Drumbeat: January 7, 2011

Algeria tries to crack down on riots

ALGIERS, Algeria — Police faced off against rioting youths, Muslim prayer leaders called for calm and authorities canceled football matches Friday as Algeria tried to quell unrest over rising food prices.

New clashes between youths and police were reported Friday in the cities of Annaba, Oran, Bouira and Bejaia. El Watan newspaper's Web site showed a photo of a barricade in flames on a main avenue of the city of Tizi Ouzou.

Youths in the North African nation have been rioting for days following sudden price hikes for staples including sugar, flour and oil. There is also generalized frustration that Algeria's abundant gas and oil resources have not translated into broader prosperity.

The newest big oil company: China?

FORTUNE -- You know the major players in big oil -- Shell, Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron and a handful of other fuel goliaths. Soon though, it might be time to add China to that list. The country's national oil companies are starting to gain ground with the majors.

The tension between national oil companies gaining strength and big multinationals hasn't really come to a head yet. But there could be obstacles on the horizon for big companies such as Exxon Mobil that need to partner with the national companies tied to the last big oil reserves.

Crack Spreads, Oil Futures, and $5 Gasoline

There is one way to follow how the buyers and sellers of oil actually view what the market is doing. It is how both the traders in paper barrels (the future contracts) and wet barrels (the actual underlying crude or oil products) attempt to wrestle with less predictable moves up and down in the price.

It's called a "crack spread." This is the term for the difference in the profit margin of crude versus the profit margin of the various petroleum products that can be extracted from it – how much a refinery can expect to make from "cracking" the petroleum.

US natgas rig count falls for 5th week-Baker Hughes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. natural gas drilling rig count fell for the fifth straight week, according to Baker Hughes data on Friday, stirring expectations the steady decline could finally lead to a slowdown in production this year from record or near record high output in 2010.

The overall number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States dropped by 5 this week to 914, a 10-month low. The count is down nearly 8 percent after hitting 992 in mid-August, its highest since February 2009, when 1,018 rigs were drilling for gas.

FACTBOX-Recent Canadian oil sands upgrader mishaps

(Reuters) - The upgrading plant at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd's Horizon oil sands operation in northern Alberta caught fire on Thursday, halting output at the 110,000 barrel a day facility for an indefinite period.

The blaze is the latest in a series of mishaps at such units, which are complex and expensive tangles of pipes and vessels that transform raw bitumen from the oil sands into light synthetic crude that can be used as feedstock for refineries around the continent.

Japan firms eye mega LNG project / Mitsubishi, Mitsui investment in huge Russian gas fields could be risky

The nation's two major trading houses, Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corp., are considering joining a massive liquefied natural gas project on Russia's Yamal Peninsula on the Arctic Ocean, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Ousted governor wins re-run in Nigerian oil state

The governor of one of Nigeria’s main oil states was declared the winner on Friday of an election seen as a litmus test for national polls in April, but his opponent questioned the conduct of the vote.

Oil still fouling La. marshes, tour finds

PORT SULPHUR, La. – Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster remains in marshes off the coast of Louisiana, where officials renewed complaints Friday about the cleanup effort by BP and the federal government.

State and parish officials took media on a boat tour of Barataria Bay, pointing out areas where oil is collecting in marshes and protective boom is either absent or overwhelmed by the oil.

Wind turbine supplier failure leaves SSE unfazed

(Reuters) - The financial collapse of a Scottish wind turbine parts plant has put 130 jobs at risk, but customer Scottish and Southern Energy said on Friday it posed no threat to wind farms the utility is developing.

2011's green homes to be cheaper, smarter, tighter

What will be the top 2011 trends in green building? A non-profit research group expects green homes will become increasingly affordable, smart and energy-efficient -- all trends that Green House agrees are likely.

The UK Gives a Taste of What's Ahead for the US

Another worry related to the potential diminution of spending power is the troublesome rise in crude prices. Net demand is not up appreciably, and Saudi production remains relatively low. Peak oil dynamics could well be at work here and in a broader sense, what Paul Krugman describes - “we're living in a finite world, in which the rapid growth of emerging economies is placing pressure on limited supplies of raw materials, pushing up their prices” could well prove accurate. Which, in the absence of countervailing support to incomes via fiscal policy or increased private sector activity which increases jobs, means cuts in other areas of discretionary spending, hardly a healthy trend in a world still constrained by inadequate demand.

The Financial Crisis Is the Environmental Crisis

An economy is often likened to a machine, though few economists follow the parallel to its logical conclusion: like any machine the economy must draw energy from outside itself. The first and second laws of thermodynamics forbid perpetual motion, schemes in which machines create energy out of nothing or recycle it forever. Soddy criticized the prevailing belief in the economy as a perpetual motion machine, capable of generating infinite wealth. That belief is nowhere more clearly manifest than in how we treat money.

Canadian Oil-Sands Fire Brings WTI Back From Supercontango, JPMorgan Says

The shutdown of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s 110,000-barrel-a-day Horizon oil sands project after a fire may bring benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude back from a ‘supercontango’ and narrow its discount to Brent oil, according to analysts at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

UK's Cameron urges OPEC to boost crude production

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron urged OPEC on Wednesday to boost production of crude after a recent rise in oil prices to 27-month highs.

The increase in oil prices, combined with petrol duty and sales tax rises, have pushed petrol prices in Britain to record highs and brought complaints from consumer groups.

Watch out for heating oil thieves

POLICE yesterday feared a sharp rise in heating oil thefts because of a fuel shortage.

It follows a 70 per cent rise in the cost of domestic heating oil over the last few months and bleak predictions of “fuel rationing” over the New Year.

NFU Mutual, UK’s leading rural insurer, is advising homeowners to take steps to protect their supply.

Operation Fuel Trying To Heat Homes in Cold Economic Climate

With freezing temperatures bearing down on the Nutmeg State, Operation Fuel is bracing itself for what looks to be the toughest year in the organization's 33-year history.

The Bloomfield-based organization, which provides emergency energy assistance to households throughout the state, is fighting an uphill battle to help families stay warm this season, while sustaining a significant decline in funding.

Mexico's Pemex fires 45 in deadly pipeline blast

MEXICO CITY: Mexico's state-run Petroleos Mexicanos has fired 45 employees for stealing fuel after a deadly oil pipeline blast killed 29 people last month, the company's director said Wednesday.

Cyprus minister: Shell has best gas supply offer

Cyprus' commerce minister says Royal Dutch Shell PLC has made the best offer to supply the country with natural gas.

Statoil voices Shtokman fears

Norwegian giant Statoil said it faced rising corruption and other "serious challenges" at Russia's giant Shtokman gas development, according to a US cable leaked to whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

Israel giddy over new offshore gas find

Just how far reaching are the potential changes for Israel?

"For most of Israel’s history it has potentially been an energy-starved country. These discoveries are really manna from heaven. Having its own supply of natural gas will give Israel long-term energy security,’’ says Brenda Shaffer, a professor of political science at Haifa University who focuses on energy politics.

Russia's Gazprom shackled by corruption: U.S. cables

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin's ambition of turning Gazprom, the world's biggest gas company, into a global energy titan is undermined by Soviet-style thinking, poor management and corruption, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.

Hold that Megawatt!

“Frequency regulation,” an esoteric but increasingly important element of the electric system, is getting a new competitor.

Frequency regulation is as critical as voltage control or generating capacity but is not something that most customers notice, at least until it goes catastrophically wrong. It means fine-tuning the system to keep supply and demand in balance.

Green Power for the Empire State Building

Amid a more general makeover, the owners of the Empire State Building have spent the last couple of years burnishing the 80-year-old landmark’s green bona fides as well — chiefly though a series of efficiency upgrades and other energy retrofits.

On Thursday, the building’s caretakers announced another milestone: it has become the largest commercial purchaser of renewable power in the state.

New York's transportation chief is a latter-day Robin Hood

Just as in London, a radical shift in priorities – though Sadik-Khan would never put it this way, a "Robin Hood strategy" of robbing roadspace and investment from the transport-rich (ie, motorists) to pay the transport-poor (ie, public transport users, cyclists and pedestrians) – has been brilliantly marketed as "what's best for business". Congestion – sclerotic city arteries clogged with traffic – is economically inefficient, ergo making mass transit work serves the city's economy. Since 96% of Wall Street's workforce goes to the office by subway, bus, boat, bike or on foot, keeping the city moving and making it prosperous are of a piece. As Sadik-Khan has been known to tell top executives, "Biking is the new golf."

John Michael Greer: The tarpaper shack principle

At a time when plenty of people are still insisting that the whole world can adopt a middle-class lifestyle powered by renewable energy resources, Burr cited hard numbers from a representative case study – his own solar-powered home – to show why high-tech renewables are at most a way station partway down the Long Descent. His argument will be familiar to readers of this blog: the photovoltaic system that powers his home won’t generate enough electricity in its lifetime to both account for the power that goes into making and maintaining it, and provide enough electricity to maintain a modern lifestyle for its end user. Burr went on to suggest, reasonably enough, that using high-tech renewables is still a good idea for now, since it will help cushion the future in which green plants may well turn out to be the most efficient source of primary energy around.

He’s likely right, but there are challenges in the way of even so modest a project. The obvious issue – the fact that the very large number of people closing in on their 99th and last week of unemployment benefits, and the even larger number caught in the stagflationary vise of dwindling wages and soaring bills, aren’t going to be in any position to buy and install expensive photovoltaic systems – is symptomatic of a far more profound and pervasive difficulty.

They'll serve cocktails at the oil crash

Set in the cocktail lounge of a hotel at Toronto's airport in the present day, Douglas Coupland's fictional vision of an oil-crisis apocalypse is so frightening because it seems so plausible.

Sharon Astyk: 31 Books - The Resilient Gardener

Most garden books assume that you are gardening for pleasure, rather than from need, and often assume one has more money to spend than many of us do and no need to prioritize crops or space or time. They are good books, but often ill-adapted to difficult or hard times. The category of books that is well adapted to these is fairly small, and from one reason or another, often have some deep flaws that make them hard for me to recommend. But there's a real need for gardening books that actually address the reality - that gardening isn't about $64 tomatoes, but about keeping people fed in practical, inexpensive ways.

A Steady Dose of Atmospheric Detergent

To start the new year on a hopeful note, here is a piece of good news about the environment. A new study suggests that the level of a substance that acts as a kind of detergent in the atmosphere is a lot steadier than previously believed.

That may not sound like a big deal, but it is: it means that future pollution levels can be predicted with some confidence from current and projected emissions, and that the study therefore provides a firmer scientific basis for regulations and other efforts aimed at controlling those emissions. The affected pollutants include many of those that come from burning fossil fuels, as well as some gases that contribute to global warming, notably methane.

Sydney to welcome 1200 people per week

SYDNEY is forecast to welcome 1200 new people every week for the next 30 years.

Most will drift to the outer suburbs, making their homes in housing tracts with new housing estates stretching into the distance.

As they drive into the city, they're likely to pass their local service station and sigh at its glowing, ever-increasing prices.

This is the non-alarmist version of our oil-constrained future.

It's oil good news folks!

READ a 20-year-old newspaper and today we should be living in a world without oil and garages without cars. The doomsday predictions shouted that oil was running out fast and soon, the car industry would die, personal freedom would expire and only the wealthy would find comfort in tiny battery-powered vehicles.

But quite obviously it hasn't happened. In fact, in 2009, world consumption of oil actually reversed by 1.7 per cent, measuring the biggest decline since 1982.

Global reserves, according to BP's 2010 Statistical Review of World Energy, rose by 700,000 million barrels to 1.33 trillion barrels.

Crude Oil Rebounds From Lowest in Three Weeks as U.S. Payrolls Increase

Crude gained as the Labor Department said the unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent, lower than forecast by economists. Still, futures are headed for a second weekly decline after gains to a 27-month high of $92.58 earlier this week prompted traders to lock in profits by selling contracts.

