Drumbeat: January 1, 2011

A Road Less Traveled

Amid the planes, trains and automobiles of the holiday season comes a surprising finding from transportation scientists: Passenger travel, which grew rapidly in the 20th century, appears to have peaked in much of the developed world.

A study of eight industrialized countries, including the United States, shows that seemingly inexorable trends — ever more people, more cars and more driving — came to a halt in the early years of the 21st century, well before the recent escalation in fuel prices. It could be a sign, researchers said, that the demand for travel and the demand for car ownership in those countries has reached a saturation point.

Oil Surges to Highest Year-End Price Since 2007 on Dollar

Oil surged to its highest year-end price since 2007 as the dollar weakened and gasoline and heating oil futures climbed.

Crude capped its second consecutive year of gains as the dollar dropped against the euro, boosting commodities’ appeal as an alternative investment. Oil settled above $91 a barrel after testing technical support near $89. Gasoline and heating oil advanced before the January contracts expired today.

Oil up 34% since May; average gas price hits $3.07

NEW YORK — The price of oil is poised for another run at $100 a barrel after a global economic rebound sent it surging 34% since May. That could push gasoline prices to $4 a gallon by summer in some parts of the country, experts say.

The run-up in oil prices this year sent the average gas pump price to $3.07, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. That's 43 cents, or 16%, more than a year ago.

Oil May Fall in New York on Outlook for 2011 Supply Increase, Survey Shows

Oil may fall for a second week amid speculation refiners will start building inventories at the beginning of the year, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Oilfields halt production as gales hit Australian coast

(Reuters) - Three leading oil and gas companies said on Saturday gale force winds, possibly developing into a cyclone, had led to production being halted at oil fields off the Western Australian coast.

Oil billions at stake as UN examines British claims to Rockall

British claims to ownership of Rockall – the isolated Atlantic outcrop jutting out of a potentially vast and lucrative oilfield around 240 miles west of Scotland – is to be examined within weeks by the UN.

A formal claim for thousands of square miles of the seabed surrounding the rock has been made by Denmark and the Faroe Islands, potentially overriding the claims of Britain, Ireland and Iceland. At stake could be licences and income worth billions of pounds.

Russia in milestone oil pipeline supply to China

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia, the world's top crude exporter, said it had begun scheduled oil shipments to China via an East Siberian link on Saturday as the Kremlin cements ties with its energy-hungry neighbour.

So far, Russia's 50,000-km oil pipeline network has been concentrated in West Siberia and run toward Europe.

A Review of 2010 Predictions

Oh well. For a number of reasons, it’s hard to make money on energy commodities anyway. While it looks like crude oil will post a gain of about 15 percent this year, related ETFs have low single digit gains or losses. It’s a slightly different story for gasoline where futures prices have risen about 17 percent while the United States Gasoline ETF (UGA) is up about 15 percent, but, the only sure way to make money on energy commodities in 2010 was to be a Goldman Sachs trader.

2010: An Untameable Spill, an Unpassable Bill

Top 10 lists are often relentlessly negative: the 10 most-polluting industrial plants, the 10 most befouled beaches, and so on.

The spirit of this list is slightly different: Good or bad, these are environmental moments in 2010 that are most likely to reverberate in the world of environmental news in 2011 and beyond.

$10 billion might be enough in BP cases, Feinberg says

Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the $20 billion compensation fund for victims of BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill, said he anticipates half that amount will be sufficient to cover claims for economic losses.

The fund, established by BP after negotiations with the Obama administration, also pays cleanup costs. While Feinberg said Friday that it is too early to project how much will go to individuals and businesses, he estimated $10 billion may be enough to compensate victims.

Yemen should delay proposed constitutional move: U.S.

(Reuters) - The United States urged Yemen to hold off on reported plans for a vote as early as Saturday on proposed constitutional changes, calling for the government and opposition to negotiate the electoral reforms.

Disagreements over the proposed reforms could add to instability in Yemen, which borders oil giant Saudi Arabia.

Russia: 130 Protesters Are Detained

The police detained at least 130 protesters at New Year’s Eve rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg against restrictions on freedom of assembly and a court decision to keep Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the Russian tycoon who was imprisoned in 2003 for defying the Kremlin, in prison.

Interior ministry: Suicide bomber behind Egypt church blast

(CNN) -- Evidence indicates that a suicide bomber caused the explosion outside a church in Egypt on Saturday that killed at least 21 people, the country's interior ministry said.

...In November, a group with ties to al Qaeda in Iraq announced that all Christians in the Middle East would be "legitimate targets."

BOOK REVIEWS: 'Tinkers,' 'Prelude' and 'Radiance'

It’s clear from the cover’s message, “A novel about secrets, treachery and the arrival of peak oil,” that the reader is going to get an environmental message with this story. Kalamazoo author Kurt Cobb writes a blog called Resource Insights and is a columnist for the science news website Scitizen. He uses the storytelling skills found in novels to get his point across about the danger we face if we continue to believe that oil is an infinite resource. “Prelude” features Cassie, a young energy analyst, who is dared to question her firm’s stance on world oil supplies. What follows is fairly typical spy shenanigans, but it is certainly information worth thinking about and the novel’s appendix gives facts to back up the idea behind the story.

How Global Warming Denial Aids Terrorists

According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, "America's best weapon against terrorism is to decrease its dependency on foreign oil by increasing its fuel efficiency and introducing next-generation fuels." Refusing to acknowledge any pressing need to regulate greenhouse gas emissions primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels and fighting to delay or derail any such efforts, therefore, plays directly into the hands of terrorists, providing material aid to America's enemies and costing American lives as our own dollars are turned into roadside bombs, guns, and bribes that undermine our efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world.

Introducing next-generation fuels. We can't even handle the current generation of alternative fuels in Sydney:

Earlier this month the State Government was forced to delay by 12 months its plan to phase out all unleaded petrol and replace it with E10 fuel.

NSW Lands Minister Tony Kelly said at the time it was evident that supplies would not meet the forecast demands when its mandate to replace all regular unleaded petrol with E10 was to start in July 2011.


There will be many failing attempts to rescue our car culture.

We need to electrify public transport in urban areas:

13/12/2010 When will Sydney's North West get its rail line?

From "A Road Less Treveled"

“My basic thesis is, ‘There ain’t room on the road,’” he said. “You can’t move in Jakarta or Bangkok or any large city in Latin America or in any city in the wealthy part of China. I think Manila takes the prize. Yes, fuel economy is really important, and yes, hybrid cars will help. But even a car that generates no CO2 still generates a traffic problem.

“Sadly, what is going to restrain car use the most is that you can’t move.”

This is food for thought.

It seems to me that internet developments are a factor in the decline of travel. It is now possible to go to Google Maps, type in an address and do a look around. Foreign countries are the most interesting IMO. But not all of them have Google Maps.

I often find that it is disappointing. The illusion of wonderful places to visit has been destroyed by Google Maps.

They often appear ordinary, not worth the trip and just as mundane as home.

Before Google Maps one could not preview in detail where one was going. Now we can. It is now possible to preview the whole trip.

I want to pick up some 1099 forms at the IRS office in Des Moines on a trip to visit relatives. I went to Google Maps to find the building and see what it looks like. It will not be a surprise when I get there.

Even small towns are on Google Maps. I had never been to St. Ansgar, Iowa, but I needed to go there for business at the electric co-op. Google Maps showed me where the building was and what it looked like. When I got there it was easy to find.

The romance and surprise has been taken out of travel. And so has the disappointment.


Just my opinion, but a picture or video is NOTHING like the real thing. Sure I can pull up the Ft. Lauderdale webcam and check out the beach, but can I smell the ocean, can i hear the waves crashing, can i stare at all the girls in the skimpy swimsuits frolicking and prancing on the beach? Not really.


Tourists are not the moneymakers for the travel industry - business travelers are.

Road Warriors Biggest Worry is Those at Home

Nearly 74 percent of business travelers say their stay-behind spouse has expressed concern about being left home alone, according to a survey commissioned by Logitech, a Swiss technology company.

Even more, 79 percent frequently worry about their significant other when traveling for business. Fifty-nine percent said they would look for a job with less business travel when the economy improves. And 54 percent would take a $5,000 paycut if it meant never having to travel for work again.

Of course, by now most of the tourists have also traveled enough to experience, or have a close acquaintance experience, the severe discomforts of modern air travel -- hours on the tarmac, massive amounts of flight delays and cancellations, hours to days in the terminal, call centers completely unavailable, web sites overloaded and down... Plus the TSAs security procedures, which seem totally invasive to those who haven't gone through the gradual tightening of security over the years.

Now that United, Delta, and American have 70% of the market, expect that they will keep load factors and prices up.

My own conjecture is that travelling will become increasingly expensive, difficult, dangerous and unnecessary. People will begin to clump around energy sinks where life is less insecure and travelling will be done under duress due to the risks and uncertainty involved. I think we can see this trend developing already and it will intensify as time moves forward.

People will naturally change to circumstances and gravitate towards a type of living which provides security and enhances the chance of success (survival in this case). Undoubtedly, this will involve being physically close to sources of energy usage. I believe as energy is denied to the periphery and the tyranny of distance reasserts itself, it will become increasingly necessary for people to move to centres where sufficient energy still exists. The result will be huge urban ghettoes. Energy will be controlled by the elite through government and corporations, so they will get the first call on its use, everyone else will have dwindling access to what's left over if they can afford it.

Significant reward will probably be linked to travel in the future to compensate for the insecurity of having to travel. And as the social contract between the State and its people dissolves, travellers will become moving targets for any number of different reasons. Also, back at home the traveller can lose to others what they already have while they're away.

An alternative explanation for what you predict (less travel): Natural Selection as originally proposed by a guy named Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century. The homosapiens that don't travel will have greater reproductive success, etc., etc. (Double "etc." are something that appeared frequently in his writing. The rest is an imprecise paraphrase.)

"Significant reward will probably ... "
Maybe not. Today, very dangerous jobs, such as underground mining, or boots on the ground soldiering, are not very well paid. Rather they are staffed with the offspring of the less fortunate.

"Huge Urban Gettos" I'm not convinced many major highways were built in the 50's and 60's in urban areas not far from rail systems and the money/middle and upper class moved to the burbs as fuels was cheap to do the drive thing and the most importantly build cheap roads.Now as energy may become constrained those old areas will imo become valued as close to trade routes. I can see stores relocating to the center cities and trade routes/rails as to save money and double their customer base as they will have a central location.

I think some of this is likely. But probably some major centers of the past will quickly become depopulated.

Rome was the center of an Empire that spanned three continents for nearly half a millennium, with a population of nearly a million. But at the mere rumor of Gaiseric's attack in 451, most of the inhabitants fled, never to return. It was centuries before Rome's population even reached 100,000 again. Ironically, Gaiseric's Vandals' 'sacking' of Rome was comparatively gentle as Germanic sackings go--no one was slain and no buildings were destroyed.

Once the illusion of security is removed from once secure centers, people will seek safety wherever they think they can find it.

Burgundy, I think this as well. There are some indications that this move to urban clusters is already
underway. I see it as a good thing for those of us already established in somewhat remote rural areas. I can count close to 20 houses that have just been abandoned within a 20 mile radius of our location, many more with perpetual for sale signs. The homes and lifestyles were just not viable in this location with these economic times, and I expect it to get worse. Very sci-fi to see
a pack of coyotes cavorting on the grown over front lawns of some of these houses. Not to be too harsh but I see this as a weeding out process and only an improvement for those of us who will still be here.
One of the outcomes being a smaller, less resource intense, tighter knit community. By nature these kinds of locations are more decentralized, no town water, no town sewage, no local law enforcement, volunteer fire and ambulance, etc. People are, for the most part, used to taking care of themselves.

The urban clusters growing, that you mention, bring to mind scenes right out of "Soylent Green". A very economically, stratified population, densely packed, and highly controlled by the government. I think travel in and out of these locations will be highly regulated, we can see the beginnings of this with the TSA. The contagion will be contained and cordoned off. Hopefully the PTB will be so busy trying to handle these clusters they will have very little time or resources to bother about those of us left out on the fringes.

Don in Maine

We must all sincerely hope and pray that expansion of exurban sprawl has essentially halted. A farmer friend of mine who saw a development prop up within sight of his once-remote location in '07 was thrilled when the crash came--all further construction stopped and the new development now stands empty.

Haven't travelled much, have you?


I was watching an Irish comedian on tv last night. He was saying how his act involves travelling around the world and how everywhere was the same; "just white people shopping" as he put it.

I suspect his 'travelling' was more like commuting and confined to the urban centres and lifestyles related to his act. There I would agree with him. You need to step outside that to fully experience travelling. Walking through the jungles, dancing in the stands at Carnival, travelling over the mountains in a shaky bus, sitting in a dirt floor restaurant enjoying local food. The cities are just theme parks, the world is a lot larger.


I've been traveling a lot lately and it looks like a lot of Asians shopping to me.

"the demand for travel and the demand for car ownership in those countries has reached a saturation point"

I certainly don't need any more cars. As the truck will be old enough to drink next month, I don't see a huge market for replacements either.

At work we just downsized all the PCs from full size towers to "ultra-small form factors", using Core 2 duo processors, not the new i3-i5-i7 line, nor even quad cores. Why? Core 2 Duos are fast enough and cost less.

If this saturation effect continues into the rest of the "consumer lifestyle", and with the aging boomers I think it likely, Paul Krugman will excrete large numbers of modular ceramic building units. His entire economic model is based on continuous exponential growth of GDP.

I think you are onto something here.

As folks age, their desire for being early adopters of bleeding edge stuff wanes, I think.

The current state of play with '3-D TV' is interesting: Each manufacturer has expensive proprietary electronic glasses that do not work with any other brand; I have read several articles describing serious eyestrain and headaches from viewing more than an hour or two of 3-D TV among some people.

Somehow I don't see the mad rush to replace the current crop of LCD/Plasma flat/big-screen TVS with another crop of 3-D TVs. Hi-Def (1080p), Blu-Ray, and surround sound stereo are givens, and I don't see the 'killer ap' coming down the pike to cause folks to replace their still-new LCD/Flat/big TVS.

How many people are going to want to buy into 'UV-Ray' or whatever might be proffered to replace Blu-Ray?

As for computers, unless one is a hard-core gamer or hard-core business/science/engineering software user, entry-level computers have been sufficient for most people's 'needs' for years now.

Digital cameras seem mature.

Cell phones/PDAs...now that we have 4G, what's left?

Cars...when the money is tight, many may realize that they don't 'need' more than a basic Toyota Corolla-type vehicle...maybe a Yaris or Versa or Fit or Geo-Metro-type vehicle would do.

If the current state of unemployment and stagnant (or even falling) wages progresses, most folks will be forced to adopt the new standard of sufficiency, vice buying every new gadget that is advertised.

Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65
There should be a small business opportunity in converting McMansions into energy efficient group homes for Senior Boomers.

On the other hand, the demand for new housing units should remain quite tepid.

There should be, but owing to zoning codes there probably won't be...

One of the most useful changes would be a jihad on planning personal and HOA. Nail a few heads to the wall there and many things would be possible. As a group they seem to exist in some 1950s view of the world, imposing white picket fences when the world has changed.

Most McMansions are so poorly built, they will quickly decay, zoning or no.

The decay will be most noticeable for those houses where nobody maintains them. If someone is up there to make sure that the painting and caulking is done every few years, and where the roof is still keeping the weather out, then the house might survive quite a bit longer.

We were shopping for some carpeting the other day, and came to the stunning realization that carpeting prices have gone through the roof. The explanation we got was that most carpets are essentially made from oil (more likely NGL, I suspect, but that's just nitpicking), and as oil gets more expensive, so does carpeting. Wall-to-wall may be an early casualty, and most newer housing has tons of it. Older housing is more likely to have hardwood (where the flooring easily has a 50 year lifespan as long as some idiot homeowner doesn't rip it up because it looks "dated").


it would be interesting to compare the money spend on Flat Panel TV's to the money spend on PV-panels in the US for the last few years (unfortunately I don't know how to do that, or where to go for the data - too Comp illiterate, LOL)

"People buy things they don't need, with money they don't have, to impress people they don't like"
(author unknown - at least to me)


People buy things they don't need, with money they don't have, to impress people they don't like

... or to impress people who don't care! IMO the only person who really cares what you buy is you!


I agree with your idea here, but I would more likely compare the price of whole-house PV installation with that of a large SUV or pick-up truck (or a new toy boat or camper...)

At least, in comparison to tricks and SUVs and boats and campers, a ~ $500 large-screen hi-res LCD will likely last 5-10 years before breaking, and require zero maintenance or gas or explicit insurance or licensing...of course, I conveniently ignored the costs of the programming...

Some other non-trivial issues wrt PV:

- When your roof needs repair or a re-do, one must pay to have the PV removed and re-installed if one is not up to that work oneself...

- If you move to another house or downshift into an apartment, one can take the TV along...but the PV stays on the roof, and the buyer isn't going to compensate the seller for the value of the PV addition.

Don't get me wrong, I want PV to succeed and heavily penetrate the energy market, but there are issues we will need to be creative to deal with.

I wonder what happened to the ideas in the U.S. of leasing the PV from a company and paying them a flat utility rate for 20-30 years (First Solar?), an arrangement which could be transferable to new owners; and there was a city in CA (Berkley?) which was going to provide a property tax credit to homeowners who installed PV which would be transferable to subsequent owners.

I agree these are nontrivial issues and it's important to address them. However,

- When your roof needs repair or a re-do, one must pay to have the PV removed and re-installed if one is not up to that work oneself...

Unless you have no other choice, the roof is a pretty poor location choice for PV -- for the reasons you mention, plus ease of cleaning (clearing of snow, leaves, etc). Not to mention that you can increase your input ~30% by turning your panels just 2-3 times throughout the day to capture more sunlight.

- If you move to another house or downshift into an apartment, one can take the TV along...but the PV stays on the roof

Another reason to keep them off the roof. There is no reason you can't take them with you (even if they are on the roof, although then you do have some roof repair).

the buyer isn't going to compensate the seller for the value of the PV addition.

Why wouldn't they? An installation that reduces electric bills? (Assuming a grid-intertie) I would think that would be at least as big a selling plus as a professional-style kitchen or a nice jacuzzi tub or something similar.


In other circumstances, your ideas would make sense: If our population were much lower, and we all had homes with several acres of land at least, we could all have square array tracking PV modules mounted on steel piles sunk in concrete footers, such as I think Ghung has.

Since that circumstance is not the case, we must learn to deal with the roof issues or try other approaches, such as centralized large solar PV and CSP installations.

If I were the native peoples on the lands which surround Albuquerque, I would seriously consider hitting up the government for some financing deals and set up PV & CSP farms on some of their lands, and sell the rest of the U.S. folks surrounding their tribal lands electricity at a handsome profit.

Same idea for tribal lands which have significant wind resources.

In fact, if sufficient water was available for cooling, they could look into building nuclear power plants. Their people could train in sciences/maths/engineering and create themselves enduring, well-compensated jobs with a guaranteed market for a long time to come.

Much better than funneling all their young people into jobs being receptionists, maids, cooks, waiters, gaming attendants, etc. at their casinos.

As was discussed on a TOD post not too long ago, it seems that most realtors presently do not assign appropriate value to things such as PV installations...if I spent ~$40K to outfit my house with PV, I seriously doubt my house would sell for $40K more than otherwise...not at the current time anyway.

if I spent ~$40K to outfit my house with PV, I seriously doubt my house would sell for $40K more than otherwise

Very true. I keep forgetting that I look at these things on a different scale than most folks. I would only consider having a very small scale system, 6-700 watts PV max, an air-X windmill, and perhaps 8 L-16 type batteries. So we're only talking $5k or so outlay, which would be a very reasonable bump in selling price.

