup is also among the home games in which the Steelers have teamed up with aluminum giant Alcoa to promote recycling by football fans, and it provides a glimpse into the new alliances that are forming to push economic growth forward while cutting greenhouse gas emissions and conserving resources.

Cheapest Christmas ever

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It may not seem like it when the credit card bill comes due, but many popular Christmas presents are at their cheapest level of all time.

Toys are 55% cheaper today then they were in 1980, according to the Consumer Price Index. And that's a raw number, not adjusted for inflation. If a toy was $100 in 1980, it's $45 now -- never mind the fact that $100 then would be worth $265 today.

Iran trims petrol ration, first step in subsidy cut

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has reduced the ration of heavily subsidised gasoline motorists can buy each month, an official said on Saturday, in a tentative first step towards slashing long-standing government price supports. Iranians have been expecting a big rise in the price of gasoline for the last three months as the government starts to phase out the $100 billion spent annually to hold down prices of essentials like fuel and food.

Amid fears over a hostile public reaction, gasoline subsidies which allow Iranians to fuel their cars for just 1,000 rials (about $0.10) per litre had not been touched until now and the measure announced on Saturday was less severe than expected.

People rioted when the government started rationing subsidised petrol in 2007 and some analysts say big price hikes could reignite unrest which flared after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last year.

Iranian politicians have discussed cutting subsidies for years to stem wasteful consumption of valuable resources but Ahmadinejad has finally pushed the measure through at a time when Iran is under increasing pressure from sanctions imposed by countries concerned about its nuclear programme.

Fuelling energy uncertainty

However, the over-arching energy issue to watch - bringing potential for conflict - is the oil price.

It's been creeping upwards, with Brent crude today above $91 per barrel.

There's a return to the talk of 'peak oil'.

Goldman Sachs has been warning of cruising past the $100 mark next year.

Last month, the International Energy Agency said the price of oil is on track to rise to around $110 a barrel in 2015.

Long-term, by which it means 2035, it's talking about $200 per barrel.

Crude Oil Rises as Leading Indicators Index Gains by Most in Eight Months

Crude oil rose as the index of U.S. leading economic indicators increased in November by the most in eight months, a signal that the recovery will strengthen next year and boost fuel demand.

Oil gained 0.4 percent on the U.S. report and one that showed German business confidence unexpectedly climbed to a record in December. U.S. fuel consumption jumped 6.5 percent in November from a year earlier, according to a report today from the American Petroleum Institute.

Total U.S. Oil, Natural Gas Rig Count Falls 14 to 1,709, Baker Hughes Says

Oil and natural gas rigs operating in the U.S. fell from a 23-month high this week, according to data published by Baker Hughes Inc.

The combined oil and gas rig count declined by 14 to 1,709, the first drop in four weeks. Last week, the figure was at its highest level since Dec. 19, 2008. The rig count rose to a 22- year high in 2008, peaking at 2,031.

Shahristani to stay as Iraq oil minister - sources

(Reuters) - Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, the architect of deals with oil majors that could vault Iraq into the top ranks of global producers, will keep his job in Iraq's new government, senior officials said on Saturday.

Shahristani led the oil ministry as it set Iraq on an ambitious path to boost its production capacity to 12 million barrels per day in the next six or seven years, rivalling global leader Saudi Arabia, from 2.5 million bpd now.

Exxon spent $4.07M on lobbying in 3Q

Exxon Mobil Corp. spent $4.07 million in the third quarter to lobby the federal government on offshore oil drilling laws and other issues, according to a disclosure report.

That's a 43 percent drop from the $7.16 million that the Irving, Texas, oil giant spent in the year-ago period, but 62 percent higher than the second quarter of this year.

Ecuador judge closes proof phase of Chevron suit

(Reuters) - The Ecuadorean judge hearing a $27 billion environmental damages case against oil producer Chevron Corp told Reuters on Friday that he has closed the evidentiary phase of the trial.

Chevron Forces Legal Change

Ecuadorians suing Chevron Corp. over alleged pollution in their country have hired new lawyers and are overhauling their legal strategy after a year of aggressive legal moves by the oil giant splintered their legal team.

Transocean ordered to turn over rig safety records to government panel probing Gulf oil spill

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge has ordered Transocean Ltd. to turn over a batch of safety records to a government panel probing the deadly rig explosion that spawned the massive Gulf oil spill.

For Some Investigators, BP Oil Spill Is Just Beginning

It's been nearly eight months since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy killed 11 workers and spilled millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Since April, federal agencies have launched a series of separate investigations and this week the U.S. Chemical Safety Board held its first round of public hearings. Host Scott Simon talks with NPR's Jeff Brady about the continuing investigations into the causes of the BP oil spill.

Royal Dutch Shell Preparing 3 Plans for Gulf of Mexico Deep-Water Wells

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, is preparing three exploration plans to meet new requirements for deep-water wells in the Gulf of Mexico after the U.S. lifted a drilling ban, a spokeswoman said today.

Africa: Wikileaks Cables - Antidote to Corruption in Region ?

'Thursday, 17 December 2009, 11:37 S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 KAMPALA CLASSIFIED BY: Donald Cordell, Economic Officer, State [Department]

'1. Tullow Oil claims senior Ugandan government officials were 'compensated' to support the sale of a partner/rival firm's exploration and production rights to Italian oil company ENI (ref. A).

'Tullow Vice President for Africa Tim O'Hanlon identified XXX and YYY, as Ugandan officials who benefited from the sale of production rights by Heritage Oil and Gas to [Italy's] ENI. {O'Hanlon] requested U.S. assistance in ensuring the open and transparent sale of oil assets.

WikiLeaks: Sudan's president 'stashed $9 billion'

Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, is suspected of siphoning off $9 billion from his country's oil boom and depositing much of it in British banks, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

Venezuela assembly gives Chavez decree powers

(Reuters) - Venezuela's parliament gave President Hugo Chavez decree powers for 18 months on Friday, outraging opposition parties that accused him of turning South America's biggest oil producer into a dictatorship.

The move consolidated the firebrand socialist leader's hold on power after nearly 12 years in office, and raised the prospect of a fresh wave of nationalizations as the former paratrooper seeks to entrench his self-styled "revolution."

Alberta oil "demarketed"?

After watching a youtube video of Vivian Krause speaking to a Canadian parliamentary standing committee on Natural Resources, I simply don’t get it. Does the Oil and Gas industry need protection from the environmental foundations to continue to make record profits and protect their market? I don’t think so, they are quite capable on their own; between using highly paid lobbyists and having direct influence over elected officials, or simply through our unbridled consumption of petroleum based products, their market is well protected.

The Resiliency Factor

We know cities of the future will be vastly different than they are today, yet we are not doing much to change business-as-usual. For example, we keep planning and building auto-dependent suburbs knowing well that they — and the lifestyles they make possible — could soon be outdated. Either they will be too expensive to maintain due to peak oil, or they will be outlawed for their excessive carbon emissions, or both. Whatever way it happens, the age of fossil fuels is drawing to a close and we will need a long goodbye to prepare for its replacement. That is why it is important to begin the transformation now and to get it right.

Time for a New Dialogue on Green Energy

At the National Policy forum, held in Washington, D.C., Mike Eckhart, president of ACORE, asked, “Will clean energy win? If so, how and when?”

Despite, or possibly because of, a reorder of power in the House and Senate, many said that while clean energy faces challenges, it will and already is winning. The consensus was that if America cares to solve its problems of unemployment, energy dependence and yes, for a silent majority, climate change risk, we can expect much more momentum around clean energy policy and deployment over the next two years.

Public transportation is the way to go

Millions of cars, each car carrying one or two passengers on the highway, guzzling a non-renewable natural resource, spewing carbon dioxide into the air, contributing to global warming are generating major economic externalities borne by the majority of the public who don’t own or use private cars. Seen in this light, it is a form of social and economic injustice. While cars are here to stay, new and radical rethinking is required to address this imbalance. One way is to impose an economic surcharge on those who wish to enjoy the comfort of their private cars and subsidise those who opt to use public transportation.

While Malaysians are still far behind in adopting such a vision of public transportation, they are, nevertheless, quite ready to embrace public transportation for economic and personal reasons.

Bicycles vs Cars vs Trains: Interesting Trends via Google Books Ngram Viewer

This morning, my Twitter stream was quickly filled with tweets about this new tool from Google that allows one to search for words within the large Google Books collection. Called the Google Books Ngram Viewer, the tool has proven to be an interesting way to get a feel for how culture has changed throughout the past 200+ years, or more specifically, how that changing culture has been documented in the books written during this time.

Sharon Astyk: 300 Years of Fossil Fuels and Not One Bad Gal: Peak Oil, Women's History and Everyone's Future

The problem with Heinberg's history is that it is not "the history" of fossil fuels in 300 seconds, it is *a* history - a particular kind of history, one focused heavily on individual heroic achievement (specific inventors, generally male and white, who are given more time and attention than those who machined, used and adapted the technologies into daily use) and one that leaves out a large chunk of the explanation for the growth of fossil fuel technologies out of the story - the roles and acts of women. Now it is perfectly reasonable for a very short history to leave things out. But if we have time to observe that Tesla invented alternating current and everyone has a cell phone, we also have time to observe that one of the largest social changes in human history altered conditions in the Global North so that instead of one person in a household using fossil fuels in the public economy - owning a car, supporting the consumer economy now there were two - or two households.

Peak Oil Books for Everyone

In a perfect world, all our friends and family would have a complete understanding of peak oil and we could all talk spend the winter holidays talking about those things that most concern us. And in a perfect world, none of us would still be shopping for holiday presents in late December.

The reality, however, is imperfect. Most of us have friends and families who don’t “get it” yet, and some who are actively hostile. They may look askance at our concern with the price of oil or wonder why we’re running on about this. The holidays are a good time to (gently) offer up a little new information that helps people make sense of what you are thinking about. And you may have to buy a few gifts anyway!

Pakistan, China sign 13 agreements and MoUs in various fields

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan, China sign 13 agreements and MoUs in various fields Pakistan and China on Friday inked 13 agreements and Memoranda of Understanding on cooperation in economy, energy, banking, security and technology.

Tax Cuts for Energy, Too

The tax package includes an extension for renewable energy grants and a tax credit for ethanol producers.

Siemens May Help Fund Cape Wind Power Project, U.S. CEO Says

Siemens AG is in talks to help finance the construction of Cape Wind.

Backing the controversial wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts would ensure that the developers purchase Siemens turbines and may spur demand for offshore wind power in the U.S., according to Eric Spiegel, chief executive officer of Siemens Corp., the Munich-based company’s U.S. unit.

Dongfang Electric Receives $3.06 Billion of Nuclear, Wind, Thermal Orders

Dongfang Electric Corp., China’s third-largest power equipment maker, said it received 20.4 billion yuan ($3.06 billion) of orders for thermal-, wind- and nuclear-power generating equipment from India and China.

Point Beach nuclear plant reactor remains shut down Friday

The Unit 2 reactor at Point Beach shut down on Monday afternoon because of a problem with the control rods inserting into the nuclear reactor. Rods are inserted into the reactor to stop the fission process during a nuclear plant shutdown.

But a test revealed the rods were not inserting properly. After determining this week that the rods could be fully inserted into the reactor, NextEra attempted to restart the reactor on Wednesday, only to have another problem occur that kept the reactor offline.

EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gases

Unless and until Congress crafts legislation setting out a sound national policy to address our energy future as well as global climate change, it should not bar the Environmental Protection Agency from using its existing authority to require large new sources of greenhouse gases to install the best available control technology at the time they are constructed.