“The economic outlook is still good, and everything is pointing to further growth,” said Gerrit Zambo, a trader at Bayerische Landesbank in Munich. “Right now we’re consolidating within an upward channel. I see a good possibility of oil reaching $100 a barrel within January, as long as there are no economic surprises.”

Gasoline Profit's 5-Month High Means U.S. Imports to Rise

Gasoline shipments to the U.S. from Europe are poised to rebound in January after profit from the trade jumped to the highest level in almost five months.

Crude Oil May Decline Next Week as Hedge-Fund Buying Drops, Survey Shows

Oil may fall for a third consecutive week on speculation buying by hedge funds will decline after bullish bets on crude oil rose to the highest level in more than four years in December, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Exxon's LNG Output From Indonesia's Arun May Drop on Depleting Reserves

Liquefied natural gas production from Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Arun plant in Indonesia’s Aceh province may drop 24 percent in 2011 from a year earlier as deposit of the cleaner-burning-fuel dwindle, a company official said.

India says sees Iran oil payment row solution by Feb

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India hopes to resolve an oil payments dispute with Iran before February, the foreign secretary said on Friday, as the South Asian giant strives to satisfy energy needs without upsetting the United States.

Oil Tankers Sail to Indian West Coast From Iran Amid Gridlock Over Payment

Three crude oil tankers from Iran, OPEC’s second-biggest oil producer, sailed for India’s west coast in January while the nations discussed ways to resolve a gridlock over payments for the fuel.

Ghana: Prez. Mills: Blame NPP for fuel price hikes

President John Evans Atta Mills has asked the Opposition NPP to apologize to Ghanaians for the current fuel price hikes which is the result of the huge indebtedness of the Tema Oil Refinery.

Sudan Vote May Shift Control of Oil Pumped by CNPC

In Southern Sudan, the open palm symbol of secession is splattered across billboards and T-shirts as the region prepares to vote in a referendum that may divide sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil producer.

Report urges transparency over Sudan oil revenues

(CNN) -- A report released Thursday calls for more transparency over Sudan oil revenues to avoid conflict as the nation prepares for a vote that could see it split into two.

Southern China's Freezing Weather Forces Closure of Power Generating Units

China Datang Corp. shut some power- generation units after sleet and freezing weather in the southern part of the nation disrupted fuel deliveries, the provincial government said.

German 2012 Power Holds Steady Near Highest in Four Months; Carbon Drops

German electricity for delivery in 2012 held steady near a four-month high after coal prices soared. European Union carbon permits slid.

Canadian Natural oil sands facility on fire

CALGARY - A fire broke out on Thursday at Canadian Natural Resources Ltd’s Horizon Oil Sands facility north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, injuring three workers, the company said on Thursday.

Horizon’s upgrader, which converts bitumen stripped from the oil sands into synthetic crude, was “fully engulfed in flames,” a Fort McMurray radio station, Mix 103.7, reported on its website. It said one of the injured workers suffered third-degree burns.

Chris Huhne answers your questions – Part two

Your department is refusing to disclose a secret report on peak oil written for ministers, despite admitting in other documents that “secrecy around the topic is probably not good”. Why are you hiding information on how serious a threat peak oil is from the public?

First leg of Nord Stream nearly complete

BERLIN (UPI) -- The first leg of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea is 70 percent completed, a pipeline manager for Germany announced.

Al Qaeda hits Yemen army convoy, 10 killed

(Reuters) - Al Qaeda militants attacked a military convoy in south Yemen on Friday, killing 10 soldiers and wounding three, a regional security official said.

Oil found in ancient South Downs woodland

An oil company has confirmed it has been successful in drilling for oil in a corner of ancient woodland in West Sussex.

MPs warn against deep sea oil drilling ban

LONDON (AFP) – A moratorium on oil drilling in deep waters off Britain would undermine the country's energy security, according to a report by MPs published on Thursday in response to the BP spill disaster last year.

However the study by the Energy and Climate Change Committee noted that extra precautions should be considered to ensure that a deepwater drilling disaster does not occur here.

Panel: Gulf oil spill could happen again

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Disasters like the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig could happen again without significant reform, according to the conclusions of a presidential panel that has the companies involved in the nation's largest oil spill pointing fingers at each other again.

Exxon CEO disputes panel finding on BP spill cause

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp's chief executive officer disputed findings from a White House commission that lax industry practices were to blame for last year's massive BP oil spill.

BP, Transocean shrug off scathing oil spill report

LONDON (Reuters) – Shares in BP Plc and Transocean shrugged off a scathing report from U.S. Presidential panel which blamed the United States' worst ever oil spill on risky decisions the companies made.

Bacteria gobbled methane from BP spill: scientists

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Bacteria ate nearly all the potentially climate-warming methane that spewed from BP's broken wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico last year, scientists reported on Thursday.

Buffett Boosts Insurance for Oil Drillers After BP’s Gulf Spill

(Bloomberg) -- Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the holding company run by Warren Buffett, will expand insurance coverage for oil and gas drilling as the U.S. lawmakers debate removing a liability cap after BP Plc’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A Son of the Bayou, Torn Over the Shrimping Life

At 19, Aaron Greco was struggling with whether to follow his father and become a gulf fisherman when the BP oil spill made the decision more difficult.

GM-Powermat deal turns cars into cordless chargers

Recharging smartphones, digital music players and other personal electronics cordlessly will be as easy as dropping them onto the console of a car under a deal being announced today by General Motors.

But GM might have a bigger goal in sight. The deal with Powermat offers the possibility that someday soon electric cars could be recharged without plugging them in.

Growing solar industry faces green backlash

PAICINES, Calif. — When Mike Peterson jumped into a colleague's single turboprop Pilatus and flew over the remote central California valley that he now hopes to turn into a solar plant, he saw sunshine, flat land that would require little grading and two big transmission lines to tap into. "Wow," he remembers thinking at the time. "God made this to be a solar farm."

But when Kim Williams looks out at that same land from her low-slung ranch house, she sees an area rich with wildlife that is helping support her grass-fed chicken farm, her neighbor's cattle operations and her peaceful way of life. She supports solar energy on a small scale -- the electric fence around her chicken coop is powered by solar -- but says when she learned about the solar plant she felt shock and disbelief. Now, she's suing to block it.

The push to create an alternative to carbon-based fuel has hit an unlikely snag: environmentalists.

U.K. Solar Installations Hit Record in 2010 on Higher Incentives

The U.K., which had its 12th coldest year on record in 2010, installed more solar power than in any other year, data from the energy regulator Ofgem show.

Solar Startup Plans Big Factory in S.C.

As American solar companies face intense competition with low-cost Chinese manufacturers, a Silicon Valley photovoltaic cell maker has announced that it will open a huge factory in South Carolina.

Uranium Mill in Colorado Gets License

DENVER — Colorado regulators on Wednesday approved a license for the first new rock-crushing uranium mill to be built in the United States in more than 25 years to make fuel for nuclear power plants.

Nuclear waste panel tours southeast atomic site

The head of Southern Co.'s nuclear wing is urging a national panel charged with recommending ways to dispose of highly radioactive waste to bury it in the Nevada mountains, while local environmental groups said that waste should stay put until a final solution is found.

Six commissioners and co-chairman Brent Scowcroft of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future began a two-day trip to the Southeast on Thursday with a visit to a former nuclear weapons complex near Aiken, S.C. It comes amid deep uncertainty over how the United States should dispose of nuclear waste.

Report: Battery plant poisons hundreds of children in China

Beijing (CNN) -- More than 200 children have elevated levels of lead in their blood caused by a battery plant near their communities in eastern China, state media said.

Australia: New council a no-go for now

Cr Griffin said one of the advantages of the larger amalgamated council was the ability to implement strategies in areas such as transportation, energy production, biodiversity, climate change and peak oil that can have an overall benefit to people living in Noosa and throughout the Coast.

She said this first four years of the Sunshine Coast council will establish the key foundations for a more sustainable future.

Greeting the Fall of the Empire: a Message of Peace

Please join me in greeting the fall of the U.S. Empire, a healthy way to begin this new year. It is a positive sentiment among some thoughtful Americans. Their ungiddy feeling flows from observation of world developments and the state of the U.S. political system and economy. The timetable is fuzzy, but trends are clear. It's not pretty, but there is a thin silver lining.

High Poverty Neighborhood Tackles Peak Oil - First "Transition Slum" Launched

The Transition Movement has spread like wildfire across the planet. Yet when the Transition USA movement was featured in the New York Times, some interviewees grumbled that the touchy-feely hippy aspects were only appealing to a self-selecting niche of green minded people. Likewise, others have pondered how this community-lead response to peak oil and climate change can avoid becoming just a rebranding of the decidedly middle class back-to-the-land movement, or becoming just a gathering place for seed swappers and doom-mongerers. Let's see what the launch of the world's first "Transition Slum" does to break those perceptions.

Energy Education for a New Generation

You’ve probably heard the classic proverb: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Collapsus, a new transmedia story-game directed by Tommy Pallotta, takes that maxim into its lungs and breathes new life into the issue of peak oil. With rumors of new electric cars and $5 gas in 2012 swirling, the message couldn’t be more timely.

A Bad Person Trying to Be Better: The Road Less Driven

Gas Prices. Peak Oil. Foreign Wars. Climate Change: Take your pick. From the time when Pharaohs were being hoisted about by their slaves, to ghost-riding my Volkswagen whip around L.A.’s strip malls, our modes of transportation require the energy of other resources to make them go.

In the 125 years since we started depending on oil to provide the vast majority of our various energy needs, we’ve burned through half of the world’s oil reserves (which took 300 million years to create). Today the United States transportation sector is still 97 percent dependent on these dwindling oil supplies.

Pretty cool, guy who’s driving 400 yards for fro-yo!

Good deeds fall victim to bad times

The sour economy is making it hard for non-profit groups to find volunteers as need grows and budget cuts force them to rely more on unpaid help.

Some prospective volunteers are busy job hunting, working second jobs or returning to work after a spouse's layoff. Others don't want volunteer work that requires driving because of high gas prices.

When eating organic was totally uncool

My mother sprinkled only fresh-cut grass in her garden, swearing by its ability to grow bigger and tastier vegetables. She often crossed dangerous lanes of traffic to get to a pile of lawn clippings. My sisters and I would jump out of the car to bag the grass, and we did it with the speed of a NASCAR pit crew, terrified of being seen by friends.

The parking lot of our neighborhood Kmart was a regular pickup spot for lawn clippings. In my teens, when merely being accused of shopping at Kmart was an epic embarrassment, you can imagine the horror I felt about being spotted stealing grass from its parking lot. "If anyone sees me, MY LIFE IS OVER!" I'd say. Unfortunately, dramatic teenage declarations of "life being over" didn't fly in Hmong households, not when there would always be someone around to remind you of the time he narrowly escaped the death camps.

How humankind was liberated from localism

My two youngest sons spent an enjoyable, if wet, summer tending to a pair of potted tomato plants. Growing some of our own food was an interesting distraction, illustrating the connection between food and the soil on which we all depend. But now that we are in the depths of winter, the cultivation is of minds in the classroom rather than plants in the garden.

Fortunately for my children, they can look forward to many more years of education. Food production is now organised at such large scales, using hydrocarbon-fuelled machines, that the input of carbohydrate-fuelled human labour is relatively small. Unlike previous generations, or those people still subsistence-farming in the developing world, large-scale agriculture has freed us from the land.

The burning question in Washington state

Officials are considering whether to allow the U.S. West Coast's first major coal export facility. Environmentalists say it would defeat the purpose of reducing the country's coal-based emissions.