I can live comfortably on that amount of power (off grid), so would not want a bigger system.

You're right that realtors don't know what to make of home power systems. But then again, one can decide one's listing price regardless of what the realtor recommends.

On the other hand, I'd probably prefer to use the PV as a selling point to sell faster rather than for more $$.

I agree with you that energy improvements (better windows, insulation, solar PV and hot water, efficient furnaces, etc) should be valued appropriately.

Your assertion that one can set one's selling price independent of the Realtor Mafia's comparables pricing is true, but, unless you are setting the price under the comps, you may not sell your house for a long time...and the longer a house stays on the market, the less it will probably fetch.

Did I say Realtor Mafia? Why yes, I did!

I would like to stay in my house forever. In any case, I make improvements as I see fit, for me and mine. I couldn't give a rat's ass what it means for the resale value. Why is everyone moving around all the time? Seems to me that a reasonable part of planning for the Brave New World might be to just settle down.

If the solar PV is on the ground, and it is really worth a lot, I think you should expect a high risk of having it stolen.

If the solar PV is on the ground, and it is really worth a lot, I think you should expect a high risk of having it stolen

Even more reason to have only a minimal system! Let any thieves be lured by the guy with the huge system, not by my piddly array.

Also a good argument for knowing your neighbors and everyone keeping their eyes out for troublemakers.

And even more of a good argument for working at home when possible and stepping out of the rat race. That might sound like a non-sequitur but it's not -- spending more time at home, and having the ability to "manage" the household's energy consumption in a customized way by doing things like turning the panels a few times a day, or doing high use stuff only when the sun is high and the batteries are full or about to fill, makes a huge difference in the ability to live with a smaller system, without sacrificing comfort or functionality.

Obviously not everyone can do this right away due to financial issues, but folks who see what's coming are moving in that direction as much as possible...

You're right that realtors don't know what to make of home power systems. But then again, one can decide one's listing price regardless of what the realtor recommends.

Not quite. I'm a Realtor. Although home power systems are still rare (at least here in the Northeast) they absolutely have a measurable effect on a home's price. A lot more people are beginning to pay attention to a home's operating costs, and not just the price. There is now a growing segment of buyers who look for efficiency in homes, and are willing to pay for it.

I'm not a Realtor, but my late wife was. Realtors don't set the price on a house. They advise the seller on what is a smart price for which to list the property (at least ideally that's what they do). It is hard for someone not actively involved in the business to see the dynamics. Each sale is, among other things, a potential buyer in some other RE market. Each purchase is a property removed from the market. And a buyer removed from the market. A listing price that is too high lengthens the time until sale, and increases the hours spent on showing the place.

But yes, there are dishonest Realtors. Usually the scam has been, when a seller is willing to accept a below market price, to arrange for a friend to offer the asking price before the property ever gets listed. The friend and the dealer share the gain when they list the property. But, that isn't a viable scam today. Blaming Realtors is like blaming 'speculators' in the oil market. It is a shallow thinking explanation for someone who lacks the smarts to understand, or the patience to follow the trends.

Up until very recently, buyers in the real estate market showed very little interest in energy use by a structure. This was a fact that Realtors had to deal with. The good news here is that things are changing for the better. But most houses on the market today were purchased at bubble prices. The bursting of the bubble has not yet been fully recognized, and recognizing that is likely a bigger effect than recognizing the value of a solar (or whatever) improvement.

Currently when buying a house, people want to see the utility bills. If the power bill includes a return from the utility, this is going to affect the carrying cost of the house. It would be foolish on the part of both parties not to consider this.

I think that as more of these type of properties come on the market, their value will be recognized.


In other circumstances, your ideas would make sense: If our population were much lower, and we all had homes with several acres of land at least, we could all have square array tracking PV modules mounted on steel piles sunk in concrete footers, such as I think Ghung has.

I have serious doubts that thats more efficient than rooftop mounting. The panels do reduce some of the stresses that reduce roof lifetime, mainly heat. But, they rarely cover the whole roof, so probably don't effect when a roofing job is needed. Trackers would be nice -or even just being able to tip them at a steeper angle for the winter months than the summer months. Manually switch between two angles on March 21st and september 21st, rather than having fancy tracker motors.

As the cost per KW of panels goes down, the advantages of tracking goes down as well. Cheaper just to use more panels....

Now, I do think panels should improve resale price, although probably not by the cost of the system. A rational value, would be the current value (minus any tax savings) of installing a similar system -and panels/invertes are getting cheaper. I don't think you'll lose the entire value added on a resale in any case.

I do not understand the American concept of needing to re-roof. Perhaps it is part of the culture of 'never mind the cost,just replace it'. Maybe I am biased by coming from a land where you use slate or tile and they last decades or centuries, maybe even 300 or 400 YO thatched roofs. Even here, in Mexico, I would use tiles and not worry about the roof needing replacement in the life of the solar panel.

As for tracking, a few extra panels for morning and evening would likely be cheaper than a tracker with today's pricing. Tweaking azimuth does sound like a good idea and can be done manually as part of a planned maintenance cycle.


In the US seemingly they roof their houses with roofing felt, the kind you'd use on a shed or a garage in the UK. This requires re-roofing the house every 10-15 years. Houses aren't built to last in the US and quickly deteriorate without constant maintenance. A friend from the US was telling me about it recently.

That is very true, at least of homes built recently (in the past few decades).

People would rather have a big, cheaply-built house than a small, expensive, well-built one. Builders say they build homes to last about 15 years, and that's plenty, because the average person either moves or renovates every eight years or so. Houses are like clothes here - you wouldn't want to be seen in last year's style.

In North America, it is quite common to use asphalt shingles to roof a house. In cooler, dryer climates they are extremely effective as roofing materials, but they do need to be replaced every 10-15 years. However, they are easy to install, and homeowners can do it themselves. Typically, people can lay 1-2 layers of new shingles over old layers, and then have to tear all the shingles off and start over. This happens every 20-45 years, and the old layers can be removed with a shovel.

If you're doing this yourself, you should wait until the hottest possible day in July to lay the new shingles, and then bring gallons of water to drink while you are doing it. If you lay them on a hot day, the shingles will kind of melt into each other and form an extremely waterproof layer.

Slate and tile last much longer but are much more difficult to install and require much stronger roofing timbers. They aren't as waterproof, either. You can't upgrade an asphalt shingle roof to slate or tile without reinforcing the roof timbers, and that is expensive. However, slate and tile are better for hot climates because asphalt deteriorates much faster in the sun.

In a mountain environment (which is what I live in), metal roofs are a good choice since snow tends to slide off before it overloads the roof timbers. Metal roofs last about as long as slate or tile, and are much lighter so they don't require such strong framing.

Cedar shakes last longer than asphalt and look nicer, which is why they are often used in North America, but they are something of a fire hazard. I have seen some spectacular fires in which an entire condominium complex went up in flames because one unit caught fire, and it jumped from unit to unit until the whole unit was "fully involved" as the fire fighters say. In one blaze I saw, they brought in a helicopter to water-bomb the roofs to get the fire under control. My own house has a cedar shake roof, but if there was a fire in one of my neighbors' houses, I would be up on my roof with a water hose soaking the shakes down.

"In cooler, dryer climates they are extremely effective as roofing materials, but they do need to be replaced every 10-15 years."

20-25 years,if you get the better ones, but otherwise correct.

Tile roofs are great in the southwest, but don't take freeze-thaw cycles well. (Brick houses have the same problem where I live, and do not outlast wood-frame construction.)

Cedar shakes are a death trap. Entire subdivisions that required cedar-shake roofs for appearance's sake have gone up in flames from minor brushfires. Cedar is one of the best kindling materials there is.

Metal roofs are great, but they are hard to install, and very difficult on the complex roofs favored by the McMansion trade. They also have a low-income connotation which I think is undeserved, but I don't make the rules.

Metal roofs are great, but they are hard to install, and very difficult on the complex roofs favored by the McMansion trade. They also have a low-income connotation which I think is undeserved

When I lived in Albuquerques aEast mountains, which is a forest fire risk area, metal roofing was considered to be a big plus. But it is more expensive and so not that common.

I think part of the problem is that house prices are compared locally on a price per squarefoot basis. That favors cheap construction over quality.

LOL. I lived in Chicago. There are clay tiled roofs all over the South side. They have been there for generations. I fail to see your freeze thaw logic from my own experience. Brick is lower maintenance than wood, which is prone to insect damage and weathering. The thermal expansion coefficient for wood is greater causing wood to warp in the heat. Brick never needs to be painted and only requires tuck pointing every 80 years or so. LOL


In any case, reconsider the cold issue and clay tile.

Tile roofs and brick walls are definitely good in a humid, high-wind area which sees occasional tornadoes, such as Chicago. Tiles are much less likely to blow away than asphalt or wood shingles in a high wind, and they won't rot in the humidity and heat, or humidity and cold.

OTOH, in an earthquake-prone area such as California, you definitely don't want to have tiles and brick. The tiles and bricks will go flying into the street, and their mass will tear the house apart when the ground starts shaking. You want walls with a lot of shear resistance, and a roof with as little mass as possible in an earthquake zone. And you want to bolt the house to the foundation so it doesn't go bouncing around all over the lot when the ground starts shaking.

Cedar shakes are nice in the cool, wet conditions of the Pacific Northwest where their rot-resistance is useful, but I've personally seen some pretty spectacular multi-block fires fueled by cedar roofs on condos in California, Texas, and Alberta (it's amazing they are still allowed some places). Cedar swells up and stops the rain from leaking through when it's wet, but it's awfully good tinder when it's hot and dry.

The type of roof you should have very much depends on where you are.

I have to agree with you, that was behind my original post. Brick and tile/slate is used all over Europe with much exposure to freeze/thaw cycles and lasts decades to centuries. There are different grades for different exposures see http://www.bovingdonbricks.co.uk/. I would add that the materials there are up to the job whereas I would not use the bricks produced here in those conditions. As for leakage a well made roof just does not leak, I mean, that is the whole idea of the roof anyway:) For RMG below, we use brick here in an earthquake zone but have to have steel and concrete beams at least every 3 meters in any direction. With the amount of steel rebar we put in I think we could have just built a steel house :)


It depends on climate, but a 20-year asphalt shingle only lasts 20 years under ideal conditions. Under typical weather conditions it would be more like 15 years. In a very hot climate it might be 10 years.

I have a rule of thumb, "It's best to replace the shingles before the roof starts to leak." It's so hard to fix the water damage afterwards.

You're right about brick houses not lasting longer than wood houses. It's true that bricks take longer to deteriorate, but when they do it's hard to fix them. Wood houses take constant maintenance, but you can always fix them. I have seen wood churches in Norway that were 1000 years old.


Our Farmhouse we are living in right now, burned down 6 years ago. The cause was sparks from the chimney onto the Cedar Shingles. Even though the fire department was here in 10 min (doing some exercises in the neighborhood) there was nothing left of the roof/first floor.
Same thing happened to a friend of mine a few years earlier.

As much as I love the look of cedar on the roof (besides the side-effect of being light-weight, which comes in handy in an earth-quack zone - BC) it is just to flammable.

On an other building (garage) we used 25-year asphalt shingles. They started leaking after 8 years. We have to redo the roof (now 10 years old). My advise: go with longer guarantied shingles (30 years and up) and you might get out 15 years.


My brother just had to put a new roof on (asphalt) and the shingles were only 10 years old. Of course he's cheap so he put more asphalt up there. If I put new roof on, its metal all the way. I like the look and with all the snow we've been getting, it sheds it nicely. I also have very little pitch (ranch/hip roof).

If you travel out to Omaha, you'll see a ton of what i think is clay or slate roofing on the big fancy subdivision houses. Omaha gets plenty of rain/snow and cold...so they must work well there.

Yair...don't get you there PVguy. Metal roofs (custom orb corrugated or any of the proprietry profiles) are simple to install.They just screw down onto the steel or wooden frame with the appropriate self drilling screws.

I am working on a project installing ten meter sheets with seven hundred and fifty mil. coverage and they go down in no time flat. The stuff cuts easy with snips, nibbler or with a one mm cut wheel in a grinder. It can conform to a curve or compound curve roof form (within specification) and will probably last sixty or seventy years depending on location.

We just backed the screws out and fitted appropriate alloy mounting brackets to fit my 2.2Kw array. We are in a cylone area and I have never been able to figure out why any one would put a roof on in little pieces when it is so much less expensive, easier and stronger with metal sheets.

The product is available in the natural gal/zinc or a range of "colorbond" finishes.

We just backed the screws out and fitted appropriate alloy mounting brackets to fit my 2.2Kw array

When they installed my 2.45KW, it took them 3days (two guys) cutting etc. on the faux tile (concrete) roof. They did a good job, no leaks, but it took an epic effort to get those mounts on. And you got to be careful walking on them, I hear you can crack them/start a leak by stepping on them wrong.

Maybe my house is an exception to the rule in the US. It is built very well with 2x6 framing 16"o.c. with 1/2" exterior grade plywood sheathing under cedar shingles for siding, 3/4" exterior grade plywood roof sheathing over 2x6 trusses, blown insulation and a standing seam steel roof. Reinforced concrete foundation walls. We had a half rotten fir tree fall on the house a few years back. It put some minor dents in a couple of the seams but otherwise it bounced off without damaging the sheathing.

A decent quality standing seam roof is easier IMO than fiberglass/asphalt shingles to install and will last probably 100 years or more if it is kept painted after the original enamel starts wearing off in 40 years or so.

Most of the good quality houses around this area are good quality because of strict building standards. One can always complain about building codes, but go to counties that have lax codes and little enforcement and the poor quality of building is quite evident.

I'm with the guys who believe in metal roofing.

Enameled steel is economical,it goes up fast and easy,it is extraordinarily durable, and it is less subject to storm damage than any other material.It almost matches slate or ceramic tile in terms of fire protection.

It is also readily available in many attractive colors nowadays.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I have serious doubts that thats more efficient than rooftop mounting. The panels do reduce some of the stresses that reduce roof lifetime, mainly heat. But, they rarely cover the whole roof, so probably don't effect when a roofing job is needed.

If rooftop panels lengthened the roof's lifespan by protecting it, or kept in a significant amount of heat, then I'd agree those things would need to be factored in before declaring rooftop panels less or more efficient. However, you yourself have pointed out that they don't cover enough of the roof to do this.

And I will re-emphasize -- this is common knowledge in the off-grid world but I'm not sure where everyone is at in that regard here -- that one doesn't take a typical modern household's electrical usage and just "go off-grid" with it. First and foremost step is maximizing conservation and reduction of needs. Generally, any use of electricity for the purposes of producing heat (range, water heater, space heating, dryer) needs to be switched to a non-electric source first. Electricity is just a horribly inefficient way to make heat. You can, if you insist, make a few exceptions for things like toaster, hair dryer, even microwave -- but you can do fine with a MUCH smaller system if you arrange your life to not need those things. Then you look around and get rid of your phantom loads, and switch your constant loads (such as clocks) to rechargeable batteries. THEN, when you're down to your essential electric usage, only then you can figure out what size system you need.

The point of the above paragraph is -- if you're in a location that's at all conducive to PV, you'll not need a rooftop's full of panels.

And as I said before, having them pole-mounted has several other advantages. I don't see any advantage at all to the roof-mounts other than reducing the potential for vandalism or theft as Gail pointed out. But I do understand that some people may need to choose the roof if it's the only spot available that gets sun most of the day. Just don't let that fool us into thinking it's preferable -- it's not.

As the cost per KW of panels goes down, the advantages of tracking goes down as well. Cheaper just to use more panels....

Very much disagree. First off, what can be cheaper than just walking outside a couple of times each day? And if every single member of your household MUST be away from home all day, there are automatic trackers that aren't prohibitively expensive (for a small array). I've even seen home-built ones that work great. Mine died due to being overpowered by the wind -- if that's your problem, then you need fewer panels and more wind generators!

Plus, you can increase your input of an existing array as much as 30% by tracking just three times per day -- morning direction, midday direction, afternoon direction. You really don't need an automatic tracker moving the panels every ten minutes. Moving them after dusk/before dawn, and then at about 10 am and again at about 2pm would be enough to seriously increase their efficiency.

Winter/summer tilts don't seem to do much here at about 42 latitude -- maybe for those nearer the poles it makes a bigger difference.

you yourself have pointed out that they don't cover enough of the roof to do this.
in a location that's at all conducive to PV, you'll not need a rooftop's full of panels.

Thats true if the homeowner has made a reasonable effort to be cost effective. There are maybe 15homes within a mile of my house with rooftop PV (probably a few more not visable from the street), only about three (mine included) seemed to be scaled as if energy conservation was tried before sizing, the rest are very large systems, covering most of the south facing rooftops. In any case, they won't provide much thermal benefit in the winter, they shade the roof, and air can flow between the panels and the roof. The roof under the panels is probably 5 degrees F warmer than neighboring roof area on a clear night (I've measured almost this much of tree or vine covered walls), but a lot cooler during the day. But attic insulation is easy to do, usually accessible and enough volume is available to thicken it -unlike walls. And attics have airflow between the roof, and the insulation so the effect of roof temperature is lessened. I'm sure I get some cooling benefit during our (long) AC season, but compared to the extra insulation, and attic foil it is a small effect.

Instead of steel with concrete footers, I can't help but wonder if wooden utility poles would work just as well, and be quite a bit cheaper.

I've dealt only with small arrays (4x80 watts) and I can't imagine the pipes or the concrete adding up to much. In fact, we got our pipes from the dump, if I recall. The key, though, is you want two pipes, one nested inside the other, so they can turn. One pipe gets secured in the ground (and we didn't even need concrete in our stable soil) and the other pipe is secured to the array. Then you just attach a handle for turning, and some kind of crank-down to keep it from turning on its own in the wind, and you're good to go. Wooden utility poles seem much harder to work with than a couple of 5' lengths of 3" pipe.

Old C-band satellite dish mounts work great; already setup for top-of-pole mounting, and they articulate for declination and elevation. You can still buy the old manual screw adjusters or use the 24 vdc actuators with a reversing switch. I've set mine up for auto tracking. Some folks will give them away free if you ask. They just want to get rid of them.



Flat-panel TV's came down in price considerable in the last two years - so yes, you are right, they would not compare very good with PV.

The reason I wanted to have this stat was mainly to have some amo when I talk to people about PO. Almost always I hear the argument "the numbers are not turning out to justify the investment". Interestingly one never hears that argument with the purchase of Flat-panel TV's or other "Toys".
I read an article not to long ago (regrettably no link) that the manufacturer of Flat panels made a killing the last few years.

An Australian article a few month back talked about the money for "second or third" home-entertainment sets in the range of $3000 - $5000 for the same family. Not pocket change in my opinion!

I also agree with you that the circumstances for home owners in this country (or NA for that matter) are different than, say Europe. This is the reason why Europe (especially Germany) is so much ahead with small PV Systems. The average Canadian moves every three years (US not much different I assume).

But regardless of that, there are some pretty nice incentives here in Canada too: PV program in Ontario
Ontario had to cut back on the original program because it was such a success. ON went that route because they have to replace soon an old, coal fired Power Station (this is one of the worst in CDN in regards CO2) and that move would help with the planing of the now power plant.

Of course I am aware that PV is just one step among many. But as long as people prefer to buy on credit Flat-panel TV's or other toys over longterm useful investments, there is not much hope, or is there?


