Drumbeat: December 20, 2010

A Physicist Solves the City

West illustrates the problem by translating human life into watts. “A human being at rest runs on 90 watts,” he says. “That’s how much power you need just to lie down. And if you’re a hunter-gatherer and you live in the Amazon, you’ll need about 250 watts. That’s how much energy it takes to run about and find food. So how much energy does our lifestyle [in America] require? Well, when you add up all our calories and then you add up the energy needed to run the computer and the air-conditioner, you get an incredibly large number, somewhere around 11,000 watts. Now you can ask yourself: What kind of animal requires 11,000 watts to live? And what you find is that we have created a lifestyle where we need more watts than a blue whale. We require more energy than the biggest animal that has ever existed. That is why our lifestyle is unsustainable. We can’t have seven billion blue whales on this planet. It’s not even clear that we can afford to have 300 million blue whales.”

The historian Lewis Mumford described the rise of the megalopolis as “the last stage in the classical cycle of civilization,” which would end with “complete disruption and downfall.” In his more pessimistic moods, West seems to agree: he knows that nothing can trend upward forever. In fact, West sees human history as defined by this constant tension between expansion and scarcity, between the relentless growth made possible by cities and the limited resources that hold our growth back. “The only thing that stops the superlinear equations is when we run out of something we need,” West says. “And so the growth slows down. If nothing else changes, the system will eventually start to collapse.”

Oil hovers above $88 amid light holiday trading

Analysts are mulling whether this year's strong global oil demand can carry over into 2011. Emerging markets, led by China, have accounted for most of the growth in oil consumption this year as the U.S. and Europe slowly recover from recession.

"The positive demand shock has continued relentlessly," Barclays Capital said in a report. Prices will likely rise "given the strength in underlying fundamentals and with macroeconomic sentiment continuing to improve."

Oil May `Break Out' Toward $94 If Support at $87 Holds: Technical Analysis

Crude oil, trading near the highest levels in two years, is likely to “break out” toward $94 a barrel if prices hold above $87 support, according to Chart Partners Group Ltd.

China Nov diesel imports jump as exports slump

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's exports of diesel slumped to the lowest monthly volume in almost two years in November, while imports of diesel and coal rose sharply as the country raced to cover shortages caused by a drive for energy efficiency.

China fuel stocks in first rise in 9 months -source

BEIJING (Reuters) - Combined inventories of gasoline, diesel and kerosene held by China's top two oil firms clawed back about 6 percent in November versus October, reversing declines in the previous eight months, as refiners raised productions to record rates, slashed exports and boosted imports to fight a diesel shortage.

Hedge Fund Bullish Gas Bets Collide With Dropping Prices

Hedge funds raised bullish bets on natural gas to a four-month high in the U.S. just as weather warmed, pushing heating fuel to its biggest weekly decline since August.

Commodities Rally Falters in Currency Futures as History Shows Dollar Wins

Speculators betting the commodities rally will continue into a third year are being confronted by currency investors wagering the dollar will strengthen in 2011. If history is any guide, the foreign-exchange market will win.

Indian Oil sells Dec fuel oil; volumes highest in 5 yrs

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Indian Oil Corp. (IOC) sold almost four times its monthly average volume of fuel oil for December-loading, boosting availability at a time when Western arbitrage supplies were tight, traders said on Monday.

Russia to boost flows on China demand

Russia's oil exports via state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft will rise 3.8% to 410 million barrels next quarter as pipeline shipments to China start, according to reports.

Chevron shuts Nigeria oil pipeline after attack

LAGOS (Reuters) - U.S. energy firm Chevron said on Monday it had suspended production from an oil pipeline in Nigeria's Delta state, which was breached on Friday. Chevron said it was investigating the damage to the Dibi-Abiteye pipeline, which feeds the Escravos oil stream, but did not comment on how much production would be lost.

Interactive: The Global Oil Diet

The United States is the third-largest producer of oil in the world, but it is by far the world's largest consumer of oil, using about twice as much oil as it produces. The highly-localized distribution of oil around the world and differences in regulatory approaches to drilling mean that among large economies there is enormous variation in the ratio of oil produced to oil consumed: Japan, Germany and South Korea must import practically all the oil that they use, while Canada and Russia are heavy users as well as net exporters of oil.

Shell Oil's Gamble: Will It Be Able to Drill in the Beaufort Sea?

Shell wants to drill at least one exploratory oil well north of Alaska in the Beaufort Sea in 2011. The company insists it can do it safely. Members of the Inupiat and Yupik Eskimo people who live in remote villages scattered through Alaska's Arctic region -- filled with tundra, lakes and sea ice -- are divided on whether to support the plan. They fear that potentially a big oil spill could kill off or drive away the whales, seals and walrus that make up much of their subsistence diet. But they're also afraid that if oil companies leave northern Alaska -- oil flow in the Alaska pipeline is down by two-thirds -- their land use tax money that pays for roads, homes and schools will disappear, too.

Osaka Gas to invest more than Y100 bil to acquire resources abroad

OSAKA — Osaka Gas Co will invest more than 100 billion yen by fiscal 2013 to acquire interests in resources such as gas fields abroad to boost its overseas operations at a time when the Japanese market is expected to shrink, company President Hiroshi Ozaki says.

With the planned investment, which includes one for contracts that have already been concluded, the company aims to enhance its revenue base by increasing the ratio of overseas business and stably secure liquefied natural gas.

Iran Cuts Energy Subsidies as Sanctions Take Toll, Gasoline Prices Soar

Iran started phasing out energy subsidies and replacing them with cash payments to the poor, under a five-year plan promoted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as an “economic revolution.”

...“The government is squeezed as it has never been before and is seeking to cut costs,” Hossein Askari, professor of business and international affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, said in a phone interview before the cuts began.

Iraq's Crude Production to Advance 17% Early Next Year, Oil Minister Says

Iraq forecast a 17 percent rise in oil output next year and invited companies from South Korea and Kazakhstan to sign immediately a delayed contract for the Akkas gas field, Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said.

Iraq, holder of the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves, wants foreign investors to help it boost production of crude and natural gas. Output of both has suffered from insurgent attacks and a lack of investment since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003. Seeking to end the stagnation, the government has awarded 12 oil contracts and three gas licences.

Sasol to Pay Talisman $1.04 Billion for Stake in Canadian Shale Gas Assets

Sasol Ltd., the world’s largest maker of motor fuels from coal, will pay C$1.05 billion ($1.04 billion) for a stake in Talisman Energy Inc.’s Canadian shale- gas assets and may build a motor-fuels plant in the country.

India May Import Less Thermal Coal Than Target; Hydro Power Output Rises

India’s power-station coal imports may be 24 percent less than estimated by the nation’s Planning Commission after the most rainfall in three years boosted electricity generation from water, reducing demand for the fuel.

Shortage fears spark rise in price at pumps

Fears that the Europe-wide cold spell could result in a shortage of oil has sparked higher prices on Irish forecourts.

A litre of petrol now costs an average 140.1c per litre, up 9c on last month -- more than double the 4c hike in the Budget.

Sri Lanka: New electricity tariffs to affect Hotels, Ceramics, manufacturing industries and household income

“The ceramic industry is highly energy intensive and energy costs generally constitute around 50 % of the total cost of production in most ceramic factories. The high cost of production at present in our country, has always been a disadvantage for Sri Lanka in comparison with our regional competitors.” said the Ceramics Council in the statement.

Similarly, Sri Lanka's top hotels which were paying the subsidized 'industrial' rate had been put under a higher rate in the new proposed tariffs. The new hotels rate is supposed to be at Rs.19.50 a unit which would lead top city hotels to pay extra Rs.120 million for power as per estimated figures.

Botswana faces acute fuel shortage

APA-(Gaborone) Botswana Diamond-rich Botswana on Monday was hit by acute shortage of fuel (diesel and petrol) of about 42% due to the planned maintenance shut-down of some of the refineries in South Africa and the reduced operational capacity of fuel pipeline at Tarlton Depot, South Africa, APA noted here.

Indonesia's Oil And Gas Revenues Predicted to Rise by Watchdog

Indonesian upstream oil and gas regulator BP Migas predicted oil and gas revenues would exceed the target set in the state budget for this year.

Qatar plans to build biggest helium processing plant

RAS LAFFAN, QATAR // Doomsayers have warned for decades that the world is exhausting its reserves of helium, a strategic gas that is rare on Earth due to its tendency to drift off into space.

Tiny Qatar is now riding to the rescue with a project to build the world's biggest plant for capturing and processing helium that would otherwise be wasted.

By lanternlight in rural Asia

When you travel in rural South Asia you see that in almost every unelectrified village there is a flourishing local trade in kerosene and kerosene lanterns for lighting, car batteries and battery-charging stations for small TV sets, dry cell batteries for radios, diesel fuel and diesel generator sets for shops and small businesses and appliances. It’s common to spot people carrying jerricans or bottles of kerosene from the local shop, or a battery strapped to the back of a bicycle, being taken to the nearest charging station several kilometres away. People want the benefits that electricity can bring and will go out of their way, and spend relatively large amounts of their income, to get it. That represents the opportunity of providing power for energy appliances at the household level (LED lamps, cookstoves, solar- and human-powered products) and of community-level power generation systems (village bio-gasification, solar and small-scale hydro and wind power).

Why Egypt's power has dimmed

"Turkey has a democratically elected government that is liberal, open-minded and Western-oriented, so its rise has not been threatening to the West ... It's a model of benign Islam," says Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut. "The decline of Egypt's role is largely self-inflicted, as Mubarak's authority is not democratic."

But democracy is not the only way to gain power. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, sleepy desert backwaters in the 1960s, have built shiny city-states in the Gulf, spending oil and gas revenue freely on infrastructure installed almost from scratch.

British Police Detain 12 on Suspicion of Terrorism

LONDON — In the latest of several European terrorism alerts, the British police arrested 12 men before dawn on Monday in raids in three cities under counterterrorism laws — the biggest operation of its kind for months.

The action, designed “to ensure public safety,” as the police put it, followed a suicide bombing in Sweden earlier this month and alarms in Germany over the reported threat of a terror attack modeled on the onslaught by gunmen in Mumbai.

The value of a nuclear Iran

There is something deliciously self-serving about Saudi exhortations for the US to act on Iran to prevent the rise of a new power in the Middle East, especially if the US were to step back and ask a tougher question about the role of "other snakes".

In case that is too obtuse, what I am referring to is the "snake" of religious terrorism, and in particular the problem of disaffected youth in predominantly Sunni kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait et al; as well as those in anarchies such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is not entirely clear that the natural enemy of such youth is necessarily the Americans; more likely, it is the established order of the Middle East, where the wealth of nations is controlled by a bunch of aging monarchies.

Schwarzenegger could see himself in Washington

Once out of office, he said, he "has plans to go back to Washington with Secretary [George] Schultz and others" to push for a new approach to energy policy. He said the country needs to bring Democrats and Republicans together on energy policies that both sides can agree on in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil and become competitive, "rather than always talking about global warming, which turns some people off."

Schwarzenegger said he has credibility on that issue, and "people are very receptive when I talk about these things because I’m a Hummer driver … not a tree hugger."

Peak Empire

This is a guest post from Gary, who presents data that indicate that the US military empire is already past its peak and may collapse suddenly. Gary uses a methodology for calculating peak empire that is similar to the Hubbert curve which successfully predicted Peak Oil for both the US and, more recently, the world.

Idea #1: The Green Hawks Are Coming

In fact admirals, generals and colonels have seen the enemy, and it's oil. They don't care if the stuff is bloody or dirty; they just want to get off pricey crude, asap.

They also believe that climate change, another byproduct of the Oil Age, poses a serious security threat to civilization, as we know it. Not surprisingly, people call these tough hombres, "the Green Hawks."

Peak Oil And Population Decline

A solution that is sometimes proposed for the dilemma of fossil-fuel decline is a global campaign for the humane implementation of rapid population decline (RPD). With all due respect for the attempt to find a satisfying answer to the question of overpopulation, such a proposal would conflict with the available data on the rate of decline in fossil fuels. The annual rate of population decline, in a civilization in which fossil fuels are the principal source of energy, must roughly equal that annual rate of fossil-fuel decline, which is probably about 6 percent (Höök, Hirsch, & Aleklett, 2009, June).

Our view on energy: Electric car market gets useful jump-start

One of the best arguments for tax breaks is that they helped get the hybrid market where it is today, along with gas prices and the fact that some states allowed hybrid drivers access to HOV lanes.

Those hybrid tax breaks have been phasing out as the law required — just as the tax breaks for electric cars are required to do. Electric cars must eventually live or die without government help.

Opposing view on energy: Subsidies? Just say no

The problem with electric vehicles can be summed up with one word: subsidies. Subsidies are prima facie evidence that consumers would not buy the product at its market price.

Honda Uses Toshiba Lithium-Ion Batteries in Test Version of Electric Car

Honda Motor Co. is using lithium-ion batteries made by Toshiba Corp. in a test version of its electric car, expanding upon a supply agreement for electric scooters.

Germany's Renewable Energy Costs Threaten Public Support, ZEW Center Says

Popular acceptance of Germany’s renewable energy drive is likely to weaken when households see the cost of subsidies in their power bills jump as much as fourfold, the ZEW Center for European Economic Research said.

First-Time Solar Producers May Imperil India's Push for Renewable Energy

India’s first solar auction, planned to boost clean energy in the world’s fourth-biggest polluter, may risk failure after winners were selected without experience or proof that they can keep projects afloat earning low margins.

In rural Minnesota, 11 school districts with 4-day weeks hope less doesn't mean lesser

It's not the first time Minnesota districts have shortened their weeks. According to the Education Department, four-day weeks were first tried during the 1970s, when the energy crisis created soaring fuel costs that cut into district budgets.

Madagascar Oil's stocks suspended after debut offering

The stock of Madagascar Oil has been suspended on London's AIM exchange, just three weeks after its debut in a £50 million (Dh285.52m) initial public offering.

The development is not only a setback for the company - a minnow that reported zero revenue and a small net loss last year - it could also threaten the broader outlook for developing east Africa's biggest known oil resource.

Frugal parents skip stores and swap online for kids' toys

To facilitate a swap, ThredUp provides a flat-rate shipping box a parent can fill with giveaways. The donor lists the contents of the box on the site, where the bundles are organized by age and gender. To claim a box, a user pays $5 to ThredUp plus $10.70 for shipping, and ThredUp e-mails the sender a prepaid shipping label. Members rate each other based on the quality of the stuff they receive.

The emphasis on convenience is a response to what Reinhart sees as "massive inefficiencies" in the used-clothing market. Parents are too busy to spend time "digging through the racks for those diamonds in the rough at Goodwill," he said.

Outdoors: 'Helping farmers reduce reliance on fertiliser will benefit us all'

Urgent Government Warning: The production of healthy food can seriously damage the health of the countryside. This is not a label many of us would like to see on our supermarket shelves. Yet, scientific research has shown that conventional farming practices in the UK are causing biodiversity fallout and greenhouse gas emissions.

Unless we change the way we farm in Scotland and the UK in the future, the rolling acres producing the country's food could cease to deliver what we ask of them.

2010 Extreme Weather: Deadliest Year In A Generation

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.

UN warning on severe weather due to climate change

As more snow this weekend immobilised parts of Britain the UN called for better preparation for severe weather in Europe.

The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) says the experience of Europe's big cities this winter shows that the world may be under-prepared to deal with less predictable climate patterns.

I see a couple of posts up top on Iran. Well I have another one:

Iran oil fields in decline and need enhanced recovery to meet demand

Iran's oil sector is a key factor in the Middle East and the world at large. Iran is OPEC's second largest oil producer. The nation now claims oil reserves of 150 billion barrels as a result of a 34 billion barrel discovery in the Persian Gulf. The climate of Iran's oil industry is clouded U.S. and U.N. sanctions which hamper refinery upgrades. The sanctions also prevent major oil companies from working in the country. The biggest factor holding back the industry is a 13% annual decline rate...

If there is anyone who really believes Iran has found a brand new super giant field in the Persian Gulf then I have some swamp land down here in Florida that I would like to sell you. Not that there is not plenty of oil in the Persian Gulf, because there is. The Safaniea field is the largest offshore field in the world and Iranian oil in the Gulf, discovered decades ago, is really part of that same family of fields. But every inch of Gulf was explored years ago.

But the interesting part of this report is the decline rate of Iran's older fields. 13 percent, that is alarming! And the article mentions that many of the older fields have been redeveloped with horizontal wells, but still they decline. So much for new technology turning old fields into new ones.

But with the high decline rates of the older fields, it is doubtful if Iran can continue to produce at present rates much longer. Thus the need for enhanced recovery methods in use by Western Oil companies. Some engineers question whether this technology will work in the low matrix porosity reservoirs where oil is contained in the fracture systems.

Well, they already have horizontal drilling and I suppose they, like Saudi Arabia, started water injection decades ago. So I am at a loss to figure out what enhanced recovery methods they are talking about?

Ron P.

In Iran, it is mainly gas injection.

Using data from the IEA Medium Term Oil Market Report 2010

Iran needs $130 oil to balance budget
IEA: Iran's crude oil production to decline by 700 Kb/d by 2015

At least its possible for Iran to actually balance its budget... What would the US need to balance ours?

It would be a shock to people to see government services and taxes brought into line. But it is surely possible, we still have a 15 Trillion GDP. The Deficit Commission report had a lot of good suggestions that would be a terrific start.

The main obstacle is the insane political atmosphere in this country. I think the only way to overcome it would be a Constitutional Amendment.