Carbon Dioxide, the Bane of Environmentalists, Is in Demand in the Oil Industry

The Obama administration views carbon dioxide as a pollutant that warms the earth, and it imposed new regulations at the beginning of the year to begin to control CO2 emissions. But to Texas oilmen, carbon dioxide is a useful — and scarce — commodity that is vital to extracting hard-to-reach oil reserves.

E.P.A. Faces First Volley From the House

The newly empowered Republicans in the House aren’t wasting any time making good on their pledge to throttle the Environmental Protection Agency.

Carbon Taxes Are the Answer to Stalled Climate Negotiations, Expert Says

William Nordhaus argues that the cap-and-trade approach used in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol will not accomplish the goals of slowing climate change. As currently designed, it is both economically inefficient and ineffective and should be supplemented or replaced. Additionally, a carbon tax could be a useful means to cut budget deficits while meeting environmental objectives.

Floods can help Australia rise toward adaptation to climate change

The Queensland floods and other recent record-breaking weather events can help push Australia further toward becoming a world leader in adapting to the predicted effects of global warming.

Climate Scientists Deepening Skepticism of Democracy

Does a liberal democracy have sufficient resolve to stomach the economic and political sacrifices required to stabilize global warming?

A growing number of climate scientists believe the answer is “no.” In their view, democratic institutions are perpetuating climate change by precluding implementation of the politically unpalatable actions needed to reduce the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Rising prices rekindle peak oil debate

A noted environmental economist at Simon Fraser University believes the issue of peaking oil production will become irrelevant if humanity takes steps to address climate change.

Why are climate scientists ignoring peak oil and coal?

While criticising the pervasive obsession with infinite growth of our political and economic institutions, it appears that many (albeit not all) climate scientists hold the belief that human ingenuity will somehow substitute declining oil with different forms of natural-gas, liquefied-coal, shale gas, and other carbon fuels at prices that can sustain growth.

I saw part of "Prohets of Doom" (History Channel); amazing how many things are out to get us. Food for thought.

Just as an outsider, I got the impression that the more specialized an expert got the more blinded that expert became to other threats that the expert wasn't accustomed to seeing everyday.

Let me guess, Nate was the dashing looking fellow.

The "takeaway" message of Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update was that BAU was not an option for a planet of 7 billion+ humans. Their models repeatedly showed that without a change in course, something -- be it disease, famine, water-shortages, etc. -- would reduce the human population of the planet. Like Pogo said, "We've met the enemy..."

History Channel - Prophets Of Doom

It's quite interesting, there's a lot of good material for the SyFy channel there, but you need to realize that the commercial media can edit interviews to make people say more or less anything they want. Whether these people really wanted to say the things the media wanted them to say, I don't know.

And you need to realize that most media people are scientifically illiterate anyway. They don't actually understand what people are trying to say, they are just trying to make an entertaining show. They're paid to be entertaining, not to be accurate.

The part discussing Robots is completely nonsense. Examples:
South Korea, in 2020, will put a useful robot in each home. In 2011 there is no useful robot in sight, let alone create an entirely new industry producing millions of robots.
In not so distant future, robots will look like us (watch the beautiful girls in the plot) and will be so superior that they will treat us as nuisance, pets or pests. They are so powerful that they can do a Ph.D. in minutes.
Our brain has about 10^100 neuron connection, that is more in comparison than all the atoms of the universe. We have no clue how our brain works, where, for example, memory is "kept" (it is not stored as we think of storing info). 64,000 Intel chips packed in a computer (as in the Los Alamos one) is just a fast computer and not a thinking machine.

Bill Gates said that in 2030 the robot industry is the largest industry on earth. He is a simpleton at heart. In the 1070s he said that 64k memory is enough for the average user to do all he/she ever wants to do on a computer.

It is appalling reading this kind of predictions since, otherwise sane people, seem to have lost their baring on reality. In the same talk other participants (Kunstler) say that we are heading over a cliff and we have to live "what the sun can give us". This is in discrepancy to the above where billions or trillions of Dollar are needed to build a new industry.

Thanks, Paal,

Loved the WARNING: This Show Contains Propaganda

The comments are also quite amusing...

PROPAGANDA.....just what the Doctor ordered. This is, after all, TV.

So what did you expect? Reality?


Choose Wisely.

The Martian

They could have left out the Australian dude talking about nanotechnology and humans being wiped out by intelligent robots. That's right up there with UFOs. Could have included say James Hansen talking about rapid climate change instead.

Otherwise an excellent program.

I watched it as well, and enjoyed it overall. The visuals were set up to make you think all the participants had listened to the preceding presentations, which made the fifth guy's "Artillect" Robots of Death seem just funny, and out of place.

How with four presentations before him saying there will be less of everything, could this guy give a presentation about the future's home robots? He could have been positioned as a more general warning that dependence on complex systems will lead to disasters when they collapse under their own complexity. But instead they left him in there literally saying that robots may decide to remove the oxygen from the atmosphere.

I thought Mr. Hagens' concerns were unfounded, or at least he was careful enough not to say something he didn't want to say. Or maybe next to Robots of Death he sounded very reasonable when discussing the financial meltdown. I'd guess he would have liked to see the connection between natural resources and money made clearer.

One other thought: the contrast with the commercial breaks was amusing. Commercials for fast food, mattresses, car insurance in every break. Our local ads here were for a local jeweler, not looking to sell wares, but to buy unwanted gold and diamonds.

I just finished the first 2/3rds or so of the program and thought Nate did a great job. Kunstler too.

I bet it was hard to edit the pile of material down to the ~2 hour limit for the program. It's clear the final program did not necessarily accurately represent Nate's, or Jim's (or the others ?) understanding of the subjects discussed.

With that disclaimer, I think the program would make a very good 1st lab for an introductory biology-type class - commercials and all.

Plus the Water Guy. There is no shortage of water though.the problem is one of utilisation. Nate seemed to be used as the anchor .My initial reaction to the robot guy was to remember Asimov's 3 laws but then remembered where those led to, not to mention Agent Smith's theory in "The Matrix".The overall impression I came away with was "we are [redacted]".


Yes, the water guy and Rupert both did well.

Also, like you I do not dismiss the Singularity guy so quickly. There might be some industrialized areas that survive and possibly develop robotic drones "someday"... The Matrix and The Hunger Games came to mind during his discussion.

I guess the reason I dismiss the robots is that it is considerably further out in the future, and to me it seems unlikely that the energy and other resources will be available in order to allow for widespread availability of machines like this.

In addition, the guy started talking about "Moores Law", but it isn't a law - it is more of an observation of a trend. There is no guarantee that the trend will continue. In fact, if the economy really tanks, people would be hesitant to upgrade their existing machines and the market for newer/faster CPUs could crater. One might in fact argue that the market for computers with ultra-low power consumption might become the dominant trend (smartphones and tablet computers are already pushing limits in this direction).

You also get into other questions. Would a robot care if you were about to turn it off and salvage it for parts? Would a robot even care whether it produces offspring of some sort or another? Would a robot worry about whether who is going to make repairs as it reaches end-of-life? Would robots contemplate the meaning of their own existence and come up with their own notion of an afterlife? Would a robot become resentful if we asked it to work while we sat around and did nothing? We really have no idea as we have no idea what self-awareness in a computer would really look like. In the absence of this information, is far too easy to speculate and assume that they would be much like us, and I don't see any reason why this would be the case.

I agree with the timescale issue but OTOH the military are working hard on various drone projects right now. Moore's Law seems to be bottoming out but that seems to be stimulating multi core processors, that may well affect progress in the field of AI. One also needs to remember that the military don't worry so much about cost. It needs to be kept an eye on.

The point on the 3 laws is that they led the robots to decide that man was his own greatest danger and man had to be protected from man so they took control. Couple that with Smith's comparison of man to a virus and the idea gets a little more unsettling. Would robots recognise man as a virus and how would that conflict with the 3 laws? Perhaps, for self awareness, you should consider HAL's actions.

That said, I am going to concern myself more with oil, finance and water.


Re: It's oil good news folks! (uptop)

But while global oil reserves remain stable, Australian reserves are running out.

This article, from an Australian paper, is an early contender for the most non-sensical Cornucopian MSM article of the year award. Australian crude oil production is down by one-third since 2009, and according to article, the Australian government is forecasting an 85% decline in crude production over the next 10 years (presumably because of rapidly declining offshore production), but no worries, a global peak is decades away and we will have plenty of alternative sources of energy by then anyway.

Australian crude production (EIA);

This is basically a variation on a recurring theme--that the sum of the output of a group of regions that peak and decline will, worst case, hit a production plateau a few decades from now (Yergin) or sometime in the next century (Michael C. Lynch). In other words, oil wells peak, oil fields peak, oil regions peak, but the global sum of all the foregoing will virtually never peak. Must be nice on Fantasy Island.

Yeah, it's just like my credit card.

Incidentally, it might be a good idea to start doing an annual list of the 10 worst energy articles, and a list of the 10 best, of the previous year.

C'mon, WT, think about it. 10 best - some tough choices, sure, but doable. 10 worst - waaaaaaaaay too many choices.


By list of best articles, do you mean only on TOD?

I was thinking MSM + the blogosphere.

Should that be down 1/3 since 2000/2001?



This article appeared in the Cars Guide section of the paper. Noticed it when I was getting my morning cup of coffee.

WT,that article comes from a Murdoch paper.Do you really expect anything better than mindless boosterism from that lot? Not that the rest of the MSM in Australia are much better.
Complacency is the go here at present and has been for some time.We can't have the sheep getting disturbed now,can we? - bad for business.

Climate Scientists Deepening Skepticism of Democracy

Does a liberal democracy have sufficient resolve to stomach the economic and political sacrifices required to stabilize global warming?

A growing number of climate scientists believe the answer is “no.” In their view, democratic institutions are perpetuating climate change by precluding implementation of the politically unpalatable actions needed to reduce the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The left's authoritarian instincts come to the fore yet again. Somehow though, I agree with him slightly. China is doing far better to buy up farm land, produce wind and solar power as well as build electric cars. They're unabashedly imperialistic in their scope and aims and they are winning because of it. We, on the other hand, are trapped by convenient materialistic and cornucopian populism or monetized and corrupting lobbyism, rather than cold rational analysis which comes naturally to mildly authoritarian regimes.

Democracy, on the other hand, is usually reduced to bribes and cheap talk.
Perhaps there can be somekind of compromise? A way to consult the people in issues that are not as grave as Peak Oil but still relevant to their everyday lives in order to foster community cohesian but still retaining the need for drastic action by the government for issues of magnificient importantance á la Peak Oil.

On some, few and hyperimportant issues, people need to be told what to do or else the society collapses under it's own inability to mitigate and indeed solve future issues if all too much depends on a popularity contest that rests on what people want to hear rather what they need to hear.

Recent history seems to support the conclusion that our so-called democratic society is incapable of responding to long term problems. Thus, some other alternative means of governance may be required if humanity is to "solve" the problem of climate change before the effects of AGW reach dangerous proportions. I think the author's viewpoint is correct and thus nothing will be done about AGW until it's too late. Not good, IMHO...

E. Swanson

The counter-point to that argument however is that such rationale has been used in the past. The nazis and communists both truly believed they were doing the horrors they did in the greater good. People just didn't realize it at the moment they told themselves but, of course, the people would later on.

In both cases the people truly never did realize the supposed 'greatness' and that's why both are on the ash heap of historydid. Of course, comparing AGW to Nazism sounds horrible. I am not exactly doing that but I am warning, in a sense, against both yours and my rhetoric and to be aware that similar rhetoric has been done to justify horrible crimes. Even if global warming/climate change is a noble aim, the aim truly does not justify the means.

Or does it?

I'm convinced that existing democracies - especially the US - are *NOT* capable of tackling the big issues of the day. Not just climate change, but also peak oil and unsustainable use of resources generally, along with other problems.