EU Carbon Permits Decline to Lowest Since July 28 on Rising Offset Supply

European Union carbon permits fell to their lowest price since July 28 as the United Nations- overseen regulator boosted the supply of offset credits.

Italian Financial Police Investigate Suspected Tax Fraud in Carbon Market

Italy’s financial police are investigating companies in nine of the country’s 20 regions for suspected tax fraud related to fake sales of carbon credits.

Arctic icecap safe from runaway melting: study

There is no "tipping point" beyond which climate change will inevitably push the Arctic ice cap into terminal melt off, according to a study released Wednesday.

I have not been very concerned about a re-ignition of the Korean war, but the fact that Chinese fishing boats have been clashing with ROK coast guard vessels over China's need to feed its masses is a touch worrisome.


China backed NK during the hot phase of the Korean War (it never officially ended), and the World needs China to rein in NK now.

If the ROK POs China enough, and ROK and NK don't cool their jets, China may be even less inclined than ever to attempt to moderate NK and defuse the situation.

OTOH, I personally think that China would prefer to keep things the way the are, with NK being perpetually 'on the edge', so as to continue to tie up US forces and prevent them from more fully from focusing on other contingencies in the Western Pacific.

This was a big story on CNN this morning. Bill Richardson called it a tinderbox and said it kept him awake all night.

Similar report this morning by the BBC:

US envoy Bill Richardson warns of Korea tinderbox

I think China is starting to wish North Korea would just go away and not complicate their global strategy. This may well happen. North Korea may self-destruct, and then sorting out the mess will become South Korea's problem.

As far as fish are concerned, "wild" fish are going the way of the buffalo. The factory trawlers are wiping out the global fish stocks (except for a few survivors) and then the world will have to pursue alternative solutions. Fish farms are the obvious solution. After all, we don't eat "wild" cattle or "wild" pigs any more (except for a few of us who eat "wild" game in expensive restaurants.) The Chinese will find it is a lot easier to lease coastal waters in other countries on other continents for fish farms rather than squabble with its neighbors over fishing rights. They're already leasing vast amounts of farmland in Africa, leasing coastal waters in South America would be similarly easy.

The neolithic age of catching fish in the ocean is coming to an end, and the age of fish farming is upon is. People may complain, but so did the stone age hunters, and a lot of good it did them after agriculture was invented.

Here's hoping that NK's leader(s) do not choose to go out with a bang (and a blinding flash of light).

Fish farming...can this realistically scale up to meet the World's needs?

The Yellow Sea is very shallow. It is less than 100 meters in depth in most places, and it is less than 50 meters deep over much of its surface.

It did not exist during the last glacial maximum.

So much of it should be suitable for fish farming.

I couldn't find a map of international borders for the Yellow Sea, but I'm sure that they are disputed anyway, because:
- the US helped Japan hang on to islands near Okinawa after World War II that China claims are historically Chinese, and,
- the US helped South Korea hang on to island far west of Seoul near the southwest corner of North Korea after the Korean War.

These give South Korea and Japan claims over parts of the Yellow Sea that the Chinese would consider rightfully theirs.

My real question is the whole premise that very large-scale fish framing (aquaculture?) can scale up to feed the ~7B folks on the planet, in combination with foreseeable, practical levels of agriculture.

What do we feed the fish?

Where does that come from?

Do the fish need to roam the seas in order to thrive, or will they thrive in (even very large) enclosures?

Will the fish be bred to mature rapidly and have other plate and palate-friendly enhanced characteristics?

Will the fish be fed growth hormones, antibiotics, anti-fungals, melamine, etc?

Will we recycle the fish poop or let it float through the enclosure nets?

What if the domesticated fish escape and breed with the remaining wild stocks?

Will large-scale aquaculture with specially-bred mono cultures be especially vulnerable to diseases and/or parasites?

What consequences will large-scale aquaculture have for the ocean's food web?

What unintentional consequences of all kinds aren't we thinking of?

Will large-scale aquaculture areas be vulnerable to poisoning by terrorists and vulnerable to attack by hostile neighbors?

Check out Open Blue Sea Farms. They have some of the answers to your questions. They are happy to answer questions. I have corresponded with them.

Open Blue’s initial species is Cobia, a premium sashimi grade, marine white fish, targeted for the gourmet seafood market, the upper 20% of the seafood industry in the U.S.

Jeez, Fred. What will "We the Little People" eat? Just asking, 'cause I went to the market today and even lowly talapia was $7 a pound. Catfish on sale for $4.99.

That fat squirrel on the bird feeder looks better every day ;-)

Jeez, Fred. What will "We the Little People" eat? Just asking, 'cause I went to the market today and even lowly talapia was $7 a pound. Catfish on sale for $4.99.

I know, I usually eat local sea food that I catch myself. Fat squirrel is a dietary supplement that I would not turn my nose up at. To be fair I was only suggesting a look at Open Blue as a place where some of the questions asked by Heisenberg were being addressed from a technical POV. I don't believe they have the solution to feeding the world's hungry and that obviously isn't their intent. However they are certainly developing some interesting technology that is still pretty radical in the aquaculture world.

BTW $7.00 a pound for Tilapia is ridiculous and a rip off in my book. If I'm not mistaken most farmed Tilapia is a species of African Cichlid. When I lived in Brazil I used to catch a local wild variety. They are very hardy and ubiquitous and live in just about any pond or lake there.

And conspicuously absent is any mention of what these fish are being fed...

No, they are up front about what they feed the Cobia. BTW I corresponded with Brian at one point to ask him about the feasibility of farm raising aquatic insects such as Giant Water Bugs to supplement the fish feed. Cobia do eat crabs and other crustaceans in the wild and Water Bugs are especially nutritious and fast growing and could theoretically be added as a supplement. Of course farming Water Bugs is a whole nuther can of worms >;^)


Fish feed for carnivorous fish contains fish meal and fish oil from small fish such as anchovetas and menhaden. The feed is one of the points of contention between fish farmers and those who say farming carnivorous fish such as cobia and salmon is by its nature unsustainable because it puts increased pressure on other wild fisheries to source the feed. In response, Brian says it can be sustainable if fish farmers focus on sourcing their feed from companies that acquire the fish meal and fish oil from sustainably managed fisheries. Also, Brian says one of the reasons cobia is a good fish to farm is that they require less fish meal and oil than other fish.

To be honest I have my own doubts about the sustainability of large scale fish farming based on fish meal and would like to see alternatives developed.

I had an ad-hoc tour of a fish farm last year, where they were growing algae for fish food in 10,000 gallon tanks out in the bay. They weren't actually raising fish themselves any more, they were selling the algae to other fish farms because algae made more money than fish did.

The owner showed us pictures of the various ski resorts in Europe that he went to every year, so we could tell he wasn't doing too badly.

It was an amazingly high-tech operation. They had a lab with about 24 different breeds of algae sitting around in flasks, and they could deliver algae to their customers with the exact nutritional requirements they wanted. It was just a matter of growing it from the test tubes through large and larger containers in the lab, and then to the 10,000 gallon tanks in the ocean.

Their other big market for algae was cosmetics. And they also had a nice business selling spat (baby oysters) to oyster farms, and mustard mussels to Wolfgang Puck.

....will genetically engineered fish escape and outcompete native species?

Probably not, they would be engineered for bulk and be virtually certain to be less survivable than the result of 400m years of fishy evolution (red in tooth and claw) in nature in a straight fight. Like cows on land.

...unless they reach spawning size quicker than wild fish.

Best laid plans, unintended consequences and all that...

...unless they reach spawning size quicker than wild fish.

They will more likely be like the Broad Breasted White Turkey, the most consumed variety of turkey, which can't fly, can't run, and can't even mate without assistance. They produce the entire population using artificial insemination. They're notorious for dying in rainstorms because they're not smart enough to come in out of the rain.

I wouldn't worry about genetically engineered fish taking over the world. They won't engineer them to swim faster, be tougher, or outsmart other fish. They might not even engineer them to mate without assistance. The objective is food production, not survival ability.

I wouldn't worry about genetically engineered fish taking over the world.

And yet that was the same attitude shown by:
The ex-congressman who was going to save the US by fish farming Asian Carp. The same carp that is now in the Mississippi and looking to move into the Great Lakes.

Monsato corp WRT round-up. Now roundup resistant weeds are here.

The aquarium in Europe who dumped the toxic seaweed into the water....Oh, no worry it won't grow here.

Say - arn't you the gent who says fracking for natural gas doesn't have issues?


If you are going to slander commenters with interpretations of their previous remarks, you should link to them. I suspect that your claim that this commenter said that fracking is without issues is another one of your misdirections. I know that when you used the same technique on me is was without basis. But if you'd link we'd know.

And the answer to all of the above is "probably." Probably.

I was curious about the total from farms; Wikipedia says fisheries accounted for 32% of total take worldwide in 2004, with 8% growth per annum. [url=http://www.fao.org/fishery/statistics/en]Their source[/url], the UN, has much more update stats, however: 37% and 63% for aquaculture and capture in 2008. That trend didn't quite play out.

According to a study conducted at Purdue University, if just 60 genetically engineered fish escaped into a wild population of 60,000, the wild population would become extinct within forty generations.


A report from the National Academy of Sciences said there is a “considerable risk of ecological hazards becoming realized should transgenetic fish or shellfish enter natural systems."


I prefer bluegill (freshwater fish) that are all over the Upper Midwest in rivers, lakes, ponds. Probably one of the best tasting fish and I would assume very easy to raise (they seem to love worms, flies, waxies)

A combination of Bluegill and Bass have been advanced for over 60 years in farm pond stocking in NA. Bluegills are (sweet) tasty as are all the other smallish Sunfish... cooked properly there isn't a problem. Our cultural hang-up is that we want to be eating boneless fillets and that requires a larger fish.

1) One nations established fish is anothers invasive species. (At least one species of North American fish is invasive someplace else....)
2) Some fish demand is for Sushi fish - and that has to be salt water lest the lifecycle of some kinds of parasites will be completed.

Bass eat high on the food chain, are slow growing and are larger sized thus feature the Mercury from coal burning in their flesh. So unless your breeding/raising program can somehow start with and keep out rainwater and rainwater runoff - if your goal is to have fish protein with low Mercury Bass isn't a good choice.

if just 60 genetically engineered fish escaped into a wild population of 60,000, the wild population would become extinct within forty generations.

They're just spouting fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) without having any idea of what they're talking about.

During the early 20th century, British Columbia and several US states released millions of Atlantic salmon into the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to establish a spawning population in the west coast rivers. They failed miserably. I think a grand total of four salmon came back to spawn. They have no idea what happened to the rest of them, but it probably involved some Pacific predator eating them.

According to a study conducted at Purdue University, if just 60 genetically engineered fish escaped into a wild population of 60,000, the wild population would become extinct within forty generations.

There's about 500 million years of fish evolving by means of natural selection that says they are just plain WRONG!

Disclaimer: Unless of course the genetically engineered fish were specifically engineered to have an advantage over the wild population due to being better adapted to a changed or rapidly changing natural environment.

...will genetically engineered fish escape and outcompete native species?

Not a chance. They don't genetically engineer fish to outswim or outfight predators, they engineer them to be grow fast and be fat, happy, and stupid. The seagoing equivalent of the deep-breasted turkey.

They haven't even had any success introducing Atlantic salmon to the Pacific - and it's not that there is anything preventing them from swimming around Cape Horn by themselves. It's just that when they go out into the Pacific, they don't come back.

Nobody knows why but I suspect there's something in the Pacific that likes to eat fat, sluggish fish. Maybe that's why the Pacific salmon are smaller and better fighters.

"Here's hoping that NK's leader(s) do not choose to go out with a bang (and a blinding flash of light)."