"At least its possible for Iran to actually balance its budget... What would the US need to balance ours?"

A world war. A proper one, mind you. Not just some global war on terror or hunger or drugs or erectile dysfunction or whatever.

If Iran is indeed in catastrphic decline, why keep up with the embargo? Let them sell all oil they got, and we'll see what happens when the gouvernment can't deliver to its population any more aftr the oil is gone. They are already hugely unpopular, I amnot sure they would survive an oil collapse.

Jedi, the embargo does not forbid Iran from selling oil. And even if it did not everyone is going along with the embargo. But it is primarily an embargo of arms and nuclear technology. Iran is selling every barrel they can possibly produce.

Ron P.

Thanks for the clarification. I've never took the time to read the fine print on the embargo papers.

It seems pretty clear that Iran's net exports have begun their terminal decline. There may be some reduced consumption as Fuel prices in Iran rise as latest subsidy reforms begin. But any change in consumption due these reforms is unlikely to offset the production declines mentioned above. Iran is already dangerously close to the point-of-no-return where rising demand meets falling production. From there on out we should expect their net export decline to pick up speed.

Here is Sam's forecast for Iranian net oil exports, showing actual net exports through 2006 (the 2007, 2008 and 2009 data points fall between his middle case and high case):

The projected 2005 to 2015 net export rate of change is shown, -4.9%/year--within a range from -11.9%/year to +2.1%/year. The actual observed net export rate of change, for 2005 to 2009, has been -1.4%/year.

All that Iraqi oil next door must look very tempting for them.

Didn't Iran announce big new reserve figures a couple months or so ago?

This certainly makes their push into nuclear energy much more reasonable.

But every inch of Gulf was explored years ago.

Uh huh.

In the United States, by 1950 all the anticlines visible from the
surface geology had been drilled. Methods other than surface geologic
mapping were already in widespread use. Drilling the last surface
anticline was not newsworthy. In contrast, in Iran today all the oil
fields are surface-visible anticlines. Exploration in Iran and Iraq has
been frozen at the same stage that the western United States reached
in 1950.

I'm in a coy mood and also pressed for time, so I leave it up to you to guess the author. Hint: it isn't Lynch. Or Mills. Or Clarke. Or Yergin.

Kenneth S. Deffeyes ?

Bingo. Documenting what more hi tech exploration has occurred in Iraq in the last 7 years would be interesting. Checking the megaprojects 815 kb/d is coming online from 2008-2013. Haven't updated my spreadsheet in a while so perhaps this has been bumped along a bit.

I get 2850 kb/d from Iran 2003-2015. Have read a few articles detailing more advanced exploration going on there as well; of course Ken published his book slightly before that period, so his statement rang true at the time - it's from his "Hubbert's Peak," which came out in 2001.

Meanwhile, let the good times roll . . .

Pent-up demand sends car buyers back to showrooms

On Thursday, Castelli bought his eighth car in the last few years, picking up a 2011 Ford Escape for his college-student daughter. Despite the uncertain economy, persistently high unemployment and rising fuel prices, he remains optimistic about the economy in general and his businesses in particular.

"I have no plans to stop buying cars," said Castelli, who only purchases American products. "Luckily, the two industries I'm involved in personally have not been affected that badly [by the economy]. In the future, I see myself having a five- or six-car garage."

I would love to know what business he is in. No doubt those American cars are all domestic content. While he is waving the flag, however, he might consider whether all that oil he uses is Made in America. Otherwise, he might just be contributing indirectly to terrorists. Like all of us, unfortunately.

At the end of the day, we're stuck with the idea that in order to contribute to the economy and to have a fulfilling life we must buy a new car every few years.

Good point.

While I live in DFW and don't know anybody like this guy, I certainly believe the story. Just because you have money doesn't mean you have taste.

War and consumption are the only things keeping us going. Without them, we are just a bunch of rubes, and everybody knows it.

"In the future, I see myself having a five- or six-car garage."

I'm cool with that- there are many people with collections of useless tat.

so long as he keeps them in the garage and doesn't intend to drive them.....


PS: oh I forgot , he's rich enough to have a big garage so he doesn't care about fuel prices (until later ofcourse).

How absurdity continues to outdo itself over the last several years.

Hey man, why stop at 6 cars in your garage. 5 airplanes. 4 yachts. 3 McMansions. 2 vacation homes. And a partridge in a pear tree ;-)

Merry Christmas everyone!

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

A toast to a low-consumption holiday.

"Luckily, the two industries I'm involved in personally have not been affected that badly [by the economy].

Let's see, would that be financial alchemist for Goldman Sachs, or governor of the NY Fed?

Actually he's probably just a small business owner, though a successful one.

8 cars - what's that, $250,000? (or more, depending on which models).

A financial alchemist at Goldman Sachs will drop 5 million for art at an auction without even thinking about it.

Been playing with Google Lab's Books Ngram Viewer, it has a huge database of word occurrence in digitized books.

I've tried some terms:

Peak Oil:

Resource scarcity:

Limits to growth:

Credit default:


Re: Opposing view on energy: Subsidies? Just say no, up top.

It is hard to tell if opponents of subsidies are ignorant or hypocrites.

I suppose it is possible to be both. Subsidies are all over the place. Education is subsidized. The military is subsidized. Roads are subsidized. Police are subsidized. Medical care is subsidized.
I can go on and on.

The biggy as far a energy is concerned is subsidies for oil. Do people not know this? Evidently.

Either that or they are selectively against subsidies based on ideology, religion or some such.

Of course the market would not pay the real market price for the item subsidized. So what. That is not the fault of the subsidy. It is the fault of the market system. Those who think the market is god are delusional. Markets are full of flaws.

The main goal of the market is to clear supply and demand at a given instant. The market is an abstraction. It has no mind. It does not reason. It does not think. It is governed by the emotions of the moment. It is fickle.

Yet some people hold it up as a guide to what society should do as far as producing goods and services.

Fortunately cooler heads usually prevail or we would not have things like public education, the military, roads, police, medical care as we know it, and of course oil.

Subsidies are one way a free society tries to correct the flaws and irrationality of markets.

And if one is against a certain subsidy then they should explain how another subsidy for a related product or service is justified.

Picking out one subsidy and ignoring all the rest is wrong.

A former President has said that we are addicted to oil. It is a habit that is supported by large subsides.

There is more to dropping oil addiction than "just say no".
The withdrawal would be very painful especially if there are not subsidized alternatives to take oil's place.


All government subsidies are bad. Period. What good you can theoretically envision being acheived from them is easily eclipsed by the unintended consequences. Take the corn subsidy, now directly responsible for our obesity epidemic. Directly. Responsible. It is always the same with the nanny state. It. Must. Die. Before it kills us all. Now who you calling ignorant?

X takes extreme stands on things, which makes too many of his statements brittle and easily toppled.

You're doing the same thing.

I don't see how the Head-start program has been simply Bad with no net benefits, for example. What about the abandoned(?) subsidies for putting libraries and adult-ed programs in the prisons? Is there an absolutely BAD consequence to the part of LIHEAP (Low Income Heat Energy Assistance Program) that helps people insulate and weatherproof their homes, such that the amount of fuel required by that home is from then on reduced?

Extremes are comforting to those who believe that 'Tough and Simple' solves all problems.. but that's the Hammer that sees every problem as a nail.

Predictions for 2011

Next year we will see various natural disasters, more exposures of government and corporate wrong doings, which is meant to show us their duplicity; exposure of a secret corruption scandal, perhaps at Wall Street; and the sudden on-take of the ``Oil Peak” crisis. ASPO (The Association for the Study of Peak Oil), has stated clearly that our world oil reserves will peak between 2006 and 2010, and this was already shown in the ``Hubbert Peak” presentation in the 1970s. A ``peak” in oil means that even if we keep pumping, the usable reserves are already dry.

Thus 2011 will represent the start of a new era. Image our lives without oil?

Well, this guy obviously gets the definition of a "peak" in oil wrong. But it is nice to see that peak oil is working its way into the prognostications of some future readers. This one comes from the Korean Times. But a sudden on-take of the peak oil crisis. I think it will be coming down the pike but perhaps not in 2011. Then again it just might.

Ron P.

Ron - Commentors like this guy cause the same worry in my that I began to sense when I see statements by the Govenator: "Schwarzenegger said he has credibility on that issue (energy)". Similar feeling when the right wing nut jobs try to support the oil industry with such rants as "Drill, baby, drill". It just makes me want to scream: "Please don't help us anymore!". Pro PO and oil patch supporters who make foolish claims and statements just hurt the credibility of the rest of us. I'm sure you're aware just how intentional disinformation that appears to help any cause can do more damage than negative attacks.

I understand your concerns Rockman, but I am afraid I am not really as concerned with the credibility effect of a few stray articles like this one. There will be hundreds of such predictions coming out in the next two weeks and this one just happens to be one that mentions peak oil. Most will not mention the energy problem at all.

Actual events will be what changes people's minds about the peak oil problem, not arguments or predictions. Articles have little effect at all, either on the peak problem or our credibility.

Robert Rapier and Stuart Staniford have said we should refrain from making any predictions about peak oil because if we are wrong it will hurt our credibility. Really now. I have been predicting for years now that we are at peak oil right now. While that may not seem like a prediction of the future it really is because it predicts that we will never come off, to the high side, of this plateau. We will come off all right but to the downside.

Robert Hirsch makes the same prediction in slide 10 of this report. The Impending World Energy Mess

We believe that world oil production will likely stay on its current plateau and enter decline in 2 to 5 years.

I make the same prediction and have no worried about my credibility whatsoever.

Ron P.

I know what you mean Ron but I'm not talking about the rarified air of TOD and similar sources. Jay Leno can make one dumb joke or Sara make one dumb statement and impact the public's thinking about PO more than a year's worth of TOD threads. IMHO in the end the vast majority of the public will "learn" the details of PO from the MSM. And we know their criteria: if it "bleeds" it leads. The outlandish/controversial views will rule the day in my opinion. We see that daily on every major issue we watch today. And then we're left with what...our political leadership will shine the light of truth/rationality thru this induced fog? Yeah...right. LOL

Rock, I guess I am with Ron on this. After trying to convince people, even relatively bright people, even open minded relatively bright people, about the coming limits and the potentially devastating effects of PO, I came to the conclusion that it doesn't matter a whit what we say on TOD or anywhere else for that matter. Denial rules because that is what people WANT to be true. Even people who agree, will ten minutes later talk about their upcoming vacation, and what great things their kids are going to do in the next ten years. Complete oblivion.

It is very similar to climate change. Any cold spell gives the reasoner the ability to ignore the potential threat. Worse than that commercial issues will trump anything else. We will do nothing to change the CO2 emissions until geological limits do.

So have a ball making predictions which no one will listen to. Believe me no one is going to look back and say you missed it by a year or two or five. They will be too busy trying to figure out why their world is changing so dramatically.

So why do I like to read this site if I am such a fatalist. It's a good read. You guys are bright and insightful. Just because other people do not want to plan for potential problems does not mean that I have to follow them. I have learned a great deal here, and hope to continue to.


I see the purpose of TOD as "influencing the influencers". There is a small percentage of people out there that know that something is up with resource limits but don't have the data/math/science/engineering chops to collect the necessary information and figure out what it all means by themselves. I count myself among them.

What TOD does best is make it easier for those people ("us") to pull together a coherent story that we then tell to others. Some of those others don't listen but some do. I know of folks ranging from hard core environmentalists to contrarian financial advisers to curious engineers who get some or even much of their understanding about the state of the world from TOD posts.

I wouldn't underestimate the importance of providing news and analysis and commentary to some of these outside-the-box thinkers who will then spin their own stories with a slightly different slant. Changing societal paradigms takes a very long time and influencing the influencers is a good place to start.


100% with you and Ron.I have given up on trying to educate and let zombies be zombies.Better to work and prepare for yourself and enjoy what you can till TSHTF.People think I have a "hole in my head" and so my name.

Mention of zombies provokes me to inject a plug for Krugman's latest article in which he rails against 'zombie economics'.

Krugman is still stuck in the Keynes vs. Friedman debate which is about as useful as the political bickering between Dems and Repubs.

Krugman is as blissfully unaware of limits to growth and diminishing marginal returns on complexity as the rest of them.

The idea that you should stimulate an economy that's been hyperstimulated for 30 and arguably 70 years is obscene.

It is certainly a pickle when you can't just walk away from trying to convince somebody. My wife is no dummy - a molecular biologist - and she trusts that I am no dummy and take me 'seriously' when I tell her that PO is a real threat.

But it seems like the reality of it all is too big for her to take in. I am 'crash-coursing' farming and solar-thermal tech etc, and she is still buying crap on ebay...

We have a kid... and I feel like our family is being pulled in two directions.

Indeed, I am much like you wife in my profession; however, I see the science here is inescapable. My wife is much like yours and not quite ready to fully comprehend the results of peak oil. She too is buying things for my son that I would not buy. But ebay is perhaps a good option for some things -- being cheaper than Target or Walmart. My only response is that we should be paying down our bills as best we can. I also have advocated spending less money on certain things like eating out for dinner too often or easy meals -- I offered to cook as much as I can but I cannot always do it.

These are hard issues to resolve but with time the message will get there. Also the hope is that the transition takes some time and your efforts can perhaps be spread over a little more time. As things get worse you investments in gardening and solar-thermal will be perceived as being worthwhile in the end.

I think there should be a whole thread on spousal/family/close friend issues. What I see here so far is pretty close to what I am experiencing.

But really, I know of only one person in my personal life who has anything close to a glimmering of the full sh*tstorm we're in the middle of. And I mostly associate with professors and other educators.

So I guess the frustration is general. But I do wonder if at some point it might come to a head in my most intimate relationship.

Once the house is paid off (soon) and I save a bit more money, maybe I'll buy a bit of land close enough to bike to and start doing some serious horticulture. But I'm not thinking of making it into a second house with the kinds of comforts she would find amenable, so this would be another point of division.

She would like to redo our upstairs to make it 'nicer' if we manage to save some money. I would like to super-insulate the house. Right now she's the one in deep credit card debt, so I'm not sure she'll be able to have much say if I'm the one saving the cash for the project. But again--division.

I have wondered if others are experiencing similar resistance from their partners.

The other thing is that I no longer see the world the same way. I don't want BAU. I hate this awful consumerism and the death and pain it causes.

PO has helped me understand what BAU means, and even if tomorrow Abiotic oil was confirmed as true and we had as much oil as we needed, I still don't want the BAU life anymore. I am still going to work on having the smallest footprint possible.

I don't think my wife feels the same way about BAU as I do. But I think PO is real and so she will soon be having her POV 're-aligned'.

I don't think my wife feels the same way


No two people think/feel the same way, especially in a marriage.
One theory says that opposites attract.

If you intend to radically change the POV of your mate, your marriage may be in trouble.
Very few people undergo radical changes in the way they think after age 30-40. They become set in their ways.

Despite most TOD'ers being 99% sure PO is real and that it will drastically change BAU, there is always a 1% chance that we are all wrong and that PO will have no major effect on the future (because, for example, an unforeseen Black or White Swan event unfolds that renders PO moot).

So bottom line: don't be so hard on your mate or yourself.
Accept that other people have alternate views of the Universe.

So bottom line: don't be so hard on your mate or yourself.
Accept that other people have alternate views of the Universe.

Very wise advice indeed. As someone who has been married and divorced and been through a few relationships I couldn't agree more. I almost made the mistake of ruining my current relationship by trying to raise awareness of PO and giving my girlfriend way more information than she was ready to cope with at present. I finally realized I needed to stop doing that and live and let live. Ironically it seems that some of the seeds I inadvertently planted seem to have begun germinating on their own. I'm happy to say that our relationship is now better than ever.

Thank you both for what I believe to be good advice.

I have thought a bit more about it and thought I would share.

Certainly, I have done all that I need to do 'to plant seeds'. But instead of 'pushing' my wife, I will identify things in my 'preparation list' that aren't as time-sensitive and as/when/if my wife becomes ready to ask the question 'what can I do to help', I will already have the books/learning tasks/activity queued to just hand to her/let her choose.

Doesn't really help me with the moments when she comes home with another antique lamp that she tells me was a bargain at $300, and all I see is a piece of firewood that might give us 30 mins of heat :)

(PS. I don't mean to sound like a 'doomer', but I do think we might experience something comparable to the Great Depression and I REALLY don't want to experience some of the personal stories I have read from that period. And anybody who has ever known true hunger and not known where there next meal is coming from is strongly motivated to never let it happen to them again.)

How old is your child? Try to communicate directly with your child, perhaps by reading stories of life in the olden days. I have grandchildren, 6, 12, and 13, and I communicate with them directly to the effect that we are in for hard times. Of course you say nothing to crush the child, but just reading Charles Dickens to them can illustrate the fact that people can live in and survive great hardship. And of course you can buy your child appropriate books and rent appropriate DVDs. For teenagers, I think THE GRAPES OF WRATH, is a good movie to view together and then to talk about. Kids like stories about hardship--and people striving to live with the bare essentials.

If your wife is a lost cause now, just wait a few years until the handwriting is on all the walls. If she buys things you don't need with money you don't have, well, that condition is curable by harsh reality.

Our son is 10 months. I really like your suggestion with regard to stories. Thank you.

I have been reading and listening to interviews with people who had lived through the Great Depression so that I can get sense of what things will be like. Apparently, board games and good books were highly prized - especially fiction books. And so I have been stocking up on both. But I hadn't thought specifically on stocking up on the kinds of books for our son that might nourish his sense of hope,and courage as he grows.