Two flat panels, about the same size. They cost about the same and one produces about the same energy as the other consumes. One demands your attention, the other just sits there, day after day. I guess the TV is more fun in that respect :-/


But is true only if you have the right mindset!


OTH, I can either replace my old plasma with a new LED consuming 1/5th the electricity and meeting California's 2013 standards, or I can add 2 more PV panels, which means a new inverter, too.

Happy New Year, folks.


We are on the same wavelength.

I maintain hope, for without that, what is there?

Of course, 'Hope is not a strategy'...U.S. Army

I put half a tank in on the evening of Dec 31 here is Albuquerque...plain old unleaded, $2.97/gallon.

Combine that with my neighbors wondering out loud why my wife and I were looking into 90%+ AFUE NG furnaces, new windows, etc..."but our utility bills aren't that bad" they say, as they buy the Tundras and boats and campers...

As I have said before many times on TOD, without an appropriate price signal ('natural' or/and tax-based), the folks I interact with will not be interested in more fuel-efficient vehicles, car-pooling, investing in energy efficiency improvement in their houses, etc.

[Edit]: In case I am not clear, gas in ABQ has been between ~ $2.69-$297/gallon during the last year. I can see that $2.97/gallon gasoline is not phasing people at all. I think gasoline has to consistently stay above ~$5/gallon to get at least some folks to change their ways]

And now we see that some or many of the tax incentives to invest in energy efficiency improvements in housing have gone away or been greatly reduced. Now one might get up to $200 tax credits for new windows of the appropriate U-factor in 2011 vice up to $1500 in 2009 and 2010.

Yet I didn't see our massive Military-Industrial-Complex budget cut one dime.

Apparently it is much more logical to continue sowing the seeds of our own destruction abroad and pee away our vanishing resources over there than it would be to invest in ourselves at home.

It certainly is logical for the defense contractors!

Ghung, Heisenberg

I found an interesting discussion of the book: "Eating the Dinosaur" by Chuck Klosterman Google Books

article: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/why-we-cant-think-outs...

One quote got my attention:

Is it also possible that the wonder worlds we've created for our entertainment in fact control us so profoundly, inform our motivations and desires so fundamentally, that we've ceded our intellectual freedom to moving pictures and their creators?

Now it would be interesting to know if this effect - which I believe is very real - was desired from the get go or just a not indented side-effect of the technology used. Somebody must have known - or at least hoped - that it would have this outcome.

Which brings me back to Emperor Nero with his slogan: "Bread and Circus". He knew, that idle minds dent to start thinking about their circumstances. Which is not good, because they might realize, that those are not good = rebellion.

Hitler did the same. He gave the unemployed something to do (and wages = bread): build the Autobahn!

Will be interesting to watch how TPTB do it this time around.


I am really glad to see all you good people getting on the tune I have been singing for so long- until our expenditures on sustainable stuff exceeds those on utter frivolities- the things that ruin the planet for our grandchildren and do damn near no good at all for us,

big fat pickup trucks carrying one big fat guy 10 miles a day.
soda pop
fuzzy battery powered toys from china that crap out instantly
Huge, ugly, flimsy, hard to heat, stupidly laid out houses

And so on,

then we aren't serious about solving this mess we are in.

And we CAN'T SAY that solar "costs too much"- like I hear everybody saying.

I brought up all this at the new year party last night. They took away my wine glass.

They must have intended to take away your whine glass but missed ;)


Ha Ha adults behaving like children -- moderate their toy use and they will throw a tantrum. The behavior is insane. Solar is too expensive, solar is too hard to maintain, and you cannot move it with you. What a bunch of nonsense. Same arguments against EV cars -- similar nonsense.

Let us all do nothing and glad hand and then hope it will all be ok.

Here's a hopeful note for Solar that I just ran across.

I'm in a poor mood today, and really was glad to find something positive..

Solar Power in INDIA

Concentrated solar energy systems, comprising automatically tracked of parabolic dishes, have been found to be useful for generating steam to cook food for hundreds and thousands of people in community kitchens especially at religious places such as Shirdi, Mount Abu, Tirupati etc. The world’s largest system is functioning at Shirdi for cooking food for 20,000 people per day. These systems have found good applications for air conditioning and laundry also and a few demonstration plants have recently been installed. A total of around 80 concentrating systems of different capacities covering 25,000 square meters of dish area are functioning in the country, largely for cooking purpose. During 2010, 15 such systems were sanctioned covering a dish area of around 3000 square meters.

Raising a glass for Wimbi! (Tough to have a New Years party with people you don't line up well with, here's to celebrating with the Dearest of Amigos! It's odd, as New Years seems to be a sort of 'By the Side' kind of holiday.. but it has been clear that these can really boom or bust depending on whom I share that night with..)

Of course, the sun is the only primary energy source. Most other energy comes indirectly from the sun (aside from nuclear and geothermal -- mother earth's nuclear power).

The developing world has shown that solar can be cheaply used to do useful work.

For some reason, a lot of inertia stands against solar in the U.S. Once the lights begin to turn off people will think again about solar. Not sure when that will happen though.

Some say cost, portability, et al.

When was the last time someone moved their furnace to their next house. LOL. What a worthless argument.

I was wondering if the inertia related to the relationship of the U.S. dollar to oil. If we tried to switch from oil to alternatives wouldn’t the worldwide demand for dollars and treasuries plummet? Isn’t the best strategy for the U.S. to deny peak oil, put off alternatives and make sure the world demands dollars to pay for oil? Not only go slow on alternatives but also encourage the use of oil? How valuable is a dollar if it doesn’t monopolize the oil markets? If this is the strategy, won’t it result in a sudden loss of life for our economy in the future? Perhaps grand new nuclear technology will be trotted out once we have taken the dollar and oil as far as possible.

A furnace is mandatory equipment for a house (in most climes)...one cannot 'plug in' to a heat source and heat one's house, the way that one can opt to plug in to the grid and get the electricity one needs.

Unless, of course, one is using electric heating, which doesn't seem very efficient and cost-effective to me, or district heating, which is a rarity in the U.S.

Also, when one buys a house, the house comes equipped with a working furnace...one doesn't need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to install/retrofit something new, such as a PV system. If a furnace malfunctions/breaks, one can usually get it repaired for much much, much, much less than the cost of whole-house PV.

From my perspective, installation costs, house re-sale values (do I 'get back' my investment in the PV system if I sell?), impact on roof maintenance, etc. are important factors to consider.

Your comparison of a major home PV installation/retrofit to a home furnace is specious.

As for pole-mounted arrays advocated by several folks here, I say again, nice idea there, but many houses do not have the land area to support, especially land area that is not shaded. My small back 'yard' is North of my house and shaded by it (and my trees)...I have no side yards to speak of...I could put up poles in front of my house (south-facing, ~20' at most of gravel and shrubs, but no-way, no-how would that be allowed by zoning constraints, or my wife (fails the 'curb appeal' criterion). Theft and vandalism mentioned by some would also be a consideration.

IF I owned my house outright, or IF I felt secure about maintaining my income for the next 20 years, I would go with as much PV as I could put on top of my flat-roofed house. The panels, plus the white metal or elastomeric roofing I would have installed coincident with mounting the PV panels, would have the added benefit of reducing the thermal load from the sun coming in from my roof.

Capex and 'other house systems' (roof) knock-on maintenance impacts must be considered.

At least I wouldn't be concerned with snow and leaf removal, and hail big enough to worry about is a rarity here as well.

Due to my work I have a systems engineering/life cycle cost/capital budgeting approach to thinking about projects such as these and I do not go forth willy-nilly.

Also, a couple of hundred watts during the day from a couple of panels would be a nice conversation piece, but my family of four adults is not where some of you are wrt super-energy frugality.

Yea, I know, 'But when TSHTF...' Sorry, that thinking is a 'No Sale' to the House Commander :)

At least I wouldn't be concerned with snow and leaf removal, and hail big enough to worry about is a rarity here as well.

The places I lived in New Mexico (mountains), near Albuquerque, and Los Alamos, got plenty of hailstorms, and some pretty epic (try 3feet or more of wet) snowfalls. Your probably near the river, so you won't get nearly as many, but you might want to ask a meteorologist.

Thank you for the heads up!

I have lived in ABQ for a total of ~7 years (over two occasions over the last 10 years, including now).

Each time I have lived close to Paseo Del Norte and between Eubank and Ventura.

Albuquerque seems to have a 'weather shield'.

Many times it has been raining or snowing N,S,E,and W of ABQ at the same time, but not here in the valley!

The Wx on the East side of the Sandias and Manzanos is, at many times, considerably more interesting than here in the Valley.

It seems that the 'snow line' usually start at Bernalillo and on to the North.

Los Alamos certainly has different (cooler, wetter) Wx than ABQ. I love the trees up there...the drive up the Jemez and across Valez Caldera is beautiful.

The very worst hailstorm I have every been in was on I-25 close to Las Vegas, NM. I thought my windshield was going to break. Afterward, I looked up a map of hail activity on the web and lo and behold, there was a tiny little colored oval of high frequency of serious hail activity right there where I was trapped behind some cars trying to get under an overpass.

All that being said, I have very occasionally experienced some pea-sized hail here, but based on previous comments on this list, PV modules should be able to withstand that.

For some reason, White Rock, the little side enclave of Los Alamos, also gets these monster hailstorms.

I don't think the developimg countries have any insight into developing cheap solar. In Asia it seems to be a case of huge subsidies for tiny quantities, or in China huge subsidies for huge quantities.

India's talk of a large scale solar roll out has gotten a lot of press, but may not happen once the costs become apparent.

I'd love to beproven wrong, but do know that in Thailand, where I live, on grid solar has been develpped to some scale only on the back of a feed in tariff four times the base electricity price and over the three times the level of tariffs for biomass and biogas. And despite this, installed biomass capacity is over ten times greater over the same time period.

Develped countries have made some great strides in introducing RE systems that are appropriate for local conditions, but solar doesn't seem to be an example of this. Off grid solar has provided power to thousands of households that need it badly, but this is because of subsidies or lack of other options, not cost.

All very interesting. I tried to sell solar heat engines in India many years ago, and was surprised that while they didn't want the engines (too expensive), they did very much want the cheap concentrator I had to- !Burn Bodies!, since wood was relatively expensive.
I was also surprised to find that, then anyhow, they didn't want to cook with my concentrator since "Nobody wants to do anything out there in the sun, particularly women, who don't want to be any darker than absolutely necessary". So I proposed using the concentrator to get a tank of oil very hot, for cooking inside. No go. I thought about steam, but it looked far too dangerous.

anyhow, glad to hear they got around those little quibbles, even if in very small numbers.

Thanks for the links, Umberto.

Brings me back to '92(?), Milton's quote from the beginning of Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent":

They who have put out
the people's eyes
reproach them
of their blindness



Thank you for the book reference...I really like to read.

I would say yes, most people are in thrall to the overt and covert messaging we are fed through the TV machine.

We have our professional sports on the tube, and now 'Ultimate Fighting' and WWF on PPV in place of Friday night fights on old-fashioned free TV.

Add to that the trampy 'reality shows' [Real housewives of ____, various trashy MTV shows depicting vapid losers slacking around some McMansion they don't own and complaining about this and that, and on and on].

I am sure Big Brother will turn our love of technology against us even more...of course this site, like all Internet sites, can be monitored, recorded, stored, and used for any number of means you or I are not aware of...until we are.


are you familiar with "Adam Curtis"?

=> Century of Self
=> The Trap
=> The Power of Nightmares

This are BBC Docus. You can find copies on the Internet. I especially liked the last one "The Power of Nightmares". It is frightening to see and hear how easy it is to manipulate the populace.

Yes, technology is and will be used.


Talk to some insurance agents and ask what is the typical home cover for those sort of things, they should be able to give you a good idea of the value.


- When your roof needs repair or a re-do, one must pay to have the PV removed and re-installed if one is not up to that work oneself...

- If you move to another house or downshift into an apartment, one can take the TV along...but the PV stays on the roof, and the buyer isn't going to compensate the seller for the value of the PV addition.

Then choose to install your PV array(s) on pole mount(s) instead of a roof :)

When I finally am able to install PV at _a_house_I_am_renting, my hope is the landlord will be okay with a small 6inch hole, that I will promise to fill when I leave, and no other changes to their property, other than the upgrade to 2phase power to the detached garage, where I hope to have the inverter installed into.

I am not saying I will get the go-ahead, but like the idea of not damaging the roof, nor accidentally causing leaks or such.

Mrflash, I would be most impressed with any landlord that permits a PV installation. Too bad they won't share the costs with you.

Are you planning a grid intertie system, I presume? Here in California at least, that requires, in addition to most of the regular components of an off-grid system, a bidirectional power meter. I looked into these recently and they appear to be a couple of thousand dollars just for that. The grid-intertie inverter is a big deal as well, costwise. If you're willing to have a battery bank (which, to be fair, is also pricy), you may be able to use your PV power without tying it in to the grid at all -- that's what I intend to do at my current on-grid location.

Speaking as a landlord of two smallish buildings (2-unit and 3-unit), I would be interested to hear such a proposal from any of my tenants, but as these are ca.1850 wood-framed buildings, I would also have to be very careful about having the rooftops treated properly.. and have been waiting for my own chance to put solar up there myself anyhow, so we'd have to come up with ways to share space. I might propose that we go in on the rack structures together to some degree, which would be left as part of the building, while collectors and other BOS equipment they would own, and take with them when they left, or would sell to me quite possibly. There would also be a wiring infrastructure issue to work out, (or piping, if Heat) which for my part would best be equipment that is built in and becomes part of the building offered as 'Solar Ready' apartments. (??) It would be reasonable for both the tenant and the landlord to make some investment in this, but as an investment heavy technology, it would really have to be looked at carefully to figure out what is feasible.. regardless of what is desirable.

(Our properties are in a small city, with good Rooftop Solar Access, but no yards for trackers.)

In any case, I'm much more interested in the economics of running solar on these houses as part of this investment, in which I provide heat and hot water with the rents, and so Solar would be a very reasonable investment.. when we can make that leap. I have had tenants stay for up to 4 years, but usu. not long enough for them to consider these options as worth the effort.. but that may well change.

Similar to your final statement, I'm keen to have a Solar Setup that works independently and simply offsets loads that once were using the grid power, and simply be able to transfer-switch over to grid for these loads when the storage is depleted.

Jokuhl --

As I mentioned upthread, electricity is a really inefficient way to produce heat. So, strictly from a return-on-investment perspective, PV wouldn't save you anything unless you were paying the electric for your tenants. And even then, the payback would be too long to be worth it. The reason to do PV is to be a little ahead of the game when the grid begins to fail. There is a learning curve, so normally I'd recommend going off-grid (or even grid intertie to start with) just for the learning experience, although since this is for your tenants and not you, you wouldn't benefit much from that. In all, it sounds like the best option for your rentals is solar hot water, not PV. Roof panels could pre-heat water and hopefully take a big bite out of your current water heating cost, regardless of whether that is electric or gas.

As I mentioned upthread, electricity is a really inefficient way to produce heat.


However passive solar hot water heaters are both efficient and cost effective in most parts of the world. Last summer I was visiting my sister in Germany and they have an evacuated vacuum tube solar water heating system. At least at the end of the summer it was providing more than enough hot water for showering and laundry. As far as I know even now in the winter when it is not covered with snow it still makes a contribution and helps keep gas bill down.

I didn't post with enough detail to make it clear that I'm well aware of these issues. For my own purposes as landlord, I would have some interest in electricity production for the building.. but it was not for providing heat to the tenants. It's not an either/or.. I want both!

As you suggest, solar heating in various forms would be the investment with the best potential to cut my building expenses. Of course the lower fruit of insulating and similar improvements are already being pursued as well.

Thanks for the helpful inclinations, just the same!

(Portland, ME)


you might want to look into this one: http://www.solartronenergy.com/

I am looking into it for myself. At least I want to find out how good this might work (I have evac. tubes on the roof - want to see if his claims are correct). Ordered already some electronics part for the tracking. ==> winter project!


Interesting, but alas, I'm in a tight urban setting. For now, I'm resigned to rooftop mounted systems on wood-framed peaked roofs!

I have looked at a 1-axis trough tracker for a single pipe receiver to go along the ridgeline, but more common collectors would make more sense at the moment.

Been having fun sketching out Heliostats to send some sunbeams into north-facing windows throughout the day, however. Could be used for light OR heat support..



a bidirectional power meter.

Aren't all power meters bi-directional (i.e. will spin backwards)? The "smart" meters PG&E is installing only cost them a couple hundred per unit, and they spin backwards just fine, and I'm sure the old analog ones did as well. PG&E replaced my smartmeter, with an older "net meter", but I don't see why that was needed (unless it captures data useful to verify the PV output -if they wanna claim renewable credits).

I only started to look into it, and my power company's literature says a net meter or bidirectional meter is needed if not already in place. So you could be right that some current meters can tally in both directions already.

On another topic, was the removal of the Smartmeter at your request? I know there has been a groundswell of objections to them, but I didn't know how PG&E was responding.

"People buy things they don't need, with money they don't have, to impress people they don't like"
(author unknown - at least to me)

Tim Jackson?

“We spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to make impressions that don’t last, on people we don’t care about.”


thanks, I knew there was something missing.


The intel core line will consume significantly less power than the older C2D line. Compare a 65nm E6600 to a 45nm i5 650. Intel has Sandy Bridge debuting shortly on a 32nm die which should have significantly better performance/watt.

As far as Southeast Asia goes, Manila does take the cake and Jakarta is not far behind. But Bangkok traffic has improved immensely over the last 20 years. With three different mass transit systems, it is also possible to to visit parts of the city in a couple of hours that would have taken days back then. The traffic problem in the first two cities is a result of an utter failure to develop transportation infrastructure.

However, in none of these cases does traffic appear to be slowing the purchase of automobiles. That is why Baijing, with their authoritarian government, has been forced to restrict car ownership. You may not like it, but at the end of the day, democracy and human liberty is more important than clear roads.

There are many factors involved in determining peoples' propensity to travel, as analysed very thoroughly in Todd Litman's excellent paper:


The overall conclusion is that car travel has peaked in several OECD countries.

Could we have some predictions as to what is going to happen energy-wise in 2011?

Any advice on whether investing in energy stocks/ETFs is a good idea and if so what stocks/ETFs to invest in?

Some predictions from ASPO contributors (my* 2¢ worth, which is the approximate market value, can be found about halfway down):


Regarding specific stocks, you are on your own Pilgrim.

*Jeffrey Brown

I love what you wrote for the predictions article. A Pattern Language is one of my favorites.


I benefitted from some editing by Sharon Astyk. BTW, I don't know if you got to visit with Sharon at ASPO, but after talking to her in person at ASPO, I was even more impressed. I think that she has been an excellent addition to the ASPO-USA board.

Good predictions, thanks. What Tom Whipple says about China will be key in the short term, although all of them are interesting.

I would avoid the ETFs such as United States Gasoline ETF (UGA), or the other ones based upon a futures price if you are investing for anything other than the short term (less than one month investment). They just haven't worked as you would think. However if you want to invest a small amount of money in an ETF based upon mostly the price of oil, plus the price of natural gas, investigate RJN. That would be an alternative if you wanted to invest in energy, yet you did not want to invest in the stock market.

When the stock market is even or rising, I don't see any problem staying in a broad based energy ETF such as VDE, but there are also others which are very similar.