North Korea is the most militarized country in the world today,[4] having the fourth largest army in the world, at about 1,106,000 armed personnel, with about 20% of men ages 17–54 in the regular armed forces.[5] It also has a reserve force comprising 8,200,000 personnel. It operates an enormous network of military facilities scattered around the country, a large weapons production basis, a dense air defense system, the third largest chemical weapons stockpile in the world,[6] and includes the largest Special Forces contingent (numbering 180,000 men)

A blinding flash of light and the following bang would likely be the only practical option for dealing with Fortress NK. This sore has been festering for a long time.

Granted that NK is extremely militarized...however, back in ~1990 the Iraq was characterized as having the World's fourth-largest army, supposedly with well-trained troops, a variety of good equipment, chemical weapons, special shock troops, and so forth.

Be that as it may, a renewed hot war with NK could go various ways...they could capitulate if the generals under their maximum leader chose to fold their hand and surrender...or it could be very ugly.

That being said...the U.S. (with assistance from ROK forces) could not only defeat NK, but devastate it using only conventional weaponry applied with little mercy, and sufficient time.

Think 'Highway of Death' from the Battle of Khafji from the first Gulf War (1991), but several orders of magnitude larger.

All without the U.S. expending any special weapons.

If NK popped chem and/or nukes, we could still choose to refrain from using our own special weapons, but extend our retaliatory obliteration to all NK civilians and civilian infrastructure...now think Dresden and the Tokyo firebombing in WWII.

I think this is the route we would go if we and/or our allies are attacked with WMD...the result would be horrifying, to no one more so than the NK people, but we would still hold the special weapons cards reserved in our deck, which would send a very powerful message.

The idea of the full fury of U.S. conventional forces unleashed with very few targeting restrictions causes me to shudder.

If you think that the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC), Geneva Conventions, etc. would keep that from unfolding, I would posit that if NK detonated a special weapon over Seoul or Japan and/or widely employed chemical and/or biological weapons, the U.S. would follow LOAC's guidance that our military response be proportional to the enemy's level of force...as long as we stayed conventional, we could create enormous destruction and suffering with conventional weapons only.

NK's leaders are hopefully sane and will hopefully stick to saber-rattling.

It should be remembered why North Korea is armed as it is: The USA destroyed ALL urban areas in the North and killed about 1/3 of the populace through its genocidal bombing campaign. Most of what the US and English reading public know about the Korean War are lies.

"Most of what the US and English reading public know about the Korean War are lies."

Most? Then it shouldn't be difficult to cite specifics :-/

The Chinese Revolution, Korean War and Viet Nam War were at least partly religious wars, waged to save the progress made by generations of missionaries on the mission fields of Asia converting the yellow heathen to Christianity.

Madame Chiang Kai-shek

Francesca Maria Barbara Donner
Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu

Do you know if there is a biography written on these three women? A fascinating read for sure -- each lady with Christian connections and each with intimate and active access to the movers and shakers of pre-Communist (non-Communist?) Asian players.

Learn something new everyday on TOD. Thanks Merrill.

There are a number of biographies of Madame Chiang Kai-shek, but for the other two you will probably have to look for biographies of their husbands.

For some reason, when you said "three women", I thought you were talking about the three Soong sisters.


One of whom was Madame Chiang Kai-shek. They made a movie about their lives a few years ago.

Some years back a Korean colleague gave me a book _Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History_ by Bruce Cumings. A really informative read. It covers prehistory up through the Korean War.

The USA was dropping dummy atom bombs on the north - same size and shape, same bombing run. The air force in Okinawa was practicing loading bombs. The real bombs were in Guam, on their way. MacArthur was determined to go all the way, but then Eisenhower fired him.

By then the north had been bombed flat. Everything and everybody had been driven underground.

Exactly how we can avoid massive mutual destruction, as we each try to get the other to collapse first, I don't really know. It seems rather a long shot. But if we can all learn about the other & start to see that both good and evil are universally distributed, even if they get expressed in peculiar ways... maybe we can work more at cultivating the good than the mutually assured suicide of destroying the evil.

Wasn't it Truman who fired MacArthur?

ET, you are correct sir.

Dont forget the GBU-43/B in a DPRK conflict. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GBU-43/B_Massive_Ordnance_Air_Blast_bomb

Its a cute lil bunny :]

Below is a summery of a "thing" I sent out to friends a few weeks ago. Just my 2 cents worth. Thought it might make a fun read, for some of you.

DPRK Spartacus

In the Event of North Korean Collapse:
A MASSIVE and traumatic economic shock to Asian stock markets.

If South Korea took in the most North Koreans,as should be expected as China has troops along its border to avoid North Koreans from flooding into China... Almost overnight you'd have: 1/3rd of SoKa GDP being spent on welfare payments to *Former* North Koreans. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/oplan-5029.htm

-NO ONE- wants this.

In an Event of War between North/South:

If democratic South Korea, [backed by the US] were to win a war with the North: Yet another nation, on China's border would become democratic, while China was not. Thats bad Domestic PR for China. Not to mention all the other horrors of this event. And its not really a war China wants the north to win, as Asia's 3rd largest Economy would be annihilated.

If a Coup takes power in North Korea,
that China didnt control:

A US Backed re-unified Korea would give the US even more geopolitical leverage in Asia. Just look at the influence Russia lost, and the US gained, when Germany re-unified. Extreme example, for sure. But there is truth in this.

China has the most to lose,
in an UNCONTROLLED collapse and/or war.

China doesn't want a war:
It kills stock markets, Risks a U.S./China war.
America doesn't want a war. [See above]

South Korea doesn't want a war:
Risk of DPRK WMD use + war isnt fun.

North Korean leadership:
just wants to stay in power.

China has only two options
to "ensure peace",
upon the death of Kim Jung Ill.

Given that the war between North/South Korea never ended:
If China were to send troops into North Korea W/ UN sec concl BLESSINGS under guise of being: "UN Peace keepers" [A semi-believable mandate given how DPRK keeps saying US will invade ANY moment] to "Ensure the U.S. would never invade". [Wink Wink]

It would also allow China to retain political leverage on the peninsula. China would also retain its Geo-political power on the peninsula.

From a US veiw this isnt great, but considering other options, this would be the least worst option. Stock markets might jump around like they snorted pixi-sticks, but would calm down, in weeks.

Given how WEAK Kim Jong Un is at the moment... I admit this is "risky". After all, if a man has NOTHING to lose, then he has nothing to lose going down in a fight.

But I believe this is highly plausible given the lack of other options. It would be the best possible outcome, for -EVERYONE- in ALL of this. Everyone WANTS things to remain the same... but I dont think thats possible anymore.

Sure, DPRK is a China puppet Gov, if its got a hundred thousand "Blue helmets" from China "protecting" it from the US. But does anyone wanna argue that China isnt holding the DPRK strings, as things stand now?

China has only two "REAL" options:
Send troops, or support a coup.

The situation as it stands:
is a threat to the peace in ALL of Asia.
"New Japanese defense plan emphasizes China threat"

And as much,
a threat to China's economic viablility.

The DPRK is building a new Tunnel for ANOTHER underground nuke test as I type.

This has to come to an end.

Of course, China only has these options, if Russia and the US don't start a coup ourselves.

NEVER, EVER, overlook the influence Russia holds.
They too have a border with North Korea. Yet, they are almost never mentioned in regards to this crisis in western press. They are dangerous, here.

That new missile shield *Russia & NATO* are building is a -JOINT PROJECT-. It is NOT there to protect Russia from Iranian missiles. Since Iran has no known missiles with THAT kind of range.

Russia is terrified of China, and wants to join a "Geo-political north" agreement. Their newest Warships are being built by the French:

I believe that in the end,
it comes down to this:
Someone better find a "North Korean Spartacus"

Who finds him first?
Hu finds him first?

Here's hoping that NK's leader(s) do not choose to go out with a bang (and a blinding flash of light).

I was talking to one of my nephews at our family Christmas party yesterday. He said that his ex-roommate from college was from South Korea and had gone back to Korea to fulfill his mandatory military service.

He said that, after the last artillery attack by NK on SK, his South Korean buddy was so mad he couldn't see straight, and just wanted to go to North Korea and kill North Koreans - which he would do if war was declared. This does not bode well for the future.

The SK economy is now about 20 times the size of the NK economy, and is far more technologically sophisticated, so in any serious military conflict involving modern weapons, NK would be smashed flat. I hope their rhetoric doesn't blind the NK leaders to that reality. Also, if NK used nuclear weapons on SK, the US would vaporize NK with its much larger stock of nuclear weapons - another reality.

so in any serious military conflict involving modern weapons, NK would be smashed flat.

I'd like to bring the discussion around to energy - exactly how do you stop fission/fusion based weapons and still allow fission reactors to be made? Cuz it'd be a shame to have to have a radioactively hot war for man to go "gee, the peaceful atom didn't work out"

Mankind has had 50+ years to noodle that out and seen failure all along the way.

From this catbird seat you either allow fission reactors and therefore accept Man's nature of not only building machines that fail but also Man's inhumanity to Man (aka reactors will suffer attacks from others) or Man needs to turn its back on using the technology for power generation and seek a different way of making hot water.

There is no good option for China. They cannot tolerate multiple divisions of US-backed S. Korean troops on their southern border - even if they didn't perceive it as an immediate threat, it would tie up many divisions of their own troops indefinitely as a necessary counterbalance. Can you imagine how the US would respond if (when) Mexico collapses, and Chinese troops move in en masse to "stabilize" the region? The Reagan Administration went nuts at the thought of a few Russian Hind helicopters in El Salvador - which, as it turned out, were never there anyway.

I have visited Korea ten times in the past two years, and no one that I've met there gives the North a second thought. Part of it is surely denial, or how else could they function? But this stalemate has been going on for generations, and clearly nobody wants another cataclysmic war. A military dictatorship like the North's needs an external enemy to sell to its people if it hopes to keep the focus off its own failings to provide basic services. The North is in terrible shape, but it's far from a popular revolution, so the status quo is still holding up for the privileged few. In other words, they can keep-on-keeping-on, if they can just overcome their cash-flow problems.

Who was the Russian observer who recently described the North as a curious place where an attack on the South translates into a request for cash? He opined that the South would be well advised to once again pay the protection money - quietly - while keeping up its saber-rattling for the sake of its own populace. It's a lot cheaper than war. For their part, the South is well aware that the military exercises that are going on at this very moment are seen in the North at least as provocation, possibly as an imminent threat. But of course the South has to do something to appease its own enraged citizens after the great loss of life aboard the Cheonan in March, followed now by the deaths of civilians on Yeongpyeong Island.

As insular and brutal as the Kim regime is, it's not suicidal. They understand that if they do fire off those thousands upon thousands of mustard gas shells into Seoul, they will surely lose all. It's their version of MAD, and like our own nuclear deterrent, it only works if it is never used.

One former Army vet I know who once worked the DMZ described it as a dangerous place to be; one time he described how the personnel were trained to not walk along the walls of buildings facing the DMZ because one becomes an irresistible target to the solders in the North. *Pop*!

One would certainly think that fish "farming" would be the way to go. But the fact remains that most fish farms use fish meal -- from wild stocks -- as feed.

Fish farms don't increase the capacity of the oceans one iota, but rather allow us to vacuum up the baitfish that we wouldn't otherwise be eating and turn them into something we can.

In the case of salmon farming, the fish meal is also concentrated for high-fat content, resulting in farmed fish having approximately 10x the toxin load of their wild counterparts -- certainly not something I'm willing to eat.

Shrimp farms are often place on former mangrove and estuary sites which they completely destroy (that's why the stores are loaded with "cheap shrimp" nowadays.