With regard to my wife, I agree that a little patience and reality will help re-align our world views.

it doesn't matter a whit what we say on TOD

Sure it does.

No one gets converted on the basis of a singular revelation.

It takes time.
Sometimes decades.
For stubborn minds to change (their internal light bulbs)

But change does come. And it comes on the basis of what the agents for change say or stay silent about. If you repeat a sticky meme long enough, it starts to stick and it starts to weigh on the minds of even the most ardent disbelievers.

(Example: say the words "Climate Change" to an AGW denier. Watch what happens. They do cringe. They do acknowledge its existence in the same breath that they try to deny it.)

(Example: say the words "Climate Change" to an AGW denier. Watch what happens. They do cringe. They do acknowledge its existence in the same breath that they try to deny it.)

This is true. I was born and raised by a Young Earth Creationist mother. I needed 14 years to work through all the data, all the evidence, and checking out what the Good Old Book ACTUALLY said, to come out on the other side. In the meanwhile I used to have those YEC/Evolution debates and I hated it because since I am scientificly minded I do know how to evaluate evidence and deep down I knew the whole time my point of view did not hold water. I can testify that just seeing the evidence once wont change the mind of a denyer, you need to hang out with the science for a good deal of time before you soak it up.

I needed 14 years to work through all the data, all the evidence, and checking out


Your story is not a unique one.

I would venture to guess that many of us, in younger years, accepted without question the doctrines we were taught by well meaning folk immediately around us (i.e., our parents, teachers, priests, government leaders). [ i.mage.+]

After all, if we cannot trust our very own parents, if we cannot trust our 1st grade teacher, our local priest, then who can we trust?

It is only after many years of being exposed to contrary evidence and allowing some tiny fraction of it to seep into our heads that we started saying. "Hey, wait a minute, some of the models in my head simply do not stand up to close scrutiny!"

Almost all people have continuously evolving models and understandings in their heads of how the world is put together. The brain is plastic and hence deformable and reformable.

Science and logic do not always win out.

I have seen many people who with age, illness, stress, social pressure, etc. "change their minds" and go in the direction of mysticism and absolute irrationality.

So what we say here on TOD does matter a wit.

The people on the other side know it and they keep chanting their things.
We need to persistently chant in the other direction.
Small tweets that might penetrate into the inner sanctum.

Repeat daily and twice on holidays:

The world is finite, oil is finite.
The world is finite, oil is finite.
The world is finite, oil is finite.

When the oil peters out, BAU ends.
When the oil peters out, BAU ends.
When the oil peters out, BAU ends.

So what we say here on TOD does matter a wit.

For we're all jolly good fellows, For we're all jolly good fellows
For we're all jolly good fellows, which nobody can deny
Which nobody can deny, which nobody can deny
For we're all jolly good fellows, For we're all jolly good fellows
For we're all jolly good fellows, which nobody can deny...

but they sure as hell will try!

I maintain it doesn't matter a whit. The "rarified atmosphere" of TOD has been around about 5 years and I have been here pretty much the whole time, although it took a while for me to not just follow along. There is no other site or source, that I am aware of, that has provided as much good quality data on our present situation. I have been aware of PO since 1998 and have tried to make people aware since that time. Many of you have as well. Have we succeeded in a few cases? Sure. Is there any semblance of a critical mass to effect change. Absolutely not. I am quite certain that the population of the world grows ten times, no 100 times faster than peak oil awareness.
I have never stated that our problems weren't fixable. I think it is feasible that they are. I just don't believe that, with perhaps two to four years left before liquid fuel decline, we will do anything of substance in that time. Nor will we change enough minds to matter. Like I said it is just like climate change. I don't worry about it at all. Not because it isn't a problem, but because we as a world will not do anything about it. too many reasons not to.
Plan for yourself and the ones you love, as well as you can.

Plan for yourself and the ones you love

There is a clear split in solution camps here on TOD.

1) One group says go it alone and the heck with the rest of society
2) The other group says we have to get everybody on board

Personally, I'm more with group 2 (get as many people as possible on board the PO-awareness train) than with the soloist survivor camp.

The reason is that historically speaking, humans have not faired very well in small groups.
Consider for example some of the early settlements (i.e. Jamestown, Plymouth Rock) in the New World after the latter was "discovered". Quite a number of these settlements collapsed because they did not have enough souls on board to make it as a viable community. (The Pilgrims survived only because the local Native Indians gratuitously added their know how and thus themselves to the Pilgrim population.)

It has taken the Climate Change people a long long time to get a sizable number of others to listen to them.

The plain simple truth is that they were persistent.
They did not say I'm giving up and going it alone.
(Well of course in their situation, it is impossible to go it alone. So they had no choice.)

In the case of PO, the go-it-alone option "sounds" like a viable option.
But the more you think about it (roving gangs of zombies, lack of modern medicine, etc.), the more you realize that "Plan for [only] yourself and the ones you love" is not going to work in the long run.

IMHO, we have to get more people into the PO-awareness camp. We have to keep chiseling away. Nothing else is going to break through that denialist wall as will a constant removal of one little pebble after the next.

Step back, You keep alluding to the same problem but you don't address the inevitable conclusion. Yes it would be better to have more people and I do have some who are already in the camp. You can't completely fail after a decade of trying! But adding converts is like herding cats. Yes it will take "a decade" to convert many, time we simply do not have. I will continue to attempt to convert as well as I can but I have no illusion that the vast majority won't be hit up the side of the head when the SHTF.
I plan with the people I have in my camp, which is the best that I can do. I can't force people to understand in time. Or perhaps you think we have a lot more time than I do.

(The Pilgrims survived only because the local Native Indians gratuitously added their know how and thus themselves to the Pilgrim population.)

As a historical point the "local Native lndians gratuitously added their know how" because the pilgrims assisted the tribe in "wiping out"
another tribe that was their enemy by using fire arms!

So much for the spirt of the Thanksgiving Holiday!!


Holy gobbling turkey sh*t! I knew I shouldn't have trusted my elementary school history teacher.


But please please don't tell me George Washington didn't chop down the cherry tree and then confess to the crime cause he was such an honest Abe. I can't handle too much disillusionment all in one day.

Nothing else is going to break through that denialist wall as will a constant removal of one little pebble after the next.

I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about this. I'm convinced that there is a phenomenon of climate change denialism, whereas in my opinion, there is no such analog for peak oil.

Climate change is out in the open even when it is being denied by right wing Faux News pundits. The masses know about it, it's part of public discourse. There is a constant barrage of information pro and con with rabid denialism of the scientific consensus by organized interest groups. Just about any Tom, Dick and Harry feels qualified to opine on the topic. Everyone has an opinion on it one way or the other. So at least it is possible to try to change some minds.

Peak Oil? Huh? What's that?

It just simply isn't on anyone's radar outside of a few sites such as TOD, populated by a few cognoscenti.
There doesn't seem to be all that much in the public's perception to keep chiseling away at.

Yes, there is this general vague idea that we must somehow keep growing the economy as a solution to our current crisis. And this is coupled with a profound lack of understanding and ignorance about resource limits.
Occasionally PO gets a mention here and there but nothing like climate change.

Perhaps it's just me but I don't get the same sense of outright denial against PO that I perceive against climate change. What I get is an almost complete lack of recognition that there is such a thing, let alone that it has implications that will sooner rather than later, impact all of our lives.

Any other thoughts on this?

Peak Oil? Huh? What's that?

It used to be called "Global Warming" (GW).

However, the climatology people figured out that sounds do bite.

So they changed it to the alliterative CC: Climate Change.

We PO'ers (Peak Oilers) haven't learned yet.

If you want a sound to stick, make it sticky.

"PO" is simply not sticky.

Something like the "Petro Plummet and Plunge Problem" (the 4 P's) is stickier.

And yet we cling to our one Pea and our one Oh (PO)


(Oh when will they ever learn, Oh when will they ever learn? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind.)

You are misinformed. This is very recent history making your description somewhat incredible, but in this time of times, assertion is accepted as evidence, even proof.

Praise be the gods!

The truth is stranger than the fiction. The term "climate change" was first used in a paper or article in the 1980's by a scientist. It didn't catch on much. In the 2000's, the Bush administration hired a fellow in his 20's to eviscerate climate alarm with the most powerful sword of all: words. They began redacting, editing, cutting out whole sections of papers from nationally employed scientists, and muzzling the scientists directly.

One of the techniques the Bush administration thought clever was to substitute CC for GW.

It had nothing at all to do with GW propaganda, but everything to do with GW denial propaganda: "Although Luntz later tried to distance himself from the Bush administration policy, it was his idea that administration communications reframe "global warming" as "climate change" since "climate change" was thought to sound less severe."

It is a shame facts are no longer a required part of social discourse; disastrous, I suspect.


You done yourself right proud.
Thanks for the history lesson. :-)

I always assumed that the denialists' story of how GW came to be CC had to be true because why would the AGW denialists shoot themselves in their own foot with one of their most powerful weapons (psycholinguistic mixed messaging)?

If anything, the GWB administration was masterful in the use of psycholinguistic mixed messaging and won two elections that way. (Do you still remember their slogans? "Love Life"? "Them who don't likes us very much and hates our freedoms"?)

Your version of history --namely that climate scientists were too tone deaf to have come up with CC on their own-- kind of makes more sense. Thanks.

I've known for some time now about the works of psycholinguists like George Lakhof and Frank Luntz but I didn't know that Luntz was the megamind behind rewording GW into CC.

In either case, CC works way better for moving the GW message forward among the masses than does GW itself. CC is more sticky. After all, everybody talks about the climate/weather although few do anything about it.

Climate Change is more technicayl correct than Global Warming. Actually GHG's does not warm up the planet, it just moves heat from the higher layers in the atmosphere down to the lower ones, near us. The atmosphere actually don't heat up. (Then there are heating effects, but those are secondary).

Also, as we who live in northern Europe know very well these days; there is no heating right now, but alot of change.

Heating is a consequence of the change. CC is the better word pair.

Perhaps for those of us not in the industry - we never see 'the oil'. There is no 'oil'.

There is a disconnect. Like for city-folk -'Food doesn't come out of the ground, it comes from the supermarket.' 'I don't see or touch one bit of oil in my day to day life'.

When I first started on 'my journey of understanding with PO', for weeks I was walking around looking at things with fresh eyes and thinking "Holy crap, everything is made of oil". And that's what made me explore 'the theory' further.

First half of 1) plus the second.


I loved that bit where Gov. S. says he "has cred on peak oil because I drive a Hummer and am not a treehugger" or some such. Ouch, indeed! Perhaps that's been the problem all along. All the illuminati of the PO and environmental concerns should have been driving Hummers, then the American people would listen to them.

His Hummer runs on H2. So he is a tree hugger since it burns "clean." ;-)


I'm not sure it makes much difference what he drives, except perhaps for any influence he exerts second-hand. A Hollywonk who drives a Prius but jets to Paris is at least as hypocritical; for neither does it change peak oil by more than a second or two at most. For a politico, the voting record counts far more.

Hmmm....compare and contrast Al Gore and Ahnold's personal lifestyles, statements, and voting records -- now that would be entertaining.

Here, a vocal minority demands a stop to auto infrastructure spending and a push for trains, buses, and bikes. The local planners listen and quietly say that they don't disagree with the notions, but that they cannot do other than as the political reality demands. So, they spend a few bucks on bike paths and try to maintain public transportation, but spend heavily on new highways using stimulus dollars. If they didn't build the highways, they wouldn't get rail or bus money instead, and then a large number of starving local contractors would be screaming along with the incensed motorists.

Since when did disinformation become a problem? That is the stock and trade of the most popular cable network, Fox News.

The NYT A Physicist Solves the City comments that companies get less and less efficient as they get larger.

As the number of employees grows, the amount of profit per employee shrinks. West gets giddy when he shows me the linear regression charts. “Look at this bloody plot,” he says. “It’s ridiculous how well the points line up.” The graph reflects the bleak reality of corporate growth, in which efficiencies of scale are almost always outweighed by the burdens of bureaucracy. “When a company starts out, it’s all about the new idea,” West says. “And then, if the company gets lucky, the idea takes off. Everybody is happy and rich. But then management starts worrying about the bottom line, and so all these people are hired to keep track of the paper clips. This is the beginning of the end.”

The danger, West says, is that the inevitable decline in profit per employee makes large companies increasingly vulnerable to market volatility. Since the company now has to support an expensive staff — overhead costs increase with size — even a minor disturbance can lead to significant losses. As West puts it, “Companies are killed by their need to keep on getting bigger.”

I wonder if this is also true with respect to web sites.

This morning, a commentator on Bloomberg Radio said that 20 million Chinese move from rural areas to cities each year. Because the average contribution to GDP of city dwellers is 20 times that of farmers, this movement contributes 6% to their annual GDP growth.

Now that sounds sustainable!

Perhaps Merrill. But when I was in China in 2000 adopting my daughter I went to a big department store. And I kid you not: you could not walk 10' without bumping into a sales girl. In a typical US store you might find two sales persons in a linen dept, lets say. In the Chinese store there were no less than two dozen young girls. From what I could tell that big head count wasn't increasing sales at all. In fact most of the folks with me found it uncomfortable and finished shopping as fast as possible. But I'm sure the flood of workers adds something to the GDP. Just not sure how to add it up.

20 million Chinese move from rural areas to cities each year. Because the average contribution to GDP of city dwellers is 20 times that of farmers,

Interesting... I wonder how much building Ghost cities contributed to their GDP over the last decade or so.

The Ghost towns of China:


All around the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the Dragon;
The monkey thought 'twas all in fun,
Pop! goes the Dragon.

90 bucks for a barrel o'crude
The Chinese are a braggin
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the Dragon.

I think it's probably true of web sites that are run like corporations - that is, with a profit motive.

Obviously, it doesn't apply to web sites without a profit motive - that is, the ones that don't need to get bigger.

Or governments :)

I think the same thing applies to all systems. They deliver big benefits initially, but degrade over time until they become a burden which out-ways the benefits.

An interesting article which fills in a bit of flesh on my own view, that most people are going to remain in cities which will ghettoise to survive. Firstly from the article;

Furthermore, the pace of urbanization is accelerating as people all over the world flee the countryside and flock to the crowded street.

A trend I believe will not only continue but intensify. The reason why this trend will continue as resources decline:

In city after city, the indicators of urban “metabolism,” like the number of gas stations or the total surface area of roads, showed that when a city doubles in size, it requires an increase in resources of only 85 percent...

...Small communities might look green, but they consume a disproportionate amount of everything. As a result, West argues, creating a more sustainable society will require our big cities to get even bigger. We need more megalopolises...

...According to the data, whenever a city doubles in size, every measure of economic activity, from construction spending to the amount of bank deposits, increases by approximately 15 percent per capita. It doesn’t matter how big the city is; the law remains the same.

Basically, people are going to concentrate into economic groups to efficiently use diminished resources and enhance productivity to survive. I use the term ghetto to indicate the special nature of these concentrations and the fact they won't be part of the established order. Beholden only to their own internal dynamics rather than to any external authority or system. Also one of the reasons I believe travel will become increasingly difficult, expensive, dangerous and unnecessary.

...Small communities might look green, but they consume a disproportionate amount of everything. As a result, West argues, creating a more sustainable society will require our big cities to get even bigger. We need more megalopolises...

This canard has been debunked here and elsewhere many times, yet strangely keeps on popping up. Small communities are *not* generally more resource intensive or less sustainable than dense cities. And if the sh*t really hits the fan, where would you rather be --in a small farming community where people know how to grow and make stuff, or in a crowded megalopolis like L.A. or Shanghai?


I'm not inclined to debunk peoples urban bias (rural phobia?). They're fine where they are. In my experience, when they come to the countryside, they bring with them a desire to "fix the sticks".

Better to stay in the city and watch reruns of Green Acres.

Maybe not L.A. or Shanghai, but I would rather be in a city.

I can think of several cities, particularly in areas that are low growth, and have plentiful water, where I would rather be than in the boondocks with the doomsteaders and their redneck overlords.

Where do you get this idea that small town folk know how to make stuff? A few hobbies here or there doesn't amount to "making stuff."

The Chinese must be laughing their heads off. We practically give away our industry to them, then we console ourselves with emotional fantasies of yeoman craftsmanship.

The trend firmly in place is people moving into cities and more dense areas, and consolidation in agribusiness.

I see no reason whatsoever that peak oil or financial catastrophe is going to change those trends, if anything they will be accelerated.

I moved from city to a remote rural area where my farm is. I have been amazed at the ingenuity and resourcefulness of my neighbors. None of them have a formal education, but I have learned more from these people in several years than all my years of schooling and big business. They know how to do everything from live off their farms year round, to welding the damndest "fixes" of broken stuff under my house, to making parts for tractors, to fashioning these sunken rain barrel contraptions that water the fields in dry spells... they never cease to amaze me with their home-grown solutions. In my experience these "poor rural" people are brilliant! and I look forward to learning from them the rest of my days.

The industrial revolution started in the country for that very reason. Most of the 18th century "engineers' were uneducated tradesmen. The scientists described the technology of steam engines long after they were built and being used.

Well you guys are making my point, but I don't want to argue too much.

Just don't think I'm going to have any romantic notion that this is the way forward in the 21st century, collapse or not.

I suppose this does have to happen eventually, happened to the Brits, now it's happening to us. I guess we'll leave it to the Chinese to design and build the future. And if the Germans and Japanese are smart they'll hang on to whatever they have left.