The trick is - when will the stock market be rising? Actually the answer is - most of the time until US oil demand is forced down due to high enough prices or other factors (such as rationing). At some point, $100, $110, maybe even $120, the US economy can no longer grow due to high energy prices. Some here six months ago thought the point was $80, but I think it is as high as $120.

Even if I am right about the $120 point, there are further bad wild cards of currency problems and all sorts of unpredictable events. I think the biggest threat to investing in 2011 will be a dollar fall, rising interest rates, and inflation - although very many think the biggest problem in 2011 will be the fall of the Euro and deflation.

Therefore do not invest too much in one area, stay out of longer term bonds, and flexibly adjust your investment strategy.

I've come up with something pretty simple. Not rocket science and not investing really.

Capture real wealth. By this I mean going to direct investment not financial investments. If you say don't own a home then save to pay cash. If you have a mortgage pay it off. Perhaps insulate the home if that makes sense.
Buy solar panels maybe. Invest sagely in a local small company both in terms of time and money.

Basically economize, localize, produce. If you still have excess wealth then consider how you can get it working in your own community. Buy land and lease it to a budding organic farmer ? Rehab some buildings and rent them out for reasonable rents ?

I don't know but the idea is to start getting wealth to circulate inside the local community building up relationships that expand wealth. Somehow investors need to re-evaluate the returns a community can offer. I suspect that if people work at it that they will find local investments that offer not only better returns than traditional approaches but also offer stability.

I don't think its and easy thing to do as the entire framework for such and investment has been gutted or more correctly polluted to only service real estate developers or cater to big companies.

That was fine while it worked I guess but now that this approach is failing I think there is a growing opportunity to try old time traditional community building investment.

I think you have to be very careful and cautious 90% if not 99% of the system is badly broken. But the 1% is there all investors have to do is learn how to hit on the 1% of local opportunities that make sense.

If they can then then simply by doing so they can create a new 1% opportunity for 2% etc.

I'll freely admit that if you look I think you will find the situation bleak but I think the opportunities are starting to happen. Also I think it takes a learning curve. In other words investing is hard most successful financial investors have spent years learning the trade. If you go local expect to lose then lose again then perhaps lose again. So invest what you can afford to lose learn from the mistake and try it again. Then again.
Eventually you will either decide to cut your losses and give up or hit. If you do hit however I'd argue that the rewards will eventually be well worth the risk.

What I think is a bit funny is that people talk about doom and gloom all the time. But from what I can tell people that do financial investments are the last ones that make a move. I always wondered why so many loose their shirts with things suddenly go south. I think its because they don't want to go through the pain of learning the old ways of investing in the community. Whats funny is that it used to be that local investments that you could watch and support where favored over any sort of long distance scheme. People correctly distrusted any sort of hands off group investment. Perhaps this attitude was wrong in some ways but a healthy balance between local and remote investment seems to be sensible to me. Try and get your eggs in a few baskets so to speak.

"I think you have to be very careful and cautious 90% if not 99% of the system is badly broken. But the 1% is there all investors have to do is learn how to hit on the 1% of local opportunities that make sense."

I agree, Mike, that the 'system' is broken, but mostly it's us (we the people) that are severely out of wack. Investing in the system is the last thing from my mind on this first day of the year. Reading some of the posts on TAE this morning hasn't helped, especially because I agree with most of them.

2011: A Brave New Dystopia
by Chris Hedges - Truthdig
In inverted totalitarianism, the sophisticated technologies of corporate control, intimidation and mass manipulation, which far surpass those employed by previous totalitarian states, are effectively masked by the glitter, noise and abundance of a consumer society. Political participation and civil liberties are gradually surrendered. The corporation state, hiding behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass.

Whether we face a sudden sh@tstorm or a slow, relentless blob of encroaching societal/economic rot, I'll be investing in ways of getting out of its way, though this may be naive. Finding 'honest' investments rather than investing in the big lie that is the system is a priority. I think the suggestion that others have made here to invest locally is a good call. Too many folks I know are still looking for ways to game the system because they think they'll come out ahead on the other side. Good luck with that.

Actually memmel I'd have to question the idea:

If you say don't own a home then save to pay cash. If you have a mortgage pay it off.

There is no fundamental floor under the price of housing, particularly if the next dip is a full blown depression (which we only just avoided last time). As such the foreclosure, etc. could yield housing costs much lower than today - another halving in price is quite possible.

Therefore whilst saving money in a suitable vehicle that's immune to a downturn is a good move; allowing carpetbagging at the right time; putting that money directly into housing ATM isn't smart.

Of course the real question is where that investment vehicle is.

It isn't the banks, it isn't the stock market, or the pensions. Maybe the best bet IS to invest in yourself and entrepreneurial ideas - ready to be the nimble mammal that can exploit the niches left by the collapse of the dinosaurs?

I was being nice to "home owners" with mortgages. Its a friggin building for christsakes. If you own it outright perhaps in time it could become a home. Homes conceptually exist for example one would say the Kennedy Compounds are homes despite the wealth of the people they have sentimental value and they are owned outright.

Attaching a tremendous amount of sentimental value to something you don't own is pretty stupid.

But if you really love your house and want to make it your home that you plan on riding out whatever is coming then pay the damn thing off and work on making it energy efficient. Plenty of externals are at play family friends neighbors etc. These may eventually prove crucial and far more important to the dollar cost of a home.

The problem I see with having a mortgage is things can go against you long before the system collapses.
Sure some people probably will eventually take defacto ownership of their houses simply because no one want them.
However thats a very speculative bet. If your underwater on your home today for example and want to make a speculative bet well the time from delinquency to foreclosure is approaching two years. If you assume a 1500 a month mortgage then in two years if you saved your former mortgage payment you would have 36000 dollars more than enough to buy a decent older home in many parts of the country for cash esp a foreclosure. If you can get matching funds from family with a pay as you can understanding you can do better. Obviously if your not too proud any number of mobile homes would be within your price range after just a year. You don't have to rent purchase options are possible.

Personally what I have done is work hard to save up something over this minimum number I put my minimum cash for a house at 50k. As thats achieved I plan to simply wait and watch the market and keep saving. Its enough to purchase a decent house in a number of regions now its just a matter of waiting and watching. I'm in no real rush at the moment.

Here is and example of a very reasonable cheap doomstead.


No your not going to grow all your own food its not a farm but plenty of room for a huge garden.
If the SHTF well all your neighbors are in the same boat plus the surrounding farms.
I have reservations about the defense of isolated farm houses anyway. Once you get past the obvious of room for a decent garden in a smaller town or city choices get ambiguous. The climate in this region is warm enough you can live with little or no heat if you have to.

Also if your place is too nice say covered with PV's and windmills etc well your potentially setting yourself up to have it taken away if any sort of strongman comes into power. Under the radar so to speak is not a bad idea.
Like I said since you don't know whats really going to happen the end result of certain decisions are tough to guess. Ghung might well find his place taken over by the mayor/militia leader of his area :) Or not.
Taking over the local mansions for the military is the norm during troubles not the exception.

So as far as I'm concerned all that really matters in the end is getting enough money saved to buy a very common but survivable home in or near a small town with at least a half acre lot for a garden. As housing prices fall your options expand but today the goal would be 30-50k in cash plus say at least 1k for hand tools.
Plenty of other decisions can be made but I've come upon this as the minimum that gets your probably 80%-90% of the way along to reasonably handling and unknown but volatile future. On the food side of the game you probably simply want to follow the Mormon way with two years worth of staples and canned goods. Indeed getting to three years is probably a good. Hunker down food if you will till things blow over.

Associated with or after this is a manually operable well for example or access to fresh water.
Ensure you have rugged durable all season clothes.

Start learning how to make anything you need and get involved with your neighbors.
The sky's the limit after this but its what I've come up with as an optimal minimal peak oil staying alive investment.

"Ghung might well find his place taken over by the mayor/militia leader of his area :) "

Yeah, Mike, though they would have to oust the entire extended family from the area or find themselves surrounded. Fortunatley, there are nicer choices around, several mansions with micro-hydro systems or PV. They're building a PV farm nearby, 1st phase is 5 acres, and there's a 12 MW TVA reservoir in the county.

Quite a few wealthy folks have decided this is a good area for their bug-out fortresses. One is on a mountain a couple of miles from here, nestled in a hollow (holler to the locals) complete with helipad, draw bridge, hydro plant and several green houses. It's reported to have a large PV system as well. A friend who's a partner in the local concrete company said they delivered nearly 500 yards of concrete during construction and they have five 1000 gal. propane tanks buried. I just wish their Sikorsky would quit buzzing my chickens.

Maybe I'll be the local strongman and move into new digs up on the mountain ;-)

Here you go Ghung...a BIZZILION military manuals you can read or download. There's one for every need!! How about "FM1-112 Attack Helicopter Operations" or "FM3-5 NBC Decontamination." Those rich neighbors don't stand a chance when you have this info!!!

But, seriously, here's the link: http://www.ssrsi.org/wml/fms.htm
And, yes, I really am going to download some of them because there is some excellent information available for free.


PS I printed out the list of publications earlier but the link isn't working right now. Don't give up. Try again.

If you assume a 1500 a month mortgage then in two years if you saved your former mortgage payment you would have 36000 dollars more than enough to buy a decent older home in many parts of the country for cash esp a foreclosure.

You only have $36,000 if you somehow can manage to live for free right now. In that case, why bother to buy a house at all? And if you are going to buy a house for $36,000, then why not just go buy it now? Why wait 2 years... do you expect that price to go down?

More realistically, you might have $18,000 saved up after 2 years, assuming your rent is about half of what your mortgage payment would be. However, if interest rates go up in the next 2 years (count on it), you might not really be any better off and in fact, could even be worse off, even if the price of houses decreases.

Personally, I don't really care too much whether the price of my house decreases or not. Each year I get closer to having it payed off and becoming mortgage free. In the meantime, I get to deduct both the interest on the mortgage and my property taxes on my income tax, which reduces that theoretically $18,000 "savings" from the renter even further.

Interest rates are already creeping up, they have gone from 4.25% to about 5% over the last 3 months. Since you chose a house payment of $1500, that translates to a mortgage of about $305,000 at 4.25% for 30 years, and $280,000 at 5.0%. So, even if you saved the entire $18,000 and forget all the benefits, the same house payment buys $25,000 less house if the interest rate goes up a mere 0.75% in the meantime. Meanwhile, the early buyer at $305,000 would then only 28 years left on that 30 year mortgage... This is comparing apples to apples, instead of comparing a $305,000 house to a $36,000 house

Never underestimate the effects of rising interest rates... they can have as much or more effect on homebuying as the price of the house itself does.

To be clear I'm talking about shelter really not houses or even homes. The key is cash flow.
If you own a 30-50k house outright and have room for a large garden then you can cut your cash flow down a lot.
Buy your wheat/rice in bulk. To some extent same for your meat. You can raise some chickens and rabbits for meat.
In some cases a small pond makes sense. This gives you some fish protein. Perhaps but a PV array large enough for some lights and a computer. Thats not that expensive. Solar hot water heater. Not sure where exactly you end up but I could see you get your monthly cash flow down to a few hundred dollars.

Even if you ended up working for whats part time wages now your still ok. As long as you made more than that you can build cash and invest in whatever you think makes sense.

If you make more money and thing hold together well take a long vacation see the world hang out with the kids.

Or buy your 200k house and your new cars etc and have 300 a month left after all the bills are paid and lose it all if you lose your job. And your betting on things holding together for 30 more years or 28. Probably a bad bet IMHO.

Even if you are correct what I'm suggesting is a lifestyle choice that fits regardless. As long as things hold together well I'd argue my approach would give you a lot more free cash flow faster.

Your focusing on the first few years as important they are not. Once you get past the initial investment if you pay cash for a house then you have literally the rest of your life to do pretty much as you wish.

Work for a year or two take a year off if things get really bad well take whatever job you can get. Your day to day life does not change all that much even if your income moves all over the map. Even if you had to take a temporary job and "move" you could rent the house out or not and take a job somewhere for a year or two.

If you decided you where not happy with your current house and wanted something better different and things where going well at least for you well fine you have a house you can rent for some nice cash flow.

I was by no means comparing a 300,000 dollar house to a 36,000 dollar house in the sense your saying. As decent reasonable shelter they are directly comparable in the sense that a Hyundai compares with a Porsche. If all you care about is a good house for shelter well go the Hyundai route.

I'm very comfortable in saying what I've proposed is a lifestyle choice that fits a wide range of outcomes if your worried about the future and want to take a pragmatic solution without solving problems that may not arise either because something worse you did not plan for happened or nothing does not matter.

If your not worried about the future then you can talk about 30 year mortgages if you are worried then the very first thing you need to do is secure decent shelter. Tied directly with that is how to make money in a depressed economy. Heck how to even make minimum wage in towns with 30k houses is a bit of a problem.

Thank you for clarifying your post, Memmel... I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment now. I'm all for spending less on purchasing your housing and paying it off in full in order to maximize your cash flow. This is good advice. The nit I would pick is, if you are buying a $30-50K house, I see no reason to waste time renting for 2 years, when you could just buy the house now, be 2 years closer to paying it off in full, and use the time to fix up, reinsulate, plant the garden/fruit trees, etc. I used a 30 year mortgage as an example, because that is what would be typical for a mortgage with a $1500 payment, but on a $30-50K house, I would imagine that you could take out, what, maybe a 5 year loan at the most and possibly even pay it off faster than that. I certainly agree that living in a house with no mortgage/rent payment is one of the best financial situations that you can find yourself in... but you can only get to that point by purchasing and not renting.

There is no fundamental floor under the price of housing, particularly if the next dip is a full blown depression (which we only just avoided last time). As such the foreclosure, etc. could yield housing costs much lower than today - another halving in price is quite possible.

There is also no fundamental ceiling on rent, which could easily skyrocket under conditions of high inflation.

Rents out of necessity follow income. If we have inflation that results in wage inflation well then rents will rise.
Indeed everyone that went long on housing will win big.

I don't see wage inflation anytime soon even if we see monetary and price inflation.

"I don't know but the idea is to start getting wealth to circulate inside the local community building up relationships that expand wealth."

Yes, I totally agree with that, but "how" is the big problem. The existing monetary system is being destroyed, it's becoming undependable, but it still governs and controls. Even if you turn money into productive localised assets the need for money doesn't vanish, in fact, those local assets then have to compete with the bigger system (usually unsuccessfully) for money. There's a vital piece missing from the jigsaw puzzle which prevents localisation from working effectively. Hopefully we will find the missing piece before it is too late.

The risk is that those that invest locally will lose their wealth if BAU continues and those that invest in BAU will lose their wealth if it fails. Which means investment becomes a matter of timing, which 90% of investors are bad at. The likely outcome therefore is a massive loss of wealth as investments become worthless. The alternative is to invest in something that will succeed in either environment, aka the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. I wish I knew what it was; social, technological, new economic system or a mixture of them all?

Realistically I think in the long run most of the wealth regardless of form it takes that exists today will be lost.

I suspect a lot of our technology will prove to be fairly useless over time. At least in the US I think a lot of the infrastructure will be of little value in say 100 years. Thats the long view but one reason I'm a bit of a doomer is the long view is connected to the short term. Its like a boundary value problem.

My attitude is more along the lines of if a certain approach allows you to have something vs nothing not somehow save everything or even 90% of what you have now. If you make it through with 10% then your a lot better off then the many that will probably have nothing.

Probably not a good way to invest but its a matter of what will yield the lowest loss not who much something will make.

One can imagine and investor in 1928 faced with this same dilemma I'd argue that if they had decided to take the attitude of minimizing losses without really knowing what the future held they would have come out ok. Sure others that guessed right might do a lot better but these are balanced but those that guessed wrong.

Investing in your local economy may or may not yield and actual gain but if I'm fundamentally correct about what we are facing then its likely to yield a smaller loss than other approaches. The relative wealth level vs your peers may well increase dramatically. Owning a small business thats breaking even vs facing hunger and perhaps starvation is hard to value in terms of money.

Intrinsically I think for the most part the future economy will consist of people simply getting by ok day after day not getting rich but also not sliding into poverty. I think if you can pull that off then you will as I said be substantially better off than most. Sure some will profit and probably profit big that seems to happen no matter what but I'd argue the majority will lose everything and the baseline condition is deep poverty on the edge of starvation. I don't see anything wrong with effectively selfishly avoiding such a fate. Allowing yourself to fall into that condition does not do anyone any good. I have to think that oil drum readers are generally a bit better than most.

A pragmatic way to look at it is if everyones cart is in a ditch who is going to pull them out ? Someone has to at least try and make it thorough. I suspect that a lot of the wealthy that happen to make it are not going to help anyone but themselves. Indeed the ones that do will do it primarily not through financial means but via control of critical industries and resources. In general these people will be the same parasitic class we have today albeit smaller. Its not only the survival both growth of the small business owner that critical to creating a new society not the wealthy and sadly not the poor. Its creation and retention of a truly productive middle class that matters.

Its the small town grocery store owner that gives credit to the poor window with five kids then manages to lose track of the account every Christmas. Its the landlord that gives the same window a cut rate rent and says nothing about missed payments. Its the wealthy guy in town that employees the window to clean house even if they have other applicants willing to work for less. In a lot of ways it does not help the widow her life won't get any better or any worse however her kids will understand the meaning of charity and hard work and you can hope that they will grow up to contribute to the town and in a real way pay back the charity and more.
Perhaps one goes on to be the town doctor and refuses to take a lucrative opportunity elsewhere content to help those who helped him. Perhaps this very same child eventually cares for the wealthy man and the landlord and the store owner through their old age.

Its not about wealth or lack of wealth its about simply allowing people to live decent lives. What I see in general is hopefully centuries of people simply living decent if not happy lives year after year. Things not getting a lot worse nor getting a lot better. Knowledge will keep expanding and perhaps in time we will change at fundamental level. But we don't need change any longer we have had enough if we can simply sail through the coming centuries with things simply not getting worse or even much better thats good enough. I have to imagine that we will collectively get wiser with every passing year exactly the form this wisdom takes is difficult to foresee. The most important thing is there is no real rush if we can stabilize things. Indeed its not and if but a when and the only issue that really remains is how bad will things get before they become ok. Not great but ok.

If I had money to invest in stocks I would invest them in business ideas closer to the entrepreneur then listed corporations. I would invest in companies producing electricity and both solid, liquid and gaseous biofuels, and companies who are competitive in turing very low quality fossil fuel feedstock into high quality products. And even more so in companies who sells systems, solutions and infrastructure since this sells realy well, at least locally in Sweden.

Overall I expect BAU with a continued ramp up of wind power and biogas. We will perhaps be getting closer to building new nuclear powerplants, perhaps a little less investments in local grids and more investments in the high tension grid. There is a begining of a break thru for regional district heating pipeline connections for towns 20-40 km apart and free trade of heating on the systems. A minor but fun news is that OKG starts investing in district heating from a minor flow of left over steam in their nuclear powerplants. In 2010 were it decided to have a common market for green eletricity certificates between Sweden and Norway and this might start influence investments in 2011.

I guess the gasolene prices only will get a little higher since a lot of the higher oil price seems to be dollar inflation.

energy forecast:

wti ends 2011 at $75, +/- 10% same forecast as 2009, 2010.

wti spot price band $55 - 120 (daily closing).

new annual average peak in total 'oil' production(ala eia).

energy stocks:

avoid companies with significant debt.

My oil price prediction is based on the inability of the U.S. to let go of the BAU. In the first half of 2011 if the U.S. economy picks up steam (and the world economies continue to grow), crude may see prices above $100/barrel. However, if important economies weaken, partly due to these high oil price, then at the end of 2011, crude may be less than $100/barrel.