The one bright spot might be freshwater fish farming such as tilapia farms. I think they feed more grain than fish meal, although I'm not as well versed on those.

Overall, fish farming is little more than a new technique for cleaning the last few crumbs of life from the ocean -- a move of desperation that will ultimately hasten the demise of our oceans and ourselves.

Regarding Fish Framing as the Future.
Modern industrial fish farming is even worse than factory trawling. Most farm fed fish are raised on Fish Meal which is made from fish specices deemed un suitable for human consumption and off quota spicies . Here it is mainly Boar fish/Scad/Blue whiting. From memory it takes in the region of 5~6 lbs of fish to make the fish meal feed per pound of finished Farm Salmon.
Nice Picture of local boat landing load of Scad (~180tons) destined for fish meal.
Installed Horse Power ~ 2500Hp about 120Gal/Hr of diesel and she fishes with her Pair ship Golden Rose using the same amount.
Totally screwed come the down slope in peak oil.

I refuse to eat farmed fish. The sardines and herring that I eat for breakfast are wild fish, and I also eat wild Alaskan salmon.

IMO, farmed fish are not safe to eat.

You're probably right, Don.. but the whole fish picture is very shakey, too. I just interviewed a one-time Maine Fisherman who's now doing Marine/Riverine ecology studies at Bowdoin College in Brunswick Maine, for a video on the opening some of the Penobscot River Dams to improve Anadromous fish migration, and he told me that the Herring population in the Gulf of Maine fisheries have seen a decrease of some 60% in the last TWO years.. Salmon and many other species are all in very poor shape as well.

It's not just the squirrels who'll be getting a run for their money.

I suspect it's possible to create some forms of fish farming that are reasonably healthy.. but a huge part of that puzzle as with big ag, will be to work away from Monocultural approaches. As my interview subject said to me.. there's no such thing as 'one species'.. they exist as parts of a complex networks of animals, plants and natural flows, like fresh and salt water and embodied nutrients. Approaching any one facet with an eye for 'surgical, large scale extraction' is like taking a piece out of an airplane, and then being surprised that it can't fly any more..

When fishing boats have to go back to sails and oars, perhaps there will be less overfishing than we have now. Big diesel engines driving big "factory" ships that trawl deep have greatly increased the fish catch and greatly contributed to overfishing the oceans.

I am constantly surprised that canned mackeral, tuna, salmon, sardines, and herring are so cheap. Indeed, low fish prices have driven many fishermen out of business--perhaps even more boats and fishermen are idled due to low fish prices than due to reduced catches caused by overfishing.

Overfishing is really dumb--a classic example of the tragedy of the commons. I like the way the lakes and rivers of Minnesota have game wardens to enforce fish limits for recreational fishermen. Now, if we only had global regulations and quotas everywhere for ocean fishing . . . .

He was telling me about the big trawlers offshore which collect up to a million pounds of biomass daily.. at that rate, it doesn't take long. He felt a return to smaller local fishing operations, with stricter controls on the big trawlers would be best for the fishery and for the currently devastated local economies.

Just remember a big player in the ocean oil/biomass was Zapata. Zapata was formed by George HW Bush.

If people will wish to continue eating seafood then they will have to start learning recipes for jelly fish as they will be one of the few things left and multiplying due to lack of predators.


Depends - Should someone eat what comes out of the Gulf these days?

How about the problem with the plastics in the ocean - the small bits are eaten as food and thus the PCBs that the plastic 'hold onto' are, in part, transferred into the critters that ate the plastic. Mercury bio-accumulates also. For many versions of aquaculture this problem can be avoided. Thus, a farmed fish may be a healthy creature to eat.

The 'problem' for fish farmers - most fish can't eat the cheap land protein as expressed by soy beans. The fish just stop living it seems. Fish like tilapia will eat plant and animal - still can't eat soy tho.

The issue of non native species is always a problem....The 'fish' is already out of the bag - The ex-congressman and his flying carp are well on their way into the Great Lakes. Snakeheads always get people upset.

I refuse to eat farmed fish. The sardines and herring that I eat for breakfast are wild fish, and I also eat wild Alaskan salmon.

Enjoy it while it lasts. At the rate the international factory trawlers are going, it won't last much longer. Then all the fish in the market will be farmed, because there will be no more wild fish, at least from the ocean.

From the above Crude Oil Rises as Leading Indicators Index Gains by Most in Eight Months

U.S. Fuel Demand

Total deliveries of petroleum products, a measure of demand, climbed to 20 million barrels a day last month from 18.8 million in November 2009, according to the API. Consumption during the first 11 months of 2010 rose 2.4 percent to 19.2 million barrels a day.

“The uptick in demand is a real good sign about the economic rebound,” said John Felmy, chief economist with the Washington-based API, in a telephone interview. “There’s been a consistent uptick in demand for industrial fuels this year.”

Wow! There's a positive spin on rising fuel prices. Even the pundits are saying economic "rebound" goes hand in hand with recovery of triple digit oil prices.

Obviously, if $90/barrel plus oil is "a real good sign", then really happy days await us in the near future! (please note the sarcasm).

So, for us who are watching this "rinse and repeat" scenario unfolding, the magical question is will the global economy stall out at $100/bbl. or $147/bbl. or $200/bbl.? Or will the China-India engine keep the keep the price soaring?

$100/bbl. oil by Groundhog Day, anyone? $40/bbl. oil by Easter? Maybe $200/bbl. this summer? It's anybody's guess.

The high price of oil really was not the cause of the economic meltdown in 2008, vastly over leveraged banks did that all by themselves. But for sure even modest increases in oil prices will step on the air hose of a fragile economic recovery. The US can't get job increases high enough to compensate for population growth, very small shifts in spending from job producing sectors to pay for gasoline can turn things negative. The difference may be small, but they can keep the grinding misery alive.

Fuelling energy uncertainty link not working for me :-(

Works fine for me. Perhaps you're being blocked by a filter or something?

The UK is experiencing unusual weather conditions with snow that's causing massive problems with transportation. Both Heathrow and Gatwick airports were closed. There are reports that " hundreds of motorists were stranded in their cars in freezing conditions overnight" and some local road maintenance agencies have used most (or all) of their "grit" or road salt supplies. And official Winter isn't supposed to begin until 21 December! If you ask me, it's climate change, since southern Greenland is experiencing rather exceptional warmth and Hudson Bay is late in freezing...

E. Swanson

Snow is a good insulator. Parked cars, trucks and airplanes don't burn much fuel. Overall, it should be a plus for energy conservation.

I still like the theory that a warm Arctic is a prerequisite for renewed glaciation of Europe and North America.

"Overall, it should be a plus for energy conservation." Maybe I'm missing something but I understand our natural gas supplies are already low following colder than normal weather and I'm thinking more colder weather will increase the use of natural gas so not much conservation as people burn more to keep warm.

I think we passed some sort of tipping point about 4 years ago and Europe is now slipping into a little ice age as it did in the 13th Century. Interestingly, that period reflects many of today's problems with a changing climate, over population and a fuel crisis (wood), quickly followed by food shortages, a die off (famine and Black Death), war and huge social changes.

It seems the present is in rhythm with the past. Whereas poor nutrition due to famine and food shortages laid the scene for populations in poor health to succumb to a pandemic in the 13th Century, our own increasingly synthetic food production and processing methods are achieving similar results today. An increasingly malnourished human population in poor health is just ripe for a global pandemic and it's really just a matter of time.

In today's world it is as though reality is hidden behind a mask or an illusion of modernity which is near impenetrable to the ordinary person. It's only when reality destroys the illusion that we begin to see the problems and when it is inevitably too late. A cooling climate (caused by warming of the Arctic) is a far more serious threat initially than a warming one, especially for agriculture IMO. Adaption to a changing climate will require energy, resources and money, all of which will be in rather short supply.

Christmas travel plans ruined for half a million air passengers

Forecasters warned that parts of Britain could see record low temperatures this week of -26C (-15F). Heathrow will experience lows of about -9C (16F) tonight and further snowfall is expected in the South East during the evening rush hour.
BAA, which is controlled by Spain’s Ferrovial, claimed it had spent an extra £6million on equipment to deal with snow and ice compared with last year. But with pre-tax profits expected to near £1 billion this year, the operator has been accused of failing to invest properly in equipment to cope with the extreme cold.

Having the Spanish run an airport in a northern country is probably a bad idea.

Gas balancing alert today as gas demand reaches all time record. Electricity demand is also close to all time record.

-10C here in Cambridge, -19C in parts of the midlands. Colder up north.

We have a national shortage of heating oil, and rationing is almost inevitable. Hopefully no one will freeze to death.

Although we should see through this cold period (forecast to ease up in 2-3 days) assuming we don't have one of our all too frequent supply failures, our gas storage is at record lows this early in the season, and we will have shortages some time in Feb/March, unless the winter gets dramatically warmer.

Although we should see through this cold period (forecast to ease up in 2-3 days)

I wouldn't count on that. There is no reliable signal from any of the models for a certain end to the cold. In fact they consistently seem to want to break it down and then back off in later runs. Met Office even said on BBC News a few mins ago that the models are struggling more than usual to deal with the very unusually cold high level air (part of the arctic vortex) stalled over the top of us.

The current GFS run does break down the cold but only after a major snow storm on 26th December but with the cold returning a few days later. But to be honest, the models are having difficulty at T+24 never mind anything further forward.

The model ensembles (model runs at slightly different starting values) are probably about 60-40 in favour of a return to milder conditions for a bit towards the end of December but we'll see if they firm up on that or back away over the next few days. And even if they do will they then project a return to extreme cold within a few days?

Amusingly the GFS has attempted to spin up a "hurricane" out of the vortex air a few times and then send it across the South of the UK. A few hours later the "hurricane" vanishes from the projection.

The good news is that National Grid data shows that nothing has broken yet and pipelines seem to be at maximum import flow rate with physical flow actually at 488mcm/day. Hope it stays that way!

Ok, this is getting weird. Is something more serious going on than we're currently aware?

Wintry weather brings snow to Australia in midsummer

Plenty is going on that most of us are not aware of.

Could just be what is expected within the bounds of natural fluctuations and with things like blogs/cell phones with cameras/a worldwide network/people looking to show global warming a hoax - that within bounds yet odd even is getting press.

Could be the Scott Stevenson aliens that are all around the Sun. Could be the Russian/Chinese/Yakuza controlled/HAARP weather control machines. Could be the start of what was mentioned in books like Snowball Earth. Could be the effect of the interstellar cloud the solar system is drifting into. (did I hit on all of the more, err, "outside the norm" claims?)

Its not like *I* can do a whole lot more about the situation.

Interview: Gail the Actuary
For his part, Nate Hagens, who will be supervising a new editorial board that will vet content for the site, writes that the Oil Drum will “aim for fewer but in general higher quality posts, and hope that a raising of the bar will attract new writers/analysts with a wide range of energy expertise.”

I'm not a very big contributor, but I have a vote on this with my annual donation, and, as of now, I'll be voting "no" on the new format.


I've like the variety I've enjoyed in the past, and I look forward to reading what continues. Perhaps more specializaion from individual websites is a good move. I will read from as many sources as my time allows, and I hope they don't start sniping at one another. My concern with the EB interview was the middle-aged-white-guy comment. Should a site hamstring itself by catering to a different audience, or should it have quotas? (Service denied, we've exceeded our middle-aged-white-guy quota for the day).

My thanks to Gail & Nate, and all the others who contribute to these quality sites!


To quote Gail from the article: "Nobody’s looking back at the things we did in the past that we could do now.” "

I'm not sure that's accurate. Greer's "Green Wizard" thing, and others have this slant. Passive cooling and heating are quite ancient, and gravity flow water systems are not uncommon. My home is partially underground. Back to the cave?