That is not to say that democracy is *instrinsically* destined to fail. The real fault lies partially with an ignorant and poorly educated citizenry, and in institutions which present people with the wrong incentives. When short term profits get rewarded and long term strategies get punished, it's not surprise that people live for the moment. Change those factors and I can imagine a democratic society that does respond rationally.

Good luck educating the people and changing institutions in the US in time to deal with the problem. It may already be too late (that is my belief) - the Western democracies may have already failed.

However, as Nate has done such a good job of pointing out on this site, our nature deserves some of the blame too. We are not rational beings, and our irrationality comes in many forms and flavors. It is in our nature to value good stuff today more highly than good stuff tomorrow, let alone 10 years from now. Our shared biology is obviously independent of political organization, so it's possible that is the real culprit. So it's complicated.

Getting back to democracy vs. authoritarianism. I have no doubt that an authoritarian regime, with a Politburo containing the likes of Bill McKibben and Richard Heinberg would do much better than the current system at facing the big challenges of climate change and peak oil (as well as others). I also have no doubt that there would be horrific abuses in such a regime - political prisoners, secret police, etc. To make the point is not to necessarily enjoy the conclusion.

And in the end, it doesn't really matter. We are not going to get a Politburo of Nate Hagens, Leanan and Prof. Goose. We're going to get the Tea Party crazies instead. We don't get to make even this horrible choice, as it turns out.

All there is to do is watch and either laugh or cry. Or both.

I would argue that the whole premise of the US being a democracy is bunk. We're a corporatocracy. Our corporations -- and thus our collective financial interests -- rule the country, by far trumping any influence of the individual citizen.

Look at a country such as Germany or Denmark, where democracy is still relatively intact. They're taking some dramatic (though woefully insufficient imho) steps to curb climate change. Much of it is a result of the greater influence of the individual citizen, but also a result of a far less corporate media in either country. They aren't fed the same hogwash most TV viewing Americans are gobbling up.

Much of it is that the U.S. is simply too large and complex, and uses too much energy.

China and India are very large, but they are much poorer, and they use considerably less energy per capita. China will undoubtedly crash as well and this will surprise the world.

Western Europe, Japan etc. are developed, aging, and they have much better cities and considerably more educated populations which will help the mitigation, though they have very far to fall.

Out of these places, the U.S. is in the most precarious position, because it has the farthest to fall. Our entire society is based around extreme levels of energy consumption, and making as much money as possible.

Take that away and this is a hollow nation.

America cannot exist as a low energy nation! This battle has already been fought folks, it was lost in 1980. It can't be done, it's not in our DNA. It will take Civil War 2.0 or collapse to get us there.

the whole premise of the US being a democracy is bunk.

Right up front, the CIA factbook calls the US of A a Republic, not a democracy.

Not that I expect you actually buy their response, but just to hear you pulling your definitions from the CIA factbook sort of surprises me.


See, ya can go a couple of ways with that.

You can call 'em "not competent" claim the US of A is a Democracy and point at all the blunders of the CIA over the years as supporting evidence.

Or ya can go with the CIA does get things right - and whip out the Ben Franklin quote "a Republic - if you can keep it" or "and to the Republic, for which it stands" from the Pledge to the flag. And, like it or not, the founding documents for Round 2 refer to Republic.

And you also have 'argument via appeal to authority' but its not like you can have 'argument via experimental result' or something better.....so why not pick the CIA as a source document?

But either way - "Republic" is a poor choice to describe what's going on anyway.

Right up front, the CIA factbook calls the US of A a Republic, not a democracy.

The two are different concepts. A republic is a state without a monarch. A democracy is a state in which the laws are made by the elected representatives of the people. The US does not have a king, and therefore is a republic. Britain, OTOH, has a queen and therefore is a monarchy. However, both are democracies since their laws are made by elected representatives of the people (Congress in one case, Parliament in the other).

However, both are democracies since their laws are made by elected representatives of the people

Actually the text of most of the laws don't come from the elected representatives. And then you have the whole part of "Law" which are the ways the regulators charged with implementation. And finally - the "law" of "case law".

Your choice of defining is picking the rendered horse hoves of law to nail down.


The real fault lies partially with an ignorant and poorly educated citizenry ... Good luck educating the people and changing institutions in the US in time to deal with the problem. It may already be too late (that is my belief) - the Western democracies may have already failed.

Hit the nail on the head

See College students lack scientific literacy, study finds

Most college students in the United States do not grasp the scientific basis of the carbon cycle – an essential skill in understanding the causes and consequences of climate change, according to research published in the January issue of BioScience.

Most students did not truly understand the processes that transform carbon. They failed to apply principles such as the conservation of matter, which holds that when something changes chemically or physically, the amount of matter at the end of the process needs to equal the amount at the beginning. (Matter doesn't magically appear or disappear.)

The implications are great for a generation of citizens who will grapple with complicated environmental issues such as clean energy and carbon sequestration more than any generation in history, Anderson said.

Don't even get them started on the Laws of Thermodynamics

Matter doesn't magically appear or disappear.

This ceases to become an issue when the school board votes that schools are to be bound by the processes of creationism.


Try to find a calmer comparison though.

You may be making a sincere point, but our Congress is going to have hearings in the coming days where the Right is more than happy to compare Greenhouse Gas restrictions with KrystalNacht.. I'd be shocked if they haven't said it already. The rhetoric is through the roof.. be really thoughtful and find ways to have a more durable discussion about it. Please.

There is always a balancing act in what a society will demand of its people.. the fact that it must be nuanced and a mid-ground compromise makes anyone at either end of the spectrum see it as only something at 'the other extreme end' .. Currently, any suggestion of a rule or law or regulation that asks people, or more terrifyingly Businesses, to refrain from doing anything they wish in pursuit of their profits is whinnied about mercilessly as a devastating blow against 'Freedom!' ..

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sought a calmer policy towards Nazi Germany between 1937 and 1939 - It didn't work out so swell.

Well, well, well. If we are choosing to throw around such political verbiage, let me point out that fascism is characterized by hyper-nationalism, hyper-militarism, an equation of corporate and national interests, and bucket loads of fear about 'outsiders' such as immigrants, atheists, gays...

You tell me--does this sound more like the political right or the left (what remains of it, anyway).

We are now two heartbeats away from a Boehner presidency, and perhaps two years away from a Palin or Bachman presidency.

Anyone who doesn't shudder at any of these prospects, and instead loses sleep over the absolutely absurd impossible prospect of some kind of green party take over (google how very few green party office holders there are in the country to see just how utterly laughable this paranoia is), is living in a very peculiar world.


Not sure if you understood my comment - It agrees with your thesis 100%.

Chamberlain was dealing with an unappeasable irrational foe. The current administration is dealing with the same thing. I don't think you could fit a piece of paper between each of our world views.

Seraph. Sorry if I misunderstood your drift. Forbes has just come out with a ridiculous article comparing greens with Nazis (following an even more absurd denialst article), so maybe I was a bit defensive.

All these are variants on "big, powerful, gov't", including corporatism, which seems to me the way we're headed, which will perhaps be less nationalistic than the right might eventually want.

How about we try a SMALLnational gov't, with 50 or so reasonably powerful independent agents to offset that, and a host of smaller county and city gov'ts to keep the spending mostly local? Go heavy on the local sales tax, moderate on the state level, and feed the feds off tariffs and some largess from the states.

Federalism and Libertarian aren't all that "right" in your simpler dichotomy.

You'll need to grant the states some degree of immigration control. Massachusetts may decide that they wish to provide (and can afford) a much larger social safety net than, say, Mississippi. But to do so, they also need the authority to stop people from Mississippi moving wholesale to Massachusetts to take advantage of that net.

Another issue will be what to do with federal lands in the West. You can reconcile a small federal government with federal ownership of 0.7% of Iowa; much harder to do with federal ownership of 49% of Wyoming.

Let's see. Moving more power to the states. Let's call that "states rights". Sounds familiar. Didn't we fight a civil war around that issue? Methinks I'd rather try better education, perhaps some control on the power of money in the government.

Didn't we fight a civil war around that issue?

The Confederate states were, at best, inconsistent on the issue of states' rights. They were in favor of such rights if it was a matter of the southern states deciding for themselves if slavery was acceptable. OTOH, they were strongly opposed to states' rights when it was New York deciding that it was not legal to transship slaves through their port, or Massachusetts legislating that any slaves brought into that state were automatically freed and able to stay in Massachusetts.

If you go back and read the various declarations of reasons for secession from the Union, things are fairly clear. Statements such as Mississippi's "A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization," are relatively common. IIRC, only one state mentions preserving the right to secede. But several of them complain bitterly about the non-slave states refusal to honor southern states' laws regarding slavery -- certainly not an argument that would be made if the secession were a states' rights issue.

Paleocon, you'll be happy to hear that your suggestion is being attempted almost verbatim by new Governor Jerry Brown.

If it will work, that's a challenge, since he's very handicapped by our lethal legacy of proposition 13, which is what pushed the spending up to the state level in the first place. Funny how so called anti big government ideologues tend to result in bigger governments, more corporate influence, etc, despite rhetoric to the contrary.

I'm not going to hold my breath re Brown but this was his first day's agenda, moving spending and power back to the local/county/city levels.

in the coming days where the Right is more than happy to compare Greenhouse Gas restrictions with KrystalNacht..

You won't see the mass of the CongressKritters pointing out how 70% of spending is ineffective....just overhead. Because the groups making that 70% overhead include the Investment Bankers.

I haven't ever gotten around to reading soviet history in real depth, excepting Solzhenitsyn but I have read extensively the history of Nazi Germany.At that time, there was a dearth of books available written by insiders, and I have not had time to return to the subject.

The "greater good" as used by the Nazis was no more than a propaganda ploy which was undoubtedly swallowed whole by some lower level Nazis and a large, perhaps a majority, part of the citizenry.

But Hitler and his higher level goons only believed in the term "greater good" as it could be applied to the German state-the state was everything, the people nothing , to them.

Excepting a few true believers that rose to power with him, it seems very likely that the vast majority of the people who became important Nazis simply realized which way the wind was blowing, and decided to sail with it as opposed to against it.

It is an undeniable fact that the Nazis and the German plutocrats of the period worked hand in hand, and that the Nazis could never have risen to power without their collusion.The plutocrats major mistake was that they thought they could control the Nazis -they were SERIOUSLY mistaken in this respect.

There are some gravely worrisome parallels between the situation today in the US , and conditions in Germany in the thirties.I do not however believe that we are in any short term danger of being turned into a police state by the republicans;our political institutions are getting pretty shabby, but they are not yet quite structurally rotted out.

Barring unforeseen good luck with the economy over the next two years, the American public is probably going to throw out a lot more republicans than democrats next election.

Of course I am only an armchair historian.

I've read a lot of Nazi and Soviet history and agree pretty much with what you say about them. Hopefully you are right about our next election too. It makes sense but who would have thought in 2008 that the Repugs would be in power in the House today?

Any country organized on an imperial scale (i.e. China and the US) is prone to failure over the long-term, whether their form of govt is democratic or authoritarian. The information feedback systems are too stretched out; and the societies are too huge to avoid splintering; the gyre widens, the center cannot hold (or however that poem goes). Of course, the non-imperial countries are prone to domination and plundering by the imperial ones, so that is no sure route to long-term stability either:)

But on a local/regional scale you can argue that no one has done a better job of enforcing a low energy lifestyle on its population than North Korea. All you need is a well-fed and well-armed military to protect a tiny well-fed ruling class. And everyone else can squat on the floor of their one room apartments strategizing about how to feed a family of four for a day on one cup of rice, a rotten onion and some scavenged shoe leather.

I do not agree. Some democracies are able to do long term planning. Many European countries can be taken as example. The problem is the absolute faith in the market and technology. Market cant deal effectively with long term problem. That where to government should take over. If he does not, democracy fail.