I am spending considerable time on following the business oil-related companies. IMO, the Canadian oil sand companies (e.g., SU, CNQ, CVE, COSWF, etc.) are saver investments than other companies (e.g., Exxon BP, Shell, etc.) that have to search for oil in increasingly difficult environments. In contrast oil sand companies are just mining companies working the huge Athabasca area and other Alberta sites, not needing expensive and uncertain explorations. Besides, Canada is the largest supplier of oil to the U.S. market, becoming even more and more important as Mexico's oil declines.

Career Shift Often Means Drop in Living Standards

Even the lucky ones are not so lucky, it seems. A new study of American workers displaced by the recession sheds light on the sacrifices a large number have made to find work. Many, it turns out, had to switch careers and significantly reduce their living standards. . .

“Look, I am really happy to have a job — that’s the main thing,” said Sue Bires, 60, who was laid off from a job managing homeowners’ associations in Orlando, Fla., in September 2008. She initially had another job lined up with a different realty association in Orlando, but when that fell through, she moved to Austin, Tex., to stay with a friend. She filed for bankruptcy and took a job at a call center. But she now earns $30,000, far below the $45,000 she was paid when she was managing properties.

It's been about four years since I proposed the "ELP Plan" for coping with a post-peak oil environment:


Thanks Jeffrey for reposting the ELP reminders. Since it's quiet this morning I'll share my ELP story.

Economize: Using the book "Your Money or Your Life" (YMOYL) is a great way to approach Economizing in a systematic method that lasts. We have been following it for many years and are now debt free. YMOYL is not an instant fix, but using it for a few years builds great financial habits. Using it perpetually will change your life.

Localize: I have found that groups working on things like promoting urban gardening are always happy to have new folks get involved and help out. Opening communication with the neighbors takes a little longer. Being the initiator and doing things like helping shovel snow, offering to loan a ladder, or just waving and saying Hi as they walk past really helped.

Produce: This is a tougher one. I decided to go into business providing something that would be useful in a "lower energy" situation. I had to do it as a web retail business to reach enough customers as there just aren't enough local customers yet. So I started with EasyDigging.com and sold grub hoes (that replace rototillers) and grape hoes (for large weeding). It has gone well enough that last year I was able to add this wheel hoe that used to be used for mid-scale agriculture from the 1890's to 1920's. Then a year ago we started to actually manufacture these clothes drying racks which has been a WHOLE new experience. They have been popular with our customers, but small scale manufacturing is still a tricky business since most suppliers only want to deal in thousands of parts while small-scale manufacturers usually need to deal in hundreds of parts. And since we only work with US suppliers for the rack parts there is always the fear that when we call them to order more parts we will discover that they have closed down.

But overall, following the ELP plan in some form is a good way to lessen that feeling of not having any protection from the storm of changes we are experiencing. Thanks again!

Happy New Year all, and had to jump in Greg, I love my grub hoe !! It's like it's designed for reclaiming old fields and blueberry barrens. I'm going to wear out before it does. Gotta keep it sharp though.

January thaw up here and a word to those who heat with wood, take the time to clean that stovepipe out and maybe even run the chains up and down the chimney while the weather allows. That's how I'm spending my day.

Don in Maine

Congrats on the decisions you made.

In regard to our own efforts, in reverse order, starting with "P," I have been in oil & gas since 1980, and I recently consolidated home and office reducing my commute from 20 minutes to 20 steps, taking care of "L," but I wish we had made more progress on "E." My preference would have been to move to a rented two bedroom unit in 2005, but this is where SNS (Spousal Nesting Syndrome) becomes a factor.

I have semi-rationalized the housing situation by comparing the money that we are going to lose on housing to what I have lost on some drilling ventures. To be fair to my lovely bride, we did try to buy one smaller house, a two bedroom two bath house, with a separate area that could be used as an office, in a walkable area, but we weren't the only ones interested in this house. It went on the market on a Thursday, and there were four offers by Sunday. We upped our bid to 5% over asking price, and we were significantly outbid by someone who paid 100% cash.

Well, HAPPY NEW YEAR! to all of you great TODers.

Ghung's 2010 almanac:

Total PV production: 5781 kwh

Daily average: 15.84 kwh

Actual from batteries: 4769 kwh

Efficiency: 82.5% (approx. due to different measuring devices)

Notes: No longer measuring solar insolation; sensor failed. One tracker down for several months (one of four arrays in fixed position). Repairs are on my list.

Diesel generator run hours: 203

Fuel gals. consumed: 138 (55 gals. B100, 83 gals. off-road)

Total cost for fuel: $361.56 US ($2.62/gal avg.)

Other genny costs: Starter repair: $50; 3 gals oil + filters: $70. Fuel filter; $11. Fuel pump relay $5.

Other energy inputs:

Propane: Approx. 160 gals. @ $1.42/gal US ($227.20 US)

Firewood: Est. 4.5 cords hardwood. Est. cost of obtaining: $120 US (cost of rebuilding splitter and saw repair included, amortized 7 years.)

Passive solar: I haven't figured out how to calculate financials on passive, but very significant.

Solar DHW: Down for repairs most of year. Shifted to propane in April. (Stop procrastinating, G!)

Other notables:

Total measured rainfall: 47.98" (local avg: 65")
Approx. measured snowfall: 22"

New larger garden produced excellent results for first year. More/better this year. Expanding solar irrigation system volume/pressure. Automating irrigation. Larger compost system planned. Cold frames parts scrounged; good winter project. Order seeds!

Best wishes for a progressive New Year to all.
Hoping for the best; planning for........whatever.

And a Happy New Year to you Ghung and all the TODies out there. Always been impressed by your efforts...nice to see them all in one setting. But just in case the Sun don't shine where you want it I'm heading to the rig to find some more alt fuel for you et al. Celebrated the stroke of the New Year moment with a clerk at a gas station in S La. last night: heading down to the bayous to log a well that hopefully will find about $100 million in NG/condensate for all the folks still fully connected to the grid. Obviously hope we start the year of with a big bang. Perhaps after the BP incident not the best choice of words. LOL. Let's just say I hope I'm sitting in my little metal box today watching a big fat NG sand develop on the monitor.


if I remember correct you are off the grid?

Anyway, if I compare my efforts with what you are doing than I have a long way to go!

Talking about procrastination (a VERY familiar word to me) a European saying comes to mind:

"Self-discipline is half your life - the other half is nicer"


Off grid, though still uncomfortably connected in many ways. I try to focus on powering down in my head, adjusting my need to consume things, and eliminate the expectations that the consumption economy tries to impose.

Being off-grid is a mindset more than a collection of gadgets that enable an independent continuation of BAU lite.

The TV broke (again), and this time won't be fixed or replaced.


I am a "city slicker" or at least was for most of my life. But living on a farm with everything which comes with it - including fire-wood preparation - is something our family enjoys now for some years. We are trying to move more and more into a sustainable life style (within our means).

Is not most of our life a matter of mindset? If you have set your mind on total consumption - be it gadgets, woman, entertainment, etc. - you will make your decisions accordingly. Most people live according to the motto:

"Let's eat and drink, because tomorrow we will die"

which is very sad and the main reason we have the mess we are in today.

Regarding TV: we did cut our cable 12 years ago (mostly for the kids - only garbage in there) and we never regretted it.


Lazy man's solar water heater- Just roll out a swimming pool heater on the ground and run it hot- a little dribble of water from a PV pump- and put bubble wrap around it. Come winter, just roll up the whole thing and store it, then go to the wood stove for winter hot showers.

My wood stove has a short flat coil of 1/2 copper downstream of the combustion zone, acting as a bubble pump- like a somewhat more sophisticated coffee percolator with two check valves and enough mass in the tubes to make it a put-put motor.

If you happen to have some dynamic simulation software lying around, it's fun to simulate this thing and compare with the real action right before your ears. Proper tuning gets it up to a quite adequate volume flow rate- in my case, around a liter a minute.

in fact, I'm starting to think that maybe this thing is a candidate for world's simplest heat engine-- with any measurable efficiency.

As for TV. A long time ago after my kids left, I took my little fuzzy set out on the ridge and shot it with my muzzle-loader. Hit right smack in the middle at about 80 yards. Best shot I ever made.

I tried my own version of "computers must die" by putting a laptop on the beach in Chagos. The Glock just drilled 9mm laser quality holes.

Better was simply smashing it against a coco palm.

Many decades ago, a friend asked what was causing the most repair attention on my boat. He suggested removing said apparatus, extending my arms and releasing it overboard. Problem solved. Warning: this is addictive and should only be done once a day max. Wonderful how the sound differs with problem's density and size.

Every happiness and prosperity to all in 2011

"Many decades ago, a friend asked what was causing the most repair attention on my boat. He suggested removing said apparatus, extending my arms and releasing it overboard. "

I trust it was not the hull. :-)

Ummm, yet you are using a computer now................


Many decades ago, a friend asked what was causing the most repair attention on my boat. He suggested removing said apparatus, extending my arms and releasing it overboard

Usually works well. What if it's the 'co-skipper'....?

I was reading a link someone posted the other day about a $1000 Solar Water Heater. Where the storage tank is an EPDM lined, insulated plywood box. It made me think whether it was feasible to use an IBC container (1000ltr plastic cube tank with a metal cage around it) for the same purpose? Anyone heard of this being done?

They sell heater jackets for IBC containers and it seems that temperatures in the 50-60°c range are within the tanks specification (although I couldn't find a definitive answer on that). I'd be interested if anyone knows more about the possibility of using one of these tanks as a kind of pre-heater for DHW.

I use IBC containers for water catchment and storage. For solar thermal it is preferable to use tall tanks that promote stratification. Hoter water that rises to the top is used to heat DHW, radiant floors, etc. Cooler water at the bottom is sent to heat exchangers (solar, wood, etc.). This increases efficiency alot. Our tank is 45" (114cm) in diameter and 80" (203cm) tall. The temp can vary 30f degrees top to bottom. The tank we've been using is here:
http://carolinawatertank.com/watertankst.htm (the 485 gal. model not shown).

With heat exchangers, etc. we utilize about 450 gals. of its capacity. I estimate it has a useful heat storage capacity of about 160 KBTU. We wrapped the tank in this stuff:
http://www.reflectixinc.com/basepage.asp?Page=Double+Reflective+Insulati... , enclosed it, and blew insulation into the enclosure.

Thanks Ghung. I use the IBC containers for water storage too, that's why I was thinking of them and they're cheap. My initial idea was to use a diy thermal solar panel with a gravity feed into the IBC container for thermal storage. Then pass the mains fed cold water through a plastic coil in the tank to pre heat the water going into my main DHW tank. No pumps or electrical elements required. Do you think it would be feasible?

Happy New Year Ghung and all TODers!

My hat is off to you sir, keep up the great work and that spirit of defiance against the status quo.

The day before New Years I dropped into a new electric bicycle store that just opened down the street from me. I met the owner and told him what I do. He gave me the specs for the batteries that his bikes use. They come in either Lead acid or lithium are 24 volts DC and rated 10 AH.

I went on line looking for an off the shelf portable 24 volt charger and couldn't find one.

So I just ordered two light weight 15.7 volt 26 Watt 1.6 Amp thin film foldable PV panels and an auto detecting 12/24 volt 6.6 Amp solar charge controller. I plan on rewiring the two panels in series and connecting them to the charge controller and testing them with his batteries. If it works I should be able to offer his customers a 2.5 lb compact solar charger that will easily fit in a small backpack. Right now his bicycles have about a 20 mile range per battery though the bikes have two battery slots. With my new solar charger they should be able extend that range and let their batteries charge while they are enjoying the sunshine on the beach.

All we can do is just keep chipping away at the edges of BAU!

Hi Fred. I see a real opportunity there. Do the bike motors run on 24 volts? One would think they would be 48 volt or more, but then again, it's just a bike.

"With my new solar charger they should be able extend that range and let their batteries charge while they are enjoying the sunshine on the beach."

...if someone doesn't steal these things :-(

You may find some uses for these guys: http://www.solarconverters.com/ .They make step up/down transformers to spec that work great. I use these to equalize our batteries and to provide 12vdc from our battery bank. Their 12/24 converter will let you charge 24 volt batteries from a 12 volt charger (or vice versa) or from a car battery. I ordered one that provides 15.4 volts regulated from an input of 18-36 volts to run my old data logging laptop dc direct. Handy stuff from Canada!

Keep fighting the good fight. More folks seem to be paying attention to our small steps.


Do the bike motors run on 24 volts? One would think they would be 48 volt or more, but then again, it's just a bike.

Yes, the batteries are 24 volt DC and the motors run right off the battery.

Here's a link to their website: www.newagecycles.com

Here's what I designed with off the shelf components. I would prefer to work with more powerful monocrystaline panels which are cheaper per watt but the idea is to be able to put the charger into a little backpack or the basket on the bicycle.



Here's a site that covers the spectrum of electric bikes. http://www.electric-bikes.com/bikes/kits.html
Here's a site that has a lot of interesting parts including chargers. http://www.electricscooterparts.com/index.html

Over the last several years I've electrified some half-dozen cycles (bikes, trikes, trailers). In my neck of the woods (east side of Lake Washington) the critical sizing factor is the terrain, it's quite hilly here. I have used both geared motors and direct drive (hub motors). What they need to do is produce about 1500 watts (for a bike) peak at 10mph to make a 10% grade without pedaling. Nominal (listed) wattage is usually about 1/3 to 1/2 of peak capability. With this requirement, I need 720WH batteries (eg. 36v 20ah). You can only get by with less in the flatlands.

Rules of thumb for bicycles:

D = 0.015*S^2 + 10
.....D = drag in pounds, S = speed in mph.
P = 2.67*D*S
.....P = power in watts, Drag to include gravity component if on a hill: eg. 10% grade generates 10% of total weight.
The constant 2.67 includes an adjustment for motor efficiency of 75%.

Here's a hub motor simulator: http://www.ebikes.ca/simulator/

Thanks Hank, that's good info. I'm in south Florida and this is about as flatland as it gets so I guess that's why these electric bikes are able to get by with less as you say. I haven't ridden one of them yet but plan on doing so soon.

I checked out their chargers and they have a 1.6 Amp charger for 24 volt batteries is this one.

24 Volt 1.6 Amp Automatic Battery Charger
24V 1.6A electric scooter and bike battery charger. Two-color LED indicator lamp glows red when charging and green when charging is complete. This is an automatic type charger which turns itself off when the charging cycle is complete to prevent battery overcharging. Available with Inline, XLR, Coaxial, House and Polarized style connector plugs. 120VAC input.

That pretty much matches the output of the portable solar charger I'm building so I think it should work.

Just a note of caution. I believe these chargers are for SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) batteries. Li types require a different charger although I have heard of people using these but I would not recommend it.

I've been using the same solar charge controller to charge regular lead acid, sealed lead acid and lithium ion phosphate batteries. So far so good. Some solar charge controllers specify different jumper settings depending on the battery type. Trial and error, live and learn... at the end of the day if it works, great! If not, you've learned something. Education ain't free >;^)


somebody posted this e-cycle a little wile ago: http://www.onyacycles.com/

I have tried to contact them but didn't get a response yet. Their "Front End Loader" seems to me a good design approach for utility etc.

Any thoughts on it?


It's an interesting concept if a bit pricey. Having the trike tilt brings it's own complications. It is very similar to the www.feetz.nl Probably the Feetz is more versatile since it folds into a shopping cart and can be rolled right into the grocery store.

For me the machine has to be able to do work which means carrying capability. One attraction of the pedal trike is that most states place it in the bicycle category electrified or not, no license required. When trying to decide on a trike to convert to electric, having so many options makes it more difficult to choose. You've got: the delta (two wheels in back), the tadpole (two wheels in front), with upright and recumbent variations of each. Within the tadpole variety you've center pivot steering as well as Ackerman style. Then there's tilting and non-tilting. Lastly, there's an un-holy array of mechanical options.

I've already done a "Haley" trike (upright tadpole center steering) with two hubmotors www.haleytrikes.com It's heavy, and evil handling above about 15mph like a taildragger airplane but it's meant for hauling not speed. I'm now looking for something a good deal lighter. I'm attracted to the Nihola Cigar (upright tadpole Ackerman steering) at www.nihola.com It has Ackerman steering and I understand handles reasonably well. Getting European bikes can be difficult and expensive for people in the USA.

BTW, I'm doing these conversions for entertainment in retirement and giving the results to my kids for when the time comes to pedal to the grocery store instead of driving.

Hank, you might like these:


I tend to like something a little easier to get my old bod out of like:
This one is based on their delta recumbent and is electrified. Interestingly, the body is make of Coroplast and only weighs about 30 or so pounds. Coroplast is like corrugated cardboard but is made of plastic and is very lightweight. You see a lot of real estate signs made of the stuff.
I don't think they have the body in production, yet. BTW there's a video on the Site you might be interested in.

We have a trike here that has a slight similarity to the Haley. Where there is the box we have a steel tube, cube frame that is open at the front. The base is available from many places including big furniture/household goods stores. These get adapted for many uses. Examples include shaved ice drinks, ice cream and lollies, water based flavoured drinks, tamales, scrap collection, taxis etc. The uses seem endless. Sometimes ridden,sometimes pushed.


Just caught a video on youtube of a guy using 10AH LiPo with a 48v motor hitting speeds near 30mph and had 31 miles on a charge. I need one!

Szia, Fred!



Szia, Craig!


BTW in case anyone was wondering, 'BUEK' just means, Boldog Új Évet Kívánok! >;^)


P.S. since I'm seriously considering relocating to either Hungary or North Eastern Brazil I must add.

Feliz Ano Novo!

Heating oil prices hit record levels; residents struggling

BRIDGETON - The story is old. Except this time prices for heating fuels are at a level not seen by owners and operators of providers in a very long time.

Prices, which are averaging around $3 per gallon, have been on a steady incline throughout December. A decline, or even dip, is presently not promised.

"There's people who are getting 5 to 10 gallons to put in their tanks," said Gigi Cruzan of Modern Heating, located on North Pearl Street here.

A household will typically burn 7 to 10 gallons of fuel per day during the winter.

See: http://www.nj.com/bridgeton/index.ssf?/base/news-12/1293858614280520.xml...

It's sad to read these accounts and I suspect they'll become more common in the years to come. I confess I find a home heating requirement of 7 to 10 gallons per day -- 200 to 300 kWh -- mind boggling. Last winter, during the coldest days of the year, our total household use averaged 50 kWh/day (space heating, DHW, cooking, lighting, plug loads, etc.).


Climate change?! Well, last night, just after midnight, after the many toasts to ring in the new year, 2011, it started to snow! This area of no. CA does not get much snow accumulation, but this AM I was shocked and concerned to see so much piled up on our decks and roofing. The roofing has only a slight pitch and the trusses are not designed to support snow, so hoping it will melt off today before tonight when more snow is forecast to fall. The outside temp. is 35.6f at 9:10AM, but has not budged so far today. Still (cornucopian) hopeful outside temp will go up and snow melts.

Follow up: 9:23AM and it just started snowing again! Heavily.

2010 was the year the weather opened my eyes and dropped my jaw. Previously, I thought finite resources would be the most difficult and imminent obstacle, however, I have done a 180 on that view. I am not sure how one can establish agricultural practices when faced with a changing climate and unprecedented weather events. 2011 will be the second year in a row where global crop supply is below consumption.