Perhaps she means "nobody that matters" ;-)

I meant "nobody that matters". Politicians want to show they are moving forward. Academics are busy researching the latest "hot" idea. No one with money is putting money into past ideas.

I agree that is the method to vote, I wasnt thinking of that. But we have a way to influence, true.

However I think it is worth trying this new format a while. This year the drumbeat became unbearable for long periods of time, just a coffee table with a multitude of opinions. That was not very useful.
Now that part is better, I think, people commenting take a little bit more care of argumentation before writing, finding some facts etc.

But we will see what happens. Reflecting on change and daring to test is good, in any case, from the editors. Even if after a while it maybe goes back to as before...

I never thought it was broken and don't understand the need to "fix" TOD. Certainly the thrashing about is disconcerting to this usually silent reader.

I've been happy with the higher quality of the comments here, too. Maybe it's just the holiday lull, but overall, there seems to be more signal and less noise, and I'm hoping that lasts.

If the new system doesn't work out, we might try something else, but don't expect it to go back to the way it was before. The way it was before was simply unsustainable. We'll probably mothball the site before going back to the way it was before.

Agreed. I think the site is much improved and am glad you are all sticking to your guns.

It is clear that there is a real quality versus quantity issue. When commenters threaten to stop reading or contributing, it seems to me that they are locating themselves in the second category. Perhaps after two or three of these threats you should post instructions to help them close their accounts.

Keep up the good work.

I'll never give again and and only visit the site in the hopes the new direction has been allowed to unfold by the readers rather than by 'Father Knows Best', editors. I have been searching for other sites and becoming adept at a scroll through "oh well"....(sigh). I am surprised reader conjecture on NK and politics is even allowed to be posted. Speaking of 'coups'...... Having said this, it ain't my sandbox and I have only publicly signed on less than a year so I am not in the club. I find TOD exclusionary.

During the GOM surge the 'energy' (excuse the pun) was palpable. The conclusions were inspiring and the posts by so many real experts were oh so valuable. Now, I feel like I am surveying a stilted university course run by tenured elites who only show up once a week to grace us with their presence....and control.

Campfire was fun....sidewall coal extraction techniques...or some such title might receive 4 replies in 2--3 days. Campfires can be noisy. But by God they were worth the read.

By the way, I live within 30 miles of 20 fish farm sites. I have spent years flying in and out of them and have even worked at a hatchery for 4 years. I know what goes in the feed and what they are fed and how the pens are lighted up to control photo-period for growth, etc. This would have been very interesting for many who want to know how salmon are raised. I am even developing a course for entry level workers at high school. When I read the posts on farmed fish I thought, "what's the point"? And said nothing. By the way, like Don I eat only wild BC salmon I catch myself and use it for a staple for my family. We had salmon last night. Our stocks are pretty healthy on the west coast and look forward to fishing 3rd week in July when the first waves of pink arrive.

Hoping for a bigger sandbox...(and bring Gail back with an apology and provide Leanan with a Prius and her own homestead.) They deserve it.

IMHO. :-)

Have a great Christmas and .......Paul

Yeah, Paul. Having grown up with "tenured academics" as parents (and their little club of associates) I have to agree with your assessment somewhat.

I've inquired about the future of Campfires. The only response has been from Gail. They may be allowed if the subject gets through the board of review. Well, YUCK! The beauty of Campfires was free and open discussion by all, not some structured, topically limited borefest.

I've enjoyed reading Gail's site, but am not wild about the format. The thread stucture doesn't seem to support debate as well. Meantime, I'll keep poking my non-elitist comments in here, hoping that I don't irritate the editors and Leanan too much.

Let me know what specific problems you have have on the comment threads of Our Finite World, and perhaps I can come up with different "options" that will fix the problems. Comments are "threaded", so they appear as at TOD. I have set them for a maximum of four layers deep, but that can be changed (up to 10 layers deep).

Comments go up instantly, but there is a fairly aggressive spam filter that takes out what it considers borderline comments. So some of these I need to "rescue" before they go up.

From Imperial College London: You only live once: our flawed understanding of risk helps drive financial market instability

Our flawed understanding of how decisions in the present restrict our options in the future means that we may underestimate the risk associated with investment decisions, according to new research by Dr Ole Peters from Imperial College London. The research, published today in the journal Quantitative Finance, suggests how policy makers might reshape financial risk controls to reduce market instability and the risk of market collapse.

...As we live on a timeline, previous decisions cannot be undone as time passes. Any new decision constrains our choices when making subsequent ones. Time averaging provides the more accurate prediction for the real world outcome of an investment decision. Today's study shows that, in the investment world, the differences in the results from these two approaches are critical: time averaging inherently incorporates a measure of risk, but ensemble averaging does not.

This means that ensemble averaging consistently undervalues risk by underestimating the effects of time on investments and overestimating the degree of choice that investors have. It also encourages excessive leveraging of investments, which itself accentuates fluctuations in the market, increases market volatility, and imparts a negative drift in the market that helps drive investors into negative equity.

Are there parallels to this in the way IPCC calculates AGW scenario results?

Well having debated this a bit already, here's some thoughts on your question.
Seraph wrote "AGW (Human climate warming) scenario results". There is around ten "good" climate models run at different universities (mostly?) today. The modellers often refer to using several of these as an "ensemble". I am not sure that is exactly the same as in the report (What Ole Peters mean). For climate modellers it more means the opportunity to estimate the error bars of the models. This appear same as how the investment models do at a second glance, so ok.

Now the IPCC has defined a fairly broad range of scenarios. These cover more than the possible physical outcomes, shall we say, with reference to Daves Coal post recently for instance :) (in a positive way, ok?).
Now these scenarios more or less defines the risk of the choices to be done by "society", the next decades.

In a way the choice of scenarios appear to be the parallel to the work of Ole Peters (not a given scenario result themselves).
But I think nobody averages the ipcc scenarios and thinks "ok it will be around there in the middle" - if somebody do: stop doing that fast!

The basic scenarios are chosen to be separated quite a bit from each other to avoid mixing. And the model ensemble result giving an error bar for a given scenario should hopefully: not be that large that the upper value is a too different condition on earth compared to the lower value.

Any comments?

Thanks. That clarifies things.

Though, I think many public news science articles still conflate the individual AGW scenario results into a pseudo-median result.

Come to think of it, many professional reports do the same thing. As I recall, the 2007(?) API report on peak oil took the average (peak date) of 2005 and 2070 and stated that peak oil would not be a problem before 2040 (conflating detailed estimates with off the cuff guesses). Granted, they had a sponsor and audience to please.

... our flawed understanding of risk helps drive financial market instability ...

IMHO, it is a little bit late for all of these warnings More on the lunacy of the Basle Accords

BTW, I was an engineering undergraduate at Imperial and later went to the business school there. Like all business schools, Imperial's has been remarkably quiet about the GFC - it was not supposed to happen. Happily, Wikileaks let us know that the Bank of England's King was expecting it 6 months ahead of time. Dr Ole Peters seems to be from the Mathematics Department - which tells you something.

WikiLeaks cables: Mervyn King plotted banks bailout by four cash-rich nations

All of this goes to show that academics - regardless of subject - don't have a clue. King, like his counterparts elsewhere, knew exactly what was going on well ahead of time.

If you have difficulty understanding the first article by "London Banker", take it from me that we are all stuffed.

For a good summary of just how stuffed we are, I recommend Kicking the Snowball Down the Road

The Ethics of Biofuels
In a paper released today by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, authors Michal Moore, Senior Fellow, and Sarah M. Jordaan at Harvard University in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, look at the basic question of whether these energy sources are ethical.

In addition to arguing that the greenhouse gas benefits of biofuel are overstated by many policymakers, the authors argue that there are four questions that need to be considered before encouraging and supporting the production of more biofuel. These questions are:

  1. What is the effect of biofuel production on food costs, especially for poor populations?
  2. Should more land be used for biofuel when the return of energy per acre is low? Are there better uses for that land?
  3. In addition to worrying about the impact of global warming, should we not consider the impact on land of massively expanding biofuel production?
  4. What are the other economic impacts of large scale production of biofuel?

"Policymakers, especially in the U.S., have been in a rush to expand biofuel protection," says Michal Moore. "But they need to start thinking outside of the box of climate change and the corn lobby."

Report:Ethical risks of environmental policies: the case of ethanol in North America

The Biofuel vs food question was argued many time but most people seem to forget that a large amount of farming land is used to produce non food (and non biofuel) item.
Should prime land be used to grow tobacco?
What about tea, coffee, poppies, hemp (for Marijuana)...
Historically lot of such luxury items are produced instead of food even when/if local population were starving.
Will we feel guilty filling up a gas tank with biofuel when other people starve?
I doubt it.

Another interesting question is whether it is better from an oil usage point of view to grow cotton (natural gas for fertilizer, diesel fuel, pesticide...) or to make synthetic fiber directly out of oil.
I don't know the answer to that, but it would be interesting to figure it out.

Exactly! Food versus fuel is worth considering, but is simplistic and tends to become just one more ideological rant. Food versus food (beef, sugar, etc.) and food versus booze are really no different. Anyone who whines about food versus fuel, but eats meat, consumes sugar, or drinks alcohol is a hypocrite. There is also a huge difference between corn-based ethanol production and bio-fuels. There are plenty of good reasons to oppose current US ethanol policy. Food versus fuel is not one of them.

Report: Policies to spur renewable energy can lower energy costs

The South could pay less for its electricity in 20 years than is currently projected if strong public policies are enacted to spur renewable energy production and use, according to a report released today by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University. The 190-page report, "Renewable Energy in the South," builds on a short policy brief released last summer and provides an in-depth assessment of the scope of renewable energy resources in the South and their economic impacts on electricity rates and utility bills in the region.

Skeptics of renewable energy production often cite the South as lacking renewable resources. However, the new report confirms that the right mix of public policies could drive the region to produce as much as 30 percent—up from less than 4 percent—of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Seraph - "Skeptics of renewable energy production often cite the South as lacking renewable resources." I haven't seen such comments. Do they mean a lack of resources or a lack of efforts to utilize them? Seems a little odd either way. Texas has more wind power than much of the country combined. As far as resouces go the south has one of the largest reources of all...and it's utilization is free: the Sun. Granted it gets nasty hot in Texas during August but it doesn't kill many nor slow the economy up. Not like those nasty blizzards up north. And if they're talking biofuels I'm guessing we grow more corn in Texas than they do in Montana. We just feed a lot of it to cattle so we can ship those high prices ribeyes to NYC.

Just found the statement a little odd. Maybe they based their opinion on the well known fact that southerners are not as smart or industrious as Yankees.

Mr Rockman Sir,

Jis las week ah reckin ah made a dern fool o muself when ah said you ain't got no rocks tween yer years.

Texas and Texans ain't sutherners-Texas is th mane part of the "West" and Texans is most all cowboys;any backer spittin' feller with Stars and Bars stickers plastered on his bicikl done lairnt thet much at lest by th time he and got his firs' matched par o cap busters fer Krismus.

Ah spect the true sons o Texas will make yuh take the steer horns offa th hood o yer truck and mabe even take ter yer ten gallon hat frum ye and run yuh outa Texas if'n they hear bout you talking sich fooleshnis.

If you uz here you could drank as much good hanmade branny as yuh wanted to. We got (urp ) plenny!