James Watt had a grammar school education and an aptitude for mathematics. He was trained in London as an instrument maker, and was employed as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow. Watt improved on Newcomen's engine.

Thomas Newcomen was a teaching elder in the Baptist church and a businessman. His partner John Calley was a metalworker, plumber, glass blower. Thomas Savery was a Captain and a military engineer. Denis Papin was a physicist and mathematician. Papin worked with Robert Boyle during his early years.

The development of the steam engine goes back to Boyle's studies of atmospheric pressure.

The skilled craftsmen and instrument makers of the day were not "uneducated".

Knowledge forms the underlying basis of all inventions. Knowledge is collected by thinkers/scientists/intellectuals. No one built anything without classical knowledge minimally of basic physics, chemistry and math.

I think it is part of this new political idea that Americans should be anti-intellectual/anti-scientist and the intellectuals are holding America back. This notion is the most dangerous direction the country has tried to move, and it must be shown that is it terribly flawed.

Intellectuals/Scientists are fighting for the answers.

The steam engine was innovated in the modern era to pump water out of mines so that the British could dig out more coal. It was an invention for industry to make more industry. The idea of the steam engine is classical -- going back thousands of years -- it is classical physics. Most everyone was a scientist and engineer that was involved in its many breakthroughs and incarnations.

Just to support Merrill's position.

The steam engine was innovated in the modern era to pump water out of mines so that the British could dig out more coal. It was an invention for industry to make more industry. The idea of the steam engine is classical -- going back thousands of years -- it is classical physics. Most everyone was a scientist and engineer that was involved in its many breakthroughs and incarnations.

Perhaps someday soon civilization will have a similar story, substituting "PV and electric motors" for "steam engine."

It seems PV has been around for quite a while now, too.

My favorite is to couple a parabolic mirror system to focus sunlight on a solar boiler to make steam that turns a turbine connected to a generator to make electricity.

Sounds exciting. Steam, however, is complex to deal with. Special materials are needed to handle pressures and so forth, but it can work in practice. The engine too needs maintenance.



[It is a] new political idea that Americans should be anti-intellectual/anti-scientist

Few things are new under the sun.

Often it is the extraordinary success and wealth of the generation before that leads the next generation into the fantasy world of anti-intellectualism, anti-scientism, and ultimately collapse.

How many of our youth are busy playing Farmville and other addictive software games on their iPads instead of doing their engineering homework?

And can you blame them?

American society has always held the illusions of money, partying and social status (think "Great Gatsby") in greater esteem than science, know how and honest work.

Each time we went down that drunkard's path, we paid dearly for it.

In World War II we were just plain lucky that Hitler was a megalomaniac lunatic. Imagine what would have happened if he had had a lick of sense. What if he had treated Albert Einstein nicely and developed the atomic bomb on his side of the pond? It would have been a much different world. America missed a bullet by shear luck, not by shear ingenuity. Part of our blind belief in "American Exceptionalism" is the notion that we will be lucky again and again. However, like lightening, luck rarely strikes the same place twice.

"This notion is the most dangerous direction the country has tried to move, and it must be shown that is it terribly flawed.

Intellectuals/Scientists are fighting for the answers. "

The first rule for getting out of a hole is to stop digging. Now this is something that Intellectuals and Scientists need to get into their thick skulls before they do anything else. And until they do, they're not fighting for answers but simply making things worse and will eventually be blamed for the mess they've created in the backlash that inevitably will follow.

How many Intellectuals and Scientists will put up their hands and admit that as a group they've brought mankind to the edge of the abyss? When they do and when they recognise the trajectory they've been on is wrong then I'll truly believe they're fighting for real answers rather than stroking their egos. I won't be holding my breath while waiting though.

One could take this view which is similar to John Milton's that desire for knowledge (the Tree of knowledge) is inherently evil and the greatest flaw of mankind -- "Paradise lost". Of course, he pinned that one on Eve. Nasty of Milton imho but that was the story and the interpretation.

Of course, life on this planet did not get any better and people grew in number faster than the land could support. So inventions were made to make life better -- alleviate the resource crunch and improve crop yield, etc.

I guess we maxed that all out now with cheap oil (and fossil fuels to follow), and yes scientists are not all thinking about this yet of course.

Some scientists say CO2 is a problem and they are ridiculed. Are they evil? Some experts here (science-minded folks) think oil production is peaking. Are they evil?

Maybe Thoreau had the answer all along. But who would listen to Thoreau when there was all that oil out there to be had and the world was overpopulated and hungry.

They are pursuing knowledge of the predicament we are facing.

What else can be done?

Nobody is saying that scientists are evil, just that they're blinded by their own achievements and as a result can not see the wrong that they're doing. What we need is a real "Enlightenment" where scientists and intellectuals as a whole look back at the last two to three hundred years and recognise that the application of science without intelligence and wisdom is an unmitigated disaster. Then perhaps we can use our knowledge to do something right.

"They are pursuing knowledge of the predicament we are facing"

No, they're trying to fix the mess they've made without internalising the truth of the situation, that the entire system they've created is the problem.

"What else can be done?"

They can acknowledge the real problem that robbing Peter to pay Paul is not sustainable (ie. destroying Nature to create a synthetic utopia) and science cannot change the fact. Only intelligent action governed by wisdom can solve the problem and get us back to something resembling a sustainable way of living. The key being less rather than more.

That's not to say there is no need for scientists or intellectuals, they just need to be put under the supervision of adults.

That's not to say there is no need for scientists or intellectuals, they just need to be put under the supervision of adults.

Really? And who exactly are those adults? Could you identify a few for us please?

Seriously though:

Nobody is saying that scientists are evil, just that they're blinded by their own achievements and as a result can not see the wrong that they're doing.

Let's say you have some research scientist working in a university lab and he makes a breakthrough discovery in his field. The discovery is published. Some entrepreneur uses that knowledge and sees the potential for making a profit on that discovery. He starts a business. Now you have a whole chain of interconnected events happening in society at large because of this discovery. So who is going to be the adult that supervises all of the people involved such as the CEOs, workers, lawyers, politicians, government regulators, consumers, etc, etc... aren't all of them doing just as much wrong if not more so, than the scientist who made a purely scientific discovery? I'd be willing to say that there is a much higher possibility of some unethical CEO, politician lawyer, banker, ad exec, needing Adult supervision. Oh and let's not forget the scientifically illiterate consumer. Maybe we should all grow up and start taking responsibility for our actions!

Now everyone, go back to whatever entertainment was holding your attention before I interrupted you...

I totally agree, everyone should be taking responsibility, but that does not abrogate the unique role science has played. As you say, the scientist begins the chain, as the catalyst to the whole series of events. That's why science is in the limelight here and why it has been the enabler of the entire problem.

I think we can agree that adult supervision is not going to happen, because there is no one adult enough to do it. Things are just going to continue as they are until we are driven into extinction. Intelligence may become a synonym for stupidity if anyone's left to use the word.

Most of the 18th century "engineers' were uneducated tradesmen. The scientists described the technology of steam engines long after they were built and being used.

I think you're somewhat underestimating the 18th century engineers. No, they weren't scientists (the world "engineer" originally meant "constructor of military engines", but they weren't exactly uneducated.

James Watt, for instance, was the son of a shipbuilder. He was largely educated at home, but his mother was a well educated woman, and his grandfather was a mathematics teacher. He was extremely good at mathematics, and apprenticed as a mathematical instrument maker. Humphrey Davy said of him

"Those who consider James Watt only as a great practical mechanic form a very erroneous idea of his character; he was equally distinguished as a natural philosopher and a chemist, and his inventions demonstrate his profound knowledge of those sciences, and that peculiar characteristic of genius, the union of them for practical application"

Thomas Newcomen was an ironmonger and Baptist lay minister, but he was not really uneducated either because he was a teaching elder in the local Baptist church. He established his business (building steam engines) mostly because the church could not afford to pay him as a full time elder.

John Smeaton, who considerably improved Newcomen's steam engine, and is regarded as the father of civil engineering, was also a mechanical engineer and eminent physicist. He originally joined his father's law firm but didn't like law, so he left to become a mathematical instrument maker.

Many of the early engineers were self-taught, but that didn't mean they were uneducated. The profession of engineering arose so that people could be sure engineers had a proper education in things like mathematics, because it's always bad when bridges fall down due to mathematical errors.

Regardless, if you practice science and engineering (application of knowledge using deductive reasoning and/or apply design principles), then you are a scientist or engineer. Trying to distinguish whether inventions were made by some set of non-engineers or non-science-minded individuals is kind of silly.

Then you would also need to define the type of thinking (non-Francis Bacon thinking I guess) that was used to make those advances. Of course, you also cannot bypass the laws of physics and so forth.

You can try though if you'd like to skip those classes at school!

Can't we also say that human civilizations are destroyed by their need to keep on getting bigger too?

What if the US had decided to "slow collapse" in the 1970s as Jummy Carter telegraphed....then another country would have risen on the consumption of that cheap North Sea oil. Maybe China? Maybe Austrailia? or Frace? Germany? I don't know. But for sure they would have gotten a huge military together I bet--all those cars and machines, goody lets get tanks.....and then they would be the ones facing the humongous collapse now, not the US, which would have been a modest, "boring" place---and maybe a servant of sorts to the upand comer.

It is eat or be eaten. But fossil fuels makes that premise such a horrible one because of the predatory way resources can be exploited by the powers that be from afar with their machines for dams, highways, everything. Much better to face a starving army of samurai on horseback. The destruction is so much slower, less all-encompassing. Let's go back to the slow world.

Re In rural Minnesota, 11 school districts with 4-day weeks hope less doesn't mean lesser

Grove City and Atwater, two of the towns along with Cosmos in the school district going to 4-day weeks are examples of the towns that were originally built by the Great Northern Railway. If you view a map of Minnesota and follow US 12 west from Minneapolis, you will see a string of such small towns between more major towns such as Cokato, Litchfield, Willmar and Benson.

The Great Northern built depots along the railway at a spacing calculated to be reasonable for the farmers living in the adjacent areas to move their goods by a team of horses and farm wagons over dirt roads. The original collection of rural towns, built along the oxcart trails and near places where rivers could be dammed to power mills withered away.

These railroad depot towns have had little reason to exist for the last 50 years or more due to growth of trucking and easier transportation over paved roads.

A 4 day school week is a very good thing, if only the criminal fedgov/stategov/localgov would do the same, the slow steps to power down would be an easier transition. It will happen, so the sooner the better.

Let's not forget, THE primary responsibility to educate one's spawn, belongs to the parents. Not the government and my wasted tax dollars.

Ever travel the route of the Great Northern? I have. A very logical method of transporting grain. The Depot towns will be coming back soon enough.

Choose wisely.

The Martian

RE: Parents..

Sorry, I still find that to be reductionism worthy of Ayn Rand.. We're a clan animal, and the 'American Pioneer' fantasy of Ma and Pa Raising Johnny and Sis makes for a good Disney film, but doesn't really cover the way most humans function in their world. Unless it's completely impossible for someone to make happen, people will join forces and use the clear advantages of mutual support.

Public School is not an unnatural creation.. it's as old as the hills.

Unfortunate, this very American point of view is. So many, need to travel a bit in the real world, to see how really bad those in the U.S. are, when it comes to Parenting their offspring. "The way most Humans function in their world", sorry to correct you, is not, the way it's done in the good 'ole u.s. of a....

I said nothing against public school. Public education has a place and a time. It is a convenient scapegoat for a fundamental failure in parenting. The fundamental responsibilty rests with the Parent. And those in the U.S., are sorely lacking. Look at any metric regarding education in the U.S....a failure. The U.S way, in education, as it is with the huge waste of energy here, blame someone else.

But just keep on keeping on with those Game-Boys and cel phones for 5 year olds.....ya, that'll teach'em.

Choose wisely.

The Martian

Someone removed my Roald Dahl quotation, which came from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and it is apt today. Children learn what they do from their parents. It is not a mystery.

Parents should have a majority effort in their child's education. Students' performance is linked to parental support at home.

However, without a good public infrastructure for education, then education would fall disproportionately on those with the most financial resources. It is a general public good to broadly educate the public. That said more emphasis needs to be placed on getting parents involved in their children's education.

"...more emphasis needs to be placed on getting parents involved in their children's education."

They already are. The #1 holiday gift to prepare your child for an exciting future:


Ghung, you are sick;-) Is that a shoot 'em up game?

Watch the video. It's the updated version of War and Peace (rel. 2010.11.10.0)

A best seller!


Wow. Depressing isn't it. Top seller in Britain too! I only thought American's were fascinated with violent video gaming.

Why not "small farmer call of duty" instead?

You get to manage a farm as fossil fuels become scarce and hoards of people from the city come and ask for real food and climate change begins to attack your farm with unpredictable weather ... Armed with a shovel and a small tractor ... you need to help them learn how to grow food and cook again. It will be tough and demanding, but it will be worth it.

Read the great link from Jon from Virginia, below. It appears that our kids may be genetically predisposed to violence (and other behaviors), about 50%. Most of the balance of influence is from peers. Parents' biggest contribution is genetic and parenting is subordinate to peer pressure. One has to ask; do these video game characters act as surrogates for peers?

Choose your mate and your kids' friends carefully.

No kidding. I remember wondering why my son said some nasty phrases. Then my wife said he learned it at school from another boy. doh!

Maybe we call this the culture effect.

That's the spirit. How will our kids know how to survive WTSHTF?

From The Onion News Network:

Those are great points, but I'm also going to keep plugging at how we keep reaiming our sights on the working classes, and don't always acknowledge the forces that have put them in the condition they/we are now immersed in.. eg, a huge step in the right direction would be to structure the economics of the society so that it was again possible to house and feed kids without both parents having to work full time (and then some). The fact that we take this requirement as a given is already a key to how blinded we've become to what a society needs in order to fulfill all it's tasks.

We paint this picture that seems to conclude that paying the bills is what it's all about.. but then turn around and say to the family leaders 'You're supposed to BE the parent..' There are some serious blindspots in this equation now.

I agree that two working parents is very tough. We are 1.75 working parents and feel drained but try our best.

Our society has structured itself around two working parents as wages declined over time. At the same time my wife likes to work, but she is free once a week to volunteer at my son's school.

We try to keep the TV off and the kids active in making art and doing things like reading and playing outside and other forms of real stimulation. We do not ban TV but try to downplay it.

"structure the economics of the society so that it was again possible to house and feed kids without both parents having to work full time (and then some)."

Actually, the phase where is was possible to house and feed kids without both parents having to work full time was the aberration. When 90% of the population was in agriculture I assure you both parents were working full time and then some. So were the kids.

I grew up on a farm. Both of my parents were busy. There was some distinction in women's and men's work, but there was plenty of both. And milking time was conspicuously egalitarian.

Oddly, in this matter the post-industrial workplace has returned to the same dynamics as the agricultural society.

..the difference being that the parents weren't both miles away at different jobs where there was no connection to the home, with kids also being trucked miles off to be watched by various 'service providers' and schools. Some of the required cashflow from today's multiple jobs is simply to make up for these separations, more paid daycare and childcare, the monetization of many services (laundry, repairs, cooked/prepared foods) that used to be done within the family and without requiring ever more income.

The fact that the children were actively part of the farms and were often 'childcare providers' themselves offered families more resilience and more interconnection, whereas today there is far, far less. Besides, it offered all sorts of practical training that is effectively eliminated from today's structure. I'm not saying the work was 'easy'.. but as Pollan says about the Classic versus the Corporate Farms, 'we took a solution and divided it into many, separate problems' Of course, the differences between these various 'problems' are each of them a place to divine profit.. so it's great from a business POV.. it just costs the rest of us dearly.

Have you ever heard of Judith Rich Harris?

I'd agree to a certain extent with that view, but I imagine that parents are not so removed from their children's educational experience.

Certainly, the culture itself shares the burden as well -- whether peers or parents.

Sociology is hard to sort out!

Anyone interested in how changes in railroads and roads in the upper mid-west has contributed to the depopulation of smaller towns might be interested in this book (Silent Towns on the Prairie):


ISTR there was a recent study that showed pupils did better with a 4 day school week. Less fatigue, more concentration. Sorry, can't remember the source, maybe New Scientist or Grauniad.


For the uninitiated, Grauniad = UK's Guardian newspaper.

A friend is looking for an analysis of small and large scale wind systems. Does anybody have some links?

Real-world tests of small wind turbines in Netherlands and the UK

This is a guest post by Kris de Decker on the subject.

Smaller systems generally do badly, for many reasons--physics makes larger sizes work disproportionately better, smaller systems tend not to be elevated high enough above surroundings, and smaller systems tend not to be sturdy enough, so break easily.

On the other hand, there are a considerable number of people who have long made homebuilts with a range of modest to quite cheap materials, so this has been a technology made very much accessible to home-tinkerers, who are then qualified to modify and keep up the maintenance on their self-built rigs.

Check out http://www.otherpower.com/ and Hugh Piggott's classic site, http://www.scoraigwind.com/ for some experienced views on self-built Windpower.

http://www.awea.org/ is a good place to start for all things wind energy related.

Homepower does an annual review of smaller systems:

http://homepower.com/view/?file=HP137_pg44_Woofenden (pdf warning)

Studies on the large scale side comprise the European Wind Integration Study Final Report and the final report from the Tradewind project.

The Department of Energy is said to present a study on 80% renewables integration for the US in January 2011.

There is also quite a bit of recent work with regional (US) or national (Europe) focus.

I warn you of clicking the link named "Interactive: The Global Oil Diet". It downloaded such a huge mass of data that my browser could not handle it, and it crashed the laptop so hard I had to reeboot the system. I don'tknow if it is just my computer though...