Banner Year for Corn, Soybeans

"Historically, weather has always come back to normal, more or less, and we've had some big crops," said Sid Love, analyst for Kropf & Love Consulting, a Kansas-based brokerage firm. "If that doesn't happen, all bets are off."

I am strugling to find the data to prove it, but for the last 10 years or so, we eat more than we grow. Food inventories are dropping. It's gonna be a tragedy when we get the first famine where the world will have no food stocks to draw from and send in. I predict it will happen during this new decade.

Here's the latest I've found on global grain production & consumption. Seems the two are taking turns outpacing one another recently. But given that arable land per capita is shrinking, and output per acre is maxing out, how much longer can production keep pace with consumption?

All the way across the country on the northern coast of Maine it's 48, and partly cloudy, more like April than January.


It was warmer in Milwaukee, WI then Phoenix, AZ yesterday;


Id suggest a ladder and a shovel

Oil may fall for a second week amid speculation refiners will start building inventories at the beginning of the year, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Sorry to repeat the quote but I had a logic lock up with that one. Refiners are going to buy more crude so the price will fall ?

I'm guessing that what they are trying to imply is that the price runnup because of falling inventories is purely a speculative run up as the "real" buying starts we obviously have plenty of crude therefore the price will fall.

If so the problem I have is if I was a refiner then I'd hold out and keep draining inventory till the price fell then start buying. Let some other poor sucker refiner be the first to buy at these inflated prices.
If the price increase is artificial then one would think the refiners would simply wait until the spot market
prices started to slump and by at spot. Probably locking in some nice profits shorting the futures market
in the interm. Indeed if its purely speculative one would think they moved early shorting the hell out of
March/April contracts and we would have steep backwardation.

Sorry I do try to guess at the doublespeak but this one has me stumped. I can't quite grasp the logic.

Of course you have this.

The oil survey has correctly predicted the direction of futures 46 percent of the time since its start in April 2004.

These guys are worse than simply flipping a coin and I suspect that the missed guess are weighted to the low side. You would win simply betting against them.

No, what they are trying to say is that high inventories give the impression that there is no shortage of oil and therefore prices will fall. Whenever the inventory report comes out every week, if inventories go up then prices usually go down, and vise versa. Usually, but not always of course.

Anyway, when the weekly inventory report comes out and if it shows that inventories are increasing, this will have a bearish effect on oil prices. That is the logic.

Ron P.

The problem is as they build inventories prices will fall. Thus they are forced to buy expensive oil to sell cheap gasoline assuming the normal that the crack spread collapses rapidly as gasoline inventories build.

It seems to me that this forces consumers to take and unnatural short position to ensure profits.
Thats the problem I have as it suggests a very distorted market. Basically speculators seem to be taking advantage of the natural ebb and flow of inventories to put one hell of a squeeze on refiners.

If you look at how poor refining margins are in general and upstream overall then these sorts of concepts suggest that speculators have successfully devastated a multi-billion dollar industry.

One would think that they would be able to successfully use the futures market as intended and lock in profits.
If it means that they are heavily short oil right now well thats what they need to do. But I'd argue that they should be able to make a killing off speculators.

But right now not only are oil prices up but refining margins are excellent.


Its like refiners are simple Pavlov dogs soon they are going to restock on oil and crash oil prices and worse completely crash their margins probably back to losing millions every day.

Look here its a sea of red ink.


What I see is not and industry moving along naturally but one with massive overcapacity regardless of the price of oil. Refiners are stuck between a rock and a hard place simply because they are no longer getting anywhere near as much oil as they need to maximize refining capacity. Its not the price of oil or refining margins the refiners really don't have any control. If they don't refine the oil and sell it some other refinery will.

To be honest I don't know exactly how and industry responds when its in massive over capacity. From what I've seen it simply becomes a battle to the death. Its not about profits or losses but simply staying in business longer than the other guy. This can often mean selling at a steep loss hoping to take your competitor out before you go down yourself. Given the nature of refining you can't really stop its like the story of two guys being chased by a bear all you have to do is run faster than the other guy.

Right now a number of issues are probably effecting refining capacity. The French strikes probably have not been recovered from. The French are busy trying to ensure France has products not worrying about exports right now. The pipeline problem is hurting refining of Canadian oil. Chinese demand is drawing in imports and cold weather is pulling down supplies of heating oil.

In my mind the important thing is that because of the intrinsic overcapacity in upstream facilities oil productions have been consistently sold at a discount vs the price of oil. Its rare that we actually see a true profitable price. The overcapacity has allowed effective subsidies to be in place for a very long time.

This means of course that demand itself is probably dependent on a unrealistic subsidized price for oil products. Which is in my opinion interesting. It means that the oil industry as a whole is basically intrinsically broken. Normal market forces are probably not really at play and things are distorted.

What this means as far as price goes I don't have much of a clue. I guess we won't see any real price action until refineries simply cannot get the oil to meet demand even as crack spreads widen. This probably means it will go from being broken because of overcapacity to being broken because of shortages again distorting the market. What I'm convinced you won't see is any sort of normal market with supply and demand balanced on price and sustainable profitability across the oil industry. The overcapacity ensures no matter what happens you will get strange movements right till the end. Overcapacity in manufacturing with scarce raw material inputs creates a really interesting situation to say the least.

"To be honest I don't know exactly how and industry responds when its in massive over capacity."

The oldest, least cost-effective plants get shut down. Been there, done that, ouch.

If demand is not expected to come back, then lots of scrap iron is available for recycle. If demand is expected to come back up, then the plant gets mothballed until demand picks up. If demand is certain to come back and Management has a clue and enough cash, the old plant can get a retrofit to improve it quite a lot while it's down anyway. Sadly, this doesn't happen as much as it should.

Not necessarily. I.e I don't think its that simple. First refineries are optimized for different grades of oil.
So and old plant that process the worst cruft even if inefficient may well be more profitable than one thats more efficient. Also obviously depends on how much money you have and how much you borrowed. A state of the art plant with billions in loans thats losing money is not going to be open for long.

Note what your saying about demand coming back or not coming back. I'd argue given the price of oil that its not intrinsically a demand problem its a supply problem demand can go to whatever level it wants it will never exceed supply and I don't think we have enough oil to actually supply all the refineries. Gasoline can go to five bucks a gallon and we still won't have enough oil to supply all the refineries.

Next and this gets pretty interesting if you look at my graph refining margins have been terrible to spiky for years now since about 2003 or so and of course refinery utilization has been poor for about as long.

Look at operable capacity.

And utilization

And idle capacity.

Despite the wide swings in prices and refining margins getting poorer it seems that overall the volume of oil
being refined has not changed a heck of a lot since 2000-2003. New capacity was added but it simply idled other capacity. I'd guess a lot of that is inefficient capacity. Persistant low utilization rates suggests a lot of that idle capacity is not really idle its mothballed.

If one looks at gross inputs then you see what I'm saying.

Next treating all oil as equal as these sorts of graphs imply is probably not telling the whole picture by a long shot. Maybe this is somewhat captured in net inputs.

I'm always on the lookout for any secondary information concerning our oil supply.

If oil supply has been on a global decline then how would it look in the US ?
Well I'd argue we would see higher prices in general for oil. However the US is certainly still competitive for supply i.e we will compete for what we need with some price elasticity on the demand side. The US is not going to be the first nation to suffer supply disruption it will be amongst the last.

Given the above data plus price if I had to pick a peak for world oil based on US data then I'd pick it between 2000 and 2005 excluding the end years i.e it was 2001-2004. 2000 is excluded because the price was in retrospect obviously still low. 2005 excluded because the price was obviously high at that point and we where certainly outbidding others for oil. Perhaps China and India beat us in the bidding war for oil but on the same hand we seem capable of beating out a heck of a lot of the rest of the world. And this is with a substantial amount of our oil supply practically locked in. US production, Mexican Gulf region and some other parts of South America plus Canada. The amount of oil that we have to compete for in a really open market manner is fairly small. For a lot of it all we need to do is pay just enough to make shipping it to other markets less profitable. Remember our refineries are generally optimized for most of our closer sources.

I'd argue that so far we have yet to see any real and serious cut down in refining capacity over all this time.
Despite the poor refining margins and flat to falling inputs over a decade now. We are finally getting reports of refineries getting shut down but it took a long time.

Again looking at the numbers it looks to me that refiners made a bit of a blunder they mistook rising oil prices for rising demand and expanded capacity only to find out that it was a supply problem.

Given that the US is the top consumer of oil and obviously had expanded it refining capacity after 2000 its really interesting that none of the huge surge in oil production starting in 2003 was ever landed. Yet as prices
rose we obviously remained competitive for oil.

Using the chart of the day:

We captured none of this surge ? Yet as we saw much higher prices later in 2005 we continued to compete for oil ?

My own feeling is that a substantial amount of capacity is really mothballed its been effectively gone for a long time. It just that for some reason its been reported as low utilization rates. Real short term utilization rates have actually been a lot higher i.e closer to 90%. This helps explain the spikes in refining margins as the mothballed capacity cannot be brought on line fast enough to handle any strain. Probably one reason its not getting removed is that refiners are shutting in units and reworking them significantly to increase efficiency or modifying the systems to handle different grades then bring them up again and shutting down other units.
With some effectively permanently down as I mentioned.

Last but not least some refiners are vertically integrated either explicitly like BP or implicitly because of specialized refining capacity i.e Canadian heavy or Mexican Maya. Even though the corporate structure is not integrated they are technically integrated. I find this interesting because obviously refiners in general have had horrible profits most of the time for a while. If they are upgrading facilities then they are pouring money into their refineries despite the losses.

Indeed Valero's stock looks verry interesting.


So follow the money ? Where is it coming from ?

Obviously Valero is hurting now and has been for a while.


I certainly don't have answers here I'm just noting that if you dig around a bit things look pretty dang interesting to me. Interesting in a questionable sort of way. I'm not picking on Valero either BP's refining situation is even more murky esp since they can balance between imports and local refining.


Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, is under pressure to convince the City that the company can keep increasing its production and cutting costs at next month's annual strategy update after reporting disappointing results today.

Shares in the company fell by 4% after it recorded almost $2bn (£1.25bn) in losses from its refining division for the last quarter of 2009 which were much higher than expected.

This is big money going down a rathole. Its not trivial and its been going on for a while.

Like I said its all verrry interesting :)

I agree with that. Generally there is a very strong seasonal trend to rebuild products such as gasoline early in the new year. Basically a build-up in stocks in a necessity to prepare for the ‘driving season’ starting in late Spring. Otherwise we are just not going to make it through the summer. As westexas recently pointed out, we have reached some historical lows in gasoline supplies in September.

So there will probably be some build up in products in the new year, because refiners’ profit margins have improved and they are not blind to the possibility of supply problems later in 2011. As I have noted, there is a particular problem with the Northeast region – due to falling gasoline imports and the persistent supply limitations of the Colonial Pipeline (that is usage of the gasoline pipeline to the NE has been “fully allocated”).

Where does this leave oil supplies? Well in early 2010, oil imports trended up nicely – and basically countered the run down in 2009 oil inventories. The year end drop in 2009 supplies was steep, but I think when the final tally is made, the 2010 year end drop will be steeper. It appears then that most analysts quoted in the article and elsewhere are making the assumption that 2011 oil imports will at least be equal to 2010 imports.

This is where an error is being made, as imports are more important than the 'comfortable' level or what ever term is used to describe current oil inventories. It looks highly unlikely based upon recent trends that initial 2011 imports will match 2010 levels. Although OPEC exports have been stuck on the same level for 8 months, and haven’t really budged much for more than a year, China has been taking an increasing portion of OPEC exports – especially since mid-November. Some shipping reports indicate the China import surge will wane after January 10, although perhaps not all the way back to where it was before November.

Bloomberg has another update:


Note the following:

A measure of fuel demand in the country climbed to 20.7 million barrels a day, the highest since May 2008, the Energy Department said last week.

“We’re looking at December to average over 20 million barrels a day, which is the first time since February 2008,” said Xin Yi Chen, a Singapore-based commodities analyst at Barclays Capital. “So we’re not too concerned about the dips in the market.”

Despite many predictions here early in 2010 that the US economy would enter a "double dip" recession, a "deflationary contraction", and that it "could not handle $80 oil", let alone $90 oil – with a large if not huge decline in the stock market at the same time - the US economy has, well, defied these predictions while the stock market has improved. I've been saying since August that this is no fluke, and a pickup in oil product demand beyond diesel would indicate that the US economy has moved beyond the "restocking phase" into a broader economic recovery.

Well it has moved beyond the last 'phase'. Granted I fully agree that the housing sector has remained mired, and it would be appropriate to label at least that sector of the economy in decline. But most of the economy in general is improving.

Having said that, the increased US oil demand not to mention strong inflationary undercurrents, combined with increased Chinese demand, will push the price of oil in 2011 up into the ‘red zone’ – that is about the $110 to $120 price level which will lead the US economy to again stall out. Note I did not say the price has to stop going up at $110 to $120 because the US will stall out. It’s too early to tell when we will get to that level, let alone the possible ‘superspike’ levels of about $150 and higher. Mostly this depends on just how much longer foreign investors will believe the dollar remains a store of ‘value’ – especially but not necessarily in relationship to its foreign exchange value vs. the Euro.

"the US economy has, well, defied these predictions while the stock market has improved..."

Yeah.....it's pretty neat what a little (alot) of QE and TBTF bailout will do. It's not like we (our kids) will have to pay back the MASSIVE DEBT incured to prevent a double dip.

Kick that can , Baby!

Maybe a little OT, but I'm curious what's going on with gas in the UK. Seems it was a huge story a couple weeks ago, but quiet now.

On 3 Dec., Rune posted this:


In summary, the current gas in storage (while rising slightly over the past couple of days) is below 50% capacity, at less than 25,000 GWh. If you plot that point on Rune's graph it is truly in record territory.

Any knowledgeable folk care to scare us?


Nice opinion piece on Fox News,

Myth #3: Because oil is finite, it will inevitably run out.
“The amazing exhibition of oil is a temporary and vanishing phenomenon, one which young men will live to see come to its natural end.” –State Geologist of Pennsylvania, 1885.
Reality: There’s a lot more oil than you think—and if we have a free market in energy we will ensure that we find superior substitutes long before we run out.
Since the beginning of the oil industry, oil doomsayers, including prominent geologists, have been claiming that oil was running out, and would soon would run out or go scarce; in every case, oil supplies in general have increased.
A typical example: in 1939 the Department of the Interior forecast that U.S. oil supplies would be exhausted by 1952; 30 years later, not only had oil production not run out, it had tripled.
The year 2009 was one full of talk of “peak oil,” and yet some of the most momentous, unexpected oil finds in history, especially in Brazil, followed each announcement.
Why are the “experts,” so often wrong, and what can be expected for the future?
One reason is that the “experts” routinely neglect or underestimate the capacity of the human mind to discover better methods of locating and extracting oil. In industry parlance, they falsely equate “proven reserves”—the amount of oil that is known to exist and be extractable in the present—with future production: the amount of oil that will be known and be extractable in the future.
This is a fallacious tactic. As a rule, in the future companies will have the knowledge and economic incentive to discover and harness oil that they do not have the knowledge and incentive to discover today. Oil companies locate new oil supplies as and when it makes sense to do so given their production projections and given market supply and demand. They have no way of knowing the total amount of oil that exists in the earth, and no need go to the expense of finding and validating any given new deposit until it is profitable to do so.
Over time, as demand increases and/or previous reservoirs becoming exhausted, the industry locates new oil and discovers new and better ways to extract it. For example, oil companies can now discover deposits thousands of feet below the ocean floor using 3-D magnetic imaging; they can extract many times the oil from a reservoir that they once could, using methods such as horizontal drilling or high-pressure gas and water injection; today’s “easy oil” was yesterday’s “impossible” oil.


I can say a few things with great certainty:

1. The Earth is finite.

2. The premise behind this opinion piece will work right up until it doesn't anymore.

3. Most humans are very poor planners because they make themselves hostage to their world-views/beliefs/paradigms.

Of course the concepts of ROI and oil price and its effects on economies appear to be absent from the snippet you posted.

I would go to the link and read the entire article, but, its Fox/news?/, and I shall not bother.

BTW, isn't an 'opinion piece' on Fox News rather an oxymoron?

I would go to the link and read the entire article, but, its Fox/news?/, and I shall not bother.

Sounds like the result of a closed mind on both sides. No good can ever come from FAUX news, right?

The arguments reportedly in the Fox news article are certainly not new to them and have been reported repeatedly on the OD for the last couple of years. I suppose Fox could be condemned for being so late to the party.


I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage et al and Fox News (for ~ 5 years) in order to try to get a full-spectrum perspective until they all went way over the top into la-la land and I literally couldn't stand listening to them any more.

Did I say that nothing 'good' (or true or useful) ever comes out of Fox News? No, those were your words, don't try to put them in my moth please.

However, on the whole, my time is finite, and valuable, and I have decided that listening to Fox News is not a useful way to spend my time.

BTW, why is it that just about every hotel lobby I have eaten breakfast in over the past 10 years plays Fox News? Why can't they play the closest thing to a neutral outlet, CNN? Same with every reception/waiting area on every AF base (Military Personnel Flight, Hospitals, etc). Pretty Orwellian, IMO.

Even CNN, like many people, falls into the trap that the arguments of 'both sides' (as if there can be only two POVs to all issues) must be given 'equal treatment'? Hence on CNN SP can be given the same respect as a scientist wrt climate change and so forth.

I increasingly have paid more attention to BBC and other non-U.S. news services.

It is a foolish man indeed who doesn't "keep his enemies closer".

Conversational debate can be rather fast paced.
If you have not updated yourself on the other side's "talking points" (or more correctly with the Oxycontin Rush, their "Slliberals") you may miss those pot shots that whistle past your ears like near-hit bullets but actually hit the undecided listener next to you right between the eyes.

I hear as much as I need to and then some from some of the folks in my work environment.

One guy plays Rush for hours at his desk. Many conservative emails are bandied about. This is in a Federal building among federal civil servants and a few folks of other affiliations. I know some folks there who do not enjoy or share this background chatter, but the way the deal works is that such people keep their mouths shut and their noses to the grindstone, lest they alienate the people in charge.

I also am cognizant of these talking points from the news and advocacy outlets I frequent.

Sounds like the result of a closed mind on both sides.

Considering Fox News got the Court to OK lying - ya sure the mind in 'closed'?


The attorneys for Fox, owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch, successfully argued the First Amendment gives broadcasters the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on the public airwaves.

No good can ever come from FAUX news, right?

At least ya got the FAUX part right.

Of course, Fox News glosses over the fact that in 1956 M. King Hubbert predicted that US oil production would peak and start to decline around 1970 and, guess what, it did! It's currently not much more than half its peak level of 10 million barrels per day achieved in late 1970.

Hubbert also predicted that world oil production would peak and start to decline somewhere around 2000, but the jury's still out on that one. So far it's not looking good.

Non-renewable resources always get exhausted eventually. The trick is predicting "when", because "if" is not in question.

Rockie - Guess I'm the odd ball here: my two primary sources of news are Fox and NPR. Both seem to offer the best blend of basic facts IMHO. Of course both are full of their own bias but, to be honest that doesn't bother me much...just slips by like so much white noise. My third choice, though I can't catch it very often, is the BBC International report. Maybe it's because I've spent 36 years listening to oil patch BS spin that my ears automaticly plug off as soon as it starts. I'm sure many TODies can offer well meaning advice about other sources but I've found that all news sources have some bias but not all sources cover many news aspects I have an interest in nor with sufficient facts if they do. Despite what I consider an often liberal spin I Like NPR the best for their broad coverage. And yes...I know only one other oil patch hand that has a button set for NPR in his car.

my two primary sources of news are Fox and NPR

Been there, done that! If one is aware of the biases, one can read between the lines, and get a reasonably accurate view of things, even when so much of the airplay is barely disguised propaganda. But, I think such skeptical viewers are few and far between. The danger is the other 95-99% of the viewers who will buy whatever it is they are pushing hook line an sinker.