Is it really 'The Democratic Society'? or the 'Citizens of TV land that are being fed pablum and lies'..

I don't believe it's helpful to lay the blame at the foot of an undermined electoral system and a deceived electorate, when the faults lie elsewhere.

It's the baby and the bathwater problem.. I don't think it's impossible to identify some of the worst sources that have put us on the wrong path so consistently and repeatedly.

Obey your Thirst.


all human governments in the past have failed - in one way or an other. Otherwise they would still be here.

if humanity is to "solve" the problem

This is the crux of the matter. All different forms of governance - and this is what >Leiten< points out in his comment - have been based on human ideas to solve problems - sometimes with disastrous results!

We as humans lack one thing necessary to solve problems: foresight. As long as this is not taking into account, the outcome can only be worse than it was before.

We are living in times were this is more obvious than ever.


Your use of the word "foresight" leads me to think of the Black Swan effect (where nothing is really foreseeable).


Is it foresight that we lack or humility? IMO many (most?) problems are not ours to solve. Maybe they're not even problems. We just perceive them as such. Humans have a place here on this rock but we want to dominate! Man plans, nature laughs.


my line of thought exactly. Only I would use an other word for "nature".

Foresight includes humility because there is no foresight without taking the past into consideration. And there is one thing we definitely can learn from the past - what ever humans tried, it always ended in failure. Otherwise we would not be in the mess we are in today.

But were can we turn to get some advice which is better then what humans have to offer?

I know where I am going, but that is a direction not a lot off people consider a viable one.


Note that you used the term "so called" in reference to our democracy. How would we know whether or not a democratic society is capable of responding when we have never had one. Poll after poll shows that the people's priorities and views are not being reflected by what actually occurs in congress. We have an inherently undemocratic form of government when a few people in a few states hold the balance of power. Combine that with the filibuster, and we don't even approach what would rightfully be called a democracy.

We have a plutocracy aided and abetted by some yahoos spread hither and yond which trumpets the lie that they are following the will of the American people.

Before we conclude that democracy is incapable of addressing global warming, maybe we should try democracy.

"..maybe we should try democracy."

Here, here. Can anyone think of/ remind us of any ways a country would set things up to provide checks and balances, a negative-feedback loop for keeping moneypower apart from political power?

(Beyond the unseating of the 'Citizens United' decision.. some pieces of core gov't structure that avoids such an Oligarchy developing?)


Did the global temperature start cooling?

Is there a dominant 50-60 year cycle which will lead to cooling?

And the yet-to-be-revealed and (not so much) surprise ending...

The National Intelligence Council arrived at the same conclusion
in their study: Global Governance 2025: At A Critical Juncture


Recent history seems to support the conclusion that our so-called democratic society is incapable of responding to long term problems.

Thats true, but how much of our difficulties are because out information media are controlled by the big monied classes. If the people were getting unbiased and unfiltered information perhaps they would choose otherwise?

There is large drawbacks with a democratic system that elect a president.

Lets play with the thought that gasoline prices increase dramatically and two president candidates want to build a good rail network but with different priorities and the third want to make sure that oil production is not controlled by foreign governments that are supposedly undemocratic and do not allow foreign companies to work freely. The votes are as follow: 30% rail, 30% rail, 35% foreign oil, 5% others. There will be no good rail network even though the majority want to and even worse if there are more candidates. The system could be improved if it is possible for two of the candidates to cooperate. Another drawback is that the government will make sure that oil production is not controlled by foreign countries even though the majority do not want.

Another common and better system is to elect some kind of parliament there decisions are made by majority vote and this is similar to the improvement above their two candidates could cooperate after the election. In this system agreements about the priority could be made and the rail network could be improved although not exactly according one candidates wish.

Number of decisions approved by the government could be weighted according to votes and in this system the rail network could be improved and some resources would also be spent to make sure that oil is not controlled by foreign governments. There exists several ways to implement this system. In sort of a similar approach is taken then money is distributed in an organization their each department have their own budget.

I guess there is and have been plenty of different government systems to study in the world to see how they have performed. It would be particular interesting to study how different systems perform in situations like shortages and times of plentiful resources.

Democracy, on the other hand, is usually reduced to bribes and cheap talk.

People talk about our Constitution and the idea of a more perfect union, like we had approached a zenith of perfection. When in fact our political system has become a greed grab, from the initiation of someone wealthy and self-involved into a sham political post, to that person's 2nd career to follow as a lobbyist making over a million a year.

It's cheap talk and bribes because its badly broken. Unfortunately things always water down to the least common denominator; money. Money for themselves, money for those that contribute to their campaigns with an ongoing effort to reduce any outgoing money to maintain the middle class, via education, healthcare or social security.

It's my assertion that we have lost the vision of America, and that certain news outlets like Limbaugh and Fox that are willing to lie, are taking the country farther in the wrong direction. The chasm between the rich and poor is increasing. In twenty years, provided oil hangs on in good supply, the country will be 1% outrageously super ubelievably wealthy and 99% ragged, disshelved, half starving slaves. And the only reason they will be 1/2 starving, is because what good is a slave that is fully starving?

On the other hand, what good is a slave when there's no work for him/her/it to do? Society once used real horse power as our slaves, i.e. beasts of burden. Recently, they have become useful as recreational diversions, but when the economy turned down, they are suddenly left to die. Instead of leaving the majority half starving, let half starve and feed the other "useful" half...

E. Swanson

It's not just Fox and Limbaugh;I have our family car radio set to NPR as the best and only local radio station with any quantity of programming worth listening to,other than Bluegrass and other folk music, but NPR is just another mouth piece for Wall Street and business as usual when you get down to the bottom line.

If you want to understand what is really going on, you must read both liberal and conservative publications, and do the best you can in filtering out the facts.

Nobody has a monopoly on the truth-some very influential right wing blowhard, I forget which one, wrote book a couple of years ago with a damned good chapter on the energy situation;of course he managed to balance this off with a chapter just as bad on global warming, but my point still stands.

Where the content intersects, there is a high probability of both wings being onto the truth.

Another example-yesterday James Carville, who I used to think of as a rabid democratic pit bull, but now consider a middle of the road sort of guy,said Wall Street won when OBama appointed another Daley chief of staff.

A number of right wing small govt types are referring to Daley as another Chicago thug.

Beware true believers of any sort, but never ignore at your peril.

It was actually Glenn Beck who wrote about Peak Oil in a very intelligent and measured way, to everyone's surprise.

But I agree with you, you need to read both sides. People forget about the revolution which happened in the conservative movement. The old guard, especially in Europe, was very skeptical of capitalism and consumerism and had a deep affinity with nature. In England, most of the major reforms to protect nature was done by many conservative minded individuals. The same was true in America at the turn of the last century.

What happened from the 70s especially was the rise of the warmongering neocons fused with the market fundamentalists of the neoliberal movement(spearheaded by Friedman). The neocons, basically having a mix of a liberal agenda on 'soft' issues like immigration and a neoliberal stance on capitalism, while having a die-hard stance on foreign policy, completely changed what it meant to be a conservative.

Back in the day(far back, I admit), I could have been a conservative. All of this is a far cry from what conservatism used to be, which was humble in both it's inwards and outwards direction. Then it become 'isolationism' when you were suddenly against Empire-building and the old conservative guard was wiped out in favour of the cornucopian and warmongering neocon mafia. What saddens me most is the total fall of a genuine conservative movement in the West - and America especially. But liberals have not been doing very well either. Some of the worst transgressions were made under Clinton.

Beck said this one time and he has said every contradicting statement since. People that suffer from diarrhea of the mouth and irritable jowel syndrome don't count.

The jobs report is not as good as it seems on first blush. The number of jobs was way lower than expected. The sharp drop in the unemployment rate turns out to be people giving up and leaving the workforce. The actual participation rate hit a record low for this recession.

About 260,000 adults dropped out of the labor force for various reasons, and were no longer counted as unemployed by the government. The overall participation rate in the U.S. labor force fell to a new recession low of 64.3%.

"Incredibly, the U.S. labor force is now smaller than it was before the recession started, though it should have grown by over 4 million workers to keep up with working-age population growth over this period," said economist Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute.

It will only get worse. America still had it's best days ahead in the 30s. That can no longer be said today. And considering the increasingly worse energy situation, the unemployment rate will get worse. If one counts people who have 'given up' as well as the underemployed - people who can and wants to work more but cannot find more work - the true state is probably closer to 24-27 % of the workforce.

This will hit 30 % easily in the next five years. Perhaps as much as 50 % within 10. Europe isn't looking much better. Spain already has a 40 % under-30 unemployment rate.

We are inching towards Third World standards.
The political implications of this can already be seen in parts of Europe where neo-facism is on the rise.

It will only get worse. America still had it's best days ahead in the 30s. That can no longer be said today.

Errr you are looking back at History and then somehow claiming knowledge of the Future here.

With the Baby Boomers turning 65, shouldn't the US workforce start shrinking?

A number of older employees are likely to be terminated, stay on unemployment as long as possible, and then retire.

Construction workers building McMansion plantations likely showed up in the employment stats. Construction workers doing renovations, remodeling, teardown/rebuilds, and fill-ins on vacant lots in older suburbs and cities may not.

With the Baby Boomers turning 65, shouldn't the US workforce start shrinking?

No, because the population is still growing. Depending on who's doing the estimating, 125,000 to 200,000 jobs per month need to be added just keep up with population growth.

First of all, 65 is no longer the age most people start drawing Social Security, it's 62.
Just ask anyone who was laid-off last year, between the ages of 59-62, when they will take out SS. They will never work full-time again.

Does anyone know if the number of high school grads this year is larger than the number of baby boomers turning 62?

Judging from this population pyramid:

There are more high school grads.

Also, keep in mind that immigration is a big part of our population growth.

There are more high school grads.

Yes, but look at the number of people who are 45-54 years old versus the number who are 5 or 10 to 19. There is going to be a period of time, starting in the near future, in which more people will be retiring than will be entering the labor force.

It will be a somewhat traumatic time for some employers. They might have to persuade potential retirees to stay working longer than they intended.

Or we'll just open the doors to immigrant workers, tacitly or directly.

That is, assuming BAU continues and the jobs exist and need to be filled.

The great majority of jobs are in the service sector. Many low-value services can be foregone and many others can be automated. A constant level of total goods and services can be produced by a declining number of employees due to increases in productivity. In fact, the problem right now is that many jobs disappeared because they are no longer needed by the economy, e.g. jobs in construction, manual processing of paperwork, etc.

Projecting US Mail volumes to 2020
Final Report – Detail

Many segments of the economy are already over capacity, these days we do not necessarily need more people to do work, only more productivity per person. We no longer have thousands of operators using switchboards these days, do we?

I agree. The big crunch hits it ten or so years. Of course lots of other things will be 'hitting' between now and then that may make this seem like a non-event.

Food prices globally are at new highs, though hitting a different set of foods than during the last time.

As rain patterns continue to change, as ground water continues to be drawn down, as fertilizers and oil run out, many places, especially south and east Asia, are going to see some pretty incredibly dire situations.

I think world population is likely to peak this decade. Death rates may already be starting to trend up, and births continue to fall.

America is a very full society, as is Europe.

This is the natural consequence of no major wars (such as Civil War, WW1/WW2), control of infectious diseases, no famine, advanced medical care, continued fertility (albeit at a reduced rate), and of course immigration.

The only societies in history which remained "full" were India and China. They now have a billion people each, mostly poor.

Europe's dynamism was partly a result of death, and of the exporting of people to the Americas.

America and Europe are slowly but surely becoming like India and China: too many people, most of whom are poor.

It's true!

Who out there wants to be the one to die, so the renewal can take place?

No easy answers.