Merry Christmas! ;)

And a Ho-Ho-Ho to you too, mac. I was going to be sorely disappointed if no one appreciated my sarcasm. As you point out I had to push my point a bit about Texas being part of the south. At least I didn't have to pretend we are really part of the USA. Many years ago I was on a small river cruise boat in a far away land. The cruise director went around the room and had us ID ourselves and homeland. Naturally when my time came I said "Texas". She laughed and pointed out that without one exception folks from our country always answered "USA"...except those from Texas. Almost always the same with folks from other countries. And only one other group came close to usins...folks from NYC.

Happy holidays mac and all you TODsters out there.

This exchange reminded me of the "bet" between rival cities--San Fran and Dallas-- before this last year's World Series. If the Rangers win, Texas will be allowed to secede from the Union; if the Giants win Texas will HAVE to secede from the Union.
Keep enlightening us Yankees with your wisdom, sarcastic or not.

Global Energy Efficiency Governance study released

The International Energy Agency (IEA) published the results of its global Energy Efficiency Governance study as a summary handbook and a detailed report. This study aims to provide government officials and stakeholders with guidance on how to establish effective structures to promote energy efficiency. It highlights the importance of developing legal, institutional, funding and coordination mechanisms to support national and sub-national energy efficiency policy implementation.

The article on the Google Books Ngram Viewer asserts that instances of the use of the term "peak oil" spiked in the 1940s. That would be a neat trick, as the term as such was only coined in the last decade - in fact, precisely 10 years ago? Should we be throwing Colin a surprise party or something?

Researching a bit more on the term Wiki has these examples of n-grams:

Here are examples of word level 3-grams and 4-grams (and counts of the number of times they appeared) from the Google n-gram corpus.[1]
ceramics collectables collectibles (55)
ceramics collectables fine (130)
ceramics collected by (52)
ceramics collectible pottery (50)
ceramics collectibles cooking (45)

So it isn't searching for exact term "peak oil," rather instances of the two words being used in conjunction, ala keyword search terms; but I thought I'd bring up the term's possible anniversary here anyway. Also the N-Gram gizmo is intriguing, as well as its conclusions about peak oil. You can control smoothing, and set the timeline to as recent as 2008 and distant as 1500.

'Oil depletion' gives a firm peak in the early 70s, with a steady ascent throughout the 60s. Oddly enough the last decade only shows a mild uptick here; my impression was that we have been Drowning In Peak Oil Books compared to the past.

Just 'oil' has three distinct peaks - mid 1920s, mid 1940s, early 1980s. "We're running out of oil!" as Harold Ickes said.

I just searched "oil peak" and that is still peaking in ngram.


Zoom in on the spike in 1949 then look at the sources. The phrase you will see is "peak oil production" rather than "peak oil".


Coal Interests Fueling Gingrich's Cash-Burning 527

...As a 527 nonprofit issues advocacy group, American Solutions for Winning the Future is required to file a 990 form with the IRS, which indicates their biggest donors. But they're not subject to federal campaign finance law, allowing them to accept unlimited donations directly from corporations and individuals.

So whose deep pockets bankrolled the organization? According to a TPM analysis, the largest contributions listed came from oil, coal and electric companies. And if you're compiling a blacklist of the country's worst environmental corporate offenders, the IRS filing of Newt's group is a good place to start.

plus some really choice 'troll' put-downs

From the India coal shortage article above http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/coal-shortage-to-beat-mid-te...

"However, latest estimates indicate a lower level of production from captive blocks. This is likely to be 43 million tonnes. Thus, the total likely production would be 592 million tonnes, against 630 million tonnes, leading to a demand-supply gap of 121 million tonnes in 2011-12,” the Planning Commission noted in a recent note on measures to enhance coal production.

"It is a serious problem. Coal shortage directly affects power generation and GDP growth. The impact of this is that the country will have to import more. And, even imports are not easy. Any sudden surge in demand of coal will push up international prices as well,” said a senior Planning Commission official.

I have a feeling that coal shortages will be a bigger problem for many developing countries before oil shortages. India has a significant problem with "load shedding" as it is. The IT industry in India runs on backup diesel generators. When coal shortages bite, the demand for diesel will shoot up. Not a good situation.

It's not just us:

Newly Built Ghost Towns Haunt Banks in Spain

Most of these units have never sold, and though they were finished just three years ago, they are already falling into disrepair, the concrete chipping off the sides of the buildings. Vandals have stolen piping, radiators, doors — anything they could get their hands on.

Those few families who live here keep dogs to ward off strangers.

Yebes is hardly unique. The wreckage of Spain’s once booming construction industry is everywhere. And much of it sits as bad debt on the books of Spain’s banks, which once liberally offered financing to developers and homeowners alike.

ATLANTA -- Three more bank failures on Friday bring the total number of bank failures in Georgia during 2010 to 21.

United Americas Bank of Atlanta, Chestatee State Bank in Dawsonville and Appalachian Community Bank of McCaysville closed on Dec. 17

...and so it goes.

This article is obviously in error according to the photos of China presented.

Google maps picture of Zhengzhou has caption that says all the newly constructed public buildings remain "unoccupied". Yet the picture shows the parking lots nearly full of cars and a few cars traveling the surrounding streets.

The map photo of Kangbashi says it is a newly constructed city built for 300,000, but houses only 30,000 people. The city shown is a small collection of low rise dwellings (can tell by the shadows) covering an area of about 30 square blocks at the most (based on scale of streets to building size). How could 300,000 people live in 30 blocks (10,000 per block) of two or three story buildings? The city is obviously a small agricultural community with what looks to be many animal barns nearby.

This article is not presenting the facts, only a bunch of inaccurate bylines for cherry picked Google map photos.

This article is not presenting the facts, only a bunch of inaccurate bylines for cherry picked Google map photos.

Welcome to the Daily Mail - the last word in definitive BS in the UK media! The only thing worse than a trashy tabloid newspaper is a trashy tabloid newspaper that pretends it's a reputable source and manages to convince its readership that they're digesting cold, hard facts.

Posted this in the wrong drumbeat - sorry...

China building 2 aircraft carriers...





Thanks for the links, it is interesting to see what the ROW is up to with their militaries.

I am not very concerned at all about these future carriers.

Carriers are otherwise referred to as 'targets'.

By submariners and pilots flying aircraft equipped with anti-ship missiles.

They will be big, shiny, expensive symbols of China's self-esteem.

Next thing we know, Taikonauts will land on the Moon in 2019...50 years after the U.S. astronauts first did so.

The Chinese are certainly smart, hard-working, proud folks with thousands of years of heritage...I just hope their priorities swing to how to sustainably maintain their citizenry going forward.

Trying to emulate U.S.-levels of MIC spending would be counter-productive for them (as it is for us).

Agree. I think that perhaps one should view it as a sign from China's side that they want to be in the big sandbox. I don't think it is something to be viewed as a threat but more as a way of taking a stand in addition of providing to a little bit of a pushback to the US.
Additionally, consider the http://www.usni.org/news-and-features/chinese-kill-weapon
My guess is that it is taken more seriously by the (US) military than one may gather from just reading main stream media.


Being that the U.S. spends 46.5% of the world total military spending, the Chinese are no where near catching up.

Source: http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending

Agree, the Chinese are exerting their right to play in the sandbox. Though it is highly doubtful that they will follow the U.S. lead and bankrupt themselves trying to outpace all and any competitors.

There is no decree anywhere that says the U.S. has a monopoly on aircraft carriers. If the Chinese want to build them, no one's going to stand in their way.

Yeah, Z the P, that's pretty crazy. It puts Heisenberg's comments on the MIC in a clear perspective. I've been called a liberal commie just for suggesting that we, in the US, need to reduce military spending, usually by folks who never signed up. They seem comfortable with our being the global police state.

Imagine if we put half of those expenditures towards mitigating peak oil. The deficit. Healthcare. Education......(never mind that).

Ghung, you're not the first and not the last to point this out.

Glenn Greenwald summarized it quite nicely in his article, The Sanctity of Military Spending.

The U.S. spends almost as much on military spending as the entire rest of the world combined, and spends roughly six times more than the second-largest spender, China. Even as the U.S. sunk under increasingly crippling levels of debt over the last decade, defense spending rose steadily, sometimes precipitously. That explosion occurred even as overall military spending in the rest of the world decreased, thus expanding the already-vast gap between our expenditures and the world's. As one "defense" spending watchdog group put it: "The US military budget was almost 29 times as large as the combined spending of the six 'rogue' states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) who spent $14.65 billion."

Greenwald goes on to say that no one should expect less defense spending on Obama's watch.

... much of that overall spending is mandatory, military spending -- all of which is discretionary -- accounts for over 50% of discretionary government spending. Yet it's absolutely forbidden to even contemplate reducing it as a means of reducing our debt or deficit. To the contrary, Obama ran on a platform of increasing military spending, and that is one of the few pledges he is faithfully and enthusiastically filling (while violating his pledge not to use deceitful budgetary tricks to fund our wars):

President Barack Obama will ask Congress for an additional $33 billion to fight unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on top of a record $708 billion for the Defense Department next year, The Associated Press has learned.

In sum, as we cite our debtor status to freeze funding for things such as "air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and national parks" -- all programs included in Obama's spending freeze -- our military and other "security-related" spending habits become more bloated every year, completely shielded from any constraints or reality. This, despite the fact that it is virtually impossible for the U.S. to make meaningful progress in debt reduction without serious reductions in our military programs.

Yep, that's pretty crazy.

Be careful comparing military expenditures in the US with China or even North Korea. Neither of these countries has thecost basis that the US has. Their soldiers are paid almost nothing, labor in their construction industries is low. Also they have no existing conflicts using up expensive machinery and munitions. I haven't seen a PPP comparison of military expenditures but they are certainly getting an extraordinary amount of military competence per dollar compared to the US.

The only way a country can tell whether it is are getting its moneys worth out of its military is to:
- fight a war and see if it can win, and
- see whether the it can keep citizens of neighboring countries from walking across its borders.

Hmmmm... let's see....

Iraq? Afghanistan? Mexico?

By that criteria, the U.S. isn't getting too many bangs for its bucks.

Didn't intent to start a whole subthreat on this....
I just think that the US monopoly on big toys (and the willingness both at the leadership level as well as among the populus) to use them since the end of the cold war may be coming to an end.

By acquiring the ability to project power in a certain region, say Asia and perhaps even the middle east in a credible way (think carriers and the means to effectively destroy enemy carrier groups) the balance of power has changed in a very real way, even if not a single shot gets fired. No, it is not happening today but the train has left the station.
Remember, one nuclear bomb can ruin your entire day.


Be careful comparing military expenditures in the US with China or even North Korea. Neither of these countries has thecost basis that the US has. Their soldiers are paid almost nothing, labor in their construction industries is low. Also they have no existing conflicts using up expensive machinery and munitions. I haven't seen a PPP comparison of military expenditures but they are certainly getting an extraordinary amount of military competence per dollar compared to the US.

Is the Chinese / NK army volunteer-based or are the soldiers forced to join in lieu of a bullet in the back of their head? I don't know enough about this topic except to ask questions.

Ghung and all,

The opportunity cost of our MIC spending is staggering.

I am no off the wall idealist who imagines a U.S. without a MIC....but I think we spend about twice as much as we need to for our Defense...

~5% of the global population and upwards towards 50% of the World's defense spending?

I might be wrong, but that pie chart may not include expenditures for the various intelligence agencies, DHS, etc?

I can't imagine how and when the U.S. will cut even one penny of nominal budget from the MIC.

I salute the British for having the brains and courage to carve away at there MoD, in addition to their non-MoD budgets.

How well does DoD account for its budget expenditures? Clear back from 2002:


Has it gotten any better since then?

From my perspective, I seriously doubt it.

And how ell do we have an accurate accounting of monies spent by our intelligence agencies and DHS?