...just slips by like so much white noise

It is easy to fool your conscious self into believing that.

However there are many yous inside your head.
Mixed messages do get around or through the white noise filter.
And they do stick. Even if you O'Reilly believe otherwise.
The inside of your brain is at their Beck and call.
Keep believing otherwise. Heh heh.

[ i.mage.+]
[i]= image, [+]= more info

sb - Perhaps only for the weak-minded. LOL. Actually the worse of the spin does make it through but that tends to work against those spinners in the end. For instance when Beck first started I found him somewhat entertaining (he is, after all, an intertainer and not a newsman) with some decent factual content. But I suppose his increasing popularity corrupted what every value I got from his show. Now I can't even stomach watching his ads let alone his show. Who would have though someone could have bumped O'Reilly and Al Franken (the Beck of the Left IMHO) from the bottom of my list? LOL

As`someone pointed out up thread it's "good to keep your enemies close" but we all have our limits. I typically enjoy hearing opinions that differ from mine but we all have our limits. And the above mentioned clowns exceed mine.

National Petroleum Radio is on the center right at best, and are essentially stenographers for the pentagon and corporate elite.
Fox lite.

trekker - You do know I meant National Public Radio? If so I think National Petroleum Radio is rather clever and will steal it as my own idea. Thanks in either case.

I affectionally refer to NPR as National Petroleum Radio, or occasionally Nation Pentagon Radio, depending on what source they are stenographers for.
Essentially a corporate and government propaganda outlet.

I quit on Fox News a few years back. I don't mind some spin (and the irony of the "No spin zone" is frankly amusing), and can filter out most. Some times I think the MSN is worse, b/c their spin is more subtle - business oriented, and professional. PBS is amazingly even handed. BBS is better, and I like seeing other angles and views on the world news.

For someone whom I respect and agree with so often, I am always surprised how far you posture to the right. Not that I mind that much. My best friends all seem to be quite a bit to my right. And, I like a well reasoned view from any position. Yours are always spot on.

Hope you and yours have a good year.


Actually, we need to keep our critical thinking filters up and running for all news channels all the time.

None can be trusted.
Not even the one that claims to be the most trusted in the world.

zap - and you tend to lean a tad to the left sometimes. Fortunately I don't see conservative/liberal as a right/wrong proposition. Just different philosophies. I refer back to the wisdom of Forest Gump: Stupid is as stupid does. Neither end of the political spectrum has a lock on the smarts market IMHO. And both sides have their share of stupid doings. There are times when you and I may be on different sides of an issue but typically we're both on the same side of the common sense/civility fence. Just different takes on the subject.

Or maybe after 36 years of being a geologist I just don't get bothered if someone thinks I'm wrong...those nerve endings withered away long ago. Long ago I learned to be content thinking I was correct about something when everyone else thought I was wrong. LOL.

And the best of years to you, buddy.

"STUDY: Watching FOX News Makes You Stupid"


Don in Maine

I would guess watching TV in general makes you stupid. :-)

I find it hard to tolerate any of the mainstream news channels these days. When I'm in the UK, I'm always shocked at how...intelligent BBC news is. It's like they expect their viewers to have brains and use them, and the contrast with US infotainment is astonishing.

I've been sort of gravitating to CNBC more these days. Yes, they're biased, but they don't even pretend to be otherwise, which is sort of refreshing. Plus, they don't have the human interest and entertainment coverage the others do. I really don't care what celebrity marriage is breaking up. And I can't stand it when they chase after crime victims and interview them. ("How did that make you feel, when you heard your little girl was brutally raped and murdered?") Bonus points if they can make them cry on camera.

Gave up the TV 30 years ago, but occasionally view one in a hotel room.
I can not see how anyone can extract any useful information from the experience.
The more you watch, the less you know.

I'm in 110% agreement with Leanan here. I tolerate BBC America but even here it is marginal. All the mainstream media I avoid (except local news), as more likley to disinform than inform. I especially dislike the whole crime speil, its just pure distraction from the very real problems we collectively face, but their sponsors want ignored.

I get most of my news from Leanan!

And then there's http://english.aljazeera.net/


You were wondering why so many business establishments with a TV display were tuned to FOX News. Here's you answer: http://www.gallup.com/poll/141032/2010-conservatives-outnumber-moderates...

I hope it doesn't gag you. Our local McD's shows CNN but refuses to enable CC so you can see what they're saying. The sound is turned off. You wonder why they bother or is it a political statement?

Fox news spouts lies in the service of its agenda. I don't see how it is useful to view such a network. Do you refute the PEW study which showed how Fox listeners are much more likely to not know the truth of what is going on?

Yes, even the best intentioned network or news caster or journalist cannot completely avoid having his/her bias influence his/her reporting. But that is different from willfully spreading lies and misinformation. Here at TOD, everyone has a bias. On the other hand, people here generally try to write things that are true and that are verifiable. Lies or misinformation are quickly sorted out and exposed.

There is a difference between having a blend of news with different viewpoints and a blend of news which includes a source which simply lies and distorts in the service of its own agenda.

There is nothing wrong with watching a network with a clear point of view. In fact, it is more interesting than watching a network that just becomes mush in the service of "objectivity". "Objectivity" can lead us over a cliff. If we were clearly going over a cliff, NPR would want to provide a balanced view of the situation. Boring and dangerous. Besides, I can't get out of my head all the satire that SNL has done over the years on NPR.

Regardless, we should all try to act as intelligent beings and skeptically view or read those news sources that tend to agree with our world view. If Fox were simply offering a different point of view, it would be useful. I used to avidly watch William Buckley even though he was an arch conservative. At least I found his arguments well reasoned with a fairly good respect for the facts. The current brand of conservatives found on places like Fox news are not worth listening to.


Watch the whole series and you may realize that the folks at Fox News are just doing their jobs: selling consent. Your buddy Buckley (BIH) makes several appearances.

Rockman - I've found that you can get much better news coverage in Kathmandu, Nepal than in Salt Lake City, Utah. At least in Kathmandu they pirate the satellite signals from all the world's major news networks, where as in Salt Lake you are stuck with the US networks - which differ only in the names of the talking heads they have cloned to read the scripts.

So, while in Kathmandu, during the "global economic meltdown", I got to compare news feeds from CNN, BBC World Service, Al Jazeera English Service, Russia Today, and Dish TV from India. It was quite interesting. You have to keep in mind that Al Jazeera will be somewhat one-sided about Israel, and Russia Today will have a certain perspective on anything Putin says, but on the general run of news they can be quite perceptive and unbiased in their reports. You also have to keep in mind that these companies are not broadcasting to the few hundred million people whose native language is English, but to the billions more who speak it as a second language.

However, when I was in Moab, Utah during the "H1N1 flu crisis", all I got was one point of view, which was basically, "it is a disaster and we're all going to die". Since I was viewing it with a group of doctors and other health professionals (they tend to do a lot of mountain biking, like me) the comments were expressed mainly in words not suitable for family listening ("What a bunch of effing idiots!" etc.) It was quite obvious that the talking heads did not have a clue about the subject they were talking about, but they were willing to talk at great length about it.

And as we both know, there's a lot of oil patch BS out there, but we both know what's oil patch BS and what's not.

Many of these (non-western) broadcasts can be viewed via AnyTV:


Listed by country.

Rockie - I know exactly what you mean. While working offshore Equatorial Guinea I had much better and broader news coverage from the BBC and S. Africa satellite feed (although the near continual rugby/soccer coverage tended to be a bit much). I find it particular interesting to watch the different spins side by side. Often it's what isn't reported by different sources that I find enlightening

We've all heard and read these simplistic, mathematically challenged rationalizations 'debunking' peak oil. The "nice" thing about them is that the simplistic, informationally challenged masses plug this stuff into their infinite growth world views and go on about the business of consuming stuff. God Bless America!

.....they falsely equate “proven reserves”—the amount of oil that is known to exist and be extractable in the present—with future production

BP Statistical Review June 2010: Oil reserves and production don't match

I recall that piece being discussed before. It's just blatant fossil fuel propaganda, with facts distorted to create a false conclusion. The biggest myth in the piece is the one not stated, which is, that there will continue to be oil available which the average viewer of FauxNews can afford to buy...

E. Swanson

Here's a link to the prior discussion, on the 12/29 Drumbeat thread:


As I noted at the time, if we focus just on oil, the recent front page NYT article on oil supplies, "There will be fuel," basically made the same point as the Fox opinion piece.

What is the purpose of such propaganda? People are paid to write this tripe?

An artifact of a discussion above: Noam Chomsky discussing (quoting?) Niebuhr....

"Rationality belongs to the cool observer, but because of the stupidity of the average man, he follows not reason, but faith, and this naive faith requires neccessary illusion and emotionally potent oversimplifications which are provided by the mythmaker to keep the ordinary person on course."

The MSM, especially the bunch at Fox, are running their game right out of the Chomsky/Niebuhr playbooks. They're creating 'neccessary illusion', manufacturing consent, and doing a fine job of it I must say.

There's no way Niebuhr would have said that. It's all Chomsky's rather dark view of things:

Walter Lippmann ... described what he called “the manufacture of consent” as “a revolution” in “the practice of democracy”... And he said this was useful and necessary because “the common interests” - the general concerns of all people - “elude” the public. The public just isn't up to dealing with them. And they have to be the domain of what he called a "specialized class" ... [Reinhold Niebuhr]'s view was that rationality belongs to the cool observer, but...

[and so on.]

"It's all Chomsky's rather dark view of things:"

There was a time when I felt the same way. Yet, two decades later.....

.................here we are.


Oh, what a handsome devil ;^]

At 32 million a year and VaporRub in the eyes to get 'em to tear up - you too could be that good look'n.


He cries not truly for Argentina?

But never mind that. Bawling Boehner probably chews down on a chili pepper every time before drowning himself in tears about the Dream that was America.

Boohoo who ... [ i.mage.+]

People are paid to write this tripe?

You're being sarcastic, right?

All news outlets are paid by their fair and balanced "sponsors" to mouth whatever it is that them who brought 'em to the party want them to sing.

Yes. These people are recruited from the conservative college magazines, and put up in think tanks like this guy's. They then spend their whole lives opining about the virtues of the free market without spending a single day working in it.

It irks me because 1. I wrote for a conservative college rag and could have been this guy in a parallel universe, and 2. I work for a hedge fund now, and these K-Street douchebags have clearly never spent a day on Wall Street.

This guy, however is special. Check this one out:

Myth #1: America’s reliance on oil is an “addiction”—an irrational, self-destructive habit.
“America is addicted to oil.” –George W. Bush, 2006
The Reality: America’s use of oil brings indispensible value to our lives.

Notice that the "myth" and the "reality" don't even contradict? "My opponent claims the sky is blue, but let me assure you that the Pope is Catholic!" It's obvious both our true. Oil lets us do things of value. And, our reliance on it is a major liability. This piece of garbage isn't even original, by the way. This guy is plagiarizing a columnist name of Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe. Who, I venture to guess, got this from his own paymasters.

The other side of HIGH oil prices

Our current economy is certainly challenged at $147 oil. We saw for a brief moment in time the impact high oil prices have on the economy. Las Vegas, for example, was hurt by high gasoline prices that stopped people driving from California and Arizona for a weekend get away to the Strip.

But there are always two sides to a trade. While the consumer of oil products suffered under the high price of oil, the energy complex as a whole benefited from the higher prices. As demand collapsed, the price plummeted leading to thousands of layoffs in the energy sector. Now, with the price of oil rising again will we see layed off rig workers return to their high paying jobs? Will we see new trade schools open that teach oil field services? Will we embark on conservation programs that squeeze more and more energy out of our day to day activities leading to even more job creation?

I sometimes wonder if the drop in oil prices from $147 caused more pain to our economy than the rise in oil prices? I often tell friends "the jobs associated with the manufacture, marketing, distribution and sales of fancy ashtrays will certainly become a thing of the past. Jobs associated with the extraction of oil, energy efficiency, education, healthcare, smart cars, scooters and the like may very well be the jobs of the future". We'll buy fewer clothes and less junk in order to spend an increasing amount of our disposable income on energy. Yes, we'll lose jobs in the clothing supply chain but we'll gain jobs in working the smallest of oil fields for every last possible drop. This transformation will create thousands, perhaps millions of new jobs for what will become a new world. A world where an increasing amount of our disposable income is devoted to the simple task of living, eating and keeping warm.

High, sustained energy prices will once and for all change habits and focus our attention on the task of creating a new world. Yes, natural gas will play a larger role and that will create new, high paying jobs. Transforming our fleet of trucks to CNG will also create jobs and opportunities that will help put people back to work.

My conclusion is that spikes in the price of oil create terrible problems because the solutions are not small and certainly not immediate. Once the world comes to grips with Peak Oil and the permanent rise in price associated with harder to find oil then we will collectively begin to alter our very existance. No longer will we see hummers racing down the highways with only a driver behind the wheel. Instead, we'll see smaller cars with multiple passengers cruising down the roads at much slower speeds. In other words, I believe a sustained higher price of oil can provide greater economic benefits than a lower price as long as you're not in the fancy ashtray business.

But there are always two sides to a trade.

Thats certainly true of the trade. Money (an economic marker) changes hands. So high price or low the transaction price does not effect the net economy. However the economic players will respond to the price. Assume for now a substantially higher price comes about, and it is credible that it won't come back down. Then we see investment decisions in both the consumption and production sides changing. This investment does create some new jobs. But, if we think about the economy as a whole, we are investing more in some combination of conservation or efficiency, and/or oil production capability. The corrollary is that we have less to invest on making more stuff. So in terms of consumable goods and services, rising prices (of commodities) are a net headwind as far as the overall economy is concerned.

My daughter us in the oil field services business. I told her to stick with it, b/c as oil gets more difficult and scarce, those jobs will be what is left. We will still be pumping oil for a long, long time! Just not as much, and it will be more capital intensive. Some oil will be recovered, even with EROEI of less than one to continue with pharmaceuticals, plastics and the like.

As producing energy takes more and more of working capital, there will be less and less for plastic junk from China. When transportation costs increase enough, the junk might even be produced in the USA again. For a while, at least. Still, as the money leaves, a greater percentage of remaining capital will need to be preserved for food, basic clothing, maintaining shelter, transportation, and basic civic structures - streets, transit systems, court facilities, police, fire protection, and of course garbage removal and control.

Just those necessaries are enough to keep a fair number employed, when you include energy and mineral workers in the mix. Now, the auto industry, and our current mess of suburban dwellings and exurbs are going to be in trouble. It is fun to speculate on the future... it can be grim, and at times we all get down when we realize how different things will be. I am tending more the a Greer viewpoint, though. It will be a longish descent, punctuated with unrest and disruptions. Our societies will evolve, as we ourselves have and do, gradually and without obvious huge alterations. Over time, though, what we become can be very different, and in ways we may not today guess.

Business will continue, "as usual" will change.


Last summer, I was reading that Australian's main river was running dry and grain production was tanking. Now there are accounts of floods covering areas as large as France or (and?) Germany. Few details apparent on the Web. Anybody have details?

And Pakistan, though only in the news as a drone target, is still digging out, or bailing out, after their floods. Our "news" media really is a gossip column.

Go to Desdemona Despair. Lots of stuff about Australian floods there (and other disasters too).


The weather conditions in Australia - the swing from drought conditions to floods - are caused by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) ENSO is the oscillation between El Niño and La Niña conditions.

El Niño conditions generally result in below average rainfall over much of eastern Australia.

La Niña is normally associated with higher than average winter, spring and early summer rainfall over much of Australia.

Who is La Niña

La Niña is a climate phenomenon, the sister event of El Niño. Where El Niño left drought, La Niña causes floods, massive cyclones, endless rain. La Niña is in character the total opposite to her brother - the other half of the Southern Oscillation puzzle.
During a La Niña year a massive "warm pool" builds off north-eastern Australia in the Coral Sea. Sea levels rise, in some places like Papua New Guinea, by nearly as much as half a metre. In severe La Niña's low-lying islands almost disappear beneath the waves.

The effects on North and South America are different, and not as dramatic as in Australia.

Last summer, I was reading that Australian's main river was running dry and grain production was tanking. Now there are accounts of floods covering areas as large as France or (and?) Germany.

Aren't those different river basins? I think the current floods are in the NE, the Murray in the SE of the continent. But we also have the trend towards things in a given locale alternating from one extreme to another. So even if average precipitation becomes reasonable, unless you have huge storage capability, one year you lose everything to a massive flood, and the next to a drought.

Strangely I was just calling someone in the flooded area of Queensland from my home in Tasmania. The floodwaters will disperse into the nearest oceans, the inland salt basins and into the Murray Darling river system that exits to the sea some 3,000 km away. It is possible that nutrient and silt laden water will adversely affect the coral in Great Barrier Reef along the north eastern coast of Queensland. Several large coal mines have been flooded and there is talk of a halt to coal loading of ships on the coast. I wonder whether this influenced Queensland Premier Anna Bligh to recently call for a rethink on Australia's prohibition of nuclear power.

An unexpected benefit is that the fast growing Gold Coast region may not need to run its desalination plant in 2011. However I'm told many inland summer crops like cotton, sorghum and tropical fruit have been ruined. Runoff from some of the currently flooded areas will work its way downstream into the Australia's major river system the Murray-Darling. Later it may enable increased irrigation of crops like rice, grapes and temperate fruits. That benefit may last perhaps 2011-2012 after which we can expect another dry period according to climatologist James Hansen.

So you are aying the Murray-Darling will actually reach the sea for a while now?


It seems like the Murray made it to the sea back in October. I would have thought it would have been a much bigger news event than it was.


Yair...mudduck, I caught a US newscast that described the inundated area here in Queensland as bigger in area than Texas! I dont know about that but river levels in places are the highest on record.

We are okay here on a bit of highground south of Gladstone but lots of folks are in trouble. There are thousands of acres of crops under three feet of water, flooded coal mines, small towns evacuated...this is a very bad scene, the country side is super saturated and cannot take any more water.

The worry of course is that the traditional "wet" and cyclone season extends right through to March...Lord help us if we get a decent twister that comes in down the coast.

Lots of things get to you at times like this...the poor bloody people shoveling mud out of their houses and trying to put a brave face on it.

And other things. Our local dam here has been stocked with Barramundi (a native sport and eating fish)and hundreds, maybe thousands of three to five foot beauties are being washed over the spillway.They do live in salt as well as fresh water so it would be nice to think a few of them survive.

Pat Gerber, who is a member of the San Francisco Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force, sent me some legislation his committee would like to have passed. There is a four and a half page list of peak oil items on the list.

Some of the items seem to be quite good. People in the San Francisco area will be especially interested in reviewing this, as will people in other cities looking for ideas as to what can be done for mitigation.

After following TOD for a short while I have given up hope of a top down leadership tackling the issues of peak oil. It will not happen. Instead, the change will come from individuals, communities and work on up. California seems to be taking a lead. Unfortunately I fear it is too little, too late but I hope they will keep on trying.