I don't know if you can extrapolate from the situation of Japan, but anyway, it is interesting to watch the population going lower here. First of all, there are some things that you would expect, like kindergartens that have half the number of children they did 10 years ago. But also the people who were having kids in their 30s just four or five years ago (when the economy was doing better)----these people stopped having as many children as I used to see, I don't see babies and small tots as many as before in the malls. A lot of baby clothes shops shut down and the shops are instead selling clothing for bar hostesses (revealing, tight, sparkly clothes).These are not educated people who buy these awful clothes.....but I can imagine that 30 or 40 years ago these types of less clever people were having a lot of babies, living in simple big farm houses, managing an average life of simplicity and ordinariness.

Well, no more! If you don't have a college degree from a good college, you can basically say goodbye to having kids. Now the less educated are just hanging onto one-room apartments, working odd jobs, living for tasteless fashion and hours spent online shopping for the right nailpolish.

In the US I think the population will also, at some point, start to shrink. It just has to. Probably already many have postponed having babies.

Here in Japan there is a new term "the vegetarian man"---the men in their 20s and early 30s who don't want to marry or have kids, they live alone, don't eat meat and frequent book shops and internet cafes. There are a lot of them, and they are derided by the men in their 40s and 50s who saw a better economy. But the younger ones are not attracted to the images of all the olden days stuff---they won't buy cars, they won't work like slaves in a job for 14 hours a day, they won't dress up in suits or drink and smoke heavily. Good for them, actually, the olden days were awful, as far as I can see. I love the economic doldrums.

You'll see.....it happens slowly, but inexorably----you get a whole bunch of people then more and more who are just not interested in having children. They sublimate the baby-making desires into shopping, living creatively, being aloof and sophisticated.....I'm sure that their lives have their own richness too.

Funny, I have a whole different take on those kids. I see them as a lost generation. They aren't rebelling from the salary man life, they just don't have any opportunity at all. They have no future. Its really sad.

"you get a whole bunch of people then more and more who are just not interested in having children. They sublimate the baby-making desires into shopping, living creatively, being aloof and sophisticated."

Modernity = dysfunctional humans

The 'Vegetarian Men' is an interesting observation. It actually reminds me of women friends of mine who were adamant that they weren't the sort.. that Marriage and Babies just weren't part of their makeup.. and that's fine and I was happy to accept them and their choices.. but a fair few of them also found the song changed as soon as the right person showed up, and perhaps the world around them was able to show a path that then made sense for starting a family.

It probably applies to me as well. I married late-ish, and didn't really have it on my radar, ...until it showed up on my radar. For these and many folks in a changing world, who knows what will come into range on their screens, and at the right time show them where they might direct their lives..

Also, "No." because a lot of baby boomers cannot retire due both to the drop in value in their retirement savings and also because they haven't been able to save enough in the first place. The numbers of age eligible potential retirees who need to keep working are considerable. In polling done among the baby boomers a high percentage of them say that they plan to just keep on working.

In polling done among the baby boomers a high percentage of them say that they plan to just keep on working.

Although to be fair, polls that dig deeper find a number of reasons that Boomers plan to keep working. Some cannot afford retirement; some enjoy their jobs more than they think they would enjoy retirement; and many of those that want to work, only want to work part-time.

I've argued for several years that the first "crisis" the Boomers will precipitate will not be Social Security or Medicare. It will be the private sector's inability or unwillingness to provide meaningful jobs for several million Boomers that need a job. If you are a hiring manager looking for skilled employees and have a choice, there are a number of reasons in our current system to avoid hiring someone aged 55 or over.

And when do their retirement 'savings' finally and permanently evaporate?

It's a bit like saying the overall health of the population is better because alot of sick people died. CNN reported this morning that most of the newly re-employed folks have found temp and part time jobs, subsistance level (if that), no benefits. If these jobs don't provide disposable income I expect there will be an ongoing cycle of job losses, as so many jobs are the result of this extra income. Bernanke is predicting unemployment to stay around 8% for at least a couple of years:

But he said a rebound in employment remains elusive, and that unemployment is likely to remain close to 8% two years from now.

"Persistently high unemployment, by damping household income and confidence, could threaten the strength and sustainability of the recovery," he said.

Eight percent?! We'll see......

So the unemployment numbers are out for Dec. from 9.8 to 9.4% Happy days are here again.

Wow: Civilian Labor Force decreased by 260,000; yet the number of Employed increased by 297,000 and the Unemployment number is down by 556,000. Note the people not in the labor force increased by 434,000!

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.htm Go to the blue tables further down.

See if any news service points this out. If you are no longer in the labor force where are you? Well perhaps you applied for social security, welfare or you fell off the end of the unemployment rolls. Maybe you enrolled in school.
In any case you are now a net liability either to the government, your bank account, your family, friends, or church/food pantry.


In addition, the quality of jobs created was mostly lower wage service and health care workers with things continuing to go down hill in the manufacturing sector. We continue to transition to a nation of proletarians, both employed and not. Meanwhile, the banksters are doing better than ever. And Government is bleeding jobs. But that's ok, according to the right wing, because those aren't real jobs anyway. Real workers work at McDonalds.

Neither gov't jobs nor McDonalds jobs produce much -- and we can't all be service-oriented. The only difference is that at McDonalds you can see and hear the people giving you poor service, and at the end you probably get a burger along the general lines of what you ordered for more or less what you expected to pay, instead of somebody giving you something you didn't especially want but that they think is good for you, and then charging the guy behind you for it.

We can't all be rich, but we could all be poor.

Well, either my previous response to your factually deficient claim that government jobs don't produce much was the victim of misdirected keyboard stroking, or didn't pass the censor, which might be the case since I can't help but express my wonder at the nature and origins of your ideological biases.

Or maybe the censor didn't like my term for the processed carbohydrates and other foodstuffs so efficiently removed daily from my lodgings by a system installed and maintained by some very productive unionized government workers and their managers. Except of course for that part inside my dwelling that I installed, using goods designed, manufactured and distributed by literate folks, who, turns out, learned to read, write and calculate thanks to a whole lot of government workers in the education field.

Sadly, I don't have the time to relist all the government generated goods and services that make my life better as I take five and sip government provided clean water and type on a laptop made oh so useful by government provided electricity. I have to return to work that is measurably more productive because government provided transportation infrastructure allows for a very efficient division of labour over considerable territory.

Living in a country which has had the good sense to adopt a single payer, socialized health care system vastly more efficient economically than the private sector system burdening the economy to our south, in which thousands of government workers such as nurses toil in government hospitals, once I'm pooped out and ready for bed, I can go to sleep without the worry of misery should my good health fail me.

Tomorrow, I think I'll go to a government funded and operated museum, for fun and edification. I'll go in government worker driven bus with a government worker from the public health department who as usual will be stressed out after a week of dealing with people consuming way too much private sector product from the food and beverage industries, government sanctioned and otherwise.

Hoo, boy, another round of diametrically opposed viewpoints!

Production is taking resources and changing them to waste and capital, right? Paper-pushing gov't employees don't "produce" too much, other than being good at the waste generation part. Of course they all "do" something, and it may have some value, but the real goal is to redistribute wealth and have something for those who aren't engaged in industry or farming to gainfully spend their day doing. It's not all bad, necessarily, but if you do a simple thought experiment with EVERYBODY as a typical gov't employee or EVERYBODY as a private employee, which is a viable world? We can't all be well-paid gov't functionaries and bureaucrats, but we could all be farmers and craftsmen. Seems trivially obvious to me, so I assume you have a completely different view.

The fact that you can find some productive unionized people isn't all that unusual (heck, I know some productive local gov't employees too), but I've never seen a sewer system built by national gov't workers here, nor even by the local gov't except via contractors. Even when unionized (not much the case here, fortunately), they're still private employees mostly working for private firms doing work for private developers. A few city and county folks do the inspections and add some value, but they aren't union nor terribly productive.

As for educated, I find it interesting that in these threads half the time we decry the failure of US students on the international stage and their abject lack of understanding of history, gov't, and the world at large, yet the other half the time we say how great the liberalized education system is (and it is, for those who work IN it, if not those taught BY it!). Obviously since there are cretins and neanderthals like me still roaming around, the re-education system has its failings!

No one is suggesting that all work should be done by the government or the private sector. Some things are appropriate for government work; others are not.

The ideology that results in contracting out government jobs has nothing to do with efficiency. Efficiency is not the objective of those who rail against government. The politicians that rail against the government are mostly attempting to find lucrative contracts for their private corporate donors. But these contractors are still doing government functions. Where is the outrage about 100 K corporate truck drivers screwing the taxpayer. You won't find any outrage by those politicians who have pushed privatization all these years.

Some people in the government push paper. But what the hell does that mean? There are millions of people who push paper in the private sector as well. And where is most of the capital going? Not more jobs but to grossly overpaid people in the banking/financial industry.

If there are people in the public sector who are dead weight. By all means get rid of them. The existence, however, of these people does not justify making blanket statements about how government really doesn't produce anything.

No one is suggesting that all work should be done by the government or the private sector. Some things are appropriate for government work; others are not.

When I think about great empires of the past, like say the Romans, we are amazed at the infrastructure projects, like aquaducts and roads. Now, I don't think this investment came for the Roman private sector.

All successful modern economies have used the mixed economy model. Some areas are handled by government, and some by private industry. It is a matter of getting the balance correct, but in our country one side wants to completely do in one of the sectors. Destroy the balance and you destroy the conditions which made us (relatively) rich.

So we have a few government workers that are brought into the Pantheon: soldiers, police, and firemen. All others are assumed to be complete scoflaws, teachers, regulators, jsutice system workers etc. In the meanwhile, industry relies upon publically funded research to make progress. We wish throwing all these benefits out with the bathwater. All because the top 1% have concluded government is a net drag on themselves, and they can afford the investment in propaganda to convince the people to support their agenda.

And where is most of the capital going?

Cooling its heels in overnight paper and other holding vehicles?

Otherwise being invested in China, India, Vietnam, various countries in Africa? Where workers work for cheap and safety and environmental regulations are minimal?

LOL. Remember certain folks hate government jobs, union jobs, big bank jobs, basically all jobs, local, police, teachers, firemen, lol -- the whole nine yards. They are the Tea Party LOL they want the world to be composed of billionaires and those that have debt up their ears and think they are billionaires. Then the world is perfect again.

I have to agree, in general, with Paleocon.

The amount of malinvestment by the U.S. federal government is staggering. It's beyond calculation, and probably beyond the imagination.

When the system crashes, it will only be comparable to the collapse of the Roman Empire, in the sense that the imperial center will collapse as well.

When most empires collapse, the center remains relatively robust.

I don't think this will be the case in the U.S. I simply cannot imagine an America without it's military or financial complexes.

As far as the national governments in places like Canada and Europe, I don't know enough to comment. However, it's worth noting that the governments are smaller there (by default, as the nations themselves are smaller).

Europe is wising up, the masses are turning to the right. They understand that either they keep their small nationhood, or they will become serfs again.

I am the VP of our water board for the local community. We have not raised the fees in five years while providing sufficient clean and safe water for the community. The water was tested by government workers and is certified by other government workers at the state level. I wonder what the fee increases would have been if we had privatized our water like some countries and communities have done.

But we are completely unproductive, worthless, and non responsive. Btw, the water board works for free.

Yeh, let's eliminate all government tomorrow and let people fend for themselves. Eventually, however, they would end up forming something like forming a government to take care of themselves that the private sector is not very good at doing.

Most people here are probably too old to remember when soliders used to do KP as part of their jobs. Very cheap. Now we pay corporations billions to take care of such mundance tasks. But because they are private, they are considered more productive.

It's funny how local government is usually so effcient and can quickly address local problems. They also often provide extra services at little or no cost.

What I've noticed is that local governments, including even school boards, can go from very good to very bad much faster than a state or federal government. And it seems to depend entirely on the level at which the local citizenry is informed and involved.