I remember studying American History as a first grader, or maybe it was second grade, growing up in CT.

The big lesson was that the Red Coats in the Revolutionary War lost because they were over-equipped, loaded down with gear, stuck to rigid formulas of strategy, over-fed, etc. The colonists were brave, fit, adept, agile thinkers, unconventional tacticians.

I can't help but think that now the US ideas about military might, so reliant on oil, so dependent on equipment, so fragile because it is reliant on technology, so fraught with over-confidence and clubbishness, over-fed and over padded, might be another form of "red coat" disease. The military budget sees invincible, as does the whole set up they've arranged over there (I suppose that the wall they've created is the whole point, how do you argue with a wall when it asks for more dollars?) but peak oil will melt it away, like the sun on a patch of dew. Little by little at first then faster, till it is just a bad memory.

The big lesson was that the Red Coats in the Revolutionary War lost because they were over-equipped, loaded down with gear, stuck to rigid formulas of strategy, over-fed, etc. The colonists were brave, fit, adept, agile thinkers, unconventional tacticians.

I wouldn't overgeneralize from US history textbooks about the Revolutionary War. They're somewhat one-sided. For the other side you would need to read the British history textbooks, which probably weren't that available in your school.

In reality, the British had a major logistical problem in that they had to supply their armies from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, whereas the revolutionaries were fighting at home. The British also weren't that sure they wanted to fight the war since they weren't making any money on their American colonies.

There were a lot of British who just wanted to walk away from the war at the start. Unfortunately King George wasn't one of them.

Yair..."The big lesson was that the Red Coats in the Revolutionary War lost because they were over-equipped, loaded down with gear, stuck to rigid formulas of strategy, over-fed, etc. The colonists were brave, fit, adept, agile thinkers, unconventional tacticians".

Change an odd word and it applies to a few recent (and current) stoushes...unfortunately.

The Chinese navy build-out may be as much for political reasons as it is military

Some background

From Office of Naval Intel: A Modern Navy with Chinese Characteristics

From Congressional Research Services: China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress

Thank you for those two papers. They should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the waxing and waning of global powers.

Thanks again,


Looks like Matt Savinar officially ended LATOC this weekend. No more daily breaking news updates. He's pursuing his interest in astrology. I don't get astrology at all but good luck to him.



My youngest daughter, the activist, eyes open fact checker, rebel, had a child and has since "given her life to Jesus and a search for THE truth".

Perhaps people reach a limit when they decide that clarity is a liability, incompatible with any life they would chose going forward. They fly too close to the sun, then dive for cover. Maybe they simply grow tired of fighting the good fight and surrender to the stories.

It's always a shame when another one bites the dust. I think at some point people say, "It's going to hit the fan so I might as well move on." There is real truth in this; why continue the good fight when it is clear it is doomed? Better to take as much personal responsibility as you can to prepare, which is, of course, an individual decision.

For others, it may be the inability to face the coming/current reality over and over, day after day to the extent the it becomes depressing. Avoidance is a natural response.

So, thank you Matt. You did your best. I'll miss the breaking news.


The guy went into Astrology. Shouldn't you be using this time to ask yourself why you listened to someone who has moved on to a field with as little scientific basis as creationism. The doom contingent has mocked everyone else for being ignorant for so long. It seems a bit of introspection might be in order. I am grateful to the editors for helping to clear the faith-based doom contingent's repetitive rants. Savinar did alway seem like the patron saint of irrational fatalist pessimism. I won't miss miss him.

I think it goes the other way, too. Here we are, at peak oil or even several years past, and BAU is continuing. Many peak oilers expected that by now, the zombie hordes would be upon us. A couple of years ago, some here were predicting that by 2010, it would have already hit the fan. Store shelves empty, starvation and riots, gas rationing, nuclear war. Instead, it looks like yet another new year when people are more concerned about the Super Bowl than about peak oil.

I suspect that there are a lot of people who have decided that peak oil isn't going to be that bad, or is going to unfold so slowly it's not worth the energy they used to devote to it. They've moved on to other things - climate change, financial collapse, their office football pool.

It all kind of has the look and feel of capitulation. As in the financial markets when the last bear capitulates everyone is on board and the markets have only one way to go, down. Or perhaps its the gritty realisation that there is no silver lining to collapse and everyone is going to be impacted.

As I look around me at all the people I know, here in France or the UK, the trend is the same. People are being slowly crushed. Ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly, their situation is changing for the worst. Quite often the strains and stresses seem to cause a reactionary response which creates a cascade of misfortune.

I believe we're well into collapse and for this reason attempts to change have to be undertaken in an unforgiving environment. In the good times people could make mistakes and recover, but now a mistake just takes you down with little recourse.

As if to confirm my own observations this has just appeared in the Telegrph:

Third of Britons think 2010 has been one of worst years in their lives

The most common concern was over money, with growing numbers worried about debt and their bank balances this year. The other main sources of anxiety were physical health, relationships with family and friends, domestic politics and world affairs.

And they're not even aware of the extent, depth and breadth of the problems they really face yet.


I myself, after spending the last year or so researching places on the North American continent to where I could relocate, have just recently considered Hawaii.

Not because I think it will thrive, far from it. But it's the nuclear option, getting away from it all, the "screw you" to American Empire and society.

I love TOD, but none of this is going to amount to a hill of beans, I've realized that now.

Or perhaps he doesn't want to be bothered and has wrapped himself up in a label that'll have people move on faster than saying "Meh, I'm done."

And he can just reply to anyone he really doesn't want to talk to with 'now that X is in the Y with Z ascending/descending you can see that your concern you are asking about will/won't happen'

There are worst 'profits' to listen to...you can listen to the jack-legs of wall street pedalling the idea that "markets work".

also what is happening to assange probably is scaring him allot how everyone is attacking the messenger and ignoring the message.

Assange is fighting a real fight. Doenst matter if one thinks he is good or bad.
He is out there in the open, with limited funds (well Id guess less than 10 million dollars?).
And he is up against the swedish bureaucrats, CIA, people in his homeland Australia, you name it, all non-named persons.
He sure pushes the limits... what a guy.

Maybe Matt will channel Jeane Dixon? Maybe he can become an advisor to the First Lady.

edit: -----------

More on Magical Thinking and Transition:

A women considers emigration, finds her deceased father is her Guardian Angel and decides to stay in California...

Six impossible things before breakfast?

Recently a peak oil blogger I follow, the Russian born US based Dimitry Orlov, published a guest post by a writer urging us to leave the United States for a country more conducive to good living...

James Kunstler, who entertained the idea of people with psychic talents coming to the forefront as advisors (in his recent novel The Witch of Hebron)... that was enough encouragement for me to open myself to alternative sources of knowledge. That same week I saw Clint Eastwood's movie The Hereafter...

My father, having been dead for 8 years now, had waited a long time to talk to me, but it had given him time to become wise and patient. The psychic, a Mexican American named Rachel,with a young and vibrant voice, said he had rushed to see me...

Thus armed with a guardian angel it was difficult to look at the future with quite the doomer perspective I had been operating under. At least I didn't have to figure it all out. I would have help.

I remember discussion on TOD long ago where we talked of the reversion to magical thinking during this Transition...

I don't get astrology at all but good luck to him.

That'll depend on a proper conjunction of the planets and the stars!
Funny that in this century some people believe that the celestial machinery was put in motion thinking of them.

It's all quite logical. The planets and stars are part of the natural world, which is just a collective delusion of the individual minds that are part of the one universal mind.

THAT'S Funny!

At my mom's 'ashes spreading', my rationalist brother reminded us that he doesn't buy into a lot of the spiritual mumbo-jumbo, but felt that mom was likely still happy, wherever she was.

I have no problem with contradictions.. 'logic' isn't pure and perfect, just because it's supposed to be... it's a human construct, after all, it has an irretrievable link to the complex and imperfect world of human intention, reaction and perception.

I like the Native American saying where
" Just after someone dies, the first thing they usually ask is 'Why was I so serious?' "

- attribution uncertain, but does it matter?

Tueday (early AM) is the first lunar eclipse to occur on the winter solstice in 372 years.

I wonder what Matt's charts have to say about this. A search of historical events in 1638 didn't reveal anything earth shattering, though it was the year that the first lunar eclipse (June 25) was recorded in the American colonies.

My feeling is this won't be the big one :-0

There's a party and lecture at the Planetarium tonight at midnight - I'm trying to decide if I can stay awake long enough to attend.
It's bound to be more interesting than the holiday gathering of attorneys I was at yesterday...

National Grid (UK) calls a Gas Balancing Alert (GBA) for Monday.


 Alert Status
	Today 	Tomorrow
Trigger 452.40 	452.40 	  
Demand  430.8 	461.3

19:28 National Grid has declared a GBA for Gas Day 20/12/10. National Grid is now seeking offers for single day trades on the OTC or multiple day trades on OCM and/or OTC. Please note OTC offers can only be made by non OCM

That means demand is forecast to be 9 mcm above available supply.

Some other relevant points.

Over the last 24 hours 44% of our electricity came from coal and only about 34% from gas (19% nuclear) meaning we have cut way back on our gas usage for power generation.

Traditional Storage is dropping fast.

But not as fast as LNG storage

And look at the market price

And here's our 5 day ahead average temp as forecast by the GFS

That's very cold for the UK in December (avg Central England Temperature (CET) for December 5.1C) and we may be on our way to the coldest December ever recorded. Records go back to 1659 and the coldest December recorded was December 1890 at -0.8C.

Thanks for that forecast.Can hardly believe it.
Am I reading it right for the astonishing low average temperature for parts of Ireland? Have they known 5 days like that ever before in the record? Like mountains in Norway?
Well, we will see. Even a few days continuous of cold like that will test all sorts of systems.

Snow here on the eastern part of Scots / English Border has been different from anything I have known. Two feet accumulation brought down many outbuilding roofs. Our snow always came with enough wind before to keep the weight off the roof. Nothing like this snow or cold this early in my memory. Snow melted for a few days, but a new fall today, only 6" so far, but again no wind.


Phil, there is no way minus 14C is any sort of average for any area of Ireland.

That temp must be a freak exception and probably a record of some sort,or even more lightly an error(?!).

EDIT: OK I see the "average" is not a historical 20y norm average , but rather an expected average "for the next few days"...

On the other hand, parts of Hudson Bay, the Straits between Quebec and Baffin Island and Greenland, as well as parts of the Laptev and Bering Seas are unusually free of ice for this time of year.

Parts of the Baltic Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, and the Gulf of St Lawrence have excess ice.

It will be interesting to see whether the unusual cold in Europe lets up when the Canadian Arctic waters freeze over.


This thread just made me wonder about the arctic sea ice chart and, interestingly, there is a not completely unique DROP in sea ice extent over the last week or so.



What appears to be happening is that some of the coverage in the Baltic Sea and Gulf of St Lawrence is diminishing enough to more than offset any gains at higher latitudes. Whether this is really true, or just ice breaking up and moving about enough to decrease below the 15% coverage criteria, it is not possible to say.

Just heard on BBC News that Northern Ireland just broke the December record at -17C. That said the temps forecast by the GFS model I linked above are a bit colder than those projected by the Met Office. I've just checked though and a lot of weather stations on Weather Underground in N.I. are currently extremely cold in the minus double digit range as the BBC just reported.

Here's Castlederg at -16C right now

Here's a link to a Weather Underground "Wundermap" centred on Castlederg so you can look at other temps in the area easily.

They said on the news that gas storage was 30% less than this time last year. Heating fuel also seems in short supply in the UK with the government talking about possible rationing. The situation is beginning to look rather nasty, perhaps the Christmas holiday will provide a bit of respite.