PS Telecommuting is a big must. How many of those that are commuting today do so just to sit in front of a computer? I worked with someone, back about mid 90s UK, who worked for a week by telecommuting due to strikes. He did twice as much work in half the time without the commute and in a much more congenial, stress free environment. When the strikes ended it was back to the office to get less work done.

Telecommuting: God's way of telling you your job can be outsourced to India.

Crude capped its second consecutive year of gains as the dollar dropped against the euro, boosting commodities’ appeal as an alternative investment. Oil settled above $91 a barrel after testing technical support near $89.

Can anyone here explain how investors can pour money into oil and drive up its price? The only way I can see oil prices being driven up by investors would be if they purchased the oil and then kept it off the market by storing it. But that's not how it's done. Oil is refined and then burned after being purchased, thereby removing it from the market forever.

If investors instead piled money into oil companies, you would think that the effect would be more exploration and extraction, which should lower the price of oil instead of raise it.

I'm totally confused.

I can't explain the price rise,but to the second para,no amount of new money is going to push the companies into exploration and extraction because there are no more places to do so except in real
tough environments and landscapes where ROI is not feasible.Over the last several years oil companies have surplus funds and are engaging in share buybacks or M&A activities to boost their reserves.As Matt Simmons remarked "they are in the process of self liquidation".

WTI on the NYMEX and Brent on the ICE are used as benchmarks. It has little to do with actual oil because there is no delivery except on expiration day, and even then very little oil is actually delivered or delivery taken on that day.

But the spot price of oil does move up and down in accordance to the benchmark price. It generally follows the benchmarks but not in lock step by any stretch of the imagination.

But investors are trying to guess which way the fundamentals will drive the price of oil. Some maintain that the tail is actually wagging the dog here, that the futures price is actually driving the spot price. No doubt that this is true to some extent, the futures market is responsible for short term swings in the price of oil. But I have always maintained that only the fundamentals, that is supply and demand, can affect the long term trend in oil prices.

Ron P.

Russian 2010 oil output hits post-Soviet record

Energy Ministry data on Sunday showed the country extracted 10.145 million barrels per day last year, a record since the collapse of the Soviet Union, up from 9.93 million bpd in 2009 and 9.78 million bpd in 2008.

The government said last month it expects oil output to edge down this year.


It may be the case mother Russia hit PO november last year. As usual you need a rear mirror to confirm it.

(And saying "last year" about something less than 48 hours away still feels weird.)

Public Workers Facing Outrage as Budget Crises Grow

And a growing cadre of political leaders and municipal finance experts argue that much of the edifice of municipal and state finance is jury-rigged and, without new revenue, perhaps unsustainable. Too many political leaders, they argue, acted too irresponsibly, failing to either raise taxes or cut spending.

A brutal reckoning awaits, they say.

Re: the "Brutal reckoning," I am beginning to wonder if Illinois is an example of how most governments are going to face their growing budget problems, i.e., they will refuse to make any meaningful decisions, resulting in a slow motion series of defaults.

When a card dealer in Atlantic City complains about a teacher's salary, the societal irony is tremendous. A card dealer does not pass on knowledge to future citizens; a card dealer is a cog in a wealth-stripping machine; he merely is a vehicle to strip money and wealth from poorer people to enrich a few millionaires and billionaires. LOL. Of course, I see intrinsic value in teaching -- not sure many Americans actually feel similarly, since the teacher and not the card dealer is the whipping boy for the tirade against our economy. It is Shame that education not poor leadership is blamed on today's economic problems.

Why won't the government tell its people what the problem is-- IT is OIL -- so that the standard of living can be destroyed in an even-handed manner. What are billionaires saving their wealth for? LOL. They will have nothing to buy with it -- their assets are going to degrade and whither away. Targeting teachers is quite destructive to me culturally. It is picking on the symptom and not the cause of the social disease. Are teachers the problem? Or is it a broad problem? How expensive is a home, food and so forth? Why are we buying all this stuff. Is our standard of living sustainable? Is America past repair? Are we destined to be dumber in the years to come -- bringing a teaching salary and benefits down to a card peddler's?

God help the anti-intellectual strain of "thought" that is trying to destroy our educational institutions selectively, while maintaining the sense that we all need to drive an SUV. Once most of us become poor, we will then work for a billionaire to shine his shoes and all will be right again.

In any case, pensions are a real problem and they are not being fixed in a way that is fair to younger workers. The basic idea is to preserve the insanely high pensions for older workers and to strip most of the benefit from the younger workers. The cuts should be broader and flatter across all levels of employment, since the older employees actually contributed insufficiently to fund their own pensions -- and they know it too, hence the short-fall. The younger workers are paying more into a system that is bleeding for the older workers basically. The failure occurred long ago when they said the stock market would have a DOW of 30,000. LOL. Lacking foresight means that the failure should be extracted from those citizens that were 8 years old when the pension contribution was cut down to next to nothing--when a fireman worked until 55 and got full retirement benefits -- come on! I guess corruption runs the newspapers too. I guess they thought the "market would take care of it." Right? I imagine the younger worker will soldier on -- working to his death bed -- being sacrificed by the prior generation -- purely for their present-day, retired-at-55-years comforts. They deserve it, right! Name a teacher that retires like a fireman at 55. LOL. The NYTIMES is getting a little careless. They are forgetting the details and forgetting how to compare those retirement benefits between teachers, police and firemen and GASP politicians.

Blame the teachers -- lol -- they are the whole problem. wink wink
Inflation may be only potential future equalizer.

Best of luck and I hope the issue can be resolved in a way that levels the playing field for all generations. (LOL I already know it won't. We will burn the future to preserve the past. It is the American way.

Teachers are not anointed members of the post-9-11 heroes pantheon:

- Military members
- Policemen
- Firemen

(in that order)

Please don't forget the other whipping boys besides teachers:

- Anyone who makes something and belongs to a union

I am continually amazed by the U.S. public's toleranceof, even admiration of, the money-changers in the FIRE sector.

It seems that many people respect folks who can make bank working in an office clicking their mice much more than folks who get their hands dirty and make and fix things.

Of course many people worship major league sports players and media celebrities as well...

My wife taught high-school Spanish for three years...put her heart into it, did very well by her students, but after we moved to my next posting and beyond, she has elected not to go back.

Too much work and stress for too little pay.

LOL. Trading Paper. I wanted to add that to my tirade. Thanks for mentioning it!

I still put casinos underneath paper traders (lol) -- yes then the entertainment folks -- we worship them via our flat panel TV sets and cable TV and movie tickets and other commercialism interests. Sports hero -- wow -- what did they save or do to deserve such esteem and praise?

My wife taught science and reading. I helped her on the Science Fair offering advice of fellow graduate students to advise the students on their projects. Use the scientific method and you can go far in a science fair. That school sent its first students to the Illinois State fair. She was paid almost nothing and less than public school. It was a Catholic school. The school was falling apart. I was basically a volunteer IT guy (helping build computers from a pile of donations). That was like 10 years ago too. Cannot imagine that school is any better off today. Someday people will realize teachers are heros -- not sports characters.

I have judged middle and high-school science fairs in the past decade.

It was a fulfilling thing to do, but I was also taken aback by the fact that only about 20% of the projects were worthy of taking up space on the table/floor and people's time to even glance at.

The lack of even the most basic understanding of the scientific method by the majority was bothersome.

The 'copy-cat' syndrome was also most discouraging.

However, I did my best to give detailed, constructive feedback, especially when students seemed interested and receptive.

But...the young people who presented the projects which were informative and intriguing, and who did their own work* or had minimal mentoring, made the experiences enjoyable and worthwhile. I encouraged these young people to continue their scientific inquires and pursue education and professions with which they could feel fulfillment and contribute greatly to society.

* There were usually a few posers who had fancy equipment provided by their parents from their work (engineering/science labs) and whose parents/etc. did their project for them...I could confirm these cases by asking probing questions about their hypotheses and method and how they planned their experiments and collected data and then listening to them stumble badly and indicate that someone else (Daddy, Mommy, or Uncle Phil) did the heavy lifting.

I guess my sense of it is that lots of people are feeling insecure about their futures, and there is a mad scramble as people try and protect their own fortunes. Kind of like the rush for the lifeboats on the Titanic, they are willing to throw others overboard if that means that they have a greater chance of survival.

In this particular case, unions are a favorite bogeyman of the right, and my sense is that the plan is to try and force the states and cities into insolvency to make it possible for them to void the union contracts.

I was talking to a woman yesterday who does belong to a union. She hated the thing, but because of who she worked for, she had to pay 50$/mo. She claimed it went for fancy union halls, cell phones, cars and nice trips of one sort or another. She said that years ago unions were needed, but the unions of today had grown fat and bloated. And yet if you were to wave a magic wand and make all unions disappear, I suspect that eventually the need for them would return for the same reasons they came into being nearly 100 years ago.

In this particular case, unions are a favorite bogeyman of the right

I think that has too causes. One is that the rich conservative donors want to squash them and claim a larger piece of the pie for themselves. the second is that unions are one of the few leftish leaning interest groups who can fund the opposition. Any group who trends away from yours is your (political) foe.

Or you could view unions as one more sort of largess afforded by the wealth of ample resources.

I think the standard of living of everyone is generally an affect of cheap oil.

The issue at hand to consider is who "deserves" to preserve their standard of living longer. Obviously, the situation is being exploited to help certain professions dominate the politicking. Gee Health Care made out like bandits recently. LOL. These value judgments are really what define our culture.

If teaching is at the bottom of the heap, then we are finally moving to become a failed society. Wise members of a community are generally highly regarded -- not so in the US.

The example above was to point out that teachers are being targeted rather strategically, which to me means that Finance, Insurance, police, firemen, and RE are hanging out glad handing each other saying, "Good work we got Joe Six Pack after Teacher Sally. Hopefully, they can gut teachers and we get to keep our bonuses."

Joe Six Pack actually thinks the carnage will stop after teachers. LOL.

That is the general situation today. It is like the end of the movie Reservoir Dogs. Everyone is aiming their weapon at the other guy. We know how this movie ends. A bloodbath. I expect nothing less. First Firemen, Police and Teachers, then the finance and real estate folks (who somehow still are just above teacher and Union despite their recent lackluster performance in the markets and housing sector). Fraud has a magical quality to itself I guess. Somehow politicians make out well in this. Gee I wonder why -- they are doing such a great job managing the country.

The other front of this war is to degrade other Nations. First it was Africa, then southeast Asians (Asian financial crisis), Now the PIIGS, and so on. Capitalism no longer is producing much of anything; it is mainly reallocating. Until the game is understood, expect the game to be used to protect certain demographics specifically. When it gets to be obvious, expect social problems to come about. Seems the French are waking up. The Greeks kind of understood and reacted.

To look at it another way, it used to be that businesses needed a strong and healthy middle class to sell their goods to. But right now the American consumer is completely tapped out - loaded up with excessive amounts of debt. You can almost view J6P just like a depleted oilfield - the multinationals are interested in "developing" and exploiting consumers in other countries as there is now more "growth potential" there.

Agreed I can see that is in the works. The idea is to get growth from somewhere and Chindia has the extra impoverished people to make that happen--and they all work for less than $.50 an hour in unheated factories to boot. But their growth rate is fairly unbelievable -- no recessions or problems for them -- no growing pains at all -- no speculative bubbles with all the money being poured in haphazardly. Maybe I am financially naive and China is growing in a realistic and sustained manner.

But that still leaves the US with the quandary who "deserves" to preserve their wealth more?

Clearly, in the US, the transfer of wealth to the rich is obviously the financial game plan being implemented by TPTB -- a coordinated effort of finance, politicking, and the media.

Without a middle class, there will not be many folks to sell those newspapers, tvs, cars and toys to in the meantime. China is still a far cry from being a real consumer society. The just are a construction society -- building things that are not yet needed -- using their magical planning methods. LOL

I think unions will probably do well in the post-carbon age. What gutted labor was offshoring, and if Jeff Rubin is right, and everything becomes more local, unions will see their power increase.

Unions are tied to ample resources in the sense that they were made necessary by the industrial age. But their roots go farther back than that, to the guilds of craftsmen that date to hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

Also from the article:

Robert Master, political director for the Communication Workers of America District 1 ... [says] “Our challenge is how to defend middle-class health and retirement security, not just for our members but for all working families, when over the past 30 years retirement and health care in the private sector have been essentially demolished.”

In plain English, 'oops, we lost that battle years ago, where can we find a time machine to take us back so we can win it instead?' Now I'm as confused as he is.

Well at least they mentioned this:

Governor Christie talked about tough choices this past year — then skipped the state’s required $3.1 billion payment. Now New Jersey has a $53.9 billion unfunded pension liability.

In fact, no NJ governor in the last 20 years has done much, if anything, concerning pension funding - unless you count the moves by former Governor Whitman to take money out of the retirement plans, which was later ruled to be illegal, and reversed.

So its clearly that NJ government chose to neglect funding - just as the federal government is not planning on meeting all its future health care obligations implied now for future retirees. I guess people are mad because unions have gotten good benefits, instead of blaming our leaders for allowing that and not planning to hold up their end of the bargain. Apparently the easiest and closest target usually gets the blame. Anyway you can't make a governor that left 10 years ago correct the problems of today.

This is a good example of our budget problems today - problems dropped in the lap of today by those in the past that did not want to deal with those problems.

As far as defaults, my understanding is that US government financed "build America bonds" ended on Dec. 31, so that states will almost immediately have funding problems in the new year - more specifically they will be paying much higher interest rates without the federal subsidy. Technically I am not sure if states can go bankrupt, but they could just stop paying bills with dollars - perhaps issuing script in lieu of cash, that is IOUs.

I think that cities can file for municipal bankruptcy, with consent from the state government. For states, as noted above, I suspect that we are effectively looking at slow motion default. In the case of Illinois, I think that the unpaid bills are in excess of $4 billion.

In any case, as noted earlier, Texas will be an interesting case history, as a Tea Party influenced GOP, in full control of state government, confronts the worst projected deficit in state history.

Items on Illinois and the federal debt:

(Illinois Gov.) Quinn wants to borrow billions

Gov. Quinn wants to borrow billions of dollars to pay down the state’s operating and pension deficits, a proposal some lawmakers say faces an uphill battle when they return to Springfield Jan. 3 for the lame-duck legislative session.

The governor is considering borrowing $15 billion to balance the state’s largest ever budget deficit — currently at more than $12 billion, and projected to reach by June 30 the amount the governor reportedly wants to borrow.

Austan Goolsbee: Hitting Debt Ceiling Would Be 'First Default In History Caused Purely By Insanity'

NEW HAVEN -- There are, it seems, only two major issues that have a set time frame for political brinkmanship between the White House and Congressional Republicans. The Bush tax cuts will make for an interesting election-year dynamic when they expire in two years. Well before that, however, the president will have to persuade GOP leadership to ignore Tea Party insistence and allow for the country's debt ceiling to be raised.

I think that cities can file for municipal bankruptcy, with consent from the state government.

I know counties can. Here in California, Orange County went bankrupt in the mid-90s, and my county is right up against the edge and may file this year if their other options fall through.

Looks like a snapshot of America's future. Crumbling cities. Wastelands. Empty libraries and busted pianos. The American Dream fully gutted.

That East Side Public Library photo...they just abandoned the library with all the books inside? What happened? Was there a fire or something?

I can't believe they would just leave the books.

I was looking at Highland Park, MI in Google Earth, and I could see a few buildings where the roof was failing (you can see large holes). But there are other buildings nearby that seem just fine (with cars in the parking lots).

This is probably the first time I have ever found Google street view to have much value. From the air you can't tell much about a building (whether it is occupied and if so, by what). But from the street view it is much clearer what the current status is. There are numerous buildings that have businesses that appear to be open, and there are cars and people all over the place.

I found one four-story building where the roof had clearly failed and from the street you could see the sky by looking through the upper floor windows.

Greetings, all, from balmy Medford, Massachusetts. Medford is 3 towns over from Boston, a traditional New England city that has only minimally been flattened and sprawled out in the 20th Century, and for that I am grateful.

You may recall a blizzard from last week that dumped 2 feet of snow on us. As usual, it provoked the right wing talking heads to mock global warming. Well, we've now had a long string of days with highs in the 50's F and lows above freezing, and the 2 feet of snow are steadily melting away. It's quite a counterpoint to compare to this town's history.

A folk song written here 150 years ago, Over the River and Through the Woods was about travelling my sleigh over deep snow on Thanksgiving. And another one, Jingle Bells was about the Christmas tradition of liquor-fueled sleigh races in the town's distillery district. And on New Year's Day I walked out in just a sweater to look at this blizzard melting away.

The forests around here are having trouble with tree-killing bugs, now that the winter chill fails to kill them off. But clearly this freak storm nullifies the entire coorpus of knowledge in climatology...

You might have heard of this guy,

Dr. Paul Epstein, speaking on Democracy Now! last week.. (associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. Co-author of the forthcoming book Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It.)

Now, if we look at the infectious disease for a moment here, as I mentioned, we’ve seen Lyme disease, carried by ticks, an arachnoid in the spider family, grow tenfold in Maine this decade and move up to the northern latitudes. Now, if we look at the United States overall, it’s warned about one degree Fahrenheit in the last hundred years. Maine has warmed two degrees, but the winters have gone up three degrees. In Alaska, the temperature is even more dramatic. We’ve seen increase in overall temperatures, 3.4 degrees, and winters have warmed a startling 6.4 degrees. So, Alaska is experiencing mosquitoes, stinging insects. And then these forest beetles, that are from Arizona all the way up to Alaska, decimating forests, and they are overwintering, moving to higher latitudes, moving to higher altitudes, sneaking in more generations each year. And the droughts dry the trees, dry the rosin that normally drowns the beetles as they try to drive through the bark. So the extremes weaken the trees. The temperatures and warming and lack of chilling frosts embolden the pests. And we’re seeing this dramatic increase.

But that’s not the whole story with infectious disease. It’s also these floods and droughts. It’s the extreme weather events that affect the timing, the intensity, the location of outbreaks. After floods, we see upsurges of malaria in many countries, just as we’re seeing floods set off cholera in Haiti, combined with the impacts of the earthquake, of course. And in droughts, we often see diseases like dengue fever, where people store water about their houses and the Aedes aegypti that carries that disease flare—surges. So it’s the extremes as well as the warming that affect infectious disease. In this country, we’ve mapped it out. Over-two-inches-a-day rains are associated with waterborne disease outbreaks from E. coli, Cryptosporidium. So again, it’s not just the warming; it’s the extreme weather events that affect either timing, intensity of infectious disease outbreaks.

.. He goes on to speak about various insects/beetles that are ravaging woodlands, etc.. a whole range of climate-induced nightmares, all burgeoning..

In an effort to try and simplify my own understanding of peak oil, etc., I tried to define oil in the most basic economic terms of supply & demand, along with cost as it pertains to certain period phases of oil extraction.

1st: Supply increases as needed to meet demand at low prices, spurring high percentage GDP and population growth. 1850-2005

2nd: Supply plateaus meeting demand at higher prices, causing lower percentage GDP growth, high debt loads, initiating economic step downs to a lower average standard of living. 2005-?

3rd: Supply descends failing to meet demand at much higher prices, spurring maximization of non-conventional oil, rationing, negative GDP and loss of complexity.

4th: Supply of all sources of oil, conventional and non-conventional are insufficient to continue BAU, causing monetary collapse, hoarding, failure to bring staples to market, unrest, resource wars, die off.

The first phase was the longest period, with each subsequent period lasting for a shorter duration than the previous one. Meaning, phase 4 could occur quite quickly after phase 3 and be over in a flash.