How Oil Could Kill The Recovery

I've noticed more realizations along these lines in the MSM lately. However they still have a huge mental block in admitting that this is a supply problem and not just a demand problem.

I don't know exactly how to tell the difference between demand and supply problems, but I was in interested in their comment about how the Saudis would like oil at $80/barrel and why, if that's true, with all their spare capacity, oil isn't at $80/barrel.

There also was some implication that if oil doesn't rise to $140 again it "probably" won't kill a recovery in 2011. The Atlantic might have floated the idea that, with underlying sluggish growth and consumers deep into negative home equity and a serious long-term deleveraging process, the economy may now be sensitive to oil price points far below $140/barrel and indeed gas prices (in my neighborhood $3.40 gallon) at their current levels could potentially already be dragging on growth.

Well, demand from China & elsewhere is a huge part of the problem. If they just recognize that, that is progress. I'm still waiting for someone to call it what it is . . . "A Zero-Sum-Game". At this point, we are bidding against China and others for each barrel of oil. Of course they need to recognize the supply issue before they'll understand that it is a zero sum game.

Most of the players, with money to invest, understand the supply problems and what that ultimately means about the system. But, it is important to keep as many people in the dark as possible so as to make money on every uptick of the undulating plateau.

"I'm still waiting for someone to call it what it is . . . "A Zero-Sum-Game"

Yep, the whole TomFriedman/neoliberal worldview built its foundation on forgetting this. They became so accustomed to a world of ever-increasing cheap energy where a free market tide could raise all boats. They haven't recognized that the end of cheap energy means the return of realpolitik, and hey don't realize that they basically GAVE AWAY America's manufacturing base to countries that won't return their internationalist goodwill, and are instead playing to win the zero-sum game. So now America's only toehold in the Great Game is a financial industry nominally based in New York but who have no real affinity to America.

So now America's only toehold in the Great Game is a financial industry nominally based in New York but who have no real affinity to America.

Aside from running ponzt schemes, the US is good at software, entertainment, and Industrial Agriculture.
Oh, we are also good at blowing things up.

Shouldn't we dismantle the current banking system and start over with something that actually supports real people and real businesses? Financial gimmicry seems like a far cry from used to be the legitimate business of banking.

You left out almost all biotech and pharma.

Great article. The Oil Intensity of the Economy is a great metric, it demonstrates that even under BAU we have to become way more efficient with our oil use.

Don't forget that the Export Land Model (ELM) from WT is simply a slight variation on zero-sum-game accounting.

It is always nice to have discussions on this because it can tie up some loose ends in our understanding.

I'm still waiting for someone to call it what it is . . . "A Zero-Sum-Game".

I doubt it is a true zerosum game. Probably more like they gain a dollars worth, and we lose $.25. On the whole the world may still be growing waelthier, but the distribution is becoming more spread out geographically.

Calling it a demand problem IS admitting that it is a supply problem, even if the intent of some is to obscure the issue in order to maintain the flow of cash into oil industry coffers as the price rises, and even if the subservient, advertising dependent media employees don't grasp the basic economics of supply and demand.

Price tells the story, price and the evident unwillingness of oil industry executives, past and present, to short the market --i.e. to demonstrate faith in claims of 'vast' supplies of oil yet to be plundered.

The 'great game' is the contest over the disposition of the truly vast amounts of money that are streaming from consumers to producers as supply and demand meet at historically high average prices.

The real question is: who is best suited to direct the investments required to optimally transition from fossil fuel dependency and adjust to climate destabilization?

My own answer to this question is a new generation of entrepeneurs working under new market rules, one of which would be high carbon taxes, which in addition to affecting consumer behaviour would serve as a means to redirect money from the inherently inert corporate bureaucracies now creaming off massive amounts of money for executive compensation.

The price of oil and other fossil fuels will not rise by the amount of the carbon tax, but will eat into corporate profits, and that is a good thing because the money is better employed elsewhere, be that new financing mechanisms for energy conservation/efficiency measures, public investment in energy efficient transport, publicly run transit, or grants of many sorts to a new generation of the entrepeneurially inclined, but cash short because they chose their parents poorly.

Of course being a leftist, I would go much further in order to save capitalism from its own contradictions and raise inheritance and any other tax that would weaken the hold of the new aristocracy and support the emergence of new ways of exploiting the environment for the benefit of god's sacred creation.

Re: How humankind was liberated from localism

What Colin McInnes fails to understand is that "localism" isn't representative of small-mindedness so much as it is of a loss in confidence in the state (and also in the industrial society upon which the modern state depends for its existence). The American "Tea Party" would be another example of a movement that has appeared hoping to fill a percieved leadership gap in Western societies.

While he makes some valid points regarding efficiency and economies of scale, efficiency won't matter one whit if those things we count as life's necessities aren't widely available. Rather than question the sense that it makes to want to grow one's own food, he ought to ask himself why the sudden interest in doing so.

It's funny how you can't get much more that 50 comments around here, when oil is trading a little bit down for the day.

With this kind of short sightedness, we are surely scr****!

Next month or so, when oil is over a hundred bucks, you wont be able to read all the insights people will have.

That is absolute nonsense Eastex. We all follow, somewhat, the price of oil but post about the same whether it is up or down. Production numbers is what I follow because that means so very much more than the price. When there is big news we all post more but when there is little news we don't find very much to talk about.

The last couple of days we had the History Channel doomer program to talk about and Greer's podcast generated a lot of posts. There was a lot of posts but the price of oil had very little to do with it.

I think you were just looking for something to bash people on this list so you picked the price of oil and said that was the number on thing to hit us with. Too bad that you did not have a clue as to what the hell you were talking about.

Ron P.

Hi, Ron. You mentioned Greer's latest podcast and I haven't been able to find it (our ISP went down for a couple of days). Anybody have a link? Thanks!

No problem Ghung, Here is the link:

The Mythology of Progress with John Michael Greer

Just click on the "pod" thingie before the title.

Ron P.

Greer is on the wave.....hope he is one of the survivors into the future.

But JMG, I gotta say, cut the Beard. NO ONE, trusts a man with Facial Hair.

Choose Wisely.

The Martian

That's funny - I find it hard to trust men who feel a need to scrape their face with a razor every day. Seems weird to me.

.. and then there's the trust in that person who's holding a razor at your throat.

I just shuffle it all down to a 2-day shadow when I remember to, and keep a Van Dyke in the middle to upstage the overall scruff.

Thanks, Ron :-)

Now Ron, you don't have to get in my face about a silly comment. I have been here for over two years, learning everything I can from you guys about things the media refuse to talk about. I don't say much because I don't always have time, and I only design drilling equipment (so I know little about actual drilling). I wasn't taking pop-shots with evil intentions.

I don't like getting into anyone's face but your post made us all out to be a bunch of silly nincompoops who get giddy and post like crazy when the price of oil goes up but sulk up and post nothing when the price is dropping.

We would like for you to post more and we could use the experience of a drilling equipment designer. But please don't try to make us look like fools again and we will get along just fine.

Ron P.

Count me in Ron. At least a few of us realize that price is a complicated proxy for the actual fundamental parameters of the system. Being a proxy, price can act as a time derivative of a set of values, thus varying sensitively to slight shifts and noise in the system.

I had a chuckle when I saw your comment. Laughter is the best laxative, helping to clear the lower bowel of debris, no matter the point of entry of same.

Brent finished at $95.13 down $.87 according to the International Oil and Gas newspaper today. KSA and other OPEC members also price in Brent, according to the Financial Times article sited yesterday on this site. Most of the oil sold in the world uses Brent. Canada, Mexico and Venezuela are all taking serious actions to avoid being "captive" to WTI pricing. Presently WTI is priced more than $7 less than Brent. Most US oil companies have a significant amount of their oil priced in Brent, but I do not know the percentage. I sure hope that the price movement is not from Wall Street controlling oil prices at less than market prices to fool investors. But I have reservations about the "Cushing" storage reason accounting for $7.
Oil customers need to work with suppliers over a period measured in years. Knee jerk actions by oil traders today do not inspire confidence in the US's most trusted suppliers IMO, and that is an issue that may prove problematical for many years also.

Just heard a news flash on CNBC that Murphy Oil is down 4% and the volume is up three times normal on news that three wells off the coast of the Republic of Congo did not yield enough oil so they were plugged.

Ron P.

Hey found a doomer comment mainstream.


"If you are looking at this from the perspective of a home buyer or a lender, it is one thing to say you are in a market where home prices may drop 10% or 20%." said Michael Fratantoni, vice president of research and economics with the mortgage bankers group. "That is different from the idea that 80% to 90% of the value could evaporate. That changes the whole nature of the business."

Mathematical model shows how groups split into factions

By Bill Steele

The school dance committee is split; one group wants an "Alice in Wonderland" theme; the other insists on "Vampire Jamboree." Mathematics could have predicted it. Social scientists have long argued that when under stress, social networks either end up all agreeing or splitting into two opposing factions. Either condition is referred to as "structural balance."

New Cornell research has generated a mathematical description of how this evolves. Previous mathematical approaches to structural balance have proven that when conditions are right, the result of group conflict will be a split into just two groups, the researchers said. The new work shows for the first time the steps through which friendships and rivalries shift over time and who ends up on each side.
The model is a simple differential equation applied to a matrix, or grid of numbers, that can represent relationships between people, nations or corporations. The researchers tested their model on a classic sociological study of a karate club that split into two groups and got results that matched what happened in real life. They plugged in data on international relations prior to World War II and got almost perfect predictions on how the Axis and Allied alliances formed.

It would be interesting to run their model on the current international arrangement of moderately consistent good will and determine whether the stress of oil depletion will cause the nations to align into two blocs in a runup to the next total war or whether they will coalesce into a single global unitary government.

Continuous-time model of structural balance

dX/dt = X*X

easy to solve.

dx/X/X = dt
-1/X = t + c
X = -1/(t+c)

this can go crazy if c is negative. The RHS will pass through a singularity and then switches sign. These contrived non-linear equations do surprising things.

Here is a Holy Grail model of topography:
no need for non-linear contrivances.

A tale of two states: Texas & Illinois

Texas politicians assert that they plan to close the projected budget deficit with budget cuts* and no tax increases, while in Illinois they are talking about a 75% increase in the state income tax:


Krugman's column on the Texas budget deficit:


*I believe that Texas already ranks dead last in state spending per capita

In any case, it's shaping up to be an interesting experiment.

I believe that Texas already ranks dead last in state spending per capita

As we've discussed in the past, when state-plus-local spending is used, Texas only comes in near the bottom. There are common structural differences between states in the East and the West, so combined state-plus-local spending and taxes are a better ruler for comparison. While it's certainly not an absolute, Eastern state governments have tended to hold onto functions that Western states have dumped onto their counties. An example is social services: in the East, there is a greater chance that the case workers are state employees; in the West, they're almost all county. If you look at the Tax Foundation's numbers for state-plus-local taxes, all but a handful of states operate in a very narrow range of per-capita taxes to per-capita income ratios: 9.5% plus-or-minus 1% covers the vast majority of states.

States above 10.5% tend to be rich East Coast states: New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are examples. States below 8.5% tend to have some way to tax out-of-state people rather than the local residents. Severance taxes on large energy resources, or tourist taxes on large numbers of visitors are most common: Alaska, Wyoming, Texas, Florida, Nevada.

Nevertheless, Prof. Krugman is right to focus on Texas. If there's a change in national direction, Texas is the big state most likely to lead the way.

mc - And one more factor to keep an eye on Texas: Gov Perry just won re-election and is well known for having national ambitions. I expect him to make some very big news to take advantage of the spotlight. Not sure exactly what he'll do but it will be big IMHO.

Methinks Prof. Krugman may have read your essay:


Looks like TAPIS just took off the change is not in the interactive graph yet.