Apparently it is just your computer. The page loaded in a couple of seconds and I had no problem with it.

I found the page very interesting. I wish they had included all countries instead of just eight. But clicking on "Saudi Arabia" they consume 25% of the oil they produce. And it has their reserves at 267 billion barrels which is really about three times, give or take, of what they actually have.

Japan is interesting also. It says they consume 3,283 times as much oil as they produce.

Ron P.

As previously noted, we looked at the top 33 net oil exporters (those with 100,000 bpd or more of net oil exports in 2005, which account for 99%+ of global net exports), and their combined Consumption to Production (C/P) ratio rose from 26% in 2005 to 29% in 2009 (BP + Minor EIA input).

In some cases we get reasonably accurate estimates for when an oil exporting country approaches zero net oil exports by simply projecting the rate of change in the C/P ratio, while in other cases, this approach is quite inaccurate.

In any case, if we project rate of change in the top 33 C/P ratio, it suggests that they collectively approach zero net oil exports some time around 2053 (with post-2005 CNE, i.e., Cumulative Net Exports, of about 400 Gb). A rough rule of thumb is that half of post-peak CNE are shipped about one-third of the way into the decline period, which in this case would suggest that post-2005 global CNE would be 50% depleted around 2021. This would further imply that net importers are currently depleting post-2005 global CNE at about 4.3%/year, and that from 2005 to 2009 net oil importing countries consumed about one-sixth of the total post-2005 supply of cumulative global net oil exports.

Of course, one wild card is unconventional production, but since combined net oil exports from Canada + Venezuela are down by about one mbpd since the late Nineties, I don't see much short term help there.

Question: What is the distribution of marginal oil price among those 33 countries?

I mean, we know about the 33 countries that export meaningful amounts of oil. But, each country needs a different price point in order to produce flat out. As the oil depletes from the cheap production countries, this will leave a bigger percentage of exported oil coming on line from expensive holes. It begs a chart...

Of course, one wild card is unconventional production, but since combined net oil exports from Canada + Venezuela are down by about one mbpd since the late Nineties, I don't see much short term help there.

You really like those apple + orange calculations, don't you? Since Canadian exports will be up by nearly 1 mbpd over the last decade to the end of this year, one can only assume that Venezuelan exports will be down by nearly 2 mbpd over the same time period.

Eventually, Venezuelan exports will go down to zero (at which point the Venezuelan army will take Chavez out and shoot him), after which Canadian exports will start to make a difference. Suncor is projecting the output of its oil sands mines will be up by 1 mbpd by 2020, which should be a help.

Don't buy a vehicle with more than a small 4-cylinder engine, though, because it's only 1 mbpd, and almost all the other oil exporters will be showing declines. And Chinese oil consumption is beginning to rival that of the US.

As we have discussed several times now, there is a big difference between gross and net oil exports. BP shows Canadian net oil exports increasing by 258,000 bpd from 1998 to 2009, with their net exports basically being flat at about one mbpd for 2006-2009 inclusive. The EIA shows a somewhat larger increase in net exports from 1998 to 2009, 366,000 bpd.

Regarding the sum of Canadian and Venezuelan net oil exports, these countries have the largest nonconventional resources in the Americas, and while Chavez has, shall we say, not had a beneficial impact on Venezuelan production, the Canadian annual average increase in net exports of 23,000 bpd per year from 1998 to 2009 (BP) hardly makes a strong case for nonconventional production saving our auto centric suburban way of life.

I'm not too confident about BP's statistics - I'm never really sure if they know what they are talking about. In many cases I suspect they are taking wild guesses at numbers.

In any case I downloaded some Canadian National Energy Board statistics and crunched some numbers. I converted them to barrels since most of them were in cubic metres.

They show Canadian domestic oil production grew from 2,188,000 bpd in 1998 to 2,697,000 bpd in 2009, an increase of 509,000. Exports increased from 1,337,000 to 1,830,000, an increase of 493,000, while imports increased from 755,000 to 807,000, an increase of 51,000.

The result was that net exports increased by 442,000 bpd from 582,000 in 1998 to 1,024,000 in 2009.

At the same time, Canadian domestic consumption increased by only 62,000 bpd from 866,000 in 1998 to 928,000 bpd in 2009, with the result being that Canada is now exporting more oil to the US than it is consuming itself, even on a net exports basis.

There is a piece missing from the puzzle in that the US also imports a lot of refined products from Canada - 536,000 bpd in 2009, according to the EIA database. In fact the EIA thinks total imports of crude and products from Canada were up 881,000 bpd over the period 1998-2009, and if you subtract the 51,000 bpd increase in Canadian imports of crude, you get an increase of 830,000 bpd in net exports. Exactly how accurate that number is, I don't know.

The Net Export calculation is very simple: domestic production less domestic consumption, generally using total liquids.

In any case, BP shows an 11 year average rate of increase in Canadian net oil exports of 23,000 bpd, while the EIA shows an 11 year average rate of increase in Canadian net oil exports of 33,000 bpd*. I think that one difference between the two sets of numbers is that the EIA counts biofuels, while BP apparently does not. As noted above, both data sets show Venezuela as having declining net oil exports, while Canada's average rate of increase in net exports, in terms of global demand, has--so far at least--basically been trivial, especially in the context of rising consumption in many oil exporting countries, e.g. Saudi Arabia (BP shows Saudi consumption up at 157,000 bpd per year from 2005 to 2009).

My point is that--so far at least--you really can't make much of a case for nonconventional production making a material difference. This is also the point I make about oil companies' overall efforts--they can make money and incrementally raise production in some areas, but can they make a material difference?

It would appear likely that even with a slowly rising contribution from nonconventional production that global crude oil production will have been at or below the 2005 annual rate for five straight years, while the average annual oil price has exceeded the $57 level that we saw in 2005 for five straight years, with four of the five years showing year over year increases in price.

*If we measure from 1999, the EIA shows a somewhat more substantial average rate of increase of 52,000 bpd per year, but the 2006 to 2009 data show less than a 30,000 bpd per year rate of increase in net exports. In any event, I was using 1998 because that is when BP shows a production peak for Venezuela, and my original point was that slowly rising Canadian net oil exports could not even offset the decline in Venezuelan net oil exports, with their combined net oil exports falling by about one mbpd from 1998 to 2009. To paraphrase Pyrrhus somewhat liberally, based on recent data if the combined output from Canada + Venezuela is our salvation, we are truly lost.

The net export calculation for Canada is more complex than you might think because of the large movements of refined products between Canada and the US. For instance, when the giant Hibernia oil field, the biggest offshore field in Canada, went on production in 1997, none of the east coast Canadian refineries could handle the oil because of the wax content, and 100% of it went to export.

Meanwhile, the biggest oil refinery in Canada is the Irving refinery in New Brunswick, which is not that far from the Hibernia field. However, since it could not handle the Hibernia oil, it imports nearly all of its feedstock from the North Sea and Middle East. The New Brunswick market is not nearly big enough to handle its production, so it exports 2/3 of its production to the US. It's basically just flowing oil through to the US from foreign countries, and upgrading it to products on the way through. In contrast to the vast majority of oil producing countries, Canadan's domestic oil consumption has only shown a modest rise of 5,000 bpd or so per year, so nearly all of the incremental oil production and a lot of the imports go to the US.

This kind of thing may have tripped up BP, if they didn't properly net off product flows as well as crude oil flows in the net exports calculation. If you don't do it properly, what you identify as Canadian oil consumption will actually be US oil consumption, because Americans are the ultimate consumers of the fuel. The fact that it is refined in a Canadian oil refinery is misleading because the crude oil imports are assigned to Canada, whereas the actual consumers are in the US.

In any case, Canadian oil production has been showing a slow but steady rise over the years, in contrast to Venezuelan and Mexican oil production, which has fallen off a cliff. Sure, it's only another 40,000 bpd or so, but it's another 40,000 bpd every year, decade after decade.

This has been going on for decades now, and the numbers are getting to be big, even by US standards. They're monstrous by Canadian standards because exports to the US now exceed Canadian consumption. They're going to get even bigger in future because, for instance, Suncor is proposing to put another 1 million bpd of oil sands on production in the next 10 years, and virtually all of it will go to the US.

The result is that Canada is now by far the largest exporter of oil and products to the US. If anything goes wrong, such as the pipeline breaks that happened this fall, the effects hit American consumers in their pocketbooks almost immediately. The US government is not really paying attention to this because Canada, in sharp contrast to Venezuela, Mexico, and even Saudi Arabia, is considered a reliable supplier. However, if something goes seriously wrong in northern Canada or with the pipeline system, an awful lot of Americans will suddenly find themselves freezing in the dark, or more accurately, stalled in the street with no gas.

So, the incremental production from Canada is not large compared to the production declines in Venezuela and Mexico, but it is the only game in town. All the other oil producers are in decline or on the verge of going into a decline. I don't think Americans who complain about the EROEI of oil sands or the environmental problems of the giant oil sands mines realize that. They and their government keep grasping at technological straws such as fuel ethanol or electric vehicles, but it's fairly easy to prove mathematically that these won't scale sufficiently to solve the problems. It's really oil sands or nothing if they want to continue their lifestyle.

Of course, if they don't want to continue their lifestyle, it's not that big a problem. Electric trains and bicycles work perfectly well in other countries, and it's perfectly possible to build walkable communities where you don't need a car. However, suggestions like that seem to fill many Americans with horror. It's not the American way of life, true, but it works for a lot of other people.

It seems to me that net exports must include processed petroleum products as well as crude oil to really be meaningful. If a country is consuming increasing amounts of its production to drive cars or run air conditioning that's one thing, but any oil converted into gasoline etc and exported is not a true decline in net exports. Is this a significant factor in present net export math?

WT - Always appreciate your number crunching. But I also suspect you also don't see NCE hitting zero in 2053 or at any other time. I'm no way smart enough to model in even qualitative terms but IMHO it's a good bet that the KSA will never stop exporting oil completly. They have to maintain some revenue stream. And since I haven't heard of any great effort to expand their manufacturing base they have to export the only cash flow generating commodity they have...oil. In fact it's probably a safe bet that they won't be able to extend their C/P ratio anywhere close to zero. Maybe it's time to start thinking about PC...Peak Consumption...for the oil exporters. Maybe Indonisia is the model. They are no longer a net oil exporter but still export a lot of LNG. Is that what's helping them hang on? Don't really hear much about their economy. Perhaps that's because they had significant other exports to maintain themselves.

So what does the KSA do: stop selling oil and stop supplimenting their society's needs or keep selling oil and increasingly limit their per capita consumtion? Of course this assumes that the KSA govt will be in control of that decision making process X years down the road. Reservoirs are easy to model for me and you. Desparite folks taking desparite actions isn't nearly as easy to predict.

KSA is trying to diversify their industry. As what I have read about it, that mean they try to export their oil in other forms but crude, such as plastic stuff, chemicals etc. I have never seen any statistics about this however.

I also understand the royal house is not very popular among their subjects. Meaning they must keep them happy by avoiding to much poverty, to many power black outs etc, and keep up their military spending. This costs money, so they must keep exporting. But what they expot, they can't consume domestically. Seems to me as an example with a problem with two solutions, where both are the wrong one.

I have never seen any statistics about this however.


saudi arabia is the leading exporter of methanol and dap, to name two products, 'manufactured' from saudi natural gas. the decision was made several years ago to provide employment and grow the economy by developing petrochems.

GE Wins Saudi Contract

The upgradation of the Shaybah facility will develop the oil extraction process, aiding in the economic development of the country. Saudi Arabia has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and with continued investment in this region GE is committed to be a part and gain from the country’s technology innovation and infrastructure development initiatives.


I usually try to say "Approaching zero net oil exports," which is the term that I used above, but some former net oil exporters have clearly gone into net importer status. Here is the EIA net oil export chart for Indonesia:


But as you noted, they are still a net natural gas exporter, although their net exports are declining. Here is the EIA net gas export chart for Indonesia:


Thanks WT...you always know where the data be.

Platts Report: China's November Oil Demand Surges to All-Time High of 9.3 mil b/d

China's apparent oil demand* in November surged to an all-time high of 38.09 million metric tons (mt), or an average 9.3 million barrels per day (b/d), according to a just-released Platts analysis of official data from the People's Republic of China.

China's apparent oil demand from January to November totaled 393.67 million mt, or an average of 8.64 million b/d, which was a 10.7% gain from the same period of 2009.

Is China filling a strategic reserve? Or just filling its industrial tanks?

Oct - From the very limited details I've seen it's tankage. I have seen stories about building massive underground storage like our SPR but, again, a lack of specifics.

This could be China's big fill up then. I know it is speculation, but could a country increase demand that much and really be using all that crude?

I was trying to reconcile their surge in demand.

This graphic alone spells trouble for oil prices.

Another clear sign of a problem.

At $100 / barrel, it is only $50 billion of oil. China can easily afford that. It's dollar reserves are easily 10 times as large.

I don't know about you, but I get scared at the sight of anything that goes exponential.

Anyway, we can print more dollars until we can compete with China. If we don't inflate our currency, then the higher price will crash our economy (China's customer).

It is not exponential. Note that the last bar is for 2016, not 2013. I also checked the text of the article, and the 2016 bar is consistent with the 80 million cubic meters for completion of phase III as described in the text, so it is not a misprint.

They are adding less than 100 million barrels a year to their SPR, which is less than a couple weeks of US imports.

I guess better to buy oil before the price goes up.

My point is that they are buying a lot in Nov. which means they think that this is the cheapest time of year -- they wouldn't buy in the Spring or Summer, right just to blow their reserve money? Doesnt this mean oil prices this Summer are going to be substantially higher than Nov.

How can China feed their oil monster in the next 10-15 years with 10% increases in demand?

Geometric progression in oil consumption

Great link Pollux. I had not realized how long the China SPR program has been inplace: since 2000. Interesting that their SPR appears to be all above ground in tanks. Construction is labor intensive but relatively cheap over there. So 500 million bbl stored over 10 years = around than 150,000 bopd. Wouldn't think that this extra purchase would have much impact on prices. Nice and slow and methodical. Seems so Chinese

The idea of the reserve is a means to avoid a nasty price spike/shortage I suspect, which means the Chinese expect that there will be problems with future oil supplies and prices.

The US rarely uses its SPR, but will China use its SPR to mitigate price spikes?

From what I understand in China the government accepts a certain amount of price risk by stabilizing prices for refiners/consumers:

China considering new oil pricing mechanism: top economic planner

English.news.cn 2010-10-25 18:22:14

BEIJING, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- China's top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said Monday that a new and more transparent pricing mechanism for refined oil products could be announced this year.

Liu Zhenqiu, vice director of the NDRC's price department, made the announcement at a press conference in Beijing, but he did not elaborate on the proposed new mechanism.

The government adopted an oil pricing mechanism at the start of 2009 that allows the NDRC to adjust retail fuel prices when the international crude oil price changes by more than 4 percent over 22 straight work days.

"The reform has played an important role in helping boost refiners' production enthusiasm, ensuring market supply and promoting competition," Liu said.

The government would further improve the pricing mechanism of refined oil products to make it more flexible and better reflect changes in supply and demand, he said.


So China thinks with their tiny reserve they can control the price of crude. At least in that press release they sound deluded. Must be a press face they are wearing; they have to know there is a problem by now. Maybe many in China think it is a conspiracy to restrict them supplies or manipulate prices. Yikes!

Power shortage likely to remain over the winter

With the extremely cold weather that has swept most parts of China over the past week, soaring demand for heat has led to coal shortages and power cuts in many of the country's provinces. Central China's Hubei and Henan provinces, along with Northwest China's Shaanxi province, have seen the consumption of coal rise steeply following the cold snap, which has been accompanied by heavy rain and snow in places, China National Radio (CNR) reported on Sunday.
Han Xiaoping, chief information officer of the domestic energy portal China5e.com, said that while the country had expended great effort in developing power stations over recent years, shortages have remained in some places due to problems in transporting the coal. "Even though the price of coal has increased in recent years, the price of power has remained unchanged, which has led some power companies to reduce the available power supply, because they do not earn any money by generating electricity," CNR quoted Han as having said. Bao Yunqiao, vice-president of the China Energy Research Society, said power cuts are taking place also because local governments are under pressure to meet targets to save energy and reduce emissions, as set out in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010).

Perhaps they are also importing more oil because they are short of coal.

Well, the Chinese now have about 245 nuclear power plants under construction or in the planning stages, so that should help their power problems.

That will probably create a global uranium shortage, but I suspect they are doing a lot of work on designing new breeder reactors to deal with the problem.

Naturally, once I heard about their plans, I invested in uranium. It seemed the logical thing to do under the circumstances. For my own needs I'll continue to rely on the two big hydroelectric plants within walking distance of my house.

A lot of nukes. I wish them luck. They are the "planners."

No one is saying anything publicly about nuclear power in America -- it is a dirty word. We cannot even come up with a storage plan or a reprocessing method or basically anything nuclear.

While I will slam Russia for its mishandling of nuclear power, it did serve them well to get the West off of nuclear for at least 25 years. 3 mile helped too.

When will this change? My bet is that the AC has to turn off and make Joe Six-pack sweat it out for most of the summer. Sadly elderly folks and others will suffer and die as a result of our lack of thought on the issue.

Those skyscrapers need air circulation or they become giant human cookers.

Until then, no nukes in the US I bet.

Those skyscrapers need air circulation or they become giant human cookers.