Hint- get hold of one of these for indoor use only, before February ebbs out. I've heard UK homes are very badly insulated.Brrrrrrr

.. and here is one for the dog

On a serious note: I hope these winter-patterns are not the new norm for the UK / Europe.

That depends. The NAO is acting majorly screwy now, like last year. The impact from record ice melting in the Arctic is now biting, and that could mean some really chaotic winters in Europe and the eastern US.

Article about World Infrastructure development by country:


Seems that the Chinese have not only emulated our large dams in the U.S. West, but want their very own Central Arizona Project, except on a grander scale:

Major projects also often extract an environmental toll.

The classic example is southern Egypt's Aswan Dam, completed in 1970, which generates much-needed electricity and controls flooding, but also prevents nutrient-rich sediment from replenishing the eroding Nile delta, the country's most productive farmland.


The plans call for sending 45 trillion liters (12 trillion gallons) of water a year from the Yangtze to the north...cities such as Shanghai...will see their own water resources reduced.

It's not clear that southern China can spare that much water, especially with the glaciers that feed the Yangtze melting...

But alternatives, such as hiking the price of water, are politically difficult, and much prestige is invested in seeing the project to completion, he said. "It may well be a bad idea whose time has come."

Thieves cause pipeline blast in Mexico, killing 27

SAN MARTIN TEXMELUCAN, Mexico — A pipeline exploded in central Mexico early Sunday as thieves were trying to steal oil, killing at least 27 people and sending rivers of flaming crude through city streets. Authorities said 12 of the dead were children and estimated that the explosion and resulting spill affected a three-mile (five-kilometer) radius, injuring at least 52 people and scorching more than 115 homes.

The principal explosion, followed by four additional minor blasts, forced hundreds to flee the city of San Martin Texmelucan, 55 miles (90 kilometers) east of Mexico City.

Some pictures on the WSJ website (#4 looks like something from "Lord of the Rings.")


Who knew the One Ring symbolized our addiction to cheap oil? Mexico is quickly turning into Mordor-like wasteland. Yikes!

Hey, don't slag off all of Mexico just like that. What amazes me is how low the casualties were for such a large conflagration. If there is justice the rateros scored an own goal.


NAOM, I wondered if I would get your back up! ;-)

Hey in California recently, such an explosion turned 38 houses into a Mordor wasteland when a high pressure NG pipe blew up. So it seems infrastructures like pipelines may not be so stable in many places either due to human oversight or vandalism or theft.

It was a massive fireball.

The U.S.S. Prius

Thomas L.Friedman: As I was saying, the thing I love most about America is that there’s always somebody here who doesn’t get the word — and they go out and do the right thing or invent the new thing, no matter what’s going on politically or economically. And what could save America’s energy future — at a time when a fraudulent, anti-science campaign funded largely by Big Oil and Big Coal has blocked Congress from passing any clean energy/climate bill — is the fact that the Navy and Marine Corps just didn’t get the word.

God bless them: “The Few. The Proud. The Green.” Semper Fi.

...Unlike the Congress, which can be bought off by Big Oil and Big Coal, it is not so easy to tell the Marines that they can’t buy the solar power that could save lives. I don’t know what the final outcome in Iraq or Afghanistan will be, but if we come out of these two wars with a Pentagon-led green revolution, I know they won’t be a total loss. Wars that were driven partly by our oil addiction end up forcing us to break our oil addiction? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

2010's world gone wild: Quakes, floods, blizzards

(AP) -- This was the year the Earth struck back. Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 - the deadliest year in more than a generation. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined.

"The term '100-year event' really lost its meaning this year."

An infrastructure update from Fantasy Island:

Can streetcars save America's cities?

But not everyone is a fan of streetcars. "This is a waste of money," said Ron Utt of The Heritage Foundation.

"Streetcars certainly create jobs, but they are a poor investment and create little lasting value," he said. "Because it requires extensive ongoing subsidies, it is also unsustainable. Improving roads would be the better bet in most communities."

On Fantasy Island, highways and roads don't require public funds for building them and for maintaining them and they have virtually infinite fossil fuel resources.

In any event, an interesting case history:

Cliff Lee's family leaving Arlington so they can go places

We finally found the hero to deliver public transit to Arlington.

Unfortunately, Kristen Lee and her husband, Cliff, gave up and moved to Philadelphia. Of all the words written after the Texas Rangers' playoff ace turned down a new contract, the most jarring might have come from his wife, like Lee a native of Benton, Ark. She prefers Philadelphia for the cultural opportunities and the dining, she said. But mostly -- she really likes the trains.

Kristen Lee wanted her husband to return to the Phillies because of "how easy it is to get from point A to point B" in Philadelphia, she was quoted as saying by the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Phillies play three miles from City Hall. The stadium is a $1.85 ride from downtown on the Broad Street Line, plus a three-block walk.

In Portland, there are several intersections that have to get repaved constantly, after our trucks and icy slush tear them apart winter after winter. Of course, one could blame trolleys for this if they wished, since it's in part the buried old trolley tracks in their cobblestone that keep breaking out of the Asphalt. You can follow the double curve of the old line as it turns from Park onto Deering.

If I get the chance one of these coming Christmases, I'm hoping to build a model of Congress square as it was back in the 1940s, full of Trolley Cars bound for every corner of town. I'd put it in a big shopwindow display down in Congress Square for the Shoppers and their kids (the ones who didn't drive out to the mall) to Gaze at and wonder if that would have been easier than trying to find parking three times in the Old Port.


An answer to green energy could be in the air

..."It's the first federally funded research effort to look at airborne wind capturing platforms," Moore said. "We're trying to create a level playing field of understanding, where all of the concepts and approaches can be compared -- what's similar about them? What's different about them, and how can you compare them?"

He likens the development of wind-borne energy to flight itself, adding that "this is like being back in 1903. Everybody's got a dog to show. Everybody's got a different way of doing it?"

Send turbines farther aloft, into the 150 mph (240 kph) jet stream at 30,000 feet (9,150 m), and "instead of 500 watts per meter (for ground-based wind turbines), you're talking about 20,000, 40,000 watts per square meter," Moore said. "That's very high energy density and potentially lower cost wind energy because of the 50-plus fold increase in energy density."

So why isn't it being done? Or at least, why isn't it being researched more expansively?

"In my mind, it's crazy that there isn't federal investment in this area, because the questions are just too great for small companies to answer," Moore said.

I think it's crazy that the government isn't giving money to me too. I guess it's subjective.

Why? How many watts per square meter can you produce, and then, are you scalable?

The right question is how many commercially viable watts can I produce. The answer is none, but that is the same as Mr Subsidy.

It is becoming frightfully common to think that the solution to our energy problems is to dole out government money to anyone who is in a politically important district and can write a press release.

This is attractive to those who get to funnel the money, those who receive it, and those who need to pretend that we are doing all we can. But it will screw the rest of us.

That's still too convenient a way to tar the whole process with a broad brush, though.

A subsidy to support a priority direction we need to move in is no less important than the fact that our society subsidizes essential services and education.

Misplaced subsidies aren't a problem because of the 'Subsidy' part, but of their poor placement. With our huge stake in the Military, protecting sea lanes and sometimes enforcing more strident controls over resource-producing-areas (cough, cough), how many of the current breadwinners are allowed to appear 'Commercially Viable' when they are in fact serious liabilities to our future, while directions that would be sensible to encourage and support (Insulation, Solar Heating, Electric Rail) are howled about as rank socialism when such backing is suggested?

I think 'physical necessity' is ahead of commercial viability in the line of priorities. The commercial benefits might take too long to show or simply be unprovable.. like a school system. That profitability will change with the seasons.. but the physics will remain largely the same.

I am not as bothered about socialism as poor placement, along the lines you mention. Historically, US energy subsidies have primarily been lobbyist directed initiatives for ethanol and nuclear energy, which have been a waste of money, or worse. Smaller amounts to energy efficiency have been more successful, but these did not claim innovation as a goal. They were set up to bridge specific gaps in the implementation of existing technologies.

I do think there may be some small role for the government in encouraging innovation. But I am sure that the current innovation push, led it seems by beltway insiders and potential recipients of benefits is not it. I do not believe a cabal of politicians and lobbyists will be able place the money in a way that will be effective.

I would strongly support energy taxes, which I think will utilize the market to favor those technologies that are close to commercial viability. I have been involved in clean energy fir about twenty years and in that time the ratio of exuberant press releases to game changing technologies is about a billion to zero. I suspect it will stay that way.

Perhaps the Gulf Stream would be a better choice than the jet stream. The Gulf Stream has a cross section of about 100 km wide * 1000 m deep or 10^8 m^2. It carries about 1.4 petawatts of heat polewards. So 1.4 * 10^15 / 10^8 = 14 * 10^6 or 14 MegaWatts/square meter.

AND it is renewable energy that is more efficient than fossil fuel heating. Trouble is billionaires cannot make so much money on a good Gulf Stream. A bad Gulf Stream can make lots of money for the industries though if Europe needs to heat from these terribly could temps!

Hope this does not make a pattern of cold winters for Europe.

We are having 10 inches of rain in California over a very short period. Strange things are happening.

Yes, I'm sure island that is England would enjoy an even slower (or colder) gulf stream. Not sure if you are using heat or flow as your energy source in your plan.

A tiny fraction of 1.4 petaWatts could power the world without noticibly cooling or slowing the Gulf Stream. The global energy consumption is only around 400 to 500 Quad.

As for using the mechanical energy of the flow or the heat energy of the flow? Give me a suitably large grant and I'll figure it out. Venture capital is also welcome.

A talk given by Chef Arthur Potts Dawson at the TED Global conference in July 2010

The high price we pay for cheap food

Not long ago, I was very kindly invited to Buckingham Palace, as a member of Britain's food industry.

One group caught my eye for most of the evening. It was made up of gentlemen all dressed in military uniform ... What would the military be doing at a food gig at Buckingham Palace? Well, the answer stopped me short, so short that I have been unable to think of much else since that rather uneventful night -- uneventful except for the firm handshake of Her Majesty the Queen.

...The answer in its most shocking form was that these were the men who would be in control of the food in Britain should we face shortages. Shortages? Yes, shortages, of oil, water and their means of distribution. Shortages of flour, milk and eggs. Shortages of meat, fruit and vegetables.

In fact, should this country suffer from any number of potential problems with our oil-dependent food chain, our very lives could be in the hands of the small group of men standing in a corner in Buckingham Palace. All of Britain's superstar chefs had turned out for this event, but none was more important than the gentlemen who stood watching the rest of us, as we rather arrogantly walked around the room as if food would always be available to perform tricks with, to swear at and make jokes with. Well, food security is a serious issue and I better find out as much as I can about it.

I followed that link to the British chef and saw the embedded link to Dean Ornish. D.O. probably saved my life 20 years ago. After a heart attack I had dramatically changed for the better what I eat, but would probably have become worn down by skepticism and sometimes downright hostility around me, but Dean et al published their key paper in The Lancet. I discovered that I was already doing the Dean Ornish thing. Cheered
me up no end, as you might imagine. Enjoyed my young family as they grew up. More easily serviced as a diet as well (cheaper grains and legumes) especially if you can grow or locally source your fruit and veg. We can grow wonderful berries here in northern UK, and there is increasingly good science to back up health claims for most of these.

Glad you enjoyed it. I read D.O.'s book about the same time and found his ideas made sense.

Talking about berries; here, over on the other side of the pond, I've been had good luck growing red currants (good jelly), gooseberries, blackberrys and raspberrys. I planted some black currants last year but haven't gotten a crop yet.

Merry Christmas and Good Luck in the New Year

Wanted: Buyer for controversial Cape Wind energy