And of course BIDY that was mentioned before.


I also watch the Brent/WTI spread its now impressive.

At least everything I'm watching is now set up like I thought they would be if oil is going to make some strong moves.

People are starting to question WTI these days. Assuming that these imbalanced correct over the next several weeks I'd argue that it points to the limited ability to move the oil market via financial moves along.

People like to look at peaks and discuss financial speculation but I think that its more important to watch when markets becomes clearly unbalanced. It not just the price but how all the various markets are moving and how all the various spreads look vs historical norms. One would expect a purely financial move to distort the market from its historical norms however if the market is real and functioning one would then expect the market to relentlessly then close the spreads.

If you do start seeing various spreads and imbalances close well I'd then argue that the market is probably behaving correctly i.e and attempts at pure financial speculation are being corrected.

Now a combination of physical crude and financial moves is a different story i.e storage at Cushing. However the global market is bigger than this so even this will eventually be discounted. So in the end I think it takes a fair amount of physical crude to the tune of 100's of millions of barrels to move the global oil market. In one sense its a lot of oil however is perhaps less than a week of global consumption or a few percent.

Not this also cast some doubt on OPEC managing prices I'd argue to control prices that they would need to be moving production up and down on the order of several million barrels a day over several months. You would need to build or drain almost 50-100 million barrels of oil in and out of the global system to even begin to effect prices. This would intrinsically take months. Incremental changes of a few 100k barrels are nothing and unlikely to have any strong effect on oil prices.

Using these numbers well it seems that if prices move sharply then they are probably responding to a fairly large deficit or surplus on the order of 1mbd. Smaller changes might also induce and eventual change as storage filled or was steadily drawn down but I'd argue that the moves would not be that sharp prices would weaken or strengthen well in advance of the actual move.

Also notice that small changes seem to only really impact prices when storage levels hit the extremes either close to full or closer to empty. Larger changes in supply i.e 1mbd or so can have a more immediate impact anticipating the gain or fall of storage.

Its probably to early to tell whats happening right now I'd guess it will take a few weeks if not a few months for the oil market to stabilize and correct itself.

Finally as far as the price itself goes I don't think the oil market has a high stable price or at least not one that does not also result in economic hardship. I'm not convinced that infrastructure built on the basis of cheap oil can be easily transitioned to a world of expensive oil. I don't think the flexibility exists. Its either cheap oil or prices high enough to force fundamental changes. I could be wrong of course perhaps all we are seeing now is a bit of the widening of the high stable price for oil to account for economic rebound. On 70-80 is a very narrow band on a percentage basis. One would also expect the high priced oil stability band to be more volatile. Indeed 70-110 could well reflect the new fundamentals of expensive oil interacting with our infrastructure. The difficulties of dealing with expensive oil simply induce higher volatility as adjustments lag the new normal.

At the moment anything still remains possible the future in incredibly murky however it looks like the global economy is going to test the existence of a stable upper bound to oil prices. Regardless of the outcome it seems we are steadily approaching a intrinsically critical test point. Can our global economy adjust itself in a way that moderates oil prices ?
Can we do so without falling back into a recession ?

I think we are now finally reaching the point where either we get answers to a lot of open questions or we see a sudden and dramatic change in how the world functions.

If I'm right and the fundamentals are crap and the economy cannot change well its quite possible that above ground events will change the game thats being played completely before we ever get any clear economic signals. That will irritate the hell out of me but if some of the players in the world economy realize that they have no hope of survival the way things are going now they could easily take matters into their own hands to change the rules.

Lets hope that at least for now all thats happening is that the high priced oil regime is intrinsically more volatile than the old low priced oil regime but not to the point it sends us into recession. A few years of relative stability even if its more volatile than the past would be a welcome change. If so it could well take the entire year if not two for things to obviously settle into a new stable solution with the new volatility effectively priced in.

With the worst of the financial crisis behind us it certainly looks like we are going to find out if the world can reach a stable regime.

Well done. I don't have much to add on the issue of WTI vs. Brent, but it does appear that many oil traders and analysts, at least in the US, think that high supplies at Cushing is representative of the market being over-supplied.

Since the numbers of storage tanks at Cushing were intentionally expanded in recent years to handle much more oil, partly because it became more of a way station between oil running south to north, north to south from Canada, it actually doesn't necessarily mean high stocks in Cushing are a sign of oversupply. Although stocks at Cushing are higher than before, they are still not high enough to have any significant long term impact on the market. Even if we accept that the argument that the market is ‘oversupplied’, the amount of ‘excess’ inventory probably only represents a day or two of extra supply a year – or less than 1% of yearly demand. I hardly think that 1% will make much difference in the long run.

Recent signs of increasing instability in the last two months, for example low gasoline supplies in the Northeast US, although indirectly related to far flung world events like a diesel shortage in China and a port strike in France, are early warnings signs of prospective rising prices – with a move out of a very well established price range for some months now. Assuming that nate hagen’s approaching financial system collapse doesn’t hit in 2011 (although it may), a breakout of the price above $100 would be more than warning – it would signal that demand is running well ahead of supply. It would be hard to guess just how high oil could go after that, although my expectation is that all other factors staying about the same, oil could rise to about $110 to $120 before the US economy goes into reverse.

On another subject, up top, there is an article that says that gasoline imports may pick up some. It remains to be seen if imports will return to last year’s levels. Meanwhile the Colonial Pipeline basically is still running at maximum capacity in regards to gasoline deliveries. See that attached link for a detailed review of current allocations.

FACTBOX-Colonial Pipeline 2011 shipping restrictions
Fri Jan 7, 2011 10:56am EST


So just to try and guess.

I'd argue that global price changes are probably of two types the < 1mbd changes. These lead to slow builds are draw downs and fairly stable prices for a long time if its a decline perhaps some pricing pressure building on almost a year cycle.
If its excess eventually some production would be shut in and storage globally would be full. Probably natural population growth soaks up the excess along with economic growth. The price sensitivity is not surprisingly heavily weight to a deficit.
But more important it seems a deficit greater than 500kbd or so and closer to 1mbd. Thus the normal market seems to work with a surplus of 1mbd to a defict of about 500kbd before real marginal price moves are triggered.

Also excess capacity greater than 1mbd probably does not play a direct role in prices who cares 1mbd of excess production is more than enough to fairly rapidly fill world storage in a few months heck as I mentioned even 500kbd is technically enough.

This seems in my opinion to be a fairly good guess at how the global world oil markets work esp given reasonable storage capacity of a several weeks to a month. The balance seems to revolve around about 1mbd +/-. If one also includes latent storage at sea in transshipments well the depth could perhaps be higher even for a short period of time readily handling a 1-2mbd short fall if its not persistent. This is exports of many of the worlds top producers. Any single one could have serious problems and the worlds oil supply network can handle it during normal times.

Now spare capacity in excess of 1mbd really only comes into play during major events. It can be very important during times of crisis. It ahh interesting that OPEC minus Iran seems hell bent on maintaining or at least claiming enough spare capacity to pretty much offset loss of Iranian exports. Perhaps there is and implied threat in the numbers they are using now. OPEC's capacity claims could well be a basically internal issue. Obviously Iranian nuclear ambitions also have internal OPEC and esp Gulf implications. Real or not it seems to me that the maintenance of spare capacity in excess of 1mbd is purely political and has no pragmatic uses in a normal well supplied market.

Anything else is abnormal a supply excess of 1mbd quickly swamps the markets a deficit of 1mbd rapidly hits marginal price.
Once you cross this threshold doubling it does not change things. 2mbd in excess would simply fill storage faster but more likely than not it won't be pumped our bought. Consumers literally don't want 2mbd of excess oil production. Prices for oil would tank and excess production would simply be rejected and turned int capacity. A 2mbd deficit would simply speed up the rise in marginal prices vs 1mbd. Things would perhaps change faster. However recall I mentioned all the oil effectively stored at sea in transit. I'd argue that even a 2mbd deficit would take time to propagate and clearly become different from a 1mbd deficit. The absolute size of the deficit greater than 1mbd would not be clear at first.

3mbd-4mbd well something big happened and your reading about it in the papers its political regardless of direction.

Last but not least over the last few years we have seen fairly stable prices but clearly now with pressure to the upside.
This is very much a rear view mirror analysis but so what its important. Furthermore this upside pricing pressure managed to occur even as most regions had storage levels well beyond normal. If my natural oil market analysis is correct well this was impossible to do. It literally could not have happened. Thats not to say it did not happen simply saying whatever is going on right now seems highly abnormal vs my normal market concept. All the numbers from production to spare capacity to storage levels are well into what I would call the political realm. This does not make them false simply it means that oil supply at the moment is heavily politicized and potentially unstable and at the least still abnormal.

Thus I'd argue at the minimum that the oil market has signaled a shortfall in the 500kbd->1mbd range however this also seems to be the maximum it will signal naturally even if the shortfall turns out to be unnaturally higher over time.
Couple this with a market that seems heavily politicized and its difficult to really know how the market is reacting.
One can be certain however that political expectations are playing a big role in pricing.

Of course I have my own strong viewpoint about what the truth is. Regardless the important thing to recognize is for the moment the oil industry seems far from normal and it is operating in the political realm even to its effect on prices.
The fundamental if you will are simply not fundamental or even close to it at the moment. Even if you except all the reported data at face value its simply not normal. Perhaps the new normal is a highly political oil market this makes sense however future price evolution is even murkier if this is true well then the fundamentals of the oil market are themselves undergoing a big change. Indeed the combination of high prices and high storage claims points towards a market at least telling you its operating under a significantly different set of rules. I has to be something different from my normal market proposition. So far at least we have seen stable but high prices but I think this is of little predictive value volatility given a new and seeming politicized oil market cannot be ruled out indeed anything could be possible.

What ever is really going on I feel that its clearly not even close to being done or stabilized. If its some sort of fundamental change in the way the oil industry works well its a work in progress.

Something is happening the oil market is changing we will simply have to wait and see where its going heck it could even eventually settle back down into something close to my normal market. No real telling in the end we will simply have to wait see all you have to agree with is that the system at the very least is in a state of flux. Heck the price spike and follow on recession alone supports this conclusion :)

Playing God on a Limited Budget - The Challenge of Deciding Who to Feed

The United Nations' World Food Program tries to stop the poorest of the poor from going hungry. But its budget has dwindled during the crisis as donor countries focus on their own economic problems. Aid workers face the unpleasant task of deciding who gets food -- and who doesn't.

Note: Around this time last year we had a poll on how we would round out 2010 and what would be the price of oil;


I'd say collectively we were pretty close on the money, although I personally expected fast boom, followed by bust.

Any sign of doing a similar post this year?

nice little comic relief on opinion polls. cover the childrens ears

Was this commentary on Enbridge's proposed pipeline from the bitumen pits to the BC coast already posted:

Harper is behind the Enbridge pipeline for two reasons: first, he simply supports the rapid expansion of the largest industrial project in Canadian history. He is the oil industry's prime minister and expansion of the tar sands is the centerpiece of his economic policy -- indeed, it is almost his only economic policy.

The second reason for the pipeline for Harper was revealed by the Pembina Institute as a result of its successful Access to Information efforts. According to government correspondence, the pipeline's key role in the Harper government's strategy is to undermine U.S. efforts to fight climate change. The U.S. is threatening to attack the problem of greenhouse gas emissions by restricting the use of high carbon fuels. Canada has already threatened a trade challenge against California over the issue. A pipeline giving China access to tar sands oil (which the U.S. still covets) might get their attention.

Few oil industry allies on this one

Harper's decision is complicated by the fact that even the industry is largely opposed to the pipeline project. While oil companies don't always agree with each other, it is rare for such a large project to even be considered when so much of the industry is either outright opposed or unsupportive. Remarkably, Enbridge doesn't have a single client signed up to pump its product through the pipeline.