Actually, if you hollow them out at the core so they get formed like a giant chimney, the hot air a summer day will flow upwards and accelerate more the hotter it gets. It will become a grvaity-fed AC (air ligher than air follows gravity upwards). Has worked well in some places in the ME for centuries.

I would be all for natural circulation, but those retrofits are not happening it appears.

So that nasty power electrical surge hypothetical that destroys infrastructure in a giant cascading failure would be nasty for New York's skyscrapers. We are not there yet but it is a possible problem.

The revolving door was invented to prevent the chimney effect in skyscrapers. While it might be useful in summer, in the winter it is a problem.

So then use the effect in the summer?

You can't open the windows anymore.

The chimney effect can be exploited in the design of the HVAC system, and this is being done in some of the newer buildings. Other considerations are things like control of humidity, so it is not so simple as opening the ground floor doors and the windows (if they open, some do, some don't).

The two things that would concern me are the risks if there was a fire, think chimney with spread of smoke and flames, and how hot the top offices would get. Also opening doors and windows is not always a good solution. The local authority, where I grew up, built new planning department offices, a glass palace. They decided that air conditioning would be too expensive so they installed plenty of opening windows since it was open plan and air could move freely. Freely moving air, think breezes and winds. Planning office, maps, drawings, paperwork. Not a good mix. There was a choice, bake because of all the glass or open the windows and get random document distribution. Air conditioning was installed at a very much higher cost than if it had been installed in the first place.


Wonder if it's related at all to this:

Chinese endure power shortages as coal runs short

The coal shortages seem to be a combination of several things: closure of small (dangerous) mines, government price controls in an attempt to rein in inflation, and bad weather driving demand for heating coal and impeding deliveries. Among other things, the article notes that hydro production is well down due to ongoing drought conditions (Three Gorges water flow about 25% below normal for this time of year).

OTOH, India has had the best rainy season in three years and thinks they'll import significantly less coal because of increased hydro output.

200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

A very interesting animation of how the world developed over the last 200 years, would love to see the charts for the next 200 as fossil fuels run out!:



"200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes"

let me fix that

200 Countries, A TRILLION BARRELS OF OIL, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

THERE! Thats what made the world's population live longer and have more wealth.

Re: Our view on energy: Electric car market gets useful jump-start /Subsidies? Just say no

Neither of them gets at the core of the issue(not that I would expect that from USA Today...): that these subsidies are not meant to change things.

The current subsidies are designed to encourage BAU light, not to cause real change. They are misdirection: a way of pretending to do something about greenhouse emissions and using less fuel without actually doing anything on a total-fleet basis. They continue to produce SUV's, pickups and vans in huge numbers. The electric vehicle sideshow is a cheap way to avoid changing any paradigms.

If you wanted to use subsidies to encourage fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases, a sensible man would give tax reductions for smaller engines, reduced Cd, stop/start technology, Electronically Controlled Variable transmissions, or plain ordinary CVT's, all of which are available now, at a fraction of the cost of hybrid technology. A non-electric Prius clone, or something inspired by the X Prize cars, at the most innovation intensive end of the market, or a Yaris or Suzuki with a one litre engine, a cvt or 6 speed manual Transmission, and stop/start (which could be built almost entirely with off-the shelf components in use in other markets) at the other extreme, could be produced in volume in comparatively short periods of time, and could cause not only measurable environmental improvements, but changes in mindset.

If you want real change now, you give a 20% rebate on ultra-efficient ICE vehicles and demand they be a specified percentage of production (especially at the low-price end, where the subsidy would have the most effect.) You tax the crap out of sports cars and trucks as personal vehicles. You limit the acceleration and top speed of all cars(I believe this to be a key point: it changes the status assumptions about all vehicles, and thereby changes their value proposition.) These measures could be made law tomorrow, from a technological standpoint.

But that makes a key assumption: that corporations and the economic elites want to change. Or even that a majority of citizens want to change.

Sadly, they don't.


Well, we are a free market system and you just can't force such massive change unless you want to stop calling it a free market system. People bitch & moan about the EV subsidies and CAFE standards as is.

The subsidies serve a good purpose: they fund the early stage research, development, and deployment of new technologies. In the long run, the EVs are going to have to sell on their own. If the market were left on its own, it would wait until the last minute thereby creating massive fuel price spike and panic for EVs . . . and they would not yet exist. The subsidies allow for a long slow transition away from oil to EVs.

All of the gas-powered efficiency ideas you mention are being done in response to rising CAFE standards and rising fuel prices. CAFE standards (and EV subsidies) are stupid clumsy ways of doing things but since a gas tax is political suicide, the politicians have no choice but to use these other clumsy systems.

Well, we are a free market system and you just can't force such massive change unless you want to stop calling it a free market system.

Yeah, yeah, yeah: I know. I'm a whacky left-winger with no sense of political reality. Well, California had a law requiring a specified percentage of electric cars in the '90's. You have to have bumpers and seatbelts in your car. There was gas rationing during WWII. There are always going to be restrictions on one's freedom.

I did not suggest dictatorially forcing them on the public: I merely pointed out that these are measures that would provide the results I suggested we aim for: reduced fuel usage and lower carbon emissions. That the EV rebates will not do this suggests to me that they have a different purpose. I believe it is a political purpose, and that the costs are tiny compared to their PR/misdirection value.

In the long run, the EVs are going to have to sell on their own.

Millions of EV's are being sold on their own merits: Electric bicycles. Electric vehicles that succeed might scale up from the bicycle, rather than scale down from the SUV. The subsidy model is unnecessary, particularly if it is intended to mask the fact that nothing useful is being done.

If the market were left on its own, it would wait until the last minute thereby creating massive fuel price spike and panic for EVs . . . and they would not yet exist. The subsidies allow for a long slow transition away from oil to EVs.

The electric car as a replacement and carry-over for a 20th century car (that is, a replacement for all types of locomotion from walking to the jet plane) is, IMO, not going to happen. We are heading into a future with diminishing global net energy: personal vehicles on the North American scale (both vehicle size and number)will have to change. There won't be a one-for-one replacement, which your transition concept seems to suggest. And considering that the sales of gas-guzzlers are rising again, there doesn't seem to be a desire for moderation of any sort by the buying public.

All of the gas-powered efficiency ideas you mention are being done in response to rising CAFE standards and rising fuel prices.

There is nothing on the product introduction horizon to match the fuel efficiency of current Euro-Asian small cars. The most efficient North American sub-compact of today is less fuel-efficient than one made 10 years ago. If people were serious about fuel-usage and carbon emission reductions, there would be some kind of mechanism in place to encourage it on an immediate, large scale, beyond the CAFE standards and the electric/hybrid fantasy.

If you were to offer a 25% subsidy (like for an EV) to people buying ultra-efficient subcompacts with 3 cylinder engines, you would sell many times more than EV's, and they would affect the entire auto sales cycle and likely cause real reduction in fleet fuel and carbon emissions numbers, and cause the facilities for these types of vehicle to be built on a large scale. (I am not suggesting we do this, merely pointing out what might happen. Actual costs and political possibility has not been considered.) The electric/hybrid subsidies are a 10 or 20 year effort to avoid doing anything real, and are succeeding marvelously.

CAFE standards (and EV subsidies) are stupid clumsy ways of doing things but since a gas tax is political suicide, the politicians have no choice but to use these other clumsy systems.

Which is my point. They are less than the minimum that can be done because of the way they have been circumvented over the last two decades, and I'm betting there will be loopholes and efforts to water down the coming changes. We aren't preparing for the worst case scenarios at all, and we're not changing attitudes.


First, Arnold S'negger is an idiot.

Iran is in decline, Russia is in decline, Venezuela is in decline, Mexico too; nearly every exporter is declining yet they've got to pay the piper and so rush to empty their coffers. It's a world-wide suicide, ain't it?

Ron P., you're so right.


ot but we've been talking about state debt for years

China produces own million-kilowatt-level nuclear tech

China's first fully self-developed No. 1 unit reactor pressure vessel of the Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Station, manufactured by China First Heavy Industries (CFHI), was completed on Dec. 18 and sent to Hongyanhe of Liaoning Province. After testing, all of the equipment's technical indicators meet the requirements, signifying that China has independently developed the capacity to create million-kilowatt nuclear equipment.

Various entities make predictions about oil demand. They offer one number "the demand". This makes no sense to me. I think demand depends on price. At $10 per barrel there is huge demand. At $400 per barrel there is small demand. When someone predicts demand into the future what price are they using?

I think the world will demand whatever can be produced. If the production ever exceeds demand, because of recession, the the price will temporarily drop until we burn that too. So, demand does equal production, and as time goes on, there will be less of both.

Demand is a curve, not a number. If you want to know what the quantity of demand is, you first need to know what the price is. If you don't specify a price, it is like asking how high up is. There is no answer to the question.

At any given price there will be a certain quantity of demand. If you change the price, the quantity of demand will change. There is no fixed demand for oil. It all depends on price. People who don't understand that don't understand economics (and unfortunately that includes most journalists and a lot of politicians).

And I'll add my oft repeated point: recoverable reserves (of any commodity) is also a curve that has price on one axis. I.E. Lots of shale gas to be produced at $12/mcf. Not so much at $3.80/mcf. Likewise demand is tied at the hip to price. So once again: any stated reserve estimate that doesn't include pricing assumptions is worthless IMHO.

Re UN warning on severe weather due to climate change

Browning Newsletter -- How Big? How Strong

Natural Factors Shaping Autum & Winter's Weather

1. The sun is beginning a new solar cycle.
2. Large volcanic eruptions have put climate changing debris in the stratosphere.
3. Several small volcanoes continue to have small and medium-sized eruptions.
10. The Arctic Oscillation are weaker and will let the Polar air mass surge south.

Is there a good model available that quantifies the cooling effects to be expected from last year's eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, Mt. Redoubt, Sarychev Peak, and the Kamchatka Penninsula volcanos?

Is there a good model available that quantifies the cooling effects to be expected from last year's eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, Mt. Redoubt, Sarychev Peak, and the Kamchatka Penninsula volcanos?

Answer: Yes there is.

Question: Would you know what to do with it?

For starters, none of the volcanos you listed blasted anything into the stratosphere so what cooling effect are you talking about.

The 2009 eruptions of Mt. Redoubt and Sarychev Peak reached into the stratosphere. Eyjafjallajökull was less powerful, but sulfur dioxide emissions would have reached 30,000 feet and could diffuse into the stratosphere from there.

Europeans continue to feel the blast of winter as travel grinds to a snail's pace:
Snow disrupts travel across northern Europe

A visual aid from 1969 will give those grappling with the problem ideas about how to clear those frozen snow and ice covered tarmacs:
Airport Movie Title Sequence

But as the film portrays even the best of equipment and preparedness - and this vintage footage from the age of abundant energy - cannot prevent unexpected delays and cancellations if mother nature fails to cooperate.

Canadians can sympathize. Even those on the west coast this year.


East Vancouver Island
10:53 AM PST Monday 20 December 2010
Snowfall warning for
East Vancouver Island continued

Localized snowfall amounts of up to 10 cm are expected for East Vancouver Island today and up to 15 cm for Howe Sound tonight.

This is a warning that significant snowfall is expected or occurring in these regions. Monitor weather conditions..Listen for updated statements.

An organized band of precipitation is moving over the south coast today. Snowfall amounts are expected to be generally less than 5 cm however some areas of East Vancouver Island could see up to 10 cm before changing to rain this afternoon or early this evening. The highest amounts are expected over northern sections of East Vancouver Island and over higher terrain locations in the south.

Through Howe Sound, persistent outflow winds will maintain cooler conditions so that snowfall accumulations of up to 15 cm are expected by Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, an Arctic ridge of high pressure over the Yukon and Northern British Columbia is producing strong outflow winds through coastal valleys and inlets. Over the North Coast - inland sections, cold temperatures combined with the outflow winds will continue to produce windchill values near minus 20 through Tuesday.

In case any of you are wondering why this forecast is special, it is b/c Canucks in nine provinces and three territories suffer annually from a bout of left coast envy:
22 Minutes - Canadian Winter Forecast EXCEPT in BC

Godspeed to those trying to fly anywhere this holiday season. Gives new meaning to "dreaming of a white Christmas."

In the mean time, Greenland and much of northeastern Canada is experiencing extreme anomalous warmth. The jet stream has a big weird loop that seems to be quite stable.

This may be a new part of the new world we are in--one where the Arctic is mostly ice free at the end of the summer rather than being mostly frozen all year. Winds now push north and south rather than mostly east and west. So warm air is brought further into parts of the Arctic and cold air is transported into more southerly climes in winter, especially parts of North America and Europe right now.

Things will no doubt continue to get weirder as:
the Arctic continue to melt;
the Oceans heat, acidify and die, the weather;
continental interiors continue to dry up;
tundras continue to thaw;
seabed clathrates bubble up at accelerating rates;
weather events of all sorts get more intense and severe;

Blue whales. Only a small fraction of the 7 billion are at the blue whale level. There are many subsistence level farm families that are more at the 500 watt per person level (so horse level).

So what is the distribution of energy use per person and what will it be when energy costs are increased by 10%, by 50%?

The horses want to evolve into whales.

Suburban 'pocket airports' proposed

A proposal has been put forward by the CAFE foundation that a network of small suburban airports should be developed in the future for the use of Suburban Air Vehicles.

Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) is a light-aircraft partner of NASA, and is running a US$1.65 million competition, the Green Flight Challenge, to find the best design for a short take-off personal aircraft that uses little fossil fuel, is cheap to run, and is quiet in operation. The competition will be judged in Santa Rosa, California in July 2011.

CAFE envisages that Suburban Air Vehicles (SAVs) will become a common mode of transport in the future...

I remember reading old (really old) Popular Science magazines (from the 30's,40's and 50's) that talked about 'personal' aircraft of the future. Gas was 15 cents a gallon back then. There's a reason it didn't happen back then and there's twice the reason why it won't happen now. Buy a hang glider; strap a fan on your butt; short take-off and landing - your good to go

Damn waste of a good $1.65 million

All the rich neighborhoods already have an airport within 20 miles. i.e Greenwich CT, Menlo Park CA.

Here we go again – there is more ‘tightness’ in the US gasoline market – only days after I said last Wednesday that gasoline supplies across the country had more or less become more evenly distributed, and adequate for now.

The culprit this time is gasoline imports. First, imports from Europe to the US were said to be ‘closed’ as of today. That is for obvious reasons – strong demand in Europe as very cold weather affects the shipping of oil and the transport of products. Second, a previously reported refinery problem in Venezuela has turned out to be more serious than originally thought, and is now expected to take two weeks to repair:

Gasoline surged 6 cents, or 2.6 percent, to end the session at $2.3778 a gallon in New York. It was the highest settlement since May 3.

Refinery Repairs

Gasoline gained strength as Hovensa LLC worked to repair the 150,000-barrel-a-day fluid catalytic cracker at its St. Croix refinery, the largest in the Caribbean. The plant supplied 139,000 barrels a day of finished gasoline and blending components in September to the East Coast, which includes New York Harbor, the delivery point for the Nymex gasoline contract.

“Gasoline is showing strength because of tightness in the New York harbor,” said Tom Bentz, a broker with BNP Paribas Commodity Futures Inc. in New York.


Elsewhere the Colonial Pipeline was reported to be ‘allocating’ gasoline shipments through the first week of January 2011 (that is pipeline shipments from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast for gasoline were already at maximum capacity).

Looking forward to the next weekly inventory report, the Platts Oil survey indicates a draw of 2.4 million barrels in crude. You may remember that’s about what the survey predicted last week, when the inventories actually dropped by most in many years – about 10 million barrels. Expect inventories to keep falling in the last weeks of 2010.

According to the International Oil And Gas Newspaper, December 20 Brent oil finished at $92.29 while WTI finished at $88.66. Declining crude oil imports to the US would be a likely "effect". I would think that a higher WTI price would attract more imports in a free declining export oil market.

Good point. The year end decline in oil inventories (the next three weeks together) will probably be faster than the historical average.

There is also an additional, and new, problem: the US is on the verge of becoming a net oil product exporter. This may happen within weeks, or sometime next year. One possible implication of this is that the US will need to increase its oil imports to refine more products, unless somehow US demand falls. Otherwise US product inventories will eventually run down.

2011 is going to be an interesting year.

Is it the sourness of the oil supplies that is allowing the US to have a refining advantage?

Or is it that china and other developing countries are using more products than they can possibly refine? So they turn to excess refining capacity in the US.

That quality of oil is probably important here. US refineries are generally more adaptable than most in the world, except some newer refineries (that now can even handle low quality Saudi crude.)

Most of the US product exports are going to Mexico, some other locations in Central and South America - and even to Europe. But also, some US diesel sent to Europe has now been re-shipped to other places, such as China.

So in sum, there appears to be an emerging mismatch to get the right type of oil, refined at the right refinery, to supply the right location. Sounds complex to me, and we know what happens to complexity in the post peak oil world.

(that now can even handle low quality Saudi crude.)

where does that idea come from ? saudi arabia's 2009 average api gravity was above 42 deg and is increasing yearly. the api gravity i calculate is from bpsr and includes ngl's.

chevron recently announced 'promising results' from their heavy oil steamflooding pilot in wafra, but that has to be a miniscule percent of saudi's total.

I think he is saying that the low quality grade of Saudi crude can be handled in some refineries.(and not that all of their oil is low quality.)

This evening December 21 the price of oil is moving over $90, probably because of this:

Oil Supplies in U.S. Fell 5.8 Million Barrels Last Week, API Report Shows
By Mark Shenk - Dec 21, 2010 4:33 PM ET

Crude oil inventories fell 5.8 million barrels last week to 342 million, the American Petroleum Institute said today.

Gasoline inventories declined 2.91 million barrels to 219.5 million, the report showed.

The Energy Department is scheduled to release its inventory report tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. in Washington.

Analysts expect the government report to show stockpiles of crude oil declined over the period. Supplies probably dropped 3.4 million barrels, according to the median of 14 responses in a Bloomberg News survey. Gasoline inventories increased 1.5 million barrels, the survey showed.


The API number was out of line with the EIA last week, so part of the drop may just be catching up.

But maybe not - the API also says (not shown here) that imports improved last week.

As far as gasoline goes today, this article updates my comments from yesterday:

Gasoline Futures Climb in N.Y. on Stronger Demand, Hovensa Unit Shutdown
By Barbara Powell - Dec 21, 2010 11:25 AM ET

The St. Croix refinery expects to finish repairs on the unit by Dec. 25, according to people familiar with refinery operations who declined to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak for the plant. Hovensa has declined to speculate when the work will be completed.

Padd 1 Supplies

Supplies of gasoline in Padd 1, which includes New York Harbor, the delivery point of the Nymex contract, were 9 percent below a year earlier in the week ended Dec. 10, according to the Energy Department.



After seven decades of mostly uninterrupted growth, U.S. gasoline demand is at the start of a long-term decline. By 2030, Americans will burn at least 20 percent less gasoline than today, experts say, even as millions of more cars clog the roads.


Worldwide oil demand will hit a record 88.3 million barrels per day next year, according to the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie.
Put simply, "we're entering a period where the U.S. motorist is no longer the king of the road," Yergin says.

Or, there's this alternative for you:


CERA knows what's up. But it's much more palatable to make people think we'll just use less gasoline forever and ever because cars got so much more efficient.

I think they genuinely believe it. It's not just cars getting more efficient. It's using biofuels and electricity instead, which is not an unreasonable view from the mainstream. The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones, and all that.

Even Ken Deffeyes, in his first peak oil book, predicts that we'll have a rough ten years or so, then transition to windmills or something.

The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones....

Keep hearing that

hmm, any one sure we didn't run out of the easy accessable, right kind of stones - like knapable Flint ?

I mean , there's tar pits and there's light sweet oil - somebody said it was all "oil" but we know it ain't.


I mean , there's tar pits and there's light sweet oil - somebody said it was all "oil" but we know it ain't.

But it is all oil. If it was actually tar, it would be pretty useless, but since it is really bitumen, not tar, and bitumen is just an extremely heavy form of oil, you can feed it into a refinery and turn it into gasoline and diesel fuel.

You will have to do some expensive upgrades on the front end of the refinery to handle it, but if it is all you can get for feedstock, that is what you will do. That is what many refineries have done.

Well sure.. and you can breathe through a straw, or even a coffee stirrer. It's all air, after all.

You Don't Have What It Takes

I was outside this afternoon disassembling some firewood racks this afternoon. It was in the low 30's with intermittent snow and rain. The cold penetrated to your very heart.

This reminded of some stuff from the past and why most of TOD readers don't have the balls to survive.

Part 1.
I used to belong to the United States Power Squadron when I had a boat (FWIW, I used to teach "seamanship"). A number of years ago I was sitting at a bar with a couple of members one of whom had been an AB on a square rigger that went around the Horn. I'm freezing my a$$ doing my work here and I'm thinking of him going up the rat lines to set sails and having to beat down frozen canvas with his bare hands in an oil slick coat only to go back to a space heated by a candle.

Part 2.
We invite neighbors for Thanksgiving. We were talking about the past and our neighbor related the following story about his father: A neighboring rancher showed up from town 15 miles away (on his horse). It was snowing really hard. He was afraid that his barn roof would collapse. The barn was 6 miles away but he couldn't handle it himself.

So, his dad and a friend who was there got on their horses to clear off the roof. They got three miles before it got too deep for the horses (the snow was chest deep). The men got off and broke the way for the horses for 3 miles. They took turns and finally got to the ranch to get the snow off the roof. Now, I'm leaving some stuff out but you get the picture.

Now, how many TODers have that kind of, well, balls of steel, to do what has to be done no matter the cost? These guys could have died. This is what I don't see from all the sites I visit including TOD. Everyone is into BAU Lite...cutsy stuff.

How many kids are learning these lessons? How willing are you to make the ultimate commitment?


An edit: the snow was so deep here one winter that when he went out to check the stock that his horse couldn't carry him home so he hung onto the horse's tail and was dragged home through the snow for a mile or so.

Todd, I doubt I have the courage to do those particular things. On the other hand, there are all kinds of courage, all kinds of suffering, and all kinds of situations. Look at the people in Pakistan and what they have suffered and dealt with, or those in places that have lost all their water and their struggles to feed their families. There may be situations that would make a man who's brave enough lead horses through deep snow quake in fear. We all have weaknesses too.

Those of us who are products of the empire cannot truly escape what we are and our soft oil-soaked background. But then who can say what they've got in them when there are no choices left?

Somewhere on the long hard path between 7 billion and maybe 1/2 billion there will time to weed out those who don't have what it takes (whatever that is in a particular place and time), and for cultivation of those who "have what it takes". I'm far more concerned about knowledge and skills than I am about guts.


Thank you for you reasoned response. You are quite right in many ways.


"11 trends for 2011" by Marian Salzman

Trend 2 -- Talk to the Hands

In today’s rebooting world, people are seriously re-evaluating what jobs and activities are worth—something deeper than the next bonus, the next promotion, the next gadget or the next status symbol. Which are more satisfying and create more value? Which feel more meaningful? This comes at a time when “educated elites” have become figures of scorn for middle-class Americans.The Tea Party isn’t just about anger at elites, though. It’s also about a sense of losing control, of being at the mercy of big abstract systems, and it’s a yearning for an era when ordinary Americans were practical people who could look after themselves with their own hands.

Crumbling roads and bridges, creaky energy supplies, leaky oil wells, sagging porches and dripping faucets need people who can wield tools skillfully, people who can make things and fix things. Even people earning their living at a computer are turning to urban gardens and window boxes to grow food and feed both body and soul. Amid the despair of cities such as Detroit being hollowed out by unemployment and repossessions, urban farming is being embraced as a back-to-the-future response.

Several interesting trends in the direction of self-reliance and distrust of failing institutions.

Todd, I think we all could use an ass-kicking myself, but unfortunately the unraveling of the industrial world will be slower at the top of the empire. I wish people would take energy issues more seriously and learn how to do certain tasks by hand again. I am building my retaining wall by hand -- digging it all out and so forth with a shovel and mixing cement in a plastic tub with a shovel. Good times and slow going. I call it exercise and perspective to on-lookers from the neighboring yards -- who think I should find a helper and pay him instead. Perhaps I will finish before Spring ;-)

I lived once in MA and it snowed like crazy (2003) I shoveled 6 feet over a couple of weeks and that drive was live 50 feet long (one lane). I hear you. Many folks won't be able to take it imho.

Personally I wish people would make good choices when they buy things and learn how to start a backyard garden or use their bike a little for exercise and as a way to go run errands instead of using a car 100% of the time. I hope people insulate their homes even if they wont live there for 10 years.

Maybe people are still unaware of the general problem out there; they all think that the uptick in the economy will be lasting and save them from misery. Gasoline will be $1.00 a gallon again? I do not know.

Maybe you feel like I do, wondering where is that entrepreneurial, hardworking spirit we all once had in the old days?

I am building my retaining wall by hand -- digging it all out and so forth with a shovel and mixing cement in a plastic tub with a shovel. Good times and slow going.

I know the feeling, but it's good exercise which most of us get too little of, so how ever long it takes, it takes - I agree - keep up the good work on your project. We bought a house that had an area on the uphill side of the house that was trapping water. So I started digging a french drain. I dug and dug for two weeks straight in very hard ground until it was 70' long (L shaped) and 5 feet deep at the deepest part (corner of the house). Used a digging bar for much of it to break up the ground a bit at a time. The whole time my neighbor was suggesting faster ways to get it done. But I was doing it myself to keep the ticker beating good and to have the personal satisfaction. Laid in the tubing, pulled a sock type protector over the whole thing,(used to stop the tube from filling with silt) and ever since the water drains easily - no more problem of the water seeping into the basement. He never did any hard labor and unfortunately passed away from a heart attack at a fairly young age.

People don't realize that over time and lack of hard labor their hearts get weakened. I say to them, go out and start digging and mixing and stacking stones, like you are. You'll find out within 5 minutes just how out of shape or in shape you are. Having to continually stop is a good sign you're out of shape. The only way to keep up your endurance and live a long life is to tax your body. Hard labor is a great way to do it, and the final results are very satisfying.

I'm sure you will always look at that retaining wall in a much different way than if you just paid to have it done.

I agree on fitness being essential for the future

Also needed will be response speed to emergencies. I thought I was prepared for anything til a little storm put breaking waves into the anchorage. I made it out, 10 boats didn't. Adrenaline kicked in, my hands shook for two hours afterward.

Emergencies never seem to happen in daylite

Dave in Phuket

My neighbor said I was doing this job 'old school' and I said well I wanted to give it a shot. My son helps sometimes (he is little yet) mainly fetching water to mix cement. IN any case it has been a learning experience for sure.

I have no idea how much this would have cost us if a contractor did the work. I used a pointed shovel and a pick to dig it out -- sometimes a flat spade to square the bottom of the trench. It is 50 feet long and 5-6 cinder blocks tall (counting the foundation and depending which end of the yard.) So yes I also did the french drain and wrapped that 4" HDPE flex tube with that fabric to keep the silt out. I buried the pipe in lava rock which I seem to have tons of (previous owners must have used lava rock and nature buried it). I am putting rebar in the bottom two tiers and the vertically every 3 feet. I placed the rebar in yogurt cups before setting in cement to keep the ends from rusting instead of paying money for some plastic gizmo protector. I think it is solid. Who knows how many cement bags it has taken. Heck we had 10 inches of rain now over a few days here and the drainage looks great.

The old wall was made of redwood from the 1960s or 70s I guess from the age and rot I see on the wood. The lumber is not 1.5" but thicker than that so it is non-standard. Earwig invested. It burned well in my fireplace in any case. I am salvaging a fair amount of the wood to make stairs up the wall. Feels great. And I did not throw my back out yet. So manual labor is great.

I like Winter, it's the time to do the hard work. I often spend all day working out in temperatures of -5°c (23°f) or lower and I cannot work with a coat or bulky clothing on. It's quite invigorating, gives me a healthy glow and actually makes me feel more alive. I think that's what's missing in modern life, the feeling of being alive and part of the natural world.

It's interesting to see how people from the city react when they come here, they seem to suffer terribly from the cold, even in the Summer. I remember the British Army many years ago complaining that today's recruits are unfit and lack the natural resilience of past generations to withstand life in the military. I think things have moved on and the same now applies to everybody, they lack the fitness and physical resilience to live life outside of their fossil fuel maintained life support system.

So, in answer to your question; no they don't have what it takes.

While I was writing this, someone from a travelling circus which is camped out several miles from here came to the door. Seems they've lost there big tent somehow in an accident and are asking for donations to help feed their animals and children. They live in caravans and it was -10°c here last week, talk about tough.

I remember the British Army many years ago complaining that today's recruits are unfit and lack the natural resilience of past generations to withstand life in the military.

Here in the US, the problem is obesity. Recruits have trouble making the weight standards.

Ironically, just a few generations ago, the problem was the opposite. The young men they drafted were unfit to serve because they were too malnourished. That's the reason the school lunch program was started.

The U.S. obesity epidemic is our collective subconscious planning for peak oil. We're all building fat reserves for the long winter.

Ironically, just a few generations ago, the problem was the opposite. The young men they drafted were unfit to serve because they were too malnourished.

There is a good case to be made that obese people are malnourished. Start with the fact that poverty and obesity have a strong correlation. Go from there.

I often spend all day working out in temperatures of -5°c (23°f) or lower and I cannot work with a coat or bulky clothing on. It's quite invigorating, gives me a healthy glow and actually makes me feel more alive.

I enjoy being out at -5°C. It's almost an ideal temperature for doing heavy work. Around here in the Canadian Rockies you'll see people outdoors in shorts and T-shirts enjoying the weather.

At -20°C, it becomes somewhat less fun. If the wind is blowing, you have to bundle up from head to toe, and be careful not to expose any skin for too long because of the risk of frostbite. I tend to stay indoors at the gym rather than go for a run in those kind of temperatures.

At -40°C, it turns into a survival exercise. I can remember being in an unheated hut next to a glacier when the temperature dropped to -40°C. When it warmed up to -35°C we decided it was getting unreasonable and decided to ski out across the glacier. It is the only time I have worn all the clothes in my pack at the same time, and while I did okay, some people from warmer climes froze their feet. They didn't know enough to take their boot liners into their sleeping bag to keep them warm overnight. You don't ever want to put your feet into your ski boots when they're -40°C inside.

I've never skied at anything lower than -45°C. It just fails the fun factor. You have no glide because the snow is like sandpaper, and if you use climbing skins to go up a hill, the glue won't stick to the skis. If you use duct tape to hold the skins on, it shatters in the cold. No, the only solution is to stay indoors and have a hot buttered rum, or two, or three.

In Minnesota, when there is no wind (which is typical) and the temperature is minus forty, guys work out in the woods all day long in shirtsleeves. When you're active, minus forty is no problem (again assuming no wind). The loggers do wear gloves, however.

I used to walk to work (two miles) when the temperature was minus thirty to minus 35F. My problem was always that after a mile I got too hot and had to peel off all my outer layers. Wind is a problem, low temperatures are not bad at all when one is active.

I remember the British Army many years ago complaining that today's recruits are unfit and lack the natural resilience of past generations to withstand life in the military.

Well, they do their best to toughen them up. They do training exercises here in Canada. I've been on the tops of mountains in the Canadian Rockies with a bunch of people when the British Army shows up. We'll have a couple of dozen people sitting around in the sunshine, eating lunch, dogs barking, kids playing, little old ladies with their walkers, and the British Army appears on a training exercise. They're cheerful guys and we usually have quite a nice conversation. So, it's nice to see that they're getting toughened up.

We also see them at the ski hills, trying to make their skis turn, and out on the icefields, although they do have a bad habit of falling in crevasses, and at the Army practice cliffs, which have nice signs and arrows showing the troops where the hand and footholds are. It's all good training and much better than learning someplace where people are shooting at them.

The thing, though, is that survival is mostly about knowing how to survive than being tough.

Working is great in the cold, if it's physical. Then again, physical labor, say all day bucking bales in 90F will break many. Or just operating a tractor all day from an open seat in a 35F mist. That's where you wish you were still horseback, at least half of you stays comfortable.

It's all relative, most often we can't choose our temperature and activity outside. But there is another angle- paying bills all morning in a chair in a 60F room. That's bone chilling to me. I always wonder how ol Bob Crachet did it, accounting all day in an unheated room.

I wonder if it's the holidays or something, though.

Todd's been pretty crotchety, peeing in the punch. What's the point, really of predicting in Bold Type for a bunch of people he sees a little text from about whether they've got the right stuff or not.

Maybe some of us will make it, and some will be shown down by the tough times that are coming. Is it really helpful to toss a lot of predictions of doom at each other? I don't think most of us know even what our OWN strengths will really turn out to be, when put to the hardest tests, much less guessing at the potential of people we hear about over the internet.. but I sure don't have much to say for the incessant predicting of failure. There's enough to do without having to wash someone else's vinegar off my shirt every day.

If I really wanted to be a doomer, then I'd keep on pointing out what our world will be very shortly from climate change. There's no amount of physical strength, preparedness, guns and ammunition, permaculture, mulch, grandchildren, batteries, oil, electric cars, windmills, basements filled with canned goods, spare parts, fiscal soundness, debt, gold, stocks or whatever to mitigate that. We won't change near enough to even slow it. The best one can do is attempt to live a compassionate life.

Some more parts, not quite as weather related. The ranch next door, still owned by the same family, goes back to the first white setters in the area. The first was a miner who went back to NY to get a wife. Ended up, after some adventures, taking a ship from SF to Ft. Bragg, then spent the next year covering the 18 or so miles between here and the coast; take the wagon apart, carry everything up to the top of the hill thru the forests, reassemble, repeat as necessary. A descendant worked at the Union Lumber mill in FB; he would walk over Mon morning, walk home Fri nite with 2 boards on his shouders; that's how they built the house.
The oldtimer I knew was living there in the ?20's, and was courting his gal, who lived across the valley and over the hill. One Sun, the car broke down. No phone, so he walked 10 or so miles. Got an earful from her for showing up late. She did apologize, tho.

Meh, I've already come to grips with eating my neighbors if worse comes to worse. That seems to be such a taboo topic that I figure I'm light years ahead just by accepting that as a last resort, it's a viable solution.

Once you you get your mind around that then you realize there's plenty of food around and starvation isn't likely. And as long as I have food then the rest is easy. Of course the whole disaster-plan is contingent on a crash happening soon while I'm young and healthy. If it doesn't happen for another 15 years then I'll be 45 years old and possibly I'll be the one to end up on the dinner plate :)

As for those guys on the horses, I'd wonder why they didn't go by snowshoe? With properly-sized snowshoes you can run at a brisk pace in a fully loaded backpack in any depth of snow. I'm going to be spending a week starting Christmas Eve backpacking (a new camp each night, the real way) in the mountains with only my wife where as of last week they had 30" of snow and -31F wind chills. A 40lb pack + snowshoes and it's a breeze to travel. Add in some proper down mountaineering attire and the cold and snow isn't even an issue.

Maybe on average the younger generation isn't up to what you describe, but there are some of us who are even a step above what you describe. That's ok, the more who aren't up to it...the more food there is.

Truth is nobody knows for sure what it's going to take to get through the bottleneck.
1. Toughness - sure that'll help. Maybe more mental than physical.
2. Intelligence and good planning - check. In fact the characters in your story had they used more of this might not have been out risking their lives in a blizzard for a barn.
3. Luck - I'm guessing there will be a healthy dose of this required.
4. Intuitive Adaptability - I'm inclined to put this at the top of the list. Some people seem to have a sense of what to do next while others around them are at a total loss.

Toughness alone isn't going to get us through. Tough people die from disease, famine, hypothermia and accidents too.

From Newscientist's 2010 flash fiction competition. Very short stories about worlds in which scientific theories we've long since dismissed turned out to be true after all. This one is a 350 word mirror of TOD.

Flash fiction 2010: Atomic Dreams

Happy Reading

Very fun, thanks for the link.

We've often discussed how we will feed ourselves in a post peak world. Many have expressed the opinion that food production will necessarily become more local and that more of us will need to become food producers.

S-510, The "Food Safety Act" passed the Senate today and the House version is expected to be passed Tuesday. The President is expected to sign it.


Whether or not folks agree with the bill as written, few disagree that it will give the FDA broad control over food production in the US; more centralized control over an important aspect of our lives.

Some good discussion on S-510 here:


I wonder how the FDA is going to regulate insect farming and insects for food.


Interestingly just after I had watched this I read that Australia is currently suffering from a plague of locusts. My first thought was, why don't they harvest the free protein and eat them.

Now if the darn helicopters flying around filming the lunar eclipse over my home would go away I might be able to get some sleep before dawn... I was just outside and it is full now.

Helicopters....to film a lunar eclipse......

Bugs for breakfast.......

Body armour for NYC cabbies.....

Palin ...... for President....

I sense a trend here. Sweet dreams Fred.

They used helicopters to film the lunar eclipse?! Wow. We ARE screwed.

I spent the night in the back yard with a DSLR camera enjoying the show. No lights, no noise, it was great!

No lights, no noise, it was great!

Well that was my assumption because there was no police activity reported in my neighborhood and two helicopters were flying in circles at 2:30 AM under a crystal clear sky. What else they might have been doing I couldn't imagine. I live in a small town near the Greater Miami Area and light pollution close to the ground is a problem so perhaps they were trying to fly above that.

But yes, we are pretty much screwed.

This bill has been a stealth attack. From out of nowhere to law. It's a big spike in the coffin for small producers. The inherent adversarial relationship between regulators and producers is alone enough to spell doom here, just way too much lopsided power. And I doubt it will become a cause for the upcoming Republican shift.

I know of many horror stories of recent instances where government raids have ended small farmers, where allegations of unsafe product was not proven or even documented, yet the business was closed. They had neither the means to weather the closure period, or to rebuild customer trust.

Onward to a diet of irradiated Twinkies and Arepas.

Fortunately, the gov't is not well funded to enforce this crap on every little guy out there. There is supposed to be a Senate amendment to protect small local producers, but i am not a farmer and I did not read this.

Let's hope the small farmer gets a boost as many Americans are showing some distrust towards conagra and big producers overcrowded/infested livestock practices. I can't even buy produce from the supermarket anymore. I could care less if a free-range egg or chicken is slightly more expensive. Once you realize what is going on with food, it gets hard to swallow literally.

"Fortunately, the gov't is not well funded to enforce this crap on every little guy out there."

Exactly! The government is passing new laws constantly with no thought to the fact that they can't begin to enforce the laws that are currently in place. My guess is this will turn out to be mostly hand waving and political gesturing designed to quiet down the masses and special interest groups.

The enforcement of this sort of law requires very little in the way of resources not already in place and paid for;there is zero need for law enforcement agencies to spend a dime on investigations;and the gathering of evidence is as simple as showing up on the premises as a customer.

Such businesses are simply not lucrative enough to run them like a drug distribution ring, covertly.

The various well intentioned but deluded busybody types scared of their shadows and determined that the the govt should act as everybody's Mommy will take INSIST on the sheriff showing up in his official capacity, even though half his deputies may be customers of the business getting raided.

If by some chance there are not enough busybody's to go around, there will always be some grocer or other businessman eager to put his small bore competition out of business to make the complaint

Any day now I expect to hear of somebody I know getting arrested or summonsed for selling a "pickup truck load" of firewood-which is now illegal, it seems.

"If by some chance there are not enough busybody's to go around, there will always be some grocer or other businessman eager to put his small bore competition out of business to make the complaint"

That pretty well sums it up, don't even have to go down the alley of governmental or political heavy handedness. But both right and left seem to be on a tear to lance the little guy. The GOP is threatening to ditch whistle blower rights, while the dems laud this as food safety. You've stated very well in the past with regards to small farmers that reputation is everything, that they are the best means of securing food safety.

I would hope that that someone, in the CDC or gov or private, has examined the relation between food-borne illness and the increasing sterilization of food. That much like the links to asthma and other diseases with children living in a relatively sterile environment, no contact any more with playing in the dirt or being outdoors, our food safety measures are promoting food illness. We are probably seeing an increase in food-borne illness because we no longer challenge the immune system. I'm sure we all marvel at what our dog can eat with no apparent side effects, I would guess that at one point humans were similar.

Pelosi, today:

"Today, the House acted to give America's parents the confidence that the food they serve their children is safe. With recent outbreaks of food-borne illness from common foods such as spinach, tomatoes, peanut butter, and cookie dough, the urgency of addressing this challenge could not be greater. And with the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, we will fundamentally change the way we protect public health and the safety of our food supply.

"This legislation will work to prevent food contamination before it occurs, steering away from our current focus on responding after an outbreak. It improves our ability to detect and respond to food-borne illness, increases the number of inspections the FDA must conduct, and, for the first time, requires importers of foreign food to verify that products grown and processed overseas meet U.S. safety standards.

Supporting organizations:

Alternative Energy Resources Organization
American Beverage Association
American Goat Society
American Grassfed Association
American Policy Center
Citizens for Health
Consumers Union
Council for Responsible Nutrition
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Intelligent Global Pooling Systems
National Automatic Merchandising Association
Organic Consumers Association
Small Farmer's Journal
Small Farms Conservancy
US Chamber of Commerce
Western Organization of Resource Councils

Opposing organizations:

American Academy of Microbiology
American Mushroom Institute
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
National Cattleman's Beef Association
National Potato Council
National Watermelon Association
Produce Marketing Association
The John Birch Society
United Fresh Produce Association
Western Growers

Source: MAPLight .org

The Act was amended to provide some 'protections' for small/local producers; the Tester/ Hagan Amendment co-sponsored by Dems. Jon Tester, and Kay Hagan (from my state), is discussed some here:

One possible result of this legislation is that folks will be paying more for their food as costs of compliance are passed on. It may actually benefit small producers in this respect, though I may be exibiting naive logic :-/

Sorry, Fred. The American Entomological Culinary Association hasn't weighed in on this one.

Interesting. In her speech, all the examples of food-borne illness she's mentioned were products of the industrialized food industry and widespread distribution. The big guys will adapt to the new law and continue on as usual, there will be more failures and more people will get sick and they'll say "oops, it won't happen again" and pay the fines as part of doing business. Meanwhile, the little guys who actually produce food I'd want to eat will get ground into the dust and shut down.

I suppose it's not so bad up here in Canada, but there are still similar problems. Changes to the laws regarding butchering, for instance, have caused a lot of places to shut down. Trying to get a deer processed around here is getting difficult. Only a couple places do it and they're backlogged into spring.


Hey, Arepas are good or is that some USAnian bowdlerisation of a home made goodie that you are referring to.


Some people like Twinkies.

Arepas are a tasteless, stale, corn-based mass feed experiment of the Venezuela government gone sour.

OK, some Venezualan bowdlerisation of a home made goodie. Tasteless no, stale no. Corn based, no, made from pure corn but can carry a variety of fillings (I prefer cheese). Whenever I have made them they have been snapped up quick. When people are talking about producing their own food and using corn, this gives them one more item to make from it. Oh, and you can keep Twinkies, not wanted here.


2010 census to show slowing US growth, GOP gains

Census estimates provided this month based on birth and death records place the 2010 count somewhere between 305.7 million and 312.7 million, up from 281.4 million in 2000. That range means U.S. growth over the previous decade would be at a slower pace than the 13.2 percent increase from 1990 to 2000.

Demographers believe the official 2010 count will be 308.7 million or lower, putting U.S. growth at around 9 percent, the lowest since the 1940 census. That is the decade in which the Great Depression slashed the population growth rate by more than half, to 7.3 percent.

The U.S. is still growing quickly relative to other developed nations. The population in France and England each increased roughly 5 percent over the past decade, while in Japan the number is largely unchanged and in Germany the population is declining. China grew at about 6 percent; Canada's growth rate is roughly 10 percent.

Seems my projections back on July 10th of reapportionment were quite accurate.


There were 12 shifts rather than 11. New York lost 2 rather than 1 and Missouri lost 1 rather than Minnesota. Also Florida gained 2 rather than 1.

This should update soon. http://2010.census.gov/2010census/data/

Hardships of a Nation Push Horses Out to Die

With the economic downturn, many found that they could no longer afford to feed or stable the animals at costs that can run to $40 a day and more and abandoned them to wander untended around construction sites, through towns and villages and along rural roads. One common estimate, put forward by Joe Collins, president of the Veterinary Council of Ireland, is that there are 10,000 to 20,000 “surplus horses” across the country. Another leading expert on horses, Ted Walsh, the father of one of the country’s most famous steeplechase jockeys, Ruby Walsh, has said that the number could be as high as 100,000.

This became a major problem here Dec 2008. A heavy snow year coupled with that fall's spike in hay and grain prices forced many to just "release" their horses. I never understood it, as much of the county is forested. What were the owners thinking, that the horses would revert to wild and graze pine limbs on their own?? It became a nightmare for law enforcement, the sheriff estimated hundreds of half starved horses roaming. They tended to congregate on cleared roadways causing accidents. To add insult to injury, new regs had recently closed local butchers, and the rendering plant 65 miles away couldn't accept horses. They were forced to stockpile dead horses for a bit.

They are not having much luck in Dublin. And, like the UK, they're not used to much snow either. Here's the Dublin Traffic Webcams link and the snow is forecast to get worse tonight.


When does the Gestapo start visiting your neighborhood?

Attorney General's Blunt Warning on Terror Attacks

"What I am trying to do in this interview is to make people aware of the fact that the threat is real, the threat is different, the threat is constant," he said...

The threat has changed from simply worrying about foreigners coming here, to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens -- raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born," he said.

"In government we trust..."

From the BBC: Shale gas: an energy saviour?

...Over a few years since commercial operations began at scale, shale gas has helped consumer gas prices in the US to fall by about a third; it's offered gas security to the US and Canada for maybe 100 years; and it's presented an opportunity to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal.

Shale gas has also been accused of poisoning water supplies, killing livestock, destabilising the landscape and of sucking investment from the renewable technologies said to be vital for combating climate change.

...Some terminals built to import liquid natural gas are now being converted to exports.

...Europe will still import gas from Russia, but every unconventional gas development erodes Moscow's role as energy superpower.

The Colombia floods have caused mudslides so extreme that geologists and hydrologists say the country will have be re-mapped. The government estimates that it will take $8 billion to relocate more than 2 million people. Water and sewer systems have collapsed, and people can't even evacuate because the roads have been washed away.

Hugo Chavez blames climate change and "criminal capitalism."

Change "capitalism" to "industrialism" and Hugo might be right.

Both wrong. This has been a problem in Colombia for a long time. Towns and villages tend to be built in the plains. The hills and mountains are cleared and farmed to exhaustion. This has been done by villagers taking the attitude 'I'll just clear more land, there is more over the next hill'. Large and expanding families mean more land is needed for each batch of children. Vast areas are stripped, I do mean vast, you fly over it and it just goes on and on. There has been concern about this for decades.There were attempts to re-forest areas but the villagers just cut and burned those attempts.When it rains the water pours off the hills flooding all below. Water, landslides, mud. Land eroded beyond hope of recovery.


I don't think it's that simple. Yes, deforestation and illegal mining are part of it. So is natural variation - La Nina. But the amount of rain falling is highly unusual. The heaviest in decades. And they're predicting it will continue until February.

Santos is blaming climate change too, and why not? It's always better if a politician can blame someone else. I expect we're going to see a lot more of this in the future: blaming wealthy nations for natural disasters (whether justified or not).

I don't think it's possible to determine whether climate change is part of it at this point. What I found interesting is that it's a hint of how climate change could be as catastrophic as peak oil, or more so. As I've said before, infrastructure is going to be a huge issue on the back side of Hubbert's peak, and climate change is one of the biggest concerns with infrastructure, peak oil or no peak oil.

When you see the extent of the deforestation from the air you get a feel for the true scale of it. It really is huge. La Nina and heavy rain may well be behind it but with nothing to trap the rain the effects will be many times worse. Huge floods and displaced populations may just have been some flooding and swollen rivers with the original cover in place. A tropical storm can put a lot of water down in a short time just delaying the flow of water by a few hours can make a big difference to flooding.

Here, they are building many new housing areas. Before there were fields that caught water and it took time to drain. Now there is concrete and drains to run it off as fast as possible. The drainage system below cannot cope with the surge and flooding is getting noticeably worse.

We mentioned possible shortages of LPG for cooking. If peak oil causes shortages in cooking fuel then more trees will get stripped and flooding become many times worse. These subjects are so intertwined.


Hi All,

Not sure how relevant this is but I'm bursting with pride so I'll post it:
My sister (qualified solicitor) has just been accepted as an intern for Client Earth (an environmental NGO based in Brussels, Belgium). A quick look at their homepage shows they may be more concerned with Global Warming and fish stocks than Peak Oil but I'm delighted she's at least trying to do something.

I'm doing precious little myself I must admit apart from ranting at people and on Facebook about the absurdity of infinite exponential growth (no one listens and most don't understand) - perhaps this will inspire me in future.


Congrats Irish. My step daughter is also following her heart by working with the State Dept in Africa after giving up her private law practice. Both stories are relevant to our topics IMHO in the sense that if changes are to be made they will have to be led by passionate folks such as our two gals. It won't happen quickly but hopefully in time such folks might start having some impact on TPTB.

According to the International Oil and Gas Newspaper, Dec.21 Brent crude finished up $1.68 at $93.98 while WTI here finished up $.58 at $89.27. Brent is the world price for tanker size quantities. WTI is a barrel price. A cynic might suggest perhaps the US only needs a few barrels of oil while others in the world need tanker size lots. But whose a cynic? The US imports roughly 63% of its crude oil and is most often much closer to to its Brent cousin in value.

Cornstarch might have ended the Gulf spill agony sooner

When the top kill was proposed, Katz was serving on the science panel Secretary of Energy Steven Chu had organized to advise the Obama administration about the oil well disaster. Katz and Richard Garwin, an eminent physicist who was also a panelist, discussed the kill plan and realized they had misgivings.

“We were worried that a phenomenon known as a Kelvin-Helmholtz instability would disperse the dense mud into tiny droplets that would be carried out of the well by the leaking crude oil,” says Katz.

...To suppress instability the mud needed to be a shear-thickening rather than a shear-thinning fluid--like the quicksand. As every reader of the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook knows, when you fall into quicksand, it is important to move slowly. The faster you move, the more the quicksand resists your movement.

Rare-earth mining operation to revive in US

After signing deals with major Japanese trading houses that have been rushing to secure new sources of rare earths, mining company Molycorp Inc. plans to restart its rare-earth mining in California by the end of the year.

And here: Molycorp CEO: No Rare Earth Bubble

Biting winters driven by global warming: scientists

Counter-intuitive but true, say scientists: a string of freezing European winters scattered over the last decade has been driven in large part by global warming.

The culprit, according to a new study, is the Arctic's receding surface ice, which at current rates of decline could to disappear entirely during summer months by century's end.

The mechanism uncovered triples the chances that future winters in Europe and north Asia will be similarly inclement, the study reports

I would normally just roll my eyes, but it is worth noting that the Eemian interglacial also had a notable temperature spike before the bottom went out and the Wisconsin glaciation got going.


"At the peak of the Eemian, the northern hemisphere winters were generally warmer and wetter than now, though some areas were actually slightly cooler than today. The Hippopotamus was distributed as far north as the rivers Rhine and Thames."

"Sea level at peak was probably 4 to 6m (13 to 20 feet) higher than today (references in Overpeck et al., 2006), with much of this extra water coming from Greenland but some likely to have come from Antarctica."

There is a risk that we will not have put enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to stop the switch to the next glaciation phase. The positioning of Antarctica at the south pole, followed by the closing of the Isthmus of Panama and the stopping of circulation between the Atlantic and Pacific plunged the earth into the glacial period about 3 million years ago. Glaciation has been getting more intense with shorter warm periods in the bistable system.


HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Hong Kong shares edged narrowly higher early Wednesday on the back of an overnight advance on Wall Street and strong gains in Shanghai, with refiners climbing after Beijing allowed an increase in fuel prices.

Sounds like China is trying to put the breaks on their subsidy some. Perhaps instead of the FED China uses the oil subsidy to heat and cool their economy. Wonder if it can work when oil supply declines?